I've been putting off writing this stuff up because I wasn't sure how I felt about sharing it. Art, Ashlyn, and some of the others have all met predecessors and successors and written about it soon afterward. Maybe it's different if you've been waiting and both you and he have settled into your new lives. Maybe I'm still having a hard time believing that it's even possible to talk about this. Or maybe I just don't have words for what this whole thing means.
After I called Mom to find out whether or not it was okay for me to bring guests home for Christmas, Parker did her thing, arranging for flights, hotel rooms for her and Dana, and a rental car. It was an impressive job, but she said it wasn't a big deal - handling that sort of arrangement is pretty much the definition of a personal assistant's job, and her boss regularly asks her to arrange weirder things than a few days in Boston.
"You must be good at it," I say. "I remember that Dina's father - Dina's the one who became Mindy - was in over his head as an event co-ordinator, but your skills must have been pretty transferable."
"Yeah, I think that was our one bit of good luck. I think Parker was initially hired for the job I inherited based on her looks, but I was able to build on that. If you'll pardon some advice from a younger woman, don't be afraid of using that unfair advantage in your head. Nobody questions when you're too competent. You said you were a cop in your old life; are you planning to do something similar?"
"Law school, eventually. I loved being a cop, but I don't know if I'd trust myself in this body; even now, I'll sometimes act like I'm still as strong as I was, and that's no business to not know your limits."
"Trust me, that goes for everything." She didn't elaborate, and I let it go.
Louisa dropped us off at the airport that evening, promising to take care of my car until I got back and thanking Parker for letting her crash at her house until she found her own place. Parker said she was glad to, and hoped Louisa would stick around for a while, and she'd help with work and a work visa if that was necessary.
I waited for Dana and Parker to enter the gate area before giving Louisa a big hug. "Five months ago, I'd never have imagined it would turn out like this. Finding Dina and Dana--" I laughed at that, catching it for the first time. "-- learning what we have... It's almost bigger than when I changed, if you can believe that. Anyway, I'll be back here in a couple of weeks, and when we find a lead on Marie, I don't care what sort of lectures or tests or anything else I've got, I'll be all over it, you understand?" She did, and I hugged her again. Then I went to join the others.
* * *
The plane ride from LAX to Logan seemed nearly as long as the drive in the opposite direction had taken. Dana somehow fell asleep right away, but Parker flagged a stewardess down early for a drink. She just looked at Dana instead of drinking it at first, though. "I don't know if I could do this alone."
"I still have days where I feel like a giant fake, but I can come home and see Dana practicing free throws, totally natural, and it makes me feel okay. I know he's going to go off to college next year, and I'm preparing myself for that, but we're about to meet his mother..." She took a sip. "I never asked him to call me Mom. I insisted he call me Parker, at first, in fact, and I wonder if that's just encouraging him to leave me at this first chance..."
"I sort of feel the same way. It's kind of pathetic, at my age, to be worried about what some woman I initially resisted thinking of as my mother thinks, but..."
* * *
As you might imagine, we were all plenty nervous when we got off the plane. I'd called ahead with the gate number, so I knew Mom would be waiting, but I couldn't see her in the crowd. Dana's got a foot on me, though, and when he froze, I followed his gaze and saw her. I took his hand, nodded, and led him and Parker through the crowd.
"Hi, Mom. I've got someone here you might like to meet."
Mom was speechless, and we just stood there until Dana reached out to hug his original mother. I didn't have time to feel left out, as Mom reached out from the bear hug and pulled me in.
"I can't believe... Is it really you?"
"It is, Mom. I've missed you... I didn't even know how much."
I saw Parker looking uncomfortable out of the corner of my eye, so I cleared my throat and broke the clutch up a little. "Parker, you remember--"
"Kathleen!" Mom looked a bit confused as this strange woman grabbed her, and then realized.
Mom was a bit taken aback by that, then looked at the three of us. "Does it always...?"
I laughed. "Not always, just half the time. You remember Louisa, and Molly's still female, although... Well, it's weird."
"That's an understatement!" She looked at Dana some more. "I can't believe my little girl... Although neither of those words fits you any more, do they?"
Dana laughed. "Not really. But it's cool. I can't imagine my life going any other way, now." He realized how it sounded, and then started to apologize.
"Don't worry. I can't imagine having a normal daughter, so we're even." I gave her the exaggerated eye-rolling "Mooooooooooooom!", and we all laughed, and agreed to see what sort of places were open for breakfast on Christmas Eve.
* * *
We ate, Parker and Dana went to check into their hotel, and Mom and I decided to stick around Boston to do some last minute Christmas shopping. I wished I had time to see Ashlyn then, but Mom insisted we get home early, because there was baking to be done.
* * *
I had groaned at that, but it paid off when the Costellos arrived the next morning. Dana was carrying a stack of presents that must have weighed more than I do, but he dropped them all when we went through the kitchen. He grabbed a peanut butter cookie with an imbedded Hershey's Kiss in each hand and started shoveling them in his mouth. "You remembered!"
"Of course I did - although you weren't able to put them away like that before! I should have known something was up when this kid wasn't asking to lick beaters any more."
Dana seemed to ignore the last part, but smiled at the rest. "You are one of the two best moms ever!"
Hearing that made Parker and Mom both feel good.
We went to the living room to open presents. I laughed at the Lakers shirt Dana gave me, especially when he explained that it would provide good camouflage at school. Also because I'd gotten him a Paul Pierce jersey. Because, you know, likewise. I also got him a great big unicorn poster, leading to him warning Parker that no-one must ever know. The biggest laugh came when Parker unwrapped her present from Mom, a mirror with the Playboy logo across the top, so that if looked like a magazine cover. Dana and I didn't really get it.
"Barry was a huge breast man, and I just thought, seeing him with those..."
"Hey, they're the best money can buy!"
Mom wasn't expecting that! "You got implants?"
"Would you rather I was a total hypocrite?" Mom sort of shrug-laughed, while Dana looked uncomfortable, but Parker went on. "No, after a couple years, when I knew this was going to be my life, and everyone in L.A. seemed to wear plunging necklines that showed off more, younger cleavage than I had, I thought, why not? It was sort of the last step in accepting who I was."
"Yeah, well, I don't quite see how plastic surgery can be construed as accepting who you are, but if it makes you happy. Still, Jessica--"
Dana and I both answered "not a chance in hell!" simultaneously and laughed at it. Dana answered awkwardly that it was my body, but he wouldn't be thinking that way if it was still his, and I said I'd always been a leg man, anyway. But I still didn't like high heels.
We left the living room a mess of shredded paper while we waited for the ham to finish cooking. The half-dozen cookies Dana ate in the meantime didn't seem to diminish his appetite.
* * *
I wish I hadn't waited so long to write this down; I can't remember as many details of the next couple days, and now I wish I did. We had a good time - I introduced "my friend from California" to my friends from high school. Dana pointed out that I didn't have many of the same friends he had when this was his life, but that he liked the sort of sporty girls I hung out with, and wondered what it would have been like if we'd never visited the Inn. Would these have been his friends, or would he have grown up a total girly-girl? He seemed kind of revolted by the concept.
Mom and Parker did the same thing, although it was harder on Parker, because Mom still did have many of the same friends that she'd had nine years ago. She had two margaritas to Mom's one that night, but assured Dana that it wouldn't be an problem.
They went home on Thursday; Dana had one of those holiday basketball tournaments over the weekend.
I haven't yet stopped by to see them since arriving here; school has had me slammed. I have seen Louisa; she told me about her visit with Art/Penny; I'm going to have to find a chance to see the new Art.
So... That's me caught up. What's up with the rest of you?