I've been up night after night waiting for the result. Somehow it wouldn't feel real to me until it happened. Any number of things can go wrong, you know, and I was just waiting for the old Tyler Blake Luck to rear its ugly head.
Last night around 3 AM it happened.
I got the text.
"Tears of joy."
I really was going to become Cynthia. I didn't see any other option. I couldn't keep bouncing around year after year. It was a good enough offer... a great offer. Settle down, be part of a family, do some good in this world and enjoy a certain amount of freedom to be... well, somebody, I guess. Not me, though.
I couldn't do it. I couldn't slip into someone else's life. Not that one. So I turned to the only other person I knew who was as broken as me.
Every conversation I'd had with Valerie had gotten more and more grim as time went on. I would talk to her about handing her life back to her and her eyes would dim, she'd look away. We both knew the truth but I didn't want to say it because you're supposed to want your life back, and if you're someone like me, you're supposed to want out of a life you've been stuck with, if it leaves you looking and living like this. Valerie Stewart's life is a good one. She's young, she's healthy, she's pretty, she has the whole world at her feet.
"But I've gotta be honest with you Tyler," she sighed, seemingly on the brink of tears, "I don't recognize the person in front of me. And I think if I went back, I would just walk right into the ocean."
And we weren't talking about any pounds and inches I had gained, or the way I was wearing my hair that day or the clothes I'd picked out for myself. Valerie's life, ever since she was a teenager, had been geared around two two objectives: work with kids, and marry Josh and have kids of her own with him.
One of these things was still technically possible, sure, but I think she had become really disheartened by the way getting a year stolen from you by the Inn put her off her path. She was heartbroken, a wound that would probably never heal, stemming from a breakup she'll probably never really get closure on because she didn't get to have it happen to her face (closure, I've always maintained, is not much of a thing.) If there was ever a lost soul in need of a fresh start, it was her, not me.
It would never have occurred to Cynthia to hand her life over to Val, of course... she had been reading my words, knew my experiences, knew I was in need. Val kept everything private. She didn't even really tell me until the last minutes. Objectively, Val is more equipped to raise kids than I am since she went to school for it. Not that that makes you a "mom" but she also had the desire to be one. I was only ever one out of necessity. Maybe I will be again someday.
It would be foolish to think that becoming Cynthia can help her outrun her heartache. I can tell you from experience that that shit sticks with you for many lives, when someone is missing from your life that you think should be there. But being in a new life, having people look at you a different way, being pointed in a new direction... that helps.
It's not totally selfless, but it's not selfish either. I never coveted Valerie's life, I just think I've done okay with it despite a few fuck-ups. I'd like a chance to spend more than a year as someone, and Valerie's life appeals to me more than Cynthia's. I'm not doing it because I've met someone I love (although sometimes I think I have, it's really not going to happen, I've got to accept.) I'm not doing it because I've got a fabulous career ahead of me. I'm doing it because Valerie's life is something I can probably mold into what I want it to be, in away I could never do with Cynthia. And Val sees that for herself in Cynthia's.
I don't know which of us had the idea first, but it sort of occurred to us in a single look, as she was going over all the great things about Cynthia's life as she saw it - trying to sell me on it when I was having doubts. The way she talked about how good it could be made us both realize what a mismatch it was that I was getting this this opportunity, and she was getting... well, kind of screwed.
Maybe she'll love again. Stranger things have happened, as she's a stepmom and wife on paper but a free woman in practice. The real Cynthia - or whatever her name is - seems reasonable and accommodating. Maybe she'll make a great husband. Or at least a good business partner.
As for me... I'm alone in bed. Lying in my shorts and a very tight tee that Val must have gotten on a trip, or had brought back to her by someone in her family. I haven't asked, there's probably no point. I'm lying here in the small hours of the morning looking at this text, feeling the reflected happiness at this woman for what we've done, and can't help feeling I did the right thing.
Now I've got this to work with. For the first time in a long, long time... it's all up to me, for real. It's scary and exciting. I'm on the verge of my own tears of joy, even though it was more or less official once Val agreed to my proposal. It's real, I'm this... let me try to be happy about it.
And let's see how long it takes me to fuck this up.
- The new Official Valerie Stewart, aka Tyler Blake (deep down, that name will never die.)