“So, they’re still going to perform the play?” Mike’s voice still had a tiredness to it.
“Yes, I think it will be a great tribute for her.”
“You would’ve done it all yourself if they didn’t.”
“You’re right, I replied.
I sat at a small, built for two, but three people could possibly sit at it if they used tea saucers as dinner plates, table as I talked with Michael over the phone.
Danny was on the other side of the room on his computer.
“I wish I could see it.”
“We could come and break you out of the hospital. How about a horse and we make a run through the front doors?”
“Go on,” He said with a laugh.
“That’s it. I haven’t really thought past getting the horse inside.”
“Were you able to get some of our things?”
“Yeah,” I replied as I looked in the corner of the room at a few large bags. Our stuff was thrown into black garbage bags and held hostage by Richard. Danny and I had to play “bad cop, bad ass cop” to negotiate for its release. My clothes—all that I had except what I had worn for the past two days. The ones I had just bought were shredded to ribbons so I had to ask Danny to drop me off at a store—as I promised I would not drive the car.
“Your mom called.”
I felt the blood drain from my face. “What did she say?”
“She wanted to know why you never answer your phone and I told that it’s been a crazy week and that I was away in Nashville.”
“Did you say for a school project or something?”
“Couldn’t lie to your mom.”
“So, I guess they’re not coming tomorrow after all.”
“No, they’re still coming to Knoxville tomorrow. Something about seeing an old college friend of your dad’s.”
“Maybe we can just lock the theatre doors or maybe they’re not going to come see me after my last phone call.”
“I reckon not, but, you know your dad, he’s kind of unpredictable. That runs in your family, doesn’t it?”
“Nope, it strolls by and gets to know everyone.”
“I miss you, Kristina.”
“Miss you too.”
“Danny taking care of ya’?”
“Yes,” I replied. “He’s been very nice.”
“Good to hear.”
“What did you tell him?”
“That you’ll do anything you put your mind to so he needs to keep both eyes on you. Tell him thank you for me.”
“Don’t break a leg now.”
“Aww, but if I do then we can kind of match.”
“I hear ya. Goodnight Kristi. Love you.”
“”I love you too.”
The line beeped that he had ended the call. I looked at the phone for a moment and closed my eyes.
“How is he?” Danny asked.
“He was tired. He said thank you.”
“You’re both welcome. Got a question for you.”
“Okay.” I got up from the table and walked over to the desk.
“Jacob doesn’t have the laptop, or at least he didn’t send the email from within the college IP system.”
“The what?” I asked.
“A computer has a given name on the system, made up of a set of numbers. The school uses a specific number range and this is not outside the range.”
I looked at him with a blank expression
“Jacob lives off-campus, so the numbers would not be part of the school’s mix. Jacob doesn’t have your laptop but I can tell who does, or may know.”
“I sent an email back to Mike’s account with a few pictures I culled off the internet. You wouldn’t want to look at them.”
“I’ll take your word for it,” I replied as I bit my lip.
“Anyway, I sent the pictures as a shockwave file with a payload attached to it and our guy took the bait. The attachments were designed to scan the hard drive and pull up file names. Nothing destructive, just poking around. I’m not going to get arrested for doing anything like this. I got my sights on Heather Locklear. She’s still hot.”
“So who has the laptop?”
“The biggest dick we know.”
“I’ve met a few this week. You’re going to need to be more specific.”
“Richard Mannis ring a bell?”
“Nu-uh,” I closed my eyes for a moment. “No, no. Seriously?”
“Looks like he used Mike’s laptop to do a few things, browse to a few sites that—I wouldn’t show this to my blind grandmother.”
I walked over to the couch and moved away from the area with an exposed, duct-taped spring.
“Again, how did you fight the urge to not punch him in the face?”
“We didn’t want to lower ourselves to his level. So, is there anything you can do?”
“Sorry, not without him using it against us. I say we just go and get the laptop from him.”
“If he hasn’t gotten rid of it already.”
Danny nodded. “Sorry.”
“No, thank you. I’ve always gotten a creepy vibe around him.”
“He likes you.”
“Say what?” I asked as I tried to get THAT thought out of my mind.
“You couldn’t tell?”
“No, why would I-”
Danny clicked a few keys and turned the system off.
“Just noticed that he’s stand-offish with you in person but he took all the photos off of your camera that were of you, not Mike.”
“That’s just so perverted,” I said with a shudder.
“I seriously want to just go and kick his ass.”
“Ah, now we’re talking.”
I woke up in the morning to the sound of knocking at the door. I stared at said door as the knocking continued and my brain went into overdrive as to who it could.
The FBI finally coming to get Danny?
I got up from the couch and tiptoed up to the door.
“Kris?” I heard my father's voice.
“Arron, please, just try.” Mom voice sounded muffled through the door.
“Okay. All right, I ill try,” he said with a hushed voice before calling out: “Kristi.”
I wasn’t sure how to feel hearing that. I mean, it sounded like he was trying to bridge the gap. I unlocked the door and opened it.
“Hi.” I said with the best smile I could so early in the morning.
“Kristi, what are you doing here. Whose place is this?” Mom asked.
“This is Danny’s. He’s a friend of Mike’s from High School.”
At that moment, as if on cue, Danny walked into the room wearing only a towel.
Mom shot a look at me that read she didn’t approve and Dad turned his head down.
“Come in?” I asked them as Danny walked back into the hall.
“Good morning, Kristi’s parents. Sorry. Force of habit!”
My parents were hesitant to walk inside as it felt like forever before they stepped past the threshold.
“What happened at school” Dad asked.
“Would that mean, why am I here instead of at the dorm?”
I walked to the couch and removed the blankets; but I should have left them there as it looked better with them piled on. I moved my parent’s attention to the table and had them sit down.
“It’s all because of the dorm manager. He’s had it in for us since we arrived and now he decided to just throw us out. Which is fine because our room got broken into and everything was destroyed anyway.”
“You were robbed?” Mom asked.
“And did you call the police?” Dad asked.
“Yeah, Just waiting for them to solve the case, I guess.”
“”What are you wearing?” Dad asked as I looked down at the oversized t-shirt I was wearing did little to hide the fact that I had on a pair of hot pink panties. I tugged at the shirt a bit but then made a hop over to a bag lying against the wall. I grabbed the bag and went into the hallway to put on a pair of pants.
“Better?” I asked as I stood in the hallway.
Dad didn’t; reply but simply sighed as I walked back into the room and stood in front of them,
“Okay, I admit, this is all of the sudden for you, but it’s been in the making for a long time.”
“Been in the making?” Dad asked with a slight rise of annoyance in his voice.
“I can myself see for who I am and I hope you can too.”
“Kristi,” Mom began while taking my left hand, “we’re just kind of worried that this is all moving so fast.”
“What did you spend six hundred dollars on again?” Dad asked, effectively priming the fuse to detonate the bridge I was trying mend.
“Clothes. I mean, jeans and shirts only go so far and they weren’t going to help when I decided to let everyone know.”
“Does everyone know?” Dad asked.
“Everyone who has an e-mail address.” I replied as I sat down.
“Is that I have been getting calls from the school?”
“Maybe,” I replied with a shrug, not really wanting to get into it again.
“Do you know how many letters and phone calls I have received from the university?”
“How many?” I asked with as much calmness that I could; knowing full well that if I raised my voice, Dad would match it and as much as I wanted to, I really didn’t want to start anything in front of Danny.
“Seven. I also received a certified letter from some shrink in Tuscaloosa about Karen Anne English.”
“Dad,” I stood up to say more but he threw a hand out in front of me, as if I was still six.
“You’re sending nude pictures of yourself to everyone?”
“No, that was stolen from my camera.”
“But you took them?” He asked.
“Yes, because I’m a stupid teenager; and that’s what we do.” I replied, matching his tone.
“I’ve received so many phone calls at work that we had to shut down the switchboard. Why, Kristopher, why?”
“You know, Dad,” I sat back down on the couch and looked up at both of them. “We’re all here, like this, because you don’t talk to me. You tell me what to do, but you don’t talk to me. Hardly anyone ever did. Yeah, I kept away from them but that was because you tried to drive it into my skull that I’m so different no one could accept me for me and so I’d have to be this little boy. That didn’t work. It hasn’t worked since I got to wear a dress at grandmas.”
“I told Mama that you would get the wrong idea from that.”
“The wrong idea?” I asked as I bolted up. “The wrong idea was to pump me full of whatever hormones this or that doctor said to do. They had no idea what do with me and so now, here we are with body image issues and hormones that are so off-whack—”
“Aaron,” Mom whispered; Dad either didn’t hear her or he just ignored her.
“I. Am. Not. Kris.”
“Yes, you are.”
“Aaron,” her voice went up a notch, but he still didn’t react to her.
“No, I’m not. Look at me!” I almost wanted to rip my shirt off, if just to prove a point. “Kris died nineteen years ago. I am your daughter. I have always been that. I have a copy of my original birth certificate.”
“Don’t tell me, your grandmother?”
“You said not to tell you.”
“That document was amended and the error adjusted.”
“There was no error! All there was a vestigial organ that you had someone fix to make it work! Doesn’t change a thing, dad.”
Danny walked out from the hallway and quietly moved past us and out the front door.
“I’m engaged now, did you know that?” I asked as Danny closed the front door.
“Because you are not marrying a boy, and a country boy at that.”
I took more offense to the “country boy” comment at that moment.
“That is not going to happen as long as I am standing here, breathing!”
“Aaron!” Mom’s voice was shrill, as if she had had enough.
“What, Elizabeth? What?”
“Look at her! Yes, she. She is our only child. Our daughter.”
My dad put his hand on his face and closed his eyes—a Novoselic gesture that usually meant “please, please, just shut up and get out of my face” other times, it stood for “that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard”. I was unsure which way to interpret it at that time.
Mom’s expression showed a bit of spark like she so close to telling him off but her old-school southern personality kept her from lashing out in too big of a fury.
“Now, we need to talk about this, as a family. Together.”
“What’s there to talk about?” Dad said. “This is a stage, a project; like those plays you perform in, right?”
“No. It’s all real, Dad and I really wanted the two of you to come up here and see everything that we’ve been doing and show how normal we are and how everything was going great but, it’s kind of blown now, Michel’s accident and everything else that’s happened.”
I walked to the kitchenette area and turned back to them.
“Just tell me that you want me out of your life. Just flat out tell me that you don’t accept me.”
“Kristi,” Mom replied as she looked at my dad.
“No, just tell me that you can’t and will never accept me like this. That you’ll forever feel like I’m some disgrace to you.”
Dad didn’t exactly look at me but at least his expression wasn’t daggers or disgust, it was more of a weariness. An expression that maybe he was either dying on the inside and just didn’t want to say anything or he was really dying. “Let’s talk about it later. Don’t you have a class to get to?”
“Yes sir,” I replied as I walked out of the room and into the hall.
I got dressed in the bathroom and tried to get dressed as if the day was like any other, even though I had absolutely nothing except a few things I could recover from the plastic bags and what I had bought the previous day. I picked out a simple skirt and blouse and it looked okay; although my missing ring made it so incomplete.
I took a deep breath as I was about to repeat what I did on Saturday. Was it only a week? A week that felt like the whole friggin semester?
An even deeper breath as I would have to look at my parents as they mentally tore me apart with their eyes: ‘Oh my God, he’s wearing a dress? What next, a mermaid tail?’
I walked back into the front room to see my parents talking in hushed tones. They stopped and turned to me.
Mom face brightened into a smile and she walked over to me. “Your hair.”
“I know, I need to work on it.”
“It’s looks lovely, doesn’t Aaron?”
Mom had placed Dad—and to an extension me, on the spot. The feeling that I was going to dry heave right then and there shot up.
“You look...good.” Was his reply.
“Thank you,” I replied without completely breaking down at that point; although I wanted to I felt that it would be too soon to just wrap my arms around him and cry. “Good” was a Novoselic male term of endearment so I took that compliment as the world and held it in.
My classes are over at one, since I’m not allowed to go to Mrs Peterson’s.”
“Why is that again?” Dad asked.
I pointed my hands back at myself and moved them down.
“I think I’ll have a talk with the dean.” He replied.
“Going to the stores?” I asked mom.
“I might do that, Aaron?”
Dad simply nodded as he crossed his arms and placed his hand on his chin.
“I’ll see you both later.” I replied as I walked out of the apartment.
“Walking?” Dad asked.
I hadn’t thought how I was getting to school as I promised not to drive and I think Danny actually took the keys from me.
“We’ll drive you,” Mom said as they followed me out of the apartment.
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