As I walked into the Cambridgeside mall Starbuck and I instantly recognized the form of Marie Desjardins; I had met “her” a few times around New Years when I went to Canada as Jean-Michel’s date. I walked over to the beautiful dark haired woman “Louise?” I ask.
She looks up from the book she was reading, surprised. “Sorry. I was totally absorbed; I didn’t see you come in.”
‘Marie’ was in her mid-twenties and had an attractive face and large expressive brown eyes. She was tallish and had a curvy, elegant figure which wasn’t totally hidden in her conservative style of dress. She wore a no nonsense white blouse and a long blue skirt. I felt a little self conscious because I dressed totally the opposite—denim micro mini skirt and a top that was very much like a red Polo except it was tight and it’s neckline plunged way farther than a normal Polo. I keep thinking I need to buy some more conservative clothing—but then again, what’s the fun in that? Besides, it's summer, and it has actually gotten hot lately--not Texas hot, but hot enough that I wanted to wear as little clothing as necessary.
We shook hands, and I sat in the seat across from her. Because of the shortness of the skirt I had to be careful sitting down, and had to cross my legs. This seems to amuse Louise. She puts a bookmark into her Mary Higgins Clark mystery novel and set the book aside. “Thanks for meeting me.” She says.
“No problem. I like to help out when it comes to things about the Inn. I assume this is mine?” I was pointing to the second Starbucks cup sitting on the table.
“Grande non-fat chai, right?” She asked.
I nod my head. “Thank you. I can’t believe you picked up that little detail up from the blog.”
She smiled. “You are welcome. I’m an avid reader and I tend to remember what I read. I’m one of those people who always carry a book or two with them. When I found your blog I ate it up like candy; it seemed like the thing to do now that I too am a victim of the Inn. It’s been the best resource so far as to what has happened to me.”
My hair was in my face, so I brush it back over an ear, and pick up my chai and take a sip. I can feel all the stress leaving my body. “That is so good.”
She watches me for a moment. “I don’t want to sound rude, “ she says carefully, “but you don’t come off as ‘manish’ at all.”
I laughed. “Expecting to see some trace of the man inside? Well you have to remember, I’ve been Ashlyn for nearly a year now. I’ve had plenty of time to adapt—or at least I have gotten really good at mimicking women.”
“Amazing. I don’t know if I would have done so well if I had woken up a man instead of Marie. Some of the other guests who were with me at the Inn crossed gender lines, we had one man, now a woman, threaten suicide.” She said.
“You’ve read the blog, I was a mess in the beginning as well. I equate the curse of the Inn to the death of someone very close—at first it hurts like hell, but as time passes it gets easier. I hope that guy doesn’t do something drastic.”
We sit for a moment, drinking our coffees and she changes the subject. “I’m looking for Marie Desjardins.” She says.
“I’m looking at her.” I joked.
“The original Marie.” Her face said she didn’t think I was funny.
“And you think I can help you find her somehow?” I ask.
“Elizabeth thought so.”
“Liz doesn’t read the blog, and she’s got her head buried in the sand. She doesn’t know I put basically everything I know about the Inn into the blog. Why do you want to find this woman anyway? She obviously didn’t want to have anything to do with her old life.”
“Her mother died. She deserves to know that. Family is important; I would have thought you would appreciate that.” She states.
I must have given her a blank stare, not following her line of thought.
“Because you lost your family at such a young age. Family seems to be important to you now.”
There it was again, she knew details of my life than you don’t expect from a total stranger. She was right, I never really got over losing my parents as Jake; and Ashlyn’s parents—my parents now—have been away on a business trip all summer. It was amazing to me how fast I bonded with them and how I missed them.
“Besides, she might be interested in getting her old life back if she knew she could be free of André Trudeau. Jean-Michel thinks he knows a way to do that.”
Okay, she had made several good points. She had won me over to her line of thinking. “How is Jean-Michel these days?”
Louise shrugs. “I don’t know how to answer that. I really haven’t known him that long. I would say he seems to be thriving under the circumstances.” She says. “Handsome man.” She adds.
“Yes he is.” I agreed—it just kind out slipped out. I realized a month ago I started noticing how Matt—the boyfriend—was in such good shape. And when a good looking guy would come into Headlights, all the girls would gather and gush over the guy—and let me tell you, girls are just as bad as guys when it comes to objectifying the opposite sex. “Did you see his ass? Omigod!” Lately, I’ve been able to see what they were pointing out.
I change the subject. “I don’t know how much help I could be in finding the original Marie, but I may know someone who might be just the person you need.”
“She’s coming to visit me in a couple of days. Jessica.”
“The police detective who is now a teenage girl.” She remembered.
“Right. Only now she’s a high school graduate. If anyone could help you, she can.”
Louise seemed extremely excited about meeting Jessica. Jess is coming up to visit and hang out in Boston for a few days. “I want to let my hair down and act like a teenage girl for a while; and have some fun.” She said to me on the phone. I guess she decided I was the person to do that with. I hope she doesn’t mind I added something to her plate.