Tales of the Season – Darla’s Story

A frustrated frown on her normally smooth features, the woman
ran to the phone while drying her hands on her dishtowel. Who
on earth would be calling at this ungodly hour of the evening?
“Bonjour, Ms. Thompson’s.”

“Bonjour to you, too, Madamoiselle Maria, Comment allez vous?”

“Michael?? Is that you, dear?” Maria asked delightedly. “Where
are you? What are you doing? Why have you called?”

“Yes. Still at St. Andrews. Talking to you. And since when
did I need a reason?” was the immediate response. One thing
living with Jane Thompson taught a fellow was the value of quick

“Oh you,” was the affectionately exasperated reply. “Of course
you don’t need a reason. So you are still at school? I thought
you were done several days ago.”

“Plans changed, Maria. I had to finish up a couple of things
before I go to Southhampton. How are you doing?”

There was a momentary pause before. “Oh, fine. You know how it
is.” she said airily.

“No, I don’t. Why don’t you tell me? And start with why you
had to catch yourself before you told me how fine it was.”
Michael’s voice was filled with the warmth and determination of
a concerned friend or fond nephew which was precisely how Maria
thought of this particular former student of Jane’s.

She sighed. “It’s been a little difficult around here of late,
love.” she said in a more subdued voice. “We lost Stephanie
earlier this month just when Darla needed her the most.”

“Steve graduated?” Michael asked.

“No, not quite. He was doing very well and would have graduated
as soon as Darla was ready to proceed with her training on her
own, but he . . . . left early.”

“C’mon, Maria. Don’t make me play twenty questions. What
happened? Steve didn’t make a break for it, did he?”

“Oh, no! Nothing like that. It’s just that. . .” Maria paused,
not used to discussing Jane’s business over the phone. Security
be damned, she fumed. This was Michelle. “You know that
Stephanie was not under any other legal obligation to be here?”

“Yeah, I remember. Her Mom, like my Mom was an sorority chum of
Jane’s. So?”

“Stephanie’s father surprised his ex-wife by showing up to take
the boy for his annual two week co-custodial period – first time
he’s done that in the four years they’ve been divorced.”

“And Steve wasn’t home.” Michael finished.

“Yes. Well, to make a long story short, the court custody
decision did not give Jane any authority to hold the boy.”

“Why do I think it is worse than that?” Michael probed, anger
beginning to tinge his voice.

“The father threatened Jane with exposure and legal action if
she tried to keep the boy. He also has threatened the Mother
with reopening the custody case if she sends him back after the
two weeks with the father are up. He will claim abuse of a
minor at the Mother’s behest.”

“Shit.” Michael said disgustedly. “How long had Darla been with

“A little more than a week.”

“Barely enough time to be terrorized by Mrs. Franson, Caro and
Sandy for the first time and now, no big sister. Poor kid.”

“It is even worse than that, dear, but I cannot talk about

“Okay, I know it’s late, but is Jane still up?”

“She’s in her office. I can transfer you into her, dear. She
will love hearing from you. Just a second.”

“Maria?!?” the boy’s voice cut in before Maria could put him on

“Yes, Michael?”

“Do you think she’d rather hear from Michael or Michelle?”

Maria considered that for a long time, her teeth worrying at her
lower lip. “Michelle, I think, dear, but play it gently and be
ready to slip back into Michael if it sounds like you should.”

“Got it. Love you, Maria. I have missed you a lot.”

“Same goes, dear. Now let me transfer you. I think Jane needs
you this time.”

Jane looked at the ringing phone and curled her lip in disgust.
Working with Darla under the very unique conditions imposed on
her by the manner of Stephan’s removal was physically and
emotionally demanding. She was completely exhausted and did not
want to talk to anyone. Unfortunately, Maria knew that so if
she was putting the call through, it was probably important.
“Jane Thompson.” she growled into the handset.

“Hi there, Momma-Jane, can’t you at least talk nice to your
nephew/niece-almost-daughter/son? When I specifically broke
into the Dean’s office after lights out just so I could call

“Michelle? I mean, Michael?”

“Michelle, I think, Momma-Jane.”

“You broke into the Dean’s office?” her head was spinning from
the unexpected call from one of her boys calling under his femme
name. “I thought you were going to your Mother’s place last
week when exams were over. Didn’t you and that little motor
mouth, Janice, have some plans for the summer?”

“We did, and we still do. It is just that the Dean wanted me to
stay another semester, supposedly to make up for the one I lost
staying with you. The real reason is that I have been such an
exemplary, trustworthy fellow since I returned that he wanted me
to come back next year as a Dormitory Trustee. His
rationalization is that I’d be an embarrassment to my oh-so-
beloved alma mater if I did not do well my first year at
university because of that. He was going to try to withhold my
diploma until I made up the work.”

“Why that sanctimonious old fool!” Jane was now furious. “You
are so far beyond their curriculum after your time with me you
could *teach* their damned teachers in most of your courses.”
she all but sputtered.

“Exactly. So my extra time up here after finals was to take
“special exams” designed to prove my mastery of the material I
“missed”.” a thoroughly male chuckle, at odds with the very
feminine tones, sounded in Jane’s ear. “Blew their socks off
for the past four days. One more exam tomorrow afternoon and
then the Dean can take a hike.”

“I am so proud of you, dear.”

“So, should I change my reservation to Kingston, Momma-Jane? I
understand you need a big sister for a few weeks.”

“How did you . . . ” Jane *was* sputtering now. “Maria has a
big mouth.”

“I can be there by noon day after tomorrow, Jane, and I am still
going to go to university there, too. I could be around all
summer and most evenings once school starts – at least until
Darla is ready to be a big sister herself.”

“Now I know I am dreaming. Michelle, offering to be a big
sister and assist me in my nasty little games?” There was a
real smile in her voice for the first time. *Nasty little games*
had been Michael’s evaluation of Jane’s humiliation-based
training exercises. “My, how things have changed.”

“I’ve changed, dear, and that is not the point. I’ve decided.
I *will* see you day after tomorrow.”

“Michael. It is *not* necessary. Yes, it has been rough, but
that is because Darla is a special case. We’ll be fine. You go
camping and hiking with Janice like you planned. You can’t very
well do your courting if you are here, dressed in skirts.”

“Courting? Who the heck said anything about courting?” Michael
accused hotly.

“I did.” Jane answered equably. “And don’t tell me you have not
already decided that she is going to be your wife just as soon
as you can manage it. I saw the way you looked at her after
your Mother’s wedding to her brother.”

“Have I no secrets from any of you women? Mother has twigged to
it, too. So has Janice because her letters have started talking
about things like where we will live, how many kids we’ll have
and division of household labor. Good grief, I am barely

“Going on thirty, dear. I appreciate your offer, but after
tonight, I believe that neither Darla nor I will require your

“You’re sure? I mean, I understand that you lost Steve right
after the Marisha Initiation.”

“Well, I can see you won’t let go of this and leave me alone
until I tell you the whole of it. Make sure the Dean’s lights
are off, dear. No sense getting caught in there and this will
take a while. As you said, we were just getting home from the
mall when. . . ”


Jane pulled the Lincoln around the circle and stopped at the
sidewalk up to her front door. Maria would park the car later.
Right now she wanted to get her charges inside and finish what
had been a highly successful first trip to the Mall for Darla.
So far, anyway.

Things got off to a rousing start when the girl was practically
bowled over by a daydreaming young man. Jane had seen panic in
her student’s eyes for the first time as the apologetic fellow
offered her his hand to help her back to her feet. For a
moment, Jane had been worried that the girl would not accept his
chivalrous offer, but finally she did. Jane had intervened at
that point, not wanting the outsider to get too close to her
still very-new-to-his-skirts student, and had hustled both
Stephanie and Darla to Caro’s and Sandy’s.

Darla had been even more reserved than most of her boys on their
first beauty shop experience, but in the end, everything seemed
to go well. She looked over at the slender, femininely turned
out boy. Sandy had turned his chestnut locks into Irish Red to
match the boy’s relatively light complexion and green eyes. He’d
shown remarkable composure under Caro’s and Sandy’s pointed
attempts to put him on a fine edge of terror. Jane wondered how
the boy had managed that.

Was it that he had already gotten as much of a fright as his
system could handle when he’d been forced to cope with that male
bulldozer out on the mall? Certainly, Sandra had toned down her
first trip-to-the-beauty-shop teasing routine, thank goodness.
They had all learned their hard lessons with Michael – and none
of them ever wanted to taste that terror again. Her students’
buttons were still getting pushed very hard, Jane mused, but now
she and her band of confederates took a little longer to made
sure they knew how those buttons were wired.

Which was why Jane was going to escort Darla up to her room and
“help” her put away her new clothes and dainties before bringing
her ward back down stairs to the music room for a restoring cup
of Maria’s tea. Jane was concerned about this one, because not
unlike Michael before his near tragic episode, she did not yet
have a good read on her newest student.

None of Jane’s “first-week-in-petticoat-hell-tricks” had seemed
to phase the boy. Not when Stephanie had renamed Darryl as
Darla, nor when Maria and Jane had double teamed the boy through
the day of rapid outfit and make up changes. He had simply done
what he was told without comment or hesitation, regardless of
how humiliating the lesson should have been for his young,
fragile male ego. Unlike almost every other young man in her
experience, Darryl had neither fought her nor resisted her
direction during the week he’d been with her. Not *once*!

“Stephanie?” she called as she opened her own door. “Help Darla
with her packages, dear. I will be up as soon as I let Maria
know we are home.”

Stephen’s height made for an unusually tall girl, but he’d
learned to carry himself with a certain style and grace that
made Stephanie look like a runway model. While Jane had had
prettier students, none of her other girls had possessed the
presence and impact of this ebony-tressed laddie. And he’d come
a very long way in his months with Jane. In fact, if it wasn’t
for the fact that she was so unsure of Darla, she would have
begun thinking seriously about transitioning this student back
into his trousers in a few more weeks. She had a few more
lessons to teach Stephanie, and a couple of those would be hard
ones, but after all her years of petticoating young men, she had
an instinct about some things. This one would do fine. She
would soon be entering him into her rogues’ gallery as a
complete success.

Jane watched the pair move up the walk, one gracefully, the
other still awkwardly fighting the moderately high heeled shoes.
Satisfied, she reached back into the car to get her own purse,
when she saw the other car parked in her drive for the first
time. Cars were not a major interest of hers – so long as they
were comfortable, started when she turned the key and ran
properly, Jane did not give them much mind. She did, however,
recognize a very expensive Jaguar when she saw one. She also
could not think of any of her acquaintances who owned a car like
that one.

“OH MY GOD! DAD?!?!?” The scream of distress had Jane moving
up the walk at a dead run before she had consciously put a name
to screamer. Stephanie. All she knew was that one of her boys
was in distress, and that *Jane* had not been the one to put him
in that condition.

Four people were huddled about her front door. Darla was
standing away from the door, trying to look small. A tall, well
dressed man Jane did not recognize was shouting at a cowering
Stephanie while a furious Maria was trying to push the man away.

Then it hit her what she’d heard Stephanie scream – Dad. As she
got closer, the resemblance was obvious, although the elder
seemed much harder than her ward. And he was furious.

Jane stepped between the father and Stephanie and attempted to
take control. “Mr. Evans, my name is Jane Thompson. We did not
know you were coming.” Jane greeted in a gracious if breathless
voice all the while thinking of what an understatement that was.
“Maria, help the girls get their parcels inside, please.” she
said trying to get her students out of the line of fire.

“Yes, Jane.” her long time friend replied as she motioned the
two youngsters to follow her.

“Not so damned fast, Stephen.” the elder Evans said sharply as
he latched onto the boy’s arm causing him to squeak in pained
surprise. “You are going nowhere except with me.”

Moving to the defense of her chick, Jane got into the man’s
face. “Now you see here, sir. That child is here by her
mother’s consent. I have a legal contract to provide boarding
school education and training to her, and to act in loco
parentis. You have no authority to remove Stephanie from my
home. If you try, I will have you arrested for kidnaping.”

Without relinquishing his grip on Stephanie, her uninvited guest
pulled a legal document from his suit pocket and tossed it at
Jane. “Your agreement with my ex-wife is meaningless. That is
our divorce decree awarding me co-custody of my *son* which
obviously predates any contract she signed with you. Simply
stated, I get him for two weeks a quarter and *today* is the
first day of my two week custody period. Deirdre has *no*
authority to send him anywhere during my custody time without my
express permission. Which she sure as hell does not have.”

Evans turned his attention back to his cross dressed son. “Get
out of that. . . that *outfit* and wash that shit off your face.
Get some real clothes on and get back here. We are leaving.”
Stephanie did not move, instead looking to Jane imploringly.
“Now, Stephan, or else.”

“I don’t have any other clothes.” Stephanie finally said.

“You *came* here dressed like a wimp ass sissy? What the hell
was your mother thinking of!?!” Evans screamed.

“I have his clothing.” Jane calmly deflected the man’s angry
attention. “Please follow me.” and then led the way into house
and then to her office.

Jane pressed a button on her desk. Maria arrived almost
immediately. “Get Stephanie’s suitcases and put them in her
room, please. She may be leaving today.”

Evan smashed a fist down on Jane’s desk. “*STEPHEN* is a *HIM*,
not a fucking *HER*, woman, and *HE* is DAMN-SURE leaving this
. . . . this. . . this *place* today. IMMEDIATELY!”

“Yell at me again in that tone of voice, sir, using that type of
language and I will see you in our local jail within the hour.
Trust me, I have the contacts to do it.”

A malevolent grin lit the features that seemed to be a negative
of her student’s own. “You just go ahead and try it, *Ms*
Thompson. I will be free within that very same hour, I will
have papers charging you with abuse of a minor served on you
within two hours and I will have every tabloid reporter within
five hundred miles of here on your doorstep within three hours.
Try me, bitch. Go ahead, try me – please.”

Knowing when a strategic retreat was called for, Jane moved back
to her desk and dialed a number from her organizer. Stephan’s
mother answered on the second ring. “Ms. Thompson?!?” the woman
said as soon as Jane had identified herself. “I have a terrible
problem. Stephan’s father has decided to claim his custody
rights for the first time in four years. I called my lawyer,
but we can’t do anything about it. If I don’t surrender Stephan
to him, he can reopen the entire divorce settlement, including
the custody agreement.”

Jane spoke with the mother for several more minutes, and finally
hung up. She looked at Evans, smirking at her in smug triumph.
“I don’t suppose it would do any good to tell you that this is
a very successful program that has helped many young men who,
like your son, were headed for big trouble, turn their lives
around? And that this is a very bad time to pull him out of the
program? That when he comes back after you return him to his
Mother a great deal of the good we’ve accomplished will be

Evans sauntered back over to Jane’s desk, and leaned over to get
down into her face. “First, my son is going to grow up to be a
*man*, not some damned skirt wearing wimp. Two, your definition
of success and mine are obviously *light-years* apart, and any
*damage* I do to what you call “good” is just *fine* with me.
And third, there is no way in *hell* that boy is coming anywhere
*near* this place ever again. If he does, I will take his
mother and you to court, claiming abuse of a minor, and I
guarantee, I will win. I own several judges, lady. Even if you
should overturn any judgement against you on appeal, you will
still be finished.”

“What is to stop you now?” Jane asked quietly.

“Because I don’t want the world to know how my son has been
forced to live with you, bitch. However, if he comes back, I
won’t have any choice. There are places I can send him once I
have full custody where all this sissy shit can be burned out of
him. He’ll just have to become all the harder to overcome what
you and his damned mother have done to him.”

“I see.” And she did. Not that Jane had any real choice. The
last thing Stephan’s mother had done was order her to release
the boy into his father’s custody. “Very well, Mr. Evans. His
Mother has directed me to release Stephan into your custody and
to permit him to leave with you. Unlike many of my other
students who are here at the direction of the court, your wife
is the one has the ultimate say in all my contractual dealings
relative to Stephanie. Therefore, I will acquiesce.” Jane left
the office in search of Maria.

Twenty minutes later, a very downcast Stephen came into the
office. Maria had tried to undo most of the physical aspects of
his Stephanie persona. Unfortunately, they *had* just returned
from the Chalet where Stephanie’s color and set had been
refreshed, her eyebrows reshaped, and her nails sculpted.

Evans took one look at his curly headed son and cursed. “I hope
you like the Michael Jordan look, Stephen, because you are going
to be shaved until your natural hair grows back. Come on, let’s
get out of this castrating bitch’s house.”

Stephen, however, did not immediately follow his father’s orders
and instead threw himself into a shocked Jane’s arms. “Please,
Jane, I don’t want to leave with *him*!!”

Tears were flowing. “I can’t keep you, dear. I have no legal
standing, only moral ones. You’d only be hurt worse if he
carries out his threats.”

Evans reached over to grab the boy and drag him away from Jane’s
embrace and toward the door. Maria had already brought
Stephen’s bags down and put them in the foyer. Evans grabbed
one case and ordered Stephen to get the other since he refused
to relinquish his grip on the boy’s arm.

Jane moved to the doorway to watch the pair move to the Jaguar.
“Mr. Evans.” she called. He turned to face her. “Hurt that
boy, and no power on earth, no threat of yours, no hazard to
myself will protect you. I, too, have powerful friends, sir,
and if I cannot destroy you, I can make myself very annoying.”

Evans just laughed, a very nasty and cold laugh, and then shoved
the still struggling Stephen into the car. Jane watched in
helpless rage as the car raced away from her home at a
dangerously high speed.