Not Like Other Girls, Part 7

Printer-friendly version

Emily Berrigan is a 23 year old transwoman, who hasn't seen her twin Jordan in six years. Not since she told her parents the truth about herself and they threw her out. Her older sister is getting married and wants Emily there - as a bridesmaid. Will sparks fly?
---
Jeannie, Rob and Liam come to visit Emily, and she learns the truth about their other son. Emily faces off against her mother about the wedding and being a bridesmaid.
---
Emily came into the restaurant, and looked around. She saw Jeannie at the bar, and smiled and waved. She walked over, grinning and gave her a big hug. “Oh my gosh, it's sooo great to see you. I've missed you.”

“I’ve missed you too.” Jeannie gave her a big grin and looked at her. “That blouse,” a green, short-sleeved batwing with a v neck, “would look amazing with a black skirt, although the jeans work.”

“Next time.” She had actually put on a skirt this morning and then decided it might be too much to throw at Liam for the first time she had seen him in over six years. Not that the breasts and hips and makeup weren't a lot. “Where are they?”

“Rob is, surprise, surprise, on a call and Liam went to the bathroom. So,” and she took her hand, “how are you doing?”

Emily smiled, “Still a little sore, but it gets better every day…”

Jeannie gripped her hand a little tighter. “And?”

Duncan. She and Jeannie had spent an hour on the phone the day he moved up the coast. Emily shrugged, “That doesn’t get better.”

“I know, sweetie. I know how much it hurts,” and she hugged her tight. “I promise you, it’ll get better.”

“I loved him. This was for real.”

“I know. I know, honey,” and she rubbed her back. “It hurts and it stinks but I promise you, you will recover from this.”

“That's what they keep telling me,” she sighed. Just then, she looked up at a younger, taller, thinner Rob. “Liam?” She stepped back. “Oh my gosh, look at you,” which made him wince in embarrassment in front of people he didn’t know.

He shuffled uncertainly and she wondered if this had been the right idea. “Hey, Emily.”

“Wow, you’ve certainly changed since the last time I saw you,” a phrase that made her sound 50.

He laughed, “Not as much as you,” and he gave her a hug, to hissed ‘Liam’ from his mother.

Emily laughed, “It’s fine. I didn’t mean it the way...it came out.”

Liam looked down at her. “Yeah, I know. At least you didn’t say something like ‘I remember when you were in diapers.’”

“If I ever say anything like that, please shoot me. But, seriously, you got really tall.”

Jeannie laughed, “Amazing what happens between 11 and 17.”

Emily rolled her eyes, to Liam’s amusement. “I am so glad you’re here. Anyway, my friend Shaye’s sister is a sophomore at UCLA and she said that, after the school’s tour, she’ll give you the real tour.”

“Stop trying to stack the deck,” Jeannie laughed.

Just then, the host came over. “Your table is,” then, “ohmigod, Emily?”

“Nila?” Then, turning to Jeannie and Liam. “Ohmigod everyone, this is my friend Nila. We used to work together at this place in Century City when I was in college. How have you been?”

After the exchange of pleasantries and catching up and shared ‘you look amazings’, Nila took them to an outside table. “I’ll make sure you’re taken care of,” Nila winked.

“If you see a guy come in, who looks like an older, heavier him,” which made Liam laugh, “that's my uncle Rob. Send him here.”

Another wink and she walked away. Two minutes later, Rob came over. “How did we get an outside table?” Rob kissed Emily’s cheek. She looked at Liam and saw...nothing.

Emily smiled, “Perk of being in the restaurant business. So, I'm soooo happy you're here. And I was telling Liam and Aunt Jeannie, my friend Shaye’s sister goes to UCLA and said she'd give us the real tour after the official one. I mean, you…”

Liam looked at her. “You're not coming?”

Emily looked at him. “I just meant, in case you wanted it to be the three of you. I didn't want to just invite myself.”

Liam looked at her, confused. “I assumed you were coming.”

She smiled. “I am. She'll give us the real tour.”

Rob looked at her. “We didn't come all this way not to see you, Emmy.”

Emily smiled, “I said I would. I'm excited. I haven't been there in a couple of years. You'll love it. It's really nice. I mean, not as nice as SC…”

Liam and Jeannie laughed, as Rob looked at her. “You're uninvited. In fact, go home.”

Jeannie touched her shoulder. “You're not going anywhere. For once, I won't be outnumbered,” which made Emmy feel warm and loved.

The waitress came over and told them Nila offered them a tasting menu, which they gladly accepted. They went through the plans for meeting at UCLA tomorrow, and then Em said, “So, Sunday, if you guys aren't sick of me, I was hoping you'd come over to my place for brunch. I mean, I asked some of my friends, if you don't mind.”

Jeannie and Rob both smiled, and Jeannie just said, “We'd really like that,” as she touched Em’s hand under the table. “We'd really, really like that.”

The waitress came over with ‘an amuse bouche, Copper River salmon on toast.’ Emmy smiled sadly, remembering that first night with Duncan, then resolved to be happy this entire weekend. “So, UCLA, Pepperdine and Chapman…”

“Yeah,” and he took a piece of the bread that no one else in the restaurant would eat in public.

“What are you thinking?”

“I dunno. I’ll know when I see them, I guess. I mean, Pepperdine is in Malibu which is lit.”

She smiled, explaining how Malibu was beautiful but far away from everything. And how Chapman was in Orange County, which was the suburbs, finishing with, “you'll see what you like. You end up spending most of your time with your friends anyway.” He nodded and went back to chewing.

“So what's going on with the movie?” Jeannie asked.

Emily had been offered the role of the younger sister and had, much to her roommate's amusement, been practicing cheer routines with Stef via FaceTime. She talked about it being in pre-production and how they were trying to line up financing, then said, “In the meantime, they're sending me out for a call for a commercial for Carl’s Jr.”

“What's that?” Liam asked, as he took more bread.

“It’s a fast food franchise, hamburgers and stuff,” she said.

“Is it as good as In n Out?”

In n Out was a West coast hamburger chain. Everyone here had a story of a relative from back east who wanted it as soon as they got off the plane. Emily smiled, remembering a trip with Rob. “That depends.”

“On what?”

“Whether they book me for the commercial,” which made everyone laugh.

“I still want it,” Liam smiled.

Rob looked at him. “Can we eat dinner first, Bottomless Pete?”

“I didn't mean now.”

Em smiled, “Your dad is conveniently ignoring that we went last time he was in.”

“I'm not calling you anymore,” he mock-grumped, to eyerolls from her aunt and cousin.

Liam laughed. “Yeah, right. It's like all we hear about for two days after he gets back,” which made Rob flush and Emmy feel her face getting warm. “Emmy, Emmy, Emmy,” and he grinned.

Rob put his arm around her and smiled, “I like her. She doesn't cost me money.”

She looked up at him and smiled, “Oh gee, thanks. That's it?”

He kissed her cheek. “Among other things.”
--
They finished dinner, a series of small plates, Liam especially fascinated with a Korean marinated skirt steak, and Jeannie yawned, pleading jet lag. She leaned over and gave Emily a kiss and hug. “We will meet you tomorrow at 11:00. OK?”

Liam piped in, “I’m not tired.”

Rob smiled, “We are.”

Emily piped in. “We could hang out and I’ll drive him back. I mean, if you’re interested.”

He shrugged. “K.”

K? K? Still, Emily smiled, “Come on Liam, we’ll leave the old people here.” Rob gave her a hug and kiss, and handed Liam a room key.

They walked out to her car and she looked at him, “Last chance.”

He stared at her, confused. “Do you not want to hang?”

She smiled, “I totally do.”

He smiled, “Good, then get in the car.”

She watched him fold himself into her car. “Your dad won’t ever let me drive.”

He put on his seatbelt. “You’re lucky. He’s a terrible passenger. Always complains about my driving and,” he imitated hitting a brake. “It’s annoying AF.”

She laughed. “So, I’m so glad you guys came out here. Are you excited?”

He shrugged. “Yeah. I mean, I’ve only been here once and that was when I was 9.”

They talked briefly about nothing, graduation and the prom for him, the commercial for her when, looking in her side view mirror, “Let me get this out of the way. Am I freaking you out?”

He looked at her and with confusion and annoyance, “No.”

“You sure?” She cursed the driver in front of her and Liam laughed. “If you are, you are.”

He kept looking. “I’m not them, Emily. I mean, there’s a bunch of LGBT kids at school.”

“Wow,” she said, remembering gym and the parking lot and class.

He laughed, “Things have changed kinda since you were there.”

She smiled, “Well, that’s good.”

“I mean, you’d have to ask them, I guess, but I don’t care. Like, this is who you are, cool.”

She smiled, “Thanks.”

He laughed. “You’re welcome? You really like it here?”

She smiled, describing the perfect weather and the beach and the mountains.

He looked out the window. “And it’s not Dekalb.”

She sighed. “That too,” then, changing the subject, “where else are you looking?” And he went through his list, how Notre Dame, the University of Illinois and Illinois State were givens, although not his first choice. “I wanted Michigan but dad said no,” he laughed, “which is fucked up AF.”

She smiled, as she waited at a light to make a right. “Stef feels the same way in reverse. I don’t get it, to be honest. CalArts doesn’t have a rivalry with, like, USC film school or something.” He laughed and she continued, “I bet if you wanted to go to Michigan and you got in, he’d give in.”

He looked at her. “He’d give in to you, not me.”

She turned. “Excuse me?”

He looked out the window. “He always talks about you when he comes back. He likes you a lot.”

“I like him, too,” she laughed. “And your mom.”

He laughed. “OK.”

She imitated him. “OK?”

“Yeah, you like them, they like you. Cool.” She heard something unsaid in his voice, but decided to stay quiet, as she felt him out. They drove along and she put on Spotify. Ariana Grande came on. He made a face, picked up the phone and furiously typed. Suddenly, rap filled the car.

“Ugh, Pop Smoke? Seriously?”

He laughed, “You know Pop Smoke?”

She rolled her eyes and scoffed. “Um, yeah. And it doesn’t change that you think this is better than Ariana Grande.”

“It’s objectively better.”

“Don’t be one of those guys, Liam.”

“What guys?”

She smiled, “If she likes something, don’t criticize it. That gets really old really quickly, know what I’m saying?”

“My girlfriend doesn’t care,” he said.

“Uh yeah, she totally does. She’s just not saying it...yet. So, is there something you want to do? See?”

“Can we go see USC?”

She laughed, “Your dad would kill me!”

He grinned, “Come on.”

“It's all spoiled rich kids.”

He kept grinning, “I just wanna see it.”

She looked around. “You better not say anything.”

“I won't.”

“And if traffic is bad,” and she took out her phone, “we can't go because they're waiting for you to get back.”

He laughed, “they aren't, but sure.”

“If they find out, I'm dead,” she smiled.

“No, you aren't, I am,” he smiled.

She looked at him and resolved to figure it out. The traffic gods were in their favor and she somehow made it to USC in under half an hour. She pulled into a spot and smiled, “Welcome to enemy territory.”

She had been here a few times before, for parties in college, and looked around at the palm trees, the old campus buildings and the new ones made to look old. A gaggle of blondes walked past, all tall and busty and dressed for a party, and she suddenly felt aware of herself. Whatever, she thought. She watched as Liam’s head swivelled around. “Try and be a little more subtle,” she laughed. “You’re worse than Uncle Rob.”

He laughed. “No need to get nasty, Emily. Besides, they’re hot AF.”

She smiled, “Welcome to LA. The girls at UCLA are just as hot,” and she could see the wheels turning. “Seriously, Shaye’s sister is a snack.”

He looked at her. “Is ‘snack' still a thing out here?”

She looked at him and put her hands on her hips. “Yes.”

He smiled. “It still is at home. Just messing with you,” and she relaxed. “This is fucking nice,” he said, as they walked around. “I could see myself here.”

“I’m sure you could,” she laughed. “Everyone is totally gorgeous,” and she watched some frat boys walk past, looking like Abercrombie models, if those were still a thing.

“Be a little more subtle, Em,” he laughed. “I can call you ‘Em,’ right? Because Emmy sounds weird to me, like a little kid.”

She smiled, “Em is fine, Liam. Call me whatever you want. Anyway, it’s so cool to finally see you. They talk about you all the time.” He groaned and she continued, “It’s really all good, mostly. Except the Jeep.”

“Whatever, it wasn’t my fault.”

“I don’t care,” she said, “it wasn’t my car. So, I know you wanna stay and drool but we have to get up in the morning.”

They got back into the car, heading towards Westwood. “Can we go to In N Out?” She looked at him in disbelief. “What?”

“I can still taste dinner.”

“Come on…please.”

She smiled. “Since you said ‘please.’” Then, ‘Siri, find an In N Out near Westwood.’

They drove, talking about school and admission essays, each pausing at the mention of anything connected to Dekalb, Liam shutting that down with, ‘if NIU was my only choice, I’d join the Army or something.’

They walked into the restaurant and he ordered a ‘double double animal style, Large Coke, fries.’ She looked at him, all 6’3” and 170 pounds of him, and envied his metabolism. The estradiol and progesterone did a number on her, making it much harder, and she tried to remember whether she had ever been able to eat like this. She smiled and ordered an unsweetened iced tea.

He looked at her. “That’s it?”

She smiled, “I told you, I can still taste dinner. Plus, you know how they say the camera adds ten pounds?” He shrugged. “It adds twenty.” She watched him happily scarf down his burger. “Do they ever feed you,” she laughed.

He smiled, mayo at the corners of his mouth. “Ha ha, Emily. Don’t be old.”

She took a fry. “No need to get nasty, Liam. You eat like...never mind.”

“Is this about that guy?” She stared at him. “I heard mom tell dad.”

She put her face in her hands, in part to hide her smile. “How much do they talk about me?”

He grinned. “A lot.”

“Oh god,” she moaned, still smiling. “Really?”

“Yup,” and he shoved three fries in his mouth.

“Do I want to know what they say?”

Through a mouthful of fries, “Probably not,” he grinned, “it’s all good. It’s messed up AF that they just saw you that day.”

She smiled, and took a sip of her iced tea. “It totally is. I mean, obviously I’m happy about it, but it’s hella random. Like the universe meant it or something.”

He rolled his eyes. “The universe?”

She took one more fry and smiled. “Shut up.”

“If I come here, will I get all ‘the universe’ and shit?” She stuck out her tongue at him. “Sucks about that guy.”

She sighed. “Yeah.”

“Sorry.” And he looked around the restaurant.

“It is what it is,” she shrugged, then, “so what did you think of the burger?”

He smiled. “It’s good. I get why people like them. I could see eating this.”

“If you came here, you could have them all the time,” she grinned. You wouldn’t, any more than you eat anything else, but you could. “Plus, you see how hot all the girls here are.”

He smiled. “You don’t have to convince me, Em.”

They drove back to the hotel and she walked with him to the door. “I had a good time,” she said.

“Me too,” and he gave her a hug. She smiled as she walked back to the car.

----
The next morning, Em was getting dressed and called Marissa in. “So, what do you think,” she said, “this,” an apricot print dress with an Empire waist that fell a couple of inches above her knee, “or shorts and a t-shirt?” Cut off denim shorts.

Marissa looked at her. “Are you trying to pick up college guys? Because either works.”

“Ha ha. I just, which do you think? Shorts? I mean, I don’t wanna freak out Liam.”

Marissa looked at her. “You said he called you Em and gave you a hug and called you ‘she.’”

“Yeah, but I was wearing pants yesterday, and this,” and she pointed to the dress, “is not pants.”

Marissa rolled her eyes, “A blinding statement of the obvious. He thinks you’re a girl, because you are a girl. You could be wearing a football jersey and jeans and you know what you would look like? A girl wearing a football jersey and jeans,” then, “let me see.” Emily stripped off her t-shirt and shorts, no longer feeling the need to turn around. She put on the cut-offs and the t-shirt, cut tight around her chest. Marissa laughed, “Um, Ems. You could not look more girly than this, if you tried.” They stood in front of the mirror and Em laughed at how right she was, and how much she loved this outfit. “And every guy there will be following you.” Then, “You look like total jailbait, by the way. Put your hair up.” Em put her hair in a ponytail. “Oh yeah, you look like his younger sister.”

“Really?” And she put this aside for the movie, to suggest to whoever was doing costumes, if anyone.

“Totally. Try on the dress.” Em put on the dress. “Oh yeah, this. Def.”

Em looked at herself, then let her hair down. “Def.” Then, looking in her closet, “Slides or espadrilles?”

Marissa smiled, “It’s so cute how much you want to impress them.”

Em saw herself turn red. “I just want to look good.”

Marissa smiled, “Uh huh. Yeah. Sure,” then, “espadrilles, you’ll be walking too much.”

---
At 11:00 AM, Emily stood in front of the alumni center, waiting. She was wearing her round sunglasses. She saw a guy walking up, light-skinned African American, 6’2”, his pecs pulling at his t-shirt, smiling. She lowered her sunglasses just in time to see him fall into the arms of his boyfriend.

She was looking around, when Jeannie came up. “I love it. You look adorable.”

“Hey, Jeannie,” she said, giving her a kiss. “Good morning.”

“Good morning. Seriously, you look terrific.”

“Thanks,” she smiled. “He is a really good kid.”

“Thanks, sweetie. We tried.”

“You succeeded. We had a great time at In n Out, I think.”

Jeannie checked her makeup. “You did. He told me. If he comes out here, I’ll be really happy to know that he has someone looking out for him.”

Emily felt herself smile. “You know I would,” then, “he wasn’t freaked out by me, was he?”

Jeannie looked at her. “Would you stop it already? No, he wasn’t.”

“Would he say something if he was?”

“No, he’s a boy, he doesn’t talk about anything, much less feelings. But, all he said was ‘Em’s cool,’ and ‘she’s fun,’ and that. He’s not like the rest of them. He likes you. Like we like you, well, we love you,” and Em smiled, “But he will love you. You, Emily.” Then, “Thank you for having us for brunch on Sunday. It means a lot to us.”

Emily smiled, “It means a lot to me too. You’re my family,” a phrase she had never said out loud, but meant. “I want all the important people in my life to know each other,” which led Jeannie to hug her and tell her they loved her.

Emily felt herself getting emotional. “No fair. You know I cry,” she smiled. She turned to see them walking up, the same rolling gait, each slightly dragging his left foot. She was amazed at how alike they were.

Rob came over and gave her a kiss. “Good morning Emmy,” then, grinning, “did Liam behave himself?”

Em, grinning, “No, he was awful.”

“Good. Did she?”

Liam, smiling, “She was OK.”

“OK? OK? Just for that, he really was terrible. In fact, make sure he doesn’t go to school anywhere near here.”
-------------

They walked around campus, the guide walking backwards, telling everyone about the buildings and the classes, the sports and the Greek system. She saw three girls in sorority shirts walk past. She would never have fit in here, CalArts was the right place, but still she wondered what life could have been.

She watched Jeannie’s head turn as a guy walked past. “He’s maybe twenty, Jeannie,” she whispered.

Jeannie whispered back, “They didn’t have 20 year olds like that when I was 20.”

Emily watched as Liam and Rosie, a girl they had met while waiting for the tour, walked as close together as the situation would allow, each trying to avoid being seen with their parents. She debated going over and playing the younger sister but decided to leave them be. She pictured Jordan making a move, Rosie being exactly their type, and smiled. The tour finished and everyone dispersed. They were standing in front of the alumni center when she heard, “Ems!” She turned to see the 5’10” half-Asian girl, with shoulder-length dark hair in a UCLA t-shirt and shorts walking towards them.

“Anaia,” she said, giving her a kiss. “Everyone, this is Anaia, Shaye’s sister.” She introduced everyone, and watched Liam unsubtly take in Anaia, who reciprocated.

Jeannie smiled, “Thank you for doing this.”

Anaia hugged Emily, “I would do anything for Ems. She’s the best.”

Rob laughed, “Yes, she is,” then, “are you an actress too?”

Anaia laughed, “Oh god no. That’s for Ems and Shaye. I’m an architectural studies major. Well, going to be. It starts next year.”

Rob grinned, and puffed out his chest to Jeannie’s amusement. “Really? I’m in construction and engineering.”

Anaia smiled. “Well, maybe I should be giving you the tour,” and she winked at Liam, who grinned like an idiot. “What are you thinking about?”

Liam smiled, “I dunno. I was thinking maybe finance.”

Anaia started walking. “I have a bunch of friends in the business school, if you want to talk to them.”

Still grinning, “cool.” And Anaia began the tour, talking about classes and dorms (‘you definitely don’t want Dykstra, although as a first year, you’re screwed no matter what’) and parties (‘although no one here ever drinks underage,’ to Rob and Jeannie’s laughs.) Halfway through the tour, she said, “Oh by the way, my friends are having a party tonight, if you’re interested.”

Jeannie looked at Emily, “Did you plan this, Emmy?”

“No, I totally didn’t.”

Liam, trying not to sound like a kid. “Can I? I mean, that sounds cool,” which got a smile from Anaia.

Rob looked at her. “If Emmy goes, you can.”

Liam beseeched her with his eyes, and she said, “You know, I have a busy schedule,” then, “OK, fine, I’ll go. What’s the dress code here?” Remembering USC, everyone looking like they were going clubbing.

“Totally cazh,” Anaia said, “Jeans, skirt, whatever.”

Emily remembered her last college party, making out with some guy at Cal State, whose name she couldn’t remember.

---
They finished the tour, and Rob and Liam left to walk around the campus and Westwood, while Jeannie and Emily headed to the Grove, a collection of shops. “They don’t mind that we came here, do they?”

Jeannie smiled. “They will be fine. Besides, I needed some girl time with you,” which made Emily grin. She remembered how her mom, aunt Jackie, Stef and her cousins used to go into Chicago, coming back laden with bags and inside jokes. “So, how’re Stef and Jordan?”

Em smiled, “They're doing great. I think Jordan and Kira are getting serious. I mean, she's always there when I call.” Jordan had told her that they didn't care who knew, which meant it was real.

Jeannie looked in the window of Aritzia, “That's terrific. Do you like her?”

“She's really nice and they really seem to love her. They don't even say anything when I tease them.”

Laughing, “That's serious,” then, “has she met anyone yet?”

Em and Jeannie had come to an unspoken understanding. Don't discuss anyone there in anything but vague terms, and then only to complain about them. “I don't think it's that serious yet,” she laughed. “Maybe if someone went to Indianapolis or something.” In other words, no time soon.

“And Steffie?” They walked into the store.

“She's good. I think they're about ready to choose a place. She wants the botanic garden, which looks really pretty.”

“We went to an alumni fundraiser there. I told Rob that's where my next wedding would be.”

She laughed. “What did he say?” She looked at a pale green dress, a tiered babydoll dress with a V neckline, that tied at the neck with cute details at the collar and hem.

“He asked if he was invited. That's cute.”

She held it to herself. “You think?”

“Definitely. You want to try it on?”

She paused. It was cute, but she could find it for less and wasn't sure where she would wear it. But, on the other hand, she was just trying it on. She went to find a dressing room, tried it on and looked in the mirror. She came out, “No, right?”

Jeannie shook her head. “Yeah, no. I can't put my finger on it, but just…”

“I know.” She went back to change. They kept looking around, eventually leaving the store and just walking around the Grove.

---
“I don't think I've ever met her,” Em said, as they discussed Jeannie’s sister-in-law, who had apparently told her mother off about something she had said regarding her daughter.

“You didn't miss much,” she sighed.

“I mean, no offense,” and she looked in the window of Vince, at a cute t-shirt dress, pale pink, “but your mom did tell her that she should not let her daughter dress the way she did. That's kinda, y’know…”

“Oh, absolutely and I told her that, and it was like my childhood all over again but Melanie is making him,” her brother, “absolutely miserable over this and it's killing him.”

Em smiled, “Did you ever like her?”

“She's not bad…”

A slight wind blew and she held her hem down. Her hair blew in her face and Jeannie took a hair tie out of her bag and reached over to put Em’s hair back. Em smiled. “But?”

“He's my baby brother,” she said. “I just think she's mean to him.”

She smiled, thinking of Stef and Jordan. “Well, how bad was what your niece wanted to wear?”

She laughed. “Awful. It was this tight top and she inherited her mother's chest and her mother's inability to buy a bra that fits.”

Em laughed. “Ouch! That bad?”

“Have you ever seen one of those old ladies with her boobs at her stomach? She started as my niece.”

“You are so mean!” She giggled at the mental picture, remembering a former coworker, who everyone used to call her Deedee behind her back, because she was so huge. They began talking about work, about one of the other admins who made comments every time she left for an audition. “I mean, it's like I take work home with me and it gets done and no one else seems to care.”

“She's jealous of you but just make sure your office manager knows that you're doing it. You have to be a self-promoter. If you aren't, no one else will be. Rob taught me that.”

She smiled. “I know. He's always telling me to be my own biggest cheerleader. He's been great.”

She laughed, “I will never tell him that and ask you to do the same.”

--

They were walking past Nordstrom and Jeannie said that she needed makeup. Jeannie picked up a lipstick and asked her opinion. Em smiled and Jeannie looked at her, “You look happy.”

She thought about her mom and Stef, Aunt Jackie and her cousins. “I'm just having a really, really good time.”

Jeannie smiled, “Me too.”

They went out to get coffee, sitting at an outdoor cafe. “I'm having a really great time,” Emily said.

Jeannie looked at her. “Me too. It's not like Liam is interested in spending time with me.”

She smiled and thought of Stef and their mother. “I'm serious. This has been really, really fun and I hope you'll do it with me again.”

Jeannie put her hand on Emily’s. “I will do this with you as much and as long as you're willing to do it with me. You know you don’t need to ask, right?”

Emily, looking into her eyes. “I know. I just don't want to push my luck…”

Jeannie hugged her, “You have no luck to push. We are a family. You, me, Rob,” then pausing, “and Liam. You're stuck with us now.”

Emily smiled softly. “I want to be stuck. I'm glad we're stuck.”

“That's enough of that,” Jeannie said. “You'll keep an eye on Liam tonight, right? He's a good, smart kid but his judgment is sometimes, and when a girl is involved…”

Emily looked at her, “He keeps talking about a girlfriend. What's up with that?”

Jeannie took a sip of her iced coffee. “Nothing. She's a junior and really clingy.”

“Oh God,” she said, remembering her first year self, hormones out of whack. “One of those.”

“Oh yeah,” she laughed, “and she has this awful voice,” and she imitated a high, nasal voice that made people turn. “She thinks it's a relationship…”

Emily laughed. “Got it. Anyway, I'll make sure he doesn't get too stupid.”

“That's all we ask, Emmy. Be his big sister,” which made Em grin from ear to ear.

Then, she got serious. “Speaking of which.”

“I'm not there yet.”

“Emmy, we've talked about this.”

“I know, but I’m not ready.” She intently studied her hem.

“You know that, no matter what, Stef and I will be there for you.”

“I know, but I don't think you know what she said.”

“I'm not excusing anything she said. It's inexcusable. You're her daughter and a wonderful person and you don't just turn your back on your child, no matter what,” and a look came over her face.

Emmy said, in a small voice, “we can stop if you want,” then gave her a hug. “You know that you and Rob mean everything to me.”

She smiled and gave her a kiss. “And you mean everything to us.”

----
“I can drive,” Emily said, as they left the restaurant.

Uncle Rob looked at her. “Take an Uber.”

“I don’t plan on drinking.”

He looked at her, his face serious. “People don’t plan on doing anything stupid, Emmy, but they do. Take an Uber. I’ll pay.”

“I’m just…”

He put his hands on her shoulders, and she felt the weight of his hands. “This isn’t a discussion. Uber or you’re not going.”

“Fine,” she said, smiling. “We’ll take an Uber. I hear you’re an excellent tipper.”

He grinned, “Wiseass,” then, “I’m not OK with this outfit.” Emily was wearing her slip dress, the mini that she bought just before the surgery.

She looked at Jeannie, who said, “Rob, it's fine. It's what they're wearing these days. Besides, Emmy is 23, not 17.”

He grumbled, told them not to be too late, and stuck his hand out. Emily handed him her keys, the plan being for Liam to crash at her place and him to drive her car back for brunch the next day.

Liam looked at him and rolled his eyes, his backpack slung over his shoulder. When they were out of earshot, Liam apologized, “That's just how he is.”

Remembering her own teen years, well Stef’s, she smiled, “He means well.”

“Whatever.”

She smiled. “Whatever,” she imitated. “This is gonna be lit.”

“Thanks for doing this.”

“You don't have to thank me. It's fun.”

“It's not gonna be boring for you, a college party?”

She theatrically put her foot down. “I'm only 23!” He grinned. “Jerk,” she grinned.


The party was a success, Liam having fooled around with a girl, a blonde with a cute little nose and pale blue eyes. And misshapen boobs in a top that left them hanging out. Anaia had smiled and tilted her head towards Liam, “He’s a great guy. And she is a total ditz, so they should work out.”

At 1:30, she tapped Liam on the shoulder. “Sorry, Liam, but we have to get back. We need to be up in the morning.”

He looked at her, and she could see his eyes lightly floating in a mix of beer and tequila. He looked at the girl, “Sorry, Kira, but y’know…” Em smiled at the name, thinking of Jordan, how they would be egging Liam on.

Kira smiled, “Well, if you end up coming here, look me up,” and she gave him her Insta and Snap information. Then, she kissed him again.

They walked out. “Go Liam,” she laughed, offering her hand for a high five.

He high-fived her back. “You and that guy didn’t look too bad either,” he slurred.

She smiled, “How drunk are you?”

He smiled. “I’m buzzed, not fucked up.” He walked a little. “OK, I’m kinda close to fucked up.”

She looked at him. “You gonna puke? Because we can wait to call the Uber.”

“Nah, I’m not that fucked up. Thanks for doing this, Em.”

“You don’t have to thank me,” and she felt a late night breeze blow her dress. “I had a lot of fun,” and, to his grin, “not just that, you jerk.”

“You’re not going to tell mom and dad about this, are you?”

“I’m pretty sure they know people drink at college parties.”

“Come on,” he groaned.

“No, of course not. It’s you and me, right?”

He smiled, “You’d be a really cool older sister, you know that?”

She laughed, “You’re way closer to fucked up than you think.”

He looked at her. “No, I mean it. You would be.”

“Thanks. I always wanted a younger brother or sister.”

The Uber came and he got in the car, and Liam rested his head on the window. “He’s not going to throw up, is he?” The driver looked concerned.

“He should be OK. I’ll keep an eye on him.” With that, she could see Liam’s eyes close.

They got back to Emily’s place and walked up the stairs. “You’re the best, Ems,” he slurred.

“Uh huh.”

“Now, I know why they love you so much,” which threw her for a loop.

“I love them too,” she said.

“Nah, I mean it. They love you like they love me.”

She was lost for a second, then chalked it up to alcohol. “Not quite,” she said. “But, thanks.”

“Nah, I mean it,” he said. “They do.”

“You’re their son. I’m just their niece.”

“Stef's just their niece,” he smiled. “I told you. He talks about you all the time.”

She smiled, then, “Does that bother you or something?”

“Not at all. It's been shitty the past couple of years.”

“Why?”

“You know why. Robbie.”

“What's up with Robbie?”

“You don't know? Really?” He looked sobered up for a second.

“No.”

“Mom didn't tell you? Dad?”

“No. What? What's up with Robbie?”

He looked around. “You can't tell anyone. Not Stef. Not Jordan. No one.”

She steeled herself. “Of course.”

“He's schizophrenic. And it's bad.”

“What does that mean? I mean, like what does he do?”

“It's like he has these delusions, they call them. Like he's all paranoid, that we're trying to kill him. And he sees shit. And he attacked mom…”

She felt like she had been punched in the stomach, all the air coming out of her. “Fuck. Was she...ok?”

“I mean, I tackled him before he could do any real physical damage…”

She hugged him without thinking. “Ohmigod.”

He hugged her back, and he started talking, in a choked voice, about how everyone told them that was unusual for schizophrenics and it was only one time but he knew what he saw. Then, how Robbie would disappear sometimes.

She felt herself starting to cry. “I didn't know.”

“I know. And I hate it. I hate that he doesn't always take his medicine. And I hate the way he disappears. And I hate when he comes back,” and she felt his body tense.

“It's ok, Liam, I'm here. And I'm not going anywhere.”

“And I hate him.”

“You don't hate him. You hate the disease.”

He pulled back, his eyes red. “I hate what he does to them. And I hate that I hate him. He wasn't always like this and I went to a support group and they tell you it's ok to be angry but then they tell you shit like it's not their fault, which means it's my fault.” Then, he moved back to her, offering himself for a hug.

“It's not your fault.” She hugged him tight. “You don't have to apologize to me for anything, I get it. Believe me.”

“And I hate that he's like this ghost that haunts us, that he took away our family…”

“He didn't... I mean, they love you as much as they did before...I mean...you know what, I'm gonna shut up,” which made him smile.

He looked at her. “Can I tell you something?” She nodded. “Sometimes, I wish he would just die.” Before she could speak, “because then we'd be done. We could have a funeral and grieve and be done. Now it's like he keeps dying and coming back and dying and coming back, y’know?”

She touched his leg. “You poor thing. How long have you been feeling like this?”

“Since I realized he wasn't getting better.”

“I feel horrible. You know that whenever you want to yell or complain or just talk, I'm here, right?” He smiled and hugged her. “You're a good hugger. Girls like that.”

He pulled back. “This is gonna sound weak, but I'm glad mom and dad saw you that day. You've made them really happy.”

“They make me happy.”

“No, I mean it. Since they've been seeing you, talking to you, they've been really happy. It's like they have a daughter.”

She was floored. “Huh?”

He smiled, “That's what I meant before. I think you're like a daughter to them. They're really proud of you.”

“For what?”

He laughed. “Umm, the way you've made this whole life for yourself out here? Dad's like mad impressed. I heard him tell Uncle Doug.” He looked at her. “Fuck, I'm sorry.”

“What? How?”

“Shit. Never mind.”

“No,” she said, taking breaths to calm herself. “No take backs,” a phrase she hadn't used in forever.

“He meant it mad positively…”

“Liam, just tell me. I'm not gonna get pissed,” at you. Probably.

“So we were at this thing at Uncle Kevin’s,” the name sneered, which made her smile a little. “And Mom and Dad were talking to Uncle Doug and Aunt Laura, and they were talking about the wedding and Mom told her she was being ridiculous, and that she would be proud to have a daughter like you…”

“She said that? For real?”

“Umm, she loves you more than me,” he laughed.

“No she doesn't.”

“She likes you better. Like she waits for your calls and she wouldn't shut up about today. Like she had a perfect day with you. Anyway, so she was telling Aunt Laura how good and kind and sweet you were, and how she needed to wake up and realize that. And Dad told yours that you made this whole life for yourself, with a job and friends and shit, and that they should realize how good they had it with you and Jordan and Stef, ‘cuz it could be much worse…”

“Jeez. What did they say?”

“They saw me listening. So I left mad quick,” he laughed. “Sorry.”

She laughed. “No worries. What did the rest of them have to say?”

“They were too busy getting pissed at each other,” he laughed. “But anyway, Mom and Dad love you for real.”

“I love them too. I wish they were mine. Hella fucked up, right?”

“Nah, they're ok. Anyway, could I ask you something? You don't have to answer, if you don't want.”

She took a breath. “Yeah. What?”

“How did you know about y’know?”

She smiled. “I just did. It's like, how did you know you were a boy? You just did, right?” He nodded. “It's like, from when I was little, I knew I was a girl, that I liked girl stuff. Like I looked at Stef and... everyone else and I knew I was supposed to be them. And when I was with...guys, it was like, and this is weird, I was in a foreign country and I couldn't speak the language and I knew that I could live there the rest of my life and I never would. And I knew that if I kept trying, I would die eventually. Sorry, that's TMI, right?”

He looked at her. “No. I mean it sucks that some people don't get that. Like, who fucking cares if you,” and he clenched his legs.

“It's not contagious, Liam,” she laughed.

“Fuck you,” he grinned, then, “how bad were they about it?”

She looked down. “Bad. Really bad.”

“That's bullshit. I don't get it.” She shrugged. “I'm serious. You're, I mean you'd be, a really good sister…”

She smiled, “Thanks, Liam. I’d like a brother like you. You know, if you come here, I'm here for you. And if you don't, I'm still here for you.”

He smiled, “I know. You gonna ever talk to them again?”

“Stef wants me to. And your mom.”

“You gonna?”

“I don't know. I mean, I know I can't just show up at the wedding, but I don't know what she’ll say. Or me. I mean, I told your mom the shit she said to me.”

He looked at her. “Whatever she says, I'm here for you.”

“Thanks, Liam. That means a lot to me,” and he just smiled, then passed out. She went into the closet and put a blanket over him.

---
11:30 the next morning, Emily and Marissa came back from Vonn’s, carrying bags. She found Liam sitting up on the couch, a bottle of water in front of him. “Yo, you went to the store? Why didn’t you wake me? I would’ve come and helped.”

Emily laughed, “You needed to sleep it off.”

“I wasn’t that fucked up.”

Marissa laughed. “For someone who wasn’t that fucked up, you were snoring pretty hard,” which made him turn red.

“Sorry,” he mumbled.

Emily smiled. “It’s cool. Put on some shoes and help us with the bags.”

They walked downstairs, Liam blinking in the sun. “Damn, that sun is bright,” which got laughs.

“You gonna be OK?”

He laughed, “Yeah. I’ll get some more water in me. I’ll be fine by the time they get here.” Marissa smiled and held back.

“So, you had a good time last night, right?”

He smiled, “I said I did.”

They walked up to the apartment, Liam taking bags from her. “You remember the conversation after we got back?”

He looked at her, hurt in his eyes. “Yeah, I remember.”

“If you don’t wanna talk about it again…”

He looked at her. “Nah, it’s not that. I have nothing else to say about him.”

“K. If you want to.”

He smiled, “If I do, I know I can. But I don’t.”

“OK.” She started to ask if he remembered the rest and stopped.

Marissa came over and sniffed. “You smell like stale beer. Go shower.”

He looked at her and smiled. “Do I know you?”

She stuck out her hand and smiled, “Hi, I’m Marissa, Em’s roommate. You must be Liam. You smell like shit. Go shower before your mom gets here and yells at you and Em.” He laughed, picked up his bag and went to the bathroom. “How much did he drink?”

---
Brunch was a success.

Anaia was the last to leave. “Thanks, Mr. Nehlen. I’ll get you my resume.” Rob had offered to put out feelers for summer internships for her.

“It’s Rob, Mr. Nehlen is,” a sigh, “my father,” which got snickers from Liam and Emily, “and I make no promises, but I’ll do what I can.”

“Well, I appreciate it. Thanks again, Ems,” she said, giving her a kiss.

Marissa smiled. “Let’s start cleaning up.”

Jeannie looked at her. “We’ve got this, Marissa.”

Marissa looked at Em, who shrugged. “Are you sure?”

Jeannie smiled. “I’m sure,” her tone, kind but firm. “Go enjoy the rest of the day. When you get back, you won’t even know we were here.” She gave her a kiss, then looked at Liam and Rob, “Go take a walk, you two.”

Rob looked at Liam, “We’re being dismissed.”

They walked out the door and Emily gave a little smile. “Am I in trouble?”

Jeannie laughed, “No, but we need to talk. First, your friends were wonderful,” and she described how much she liked each of them.

“I know. I’m really lucky to have them,” Em said, surveying the room and deciding where to start.

“They’re lucky to have you,” then, “I’ve been thinking all night.”

“Uh oh.”

Jeannie looked at her, “Don’t say it,” the Nehlen family ‘joke’ about thinking. “You need to call her.”

“I know, but I’m afraid of what will happen.”

Jeannie stared at her. “Nothing will happen.”

“You don’t know that,” Em said, as she rinsed a plate in the sink.

“I do,” Jeannie said, scraping old fruit from a plate into the garbage.

“That goes into compost,” Em said, pointing to a bin, “But how can you say that? How do you know that?”

“Because,” she said, dumping a half full mimosa into the sink, “what can she do to you?”

Em stopped. “I’ve spent six years finally not feeling like shit.”

“She can’t make you feel like shit anymore, Emmy,” which got an eyebrow raise. “I mean it.”

“Wanna bet?” And she scraped some egg leavings into the compost bin, and threw some napkins into the trash. “She’s a major bitch.”

Jeannie gave a half-smile. “I’ve known her longer than you. But, she can’t. You know why?”

“Why?”

“Because,” she said, reaching over and turning off the sink, “you have me and Rob now. And we’re not going anywhere. We love you unconditionally.”

And Emily felt the tears welling up. “I love you too. I wish you were my mom,” and she put her hand over mouth.

And Jeannie enveloped her in a hug. “Emmy, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I only wish I had a daughter as good as you. And I will be your surrogate mom, if that’s OK,” and Emmy nodded, wiping tears and snot onto her, mumbling ‘sorry.’ “But, she is your mother, for better or worse, and you need to do this. You’re a grown woman. A beautiful, strong woman and beautiful, strong women don’t hide from their moms,” pausing and smiling, “usually.”

Emily pulled back, “What happens when she says everything she said about me again? Or worse?” She imagined the venom spilling over her.

“Then, you will call me and I will tell you that everything she said was awful and wrong and then I will call her and tell her the same thing. I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again.”

“Yeah, Liam told me you told her off.”

Sorting out forks to put them in the dishwasher. “He heard us, huh?”

“Yup.”

“I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you that I told her that I had seen you.”

Em looked at her. “It’s fine. I wouldn’t expect you not to. That’s not fair,” then, “what did she say?”

“It doesn’t matter, Emmy.”

“It kinda does.”

“As bad as you think she was, she was.”

She debated asking what that meant, and decided not to. “Well, thanks for saying what you said about me,” and she stared at her feet.

“I meant it. We both did. I told you. Unconditional.”

“Thanks. I feel the same,” then, “what did he have to say?”

“He wasn’t going to start, not with all of them there.”

Emily went to her bag and took out her phone. “What’s her number?”

Jeannie stopped bagging garbage. “What?”

“Her number. I’ll call her now.”

“I, uh…”

She took a deep breath and looked her dead in the eyes. “If I don’t do it now, I won’t ever do it.”

“I’ll go outside,” Jeannie said.

“I need you here. Please.”

“I think that…”

Emily looked at her, tears forming. “Please, Aunt Jeannie. I won’t tell her you’re here but I’m afraid and I need you. Please.”

She sighed and gave her the number. The phone rang and she prayed for voicemail.

God was absent. “Hello?”

A deep breath. “Hello,” and she started to say ‘mom’ and stopped. “It’s Emily.”

A silence, then, “oh.”

“Stef asked me to call you and so I am.”

“So you are. How are you?”

Emily looked at Jeannie, who mouthed, ‘you can do this,’ “I’m great. Really, really great.”

“Oh.” That’s it, you bitch, she thought? “That’s good.”

She took a deep breath and, in her nicest voice, “And you? How are you?”

“We’re fine.” She pictured her pacing around the kitchen.

Emily took a deep breath. “You know what? You don’t care about me, so let’s just be real. You don’t want me in the wedding. Stef does and I want to be in the wedding. So I am.” Jeannie’s jaw dropped and then she grinned.

A pause, then ice, “Oh, is that so?”

“Yeah. I know that you don’t care at all about me. Six years ago, you made that very clear. And it took a long time but I realized that I don’t care about you or what you think about me. So, I don’t care what you or anyone else thinks. Stef is my sister. She wants me there - as a bridesmaid.”

“Is that so, Chris?”

“My name is Emily.”

“Your name is Christopher. You can call yourself whatever you want, but you’re Christopher and, guess what, that’s what everyone will see.”

“Not everyone.”

A sneered, “Oh, that’s right. Stephanie and Molly, sorry Jordan, and your aunt and uncle go along with this too. Well, they’ll be in a small minority.”

“Jared’s family does too.”

A derisive laugh. “Do you really believe that? Really?”

Emily wanted to cry, and then took a deep breath. “I don’t care what anyone else thinks. The people who care about me know who I am. Everyone else can go to hell.” Jeannie came over and rubbed her shoulders. “That includes you. Why did you even want to talk to me? So, you can tell me again what kind of freak I am? How you want nothing to do with me? Well, guess what, I don’t care about you either. I never wished you dead like you wanted me dead.”

“What a nice speech. Do you plan to give that toast at the wedding?”

She went to hang up and then stopped, “Some of us know how to behave, Laura,” which made Jeannie wince.

“Look at you, all grown up. Well, if you were an actual adult, you’d care about not ruining your sister’s wedding.”

“I’m not going to ruin it.”

“Oh really? When they start laughing at you when you come down the aisle in a dress and Jared’s family starts looking at them, and everyone starts whispering and pointing, you don’t think that’s going to ruin it? How stupid are you?”

She felt nauseous, all the self-loathing coming back and then she imagined throwing everything into the lake. “Is that your best?”

“Excuse me?”

“I asked if that was your best. Because if it is, you’re not nearly the bitch you think you are. Because, guess what, Jared knows about me. And his sisters. And I’m pretty sure his mom and dad. You know why? Because I know who I am. And I don’t need you. I needed you once and you told me to die and I didn’t die. And once I didn’t die, I realized that no one could hurt me like you hurt me. And now you can’t even do that. If people want to be assholes, they can be assholes if they want. I don’t care. I have a job and friends and a life here and I made it all by myself.” Jeannie silently cheered. “Just like Jordan and Stef are making it by themselves. Because we don’t need you or any of them. So, guess what? I’m going to be there. In a dress and heels and makeup. Because that’s who I am.”

“Are you through?”

“Why? Do you have something you want to say?”

“Like your sister, you’re big on speeches. So, now, it’s my turn. You chose to live your life the way you chose to live it. I think it’s a suicide mission, but your grandfather used to say that, if someone wants to kill themselves, don’t get in the way. And you have no idea how thrilled I am to hear that you’ve made a little life for yourself out there. I guess it’s good that you live there and not here, so that hopefully you won’t end up beaten up in an alley somewhere. Because, despite what you think, I never wanted you dead. Whatever you are, you’re my child. And I don’t want you to die, whether by your own hand or someone else’s. And you may walk around in a dress like you did when you were here, and yes I knew that you and Stef used to play dress up, it was fairly obvious, pathetic but obvious, and people may even call you ‘she’ and ‘her,’ but pronouns don’t make you a woman. Biology does. And I’m sorry that the genetic dice came up snake eyes, as far as you’re concerned, but they did. And a lot more people feel the way I do than you and your sisters, or whatever it is Jordan is these days. And I understand that you and your sister think you can bulldoze your way past everyone, but guess what buttercup? You can’t. And if you actually cared about Stephanie, you’d realize that and you’d stay away from here. We’ll Zoom the wedding for you.”

Emily started crying, then hyperventilating. “Goddamit,” she screamed and she threw the phone down and ran into her room, crying. She could hear the laughter from the phone. Jeannie came in, “I’m sorry, Emily.”

Into her pillow, “I knew it. I knew it. I knew it. And you knew it. And Stef knew it. And you all told me to call her. Thank you very much.” She wanted to tell her to fuck off and get out, but then she’d be all alone again. “I’m sorry.”

Jeannie rolled her over, so she was staring at the ceiling. “Do not apologize, Emily Claire. You did nothing wrong. I don’t know what she said, but she is a fucking bitch.” The phone rang. “It’s her. I’m going to give her…”

Emily stuck her hand out. “Gimme.” She picked it up. “Yeah?”

“I wasn’t finished.”

“I was.”

“I wasn’t.”

Emily took a deep breath. “You’re finished. I’m finished with you. If I ever thought about not coming, I’m coming now. And I’m going to wear my prettiest dress and my highest heels. And makeup. All of it. And you know what? I hope I make you sick. I hope you get sick and throw up and embarrass yourself in front of Jared’s family. And you know what? They won’t care. You know why? Because they don’t care about you. You think about them all the time and you think that they think about you, but they don’t. Except maybe they look at Stef and ask how someone so smart and beautiful and successful could come from backwards trash like you. But they probably don’t, because that would require them to care about you enough to think about you. Which is something I have in common with them.” She saw Jeannie smiling and shaking her head. “So, I’ll see you and Doug at the wedding. You’ll recognize me. I’ll be the one in the cute slip dress.” She hung up the phone, and looked at herself in the mirror. Face flushed and hair askew. “I fucked up, didn’t I?”

“I have never been so proud of anyone in my life,” Jeannie said.

“Huh?”

“You stood up for yourself. You told her off. Would I have called her backwards trash? No, that’s for the rest of them,” which made Emily laugh, “but the rest of it? Good for you.”

“She’s going to make life miserable for you and Stef.”

She smiled. “Your sister and I can handle ourselves, Emmy. And I know your sister. She is a bitch. She’s getting an earful from her right now and she’s giving two back.”

“I wasn’t too much of a bitch?”

She laughed. “Sometimes, you have to be a bitch, Emily.” Then, she gave her a hug and kiss.

up
71 users have voted.
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos! Click the "Thumbs Up!" button above to leave a Kudos

Comments

Nice!

What a trash Mom. I'm so glad she has her Aunt and Uncle now! Great chapter

Real People

joannebarbarella's picture

Jessica, your people are real. I'm going to make a comparison with an English author here who does the same thing with her people. Yours are American and hers are English or Welsh, but they all leap off the page and speak to us in authentic voices and behave as you expect real characters to behave. It's not just Emily but the whole cast in your story.

You make them unforgettable.

Another outstanding chapter

Robertlouis's picture

There are stories here and elsewhere where you wait eagerly for a new episode to appear. It might be because of a crafty cliffhanger. But that’s not the case with you, Jessica. No, it’s about the sheer pleasure of reacquainting ourselves with your characters, discovering what’s been happening in their lives while they and we have been away.

As Joanne has already said, they’re so real. You care about them. Yes, even the monsters.

And it’s the details. It’s occurred to me that you’ve never really described Emily in terms of her looks - height, shape, hair colour etc. But you’ve given enough detail and enough about her personality that we all have our own image of her, just as we do of Stef and Jordan, and the other characters too. It’s tremendously clever.

And now, within a few sentences, Liam moves from a gauche seventeen year old boy to a complicated, broken young man by the description of his relationship with his greatly troubled brother. Faulkner couldn’t have achieved that with such taut economy. Superb.

You really are a wonderful writer regardless of genre.

☠️

Another outstanding chapter

Robertlouis's picture

There are stories here and elsewhere where you wait eagerly for a new episode to appear. It might be because of a crafty cliffhanger. But that’s not the case with you, Jessica. No, it’s about the sheer pleasure of reacquainting ourselves with your characters, discovering what’s been happening in their lives while they and we have been away.

As Joanne has already said, they’re so real. You care about them. Yes, even the monsters.

And it’s the details. It’s occurred to me that you’ve never really described Emily in terms of her looks - height, shape, hair colour etc. But you’ve given enough detail and enough about her personality that we all have our own image of her, just as we do of Stef and Jordan, and the other characters too. It’s tremendously clever.

And now, within a few sentences, Liam moves from a gauche seventeen year old boy to a complicated, broken young man by the description of his relationship with his greatly troubled brother. Faulkner couldn’t have achieved that with such taut economy. Superb.

You really are a wonderful writer regardless of genre.

☠️

Wow!

Miss Jessica's picture

Thank you everyone for your kind words and for following my story.

And, Robert Louis, you’re going to give me a big head. :-)

Good one

I can’t find a like button, but this certainly merits a comment. Very good that Emily stands up in that way against abusers, be they related by blood or not.

Anne Margarete