Getting back home after Andy's positive test was an odd experience. We wound up staying in the same hotel suite but different rooms, me running errands as quickly as I could but not interacting directly,trying not to get me infected. Mom and Dad did what they cold to try and see if we could add some more time at the Inn, but apparently our room was booked for the "block" after our stay. Much as I hoped we might be able to fit another change into the time we had, it was dead quiet when Krys and I went to check it out Tuesday evening. I guess it's usually that way - when people get changed, they're "behind" in their new lives by a couple of weeks, they're suddenly under pressure to jump into their new life rather than lose someone their job or whatever. It strikes me that if all thirteen folks at the Inn got together and decided to stay for the rest of their booking, they'd be able to get back to their lives a fair chunk of the time, even if the curse needs a few days to "reset", but either it doesn't occur to them, or there's someone who was trying to game the system like us to get their real life back.
That pretty much clinches that we're going to be stuck like this until we can get three changes lined up at some point, which doesn't seem likely this summer. That's when Mom and Dad start making plans and making a comment about how it would be a lot easier if we were both sick. As it works out, Mom is the one who is able to get off work and drive up to Maine to pick Andy up. It takes a day or two, and she gives me a big hug when she arrives, saying she knows I'm disappointed, but it's better not to take chances. I try to say the right things - that I'm actually more worried about Andy, because none of the folks we know who have tested positive really got sick like he has - and I do mean them, but trying to be the good sister or brother just makes it worse.
Mom recognizes that, because I've apparently got a tendency to let my brain run away with things compared to Andy. Like, I'm good at math because I can focus on an immediate problem, while Andy does a better job of stepping back and figuring out what he can and can't deal with. That's why he's good in history class and enjoys sports even when he's not very good at it, while I really only get that sort of focus in Drama Club and stuff like that. It's why I'm the one blogging even though he's actually a better writer and is dealing with way more crap as a girl than I am as a guy. He's just better at taking a deep breath and dealing with things, and I've apparently still got enough of my brain to react like myself, for better or worse.
Anyway, the plan our parents hatched was that Mom would drive Andy back home, and so long as I was still testing negative, I could fly back on my own, to try and minimize exposure. It probably sounds like we're being over-cautious, but Dad's a doctor and Mom manages a restaurant, so they both take Covid really seriously. The timing was weird - I think Mom would have liked to wait until I got on the train for Boston to leave, but between flights and the reduced Amtrak schedule, that would have meant them staying an extra night, so they left me to check out on my own the next morning.
I didn't get too down that night, though - Krys's "dad" Cary took us out for dinner, which made Mom feel better, and even if he makes a living selling hot dogs, he knows a couple good restaurants in Portland, and I had some really good swordfish. He could see I was down and did a pretty good job of saying it was going to be okay; he got his old life back, as did his friend Elaine, and they were better for the experience, and it would be like that for me and Andy, too. They meet a lot of people who go through the Inn, and a lot more make their way back home than you'd think from the blog, and even those that don't eventually make peace with where they wind up.
He dropped me off at the hotel and told Krys to try and be home by midnight, leaving her bike there. We walked over to the beach and sat there as it got dark.
"So... Wanna try out that dick of yours?"
I recoiled, shocked. "What? No! Wait - have you..."
She laughed. "No, not as Mackenzie, but I figured we might as well. I can reset my expectations and you can have your first time - or at least your first time as a guy - be without judgment. I mean, you don't think you're going to get through senior year without losing Andy's virginity, do you?"
"Yeah, I mean, I made it through junior year, and, you know..."
She laughed, but it was a little off. "Hey, your choice. But, uh, you like me, don't you? Like, I thought I felt something, but maybe I'm so out of practice. I mean, I was really looking forward to being hot again, but it's weird, especially when I feel like I've still got a little girl's ass and all the guys I know will suddenly start talking about English class. I mean, you do too, but we've got that other connection, so I at least don't entirely feel like I'm being a creep." She hugged her legs. "Do you see me as a creep? A grown-up hitting on kids? Because, when am I not going to be that? Senior year? College? When I'm 30 and he's 50?" From her face, that sounded pretty gross.
"No, I like you! I feel that sort of connection, it's just... I mean, you have no idea how long I'll hold it to put off using that thing to pee!"
She laughed, and laughed big, big enough that it was easy to believe there was a Black woman in there, if that's not too big a stereotype. "Okay, that's fair. I remember that feeling, although I got over it!" She stuck out a pinky. "But if we're both single when your senior prom rolls around, I get to be your date, okay?"
I twisted my finger around hers, suddenly kind of wary just how much taller and less streamlined I am even at that extreme. "Deal. Mark it on your calendar."
"I dunno, girl - that Cindi girl is hot and sounds like she doesn't give up easily!"
We laughed and got up. Her phone buzzed and she gave it a quick look. "Okay, I'm gonna head home - I'm not getting in trouble if you miss your train!" She hugged me and then stood on tiptoe to give me a quick peck on the cheek. "You're a good dude, Andrea, and a great gal. Remember that, and have fun with the next year."
I said I would, and then went back to the hotel room, set the alarm on my phone, and stared at the ceiling for a while, not realizing I'd fallen asleep when it woke me up. Then I checked out, got to the train station, took the Downeaster to Boston, managed that subway which has way too many transfers before you get to the airport from North Station, and got on the plane for home.
Despite the nearly day-long head start, I got to the airport well before Mom and Andy arrived home, and Dad was waiting. He gave me an awkward hug - they'd all been awkward since puberty and the last year had made it worse - and seemed a little surprised when I hugged him tight, patting me on the back.
"I'm so sorry, kid."
"Me too, Dad." I paused. "Andy's going to be okay, right?"
"I'm sure he will. You guys are young and it sounds like he wasn't carrying enough of a load to spread it to you. Besides, from what he tells me, it hit him the same time as, well, you know. Just a double whammy, that's all."
I smiled a bit. "Can't say I've missed the cramps."
He skipped the opportunity to make a joke about going through menopause last year. "I bet you haven't."
I loaded my bag in the trunk of the car without asking him to help. "So... Mom and Andy aren't going to be back until late. What do fathers and sons do?"
He chuckled. "You want to go fishing? Because I don't fish. Or maybe play some golf?"
"Sure!" I made a big grin. "Then finish the day off by grilling a couple big ol' steaks."
He looked at me, not quite sure what to make of what I was suggesting, then shrugged. "Okay by me; I've got the rest of the afternoon, and..." He was about to say something but didn't, instead getting in the driver's seat and asking the phone for directions to the country club.
The golf - well, I kind of sucked. The steaks were good, though, and when Mom and Andy got back, they looked tired, but there was color in Andy's face - my face - and he generally looked like Dad was right, and it was more my period than Covid that had him feeling awful.
I'm not really looking forward to another year as Andy. But maybe it won't be as bad as I feared.