72 Gone

“Hey, Princess,” Dad called to me as we approached the car. He and Mom were standing beside it, waiting for us.

The nickname reminded me of his expectations, so I kissed him like a dutiful daughter and said, “Hi, Daddy.” Then, as I kissed Mom, I wondered at my actions. Hadn’t I decided that I was no longer trying to imitate Marsha? That I was going to be my own person? Surely I could just go back to calling him, “Dad”? But that might involve drawing attention to myself and explaining the reason for the change. Maybe it was just simpler to go along with Marsha’s way of speaking for now.

Dad took my suitcase from me and put it in the trunk, and we all got in and drove off; Tina and I sat in the back, while Dad drove, with Mom beside him. That was pretty much the way we’d always traveled as a family. Dad would drive and restrict himself to occasional comments, while Mom probed and chattered.

Naturally, since I had been away from the family for weeks, I was the immediate target.

“Everything good at school, Marsh?” she asked.

“Classes are pretty good,” I responded. That was pretty safe and general. “We’re coming up on opening night for Mousetrap, and I think things are going pretty well, there, too.”

“You’re not nervous at all?”

I laughed. “I didn’t say that. This is a big role, and I just know there are things I could be doing better. Alvin’s been pretty positive, but I have a feeling that a more experienced actress might be able to do a better job with it.”

“But he chose you.”

“Right. And he hasn’t complained. At least not too much,” I’d almost managed to forget the incident when he had yelled at Jared and me.

“Of course not. You’re going to be fine.”

“Thanks, Mom.” That was the attitude I needed, of course, and it was what I had decided for myself. I was going to be positive, now. I was going to be confident and assertive.

“And… your social life is good?”

“Um…” I should have expected the question, and planned on an answer. “My social life is… pretty much where it should be, I guess. I mean, I’m kind of busy, with classes and the play and my sewing. And I have some very good friends.”

Mom nodded. “Well, as long as you’re happy.” At least she wasn’t going to pry about my love life. Happy? I wouldn’t go that far, but I had made my peace with things for now. I wasn’t attracted to anybody, and I didn’t need to worry about being with anybody. I just had to remind myself of that, until we figured out how I could change back.

And yet… I saw Tina eyeing me, curiously. She had picked up on something that Mom hadn’t – or at least shouldn’t have, not knowing my situation. I had a feeling that there was going to be some kind of interesting questioning when we got to Grandma’s house. As it was, I felt guilty about not telling Mom. I just wasn’t sure what I could say, or how she would react. And I wasn’t sure how I would want her to react. Have her try to treat me as a boy somehow? Have her think me slightly insane? I just couldn’t think of anything good that would come of telling her, and yet I did have that urge.

And I needed to talk to Tina; there were questions I had thought of; questions I needed answers to before I made a fool of myself with our cousins, especially my relationship with them. I should have asked while she was helping me pack, and now I was going to have to wait until we arrived. I passed the time listening to music; I didn’t really think I had a chance to land a role in Sweeney Todd next semester, but Marsha supposedly had had a decent singing voice, and it would be good to familiarize myself with the music, just in case.

Grandma greeted us when we knocked on her door, just before dinnertime.

“Hi, Mom,” my mother kissed her, and then of course each of us followed with a kiss, while Dad brought in the luggage. I felt bad at not helping, but my offer had been laughed off.

Our cousin Tara ran up to us excitedly, looking decidedly more casual than Tina and I in her light blue pantsuit. “Hey, guys, come on up! Gran redecorated our room!”

Our room, huh? I thought, as Tina and I followed her up the stairs. I hadn’t thought it through, yet again. Of course Tina and I would be sharing the guest bedroom with Tara, while Joey and Tyler would presumably sleep in the family room. I had been with them last year.

“Isn’t it great?” Tara cooed, as we entered. I hadn’t spent much time in the guest room before, since it had always been Tara and Tina’s room when we came for Thanksgiving, but I could tell that the room had been totally redone. The walls were a beautiful bright yellow, with an attractive red flower stencil that matched the new curtains and the covering on the daybed. There were small vases on side tables that contained red flowers of some type that seemed very similar to those on the wall, and which suffused the room with a pleasant smell. All in all, it seemed like a very comfortable place to spend a few days.

The daybed worried me, a bit. I didn’t see anywhere else to sleep – were the three of us expected to share it? None of us were all that large, but three in a bed seemed really cramped. My sister and cousin had obviously done this before; I’d have to get Tina alone and ask.

Tina clearly had no worries at all. With an exclamation of, “I love it!” she rushed about the room, looking at everything. She pulled open drawers, felt the curtains, and bent over to sniff the flowers. I contented myself with a nod of agreement, and felt somehow that I should have matched her enthusiasm somehow – at least if I were trying to remain in character for Marsha, which I wasn’t.

Tara sat on the bed and pulled the two of us to sit beside her. “So spill. We have a few before dinner. What’s happening with you guys?”

I started on the same litany I had used with Mom. “Classes are good, and my play is opening in a bit over a week.” That just earned me an impatient look.

“Come on,” she insisted. “Tell me the good stuff.”

“Marsh doesn’t have any good stuff – her life is boring,” Tina said quickly. “Now I, on the other hand…”

“Yes?” Tara asked eagerly, turning to my sister.

“Danny and I went to this school dance, and he showed me a list of twenty different types of kisses and we spent about an hour trying them.”

“Oooh! Hot!”

“And then we went back in and slow-danced a lot – even when the music was fast.”


My cousin then looked at me, expectantly. I don’t know why, but this was making me feel really inadequate.

“Well, I slow-danced with a boy last weekend…” I offered hesitantly.

“Oh? Tell me about him,” she prompted me. Behind her, I saw Tina’s eyebrows rise.

“Well…” I started, feeling my face grow hot, “there’s nothing much to tell. I mean, my roommate introduced us, and we danced. That’s it.”


“And nothing.” Suddenly I wished I had kept my mouth shut. “He has a girlfriend, but she doesn’t go to Piques, so he just needed somebody to dance with.”

Tara shook her head. “So you’re there and she’s not. Take advantage. Do you want this guy?”

I put my hands up as if to defend myself. “No! Definitely not. He’s just a guy I danced with, that’s all.”

She looked disappointed. “That’s it? And there’s nobody else?”

“No, I… I have to focus on school and the play and stuff. I mean, I am pre-med. I have to get good grades.”

“Wow. Tina was right. Your life is boring.” And rolling her eyes at me, she turned back to Tina, while I sat there open-mouthed.

I couldn’t believe that I had just been put down like that. I didn’t think my life was boring – far from it. As the other two nattered on about their boyfriends, I found myself trying to think of other times I could talk about being with boys. Did kissing Jared onstage count?

Then I suddenly realized what I was doing. I wasn’t interested in kissing boys and slow-dancing with boys. Why should it matter what my cousin thought? Sure, the dancing had been fun, but that had nothing to do with… sexual attraction or anything.

I didn’t hear it, but apparently somebody called Tara, as she suddenly excused herself, leaving Tina and me alone. Before I could say anything, she grabbed my arm. “Slow-danced, Marsh? You slow-danced with a boy? What was that like for you?”

“Oh. Well… I mean… I guess I liked the closeness – but there wasn’t anything more to it than that. He was just a boy my roommate found for me to dance with. I mean, she thought that I should be dancing with boys – that I wasn’t dating because I was shy.”


“And nothing. I’m not interested, if that’s what you mean.”

“I was wondering, since you said you weren’t going to be changing back. Are you planning on dating boys now?”

I shook my head again. “No. I’m not interested at all. In fact, the whole idea creeps me out. I… I don’t really know what I’m going to do, but dating boys is not something I’m considering.”

She shrugged. “OK.”

I lowered my voice. “Teen. Before Tara comes back, I need to know a couple of things. What are the sleeping arrangements, here? There’s only one bed!”

“Oh, right. I guess you wouldn’t know. Tara’s going to sleep on the cot – there’s one in the closet – and you and I will share the bed.”

“Share the bed? Um, why can’t I get the cot and you and Tara could share?”

“Because Tara’s taller than either of us, and you and I are sisters. It’s just more comfortable that way.” At my concerned look, she added, “Don’t worry, we’ve done this before. We’re neither of us all that big, after all, so there’s plenty of room for both of us.”

That’s easy for you to say, I thought, but I didn’t see any way out, so I just moved on to the next subject. “OK. And what is my relationship with Tyler, now?”

She looked at me, surprised. “Huh?”

“Well, before, he was really into my guitar playing, and we were kind of close. Obviously that’s not going to be the same, now.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Tyler. Before I see him at dinner, I want to know what to expect. I mean, I don’t think I could stand to talk to Joey just now, but I do expect to spend time with Tyler.”

“Who’s Tyler?”

“What? Tyler Greene. Tara’s little brother.” She still looked confused. “Wait? This didn’t even occur to me. Did they give him a different name? I mean, most things have been pretty much the same, but some haven’t been.”

Marsh,” Tina said slowly, “Joey and Tara don’t have a little brother. It’s just the two of them. Are you saying that… in your boy world, they had a brother?”

I stared at my sister in horror. I tried to speak, but words seemed hard to form, suddenly. After several tries, I managed to force something out. “No. Please tell me you’re joking. You- you can’t mean that. You’re saying that he’s just… gone? Just like that? Gone?”

“Marsh, I’m telling you that I have never heard of ‘Tyler’ and neither have Joey and Tara. There is no little brother. There’s just the two of them, like there’s two of us.”


  1. Hoopla says:

    Oh no! What impact did Marsh have on the birth of Tyler?! Or are we seeing something new coming out here.

    See, this is part of what I feel is missing. There was no run up to it being Thanksgiving in the prior chapters and boom here it is and I feel this is a conversation Marsh and Teen would have had before now – mostly triggered by Marsh asking these type of relationship with family questions before arrival. Sorry to go on about this, but the story seems to take a lurch between 70 and 71.

  2. You know, I just like to enjoy the story. The comments lately have been too negative and mostly about story mechanics. This is a fun story and the writing is good.

  3. Von says:

    I agree with Hoopla. I LOVE the fact that Tyler is missing. With a nod to Halfelven I will keep my other comments to myself 🙂

  4. Hoopla says:

    Erin, I to love the story – and have said so many times.

  5. scotts13 says:

    >> “I hadn’t thought it through, yet again.”
    (Heh) Learning your own limitations isn’t fun, Marsh.

    Tyler – This is either a huge change from what we were encouraged to think was going on, or a lot of extremely tenuous logic will be forthcoming.

    Guest room – is this supposed to sound like a testosterone-draining hellhole (to which Marsh is significantly oblivious), or is it just me?

    >> “that a more experience actress”
    I think you want “experienced” there.

  6. Von says:

    >>huge… extremely… hellhole…

    Come on, Scott. Don’t be so wimpy with your language. Let us know how you are really feeling 🙂

  7. scotts13 says:

    >> Come on, Scott. Don’t be so wimpy with your language. Let us know how you are really feeling.

    Good observation; I actually have a reputation for being circumspect and soft-spoken. Maybe I was surprised at being surprised by Tyler’s disappearance, and over-reacted. BTW, the jolt was not unwelcome. While the story has been interesting so far, and the writing improving, this is the first time I can recall reading something completely unexpected.

  8. Von says:

    >>this is the first time I can recall reading something completely unexpected.

    Well, it was, for me, unexpectedly expected, if you see what I mean. This is the kind of thing I expected to happen much more at the beginning.

    One issue that is constantly passed over, for me, is how well Marsh is pulling off his ‘pretneding to be Marsha’. I find it incredible that he would have fooled so many people for so long. I keep hoping that at least his parents would catch on… let alone his roomates. I am thinking that either this is just a ‘willful suspension of disbelief’ or (better) there is something that Russ is holding back from us that is allowing Marsh to fake it so very well.

    In this chapter, for example, I can hardly imagine that, during the drive or at some other point where it wasn’t just Tina, Marsh did not bring Tyler up. We see that he had no clue that there was a chance that Tyler would not be there, and they did no ‘prep’ before the meeting… so I can hardly imagine that it ‘accidentally’ only came up when he was alone with Tina. The whole lack of Faux Pas has been so incredible I keep hoping it is a plot element.

  9. Alveric says:

    >> I find it incredible that he would have fooled so many people for so long. I keep hoping that at least his parents would catch on… let alone his roomates

    It’s not that hard to believe… What is more likely? That this person who is now acting differently has gone through something difficult since you’ve last seen them? Or they’ve been replaced by a completely different person?

    One must always remember that to the participants “this is real life not a sci-fi story!”

  10. scotts13 says:

    An effective stranger convincingly “playing” someone whose life they’ve been dropped into has been done so often in fiction I believe most of us have become inured to it. After all, if Meg Ryan can have her soul replaced with that of a septuagenarian MAN – a complete stranger – who successfully deceives Alec Baldwin THROUGH THE HONEYMOON – then Marsh should be able to fool anyone. (The movie “Prelude to a KIss”, BTW)

    In comparison, Marsh has every possible advantage, save cleverness. A very similar life, more than one willing co-conspirator, absence from home, the same frickin’ nickname…! Still, in the real world he should have recognizably tripped up more than once by now. Plot element? We shall see…

  11. scotts13 says:

    >> What is more likely? That this person who is now acting differently has gone through something difficult since you’ve last seen them? Or they’ve been replaced by a completely different person?

    Six of one, half dozen of the other. Personally, I’ve been on the lookout for family members being replaced with pod people since (roughly) 1956.

  12. Von says:

    >>What is more likely? That this person who is now acting differently has gone through something difficult since you’ve last seen them? Or they’ve been replaced by a completely different person?

    Hello! Remember what book we are reading. People being different is a PLOT ELEMENT. It is like a zombie flick… expect the unexpected.

    Besides, you take it too far. I am not saying ‘guess that Marsh is actually Marshall instead of Marsha’. I am saying, “What on earth is up with you Marsha? You are just totally not yourself. That was Jennifer, for goodness sakes! You tell her everything!”

  13. Chris says:

    Wonderful story so far. I look forward to every installment. Keep ’em coming.

  14. Harri says:

    >>Well, it was, for me, unexpectedly expected, if you see what I mean. This is the kind of thing I expected to happen much more at the beginning.

    I expected it.. I read something in the previous chapter that pointed it out to me:

    “I shrugged as I pulled on my coat. “My cousin Tara is nice, although she’s closer to my sister than to me. Tyler is pretty cool, he–” I stopped myself just in time. Tyler had always been enamored of my guitar playing; I wondered what our relationship would be now. The six-year gap between us would probably loom a lot larger, now that we didn’t have music as a bond. “He’s into video games – a lot,” I finished.”

    I don’t know why.

  15. von says:

    Good catch. I remember the line at the time, and just thought it was wimpy. But you think it had a deeper meaning. Interesting.

  16. Russ says:

    Took a suggestion by Von and modified the sleeping arrangements slightly. No major impact on the story.

  17. Von says:

    >>That’s easy for you to say, I thought, but I didn’t see any way out, ..

    I would like to see more here.

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