Kira never wanted this moment to end, uncomfortable as it was. Wrapped in Anne’s arms, their heads touching as Anne rested her chin on her shoulder. She put her hands over Annes and squeezed, encouraging her to hold her tighter. Everything she had went through in the past several hours had paid for this moment, and she would pay it all again without regret. The kettle let out an ear splitting screech.
“Crap!” Anne exclaimed as they both jumped. She released Kira and quickly shut off the burner. “Sorry, I forgot that was on.”
Kira stood, she could still feel the warmth from Annes’ embrace through, regretfully, it was already fading. She shrugged and gave her a sheepish smile,
“That’s ok, you had other things on your mind.”
Anne quickly turned away but not before Kira saw the blush that reddened her face.
They took their cups and returned to the couch, Kira curling up on her end with her feet tucked beneath her. She glanced at the clock above the t.v. It wasn’t even ten yet. Such a short time and yet it felt a lifetime since they had sat down to dinner. Her stomach complained about the lost meal, but she didn’t trust herself to hold down more than the tea.
Anne gave her a concerned look,
“Hungry?” she asked. “I could fix something if you want me to.”
Kira shook her head,
“Thank you, but I’m not ready to see if anything will stay down,” she held up her cup, “I’ll stick with this until things settle a bit more.”
Anne searched her eyes for a moment, then nodded.
“You tell me if you need me to fix you something.”
Kira smiled, “I will.”
They sat for awhile in a comfortable silence drinking their tea, each lost to her own thoughts. Finally Anne shifted, looking uncomfortable. She set her cup on the coffee table. Kira hid her smile behind her cup. She had wondered how long Anne would wait before restarting their conversation.
“Ready to hear more of my boring story?”
Anne had the grace to look guilty.
“I don’t think its been boring so far,” she said ruefully.
“True.” Kira had to laugh. It had been so long since she had had a good laugh, she had forgotten how good it felt.
To see Kira laugh, after all that had happened, was a wondrous thing. Anne looked forward to hearing that laugh often in the future.
She smiled to herself.
Kira took a sip of her tea. Where to start? She was sure there were a hundred things she could talk about, but she wanted to stick to the important stuff, all the rest could be filled in later.
“When I was about ten or so, I started have really vivid dreams. Night after night, year after year, it was the same. I mean that it was the same dream. It seemed that it was the only one I could have, though I’m sure that I had all sorts of dreams before then.”
Kira shook her head.
“At first I didn’t think much of it, but after a lot of time went by, I started to wonder if there was something wrong with me. I read everything I could find about dreams, but all those books were worthless crap about dream interpretation. Not a thing to do with my problem. This went on for four years, and every year I got a little more desperate.
Then, just after I turned fourteen, the dream suddenly changed.”
Anne held up a hand. “Can you describe the dream for me?”
“Its a park, always a mid morning in Summer. The sun is shining. Kids are playing in the distance, but I’m always next to a bench under a shade tree. That’s where she’s waiting.”
Anne looked at her intently, “Where who’s waiting?”
“ Well, me.” Kira looked a little sheepish saying it out loud.
“Your Avatar.” It was a statement.
Kira arched an eyebrow, “Yes.”
How did she know about Avatars?
Anne nodded to herself. This was exactly what other Changelings had described to her. Every dream was different of course, but they were all basically the same in that it was where they met their Avatars.
“Of course she isn’t there after I’ve changed.” Kira pointed out.
Anne thought for a moment, this was one piece that she hadn’t thought of before. When other Changelings changed, their ‘ primary’ self was there in the Avatars place. It was one of the reasons they couldn’t maintain the change indefinitely. She wasn’t sure if she should ask her next question, but she was curious.
“Kira, do you see Eric there after you’ve changed?” She held her breath.
Kira looked at her strangely for a minute before answering;
Anne sat stunned. That wasn’t possible. One form was stored while the other was being used. What’s more, there was a time limit on how long a Changeling could use their Avatar before they had to change back. It was a matter of mental strength and physical ability. The primary body image could be kept submerged for only so long before it suffered from the disconnect. She had taken care of a few Changelings who had stayed too long in their Avatars.
Kira was alarmed as she watched all the color drain from Anne’s face. Why had her answer caused this reaction?
“Kira, are you sure you’ve never seen Eric there? Not at the bench, not out with the children, not even in the tree?”
Kira shook her head, “No, I have never seen him there, not once. Should I have?”
A trickle of ice crept down Annes spine. Was it possible that Kira didn’t’ exchange forms? Did she, could she, transform her primary form? Or was this in fact her primary and the image of Eric had somehow been imposed on her? If it was an imposed image, that would explain why it disappeared; it would be a false image that her mind would reject.
Another thought; if the image of Eric was false and Kira was the true image, then that would explain why she had always felt that she was a female caught in a male body. Because that was exactly what she was.
The question now was, what was going on here? Who could have messed with someone this way? Why would they?
“Yes, Kira, you should have seen Eric there whenever you took your true form.”
Anne didn’t know what she was facing, but if she wanted to find out, she was going to need to know everything Kira knew.
“Kira, I know this is confusing, but I need you to tell me everything you can remember. maybe something will come back to you that we can use to figure out whats going on.”
Kira thought hard.
“I’ve told you what I remember of my early years. I’m sorry but I really don’t remember much. Just a bunch a fuzzy memories of different people in different rooms. It seemed I was always waking up somewhere different except for those rare times my grandparents managed to keep me for several days at a time.”
She closed her eyes and try to call up the images, but it had been too many years and she had worked too hard to erase them, that they only came back as oily impressions that slipped away as soon as she tried to grab them.
“Mostly I remember the time with my mom and step dad, though I doubt anything happened then. Those where mostly really days that I would be happy to forget. A lot of trying to avoid getting in fights, bad grades, and getting the hell beat out of me. Thanks to that bastard ,I spent more time in doctors offices and emergency rooms than I did just about anywhere else.”
Kira had to take a breath. Those days still had a hold on her and her anger always came out.
Anne was thinking, “A lot of time seeing doctors? What for?”
Kira shrugged, “The usual; some stitches, some broken bones. All the fun stuff your kid gets when you use him as a punching bag.”
“Were those the only times? Other than school physicals I mean?”
Kira searched her memories, “Yes.”
Anne slumped, she had hoped there would be some thread they could follow.
She went to take a sip of tea and realized that it was cold.
“Lets stop with that, there isn’t anything we can do tonight even if there was something here and I don’t think there is. Besides I need more tea, you?”
Kira smiled and nodded.
They returned with cups steaming and an unspoken agreement not to get sidetracked.
“Tell me about meeting your Avatar.”
Kira shook her head, “It was a little more than I expected,: she said.
“I had been watching her for months, years actually. She was everything I wanted to be, exactly as I had pictured she should be. I didn’t dare approach her, afraid that she might disappear.”
A smile slipped onto her lips.
“In the end, it was she who came to me.”
For some reason this didn’t surprise Anne, just another oddity to figure out later.
“She told me that we were one and the same, that I was her and she was me. When I didn’t seem able to grasp what she was saying, she took me and showed me.”
“I guess I had better describe it, otherwise, you won’t get the full impact.”
Four years. That was how long she had been dreaming the same dream. Four years of watching herself as she wished to be, should have been, could never be.
It was a dream where there was no question of who or what she was. Even now, she knew this was one dream that would never come true. People told her she could be anything she wanted to be if she wanted it badly enough and worked hard but there would always be one thing forever out of her reach.
Her dream self was free from all the doubts, all the fears that ate at her day after day. She was free of the loneliness and heartache.
When the dream came, it was with bitter sweet anticipation
Her dream self was as beautiful as always, long black tresses that reached to a slim waist, hands slim and long fingered, the hands of an artist. Her face still childlike holding the promise of a richer, fuller beauty when she was older. It was her eyes though, that were her greatest asset. Emerald green, they had an intensity and depth that made you want to look into them forever.
Kira had never spoken to her other self or interacted with her in any way, afraid of shattering the dream and loosing even this flirting glimpse of what might have been. This dream was different though. she felt strangely compelled to take her by the hand and tell her how much seeing her meant.
They were sitting on a bench at the edge of the park. It was Summer and the shade of a nearby tree shielded them from the morning sun light that filled a cloudless sky Kira had never been this close before, only straying close enough to watch.
The girl sat with her head turned away, seeming to look across the open fields where children were playing. Her hair was loose and pulled over her right shoulder so that her neck was exposed. Her right arm draped over the back of the bench, her left resting in her lap. She had on a simple blue dress and sandals.
Kira sat, not knowing what she should do. That strange urgency tugging at the edge of her thoughts.
The girl shifted, her poster changing ever so slightly, as if aware she wasn’t alone. She turned slowly until they were face to face. Kira found herself looking into eyes so filled with a compassion and understanding so honest and true that she wanted to weep. She smiled,
Kira could only nod, not trusting her voice. She the girls hands slip into her own, their warmth startling. A gentle squeeze.
“We’ve waited a long time for this”
“You and I,” the girl replied.
“I don’t understand.” Kira was completely lost. What was she talking about?
“We are the same, Kira. I am you and you are me.”
She couldn’t grasp what she was hearing, it simply didn’t make sense. She started to pull away; this was all wrong. The girls’ hands gripped hers tightly;
“Let me prove it to you.”
Kira snapped awake.
Everything was dark and silent, but she knew she was back in her own room, in her own bed. She sat up and turned to look out the window;
And almost screamed as something brushed the back of her hand. She jerked away,lost her balance, and fell back onto her hair. With a yelp she sat back up. That had hurt.
Then she froze. Hair? Moving slowly, she reached back until she felt the touch of hair against her fingers.
Very slowly, she slipped out of bed and padded over to her door. She checked to see if her parents were awake, but fortunately the apartment was silent and dark. She quickly crossed to the bathroom and shut the door. She flipped on the light and after waiting for her eyes to adjust, then went to the mirror.
The girl was waiting for her, there in the glass. Kira stood there for a moment wondering if this was some kind of bad joke. When she moved to get a better look, the girl moved too.
An image flashed through her mind, of being in a cartoon where the main character mirrored her in a doorway. She giggled.
She never giggled.
But the girl in the mirror had giggled too.
When she returned to the dream, they were standing next to the bench. The girl stood with arms crossed and such a smug look on her face that Kira wanted to slap her.
“Believe me now?” She asked.
Kira wasn’t going to give in that easy.
“What just happened?” She demanded.
The girl shrugged a shoulder,
“You called your Avatar.”
This was getting too confusing.
The girl pointed to herself, “Me.”
Kira wanted to scream. This was all going in circles.
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Of course it does.” The girl replied.
“No, it does not.” Kira shot back, she gestured between them.
“Your there and I’m here.”
“And just where is here Kira? Where do you think you are?”
“Dreaming.” Kira said but she had a sinking feeling that was the wrong answer.
“No.” The girl shook her head. “You don’t dream like other people do. When you sleep, you come here.”
Kira scrubbed her face with her hands. She really didn’t want to deal with this anymore, but she had to know;
“If this isn’t a dream, then where are we?”
When she had finished, Anne looked at her for a moment.
“You giggled?” she asked.
Kira’s jaw dropped.
“All that and that’s what you have to ask?”
Then she she drew herself up and with mock indignation,
“Just for your information, I did not giggle. I do not giggle.”
They looked at each other and then they both lost it and laughed until their sides hurt and they were gasping for breath.
“I would have loved to have seen the look on your face when your hair brushed your hand.” Anne said still grinning.
Kira grinned back, “I almost screamed like a little girl.”
“That’s because you were a little girl.”
They both lost it again.
Anne had forced Kira to take her bed for the night. She needed a good nights sleep more and Anne had things to think about and phone calls to make.
She had no doubt that Kira was a Changeling, she had seen the proof with her own eyes, but she was like no other Changeling Anne had ever met or even heard of. She had been far too old by the first time that she said that she changed. More than that, the meeting with her Avatar was simply impossible, they were just another aspect of the person, they didn’t act independently or have knowledge that the Changeling didn’t and they sure as hell didn’t drag the Changeling back to the real world.
Then there was Eric, it was clear now that he had been the secondary Avatar. Kira’s presence and personality were simply too strong for her to be anything other than the primary personality. But as far as she knew, the image of Eric had never wavered in almost four years, three at the least. No Changeling would be able to hold a secondary Avatar that long.
She was in way over her head.
The coffee maker beeped.
Less than ten minutes and she could feel a headache coming on.
She fixed a cup and dug her phone out her purse. She dialed the number from memory;
“HI Dad, it’s me. Could you have mom call me when she gets the chance?”
“Yeah, I need to talk to her.”
She rolled her eyes, “No, it’s not guy trouble. I just need to talk to her about something, ok?”
“Thanks, I love you too.”
Anne had spent several more hours tracking down information she thought she might need, and then collapsed on the couch. In the morning she awoke feeling like she had been beat with a bag of marbles. She sat up and look balefully at the couch. She had fallen in love with it the first time she saw it, and it was great for sitting and relaxing. It was not very good for sleeping.
She made a fresh pot of coffee and went to take a shower, stopping for a moment to look at the closed door to her bedroom. She thought of checking on her guest, but decided not to risk waking her up. She shook her head, it was the first time in three years someone besides her was in that bed and she hadn’t enjoyed a minute of it. And she was cute too, go figure.
She set the shower as hot as she could stand and let the spray try to relax the muscles in her back. She let the water run until it started to cool and then quickly washed. She was still drying her hair when she came out of the bathroom to find an apologetic Kira waiting for her with a steaming cup in her hand.
“Thank you,” she said taking the cup.
“It’s the least I could do after kicking you out of your own bed,” Kira said.
“I offered,” she shrugged. Besides, she thought, if we had both been in there, neither of us would have gotten much sleep.
Feeling her face heat she moved to the kitchen.
When she sat down, Kira moved behind her and she felt her hands on her shoulders. She deftly massaged Annes muscles across her shoulders and down her back. She almost fell asleep it felt so good. Kira had incredible hands and she had a vision of them doing other things before she could stomp it down. This wasn’t the time to get into that.
Afterwards she got dressed and retrieved Kira’s bag from her car so she could change as well.
Anne was nervous and excited to see Kira properly dressed. So far all she had seen her in was mens work out clothes and her old robe.
Kira took her time getting ready, it too late to make a true first impression, but she wanted Anne to remember this for a long time. She wore a black ankle length skirt, a plumb colored blouse that hugged her figure and ankle boots. She accented the look with a gold herringbone neckless and gold loop earrings. Her makeup was subtle, just a touch of eye shadow and a little lipstick to add color. She looked at herself in the mirror and decided that she couldn’t drag her feet anymore. She opened the door.
Kira opened the door and stepped out of the bathroom, looking a little nervous, and looked at Anne;
“So what do you think?” she twirled to send her skirts swirling.
All Anne could do was stare. Before her stood the most beautiful creature she had ever seen. Dressed in purple and black, she looked like a model out of a fashion magazine. Gold glittered at her throat, accentuating a long graceful neck. Gold hoops swung from her ears. It was all the jewelry she wore and she wore it well. Her eye shadow complimented her green eyes and made them all the more stunning. Her hair was styled simply and it framed her face perfectly. Its almost blue black color the perfect to her complexion.
Kira’s voice brought her back. She felt her teeth clack as she shut her mouth.
With an amused look and a twinkle in her eye, Kira pointed to the corner of her mouth.
Without thinking Anne mimicked her;
“Just thought you should wipe the drool off your chin.”
She blushed so hard her scalp felt hot.
“I wasn’t drooling!”