The Box's Pandora part 9

Aunt Dora stared back at me from the mirror, or at least, the image that stared back, was identical to her, in nearly every way possible.

Just fifteen minutes ago, I’d woken up in a strange bed, with an even stranger body. For nearly a minute, I’d been completely shocked and confused, until the morning cobwebs cleared out enough for me to remember why my body was so different than normal.

Last night, my body had finished changing, shortly before I’d gone to bed. Because of that, I’d actually woken up with the same body that I’d fallen asleep in.

As strange was it was to imagine, much less deal with, I was now a clone of Aunt Dora. I was now identical to her, and in the same physical state that she’d been in, right before her death. This included the haircut and manicure that she’d possessed at the time, and apparently, even the shaved legs and arm pits too. I didn’t understand why the ‘Pandora blueprint’ would include these small details, and from Aunt Dora rather than from the first Pandora, but they were there nonetheless.

I let out a sign as I looked over my body, both directly and via the mirror. Even with all the evidence in front of me, it was hard to believe that I’d turned into a girl. No, not a girl. A woman. This was definitely not the body of a girl, but of a grown woman. If anything, I could have been described as being a bit of a MILF, not that I ever would have used that term in front of either Mom or Aunt Dora.

Aunt Dora had always been attractive, though she hadn’t been built like one of those skinny fashion models. Technically, she…now I, was probably considered to be a little overweight, though I certainly wasn’t fat. Instead, I was…voluptuous. That was the word that came to mind.

And as shocking as it was to turn into a girl, I was just as shaken by my change of age. I’d aged ten to twenty years in a single day. I’d doubled in age. Hell, I was now old enough to be my own mother.

“I’m…old,” I groaned in despair.

Well, I wasn’t actually old, per se, but I was about the same age as my mom…as Theressa, and that was a lot to absorb. Fortunately, when I looked at my reflection, I might look identical to Aunt Dora, but there were a few differences, almost all in my body language and the way I held myself.

I didn’t have that same air of confidence, maturity, and sophistication, so even though I looked the same physically, I somehow seemed just a bit younger than Aunt Dora had. Or at least, that was the impression that I got from the mirror.

“One day,” I told my reflection with a grimace.

All it had taken was one single day, to turn my entire life, my entire EVERYTHING, upside down and inside out. Whether I liked it or not, I was Pandora now. The invisible box, which floated a short distance away, only emphasized this fact. It was a constant reminder of my situation, as if my body wasn’t enough of one.

After several more minutes of looking over my new body, I decided that it was time to go out and face the world, or at least, the rest of the house. I put on a robe that Aunt Dora left behind, and which of course, fit me perfectly, along with a pair of slippers. Only then, did I go to see Theressa and Cliff.

I found them in the kitchen, with them both being in a similar state of undress as myself. Mom…Theressa was also wearing a robe, while Cliff was wearing a T shirt, jogging pants, and bunny slippers. The slippers surprised me.

“Good morning, Pandora,” Theressa greeted me with a loud yawn.

“Morning…Theressa,” I responded, just barely remembering not to call her ‘Mom’.

Cliff poured a couple cups of coffee, then handed one to me, which confused me for a moment. I didn’t drink coffee, and neither had Aunt Dora. She’d been a firm tea drinker instead. Then, I realized that Cliff hadn’t momentarily forgotten who I really was. He was just trying to treat me like an adult. Last night, I’d overheard him and Theressa talking, about how they were going to try ‘jumpstarting’ my adulthood by treating me as an adult. This was obviously a part of that.

“Thanks,” I told Cliff, taking a sip of the coffee, which was very hot, and really bitter. I followed Theressa’s example and mixed in a little cream, which made it a little better.

While Cliff and I sat down at the table to drink our coffee, Theressa went about making breakfast. There were a limited amount of supplies in the cabin, even though we’d stopped for groceries on the way, but she still managed to make a nice meal of pancakes and eggs.

I watched Theressa, still thinking about the fact that we were now so close in age. Theressa was, as she always put it, 39 and holding, for a couple years now. Physically, she was still older than me, but not by much.

“Pandora,” Theressa said while we ate. “I think we need to talk about your identity…”

I gave Theressa a curious look. Last night, we’d had a nice conversation, mostly about how I could expect to be treated, and how I should act with other people. But more than that, it had been practice in how to interact with her as a ‘peer’ instead of as her son.

“Since I can’t be Byron Houseman anymore,” I asked carefully, “who am I supposed to be instead?” I scowled at that, realizing where she must be going with this. “You want me to pretend to be Aunt Dora…” It made sense, since I did look exactly like her now.

“Not exactly,” Cliff said. He scratched at his unshaven chin, then continued. “You see, Dora was in the middle of…transitioning between identities. For the last few decades, Dora had been using the identity of Dorathy Crowley.”

I nodded at that, since I’d always thought that was her real name. That was the name I’d known her by for my entire life, though I’d never known that she was MUCH older than I ever would have guessed.

“She spent a few years wearing makeup and dying her hair, to make herself look older,” Mom explained with a wry smile. “And she began telling the people she did business with, about her daughter, who’d graduated from college, or was starting a new job… Then, she spent the last eight years or so, as a hermit, doing most of her business online…”

“Her daughter,” I blurted out in sudden understanding. “You think I should pretend to be her daughter…”

Theressa and Cliff shared a look and nodded. “Yes,” Cliff answered. “She’d been planning on showing up again in just a couple years, pretending to be her own daughter. It just looks like that identity will be getting used a little early, is all.”

“And what was her name?” I asked quietly, feeling myself tensing up with nerves. “What’s my new name?”

“Pandora,” Theressa answered wryly. “Pandora Crowley.”

I blinked at that. “Isn’t that a little obvious, if she wanted to keep a low profile about who she really was?”

“Definitely,” Theressa agreed. “But Dora wanted to use that name again, in the open, and I think she got a kick out of hiding in plain sight…”

“It was stupid if you asked me,” Cliff muttered with a scowl. “Maybe if she’d hidden better…” He paused at that, looking angry and filled with grief at the same time. “But what’s done is done. She’d already created the identity, along with all the paperwork and background. Hell, she’d been building this identity for the last thirty years, in preparation, so you might as well use it. It will certainly stand up to scrutiny a hell of a lot better than anything we try to build on short notice.”

“But what about those people who killed her?” I demanded, growing angry. “And Dad…?”

“That identity might be compromised,” Cliff admitted. “In which case, we will have to create a new one. But for now, that is all we have…”

“Kraesse,” Theressa said with a scowl. “Those people don’t understand the relationship between Pandora and the box. If they did, they never would have killed her…” She shook her head at that. “No. They know just enough to be dangerous…”

“Since they killed Dora,” Cliff said, “they won’t have any reason to keep looking for her.”

That sounded a bit more like hoping and wishful thinking than anything solid, but I didn’t contradict Cliff. He was hurt and grieving every bit as much as I was. He and Aunt Dora had been together for a long time, and it couldn’t be easy for him, seeing me as her spitting image.

“Help will be arriving today,” Cliff abruptly said. “Probably in just a few hours, so we should all get cleaned and dressed before then.”

“Who is this help?” I asked suspiciously. “Can we trust him?”

“Oh, we can trust him all right,” Cliff said, as though he had absolutely no doubt of that.

We continued talking throughout the rest of breakfast, about the box, my new identity, and the people who’d been after the box. According to Theressa and Cliff, there were always people who were trying to find and recover magical artifacts, and Aunt Dora had interfered with more than a few of them. However, very few of these artifact seekers had any idea that Pandora or the box even existed. Alexander Kraesse, apparently, was a rare exception.

When breakfast was over, it was time to get cleaned up and dressed. Normally, this would mean a quick shower, then throwing on some jeans and a T-shirt. However, my situation had changed, and that meant my normal routine would have to change too.

Last night, during my conversation with Theressa, we’d talked about this kind of thing. “Whenever you have the choice of doing something the way a teenage boy would,” Theressa told me during our talk, “or the way a grown woman would, you should choose the latter. It may be different…and even a little awkward for you at first, but this will help you get into the right mindset for your new role.”

Because of Theressa’s advice, I decided to take a bath instead of a shower. It had actually been a couple years since I’d taken a bath, but I knew that Theressa liked taking baths instead of showers, when she had the time to do so.

“Baths are for little kids or girls,” I said as I filled the tub with hot soapy water. This was just one of those unofficial rules that guys learned while growing up. “Men take showers.”

Then, I looked myself over again, and was clearly reminded that I no longer fell under that ‘no bath’ rule. And with the way I looked now, no one would ever take me for a man, or even a boy, ever again.

I climbed into the tub and let out a contented sigh. Though I hadn’t taken any baths over the last couple years, I had taken the opportunity to enjoy a hot tub a time or two, and it was because of that, that I was so willing to give this a chance. As I soaked in the hot water, I was glad that I did.

While I soaked in the tub, I was fully aware of the box, which continued to float nearby, almost as if it was some kind of pervert voyeur. I could have sent it outside of the bathroom, though it would have remained connected to me by that invisible tether. It was going to be connected to me like that for the rest of my life, and I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to handle that.

“I’m chained to the damn thing,” I said, staring at the box. “Literally.”

So far, I hadn’t opened the box to look inside, though admittedly, I was curious. I wanted to see what it looked like inside, how all those artifacts fit in there, and of course, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about for myself. However, I was also afraid. I remembered the myth, and what had happened when Pandora had opened the box in that story. I didn’t know whether this really was the same box or not, but I didn’t want to take that chance.

After I finished with my bath and got out of the tub, I discovered the real problem with long hair. I’d already learned the hard way that it was a nuisance that got in the way, and got into my food while I was trying to eat. But it was also heavy, and became even more so when wet. And now, that my hair was all wet, I realized that it could really end up straining my neck muscles.

Fortunately, Theressa showed up at that point and asked, “Do you need some help with your hair?” I could see from her expression, and that fact that she hadn’t cleaned and dressed herself yet, that she’d just been waiting for this opportunity.

“Most women would love to have hair as long as yours,” Theressa told me with an amused look. “But it does require a lot of care and maintenance…” She pulled out a brush and a blow dryer.

“Joy,” I responded wryly. “I think I prefer just drying it with my towel and being done…”

“I’m afraid, that is no longer an option,” Theressa told me. “But the next time we go into town, we can stop at a salon and get your hair cut down to an easier to manage length.” She gestured to her own shoulder length hair, and admitted, “There’s a reason that I don’t let my hair grow out that long.”

I spent a lot longer brushing and drying my hair than I ever would have expected possible, and by the time I was done, I was determined to get it cut shorter. However, that would have to wait, at least until I could get to a barber…or salon. Theressa refused to even consider the idea that she or I could cut it ourselves.

Once I was finished with my hair, it was finally time to get dressed. My first impulse was to get dressed in more of Aunt Dora’s ‘adventure’ clothes, but that might seem a bit odd to our guest, who was going to arrive soon. I didn’t know who this person was yet, but he wouldn’t know anything about me, so this was my chance to practice being a grown woman. I wanted to see if I could fool him into thinking that I was who I seemed to be.

Theressa stood back and let me pick out my own outfit, though she did offer a few opinions. I was actually grateful that she let me choose my own clothes, because it let me feel as though I had a little more control of my own life. Not much, but enough to ease some of the stress.

In the end, I put on a pair of nice slacks and a blouse, along with a pair of shoes that had a low enough heel, that they wouldn’t get in the way. All in all, when I looked into the mirror, I was stunned by how much I looked like Aunt Dora.

“There are still a few details though,” Theressa reminded me, though she didn’t way what those details were.

I considered it for a moment, then let out a resigned sigh. “Makeup and jewelry…”

“The details make the woman,” Theressa agreed. “For most women, this is part of being presentable.”

I wanted to protest and resist, but I didn’t. Even though I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of wearing makeup, I knew that Theressa was right, and that this was just one of those things that I’d have to get used to so that I could blend in and pass as an adult woman. Of course, not all women wore makeup and jewelry, but most of them did to one degree or another, so it would be expected of me too.

Unlike when I picked my clothes, Theressa took an active role with my makeup. She had me sit down in front of a makeup table with a mirror, then began pulling out the various types of makeup and setting them out in front of me.

“We don’t want to overdo it,” Theressa told me as she began applying my makeup, while having me look in the mirror so I could see what she was going. “Sometimes, less is more…”

Of course, this Theressa took this opportunity to give me a lesson in makeup, carefully naming each item that she’d set out on the table, and explaining each step of what she was doing. By the time she finished, I didn’t think that I could replicate what she did, at least not yet, but I understood the theory.

“Wow,” I said up on looking myself over. It was even harder to believe that was me staring back from the mirror. For a moment, I expected Aunt Dora to start speaking, until I remembered that was me now. “I look…”

“You look lovely,” Theressa told me, giving me a reassuring smile, though I still saw the pained look in her eyes. I looked like her best friend, so this couldn’t be easy for her.

Of course, we weren’t done yet. Theressa had me hold out my hands, then she put some kind of clear polish on my nails, and I had to keep holding my fingers spread out while they dried.

“The downside of healing from just about anything,” Theressa told me as she held up a pair of stud earrings. “Every time Dora removed her earrings, the hole would seal right up, so she’d have to pierce them again every time she put in a pair.” She gave me a sympathetic look and added, “We don’t have to go any further today…”

“Do it,” I said with a grimace. I gestured to the mirror. “I’ve come this far, I might as well go the rest of the way.”

Theressa smiled at that, and she looked rather proud. However, a few seconds later, my ears hurt and I was seriously regretting my decision. Fortunately, it didn’t take much longer before I was fully done up and ready. A small necklace, a ladies watch, and of course, the earrings.

“They grow up so quickly,” Theressa joked.

“Too quickly,” I muttered.

“Be careful not to touch your face,” Theressa told me. “You don’t want to ruin your makeup.”

After this, Theressa finally went to take her own bath, while I was left to occupy myself. I was tempted to grab my DS and play some games, since that would at least make me feel more like my old self, but I decided to practice acting like a woman instead. I’d gone through so much already, just to look the part, that I figured I might as well take advantage of it.

I walked back and forth, trying to decide if I had a feminine walk, and even trying to put a little swish and sway into it. I wouldn’t have done this if either Theressa or Cliff had been there watching, but both were currently occupied with other things.

Along with my walk, I tried to make my movements and body language a little more feminine, watching in the mirror as I did so. At first, I looked pretty ridiculous, and not the least bit natural, but after a few minutes I seemed to improve a bit.

Then, I finally sat down, though it took me a few minutes to realize that I was sitting with my legs spread open, the same way I always did. I knew that if Theressa saw that, she’d tell me to try being more ladylike, so I tried to correct myself. I crossed my legs, the same way that I’d often seen women doing. It was kind of awkward at first, but quickly became more comfortable.

“I don’t have anything to get in the way anymore,” I reminded myself, thinking of Little Byron and the boys, who were no longer with me. I felt a little surge of emotional pain at that thought. “At least I look natural, sitting like this.”

I returned to the living room, just in time, since Theressa had finished getting cleaned and changed. Without saying a word, I sat down and crossed my legs in a feminine manner again, trying to look casual and natural about it. Theressa acted like she didn’t notice anything unusual at all.

About an hour after this, Cliff came down from the upstairs, announcing, “He’s here…”

He’d been upstairs, keeping an eye out the window for any vehicles arriving, though I wasn’t sure if he was looking out for trouble, or just waiting for our reinforcements. Either way, he looked out the window, watching as dark blue SUV drove up and parked in front of the cabin.

A minute later, our visitor arrived at the door, where Cliff immediately let him in. The newcomer was tall, athletic looking, and in his mid-twenties. His dark brown hair was cut short, and it looked like he hadn’t shaved in a day or two.

“I’m glad you could make it,” Cliff told him. “I wouldn’t have called if it wasn’t important.”

“Spring break,” the stranger responded with a shrug. “I’m out of classes for the week anyway. Besides, you said it was important.”

“It is,” Cliff told him. “Dora and I were attacked and she was… She was killed.”

“What?” the newcomer asked in surprise. Then he looked to me and his expression became confused.

“This is the new Pandora,” Cliff explained. “She’s the one who inherited the box.”

“Nice to meet you,” the newcomer said politely. Then he looked to Theressa and nodded. “Nice seeing you again Theressa. I just wish it had been better circumstances.”

I was a little startled that Theressa knew who this person was, and that he knew all about Aunt Dora and the box. Obviously, Cliff really did trust him.

“Pandora,” Cliff said to me, gesturing to the newcomer. “I’d like you to meet my son Jacob…”

“Jake,” the younger man corrected with a smile. Then, Jake looked me over, making me blush a little from the attention. “I guess I’m here to help keep you and that box safe.”

“Thank you,” I said politely, not sure what else to do.

Jake had no idea who I really was, at least that was what Cliff and Theressa had told me, so this was the perfect opportunity to practice getting into my new role as a grown woman. I just hoped that I didn’t make a complete and utter fool of myself.

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