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 "oh...my...god!"

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.

"Ashlyn?"

"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.

-Louisa

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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.

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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.

Ashlyn

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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.

-Louisa

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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.

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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.

-Art

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