Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Arthur/Penny: You start to wonder

I haven't written in this blog in over a month. More worrisome, I haven't written at all, outside of what I do to prepare copy for the nightly telecast, in a few weeks. When Lyn called the other night, as freaked out about what Jessica and Louisa had found out as you might expect her to be, I joked that I was showing solidarity with the striking Writers' Guild of America.

Note one: I'd never worked in film or television in my original life, so Jeremy has not inherited a WGA membership. I'm also not a member of the union as Penny, since news broadcasts are not covered under that agreement. The only issue with writing this would be if we had an eye toward developing it into a television series or movie, and I don't know if we could even if we had a mind to. But I completely support the striking writers.

Note two: If Lyn wants to talk about our post-Pygmalion phone calls, she can. The revelation that her "secret admirer" is probably far more than a typical stalker obviously affects her more directly than any of the rest of us, and I'm not really comfortable speaking to her state of mind based on what we've said over the phone.

Still, as much as Lyn is the most directly affected, we all have to wonder how much we've drawn the attention of Pygmalion. Lyn certainly has. Mark and Vinessa did, although that might just have been targets of opportunity if he already had someone working in the INS. The new Dex maybe turned out useful to him.

I wonder about me, though. I mean, I haven't written. I've had a lot of reasons to be busy - one of the other anchors for the Ten O'Clock Report went on maternity leave, I've been reading up on the San Jose Stealth's players and indoor lacrosse in general. Nell's father had big holiday plans that involved his daughter, for both Thanksgiving and Christmas (I've thankfully begged off New Year's). My phone's been ringing off the hook to do speaking engagements, and those are nice. But I've written as long as I can remember, keeping journals, writing short stories, and then in school and professionally. For me to not do it for so long feels like something even more fundamental than my body has changed.

And when there's something like that, there's a tendency to try to assign responsibility. Is Pygmalion doing this? Does he want to see if I take up Nell's life completely? Does me getting wrapped up in this life mean I'm paying less attention to Lyn, and thus give him freer reign with her? Or is it just a coincidence and I'm assigning myself far too much importance.

Hell if I know. But I'm going to go work on the book some more, just because I can.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Jessica: So close...

None of us who have been transformed by the Inn really envy others. I mean, not enough for it to be common. We all know just how traumatic it is, so even when someone gets the draw that Louisa did - younger but not a child, in a more comfortable socio-economic position, no sex change - we take it for granted that it hurts for them too. We know it hurts bad, and it's hard for us to conceive of ourselves as lucky until we meet someone who is worse off.

Take Dina, for instance. On the surface, it looks like she got off easy - she even got to keep her family. Look below the surface, and she's in pretty rough shape. What's worse is, she knows it - she's smart enough to see that the past eight years have stunted her natural growth as a person in some ways, and I pity the psychiatrist who has to try to unravel her parental issues down the line almost as much as I pity her for having them.

Ashlyn, Arthur, and Louisa at least got relative independence. I at least got a mother who loved me even after she knew the truth. Dina got something I don't even have words for.

And when I called her the other night, she still acknowledged that she got off easy compared to the original Cahills.

We've been driving with a little extra urgency since Wyoming - we've got an idea that even though we only have a few people left on our list, they need to know about Pygmalion before their lives are fouled up incontrovertibly. It's silly - in most cases Pygmalion has had months or years to do his worst, so what's a couple of days on our part going to matter - but no-one wants to be too late. But unless Pygmalion is in control of whose body changes into what (and the current best theory is that it relies on proximity, rather than the will of any person or thing), there's not much more he could do to the Cahills.

We got to Seattle late at night, and checked into a motel. We dilly-dallied the next morning - I think it took me two hours to eat my pancakes at the diner we found, and even Louisa wasn't as nosy as she usually is when some element of my past comes up. We were within miles of the original Jessica Brooks, and a million strange thoughts were going through my head - would she approve of how I'd lived her life? Would she resent me? Would I find out she wasn't a very nice person? I've been carrying a mental image of Mom's Daughter around in my head, and she was eternally ten years old. Could I even handle her being something else?

Finally, though, we got out of the diner to let them serve lunchtime customers, and headed to the address Louisa had coaxed out of the Wrights. We walked up to the door and knocked.

No-one was home. Pretty much the only thing that could make me more tense.

Made sense; it was a weekday afternoon, so everybody was going to be at school or work except people on months-long cross-country road trips. We made sure the name on the mailbox - "Costello" - matched, and then settled down into the car to wait for someone to show. Louisa, thankfully, kept the "stakeout" jokes to a minimum.

At around four o'clock, one of the people getting off the bus at the end of the road made a turn there. She was an asian girl, seventeen-looking, with her hair in her eyes and wearing ripped jeans underneath a skirt and a Sex Pistols T-shirt. Figuring that no good could come of waiting until the last minute, I jumped out of the car and ran up to talk to her. "Excuse me," I said, a bit taken by her not exactly looking like a Costello, "do you live here?"

"Have all my life," she said. "What do you want? Did I piss you off without knowing it? Did my father?"

"No, not at all. It's just... Uh... Well, I'm Jessica Brooks."

She looked confused for a second, then squinted at me before the realization hit her. "Oh, you mean the new one! Although after eight years, it's not quite "new", is it?"

I agreed it wasn't, and she got out her keys. "This is amazing... I didn't think I'd ever get to meet you, although we've considered heading back East to try every once in a while, but once those assholes who wound up with our lives made it clear that they weren't going to let us try to get our real bodies back by staying in the inn in reverse order, we figured it might hurt too much to see the new us... I'm Phuong Costello, by the way, although I was born a Molly. Who were you?"

"Conrad Mancini... I was a cop in Baltimore. So you're not Mindy or Jessica?"

"Oh, no... We've got stories to share, I guess. And I'll bet you do too, Miss...?"

"Louisa Torrence, although my passport says 'Marie Desjardins'."

"Passport, huh? I know that feeling. But come on in, it's too cold to keep this up out here."

Phuong opened the door, dropping her backpack in the entryway. "I don't remember there being so many books my first time through high school. Do you?" I shook my head, but said I wasn't one for studying that time. "Ah, me neither. Not really now, but you lap your classmates in elementary school while being an asian besides, you wind up on the 'gifted' track. Sounds like a good idea when you're thirty-four-going-on-ten, then you hit junior high and find out how hard those kids work..."

I laughed at that, and we swapped stories about being adults in children's bodies. Our stories were different, of course, although they had points of similarity: It took us a long time to feel like we belonged in a locker room during sports and gym classes, although she had more luck getting her friends to dig her favorite music. It was so amazing to find someone who had had so many experiences close to my own - it was something I'd been missing for most of the past decade - even Dina wasn't this close to my own experience.

We must have talked for an hour and a half straight, and we didn't realize where the time had gone when we heard the door open again. Phuong quickly looked at her watch and then ran to the door. "Honey, come into the living room! You'll never believe who found us!"

She leads a man through the door. He's a big, burly guy, with a bit of an unkempt beard just starting to show some gray. He's wearing a Mariners cap and a grocery store nametag that reads "Carson". He introduces us as Conrad Mancini and her friend Louisa, and mentions that I'm the person who became Jessica. He looks me up and down for a moment and I wonder whether or not I should be uncomfortable. There's the "older man checking out a younger girl" thing, sure, but we're both aware that the inside doesn't necessarily match the outside. He nods, saying that "she" turned out pretty, and I blush a little. Phuong gives him a kiss on the cheek and says she's sorry, we just got caught up talking, but she'd get dinner started. He thanks her and heads to the bathroom.

She suggests we take it to the kitchen where she pulls a package of chicken breasts out of the fridge. "Yeah, I still do the cooking; old habits die hard. You guys are going to stay and have dinner with us, won't you?" I say I'd be glad to, and Louisa nods agreement.

"It's nice to see that you and your husband still get along," Louisa says. Cautiously. "A lot of relationships might not be able to handle the strain."

Phuong stops with her hand on the oven's temperature control, and sighs. "Yeah. Well... You know how I was talking about being on the gifted track because I knew so much more than a nine-year-old usually would? Well, one of the things they teach you in the AP physics courses is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

"Carson wasn't my husband. Carson was Mindy."

I stop thinking for a bit there. Nothing is going through my head. I hear Louisa say she's so sorry, and that it's worse than Dylan; I think she may have suspected something like this. She says she's not much of a detective, but while I was comparing notes with Phuong, she was looking around the house, and I think she's a good half-dozen steps ahead of us.

Finally, I'm able to think again, and tell Phuong I'm also so sorry.

"Yeah, me too. People talk about kids having to grow up fast these days, but Mindy... Mindy was so totally unequipped to live Carson's life. He was a lawyer - family law. That's why the Costellos had adopted Phuong - he'd been moved drawing up adoption papers for another family. The partners at his firm were livid when his wife drove him in to work a week late from vacation so that he could say he couldn't do the work any more and was resigning effective immediately. We had to refinance the house and the school loans so the family could get by on one income because I wasn't old enough to work. And Carson... Mindy... felt so bad about it. She thought it was all her fault somehow."

Louisa asks where the dishes are, and Phuong points to a cupboard. Louisa reaches in, pulls out a stack of four plates, and closes the door. I'm not looking terribly smart at this point as I sputter out that that can't be enough if we're staying for dinner. What about Jessica, and Mindy's father.

"There's been a divorce."

I turn around and see Carson Costello (né Mindy Cahill) standing there. I try to see him as someone who's only lived eighteen years, but it's hard. Eight years can bury one's old self pretty deep.

Louisa gestured at the walls. "It is a small house."

Phuong nodded. "It is indeed. Too small for a lot of things. No spare bedroom, for instance, and you couldn't expect Mindy to share a bed with someone who used to be her father. Couldn't expect Barry to share a bed with the nine-year-old girl who used to be his wife. Mindy and Jessica had been best friends, but one suddenly being the parent and the other the child drove a wedge between them." She almost automatically turned to her father/daughter, barely leaving a pause. "It's not your fault, dear. We're just not made to take this."

"If you say so, Mom."

Phuong chuckled at the looks on our faces - it just seemed so incongruous coming out of Carson Costello's mouth. "Yeah, he calls me 'mom' sometimes. It's a joke with the neighbors; they think growing up in Cambodia made me mature beyond my years and treat it like a pet name. We're known to have a weird family dynamic."

"And I thought my mom and I were unique."

Phuong started laughing hysterically. "That's right! When you were talking about you and your mother, I forgot that would have to be Kathleen! Oh, man, I hope you made it easy on her! She was always such a great neighbor and friend."

"Not hardly. I got into fights, and was anti-social, and she only was able to know the truth because I said something horrible when her father died."

"That's nothing," Carson said, giving Phuong an elbow. "Tell them about the time you found my porn stash."

(About a second later, Louisa said something in French that I think translates to "Pardon me, I've just thrown up in my mouth a little.")

Phuong turned beet red, but soldiered on. "You have to understand... Mindy was about twelve but Carson was about thirty-five. Barry tried to find a job where he could work nights so that he could look after Mindy during the day while I took the night shift, but it didn't always work out. We tried to pretend that he wasn't a grown man with his needs, but when he had a day to himself, he could watch R- or X-rated movies, and he is kind of ruggedly handsome. Women notice him, and that energy had to go somewhere... We were just too blind to see it until I was getting the laundry and saw what my little baby had stashed in a closet."

"Oh, they yelled at me good. Dad had to give me 'the talk', which was all kinds of weird."

They were laughing, so I decided to broach a subject that gave me fits. "So, what did you wind up doing... about that stuff?"

"Well, they reminded me that I was technically still a married man, and pointed out that I of all people shouldn't think of women that way. But they also agreed I needed an outlet, because I'd go crazy without it, and I was about to start my job at the supermarket and it wouldn't be right for someone with a kid to look so ignorant about sex."

"But we also told him that just because he looked older didn't mean he was dating before he turned fifteen."

"Right. I could touch myself, but no-one else."

The two of them were laughing, and it had me pretty confused. "How can you...?"

"Comedy equals tragedy plus time. Trust me, we were just as horrified then as you are now."

"Yeah." Carson's laughter stopped kind of abruptly. "I was a real jerk to Jessie. She was going through her own stuff, missing her family, and I was lording the fact that I was a grown-up and she was still just a little kid over her. That's why..." He stopped, tearing up.

Phuong was serious now, too. "That's why Carson has custody of me, as far as the government is concerned, and 'Parker' has custody of 'Dana'. It was easier for everyone that way."

Louisa touched Phuong's hand. "But still not easy, right?"

"Not at all. Don't get me wrong, we still talk - we try to have a vacation together every year, although it's been harder since we all decided to let ourselves be attracted to people. A week is about all we can do anyway, and you add other people and the jealousy gets really ugly. When Barry got the new job, it was a good thing for us to get some distance."

We all got quiet, so Louisa mentioned that she saw Carson's Mariner's hat - did that mean they'd abandoned Red Sox nation. That led to a lot of sports talk - Carson had gotten into sports in a big way to try to fit in with other guys, and there was still enough New Englander left in Phuong for her to be excited about the World Series and Super Bowls. That led to other, lighter topics that kept us up late that night.

We probably would have stayed all night, but Phuong's boyfriend called. She put him on hold, claiming another call. "Sorry, new boyfriend, and aren't newly-besotted teenagers clingy? High school boys haven't changed in the past twenty-five years, that's for sure. It's totally not going to last, and a dumb idea because we're in the same band, but man, he is so cute, and is that stuff about men being at their sexual peak at nineteen true or what?"

I declined to comment, and she smiled wickedly before getting back to her call. Carson said she could be hours, so Louisa and I got our coats, said goodbye, and headed for the door.

Before we left, Phuong held up a finger for us to wait. After she found a scrap of paper, she wrote an address down and handed it to me. "You've been very nice," she said, putting the phone on her shoulder for a moment, "to act so interested in us. But I know why you came here. Give them my best."

I thanked her, and put the piece of paper in my pocket without looking at it. It only stayed there until we reached the car, when I took it out.

And laughed. Harder than I've laughed at anything in a long time. Louisa asked what was so funny.

"I put off going to college in Pasadena for the semester to do this trip. But check this out - Parker and Dana Costello live in Malibu."

Louisa was a little confused until I pulled out the road maps I'd bought six months ago, in preparation for living down there. Then she laughed, too.

What a strange trip this has wound up being. Next stop, Los Angeles. If we drive through the night, we should get there tomorrow morning.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Louisa: Road Trip - Everything's Connected

I'd like to say the title of this post refers to some greater truth that Jessica and I have discovered here in the American West, where you can drive for hours without seeing much in the way of human settlement, but I'm afraid it refers to something more - well, not prosaic, but decidedly human. Jessica and I have been going back and forth over whether or not to post about it the past couple of days, figuring it might be wiser just to mail Arthur, Ashlyn, Darren, Jeff, Jaci, and the others privately, but we figure this is better; we know there are other people like us who read this blog and this is worth knowing. The rest of the world should probably know, too, but of course they won't believe it. We barely do.

Dex Langan was part of Arthur and Ashlyn's group. We met the "new" Dex toward the start of our trip, in Washington, and we've been trying to get in contact with the original for a while. We didn't think it would be that difficult; after all, Jessica had found a lead on him/her even before I'd ever gone to that inn.

It took some doing, though. He'd become Kayla Johnson, so we started in her hometown. We found her parents easily enough, but they didn't have much to say. They hadn't heard from their daughter in over a year; it was as if once she'd finished college she decided she didn't have any more use for her family. Jessica asked if she had any friends in town who might still be in contact with her. "Not according to Kayla."

Detective work it was, then. That meant another public library; I joked with Jessica that I was spending more time in these places than I did when I was in my old life, working as a school librarian. She laughed and said it would be a tragedy if these places ever disappeared completely, to be replaced by the internet and e-books and the like. The internet is not very good at being local, for instance, and even the biggest monitor and best user interface can merely approximate how well spreading a bunch of information out in front of oneself can be.

(This, as my old English teacher friends would point out to her students, is what they call foreshadowing.)

We got lucky in that Kayla is a nice photograph and was involved in a bunch of activities in high school. There were plenty of pictures of her in her school's yearbooks, not just "official" club portraits, but candids and collages. Jessica was methodical about seeing who she stood near for both National Honor Society and field hockey, and then flipping through the book to see who she was standing near in the candids.

This was five-year-old information about Kayla, as opposed to Dex, but it gave us some people to talk to. A number had moved away after college, and a couple really weren't that close to her, but we hit the jackpot with her high school boyfriend.

Johnny Farmer had looked nice in his yearbook pictures and had matured into a handsome adult. His family actually did have a farm, and a couple women our apparent age looking for him made him feel good. We decided to go with the reporter story again - only this time, Jessica had printed out some business cards for me. Simple things reading "Marie Desjardins, Freelance Journalist" along with my cell number and email address; Jess said people respect the no-frills approach and being a freelancer means no-one asks why I have a generic Yahoo! address rather than or something. He was a little disappointed that our "story" was about Kayla rather than him, but admitted that there was a story there.

According to him, she had come back home to get her things en route to her new job after being in Maine a couple weeks longer than expected, but everyone noticed how erratically she was acting. She stayed in a hotel rather than her parents' house, she didn't drop in to see old friends. He had run into her by chance, in a bar, and been confused by the way she acted - she had almost never been one to drink enough to get hammered, and while they'd talked amicably enough, she had completely freaked when he made some innocent comment that referenced their prior relationship. She made a big enough scene for them both to spend a night in lock-up, and when her parents were brought in...

Dex had told the truth. All of it. And, of course, it just bounced right off people. Johnny said that she made some comment about it not just being Maine, that this was bigger than anyone thought, and a lot of stuff that didn't make any sense.

There'd been brief talk about having her involuntarily committed, but upon hearing that, she'd started acting, if not normal, then less hostile. After a few days, she left town for her posting with the Forest Service. She didn't write, call, have her mail forwarded, or do anything else. She didn't even come home for the holidays, and don't think that wasn't a sore spot with her family. It was no wonder the Johnsons gave us the deep freeze when we came to talk about Kayla.

Johnny gave us the location of her post, and asked us to mention him to her if she decides to talk to us. We do, and head out again.

December is not the greatest time to try and visit a National Park in a cold-climate state, especially if you're driving an old car like Jessica's without four wheel drive. (Actually, December is not the best time to do anything up north. I can't wait until we reach Pasadena!). We tried to get hold of Dex/Kayla by phone, but neither of us could navigate the voice-mail system. So, when we arrived at the rangers' station, we were just hoping "Kayla Johnson" hadn't been fired or transferred.

We got lucky; she was still there. We did the usual little dance: "Do I know you?" "No, but we have some mutual friends - Arthur Milligan, Jake Matthews, Jeff Miller." She was more wary than most of the people we've talked to, but was willing talk with us. Better than going into town and getting hit on by the cowboys.

She (unlike Ashlyn, I never met Dex as a man, so I have a hard time calling her "him") got really nervous when we started asking if she'd had any contact with people who knew who she really was. When Jessica showed her some of the pictures from her phone, the ones she took in Texas, Dex/Kayla took a real long look. She was weighing what we were showing her, and the fact that we just put it in front of her. "Perhaps I should show you the back room."

We followed her to the back of the little cottage, where there was a bulleting board hanging up, with pictures and photocopies of documents and different-colored pushpins and handwritten notes and strings connecting the pushpins. "Damn," I said, "you've got a wall-of-crazy straight out of the movies." And, of course, instantly felt bad about it.

But she laughed. "Don't I just?" She pointed at a couple of documents which matched names from Stephen Jeffries/Jake Matthews's address book. "But maybe it's not so crazy after all."

The three of us stood in front of the wall, just staring, and then Jessica wrote "J & S Motion Graphics" on a blank card and stuck it into the board. Dex/Kayla nodded, and then started stringing lines between it and the places he already knew about. It wasn't connected directly to the question mark at the center of the board, but there was no doubt that whoever the Feds' mystery man was, he was an investor in J & S. Dex/Kayla started adding more, finally putting Ashlyn's name up, as well as Jean-Michel's and then André Trudeau's.

We stand back and stare at the more complicated pattern, not saying anything for a bit. Jessica was the one who broke the silence.

"You weren't in Maine to investigate microbrews marketing to minors, were you?"

"No." She sat down in a chair and stretched her long legs out. "After 9/11, a lot of federal agencies were ordered to share records more closely - you know, Department of Homeland Security. Internal investigations of people in different branches of the government turned up some common leads; once we knew what to look for, we found a few more. The thing that tied them together was vacations at the Trading Post Inn in Old Orchard Beach, Maine."

So, I asked, is that what the Inn's about? Replacing people in the government?

She shook her head. "I don't think so. There's no pattern, and half the people leave their jobs afterward. I think it's more opportunistic - that someone finds people who have changed and gets their claws into them. And even after... There's stuff that looks like corruption, but no bad acts. Just people not very good at their jobs for no apparent reason. The Special Agent In Charge of the investigation thinks that's evidence of sleepers, but now..."

"It's just people in unfamiliar situations unable to tell anybody else why."

Dex/Kayla nodded at Jessica. "Yeah, at one level - but there's an infrastructure here, doing something. But it's been going on for so long - I managed to find stuff in internal investigations from forty years ago before the new me changed my password. And some of the people who left government service wound up doing stuff that just seemed random - and it wasn't just going back to their original lives; they weren't always good at it at first."

Jessica processed that. "So, what do you think is going on, knowing what we know?"

"I think someone is screwing with us. Not all of us, just whoever he takes an interest in, or maybe the ones who can help him with the ones he's interested in. He's been doing this a long time, so maybe he's been to the inn himself once or twice. Maybe he's not a he, or wasn't to begin with. Maybe he's been alive so long his brain's gotten full and he's gone nuts."

This was starting to seem too big for me, so I tried to concentrate one what I could understand and relate to personally. I pointed to one card. "Ashlyn. Why Ashlyn?"

Dex/Kayla laughed. "You've never been a guy, have you? If you had, you wouldn't ask that question."

I blushed, and Jessica laughed. "Yeah, if I were my old self... Maybe it's just a bit of fun."

"And it fits the profile. Like... There's a guy we were suspicious of in the New York INS office. Maybe he threw the monkey wrench into 'Ginessa''s and 'Nicoleta''s visas, just to see what would happen. There's documents that the guys in DC don't understand - can't understand - but make perfect sense to me. He gets off on that - sticking people into difficult situations and seeing not just what they do, but what they become."

We talked all through the night, leaving the next morning. We're not sure posting this is the right thing to do, but anybody who is in our situation reading this needs to know that Ashlyn's secret admirer appears to be into bigger things as well. Besides, now that he's apparently got someone inside the investigation of his network, he might be twice as dangerous. We don't know who he is, but we've got a name for him.

We're calling him Pygmalion.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Kat – Perspective

Five years ago, Kat’s life changed, jarringly, and forever. Since then I’ve watched her try to make the most of life without her parents. I thought she was doing okay. I was wrong. How different things would have been, if it’d not been for the changes thrown at us by that cursed inn…


Pete arrived just after noon on Thursday, braving the wintery Iowa weather, so that he could visit the two people that meant the most to him, when he was me - his… my… her… parents, Scott and Rose Green - or more accurately, the site where they were laid to rest.

After he’d checked in to the local motel, he stopped out to let me know he was in town. I get the impression that dad… Trip’s dad (God, this is confusing), is becoming suspicious. I’m not sure I really want to know what he’s thinking, part of me is saying that it’s a normal dad-protecting-his-daughter type of response… and I’m not sure I want to know. I decided not to give him any more time to think about things, Pete and I went “sight-seeing”. Not that there’s much to see around here. Still, it gave us a little time alone to talk.

It was the first time that I realized just how she felt about her life. I hadn’t realized just how distraught she’d become. I’d always seen her with a smile on her face and a seemingly positive attitude. I learned just how adept she was at covering her true feelings with a mask of sunshine. It seems that she never really recovered from the loss of her parents. Her guilt at not being gracious to her “new” family for being there and helping her, caused her to keep her feelings of loss and hopelessness inside. I listened as she told me how difficult it was to find a reason, much less a path, to travel through life. She told me that more often than not, it was Jaci (the original Jaci), dragging her along to whatever or wherever – that kept her alive.

I realized that her choosing me to become her was not only a gift to me, but also her way of giving up on life. She really had had no intention of returning. It was so much like her, to find a way to help someone else before worrying about her own self. She smiled when I mentioned that, and I asked her whether she still felt hopeless and without purpose or direction. It seems that she has found a purpose and happiness in her new life – that her… his new life has given him opportunities that she’d likely never have otherwise. That made me smile. It’s a real shame that I can’t share the details with you, but I made a promise that I wouldn’t.

It was heart-wrenching to see a grown man cry as he laid his soul bare before me. I’ll admit, there were times when I was joining him. For all the trouble that stupid inn has caused… I wouldn’t go back and change a thing, if only for the knowledge that its actions saved the life of someone I really care about. I could have seen my grandmother one last time before she passed if I hadn’t stayed at the inn… but I’d still have lost her… and I’d have lost Kat too.

I guess it really puts a bit of perspective on things.

I’ll try to finish this post after chores.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Jessica: Road Trip - Old "Friends"

Sometimes, I don't know how Louisa puts up with me. The stated purpose of this trip was to find the original Marie, and I was just along for the ride, giving my advice on how to investigate a case. Lately, though, we've been spending a lot of time digging into my history. It's her own fault; I was doing fine living in the present tense until she made me visit "my" grave in Baltimore. Since then, I've put a lot of energy into trying to find the original Jessica. The trouble is, there are people I have to go through to find them.

Ten-year-old Jessica Brooks wasn't at the Trading Post Inn alone, of course - she had gone there with her best friend, Mindy Cahill, and her parents. They had all been changed into someone else and disappeared - at least as far as I know; I don't remember anyone ever showing up at our door claiming to be the real Jessica. Another group became the Cahills - Dina Wright and her parents.

I hadn't met Dina but had seen her briefly before we changed. She was yelling at her mother, something about how her boyfriend was coming to get her and they were going on their own vacation. She was wearing ripped jeans and a t-shirt with some rapper's face on it, more piercings than I'll ever see the need for, and a shock of blue in her hair. She was seventeen and as a cop, I looked at her and saw future charges of drug possession, DWI, and vandalism. I may have had a thought or two of "good lord, they're going to let her vote in the next election!"

Then everything changed, and suddenly this angry teenager in a ten-year-old's body was the only person I could talk to.

It wasn't for lack of trying. The inn's curse or magic or freaking super-technology kept anyone from believing me until Mom's father died. The Wrights had been my contemporaries but they insisted on treating me like a kid when I was over there. It was bad practice, they said - it might make things difficult if people saw us acting as peers, and Mindy would never properly accept her circumstances if she saw me being given special treatment she wasn't receiving.

I won't misrepresent myself and say I didn't find that a little chilling at the time, but even as I chafed against Mom's attention, I was still looking at it from the adult perspective, and not the kids'. It seemed weird, sure, but I didn't have kids and had learned not to tell others how to raise theirs. Not that I didn't have opinions, and based on what little I'd seen of Dina, her physical and mental maturity levels were now more in sync.

What I'm getting at here, in my roundabout way, is that when "Mindy" was sent to a private school rather than going to public school with me that fall, I could see the logic - if she wasn't going to know anybody anyway, it was probably better that she not know people she wasn't supposed to know, if that makes any sense whatsoever. My "acting" like I didn't know anybody when I started fifth grade got me a reputation as a bitch and the enmity of almost every kid in the class (and my first look at just how vicious elementary school kids could be to each other). It got Mom called to the office regularly because I was getting into fights despite no prior record of bad behavior, and I was worse off than anybody could know. My self-esteem had already taken a huge hit by being turned from a trusted adult male police detective to a powerless little girl, and while on some level I wanted those brats to leave me alone, being shunned was another story altogether.

So, even though I didn't particularly like Dina at first, for a few months she was the very best friend I ever had. We only saw each other on weekends and school vacations - her new school gave her a lot of homework - but we were inseparable during that time. We did little-girl things because that's all we could do: We spent a lot of time riding bikes, complaining about how stupid our parents and the kids in our classes were, writing in diaries and reading each other's entries. Most ten-year-old girls probably don't try to sneak beer from their parents' fridges, but to be fair we only did that once: It made us really sick (for which we cursed the inn all afternoon), and the thought of being grounded and not allowed to see each other if we got caught was absolutely terrifying.

So imagine how it felt to go on my first Christmas trip to see my new grandparents and come back and find my best friend, and the only person who understood me even a little bit, was gone. Mom said the Cahills had moved to Chicago because Mr. Cahill had gotten a new job, but the why didn't really matter to me. Dina was gone, no-one was ever going to call me Conrad again, and I was trapped.

I finally broke down and told Louisa this story after I had tracked down the Cahills. Finding them was hard - businesses don't give out employee information to eighteen-year-old girls who say they're doing a school project, "Mr. Cahill" had changed jobs twice and moved to the suburbs, and private school yearbooks aren't as easy to find in public libraries. I'd almost given up, and almost just drove through Chicago on our way to Hibbing but decided to take one last shot. Louisa was annoyed, and probably had every right to be. She actually apologized after I found an address and told her all this on the way.

She thinks it explains a lot - that even if finding the Wrights/Cahills means I'm able to track something else down, that finding my friend is the most important thing. She also suggested that maybe Dina was the reason I'd never had a real boyfriend - that I'm afraid anyone I love will leave me. I point out that I've got a bunch of other issues going on, and she shrugs it off.

So it's the day before Thanksgiving, we're outside the house, and I'm about ready to wet myself in fear. Louisa rings the doorbell for me and before I've got a chance to run away, it opens.

Dina's there. I know it's her. She's dyed her light brown hair jet black, she's only as tall as I am because of her high heels (she was an inch taller than me eight years ago), and even as I grew my own, I never imagined her with cleavage. Still - I recognize most of the face and a bunch of the attitude. Dina and I never called each other Mindy and Jessica when we were alone, so I blurted her real name out.

Her eyes bugged and I think this is the first time I ever saw her smile. "Connie? Oh my god!" I was about to say something about going by Jessica these days, but she squeezes all the oxygen out of me. Then she's screaming in my ear, although that's just a side-effect of her still holding me while calling to her parents that I was there.

They come walking from another room, and they don't look terribly pleased to see me, but she's already pulling me and Louisa into the house, dragging us upstairs to show us her room.

Dina has dealt with being changed in a different way than I have. I adapted, I forged a relationship with my new mother, I studied hard in school to make the most of my new situation. Dina got into the occult. She'd left no stone unturned - there were pentagrams, Ouija boards, charms, candles, and every book on the subject you might want. Louisa actually stepped back through the doorway when she saw it, asking us to allow an old bayou woman her superstitions.

Dina had the moment of disbelief, then said it was okay, because none of this stuff worked anyway. She'd tried it all, she said, everything she could think of to be herself again, and then again because it pissed her parents off. All it got her was a leg up on everybody else in her comparative religions class at Northwestern.

"I guess that means my folks got the last laugh - I'll probably wind up going for my Ph.D. someday, be a renowned anthropologist. Can you imagine?"

I had to admit, I hadn't seen that coming. Then she asked why I never responded to her letters. I told her I'd never gotten them.


She's back downstairs like a shot, screaming at her parents about not sending her letters, lying to her and saying that I must have accepted my new life and she should to, making her think that the only person who could understand had abandoned her. Normally, I'm pretty good about staying out of family business, but they screwed me up pretty good, too, so I was hot on her heels.

By the time we got down there, Dina was lighting into her folks pretty good, and it only got worse when they called her "Mindy". Watching them go at it, I figured this was roughly the thousandth time they've had this argument, but knowing that they'd deliberately taken every bit of choice out of her hands was more than Dina could handle, and no arguments about how she was doing so much better as Mindy than she had as Dina was going to sway her. She ran out the door and I followed. She got into her car and so did I, just planning to talk, but she started the engine and drove off, leaving Louisa stuck with the parents. Probably a good thing; I certainly wasn't in any frame of mind to ask them the usual questions.

We drove with just the radio blasting for a while, finally pulling up just outside a mall in the suburbs. "This is pathetic. I should be twenty-five years old, and I'm still going to the mall when I want to get away with my parents! I can't even go to a bar! God, Connie, even if you had to adjust to being a girl, you at least know what it's like to be an adult. I feel like I've been seventeen my entire life, and up until a year ago I was always scared that if I screwed up, they'd take me back to that inn and make me ten years old again!"

I told her it didn't work that way, but she rightly pointed out that there's no way she could know that.

"And every time I do something right, whether it be making National Honor Society or getting into college, they're always acting like it's their doing. 'Oh, I guess we did something right this time.' Like my entire life has just been about them, and I can't even be proud of what I accomplished because the last eight years have just been a big ol' do-over for them."

I let her vent. Looking back, I think some of what she said was overwrought, but at the time, and still now, I could really see her point of view. Louisa is kind of lucky, having a second youth, but not having to wait to have a real life again.

We went into the mall and looked around, having a good time in spite of ourselves. After a few hours, Louisa called and asked if there was a spare key in the car; I told her there was and where, and she said she'd meet us back at the hotel. She may never have had kids of her own, but she just assumed Dina was going to spend the night on campus.

She was right. She showed me around, saying she wished she could join us on our trip, but she really did like her classes. After the tour, she dropped me back off at the hotel, where Louisa and I agreed not to talk about it right then.

So that's how I wound up having Thanksgiving dinner in a Chinese restaurant with Louisa and Dina this year, and then spending two hours in the bathroom at a rest stop, talking to my mom on the phone and telling her how thankful I was that she'd respected my maturity after she found out who I was even while making sure that the kid/teen stuff I couldn't control didn't trip me up to bad. I could have been Dina if things had gone just a little different.

I hope it was all for the best. On the plus side, I've got my best friend's email and phone number and promise to keep in touch. And somehow, Louise managed to coax an address for the Cahills in their "new" lives, out in Seattle. I might actually get to meet the original Jessica.

(I haven't told Mom that, yet. I don't want to get her hopes up, especially not knowing who she is, exactly. Besides, if Jessica resurfaces, where does that leave me?)

I just hope we didn't have to destroy a family to do it.


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Kat - Charming

I find it amusing how this afternoon seemed to showcase the stereotypical Sunday male vs. female behavior. It's lonely at home, and I didn't want to mess with getting the woodburner started for a little extra warmth. So I made good on the invitation to visit that "Trip" and "Jadyn" offered the other day.

I've gotta' start referring to them by the names they're going to have now, since I've decided to give up that life for this one. Besides, it will make it less difficult to remember to do so when we're not alone. Got to keep trying harder at embracing my new life... and letting go of that life is just something I guess I wasn't doing well enough.

Anyhow, back to my story.

So, A few of my... Trip's friends stopped by to watch football on his new HDTV. It was sort of a guy's day, I guess. I've never been that interested in sports, so this isn't something that happened when I was Trip. Judging by D... Jadyn's reaction, I take it that it isn't something she's used to either. We'd just had a nice dinner and were getting ready to watch a movie when the guys invited themselves over.

I could tell that Trip and Jadyn weren't exactly thrilled, especially Jadyn. But we all seemed to accept that this is just part of the lives we've decided to live. It didn't take long for Trip to fit in with the guys, and I was surprised that they didn't seem to notice the increased knowledge of and interest in the game that Trip was showing. It almost makes me sad to think that maybe they weren't either good enough friends or smart enough to notice the difference. Who knows, maybe they attributed it to Trip's new fascination with Jadyn.

Jadyn and I stuck around in the kitchen mostly. It was interesting to hear her stories of their past and some of the tough times Dorris and Frank had lived through.
She had some interesting comparisons to life back then, and currently and how people just don't seem to learn from the mistakes of the past. Of course, we also kept the boys fed and hydrated... well if you call beer and whiskey-mixes hydrating.

I have got to find out if Kat had a past with Tom - he seemed to be a little more "familiar" than I was really comfortable with. The other guys had the typical interaction with me... checking me out. I knew that they were trying to imagine me being naked and all wanting for them. Those thoughts still bother me, but there's not a damn thing I can do about it. It just made me feel a bit extra weird since these guys are... or maybe were my friends.

I've tried to imagine myself being with a guy... you know, in a... an intimate way. Although it's never really been successful at exciting me (I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not), I certainly couldn't see myself with any of my friends. Tim's over twice my current age, or he'd probably be an okay guy (still not 'exciting'). The other guys are just... *shudder* ... I don't know... "not my type" is about the best I can come up with.

Jadyn thought that it was pretty funny that my friends seemed interested in me, "If they only knew." she says. I shuddered at the thought that they'd probably still want to bed me. I think she sensed the tension building as I realized what these guys were like when they've been drinking. Jadyn asked me if I thought that my buddies, even after a few drinks, would try to hurt a girl... especially if she was my cousin... and in my house. I had to agree, they're not at all likely to try anything that stupid. With that she passed on a few bits of girl wisdom that I never learned as I became a young woman. Using charm to offset the strengths I used to exaggerate to impress the ladies. She taught me some of the "strengths" I inherited, and to some extent, how to use them. Be nice, look pretty, set limits, and give the guys little slices of happiness once in awhile.

Why hadn't I thought of that. It makes perfect sense. Be charming.

So, I decided to practice a bit on those poor boys. I'm sure that they all probably want to take me "home to mom" now. But they were extra nice and even bothered to thank me. I still wouldn't date any of them, and I'm sure they know that... but still... It felt good... Empowering.

Kat - Pole Kat

Yeah, this stinks!

Twenty years of elegant driving, no major disasters... and now... The first nasty weather of the season, and I go sliding off of the road and straight into a light pole.

I wasn't going that fast, I knew the roads were slick... but I was obviously still going too fast. Fast enough to lose control and hit the pole, but slow enough that the airbags didn't deploy. That's probably a good thing, I hear those things break noses and such. I like my nose just the way it is, thank you.

I think I was more scared than anything when I was sliding off of the road, at first, I was heading right towards the lake. Then suddenly, the tires grabbed and I started to turn... for an instant. If it wasn't for that post, I might be dead right now.

I'm scared to death of drowning, and this really shook me up. Although I knew how to swim when I was Trip, I always sank like a rock. I have no idea if I can swim or not now that I've got this body. I guess I'm going to have to go confront my fear of water and find out... but not too soon.

One thing I love about small towns is the 'goodness' of the people. No injuries, no property damage (other than my car), and no insurance reports needed (liability only - it's a cheap car), equals no police report and no ticket. Of course, I'm sure my being a pretty girl on the verge of tears had nothing to do with it (I wasn't faking-it either).

I think I'm getting better at handling these wild emotions. I didn't cry until after I got home and was alone in my room, then I just broke-down and had a good cry. It did feel good. And now, I'm really thankful that I'm still alive and uninjured... well, other than my pride.

I think I'm more pissed now than anything. I feel like a fool... like I just helped prove the stereotype that "girls can't drive". I most-certainly can drive... very well, in-fact - although, I am still human, and prone to make a mistake or two. Although I've never thought that girls are any less mechanically (or automotively) inclined than guys, I absolutely resent that mentality now that *I* am a girl. Well, all of that and I have to look for another car to drive now. It's cheaper to buy another one, than to fix this one.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Louisa: Road Trip - Minnesota, land of a thousand surprises

Louisa: Road Trip - Minnesota, land of a thousand surprises

Thanksgiving in the Chicago suburbs was... interesting, but more than almost anything else that's happened on this trip, that's Jessica's story. I'm glad she found what she was looking for, even though she said she wasn't looking for anything specific when we started this trip. It's been getting a little tense between us over the past couple of weeks, since I have been looking for something specific and all the time we were spending in Chicago hasn't gotten me much closer to it.

Things should be moving much more quickly now, though, and perhaps a little more smoothly. After Chicago, we took the 94 and 53 north, reaching Minneapolis Sunday evening. Our next move was to spend some most of Monday in the public library, searching local newspapers for mention of a Sarah Hansen graduating high school in 2003 or 2004 who was scheduled to attend Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She had taken a trip to the inn just before starting the 2006-2007 academic year, and the result once everything was said and done was that Vincent DeSantis had wound up with her body and life.

We met the "new" Vincent near the start of this trip, in Long Island, and weren't terribly impressed. When the trip first started taking longer than expected, we initially believed that we'd skip this leg, as Vincent/Sarah would probably wind up returning to Massachusetts for the fall semester. Ashlyn said she hadn't, though; she had tried to meet up with "Sarah" in October only to find the latter was no longer enrolled. She felt guilty about that - that she and Arthur had had someone else who understood their situation so close and just lost track of her. So she asked us to check in on her, if it wasn't too much trouble.

I continue to be amazed just how much detective work can get done in a public library or on the internet. It took a few hours, but using only a microfilm reader, a few selected rolls of film, and the local phone book, Jessica had tracked down Sarah Hansen's parents, and we were off.

We had some idea in our heads of what to expect; if the new "Vinny" had been able to slip into the old one's life without missing a beat, we figured we'd see someone like that - a lazy slob, probably leaching off Sarah's parents after having been chased out of school. Reality, as usual, was somewhat different.

The Jensen home was one of a dozen identical ones laid out inside a grid, separated by trees to look less repetitive. There was a minivan in the driveway despite the two-car garage, so we figured someone had to be home and knocked on the door. A light-haired woman in her early forties answered; not recognizing us, she asked who we were.

Jessica jumped right in to say that we were friends of Sarah's, doing a semester on co-op at a local business, and we were sorry we hadn't come to visit earlier, but we hadn't even realized that Sarah was here until talking to some classmates on Thanksgiving break. Is she home?

I think the woman was about to say no, but someone yelled from the back, asking who it was. Jessica probably would have stepped in if she could, but settled for pushing her head up against the screen door an yelling that it was "Jess and Lu, remember, from the Inn". Mrs. Jensen looked cross, and there was a long pause before the voice said we were okay, but she opened the screen door and told us Sarah was in the den, vaguely pointing to the back of the house. I followed Jessica, and I guess I was looking at the house kind of distractedly, because I ran right into her back where she'd stopped, hands on the edges of the doorway, slack-jawed and repeating variations on "!"

I looked up, and though I didn't say it out loud, I couldn't really disagree with it. Vincent DeSantis had been changed into a beautiful girl, stunning even in the long-sleeved t-shirt and sweatpants she was wearing - tall, with golden blonde hair and incredible blue eyes. She was also very, very, very pregnant.

She shifted her weight a little, as if to indicate she'd get up to greet us, but it was a lot of effort, and gave us a rueful grin. "Careful. 'Mom' isn't a big fan of taking the Lord's name in vain."

Jessica stopped babbling and moved aside so that I could get in, but didn't seem anxious to move any closer to that huge belly. I was nearly as surprised, but tried not to show it, so I sat down on the couch next to her (it is very difficult to use male pronouns to refer to someone who is pregnant), introduced ourselves, and said that she must have had an eventful time since Arthur and Ashlyn lost touch with her.


"Jake," I answered. "She goes by who she appears to be now."

"Oh. Right. That makes sense. I didn't even realize, and I probably started earlier than they did. Going native, I mean. I hated my body at first, but once I got to school, I sort of started getting used to it. Being female didn't seem terribly weird at an all-girl's school, and... it was school, you know? Not the crap job I hated going to every morning. I was ahead of the game in the core courses, and Sarah's major seemed much cooler. It was a weird kind of second chance."

Jessica snorted. I explained that she wasn't a big fan of using someone else's life as a do-over.

Vincent allowed that that made sense, and picked right back up again. I idly wondered if she had liked to talk so much in her old life. "Anyway, Sarah left me a really detailed letter, and actually got in touch with me after a month or so, saying she loved her new life doing costumes for Broadway shows, and wanted to help me fit in any way she could, or help me break away from her family gently. But the Jensens are cool, and I figure it would suck for them to lose their only child, so I kind of settled into Sarah's life."

She stopped a bit longer than necessary to take a breath, almost like that was the whole story. Given that Jessica had been staring at Vincent's belly the whole time, there was no doubt what she meant when she said "AND THEN...?"

"Spring break." She shook her head. "I really hadn't had much to drink at all since my trip to the inn - I was trying to make something of myself, so I was pretty serious, and when I wasn't at school I was here, and you-know-who are kind of strict. I didn't even go down to Daytona or anything; me and some of the girls just took the Chinatown bus to New York to see a concert. But it was Jan's twenty-first birthday, so we went to a bar afterward, a really good one that I remembered from my old life, which is where we ran into my old friends, and that was so exciting. It was like an out-of-body experience when the new Vinny arrived, totally surreal, but we were all hammered enough by then that nothing seemed really weird.

"And then the next morning, we woke up back at my old place. My memory was kind of hazy, but I know I slept with at least two guys that night...

"I considered an abortion after I missed two periods, but considering how churchy Sarah's family is - well, at least compared to mine - it didn't seem right, and, besides... What if Vinny, new Vinny, was the father? I don't know, you understand, but if he is, wouldn't that seem right? I mean, a lot of people don't get any reminder of their old lives, whereas I could..." She didn't quite seem to know how to finish that sentence, and settled for rubbing her belly.

I won't bother to transcribe the rest of Jessica's recording of the conversation. Jess never sat down, but we got through most of the usual questions. About midway through, she started smiling, and as we were about to leave, she asked if we wanted to go with her on her daily chocolate run. "Trust me," she says, "there's this little place in Grand Rapids that makes the best hot cocoa."

We mumbled something about having a long drive to Wyoming, but she said we had to come, and, besides, it's a great excuse to get out of the house: "Mom" and "Dad" always give her trouble when she's seen around town, but they understand her having cravings, so as long as it's someplace their friends won't be reminded of their shame, it's okay.

We pile into Jessica's car (Vincent in the back seat) and follow her directions a half hour to the next city over. We find street parking and settle in at the little café, and each order a hot chocolate. Jessica is finally getting used to the idea of a former guy being pregnant, but still asks how she's handling it so well.

"Don't get me wrong, I'm freaking out all the time, but according to the girls at the Lamaze classes, that's pretty normal. And the whole process is just kind of amazing. I think in some ways I'm handling the whole girl thing better because of the pregnancy. It's even stranger, that's for sure, but it's a really good thing. I don't know if I've ever felt more important, or at least useful, than the first time I heard my baby's heart beat."

I mentioned that Lamaze was a two-person activity; who was her partner; some friend of Sarah's? She gave a big grin and said that's what her folks think, but it's also the second surprise. As she finishes saying that, she then says she timed it perfectly and lifts an arm to wave at someone coming in the door. I'm sitting across from her, with my back to the street, so I have to turn around to see who she's signalling.

It's a good-looking guy - tall, thin, on the light-skinned side of black. He's giving a nice smile to Vincent and walking toward us when I turn around, at which point he stumbles a little bit and doesn't take his eyes off me, sitting down in our table's fourth chair more or less by feel. I'm a little embarrassed - I know this form is pretty, but I don't know about stopping traffic. But that's not quite it.

"Liz? Is that really you?"

Jessica's jaw drops in shock - kind of surprising in and of itself, because she seldom gets caught flat-footed like that - and I smile kind of nervously. "No, I just look like her, or like she did. My name's Louisa."

I reach out a hand and he takes it, still staring at my face. "Of course... Right... Someone has to be. Sorry. I'm... Well, I guess you could say I am or was Sarah Hansen."

I felt the initial gut reaction of disbelief - we always do, even though we've had the same thing happen to us. People who haven't don't have that reaction subside at all, at least without something equally jarring. Jessica seized upon something else, though. "Wait... I thought you were a girl, and didn't you say she was in New York...?"

Sarah shrugged. "Bitsy wanted her life back, and after a few months I didn't mind giving it to her. Working backstage is fun, but the pay isn't really that great. I admit, I was super-pissed when I showed back up at the Inn and Vinny hadn't stayed there, but he told me about the baby and... Well, once I saw how unattached to anything George was, I came out here, and we've been each other's support system since."

"And the real George?"

"Won't say. I think he wanted to make a clean break but just couldn't get up the nerve before." She stopped talking to Jessica and turned to me. "But how about you? Liz and I weren't really close, but she and I did talk, and she said Marie was really looking to make a clean break. How'd you get away from that gangster?"

"Marie's mother died. I told André that there was a cousin in America that I wanted to tell in person, but I didn't know her exact address..."

"That's pretty clever... Oh. How long has it been?"

"Four months, almost five."

"My god... I mean, I moved back here in part to be with Vinny and in part because being around her meant I could be around my own family. If something had happened to my folks while I was Bitsy and I didn't find out until later."

"Can you help me find her? Do you know where she is?"

"I... I can talk to Bitsy, but you've got to understand, she made it sound like Marie and Jean-Michel are kind of hiding. If I just told you..."

"Of course," I said. I wrote down my email address and gave it to him. "Feel free to check us out however you want, get in touch with Ashlyn, anything. I suppose you could just get in touch with her yourself, but I think this should be delivered in person."

He agreed, pocketing the napkin I'd written on. Jessica asked the usual questions about people trying to influence their lives, but I don't know as we found anything really interesting out. Once you get paranoid, anything can look like outside interference.

Maybe we'll get luckier on our next stop in Wyoming.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Kat - Memories

As much as I want to just move-on with my life... my "new" life - The whole 'having been someone else until just recently' thing looks like it's going to screw with "my" past. I have memories of being someone else, growing up a boy on a farm. I have all these memories of the people I grew up with, went to school with... things I did, things I learned... experiences. All these memories that don't match this body. Then there are people who expect me to remember them, and all the things "we" did together, the things "we" learned, to 'feel' things that I'm not familiar with.

It took the loss of a loved one to shake me from my stupor. It took that loss to really drive home the fact that I can't be that girl that people remember, I'll never be able to be her. I'm not really sure what to do. I'm still determined to make this life my own - I owe that to Frank, at least... and in a way, I owe it to myself. I told myself that I could do this, that I could make this life my own, and that I could make it a happy life.

I don't expect it to be easy, but I never realized that it'd be so damn hard.

If I'm going to do this, I'm just going to have to try harder.

I pulled out "my" photo albums and scrapbook, and tried to remember a past I never experienced. I thought about how I'm supposed to share, with feeling, all of these captured memories with my spouse and children... well, you know, if I decide to take that path.

I called 'Pete' Thursday... I really don't know, I guess I thought that perhaps I could have him tell me the whole story of "my" past... to detail all the memories that I'm missing from my new past. I guess I wasn't really surprised that it wasn't successful - it's an impossible task... well, as far as I know. Especially over the phone.

Needless to say, he wants to visit and go through those memories with me. I'm not sure I'm really okay with that, I do need his help, but that last visit ended really, REALLY weirdly. He then reminded me that the anniversary of "my" parents' death is coming up, and he wants to stop and remember them. Strange how death seems to call my family mostly in the fall and winter. I guess "my friend Pete" will be coming to visit in a couple of weeks. There's no way that I could turn him away, after going through what I just did. He may be "Pete" now, but they were her parents... when he was me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Kat - Losses

This morning we got word that my mother's mother passed-away. She was my last living grandparent... as Trip, she's no relation to me now... And that hurts me so. I feel as if my heart has been ripped out. I feel the loss as if she was my own grandmother, yet she is somehow not supposed to be.

How can I deny my love for her and the loss I feel? How do I explain the depth and intimacy of my sorrow?

I could have... I could... dammit! If only I'd let someone else help Jadyn, and I'd taken my vacation in California... I'd never be in this position. All those years of putting it off until "later". Well, there are no "later"s now! I've lost my grandmother... forever. If I'd only gone to California instead, then I wouldn't be so damn worked-up, or at least I'd have family with whom to share my grieving.

I feel horrible, because I feel that my grief makes me look rude. I hate this! It's not so much that I've lost my grandmother... but that it's as if she was never my grandma in the first-place... and that I'm not supposed to be feel anything. I just wish everything was back to the way it used to be!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ashlyn--Moving Day

Matt asked me to move in with him over a month ago. I took my time answering him—I wanted to make a smart decision, rather than just getting caught up in my emotions. I’ve been fond of Matt for a while now, but ever since that night by the Charles River, when he told me he loved me, our relationship reached a whole another level. We became one of those sappy couples that everyone who is not in a happy relationship finds annoying.

“So have you made a decision? About moving in with me?” Matt and I were walking to the T into Boston. We were heading to the Common 19 Theater to see a movie. I had left him in suspense for days about my decision. I could tell by the sound of his voice he was getting a little nervous.

So standing in front of “Arams #2”, a slice and sub shop on Cambridge Street, I turned and tucked two fingers into the neck of his shirt, and gently tugged, pulling his face toward mine—our lips finding each others.

As we break off the kiss, he gives me a confused look. “Was that a yes? You are moving in with me?”

It was probably cruel on my part, but I started laughing—I understood all too well what Matt was going through, and the look on his face was priceless. When his look changed from confused to concerned, I decided to put him out of his misery. “YES. Yes, I will move in with you.”

It took most of a month before I could say I was totally moved into Matt’s place. In the movies, you have musical montages and it would be so nice if real life worked like that: The music would start playing. (I’m thinking Voulez Vous by ABBA. I’ve always loved ABBA, but they were always a secret pleasure when I was Jake.) There would be shots of me gathering boxes for moving, shots of me filling those boxes, shots of me and Matt carrying my things into his place, and a long dramatic kiss as we finish in which he says “welcome home beautiful”.

Only real life doesn’t work as well as the movies. First of all, Matt already had a roommate and we really didn’t want to share our place with another person. Second, I was still in a lease at my current place and I had to find someone to take it over. Third—and this really annoys me—I had to clean Matt’s place before I moved in. I’m a bit of a neat freak, and Matt is a bit of a slob. The biggest reason I ever considered not moving in with him was because of the way his apartment was always a mess. I fear becoming the live-in maid, where Matt expects me to keep the house all neat and clean—because I’m the woman. Packing took a lot longer than I thought as well. It took a few days; I thought I would be done in an afternoon. Then to my annoyance, I was faced with one of the things that I lost when I lost my life as Jake: lack of upper body strength. To my embarrassment, I could not carry most of the boxes I packed.
Fortunately Matt was all too happy to carry my things for me.

Eventually, everything worked out. Matt’s roommate moved out under good terms, I found someone to replace me on my lease, and eventually I got everything moved over to Matt’s—Our—place. I didn’t have time to do the deep cleaning I wanted to do, but I decided I could do that after all my stuff was there.

I felt really guilty about sticking matt with the lion’s share of the actually moving of boxes, so I decided to try to do something special for him in return—I decided that it would be nice to have our first meal under one roof together to be a home cooked meal. I donned an apron and cooked us dinner. It wasn’t anything fancy; I don’t have much experience at cooking. Matt seemed to get a kick out of it. He snuck up behind me as I was putting the chicken into the oven, wrapped his arms around me. I turned to face him, and he kissed me.

“Hey, I am trying to cook here.” I say to him.

“Hey, I can’t help myself. You look so sexy in that apron.”
He pulls me close, begins kissing me on the neck, and grabs my ass.

“I’m busy here! Go away!” I playfully push him away.

He was persistent. He suddenly had a hand under my clothes, massaging a breast and kissing me. It felt so good, I stopped pushing him away.

“The chicken will be ready in 45 minutes…” I tell him.

He slips the apron off me, and then my top and bra. “That’s plenty of time.”

Matt had to get up extra early the next morning and get to the firehouse. He managed to sneak out of bed and not wake me, and I nearly slept to 11am. I was awaken to the sound of someone knocking on the door. I slipped on a robe and answered the door.

“Ashlyn Shelly?” It was a UPS guy dressed all in brown. He gives me a big smile—I think he liked the look of the busty girl in a little robe with a serious case of bed head. The delivery guy was holding a package.

I was a little surprised to be receiving anything. I haven’t gotten around to updating my address with the post office.

I sign for the package and take it from the man. My brain wasn’t fully into gear yet. I should have recognized the package by its wrapping. Over the past year and change I had received several packages just like this one. For some reason it didn’t click until I opened the package and saw the note in a familiar handwriting. “Something your boyfriend would enjoy seeing. –Your secret admirer”.

Under the note was some lingerie. It was racy, and sexy as hell. The lingerie was new, and still had the tags on it—and it was extremely expensive if whoever had sent it actually spent what was on the price tags. The note was right; Matt would enjoy seeing me in it. I was nude under the robe, so I dropped it and tried the lingerie on.

I probably should have been more creeped out than I was—but then again my secret admirer has sent me lots of things and I guess I have gotten used to it. The lingerie fit me perfectly—someone knew my size. I don’t spend as much time in front of the mirror as I used to, but I still enjoy my reflection. I’m still a vain girl. I strike a few poses for a few imaginary cameras, before I return to the package the lingerie had come in. My intent was to pick up the box and paper to put it in the trash—but I notice something new. Taped to the inside of the box, under some decorative paper, was a DVD case.

The DVD inside the case was unlabeled, and I turn on the TV and put the DVD into the player.
A chill ran through me as the DVD played and the screen came to life. On the screen was me—the new me, Ashlyn—I was dressed in exactly the same lingerie I was wearing now. “I’m so glad you could help me with this problem.” I was saying to someone off screen. “I am so appreciative. Why don’t you come here and let me show you how appreciative I am?” It was so weird to watch yourself doing things, knowing it wasn’t really you inside.

Another figure walked into the screen, his face away from the camera. He wasted no time—very quickly he had me—Ashlyn—undressed, and some serious fucking was going on the screen. It made me sick to my stomach. I felt dirty, and quickly got out of the lingerie.

I realized the note from my secret admirer—“Something your boyfriend would enjoy seeing.” was not referring to the lingerie. The note was referring to the DVD, and it was a threat. My “relationship” with my secret admirer has changed.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Louisa: Road Trip - The midwest

It's been over a month since we've been heard from, which is quite frankly frustrating for me. Idleness is not something that comes naturally to me, but sharing is not something that comes naturally to Jessica.

We spent most of the past month in Chicago. The original Jessica was staying at the inn with a friend her own age - about ten, at the time - and that friend's parents. So, while it would seem like she would have someone who understood, it didn't work that way. The "father" got a new job in a new city, and left Jess alone. That city was Chicago.

But that was eight years ago, and this family has apparently moved on since then. Our Jessica still figures they're the best chance of a link to the original, though, so she looked for them.

She looked for a long time. Mostly on her own, because I'm not a detective and while Jessica has the patience to track down every person who might have known her "old friend" in order to gather information, she has very little patience with people who can't do the job as well as her.

In the end, I don't know whether she found something useful or not. I suspect that she eventually started to worry about actually making it out to California in time for the winter/spring semester at this rate, and my desire to get on with my quest.

Michigan wasn't quite on the way to anywhere, but we did promise Ashlyn and Trip - well, I guess she's just going by Kat now - that we would check in on Jeff Miller. He had just graduated high school when he found himself changed into a young girl a year ago, and seems to be one of the lucky ones in that he was able to get his life back. We'd been targeting a holiday weekend to speak with him; it just wound up being Veterans' Day rather than Columbus Day.

We didn't get much time to spend with Jeff; he was home from school for the weekend to spend time with his family. We did get to have lunch with him on Saturday, and he brought a friend.

Well, I don't know if "friend" is the word. If I were Jeff, I would think that having the new Brianna Adamson hanging around would make me very uncomfortable, just on principle. But he says it's not like that - that the longer he's back in his proper form, the more it feels like his time living Brianna's life was just some kind of strange dream which he can't properly describe. No, what makes him uncomfortable is the gigantic crush she seems to have on him.

It's almost kind of cute, in a way - the new Brianna talked about how Jeff had left her the means to emancipate herself from her new parents, and made sure that she had a safe place to live in the Miller household afterwards. She chattered on and on about how she Jeff's sister Mel get along so well, and it's great to be back in school, and all the while she's staring at Jeff, occasionally getting in comments about how this great new life is all because of him and she just wants to express her gratitude.

We talked about the usual things. Have you kept in contact with anyone from the groups before or after you? Jeff says no, not from the first time around - he thinks the original Bree wanted a clean break and fresh start. Bree says no, but kind of gives us a look as she says it. Any contact with outsiders who seem to know about the inn (aside from us)? Any people trying to get something from you without an explanation? Jeff says no; Brianna says yeah, but they don't seem like anything inn-related. She's a pretty fifteen year-old girl with a big old trust fund that could get even bigger depending on what happens to her parents in court. She's a tempting target anyway.

After a while, Jeff got a call to meet up with a high school buddy, and asked us if we'd mind giving Bree a ride back home after we're done talking. We said we'd be happy to, and he left us alone.

As soon as he had left the restaurant, Brianna let out a big sigh. "Isn't he just the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?"

Jess squirmed a little, since the question seemed to mostly be addressed to her. "He's, uh, not bad. So, I take it you didn't change all that much during your stay at the inn?"

"I... Well, I'll tell you, but could you not put it in that blog? Because then he'll read it, and I don't know if the truth is something he'd be comfortable with right away - I mean, he knows I've been to college because I gave him some pointers about campus life, but I don't want him to think of me as someone else until the whole truth won't freak him out, y'know? I will say that he wasn't exactly my type before, but the fact that I know he's a good man makes him so much more attractive. And, besides, he knows this body intimately, the way no other man can. Of course, since most of what I've had lately is high school boys..."

Jess got kind of red at that, and I spoke up to distract attention a little. "I don't get the impression that Jeffrey is looking for a girl who gives it up so easily."

"I know, it's just - you know - he knows I was someone else, and I need to show him that his age and gender are fine with me. And, okay, after the change, I needed to get used to it a bit myself. You know how it is, when you're first in a new body."

"No, I don't - I was ten!"

Bree holds up her hands, not quite expecting such a reaction. I was kind of surprised, too, but I imagine it must have been strange (at a minimum) for Jess, having the mind of a sexually experienced male in the body of a pre-pubescent girl. "Okay, fine, geez, don't flip out on me. Just sayin', you want to know that everything works. Surely later--"

"I'm not going to talk about this; I'll be in the car." With that, Jess stormed out.

A pained look went across Brianna's face, and she apologized. "Look, I didn't mean to - it's just, there's so few people we can talk to, and neither Jeff nor that lawyer guy wants to talk about sex, especially with someone who looks like jailbait. You guys said you were trying to find things out--"

I told her it was all right, and that's when she told me about the events that led up to her becoming Brianna. Since I know Jeff reads this, I won't post it here, but I hope she decides to tell it herself, sometime. It's really fascinating.

I didn't want Jessica to wait long in the car, so I suggested it might be time to bring her home. While we were walking through the parking lot, she suddenly seemed to remember something. "Oh! I knew I was going to forget this. It's about my boobs - they're real." She grabbed my wrist and brought my hand to her chest.

"Look, young lady, I was a woman even before I went to the inn."

"No, I mean, remember how Jeff said the original Brianna got her implants as some sort of sick fifteenth birthday present? Give that a squeeze - it's all human tissue, no plastic at all."

"I'll take your word for it."

She realized how an apparently mid-twenties woman with her hands on a teenager's bosom must look, and dropped my hand. "Right... Of course. I'm just saying, maybe that means something. Maybe the curse or spell or whatever can't reproduce man-made things and just does the best it can to get the outside looking right. Maybe that's where Kat's narcolepsy or Darren's peanut allergy comes from. Of course, those are both conditions that can appear later in life anyway... But, it's something to think about, right? That we're not exactly like the people we appear to be."

I told her it was a thought, but the conversation died as we reached the car; Jessica didn't have any interest in conversation as we gave Brianna a ride back to the Millers' home.

Anyway, we're back in Chicago now, as Jessica follows up on something while we head to our next stop in Minnesota.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Kat - Scary chills

Field work sure can be different when you're girl.

Used to be that I'd have no problem working the far field until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, by myself. Now... well... being alone, at night, 30 miles from home... gets a bit scary, especially when what little traffic on the road seems to vanish and everyone else is on the other side of the field. Even though I wasn't really that alone... it had a way of making me feel really alone.

Add that I still haven't gotten over the feeling of helplessness when confronted with my new size and strength limitations. Yeah, it's an overreaction, but it's frustrating to deal with - especially when I remember thoughts that I'm a more desirable prey than I'd been before. It's probably my self-preservation - Better to be safe than sorry, and I'm still learning the difference.

And you don't even want to know how much of a pain it is when you have to pee. I really haven't had to worry about it until last night, I could always make a pit-stop at the elevator's facilities. But out here, in the middle of a cornfield, everything I could sit on or lean against was freezing, and the wind... my pant leg was wet for the next hour. At least I got lucky enough to find some toilet paper behind the seat. And thank God the heater in the tractor was working great too.

I would complain about missing my old 'equipment', but I can't do that if I'm really serious about my new life, which I am. I guess I'm just going to have to learn how to be a better girl... a better farm girl... or at least, keep out of the wind when peeing.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Kat - Moving image.

Well, an image of things being moved anyhow.

It's been a pretty boring week, but I thought I'd share a picture of the beautiful Iowa landscape... as seen through a dirty tractor window.

I was moving some wagons to the last cornfield we had yet to harvest, and it was getting dark. The shadow of the tractor on a neighbor's field was just too tempting to pass up.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Arthur/Penny: Warrior Princess

Even after more than a year, it's probably fair to say I'm used to being a woman, even though I'm not particularly fond of it. There's more biology to be aware of, and it tends to be messier. My instincts still haven't caught up with my new social position, and even when it has, I sometimes expect people to treat me like Liz rather than Penelope.

Still, if I have to be a woman, I prefer being Penny. It's occasionally awkward, but that works for me - there are a lot of folks who don't know to deal with an athletic six foot tall woman, so when I meet new people, both of us are a bit socially flummoxed. I'm also taller and probably stronger as Penny than I was in my original life, which feels positively superhuman after being Liz, especially considering that I actually seem to gain energy from exercise versus it taking a lot out of me.

The one big downside for being Penny, though, is clothes shopping. As Liz, even if the sizing was arcane and inconsistent, I could eventually find what I wanted off the rack whenever I needed something; as Penny, the selection is much more limited unless I go to a specialty store, and it's always more expensive. And then when you've done something like wait until nearly the last minute to buy a Halloween costume...

I wasn't planning to do anything for Halloween - I didn't particularly enjoy my first Halloween party as a girl, much less looking for a costume. I've also been staying in more over the past few weeks, because it seems like every time I go out, Jeremy shows up. Even though he sometimes flinches when I walk in his direction, sometimes he doesn't. As much as I've more or less accepted that I'm going to be Penny for the foreseeable future, I haven't let go of my old life the way Lyn and Kat have. Seeing him act like a jackass, or just not be like me, makes me cringe at what he's doing to my name and reputation.

Last week, though, Drew told me there was a party in L.A. where we could get some networking done, and I thought it sounded pretty good. It was the 25th by then, though, so there wasn't a whole lot left for a woman like me. The choice was basically Wonder Woman and Xena, Warrior Princess; I went with the one that looked less like a swimsuit.

So, yesterday morning, we took the shuttle south. I left Cassie a message about maybe grabbing dinner, but she had to work late on end-of-month stuff. She would totally be willing to meet me in the hotel bar after my party, though, as long as I promised not to change out of costume.

The party itself was fun, if not A-list. The snacks and drinks were good, it was kind of fun to spot That Guys (you know, the folks you recognize when you see them in movies or as a guest star on TV but who are never actually billed very high). There were a few pro athletes there, too.

Drew and I weren't exactly joined at the hip, but it was okay - he had a couple other clients there as well, so he had to spend some time introducing them to people. He went as a pimp, which I suppose was kind of apropos for an agent. After spending a year-plus as a member of the fair sex, I don't know if I'd be comfortable with that. He mostly had me talking to people from the likes of Fox and ESPN. The only guy who wanted to talk about my book was a guy who looked just out of film school asking about whether it could be "packaged" with Angelina Jolie, and whether I was thinking of selling the rights individually, or as a franchise, and was I thinking film or television, or maybe both, because lots of TV-movies were mysteries with female detectives, but the guild might frown on it if I worked on it after they went on strike...

There was a lot of that, and I wasn't upset to leave at around one in the morning. I was kind of surprised when Cassie answered my text message at that hour, but she called me back right away, saying she was just finishing up. She got to our hotel at about the same time we did; Drew kissed Cassie on the cheek and headed upstairs; he hadn't been nursing his drinks at all.

Cassie smirked. "No matching costumes?"

"It was kind of short notice, and, besides, I don't think he's up to the leather pants. He doesn't have as much time to work out since he started expanding his client base down here. Does that mean that James dressed as Ryu, 'Chun Li'?"

"Damn right. That man's pecs should be allowed to breathe all the time."

I blushed a little, then took a drink. I'm not quite ready to discuss what makes "other" guys hot and don't know if I'll ever be. I changed the subject to work; she rattled off a whole bunch of computer jargon that I didn't understand a word of. I talked about CalSports and picking up little side gigs, although I don't know how much longer I'll be doing that.

"Why's that?"

"Drew's making noises about moving down here, since he's picking up more show business clients. And we're not really serious, but I'm used to him. And, I don't know, I'm kind of thinking I might need a change. There's this other guy who's always around..."

"Since when are you afraid of that sort of thing?"

"I'm not afraid, just bothered. I can't get rid of him, I can't make anyone else understand why it gets to me. And, besides, as much as my job's kind of fun, it's not really what I want to do with my life."

"Hmm. Well, I'd be lying if I said it wouldn't be nice to have you around. Just, don't change your life because of some man."

We had a few more drinks before I got her into a cab and went upstairs myself. It sounds a little crazy on the other end of a night's sleep, a short flight, and a run along the beach, but I would like to change things up a little.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Kat - Friends... part 2

After Friday's little revelation and sense of loss regarding my friends... my friends from my past as Trip - I started to think about all the friends I'd inherited, as it were, as Kat.

I have some idea of who her high-school classmates were... at least when she moved up here after her parents passed. I really don't know anything about her friends and classmates prior to that. Makes me wish I'd paid more attention to that stuff now.

I know that I've bumped into a few of her classmates this past summer, but the exchanges were always very casual... as if 'we' were just acquaintances and nothing more. From what I can tell this past summer, Kat didn't have as many friends... good friends, as I'd have thought. I haven't received any phone calls or email or texts or even snail-mail inviting me to any events, even though I know a couple of her classmates got married... and there is no way that more people Kat should know, didn't have a "gathering" of some sort.

I know that she and Jaci were... or seemed to be, best friends... something I'm not sure the 'new' Jaci and I have been able to maintain quite as well as the originals. It tough to try to pretend to be someone you're not - and being forced into that position doesn't make it any easier. Thank God the 'new' Jaci and I are at least close enough to be able to try now... without wanting to kill each other. Though, sometimes, I wonder if she's still bitter at me for being in this bizarre twist of life.

I sent an email off to 'Pete' regarding "Kat's friends", this afternoon. Some details about past interpersonal relationships could certainly come in handy should I actually encounter someone I'm supposed to know, and/or have shared some memorable experience with.

In a way, I hope I'm right and Kat doesn't have many friends. That would make it much easier for me to fit-in. It would also make me quite sad that my little cousin was so lonely. It sure would explain why she was so easily willing to give up this life to live another.

Maybe I'm just trying to read too much into things.

I better post this and get my butt down to the kitchen and help with supper.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Ashlyn--Temporary Insanity or “too much of a good thing”

Sorry for being away for so long, the last month has been a blur. I’m pleading temporary insanity as I let lots of things slip in the last month—not just this blog.

When I was a little kid—before my parents were killed in an automobile accident—my mother made homemade apple pie. It was my favorite, especially if it was still warm with ice cream. I still remember how the house smelled when she was baking. It still makes me smile to this day. I loved my mom’s apple pie so much that one day I got greedy for it. I wasn’t satisfied with just the slice I was going to get after dinner; I wanted more. In fact I wanted all the pie—I decided that when my mother put the pie out to cool, I was going to take it. I wasn’t an overly bad behaving child; sure I got my share of groundings—but for some reason I obsessed on my Mom’s apple pie, and I didn’t care what the consequences were going to be when I stole it. I had to have that pie and I didn’t want to share it.

So when my Mom left the kitchen, leaving her carefully prepared dessert on the kitchen counter to cool—I stole it and ran to some woods behind our house. Fork in one hand, pie in the other. I knew I was going to get caught. I was the only other person in the house at the time—but I didn’t care. All I wanted was to dig into that apple pie goodness.

I ate the whole thing. I was like a one man pie eating contest; greedily eating as fast as I could.
30 minutes later I was paying for my crimes. I had eaten far too much too quickly and my stomach was making me suffer for it. Worse, my mother—a normally patient and loving woman—had zero sympathy for me. She called me a “little thief” and said to me as I puked my guts out “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.”

I was grounded for a while, but worse, my mom didn’t make apple pie for a long time after that.

Fast forward through my life and you will find that every so often I will obsess on something to the exclusion of everything. I can’t help myself. It was Lucy Crabtree in the seventh grade. She was a cheerleader and beautiful. I flunked algebra because she was in the same class and I had a difficult time concentrating. A few years later it was a car. For months I killed myself with an after school job trying to save up for a 66 mustang that needed a lot of repair. In college it was another girl—all my grades took a sudden fall. One of my professors took me aside and asked me if I was having personal problems. I think he suspected I might have gotten into drugs. I told him no, but deep down I knew I had a problem.

Which leads me to a month ago. A month ago Matt told me he loved me. I didn’t realize it at that moment, but he let the crazy, obsessive part of me out of the bottle. For the last month I couldn’t get enough of Matt. At first it was great—being in love makes even the most boring things fun. And the sex… the sex was mind blowing. But it’s too hard to maintain that kind of intensity in a relationship for very long. Sooner or later real life makes an appearance.

I’ve got lots to share—a month’s worth of catching up—too much to do all at once. Besides I got to get ready for work. Tonight is a World Series game, plus all the girls at headlights are wearing Halloween costumes—it’s going to be a busy night. I just wanted to drop a little note on the blog and let everyone know that I seem to be back from cloud nine.

More Later!


PS—Art, please call me. I’m so sorry for the things I said to you on the phone. I’ve been out of my head for the past few weeks. I really miss talking to my friend.