So, back in December, Kitty got me a Spa Day as a gift. It was a nice thought, keeping with our (not totally successful) pact to get each other gifts we didn't have to leave with these lives, and I know it was a really special gift, but I had to convince myself to get into it. Don't get me wrong, I love to relax and I could do with being pampered, but... well, I guess part of me thought that somehow it was all too girly to have mudbaths and cucumber facemasks and whatever. Which is absurd. My existence should probably prove that "girly" and "manly" don't really mean much in the grand scheme of things. Should having a vagina mean that I should be interested in a spa treatment? Maybe not. But should the fact that I once had a penis be a reason not to enjoy it? As if someone was going to take away my "man card"?
I was still a bit bashful and putting it off because, well, I didn't want to go alone. And part of me thought maybe Kitty would like me to ask him along and we could do a "couples" thing, but he specifically didn't buy a couples' package, so I thought... there's an opportunity here, to reach out to someone I haven't seen in a while.
My sister, Carrie.
Growing up, I was always very close with her, because my brothers were older they were mostly out of the house by the time she was born, and I was already growing into a bit of a black sheep. We stuck close together until I left the South for good a few years ago - so much so that she followed me to the Inn and wound up in Meghan's body. (Sometimes I wonder about the near-miss there... what if she had become me? Leaving aside the awkwardness of her living in her big bro's body for nearly a year, I would have been sure to get it back, and then what? We'll never know.) Distance, and the craziness of living with a magical body-transforming curse, kind of cooled communication between us... as did the fact that she was more sympathetic to Meg (the sister she never had, essentially) when we split... not that I blame her, I was an ass.
I could have invited Meg, but even though the lines of communication are open there, I still wasn't sure I could handle reaching out that way. Carrie, though, has been an important person for almost my whole life. Not being in touch with her feels wrong. And the fact that she's the only person who knew me well before the Inn who also knows my secret is also pretty important. Not everybody gets to have that.
And she had been on my case to let her meet me as Judith at least once.
She was happy to visit, she really fell for New England during her time here, and managed to roll a visit with Meg into the deal. She spent the night there before driving down to Concord to see me.
When she arrived and I opened the door, I caught this look in her eye, like she was afraid of who was going to answer - she knows her favorite brother is now a woman (again) and a bit older with a Kid, and she follows along the blog as best she can. There was nothing for her to be afraid of, but I guess there was still that sinking feeling in your gut you get when you try to square your mental image of someone, who you think they are, with who they appear to be now. She audibly gasped.
"Care!" I grinned.
"Ty!" she threw her arms around me in a warm hug. She's grown into a fine woman, really looking like she's got it together, and even in her sweater and coat she looked... well, I guess radiant is the word. If I didn't have Judith's Portuguese toasted-marshmallow complexion, we might even look like sisters. We were eye to eye for the first time in our entire lives.
"I can't believe this is you!" she said while we were still clinched together. "I mean, you live like this, you look like this! I know you've been here for a while... and you've been a girl before, but... this is so unreal!"
"Tell me about it," I said, practically tearing up, "Sometimes I forget, and then remember... how crazy my life is. All that I've been through."
She separated and took a good look at my face. She seemed to like what she saw.
"I think you're crazy, you don't look old at all," she said, referring to certain remarks I've made about Judith's looks on the blog and in private, "Not a day over forty!"
"Uh, I'm not forty," I said, knowing she was just ribbing me.
"And your hair looks beautiful, so silky and long..."
"Thanks, it's hard work."
I showed her around the house, Kit was having breakfast in the kitchen and was very cordial - cornily kissing her hand. Carrie, like many of you, has gotten my mixed reviews about Kit, but we are getting to a real honeymoon phase so I permitted myself to gush about how good things have been lately.
"The sex you two must have, I bet it's wild..." she giggled. I told her the less said the better, reminding her I'm still her sibling. Kit looked vaguely shocked, and personally I was a bit too to hear my little sis talk that way, but I disguised it.
Then I brought her to meet the Kid. "Hi there, you must be Olivia... or should I say Dylan."
Dylan looked suspicious. "Um... hi."
"Dyl, I told you before, my sister would be coming by. My real sister. She knows all about us because she's been through it too."
"Oh right," she said. "So, you're, like... my aunt?"
"Um, okay! Let's call me that." Carrie smiled. She had a gift for Dylan, some chocolate - she admitted she wasn't sure what to bring, but I assured her that the Kid definitely has a sweet-tooth. I explained the Kid's bashfulness by explaining my theory that she likes to pretend she was never a guy, because it makes things easier, so talking to people who know she is formerly a guy makes him self-conscious about his girly trappings.
Reflecting on the fact that I was walking my sister around the house in ladies' apparel and heels, I had to admit there was a point there.
We drove to the spa together. I asked how the family back home was doing, and she said about what I would have expected... this nephew is starting high school, that nephew made quarterback, apples of their daddies' eyes. Apparently I've got a niece who is turning out to be a bit of a punk rock rebel (and her parents suspect, a lesbian,) which I am genuinely sorry to be absent for.
I took a deep breath. "Look, if there's any news about the other Tyler... I don't think I want to hear it, okay? It's really hard, and I think life is easier if I just pretend he's not out there." Perhaps I was taking a page from the book of Dylan.
"Well, that's ok," she said, "Because there's no news as far as I know. He lit out long ago and never looked back."
"Good, I guess," I huffed.
"Can't say I blame him either," Carrie sighed, "Your old friends beat him nearly to death, stabbed him, ran him over, left him on life support... Guess he got the message that he wasn't wanted in 'Bama."
"Uh huh," I huffed.
"Scary to think that could have been you," she said.
"I wouldn't have been so stupid," I said. "They weren't going to leave Alabama to find me, bigger fish to fry. But he was an asshole who got what he deserved." My tone was getting pretty serious and I could tell it was spooking Carrie, who never liked knowing about my, er, sketchy past. I added, "I would have gone back. Even with that hanging over my head, I never would have hesitated. It's his fault for not playing ball."
"Okay, okay, you don't need to convince me," she said. "So now nobody in the family knows where he is, and we kind of... just don't talk about it."
"Mhmmm," I muttered. I would have suspected that none of them would miss me much if I just fell off the face of the Earth. Sure I was family but I was the Family Screw-up, someone that was a bit of a problem, even when I was doing fine.
We arrived at the spa soon after and changed the topic to more exciting matters... she asked me how I liked being a "mommy" and I gave her some of my observations, made a few jokes about how I got the easiest part of it and how I'm lucky I wasn't stuck with a toddler.
We signed in and were ushered to the change room to put on our plush white robe.
I looked around... there wasn't many ways to hide, so I blushed a bit and faced backwards.
"You're so awkward," she snickered behind me. "Same stiff old you in there."
"I'm sorry I don't really want to see my sister naked," I sighed.
"Whatever, we're all girls here," she said. "You're a married woman and I don't have anything you don't see in the mirror every day."
I angled my head just so that she could at least see the glare in my eyes, "That was true when I was a man and I didn't make a point to look around the change room then either."
"Okay, fine," she said after a second, "You can turn around now."
I did - except she was messing with me, standing there waiting for me, with her hands on her hips laughing her fool head off, naked as the day she was born and on display. "Damnit, Carrie, not funny!"
I shielded my eyes, but thought I had seen something that caused me to look through my fingers at her.
I gasped. "You're pregnant!" Somehow it struck me and I was sure, rather than having to ask.
I might not have noticed if I weren't a woman - call it intuition or whatever, but I guess I'm attuned to these things now, even if I didn't exactly have a photographic memory for how Carrie usually looked. The change was subtle, but telling. It didn't look like normal "weight gain."
"Wow, glad you finally noticed," she smiled, "I only had to strip naked for you to tell."
"Three months and a bit," she said.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"You're not supposed to tell anyone before three months," she said, "And I was working up to it."
"And this is how you chose to tell me."
"Oh, just channeling my inner Beyoncé I guess," she laughed, cinching up her robe.
"This is huge," I said, then frowned at the implications. "The father?"
"He's around," she said, dodgily, "He's a good guy. We're gonna make it work."
"Oh, Carrie," I sighed, deflated.
"Don't give me that," she said a bit more harshly, "This is my call. I'm happy with it. I want this."
"You want this," I said back, "Fine. No lectures here."
"Good," she said. "See you out there."
Mostly my head was spinning almost too much to enjoy the spa... I say almost because having your every body part tended to does manage to put one in a relaxed state of mind. Maybe she's still little sis to me, but I warmed up to it. She's got a good job and if this guy is as stable as she says, it could work out.
Really, I'm the last person who should be telling anyone how to live their lives... I've had four of them and they're all messed up. I suppose I might be good for some parenting advice, but really I got a very unique perspective on that so I'm not sure my observations are much help.
As we drove home, refreshed, rejuvenated and relaxed, she asked what was next. I told her, we have a big scheme to get everybody back to their rightful place and I think we have a decent shot at pulling it off... except me and Kitty, who don't have rightful places anymore, so I reckon we'll just... keep floating.
"And Kitty's a good person to float with?"
I smiled a bit, almost as if I was surprised to hear myself say, "Actually, yeah. He's been good lately, I think that's the kinda person I need in my life sometimes."
She leaned over and gave me a big hug. "I never would have pictured it. I mean, none of this of course... you looking like this, acting like this... but I know it's you in there. I can still tell. You're doing a good job, Ty."
"Thanks," I said. "I can hardly believe it myself."
As she left, she looked back and smiled, "I always wanted a sister. You make a good one."
I sighed and smiled wearily, "I'll take that as a compliment."