Chapter 9 of 10
"Now will someone please explain something to me," Grandma said once we all settled down on the couch after Melissa left. "Why in the world are there boy clothes in my Granddaughter's bedroom?"
"Well she has to wear boy clothes and be Daryl at school," Mom explained. "It's not like we can send her to school as Stephanie."
"Ummm, well . . .," Dad tried to get out.
"Fine," Grandma interrupted Dad. "She has to be Daryl when she goes to school. Not sure I agree with that but for the moment let's stick with that. Why does she have to be wearing boy clothes?"
"If she goes to school in a dress Mom," Aunt Jennifer commented. "She would look awfully silly with everyone calling her Daryl."
"Jennifer," Grandma smiled. "You were old enough to remember. What did I do when Mary went through her Tom Boy stage? Did I go out and buy boy clothes for her to wear?"
Aunt Jennifer thought for a while, "No, you just took the dresses out of her closet. You stuck them all in my closet if I remember correctly."
"Well, I had to put them somewhere," Grandma explained with a smile. "But you are right. I just took away the dresses. Mary, that was enough for you to be a Tom Boy. Why can't we just do that with Stephanie?"
"You're brilliant Mom," Aunt Jennifer praised.
A tear started down Stephanie's face, "But I don't want you to take away my dresses."
"I don't think that is what she meant . . . Stephanie," Mom said giving Stephanie a hug. "I think she is just saying we should find outfits you can wear to school that are girl clothes, but looks like they could be boy clothes."
"Glad to see not all your common sense has left you Mary," Grandma said. "Let's go get those boy clothes out of Stephanie's room and see what we can find for her to wear to school."
"Umm," Dad spoke up. "Stephanie, go back with Aunt Jennifer to start the process. I want to talk to Mommy and Grandma."
Stephanie kept looking back as Aunt Jennifer led her out of the living room, "What are they talking about?"
"I don't know Stephanie," Aunt Jennifer said continuing to lead Stephanie down the hall. "Remember I wasn't allowed to be in there either. Let's go get rid of those yucky boy clothes and make space for some more girl clothes. Considering most of the girl clothes you have are dresses, I think there might be a shopping trip in order."
The clothes were quickly out of the two bottom drawers of the dresser and put in the guest room with all the other Daryl things. The ladies then went to work on trying out different outfits to see if Stephanie could pass as a boy while wearing them. Stephanie's preference for pink and purple clothing made the options limited. They came up with one pair of pants and three tops that would work.
"Why don't we look through some of the Daryl clothes to see if any could be worn by a girl? Girls often wear boy clothes," Mom said looking at the small selection on the bed.
"Mary," Grandma firmly stated. "Little girls do not usually go around wearing boy clothes, and this isn't about finding what would work. This is about your daughter's mental health. She will know that they were Daryl's clothes."
"Why can't I just wear a dress to school?" Stephanie pleaded.
"That's a real good question Stephanie," Grandma looked at the other two ladies in the room?
"She's a boy Mom," Mary stated. "She can pretend to be a girl all she wants, but in the eyes of the government she is a boy. That means she has to go to school as a boy."
"Mary!" Grandma reprimanded. "Stephanie is not pretending to be a girl. She is a girl. You were the one that told me the results of Dr. Jones' evaluation."
"But Mom!" Mary tried to protest.
"Don't you ‘But Mom' me. Your position on this is very clear. Now it is time for you to stop having a position and start being a parent who supports their child discovering who they really are," Grandma lit into Mary before going over to the door. "James, could you come in here please."
Daddy walked into the room, "Something I can do to help?"
"Stephanie just asked a really good question," Grandma started. "She wanted to know why she can't just go to school wearing a dress. I think it is time all the facts be laid out on the table. She is the one who is living with the decisions. Don't you think she deserves to know why?"
Dad came all the way into the room and sat down on Stephanie's desk chair, "Come here Stephanie."
Stephanie came over to Dad and was lifted up onto his lap.
"When you first started being Stephanie for Halloween, Mommy and I thought you were going to grow out of wanting to be a girl. That didn't happen though. When you finally told us you were Stephanie and not Daryl, we were confused and not prepared for that. I am sorry, we saw all the signs of Stephanie hiding behind the Daryl costume, but we never wanted to see her there. So, we ignored her. As parents we shouldn't have done that. Switching from a boy to a girl is something that very rarely happens, so we don't have a lot of guidance for how to do it with you. At first Dr. Jones felt we should keep you as Daryl at school, till she got a better handle on who Stephanie was and what type of girl you were."
"I'm a good girl Daddy," Stephanie said.
"I know sweetheart. Dr. Jones wanted to know if you were a frilly dress girl who was here all the time, or one who just needed to visit us every now and then. She felt having you go to school as Stephanie would cause you more problems than you were ready to handle, and you wouldn't be able to switch back to Daryl if you wanted to."
"I don't want to be Daryl though. Daryl is Dead!"
Dad gave Stephanie a big hug and a kiss on the cheek, "It's okay with Daryl being dead, but we don't want Stephanie to die too. You are going through a lot of things emotionally at the moment sweetheart, and . . . and . . . well, things have changed. After yesterday's emergency meeting with Dr. Jones she gave us permission for you to go to school as Stephanie."
A huge smile grew on Stephanie's face.
"But she is concerned about you making that switch in the middle of the school year. She feels it would be best if we waited till the summer, that way you would be starting a new grade from the beginning as Stephanie. Maybe even going to a different school where the kids didn't know Daryl."
"So I have to stay in my Daryl costume at school all year?"
Daddy hugged Stephanie again and looked around the room at the other adults, "The Principal said you could come as Stephanie if there was a doctor's note saying that was okay. I got that letter from Dr. Jones yesterday. I think I know Grandma and Aunt Jennifer's position on the issue. I . . . I just want to do what will hurt you the least. I don't know what that is though. As for Mommy . . ."
Everyone turned and looked at Mary.
"I love you Stephanie, but if you do this there is no turning back," Mom said. "Everyone will know you as Stephanie, and you will never again be able to hide in your Daryl costume. The other kids will tease you and maybe even beat you up."
"They already do that Mommy. See!" Stephanie lifted up her dress to show the huge black and blue marks.
"Yes we know Pumpkin," Dad said lowering the dress. "Like I said, the situation has changed."
Dad looked straight at Mommy.
"It just makes more sense to wait till next school year to make the switch," Mom stated.
"Logic and sensibility states that," Grandma said. "But we are not dealing with logic and sensibility. We are dealing with your child's emotional well-being. Daryl is this meek, quiet, passive little kid, but Stephanie is not. Stephanie appears to have the strength and fortitude to stand up for her position. It sounds like she might even have a few friends to help her too. What is it going to do to your child if you force Stephanie to continue putting on that Daryl costume day after day? She will need to suppress her personality, interests, and friends, for what? Sensibility and Logic? Inside she is being torn apart emotionally as she tries to find her place in the world. I do not want to see my granddaughter end up in a Psychiatric Hospital just because you two decided to do the Logical and Sensible thing. What is right for Stephanie?"
The room was silent.
After a few minutes of silence Grandma came over and took Stephanie's hand, "Stephanie, you have stated your position, and I have stated mine. It's time to let your Mom and Dad figure out their positions. Let's go call your friend Joanne. You said you would call her after Melissa left."
Grandma and Stephanie left the room hand in hand, with Aunt Jennifer following behind.
"She's not happy Joanne, but she said Melissa could play with me," Stephanie explained over the phone.
"That is great Stephanie," Joanne reassured her. "You will see, everything will be okay."
"I hope so," Stephanie took a deep breath.
"Stephanie, Daddy says he wants to take us all out for dinner tonight. Ever since he suggested it, Mommy has been trying to get me to look younger than you. Daddy says I have to get you to ask your parents. Please tell me they say no."
"Joanne!" Stephanie heard Mrs. Sterns reprimand through the phone.
Stephanie lowered the phone and looked at Grandma, "Mr. Sterns wants to take us all out to dinner tonight."
"That sounds like an absolutely wonderful idea Stephanie," Grandma beamed. "Here, let me talk with Mr. Sterns."
Stephanie looked at Grandma and then down the hallway towards her room where her parents were still talking, "Aren't we going to ask them?"
"Not this time Stephanie," Grandma said coming close to the phone. "We'll just tell them when they come out."
Stephanie hesitantly handed the phone over to Grandma. After a few exchanges, the time and location was set. Grandma said we would meet them at the restaurant, and the phone call was ended.
"Grandma," Stephanie asked? "What if Mommy and Daddy don't want to go out. They always say we can't go out on a school night."
"Stephanie sweetie," Aunt Jennifer reassured her. "Grandmas are more powerful than Mommies and Daddies, especially this one."
"Jennifer!" Grandma said with a slight chuckle.
"Sorry Mom, but it is true."
Stephanie walked into the restaurant holding Mommy's hand, scanning the entry way for Joanne.
"Oh good," Joanne said coming up to them. "I was afraid you would have changed and I would be left looking silly dressed like this."
Stephanie looked over Joanne and saw her still in the pigtails and little kid pink nail polish. She had a dress on which Stephanie had never seen her in before.
"It is a very pretty dress Joanne," Stephanie said.
"Yeah, you would like it. I bet Melissa would too. It makes me look like a little kid, and with these pigtails," Joanne flicked her high pigtails.
"Well, it doesn't have puffy sleeves," Stephanie tried to point out a positive.
"No it's worse," Joanne pointed out. "Ruffles! A sleeveless dress with ruffles as shoulder straps, and look where the waist is on this thing. Big kid dresses have waists down where they are supposed to be, but little kids dresses put them way up here. And look at this, a little pink flower right here on my chest. And down there at the bottom of the dress, there are embroidered pink flowers."
"They match your fingernail polish," Stephanie said with a smile.
"They do, don't they," Joanne smiled looking at her finger nails and the flowers. Shaking her head, "but that's not the point."
"I think it is a pretty dress Joanne," Stephanie kept admiring it.
"Remind me to give it to you when we get back," Joanne looked at Stephanie like she was nuts. "I thought I had outgrown this thing."
"Oh Joanne it is not that bad," Mrs. Sterns said taking a picture as Joanne and Stephanie looked up at her.
"Told you she likes to dress me up like a little kid and take pictures," Joanne gestured to her mom.
"Smile for the camera you two," Mrs. Sterns coaxed.
"Just smile and get it over with," Stephanie smiled with true joy.
"Sterns," a Lady said coming into the waiting area. "Party of eight."
"Here," Mr. Sterns said raising his hand and stepping forward.
"Oh, we have two little princesses with us this evening," The Lady commented, looking down at Stephanie and Joanne. "Will your youngest here be needing a booster seat?"
Joanne started giggling as the lady looked down at Stephanie.
"No," Mr. Meyers said coming up behind Stephanie. "We'll try it without one tonight."
Stephanie glared up at her Dad. She hadn't sat in a booster seat for years. Why was he acting like this would be the first time?
As they were led to the table, Joanne leaned in and said, "Told you that you looked like a little six year old. Maybe she thought you were even younger. One good thing at least, I now know you look younger than me."
Stephanie stuck her tongue out at Joanne and then started giggling.
Once they had all been seated and the order had been placed, the conversation turned back to discussing Stephanie, without including her as part of the conversation. Stephanie and Joanne sat next to each other with crayons and activity pages in front of them, just listening to the adults talk.
"It is risky," Mrs. Sterns stated. "But maybe it is for the best. She is being bullied and teased anyways, maybe this will give her the emotional strength to handle it better."
"She does appear to gain strength when she states she is Stephanie and voices her position on something," Mr. Sterns added.
"She does, doesn't she," Aunt Jennifer said smiling over at Stephanie who was finding her way through the maze on the activity page.
"Will the school give you any resistance," Mr. Sterns inquired?
"Not from what I could tell," Mr. Meyers explained. "They just want it to be supported by a doctor. If Dr. Jones says it is okay and appropriate they will support our decision."
"Why do they want the doctor's approval," Mrs. Sterns asked?
"They are just trying to cover their legal position Sarah," Grandma said. "When others complain, they want to be able to state Stephanie has been declared a girl by a doctor, not just some kid suddenly showing up in a dress and wanting to use the girls restroom."
"That is a good point," Mr. Sterns looked over at the two young girls. "Where will she go to the bathroom?"
"The Principal wasn't sure on that one," Mr. Meyers explained. "He said he needed to look into that a little bit more. He said she could use the bathroom in the nurse's office till the district lawyers gave him an answer."
Joanne leaned into Stephanie and whispered in her ear, "Sounds like they are really going to let Stephanie come to school tomorrow."
Stephanie kept her focus on the activity page, trying to find the hidden pictures.
"All this Noper and school hero stuff may work to her advantage," Aunt Jennifer added. "She wasn't known before the incident, and now everyone is going to want to know this kid. This will give them a chance to meet the real hero."
The conversation paused as food arrived and plates were correctly matched with each recipient. When the waitress left and people were starting to dig in, Stephanie spoke, "No matter what you decide, Stephanie IS going to school tomorrow morning."
Stephanie stabbed a chicken nugget with her fork and stuffed it into her mouth.
"She has a good point," Grandma stated. "We may be able to control what she wears, but she is in control of who she is. She has repeatedly stated since Friday morning that Daryl is dead, which means regardless of what we do, Stephanie will be the one going to school on Monday."
The adults were all silent as people ate and pondered the information.
Half hour before school was to begin, Stephanie stood in front of her Elementary School with a death grip on Daddy.
"We don't have to do this Stephanie," Dad explained. "We can go back home and change."
"Change into what," Stephanie asked? "I am Stephanie! I don't want to wear a costume to school every day."
With a squeeze of his hand, Mr. Meyers led Stephanie into the building with Mrs. Meyers following.
"Good Morning," the office secretary said looking at Stephanie and then the adults. "May I help you? Are you looking to register a new student?"
"No," Mr. Meyers politely replied. "We would like to meet with the Principal please."
"One moment," the secretary picked up her phone and let the Principal know that some people wanted to meet with him.
As the Principal came out of his office he looked over the three people standing there waiting for him. He immediately got down in front of Stephanie and reached out his hand, "And you must be Stephanie. Nice to meet you Stephanie. I hope you are feeling better."
"Yes, Thank You sir. It still hurts but I am ready to come back to school. The doctor said no PE and no fun at recess. Can I come to school, Please?" Stephanie asked with a pleading expression in her face.
The school secretary looked at the exchange, looking at the child and parents more closely. The Principal led the Meyers into his office. Before closing his office door, the Principal asked the secretary to have Mrs. Farren come down to his office.
"I am glad to see you are feeling better Stephanie," the Principal said directing everyone to sit down. "I wasn't expecting you to come to school as Stephanie today, but I am not completely surprised after the events on Friday."
"It has been a rough last couple of days," Daddy explained to the Principal. "I have two letters here from her therapist which will explain. You said we just need a doctor's approval for her to start coming as Stephanie."
The Principal took the two letters and quickly looked them over, "This one will meet the legal elements the district requires. I will copy it and send it off to the District Office. This other letter however is a bit more concerning."
Stephanie looked between the Principal and her parents. She didn't know what was in that second letter, but worried it would mean she couldn't be Stephanie at school.
"She has not made an attempt yet," Daddy stated. "But she has made several comments which have concerned us all. A negative reaction to her coming to school as Stephanie, could be a tipping point. We want to keep everyone on guard."
"We will make sure she is never alone and an adult always close by," the principal said as there was a knock on the door.
Mrs. Farren came in and sat down with everyone else.
"Mrs. Farren, this is Stephanie. She will be joining your class starting today," the Principal stated. "We want her to feel welcome and accepted as fast as possible."
Mrs. Farren looked closely at Stephanie, "Welcome Stephanie. I assume you will be just as good of a student in my class as Daryl was."
"Are there any special instructions?" Mrs. Farren asked looking at the Meyers and the Principal.
The Principal handed the second letter over to Mrs. Farren to read. She looked it over, glancing up at Stephanie several times during the read. The expression on her face changed from a happy pleasant demeanor, to one of concern.
"She is to always be with another person, and always close to an adult," the Principal explained. "Until that restriction is lifted by her doctor, I want her using the bathroom in the nurse's office."
"Stephanie is still quite sore from the fight and we are not sure how much of the day she can handle," Mrs. Meyers added. "Doctor said no PE and no running around at recess. We will be leaving some medicine with the nurse if she is in too much pain. The pain meds we gave her this morning should last three to five more hours. She does fairly well as long as there isn't too much bending and stretching."
"I assume Joanne has met Stephanie," Mrs. Farren said looking at Stephanie who nodded her head. "Has anyone else?"
"Three kids in your class know Stephanie and her connection with Daryl. There is Joanne, Melissa, and Gwen," Mr. Meyers responded. "At least two of them appear to be her friend and will support her. We are not sure about Gwen. Melissa's Mom has voiced concern about her playing with Stephanie, but has allowed her to play with Stephanie at school, as long as the two are never alone in a room together."
"Stephanie will have some good friends in those three," Mrs. Farren remarked. "I assume I am to change all her name tags over to Stephanie?"
"Yes please," Mrs. Meyers spoke. "May I ask Mrs. Farren, you don't seem surprised by any of this?"
Mrs. Farren smiled at Stephanie, "Joanne asked a question on Friday which caused me to look at Daryl in a new light. Over the weekend, I put a lot of thought into Daryl and realized he had a significant amount of feminine traits. Stephanie has been a part of my class all year, just with the wrong name. It is nice to finally see her come out of her shell and join us."
Stephanie and Mrs. Farren made their way down to the classroom, leaving the parents talking with the Principal.
"This is a big change Stephanie," Mrs. Farren stated as they walked into the classroom. "Do you want me to change your desk so the kids don't see you as taking Daryl's spot?"
Stephanie looked over at her desk with the pile of cards stacked on it, "No need Mrs. Farren. They will all know soon enough that I used to be Daryl. I am not going to lie anymore, and I am not going to hide away. I meant what I said on Friday. I am not going to be a Noper anymore."
Stephanie looked at a few of the cards on her desk, before putting the rest into her backpack to look at when she got home. Mrs. Farren went to work changing all the places in the room that said Daryl, over to Stephanie, starting with the name tag on her desk.
Stephanie was reading the next chapter in, No Flying In The House, when the other children started to enter the room. Everyone noticed Stephanie immediately, and they were all asking each other questions about who the new kid was. No one approached Stephanie. She heard questions about why she was in Daryl's seat, and to Stephanie, it appeared the general consensus was that Daryl had died after Frank beat him up on Friday.
"Stephanie!" Melissa screamed as soon as she saw Stephanie. She ran up and gave her a big hug. "Goodie, they fixed your name. Told you, you just had to tell Mrs. Farren and she would fix it."
The other children all looked at the two of them. The chatter volume in the room increased dramatically with people asking each other if they knew who Stephanie was.
"Stephanie, I didn't expect to see you in school today," Gwen said coming into the room.
"Hi Stephanie," Joanne said coming in just behind Gwen.
As Joanne and Gwen were getting their coats off, the other kids were asking them who Stephanie was and why was she in Daryl's seat.
"Okay class," Mrs. Farren tried to rein in the students. "Everyone quiet down and find your seats."
The chatter lessened significantly as everyone headed for their seats. Al, who sat across from Stephanie, sat down and looked at her. He couldn't take his eyes off of her.
"Daryl?" Al asked.
Stephanie smiled at him, "Hi Al."
"Okay class," Mrs. Farren got everyone's attention. "As you might have noticed we have a new student. Her name is Stephanie. I expect everyone to be nice to her."
"Why is she in Daryl's seat?" Zoe asked. "Did Daryl die?"
"She is Daryl," Al said loud enough that the kids around him heard, but not loud enough for the whole class to hear.
Stephanie didn't hear what Mrs. Farren said next, for she was suddenly focused on the five other kids at her cluster of desks. They were all looking straight at her trying to figure out if what Al said was true.
"That can't be," Candice commented first. "Daryl has short hair. Stephanie has two long braided pigtails."
Stephanie smiled at Candice.
"She looks a little like Daryl," Ellen pointed out.
Stephanie stayed silent while the group debated the issue. The group's discussion started to attract the attention of other kids. Soon no one was paying attention to Mrs. Farren.
"I guess you are right Stephanie," Mrs. Farren said loud enough so everyone could hear her. "Class, eyes on me please."
Everyone turned and looked at Mrs. Farren.
"Daryl is not dead. He was hurt on Friday when Frank beat him up, and will take a while to fully recover. As some of you have noticed, Daryl is now Stephanie. She has always been Stephanie."
"Just wearing a Daryl costume," Stephanie interjected.
"On Friday we talked about teasing and bullying behavior and how it will not be tolerated," Mrs. Farren continued. "It was really brave of Stephanie to take off her Daryl costume and show us who she really is. If any of you have a problem with this, I will give you a pass to go talk with the Principal or the counselor at any time. Otherwise, I expect everyone in here to treat Stephanie with respect and kindness. As she stated on Friday, you don't have to like her, but she does deserve respect and to be treated as a human being. Now due to the injuries Frank caused, Stephanie cannot participate in PE and has to take it easy at Recess. For at least this week, I am putting a few more rules in place. She will be our line leader. When I ask people to line up or get ready to go, I want her to stay in her seat till everyone is in line. We don't want her getting knocked down again. At lunch I want someone to carry her tray for her."
"I will Mrs. Farren," Melissa quickly stated while putting up her hand.
"I am sure we will have a lot of volunteers as the week goes on, but for today Melissa you can be Stephanie's helper," Mrs. Farren smiled and nodded at Melissa.
"Class we have already had two students in this class suspended for being a bully to Stephanie," Mrs. Farren reminded them all. "I expect everyone in this class to stand together with Stephanie against any more bullies."
Mrs. Farren had everyone rise for the pledge. She started the school day like nothing out of the ordinary had just happened. Other than a lot of stares by the other kids, Stephanie settled into a normal morning.
"STEPHANIE IS NOT A FREAK!" Melissa screamed. "NOW YOU TAKE THAT BACK."
The whole class looked over at Melissa and her group of desks.
"Is something wrong over here," Mrs. Farren asked as she approached the group?
"Lucas called Stephanie a freak Mrs. Farren," Melissa explained.
"Lucas?" Mrs. Farren looked at Lucas for an explanation.
"Well he is," he finally blurted out after a period of silence. "Just look at him. He is wearing a frilly dress and tights. He has pigtails and ribbons in his hair. Any boy who would do that is definitely a freak."
"I see," Mrs. Farren looked over at Stephanie and then around the room at the other children. "Do any of you other children agree with Lucas here?"
Stephanie looked around the room and saw several nods of the head, but none verbally said anything.
"Well I guess you're right then," Mrs. Farren said to the shock of a few students and most especially Stephanie. "But by that logic, all the girls in this room except for Brooke and Stephanie are also freaks."
Everyone in the room started looking at all the girls in the room.
"Only Brooke and Stephanie are wearing dresses today, which mean the rest of the girls are wearing boy clothes. There are still places in the world where that would be considered a crime," Mrs. Farren explained. "We are not judged in this country by what we wear. In this country there is freedom of choice and expression. If you dislike someone so much because of what they are wearing that you attack them in some way, your actions could be considered a Hate Crime and might land you in jail. We discussed this on Friday everybody. A boy wearing a dress may be different, but how does that hurt you. Stephanie was a boy, yes. She was pretending to act and behave like all the other boys. Lucas, did she do a good job pretending to be a boy named Daryl."
"What?" Lucas appeared totally confused by the question.
"Did Daryl look and act like the other boys?" Mrs. Farren elaborated.
"Well, not really," Lucas admitted. "He couldn't hit or catch a ball. He would look at the flowers when they came up or chase butterflies."
A few of the kids giggled.
"So you don't view those things as very boy like behaviors," Mrs. Farren questioned?
"No," Lucas said looking over at Stephanie.
"If a girl did those things would you think them strange," Mrs. Farren asked?
"Yeah, but everything girls do is strange," Lucas stated.
Most of the boys in the room laughed.
"Well, Daryl is no more. We now have Stephanie here," Mrs. Farren explained. "She is the same person, just now with a new look and new name. Like before, she is not into all the boy things, because she is a girl. That doesn't make her a freak. It just makes her a girl. She has a doctor that agrees she is a girl and we made a mistake before by calling her a boy. I would like everyone in this room to think for a moment. Imagine what it would be like if you grew up with everyone making you act and behave like the opposite gender when you knew you were not. Boys, nothing was different except everyone called you a girl name, made you wear pretty dresses, and insisted that you play with dolls. Girls, imagine you still like and want to do all the same things, but you are made to wear only jeans and play the ball games every recess."
Stephanie looked around the room. Many of the kids had their eyes closed and a few looked like they were cringing with the thoughts they had.
"Think about that before you start to tease or bully someone," Mrs. Farren said. "For nine year Stephanie has had to endure everyone thinking she was something she wasn't. She finally stood up and said no more. I am going to support her in that decision. The Principal is going to support her in that decision, and I expect all of you to support her too. Now, can we please get back to work?"
Melissa left shortly afterwards for her Special Education class, and the rest of the class focused on their work. Things continued without comment or incident till morning recess.
"What's wrong Daryl . . . I mean Stephanie," Candice asked as she saw an expression of pain on Stephanie's face as she stood up to go outside.
"Oh it's nothing Candice," Stephanie tried to brush her off. "It just hurts where Frank kicked me."
"Mrs. Farren," Candice called out. "Stephanie is hurt."
This immediately quieted down the class and got Mrs. Farren over to Stephanie, "What's wrong Stephanie?"
"It just hurts when I move Mrs. Farren. It's getting better, it doesn't hurt as much as it did yesterday," Stephanie explained.
Mrs. Farren looked at Stephanie and then up at the clock, "Do you want to stay in for Recess? I am sure one or two of the girls would be happy to stay in with you."
"I'll be okay," Stephanie reassured Mrs. Farren, but the pain was clearly seen by all when she was putting on her coat.
Stephanie was crowded by kids as she made her way to the swings to sit down. Lots of questions were asked, but few were actually answered. Gwen pointed out to everyone that Stephanie had beaten Erin's jump roping record, which impressed all the girls. Joanne told everyone how Stephanie worked hard to repair Gwen's and her friendship when they wouldn't talk to each other anymore, which again impressed all the girls. Eventually, all the boys and most of the girls left, leaving just a few curious individuals.
"So where is this ‘School Hero' everyone keeps talking about," an older boy said approaching the swings.
"She's right here," Melissa announced.
"She?" the boy stopped in his tracks and looked at Stephanie. "My brother beat up a girl? Oh that is hilarious."
Stephanie and the other girls just looked at the boy as he started laughing.
"Frank thought Dad was mad when he got kicked out of school for fighting, wait till he hears this. Oh Dad is going to be so pissed," the boy said walking away laughing.
"That was Blake," Zoe said staring at the boy leaving. "He's Frank's older brother. He's a bit nicer than Frank, but not much."
"What difference does it make if Frank beat up a boy versus a girl," Stephanie innocently asked?
"Not really sure. Candice beat Frank up two years ago when he called her a name," Ellen stated.
"Oh we are just so fragile and weak," Joanne said in an overly sappy voice. "Boys are not supposed to hit us. They just have to protect us, for we can't protect ourselves."
"Yet who is the boss at your house," Mary questioned?
"Mom," the group said in unison before all giggling.
By the end of recess, the group of girls all knew about Stephanie's large collection of dresses, her American Girl Molly doll, and that she had dressed up as a Princess for the last five Halloweens. Gwen even commented on the sparkling fairy Stephanie made for her.
Class progressed as usual after recess. Getting up from her chair for lunch however, Stephanie showed a lot more pain. Al was the one to express the concern this time. Mrs. Farren took the opportunity to remind everyone that Stephanie had been beaten up by a bully and it was going to take her a while to heal. Several of the kids that had seen the bruise on Friday recounted what they saw. Mrs. Farren had everyone settle down and get back in line for lunch. On the way to the cafeteria, the class stopped at the nurse's office for Stephanie to get some medication. To the dismay of several volunteers, Mrs. Farren chose Joanne to stay with Stephanie and help her get down to the cafeteria.
At lunch, Melissa quickly got up from her seat to help Stephanie get her tray of food. Being unusual for one student to help another get a tray of food, the word quickly spread that Stephanie was the kid who got beat up on Friday. This confused some, for they thought the Hero was a boy. The news of a boy who was now a girl spread rapidly throughout the lunchroom. Stephanie had trouble focusing on her lunch for there were constantly people pointing and looking over at her. Kids would stop and look as they walked by with their trays. Several came over to say hi to one of the kids at her table, just so they could get a look at Stephanie.
"Ignore them Stephanie," Joanne said. "They'll get used to you."
After lunch, at recess, the taunts were quiet and often said under a person's breath as they walked by. There was still a collection of girls around Stephanie, but the teasing was coming from a steady stream of mostly boys who would walk behind the swings and comment when they reached Stephanie.
"That's enough," Ellen screamed as she stood in front of Lucas just after he made a comment. "Teasing and bullying are not allowed. Now STOP IT!"
"Something wrong," the recess monitor asked coming up to the scene?
"The all keep coming up and calling Stephanie names," Ellen puffed. "They're not being nice."
"I didn't do anything," Lucas claimed.
"Oh yes you did," about five girls standing around Stephanie said at once.
"What did he say," the monitor inquired?
"They keep calling Stephanie things like Sissy, Faggot, Queer, Freak, and a few others Mommy would spank me for if I said," Ellen told the recess monitor.
When the crowd of kids over by the big slide was pointed at as the location of the other kids who were doing this, the crowd suddenly dispersed in all directions, except towards the swings. The Principal was called out to the playground and he took Lucas, and another boy who was with Lucas, back inside.
"Thanks Ellen," Stephanie got out once the adults left.
"Mrs. Farren said the only way bullies will stop picking on other kids is if people stand together to make it stop," Ellen stated. "I think this is really weird Daryl, but that is no reason to say those things to you. Mommy really would spank me if she ever heard me saying them, no matter who I said them to."
Stephanie stayed silent the rest of recess, with Gwen, Melissa, and Joanne interacting with the crowd that had stayed around Stephanie. She was silent when they got back into the classroom and a group of girls told Mrs. Farren about what happened. She stayed silent when Lucas came back to class to collect his coat, after the Principal had decided to send him home.
Mrs. Farren was starting to be concerned. She had to admit to herself that the behavior wasn't really that different for Daryl, but even with Daryl she could get him to talk when she tried. She was unable to get Stephanie to talk. She would respond by nodding her head or shrugging her shoulders, but nothing was being said verbally. Mrs. Farren noticed that Melissa and Joanne tried to get Stephanie to talk too, but there were also unsuccessful. Stephanie appeared emotionless as she went throughout the rest of her school day. Even when Grandma picked Stephanie up from school at the end of the day, she stayed silent. Mrs. Farren let Stephanie's Grandma know about the afternoon behavior, then wished the two of them a nice afternoon.