Or maybe it would more accurately be called a phone relay race. After all, when people say they're playing phone tag, it's generally two people trying to catch each other. Today's action was about keeping things in order.
Today's the day when summer 2007 bookings open for the Trading Post Inn, and I figured that if my plan to become myself again was going to work, there'd be no time to waste and no room for error. We had to make sure that we were the first to book our rooms, and that we were able to get the same rooms.
Near as I can tell, the Inn switches groups up as soon as the requisite amount is there - thirteen guests, I think. (Yeah, I know - ominous to the superstitious, and why shouldn't we be superstitious?) It seems to need a new group, and that's where the hitch was - would it count the same people coming back after eight months as a new group, or act like it was the same people and not throw the switch? I concocted this plan a couple months ago, but I haven't learned a whole lot new since. what we learned from Jenny is helpful in terms of building a history of the Inn, but so far, we don't have a whole lot of ideas about how it works. I'd hoped we'd get a little more detail from the email, but so far, just a few notes.
But, it's the best plan we've got, so we went with it.
Jeremy started it, making his call to the agency that manages the Trading Post Inn at six in the morning, Pacific time. Fifteen agonizing minutes later (I'm really not used to being up at this time of the morning during the week), he calls me. "I got it," he says. "Two weeks in sunny Old Orchard Beach, April 27th to May 10th, good old room number nine. You say all my old luggage is still waiting for me there?"
I said it was when I broke in back in November, just waiting for him. He thanked me, and that he'd just about maxed out my credit card making the reservation. "Guess I'd better find a way to earn some money for the next few months, since the writing thing isn't working out so well." I told him it was okay, that it was a tougher gig than it appeared to be.
I didn't stay on the phone too long, though, since I had my own call to make. I dialed Oceanside Property Management up, and nervously fretted a bit as I got a busy signal five times. On the sixth try, I got what sounded like a middle-aged woman with a fisherman's accent who didn't seem to surprised to hear that "Elizabeth Lee" wanted to book her room from last summer. "We get a lot of that," she says, "people who stay late in the summer want to come back in the spring, and they just love their old rooms."
I was a little surprised, although I probably shouldn't have been. I'm not so astonishingly clever that I must have hit on something no-one else did in eighty years. She goes on about how the first day bookings open, a lot of us call in, and then it's quiet for another month or two. I thank her, giving her a new credit card number as opposed to the usual debit card. It's not like Raymond makes a habit of looking at Liz's bank statement, but why take the chance? This one has its statements sent to the P.O. box that is usually reserved for Liz's letters.
Speaking of... As soon as my reservation is confirmed, I call Montreal. Working things out with Liz was a little tricky, but Jake was some help - at one point while talking to her, he found out her usual work schedule. As Marie Desjardins, she works as a guide at the Museum of Archeology and History. She showed up for work early, so I was able to call her there rather than on some phone that her Marie's scary boyfriend would be listening in on. She's got a pretty voice, although I don't have much of a chance to hear it - she wants to get her reservation in as quickly as possible, and I think hearing her own voice freaks her out a little. I think she's calling to make a May 25th reservation about a second later.
I let out a whoop as soon as I put down the phone - yes, there's four more months of pretending to be Liz, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel! Heck, looking at the calendar, I see that I'm actually past the halfway point - if all goes according to plan, I'll be myself again in time for a California summer. And even if it doesn't, I'll know, and maybe be able to make some sort of plans.
I feel like celebrating, and call Jake. It's done, I say, locked in and now all that matters is getting to May.
"That's great," he says. "Maybe you can ask me out when you get back. Except you won't be around, will you? You'll be back to your old life on the other side of the country."
"But we'd both be... Oh, no... What happened?"
"Stephen doesn't want to go back to his old life. Says he's younger, doesn't want to try to explain why he disappeared for half a year, likes running his own business and wants to see all the projects he's got it running through. Oh, and he says he's lost thirty pounds and is feeling healthier than ever. Probably doesn't want me screwing all his hard work up."
Jake isn't really interested in letting me talk; I think he needs to let it out. "And since Jean-Michel doesn't want to leave his... Dammit. I can't even call him Ashlyn. I'm Ashlyn, she's Jean-Michel, and Stephen's Jake." He sounds like he's in a real bad way, worse than I can remember since that first day.
I try to help. "Well, even if you can't become yourself, you can still go back. Fifty-fifty odds of becoming male again, and probably in a better situation than you are now. Unless..."
"Unless what? You think I'm all happy because Jean-Michel and I had some fun on New Year's, and I didn't turn out all frigid like you?"
"I'm sorry. That was out of line. It's just that if this life is so bad, it'd be a pretty shitty thing if I were to stick someone else with it. And it isn't, really - I'm young, attractive, I've got parents... It could be worse, and even if it's not, remember the first couple months? When we didn't know how to react to every person we met or how to handle everyday situations? I don't want to do that again."
"Well... Okay. If that's how you feel. Look, do you want me to come over? You don't sound so hot."
"I'll be fine. I've got to work lunch anyway, so I'm heading out soon. I'll see you later." And then he hung up.
Or maybe I should say she hung up. If Jake's at some sort of point of no return..
Nah, not yet. Jake's just been hit with a lot over the past couple weeks. He's angry and upset and maybe he just needs to work on Stephen a little more to get him to do the right thing. There's still four whole months to go.
Hey, I'm sure you could find some unhappy bloke who would just die for a chance to be Ashlyn... to be a real, genetic girl.
For that matter, if that plan of yours works and you need someone to take over Ashlyn's life - I'd be willing to give being female a try... especially if I knew it could be "undone". (Of course, if I had my choice - I'd rather drop even a few more years and try being Brianna).
I'd offer my body to Jake, but I'm sure he could do better... so now all you have to do is find someone who wouldn't mind becoming Stephen.
Wow! This whole mixed-up mess could get quite confusing. You guys... gals... people should probably keep me away from there.
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