54 Dread to Rights

It was really hard to believe how much had happened to me since the last rehearsal: the nightmares, the discovery that I couldn’t actually play the guitar, getting to borrow one for practice, and most importantly, discovering that Vicky remembered me and wanted to be with me. It really made me feel that the play wasn’t all that big a deal, after all. And for me, thinking any play wasn’t a big deal was odd, much less one in which I had a lead role.

But I knew that the feeling would pass. The play was a big deal for me, and presumably would feel exciting again soon – and right now I owed it to my fellow actors to keep my enthusiasm and energy up, no matter what else was happening in my life.

I wish I could say that I had succeeded, Jared gave me an odd look the first time we came off stage together. “Marsh, is something wrong? You were much better on Wednesday.”

I shook my head. “I’m really sorry, Jared. I’m a bit distracted. It was kind of a roller coaster week for me.”

“Yeah, but you keep messing up your lines, and you seemed to be somewhere else when we were supposed to be fighting.”

Alvin had noticed, too, and stopped us twice so that I could try to get back into the role. I was messing up seriously, and that had to stop. I wasn’t worried about being kicked out of the cast, not now, but I was better than this – now.

“Look, just focus on one line at a time, OK?” Jared picked up my script. “Do you know your next line?”

“Um… wait. ‘Do you need me now?’”

“Close. It’s ‘Must I come now? It’s very inconvenient.’”

“’Must I come now? It’s very inconvenient.’ ‘Must I come now? It’s very inconvenient.’ Got it. I’m going to be all right, Jared. I’m just bit–“

“Yeah, well you can’t be. Come on, Marsh. We’re all counting on you.”

“You’re right, you’re right.” I admitted. “OK…” I took a deep breath. “Give me the cue.”

“Um… ‘Sit down, Major, Mrs. Ralston…’”

I looked at him impatiently, as Mollie was supposed to. “Must I come now? It’s very inconvenient.”

“Um… blah blah… ” he muttered, as he looked for my next line “… it will only be for a few minutes.”

I pantomimed crossing to Trotter and looking at him. “Have your skis been found, Sergeant?”

“OK, good. Your next line is… about a page later.”

“And I’ll be fine with it,” I said, a bit more impatiently than I should have. “I’m sorry.” I took a breath. “We have a couple of minutes before we go on. Thanks. I’m just going to collect myself and get into the show.” I closed my eyes for a moment, and then looked at him again, more calmly. “Thanks. I just needed… I just needed a moment.”

He looked at me, still a bit concerned. “OK.”

And I was better when we went back on stage, and again when we reran the act. I wasn’t where I should have been, where I had hoped to be, as far as lines and characterization were concerned, but at least I was focusing on the play again. When it came to giving notes, Alvin did point out my initial problems and improvement, and offered some specific comments, as he did for everyone else. He did look a bit worried about me, though.

“OK, people,” he said at the end. “Everybody should now be off-book for the entire show, and we’re going to start running the whole thing at each rehearsal. We’ll still be stopping and starting as needed, and Nikki will be prompting you for the next week only. After that, I’m going to expect you to ad lib your way out of any dropped lines. Good rehearsal, and I’ll see you all tomorrow night.”

He looked over at me and hesitated, but seemed to decide that it was more important to talk to Jack about something. I hadn’t noticed Jack having problems, but then I hadn’t been as aware as I probably should have been in general.

I hurried over the Nikki before I left. “I’ve got lots of stuff to tell you,” I said. “You wouldn’t believe what happened.”

“OK,” she said, very curious. “Call me tonight?”

“Will do.”

And that reminded me that I had promised to call Tina, so I pulled out my phone as I left the rehearsal. Mom answered.

“Marsha, so good to hear from you. I’m sorry I missed you when you called yesterday. How’s the play coming?”

“It’s… well, we’re off-book now and starting run-throughs. It’s challenging, but…”

“But you’ll be fine. “


With Mom on the phone, I found myself wrestling again with the question of what to tell her. The problem was, I wasn’t sure how to explain, or how she would react. And of course, she would tell Dad, so it was probably better that I tell them both. And, I reminded myself, once I told them, I couldn’t take it back, whereas, if I put it off, I could always tell them later.

“Marsh? Is something wrong?”

I might have known that she would pick up on something. And possibly if I knew how my parents were with setting rules for Marsha; if I’d been sure that I could predict their reaction, I might not have hesitated so much. But I wasn’t sure. Tina had been safe to tell, since I knew that she would keep my secret and that she had no authority over me. But my parents were different.

And besides, my discovery of the Strangers in the Mirror had changed everything. If we found a way back, Vicky would probably insist that we take it immediately, or at least once the play was over – I’d probably insist on that. And then wouldn’t it be kinder to my parents not to let them know that their memories had been changed and might be changed back?

“How’s Tina doing?” I finally asked. Let Mom think that was my main concern, now.

“She’s doing pretty well, considering. I told her that I would call some of our friends and complain, but she said not to.”

“Yeah, I think that wouldn’t be a great idea, Mom.”

“She told me that you two had had a good talk. It’s nice that my girls are still so close, even though you’re away.”

“Mm hmm. Is Tina around? I promised to call her.”

“Oh, sure. Hold on.” I heard her calling, “Tina! Pick up the phone. It’s your sister.”

Tina came to the phone pretty quickly. “Hey, Marsh. How’s the play going?” But I had no sooner started telling her about my rehearsal than she interrupted me. “OK, Mom’s gone. Is this something about…?”

“Yeah. I found somebody who remembered me. My old girlfriend!”

She took an awfully long time responding.

“Teen? Is something wrong?”

“No, no. It’s OK. I just… Oh this sounds horrible, but I was sort of hoping that you were wrong, that you were just imagining things. That you wouldn’t be able to find anyone and would decide that you were really Marsha, after all. I’m sorry, Marsh. I know how hard this must be for you, and I knew it was wrong to have that hope, but…”

“You didn’t really believe me?” I asked softly, but I felt really crushed.

“No. No, I did believe you. I mean, I do believe you. There’s too much that’s different. You have to be who you say you are, Marsh.” Then she whispered, “I mean, ‘Marshall.’ I didn’t really doubt you. I just… I guess I just sort of hoped that you were kidding yourself, and somehow pulling one over on me.

“So, girlfriend, huh? Would that be Jackie or Vicky?”

“Vicky. The one I broke up with just before…”

“Right. So… what kind of change…?”

“Vicky looks just a little bit different, not too much. And get this. She wants to get back together. Once I change back, of course.”

“Oh. Of course. So… you’re definitely changing back, then? I– I mean, you’re not going to consider staying my sister?” She said it so casually, but I heard the pain in her voice, and yet she was trying so hard to be positive – for me. I had always known that I wasn’t going to give up on changing back, and hadn’t known how to tell her. And now I had told her, and in about the worst way possible.

“Teen…” I sighed. “Teen… I don’t know if we can change back. Vicky’s part of a group of experiment victims, and they’ve been trying to find the guys who did this to all of us. So far, they haven’t been able to find them at all. Vicky’s going to take me to the next meeting to discuss what we can do. But it’s not really sure.”

“Oh. Well, good lu– I mean…”

“I know, Teen. I appreciate it.”

“If you do find them… I mean… If you do change back, you’re still going to wait until after Christmas, right?”

“I’ll try, Teen. Until we find them, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“OK… I guess… Marsh, I guess I just hope that you get what you want… and that… well, that you’ll be happy with your choice. I mean… you’re my sis– my… my sibling, and I love you, no matter what. No matter what, right?”

“Yeah, and… I love you, too, Teen.”

“Well, ‘bye… I mean… take care.”

“Take care, Teen.”

I am such a jerk. I was still pondering her words and trying to see how I was going to find an answer that didn’t give me fits when Vicky called with the news that the Strangers were meeting tomorrow night from eight to ten. I let her think that my measured response was due to the fact that I would have to miss half of it because of rehearsal. But I knew better.



  1. von says:

    I should be, like, the last person on Earth to complain that you increased the tension… but I don’t like this particular increase. It is an increase into ambivalence, and I guess I really don’t like ambivalence. I would like to see Tina actually break down and get upset, or else get with the program. I would also like to see Marsh less clueless and more able to talk his way through a conversation without so many dropped lines.

    >>When it came to giving notes, Alvin did point out my initial problems and improvement, and offered some specific comments, as he did for everyone else. He did look a bit worried about me, though.

    I think I know what you are trying to say here, but it doesn’t come across right. Perhaps if you put the ‘for anyone else’ idea at the beginning the end would contrast better.

    Overall, not nearly as good as the last few chapters IMO.

  2. scotts13 says:

    Sorry, but I think you’ve broken your roll of interesting chapters. What happens here? Marsh’s acting was better, now it’s worse again. Marsh has important stuff to tell Nikki, but not now. We get to listen to Marsh remind herself why not to let her parents in on the secret. Tina still wants to keep her sister, and is reminded of that fact. The quotation of dialogue from the play, and the mechanics of the directors instructions, is not only uninteresting (to non-actors) but practically begs the reader to skip ahead.

    There are some novels where atmosphere and scene-setting exposition are fascinating in themselves; off the top of my head, Larry Niven’s “Ringworld.” This is not one of those. Ah, well, perhaps it will hang together better when we don’t have to stop for a couple of days between chapters.

  3. von says:

    >>Niven’s “Ringworld.”

    The Mote in God’s Eye is better 🙂

    Your comment about having to wait is interesting. It definitely makes for a different read.

  4. scotts13 says:

    “The Mote in God’s Eye is better”

    Agreed, but setting the in the Co-Dominium is handled differently. Ringworld has much more “Ooh, look at that!”

    The skill of serializing a story is not an easy one, whether it’s a webcomic or a novel. Dickens was a master; most people are not.

  5. von says:

    Yeah, a lot of ‘look at that’ but no decent plot or characterization.

    But still, worth reading.

  6. von says:

    >>This is not one of those.

    True. Altho some of that is because it isn’t being done in a fascinating way, eh?

    Scott: Read Enders Game? Midshipmans Hope? Now there was good character development… except for his cluelessness on Sexual Ethics.

  7. Russ says:

    Some minor changes made near the end.

  8. April says:

    “Um… wait. “Do you need me now?’” <– The inner quote should be an apostrophe

    “She told me that you two had had a good talk. It’s nice that my girls are still so close, even though you’re away.’ <– should be a regular quotation mark at the end

    than you were just imagining things <– that you were just?

    “Well,, ‘bye… I mean… take care.” <– too many commas

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