When Cliff had said that he owned a cabin, I’d imagined something small, that was off the grid, and in the middle of nowhere, not a place like this. This was large, modern, and very comfortable looking, not to mention, it was only a short drive from the nearest large town. And then, add to the fact that it overlooked what was either a small lake or large pond, and had just enough trees around the property to give some privacy, and I was impressed.
It had taken almost twenty-four hours to drive from Aunt Dora’s place to Cliff’s cabin, and I was more than happy to climb out of the car and stretch my legs. I looked around at my surroundings, and thought that at any other time, this would have been a great place to spend my spring break…assuming there was internet and a wireless modem hooked up.
“Why couldn’t we go home instead?” I grumbled, more because I was in a bad mood and just wanted to be difficult, than for any other reason. The truth was, I already knew the reason. I just didn’t want to accept it.
“Because,” Mom explained in a tone that was just a little impatient. “We left our car behind, among other things…” Like Dad’s body, I silently added. “If Kraesse wants to find us, to find out what we know about the box, then our home is the first place he’ll look.”
“This is much safer,” Cliff said. “Those bastards won’t have any way to know about this place.”
“But what if they aren’t looking for us?” I asked.
Cliff and Mom both glanced at the trunk, where the box was stored. They didn’t need to remind me that the box was too valuable for the bad guys to simply forget about, just because it seemed to have vanished.
Mom stared at me with a strange expression, then simply asked, “Do you really think that, if we went home, that everything would go back to the way it was?”
“No,” I quietly admitted, staring down at myself and the two noticeable bumps that pushed out of my chest.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this,” Mom told me with a grim look, “but your old life is over. You’re still alive, and you can still have a good life. Just not your old one.”
I gulped at that and nodded faintly. “I…know.”
After this, we went inside the cabin, and Cliff pointed out, “There are a couple guest bedrooms down that way. Go ahead and take them.”
Before Mom and I could check out the bedrooms, Cliff began leading us through the cabin, giving us the ‘nickel tour’ as he put it. The bottom floor was nice, but when we went upstairs, I was even more impressed. The master bedroom was there, as was a nice common room, which had a great view of that pond or lake. There was even an open area, so that you could look down into the downstairs living room as well.
While I was walking through the house, I could feel the tether that tied me to the box, growing and stretching out until it seemed to reach its limits. Then, the glowing chord pulled back, and suddenly, the box appeared on the ground beside me. I was so surprised that I nearly jumped.
However, neither Mom or Cliff seemed very surprised by the box’s sudden appearance. “You’re Pandora now,” Mom told me with a pained expression. “You can’t go far from the box.”
I stared at the box in horror. “You mean I have to carry this thing EVERYWHERE?”
“You don’t need to actually carry it,” Mom explained. “Dora rarely did. But it does have a way of following you and staying close…”
“She could also make it disappear,” Cliff added.
Mom nodded at that. “She had a way of making it…vanish, so that she was the only one who could see it.”
“How…?” I started to ask, but my eyes went to the glowing cable that stretched between my navel and the box. So far, that cable seemed to be invisible to everyone but me. It was there, but not there at the same time. And then, I suddenly understood what Mom was saying, and how Aunt Dora made the box vanish. “That’s it…”
I bent down and touched the box, watching as the carvings moved and changed. Then, I simply willed the box to disappear, and it did. The box was still there in front of me, but something about it had changed, and the look of surprise from Mom confirmed it.
“Can you see it?” I asked.
“No,” Mom answered, reaching down to where the box was, but her hand went right through it, as though it wasn’t even there. “It’s gone.” The box was now just like that glowing chord between us, invisible and intangible, at least, to anyone but me. And just like with that glowing thread, when I stopped paying attention to it, it vanished from my sight as well.
When we continued with the tour a minute later, the box didn’t simply remain behind like I’d expected. Instead, it actually floated up into the air and followed behind me, almost as if it was some kind of invisible balloon on a string. It was a bit creepy, and also served to reinforce the fact that I was going to be stuck with this box for the rest of my life.
The moment that Cliff finished with the tour, I excused myself and went to the bathroom. The floating box tried to follow me in, which was still just creepy. Fortunately, when I mentally ordered it to stay outside the bathroom, it did so. At least the box would let me have a little privacy, though with this magic thread connecting us, I wasn’t sure how much privacy I really had.
“Now, let’s see what I’ve got to deal with,” I said, pulling down my pants which no longer fit at all. None of my clothes did.
As I both feared and expected, my junk was now completely gone, and what was there in its place, definitely belonged on a girl. I might still have been a virgin, but I had seen girls naked before. Well, I’d seen one girl naked, when Lisa Braun and I played doctor a bit, and I’d seen a few dirty magazines.
“I have a…,” I started, only to pause, unable to actually say the word. That would just make it too real.
Then, I tore off my shirt for a better look the fleshy mounds that now grew out of my chest. Breasts. Boobs. Tits. Fun bags. I’d heard numerous names for the things, but had never imagined that I’d have a pair of my own. I had absolutely no idea about cup sizes, other than that A’s were small and DD’s were big. Mine definitely seemed big to me though, about the size of softballs.
After I finished looking over my now unfamiliar body, I finally looked into the bathroom mirror. Though I was expecting what I saw, I was still shocked anyway. Aunt Dora stared back at me, or at least, a younger version of Aunt Dora. I looked like an eighteen, maybe nineteen year old version of her. Because of that, and the continuing tickling sensation throughout my body, I knew that I hadn’t finished changing.
“No way,” I whispered, reaching up run my fingers over my face, as if they’d find something there besides what the mirror showed. But of course, they didn’t.
I continued staring into the mirror for several minutes, feeling shocked, horrified, and fascinated, all at the same time. I looked so much like Aunt Dora, that it was completely and utterly uncanny. Of course, I still wasn’t her exact duplicate. Not yet at least. My hair only went down to the middle of my back, rather than to my waist, and I had to get a little older. In addition, my body would need to fill out and mature a little more. I hated to think about it, but Aunt Dora had been a little bigger in the hips and chest. The very thought made me turn bright red.
“This is so freaking weird,” I muttered bitterly.
When I left the bathroom a little later, I was depressed, but also a little resigned as well. I wanted to fight this, to go looking for a cure, but I already knew that there wasn’t one. Not only had Mom already told me that she didn’t know of any way to free me from the box and change me back to normal, but I also had a strange certainty of my own, as though the box and perhaps the previous Pandoras were whispering this to me as well.
I arrived in the living room to find Mom and Cliff talking. Cliff hung up his cell phone just as I came in, and told Mom, “It’s settled. He’ll arrive tomorrow to help with security…just in case.”
“And you trust him?” Mom asked.
Without hesitation, Cliff answered, “Absolutely.”
“What’s going on?” I asked.
Mom and Cliff both turned to look at me, with odd expressions on their face. Now that I knew how much l looked like Aunt Dora, those expressions were understandable.
“Cliff just called in reinforcements,” Mom answered wryly. “Someone to help guard us in case Kraesse or his people show up again.”
I gulped at that, suddenly feeling worried. “Do you think they will?”
“Doubtful,” Cliff answered. “They’d have no way of knowing where we are. But, it never hurts to take precautions anyway.”
Mom nodded agreement at that, then gave me another odd look. She turned to Cliff and said, “You mentioned that Dora spent some time here with you. Did she happen to leave any spare clothes, by any chance?”
Cliff gave a pained smile. “As a matter of fact, she did.”
A minute later, it turned out that Aunt Dora’s ‘spare clothes’, actually consisted of a walk in closet, which was halfway full. Aunt Dora had stored an entire wardrobe here at the cabin, which included casual dresses and ones for fancy parties, slacks and blouses, and even a few of her ‘adventuring’ clothes as Mom called them. I stared at all the clothes with a shudder of dread, knowing that it was pointless to argue, since my own clothes no longer fit at all. Still, I did grumble and complain a little, just for the principle of it, if nothing else.
Mom helped me pick out some clothes and get dressed, though the entire time, I felt like a condemned prisoner who was walking to the gas chamber. And when Mom pulled a bra out a drawer, it was all I could do not to turn and run. Still, I had to remind myself that these were just clothes. Sure, they were girl clothes…clothes for a grown woman, but still just clothes nonetheless.
Before long, I was dressed in one of Aunt Dora’s ‘adventuring’ outfits, which were among the least objectionable clothing. Aunt Dora hadn’t been the jeans and T shirt type, so this was the closest I could get. There were a pair of rugged pants with cargo pockets, and a sturdy long-sleeved shirt. These clothes fit me much better than my own clothes had, but they still weren’t a perfect fit. Not yet.
By the time I was finished getting dressed, Cliff had begun making dinner. It was strange watching him work in the kitchen, because he wasn’t the kind of person that I’d consider being even remotely domestic. However, he didn’t seem to have any problems cooking, other than from his injured shoulder.
Dinner was strange and very uncomfortable. The food wasn’t bad at all, though I barely tasted it. We were all still caught up in our shared grief, and the fact that I now looked like Aunt Dora, only made things even more awkward. Several times, I caught them sneaking odd looks at me.
Once we’d finished eating and the dishes had been cleaned, Mom gestured to one of the living room chairs and said, “Pandora, please have a seat.” I was a bit surprised that she’d called me Pandora instead of Byron, but not nearly as surprised as when she poured two glasses of wine, and handed one to me. “There are some things we need to discuss.”
“Um…yeah,” I responded awkwardly, not sure how to respond to that. I looked around and noticed that Cliff was absent from the room, apparently giving us privacy for this conversation.
Mom took a sip of her wine so I cautiously did the same. I’d tasted wine before, though only in small sips that I’d been given here and there while growing up. This was the first time anyone had ever given me a glass of my own. I didn’t really like the taste, but it wasn’t particularly unpleasant either.
“I’ve been thinking about this all day,” Mom said with a tired expression. “I know you didn’t ask for this…and that you probably don’t want it…”
“You can say that again,” I muttered.
However, Mom ignored my interruption. “But regardless of that,” she continued, “it has happened. Your old life is over, and there is no way you can ever go back. Your only choice now, is whether to remain trapped by this…or find a way to move forward.” She looked me straight in the eyes and stated, “I want you to be able to move forward.”
“I…I don’t understand,” I said, feeling extremely self-conscious.
“I’m afraid that you’re going to have to grow up a lot sooner than anyone expected,” Mom told me with a pained expression. “You can’t continue to be a kid anymore. Not now. You don’t have that luxury anymore.”
Since I wasn’t sure what to say to that, I took a sip of my wine, to give myself a moment to think about it. Then, I realized why she’d given me the wine. It was a symbolic gesture of some kind, probably her way of making it clear that this was an adult conversation, and that she was going to speak to me as if I was an adult.
“This is because I look grown up now,” I said, my eyes going to my breasts. I blushed self-consciously at that. “Because I look like this…”
“Yes,” Mom agreed with a sigh. She took a sip of her wine, then looked me in the eyes as she continued. “Physically, you are an adult now, and when other people look at you, that is what they are going to see. A grown woman. People are going to expect you to act like an adult…to BE an adult…and a woman. And, that is how they will treat you.”
Those words struck me almost like a physical slap. I’d already known, intellectually at least, that my life was going to change. That people would treat me differently. However, it wasn’t until that moment, that I started to realize exactly what that meant.
“From now on,” Mom told me with a serious expression, “you’ll have to start behaving like an adult…and a woman. There are certain freedoms that come with being an adult…” She gave me a wry smile and gestured to my glass of wine. “But there are also responsibilities…and consequences…that you’ve never had to worry about before.” She frowned at that, looking me directly in the eyes again. “I’ll help you of course, but as an adult, you’ll need to start taking responsibility for yourself and your own actions.”
I was still a bit dazed by the direction this conversation was taking, and what it meant for me. “But Mom,” I started, though she held up a hand to cut me off.
“Pandora,” she said, putting emphasis on the name. “I can’t be your mother anymore, at least not as far as anyone else is concerned. From now on, you’ll have to call me by my name…” Mom looked sad as she said this, though she tried to give me a faint smile to assure me that everything was all right. “Call me Theressa.”
“Theressa,” I said, feeling strange to be using her first name like that.
However, she nodded approval, and even gave me a faint but encouraging smile. “I know this will be quite a change,” she told me, “and it won’t be easy to adjust. But you have to. You have to adapt to your new situation if you ever want to move forward and have any kind of life.”
“So…Theressa,” I began carefully, feeling awkward and self-conscious. “What happens now?”
“Now, Pandora,” she responded with a pleasant smile that seemed only slightly forced, “we have a nice conversation over a glass of wine, woman to woman. This will be your first lesson.”
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