136 Plans and Revelations

I debated for a moment whether I should reply to the email immediately; I certainly had reason to want to stay in touch – it might be the only way to help Vicky – but something made me hesitate. Was there an advantage in keeping my real name a secret from them? Marsha had probably given them her email when she’d signed up – or, rather, I’d given my email, but Brian knew me as “Jennifer Marsha.” The writer wasn’t sure he’d gotten the right person, so maybe he had just sent the email to several girls. The email hadn’t actually been addressed to me, I noticed. It was to ‘undisclosed recipients.’

So it was possible that they hadn’t figured out who I was, and that might be an advantage for me, if I could figure out how to use it. Replying directly to the email would squander it.

I checked the computer clock; there was still a bit of time before we were heading for dinner, so I called Vicky. “Hi, Marsh!” she answered, sounding unusually cheerful. “How are you?”

“Hi, Vix,” I answered. “Can you check to see if you received a spam email?”

“Probably,” she said, wryly. “Why?”

“I’m looking for one titled, ‘Are you the girl I met today?’”

“Oooh. Is that your new way of flirting with me?”

I bit back an annoyed response. It’s going to take time to get through to her, I reminded myself. “I’m trying to see how widely this was sent out. Did you get it? It would probably have been sent a bit before 5 o’clock.”

I heard what sounded like her moving to her computer. “Hmm… I see a lot of ‘This is interesting,’ and… ‘The ultimate weight loss supplement’ and ‘Postal Express: get the parcel,’ but not that one. Why?”

So they probably hadn’t sent it to everyone. “Do you know of any other girls in the Strangers in the Mirror named Jennifer or Marsha?”

“There’s Jen Wood,” she offered. “I don’t have the full list; you’d pretty much have to go to Luke and Ian for those, if you’re even willing to talk to them any more. Why are you interested in girls with those names, Marsh?” I was probably just imagining the jealously in her voice at the end – at least I hoped I was.

“Vicky,” I said, trying to be as patient as possible, “will you trust me on this? I am not interested at all in any other girl, OK? This has to do with getting in touch with Professor Davis.”

That mollified her, and she warmed up a lot. “I knew you wouldn’t let me down, Marsh,” she said before we hung up. She’d meant way too much to me over the past few months to leave her in pain like this; I just didn’t know what to do about it quite yet.

I called Jen Wood, but she didn’t answer her phone, so I left her a message, asking about the email and mentioning that I was part of the Strangers. I didn’t explain about actually finding Davis; I wanted to present that information in just the right way.

To my discomfort, she called me back during dinner. While Terry and Lee Ann knew my secret, everybody else didn’t, and I didn’t really want to tell them, which meant that I had to pay careful attention to what I said.

“So who are you, again?” she asked.

“I explained in the email,” I said. “I’m actually at dinner with some friends right now.”

“I don’t think we’ve met,” she persisted. “I’m not sure that I’ve ever heard of this group you mention. Tell me somebody else you know who’s in it.”

I hadn’t counted on the paranoia that Luke had instilled in the group. “Look, Jen, all I want to know is the email.”

“But you mentioned this group as if they were connected.”

“I promise to explain everything later,” I said, thinking now that I shouldn’t have left a message at all. She sounded as though she wasn’t going to admit knowledge of the Strangers and I certainly wasn’t going to mention them. “I got your name from Vicky Gordon.”

“And what makes you think I know Vicky?”

“Can we forget about everything else?” I pleaded.

“Fine. Let me check my spam folder. Hmmm… OK, yes, I do have one with that name.”

“Can you read the message, please?” She did, and it matched the one I’d gotten. “Thanks, Jen, I owe you.” I hung up and looked around, but nobody seemed to think that anything out of the ordinary had happened, but I had my answer. They’d sent emails out to more than one of us, so if I used my “Jennifer Marsha” email account to answer, they still wouldn’t be sure who I was. It might not matter, but it felt safer.

We got back to the room with about forty-five minutes to go before rehearsal, so I sent the reply, took a deep breath, and called home.

Tina answered with a surprised, “Hi Marsh? Is something up?” Since this was not my usual time to call, I could hardly blame her.

“Is Daddy home?” I asked, grinning to myself at my deliberate use of that form of his name. Tina didn’t notice, although I was pretty sure our parents would. She did confirm that they were there. “And could you see if Chad is available?” I asked next. “I want to talk with all four of you at once.”

“Really? What’s going on?”

“I’ll tell you when everybody’s there…” I said, teasing her just a bit. “Go get Chad, would you?”

Mom came on next. “Marsh? Is everything OK?”

“Everything’s fine, Mom. I just have important news, and I wanted to tell everybody at once.”

“News about…?”


“Well, since you want Chad here, I assume it has something to with the discussions you, he, and your father have been having on Sunday nights. Some kind of break through?”

“You could say that,” I admitted. “Where’s Daddy?”

“He’s right next to me. I’m going to put you on the speaker.”

“Hi Marsh,” I heard him say, “Big news?”

“Yes, Daddy,” I answered.

“’Daddy’? Marsh, I thought we’d agreed–”

“I’ll explain everything as soon as Chad and Tina get back.”


It only took another minute before I heard Chad’s voice. “I’m here, Marsh. What’s up?”

“OK,” I announced. “I do have big news. I found them. I found the guys who did this experiment.”

I was certainly not surprised when they all started talking at once, nor that Dad shouted everybody down. “Quiet! Let her explain! Go ahead, Marsh.”

“Well, the short version is simple. It wasn’t a time travel experiment at all, and I was never a boy. Marshall is the boy you might have had instead of me, Mom and Dad, and they gave me his memories. They gave all of us different memories, and we thought we were other people.”

“So you’re not going to be changing into a boy?” Tina asked excitedly.

“That’s right, Teen,” I said, smiling. “I’ve always been a girl, and I’ll always be one.”

“What was the point of this… experiment?” Dad asked.

“They say that they had no idea that this was going to happen to us. I’m really sorry I told you I was supposed to be a boy, Daddy. I hope you’re not too disappointed.”

“I’m not,” he laughed. “How could I be disappointed to know that my Princess is OK?”

I breathed a sigh of relief at that. If he was calling me Princess again, he was clearly accepting this.

“How do you feel about this, Honey?” Mom asked.

“How do I feel?” I laughed. “Relieved, happy, confused, concerned…”


“Well, my friend Vicky isn’t accepting it. She’s still convinced that I’m supposed to be her boyfriend, and that I’m in denial about the whole thing. That I’ve become so comfortable as a girl, that I’ve made the whole thing up so I wouldn’t have to face the prospect of changing ‘back.’”

There was silence on the phone, and it occurred to me that for all my family knew, Vicky was right. “She’s wrong, of course. I met them, guys. They told me exactly what had happened, what kind of experiment it was, and assured me that they hadn’t changed me physically – that they had only changed my memories.”

“Makes sense to me,” Chad said.

My family chimed in, “Absolutely.” “Of course.” “Yes.”

I very carefully did not breath a sigh of relief; I’d have hated to have them think I’d doubted them. “Anyway, I just got an email. I think it’s from the grad student, Brian. And just maybe he doesn’t want Professor Davis to know that he’s contacted me.”

“What does it say, Princess?”

“Only that he’s trying to reach me,” I said, automatically looking at my computer. “Oh wait, he sent me another one. I replied to his first email to let him know I’d gotten it.”

I clicked on the new mail. “Yeah, it’s from Brian. He asks if we can meet in a ‘neutral place.’ Not on campus and not in the lab. Oh, they’re actually downtown, now.”

“That doesn’t sound safe, Honey,” Mom pointed out.

“Well, he says I can bring one person with me if I like, but he’ll be alone. He says he needs to talk with somebody and he thinks I’m about the only one he feel comfortable talking to.”

“How well do you know him?” Dad wanted to know.

“We only talked for a few minutes. I guess he means that I’m somebody other than his advisor and the Piques administration who actually knows about his experiment, plus I’m a student.”

“And the point of the meeting?”

“I don’t know, Dad. He doesn’t say. But I need his help to help Vicky, I think, and probably a bunch of other people. All I know is that Piques has been putting pressure on them to keep things secret – afraid of lawsuits or something.”

“Hmmm… tell you what, Marsh. Try to set up the meeting for tomorrow night, and I’ll drive up and join you.”


“If there’s some kind of legal issue here, I think I’d be a good person to have around, don’t you?”

“Well, sure, but…”

“And you can’t fault me for being protective of my daughter, can you?”

That made me smile. I had memories of resenting his over-protectiveness, but those were Marshall’s memories. For some reason, I liked the idea. I wondered what it was in Marsha’s – that is, my – past that led me to such a different relationship with him. Was it just because I was a girl? “OK, Dad,” I said. “I’ll ask for a meeting tomorrow night after dinner, and I’ll tell you as soon as I know.”

“Better yet, make it dinner. Suggest a restaurant – one nice enough where the lights are dim – that will give us privacy. I think that could be important. My treat.”

With that settled, everybody else had questions for me. Mom wanted to know how much I remembered of my own life, now that my understanding of what my own life was. Tina wondered if I was happy being her big sister, and Chad was curious about the details of the experiment. There was a lot more to talk about than I had time for before rehearsal, but I did my best and then promised to call back the next night after the meeting.

I hung up and replied to Brian’s email with Dad’s suggestion and rushed off to rehearsal.

With what was happening in my real life, it was getting a bit harder to care about rehearsals, and I knew my performances were a bit off. Fortunately, it was rehearsal. What really interested me, though, was the chance to speak with Nikki.

“So, is it sinking in?” she asked when I sat next to her when I wasn’t needed on stage.

“A little bit,” I nodded. “I still catch myself thinking that I’m really Marshall. I can just imagine what my dreams are going to be like, this week.”

“I know, right?”

“So if I’m going to talk to Ben, what’s the best way to approach him?”

“I’d just suggest knocking on his door. I really think he’ll be open at least to listening to you. I should warn you, though; he might have a bit of a crush on you.”

“I hope not. I haven’t been so great with fending guys off, lately. I guess girls learn that?”

“Oh, yeah. But he’s not likely to do much; he’s just really depressed, and he really enjoyed you as Mollie.”

It turned out that he was done with classes after lunch on Tuesdays, same as me, so I promised Nikki that I would approach him then.

I got back to my room afterwards to find a confirmation from Brian; we were on for 6:30 at the Rusty Scupper. It was going to be a busy day.”



  1. TJ says:

    “Probably,” she said, wryly. “Why?”

    Not sure what you wanted there, i assume some kind of word meaning to hesitate.

  2. Russ says:

    TJ says:

    “Probably,” she said, wryly. “Why?”

    Not sure what you wanted there, i assume some kind of word meaning to hesitate.

    I wanted wryly, meaning in this case, “dryly humorous” 🙂

  3. TJ says:

    Lol, i should have looked it up, I looked up a couple other words, but i thought this word was just wrong.

    Fun chapter, It made me happy, Tina was so happy after so long also, worried about what going to happen.

    Now i cant wait to see how Nikki brother reacts.

  4. scotts13 says:

    This Jen Wood must be an important character, judging by the amount of dialogue she gets in her debut. It’ll be interesting to see more about her in the following chapters. (GRIN) OTOH, I’ve already forgotten who Ben and especially Mollie are.

    So, are they going to the Rusty Scupper in New Haven, or Baltimore? The one in Princeton closed; I liked that place.

  5. Russ says:

    I frequently use names of real people and places from my past – it never occurred to me that anyone here would have heard of the Rusty Scupper :). Of course, I didn’t even know about the ones in New Haven and Baltimore.

  6. BMeph says:

    I call shenanigans!

    Really, no “Enlarge ur p3n1ss” in the junk mail? That’s unrealistic! ;þ

    Also, Marsh is fantastic at fending off guys – especially the one that she keeps throwing herself at…

  7. Michael says:

    I just assumed everyone else knew about Rusty Scupper.

  8. Wei-Hwa Huang says:

    Ben is Nikki’s brother, who took part in the experiment and was a tall basketball player in Marshall’s world and a short guitar player in Marsha’s world. Significantly depressed after the experiments, for obvious reasons.

    Mollie is Marsha’s role in “The Mousetrap”, a play written by Agatha Christie that Piques put on last semester.

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