As much as I feel like I know a lot about the people who came before me on this blog, I haven't interacted with many of them directly. So I feel like it would be out of line asking Jessica, a former professional detective, to help me seek out the original Julia and Kalli. I figure from her road trip stories she'd probably be good at it, maybe even dig it, but she's probably real busy with school these days. What troubles me is that I got so focused on undoing all the mischief of the Inn - not just to me, but to everyone - that I can't seem to accept the fact that they probably aren't going to appear anytime soon. So this means Julia and Kalli will have a couple new tenants in their bodies, even if all goes as planned.
Anyway, it'd be a big help for my own curiosity at least, to find these people and be able to say what's happening one way or the other. The investigative skills I learned in journalism are probably neolithic compared to the ones she learned as a cop. But here's what I've got.
to the best of my knowledge, Julia and Kalli are currently in Washington state under the surname Johnson. Now for starters, I can't go searching through through the Washington phone directory looking for all the Johnsons, even if I knew what town they were in, which I don't. Being on the other side of the country probably suggests they won't be making it out to Maine anytime soon, which means they're probably going to fall into that "forced to stay put and accept" category I've been working so hard to stay out of.
Which is what brings me to my next loose thread. Donna Hayes, my evil little enabler down the block. She was so intent that I not go back to Maine, but by the time I returned from New York she couldn't wait to hear me out.
With a fair bit of reluctance I found myself back in her kitchen, drinking her tea.
I told her, "If you want to save some time, there's a blog where some of us write. Maybe you could even... pitch something in?"
She pursed her lips and cocked her eyebrows. "Is that one of those internet websites? I don't know much about that," she smiled dismissively. "I'm so behind the times. Why don't you just tell me your story yourself."
"Okay then," I began, searching my mind for the right opening line. "I don't know if it's occurred to you how random the inn's transformations can be. Sometimes people gain a few years, sometimes they lose them. Sometimes they change race. And sometimes - shockingly frequently - it changes their sex."
I let it sit there for a moment. She nodded insistently. "Go on."
I couldn't believe she seemed so interested in what I was saying. So I continued. "My name is Todd Casey. I'm a 24-year-old man from Toronto, Ontario. Canada."
"You don't say." She didn't seem all that shocked.
"I woke up last summer in the body of your friend Anne-Marie. Until then I'd been poor, a freeloader, a slacker. I was comfortable being lazy. And now that I live a life where everything is given to me, and I can afford to be lazy... I hate it. All this luxury, it comes with dependence on Anne-Marie's husband. As crazy as it sounds, this entire experience has made me want to change my life - as soon as I get back to it. Taught me not to coast, that I should make something of myself, because back in Canada, I don't have someone to bring home the bacon for me."
She seemed confused, "So why don't you stay?"
"This might be hard for you to understand, Donna, but I don't enjoy being a woman. I don't enjoy being a wife or a mother or a homemaker or a soccer mom or whatever Anne-Marie is. Whatever I look like, that's what I'm not. And I need to go back to being what I am."
"A man. An independent man."
"Well, if that's the way you feel - Todd, was it? - I wish you luck. I know now that I can't change your mind. Maybe if you lived as long as I have you'd see it form my perspective, but you've made up your mind and I respect that."
"Lived as long as you have?" I stood up, "Lady, you won't even tell me your real name or where you're from. How am I supposed to take your word for it?"
"You really want to know?"
"Come back when you've done your little change. Come back when you're you again and I'll tell you. I'll tell you on one condition."
"What's that? Are you extorting me? You're way richer than me--!"
"No, I don't want money." She sipped, "I want to meet you. The real you. This Todd person you claim to be."
She paused a while, her face fading up in blush as she smiled evilly. "I want you to make love to me."
I gagged a little. I don't know why - I've had worse - but the fact that she was suddenly using my curiosity about her background to cheat on her husband was utterly disgusting.
"Forget it," I grumbled, walking out.
"What's the problem, Todd? Am I too much woman for you now? Rather wrap yourself around Hal's big, thick--"
"That's enough!" I shrieked. "I have fucked for a lot of reasons. Love. Gratitude. Revenge. Even one time - just once - money. But this is just sick. Why? Why do you want this? What is your purpose lady? Are you just messing with my head? You're a fucking bitch." I really laid into her. "You're insane and I'm leaving."
As I was slipping on my shoes, I heard an unnerving sound. Sobbing. I whispered, "Oh brother," to myself and turned. "What's wrong?"
"You want to know why? Because I'm an outcast, Anne-Marie." I wished she wouldn't call me that. "How long I've spent trying to build up this life, and tricking myself into believing these people knew me, liked me for who I am inside, not how much I'm worth. My husband married me so my daddy - sorry, Donna's daddy - would make him vice president. Now he's gone all the time. I'd divorce him, but we had a pre-nup and I'd get nothing. I'd be ruined, Anne-Marie, so I have to stay in this loveless goddamn marriage with a man who fucks around all week long in New York City while I stay at home and watch Soaps. This sounds sick, I know, but you're the closest thing I've had to a real friend in years, and I only realized it because you reminded me that I don't belong here. So go. Leave. I know I can't."
I didn't know what to make of it. If it was an act, it was Oscar-worthy. I felt really ill in my stomach at her words.
I thought it over. Maybe I could use a little practice before returning to Alia. Maybe I could convince Bryan to go in my place. It wasn't even about learning the truth as it was... pity. I felt sorry for this sad woman whose life has clearly not been satisfying, no matter where she came from. Goddamnit she was persuasive.
All I said was a muttered, "We'll talk about it later." And I left.
So that's the way things stand.
The sooner I can leave the Inn behind the better. It's brought out the worst in a lot of people.