77 A Question of Truth

“Jennifer Marsha Steen!” Mom exclaimed when Dad told her what he’d learned. “You lied to me?”

I went rigid at the accusation. My eyes rapidly scanned the wall of the study behind her while I tried to think of a way to answer the question. Obviously, I hadn’t lied about the experiment or Tyler, but if I claimed I hadn’t, Dad would call me out for lying. I tried to think back to all the things I had told her since break, what with trying to keep it a secret. I must have lied to her about something in that time, I decided, so I cringed and nodded, “I’m sorry, Mom.”

She sighed. “I’m not really sure what we can do to punish you, young lady. You’re grounded for the rest of this weekend, of course, but we can hardly enforce that when you’re back at school. And it’s not as if you seem to be going out a lot, anyway. You do understand how disappointed I am in you, I hope?”

“Yes, Mom.” I deserved that, I guess. I wonder what would have happened if I had told her the truth the first day.

“Did you think it was funny, getting me worried about you like that?”

“No, Mom.”

She put her hands on my shoulders and looked me straight in the eye. “Do you realize how disappointed I am right now, Marsh?”

I nodded quickly. I knew I had messed up, badly.

Suddenly, she pulled me into her arms. “Honey, I’m sure you didn’t mean to be deceitful, but you really shouldn’t be pulling pranks like this on your parents. Don’t you remember the story of the ‘boy who cried wolf’?”

I murmured, “Mm hmm” over her shoulder.

“Daddy and I are here to help you; please don’t pretend to be really upset when you’re not.”

“Mm hmm.” I said again. Of course, I had been upset – it hadn’t been an act – but I didn’t see any way to make them believe that, now. At least I couldn’t think of a way without somehow getting them to believe in the experiment, and I still wasn’t sure that I wanted to do that, even if I could.

“You’re such a good actress, honey; I don’t want to have to start taking that into consideration the next time you start crying.”

“I understand, Mom,” I told her.


“I’m really, really sorry, Mom.” I pushed myself away from her, reluctantly. “I’m sorry, Daddy.”

“OK, Princess,” he said, hugging me. Then he kissed the top of my head, and I automatically started to snuggle against his chest, until I realized what I was doing. Eyes wide, I forced myself to wait a few seconds before gently pushing away. He was smiling, and so was Mom, so it appeared that the worst was over.

“I’m going to go spend some time with Tina and Tara,” I ventured, and when they nodded, I fled.

My sister and cousin weren’t in our room when I checked, so I changed from my ‘photography’ dress into a blouse and skirt, while trying to figure out why Dad being affectionate was having that effect on me. It was the second time in as many days that I had turned girly when he cuddled me.

I found Tara and my sister in the TV room, watching Enchanted on DVD. I’d really enjoyed that movie – it was corny, sure, but it was a real movie musical, with a great sense of humor. I’d taken Maddy to see it, back when we were still enjoying being together.

“What was it this time?” Tina asked as I joined them on the coach.

“Well, I’m grounded for the weekend,” I told her with a shrug.

“What did you do?” Tara asked.

“It’s not really important,” I replied, definitely not wanting to push the ‘hoax’ angle any further than Dad already had. Tara stared at me, wide-eyed and admiring.

“Boy, you don’t talk much of a game, but you’re a serious bad girl, aren’t you?”

I gaped at her, while Tina choked with laughter between us.

Tara looked confused. “What? What’s so funny?”

“It’s the idea of Marsh as a ‘bad girl,’” Tina laughed.

“I think you’ve sort of misunderstood something,” I added. “I was grounded for… well, something kind of tame that I would rather not discuss.”

“And what about that guy…?”

“Oh, please. I told you, that was just another misunderstanding. I didn’t do anything.”

“OK…” she said, not looking particularly convinced. It was as if she didn’t want to be convinced. I’d have to find time to ask Tina what Marsha and Tara’s relationship had been like. At least she didn’t pursue the matter.

We watched the movie for a few more minutes before Tara looked at me again, and said, “I just remembered what I wanted to ask you, Marsh. Do you remember a girl named Sarah Harrison?”

The movie had gotten to the part where Giselle sings. “How Does She Know You Love Her?” with random Central Park goers, to Robert’s consternation. It’s one of my favorite scenes, so I wasn’t really paying attention to Tara, but when she mentioned the name, I suddenly remembered a girl I’d known slightly when I was about ten or eleven, so I nodded.

“We were in…” I started to explain, when I suddenly realized where I though I knew her from and my heart skipped a beat. Impossible. But I finished, “um… in something together.”

“Girl Scouts, right?”

“Um… sure,” I agreed, causing Tina to swing around and stare at me.

Tara, of course, was oblivious. “She’s my boyfriend’s big sister,” she explained, “and when he told me they used to live in Rosemont, I asked if they knew you guys, and Sarah said she remembered you. Were you close?”

“Um, not… not all that close,” I muttered, heart pounding. Tina was still staring at me, and I really wanted to talk to her alone, but Tara showed no sign of conveniently leaving the room.

“Well, I think it’s pretty neat,” Tara went on. “I mean, what are the chances that you’d know my boyfriend’s sister from when you were a little girl?”

“Ah… I’m at least as surprised as you are,” I told her. My ability to concentrate on the movie was shot now, and I really, really needed to talk this out. What in the world was happening to me?

I tried watching the movie, forcing myself to be calm. I was not going to do another freak-out and have my parents come down on me again. I was not going to call further attention to myself if I could help it. But I really needed Tara to leave for just a few minutes.

Then I had an idea. “Hey, anybody want a drink?” I asked, suddenly. The other girls nodded, so I ran to the kitchen for a big bottle of soda and three glasses. It took until nearly the end of the movie, and I actually had to use the bathroom before she did, but Tara eventually asked us to pause the movie so she could answer the call of nature.

Tina turned to me as soon as our cousin was out of the room. “Girl Scouts?”

“All I know,” I answered, “is that when Tara mentioned this girl’s name, I suddenly had this memory of her wearing a Girl Scout uniform, and there were a lot of other girls around wearing the uniform, too.”

“And you…?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I was just hanging out with them for some reason, you know, as a guy. Maybe it was some kind of combined Boy Scout / Girl Scout thing. I mean, I was in Boy Scouts. But what if it was a Girl Scout meeting and I was one of them? What if I’m remembering part of Marsha’s life? What if I have some of her memories?”

“That would be… kind of weird, wouldn’t it?” Then she tilted her head, trying to think it out. “Wait, don’t you have some of her memories? Isn’t that how you’re able to sew?”

“No, all I have is her reflexes – I think. All my actual memories are my own, as far as I know. At least they have been. Memories of being Marshall. It’s going to be weird if I also remember parts of her life. What if her memories start replacing my own?”

“I… I don’t know.”

“And I keep acting all girly around Dad. I don’t like this, Teen.”

“I don’t know what to say, Marsh.”

I looked at her carefully. I was almost afraid to ask her, but… “Teen… you know… if her memories do all take over… you’d have Marsha back. You wouldn’t have to deal with… well, me. Wouldn’t that makes things easier for you?”

She looked away and started fidgeting. “That’s… I’m not sure how to answer that, Marsh. Marshall. I mean, I was really upset when you started acting all strange, and said you were a boy, and all, but… I mean, you’re my si– my sibling. I don’t want to lose you. Sure, I’d love to have Marsha back, but…” She turned to face me. “Marsh, please don’t put me on the spot like this. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.”

“I don’t either, Teen. I don’t either.”


  1. scotts13 says:

    Very telling and interesting chapter – a little concrete exploration of the intrusion of Marsha into Marsh’s thoughts, instead of the mysterious, random girliness we’ve seen. Very nearly makes me forget wanting to hit Marsh with a brick: “getting them to believe in the experiment, and I still wasn’t sure that I wanted to do that, even if I could.” Gag me with a… Make up your mind about SOMETHING, girl/boy/whatever – anything!

  2. Hoopla says:

    This is a really interesting chapter, it brings up lots of possibilities or it might just be a coincidental memory of Marsh as a Boy Scout that is just fuzzy.

  3. Hoopla says:

    This is just me pondering, that chapter made me think a lot more on what happened to Marsh and what is seeming to happen. I really like it.

  4. Von says:

    Is it just me, or does anyone else find the beginning a bit abrupt? It had been a while, so I had to go back to the last chapter, but this seems to come out of the blue.

    I would like to see where they are, when they are, how Marsh felt about being called into this meeting, and what Dad actually said.

    I like the girl scout thing.

  5. scotts13 says:

    >> Is it just me, or does anyone else find the beginning a bit abrupt?

    I usually agree when you say that, but this time… I mentally went through how you’d write the transition, and it wasn’t very interesting or informative. I like the Girl Scout bit too, but have to disagree with Hoopla on Marsh misremembering a BOY scout meeting. Visual memories are very strong. Marsh IS remembering being surrounded by Girl Scouts. It may be unrelated, and not a Marsha memory – but I don’t think so.

  6. Von says:

    Ah, your imagination, my imagination, Russ’s imagination… all different 🙂

    I imagined up quite a storm for this scene. But, tis Russ’s book.

  7. Trax says:

    I really like this chapter!

    I agree that the start of the chapter seems abrupt, but after looking at it again, it seems like a cut back from commercial break, where you want to grab the viewers attention with something loud or otherwise awesome. If this were a paperback and you had just flipped the page from the previous chapter, it wouldn’t be as odd.

    The only idea I could see aside from Marsha’s memories manifesting, is that part where Marsh is looking at a bunch of photos. There may have been a Girl Scouts photo mixed in there, but that wouldn’t account for the 1st-person, ‘surrounded’ memory, nor would s/he likely panic from having remembered a photo.

    As a programmer and a gamer, I keep wanting to sit down and make a choose-your-own-adventure type video game out of this. (Think Japanese dating games, or conversations in recent bioware games, etc.) I could picture the branching story too, Russ’ path as we read here, or a Von story path, and so on. Just a pipe dream I suppose, but fun to contemplate. =)

  8. Harri says:

    >> into a more casual blouse and skirt

    Oxymoron 😛

  9. Harri says:

    >>Tara, of course, was oblivious. “She’s my boyfriend’s big sister,” she explained, and when he told me they used to live in Rosemont, I asked if they knew you guys, and Sarah said she remembered you. Were you close?

    ” missing before the ‘and’

  10. Harri says:

    Oooooh, make them able to switch between one and the other! A little schizophrenia could be fun!

  11. April says:

    “I’m really, really sorry, Mom.” I pushed myself away from her, reluctantly. “I’m sorry, Daddy. <– missing a quotation mark here

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