85 Looking Up

I wasn’t sure I had handled the meeting with Dean Peterson as well as I had intended; on the other hand, I was pretty sure he had made a big mistake, and might not even realize it. If I had read him correctly, I now had actual evidence that somebody other than the victims knew about the experiment in some detail, in this timeline. This was something I definitely had to share with Vicky, so I called her cell. It rang three times and then went to voice mail, so I just hung up, a bit annoyed – either she had left her phone somewhere, or she was serious about me not contacting her. I debated walking over to her room, but I decided that I could wait her out, at least for a day or two. If she wasn’t going to talk to me, she could wait for the good news. At any rate, her phone would tell her that I had called; maybe she would be curious enough about why, to call me back.

Terry was sitting on the couch, and looked up from her reading when I slipped back into our dorm room. “How did it go, Marsh?” she asked.

“OK, I guess,” I shrugged. “He asked about my family, and how I was doing in school, and about my friends.” I thought for a moment about whether I could actually share my news, but couldn’t think how, without revealing way too much. Terry had already caught me unprepared with her questions about Vicky, and I didn’t trust myself to stay one ahead of her in conversation when I was trying to keep a secret. I had planned my response to her probable question while walking here.

“How boring,” she commented.

I smiled. “Sometimes, boring is good.”

“Especially when dealing with administrators,” she laughed.

I don’t know whether it was feeling that I had ‘won’ in my meeting, or that I was just getting used to all of the emotion my new body was feeling, but my head felt clearer than it had in months. The fear, the depression, the anxiety all seemed distant now. I went back to my room to review – I was a day behind because of yesterday – and studying just seemed to flow. I copied my lecture notes, and it felt like a pleasure rather than a chore.

Rehearsal that evening was starting to feel more and more comfortable. There was energy among the cast I hadn’t noticed before. Jared dropped a line, and I covered for him so smoothly that I was sure almost nobody noticed. Everything just felt so good!

Alvin even made a point of praising us afterwards. “Folks, this is by far the best run-through we’ve had. Your timing was on, your emotions felt real, and I actually believed that you meant what you were saying. Cody, your flat aspect with just that little touch of amusement when Jack starting asking you about the skis was perfect. Marsh, great cover. Naomi, I loved the way you handled your interview with Trotter.

“OK, we are off tomorrow, everybody get a good night’s sleep, please, and be back her for final dress on Thursday. I want everyone on stage, in make up, by 7:00. See you then.”

I should have been exhausted, but I wasn’t. I was flying. We were just three days from opening, and I had had a great day, so I joined the crowd going to the Student Center. It was Alvin, Nikki, Jack, Naomi, Jared, Cody (who played Major Metcalf), and me. Somehow, the talk turned to dropped lines and missed entrances; apparently, that was something very popular to talk about among actors, although I hadn’t seen it in my high school productions.

“So, I was directing A Midsummer Night’s Dream, freshman year,” Alvin said, “and my Mom came to see the second performance. Now, you know that the second scene is the artisans, who are planning a play in honor of the Duke. The lights go up, and their leader, Peter Quince, says, ‘Is all our company here?’ and I see them looking around, because in fact, Nick Bottom, who has half the lines in the scene, including the very next one is not on stage. And I can see it in their eyes; there is no way they are going to be able to do this scene without him, and they start looking really scared. But they keep their cool, and start ad libbing. Mostly, they just used lines from the scene, but in a very different order.

“Quince basically runs the scene backwards, casting all of the roles except for Bottom’s, and just as they are about to run out of things to say, Bottom comes on stage, and they manage to finish. I really had to hand it to them, they never dropped character, they managed to improvise Shakespeare, and they stayed funny. Mom was sitting next to me, laughing, and at one point I hissed to her, ‘Stop laughing, Mom, that’s not the way I directed it!’”

Everybody laughed, even people I was sure must have heard the story before, since most of the people there had worked with Alvin in other shows.

“So what happened to the actor playing Bottom?” Jared asked, to my relief. I’d wanted to ask, but wasn’t sure if Marsha was already supposed to know.

“For some reason he had gotten it into his head that Hermia was supposed to exit after the previous scene where he was standing, so he was waiting for her. Of course, he was wrong, and after a while he snuck around to a different exit to see what was happening on stage, and there she was! So he ran back to his spot and entered late.”

Amidst the laughter, Jack turned to me and suggested, “Tell the Camelot story, Marsh.”

I turned red, because of course I didn’t know ‘the Camelot story.’ But before I could stammer out an excuse, Alvin came to my rescue. “Let me tell it, Marsh.” He looked around. “Just so you know that this doesn’t only happen in my productions…

“If you know Camelot, you know that the first act ends with this big knighting scene, which follows the big joust scene. Now, in between, is a little drawing room scene; it’s very easy to forget about. Marsh forgot.

“So there she is, standing at the back of the house, waiting to make her entrance in the act finale, and Arthur and Pellinore are chatting back and forth, and they’re saying lines she has never heard before. Apparently, the guy playing Pellinore had found this alternate version of the script, which had lots of allusions to Merlin turning Arthur into a rabbit when he was growing up. And now he’s using them. And why? Because Marsh, as Guinevere, is not on stage. So he’s ad libbing. ‘Arthur, I liked you better as a rabbit!’ ‘What do you think Lancelot would be like as a rabbit?’ and the audience is in hysterics.

“After several minutes of this, the stage manager finds Marsh and hustles her backstage so she could make her entrance, and now Pellinore suddenly blanks. He says to her, ‘You stood there looking at Lancelot, and he stood there looking at you…’ and then stops. He’s supposed to say, ‘It was very touching,’ but what he actually comes out with is, “… and I stood there, looking at the both of you!’”

Everybody laughed again, but I found myself thinking, “So, Marsha, it seems you’re not a perfect little actress after all.” I found that strangely comforting.

I slept well that night.

The next morning, I was leaving my Orgo lecture with Geoff, ignoring his attempts to ask me to House Parties, when I suddenly spotted Vicky, waiting outside. She wasn’t talking to anybody else this time, and when she saw me, she waved, so I excused myself and went over to her.

“Walk me to my next class, Marsh?” she asked. I nodded, and we started walking. “Let’s cut across the quad here,” she suggested. “There’s too many people on the walkways.”

“I’m wearing heels, Vix,” I objected. “The ground is soft from the rain last night, and my shoes will get stuck.”

“So walk on your toes,” she said, and started across the grass.

I had little choice, so I followed her, stepping gingerly over the grass and leaves. Not gingerly enough, though, because I slipped on a pile of freshly fallen leaves that must have been concealing wet leaves underneath. Fortunately, Vicky caught me.

“Well, that’s different,” she said, pulling me upright. “In the past, it was always you catching me.”

“So, we’re allowed to talk, now?” I asked.

She nodded. “I spoke with Ian. You and I are known to be friends, so it doesn’t make sense to pretend that we’re not. We’ve also met publicly with Eric, so we can do that, too, but neither of us should make any direct contact with the Strangers for now. If we want to tell them anything, we’ll tell Eric, he’ll tell Allie, and she can tell Ian and Luke.”

“That sounds really complicated.”

“They’re scared, Marsh. Thanks to your Dad, the college now knows about the Strangers, and they might try following you; Luke thinks they might even try tapping your phone. We need to discuss how you’re going to handle meeting with Dean Peterson.”

“Um, I already did,” I admitted. “I didn’t know when you’d be allowed to talk to me, again, and I wanted to get it out of the way before this weekend.”

She stopped and looked at me. “How did it go?” she asked, tensing.

“Not too badly, actually,” I said. “He tried to get me to give him names, but I wouldn’t, and he got mad.”

“That’s ‘not too badly’?”

“Yup. When he got mad, I think he let something slip. He said that my claim to have been a boy was ridiculous, and it couldn’t happen.”

“But that’s been their line all along.”

“No, but don’t you see? He didn’t say that about the other claims – only mine! I think he knows that they are real; but for some reason he thinks that a sex change couldn’t have happened. And remember that we couldn’t find anybody else who had experienced one? What if there’s something about the experiment that should make sex changes all but impossible? And they thought it actually was impossible?”


“I think I read something once that might explain it. I’m going to have to do some searching to track it down.”

“Marsh, that’s incredible.”

“And, I talked to Eric. He actually has the seniors looking at papers for relevance to time travel, but they’re treating it as a joke, as a cover.”

“That’s… good, I guess?”

“And he’s going to try to think of somebody we can talk to; somebody who might actually have noticed Davis’s disappearance, but didn’t agree with the cover-up. Somebody who might be willing to talk.”

Her eyes widened. “Wow. You’ve been really busy, Marsh. You took control of the situation. I really like that. I–” She broke off, and failed to repress a snicker. “You know, it’s really hard to think of you as being manly when you’re wearing a dress and lipstick.”

“…And three inches shorter than you!” I laughed.

“I can’t believe this. It sounds as though this could really happen. You could really change back!”

“I know, Vix. We’ve been just assuming that the people who did this were still around and knew about the experiment. This all but confirms it. Now, all we have to do is find them and convince them to change me back, but I feel like we’re closer than ever. So,” I added, “when are you coming to see Mousetrap?”

“I haven’t asked Kevin, yet. But if he doesn’t want to go, I promise I’ll be there opening night by myself, Marsh. Or maybe I’ll bring my roommates. Just promise me one thing?”

“What’s that?”

“That this is the last time I have to watch you kissing a boy.”

“I sure hope so, Vixy,” I laughed. “It won’t happen again if I have anything to say about it!”


  1. Trax says:

    I really liked this chapter. It even brought my own mood up a few notches. 🙂

  2. scotts13 says:

    This shouldn’t be the best chapter in the story so far; but to me it is. I’m starting to gain a little respect for Marsh, and I have high hopes the palm marks on my face will fade.

  3. Hoopla says:

    I know this chapter moves the story forward, but I don’t like it 🙁 I guess I’m not reading this story for a ‘successful’ conclusion, but more the journey of Marsh to Marsha. /shrug

  4. Von says:

    >>I guess I’m not reading this story for a ’successful’ conclusion, but more the journey of Marsh to Marsha. /shrug

    I think you are missing a trick her Hoop. Whether Marsh becomes Marsha or returns to being Marshall, the ‘change’ hanging over his head needs to be dealt with. It would be foolish and stupid (no comments, Scott) for Marsh to continue blindly on as Marsha while the possibility still exists that a) He could suddenly wake up as Marshall or b) other people could be affected by his inaction. Was he the very last person to change? How could he possibly know that? Perhaps the next person wakes up with Downs, etc.

    He owes and obligation to himself and everyone else to figure out what happened, and then decide what to do about it.

    I, personally, think Russ missed a good thing here, in decideing to de-emphasize the interactions with Geoff. If he handled that well, it would be a real way to show his intelligence (Marsh’s, not Russ’s).

  5. April says:

    somebody other than the victims, knew about the experiment in some detail <– unneeded comma

    Terry had already caught me unprepared, with her questions about Vicky <– same thing

    stay one ahead of her in conversation, when I was trying to keep a secret <– and again (although somewhat less so)

Leave a Reply