103 The Cold Truth

“Stop it, Tina!” I yelped, coming out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel. “I’m not dressed! Do you want me to tell Grandma what you’re doing with the Flip cam she gave you?” I was getting really annoyed, now, since it was the fourth time in two days that she’d snuck up on me like that and just started shooting.

“I’m just collecting something for Jeremy,” she teased, sticking out her tongue at me and pulling away the camera when I reached for it. “I’m sure he’s missing you by now.” But at least she turned it off before our struggles caused me to lose the towel.

I was already in a bit of a sour mood. I hadn’t seen Jeremy in several days, and I was missing him terribly. With very little in the way of scheduled obligations, I had expected to spend a lot of time with him, but his family had scheduled a trip for the week, and all we’d been able to do so far was email back and forth. I’d used my own new Flip cam to record myself for him, but it wasn’t at all the same as actually being together. He was going to be back in time for the New Year’s Eve party, but that was still a couple of days away. It didn’t help my mood that Mom and Dad had suggested that, “given my mental state,” the separation would be good for me.

What was particularly aggravating was discovering that they had been right. My brain had seemed to switch off when I was with Jeremy, and having several days in a row away from him was letting me think. I’d pretty much ignored everything except my relationship with Jeremy, and I needed to fix that. I need to pay attention to other things, and one of those things was repairing my relationship with Chad, as soon as I could.

That was easier said than done, though. I called, and after chatting with me, his mother simply said, “I’m sorry, Jennifer. Chad says he doesn’t want to talk to you, but won’t tell me why. What happened?”

Of course, I had no answer, and when I went to his house and managed to get him to open the door, he slammed it in my face. “Why won’t you talk to me?” I shouted through the closed door, but he didn’t answer.

I checked with Dinah, though, and she confirmed that he was going to be at the party, so decided that I wasn’t going to let him avoid me there. The key was, I didn’t understand exactly what I had done that annoyed him so much.

Part of it was obvious. He’d given me that speech about keeping a buddy up-to-date on things when he helping you, and I hadn’t. I needed to apologize for that, certainly. But was there something else? I mean, he was clearly livid, and his reaction seemed way out of proportion to my offense.

Tina wasn’t any help, either. Her recommendation was that I simply give him time to cool down. “Who knows how boys think, anyway?” was her comment, and when I pointed out that I should know, she blithely suggested that since I was a girl now, I’d probably forgotten, and if not, I should.

I know I should have come back with something clever, only her comment had left me gasping. It wasn’t until she left that it occurred to me to say, “Well, I think it’s pretty useful to know, don’t you?” Only as a comeback, it sounded pretty flat, even to me.

Of course, that wasn’t the only relationship I’d messed up. “I’m starting to think that I shouldn’t have said anything to you and Dad about the experiment,” I told Mom later while sitting in her sewing room.

“Oh?” she said, not looking up from her work.

“Well, I mean I think you’ve pretty much treated me the same, but Dad… well, he hasn’t called me ‘Princess’ since then, and he keeps looking like he wants to say something to me and then changes his mind. He looked really disappointed that I didn’t want to watch the game on TV with him. I’m really worried that he doesn’t know how to talk to me any more.”

Mom stopped her machine. “That’s just it, Honey, he doesn’t. He’s never regretted not having had a son, but now you’ve told him that he should have had one, that his little girl is supposed to be a boy and that he isn’t to do anything about it. He’s stuck between trying to learn to be a father to a boy and trying to hold on to you as his princess. He doesn’t want to insult you by treating you the wrong way and he realizes that he has no idea what your relationship with him should be, now. Things that used to fit into neat little boxes no longer do.”

“What about you? You’re not treating me any differently.”

“Well,” she said, putting her hand on my arm. “I’m not really sure what to think. The whole idea is just so strange to me. So I’m just going along the way I have, assuming that you’ll tell me if you want me to change anything.”

I nodded, and waited for her to go on, but she just looked at me, expectantly.

“I guess it would be easier for me if you didn’t,” I said. “I mean… as long as I’m a girl, what’s the point of pretending that I’m not? I… well, it was really weird at first, but I think on the whole, I’d rather you and Dad just sort of… ignored what I said.”

“That’s not so easy…” She answered, shaking her head. “You told us that you were really a boy – and then you put on a dress and went out on a date. It’s definitely not what your father would have expected of a son, and now he’s wondering if he did something… in your old, um, life? I mean, you’ve mostly been acting like the girl we remember, and that just seems wrong. If you’re a boy, you shouldn’t be dating boys, you shouldn’t be wearing dresses, you should be watching games with your father… but you’re not.

“It would be so easy to dismiss the whole thing,” she continued, “and assume that it’s just part of the prank we thought it was over Thanksgiving, but even that isn’t making a lot of sense. So I’m trying to ignore it, since you don’t seem to want us to do anything about it, and your father is badly confused, and a bit hurt. He won’t let on, but I know him.”

Mom did understand, of course, when I explained that it was actually less embarrassing for me to act as though I had been Marsha all along. She understood about playing roles, but that didn’t make things easier for Dad.

I didn’t have any answers. I’d told my parents the truth, and I had to live with it unless I could change back. Changing back would solve everything, and if I couldn’t, I’d just have to hope that things would work out. As for Chad, I kept thinking about what I could do, but hadn’t reached a solution by the evening of the party. And then, I tried to forget about my problems for a while and just focus on seeing Jeremy again, and dressing up for him, and being with him. I hadn’t gotten the hang of all the primping that girls were supposed to do before dates; fortunately, Tina was more than willing to help me. She also expected me to help her when she got ready to go out with her own boyfriend, but at least understood when I got confused.

And then it was time, and Jeremy showed up, and my heart pushed itself ahead of my brain again. I’m pretty sure he told me about his week and I must have said something intelligible in response, but I was doing a lot more feeling than thinking. It wasn’t until we were almost to the house that I remembered to apologize for making him go early.

“No problem,” he assured me. “If they’re your friends and they expect you to help set up, you need to be there. I brought a book.” And he showed me a copy of Gödel, Escher, Bach that he had in the car with him.

“You– you’re not planning on reading that at the party, are you?” I asked, surprised. At the same time I was a bit intrigued, since he had mentioned the book when we first met and I had meant to look it up.

“I just figured I’d bring it in and read it if there wasn’t anybody to talk to.”

I winced. It was so inappropriate, and yet at the same time I found it adorable. But I do know something about parties, so I said, “The other girls’ boyfriends will be there. Please leave the book in the car.”

I walked into the party on his arm – and without the book – as though I was used to such things. We weren’t the first to arrive, and I was relieved to see Timmy sitting in the living room. He and Jeremy had met at the restaurant, so I left the two of them to talk and followed Dinah and Maddy into the kitchen.

It didn’t really take us all that long to set up. Dinah already had the soda and we’d each brought homemade snacks in addition to store-bought pretzels and chips. I’d used Mom’s recipe for stuffed mushrooms, since Tina had said that Marsha had made it for a party, once. I had to take my turn to put it into the oven, though, as Dinah had pizza wedges already baking. Working with Marsha’s friends was really easy and natural, and I couldn’t help wondering if it was because they knew Marsha so well. I didn’t want to believe that it was another case where Marsha’s memories might be leaking through.

It wasn’t until almost eleven that Chad and Kathy showed up. Jeremy had whispered that he needed to use the bathroom and I was trying to remember where it was when Chad and Kathy came in the front door. Given how elusive he had been, I decided that I needed to confront him right then and there.

“Kathy,” I said, after doing the necessary introductions, “I need to talk to Chad. Can you show Jeremy where the bathroom is?”

“You need to talk to Chad?” she echoed, looking puzzled. I suppose that wasn’t usual for Marsha, but I didn’t have time to role-play right then. I nodded, and she led Jeremy off, leaving Chad and me alone.

“I’m not talking to you right now, Marsh,” Chad said, trying to walk past me to get rid of his coat, but I stood in his way.

“You weren’t talking to me all week,” I said. “Now we need to talk. It’s important, Chad.”

He crossed his arms. “Important. Really? Just how important is it, Marsha? Seems to me, anything important you had to say, you should have said a little while ago.”

I looked around, but nobody else seemed to be in the front hall. “I’m really sorry, Chad. I know I messed up. Now can we please talk? Someplace where we won’t be overheard?”

He glared at me for a moment. “You really want to talk? OK.” And he opened the front door and pulled me outside.

“Chad are you crazy?” I yelped, wrapping my arms around my chest. “It’s freezing out here!”

“Not for me it isn’t,” he retorted, putting his coat back on. “This way you’ll talk really fast and I can get back to the party.”

I stared at him, shivering. “What did I do?” I wailed. “I mean, I know I should have told you about… about things, but aren’t you sort of overreacting?”

“Overreacting?” he retorted. “You lied to me, Marsh. You got me to talk to you the way I’d never talk to a girl. Ever. You really had me going, there. You and Tina must have had a real laugh at simple-minded Chad. Did you get your kicks, hearing me use bad words when talking to you?

“And then I guess the joke got old, and you found a new guy to date. Or were you seeing him all along? No wonder you were willing to call your old boyfriend a jerk!” And he started back towards the house.

“I didn’t lie to you, Chad!” I cried, grabbing on to his arm. “I never lied. And I don’t think you’re simple at all. I mean it, Chad. I mean it.” He glared again and I let go.

“I didn’t lie to you,” I repeated. “I… was just embarrassed about… well, about liking boys after I’d told you how I wasn’t attracted to anybody and we talked man-to-man about girl-watching. You have no idea what it was like for me, Chad!” He didn’t say anything, so I persisted. “I probably should have known. I mean, it’s normal for girls to like boys, and… well, right now, I’m a girl. I probably should have been more surprised if I wasn’t attracted to boys. Chad, can we please talk someplace warm? I’m freezing my ba– I mean, I’m really, really cold. I don’t have nearly the muscle mass I’m used to. You can stand the cold a lot better than I can.”

He frowned at me for a moment, but seemed slightly less hostile. Then he shook his head and took off his coat. “Here,” he said, handing it to me. “Put this on.”

“But…” I started.

“As you say, I can stand the cold better than you can, and I’m the one who made you come out without a coat, so put it on.”

“Does this mean that you believe me?” I said, wrapping it around me. It was too big for me, of course, so I overlapped the front and held it closed with my arms.

“Let’s just say that I’m open. I want to know how you could go from agonizing about not liking girls to getting yourself all gussied up to date a boy.”

“Because I didn’t want to believe it, Chad! I mean, you know what it’s like. The whole of liking boys was… well… not something I was comfortable with. I guess I had convinced myself that since I didn’t want to like boys, I didn’t. So I just refused to recognize it. I think I must have decided I was being nervous instead of being attracted, or something. But… Jeremy was different. It was too obvious that I liked him. So… now I know. It’s still weird, but… yeah. Just being near Jeremy does something to me.”

“And why aren’t you attracted to Dirk, then? You were pretty crazy about him for a long time.”

“Oh. Well… actually it was Marsha who was crazy about him, not me, but…” I took a deep breath. I wasn’t sure he was going to believe this. “He’s changed, Chad. The Dirk I remember was a lot nerdier looking. He was shorter and skinnier, and, well, now that I’ve seen the Dirk you know, I understand why she liked him.”

“What do you mean, changed?”

“I mean that it looks like it’s not just people who did the experiment who got changed, Chad. It’s like my cousin never being born. I think the experiment got out of hand. Things are happening, and I don’t know where it’s going to stop.”


  1. scotts13 says:

    Pretty good! The segue into not seeing Jeremy for a few days seems a little forced; and I don’t remember Chad being that upset, but perhaps it will come back to me if I re-read a few chapters. Not even any saccharine nausea inducers, thought the conversation with Chad has a couple of near misses. One question though (and I hope I don’t feel foolish when I hear the answer): What freezing body part begins with “ba–”?

  2. Russ says:

    One question though (and I hope I don’t feel foolish when I hear the answer): What freezing body part begins with “ba–”?

    Marsh was about to say, “I’m freezing my balls off” but reconsidered. I may yet reconsider the line, if it is that obscure.

  3. Trax says:

    Yeah, I too liked the chapter, but I totally missed the meaning of that line too. I SHOULD of seen it, but didn’t and just thought it was a typo.

  4. Michael says:

    Don’t change it. I had to think about it, but I got it.

    I like this chapter but the ending seemed kind of abrupt. Well, I hope 104 is coming soon because the story is getting interesting again!

  5. scotts13 says:

    >> Marsh was about to say, “I’m freezing my balls off” but reconsidered. I may yet reconsider the line, if it is that obscure.

    Ah. It’s a bit telling that I never CONSIDERED she might be referring to a male anatomical feature; for a while now, when she speaks or acts without thinking, it’s in totally female mode.

    Still, I like the line – how to fix it? Changing the “a” to an “o” or two works but doesn’t quite explain truncating it. Perhaps something like: “Chad, can we please talk someplace warm? I’m freezing my b– uh, body parts off here!”

    (Yes, I know you really can’t voice a “b” without a vowel. But if you try, you get “bu-” and that’s misleading in print).

  6. von says:

    It is interesting to me that he would only even start to make a slip like this around Chad. If he was making it around his girlfriends, he would be in a world of hurt.

    I like the ending, personally. I think Chad’s reaction is a bit over the top, or, to put it otherwise, I think something else needs be going on with him for him to have this kind of reaction 😉

  7. Michael says:

    > It is interesting to me that he would only even start to make a slip like this around Chad.

    If s/he is used to talking to Chad guy-to-guy, s/he might fall back into this mode around him.

    Note that I stopped thinking of Marsh as a “he” a long time ago.

  8. von says:

    >>If s/he is used to talking to Chad guy-to-guy, s/he might fall back into this mode around him.

    Except he isn’t. They haven’t done any ‘guy to guy’ in , like, forever.

    >>Note that I stopped thinking of Marsh as a “he” a long time ago.

    I didn’t. Nothing in the text has indicated that shift to me, especially his speech patterns. For a ‘shift’ to take place something ‘different’ needs to happen, and nothing has. He is a person with a guys memories and a guys self identity running around in a girls body with a girls hormones, etc. The only half-way shiftish thing he has done is manage to become stupid about makeup… which I suppose I am forced to accept as part of the ‘hormones’.

  9. Hoopla says:

    Happy Hoopla 🙂

    Thanks for the needed chapter 🙂

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