Anne’s mother will be here today. She’s flying down from Chicago.
Kira looked over at Anne from the passenger seat. If she was nervous she couldn’t tell it.
“I hate the passenger seat,” she mumbled.
Anne looked at her and shook her head, “Are you still sulking because I wouldn’t let you drive?”
Kira slouched down in the seat, folding her arms. She wasn’t sulking, she was just irritated, it was her car after all.
Anne shook her head again, fighting a smile, “I think that was a textbook example of sulking.” Kira stuck her tongue out.
“Look, you have to get this stuff out of the car. You said so yourself, but after yesterday I think it’s better if you take it easy. I don’t want to die in an accident because you insisted on driving and then passed out or something.”
She was quiet for a little while, then she couldn’t keep the smile off her face any longer.
“Besides, I hate the passenger seat.”
Kira almost slapped her.
Her storage locker was a ten by ten tucked into a back corner of the complex. She had wanted one that wasn’t visible from the street, and wasn’t too big for her meager belongings and this was the last one available that fit her requirements. Inside were two shelving units and a cheap wardrobe she had gotten from the home improvement center.
On the shelves were a number of storage containers that held mostly books she had wanted to keep. Only one held any personal items and she hadn’t touched that since putting it in here.
She put her sea bag and garment bag into the wardrobe and took out two other garment bags and a duffle bag.
She looked at Anne, “Just some clothes and stuff I figure I’m going to need.”
Kira didn’t say anything, simply getting in the passenger side for the trip back. She had the things she needed, including the identification she had purchased several years before. What she wasn’t clear about was what to do now; before Anne she had planned to find some place where no one knew her and simply live her life. Now?
She looked at Anne, who would think that something so wonderful would happen to her? Yes, she had fallen in love with her almost from the first, but even then she hadn’t thought that dream would ever come true. Now she couldn’t imagine being anywhere she wasn’t.
She looked out the side window at the buildings drifting past, a cold knot of fear in her stomach. Anne seemed to return her feelings, at least as far as teasing went, but that didn’t mean that she was interested in anything more than friendship. A long way lay between words and actions, and just because she was in love with her didn’t mean that Anne loved her in return. What would she do if Anne rejected her? What could she do other than accept it? You can’t force someone to love you, no matter how much you might want to.
Another thought came to her, what was she going to do tonight? She couldn’t ask Anne to give up her bed a second night, and wouldn’t even if that was an option. She would need to find someplace to stay, probably a cheap room. Better than staying in the car.
“Deep thoughts?” Anne asked.
“A little,” Kira replied.
Anne took a quick glance, “Want to share?”
Kira didn’t answer right away, seemingly lost in thought.
“Just wondering where to go from here.” She kept her face to the window. “Funny but I never thought past yesterday.”
She reached over and took Kira’s hand in hers, “Where ever it is, I hope it’s together.”
Kira finished hanging her clothes in the closet, Anne had insisted she have half even though she didn’t have as many outfits as she did. She gave her three drawers i the dresser too, though she only needed one of those.
“When is your mom suppose to get in?” Kira asked. It was only nine morning, but time seemed to be flying.
Anne folded the garment bags and placed them on the closet shelf, “Her plane should be in around noon, then however long the cab takes.” She had offered to pick her up, but been politely turned down.
“I don’t get to ride in cabs that much, let me have my fun.”
The knock came at one thirty five. Kira jumped despite herself, then glanced at the clock. She was afraid that she would remember that as the moment that her dreams came crashing down, again, and for good. If Anne’s mom didn’t approve of her she couldn’t imagine how they could hope to stay together.
“Mom, come in,” Anne stepped out of the way, “How was you’re trip?”
Kira would have recognized them as mother and daughter from a mile away, they looked so similar. She was slightly shorter than her daughter, with the same color hair and eyes. She was slightly less tan than Anne, but considering Anne loved the beach, that was easy to understand.
“It was fine, dear, but I could use some tea.” She looked over to where Kira was standing off to the side, trying not to look as nervous as she felt. She smiled, “I promise I don’t bite, no matter what my daughter might have told you.”
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Smith,” Kira smiled and felt herself relax, if just a little bit.
“Please, call me Joan, Mrs. Smith just sounds too stuffy.”
She took a moment to give Kira an appraising look and then looked at Anne,
“I can see why Anne likes you,” she looked at Anne, “you do you like her don’t you?”
The implication in her voice was obvious. Anne blushed furiously, “Mom!”
She turned back to Kira and winked, “I can always get the truth from her without even asking.”
They sat at the table and related Kira’s story while they enjoyed their tea. Joan didn’t say anything until they finished. The she turned to Kira;
“I know it’s impolite, but I have to ask, could you change for me? To Eric, then back?”
Kira felt sick, but she nodded.
Joan gave her an understanding look, “Im sorry, I know you don’t want to bring him back, but i need to see you go through the change.”
“I understand,” Kira said, “I just to change these clothes first.”
“Grab my robe from the bathroom,” Anne offered.
After changing Kira returned to the living room, both women could see her clearly from the kitchenette.
“I have more room here.”
Joan nodded, “When your ready.”
Kira reached out with her mind, calling; “Eric.”
She could feel him there, instantly, answering her summons.
The change took her,
The warmth grew and expanded from the middle of her chest outward and golden light slowly grew behind her eyelids. until it was almost blinding. A tingling rushed through her from head to toe and back again, setting her scalp to buzzing. Kira could feel her body rise up on tip toe and she spread her arms to maintain balance as her body arched back and she tossed her head back. The weight of heavy tresses slowly receded as her hair seemed to retreat and tighten against her scalp. Her body weight and balance shifted but she was ready for it and stood perfectly still.
The glow and warmth receded as her heels touched the floor. She opened her eyes.
“Is this what you wanted?” she asked. She slightly startled by her voice. Similar, but deeper than her own.
Joan looked at her daughter, “This is Eric?”
Anne looked more the a little worried but she nodded.
Joan nodded, “Good.”
She got up and walked over, taking time to give her a good once over. She walked completely around her, then stopped and looked her in the eye. Her gaze was intent and a little disconcerting.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
Kira was taken by surprise, “Which one?”
Joan nodded and went back to the table. “You can change back, Kira”
The warmth grew and expanded from the middle of her chest outward and golden light slowly grew behind her eyelids. until it was almost blinding. A tingling rushed through her from head to toe and back again, setting her scalp to buzzing. Kira could feel her body rise up on tip toe and she spread her arms to maintain balance as her body arched back and she tossed her head back, her mouth opening in a silent scream of pure joy. The weight of heavy tresses slowly grew as her hair expanded out and down sending shivers across her skin. She regretted the robe she wore, wishing to feel that hair against her bare skin. Her body weight and balance shifted but she was ready for it and stood perfectly still. She wanted to be this way forever.
Too soon. Too soon it was over, the glow and warmth receded as her heels touched the floor.
She was herself once more.
She looked at Anne and smiled,”Don’t look so worried, I’m fine.”
Anne relaxed and smiled back.
She gave the robe a tug, “Mind if I get dressed?”
Joan smiled and nodded while Anne look a bit flustered. Did she want her to stay in that tiny thing? She went to the bedroom with a few naughty thoughts of Anne wearing the robe instead.
Anne sat and looked at her mother, who was deep in thought. There were questions she wanted to ask, but you didn’t bother her when she was like this, working things from every angle she could.
At the sound of the door opening she came back to herself with a little shake.
Anne looked from her to Kira who had just stepped into the living room.
She couldn’t stop the smile that came, seeing her. She was wearing a t-shirt and jeans and made them look damn good. She knew she could spend the rest of her life looking at her and never get tired of it.
Her mom nudged her arm.
“Wipe your mouth dear, your drooling.”
Kira refreshed their drinks and sat down. She squeezed Anne’s hand and gave her a reassuring smile.
Joan took a moment to enjoy the warmth of her tea, then set the cup down. Turning to Kira she asked,
“Could I look at you neck?”
Kira nodded, and Joan moved behind her and lifted her hair. She didn’t say anything for a long moment, then ket her hair fall back. She returned to her seat. When she picked up her cup her hand shook slightly.
“Does anyone else know about this?” The both shook their heads.
“We haven’t left here except to go and get some of Kira’s things this morning,” Anne told her.
“Kira, do you have anything in your old name? A car, that storage locker, anything?”
“Just a car,” Kira told her. “The locker is in my name.”
“Get rid of the car, as soon as possible. Don’t sell it, take it to a scrape yard and have them crush it.”
Kira and Anne stared at her stunned.
“You have to make Eric disappear. Period. Make him fall off the face of the Earth.”
She left soon after, refusing to discuss the matter any further.
“There’ll be time for that tomorrow, we did enough for today.”
They walked her out to her waiting cab. She had again refused the offer of a ride.
“You two need some time to talk.” Then she was gone.
Returning to the apartment, Kira was wondering what was going on; there was too much she didn’t know and what she knew she didn’t understand.
Anne noticed her pensive look and slipped a hand into hers, giving it a reassuring squeeze.
“You can trust her Kira, she knows things. I can’t explain it, but I’m glad she’s here and willing to get involved.”
Kira looked at her for a moment. “I know. This is just really confusing.”
She waited until the door closed behind them to add, “I think I should be scared out of my mind.”
They went grocery shopping, having a second mouth to feed meant Anne didn’t have enough food in the house. Kira felt guilty for the trouble she was causing and insisted on splitting the costs.
“I eat half, I pay half.” She wouldn’t hear any more about it.
They went to the beach, walking barefoot in the sand, talking about anything and nothing at all. They had an early dinner from a hot dog vendor and laughed as they wiped ketchup from each others mouths. They watched the sun set over the ocean before returning home.
There had been a tension slowly building between them, a warm current of anticipation. Kira looked at the couch in trepidation, she was scared of sleeping on it and scared not to be.
Anne saw her looking; “Oh no you don’t, no one is going to sleep on that evil thing ever again.”
Kira looked at her.
Anne came to her and they embraced, a gentle coming together, arms encircling, until they leaned against one another, foreheads touching. Kira looked down into her eyes and what she saw there excited and terrified her. Love, understanding, and longing. Hope and fear, an almost desperate need.
Their kiss was hesitant; a brush of the lips, a soft caress of breath. Each meeting bolder, lingering, until at last they came together, each putting all of her emotion into the contact, desperately wanting the other to understand what was in her heart.
They eased their way to the bedroom, but at the door Kira hesitated. Her heart was beating too fast and she felt faint, she didn’t think she was ready for this, not yet. Anne reached up and touched her cheek,
“Just hold me tonight.”
Kira wakes to the sound of voices.
Anne and her mother. She can’t hear anyone else.
Light seeps around the curtain. Morning.
She sits up and looks around, Anne’s bedroom. She smiles.
She picks out a t-shirt and shorts, anything’s better than that robe. Opening the door she smells coffee.
Anne and her mother sit at the kitchen table looking at a lap-top.
Joan glances up, “Morning.” and back to what’s on the screen.
“Morning, is that coffee I smell?”
Anne gives her a big smile, “Come sit down, I’ll fix you a cup.”
Joan finished and closed the lap-top. Turning to Kira,
“Do you have a job lined up?”
Kira shook her head,
“No, I wasn’t sure if I was going to stay here or not.”
“Then I’d like to offer you a job as one of my research assistants. The pays decent and we even offer benefits. You could work from here, just send in your work through email.”
Kira was surprised, she hadn’t even thought of doing something like that.
“I don’t know even know what a research assistant does. I was an electronics tech.”
“I’ll give you a full description if you take the job.”
“You’ll do it?”
Kira wondered what she was getting into.
“Here you go,” Anne handed her a steaming cup.
Kira looked up at her, “Thank you.”
Joan looked at the two of them and smiled, then put on a serious look.
“Kira, there are people in the world who do terrible things. Not the things you hear about in the news; murder, rape, abuses, though those are terrible in their own way. These people do experiments and surgeries seeking to create weapons. They destroy peoples minds so they can use their bodies. They wipe their memories to cover their tracks.”
“If they did these things to volunteers it would be bad enough but they don’t. The do them on people in the general population without their knowledge or consent. They could do them on your mother or father. Your brother or sister, ”
She looked Kira straight in the eye
“Or on you.”
Kari felt like someone had poured ice water down her spine. Did that mean what she thought it did? How could it?
Joan opens the laptop and slides it to her. She looks at the screen, what it shows can’t be right. All the information is wrong; name, date and place of birth. Her parents, nothing is what she knows should be there.
“Scroll down.” and she does.
The information changes, once, twice, maybe a dozen before it’s there.
Eric Thomas Mills
The information is correct this time. Everything she can quote from memory. There is more below;
Files: Downloaded: Personal: Background_Memory
She can’t look.
She closes the top with shaking hands;
“What does this mean?” She whispers.
“Right now? Nothing much, provided you stay in your present form. Changing into Eric however might be pose some risk.”
She raised her cup and the saw that it was empty.
“I’ll get everyone a fresh cup.” Anne got up and took the cups to the kitchen.
Joan took the laptop back and looked at the screen again.
“From what I’ve found so far, as long as you remain in your female form your fine. Eric however was designed to be tracked, which means my advise from yesterday was sound. Make him disappear Kira. Don’t use him if you can avoid it and keep the time as short as possible. I doubt that anyone has bothered to look for you in years, in fact your file was suppose to have been wiped, but we recovered this from a back up. Which means that someone else might have it too.
At this point, they think your a failed experiment, but we know better. If they found out the truth they might want to get you back.”
“There is something else I want you to know. I imagine you had a very confused and difficult time growing up. Always feeling like you were something different, that you didn’t fit in. I hope you don’t mind, but I talked with Anne this morning about what happened when you changed. At some point I would like for us to talk as well, but i just wanted to confirm one thing. You said that you learned that in your heart that you were Kira, a woman, is that right?”
Kira nodded,” Yes.”
“I can tell you why.”
Kira looked at her for a long time. She had always wanted answers, but now that she had them within her grasp, she was having second thoughts. Anne returned with their cups and scooted her chair closer to hers. Did she want her to hear too? How could she keep anything from her?
Joan took a deep drink, looked down at the computer then took a moment to adjust what was on the screen.
“There were several aspects to the experiments they performed, but the first and most important was gender reassignment. In that they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.”
She looked Kira straight in the eye. “You understand?”
Gender reassignment. She thought that she had been born male.
“I was suppose to be a woman?”
Kira shook her head, “I thought that stuff was determined by DNA, you can’t change just because you think you can, or using some “program”.
Joan shook her head. “It would seem that way, wouldn’t it? Have you ever heard of the ‘Mustard seed Theory’?”
“I think I heard something about a mustard seed, but I don’t remember what.”
“It’s based on a saying found in the bible, I’ll paraphrase; if a man has the faith of a mustard seed, he can move mountains. The theory goes that if you can move a mountain, you can rearrange DNA.”
Kira’s brow furrowed, “That doesn’t make sense, you can’t just think yourself into being something your not.”
Joan almost laughed, “And yet that is exactly what a Changeling does. They believe so completely in their ability to create and use an Avatar to become something else that they do it.”
Kira was feeling like she was missing something.
“Ok, let me get this straight. I always felt like a girl trapped in the wrong body, because I was.”
“And that’s because somebody inserted a program into my brain that tricked me into somehow thinking I was male to the point that I actually became one.”
“So what? Are your telling me I’m a Changeling?”
“Yes and no. As I told you, the main aim of the original experiment involved gender reassignment, but at some point they decided to add a personality replacement. If that wasn’t enough, someone then tried to add shapeshifting to the mix. As confusing as all that seems, and I’ll admit I have no idea what they were expecting to accomplish, the end result turned out for the best as far was your concerned.”
Kira could only stare at her. What she had just described was horrible. That such things could be done to someone, to her, were more than she could contemplate.
“This is better?”
Joan gave her a kind look. “Your here, your mind is your own. I think that qualifies as a best result.”
Kira nodded, “true.”
“What I meant was that by trying to mix so many things, they actually sabotaged themselves. When they tried to add too much, the blocking program was degraded to the point your true personality was able to come out. I don’t know how, and maybe it doesn’t matter, but that personality was able to hijack their program. That is why you appear to be a Changeling. In many ways your ability is the same, but you weren’t born this way. Which is why I said yes and no.”
Kira thought for awhile, what Joan had said was true. She had been lucky in many ways. There was one question though.
“If I was able to throw off the block, why didn’t I change back? Why did I stay male?”
“Because by the time you were in control of yourself, you had already spent years as Eric. What would have happened if you suddenly changed into yourself?”
“I don’t know,” Kira admitted.
“Someone would have shown up at your door in the middle of the night and you would have been just another abducted child no one ever found. You understood this on some level, and so you hid yourself in plain sight without realizing what you were doing.”
What she said was true. They wouldn’t have allowed her to live, they couldn’t afford to. A shiver ran from head to toe.
“Help us,” Joan said. “Help us stop these people so that they never do again what they did to you.”
Joan eased back into the chair. She had moved into the living room following the light lunch Anne had fixed them. That girl loved to cook. From the corner of her eye she watched as she and Kira cleaned up. They moved in perfect harmony without even thinking about it, one washing dishes and the other drying. Such a simple task, but it said so much about them.
Joan smiled, Anne was undeniably happy and Kira’s feelings were obvious whenever she looked at her. They were a perfect match.
They had known each other for years now, all the time Kira hiding in plain sight. Even Anne, who was remarkable in her ability to spot Changelings and more than a few of the others, hadn’t suspected a thing. But even with that she somehow picked up on something, because whenever Eric had come up in conversation, Joan had detected something in Annes voice that said she was more than just friends with the boy, which with Anne’s natural tendencies was saying something.
In fact she become a little concerned with Anne’s lack of any relationship over the past several years. What few she had attempted had ended as miserable failures. Now it was clear to her why. The girl had already met her match, even if she hadn’t known it.
The question now was, what kind of mother would she be unless she could corner Kira and give her the ‘talk’? She needed to get her daughter out of the way for more than a few minutes.
She finally sent Anne off to get some supplies that she had too many of already, but were sure to gets her out of the apartment for at least half an hour. More than enough time.
As soon as Anne was out the door, she went to the window and made sure that she left. Seeing the car turn the corner, she set her ‘mom face’ in place and turned to where Kira was sitting on the couch.
“I think we need to talk,” She told her.
Kira just nodded. She had expected something like this was coming. This was Annes mother after all, and all moms wanted to check out the person their child was attracted to.
She came back and sat down. “Normally at this point I would would ask you questions about yourself, but I think we already covered that pretty well. So I’ll just ask you, what do you want from my daughter? If it’s just a quick bit of fun, then I promise I will make your life miserable.”
Kira looked shocked. “That never crossed my mind.”
She nodded,”Then what?”
Kira looked down at her hands. She had had this conversation only a few times before, but that was when she was a boy. Nothing like this. She wasn’t sure what she should say. Did she approve of this? Many people wouldn’t she knew. What would she do if this woman thought it was wrong or unnatural, or whatever and forbade it? Her heart threatened to lock up in her chest. She said the only thing she knew was true;
“I just want Anne to be happy, even if that means it’s without me.”
She looked up then, her emerald eyes blazing,
“Understand this, I will do whatever it takes to make her happy. I will give anything, sacrifice anything, even my own life if that’s what it takes.”
Joan was mesmerized, she had never seen anyone like this girl.
Anne had spoken of Kira’s willingness to give up everything for her, when she had thought that Anne wanted Eric back. Now she had seen it for herself. She would indeed sacrifice herself, her hopes, her dreams, even her very life for her daughter. It was breath taking and a little scary.
Love like this only came once in a lifetime if you were lucky. Now she hoped that Anne understood what she had. Maybe she should have this talk with her too.
Joan looked into those eyes and nodded.
“Then she’s in the right hands.”
She rubbed her hands, that hadn’t taken long, the girl was convincing, so they had time for something else.
“Let’s talk about your new job.”
Anne returned to find them talking about work of all things. She had been sure that her mom was going to give Kira the third degree and had a vision of her either crying or storming out. It had happened before.
“Anything happen while I was gone?”
“No dear, we’re just talking about Kira’s duties.”
Her mother gave her a ‘we need to talk later’ look.
What did that mean? She had a sinking feeling she would find out all too soon.
The time came sooner than Anne would have liked.
Following dinner, her mom, in typical fashion made up some ridiculous excuse to get Kira out of the apartment, and though she knew what was happening, Kira left without argument.
“I think Kira knows were going to be talking about her.”
“Of course dear, she’s not stupid by any measure.” Her mom shook her head.
“Lets sit shall we?” She took her tea and want to the chair while Anne sat on the couch.
She sat and took a moment to gather her thoughts.
“How serious is this?
Anne thought for a moment, “I love her.”
“That’s a start.”
Anne looked up,
“Isn’t love enough?
“No, it’s just a beginning. There has to be dedication and commitment.”
“There has to be a willingness to give everything for someone else and ask nothing in retur.”
She took a breath. This was where what it came down to.
“Anne, do you have any idea of what Kira is willing to do? For you?”
Anne was startled by the passion in her mother’s voice.
“She is willing to do anything, give everything she is or ever hopes to be, to you.”
Anne stared at her, unable to reply.
“She loves you with everything she is, Anne. Do you even have the slightest clue how special that is?”
She watched in amazement as her mother got up and started to pace, stalking across the living room like an angry bear.
“People go their entire lives and never find anything close to what you have right in front of you.”
She stopped and loomed over her daughter,
“And so help me, if you throw this away, I will never forgive you.”
Anne sat, lost in thought. Her mother waited.
Finally she got up, taking their cups she back to the kitchen and got them fresh tea. She returned and set them on the coffee table, then turned at went to the window where she sat, looking out but seeing nothing outside her own heart.
Joan could barely hear her daughters words.
“Mom, I know what Kira is willing to do for me. She was sitting here when I realized what I meant to her. When I realized what she meant to me.”
She was silent again for several minutes.
“I saw what was in her heart that day. Things I had never imagined. I saw her pain, mom. I saw so much sorrow. No one should ever have to live with what she has lived with. It broke my heart.”
Was it really only a few days? It seemed a lifetime.
“I made a mistake. A mistake that hurt her horribly. I almost lost her then, before I knew what I had.”
Tears rolled down her cheeks but she didn’t try to wipe them away.
“I got lucky, I saw what was there before it was too late. Before the harm I had caused had taken her from me. In that moment, I would would have given her my heart, my soul if she had asked, to take that pain away. I still would. I never want to see her hurt again. I couldn’t live with myself if I was the one to hurt her that way ever again. I swear that I will do anything, pay any price, to protect her.”
She looked over her shoulder.
“That was what I meant when I said I love her. Is it still not enough?”
Her mother waited a moment, then joined her at the window. Placing her hands on her daughters shoulders, she squeezed.
“Yes, it is enough.” She watched as Kira returned from her errand. “Just never take what you two share for granted.”
Kira saw them in the window as she pulled into the parking lot in Anne’s car. Hers had been sold to a scrape yard that came and towed it away. She had signed the title and left it under the wiper.
By the time she opened the door, Joan was sitting in the chair with a cup in her hand, Anne was still at the window. She took her bags over to the table and sees that Anne has been crying. She gave Joan a baleful look, which she pretended no to see. Turning back, she reached down and took her hands and drew her up from the chair.
“I’m back,” she said, wiping the tears from her cheeks with one hand. She takes a long look into her eyes.
“I’m ok,” Anne said with a little smile.
Kira couldn’t resist, she leaned forward and kissed her softly on the lips.
They stayed that way for several moments,
Joan coughed politely.
Anne’s mother is on her way home, dinner is put away and the dished clean. Soft music plays in the dimly lit room.They dance. Slowly they move together; nerves still raw after their confrontations with Joan, seeking comfort in the simple presence of the other.
Kira takes Annes chin in her hand and tenderly lifts her face and she moves down to met her. A lingering kiss before Kira takes Anne hand and leads her to the bedroom. She wants to show her how much she loves her in ways that words cannot express.
High above, Joan’s plane climbs into the evening sky. She sits with chin in hand and looks out the window at the growing darkness. She no longer fears for her daughters heart, but there is a growing fear for her life.