Chapter 4 of 10
Mrs. Sterns was afraid to let Stephanie go, figuring the little birdy would fly the coop at the first possible opportunity. She held Stephanie's hand while getting the cookies out and the two of them brought them over to the table. She held Stephanie's hand while getting the milk out and bringing it to the table. She even held Stephanie's hand while getting out two Disney Princess glasses for the two girls to drink from. Finally sitting Stephanie down at the table, she let go but then sat down next to her.
Joanne had come in and sat down in her usual seat at the table just staring at Stephanie and her Mom get the snack out.
"But she is a girl. Daryl is a boy. She can't be Daryl."
"You were Tinkerbell for Halloween," Mrs. Sterns commented. "Are you really a fairy?"
"Don't be silly Mommy," Joanne said in frustration. "That was just a Halloween costume. Of course I am not really Tinkerbell."
Stephanie took a bite of the cookie looking between Mrs. Sterns and Joanne.
"You have dress-up clothes in your room, are you really those things when you dress in them," Mrs. Sterns asked Joanne who had yet to take a cookie?
"No I just pretending to be things."
Joanne reached out to get a cookie, only realizing then that she still had a doll in her hand. She put the doll down on the table and got a cookie.
Stephanie took a drink of milk, spending time to examine all the princesses on the cup.
"Stephanie wears a Daryl costume to school?" Joanne asked to the air as she ate her cookie. "Daryl is in my class at school."
"Yes princess," Mrs. Sterns reassured her confused daughter.
"Stephanie is in my class at school but wears a costume to school, a Daryl costume? Daryl and Stephanie are the same person?"
"I think she's got it," Mrs. Sterns announced.
"Don't be silly Mommy! Stephanie is a girl. She can't be a boy named Daryl."
"Well Stephanie, she almost had it."
Stephanie stayed quiet continuing to eat and drink slowly.
"Your right Joanne, Stephanie is NOT a boy named Daryl. She is a girl who pretends to be a boy named Daryl."
"Why would she do something stupid like that, especially Daryl of all people?"
"Joanne Sterns be nice."
"No Mrs. Sterns, she is right," Stephanie said. "Daryl isn't exactly anyone someone would want to pretend to be."
"Daryl's a Noper Mom," Joanne stated.
"A . . . ‘Noper'?"
"Yeah a ‘No Person'," Joanne explained. "A person who no one talks to, no one plays with, no one likes. You only talk with a Noper if you have to or the teacher assigns them to your group. If Stephanie was going to pretend to be someone else, why would she ever pretend to be a Noper?"
Stephanie looked at her plate with a half-eaten cookie on it, "None of the boys will play with me, I hit and kick like the girls. None of the girls will play with me because I am a boy. I didn't choose to be a Noper, everyone else chose that for me. I chose to be Stephanie and Stephanie is NOT going to be a Noper."
"Well, it sounds like you have been very mean to Daryl, Joanne Elizabeth Sterns."
"I did not raise you to treat other people that way."
"But Mom, Daryl's a boy. Girl's don't play with boys at school."
"Do you treat all the boys like Nopers Joanne," Mrs. Sterns inquired.
Joanne put her head down and said, "No."
"Young lady," Mrs. Sterns firmly stated. "You do talk with the boys and interact with them, even if you don't play with them, but apparently you didn't give Daryl this same level of respect. It is never appropriate to treat someone like a non-person. Your father and I will talk with you more this evening about this, and if I EVER hear about you treating anyone else like a non-person."
Both Stephanie and Joanne knew by the tone they didn't want to find out what would happen.
"I am not going to raise a daughter who feels she is better than others. I think you owe Stephanie an apology."
"Why do I owe Stephanie an apology? I didn't treat her like a Noper."
"It is okay Mrs. Sterns," Stephanie interjected. "She doesn't have to apologize. Joanne doesn't tease me like some of the other kids do."
"No Stephanie, it is not okay. I am glad to hear that she doesn't tease you at school, but treating you like a non-person is just as bad," Mrs. Sterns said to Stephanie before turning to Joanne. "Joanne, do you treat Daryl like a non-person at school?"
"Yeah, but all the other kids do too."
"If all the other kids jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?"
"There is no excuse for treating someone like a non-person. That is disrespectful and demeaning. How would you like to be treated like a non-person?"
"I wouldn't like it."
"Then apologize to Stephanie for treating her that way."
"But I didn't treat Stephanie like that. I just treat Daryl that way."
"Joanne, Stephanie IS Daryl."
"No she's not. Daryl has really short hair and never wears pretty dresses like Stephanie has on."
"Joanne, the curly hair Stephanie had on Halloween and yesterday when she came to visit was definitely a wig, and I don't know where she got such a good one, but I would say she is currently wearing a wig too."
"Yes ma'am," Stephanie stated. "My Aunt Jennifer took me to a wig shop yesterday."
"A wig?" Joanne looked confused. "Stephanie's wearing a wig?"
"Now apologize to Stephanie for how you treat her when she is dressed up as Daryl."
"Sorry . . . Stephanie?"
"That does not sound like a very honest apology," Mrs. Sterns glared at her daughter.
"But that isn't Daryl Mommy, it can't be. Stephanie's NOT a boy. She can't be."
"Oh and my little nine year old princess is such an expert on boys?"
"No, but I know girls. Stephanie is a girl. Not only is she a girl, but as Gwen would put it, she is a Girly Girl. Every dress I have seen her in had frills and lace. She wears girl colors, and plays with dolls and dress up. She was the perfect Princess on Halloween. Gwen doesn't even like playing with Tomboys, but after trick-or-treating she asked me if I knew who Stephanie was so we could all get together and play. Stephanie can't be a boy!"
Mrs. Sterns chuckled, "Well I think you are right Joanne, Stephanie is definitely NOT a boy."
"Thank You," Stephanie said with a big smile across her face.
"So let's look at this another way Joanne," Mrs. Sterns directed. "Tell me about Daryl. Could Daryl be a girl?"
"He's a boy. He lines up with the boys. He has a boy name. He wears boy clothes. He even has a boy haircut. He has always been a boy."
"But does Daryl act like a boy or like a girl?"
"The other boys say he hits and kicks like a girl," Joanne admits. "He can jump rope better than some of the girls in our class."
"What does he do at recess," Mrs. Sterns asked?
"Well, I don't know. He is a Noper, I don't play with him. He just sort of swings on the swings and goes on the jungle gym occasionally."
Stephanie interjected, "Do any of the other boys swing on the swings or play on the jungle gym?"
"No not really. Usually only the girls play on them," Joanne replied in deep thought.
Stephanie continued to get Joanne thinking, "What is Mrs. Farren always complaining about that the boys should be more like the girls."
Joanne giggled, "She always tells the girls how nice their handwriting is, and the boys that they need to write neatly like the girls. She tells the boys to settle down and focus, but rarely says that to the girls."
"What about Daryl," Mrs. Sterns asked?
"He . . ." Joanne contemplated. "He . . . has nice writing like the girls . . . he, stays away from the boys and is never in trouble like they are."
"So he is more like the girls than the boys at school," Mrs. Sterns asked?
"Yeah, I guess so," Joanne admitted.
Stephanie's face lit up. She decided to expand the topic, "Do you ever see him at the park down the street when you go play?"
"Yeah, why?" Joanne inquired with a questioning look.
"What do the boys do at the park," Stephanie asked?
"They play basketball or soccer. They play pirates or shoot them up games. Some of them wrestle. Even the little boys do this," Joanne grimaced.
"Does Daryl ever play those games," Mrs. Sterns asked?
"No, again he is usually on the swings or jungle gym. Occasionally I see him riding his bike around."
"So does Daryl play like the girls or the boys," Stephanie asked?
"Well more like the girls I guess."
Mrs. Sterns smiled widely, "So Daryl could be a girl dressed up in a boy costume?"
"Yeah I guess, but why would any girl ever want to do that?"
"I didn't have a choice. Everyone keeps calling me a boy and until Thursday I only had boy clothes to dress in. I . . . I didn't have a choice," Stephanie blurted out before the tears started to flow again.
Mrs. Sterns gave Stephanie a hug.
"Even once I had a dress, I couldn't exactly go out like this," Stephanie said taking her wig off. "I couldn't play the jump rope games with you and the other girls. I couldn't play with dolls when one of the girls brought them to school. I couldn't wear pretty dresses on picture day. I couldn't be me. Everyone just saw the boy Daryl. NO MORE. Daddy said costumes are only to be worn on Halloween. I don't want to wear the Daryl costume anymore. I don't want to. It is not fair. Mommy and Daddy make me wear the Daryl costume to school, but I am NOT going to wear it other times. It's not fair."
It took Mrs. Sterns several minutes to calm Stephanie down and get her to stop crying.
With the wig back on and the tears subsided, Mrs. Sterns settled the two girls in the living room and put on one of the American Girl movies. It kept both girls quiet for 90 minutes, giving them each time to think.
Throughout the movie, Stephanie knew she was being watched by Joanne. She also saw Mrs. Sterns come into the room a lot to look at her. Stephanie was convinced she did it again, she revealed the truth and now her parents would need to find a new babysitter. How was she going to explain this to Mom?
At the end of the movie Mrs. Sterns sent the two girls back to Joanne's room to play. Joanne got up and after glaring at Stephanie, she went back to her room. Stephanie stayed on the couch.
"Stephanie go back and play with Joanne," Mrs. Sterns said taking the DVD out of the player.
"I'll just stay here."
Mrs. Sterns looked at Stephanie, "What's wrong dear?"
"Nothing," Stephanie said without making eye contact. "I just don't feel like playing."
Mrs. Sterns put the DVD away and sat down next to Stephanie, "What are you worried about Stephanie?"
"You were having fun playing with Joanne earlier. Why don't you go back and see what she is up to now."
"No, that's okay."
Mrs. Sterns took Stephanie's hands and looked straight into her eyes, "Stephanie, why don't you want to play with Joanne anymore?"
"She doesn't want to play with me."
"What would make you think something so silly."
"It's okay Mrs. Sterns, I am used to doing nothing as the other kids play. I know when I am not welcome. I'm a Noper remember."
"Joanne Elizabeth Sterns, get in here NOW!"
"What Mommy?" Joanne asked as she came back into the living room.
"Can you please explain to me why Stephanie believes you don't want to play with her?"
"Maybe because I don't," Joanne sheepishly said.
"And why is that?"
"She's a boy in a dress Mommy," Joanne clearly explained.
"And you are a girl in pants. What's your point young lady?"
"Stephanie's a boy. That is just really really weird."
"Before you knew about the connection between Stephanie and Daryl, you had no problem playing with Stephanie. She is still the same person. Are you?"
Joanne looked at her Mom and then at Stephanie.
"Young Lady, you are already scheduled to have a long talk with your father and me this evening about your inappropriate behavior towards Daryl and any other people you might have treated like non-people. Apparently, we now need to add a discussion about how you are treating Stephanie."
"But Mom," Joanne said confused by her mom not understanding.
"Don't ‘But Mom' me young lady. I am very disappointed in you at the moment."
The room was silent.
"Joanne," Mrs. Sterns broke the silence. "Go get your backpack and go to the kitchen table to work on your homework. Playtime is over for the rest of the day. When you are done with your homework you can think about how you have treated Stephanie today, and how you have treated her when she has been dressed up as Daryl. She is going to be here three days a week. I am going to make sure she has fun when she is here: with you or without you. Now go do your homework."
Mrs. Sterns turned to Stephanie as Joanne went off to get her backpack, "I am sorry Stephanie. You do not deserve the treatment you have gotten. I need you to know you are safe in this house, and always welcome."
Standing up and reaching out her hand, "Come with me Stephanie."
Mrs. Sterns led Stephanie back to Joanne's room. As they entered, Joanne was leaving with her backpack.
Stopping in front of the bookcase in the room, "I know you have homework to read twenty minutes every night. We have collected quite a collection of books for a little girl to enjoy. If most of your life you have been in your Daryl costume, I am sure you have never gotten to read many of them. I want you to view this like a lending library. Pick out two books and then come back to the living room to do your reading homework."
Mrs. Sterns left the room while Stephanie looked through the books. She picked out a book called No Flying in the House, and a Fancy Nancy book. Taking the books she returned to the living room and settled into the couch with her back to the kitchen. She didn't want to see Joanne at the kitchen table working on her homework.
The Fancy Nancy book was read first, and despite her feelings, a few giggles escaped. It was a quick read, and Stephanie went on to the ‘No Flying in the House' book. She was quickly getting pulled into the story when the front door opened.
"Hi Joanne . . . Oh, you are not Joanne," The man who walked through the door commented.
"Then you must be Princess Stephanie."
Frowning, Stephanie looked back down at the book before looking back at the man, "No sir. Just Stephanie."
"Well, Stephanie, for starters you can call me George or Mr. Sterns, but sir is just a little too formal."
"Sorry sir. . . I mean Sorry Mr. Sterns."
"Second Stephanie . . ."
"Welcome home Honey," Mrs. Sterns said coming into the room.
Mr. Sterns kissed his wife and then looked back at Stephanie, "as I was saying Stephanie, as a girl, you are always a princess even if you don't always feel like it inside."
Stephanie gave Mr. Sterns a weak smile. She wanted to believe him, but the impending arrival of her Mother and possible need for her to get a new babysitter was weighing on her heavily.
"So where is the other little princess," Mr. Sterns asked looking at his wife. "I figured the two would be running a raucous throughout the house."
"Well, your daughter is doing her homework at the kitchen table. Apparently she has been disrespectful to kids at school and has chosen to continue that disrespect in her interactions with Stephanie here. The two were fine together till she found out about Stephanie's past."
Looking at Stephanie, Mr. Sterns thought a moment before saying, "I am sorry Stephanie. Everyone deserves the right to be respected. I don't know what Joanne's issues are, but I will get to the bottom of it."
Mr. Sterns looked to his wife.
"Stephanie," Mrs. Sterns reinforced. "You are always welcome here. You have done nothing wrong. Joanne should never have treated you like a non-person at school and there is no excuse for her behaviors this afternoon. I am sure she will have a different view of things by the time you come on Wednesday."
Mr. Sterns' eyes went wide at his wife's comment.
"You mean you will still be babysitting me?" Stephanie asked with shock.
"Of course I will," Mrs. Sterns reassured her.
"Even though I wear a Daryl costume to school?"
"That doesn't matter Stephanie," Mrs. Sterns reassured her. Raising her voice she continued, "Joanne was wrong in how she has treated you as Daryl and her behavior this afternoon has also been inappropriate. Like I have said, you will be welcome here as Stephanie or as Daryl. If Joanne has a problem with that, she will be a very unhappy little girl while you and I have fun together."
At recess the next morning Joanne approached Daryl on the swings, "Mommy says I have to apologize for treating you like a Noper. Sorry Daryl."
"That's okay Joanne."
"Daddy said I have to play with you at recess all week."
"You don't have to Joanne, just go play with Gwen and Melissa like you always do."
"No Daryl, I have to play with you. Daddy said I have to. Mommy is going to be asking you on Wednesday and Friday to make sure I am playing with you."
"Go play with your friends Joanne," Stephanie said looking over at Gwen and Melissa getting a big jump rope out. "Don't worry I will tell your mom we played together."
"I have to play with you Daryl, Daddy said he was going to call Mrs. Farren to make sure we played together and to make sure I have been nice to you this week in class."
"I'm sorry Joanne," Daryl said looking down at the ground as he scraped his feet in the bark under the swing.
"So you think you are a girl trapped in a boy body?"
"Never really thought of it that way, but yeah, I guess that would describe it."
"Daddy says that is not weird."
"Just the way things are," Daryl said still looking down at his feet.
"Daddy said people like you are girls in the brain and heart where it counts the most. I don't understand, but Daddy said I would if I played with you all week. He said playing with you as Stephanie and as Daryl would teach me that you are the same no matter what you are wearing."
"Joanne, just go play with your friends. I will be fine."
"Not a chance in the world. I like all my toys. I am in trouble enough for treating you and Sally as Nopers."
"How did they find out about Sally?"
Now Joanne looked down at her feet, "I had to tell them. Mommy said she would take away all my dresses and girl clothes and make me dress only in boy clothes if I didn't tell them about all the kids I treated like non-people."
"If they are making you play with me for a week, what are they going to do about Sally? She moved away this last summer?"
"I don't want to talk about it. Come on Daryl. Melissa and Gwen have the jump rope and are waiting for me."
"I can't go play with them."
"Why not? If you are really Stephanie, you would just be one of the girls. Anyways, Gwen said at Halloween that she wanted to play with ‘Princess Stephanie' again."
"But I am in my Daryl costume," Daryl said in hushed tones. "Gwen doesn't even play with the girls like Candice who play all the ball games with the boys. She will never play with me."
"Melissa and I can't out jump rope Gwen," Joanne said with a devilish smile. "But, I bet you can. Come on Daryl. If we have to play together, we might as well have some fun."
Joanne dragged Daryl off the swings and he followed her over to Gwen and Melissa.
"Joanne, what are you doing with Daryl?" Gwen asked as they approached.
"I thought he could jump rope with us today."
"What," Gwen asked in shock. "He is a boy and a Noper. We can't play with him. I bet the Kindergarteners could jump rope more times than he can."
"Tell you what Gwen," Joanne stated. "If he can get through the Teddy Bear song, doing all the actions, then you will let him hang out with us this week."
"Joanne!" Daryl exclaimed. "I've only done jump rope in Gym class. I can't do you're your type of jump rope."
"Come on Daryl, I bet you are better than Gwen."
"Yeah, right. A boy better than me. Never going to happen," Gwen said with arrogance.
"Then I guess you will not mind spinning the rope while Daryl jumps. He will jump all the way through and do all the actions."
"Joanne!" Daryl was getting more and more scared as Joanne went on.
"Daryl," Joanne turned to Daryl and asked. "Do you know the Teddy Bear chant?"
"He's a boy. He isn't going to know any of the Jump Rope Chants," Gwen snided.
"Yeah," Daryl reluctantly responded. "I know it."
"In you go Daryl," Joanne pushed Daryl towards the jump rope that Melissa and Gwen were starting up. "Who are you Daryl?"
Mouthing a response without saying it out loud, "I am Stephanie!"
Daryl watched the rope for two turns and then jumped in and started chanting:
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around,
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, touch the ground
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, show your shoe
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, that will do!
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, go upstairs-
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say your prayers-
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn out the lights-
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, say good-night!
Daryl got to the end of the song after acting out all the steps and still jumping rope. Gwen stopped the rope and turned to Joanne, "Fine he can jump, but he is not better than me. You think he is good, let's see how good he is."
Gwen started the rope back up causing Daryl to start jumping. She then shouted out ‘Cinderella'. All the girls and Daryl started chanting:
Cinderella, dressed in yellow
went upstairs to kiss a 'fella
made a mistake
and kissed a snake
how many doctors
did it take?
1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . 5 . . . 6. . .
Daryl managed to keep jumping till they reached 64.
"Wow, not even Erin can jump that long," Melissa blurted out, only regretting it upon seeing Gwen's expression.
"Fine," Gwen pouted. "He CAN jump rope, that doesn't mean we should have to play with a Noper. What are you going to do next Joanne, invite the Special Ed. kids to play with us?"
Melissa threw the rope down and walked over to the swings.
"Well now look what you have done Joanne," Gwen glared at Joanne.
"Me? . . . Me? . . . Gwen you were the one that insulted Melissa. You know how sensitive she is about having to go to the Special Education room. How could you be so mean? Come on Daryl," Joanne grabbed Stephanie's wrist and dragged her over to Melissa on the swings.
Melissa, Joanne, and Daryl swung together for the rest of recess. Gwen kept her distance. At lunch recess, Gwen tried to join Melissa, Joanne, and Daryl, but based upon Melissa's reaction to her presence, Joanne told Gwen to get lost till she could be nice.
Daryl had fun at both recesses, but knew it was only happening because Joanne was being punished. He tried to remember all the feelings and actions so he could replay them in his head next week when he would be all alone again. He wasn't even sure this would last till tomorrow, but for today . . . today Stephanie got to be at recess and be one of the girls, even if she was wearing a Daryl costume.