I felt a dull pain all over my body.
I couldn’t figure out the voice, it was slow and gravelly.
I tried to speak but couldn’t open my mouth—it was like it was being held shut. I felt a hand brush against my arm and I tensed my body.
I opened my eyes to try and see my attacker, but my vision was blurry and the lights were too bright—like the lights at a baseball park.
I thrashed around, trying to grab at my assailant, but I couldn’t move my arms. I hoped to God I was still
dreaming—that everything was a hallucination and I hadn’t left in the middle of the night and been nearly beaten to death.
I closed my eyes and I could still see Travis laughing.
“Jennifer, it’s Grans. Wake up, dear.”
“Grans,” I tried to call out to her and I heard my voice in my head, but nothing came out of my mouth.
“Look at me, dear, right here.”
My vision came back and I could see I was in a hospital room.
Grans had her hands on my arm, which was covered in tape and IV lines. I felt something over my face, and something in my throat.
The doctors explained my injuries; I had been in a medically induced coma due to swelling in my head and I had sustained a crack to a bone in my right arm, a broken nose, a fractured jaw, shattered leg bones, and a rupturing and detachment of my former genitalia.
I felt devastated that Mike had left me to die.
They removed the breathing tube after a few days but then had to wire my mouth shut. I had to talk to Mom, Grans, medical staff, and a police detective through a notepad on a clipboard, which was time-consuming as I had to write with my left hand.
“Can you tell me what happened?” The detective was an older man who patiently waited as I wrote out my answer.
I don’t know.
“Do you remember where you went that night?”
I wrote out, No.
“Were you with anyone?”
I scrawled out, I don’t know, before letting go of the pen and closing my eyes in frustration.
The detective said he would check back with me later and left with Mom.
Grans stayed with me.
“Do you know what happened to you, Jen?” she whispered.
“Was it Mike?”
I shook my head but then nodded as I started to cry.
“You’ll be okay, dear. We’re going to do all of that work we talked about, remember?”
Grans had taken charge of me as Mom had to go back to Spokane for court proceedings. The doctors informed us they were unable to repair the damage without advanced cosmetic surgery.
“By the way, this is not her name,” Grans said when the nurse came in the next time.
The chart said "James Kane".
I was in the hospital for three more weeks before I could go home. Mom and Grans argued about telling the rest of
the family about what had happened. Mom made up a story that I was at a school in London. Grans wanted to pursue a case with the police, but Mom refused for some reason— and she wouldn’t sign the paperwork I needed to amend my birth certificate and change my name unless Grans dropped it.
I had never heard Grans swear so much in one sentence my entire life until that day.
Over the next two years, I was homeschooled and I worked with tutors and video recorded classes as my injuries healed. We also took several trips to various doctors for scores of procedures. Everything required multiple signed forms and attached medical notes. On top of that, I had a regiment of six different forms of medication I had to take on a daily basis.
My parents’ divorce occurred during my reconstruction.
Not a word was ever said to my Dad as far as I knew. I figured he must have known I was injured due to the initial medical bills, but he never called, wrote or stopped by—not that I expected him to. My mother was no longer Rachel Kane but had returned to Rachel Monroe. And I, after waiting for an eternity, finally received a letter from Olympia, Washington containing my new identification paperwork. James Fitzgerald Kane was officially dead and Jennifer Aylesea Monroe was legally alive.
I stood before a mirror once again and looked back at the real me. I finally saw myself.
On October 12, 1999, I made my way back to Spokane on my own.
I packed my sewing machine, two suitcases, and a backpack full of notebooks into my car. Mom stated that she would be leaving the next day to check on me.
“You don’t have to, Mom,” I said as I threw my backpack into the passenger side seat.
“I do. We should tell your aunt before you—” Mom brushed her thinning hair back with her hand as she spoke. “This isn’t a good idea, you should—”
“No. It’s fine. I’ll- They’ll- We’ll all be fine,” I replied as Grans walked out of the house.
“You’re still not going to tell her that—”
“I’ll tell her this is me, Mom. They’ll understand,” I said as I closed the door.
“Don’t put up with any crap when you get back to your school, Jennifer.” Grans stepped in and hugged me.
“I won’t,” I replied.
“Thank you for spending the time with me,” she said and then gave me a light kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you for everything, Grans,” I replied as I stepped around the front of my car.
“You’re welcome, dear. You deserve to be happy, so go and be happy.”
“Okay, so, here I go. Brave new world.”
And with that, I got in and started my journey home.
The trip took up most of the morning. I didn’t play the radio and spent most of the time thinking about how I would re-introduce myself to Krystal and my aunt and uncle. I had gone over a lot of different approaches—from long-winded speeches to the short and simple "hiya". Sure,
I wrote letters to Krystal but I had lied in them—James was studying abroad, upholding Mom’s ruse. Krys would respond with a paragraph or two, like how she missed me but that it was awesome I finally got away from it all.
Besides a few moments of disbelief, Krystal would shrug it off and everything would be fine. Aunt Lydia would mull it over a bit and then it would be cool. My uncle…well, the jury was still out on him.
Four hours later, I arrived in the Lilac City and even though I should have gone straight to my cousin’s house, I stopped at the high school instead to check-in.
I walked up to the front door and stopped. I kind of wanted to turn around and leave, but that wasn’t an option. Where else would I go? Mom had already fought tooth and nail with the school administrators to allow me to go to school at Ferris.
“New student?” The lady behind the counter showed no emotion as she barely raised her head over the top to look at me.
“May I see your ID?”
I opened my backpack, got out my wallet, and handed my card to her. She seemed to be so arthritic that her wrist was likely to snap if she moved it too much in any direction.
“Jennifer Monroe...let me see... I’ll be right back.”
I looked around the office—trophies, knick-knacks and papers all over the wall. I shuddered a bit as I saw a couch in the corner; it was like I was once again in Dr. London’s office. This time she was a hunched over woman with a severe case of seniority.
The bell rang class change. I looked out the office window as the waves of students moved past me like fish in an aquarium—I was a few hours short of joining the school.
The office worker trudged back to her desk, hefted herself back into the chair, and moved her hand, ever so slowly, to hand my ID and paperwork to me. I almost felt bad for her having to make the effort.
“Jennifer?” She asked in a low growl.
“You’ll need to go and see the counselor, Mrs. Cole.
She’s in room 204. Down the hall and go to your left.” She slowly lifted her right hand and pointed down the hall.
“Thank you,” I replied as she, eventually, moved her left arm to a position I could politely take my file folder and ID.
I placed both into my backpack, walked out of the office, and right into the flow of bodies. Fortunately, we were moving downstream, toward room 204.
I avoided eye contact as I weaved through the crowd, but I could sense everyone looking at me with an "I think I know her, no, I don’t…but I have to get to class and can’t find out right now...did I remember my homework?" However, someone caught my attention. I looked into a classroom and saw Krystal reading a book.
She was wearing the uniform design I had sent to her the previous Christmas—a white blouse and a blue plaid dress with red accents on the tie. Her hair was longer, blonder, and she looked beautiful.
I stood against the door, allowing people to move past me and into the room. One student looked at me and then at Krystal, noticing we were wearing almost matching outfits; the only difference was mine had a shorter skirt with a green tartan.
She looked toward me, then looked at her book, and then back to me again with a shocked expression. I moved away from the door and into the hall as the bell rang. She was going to be pissed for the next few hours trying to figure out who I was.
I knocked on the door frame of Mrs. Cole’s office. She was at her desk, typing on a computer.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, ma’am, my name is Jennifer Monroe. The office told me to come see you.”
“Yes, they said you would be coming down. Let me up pull your information.”
She turned to the monitor and clicked on the keyboard. I walked into the office and stood in front of the desk.
There was an oversized chair, the same one I sat in when I was called in to talk about all of the days I was used as a
“Here we go. Your class list, locker combination, and a student handbook.”
“Welcome to Ferris High School, Jennifer.”
“Thank you very much,” I replied as I took the paperwork from Mrs. Cole and left her office.
Once again, I went to Krys’ classroom and looked in. She looked back at me in bewilderment but turned her attention back to the teacher.
“Miss Laberdee, could I have your attention, please?”
I took the hint from the teacher’s voice inside the classroom that it was best to take my leave. I left the school and drove off to the old neighborhood.
The street looked the same.
Of course, it was only a couple years and I should not have expected urban renewal of the whole block. I stopped my car in front of Krystal’s and walked down the street to what was once my old haunt.
The house had new paint on the trim, and hedges lined the driveway. It looked very lovely; someone paid a lot to fix the landscaping. For a moment, I thought about going to the front door and ask to see how it looked on the inside but I passed on that. However, I was able to take a quick look through the large bay window in the living room— the drapes were never open when I lived there. The new
owners had painted the living room with a faux wood grain. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t like the way it used to look either. I stood in the driveway for a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity as every small detail of life in that place flooded back.
I could remember it all: the yelling, the slamming doors, the distance between the poor devils who lived there.
Maybe it was the home itself? Was it possible to have an Amityville Horror experience in the Pacific Northwest? Could my family be cursed by the barren and empty-feeling walls that carried a creepy vibe? No, the Kane’s were just stark mad. The dwelling was an innocent bystander and like me, it suffered collateral damage. Maybe it should have been burned to the ground, and if Mom was more of a dirty fighter, she would have done so.
I brought my thoughts back to the present and walked to the park. I stood next to the swing set and stared at them. I had once spent many hours rocking back and forth on one particular swing, pondering my pathetic position on this planet as Krys would try to cheer me up. I would swing high, contemplating whether or not to let go of the chains and fall to the ground, but she’d always win and bring me back down.
“Hello,” a familiar voice said.
I turned around to see Krys standing in front of me with two roses in her hand.
“I saw you at school earlier,” she said as she took a few steps around me.
“Oh, yeah. They’re for my cousin, he liked flowers.”
“That’s sweet,” I said as I avoided making eye contact with her.
“How’s Grans?” Krys asked with a grin.
“She’s doing pretty good. How are you Krys?”
Krys laid the flowers on the ground and hugged me. “Oh my God. Is it really you?”
“It’s me,” I answered as she released her death grip on me.
“I mean…wow, umm… But I got a birthday card from you last month with a picture and—”
“I put my hair up for that.”
“And you dyed it too?”
“Accents at first, kind of experimenting with the shades,” I replied as she ran her hands through it.
“Contacts?” She walked around me in a circle as the Q&A continued:
“Brown tinted lenses.”
“Your voice?” Krys continued to circle around.
“Lots of training, surgery, and drugs.”
I felt like I was a mannequin on display, “Thank you. I’m going through Hell to keep it.” I answered as Krys picked the blooms up from the ground and gave them to me.
“When did you do all of this?”
“I started right after the move to Montana. I followed your plan, you know, get rid the of old clothes, get some earrings.” The roses smelled delightful.
“And you couldn’t tell me in all of those letters I sent?”
“And say what? Congratulations, it’s a girl?”
“Umm, are you?”
“Am I what?” I asked as we walked away from the swings.
“Do you still have your—”
“Best to save that conversation for later.” I followed Krystal to her house.
The interior had been re-surfaced with bright colors and a lot of artwork. It looked different, but it still had that welcome home feeling to it.
“It’s been awhile. I’ve missed this place,” I said with my arms wide open like I wanted to hug everything there.
“You’ve been living in the upper room all that time?” Krys asked as we walked into the living room.
“Room and workshop. Oh and wait until you see this incredible dress I’m working on, it’s—”
“Just listen to you,” she said with a laugh.
“The sparkling eyes, the happy demeanor. What did you do with James?”
I was about to answer when Aunt Lydia stepped into the living room.
“Krystal, has James arrived?” she asked as she looked at our matching uniforms.
“Not yet, Mom.”
“Rachel said he left for Spokane this morning. I should call her.”
“He’s fine, Mom…maybe he’s sight-seeing around the city.”
She walked over and stood between us.
“I just love these outfits. They are so cute.” Now Krys was on display with me.
“Uh, Mom, this is Jennifer, she’s a new student at Ferris.”
“Mom, Jennifer’s staying the night with us. We have a project to work on for World History.”
“Has she involved you in everything on your first day?”
“It seems so,” I answered as Krys continued to pull on my arm.
“Mom, don’t call anyone.”
“I’m waiting for a call from Lindsey about the game.”
“I need to call Rachel and ask about James.”
“Can you wait a few minutes though? Once you start talking to her you don’t stop.”
Aunt Lydia put her hands up, open palm in front us, as if to say "okay, stop talking. I get it!" and nodded in
slight aggravation. Apparently, Krys had used this kind of argument before. We ran upstairs to her room.
“I better call Mom…before she calls here or—”
“See? I kept your secret.”
“Yeah, but I need to let your Mom know,” I replied as I picked up the phone.
I called Grans’ house and told her I had arrived safely and had checked in at the school. She was calm with her responses and wished me a happy first day of school. Mom, on the other hand, was erratic and talked a mile a minute.
She asked how Krystal took it, how Aunt Lydia would take it, how the blind man on Sprague Avenue who never met me before, ever—how he took it. She made it seem like there was a death in the family.
“You need to tell her, right now!” Mom exclaimed.
“I will. Please don’t treat my life like a movie and talk about it behind my back. I’ll tell her. If you say it over the phone it will be kind of awkward,” I replied.
“Mom, seriously,” I paced from Krys’ dresser to the door. I really wanted to end the call.
“I’m coming up there tomorrow.”
“Why?” I asked, with slight disdain in my voice.
“I think Lydia will need to talk to someone—”
“You mean you have to. Are we still having this conversation?”
Krystal looked at me as I twirled my hair and rolled my eyes. Mom was up on a soapbox about how Lydia— really, about herself—was going to deal with the shocking revelation and how it would cause the seas to rise and the mountains to crumble.
“Goodnight Mom…thank you for caring,” I said with the utmost sugary sounding tone I could muster before I hung up the phone.
“I’m away for less than a day.”
“So, do you want to talk about it?” Krys asked.
“Mom? No, not really,” I replied as I pulled my hair back.
Krys continued to look at me from across the room.
“I want to think I can get used to this… You don’t look or sound exactly the same but I can still see you in there.”
“Thank you,” I answered, “I think.”
“So you just went to the doctors and just snipped it off?” Krys asked as she picked up an old picture of James from her nightstand
“A little more intense than just that.” I wanted to ignore the picture.
“And the boobs too?”
“Well, they took a little longer.” I replied.
“Had to grow a pair,” I answered.
“Seriously? No implants?”
Krys walked over to me and sat on the side of the bed. “I’m glad you’re back, however you want to be.”
“Thank you,” I replied and gave a short curtsy.
“So, Jennifer, what?” Krys inquired.
“And you have that on your license?”
I nodded in reply.
“We are going to make sure you have best first day of school you’ve ever had.”
“Have you been working out?” Krys reached over and touched my arm.
“Well, I do run every morning.”
“Rise at five-thirty. I run three miles every day.”
“You do what?” She gasped. “For fun?”
“No, didn’t I say I was going through Hell to keep the figure?”
“Can I take a pass on the getting up at o’dark thirty?”
“Krystal!” Aunt Lydia called from downstairs.
“Be right back.” Krys ran out of the room.
“What about your friend?” I heard Aunt Lydia say.
I ran out to the hallway to see Krystal and Aunt Lydia waiting for me at the foot of the stairs.
“Do you like cucumber sandwiches?” Aunt Lydia asked.
The three of us sat at the dining room table, a place I had fond memories of.
“Mom’s been trying to eat healthy,” Krys stated as she invited me to take a sandwich and then took one for herself before handing the tray off to Aunt Lydia.
“That will do.” Aunt Lydia placed one on her plate and placed the empty platter on the far side of the table. “I’m thinking about calling the police.”
“Maybe he went to see his dad?” Krys replied as I took a sip of water.
“Not a time for jokes, Krystal.” She got up from the table and went to the phone mounted on the wall.
I thought it was funny, but I suppressed showing any emotion about the issue.
“It’s not a joke, Mom. I mean, maybe they finally had an understanding...and—”
“Rachel should have called me.”
“—had that heart to heart talk and solved that issue that tore at the very fabric of their—”
“Krystal!” Aunt Lydia was not amused and I fought back a horrendous coughing fit, which would have been a laughing fit if I had not inhaled a cucumber slice.
I ran from the table with Krys following me to the bathroom. We could not stop laughing, even though my lungs were screaming in pain, the fact that I could talk to my dad in a “man to man” kind of fashion was just bonkers.
“It’s not funny, girls!” Aunt Lydia had the phone in her hand as we walked back into the kitchen.
“Sorry mom. Just don’t call Rachel yet.”
“Krystal, do you know anything about where James is?”
“Well,” Krys started as she looked at me, “you see what we’re wearing, right?”
“Yes, you said James made it, so— Are you his girlfriend?” Aunt Lydia asked me.
I had to stifle a small laugh at that. “Hello, Aunt Lydia.”
“Excuse me?” She asked as the phone emitted a fast busy signal.
“It’s me. I go by Jennifer, or Jen, now.”
Aunt Lydia hung the phone up and leaned against the counter. “I thought Mom was exaggerating.”
“She told you?” I asked,
“She said you grew up into a pretty young woman.”
“Um, thank you?” I replied.
Aunt Lydia walked us back into the dining room and sat down.
“This does explain Rachel’s wild rantings. She said you had a boyfriend.”
“Well, yeah, I—,” I began as I sat down across table from Aunt Lydia and Krys, who took the seat next to her.
“Was he hot?” Krys interrupted.
“It didn’t work out,” I replied.
“Were you like- like this at the time you were with him?” Aunt Lydia asked.
“No, I still had a penis and that caused, well, it kind of led to—”
“Did he hurt you?”
Krys slammed her hands on the table. “Let’s go to Missoula this weekend and kick his ass.”
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