Chapter 3 of 10
Finding the Real Stephanie
Shortly after one o'clock Stephanie was woken up by Aunt Jennifer. "Ready to go shopping Stephanie?"
"Wha. . . Huh . . . Oh, Aunt Jennifer! Shopping! Stephanie Shopping!"
"Yes you silly, time for Stephanie to go on her first real Girls' Shopping Trip."
Stephanie gave Aunt Jennifer a big hug, still holding tight onto her doll.
"Apparently you slept through lunch, so first off we get you something to eat and then we go shopping."
Aunt Jennifer readjusted Stephanie's wig and then took her hand to lead her out of the room. She did suggest the doll stay in the room, causing Stephanie to run back to the bed to tuck Melanie and Teddy back under the covers. Then the two left. They only stopped briefly to say goodbye to Mom and Dad who were sitting at the Kitchen table.
Once in the car, "Sounds like you have had a rough time over the last two days."
"I am just trying to be myself. Why is it so bad to be myself?"
"It isn't sweetheart," Aunt Jennifer reassured her. "Some people, including your Mom and Dad, are just having a hard time accepting you have always been Stephanie."
"Where are we going today Aunt Jennifer?"
"First we will get you something to eat and then I thought we could go to a wig shop I know of. If you are going to be going around as Stephanie all the time, you are going to need a better wig till your real hair can grow out some more."
"Yup, they have a shop where they sell just wigs for ladies who need them."
"They have little kid wigs?"
"Of course, even little girls need wigs from time to time."
"Can we," Stephanie hesitantly asked, "do the wig shop first?"
Aunt Jennifer looked at Stephanie in her rear view mirror. "Of course we can sweetheart. You don't like your current wig?"
"It's just . . . It makes me look like a girl and I like that, but . . . It's just . . ."
"It's not you?"
"Mommy got it for me that second year I dressed up for Halloween. It has curly hair. My real hair is not curly Aunt Jennifer. I want pig-tails and pony-tails with bows and ribbons, but I can't do that with this hair."
"Oh Stephanie, I think you would look very cute with pig-tails. Yes, we can definitely go to the wig shop before lunch and get you something that better shows the world who Stephanie is."
With another glance in the rear view mirror at Stephanie, Aunt Jennifer saw a big smile on the little girl sitting quietly in the back seat looking at the scenery go by.
At the wig shop Aunt Jennifer took charge.
"My niece here needs a wig that does a better job showing off who she really is," Aunt Jennifer stated when they found a sales lady. "Her real hair is starting to grow in, but it is still too short. She is afraid people will view her as a boy with just her real hair."
"Oh we can't have that with such a beautiful young lady," the sales lady replied.
"Stephanie," Aunt Jennifer said. "We need to take your wig off to show the nice sales lady what your real hair looks like and what color it is. We want to get a wig to match your real hair color."
Hesitantly, Stephanie took her wig off.
"Oh my," The sales lady said. "It is coming in, but yes, it will take a while for it to get to a length a young girl would feel comfortable with. I think we might have some children's wigs in a color that will match. Will her hair come in curly like her current wig?"
Sheepishly Stephanie answered, "No."
"I am guessing that you want your wig to match how your hair is supposed to look?" The sales lady inquired.
Stephanie nodded her head in agreement.
"How long are you looking for?"
Aunt Jennifer smiled at Stephanie and replied, "She likes her hair up in pig-tails and pony tails. She wants to be able to put accessories in her hair like all the other girls."
"Definitely, most girls your age enjoy accessorizing your hair. I think the Emily children's wig might be just right for what you are looking for. It has nice bangs in front and is perfect for naturally looking braids or pig-tails. Let's measure you head and see if we have one in your color."
It took about an hour, but they left the store with Stephanie wearing her new wig. The sales lady even braided two pig-tails going down the back for her. It felt a lot better than the cheap Halloween costume wig, and she was shown how to secure it so it will not easily fall off. Stephanie was surprised by the other things they also got at the store; two wig stands, a special comb, shampoos, and adhesives.
Aunt Jennifer went to the mall next and they went straight to the food court to eat lunch. As they ate their lemon chicken, they talked.
"So do you like your new look. I think it really fits you."
"I love it," Stephanie said while still eating.
"Young lady, don't talk with your mouth full of food."
Stephanie swallowed and said, "Sorry."
"I was thinking we could hit Claire's next. It is a store where we can get all sorts of accessories a young girl needs."
"No Aunt Jennifer," Stephanie objected.
"Why not Stephanie?"
"You already spent more money on the wig and stuff than Mommy spent getting me a new wardrobe. I saw the bills Aunt Jennifer. The wig shop was over $300. That's a lot of money. I can't go spending all your money."
"Oh Stephanie, you are so precious. Yes the wig was about $250 and we spent over $70 on things someone wearing a wig needs. I have the money dear. It makes me happy to spend it on you and seeing how happy it makes you. Don't worry dear. If something is too much money or we have reached a limit, I will tell you. Today Stephanie, we are here to find out who Stephanie Meyers is. Since you have not had nine years collecting things to show your personality, yes this first trip is going to be expensive. If you see something you like, let me know, even if it is for little girls younger than you. You have been looking at this stuff for years and unable to get any of it, haven't you?"
Stephanie nodded her head in agreement.
"Well, today Stephanie let that little girl out. I expect to see everything from little girl Disney Princess stuff to big girl jewelry in the bags before we leave here today."
Stephanie found a new vigor to finish her meal and get out shopping.
It took a while in Claire's before Aunt Jennifer started to see the girl appear. There was nine years of avoidance behaviors Stephanie had to overcome before she started to feel comfortable actually taking things off the shelf and trying them. Based upon the choices, Aunt Jennifer could see a younger girl than nine years old appearing. She had half expected something like this would happen considering how long Stephanie had been suppressed. She decided The Disney Store and Toy Store should be next to get some of the little girl out before going into places to get more big girl things.
Clothes, toys, and stuffed animals were bought at the Disney Store. At the Toy Store Aunt Jennifer steered Stephanie towards Fairies, Tinkerbell, Polly Pockets, Lego Friends, and My Little Pony. When Stephanie saw a Fisher Price Little People Doll House, she really wanted a doll house, but Aunt Jennifer told her that if they didn't see a big girl doll house today, she would get one for Christmas. At the American Girl Store, Stephanie got a Molly doll, book, and accessories.
"Can we get some make-up?"
"Sorry Stephanie," Aunt Jennifer apologized. "We can get some nail polish but not make-up. Your Mom and I didn't get to wear make-up till we were thirteen, so unless your mom gives approval the same rule is in place for you."
"When did you get pierced ears?"
"My ears were pierced when I was ten and your mom when she was seven."
"Mom was seven when she got her ears pierced?"
"Yeah, she got hers pierced the same time as mine."
"Can I get mine pierced? Mom was younger than me when she got her ears pierced."
Aunt Jennifer hugged Stephanie, "Sorry I can't let you get them pierced. It requires parental consent for kids your age, and I don't think your Mom would give approval. You did get some pretty clip on earrings at Claire's."
"Since she doesn't want a girl, she will never let me get my ears pierced," Stephanie glumly said.
"Oh Stephanie, your Mom loves you. She just is struggling to get used to you being here all the time."
"You didn't hear her this morning Aunt Jennifer, she doesn't love me as Stephanie. She only wants to see the Daryl costume."
"That's not true honey. She loves you," Aunt Jennifer said steering Stephanie into an ice cream shop.
The two talked over some ice cream shakes. Aunt Jennifer tried to convince Stephanie her parents love her no matter what; Stephanie or Daryl. Stephanie wasn't convinced. After the ice cream, it was time for some clothes and jewelry shopping.
"Can I get one of those Aunt Jennifer?" Stephanie asked pointing at a young girl walking by.
"What is she wearing that you want Stephanie?"
Jennifer looked at the girl in question noticing the pink Disney Princess coat and then looked at Stephanie, "You want a girls' coat?"
"Do you want that particular coat, or just a girl's coat?"
"Just a girl's coat. One that's pink or purple."
"Of course dear, let's go get you out of that black coat and into one more fitting for a lovely young lady."
The hunt for a coat, hat, gloves, snow pants, and snow boots brought them to a few different stores. The final coat choice was pink with faux fur around the end of the sleeves and around the hood of the coat. The rest were also pink, except for the boots that were purple. In the process a few outfits were picked up, mostly dresses, but also some with pants. Stephanie always went to the pink clothes first, but Aunt Jennifer was able to convince her to get some other colors.
At dinner, Stephanie was wearing new hair, earrings, bracelets, coat, and a heart shaped necklace. She was wearing a Christmas Dress outfit with a matching purse, had her fingernails painted, and was happier than Jennifer had ever seen her. When the meal was done, the day was over, and on the drive home, Stephanie felt like Cinderella leaving the ball as the clock struck midnight.
As the two of them walked into the house, Dad was the first to see his daughter.
"Stephanie? How? Jennifer, how did you get her hair to grow out so quick?"
"Don't be silly James, there is no way to get hair to grow . . ." Mom stopped when she finished coming around the corner and saw Stephanie.
Stephanie just stood there smiling at her parents, with her hands behind her back and one of her feet rocking on her toes.
"How did you do that sis? That can't be her real hair, is it?"
"So Stephanie," Aunt Jennifer asked. "What did you do to your hair to get that look?"
On the verge of a giggle fit, "I just put these pretty scrunchies in the end of my braids. I did learn how to braid it from the nice lady, but I will practice on my new doll before I try it on my own hair."
Mommy came over to get a close look at her hair, "Wow, it looks so real. It is even the right hair color. Where did you get it Jennifer?"
"There is a small wig shop on one of the side streets off Division."
"That is amazing. Take off your coat D . . . Stephanie," Mom asked. "Let's get a good look at your new outfit."
Stephanie took her coat off, handing it to Aunt Jennifer.
"Oh Jennifer," Mom ogled. "She looks so precious in that outfit, and with that hair . . . it would be hard for anyone to know she is wearing a wig."
Mom and Aunt Jennifer talked a bit about the wig and the outfit, until Dad spoke up, "Jennifer, you shouldn't have spent so much."
"James, Stephanie is worth every cent I have spent on her today, and she needed SOMEONE to do it."
"Thanks Jennifer," James said while trying to smile. "Your help through all of this is appreciated. Stephanie, thank Aunt Jennifer and then off to get ready for bed."
"But Daddy, we have to bring the stuff in."
"The Stuff?" Dad inquired. "There is more than just what you are wearing?"
Stephanie giggled, "Yeah, just a little Daddy."
"How much is ‘just a little'?"
"Oh James," Aunt Jennifer said with a slight chuckle. "You really do have a lot to learn about daughters going shopping. There are a few bags in the car for you to bring in. I am sure with your big manly muscles you can handle it. We only got enough to make nine year old Stephanie look and feel like she has been here the last nine years."
As Dad headed out to the car with Aunt Jennifer, Stephanie ran to the window to see Daddy's surprise.
Even from in the house Stephanie could hear Daddy's reaction to all the bags of stuff they bought, "What in the world?"
It took several trips for Dad to bring all the bags in. Mom, Stephanie, and Aunt Jennifer worked on unpacking the bags as Dad brought them back to Stephanie's room. It was more of a show and tell than putting things away.
Dad interrupted the girls in their post shopping frenzy, "Well, I am not sure if the stores have anything left in them, and not sure where you are going to put all of this, but these are the last bags from the back of the car."
"Where's Molly Daddy?"
"Molly? You bought a sister while you were out?"
Aunt Jennifer giggled, "No James, but I am sure Stephanie wouldn't mind if you and Mary got to work on making one for her."
"Whoa, hold on a minute," James abruptly said. "We had a boy and now we have a girl, isn't that enough. Anyways, I don't think will be able to support another child if this shopping trip is any indication of how expensive it is to raise a girl."
The adults all laughed as Stephanie sheepishly looked at all the bags covering the floor of her bedroom.
"James," Aunt Jennifer refocused everyone. "You will find Molly buckled into the back seat, along with her stuff."
Several minutes later Dad returned with a relieved look on his face and holding up the Molly doll, "Now this child I can afford to raise."
"You say that now, but wait till you find out how much a new outfit costs for her," Aunt Jennifer said with a chuckle.
It was long past Stephanie's bed time when everything was finally unpacked and put away. Under Aunt Jennifer's recommendations, the Daryl clothes and toys were moved to the guest bedroom, to make room for Stephanie's stuff. The two bottom drawers in Stephanie's dresser were reserved for the clothes needed to be Daryl during the week at school. The rest of Daryl was moved out.
Sunday morning started like all Sunday's in the Meyers household. Grown-ups reading newspapers and books in the living room and a child playing with toys on the living room floor. Stephanie had a collection of new toys to play with. Neither parent did much reading, for their attention was on the child playing in front of them. They were both looking for their son, but they only saw a young girl full of joyous glee as she played with toys that boys Daryl's age would not find enjoyable to play with.
By lunchtime; the Lego Friends' models were assembled, the ponies had saved Molly from some yucky boys making fun of her for not being able to hit a ball with a bat, and Tinkerbell went around finding trinkets throughout the living room and brought them back to show the Disney Princesses. Shortly before lunch, there was a tea party with Princesses, Tinkerbell, Molly, Melanie, Teddy Bear, Barbie, Chelsea, and Stephanie. Mom silently chuckled several times during the tea party as Stephanie gave advice to the younger participants on how to be a proper young lady at a tea party. She wasn't sure where her child had learned such things, but it reminded her of tea parties she had given many years ago.
"Mommy," Stephanie asked towards the end of lunch. "Can I write my letter to Santa?"
The two parents looked at each other and then back at Stephanie.
"Ummm, sure. It is the first weekend in November. This is when we usually write the Santa letter."
"Goody," Stephanie said before taking another bite.
"Is there anything in particular you are going to be asking for this year? Aunt Jennifer just got you a lot of stuff," Dad inquired.
"I want a doll house, some girl books, a jump rope, nail polish, and to tell him only to bring me girl toys this year."
"A doll house?" Dad questioned.
"Aunt Jennifer and me saw one at the toy store I wanted, but she said I needed a big girl doll house not a little kid one like they had at the toy store. She said I could get one for Christmas because we didn't find a big girl doll house yesterday. I need him to know I want a GIRL doll house. He messed up last year getting me a Lego house and Lego fire truck."
"Last year you asked for a Girl's Doll House," Dad inquired looking at Stephanie and then at his wife?
Mary nodded at her husband before they both turned back to Stephanie.
"Yeah, but I understand Daddy. Santa had me on the Good Boy list, and I am sure one of his helper elves couldn't understand why a good boy would want a girl's doll house. I hope Hermey the Elf helps with my list this year. I know he is the Dentist Elf now, but maybe Rudolph and him can help the other elves understand how I moved from the boy list to the girl list."
"Hermey the Elf?"
"Come on Daddy," Stephanie said exasperated. "Haven't you watched the Rudolph movie enough times with me over the years to know who Hermey is?"
"Rudolph movie? Hmmm . . . let me think for a moment. Would that be the movie you watch over and over and over again every Christmas?"
"Twenty gazillion times each Christmas! Yeah, that's the one. If Santa can accept Hermey and Rudolph, then I know he can accept me. I just know Daddy," Stephanie said as a tear starting coming down her face.
Mommy went over to her child and gave a big hug, "Stephanie, I am sure Rudolph and Hermey will make sure you have the most magical Christmas ever."
After a few minutes of tears and hugs, "Let's go write that letter, describing all the things you want, so no elf will make a mistake this year."
Mom and Stephanie worked on the letter all afternoon. Several drafts were written, then Stephanie copied it onto special Christmas paper in her best handwriting. A picture was added to the letter, one Stephanie drew of herself in one of her new dresses.
Getting dressed in the Christmas outfit she wore home last night, Mom and Stephanie went to the Santa mail box in the mall to make sure the letter is properly delivered. Like every year, after putting the letter in the mail box, they stood in line to get a picture taken with Santa Clause.
"Santa, I know one of your elves messed up last year," Stephanie said sitting on his lap. "This year I made it very clear in my letter, No yucky boy gifts."
"Ho . . . Ho . . . Ho . . . I don't know how my elves messed up, but I will be certain to make sure they know little Stephanie is a girl and wants girl gifts."
"Oh thank you Santa," Stephanie hugged him and jumped down to go tell Mommy.
As the two of them waited for the Deluxe Picture Package to come off the printer, Stephanie told Mommy all about Santa making sure his elves would make sure she got girl gifts this year.
Trying to get Stephanie to talk quietly, Mary kept looking around to see if others were listening or staring.
Monday morning Stephanie slowly walked back to her room after breakfast to go put on her Daryl costume. After many reminders to hurry up or she would be late, Stephanie finally arrived in the living room dressed in her costume. The final bit of Stephanie was hidden away when Mom had her trade in the wig for Daryl's black coat.
Mom watched her child head off to the bus stop, wondering if she was watching her son go off to school or her daughter in a boy costume go off to school.
Stephanie stayed away from the other kids at school, even more than she usually did. Her teacher, Mrs. Farren, noticed a depressed kid and asked Daryl if anything was wrong. Stephanie lied and said no.
Joanne was unaware that Stephanie watched her throughout the day and made sure to stay as far away from her as possible.
After school, Stephanie quickly got changed out of her Daryl costume and into one of the pink outfits she bought with Aunt Jennifer. Looking at her two wigs she tried to figure out which to wear. She really wanted to wear the new one, but Joanne had already seen her in the old one.
"Melanie," Stephanie said turning to her bed. "I am Stephanie. She is the only one my age who knows both Daryl and Stephanie. She is going to find out, isn't she? I can't keep pretending to be Daryl. Joanne has to see the real me, the new me. I will just come back here with you when she finds out. She will not want to play with me once she finds out. Mrs. Tellbore didn't, Mommy and Daddy don't, and Joanne won't either. It's okay Melanie. I am okay having no one to play with but you and Molly, just as long as I can stay Stephanie."
Stephanie put on her new wig, quickly painted her nails, and headed out the door to Joanne's house.
Stephanie resisted every impulse to turn and run away as she pressed the doorbell. -Ding-Dong-
"Hi Stephanie," Joanne said answering the door. "Come on in, I'll show you my room."
Stephanie went inside and started to take off her coat.
"You look different."
"Oh it's my new hair style. My Aunt Jennifer took me out for a makeover."
"A makeover, oh cool. Did you get to wear make-up? Mommy won't let me wear make-up yet. What else did you get done besides your hair straightened?"
"Joanne," Mrs. Sterns said coming into the room. "Stop giving her the third degree. I am sure Stephanie will answer all your questions, but at least let her get the coat off first."
"Sorry Mommy, but she got a makeover. Look at her hair. How can they make her hair go from so curly to so straight? It is even a different color. Can I get my hair colored next time we go to get it cut?"
"NO Joanne, your hair is beautiful just the way it is. Stephanie, is your hair naturally curly or was that just done special for your Halloween costume?"
"This is my natural look," Stephanie grabbed her two braids and spun around while holding them out. "My costumes make me look different, but now, I am who I am. Stephanie Marie Meyers. I will always be myself here Joanne and Mrs. Sterns. No costumes, no pretend, no Dar. . . I am Stephanie. This is who I am."
Joanne looked at Stephanie confused by the outburst. Mrs. Sterns smiled at Stephanie, impressed by the declaration.
"Well I guess we are not going to play dress up," Joanne said as she started to drag Stephanie down to hall to her room.
"We can play dress-up. What do you have to play dress-up with?"
"I have a few Princess outfits, a doctor outfit, some cheer leader pom-poms, and for my birthday I got a bow and arrow set so I can be Merida from Brave."
Joanne and Stephanie played for over an hour before Stephanie crossed a line she had not intended crossing. The two of them were playing with dolls and Stephanie had just made one do a cartwheel.
"Oh, I wish I could do those," Joanne said.
"You do them just fine Joanne. Don't worry about what John said during Gym class, he was just jealous because he couldn't do one as good as you did."
"How did you know what John said in Gym class? You weren't there, were you?"
Joanne looked at Stephanie more closely, while Stephanie tried to look away and not make eye contact.
"Are you in my class?"
Stephanie was silent while Joanne looked her over.
"I have to go," Stephanie said standing up and heading for the bedroom door.
"You look a lot like Daryl in my class, are you his sister? I didn't think Daryl had a sister. If you were Daryl's sister why isn't Daryl here too?"
"I am," Stephanie said as tears started to flow and she ran to the living room to get her coat.
"Wait Stephanie," Joanne yelled after her.
Turning the corner into the living room, Stephanie ran right into Mrs. Sterns.
"Hold on there little one, where are you going in such a hurry."
"I go home now," Stephanie said through the tears as Joanne came charging into the room.
"Joanne Sterns, what have you done?"
"But Mom, I didn't do anything."
"Well something happened, Stephanie here is in tears trying to go home and you are yelling at the top of your lungs for her to come back."
"I don't know what happened Mommy. We were playing with my dolls and Stephanie said I shouldn't be upset about John teasing me during Gym class. How did she know about John teasing me and how does she know what my cartwheels looked like in Gym class. Who is she Mommy? She looks like a boy named Daryl in my class, but I don't think Daryl has a sister. Even if he did, why wouldn't you be babysitting Daryl too? You said Stephanie lives on the other side of the park, then why haven't I seen her around the neighborhood or at school. She is my age, but she isn't in my grade at school?"
"I see," Mrs. Sterns said squatting down trying to console Stephanie while listening to her daughter ramble on. "You have a lot of questions. I am kind of surprised it took you this long to ask them. Have you asked Stephanie any of these questions?"
Stephanie upon hearing this tried to get away from Mrs. Stern, but was being firmly held.
"Sort of," Joanne thought for a moment. "She said . . . No, that doesn't make any sense Mommy. What she said can't be right."
Mrs. Sterns whispered into Stephanie's ear, "You told her. That was very brave. I am proud of you."
"What did she say Joanne," Mrs. Sterns asked?
"I go now," Stephanie got out through her tears.
"No you are not going anywhere. It is time everyone here learned and accepted the truth, whether they like it or not."
"The truth? I have been telling the truth Mommy, honest I have."
"I know princess. Back to the question, what did Stephanie say?"
"I said Stephanie looked like Daryl's sister. I asked if Stephanie was Daryl's sister where is Daryl. It doesn't make any sense Mommy that you would babysit Daryl's sister and not him. Does it?"
"No it doesn't Joanne. Keep going."
"She said, ‘I am'. But Mommy she's not Daryl, she's Stephanie. Is Stephanie Daryl's sister?"
Mrs. Sterns smiled, "The innocence of children, if only more adults saw the world that way. No Joanne, Stephanie is not Daryl's sister. The reason Stephanie knew about John teasing you during Gym class is because she was there. She is in your class, and if I recall correctly she has been in your class a few times since Kindergarten. You even used to play together some back when you were preschoolers going to the same Daycare. I think it is about time the two of you actually met."
Mrs. Sterns turned Stephanie around, "Now Stephanie, how is it that your mom phrased it? Something like; you wear a costume to school."
"Yeah, a Daryl costume," Stephanie said barely above a whisper.
"A what costume," Joanne inquired?
"A DARYL COSTUME!" Stephanie blurted out.
Joanne stood still staring at Stephanie with her mouth open.
Stephanie took a deep breath and turned to Mrs. Sterns, "I will go now Mrs. Sterns. Thank you for babysitting me. I am sorry."
"Stephanie Meyers you are not going anywhere. Come with me into the kitchen. I think this is a perfect time for some cookies and milk," Mrs. Stern holding on tight to Stephanie led her into the kitchen, leaving Joanne standing there with her mouth open.
"But . . . You can't be Daryl. You're a girl," Joanne said a moment later as she followed them into the kitchen. "Girls are NOT boys! Ha Ha funny joke. Joke over. Who are you really?"