A couple of days ago, I paid a visit to Donna. You guys remember Donna, right? Slightly older than Anne-Marie, married with a few kids, vehemently opposed to me getting my body back? That Donna.
To say it was weird arriving in that neighbourhood, that's an understatement. Imagine going back to a place you lived when you were a kid, and seeing everyone you knew, all the houses you were familiar with completely the same, the memories of afternoons spent by the pool still fresh in your mind... but you're a stranger. Not enough time has passed that you can say "this place has changed so much," like when you come back as an adult. I didn't expect it to bother me that much. I didn't realize how attached I'd become to that little neighbourhood... at the time I thought of it more like a quiet, lonely prison, albeit a colourful one.
So I walk up to Donna's door and ring the bell. She answers, dressed in shorts and a pink top with spaghetti straps. No bra. She looks at me for a moment, trying to place my face, and asks, "Can I help you?"
I bite my lip a moment and grumble. "Donna, it's me. It's Todd." I tried to give her a very stern glare.
"Todd. From... Maine?"
She takes a deep breath and sighs. I take it to mean she's disappointed about something - whether the fact that I actually went and transformed, or something about my physical appearance, I have no idea. She invites me in and offers iced tea, which I decline politely.
"I was just thinking about going for a swim. Did you bring trunks?" No. "You can borrow some of Andrew's if you like." Andrew, her husband, who was in the city at the time, and on whom she'd planned to cheat with me. No thanks. "Well you can just swim in that, I'm sure it''ll be fine." I was wearing khaki shorts. Again, I declined, I wasn't interested in a swim, although it was a warm day. I didn't consider this a social call. "Suit yourself." She goes upstairs to change.
When she came back down, she was wearing a bikini, showing off those surprisingly tight abs of hers, and I've helped myself to some iced tea anyhow. She leads me to the backyard. "If you just want to come sit outside a while, I hope you won't be too bored while I swim." All I wanted was to get down to business but she seemed to delight in dragging it out. I sat on a reclining chair and she did a few dives and laps.
it wasn't that long ago that Donna and I had a really nice moment by the pool in Anne-Marie's backyard. Beneath the surface between us there's always been some kind of tension I didn't really understand, regarding my intention to become myself again. But on that day we were able to put it aside and be quite friendly.
At this point, she's making a point to be sexy for my benefit, working her curves by the poolside. I tried to resist looking, because I've been feeling a lot of guilt about the whole Alia thing. I really wanted to make a fresh start and go home and be with her, but I knew that was not possible. Not yet anyway.
Eventually she gets out of the pool and towels off. Finally I ask her.
"Donna, why didn't you want me to go back to Maine? Does it have something to do with the person you used to be?"
She sits up next to me and gets this faraway look in her eye.
"It was 1981. I still remember the shock of waking up that morning and being changed, but it didn't hit me as hard as some other people. There were a lot of girls there, running around in a panic begging for answers. I remember feeling very calm, I had this... this feeling that everything was going to turn out okay, even though I didn't know what the hell was going on. I said there were a lot of girls, because the people we'd turned into were from a girl's high school, they were the junior debate team. Ages 14-16. I was 14."
"You were 14 afterward, what were you before?" I asked. She ignored me, stood, and led me inside to the kitchen.
"I found this one girl, sitting, crying. Understandably confused. She told me her name was Tyler, and she was 11 years old, and she didn't understand what was going on. I told her it was magic, that we'd been given a gift. She said she didn't want it. All she wanted was her parents, but all she had were two other girls claiming they were her parents. I told her to stay with me and I'd help her."
Ï wanted to object to this part of the story, tell her it was wrong to encourage that person to ignore her parents, but I guess, being under stress like that, it's hard to say what's right and wrong to do. So I let her continue.
"Tyler's parents became 16-year-olds. Tyler and I became 14. The people who became the supervisors tried to gather us all together according to who we said we were, but it didn't matter in the long run. Tyler - Stephanie, now - didn't get to see her parents much after that, after we got back to our new home. She had new parents, a new life. One of the parents had to move away. I think I heard the other eventually went back to Maine, and then who knows what became of her. I was there for Stephanie, though. I was there to be her friend. We never spoke much about who we'd been, we agreed to just continue living our lives. I figured, what was the difference for her, she was 11, she hadn't had much of a life, and after a while I don't think she remembered much about being a boy. We didn't obsess about getting our lives back, Todd, because neither of us wanted them back. We weren't those people anymore."
My heart felt heavy. I felt really bad for this boy whose life was altered beyond recognition, and who didn't even seem to understand the gravity of what had happened. He lost three of the most crucial years of youth when you really start to learn what you are about. I can only imagine how humiliating those first years after the change had been.
Donna continued. "Steph moved away for college, and I stayed around here. We lost touch over the years. I missed her, because even though I'd been surrounded by girls who had gone through the same thing at school, she was the only one who mattered to me. She was my maid of honor, but like everything else, she drifted away from me. I miss her, Todd. I didn't realize it until you came into my life."
"I'm sorry to hear that..."
"I've been a woman my entire life, Todd. Stephanie, by now, probably barely remembers anything else. I want to know about you. How much pain did you feel when your body was taken away from you? How many lonely nights did you spend fearing you would never have it back? How much suffering could've been undone by letting it go?"
I don't answer.
"How guilty did you feel... when you let Hal inside of you for the first time? And how much did you hate that you liked it?"
Again, I say nothing. She begins to undo her bikini top.
"You're a very brave man for going back, no matter what I said. For facing that year of torture and taking control of your life again. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Todd. I want to help you. Don't you want to feel like a man again?" She stepped closer, her bare breasts glistening in the afternoon sunlight coming in through the kitchen window. She whispered, "There's nobody else here. I want to help you." She came in close and kissed me, and as much as I wanted to resist, as much as I wanted to step away, I didn't. I don't know. I was feeling very caught up in the moment. It's been so long since I had a penis, I forgot how hard it is to resist when something gets you going.
Come to think of it, I think she may have spiked the Iced Tea, but that's neither here nor there.
I throw myself on the mercy of the blog. I'm no saint. I feel like an asshole. I've been a man for only a couple weeks, I've been dying every time I see an attractive woman, knowing my girl is a 30-year-old dude. I'm only human.
So I slept with her. Fuck. I feel ashamed of myself for typing it, for falling prey to her whims, because I said I wouldn't, I just didn't anticipate how easily I could be persuaded. I guess, not really feeling much attraction to her when I was a woman (not feeling much attraction to anybody) made me underestimate what a powerful tool attraction is. Plus, having a new understanding of the terrain gave me a lot of new material (Alia, you'd better be looking forward to your return, because if I take nothing else out of this experience it's that.) Not to go into too much depth, every time I touched her, I had, like, a sense-memory of my times as Anne-Marie, and it was... a very intense experience.
When we finished, she breathlessly intoned to me, "You have no idea how long I've waited for something like that. Andrew isn't very interested in me anymore. I think he may be off women, but he keeps me around for his image." How romantic.
"I hate to tell you, Todd, because I know as soon as I tell you about myself you'll be gone. You'll have everything you want from me, you'll have no reason to return. But fair's fair. I'll give you what you really want to know, for your little internet website thing. Don't say you didn't get anything out of this." She rolls over and slips on a kimono, sitting on the edge of the bed, head turned to face me.
"I wasn't much younger than I am now. I was 39 years old the first time I went to that Inn. And I had nobody. I had nothing to my name in the whole world. Maybe you know something about loneliness, it does strange things to you. My mother was... ill, and I spent so much of my life looking after her that when she finally died, I didn't know what to do with myself. My best years were gone, my family was virtually nonexistent... no siblings, aunts and uncles turned their backs on me, dad nowhere to be found. Just me alone, burying my mother, and left by myself in the house where she raised me. I'm not saying what I did was right, but I didn't know what else to do. I was broke and I never wanted to see the house again." She had a haunted quiver in her voice as she continued.
"So I burned it. I let it burn to the ground and I went to Maine to hide, to gather myself up, to figure out my next move. Believe me, as soon as it was done, I snapped out of it, I wondered what I had done, I was horrified with myself. But what was done was done, and I had to decide how to proceed. And then I was given a gift, Todd. I was given a new body, a new life, right in my hour of need. As far as I was concerned, it wasn't random, it was release. I was set free from the burdens of my old life and given a clean slate. That's why I didn't want you to go back, Todd, because I thought... I just thought it was a miracle, what happens there. I guess you know better."
By this point, I'm fed up and ready to leave. I start dressing. "Yeah. Not a miracle, Donna. Peoples' lives get deeply and often irreversibly ruined because of that Inn. Did you ever think about the woman who was probably in prison for arson because of what you did? Where's her miracle, Donna?"
Before she could answer, I said "Fuck it" and was gone.
So there it is, Donna's story. I never even got to hear her real name, but I don't suppose it matters. If I ever felt like I would regret not staying as Anne-Marie, not giving in and living that life, I think those feelings are completely gone. It's a bit of a relief to know she was always a psycho even before the inn.
I'm just worried now that I've, like... destabilized her. She knows about the Inn and it doesn't seem like she cares much about other peoples' well-being. I hope she doesn't do something crazy someday.
Well, I can worry about it, but... I guess it's out of my hands. Time to move on.