Intellectually, I know my Mom really isn’t my Mom. I was turned into the duplicate of her ten-year-old daughter and was forced to live Jessica’s life. Things were difficult for both of us in the early days of my transformation. She couldn’t understand why I had gone through such a massive personality change basically overnight and I resented being treated as a child. It wasn’t her fault I was living a life I didn’t want to live, but I tended to take my frustrations out on her. What can I say? I was…childish.
My new mother had the patience of a saint and she loved me unconditionally. Eventually I started thinking of this person who took care of me, who fed, clothed and cared for my well being, as more than just the person who told me to eat my vegetables and clean my room.
A couple of years later, when whatever ‘magic’ that kept her from believing I was someone other than her daughter finally went away, and I was able to convince her I wasn’t really Jessica; her reaction was harsh. She grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me, demanding to know what I had done to her daughter. I told her my story. About how I was really a male Police detective and how a case took me to an Inn in Maine. The same Inn her daughter had visited with friends on a summer vacation. How the curse turned me into her little girl, and how I became trapped when my original body was killed in the line of duty.
She said she couldn’t stand looking at me. She said I was a reminder of what she had lost.
I ran away from home. I had the life experience of a forty year old cop so I knew living on the street was not a safe place for a little girl, but I had no place to go; I just knew I couldn’t stay there in my Mom’s house any longer.
I didn’t even make three days. Everyone notices a little girl on her own. Ironically the local cops nabbed me. My Mom was waiting for me at the police station; her eyes red from crying and worry. She hugged me. With tears in her eyes she says I thought I had lost you.
Softly, so as to not be overheard by any officers I say to her that I am not really her daughter. I’m really not Jessica.
It doesn’t matter to her. She tells me that even though I might not be Jessica, for the last two years I had been her daughter, and she had loved me all that time. Knowing the truth didn’t change how she felt about me.
From that day on I’ve thought of her as my Mom.
Louisa and I were sitting in a small café in the city of Tyler Texas when my Mom called.
“Hi sweetie. I hadn’t heard from you lately.”
The truth is I haven’t called her in the last week. I had been putting off our conversation. “You know how it is; Louisa and I have been busy with our road trip. We are in Tyler Texas having enchiladas and sweet iced tea. The enchiladas taste great, but they are a little greasy. ”
There was a moment of silence. I could sense her disapproval through the phone lines.
“Shouldn’t this trip be done? Shouldn’t you be in California? Are you going to be late for the start of classes?”
I was hoping to have a little small talk before we had this conversation. Oh well.
“Yeah. About that…” I imagined pulling off a band aid as quickly as I could, in theory saving some pain. I went with the conversational equivalent and talked as quickly as I could.
“I’ve decided to start classes at mid-semester. I’m taking the first semester off. This road trip has become important to me, and I think it is going to take us a few more weeks. Please don’t be mad.”
She was mad.
“I don’t know what has gotten in to you lately!” Mom let me have it through the phone. “Every since you started hanging out with these ‘people’ who say they have also been cursed—“
“They are cursed Mom. You just don’t believe it because of the magic.” I stated.
“That is so convenient for them isn’t it? How can you know if they are lying?” She asked.
“I know Mom, I can tell.”
The conversation went downhill. She wanted me to get to school, and I wanted to wait and finish the road trip. We got to screaming at each other. I had been reduced to a teenage girl arguing with her mother on the phone, and was acting the part like a natural. My Mom had the ability to bring that out of me.
I slam the phone on the table when we are done.
“She drives me crazy. She doesn’t listen to me. I try to tell her I had talked to my student advisor, and had already made arraignments with the school to start at mid-semester, but she keeps saying ‘what if you lose you scholarship?’ over and over. Urg!”
“She’s just worried about you.” Louisa tells me.
We were sitting in a booth in the small café. Our waitress came over and refilled my diet coke.
“I know. I just wish she would trust me more.”
“I don’t think it is because she doesn’t trust you. I think it has a lot to do with the fact she has already lost one daughter to circumstances beyond her control. All this conversation about the Inn probably makes her remember what she has been through. It probably makes her nervous.”
I sighed. Louisa was right. “I’ll give her a call later and try to patch things up—but I am still finishing this trip.”
Louisa nods, “Well we have a problem. The mechanic called while you were talking to your mom.”
I was having a bad day. First I have a blow up with my Mom, and now I could see by the expression on Louisa’s face she was going to give me bad news. My car had started making a funny noise just outside of Tyler. Just as we crossed the city limits the car died altogether. It was bad. Smoke started pouring out from under the hood.
“The engine has major issues. It’s going to take days. Repairs are going to be expensive too.”
“Fuck!” The car had been a High School graduation gift. It was a used car, a 2002 Ford Mustang. I hadn’t been driving it for that long, but I had already bonded with it. I love that car. Worse, expensive repairs were not in my budget; especially since I was on an extended road trip and not currently making any money.
“Don’t worry about the repairs. I’ll pay for that; but we are stuck in the area for a while.” Louisa states.
“Oh, I don’t know about making you pay.” I don’t know what else we could do, but it didn’t seem like the right thing to do.
“Don’t worry about it. I could not have hired someone to give me the kind of help you have given me to find Marie. Let me do this for you.”
Our waitress came over and sat a piece of pie in front of me. “Here you go honey; you looked like you needed it.” She was right.
We decided to rent a car and continue on to Dallas and come back a few days later. In Dallas we were going to drop in on Stephen Jefferies, the guy who took over Jake’s life.
You can’t tell where Dallas starts and where it’s surrounding cities end. Maybe that’s why the people here call it the metroplex, because it was like one monster city. We find “Jakes” company in the city of Addison, not Dallas. Apparently Addison supported many technical businesses, and a computer animation company fit right in there.
‘J&S Motion Graphics’ was a fairly impressive company. It was a stylish building with hip furniture and art. An attractive receptionist sat behind a front desk, she gave us a pleasant smile as we walked up.
“Welcome to J&S Motion Graphics. What can I do for you today?” She had a pleasant Texas twang to her voice.
“We are here to see Jake Mathews.” Louisa tells her.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“No, but I think he will want to see us. We are from the Trading Post Inn.”
“Have a seat. I’ll see if he is available.”
We find a place to sit, and Louisa looks around. “He set this entire business up in a year? No wonder our Ashlyn was so upset about what the new Jake was accomplishing with her old life. This is impressive.”
“Yes, it is.” I agreed. “She did get depressed about her old life after she did research of how ‘Jake’ was doing didn’t she.” I agreed.
“It is easy to understand. I think anyone would be upset to see some living your life better than you could—“
It was then that Jake Mathews walked in. He wasn’t what I expected. I’ve read the blog from the beginning, and my mental impression of Jake was of a common guy, a tad short and a bit over-weight. This Jake was a hair short at five foot nine, but he was in great shape, and sporting a designer suit and haircut. He looked good. He seemed mildly surprised to see us.
“I was expecting someone else when you said you were from the Trading Post Inn.”
“Ashlyn didn’t make this trip.” Louisa assumed he was referring to Ashlyn. “She has moved on with her life.”
He gives us a calculated look over. “Good for Red.”
“You didn’t give her much of a choice.” I was trying to not be antagonistic, but Ashlyn is a friend, and I had taken an instant dislike to this man.
He looks at his watch. “I’m a busy man. Why are you here?”
“Consider it an exchange of information. We are trying to learn as much about the Inn as possible. Maybe you have questions as well. We were hoping for a conversation.” Louisa says.
He hesitates, but agrees to talk with us. “Let’s go back to my office. We can have a little privacy there.”
His office was even more posh than the front entrance. It was all wood, glass and brass. It screamed high dollar.
“You’ve done incredibly well in less than a year. This company is very impressive.” I say to him.
“We put out a good product. Our on staff artists do good things.” He replies briskly. He takes a seat behind his desk, and motions for us to have a set across from him.
“I assume you have both been to the Inn?” He asks.
We both nod yes.
“Going to that Inn was the best thing that ever happened to me in 30 years.” He leaned back in his chair.
“So other than Art and Ashlyn, have you met anyone else from the Inn?” I asked him.
He took a moment to answer. “No. You guys are the first.” He answers. I got the impression he was lying.
“Red wanted her body back. Would it have been as easy as going back to the Inn for a second time?”
“Are you changing your mind? Are you going to offer Jake his body back?” I was surprised.
“Oh no. I’m very happy where I am right now.” His face expressed a smirk. “I’m thinking about the future. Sooner or later this body will get old too. I wanted to know if I could go to the Inn a second time. Pick up a younger model.”
He turned my stomach. Poor Ashlyn, a monster was living her old life.
“That wouldn’t be ethical.” Louisa states.
‘Jake’ shakes his head in annoyance. “Sure, you say that now, but I wonder what you would say in fifty years from now. Imagine being old and sick, possibly dying. You tell me you wouldn’t revisit the Inn and live another lifetime? Yeah, right.”
It took a ton of self control, but I kept the conversation civil. I wanted to learn things from this man more than I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. We talked for another ten minutes, but it became apparent we weren’t going to learn much.
It was time for plan B.
“You know, it might be a good idea for us to exchange information from time to time. Maybe I should give you my contact information.”
He brought out a day planner and wrote our information into it.
“I also have some pages on the Inn I would be willing to share with you. You could make copies.” I flashed a fairly thick folder in front of him. He was interested.
I handed him the pages and he started to call the receptionist in to take the pages and make copies.
“Are you comfortable with her seeing this stuff? I just think the fewer people who know about the Inn the better.”
He hesitated; I could tell he was uncomfortable with the idea of leaving us in his office alone.
“We could wait out front. I think this meeting is about done. Do you have anything else to ask Louisa?”
She nodded no.
We all headed out. I was hoping he wouldn’t notice I had purposely forgotten my purse.
We take our seats again in reception, and the moment ‘Jake” walked away I whispered to Louisa “Ask for directions to the hotel. Get her to google it. Be very confused.”
Louisa didn’t waste any time. Very quickly the two of them were in a deep discussion about the local highways.
“Omigosh!” I jump up. “I left my purse. I’ll just go get it.” The receptionist offered to go get it for me, but I was halfway down the hall.
I knew there were about sixty pieces of paper in the folder I had given Jake. I was hoping it would take a few minutes to copy all that. I walk into his office and close the door behind me. I grab my purse and pull out my cell phone. You gotta love these cell phones these days. My favorite non-phone feature? The camera. I grab the day planner and as quickly as I could took pictures of as many pages as I felt comfortable. I focused on the contact information pages.
A few minutes later I rejoin Louisa in the reception area. They were still discussing the best way to get to the hotel.
Not too much later ‘Jake’ returned with my folder and we shook hands and said our goodbyes.
“If you learn anything else, please share it with me.” He says as we leave.
“I’m all about exchanging information.” I tell him.
As we walk to the car, Louisa stopped me. “What did you do?”
“I didn’t believe him when he said he hadn’t met anyone else from the Inn. I got a copy of his address book. If he does know someone else from the Inn, maybe we will get lucky and he had their contact information.”
Louisa shakes her head in disbelief. “You are so cunning.”
“I prefer sneaky.” I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel and start going through the names I photographed.
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