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Chapter 8: Mom!

Summary: At long last, Mom returns. Will this be a good or bad thing? The surprise visitor with her will change everything, for everyone. Stephanie's Mom is not the only Mom facing Stephanie this chapter.

 

Costumes
Chapter 8 of 10
Mom!

~o~O~o~

     "Yes Stephanie, it is strange when others think of you as a hero and you don't, but heroes do not always get to decide if they are one or not.  Sometimes it is the people around the hero that decides," Dr. Jones explained.  "Melissa and her friends in the Special Education class saw you doing what all of them wanted to do, but couldn't. You are their hero for standing up to the bullies and telling everyone you are not a nobody. Joanne and the teachers feel you protected Joanne by sending her away before Frank could do anything.  Many people view that as heroic, considering others before one's self."

     "But I just . . ."

     "I know Stephanie, you have already told me several times you were not trying to be heroic. You seem to think that that is a reason why you are not a hero," Dr. Jones gave a reassuring smile. "That makes you the best kind of hero to some people.  You do that a lot, don't you Stephanie?  You think of ways to help others, not really caring about yourself."

     "What is there to care about?  I can't be me, so why should I care about me? I am a nobody, a freak. No one even knows the true me or cares about me."

     "I know it seems that way at times Stephanie, but there are a lot of people who care about you. Just think about all those cards the kids wrote for Daryl on your desk at school."

     "They may care about Daryl, I know that is all Mommy cares about.  But I am not Daryl."

     Dr. Jones jotted something down on her note pad and continued, "Can you tell me about you and Daryl?"

     "Daryl is no more," Stephanie said with confidence looking straight at Dr. Jones.

     "Why do you say that?"

     "I put on the costume every day for school like you and my parents insist I do, but I can't pretend to be him anymore.  He just isn't there for me to be him. Daryl is dead, and no matter how hard I try he is not coming back."

     "Who are you when you have the Daryl costume on?" Dr. Jones watched as Stephanie picked up the boy doll on the couch.

     "I . . . I don't know," Stephanie looked closely at the doll and moved it around on her lap a little bouncing from foot to foot.  "Me maybe, but I can't be me in the costume."

     "Why not Stephanie?"

     "People don't see Stephanie in a boy costume.  They see Daryl, a boy.  If I let myself be Stephanie, I . . . I . . . I get beat up."

     Stephanie pounded her hands into the boy doll beating it up.  She then laid the doll down on the couch next to her and declared, "Daryl is dead now."

     Stephanie picked up the girl doll on the couch and looked closely at it.  Dr. Jones stayed quiet and just watched.

     "Stephanie . . .," Stephanie said staring at the girl doll in her hands.  "You can't stay.  You have to go away."

     Stephanie took the girl doll in one hand and gestured to throw it across the room, stopping just as the doll would have been released.  Bringing it in for a tight hug, she then brought the doll into her lap and sat it down looking at her.

     "I don't want you to go Stephanie, but you can't stay.  Only bad things happen when you are here.  I need the bad things to stop.  I need people happy again.  I can't . . . I won't be responsible for people being sad," tears started down Stephanie's face.  "You have to go away so Mommy will come back, so Gwen, Melissa, and Joanne will play together again, and so the kids at school can go on without me messing everything up for them.  Stephanie has to stop being Stephanie."

     "If Stephanie stops being Stephanie, will she go back to being Daryl?" Dr. Jones asked.

     "No, Daryl's dead!" Stephanie said never taking her eyes off the girl doll on her lap.

     "Then who is Stephanie going to be," Dr. Jones probed?

     "Nobody.  I will just be nobody.  I hurt too many people as Stephanie.  Daryl is dead.  I will just be nobody, never causing any harm to anyone ever again," Stephanie grabbed the girl doll and hugged her tight as tears freely flowed down her face.

     Dr. Jones watched as Stephanie moved the doll away three times, but unable to put it down, bringing it back in for a hug each time.  On the fourth time, Stephanie put it down and covered the doll with a pillow.

     Dr. Jones and Stephanie talked for two hours during that special Saturday therapy session.  At the end, Stephanie agreed not to shut out the rest of the world and hide away inside of herself.  It was only a temporary agreement, but Dr. Jones would take whatever she could get. Stephanie promised not to hurt herself, Stephanie, or Daryl before talking with Dr. Jones.  Enough was said and worked through that Dr. Jones felt it was safe for Stephanie to leave her office, especially with her returning for the regular appointment in just three days. 

 

~o~O~o~

 

     Dad, Aunt Jennifer, and Stephanie stopped for chicken nuggets on the way home.  No one talked about the therapy session. Topics of discussion stayed focused on irrelevant issues, even a discussion about the weather at one point. Stephanie was in a world of her own, not paying attention to much of anything. By the time they pulled into the driveway, Stephanie was in need of more pain killers and was feeling tired.  She was just leaning against the car window staring out, with her Molly doll held tight in her arms. 

     "Were home Stephanie," Dad jolted Stephanie back into awareness of her surroundings. "Let's get you some medication and then ready for bed."

     Aunt Jennifer helped Stephanie out of the car, and the three of them headed for the house.  Stephanie was the first one in, and she promptly heard a voice coming from the Kitchen.

     "I don't know where they are.  I didn't expect them to be gone with how James described Daryl being hurt. Don't give me that look.  I know, I know."

     Stephanie's eyes went wide as a huge smile spread on her face, "Mommy!"

     Charging for the kitchen where the voice was coming from, Stephanie left Aunt Jennifer and Daddy behind.

     "Mommy you came back," Stephanie said running in and giving Mom a big hug.

     "Of course I did Daryl, I was so worried when I heard you were hurt," Mom said hugging back.

     Stephanie winced from the pain the hug produced and then separated from Mom.  The glee was gone as she hung her head and turned to leave, "Oh, you came back to see Daryl.  I'll go change."

     Stephanie was slowly walking out of the kitchen trying to hold back tears. She knew the only way Mommy would stay was for her to change into Daryl clothes. She didn't want to lose Mommy again so she had to go get changed.

     "Mary Margret! How could you?  Stephanie honey, come here."

     Stephanie turned to look at the mysterious voice that reprimanded Mommy.

     "Grandma Eaton!" Stephanie ran over to her.

     "Hi Stephanie," Grandma said giving her granddaughter a gentle hug.  "How is my favorite granddaughter doing?"

     Stephanie just started crying.  Grandma picked her granddaughter up onto her lap and gently cuddled and rocked her.

     "It's okay honey.  It's okay.  Grandma is here to make everything better," Grandma rubbed Stephanie's back. "It has been a rough time.  I am sorry Stephanie. I know Mommy has not made it any easier for you.  She is going to be different now.  I am here to make sure of that."

     Grandma glared at her daughter who was still standing on the other side of the table, "Now Mary Margret, you have been disrespectful to your daughter, paid no attention to the fact that she is in pain from her injuries, and were about to force her to go put on some costume.  Is that any way for a mother to treat her daughter?  Your daughter here was beaten up yesterday.  It wasn't your son in some school yard fight.  No, it was your daughter being beaten up so much that she had to be taken to the doctor and is obviously still in significant pain. Did you even notice her pain when you hugged her?" 

     "She's overdue for this," Dad said putting a pill and glass of water next to Grandma Eaton.

     "Thank you James.  Here honey, take this," Grandma Eaton got Stephanie to take the medication.

     After several more minutes of just cuddling into Grandma, the tears subsided. 

     "I think it is time I was formally introduced to my granddaughter," Grandma announced moving Stephanie a little bit out onto her lap so the two could look at each other.

     "Hi Grandma," Stephanie said still trying to recover from the crying fit.  "I am Stephanie."

     "Nice to meet you Stephanie," Grandma smiled at her.

     "Stephanie sweetie," Dad interjected. "Tell Grandma what you chose as your full name."

     Stephanie smiled and sat up straight, "I am Stephanie Marie Meyers."

     Grandma Eaton smiled at Stephanie.  She looked over at Mary who acted just as surprised at the name. Looking at James she was greeted by a smile.

     "She picked it all on her own," Dad said with pride.

     "I always liked your middle name Grandma," Stephanie hugged Grandma.

     "Oh thank you Stephanie.  You know, it was my mom's first name," Grandma explained.

     "Daddy told me," Stephanie looked over at her Dad.

     "Well honey, let's get you out of that coat," Grandma said starting to unzip the coat. "I want to get a proper look at my little girl."

     Grandma took off the coat and stood Stephanie up in front of her.  With a spin, Stephanie stood in front of Grandma with a big smile on her face.  She tried to curtsy, which got some big smiles from the women in the room.

     "Oh Mary, she is so beautiful. You need to give her a few lessons in how to curtsey though," Grandma said with a chuckle.  "But if I recall correctly, you didn't master that till you were twelve."

     "Hi Mom," Aunt Jennifer said coming over and giving her mom a hug and kiss.  "This is a nice surprise. Is Dad here too?"

     "No, he had to stay home.  I was needed here though," Grandma said staring over at Mary.

     "How long are you staying Grandma," Stephanie asked?

     "At least a week Honey, maybe longer if I am still needed," Grandma again turned to stare at Mary.

     "Stay as long as you want," Dad said. "You know you are always welcome here.  We have the guest room for you to stay in."

     "Thank You James," Grandma replied.  "I think for now we should go into the living room.  There are some things in there for Stephanie."

     "Presents?" Stephanie lit up.

     "Yes Dar . . . Stephanie," Mom said.  "Two from me, and one from Grandma."

     Stephanie grabbed Grandma's hand and walked with her into the living room.   Sitting on the coffee table were three presents, three different sizes.  The big and medium sized boxes were wrapped in pink Disney Princess wrapping paper and the small one was wrapped in Hello Kitty wrapping paper. Stephanie immediately went to the big present.

     "Can I open them," Stephanie pleaded?

     "If you are a little girl named Stephanie, then you can open them," Grandma said with a smile as she sat down on the couch.

     Stephanie opened the first present to reveal a porcelain doll dressed in a ballerina outfit.

     "She's so pretty," Stephanie took the doll out of the box and danced around the room with it.  Well sort of danced, as the pain in her side impeded some of her movements.

     "Do you like it," Mom asked?

     "Oh yes Mommy, yes!" Stephanie put the doll down on the table and made it do a spin.

     "China dolls are very special Stephanie," Mom explained.  "They are fragile and break easily, so you have to be very gentle with them."

     "Your mom should know Stephanie," Aunt Jennifer interjected.  "She broke my China Doll when we were kids."

     Mary blushed, "Yeah well, I am sure Stephanie will be much more careful with her doll."

     "Oh, Yes," Stephanie said still looking over her doll.

     Mom got a doll stander out of the box and helped Stephanie put the Porcelain doll into it. Afterwards, Stephanie's attention shifted to the medium sized box.  Inside was a pink leotard and tutu.

     "I will call on Monday to see about you getting ballet lessons," Mom said looking at Grandma instead of Stephanie.

     Grandma nodded but didn't say a word.  Stephanie was holding the outfit up and feeling the fabric.

     "Can I try it on?"

     "Sure Honey, go ahead," Grandma replied.

     Stephanie started for her bedroom to get changed. 

     "Someone is going to need to help her," Aunt Jennifer said standing up.

     "Sit down Jennifer," Grandma looked at Mary.  "A girl's first leotard and tutu should be helped on by her mother."

     Mary got up and followed Stephanie into the bedroom.  Shortly afterwards, Grandma got up and headed back too.

     Stephanie at first tried to get the dress off herself, but Mom started to help when she saw how much pain the attempt was causing.  It wasn't till the dress was off that Mom for the first time got to see the giant bruise.  The largest black and blue marks were on her left side, but there were several smaller spots throughout her mid-section.

     "Oh Pumpkin," Mom gasped as she examined Stephanie.

     "And you felt you were not needed here," Grandma commented while taking a step into the bedroom.  "Having a little temper tantrum and running off across the country to me.  Look at your daughter Mary.  She needed her Mommy after that.  It has been what, about thirty-three hours since Stephanie was attacked.  Thirty-three hours without her Mom to help her through all of this. I haven't even heard you apologize yet for being gone.  Your baby girl was brutally attacked.  She wasn't fighting the other kid, from all accounts, she didn't even fight back.  Your daughter Stephanie got beat up Mary. Your Daughter!  She may have been wearing boy clothes at the time, but it was your daughter that was brutally attacked by a boy.  Look at her Mary.  Look Stephanie in the eyes and tell her why she had to endure all of this without you here to love and care for her."

     "Oh Dar . . ."

     "And that stops now Mary!" Grandma reprimanded.

     "Stephanie," Mom restarted. "I am so sorry I wasn't here. I . . . I was being foolish.  I was thinking of myself and not you.  I should have been here when you needed me.  I shouldn't have turned my cell phone off after leaving Dr. Jones' office. I'm sorry Stephanie.  I shouldn't have left you and Daddy."

     "You have a bit more you need to apologize for Mary, but I think we better get Stephanie into her leotard, she's shivering," Grandma said picking up the leotard. 

     Mom got some pink tights from Stephanie's drawer and put them on Stephanie.  Half way into getting the leotard on, the two adults realized this probably was not a good idea.  The ways Stephanie needed to bend in order to get the garment on caused her significant pain.  It didn't stop Stephanie though.  She wanted to wear that leotard and tutu.  She had wanted to wear one many times before.  She was not going to pass up this opportunity.  Getting her arms into the long sleeves was hard, but worth it.  The tutu was last, at which point nothing could take the smile off of Stephanie's face. The trio returned to the living room where Stephanie did some dancing around.

     "There is one more gift for the little ballerina to open," Grandma expressed after watching her granddaughter dance around, wincing and grabbing her side repeatedly throughout the performance.

     Stephanie smiled at Grandma and went over to the couch and sat down next to Grandma, "This one's from you?"

     "Yes precious," Grandma said gently hugging Stephanie.

     Stephanie picked up the present and unwrapped it, being much gentler than she had been with the other two presents.  Inside was a plain looking wooden box.  Stephanie looked at Grandma with a quizzical look.

     Grandma just smiled, "Open it Stephanie."

     As the lid went up, music started to play.  Once it was completely open, a ballerina was revealed who danced around to the music.  In a tray below the Ballerina's feet, Stephanie found a diamond encrusted heart necklace. She gently picked it up and looked at it.

     "Here," Grandma said taking the necklace.  "Let me put it on you."

     Stephanie hugged Grandma and thanked her for the presents.  She then lay against Grandma and watched the ballerina dance around.  Whenever she stopped, Stephanie would wind her back up and watch again.  Each time, she would end up more and more lying down.

     "So where were you three this evening," Mary broke the silence.

     "Stephanie had a two hour appointment with Dr. Jones," James responded. 

     "Oh my," Grandma said rubbing Stephanie's back. "Is everything okay?"

     "After some comments Stephanie made this morning, it was felt she needed to see Dr. Jones today.  Stephanie's had some hard times over the last few days and it was a bit more than what she could handle by herself.  Dr. Jones helped, and will help some more at Tuesday's regular therapy session," James explained.

      By the non-verbal communication, it was clear further questions should wait till after a certain little one had gone to bed.  As Stephanie continued to watch the ballerina, Aunt Jennifer talked about how a day of watching movies, turned into a play date with friends.  Stephanie contemplated objecting to the phrasing of ‘friends' but just watched the ballerina.

     After hearing about the afternoon's adventure to introduce Melissa and Gwen to Stephanie, Mary told about some messages on the answering machine.  She went over and pressed the play button so all could hear it.

     "Stephanie," Melissa was heard on the recording. "Mommy doesn't want me playing with you anymore.  She says I shouldn't be around people like you.  I tried to tell her you a hero and a good girl.  She agreed to meet you after church tomorrow.  Call me, 555-4142.  Please Stephanie, I still want to be your friend.  We have to show Mommy you are a good girl."

     "Can she come . . ." Stephanie started but stopped when a second message started.

     "Stephanie," Joanne's voice was heard. "Melissa and her Mom just left here.  We tried to convince Melissa's Mom that you are a good kid, but she wasn't listening.  Daddy even covered my ears a few times when she was talking about you.  Mommy and Daddy tried to tell them you are not a threat, but it was Melissa, you wouldn't believe it, Melissa stood up to her Mommy like you stood up to Frank.  She has never stood up to anyone ever before.  She was amazing Stephanie.  We all convinced her Mom to meet you.  This is Melissa's Mom Stephanie.  Same bit as what we had planned for Gwen and Melissa, but go little girl.  I think you should wear that dress of mine you wanted to try on.  Mommy is going to bring it over and leave it on your back . . ." - - - Beep

     Stephanie got up and went to the back door.  On the back porch was a bag.  She got it and brought it into the living room.  Opening it up she found a dress, hair ribbons and bows. 

     "That is a cute dress," Grandma beamed.

     "This must be the one Joanne's Grandma gave her on her last birthday," Stephanie said with a big smile and slight chuckle. "Daddy we have to call Melissa and set up the play date."

     "I don't know Stephanie," Dad expressed. "Are you sure you are up to someone so adamant not to accept Stephanie?"

     "It doesn't matter about me Daddy," Stephanie said turning away from the contents laid out on the coffee table.  "Melissa needs me. She's not strong like I am.  Dr. Jones said Melissa and the other kids in her Special Education class view me as a hero because I did what they have all always wanted to do.  What they could never do.  I stood up to the bullies, announcing to the world that all the nobodies are actually people.  I'm not a hero like they think I am, but maybe I can help them see they are not helpless.  Melissa can't have her first time standing up to someone be a failure. If it is, she will never do it again."

     "Smart little girl you have there James," Aunt Jennifer said.

     "And a very brave one too," Grandma added.

     "Please Daddy," Stephanie smiled and batted her eyelids.

     James sighed, "If I say no, you are still going to find a way to do it anyways, aren't you?"

    Stephanie nodded her head, continuing to smile.

     "Okay," James said looking over at his wife. "I'll call."

     "Are you sure about this James," Mary expressed her concern.  "Stephanie is in poor shape at the moment.  Is she really up to this?"

     "She is in worse shape than you know," James said looking at Aunt Jennifer.  "But Stephanie deserves friends, and she deserves adults who are willing to take as many risks as she is to get them."

     James went over to the phone and called Melissa's house.  He set up a play date for two o'clock Sunday afternoon.  Based upon his conversation with Melissa's Mom, he did not view this as a good idea, but knew he could only protect Stephanie from people like her for so long.  Stephanie was partially prepared for this encounter, and it would be done in her own home with support.  That is a better scenario than the first one being without support of loved ones around her.

     "So Stephanie," Grandma inquired.  "What did your friend mean when she said ‘go little girl'?"

     "Joanne wants me to look like a six year old when I meet Melissa's Mommy," Stephanie smiled at the concept.  She picked up the dress and held it out to look at it.  "And this should do the job with the right hair style."

     "Why does she want you to look like a little six year old," Mom asked?

     "Melissa still likes and plays with little girl toys.  Her Mommy dresses her up in little girl outfits.  Melissa likes it, but Joanne and Gwen view it as babyish.  Joanne things I have the little girl elements of Melissa and the strength of Gwen.  I just have to be me and dress for the part.  Cute six year old little girls are not dangerous.  They in saint."

     "Innocent?" Grandma questioned.

     "Yeah that," Stephanie smiled sitting back down on the couch and grabbing her Molly doll. With a yawn she continued, "I have to do it for Melissa, and maybe, my first Stephanie pictures will be of me as a little girl."

     "First Stephanie pictures," Grandma again glared at Mary.  "Are you going to tell me that she has dressed up as a princess for the last five years on Halloween, and you have never taken her picture?"

     "Well," Mary stumbled on her words.  "You see . . . We just . . ."

     "No! I don't want to hear your lame excuses," Grandma said with frustration while cuddling Stephanie.  "It is time for things to change around here.  For now, there is a little girl who needs to get her sleep.  Tomorrow we will start to address some of these issues."

 

~o~O~o~

 

     "Joanne, I said to leave Stephanie alone and let her sleep.  I just put in another My Little Pony DVD for you to watch," Stephanie heard.

     Stephanie was in a daze. She tried to process what she was hearing but it didn't make any sense.  It sounded like Mrs. Sterns, but didn't she fall sleep at home?  Stephanie, assuming she was dreaming, snuggled into her pillow and her Melanie dolly. 

     "Come on, she needs her rest.  She will wake up soon enough."

     "But we have to get her ready."

     "That can wait till she wakes up."

     Stephanie squeezed Melanie, "I have to get ready."  She then rolled over, still with eyes closed and in a sleep haze.

     "She's awake, She's awake," Stephanie heard the pitter patter of feet running away from her.

     Shortly afterwards, Stephanie was awoken by someone rubbing her back, "Morning . . . Stephanie.  Are you feeling better this morning?"

     Stephanie kept her eyes closed, "Mornin' Mommy.  I was dreaming about Joanne being here waiting for me to wake up."

     Stephanie heard a young girl's giggle.

     "What?" Stephanie opened her eyes and looked straight into Joanne's face.

     "About time you woke up," Joanne said giggling.  "We have a lot of work to do before Melissa gets here."

     "What? . . . Melissa? . . . Get ready?" Stephanie shook her head.  "What time is it?"

     "Almost nine-thirty," Mommy said still rubbing Stephanie's back.  "When your body is busy repairing itself, it makes you sleep a lot Pumpkin."

     Stephanie sat up and looked around the room. 

     "Come on Stephanie," Joanne smiled. "We have to get you ready."

     "Slow down Joanne," Mrs. Meyers intervened.  "There are several hours before Melissa gets here. Let's start with some Breakfast and then get Stephanie in for a shower before we put her in the time machine to make her younger."

     "How much younger can we make her Mrs. Meyers? Do you think if we put a diaper on her with rhumba pants that she will look like a baby?  I bet one of Stephanie's old princess dresses are small enough that she would show off her cute diapered bottom," Joanne schemed.

     "Umm . . . Diapers?  I don't think so," Stephanie eyed Joanne. "I'll settle for the time machine taking me back to six years old."

     Mrs. Meyers giggled.

     "Oh well.  You gat diapers for your doll?  We can turn you into a six year old and your Dolly into a baby," Joanne inquired.

     "No, I only have a baby bottle for my dolls," Stephanie brought Melanie up and animated her.  "Me no baby.  Me big giwl.  Me fwee.  Me no need diapees.  Me only sometimes go pee in panties."

     Joanne smiled, "Okay Melanie.  Then just training pants for you as long as you can keep them dry.  But Stephanie, she needs to turn into a six year old."

     Stephanie had Melanie clap her hands, "Mommy becoming little girl.  Mommy never been little girl before."

     "Yes Melanie," Mrs. Meyers played along.  "Your Mommy is going to be a little girl today.  Every dolly needs their Mommy to be a little girl at least once.  I bet little girl Mommy will like playing with you today.  Let's go get some food into Mommy."

     Joanne and Stephanie giggled as they headed down the hall to the kitchen.

     After a bowl of cereal and a quick shower, Stephanie stood in her room dressed in Joanne's birthday gift dress and her wig. 

     "Okay Mommy," Joanne turned to her Mom.  "Little kid pigtails and little girl pink nail polish?"

     "We can try it," Mrs. Sterns commented looking Stephanie over.

     Stephanie uneasily looked over at her Mommy, Grandma, and Aunt Jennifer who were sitting on the bed with Mrs. Sterns. 

     "We will have to be careful with the wig," Grandma said.  "Putting it in little kid high pigtails, everyone will be able to tell it is a wig if we are not very careful."

     "Tights or socks," Mommy pondered out loud?  "I think we will need to try both to see which one works best."

     "I'm not a baby doll," Stephanie worried.

     "Oh don't worry Stephanie," Aunt Jennifer reassured. "We are just trying to get it just right.  I am sure we can do this in much less time than it took your Mom to pick out her wedding outfit.  We spent six hours at the bridal shop getting just the right look for her."

      "Maybe this was a bad idea," Stephanie said backing away from the bed right into Joanne.

     "It will be fun," Joanne said.  "I'll even let them do the same thing to me."

     "Really?" Mrs. Sterns raised her eyebrow.

     "Just as long as I don't have to go anywhere," Joanne said looking a little worried.

     "Would I make you go anywhere looking like a six year old," Mrs. Sterns smiled innocently.

     "Yes," Joanne smiled. "You definitely would."

     Mrs. Sterns looked at the other adults on the bed with her, "Well, she just looks so cute I enjoy showing her off."

     The adults all laughed, and then went to work.  After a few attempts they had Stephanie dressed.

     "Can I see it now," Stephanie pleaded.

     "One more thing," Joanne ran over to the bed and grabbed Stephanie's Melanie doll. "You need to be holding this."

     Stephanie was led to the full length mirror in Mommy's room.  Looking back was a cute little girl, definitely not a nine year old young lady.  Stephanie had to admit she did look more like a six year old.  She liked it, but was this really the best way to go with Melissa's Mom?  Joanne in the high pigtails looked cute, but not as young as Stephanie did.  The dress and doll really did make a big difference. 

     Before Stephanie could even turn away from the mirror, cameras started taking pictures.  Over the next hour there were two outfit changes and so many pictures that the memory cards had to be downloaded to the computer twice. Both Stephanie and Joanne were relieved that they didn't travel any farther outside of the house than the back yard. Eventually the grown-ups were done having their fun, and Stephanie was redressed into the original outfit.

 

~o~O~o~

 

     Joanne and both of her parents left half an hour before Melissa was scheduled to arrive.  They offered to come back once Melissa and her Mom had left, but everyone felt it would be best if they were not there during the encounter.  They had already tried to convince Melissa's Mom, and with Aunt Jennifer and Grandma there were already enough adults to express different views.  Stephanie wanted Joanne to stay and help her, but Mrs. Sterns did not want her exposed to the inappropriate language again.

     Joanne gave Stephanie a lot of pointers.  Stephanie was confused by some of them though. She kept pointing out that Melissa is in the Special Education class and isn't like the other kids in their grade.  As Stephanie sat on the living room floor playing with her Disney Princess figurines, she kept thinking about this.  What did Joanne mean by that?   Why was that important?  Joanne seemed to think it was important to Melissa's Mom.  Melissa wasn't really any different, was she?

     When the doorbell rang, Stephanie grabbed her Melanie doll and held her tight.  She stayed sitting on the floor as directed, surrounded by Princess toys. 

   "Welcome, I am glad you could make it," Dad said greeting Melissa and her Mom.

     "Yeah, Yeah," Melissa's Mom said. "I don't know why I agreed to this, but I did.  I am not going to go against my word.  I agreed to see this pervert of yours, so let's meet him. I want to spend as little time here as possible."

     "Let's go into the kitchen and talk," Dad gestured towards the kitchen and looked over at Stephanie.  "I would rather not have little ones hear certain language."

     Melissa's Mom looked at Stephanie sitting there holding her Melanie doll, "Very well, Melissa go play with Daryl's little sister while I talk with his parents, but stay here in the living room with her."

     Melissa went over and sat down next to Stephanie looking a little confused.

     "Please understand, I have nothing against you," Melissa's Mom started as they headed for the kitchen. "But I have to protect my baby from perverts like your son. She is a little slow and doesn't see the danger in things.  With Daryl having a little sister, you must understand my concern."

     As the grown-ups turned the corner into the kitchen, Melissa turned to Stephanie and whispered, "Daryl's little sister?"

     "Hi Melissa," Stephanie said with a smile.  "Don't know why your mom is calling me Daryl's little sister, but it gives us a chance to play while the grown-ups talk. I don't think she would let us play if she knew who I was."

     "She is really mad.  She keeps calling you a pervert.  What's a pervert Stephanie?" Melissa picked up Snow White and walked her over to Bell.

     Stephanie shrugged her shoulders, "I don't know."

     Melissa turned Snow White to Bell, "Oh Bell, please wear your yellow dress to the tea party this afternoon.  You always look so pretty in that dress."

     Stephanie picked up Bell, "What a great idea Snow White.  I will rush home now and change."

     Stephanie clicked Bell's peasant outfit off and put on the yellow dress.  She then walked Bell over to Ariel, "Ariel, Snow White is having a tea party, time to change from a mermaid to a Princess dress."

     "Stephanie," Melissa asked while changing Ariel from a mermaid to a human.  "I don't want to lose you as a friend."

     "I hope we can still be friends too Melissa, but if we can't, I want you to know," Stephanie paused looking at Melissa playing with the toys.  "You were there when I needed a friend.  Thank You. You are a good friend. You can stand up to the bullies all by yourself.  You don't need me."

     "Wow," Melissa said grabbing a doll next to Stephanie.  "You have a Merida doll.  She even has a bow and arrow.  I asked Santa for one."

     To Stephanie, Melissa did not appear to hear or understand what she just said.  This made Stephanie think about Joanne's words, ‘She's not like the other girls in our class.' 

     Stephanie and Melissa continued to play with occasional loud noises heard from the kitchen.  The girls set up a tea party, got all the princesses in their prettiest dresses, and the Princes in their royal garb. 

     "Oh Charming," Melissa said while having Prince Charming and Mulan dance together.  "You are such a good dancer."

     "I still don't think it is appropriate for Melissa to play with him," Melissa's Mom said as the adults came into the living room and sat down.

     Melissa just kept playing like nothing had changed.  Stephanie also kept playing with Joanne's voice in her head, ‘If you get the chance let Melissa's Mom see you just being the little girl you are.'  Stephanie tried to focus on the adult's conversation while still playing with Melissa. She didn't trust the adults, especially since at least two of them wanted Stephanie to disappear forever.

     "Melissa needs girls like your daughter here," Melissa's Mom gestured towards Stephanie, "to teach her the things she struggles with.  Your son just isn't the kind of kid who would understand how to play with my little girl.  His deviant ways are a threat to Melissa's innocence.  I can't let that happen."

     Stephanie poured fake tea into the tea party participant's cups. Melissa went around pretending to offer cookies to each attendant.  As Stephanie reached around offering one lump or two, her side hurt enough that only Snow White and Rapunzel got sugar in their tea.  Picking up Melanie and hugging her, she decided to just watch Melissa finish the preparation. 

     "Is something wrong Melissa," Stephanie inquired as Melissa bounced from foot to foot in one spot.

     "Oh Melissa," her mom said upon hearing Stephanie's statement.  "You need to tell me when you have to go.  Mrs. Sterns, where is your bathroom?"

     "It is just down the hall, first door on the right."

     Melissa's Mom quickly got up and physically directed Melissa down towards the bathroom.

     "She still has accidents if someone doesn't keep on top of her to go on a regular basis," Melissa's Mom stated as she watched Melissa run down the hall and into the bathroom.  "If she can't even figure out when she has to go to the bathroom, how can she know who is safe and who isn't?"

     Stephanie stood up and faced Melissa's Mom, "She has a good heart and she picks her friends carefully.  Her real threats are the same as mine, the bullies in the school who will not accept anyone who is different.  I am a nobody.  I will always be a nobody.  Melissa thinks she is a nobody, but she isn't.  She has friends, real friends.  Gwen and Joanne are both girls who the other kids in the class listen to.  They are also both friends with Melissa.  Most of the other kids in her Special Education class do not have any friends outside of that room, but Melissa does.  I have no friends, none. I never tried to be Melissa's friend, she chose me.  She doesn't go around making friends with everyone.  I feel honored that my first friend, ever, is Melissa. She calls me a hero.  I am no hero, but your daughter might be.  That day Elwood got suspended for being a bully to me, Melissa was the only one who cared about the boy on the swing who was crying.  I told her to go away, she wouldn't. I saw no reason to go on, to keep trying, but then, then Melissa came over.  You say she doesn't understand.  She just might see things better than the rest of us.  My name is Stephanie Marie Meyers.  At school I put on a boy costume.  Melissa thinks it is because someone put the wrong name on my school paperwork.  I wish that was true, but it isn't.  The school knows me as Daryl Eric Meyers.  He is now dead. The fight on Friday taught me that I can't even pretend to be him anymore. I don't know if he was ever really here. Go to my room, you will not find anything boy in there other than a drawer with clothes my parents force me to wear to school.  Call me a boy, call me a girl, it doesn't matter, I am a nobody.  All I ask is that you look at me.  Look at who I am. You decided who I was before you even met me.  Is that fair?"

     Melissa's Mom looked at Stephanie in shock.

     "Is it?" Stephanie firmly asked.  "Do you want people deciding if Melissa is a good kid before they even meet her?  They do it!  Is that fair to her?  Is it?"

     "Well," Melissa's Mom struggled with her answer. "No it's not fair."

     "Then why do I have to stop being her friend Mommy," Melissa said coming out of the bathroom.

     "You . . . I . . . He . . ." Melissa's Mom looked back and forth between Stephanie and Melissa.

     "I cannot protect Melissa from the bullies. They will attack her just because she is different.  They do not get to know you before they decide if you are good or not. If a bully comes after me, I will make sure she is safe.  If a bully comes after her, I will do what I can to get them to go away.  Melissa was there when I needed a friend.  I will be there when she needs one."

     "You are Daryl?" Melissa's Mom tried to process everything that was said.

     Melissa came up next to Stephanie.

     "Wait a minute Melissa, I didn't hear a flush or you washing your hands.  Did you wipe?" Melissa's Mom directed her daughter back to the bathroom.

     Mr. and Mrs. Meyers got up and stood behind Stephanie, with their hands on her shoulders.

     "She doesn't like to be called Daryl," Mr. Sterns added. "She is a girl.  She has never been interested in boy things.  This is not a game for her.  It is not a passing fad, and she has no control over her brain and heart telling her she is a girl.  Her doctor has confirmed all of that.  You are trying to protect your girl, and we are trying to protect ours.  The reality is, unless we are with them one-hundred percent of the time, we can't.  We learned that the hard way. Stephanie has multiple bruises on her abdomen and chest.  The kid who did this to her didn't even know about her girl side, it happened just because of an attempt to play soccer. For years, the other kids called my child a Noper, a non-person, and they treated her that way.  When she tried to stop being a Noper, the bullies tried to teach her a lesson.  Bullies don't care if a peer has a disability, is transgender, or just a little bit different.  As parents all we can do is teach our children to know good from bad.  Teach them that they can come to us for anything.  We failed our daughter in that regard, but we are working on changing that." 

     "Mommy," Melissa said going up and giving Stephanie a hug. "Stephanie is my friend.  She is my hero. She will not hurt me. You tell me to only make friends with kids who are nice and don't get in trouble.  Daryl's name is never on the board.  Daryl is nice to everyone.  Stephanie is fun to play with."

     "But . . .," Melissa's Mom tried to get out.

     "Mommy, you always tell me when I don't know what to do, I should find a kid who is doing their work and being good and copy them.  I copy Daryl.  He is always doing what the teacher tells us to do.  Why do I copy Daryl for good behavior and school work, but now that he is Stephanie I can't do that anymore?  She same person Mommy, just have new name."

     Grandma stood up next to Mary, putting her arm around her, "My daughter has had a hard time accepting Stephanie, and she has been dealing with this for nine years.  We do not expect you to decide overnight to accept Stephanie, but we ask that you at least give her a chance.  Get to know her first before you stone her to death."

     "John 8:7 - When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.'" Melissa's Mom recited as she looked directly at Stephanie. "James 4:12 - There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor?  Romans 12:16-18 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

     "She does that a lot," Melissa quietly said to Stephanie. "Never makes any sense to me, but it means she is about to make a decision."

     Melissa's Mom chuckled, "Your right Melissa, it means I have made a decision.  I will not throw the first stone. . ."

     Melissa immediately stood in front of Stephanie with her hands spread out, "Don't throw rocks at Stephanie Mommy."

     "Melissa, I am not going to throw a rock at Stephanie.  It is something they did long ago, people don't do that now a days."

     Melissa brought her hands down but stayed in a protective position in front of Stephanie.

     "I do not approve of this," Melissa's Mom stated. "The bible clearly states this is wrong, but . . . it also states that I am not the one to judge, the Lord is.  I need to protect my baby.  She just doesn't understand the dangers out there."

     Melissa's Mom went up and wrapped Melissa in a big hug, "If I let them play, I never want them to be alone together.  Always out in the open.  At School I guess it is okay.  Maybe even at Joanne's house if they are in the living room and Joanne is always with them, I don't know, maybe.  Never just the two of them.  I. . . I don't like this.  But . . . If I am to follow the Lord's lessons and do what is right in the eyes of everyone, here, where . . . where girls can marry other girls.  What does that mean with a boy being a girl?  I will pray to God for guidance."

     After all of that Melissa's Mom said it was time for them to go, and they quickly left.  There was some uncomfortableness when Melissa gave Stephanie a hug goodbye, but Melissa's Mom did not totally flip out over the incident. 

 



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