Leaving Maine/The Missing Phone
The ironic thing is that Monday, Memorial day, when we left Maine, it was probably the best day of New England weather since my arrival. Not chilly or overcast or rainy or even breezy. Just the sun beating down. I saw a lot of gals on the beach when we drove past. I got my first twinge in my stomach as to what I've lost.
Guess I'll put it like this: did you ever leave your house, and you normally have your phone in your pocket, but you forgot it that day? And you walk around for a while, feeling like you've forgotten something, but you can't put your finger on it? You're just used to the weight and feeling of this little item on your person and it takes a moment to realize that's what's missing. Well, that but times a million.
Anyway, it was hot, and we had to leave Maine pretty quickly. I mean, neither of us was keen to stay one night longer than we had to in a haunted/cursed/freaky Inn, and I reasoned that the quicker we "become" the people we look like, the quicker we'll have something to think about besides "AAAAAAAAAAHHHH." Tasha and Lauren's letters were dated May 11, meaning there were weeks their lives just weren't accounted for, which I assumed, correctly, would mean there was some business to tie up. A little bit of hell to pay.
We packed the night before and slept head-to-toe in the bed. I didn't sleep well, between the feet in my face, the breasts under my top, and the bitterness that, days earlier, this woman and I were lying side by side on top of the covers watching terrible movies.
She had set an alarm for 6 AM. I nearly slept through it, but she shook me forcefully. "Ty, you with us?"
"I think so, yeah," I muttered, "Am I still a girl?"
"Yeah," she said standing over me with a toothbrush in her mouth. "Thih ish yuh ten mi-hit warring."
"Or else what?" I rolled over, smooshing my boobs into the mattress not for the first or last time.
"Or else I leave without you," she called from the bathroom, spitting into the sink.
"You wouldn't," I said smugly. She didn't answer.
"Hey," I said sitting up, "You mind if I skip the shower? I know I'm going to have to eventually, but I don't think I'm ready. I'll probably want it more after 11 hours in the car."
She leaned in and sniffed me. I don't know if she could tell I was sniffing her back, and she smelled good.
"Scrub your face, brush the knots out of your hair, and slap on some deodorant. A greater-than-usual amount. We'll leave the windows down."
We reserved a car to drive from Maine to Pittsburgh, since neither of us had the cash or credit to pay for two last-minute plane tickets. We got one with a GPS, to direct us to our new homes. I struggled to load my share of the baggage into the trunk: I said that Lauren only packed a few bagso f her own, but there was so much in those bags, it was hard to life with my noodly new arms.
Our last stop was at the Oceanside Lodge to drop off the keys to my room.
"How did you find your stay?" the receptionist asked, presumably just trying to be polite.
I took a beat then answered bluntly, "Fuckin' terrible." She shrugged.
What a smug bitch.
I had set aside a pair of sweats and a hoodie to wear on the way home: it was a pink hoodie, but it was warm and soft and hides my figure well. But the weather warmed up, meaning this outfit was less than comfortable. After only an hour on the road I discarded the hoodie to reveal a tee shirt. Nobody in the car but us girls, anyway.
One the Road/New Phone
The first leg of the tour involved an in-car breakfast, hours and miles of long weekend traffic, and several attempts by Meg to probe my emotional state. This was accompanied by my various attempts to switch the subject to literally anything else.
As much as we had bonded over the last few days - seriously, under different circumstances I probably would have felt comfortable telling her anything - I just couldn't "go there." I had almost nothing to say. I didn't want to waste my breath getting huffy about it. I didn't want to rail against the heavens. There was nobody I could punch to get my body back, as far as I was aware. My opinion of the situation was that I had no opinion: I was me, but I looked different.
Meg shook her head, saying I'd probably find out different soon enough. I used the traffic jam to browse through Lauren's phone. It's amazing how available we all make information about ourselves these days. Endless selfies, text conversations with her friends, what apps she had, what she posted to Facebook, Instagram...a year
Well, just because I look like her doesn't mean I'm obligated to maintain her entire online identity as well, does it? If so, by God I don't think I'll have time for anything else. There were also a ton of unanswered texts, which I was in no rush to return.
I also used it to read as much as I could of this blog's backlog, going all the way back to the first posts in the summer of 2006. Holy hell it's been a while since this thing started. I'll admit I started skimming after a while, but it did reassure me somewhat that there may be a way back (and yes, I did read up to where one of the girls found out she would not be getting her old, male body back.)
The midway point between Maine and Pittsburgh is New York City, but we didn't stop in the city. Instead, we kept driving through to New Jersey before stopping for lunch, since getting into the city is a trip in itself, which is a shame because who knows when I'll be out this way again (a year maybe??)
We stopped at this little diner for lunch. I ordered a hamburger and immediately regretted it, barely getting halfway through a sandwich I wouldn't have thought twice about devouring a week ago. Meg asked a question I was prepared to answer: "Hey, what about your accent?"
"What accent?" I joked.
She didn't react. "We're going to Pittsburgh. It may be blue-collar, but a teenage girl randomly picking up a deep south accent after a month spent in New England is going to raise some suspicions."
"Let it," I shrugged, "Not like it's gonna make any difference, since they'll never figure out the truth. After a few months, I'll probably be able to tone it down. Until then I'll just talk real quiet."
"Are you okay with that?"
"Again... I got a choice?"
I sullenly ate a few more fries and said half-jokingly, "Y'know, where I'm from, my accent is considered pretty damn mild."
"Yeah, well," she chuckled, "We're not in Alabama, now are we?"
It was the nicest little moment I'd had with Meghan since we changed over, and I felt really warm for a second, but only a second. Some Sweathog trucker put an old Aerosmith ballad on the jukebox, and then did the unthinkable: he approached our table.
Thinking nothing of the conversation we were having, he put his hands flat on the table, leaned over, and looked at Meg: "'Scuse me, would you care to have this dance?"
I didn't even think twice before I blurted out, "Are you fucking kidding me?"
"Mind your own business, girl," he said. "I'm talking to the lady."
I could feel my heart beat in my chest, harder and harder.. My teeth gritted. My hand wrapped around my fork. I could injure him half a dozen ways just from a seated position, and he'd probably be so caught off guard he wouldn't know how to react.
Meg must have seen me stewing, she put her hand out to hold me back. "That's all right, thanks, we were just leaving."
"What, you don't got time for one dance?"
"Afraid not, we're on a long road trip."
"Oh yeah?" he said, real interested, "Where youse headed?" He may not have actually said "youse."
"Buffalo," Meg said.
"Aw, yeah?" Sweathog said, "Me too."
Then Meg flashed him the most devilishly wicked bedroom eyes I've ever seen. My jaw dropped. "Well, I'll tell you what. You let me know what hotel you're staying at and I'll look you up when we get there."
"Oh, uh, I forget what hotel, why don't you give me your number?"
"Sure thing," Meg said, then scrawled down ten numbers that were definitely not Tasha's. She winked, then we paid the bill and headed out.
I was still partly hot with rage, and partly in total awe of this woman.
"That... was... awesome!" I blurted out, "I was this close to forking his eyeballs out."
"I saw," she said coolly, "You've gotta be careful. Men are... not great at dealing with women, and violence isn't always the best solution."
"I'll admit," I sighed, trying to calm myself down, "I've got a bit of a temper. Something really bad almost just happened in there."
"Well, it didn't. Come on, let's go."
I asked if maybe I could take a turn at driving, to try to calm myself down.
"I don't think so," she said. "You're not used to handling a car in that body, and I'll be honest, one serious car accident per lifetime is enough for me."
I was annoyed, but I couldn't argue with that logic.
The rest of the trip was pretty boring, although I guess I finally did start opening up a bit. Not about being a girl, but about other things in my past. Meg did the same. By the time we hit the Allegheny region, she told me she was glad she had a chance to air some stuff out with me. "It feels like it's going to be a while before I'm going to be able to talk about myself that way again."
We hit the suburbs around 9 PM, and were eventually at the doorstep of the Sherman-Blanchard household, where Lauren's mom and Tasha's dad lived. It was a modest semi-detached home in a run-down neighborhood with one car parked in the shared driveway.
We walked up the front stoop to the door. The air had chilled considerably and I now had my pink hoodie on. In the front pockets, my little hands were balled into fists.
"Guess it's time to face the music."
We hadn't given any advance warning, although after Lauren's and Tasha's vacation was extended by so many weeks, it probably would have been kind to do so. Mrs. Sherman-Blanchard was yelling at some unseen child to get to bed when we walked in.
Inside, the place looked just as unimpressive as the exterior: only a few lights bouncing off wood-paneled walls from the 70s resulting in a dim, cavernous feel. There was a musty, ages-uncleaned carpet underfoot. the kitchen was a linoleum-tiled cell at the back of the house with a Formica table and vinyl chairs. In the TV room, a world-weary looking paunchy woman settled into a La-Z-Boy. She turned and noticed me.
"Lauren!" she cried out, "The hell took you so long??"
"It's a long story," I stammered as she wrapped her arms around me. I felt my back straighten, as I resisted the urge to break away.
And that, kids, is the story of how I met "my mother."
The explanation that the real Tasha and Lauren left us was that they had been offered a comped extra week in Maine, which only partly covered their "missing" time.
She turned to Tasha and expressed some frustration. Before she could get too worked up, though, I cut in. "Mom," I said sharply, "It wasn't Tasha's fault."
"Of course it's Tasha's fault," she said, "I told her to bring you back in time for finals, and she--"
"Barely! You are in so much trouble. If I knew before, I never would have let you take her--"
"Mom!" I said again, "It isn't Tasha's fault. It's mine. She made me come back. I wanted to stay longer."
Mrs. Sherman-Blanchard -- Susan, or "Mom," -- looked back and forth between the two of us.
"All right," she said quietly, "Tash, you head home now. Laur, I cleaned your sheets."
"Thanks," I said.
Meg looked a little befuddled, "Okay. Um... see you later then... Lauren..."
I went in for a hug. Meg wrapped one arm around me. I wrapped both around her and kissed her on the cheek - which, if she wants, she can interpret as a sisterly gesture.
"I'm gonna crash," I told Lauren's mom after Meg left.
"Glad you're safe," Susan said.
"Thanks," I called back coldly.
I had this feeling like Susan just doesn't like Tasha, her stepdaughter, and if I didn't say anything she was just going to keep unloading on her. I also had a hunch that Susan doesn't use that kind of tone on her own daughter, one that appeared to pay off. Susan almost seemed embarrassed to have to change her tone with Meg.
I dragged my bags upstairs. There were four doors. One at the end of the hall that I surmised was the Master Bedroom, one in which I could hear people moving around, and two others.
My first guess as to what was my room turned out to be the bathroom.
When I got to my room, I fumbled for the lightswitch. It was as dingy as the rest of the house, but I've stayed in worse quarters. I left my bags by the door and flopped down onto the mattress - which, despite nearly a month of non-use, still had a well-worn Lauren-shaped divot in it.
It's Friday night and I've spent several hours writing this up... I guess I'll fill you in on the rest of the details tomorrow, if I can.