95 Working it Out

Exam period was, well, exam period. I studied, I reviewed, I took tests. Geoff and I worked together on Orgo, along with a few others, firing questions back and forth at each other. It seemed to pay off; at least, I felt very confident after each of my exams.

I did manage to squeeze in a makeup lesson from Nikki. She had noticed that I didn’t know what I was doing, but had chosen not to point it out. She said that she hadn’t wanted to add to what I was going through.

Lee Ann kept dropping hints about Geoff, suggesting that I might be missing a great opportunity. It was easier not to fight her; in any event, I wasn’t going to do anything about it until January, so it didn’t really matter, just then – or so I thought.

She knew my exam schedule, of course, and knew when I was heading for the train, and must have called Geoff to tip him off, because just as I started struggling with my suitcase – and Ben’s guitar, which I had decided not to leave in the dorm over break – he showed up at our door and offered to carry the suitcase for me. Of course, I accepted.

“I really appreciate this, Geoff,” I said, as we started down the steps. Carrying just the guitar in its case was much easier than struggling with both it and the suitcase.

“My pleasure,” he grinned at me. “You have any special plans for break?”

“Not really,” I admitted. “I guess I’m just boring.”

“I don’t find you boring.”

“Thank you,” I said, embarrassed. I really wasn’t used to having somebody hitting on me like this. It wasn’t completely unpleasant, but I would have preferred him just to go back to treating me as a friend. I couldn’t help remembering those girls he had had in his bed without actually dating. Was this how he had come on to them?

“Would it be OK if I called you over break?” he asked.

“Uh…” What was I supposed to say? “I think… you might… um… I guess so…?”

He laughed. “I’m really making you nervous, aren’t I?”

“Mm hmm,” I squeaked.

“Would you rather I didn’t call?”


“OK, I get it. I’m coming on too strong. Tell you what. Why don’t I give you my number, and if you feel like talking, you can call me. I think my parents have a little ski trip planned, but you’ll probably be able to reach me in the evenings.”

“I… I can do that,” I said, and we stopped for a moment so that he could punch his number into my cell phone.

“Do you ski?” he asked, once we started walking again.

“I’ve… never tried,” I told him.

“I could ask my parents to invite you…”

“N-no. Thank you, Geoff, but… I’m just going to spend time with my family.”

“Oh well,” he grinned.

Despite the cold, I was starting to sweat; he was really putting pressure on me. My promise to Tina had been to accept a date invitation, not something like this. How could he even expect it, given that we hadn’t even kissed? I couldn’t figure out his approach. I’d generally asked for a date straight out, figuring that if a girl said no, I would just move on to another. He seemed to be asking things that he could be sure I’d say no to, but which wouldn’t close the door to something else. Maybe the idea was that he would wear me down, so that a mere date wouldn’t seem a big deal by comparison, and if I did say yes, that would work for him, too?

“I told you I was boring,” I said, trying to put him off without seeming to.

He laughed again. It was a nice laugh; not as nice as Jeremy’s, maybe, but still nice. If I’d been attracted to him, if I didn’t have those memories of being his male friend, I was sure that I would want to get closer. And if I didn’t keep thinking about a guy I couldn’t have.

Finally we reached the shuttle to the train, and Geoff loaded my suitcase into the back.

“Thank you, Geoff,” I said.

He stared into my eyes for a moment, which made me a bit uncomfortable, but didn’t try for a kiss. “Have a good vacation, Marsh,” he said. “See you next year.”

“Yeah, see you.”

I had time to think on the way home; I just didn’t like what I was thinking. I kept on shaking my head. Dating boys, huh? Over and over and over I thought about it, both afraid and intensely curious. What would it feel like? Would I actually get to like it? To want to natter on about boys the way my friends did? And I did, what would be left of the part of me that was still Marshall?

The thoughts wouldn’t leave me, and what was worse, made me very reluctant to talk to Chad, despite his insistence on calling him with any updates. After making a big deal of not really being a girl, how was I supposed to explain that I was seriously considering dating boys? I had an idea of what he would say, and I wasn’t ready to hear it just now. Tina had a few more days of school, and Mom was busy with her sewing, so I found myself with little to do during the day. I had gotten used to talking things out, though, and even in the evenings, the only one I could discuss some subjects with was Nikki.

“So how much does your mother know, at this point?” she asked, when we were chatting a couple of days after I got home.

“I’ve been talking with her pretty regularly,” I explained, “So she knows about Jeremy and Phil and Geoff. She’s a little too interested in Geoff, I think.”

“And you’re not?”

“Well, the whole situation is a bit weird for me.”

“Being attracted to boys, you mean?”

“That, plus the fact that I knew Geoff before. I’m used to him seeing me as a buddy, not as a girl he wants to be with – the way he treats me now is just really, really different.”

Nikki laughed, “I can imagine.”

“Plus, there’s this whole thing with Mom and Tina and what I can tell them. I’m still not ready to tell Mom about me, and Tina was so upset before about the chance that I might change back, that I haven’t told her anything about Eric and what he’s trying to find out. But that also means that I can’t talk to either one of them about Vicky.”

“And that bothers you?”

“Well, yeah. I’m getting really used to talking things out with both of them, and here’s something that’s bothering me a lot, and you’re the only one I can talk to about it.”

“What would happen if you told your mother?”

“After Thanksgiving? She’d think I was lying and get super upset with me. And even if she did believe me… I don’t want her to treat me any differently. If I’m stuck as a girl, it will be just easier if she thinks that’s the way I’ve always been. If I tell her I’m not the daughter she remembers, she might start thinking of me as a stranger, an intruder into her household that she doesn’t know, and I just couldn’t handle that.”

“And lying to your family is easier?”

I squirmed. “It’s not exactly lying, is it? I mean, in this timeline, I am a girl, and always was. The fact that I remember the original timeline doesn’t change that. Besides, I’m not actually saying anything that’s a lie…”

“You’re just not telling them the whole truth.”

“Yeah, and it’s getting less and less comfortable, doing that,” I admitted.

“I don’t know what I can suggest.”

“That’s why I try not to think about it.”

“OK, let’s talk about something else. You’ve said that you’re going to start dating boys next month, right?”

“If somebody asks me,” I pointed out.

“And do you really think Geoff isn’t going to? He’s already asked you to go skiing with him.”

“No, he offered to have his parents invite me; he didn’t actually ask me out himself.”

“I think you’re parsing words, Marsh. He’s made his interest very clear.”

“I suppose so.”

“So what’s the problem? He sounds like a known quantity, he understands the meaning of ‘no’ and he’s clearly interested. Sounds like a pretty good bet, to me.”

“Yeah, but I’m not attracted to him,” I objected.

“Marsh,” she said patiently. “We’re talking about a date, not a wedding. If you were almost about to kiss him, you are attracted at some level. So go out with him once. If you have fun, and he asks you again, go with him again. If not, you’ll have a chance to try another boy.”

“I guess… I’m just a bit nervous. I mean, I’ve gone on lots of dates as a boy with a girl. This will be the first time as a girl with a boy, and I’m not used to it.”

“Understandable. But you’re looking forward to it, aren’t you? On at least some level?”


“And can call me afterwards and tell me how it went, or you can call your sister or talk to your roommates. Sometimes talking it over afterwards is as much fun as the date.” She laughed. “If things don’t go well, the talk afterward can be the best part!”


“So what are your plans for this afternoon?” she asked.


“Shopping? I approve.”

“Yeah, I need to buy presents for my family. Thanks to you, I actually made enough that I have some left over, and so… I get to go shopping.”

“OK, have fun!”

After we hung up, I got Mom’s permission to borrow the car and drove over to the Mall. Dad was easy. He loved to read, and a careful examination of his bookshelf turned up three books by the author Malcolm Gladwell. A web search showed that a fourth book had recently been published, so I dropped into the bookstore and picked it up for him.

Tina had been talking about me taking her clothing shopping; I’m not sure whether I was just transportation or she was thinking of shopping trips she’d taken with Marsha, but a gift certificate to a Mall boutique, along with a promise of my time, seemed suitable.

Mom was tougher. I wasn’t sure exactly what she would like, so I sort of just wandered the Mall for a bit, hoping for inspiration. What I found was something else entirely.

Ever since she had cheated on me in high school, Maddy and I had done this sort of hesitation-dance every time we saw each other. We’d both stop, back up, and turn and head off in a different direction. So when I saw her in the Mall, my reaction was automatic: I backed up and started down a different aisle.

A few steps later, though, I realized that something was wrong. I was remembering the wrong timeline; in this one we’d never dated. So why had she backed away, too?

I turned around and walked quickly after her. “Maddy?” I called.

She stopped and looked at me, very cautiously. “Yes?”

“How are you?”

She gave me a long look before answering. “Are you expecting an apology?”

My eyes bulged. Apology? “Um, if you think that would be appropriate,” I temporized.

“You were just as much at fault as we were, you know.”

Now I just had to know what was going on. “Would you like to talk about it? We could get some ice cream.”

She stared at me, a bit suspicious. “Are you seeing somebody?”

What does that have to do with anything? “Um, no, not right now.”


She led the way to the Häagen Dazs, where the two of us used to eat all the time. It seemed so normal to see her order her usual Rum Raisin cone, and I had to remind myself not to offer to pay for it. I ordered a Mint Chip cone and joined her at a small table.

“Maddy,” I said, sitting down, “I’m sorry. I used poor judgment.” That was general purpose enough, I figured. Whatever Marsha did, I had no problems apologizing for it.

“’Used poor judgment’?” she sneered. “That’s one way of putting it. How about, ‘overreacted,’ or ‘got your priorities wrong’? OK, I’ll admit, we didn’t exactly cover ourselves with glory, but I think we were at least trying to do the right thing. You haven’t spoken to us in four months. And you think you can just apologize now and it’ll all be OK?”

I cringed. What exactly did you do, Marsha?, I wondered. For half a second I thought about just walking away. Maddy and whomever she was including in ‘we’ had been Marsha’s friends, and I didn’t know them very well. Maybe I was better off just leaving the friendship broken and just making my own friends at home? But that would be wrong. Marsha had committed some offense, and as the current inhabitant of her life, I had an obligation to try to fix things.

I looked down, miserably. “Maddy, tell me what to do, then. I’m… not the same person I was, back then. I want to fix this.”

“And you’re really not seeing anybody? This isn’t a ‘Oh, I have a boyfriend now so I’m happy’ thing?”

“I promise you, I’m not seeing anybody. I’ve sort of been occupied with other things.” If she only knew… “But I should have called.” And Chad and Tina had told me Marsha’s friends’ names, and I could have called on my own. It sounds as though it would have been really uncomfortable, but her friends deserved better.

She gave me another long look. “Then I’m sorry, too. It was a dirty trick. If it’s any consolation, the guy turned out to be a jerk, and he dumped Cherise a couple of months ago.”

This had been about a boy?! “I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah. So in a way, we sort of saved you, right?”

“Sounds like it.” I couldn’t help smiling. Had they not done whatever they did, I might have woken up over break and had to deal with a boyfriend.

“And I think you really should have been giving Dirk another chance, anyway. He’s grown a lot since you guys broke up, and you two were so great together in high school.”

My stomach did a flip. Dirk? I had mostly forgotten about him. Marsha had liked him enough to date him for two years, but the idea of going out with him revolted me. I murmured something non-committal.

“But if you’re not seeing anybody, this could be good timing. I know he’s single, too. I’ll have to check with the others, but we’re having a New Year’s Eve party at Dina’s house, and if they’re OK with it, you could come and bring him, if you like.”

I tried to respond, but I couldn’t manage anything more than a squeak. It didn’t stop her, though.

“You know, maybe I’ll just pass on the word to his friends that you’re back and not seeing anybody. This could work out really well. I am so glad we ran into each other, Marsh!” And, having finished her cone, she gave me a quick hug and ran off, leaving me with my mouth hanging open.

Suddenly, Geoff was looking very attractive. I tried to put Dirk out of my mind while shopping and while wrapping presents when I got home, so I didn’t mention him to Tina when she got back from school, and after a brief conversation, she an off to do homework at the kitchen table.

About an hour before dinner, I heard Tina in the hallway, apparently talking on the phone. “Yeah, she’s in her room. Just a second,” and she knocked on my door. When I opened it, she held out the portable phone and, grinning impishly, said, “It’s a boy calling.”


  1. Mitch says:

    do you like tormenting me with cliffhangers!?! aaaaaaaah

  2. DS says:

    The drama at home is looking good.

    Minor spelling mistake, 2nd to last paragraph: “She [r]an off to do homework…”

    Minor quibble: It surprises me a bit that mom didn’t ask for help sewing. She is concerned about her daughter, has her home for the holidays, has sewing to do…and doesn’t ask Marsha to help, even as an excuse to talk to her more. This would seem to be very likely, though I have no idea how it would be handled =/

  3. Biri says:

    So… when do we finally meet Dirk? Because I bet (despite Marshall’s “Dirk the Jerk”), Marsha will have rather… different reaction to him (and I need my dose of fluff!) The Mind Is A Plaything Of The Body, after all…

  4. scotts13 says:

    Ah. More uncomfortable drama Marsh could have spared herself by simply speaking up. “Please don’t do that, Maddy.” See? Not that hard. Though if she was thinking clearly, she would have left the entire situation alone; I can’t imagine where this “obligation” to “fix things” is coming from.

  5. von says:

    >>>Ah. More uncomfortable drama Marsh could have spared herself by simply speaking up.

    Sorry Scott, I agree with Biri here. Underlyingly Marsh knows he will like Dirk.

    >>I tried to put Dirk out of my mind while shopping and while wrapping presents when I got home, so I didn’t mention him to Tina

    Marsh’s logic usually escapes me, and here is one example.. OK, pretend you hate Dirk all you want, you still need the scoop on what happened with M and company, so you don’t get caught out.

    One major quibble I have with the book is how often he escapes these things; without even doing the panic work… off to the girls room to call Tina, “what happened with M anyway???”

    And skipping this issue all this time, and never asking T about it…

  6. scotts13 says:

    >> Sorry Scott, I agree with Biri here. Underlyingly Marsh knows he will like Dirk.

    No argument there; she’s ALMOST consciously aware of it. But (as her mind is presently constituted) she doesn’t WANT to like Dirk; all the more reason to simply avoid the whole awkward situation by telling Maddy to butt out, or better still by avoiding her. This isn’t the Internal Revenue, the Dean, or her parents – they’re simply acquaintances. Ignore them and they WILL go away.

  7. von says:

    Confused. I thot (no, I didn’t look it up) that Maddy was supposed to be some kind of ‘best friend’ figure… the bull in the china shop we have been ignorinig up to now.

  8. von says:

    >>“My pleasure,” he grinned at me. “You have any special plans for break?”

    I could be wrong (I so struggle with this in my own writing) but I think this should be:

    ::“My pleasure.” He grinned at me, “You have any special plans for break?”

    Now, on another issue; one that Russ and I went round and round on. My impression is that Geoff asked Marsh out, and Marsh turned him down, about a dozen times (note:exageration for emphasis) during this chapter.

    Second question: Did the skiiing invitation imply sleeping together?

    Just wondering.

    Oh, and is anyone else old-fashioned enough that the ‘single’ reference rankled?

  9. von says:

    >>the Dean,

    I, personally, would have just ignored the Dean. Politely, of course.

  10. von says:

    >>>Minor quibble: It surprises me a bit that mom didn’t ask for help sewing.

    Agree. Plot hole. And Cheat.

  11. Mitch says:

    can’t we ever read something without questioning it? >.>

  12. scotts13 says:

    >> Did the skiiing invitation imply sleeping together?

    I don’t see why. It’s clearly a trip his parents are planning/making; with them in attendance, there shouldn’t be any significant opportunity for shenanigans.

    >> Oh, and is anyone else old-fashioned enough that the ’single’ reference rankled?

    I don’t see your concern. There’s only one use of the term. Dirk is clearly “single,” in the sense that he’s not seeing anyone seriously and therefore presumably available. So is Marsh. What rankles? It’s a statement of fact.

  13. scotts13 says:

    >> Now, on another issue; one that Russ and I went round and round on. My impression is that Geoff asked Marsh out, >> and Marsh turned him down, about a dozen times (note:exageration for emphasis) during this chapter.

    Russ questions this? Geoff not only asked her out (albeit in a clever, slightly self-depreciating way) he’s actually getting to be a bit of a persistent pain-in-the-ass about it. Marsh’s refusal is not so clear; while she obviously and repeatedly said “no,” she did it in a peculiarly feminine and non-commital way – which most girls use to keep their options open if they get desperate or whim strikes them in the future. Marsh’s use of the technique could be her own natural lack of a spine, or something more disturbing.

  14. von says:

    >>can’t we ever read something without questioning it?

    “The unexamined life is not worth living.”


  15. Russ says:

    >> Agree. Plot hole. And Cheat.

    Um, no. Simply an authorial oversight. Also known as, “It didn’t advance the story, so I didn’t think of it.” But thanks for the suggestion.

  16. Mitch says:

    so your saying von, is that if your unable to keep critiquing another person’s writing and not accepting anything that happens in the story that you don’t find agreeable with, is not worth reading at all?

  17. von says:

    >>>so your saying von, is that if your unable to keep critiquing another person’s writing and not accepting anything that happens in the story that you don’t find agreeable with, is not worth reading at all?

    Well, I am always able to do this. The comment feature (and Skype) just make it that much funner. I do this with every book I read. What does it teach me? How can I be a better person from reading this? What wrong does it teach me, that I should avoid. How can I be a better writer from reading this book?

    etc. Etc.

    Me and Socrates…

  18. Biri says:

    Ah, is it bad if I’ve read this chapter three times already today? Of course not. I don’t suffer from any TaL withdrawals.

    OK, on a more serious note, I’m officially starting a Marsha-Dirk fanclub. Right now, there’s just one potential love interest for Marsha, and Geoff just doesn’t cut it. We know that old!Marsha must have seen something in the guy, and new!Marsha seems to share the preferences (Phil comes to mind), and apparently he’s grown, so… yeah.

    Oh, and one more thing: Will Section 6 get a name? It’s really screwing up hyperref like this.

  19. von says:

    I like Geoff. For that matter, I am still rooting for Jared 🙂

  20. Biri says:

    Geoff’s not bad on his own, he’s just been so far too goofy. Maybe we’ll see Marsha having a crisis between Dirk and Geoff? He was a bit more serious during the walk, and there were some hints…

    Okay, hypothesis 2: Marsha will get over her hang-ups with Dirk over the break, then will be more open to Geoff’s advances back at school.

  21. von says:

    No, I think that Russ is hot on Jeremey, so he will plunk for him. I like Goofy. And Phil is still an option.

    (My long shot is Chad)

  22. Biri says:

    Alright, 3rd option: boytoy harem!

  23. DS says:

    Mitch said: “can’t we ever read something without questioning it? >.>”

    While I agree that the questioning can be a bit tedious at times, especially to those who started reading late (like myself), I do think it sits more as a testament of how interesting the story is. After reading every chapter, I sit and wonder if what I read was a stroke of authoring genious or a forgotten paragraph (about 50/50 so far on that one). It’s fun, and it’s also great to hear some very differing opinions on what’s happening, some I vehemently disagreed while others I found profound.

    If you don’t like the comments, don’t read them (there are plenty of times I just skipped them all to get to the next chapter). I’m just glad that a majority of the comments show deep interest in the story.

    Thank you for the story, Russ.

    P.S. Russ said: “Um, no. Simply an authorial oversight. Also known as, “It didn’t advance the story, so I didn’t think of it.” But thanks for the suggestion.”

    Sigh…I thought I’d found another plot hint…crying…

  24. April says:

    I mean, in this time line, I am a girl, and always was. <- time line is traditionally just one word

    Hägen Daz <- actually Häagen-Dazs

Leave a Reply