I actually did it. Everything that the original Joy ever owned is gone. A lot of it went to thrift stores, some of it went to Treena, and the rest is in her parents' basement, but by the time I left San Diego, there was nothing in my bags that I had inherited from her. This may seem like a silly thing to do, but once it was done, I wondered why more people who wound up in a new life long-term without the original person planning to return because of the Inn don't do it.
Admittedly, it's not exactly financially great; purges don't bring back enough cash to replace what was gone; it maybe only really works when you're going to be traveling light and moving in with your rich boyfriend. Still, there's a bunch of really silly stuff that goes with wearing someone else's clothes and sleeping in her bed and maybe having pictures of the girl with type current face doing things you never did on the fridge. Like, what am I supposed to do when Treena smirks and says I'm wearing Joy's lucky panties? And the time I've spent fiddling with her devices because she had some screwy preference that returned every time her phone rebooted. It just feels good to have all that be mine now.
But wait, you may say, weren't you focusing on traveling light so that you can move in with Joy's ex-boyfriend? And, yeah, I see where that come off as hypocritical. But it's not like he ever mentions stuff he and she did very often, and I feel like the fact that he's been visiting me for the past year, so that it's mostly me choosing where we go and what we do, I feel like I've been making him my boyfriend rather than hers.
I don't mean I've been deliberately trying to change him or anything, just kind of bringing out the parts of his personality that are more in line with mine. Some of it's guy-inside stuff, like being a little more reluctant to give head, or maybe spending an afternoon at a game rather than a nature walk or whatever, and some is just me not being girl-next-door-y in the same way. Like, I'm not going to resist when he wants to take me to a nice restaurant or spend a couple hundred bucks on a bottle of wine, or anything like that. I'm not gold-digging or dropping hints or anything, just not saying no or being embarrassed when life offers me nice things, and maybe she would have felt the same if she'd returned to this life after spending the better part of a year as someone else. That she didn't is all the reminder I need that life isn't always generous and you should take what it gives you.
Although even I must admit, the castle is a bit much.
Iain's family doesn't live in an actual castle - it's not made of stone with turrets to shoot arrows at invaders or anything - but it's a pretty sizable mansion, with an enclosed courtyard, a dining hall that can accommodate a lot of people, a ballroom, and stables that I'll get to layer. I showed some nice places to guys that had money to spend in California, but even the really nice, old ones, I'd be giving some sort of spiel about what the servants' quarters had been converted into, whereas this one still had servants living there!
Maybe more staff than family, at times. Iain has an older half-sister, who herself is married with three kids of her own, but they live in Ireland and mainly visit around the holidays, and a younger brother who is attending school in Boston, and a few cousins who have rooms in the house to call their own - a few of them are around at any given time - but most of the time it's him and his father, plus the butler, cook, stable-master, and now a nurse.
One of the benefits of not really being Joy is that I don't remember Sir Robert Mackinnon as he was before the stroke, and as such I apparently didn't come off patronizing or pitying the way that a lot of old acquaintances do when they see the wheelchair or hear him slur his speech a little. He's still sharp, especially when you get him talking about his horses or something else where he can get excited. I think we've even started to bond a bit, since I'm around the major a little bit more than I'd originally expected.
As much as being the live-in girlfriend of a rich young man sounds, it gets kind of boring at times, but getting a job in a foreign country is a kind of chicken-and-egg thing. You can't get a job without the proper visa, and they won't issue you the visa without a job lined up. It may go a little smoother because Joy's parents are English, but that doesn't make me a citizen.
So I kind of hang around, the staff kind of resents me because they're not running a hotel, and I try and figure out what to do next. I would occasionally wander by the stables, and one day last week Sir Robert was there, arguing with a trainer. The horses, you see, are the foundation of the McKinnon family fortune; they've been breeding them for decades if not centuries, but it's not something Iain and his siblings have particular interest in, and Sir Robert is apparently a canny enough businessman to recognize that diversifying the family's holdings is a smart idea. It makes him a bit sad, though, so he seemed to be heartened by my interest, asking if I'd ever ridden. I don't know what Joy would have said, but it's not exactly something I could fake.
He was a bit disappointed by that, but got a little happier when I started to show interest in the business. In certain crude ways, it's a lot like what I was doing before the Inn, if you consider breeding akin to a custom manufacturing process and horses a short of durable good that certain clients might need, whether they be in the racing business, farmers, or even a couple of police departments. Sales and contracts are... Well, it's interesting, though he doesn't necessarily seem to think a young American girl like Joy would be interested in anything but the pretty horsies.
He seems keen to foster that interest, if only because maybe me being interested would get him interested, but didn't think much of it until I got back from doing a little shopping and had the butler, Weathers, intercept me and say there was a parcel for me from "the Master", which means Sir Robert (Weathers trends to call Iain "Mister McKinnon"). Curious, I went upstairs to find a garment bag with a riding outfit in it - boots, jacket, little cap, the whole deal.
Of course I tried it on, posing a little in the mirror. As much as I've grown used to being Joy by now, sometimes I surprise myself, and seeing Equestrian Barbie made me giggle a little, both in delight and kind of ironically. It wasn't hard to imagine where this could go, me as lady of the house, riding on the weekend, going to events with Iain, looking modest when he says that I'm not just a pretty face but actually run the family business. Ridiculous, I guess, but what did I come here for if I wasn't looking at that as a possibility?
Gotta learn how to ride first, though. First lesson with Iain tomorrow, weather permitting.