Most blog entries are spur of the moment things, but I've been writing bits of this one, in my head at least, for three weeks. I've been putting off actually committing it to text for that time, though - at first because I didn't want to tip people off as to what I knew or suspected, and then...
Well, we'll get there.
One of the things we talk about in the comments a lot is the way the "not believing" part of the Inn's curse works, even for those of us who have been there. It's hard to explain here, because as real as all this is to us, most of the readership thinks of this as fiction. They see that the Inn's magic has rules, and thus assume it is all rational, to a certain extent, but there's a portion that just pre-empts rationality. So what may be obvious or likely to readers is hard for us to wrap our heads around.
Fortunately, it's only hard for us, not impossible.
When we went to New York to cover that Sox/Yankees series, I didn't notice much that was wrong at first. Weird, yes, but the situation was weird. I didn't think it was anything more than conventionally weird, except for my involvement, until Ginny dragged me into the ladies room. She'd had a few more drinks than I, and while touching up her makeup, just threw something out there:
"Wouldn't it be funny if Ray wasn't Ray?"
I ask her what she means, and she says "come on, you said he'd seen how long you stay after a game before, he disappears for a month, the sudden broken engagement... Come on, I know you've been thinking it."
And I had, maybe a little, but I'd also rejected it as ridiculous and paranoid. I didn't think the Inn had anything to do with it until I saw the look on her face change at that moment, from drunken half-clarity to just outright dismissal. And I confess, the thought fled my mind at that point too, and we went back to our guys and enjoyed the rest of the night.
Then Ray and I made love, and it was different in all the ways I described... And then some. Before, he'd kind of liked my muscles, but now he spent more time on the soft parts. I liked it, don't get me wrong, but it made me remember what Ginny had said.
We didn't see each other much during the next week, and the suspicions started to fade. Fortunately, I keep a little notebook with me at all times, and after Ray had fallen asleep that night, I wrote all my evidence down. By the time I saw Jessica a week later, I didn't really believe any of it, but I handed the page to her anyway. Her eyes got wide as she read it. "You don't really think...?"
"Of course I don't, but that's how it works, right? So I was wondering if you could..."
"Oh, absolutely. I've been itching to do the Veronica Mars thing for a while."
So she crashed at my place that night; I said it wasn't necessary, but she didn't like the idea of me sleeping with him again until I knew. Then, instead of taking the bus to Canada, she took the train to Old Orchard, and within hours she'd used her phone to take pictures of the Inn's guestbook and emailed them to me.
And there was Liz's signature, just like the one I'd had on my driver's license for the better part of a year.
I felt dizzy, and I think I passed out for a second. I called Jess back as soon as I felt able to sustain a conversation. She said she was so sorry, but we both agreed that it was better to know. We talked about how, after seeing that, we still didn't believe it in our guts. She said that was no excuse not to be careful, though, and I promised her I would.
I had a lunch date with Ray the next day, though, and he said I looked troubled. I took a deep breath, put down my fork, and asked him who he was. He looked confused, and I put it more plainly. "You're not Raymond Kim. You went to an Inn in Maine, and then one night at two A.M., your body changed and the luggage in the closet suddenly made sense. Who were you before that moment?"
He stared at me dumbfounded for a second, and then he reached across the table and kissed me! I pushed him back, and he landed in his chair with a thump. "I'm sorry," he says, "it's just... having someone know and believe me... I could only talk to Erin... Er, Liz to you..."
"Who are you?"
"Sorry... Right... Of course... My name's Aaron McInerny; Liz was my twin sister Erin. So when I said we were like brother and sister... Well, you can't imagine how much Erin freaked out when she found the ring in Liz's luggage. Finding out that things were on the rocks was such a relief."
"Cleared the way for me pretty neatly, huh?"
"Look, I... I didn't want to hurt you. That was one of the things Ray said in his letter - 'don't let Penny get hurt'. I just didn't know how to break up with you at first, though, and then I started reading your stuff, and seeing your picture, and I thought, well, maybe it wouldn't hurt to close things out, and then I figured that if there was no way for you to know I wasn't Ray, then what was the harm...?"
"The harm," I told him, "is that you were trying to form a relationship based on a lie. You slept with me, letting me think you were someone else. That's just such a violation of trust, you can't imagine it. When I first came from the Inn, I was dropped into a relationship with... someone, and I, uh, kept up appearances. At first I was disgusted just because I was sleeping with another man--"
"Wait, you were a man?"
Apparently nobody in his group switched sexes. I guess if you have enough groups go through the Inn, it has to happen some time.
That was apparently enough to put him off dating me any longer, but I finished the thought, because it is important. "The thing is, it's not fair to the other person, to have or to yourself. Love you haven't earned is a terrible burden, and you taint what two people did have.
"Look, I'm going to try not to hold this against you - Lord knows I did some stupid shit when the Inn did this to me. But this is over."
With that, I got up and left. No looking back.
Now, although I hate "to be continued" blog posts, I've got to get a little more real work done. Tune in later/tomorrow for what a complete hypocrite I am.