Family Time

Synopsis:

Johnny Crayne loved driving his SUV down the highway at full speed, but when he picked the wrong truck to pass, he and his wife and their best friends discovered that they'd passed on into new lives.

Story:

Family Time
By Ellie Dauber (c) 2004

"Johnny, slow down. You're driving much too fast."

Johnny Crayne glanced at his wife in the rear view mirror of their SUV. "Paula, this is Arizona, nothing but flat, straight roads that go on for miles. There's no better place to see what this baby can do." He chuckled and patted the car's dashboard.

"Yeah, relax," Ray Preston said from the front passenger seat. "Johnny's a good driver, and there's not another car on the road."

The SUV came over a low rise that had hidden the road ahead. "Yes, there is," Lisa, Ray's wife said. She pointed over her husband's shoulder. "Do you see it?"

A black dot was on the road ahead of them, perhaps a half-mile away. "From the way we're closing on it, it can't be doing over 50," Johnny said in disgust.

As they came closer, the dot resolved itself into an old, gray-green pick-up truck. "No problem," Ray said. This is a two-lane road. We'll pass this guy like he's doing -- shit." A large sign loomed next to the road just ahead.

"What's the matter?" Lisa asked.

"Damned sign," Johnny answered. "Says the left lane's closed ahead for construction the next 15 miles." He gritted his teeth. "There's no way I'm gonna be stuck behind that truck for 15 miles." Everyone felt the back of their seats press against them as the vehicle raced ahead.

Paula leaned forward and looked at the speedometer over Johnny's shoulder. "What... 90! What are you doing? It's not that important if we pass this guy."

"Yeah," Lisa added. "We're on vacation. Vegas will still be there tomorrow."

"Women," Johnny said sarcastically. "They just _don't_ get it, do they?"

"Tell me about it," Ray said. "Look, Lisa... Paula. He's going slow, maybe even weaving a little, with a thick, black exhaust. Do you both really want to be stuck following that pick-up, breathing in that smoke, for twenty minutes, maybe more?"

Johnny answered. "They don't." There was another burst of speed. The van began to vibrate. It passed the pick-up and ducked back into the right lane just as the left lane disappeared behind the start of a very long line of orange highway cones. "I said we'd make it," He said as he raised his right hand and high-fived Ray.

"Way to go, old buddy," Ray said wildly.

Lisa looked out the rear window of the SUV. ""He's in a ditch, Pull over."

"He'll be okay in a minute," Johnny said. "Watch."

Now Paula looked back. "He's not moving, Pull over." Her voice grew firm. "Pull over, _now_."

Johnny shook his head, but he slowed down and pulled to a stop on the shoulder. They all turned their head and watched. The truck didn't move, nor did anyone get out of the cab.

"I'm calling 911," Paula said, reaching into her purse for her cell phone. She pushed the "emergency call" button and waited. "Hello," she finally said, "I'm Paula Crayne. I'm at the eastern end of the construction on Route 66 near Peach Springs. There's been an accident. A truck..." she looked at her husband's face. "A truck ran off the road into a ditch just where the construction starts. I think the driver's hurt."

* * * * *

Johnny glared at his wife. "You happy now, Paula? By the time we got finished talking to that two-bit sheriff, it was after dark, too late to drive on. We're stuck here -- beautiful, exotic Peach Springs -- till morning."

"At least they were nice enough to get these motel rooms for us," Paula replied, "and at a discount, too." The couple was in a room decorated in southwestern style. Pictures of desert landscapes hung on the walls, and the cover on the queen-sized bed was a blue and red Indian blanket. Ray and Lisa were in the next room, the connecting door between them open for now.

"And they bought our story of the old guy swerving into the ditch by himself." Ray walked in from the other room, "I think this is yours, Paula." He put a pale blue overnight bag down on the bed.

"But when that old man -- Mr. Swiftwater -- wakes up --" Paul started.

Johnny completed her thought. "It'll be his word against the four of us." He looked sharply at his wife. "Unless somebody says otherwise."

"I agree with Paula," Lisa said as she came through the open door. "It was just an accident. What's the worse that could happen if we tell the truth?"

"Tickets for speeding... reckless driving..." Johnny counted off on his fingers. "Enough pointed to raise our car insurance... maybe enough to get my license suspended for a while."

"The way you were driving back there, maybe it should be suspended," Lisa said.

"Before you get off of that high horse of yours, Lisa," Ray said, "you might want to consider this: Swiftwater is a local; we're outsiders, maybe rich outsiders if you look at what we're driving. They could decide to tack a mother big fine onto those tickets."

"They... they wouldn't?" Lisa said.

"Sure they would," Johnny added. "A big enough fine that we have to sell my SUV and use our vacation money -- if they leave us enough of that -- to take the damned bus home."

"And we'd be on that bus with them, Lisa," Ray added. "Even if I wanted to keep going when Johnny and Lisa had to go home, we really don't have the money to rent a car of our own for the week."

"All right," Paula said with a deep sigh. "You've made your point. We'll back up your story."

"But if either of you two pull another hare-brained stunt like that," Lisa warned, "_we'll_ do the driving for the rest of the trip."

"And _I'll_ sell that thing as soon as we get home." Paula added.

* * * * *

"I think we have heard enough, my brothers," the spirit form of Malcolm Swiftwater said. The six other spirit forms, invisible to all but themselves, nodded in agreement.

The seven forms drifted upwards, passing through the ceiling of the motel room. "The punishment shall be as they themselves have pronounced it," one of the others said.

"They will begin by bringing your grandson to us for his consecration," a third said. The forms moved through the night sky towards the hospital where their bodies waited.

* * * * *

The buzz of his travel alarm -- Johnny never trusted motel wake-up service -- woke him at exactly... 'Eight o'clock,' he thought. 'Maybe enough time for some morning fun.' His body felt... odd as he rolled over, as if his center of gravity had shifted. There was some kind of weight on his chest, too.

"Paula, hon --" Johnny froze. That wasn't Paula next to him. It was a _guy_! "What the hell?" He rolled back and jumped out of the bed.

The noise and motion woke the stranger. "Morning -- hey, who the hell are you?" The man scrambled out his side of the bed. He grabbed the blanket and held it in front of him.

"I'm Johnny -- never mind that. Who the hell are you, and where's my wife." And why did his voice sound so high-pitched?

"I'm..." the man touched his throat. He looked down at himself and let out a scream. "Johnny... what... what's happened to us?"

"What do you mean 'us', buddy?" Johnny stopped. His voice was higher... and soft, like a girl's voice. He looked down and saw that he was wearing some kind of blue nightie. His body looked a lot thinner with no trace of body hair. Worst of all, he seemed to have grown a pair of breasts.

He looked at the stranger, realizing for the first time that this meant looking _up_ at him. 'Eyes are the same,' he thought, 'so's the hair color. Round out the jaw -- and get rid of the stubble on it -- and this guy could be..." He said the name aloud, "Paula?"

The man nodded, still staring at him. "Johnny? Is that you?"

"In the flesh." He pointed to himself, accidentally touching his breast. He pulled his hand away, as if he'd touched a hot stove. "Sort of, anyway. Paula?"

The man nodded. "This is crazy." They both hurried to the mirrored door to the closet. "I'm a kid," Johnny said in disgust. "G-damned jailbait." He looked about 15, cuddly, his new teen queen curves revealed in a short, sleeveless, blue night shirt that hung down to his hips, just revealing a ruffled matching panty. His razor-cut brown hair was now black, the same color as Paula's and hung down to his shoulders in a mass of curls.

His face was different yet familiar. "I... I look like you... like you did when we met in high school."

Paula rubbed her jaw. 'Need a shave,' she thought. "I... I look like my brother, Harry. She was tall now, just over six foot, and ruggedly built. Her old self ran and cross-trained with five-pound weights. Her new body, clad in a t-shirt and boxers, looked like she used much heavier ones.

She looked over at Johnny. "It's like you were my daughter or something," she said in agreement with Johnny's assessment of his new form.

"What the hell are we going to tell Ray and Lisa?"

As if on cue, there was a knock on the connecting door. "Open up, you two," Lisa called from the other side.

The transformed pair looked at each other. Johnny shrugged. "Might as well get it over with."

Paula strode over and unlocked the door. "It's open." The knob turned, and Lisa walked into the room. She stopped in surprise and stared at the two of them. "There's... umm, been some changes," Paula said.

"Tell me about it." A girl about Johnny's new age and size walked through the open door. She looked like Johnny as well, wearing the same nightclothes, except hers were turquoise. Her hair was shorter and the same strawberry blonde as Lisa's own hair. Her face looked a bit like Lisa's, as well.

"Ray?" Johnny and Paula said in unison. The new girl nodded.

"Anybody have any idea how this happened?" Ray asked.

"And why?" Lisa added.

Johnny scratched his head, tangling his fingers in his new, longer hair. "We passed an Army base on the way here. Maybe this is some kind of crazy, secret, military experiment."

"Then why isn't Lisa changed?" Paula asked. "And why are you two teenagers, while I'm still an adult?"

"Maybe it's some kind of hallucination," Lisa suggested. "And we're just imagining this."

Ray's hands moved across his breasts. "Feels real -- too damn real -- to me."

"Then what..." Paula's eyes shifted. "Hey, the message light's blinking." She reached over and picked up the phone, tapping the button next to the blinking light.

It was as if the phone went into conference call mode. "The answers you seek are at the hospital with Malcolm Swiftwater," a deep voice said, one that they all could hear. There was a click, and the message light stopped blinking.

"Let's go," Johnny said, heading for the door to the parking lot. Ray was right behind him.

"Not dressed like that," Lisa said, pointing at their clothes.

The pair stopped and looked down at themselves. "Then what the hell do we wear?" Johnny asked. "I don't think any of my old clothes will fit me now."

"No, but I'll bet that your _new_ clothes will." Paula pointed at Johnny's suitcase, next to the folding luggage rack in the corner. Its size and shape hadn't changed, but what had been a mahogany-colored leather case was now a green, blue, and yellow paisley cloth bag.

Johnny walked over and tried to put the bag on the rack. "Damn... heavy." It took two hands to lift it now. He grunted as he put it on the rack. He opened it and found... "Girl's clothes? Now how in the hell..." He looked through the case. "Panties... bras... and a bunch of damned dress."

"Pick something pretty to wear," Paula said wryly. She picked up her own suitcase. 'Light as a feather,' she thought. 'Amazing." She flipped the latch. "Just what I expected," she said, holding up a pair of boxers and a man's denim shirt." She looked through the clothes. "Even a jock strap to go with these swim trunks."

She pulled out a few things and started to pull off her t-shirt.

"Maybe I should leave," Lisa said softly.

Paula stopped with the t-shirt over her head. Lisa and the newly female Ray were looking at her oddly. So, she realized, was Johnny. She put her arms down, letting the shirt settle back onto her. "I'll change in the bathroom," she said feeling somehow embarrassed. She grabbed a set of men's clothes from her suitcase and walked into the bathroom, closing and locking the door behind her.

"I think the weirdness is just starting," Lisa said. She walked over and took a blue cotton bra and matching panty from the paisley suitcase. She tossed them to Johnny. "Put these on, then pick something nice to wear over them."

Johnny was holding the bra by one strap, looking as if he expected it to turn into a snake and bite him. "I... I can't wear this. I'm a guy for Pete's sake."

Lisa reached out and gently cupped his breasts in her hands. Johnny's eyes went wide at the sensation. "Not according to these, you're not," Lisa said firmly.

"Looks like your cups runneth over," Ray said sarcastically.

"So do yours," Lisa told him. She turned back to Johnny. "I want you dressed when we come back." She grabbed her husband's hand and started walking towards the connecting door, pulling him along. "Come on, dearie, and let's see what sort of pretty frillies are in your suitcase now."

* * * * *

Twenty-seven minutes later, the SUV pulled into the hospital's visitors' parking lot. Paula was driving, with Lisa sitting next to her. The "girls" were in the back seat.

Lisa wore a stylish green skirt and short-sleeved yellow top. Her make-up was suited for a woman on a family vacation, just lip gloss and a bit of blusher. Paula still needed a shave, not having wanted to risk her neck with Johnny's straight razor. She wore a pair of jeans and a short-sleeved denim shirt that showed off her hairy arms and muscular build.

The girls were in what would best be called "grunge." Their hair was uncombed, and they both wore loose jeans and sweatshirts that all but hid their new figures. Both had put up more than enough fight to make sure that neither wore any make-up.

"Why bother?" Johnny had argued. "We're gonna make whoever did this change us back as soon as we get there."

Johnny jumped out of the van, as soon as it stopped moving, and ran towards the hospital, the others close behind.

An older woman with a "Volunteer" pin on her pale yellow blouse was sitting at a desk in the middle of the lobby. A large sign on the front of the desk said, "Information." Johnny ran over to her. "Swiftwater... umm, Malcolm Swiftwater, where the hell is he?"

The woman looked up at him and frowned. "Well, aren't we the rude little girl? Try asking me again... _politely_."

"But this is _important_, dammit," Johnny whined.

"I'm sure that _you_ think it is, young lady, but that's no excuse for bad manners... or profanity."

Lisa stepped up next to Johnny. "How about if I asked?" she said, smiling at the woman. "Could you please tell me where Mr. Swiftwater... Malcolm Swiftwater's room is?"

"That's better." The woman looked at Johnny. "You should try to act like your mother here." She glanced at the terminal on her desk. "Mr. Swiftwater is in 301, that's the ICU... the intensive care unit. No visitors but immediate family, which I don't think you are." She looked at the screen again. "That's odd. There's a note that anybody else asking about him should be sent to the family conference room." She pointed off to the right. That's room 122, down that hallway. The note says to tell you that they're waiting for you."

"Who's waiting?" Lisa asked cautiously.

The woman shook her head. "It doesn't say, but the word 'they' is underlined." She shrugged. "Must be some one important. You better go."

* * * * *

The blinds were closed on the door and windows to room 122, but Johnny, Paula, Ray, and Lisa could hear voices as they came close. "Let me go in first," Paula whispered. She opened the door quickly and walked in. The rest of the group followed, bunched up behind her.

Six old men, all Native American, sat around a table looking at them. They were all in work shirts and jeans, two of them wearing old-style trooper hats with a feather in each. Their craggy features -- they could have been chiseled in granite -- and silver-white hair seemed to radiate dignity and wisdom.

And power. The door closed of its own accord behind them.

One of them, a tall, slender man in a red and blue plaid shirt spoke. "I see that the Hartman family has finally arrived." He gestured. "Welcome and do come in."

Johnny shook his head. "No, we're the Craynes and the Prestons... or, at least, we used to be."

"Who you _were_ is of no concern to us." The man looked at Paula. "What was your birth name?"

Paula pointed at herself in surprise. "Me?" The old man nodded. "My maiden name was Paula Louise... Hartman."

A second, shorter man in a brown shirt spoke. "We sort of tweaked reality. Right now, you're in a world where you were born a man, _Paul_ Hartman. That's your wife, Lisa, and your twin daughters, Jenny and Rachel." He pointed to each of the others in turn.

Johnny and Ray stepped forward. "That's crazy," Johnny said.

"Is it?" Brown Shirt and other five men each raised a hand, palm upward, and blew, as if blowing some sort of dust, towards the transformed group. "Now, what's your name, missy?" He asked.

Johnny -- was it Johnny? -- shook her head, as a wave of dizziness ran through her. "Jenny... Jenny Hart... man." She realized what she was saying and looked at the others. "I... I just called myself 'Jenny', didn't I?"

"You did, Jen," her fellow teen said.

"Gosh, Rachel," Jenny said, her eyes wide. "What am I gonna do?"

The old men, Plaid Shirt, laughed. "You ain't gonna curse, like you did to that poor lady outside," a third elder, this one in a hat with an eagle feather, said. "It ain't ladylike." He chuckled at his own joke. "You all still know who you were, but you'll only call yourselves -- and each other -- by your new names."

"For how long?" Paul asked, stepping forward.

The tall elder -- Paul thought of him as "Plaid Shirt" -- smiled. "Well, now. That all depends on you. We've got a little errand for you all to run. You do it for us, and we'll talk about changing you back."

"And if we don't?" Rachel asked.

"In that case," Eagle Feather said, "you and your sister get to start 10th grade in a couple weeks. A couple of cute girls like you, there'll be all sorts of boys after you."

"Hope you two know about birth control," Plaid Shirt added.

Jenny sighed deeply. "What do we have to do?"

"Not much," Brown Shirt said. "Mal was on his way to Santa Fe to pick up his grandson, when you almost killed him. You go get the boy -- his name's Tony Swiftwater, by the way -- and bring him back here."

"That's a day's drive each way," Rachel protested. Ray had been "navigator" for the trip. "I don't want to be a girl that long."

Brown Shirt slapped the table loudly with his palm. "You ran Mal off the road so you wouldn't have the inconvenience of following him for fifteen, maybe twenty, minutes. Two days as a girl don't seem like too much of a punishment." The other elders muttered words of agreement.

"We'll do it; we'll do it," Lisa said hurriedly. The old men were getting angry, and who knew what else they could do. "But we'll need more than his name to find him."

Eagle Feather tossed a thick envelop onto the table near Paul. "There's his address and phone number. There's a couple of maps in there, too, with a set of directions straight to his house." He paused a beat, then added, "and we'll tell him to be packed and watching for you tomorrow morning."

"More of your Injun magic, I suppose," Rachel said sarcastically.

The man ignored the ethnic slur and showed his teeth in a feral sort of grin. "Nope, e-mail."

* * * * *

"Paul," Jenny called from the back seat of the SUV, "could you... uhh, find a place to pull over?"

"What's the matter?" Lisa asked. "Do you have to... you know?"

"No," Jenny said, sounding embarrassed. "We... me and Rachel... want to --"

"You hungry?" Paul asked. He looked at the dashboard clock. "It is getting kind of late. I'll look for a restaurant."

"Okay," Rachel said. "I am getting kind of hungry, but what we... umm, what we want is a place to change clothes."

Lisa turned to look at the pair. "Change?" She tried not to smile. "What's wrong with what you're wearing?"

"It's too warm," Jenny whined.

"Yeah," Rachel added. "A sweatshirt and these heavy jeans are just _too much_."

Paul smiled now. "You didn't seem to think so this morning."

"That was this morning," Jenny complained. "Now they're just too uncomfortable, even with the van's air conditioning."

"Okay," Paul said. "I'll look for something." About ten minutes later, he saw a sign. "McDonald's ahead. We'll have some lunch, and you two can change after we eat. Is that okay?"

"Coo-ul," Jenny said happily.

* * * * *

"Paul Hartman, don't you dare!" Lisa warned.

Paul froze, his hand inches from the door to the ladies' room at the McDonalds where they had all had lunch. "I wasn't going to go in," he said. "I was just going to knock and tell them to hurry."

"Be patient. This isn't something that they're used to."

"I know. It's just... frustrating, being a man, the only man in the group, no less, all of a sudden. I feel... I don't know _how_ I feel."

"You need to relax for a bit." She waited a moment for him to react. When he didn't, she continued. "How about if I drive for a while?"

Somehow, the suggestion bothered him. "No, I'm fine. I'll drive."

"You're sure? You've been driving since we left the motel this morning."

"I said, 'I'll drive.' Don't worry about it."

"Umm... okay." She knocked on the door. "How are you two doing in there? Need any help?"

The bathroom door opened about three inches, and they saw part of Jenny's face. "I... we're done, I think. You guys promise... promise not to laugh?"

"We won't laugh," Lisa said. "Will we?" She looked at Paul.

He raised his hand, palm outward. "No laughing, I promise."

"You... you better not," Jenny said. She turned her head and looked behind her. "C'mon, Rachel."

"You first," a second voice hissed.

"Together," Jenny said firmly. The door opened wide and the pair of them walked out. Jenny had her hand tightly around Rachel's wrist. They walked out, then turned around slowly to show what they were wearing. "Well?" Jenny asked, trying hard not to look nervous.

"You both look... lovely," Lisa said, her voice full of surprise.

It was true. Jenny was wearing a pair of dark green capri pants that hugged her curves and a lighter green blouse cut short to show a bit of her narrow waist and just tight enough to draw attention to her perky breasts.

Rachel was actually wearing a dress, a pink mini that showed off her excellent legs and nubile figure. It was sleeveless and cut low enough to show a bit at her cleavage.

Both girls carried the clothes they had been wearing balled up under one arm. Their hair was combed and looked like they'd both worked with it a little.

"Very pretty," Paul said, feeling a bit of pride somehow. "But those clothes are a bit... umm, unexpected."

"Girly, you mean," Jenny said. "These were the only pants in my suitcase."

Rachel nodded. "All I had besides dresses and skirts were a couple of pairs of shorts that were practically denim bikini bottoms."

"They're called 'Daisy Dukes'," Lisa said, "after that old TV show. I think you both look very nice, but you need a bit of --"

Jenny shook her head. "Make-up? No... no way." She said it rather quickly.

"Yeah," Rachel added. "I... uhh, I don't think so... umm, either."

"Maybe later," Lisa said.

"Maybe," Rachel answered under her breath.

* * * * *

It was almost 6 when the group pulled into a Motel 6 next to a park along the Santa Fe River on the western side of town. As they checked in, they could hear rock music playing in the park through the screened windows. "What's going on over there," Paul asked.

"It's a party for teens," the desk clerk said. "The city council runs it to thank the kids who worked in various programs over the summer." She handed back Paul's credit card, one in his new name, Paul Hartman. He'd been surprised to it find in his wallet when they had stopped for gas that afternoon.

"Can anybody go?" Jenny asked.

"It's supposed to only be for the teens who worked for the city," the clerk said, "but that's mostly boys. I don't think that they'd keep out a couple of pretty girls like you and your sister."

"Umm, thank you, ma'am," Jenny said. She wasn't sure why she'd even asked.

"Do you want to go there?" Lisa asked, surprised at how eager Jenny had sounded.

"No... certainly not," Jenny said too quickly. "It's just that, well, after sitting in the van all day, I'd just kind of like to stretch my legs some." The idea of going to a teen party sounded like fun, too, but she didn't want to admit it to herself, let alone say it aloud.

"Me, too," Rachel added, smiling. She felt almost giddy at the thought of the party nearby.

"I guess a little wait before supper wouldn't hurt," Paul said, kneading the muscles in the small of his back. "I wouldn't mind stretching out in a bed for a bit, myself."

"The party's very well chaperoned, if the young ladies do decide to go," the clerk said, trying to be helpful, "and there's plenty of food, burgers, pizza, and such. My cousin works for the parks department. He's on the committee that runs it." As a final argument, she added, "It ends at ten o'clock; the kids still have to go to work in the morning."

"Do you two want to go?" Lisa asked them. "It sounds like fun."

"Well..." Jenny said, trying to sound like she needed to be convinced. "I guess it would be okay."

Rachel nodded. "Be something different to do." She was looking in the direction of the music, her body swaying gently to the beat.

"Come back in an hour if you decide that you don't like it, and we'll all go out to dinner together," Paul said. "And you'd _better_ be back here by 10:10." He pointed at his wristwatch.

"Thanks," the two girls said together. "We will." They grabbed the purses that they'd found in the van in mid-afternoon and walked quickly out the front door of the motel.

"Now that we've settled _that_," Paul said with a wry smile. "Let's get a cart for the bags and go find the rooms."

* * * * *

Paul kicked off his shoes and lay down on the queen-sized bed. "Aahh! Wake me in about a week,"

"Not likely," Lisa said, coming in from the adjoining room, where the girls' baggage had been left. "How about I let you rest there for an hour. Then you can take me out for dinner."

"How exotic do you want to go for dinner?"

"Exotic? What do you mean?"

"McDonalds again or Taco Bell, or we could split the difference and send out for some pizza."

"I don't care. You think the... the girls will be joining us?"

Paul shrugged. "Who knows. The clerk said there was dinner-type food. I guess it'll depend on how comfortable they are being 'the girls.' If they aren't back, and we do go out, we'll leave them a message at the front desk."

"Sounds good."

"So does a nap. What are you going to do while I take one?" He patted the bed next to him and leered -- sort of. "You could always join me."

Lisa cocked an eyebrow. More surprises. "No, thanks. I napped some in the van. I think I'll... umm, take a shower. We were kind of rushed this morning." She began to unbutton her blouse.

Paul lay in the bed, eyes half closed, watching Lisa undress. He liked it that her firm breasts didn't sag when she unhooked her bra and tossed it onto a chair. When she bent over to step out of her skirt, he smiled to himself at the sight of her rounded butt and the soft curve of her legs.

He wasn't sleepy anymore; he was _hard_, achingly hard, and he found that he enjoyed the sensation.

Lisa didn't seem to notice. She picked up her toiletry case and walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind her.

'Well, we _are_ supposed to be married,' he thought, as he climbed out of bed. He heard the shower start as he quickly undressed.

Lisa had just stepped into the shower, when she heard his voice by the door. "Can I wash your back?"

"Paul," Lisa said. "What are you doing?" She turned to look at him. He was standing next to the shower, naked, smiling, and _very_ ready." She found herself smiling back.

"Once -- _before_ -- you confided to me that you had this elaborate fantasy about being made love to in a shower. This isn't exactly the Left Bank in Paris, and candles would probably set off the smoke alarm, but..." He gently took her hand and placed it on his erection. "...I'm ready to do my part."

Lisa felt her face flush. Her nipples felt hard enough to cut glass. "Then get in here and let's see just how _ready_ you are."

* * * * *

Jenny and Rachel followed the sound of the music into the park. They walked along a well-lit pathway, coming eventually to the entrance to a fenced-in picnic area. A metal archway at the entrance to the area said, "Madison Picnic Grove" Hanging down from the archway, a second sign read, "Park Department Thank-You Bash." A thin, Hispanic man in a white shirt and tie and a darkly tanned boy in a RETURN OF THE KING t-shirt were sitting behind a table handing out name tags.

'Here goes nothing,' Jenny thought and she walked over to the table. Both she and Rachel had stopped to put on lip gloss after they left the motel.

"Hi," the man said. "Which program are you two with?"

Jenny bit her lip nervously. "We're... umm, not with any program. We're staying over at the Motel 6. The guy behind the desk said we should come and ask to get into the party."

"I'm sorry," the man said with a frown. "This really is just for our summer workers."

"And their dates, Joe," the boy said, interrupting. "And their dates."

"Yeah, but these girls aren't anybody's dates, Marco," the man replied.

The boy took a good look at Jenny and Rachel, his gaze roaming over their shapely bodies. "No, but hot as they are, they will be somebody's dates real quick." He handed them each a tag that said, "Guest."

"Thanks," Jenny said, pinning the tag to her t-shirt.

"Yeah," Rachel said, "Thanks." She looked down at the ground, feeling a bit shy.

The boy smiled and kept looking at Rachel. "You're very welcome. Just save me a dance for when I get off gate duty, okay."

"O-okay." Rachel looked up at the boy, smiling, then quickly turning away again.

* * * * *

The food area, a "U" of long tables surrounding a portable pizza oven and three large, smoking, barrel-shaped grills, wasn't far inside the grove. A balding man wearing a "Kiss Me I'm the Cook" apron over a white shirt and tie, was standing behind one table opening a bag of burger buns. "What'll you young ladies have?" he asked.

"Burger and fries," Jenny said. Rachel asked for the same, and the man shouted their order to a second man working at the nearest grill.

The man pointed down to a long tray, next to a couple of large coolers at the end of the table. "Drinks are down there, fixings, too. Help yourselves." Jenny and Rachel looked. An metal tray held two kinds of relish, shredded lettuce and slices of pickle, tomato, and onion in different compartments, along with a row of squeeze bottles holding mustard, ketchup, and horseradish sauce. A small heated pot at the end was full of melted cheese.

"Here you go," the man said. He handed them each a paper plate with a burger and a small cardboard container of fries. A paper napkin was wrapped around a plastic knife and fork.

"Thanks," Jenny said. She put lettuce, a tomato slice, and some horseradish sauce on her burger and sprinkled some salt on her fries. Rachel just put ketchup and salt on her burger, but she used a ladle to pour melted cheese on her fries. They fished a pepsi and a can of pink lemonade out of the iced cooler, and sat at a nearby table.

Rachel popped one of her fries into her mouth. "Eeeww, all that grease," she said, spitting it out. "What was I thinking of?"

"I thought you liked cheese fries," Jenny said.

"I did... before. I guess I don't now." She picked up another fry and began scraping off the melted cheese with her knife.

Jenny nodded, looking unhappy. "I know what you mean. This pepsi is way too sweet. I need a diet pepsi." She frowned. "I guess our tastes are changing."

"I hope that doesn't include your taste in guys," a voice said. They looked up to see the boy from the gate. "Remember me... Marco... Marco Delgato... from when you came in?" He spun a chair around and sat down, both his arms resting on the chair back. "I traded shifts with a buddy of mine, so I could get that dance."

Rachel saw that he was looking straight at her. "Ummm... I remember. I'm Rachel... Rachel Hartman. This is my sister, Jenny."

"Hi, Jenny," Marco said and turned back to look at Rachel. "About that dance..."

Jenny felt slighted by all the attention he was paying Rachel. "Do you mind if we finish our supper first?"

"Whoa." Marco held up his hands. "I was gonna ask if I could join you two for some supper first."

"Sure, you can," Rachel said happily, "If it's okay with Jenny, I mean."

Jenny shrugged. "Why not?" She started to stand up. "I have to go get another pepsi, but I'll be right back."

"What's the matter with that one?" He pointed at the soda on the table next to her.

"I... uhh, I grabbed a pepsi instead of a diet pepsi." Jenny felt foolish even as she said it.

Marco stood quickly. "I have to get some food anyway. Why don't I drink that one..." he pointed to Jenny's soda on the table, "...and bring you a diet pepsi back for you?"

"Okay, I guess that'd work, too," Jenny said, deciding to cut the boy some slack for trying to get on her good side.

The boy bowed slightly. "Very well, then, my lady. I shall return anon... a-ten, even." He turned and walked over to the food table.

Rachel giggled as he left.

"Rachel," Jenny said, "what's got into you?"

Rachel put her hand in front of her mouth. "I... I'm sorry, Jenny, but he's funny, and he's nice, and he's _soo_ cute."

"Oh, Lord, what's happened to you?" Jenny said, looking concerned.

"I... I don't know, Jen, but -- to tell the truth -- I-I kind of like it."

"Just keep it under control. Okay?"

Rachel nodded her head quickly up and down, a wide grin on her face. "I will."

"Better get started, then." Jenny glanced over at the food tables. "He's coming back over." She sighed. "At least, he remembered my diet pepsi."

* * * * *

"Leave to you, Marco, to find the two prettiest girls at the party."

Marco looked up. "Hey, Coop. Ladies, this is Coop, Jefferson Coopersmith to the rest of the world. Coop, this is Rachel... and Jenny... Hartman." Marco shifted closer to Rachel as he spoke.

"Hi." He nodded at Rachel and stuck out his hand towards Jenny. He was tall, over six foot, and slender, with café au lait skin and an unruly shock of blonde, almost white, hair. "Can I join you?" He was carrying a slice of pizza with a bite out of it and a can of root beer.

Jenny shook his hand. 'Nice eyes,' she thought to herself. Aloud, she said, "Su-sure, sit down." He did. Next to her, but she didn't move away.

"So where do you girls work?" Coop asked, taking a swig of his soda.

"They don't," Marco answered for them. "They're a couple of tourists crashing the party."

Coop let out a soft whistle. "Does Harris know?"

"Yeah," Marco said. "I was working the gate with him, when they showed up. He wasn't gonna let them in"

Coop shook his head. "The man had no heart."

"Yeah, but I talked him into it," Marco said, gently putting his hand on Rachel's. "A party can't have too many pretty girls."

Rachel felt her face warm. "Or cute guys." She saw a surprised look flit across Jenny's face when she said it.

"You're our guests then," Coop said, "and it's our duty to show you a good time while you're here."

"Don't put yourself out on our account," Jenny said. This mutual flirting was getting way out of hand.

"It's a dirty job," Marco said --"

Coop finished for him, "But somebody's got to do it. I just glad that we're the ones."

Jenny giggled in spite of herself.

"How 'bout we start with that dance, Rachel promised me?" Marco asked.

Rachel raised an eyebrow. "I never promised you a dance."

"Well," Marco said with a wry smile. "We can argue about whether you did or not... _or_ we can dance." He stood up and offered her his arm. "Which do you want to do?"

Rachel stood smiling. "I think I'd rather dance." She took his arm and let her lead her to the area in front of the bandstand.

"How about you, Jenny?" Coop asked. "Would you rather argue or dance?"

Jenny looked at closely. "Hmm, tough choice." She waited half a beat, just to make him suffer, "Dance."

* * * * *

"Hmm," Jenny said. "That was nice." She and Coop had just kissed. She felt warm all over, felt like she was floating on a soft, pink cloud, felt Coop's hand gently massaging her breast under the fabric of her bra.

Coop moved in close to kiss her again. "Shhh," he whispered. He put his other hand behind her head.

'No! Please, no!' In the back of her mind, Jenny could hear Johnny Crayne screaming. He'd never have let a boy kiss him like that. He'd have pounded the kid into the ground for even trying. And, as far as letting the kid play with his tits -- hell, Johnny Crayne didn't even _have_ tits.

Jenny Hartman did.

Johnny was a part of her, but he _wasn't_ all of her. She liked Coop, and she definitely liked what he was doing to her body. 'The hell with it,' she thought, sighing with pleasure.

Coop moved closer. His lips pressed against hers, his tongue taking control of her mouth. He felt her nipple grow tight in his fingers, and kept playing with it with his left hand. His other hand "spiderwalked" down from her breast to her navel, his fingers just barely brushing against her skin. He heard her moan and felt her muscles tremble under her skin. Now her entire body was trembling.

Jenny pressed her body against his. Her hands explored the muscles of his back. She ran her fingers through his hair. All the time, she never broke the kiss.

Coop's hand spiderwalked down to her hips. He found the zipper on her capri pants and slowly pulled it down. When she didn't object, his hand slipped inside. He shifted and began to run a finger across her sensitive labia through the thin fabric of her panty.

Jenny moaned, thrilling at the sensations running through her body. Then she realized what was happening, what he was doing to her. "No!" she said, breaking the kiss.

"What's the matter, babe?" Coop asked. He didn't move either hand. One began to pluck at her nipple, while the other slipped a finger under the elastic at the top of her panty.

"Get your hand out of there!" Jenny said, her voice shallow from excitement and fear. She shifted her hips, pulling away from his hand. "I-I don't like it."

"Sure you do," he said confidently. His hand was on her thigh now.

She pushed her hands against his chest with both hands. "I don't. Get away from me."

"What's the matter with you? We were just having some fun."

"Maybe _you_ were. I-I wasn't. I... I don't want to do anything like that." She quickly zipped up her pants and moved away from him.

Coop frowned. "I thought I was with a _woman_, not some little girl."

"You thought you were with some little sex toy, not a... a girl, and you were wrong." She stood up and stormed up. No way she was going to stay with him, especially when she was starting to cry. "I won't give him the satisfaction," she told herself.

* * * * *

"Rachel... Rachel."

Rachel broke her kiss with Marco. "Did you hear that?"

"Yeah," Marco said with regret. "I think it was your sister." He sighed and ran his fingers gently through her hair. "I guess... I guess we'd better see what she wants."

Rachel nodded, looking disappointed, and began to button the top of her dress. She looked around and saw a figure hurrying along a path about twenty feet away. "Jen... over here," she called waving her arm.

"Rachel?" The figure turned and started walking -- no, running towards Rachel and Marco. They stood up. Jenny ran past Marco into Rachel's arms, almost pushing him out of the way.

Jenny was sobbing. "It was... he... I-I want... I... want... to... go... _home_."

"What happened?" Rachel asked. "What did he do to you?"

"He... he put his hand down... down _there_," she said, brushing at the tears with her hand. "When I told him not to... he... he got real mad at me."

"That idiot," Marco said, angrily. "He got in trouble more than once already for trying to do stuff like that."

Rachel glared at Marco. "And you didn't say anything. You just let him take Jenny and walk away."

"He said that he wasn't going to do anything like that again. It... he would have gone to jail if he didn't promise." He stopped and swallowed hard. "He... he's my friend. I got to trust him."

"Maybe you do," Rachel said, "but isn't it a bit much to risk Jenny like that?"

"C'mon," Marco said. "I can't stop being his friend just because of what your sister says he..." He stopped, realizing his mistake. "...because he molested --"

"I heard you the first time, Marco," Rachel said. "You're a nice guy, but you've got a lot to learn." She reached out and took Jenny's hand. "It was a fun evening -- up to now, but I think we'll be heading back to our motel."

Marco sighed and looked to the ground. "I... can I walk you back to your motel, at least. It's dark, and, well, you don't know the way."

"Jenny," Rachel asked gently. "Is that okay with you?"

Jenny wiped a tear. "I guess so. I'm-I'm sorry, Rachel. I just... I want to go home, to go back to the way we were."

"The way..." Marco asked. Then he shook his head. "Never mind. It's none of my business." He pointed to the path Jenny had been walking. "It's that way back to the gate. Let's go."

Marco barely spoke as they walked back, only to give directions, but he tried three times to hold Rachel's hand. On the third try, she let him. She even let him kiss her kiss her gently on the cheek, when they said "good night" in the lobby.

* * * * *

Paul heard a knock on the connecting door between the two rooms. "Just a minute," he yelled. He threw back the covers and climbed out of bed.

"Better put something on," Lisa called from her side of the bed. "Don't want the girls to see you buck naked."

Paul reached for his robe. "I don't have anything 'the girls' didn't have themselves yesterday."

"That was yesterday," Lisa said. "Today, you're their dad, and they're your daughters."

He nodded. "And teenage girls shouldn't see their daddy's privates."

"Nope," Lisa smiled happily. "That's a pleasure reserved for their mommy."

"Count on it." He put his finger to his mouth. "Now, shhh, while I see what they want." He turned the latch that locked the door from his side and opened the door a few inches. "Hi, how was the party?"

"Not too bad," Rachel said. "We-we just wanted to... to let you know we were back." She sounded like she was hiding something.

Paul's fists clenched. "Are you sure you're okay?" If anybody hurt his girls...

"We're fine." Jenny's voice came from inside the room. "Just a little... tired."

"You sure?" Paul asked. Did Jenny sound upset, sound like she'd been... crying?

Rachel tried to smile. "We're just not ourselves today." She gave a weak laugh at her own joke. "Nothing a good night's sleep -- and a reverse transformation spell -- can't fix." She tried to smile. "We're... we're fine. Honest." She faked a yawn. "Goodnight, daddy."

Paul was so startled, he let her shut the door. He heard the latch click on her side a moment later. He shrugged and turned his latch. "Daddy," he said with a chuckle as he walked back to bed. He tossed off the robe.

"That's right," Lisa said, looking up at him. "You're the daddy, and I'm the mommy." She threw back the covers on her side. She was gloriously nude. Her hair was a golden halo around her head. Her nipples were visibly erect. "And now... we're gonna play... house."

Paul felt himself stiffen.

He -- no, _she_ and Lisa had been girlfriends since junior high, sharing every female experience as they grew up. Now... He didn't feel girlish now. He was a _man_, and he was about to make love -- again -- to a beautiful woman -- no, better than that -- to his beautiful and very sexy _wife_.

* * * * *

"Daddy --" Rachel suddenly had a horrified look on her face, as she locked the door. "I called him... you know what, didn't I?"

Jenny nodded. "You did. This is beginning to scare me, Rachel... even more than... than what happened with Coop." Rachel just nodded and looked scared.

"Look," Jenny continued. "let's just... just go with the flow for now. Remember, we pick up the Swiftwater kid tomorrow. We'll be back at... ummm..."

"Peach Springs."

"Peach Springs, we'll be there by nightfall tomorrow night." She smiled for the first time since... since Coop. "And we'll be ourselves, our real selves, by the next morning."

* * * * *

"Doesn't look like the sort of a neighborhood where a wizard lives," Lisa said. The van had just turned onto Clinton Street, and they were driving slowly, looking for a street number, the house where Malcolm Swiftwater's grandson lived. The houses were small, mostly ranch-style and at least a generation old. Almost every house needed some repair work or a fresh coat of pain or both. The lots they stood in were also small, covered with yellowing grass and the occasional cactus. Children and dogs ran across the yards, the children shouting, as children will, but not always in English.

Rachel looked out her window from the rear bench. "It's no worse than Privat Drive, I guess."

"Privat Drive?" Paul asked from the driver's seat. "Where's that?"

Now Jenny spoke. "Harry Potter. In the stories, he lives there with his aunt and uncle when he's not at Hogwarts."

"Harry Potter?" Paul raised an eyebrow. "How do you know about him?"

"Last spring," Rachel said without thinking. "We went to..." She stopped. "I-I remember going to the movie, going as me -- as Rachel -- with Jenny. I know Ray... Ray n-never saw any of th-those movies." Her voice faltered.

Lisa turned around in the captain's chair she was sitting in and took hold of Rachel's hand. "It's okay, honey. It's okay."

"No... no it isn't," Jenny said softly. "The magic... it's getting stronger. I-I remember going, too. I think... I think some... some boys t-took us."

Paul turned the van in to the curb and stopped. "On a date, you mean?" He turned to look at the girls. They both nodded. Jenny was nervously biting her upper lip. "Look," he said, "maybe the magic _is_ getting stronger, but maybe... just maybe it's getting weaker. After all, we're noticing what it's doing."

"Do you think so, Daddy?" Rachel asked.

Paul shrugged. "I really don't know, honey, but I _do_ know that we'll be picking up that Swiftwater boy pretty soon. We're at 1117 Clinton Street; 1341 can't be more that a couple of blocks away. Then it's straight back to that hospital in Arizona, and we make them change us back to who we really are."

"Can't be soon enough for me," Jenny said, and Rachel quickly agreed.

Paul gave them a big smile. "Okay, until then, don't worry about it -- not too much, anyway. You two are strong, just like Johnny and Ray were -- _are_. You'll be fine."

Jenny sighed. "I hope so, 'cause being like this really sucks."

"Jenny Hartman," Lisa scolded, "how many time have I..." She put her hand to her mouth as she realized what she was saying.

Jenny shook her head. "Never, but you thought you had. You see what I mean?"

"I guess I do," Lisa said.

* * * * *

"He is just... sooo good looking," Rachel squealed.

Jenny grinned and squealed back. "He is; he is! And I think he likes me. Did you see the way he kept looking at my legs?" The two girls were alone in the ladies' bathroom of the dinner where Paul had stopped for lunch.

"With those 'Daisy Dukes' you're wearing, he can't help but look." Rachel opened her purse and started to put on a fresh coat of lip gloss.

Jenny fluffed at her hair. "Oh, yeah, like that mini of yours is much longer." She paused. "I swear... that Tony Swiftwater has got such deep, dark eyes. I could get lost in those eyes."

"And those muscles. He's like something from one of those romance novels, the handsome, noble Indian brave that rescues the young maiden..."

"And they fall in love." Jenny sighed.

"You know what we're acting like, don't you?"

"Uh huh, like two lovestruck teenyboppers, but you know what? I don't care."

"You don't?"

"I don't. Mom and Daddy say we're gonna be back to that hospital, back to ourselves, by nightfall. Right?"

"Right, but..."

"But nothing. It..." She giggled. "It feels good to be like this. My insides feel like they're full of ginger ale. I like it, and I'm going to enjoy it till it's over."

"Do you want it to be over?"

"What? Of course, I do. I really do. I mean, this is fun and all, but I'm supposed to be Ray Preston."

"Supposed to be? Who do you _want_ to be?"

"You sure know how to spoil a mood. Okay, I... deep down, yes, I _want_ to be Ray Preston. Are you satisfied now?"

"Yeah, and I guess -- deep down -- I want to be Johnny Crayne... eventually."

"Eventually?"

"Yeah, I want to be Johnny, but later, when we get back to Arizona. In the meantime, there's this hunk out there, and I want to spend some time with him as Jenny."

Rachel giggled. "Me, too."

"So what are we doing in here?"

* * * * *

This time, the volunteer at the hospital's information desk was a balding man with glasses. "Swiftwater?" He looked at the computer screen. "I'm sorry, but there's no information except that he's here... someplace. It does say something about the conference room, though. That's room --"

"We know the room," Lisa said quickly. "Thanks." The group hurried quickly towards the room.

The door opened just as they reached it. "Enter freely and of your own will," Paul said wryly.

"Dracula is not the sort of quote we need, Daddy," Jenny said. Johnny and Paula Crayne had both been fans of old horror movies.

They stepped inside, and the door closed behind them. "Sorry, honey," Paul said, "but it _does_ fit."

The same six men were sitting around the table. There was no sign that they'd moved at all since the day before. "Welcome to you, Anthony Swiftwater," the man in the brown shirt said. Then he added some words in what had to be some Native American language.

Tony bowed his head for a moment and answered in the same language.

"I have sad news, Anthony," Brown Shirt continued. "Your grandfather has passed on to the next plane of being."

"He... he died," Jenny said in a panicky voice, sinking down in a chair. "Then I... I killed him."

The man with the eagle feather shook his head. "Mal was very old. His heart was not... very strong. It... stopped just after sunrise this morning, and, for all their wisdom, the doctors could not start it again."

"Couldn't you... with your magic," Lisa asked. "Couldn't you do something?"

The old man in the plaid shirt looked down at the tabletop. "Malcolm's heart was too weak. The magic to save him would have killed him."

"And once a spirit has moved on," Eagle Feather said sadly, "No magic can bring it back."

Jenny looked up at Tony. "I'm sorry, Tony. I'm so, so sorry."

"We all expected it," Tony said. "That was why he was coming to get me, so he could finish training me to take over for him."

Paul stepped over and put a hand on Tony's shoulder. "We're all very sorry for your loss, Tony. We'd never have wanted it to happen. I hope you know that." Lisa and Rachel mumbled words of agreement.

"And do you all accept some blame for Mal's death?" Plaid Shirt asked. "His heart, his body, was weak. The accident you caused was more than it could bear."

Jenny was sobbing, rocking back and forth in her chair. "No, no, please. I-I didn't mean to hurt him."

"We know, honey; we know." Lisa bent over and put her arms around the girl.

Eagle Feather nodded. "Very good. You accept the blame and feel the guilt, even before we give it to you."

"I... I do," Jenny said, trying to get control of herself.

Now Tony stepped forward. "Elders, I have not known these people very long, but they... they seem like good people."

"Thank you for not being mad," Rachel said, her own eyes moist. "I-I guess we messed up real good."

"More than you can know," Eagle Feather said. "And now the question is, what do we do about it?"

Paul stepped in between Jenny and the elder. "That's what I want to know. You said you'd change us back if we brought Tony here. We did that, but, considering what happened, I don't suppose that's very likely."

"Do you think that we are as much without honor as yourselves?" Plaid Shirt said angrily.

Eagle Feather touched the other man's shoulder. "But they do deserve _some_ punishment for the part they played in Malcolm's death."

"Let them stay as they are," another elder, this one a shorter man wearing a green hairband.

Plaid Shirt shook his head and said something in the Native American language. The others argued back and forth in that language for several minutes. Even Tony Swiftwater took part in whatever they were discussing. Finally Plaid Shirt said, "It is decided." He gave the group an odd smile. "We will give you your real lives."

"Do you mean it?" Paul said in surprise.

The elder nodded. "Your real lives, just as I said."

"Thank you," Jenny said, standing up. "Thank you _so_ much. I am just _so_ tired of this teenage stuff I've been doing."

Plaid Shirt nodded. "That will not be a problem much longer." He waited a moment. "Now, go."

"We're going," Lisa said, pushing Jenny and Rachel towards the door. "Thank you, and, Tony, we really are sorry for your loss."

The door opened, and the group hurried out, Paul last. "We are, Tony, and... good luck with your training." He hurried to catch up with the others, as the door closed behind him.

* * * * *

The buzzing of the travel alarm woke Lisa up. 'Morning,' she thought, giving a sigh of relief. 'We're back to normal.' She felt movement in the bed and turned to see... "Paul? I... I don't understand."

"Maybe this will help." He took her in his arms and kissed her. It was one of those toe-curling kisses of his that she loved. That she loved?

She pulled away. "What... it was like... like I'd always been your wife."

"I know. The last two days -- when we... -- it was because the spell was making us do it. We knew it, but it felt too good to worry about it."

Lisa's eyes grew wide. "We were Paula and Lisa under a spell. Now... now, this is what we really are."

"Our _real_ lives, just like they said. Paula and that... other Lisa, they're the ones that don't seem real any more."

Lisa thought about it for a moment. "No; no, they're not." She leaned over and kissed Paul again. "We... _this_ Lisa and Paul, they're the real ones."

"And we'll do something about that." Paul gently ran a finger along her cheek. "But I think we'd better check on the girls first."

"They must be having a fit, especially Jennie." They hurried out of bed and over to the connecting door between their rooms.

Lisa knocked. "Rachel, Jenny, are you awake."

The door opened. "Yeah," Rachel said, "but I... I almost wish I wasn't."

"Almost?" Lisa asked.

Rachel nodded. "Uh huh. I know I should be mad about still being like this, but... this morning, I don't feel like Ray any more. He's... he's somebody else, like in a story or something."

"Remember what they told us," Paul said. "That they were going to give us our real lives." Rachel nodded. "They did. They made _these_ lives the real ones. Who we were before... those are the one that are unreal now."

Lisa looked around. "Where's Jenny. She was so unhappy about being a teenaged girl, and now..."

"Now that's not a problem," Rachel said, smiling wryly.

Just then, Jenny came out of the bathroom. "Good morning, Mommy... Daddy," she said, smiling and clutching her overstuffed toy pony as if she'd always been the pig-tailed nine-year old she had become during the night.

The End

Notes:

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