TG Universes & Series:
Bikini Beach; The Russian Connection part 1.
By Cheryl L
Many thanks go to Elrod for his help in this story. He helped me to develop the story. In ways I would not have thought of. Also thanks to Ibi who worked tirelessly and patiently as editor, proof-reader and sounding board.
I’ve added a post that will explain/decipher some British and American cultural differences.
Synopsis. A young man’s parents have been murdered. He finds himself living with his Aunt and cousin. However, all is not as it seems. Soon he finds himself in the middle of a dangerous family fued.
With just a click of a button Cassie Owen had taken to sliding into the upholstered seat once unlocked. It had been a sultry afternoon when she unlocked her car from another grueling day of class. She had driven to college early that morning with the intent of finding a good parking space in what would soon be a crowded parking lot filled with others just like her. Now with classes over and her wanting to leave a problem had risen in how someone had taken the audacity of blocking her in with their haphazard shoddiness of parking.
Not one to waste a given opportunity with this needless wait, she could at least pour over once more in reviewing notes from her previous class. A course which proved both intense and challenging given her underlying interest of its pretty demanding requirement. A cherished course of love an affiliation for her: The Human Anatomy. A class she adored taking even with its grueling requirements. A highlight of hers to attend with perhaps the exception of a certain instructor; Professor Davies, whom she found ever as stifling and draining as with today's balmy weather with his ever-demanding expectations of wanting the best from his students giving little in return when achieved.
As she waited, having had to turn on the car's air conditioning to keep back the stifling heat as with cooling the car from sitting under the blistering rays, another problem surfaced to occupy an already hectic day with the passing of an airplane. A soon to arrive cousin as he flew across what many frequent travelers termed 'The Pond' with the underlying distance of water separating the two counties.
'Michael's moving in' she thought with growing dread. 'Why the hell should he? Doesn't he have other relatives in the UK?' She wondered. It wasn't that she harbored a disdain of having a foreign cousin. Or a dislike towards Michael for that matter, but she didn't relish the idea of some High School kid trying to hit on her friends. Cassie was well aware, as she skimmed over her notes wishing the other driver would soon hurry, of the fact that people may think her wrong as with possibly being a little unreasonable. Perhaps she was; no, admitting she knew better in that regard. She was being prejudice.
"Well no use putting it off any longer Cassie Marie Owen." Out loud to nobody but an empty car as with the occasional passing student having pulled out her phone placing the necessary call.
"Hi Mom," once her mother picked up. "I got my end of semester project." Cassie paused but a moment giving a dramatic effect of an exasperated sigh. "It's what I dreaded; the endocrine system."
"Oh Cass, sounds like you got a lot of work there." Her mother consoled over the phone.
Giving another small sigh she went straight to the point, "It's one of the reasons I called. I'm going to be a little late."
"Just one Cass? I don't want to sound difficult, but you know how things are."
"I know Mom and I'm not trying to be. It's just that I'm blocked in by Professor Davies. Oh," having just remembered, "and Marta has a lot of research material I can use."
"Okay sweetheart," resigned to the inevitable delay giving her own sigh. "I know how tough it is being a college girl." The reply not sounding entirely pleased, but understood her daughter's dilemma.
Hearing her mother's resignation, "Mom, how 'bout I save you from cooking. I'll pick up a couple of pizzas on my way home." Trying to make amends for the unwanted delay, "How does pepperoni and a Pizza Palace special sound?"
"Sounds good to me honey." Warming to the idea. "Oh, and get a garlic bread too." Julie Owen (née Stephenson) decided once having just returned from a day at the local golf club. Although not a great player she played mainly for the fitness. It was through her now ex-husband who had gotten her hooked on the activity sport. A minor consolation the two shared before a bitter divorced a little over ten years ago with her taking custody of a now near grown daughter as Paul Owen rarely, if not sporadically visited.
Over at the regional airport, Special Agent Steve Richards was going over the finer points having organized his team. A group of FBI agents fielded with what he hoped would be just an unfulfilled routine meeting. The point of being there as nothing more than to insure the safe arrival of one Michael Stephenson III named aptly after both father and grandfather, a third-generation individual who also bore an interest to their Grandfathers inheritance. Perhaps inheritance was an inappropriate choice of words to use, most likely the wrong word, given how both his and another cousin's Grandparents were still very much alive. The governing family considered it more as an endowment for both grandchildren.
Going once more over the details he felt his own phone vibrate in his pocket. Looking to see if it was of importance he noted the number was that of his wife, giving him to chuckle.
"Hey babe, how are you doing?"
"Pretty good, I have my team organized here. Five on the floor and two more ready to pick up his baggage." She answered for those close enough to hear.
"Is the pilot aware that we're taking him off the airplane directly?"
"Steve trust me on this, we have it all in hand. This is a big one for us too." A mild irritation detected through her response. "Yes, he is fully aware. Anything else?"
"OK, OK, I'm sorry I'm just a little on edge. I'll make it up to you later." As he put his phone away he mumbled, "Women, you can't live with them and you can't shoot them." Looking over at his team, all were pretty much in agreement giving a "Hallelujah to that Brother" response in unison.
Surprised, Julie looked at just how much time she had let pass. Her golf game took a little longer that she had wanted it too. Then came the call from Cassie which had further dampened her plans. As a Mom, she had pretty much figured out how her daughter was probably feeling with regards towards her cousin's arrival. Making her way towards her bedroom with the slipping off of shoes she hurried given her nephew's plane was due to land soon within the next hour, she would have to hasten if she hoped to arrive at the airport in time.
After a quick shower and fresh set of clothes, Julie was going through her purse, hopeful her daughter would be waiting with the expected food when both she and Michael arrived themselves. Searching for her misplaced cell she too had to make her own private call informing her parents of his pending arrival.
Frantically she rummaged through her purse casting back to what could have once been taken as happier times when she had been still married. Those times, long gone now except for the occasional visit, generally when his monetary income was short, Paul Own tried to convince people, mainly her and Cassie, that his reasons for asking were filled full of good intentions, just a case of being a lousy businessman, or so it seemed since any money given him was soon lost due to another claim of bad decision makings.
Only now her thoughts where of when Paul had made some discouraging comments throughout their marriage which likely contributed to his failures. Particularly those seemingly innocent comments of his about what contents she kept in her purse. She conceded most husbands made such disparaging remarks to their own wives about the same thing. Yet with Paul, there was always a malicious barb attached. It wasn't what he said at times, it was more to do with the look on his face as with his eyes. Yes, it was that distained mocking tone it carried, one of which her father grew to dislike immensely once married.
Then there was her father, Michael Stephenson Senior, a loving father of Julie and Michael Stephenson II; an individual who cared little for his errant son-in-law. A fact many could attest to as he had offered very little in the way of praise often referring vocally to him as 'Paul Owen that asshole of the first order'. He only abided and tolerated his company for the sake of his one achievement in life before the failed marriage of his beloved daughter. The only piece of scrapped praise deemed necessary towards one beneath him; the birth of his cherished grand-daughter, Cassie Owen now almost twenty-one.
It was here with her having found her cell phone tucked far between the confines of a recessed nook she stopped her reminisce as she freed it from its hidden confines to inform her parents she would soon part to pick up their Grandson, taking the time to then made another necessary call. One to the FBI agent assigned personally to her nephew. She'd known Agent Steve Richards since her early days in Grosvenor Square London.
Preparing for debarkation Michael III grew restless after a long audacious flight. His Aunt Julie had taken immense care in making sure everything was in proper order before he had even boarded his flight. Luckily for him, she had called in a few favors to ensure he had a smooth departure. Bypassing the usual throngs of passenger traffic, his checking in had been a speedy process compared to the waiting expectations of others forced to stand in long lines unlike his having been asked to show only his passport along with his driving license once escorted to the front.
With the death of his parents, as with his now leaving Europe, the strangeness of it all had hit Michael hard. Harder than he would have first realized. Here was his going to live in a place he only visited on rare occasions. And those had been in the accompaniment of his dad. Now traveling alone with his move to the United States this journey wasn't going to be a walk-in-the-park excursion by far. It wasn't so much the uprooting and living in such a foreign country which hurt Michael. He knew it was a foregone conclusion it would happen given as his Mother's family didn't even bother once in consideration of taking an interest in caring of him. They had always shown a very remorse as with a strong disapproval of his situation. There was, if any, little to no trust of his late father. Least of all, their concerns could be that of scorn with their not wanting to be seen to care about his son.
While it was true his father was deemed wealthy in his own right, his mother was of different character given she was from Russian dissent yet having been raised in England. He knew of her family to be considered powerful rather than wealthy. It had to be said they were considered not poor, hardly, by any means. And as their death, while still being investigated by both the Metropolitan Police in London as with the Polish Police, was tragic for him, the matter was considered highly irregular due to the nature of circumstances.
An as he viewed the outside scenery of a plastic window towards his new home he had been afforded the luxury of being booked in first class. Although he had more comforts afforded than other passengers, it was still a long lonely flight as he pulled down the shade having had enough of the bright exterior given his own interior feelings. The flight attendant had ensured that he was seated on his own not to be bothered. She had recognized his face, of course, as their deaths were making him a reluctant celebrity. Their passing was big news for both the papers and tele, which came as no surprise. The death of his parents was considered headline news with the speculation of one of premeditated murder.
Plus, there was the facet of his aunt's former position at the London based Embassy. A high ranked position his aunt had once held with her placement thee as the personal assistant to the Ambassador in London of the ranked diplomatic corps. His parents held very high esteem positions of their own in the business world. His Mum Elena was a very much sought in demand interior decorator. Very respected or had been he corrected himself. His father Michael Stephenson II had risen far in his own right as a corporate lawyer and just like his mother, Michael had to correct himself to their current stature as with his. The shock of loss was still fresh with it settling in.
It had been rumored in various circles there was a darker side to his mother Elena's family. One that he had been learning of three or four days after their reported deaths with Michael's abrupt removal of school. With no chance of given a 'by his leave' to them he was being whisked to his father's family somewhere placed within the Southern U.S.
Just moments prior to his landing the pilot had taken the opportunity to inform the rest of the passengers there was a VIP on the airplane to his discomfort. All were to remain seated, as a team of personal agents would soon board after gating to escort him off personally. Of course, all this had been passed early on to the flight attendants without his knowledge. Michael felt sure, to his embarrassment that others would probably think he was really a terrorist of sorts or worst.
As it turned out once the plane had been rolled towards the ramp the federal agents were more discreet having welcomed him more as a colleague and not a total stranger. Happily, for Michael, only those few seated within first few rows of first class saw his quick departure as with his newfound entourage. Of that few, one was unobserved, concealed several seats back. A man who'd been trailing Michael since he first left his exclusive English boarding school a few days prior.
Cursing when the agents first boarded then led away his pursuer he swore under his breath at those 'Damned FBI' under the guise of sipping a drink to hide his face if seen. Their involvement was only going to make the boys snatching a lot more complicated in his eyes.
Michael's departure had been with great expediency, taken directly to the airport's VIP lounge without much fanfare. A lounge situated amongst a slew of offices above the airports concourse tucked neatly away as they stepped inside. Here Michael watched one Agent contact a TSA supervisor with the pressing of his shoulder mic directing them where to deliver his baggage once collected.
"Welcome to the United States Mr. Stephenson. I'm Special Agent Richards." Extending his hand in greeting. "I've been instructed to wait until your Aunt arrives personally. I'm expecting her to pick you up in an hour or so." He then turned to one of the airport security men. "Let Ms. Ramirez and her team know Mr. Stephenson is now safely secured off the plane."
"Just call me Mike. Not Mr. Stephenson," Michael requested. "It's too much like school." Looking around, he noticed there was now just the two of them leaving Michael to wonder where the other agents were. "I was sure there'd been about four or five others."
"There was, but we don't want you to feel you're a prisoner." Allowing Michal to relax. "They have other duties to attend to right now. Care for a soda Michael?" Then as an afterthought Richards asked. "You do know what a soda is?"
Somewhat offended, "Sir I'm half American and I do know what a soda is. It's not just some American thing." A slow grin crossed Michael's face and for the first time in a couple of days it changed to a smile. "Make it a root beer please."
Heading over to a fridge located next to a corner of the room Richards reached in taking hold of a small 20oz bottle tossing it to Michael.
"Catch Michael," he exclaimed staying somewhat formal to his charges annoyance. "It seems you can always trust a man who drinks root beer." Having taken one himself.
Although taken off guard it surprised Richards how easily Michael caught the plastic bottle. Putting it down on a table nearest him, Michael allowed it to settle a few moments not wanting it to spray having been shaken with the offhanded toss. Waiting, there was not a lot for the two to talk about. Opting to try and avoid an embarrassing silence Richards went into the usual manner of asking about his flight filling about twenty minutes of their time. Later, to the relief of both a supervisor came in carting Michael's bags.
Michael noticed her name tag read, 'Michelle Ramirez'. An interesting name, he considered with its mixture of French and Spanish. Two of the so called 'romantic Latin-based languages', he thought.
Ramirez was about 5'5" by his guess. She held a strong resemblance of the singer Mariah Carey, which placed her as being very attractive in his eyes. With her making a direct line towards the FBI agent saying something to him, her tone was low enough leaving Michael unsure of what it was. Anyways he was beginning to feel the effects of his flight now growing steadily tired. This was coupled by where he hadn't slept much since the death of his parents. That and it seemed his feet had barely touched the ground since his arrival either. Waiting there with the other two there seemed to be an all-encompassing chill with a sudden hush having descended on the room. Michael wasn't sure, but could have sworn the temperature must have dropped at least ten degrees. It was then he took to hear Ms. Ramirez make mention of a man who seemed to be taking too long by the baggage carousel. A much self-interested individual trying to look inconspicuous, as he lounged over the incoming baggage having once collected his own belongings. It was here she noticed him as she collected Michaels. An alarmed look hinted her with seeing him not stray far as he kept looking over the carousel as if waiting for further baggage. It seemed he carried a set of similar if not identical ones as Michael's own. Suspicious of the man's behavior she kept a suspicious eye on him.
Beckoning him to follow Agent Richards asked. "Do you know him Michael?" As they looked through a window of tinted glass, they could clearly look out, but nobody could clearly see in.
"No sir, not really. I have seen him, but I've never spoken with him."
"Where did you last see him, and can you remember when?"
"I've seen him talk with my mother once. I think it was the last time we went to see my grandparents. That was September last year." He paused for a moment. Agent Richards could almost swear to hear him thinking. "Yeah it was September last year. I don't get invited there much."
"Could he be a relative of sorts? Or a friend from your Mom's family?" Growing intrigued.
"I've never met or seen him at family gatherings. But then to be honest I wasn't invited to many of her family gettogethers." Michael nearly choked on his reply, the emotional aspect of losing both parents was starting to take a further toll on him now as with the long flight.
"Sorry I know it has to hurt, but I need to ask." Richards said sympathetically turning to the TSA supervisor. "Good job Ramirez; there's hope for you guys yet." Richards teased.
"Hey, kiss my ass Richards." She retorted concealing a deeper context of meaning meant for later.
"We can assume that he's of East European, probably Russian. How many Americans were on that flight Chelle?"
"There was 35 Americans, some were children, a few Europeans and the rest were Brits."
"I want this guy's info sent to me as soon as possible. The sooner we know who he is the better."
"I have one of the girls in the office going through it now Steve. As soon as Sally has all the details from Heathrow I will personally wire you his picture, prints and any other information we have on him."
"That's my girl, you do all that and I'll take you out to dinner tonight so you don't have to cook."
"I'm holding you to that Richards. You'd better organize a babysitter too." Michael had a confused look at the last statements of that conversation.
"Sorry Michael, I should have explained. Michelle Ramirez is my wife. She works under her maiden name as it helps to protect Sofia, our daughter." Richards felt the vibrations of his cell phone go off. "Excuse me I think it's your Aunt."
At this point, Michael was wondering just how this man had been 'discovered' as he had no idea who may have noticed him, so "Excuse me Ms. Ramirez, I never noticed him at Heathrow. But he must have been there. Did he just kind of stick out? Because it just all seems so... I don't know, just wrong somehow."
"First of all, please call me Chelle, Ms. Ramirez is what I'm called when I'm getting my ass kicked." She grinned, and then continued. "To be honest Michael it was the damndest thing. At first, we took very little notice of it. But it was a little girl aged six or seven who pointed him out. She said of how he kept staring at you while you talked with her and her Mom at Heathrow. I'm a mom Michael, and when kids get that kind of feeling they are nearly always right."
"Little Melanie, I should have known." Giving a soft chuckle. "As you said Chelle, children are so perceptive. Sitting by myself at a table in the departure lounge waiting for my flight when up came this, I dunno, dynamo force of nature in the shape of a little girl, who pretty much demanded to know why I was so sad."
Chelle, gave her own chuckle. "My mom always said that children are naturally good judges of character. I'd say, she had you pretty much weighed up."
"It worried me a lot to be honest. It's not safe for kids of that age to approach a complete stranger."
"A couple of points here Michael: First I think we both agreed on just how perceptive children are. Second, I was seconded at Heathrow for a couple of years. It was also when Steve was working with your Aunt at the Embassy in Grosvenor Square. Security at Heathrow airport is second to none. I assure you that even without all the press coverage of the death of your parents, young Melanie was perfectly safe."
"Forgive me for being personal. But were you umm married at that time Chelle?" As he said this Michael felt his face redden with his querying. "I'm sorry I shouldn't have asked."
"Yes we were, and I gave birth to Sofia in London. I had the pleasure to have met your Aunt a few times. Sofia refers to her as her Aunt Jewels. So, it seems you have a little competition there too."
"I don't think I can compete with that." Michael chuckled holding up his hands in surrender. "Small girls always tend to win hands down like Melanie did with me. But clearly she was a lot more attentive than I was. I never even noticed him to be honest, even on the flight over."
"Don't be too hard on yourself Michael. You have a lot on your mind these last few days. So, I'm guessing that," Chelle stopped for a moment, to briefly stare at the faraway look his eyes cast. "Did she succeed in making you feel better, or at least distract you a little?" Concerned.
"Yeah she did, she just emptied out this small bag of coloring books and pencils. It pretty much told me I should help her. Next thing I knew they were calling our flight. I don't want you to think I'm some kind of stalker or something. But I was wondering if perhaps you may be able to help me help them a little."
"How do you mean? I'm not saying I will, but I'd like to know what you'd like me to do."
"I do know from talking to Ms. Harris, Melanie's mother, this holiday cost more than she really let on of been able to afford. I wondered, if there were any theme parks or something nearby. A token of my appreciation, I was going to ask my Aunt to cover the cost of the tickets. After I'd explained to her how Melanie had helped of course. I'm not asking where they are staying. I'd just like them to receive the gift anonymously."
"There is a place I can recommend. A water park called Bikini Beach. It’s owned by an old lady and her granddaughter. I’ve been there with Sofia it's a great place. I think I can help you with that."
As they talked a squawk came over a walkie-talkie clasped to Ramirez's belt. Pressing the mic hanging close to her left breast. "Ramirez here. Go."
"Subject has taken off. It appears he's heading towards the restrooms."
"Roger. Keep your distance, we don't want to start a panic."
"Affirmative. Keeping my distance. He left once all baggage had been claimed."
"Acknowledged. Set up a surveillance team just outside the entrance. I'll notify the others to cordon off the area. Wait until the subject has emerged, make no attempts to apprehend until directed."
"Affirmative. I'll keep you posted."
Twenty minutes later. "Just conducted a sweep of the stalls. Nothing." A dismayed agent relayed back.
"Are you sure?" Ramirez demanded with the distinct anger of disapproval.
"Affirmative. There's not sign of the individual along with his suitcases."
I want those cameras checked. Do a facial scan, see if he changed his appearance. James how did he…"
"I don't know." Maddened. "I've kept my eyes peeled, as with two others, on the entrance way. There's no way he could have slipped out." He answered in disbelief.
"Sorry Ma'am we lost him it seems. He must have realized we were watching him and somehow managed to ditch us."
"Damn! OK James, go and see if he left anything behind we can use which I heavily doubt if he managed to avoid your detection."
"You got it."
After the sudden disappearance of the mysterious passenger, Michael found himself guarded as he was escorted quickly inside his aunt car as soon as she arrived. It would be hours later of watching over surveillance footage over and over of what transpired. It was here TSA Agent James Cowan, determined what had to have transpired within the restroom. A nondescript man who had taken probably about fifteen minutes to change into a heavily disguised outfit concealed his identity enough to have fooled the camera's facial software. It was only by chance to his spotting of a familiar looking case improperly disguised having been dropped then picked up by a passerby to give to the man, exonerated him somewhat with his supervisor.
Steve Richards knew that Julie Owen would not be happy in having a bunch of Police or Feds camped out on her doorstep. He spent a few moments simply reminiscing the eighteen or so months he had worked with her. He carried very fond memories of those days with Jewels there. A strong bond of chemistry formed between them. If it wasn't for the fact that he was very much still in love with the woman he married, well who knows what would have happened. Hers had been of a failed yet prominent businessman, perhaps the relationship would have gone further.
Breaking his reverie and coming back to the present when his wife, true to her word, had wired through the information. To say it worried him, would be considered a mass understatement. Their quarry was called Mikhail Markovic. Markovic's name had raised a few red flags across Europe recently, nothing enough it seemed to raise suspicion to have him arrested or held. But he was a person of interest in a few reported kidnappings. Richards had obtained this information from Interpol. It had been considered within the organization Markovic was part of the Russian Mafia. The problem was that everyone (his victims and/or their families) were afraid to testify against him. With his involvement here, Richards now fully realized the severity the situation had now taken.
Despite the fact that this was considered an FBI matter, Steve Richards thought it prudent to let certain members of the local police aware of the matter at hand. With his superior's approval, he was given the OK with the understanding that Steve was to personally handle the case due to its sensitivity. His selection was one officer Donovan of Romanian descent and very proud of his heritage. Another, his partner of choice at times, (her last name momentarily escaped him, Archer perhaps), were not considered loose cannons by any means. But they worked efficiently in an off-manner way with a nearly unorthodox chance of obtaining desired results. The thing that mattered now was what bothered Steve Richards the most. How the hell did Mikhail Markovic come in the play of schemes and knowing Michael's Mother?
Officers Jozef and Jana waited patiently going over the file place before them in the grey building just outside the boundaries of a fenced off Bikini Beach, its walls stretching over twenty feet high. More in some areas. A small gated entrance on one side allow staff to enter and exit within as a secured entrance out front with a concealed camera used to survey those wishing to gain entry into the inner sanctum of the old woman's office. Seated comfortably this case had been placed squarely on their shoulders. A lot of the burden had to do with Steve Richards unusual request for them as he had worked indirectly with both officers previously on several sensitive cases. With Jozef having family roots to that part of the world Steve felt assured his assistance could only help the case. All had looked into Markovic's activities, with Jozef's off handed comment of the man's dossier made an interesting read, in fact a very disturbing read. Seated casually within the office after both Jana and Jozef had poured over the information they put forward their idea to a reluctant Anya as with the old woman.
"I don't like it Jozef it's too dangerous."
"I agree it has its risks bunică." In his keeping activates related to Bikini Beach informal. "But both Jana and I will be on hand at all times."
"Is there another way around this?" A troubled Anya asked towards her officer friends.
"If there is, we haven't seen it. Doing it in this manner, allows Michael to have a circle of friends or family given of what we've been told of past friendships. They will be with him 24/7." Jana replied.
"I had the chance to speak with him earlier," a gleam in Jozef's eye as if he were hiding something. "Let's just say there's something very special about this young man."
"Not much in way of a gut feeling, but I feel something peculiar, different about him. Not fully magic," when both Grandmother and Anya studied him, "but one who has a depth most kids of his age don't have."
"Jozef, you mean you already had this discussion with him already?" The older matron asked, obviously very upset, nearly outraged at not being consulted first.
"No bunică," taking to appease the older matron's sudden temper, "a brave boy, and in agreement this man has to be stopped. We've left certain questions unanswered leaving them in both of your capable hands."
"Do you really feel using him as bait will work Jozef?" Anya asked nodding her understanding.
"It's not something I like and ... given over a past result, I don't know if we should risk doing so again. Jana and I have argued, and discussed it thousands of times."
"I see," Grandmother answered mollified. "Those were her wishes Jozef not yours. You couldn't have stopped her no matter how hard you wished," seeing his nod of understanding.
"Perhaps not thousands, but we have spent countless hours in the days going over it Anya." Jana informed Anya. Both had deep, nearly heated discussions concerning the merits of needing the involvement of a citizen in such a serious matter only to concede the need to draw out those involved. It was a scenario neither cared for.
"Maybe we should bring Michael in now." Grandmother suggested done with the talking. "We need to see if Michael is happy with all this subterfuge."
"I'll go and fetch him..." Jana said starting to rise when Anya cut her off.
"No Jana, I'll fetch him." Anya stated indicating for her to stay in wanting to know what Jozef had taken to hide about the boy.
Never one of the tallest boys in school Michael was still tall even at a modest 5'9", weighing in at a hundred and eighty-five pounds. Although many considered him a book worm of sorts at school he still found time to enjoy sports as with martial arts. Obtaining a black belt degree of first Dan, or a first-class black belt in Shotokan karate, this was really his form of escape from a very unhappy reality of existence. He loved his parents dearly, but felt that it was only his Father who had loved and respected him.
His Mother it seemed had considered him an embarrassment. Now it seemed to Michael all he has left his Aunt Julie. Or Aunt Jewels, he affectionately called her thanks to her once husband with his taking to call her so during better times. He considered Cassie, his cousin, as being okay. But with their age difference it seemed worse than ever now with her attending College and wanting to become a Doctor. For Michael, he had no earthly idea of what he wanted to do with his life. But here he was now forced to live in a new country and having to learn a strange new culture, as with being sent to a new school. The last week had left him more than confused. It had been overwhelming as he seemed lost with no one to turn to leaving him to flounder like a fish out of water. The effect of it all was as stifling as was his being unaccustomed to this newfound weather.
And now here he was left waiting outside a water park with the expectation of looking to see someone he didn't know. It wasn't lost on him that this was the same water park that he and Chelle were once talking about. What he was having trouble with was why, why come to Bikini Beach if he was in mortal danger?
That strange phone call he received last night asking him. No, not asking, but telling him to be here promptly at 10 o'clock. The caller had not been threatening, but she had been very insistent. Aunt Jewels just seemed to pass it off as an act of kindness. 'This is a small town.' She said. 'People would have heard what you're going through and are being kind.' Cassie added, 'Mike, it's like Mom said people are just being nice, go with the flow.' 'Maybe they're right,' he thought, it's a different world compared to the UK, just go with the flow.
'Sometimes,' recounting a saying, 'The loneliest place could be found of one standing within a crowd.' And that's just how it seemed. Waiting outside he had found himself surrounded by a throng of people with their coming to form quite a long queue waiting to enter the park. Michael was not to be a part of that queue. Just one to missed sitting amongst them ignored overall on a park bench near the gate. The morning had been long waiting there sitting, thinking about how lonely he was with not even his aunt and cousin in attendance given how they had seemed uninterested in coming.
"You're quite right Michael. Sometimes being in a crowd is the loneliest place in the world. I'm Anya by the way." Startled at first with the striking woman knowing what he had been thinking, he nearly missed where she extended her hand in greeting caught in seeing her beauty. Playing it off he though perhaps his dour look conveyed his feelings. "Follow me, Grandmother, and Officers Jana and Jozef are waiting in the office for us." Relieved that he could leave both the misery and heat outside.
Anya led him to the grey office building and just before her fingers could input the necessary code on the door pad, the door clicked allowing them entry. Standing just inside the entrance way upon entering Michael noticed how much darker it was inside. As with thankfully cooler. It took a few moments for his eyes to become adjusted to the interiors lighting and as they did he saw an old woman whom left little doubt to be Anya's Grandmother. She looked quite lovely given her age he thought of the matron.
'You're right Michael I am.' He heard nothing verbal come from the woman as he stood there startled. It was as if her voice had just popped inside his head. 'Don't be frightened' the older voice soothed as he waited there nearly afraid of what was happening. 'It seems you have a rare gift Michael. Treasure it.'
"I knew I felt something special about him Grandmother." Anya answered herself to both him and her having eyed Officer Jozef with his offhanded smirk. Turning back to Michael. "We'll talk later about it here." Her voice was as reassuring as the older woman seated at her desk. "It's far more polite if we talk normally. Far less intrusive, first of all, you've met Officer Jana Archer and Officer Jozef Donovan, who, let's say, deal with certain cases."
Nodding Michael asked, "Have you found this man? What's his name, Markovic yet?"
Jana let out a loud sigh. "Sorry Michael we haven't, but it seems we need your cooperation in help tracking him down."
"I told Special Agent Richards, I don't really know this man. I've only seen him once, maybe twice at my grandparent's home. He seems to have known my Mother." Michael visibly shuddered as he said this. It was when he took a seat Anya offered Michael a root beer seemingly out of nowhere or with his asking as he settled next to them.
"You never had a very good relationship with your Mother did you Michael?" Grandmother asked gently having indicated for him to be seated in the lounge area.
"No Ma'am, Mum and I were never close. It was like she never wanted me around."
"How about your Father? Did you get along with him?" Jozef quizzed. It was then Michael noted Jozef had taken out a small notepad, jotting down bits and pieces of what Michael could assume were necessary information.
"Dad, he was amazing. He was my best friend as well as being my Dad. He hated football or soccer as you Yanks call it." Throwing in the jibe trying to relax. He noted the grins unaware of ones fingers or silent mumble helping him to be at ease. "But he was always supportive there when I played for my school team. Unfortunately, Mum couldn't be bothered with me. Dad and I would ever toss a football, American football that is, or throw a baseball. He always encouraged me to be proud of my Anglo-American heritage."
"Tell us more about your Mom Michael." Jana asked.
"Like I said Mum and I were never close. The same with her family. I never seemed to be a part of them. It's almost like I was an embarrassment of sorts to them." After pausing a moment taking a sip he used it to gather his thoughts then continued. "I always got the feeling that Mum's family considered that I was an outsider. It's as if they knew something that I didn't. That I was simply around just to be tolerated." The look of defeat on Michael's face told them what else they wanted to know.
There was silence for a few moments while those gathered collected their thoughts. Unbeknownst to Michael both Grandmother and Anya had gazed intuitively towards the boy slowly drawing unheard conclusions, becoming more troubled, concerned over the boy's future. It appeared both Grandmother and Anya were of the consensuses opinion that Jozef's and Jana's plan could work.
'It's too blurred to know fully Grandmother. I have a bad feeling about Michael.' Anya conveyed to her Grandmother telepathically.
'I sense it too child.' Both once again deciding this was probably the best recourse for now. Michael appeared in need of much protection as with dealing with great sorrow and grief. With a sigh Grandmother turned towards her computer inputting all of Michael's necessary details as with him being asked to pose for a picture leaving him wondering as she inputted the data into the computer. A few moments later a laminated pass emerged ready.
"Okay Michael this," handing him the pictured card. "Is your pass, when you visit, just go over to the express line and swipe it. Due to these unusual circumstances this will be an open-ended pass. Each and every week come Sunday without fail you will need to stop by the office before closing so one of us can renew your membership. Jozef will show you the men's changing rooms. Please don't forget to shower it's a health department regulation." Anya informed him.
"This one is on us." Jozef added as Michael examined his pass. It was with his examining the pass he never noticed the smirks the officers shared with each other just before Jozef took to escorting a somewhat confused boy out the back door.
At seeing the 'Men's Showers Michael thought how much smaller the building itself was compared to the women's much larger structure sitting across the courtyard. 'I guess they don't get many male visitors.' He thought to himself. It would also be true to say that he wondered if being here at all was such a good idea.
Out of curiosity he took a quick look around once inside looking about to see if any others were also changing. As far as changing rooms went it was pretty much the same standard as any other he had visited. The only exception, and he wondered why it was placed there, was a large mirror firmly secured over the entrance/exit door. But he put all that aside as he proceeded to change. Leaving his clothes stuffed haphazardly in one of the lockers he tensed at first just as a spray of water from the shower hit him. Instantly Michael noticed how warm and pleasant it was already set to the right temperature to his liking. Letting the water stream over his body he noted where the shower also had a soothing massage effect, causing him to feel more relaxed taking out most of the tension for who knows how long. It was by this feeling of being so relaxed he took to shutting his eyes savoring the sensations as muscles loosened, unknotting, leaving him to miss seeing a pink mist as it rose from the waters.
After a few moments more, savoring the refreshing shower he grudgingly opened his eyes. Immediately he felt a little disorientated as the inside of the stall itself seemed off. From where he stood it seemed as if the taps were now positioned a little higher. Had he shrunk? Or had the room grown? 'No, both are impossible,' he thought to himself. Shaking his head as if to try and clear his thinking as he walked, Michael began to notice some major differences. First was where his center seemed off balance, way off. Secondly was the nature of his stride with how he seemed to be walking in a more feminine way. It certainly felt more feminine from when he first exited the showers as with to which he could almost feel his hips give a gentle sway. It was there he noticed how he opted to place one foot in front of the other unlike his more so normally hunkering walk would be. Add to that the fact of what he also felt, yes, he was sure of what he definitely felt. The change of his now wet hair with its cascading down his back like a waterfall slapping against his back. In his peripheral vision, he glimpsed strands of the honey blonde hair striking against his shoulders. By the time he finished his walk to the mirror the full effect of his change was nearly complete. As he looked into the hanging mirror Michael saw a girl of similar age confront him, but one who stood several inches short, about 5'2" he guessed only to be somehow confirmed within as to why she had lost those seven inches or so, her being shorter than him. She had beautiful piercing blue eyes and honey blonde hair the same as he. 'She could be my own twin,' Michael thought in admiration. There was also her large resemblance to the actress Melissa Joan Hart from when she played the Sabrina character on the tele. She didn't have an athletic build, but one that looked as though she had a well-toned body with what could be called reasonably modest 34B boobs, small pointed nipples extended from light brown areolas encircling them. What was confusing was her manner of matching his every movement. No, this can't be, the very idea of such a thought nearing denial, in fact with all that had happened since his arrival, he didn't know what he thought anymore.
"You could easily pass as my sister." Voicing what he thought needed to be said. And as his voice came forth from her moving lips before him, the sound was very feminine, almost musical in pitch. It sounded like the voice of a well brought up English girl. 'Wait' he thought as it hit him standing there in what had to be the mirror from whence he first spotted it when entering. 'I'm not her. I'm not a girl.'
"What is going on here?" in her musical voice. "That can't be me, it's impossible."
"I'm afraid it's very much possible." Anya informed him as a stream of light filled the entrance way before she did.
"People simply don't change gender." Michael said reaffirming his belief.
"They do here." Anya replied with an unconcerned smirk. "Grandmother built this park as a refuge so women can have fun and enjoy themselves without being leered over like sex objects. Men are allowed to come, but as you can see..."
"There are certain conditions." Michael finished for her as if reading her mind.
"Exactly!" It was at that moment a bikini top seemed to appear in her hand that wasn't there before. "Would you mind putting this on too, Grandmother has a strict rule in not allowing topless bathing." Michael looked at it like it was a snake. A slithering reptile ready to coil its way about him just before it sank its fangs deep.
"It won't bite you." Anya teased. "Don't think about it, just put it on." She suggested.
Without thinking Michael took the top and fastened it. He was just finishing fastening the clasp when he realized what he had done. "How did I do that? And how do you change people?"
"Simple. We use a little magic."
"Magic? Yeah right, as if." Michael said scornfully.
"So how do you explain those then?" Anya asked having pointed at his now her chest. "Plus, there's the fact in how you put the bikini top on as though you've done it all your life."
Michael closed her eyes and took a deep breath. "I can't explain it." Hearing the now feminine sigh extracting itself from within her. She wasn't sure what was possible any more.
"There's magic to give the new girl a helping hand in what we have implemented. Grandmother likens it to being given training wheels. Basically, it's just a few of the necessary skills a girl knows, such as that and fixing your make-up. Let me demonstrate further. Tell me your name?"
"Jennifer Leigh Stephenson. No, I'm Jennifer Leigh, Jennifer... Jenn…" growing frustrated unable to pronounce his male name. "Don't tell me - more magic." Finally giving in.
"Let me answer a few known questions others have asked before you. After all you're not the first to come here. First off, it's only temporary." Which caused another brief sigh. "You'll be a girl for the duration of your pass which is why you have to come each Sunday before closing. At this point it looks to be a few weeks. As far as others are concerned such as your Aunt and Cousin you've always been known as Jennifer. The only ones who know you as Michael will be Grandmother, Jana, Jozef, myself and you. Yep and I'm betting you still have a ton of questions too."
"That is an understatement. Why -"
Anya giggled cutting off the question before it was asked. "She's my Grandmother and likes to be known as Grandmother in answer to that question." Pausing a moment she continued. "I'm sorry Jennifer that was rude of me intruding on your thoughts like that. We'll talk more about your telepathy later."
Making their way back to the grey office building Grandmother, Jana and Jozef sat waiting for them. And in the confines of a building where none could hear, both Jozef and Jana took turns in telling Jennifer of where there were several inconsistencies concerning her parent's murder which didn't seem to make sense. By Michael's account, now Jennifer's own admission earlier, her mother had also distanced herself from her daughter. Sitting there listening to them talk, her Jennifer memories informed her it even more so now. A part of her found it disconcerted, unbalanced on how far her male memories had been swept away by her female side.
Still, even here, Jennifer found she was the main beneficiary stipulated in her father's will. A reality partially consistent of her other life with the death of both parents. Jennifer (as she accepted herself as at the moment) stood to gain almost everything as before, but all this would still be held in a trust fund until she was of age, with the trustee still designated as her Aunt, who had also been placed as her legal guardian. Her cousin Cassie would inherit the condominium. Plus, her father had always promised to Cassie he would take to pay her college fees. With her Mom's blessing Cassie was going to add her Grandparents endowment to that as well. This had all come to light on the death of both parents. With the amount of money and holdings bequeathed a possible kidnapping had always been considered to be an ongoing problem. Therein was the reason for the FBI's involvement as with the circles her aunt moved in. This would surely attract similar possibilities.
At the time of her parent's death only her father's body had been located, but not her Mother's. A search had been conducted with no evident traces of DNA or body parts found. Nothing of purpose had been found in explanation and therein was the mystery surrounding their deaths as with Mikhail Markovic's involvement as well. As the meeting came to its conclusion:
"Jennifer," Grandmother suggested "Why don't you spend some time inside the park. Relax. You'll find that it'll help. Perhaps you could look up an old friend at the Junior Lifeguard Academy." She hinted with a gleam in her eye.
"Sure, I guess it'll be alright," who could she know here. "But I prefer Jenny, the other is so… formal," as Grandmother also handed Jenny three vouchers.
"As you wish Jenny." Confused Jenny looked over the vouchers for a burger and fries' meal. She wondered at why she had three of them, but it was the knowing look on Grandmother's face that left Jenny with little doubt that it was best she should not argue. Following the instructions that Anya had given her Jenny heard a young voice give a familiar high-pitched squeal as she neared the JLA section. It was one she knew all so well and the next second Jenny found herself almost knocked to the ground by a very overzealous and excited Melanie Harris.
"Jenny what are you doing here? Will you help me build a sandcastle? Did you buy us those tickets? I hope you're not still sad like you were at the airport." As the girl rattled off one question after another, not bothering to wait for a reply.
"So many questions for one little girl," in becoming ensnared in the girl's excitement as she took to answer in order. "A friend bought me the ticket. Yes, I'd love to help you build a sand castle Melanie. No, I didn't buy them for you. Melanie I'm always happy when I'm round you."
"Maybe not directly Jennifer, but I'll wager you were involved somehow." Katie Harris informed Jenny taking hold of the ever-excited whirlwind child.
"And you know this how Ms. Harris?"
"Please call me Katie, only my students call me Ms. Harris. And right now, I'm not teaching."
"It wasn't me Ms. Harr I mean Katie, it was my Aunt. I admit it was at my suggestion. Had it not been for Melanie telling a TSA agent that a man was watching me, I'm not sure what would have happened to me."
"Now that sounds pretty scary."
"I won't lie to you Katie it was. The worst part of it is that I hadn't even noticed myself."
"Are you going to stand there talking all day talking? Or help me build a sandcastle?" A very frustrated Melanie Harris demanded with both hands on her hips.
"Sorry Melanie I'll do that now."
Katie Harris stood there with a bemused look on her face. As her six-year-old went off to the artificial beach hand in hand with Jenny being dragged if not pulled, she became aware of how Jenny must be feeling. It hadn't been not so long ago she had lost someone dear. Her own husband Pete succumbed to cancer, leaving both her and Melanie alone. Luckily, she had the presence of parents, meaning her parents and her late husband’s to turn to who had provided lots of love and support to both.
'Why is the world such a cruel place sometimes?' Katie mused over to herself.
She reminded herself of the promise she made to Pete on his deathbed. No matter what work commitments she had, they would take second, her being the remaining parent, as Melanie must come first. Her brother Ed, had suggested this vacation to her, in fact he had even gone as far as organize time off from her school without consulting her. At first Katie was angry and hurt that her brother should interfere to find out a couple of days later that Pete had been secretly putting money aside for both her and Melanie to take such a vacation once he passed. Following through in his brother-in-law's wishes, it had always been his thoughtfulness that astounded her in their short but loving marriage.
Throughout her entire afternoon Jenny spent the day with both Katie and Melanie growing to know more of them. She and Katie had so much in common. Both had lost someone who was dear and close to them. Both had found the time to start opening up a little to each other. As such they enjoyed lunch at the Tiki hut where Katie mentioned how Melanie had been the catalyst for the two of them.
"I don't think just for the two of us Katie. All three of us are grieving over two people we all care for."
"You mean three, don't you? What about your Mum?" As a Mother, Katie felt she had to say something in the woman's defense.
"We're not close, sorry I mean we weren't close, not at all."
"I see, I'm sorry Jenny I really shouldn't have said anything." Katie apologized, feeling she had taken the conversation into forbidden territory.
"No, it's fine, really, you couldn't have known."
It was her seeing how upset Katie was over the gaffe, Jenny got up from the table and they both hugged. Noticing that Melanie was very quiet they looked to see that her head nodded irregularly trying to stay awake. Picking her up, Jenny shifted a very tired Melanie on her back letting her head nestle against hers as the little girl tried to cling hold of the older, while Katie carried their bags back to the changing rooms. Melanie had been a little disappointed on hearing the news Jenny would not be there the next day even in her tired state. Jenny explained patently to her how with her now living in the US she had to register and go to school unlike her. But she did promise that she would see her the next weekend.
Living as Jenny, Michael was finding out how far her relationship with her Aunt was overwhelmingly different. In many ways there was a profound closeness she'd never felt before when Michael. Even her relationship with Cassie was better overall as he had never fully bonded with her. Was it both their age and gender differences in contributing heavily towards that she wondered. Even attending High School came as a complete culture shock for Jennifer Leigh's. Both her enrollment as with attendance of an unfamiliar school system were so vastly different if not taxing.
Michael had not experienced Secondary School having been place in a private school. His needing to go in and register had been a formality really. Schooling for him consisted itself of being a combination of school, leisure center as with being his home. Even as Jenny, her memories of attendance had changed little for her. But this American way of attending 'High School' vs even Secondary School, assaulted her sense of being compared to the ways she was used to. At his and her old school, there were two hundred students including the day students. Now as Jennifer Leigh Stephenson a student in a vast bigger school with more students, many were from very affluent families.
It was at lunch time, and Jenny was fiddling about with the lock on her locker. She felt then the ominous presence of someone peering over her shoulder. As she turned her head, Jenny was looking into the chest of a boy looming over her. It was bad enough when she found she would be cramped into such a small locker area. Worst was when she found herself to have this guy invading her private space. She'd heard of possibly meeting the pending figure, one Chip Monroe, from a few of the other girls warning her during the week. It seems he had a problem. A problem with his understanding of the word 'No.' Of not taking it for an answer with his given reputation towards the ladies. And Jenny was determined not to be seen as another notch on his belt. She was beginning to find that being female was sometimes very intimidating given both loss of height and muscle. As Michael, she would have simply ignored him. It wasn't where Michael would feel intimidated, just simply put off to where he would not feel the need to compete with an athlete.
"I see you're having trouble with the lock." Chip Monroe said, his jersey shirt showing himself to be one with the school's football league. She thought to where instead of being a jock, jerk was a more fitting description.
"How very perceptive of you, I'm impressed." Jenny answered in a seemingly bored voice.
"You're that new English chick right? I heard that you went to some fancy private girl school in England."
"Chick," annoyed at the connotation, "have I grown yellow feathers and a beak now?" Wondering if his education advanced further than that of elementary school.
"Ha-ha English sense of humor, right? I know how difficult it is when you're new and don't know anyone. How about I show you around?"
"Thanks, but no thanks. I have a cousin who has shown me around, and if I need to know anything I simply ask."
"I don't think you know who I am."
"I can think fine thank-you. I know exactly who you are. I don't date jocks, athletes, or anyone else who is, or acts like, a megalomaniac. Or is that beyond your Dick and Jane understanding?"
It was there Chip noticed that a lot of other students were listening in on the exchange going on. For his own reputations sake, he realized he had to win this girl over trying a new approach.
"That black Lexus sport I saw you drive in the school lot. It's yours? Because I'm impressed such an impressive beautiful car as that is being driven by another beauty such as you. Such a beautiful owner."
"Thanks, I think. It was a gift from a family member."
"Cool why don't I call around. We can take a drive together in your car?"
"Look Monroe, what part of no thank-you is it you don't understand? I'd not date you even if you were the only man on Earth."
"You cold hearted bitch! I bet it's because you're a lesbian." He stated pushing back, unaccustomed to being assaulted so recklessly. His narcissistic ego refused to accept her rejection thus choosing an easy route of laying claiming towards the obvious form of rejection. An easy measure to save face speaking loud enough for those around to hear. "You look the type to hate all men especially a real man and that's the truth." He bellowed for those close to hear.
"Chip Monroe you'd not know what the truth was if someone hit you over the head with it."
At that moment, there came a short sharp 'ah hum' sound alerting everybody's attention. The deep resonating sound was associated with the approach of Deputy Principal Snitter who was also responsible for dispatching discipline within the School.
"Reluctantly Mr. Monroe I can't give you detention this time in the season. But rest assured, I'm going to be talking with your coach about this recent act of behavior of yours today."
"I'm sorry Mr. Snitter. I was only trying to welcome a new student to the school." Chip started to explain.
"I believe you are on second lunch Mr. Monroe." Cutting the youth off abruptly. "I suggest you take advantage of the time and go work out in the Gym."
Smart enough to not argue further Chip Monroe said no more, but slunk away to make his way to the Gym's weight room figuring that maybe he could take this disgrace out on the weights.
"Ms. Stephenson," the deputy principle said turning his attention to Jenny. "I'm aware that you're new to the school and to the United States. But with your given background I really expected more from you."
"I'm sorry Mr. Snitter it won't happen again."
"You're on first lunch I believe Ms. Stephenson. I would suggest you make your way to the cafeteria taking the opportunity to get something to eat while Monroe is busy." He turned his attention to two other girls who were milling around still, watching the altercation. "Ms. Watson, Ms. Johnson would you please show Ms. Stephenson the way?"
"Of course Mr. Snitter. Sure." Each said quickly as Mr. Snitter headed once more towards his office considering the matter closed. There seemed to be smirk of a grin as he left them.
"Great! That's all I needed. How long was he there for?" Jenny asked.
"Let's put it this way," one of the girls grinned herself. "When you said, 'Have I grown yellow feathers and a beak'."
"OH No, that was right at the start, my life is over." Jenny groaned closing her eyes in despair, leaning on her locker. "What a way to start a new school."
"Hey, don't despair," The one grinning girl trying to cheer up Jenny. "Making Mr. Snitter grin is no mean feat. By the way I'm Erika Watson and this is Lucy Johnson." As way of introduction.
"I'm Jennifer Leigh Stephenson, please, just call me Jenny."
"My how formal?" Erika asked in jest. "Are all British girls like that?" Having never formally met any, ignoring any reply. "Jenny this car of yours, you do realize that every guy will be on a testosterone high with it don't you?" Erika said as they headed towards the lunch room. "You're British, and Chip Monroe has just pretty much branded you the Ice Queen."
"And you're also a lesbian too don't forget." Lucy added with a chuckle.
"So, guys will now see me as a challenge?" Not liking the given label thanks to Chip.
"Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?" Erika joked.
"I just don't have a lot of patience with idiots to be honest."
"Hallelujah to that sister." Both Erika and Lucy answered causing the three to start giggling.
As they made their way to the dining room, it was just as Jenny had expected it to be from her cousin's description. The room was long and filled with tables and chairs as with the serving counter to the left as they walked in. It was generic of most school dining rooms leaving no real surprises. Like other school dining rooms, the walls were a plain off white with a bulletin board at one end which, on the whole was ignored. Not out of disrespect, mind you, but basically there was never anything important or new to put on it, a relic of newer electronic methods. As they entered through the double doors leading into the dining area they were hit with not just the noise, but by an unpleasant aroma of sufficiently different meals thrown together filling the air with a pungent odor when combined. Jenny found her stomach trying to roil in revolt against the onslaught of smells. None of them were too appetizing in their appeal.
"I'm not sure what kind of meals you had at that fancy school you went to Jenny, but here it's pretty basic if not bland."
"Damn! I take it no Lobster thermidor then?" Jenny quipped with mock disgust.
"No, but they do make a mean eggplant parmesan." Lucy answered. "And when I say mean, I do mean, mean." She pulled a rancid face as she said this.
Jenny thought for a moment before wrinkling up her nose in disgust and said. "I think I'm going to settle for a salad"
"The chicken is probably the safest bet to go for. That's what Lucy and I have most the time." Erika suggested.
That was it then as the three girls all opted for the same salad. Having selected and payed for their respective meals they went in search of an empty table to eat. After finding one Jenny was finding herself in very comfortable company since her change. Their meeting had been pretty much an accident in how she came across both Erika and Lucy sure they had meet in a couple of her classes. But she'd never really spoken to them if they were. Most people in the school it seemed were either scared or in awe of her from her way of speech to how she acted. Perhaps it was the car? She wondered. Or was it her circumstances, perhaps something else? She wasn't really that sure of which. And sitting here with both girls talking she found that wasn't the case with Erika or Lucy. Both seemed ready to accept her for who she was. It was there listening Jenny found herself making comparisons to her other life as Michael.
He lived a pretty isolated life spending most of his time shuffled in private boarding schools as had she. Yet Jenny seemed to differ by having more socializing skills than him. Just like Michaels father, hers was always away on business only to call when time permitted. She'd have heartfelt conversations as with filling him in with what was taking place in her life whereas her mother just seemed to show no more concern in doing other things, uninterested in what her day had consisted of leaving her alone and distant from her. In fact, when she looked back, her mother was deeply lacking in her life just like Michael's. Sure, Michael’s friends in school were such a nonstarter. Except, most of his fellow scholars placed more interest in sports. Michael did occasionally play football for his school team. But he was also happy, content to sit in the dormitory reading a book. However, as Jenny looked at her life in comparison, hers were a far different cry of lifestyle. She had been a Daddy's girl with how often she would go on Daddy/Daughter dinners. Elena, her mother, was always cold towards her, which caused a lot of friction, heated arguments between them both. In some respect, her reality hadn't changed very much from Michael’s home life. Jenny took to believe this is why she was first sent to a private school. Even the girls she was friends with had similar problems with their respective mothers or stepmothers. So it was probably more like kindred spirits than real friendship. Maybe it was just everything was finally catching up on her, for all of a sudden Jenny ate away at the limp salad as her very emotions internally felt so convoluted. She found them to be confusing and annoying with these hated girl hormones. 'Why do I always react in such a girly way? I hate it, damned hormones!' She thought as she ate unsure if becoming a girl was such a bright idea.
At the end of her first week Jenny had driven to Bikini Beach in keeping her promise to Melanie. While the little girl was attending a swimming lesson thankful for the chance for her to work off some of that buoyant energy, both Jenny and Katie had their first chance in having a deeper conversation without the sudden interruptions of a very active young girl.
"Jenny please don't be offended by this. But I'm sure you have friends your own age you'd rather be with." Katie insisted to where Jenny kept insisting herself of a desired promise to Melanie. She had met the two of them just outside the water parks entrance with the plan of having a day of fun. She profusely insisted she had no real obligations which was true.
"Why would you say such a thing Katie?" Jenny starting to feel a little angry at such an accusation. Not only was it fun to just goof off and spend some time with Melanie it didn't take long before Jenny once again came to think of how much she had in common with the little girl.
"Please don't grow upset Jenny. I can't say exactly I know how you feel, but I have an understanding of it. You're a young girl, surely you must have friends that you'd rather be with more than a single widowed mother. One whose been feeling a little sorry for herself." Katie insisted. "Don't think you have any real obligation to spend your free time with us."
"Why." Jenny asked aware that she did. "Melanie has a loving devoted Mum, but no Father. I had my Daddy," Jenny answered sadly, "a little girl really needs a father figure in her life."
Taking to reapply lotion on her body growing used to the sunny weather hinting if Katie needed another application, "I only met a couple of friends Katie since I've been here. It's only been a little over a week or two since I've arrived here and I don't really know them yet. I've never heard you complain once since we've met. To be honest Melanie's such a happy child. I really can't think of anyone who I'd rather be with right now."
"I'm sorry Jenny, I guess I just feel I'm keeping you from your friends."
"Pish." Growing annoyed. "Tell me to mind my own business if you like Katie. But I was thinking one of the most important things in my life when I was ummm a little girl with my daddy." Jenny was feeling more than a little choked up at this. But she felt it was something she had to mention as her girl memories were pretty much shouting out to her that this was the right time to mention this.
"I know what you're thinking Jenny. Does she have a good male role model in her life?" She felt for Jenny knowing how difficult this would be for her. Despite Jenny being a teenager Katie realized she must be going through her own private version of hell as well. "Yes she does, she has my Brother Ed there for her. He was actually Pete's, my husband's best friend." After a moment's pause, to compose herself, she continued. "Melanie also has her Grandfather's on both sides of the family."
"So that's how you met him?"
"Yes, Pete and Ed were roommates at university. They also knew each other all through school. I had this huge crush on him since I was about fourteen. Ed always teased me about it but it was at their graduation that I started to date him." Katie had a faraway look in her eyes as she reminisced over those happier times.
"That's good, a girl needs a Daddy figure even if it's by proxy."
"I couldn't agree more." It was this statement that closed the discussion.
Both watched Melanie as she enjoyed her swimming lesson. 'It's strange.' Jenny thought. 'Just over a week ago I was a boy and this little girl saved me. Now, I have no clue what's going to happen or why. But one thing I would love is for this lady, my friend, and this wonderful little girl for them to be happy.'
Katie once again was thinking about what her dying husband wish had been, said in how they both needed this holiday. The school year had been pretty punishing this time round. Her head-teacher/Principal had told her there was no hurry to return back. They could cover pretty well until the half term. Katie wasn't sure she could ever go back though. She had Melanie to think of now. The house was now paid for thankfully. Pete's life insurance had seen to that. That had been part of the mortgage agreement. It automatically came into effect upon his death. Soon after her swimming lesson had ended Melanie and Jenny had once more took to building sandcastles. At other times Jenny would head into the water washing off sand that had crawled into her bottom from sitting there as the young girl took to dumping wet sand in her lap giggling immensely. It was at one point that Katie realized she was going to have problems when it was time to go as Melanie was now getting attached to Jenny. Unbeknownst to her was where Jenny was also becoming fondly attached to Melanie.
Over the course of several weeks Jenny found herself settling down into a routine with her new environment and was also thinking more of herself as a her. Jenny found this a little troubling. But she felt reassured where things would work out when discussed before Grandmother when she went to renew her admission when asked.
One of the more difficult times was with a girl named Maria Martinez, the part time housekeeper to her Aunt Jewels. It wasn't that she didn't like the girl. It was quite the opposite, she really liked her a lot. Maria was a little older than Jenny. It seemed Maria felt very uneasy around her, always referring to her as Miss Stephenson. One Saturday morning while they were in the kitchen with both Aunt Jewels and Cassie out shopping at Lynwood Mall, Maria had taken to cooking breakfast for Jenny. Having slept in late after a busy Friday night of trying out for the school's cheerleading team, an endeavor Jenny considered pretty brave considering her background. She wasn't exactly holding out much hope as she had been asked to repeat the routine she had done. Totally unsure precisely what to expect, Jenny had taken to combine a dance number with a highly active gymnastic routine she had done at her old school. Well at least that's what her Jenny set of memories told her as she went through the motions once more before them exerting leaps, bounding with high stepped kicks leaving her panting excessively with heaving breasts before being dismissed once more.
"Miss Stephenson may I speak with you?"
Jenny noticed in where Maria was looking anxious at her. It was obviously she had something on her mind. For some reason, she was unable to understand why Maria was so nervous, formal when around her. Jenny had always tried to go out of her way to help Maria feel more comfortable when around. But something, was definitely bothering her today.
"Of course you may Maria; but on one condition." She waited a moment for Maria to compose herself. It was so clear that she felt somewhat intimidated by Jenny. "The condition is that you just call me Jenny not Miss Jenny, and most certainly not Miss Stephenson." Wagging a finger at her in emphasis.
"The school you attended Miss..." Maria froze a moment of seeing where Jenny raised her eyebrow. "Sorry I mean Jenny, this school you went to. Did you study much Shakespeare?"
"Shakespeare is compulsory in the English education system. He is probably our greatest playwright. Why do you ask?"
"Well," still obviously nervous, "I'm attending classes at the Community College studying Literature. And obviously, Shakespeare is part of that. I have to be honest, um Jenny. That I am finding it difficult."
"As it happens; I love Shakespeare..."
"You know?" Jenny looked up and smiled. "Who told you this, Aunt Jewels?"
"No, it was Cassie who told me. I'm sorry I shouldn't have asked." Trying to shy away from the conversation having now done so.
Jenny felt bemused by it all and yet flattered as well. "I've finished breakfast now. What else do you have to do Maria?"
"Just clear up; I finish earlier on weekends."
"Okay, so we'll put everything in the dishwasher. Clean down. Then we can go to my room and discuss how I can help you." Jenny suggested.
A few minutes later both girls, were situated on the floor with several books laid before them with Maria explaining, "It's a linguistic problem." Embarrassed with what she was about to divulge.
"I had to drop out of High School in order to help my family out. My father, Mario Martinez had been Mrs. Owens gardener. For fifteen years, this is, until he suffered a stroke, and was forced to retire."
Jenny cast her mind back to how she heard when Uncle Paul had left. A strange reminiscent of sorts from her feminine perspective. Aunt Jewels had suggested that Mario could perhaps work in the garden a couple of days a week. Of course, there was very little he could do. But it did help both Mario and his family financially as with where Mario would regain a little self-respect. Working helped him both mentally and physically. Aunt Jewels had always insisted she was paying for Mario's knowledge, not his ability to do the gardening. Of course, Jenny knew most of this, but wasn't aware of where Maria fitted in until it came to her how Maria must have quit school to help as her father grew more feeble. How it must have been Julie and Cassie encouraging Maria to return to school. With Maria now attending Community College as Cassie, it was her aim to take a degree majoring in Education. A dream of hers was to go into teaching.
Over the course of the next couple of hours, the two girls had started to become firm friends. Jenny was thrilled, admiring Maria's resilience with her desire to improve her life and those around her. Unbeknown to either as they studied a figure had taken to quietly break his way into the house with his finding a window unsecured. Carefully he'd searched all the downstairs rooms. Listening from within a vacant room he heard the sudden sound of laughter, satisfied in hearing that his Jenny was still within the home. Now if he could just grab her his troubles would soon be over. "She must be upstairs." The man whispered whom she would know to be her Uncle if she had heard his voice. Paul Owen waited thinking how easy this was going to be.
"Take those books Maria." Having handed several over to her. "Have a look through and we can discuss it again in a day or two if you like."
"Are you sure?" Looking over the volume of literature they had gone over, "Thanks Jenny you've been a great help. It almost seems like fun the way you explained it."
"It is fun, you just have to learn to relax, and enjoy it." Excusing herself briefly.
In only hearing Jenny's voice, Paul Owens never understood what she fully said only to know there had been another voice accompanying hers to which he found alarming for it meant whomever the other was presented a problem. He hoped that it wasn't either Julie or Cassie as their presence would really complicate matters. Even with his divorce from Julie, he still harbored deep feelings for them. He had wondered many times since divorcing Julie if their divorce had really been such a good move after all. Approaching Jenny's room, he tentatively confirmed the voice as being the daughter of their former gardener Mario's with his peering around the door unseen. As Paul Owen waited until she had her back to him he committed himself to the act of kidnapping when he did a full body rush knocking Maria to the ground, rendering her unconscious. Standing over her now unconscious form he wasn't aware of where Jenny had seen the whole encounter and had fortunately captured the whole incident on her cell phone having sneaked back into the bathroom unnoticed. Quickly dialing.
"911 operator what is the nature of your emergency?"
In hushed tones. "Yes," trying hard not to panic, "my names Jennifer Leah Stephenson and I need to report a burglary in progress as with a just attacked friend."
"Is the burglar still within the house?"
"Yes, he's in the next room standing over my friend. I need help."
"Just stay calm miss. Can you tell if your friend is conscious?"
"No. When I saw her she wasn't moving. How soon can someone get here. He seems to be looking around for me?" Growing anxious.
"What is your address," quickly relaying the information via computer to the nearest police station. The operator looked when the nearest officers would arrive.
"How old are you?"
"I'm, uh I'm seventeen." Unsure why that mattered.
Quickly the operator upgraded the threat from burglary to a possible kidnapping if not molestation placing the call in a very much rated category of risk. With Jenny still on the line, "I've requested a squad car immediately towards your residence. Um, Miss Stephenson, Jenny, I need you to barricade the door as best you can. The closest won't arrive at your location for about ten to fifteen minutes."
"Can't you get one earlier." Her adrenalin rising starting as with her voice.
"Jenny," reaffirming the last request as with trying to keep the girl calm. "I need you to stay where you are and find something to bar the door, I understand your worried about your friend, but you can't let him find you. Do you understand?"
"Yes, umm I understand," only to hear.
"I know you're in there, Jenny." Came the voice of her uncle in a threatening tone. "You might as well come out now. Besides, we don't want anything to happen to Maria, do we?"
"Not like you've given me much choice Uncle Paul" She said carefully opening the door noticing where he was still standing close to Mariah's prone unmoving body. "You are aware that you're trespassing?" Jenny asked stepping further from the safety of the bathroom.
"A little melodramatic, isn't it?"
"Shall we add assault to that as well Uncle Paul?" Deliberately placing herself roughly three feet from where he stood. She knew that she would be unable to make it to the door with his position blocking her path. Taking on a familiar stance of posture in defending herself, providing of course he didn't happened to carry a gun. Or more readily any other weapon but she suspected not. "Don't look at me like that, I have got the proof." Jenny bravely held forth her cell.
"You little bitch!" Enraged Paul Owen went to rush her reaching out towards her ready to try and grab the cell before him. At the last moment, he noticed her stance halting him in time realizing she was ready for him. "Smart move Jenny you almost had me." Opting instead for another method. "I'm not going to kill her." He said looking down at Maria. "But I can still ruin her life; now give me the cell." He demanded moving back to Maria. Removing a knife out of his pants he once more made a threatening demand. "Do as I say. Then you and I will walk out of here. Maria will just wake up with a headache in having not seen me."
"How do I know that you won't just do it anyway?" Jenny demanded growing nervous with the visible knife in hand.
"You don't, you'll have to trust me."
It was during their conversation Jenny had frantically tried sending a telepathically cry towards Grandmother and Anya.
It would prove as a surprise to Jenny in learning how strong was her ability was when first realized. Soon she would find out how strong her cry had been. Instead of teleporting Jenny out of harm's way, which would leave Maria in mortal danger Anya phoned Jana filling her in of what she knew in the Owen household.
"Let me see." Jenny ticked off slowly hoping to buy more time. "You just broke into your ex-family's home, assaulted Maria, threatened me and her and I'm expected to trust you?" She demanded. "That only includes things today Uncle Paul. How about what's happened in the past?"
"Don't mess with me Jenny. They really don't care what condition you're in when I take you back. As long as you're alive they won't care, even if it's barely." As Paul Owen iterated as he took the knife making a small incision over Maria's face. The gash wasn't deep conveying his intentions to his niece. "What's it to be Jenny? She'll just think she cut herself when she went down. It'll leave no scar, unless." He left the threat hanging.
"Like you said, I have no choice." Jenny said in defeat. Fearful she knew that if she didn't do as told matters would become a lot worse for Maria.
"Good girl, now put the cell on the bed, and move back to the wall."
Silently two officers had moved into position just outside the doorway having coasted into the driveway. Moving their way upstairs having found the front door unlocked each took to looking out for others as they came within close proximity of Jenny's room.
Hand signaling Jozef, Jana motioned her head towards Jenny as both had took out small mirrors allowing them to see within the room from where the two stood one with his back to them, knife in hand.
Making quick eye contact the two officers sprang into action as Jana went to shield Jenny as Jozef's body slammed against her assailant sending Paul against the wall away from the unconscious Maria. Striking out with his weapon Jozef dislodged the knife from within his hand nearly breaking the man's wrist, before taking hold of the same arm twisting it backwards before sending a swift kick to the backside of the knees collapsing Paul Owens legs sending him crumbling to the ground.
Never once did he glance towards his partner, who took to checking over the girl as with attending to the unconscious girl once having dragged her away from the short scuffle.
"Are you OK Jenny?" Jozef asked barely breathing hard having reached behind and took hold of waiting zip cuffs.
"I'm fine thanks to you two."
"There should be an ambulance arriving soon for Maria." Jana offered as she continued to attend to the unconscious girl's wound.
"You're not out of the woods yet you little brat. You'll soon wish it was me and not Markovic."
"What do you know of Mikhail Markovic Mr. Owen?" Jana demanded as she pulled him to his feet.
"I'm not saying any more, until I see my lawyer."
"I'll get him out of here Jana. It'll probably be best if you ensure the girls are okay as with sworn statements. I'll be waiting by the car as I start the necessary paperwork for booking."
Complying Jana listened to where Jozef proceeded to read him his Maranda rights before leading him in to the waiting squad car.
The journey to the hospital was nearly uneventful allowing the two girls to strengthen their bond as Jana sat nearby giving a smile of well done as she and the paramedic listened to the carrying on between the two. This was one of the better situations worked out for almost everyone involved.
"Good Morning Mrs. Owen we are sorry to bring you down here. But we do have to ask a few routine questions." The agent said flashing his badge per protocol.
"Especially when the FBI is involved Julie." Stephen Richards affirmed having stepped into the interview room.
"Steve it's so good to see you again." As she said this Julie stood up, embraced and kissed Richards on the cheek. "Sorry that was probably very inappropriate."
Normally Agent Richards would have dismissed the affection only to show his unease as he was now in official business, even towards a friend. Regaining his composure, he put on his business face. "Both officers are aware you and I worked together in London. Chelle sends her love by the way, how is Jenny coping?" Allowing a moment to show his concern.
"I was going to ask about Michelle and Sofia, Steve. I hope both are doing well." Julie paused a moment to compose her thoughts, sorting them together. "Obviously, she's missing her father. But she's made a few friends at school now. She's even trying out as a cheerleader."
"A half English cheerleader! Steve asked amazed. "That's going to be an interesting experience. It sounds like she's finally starting to put her life back together again. You know the next step Jewels. With two young girls in the home you're sure to have a load of would be suiters beating a path to your door."
"Cassie is concentrating on College at the moment. She's planning to get onto a premed course with aspirations on being a Doctor. As for Jenny, no young men yet, but I have seen her drooling over some track athlete. Branson, I think his name is."
Jana coughed signally where she felt the two had spent enough time to catch up. Now was the time to get strictly down to business. "Mrs. Owen as you are now aware we're holding your ex-husband on assault charges. We have taken samples of hair, fingerprints, and DNA. I have to ask if you noticed or found anything of value possibly stolen, damaged or missing?"
"No, nothing at all. I assume that you are pressing charges. If not, then I'm prepared to do so." Julie's cordial mood was now evaporating fast into one of anger and disbelief. Here at the station her ex-husband waited having had attacked both a member of her staff as with their niece "How could he show such little respect for them?" She asked wondering how this man, she once loved with all her heart could violate the sanctum of her home and do such a vile attack.
"Yes, we will be pressing charges Mrs. Owen. But Mr. Owen has requested to see you. Of course, you are at liberty to say no."
"Good! As for seeing Paul." After a long pause. "I'm not sure I can trust myself with him after this."
With a resigned look Steve Richards looked towards Officer Jana and Officer Jozef. Slowly he shook his head having come to expect this. Julie was going into full protection mode of her family. There was no reason he could blame her. After all it's exactly what he would have expected her to do as he his. It was now obvious however there was a link between Paul Owen and this Mikhail Markovic. The question now was who as was in wanting to harm Jennifer Stephenson? It was a known fact that her mother's family were wealthy, very dubious, and appeared to have links with or were part of the Russian Mafia. The latter of which could not be substantiated, just rumor or heresy.
"Julie, we believe your ex-husband has information that will tie Jennifer's mother to the Russian Mafia."
"Elena belonging to the Russian Mafia." Julie exclaimed, "Somehow that's no big surprise given other aspects concerning Paul's own past. But I can assure you Jenny knows nothing about it."
"We're aware of that Mrs. Owen. Still, we need to know about your ex-husband's link to them." Officer Jozef informed her. "Your assistance in this matter would be of great help."
"OK, but I'm only doing this for Jenny's safety." Julie answered sighing deeply. She didn't really care to talk with Paul, but felt that she had to.
Arriving to the interview room Paul Owen was seated next to his Lawyer, their heads close together in hushed conversations with one another. Dressed in a grey skirt, white blouse as with a charcoal blazer she looked every inch a lawyer as she turned to look at Steve Richards. Seeing the anger in Julies eyes Richards deferred to Jana who assured her the lawyer would leave when she went in. It would just be the two with him handcuffed to the table as officers would all be waiting just on the other side of the door so she would be perfectly safe.
Moving towards the table and before taking her chair it was then the lawyer removed what looked like a recording device placing it between the two. The mic situated clearly between them.
"Standard protocol Mrs. Owen for my client's protection. I'd like to record this conversation." Kara Thompson explained ready to turn on the recorder having arranged its placement.
"Where was the protection of my home Ms. Thompson? Where was the protection of both Maria Martinez and my niece Jennifer? I take it you are aware that my ex-husband was attempting to kidnap a seventeen-year-old girl?"
Taken back by the woman's reply, "Mrs. Owen whether you like it or not this is a legal requirement for the protection of my client."
"Ms. Thompson, do you recognize this number and this name?" Julie showed her the number and name on her cell.
"I believe that's the State Attorney General's number."
"It is indeed Ms. Thompson, he's a family friend. Now, do I need his advice on this matter?"
Looking towards her client he gave a slight inclination of his head, "No, I will concede on this one occasion."
"Thank you, now if you had asked I probably would have agreed. I don't like bullies Ms. Thompson. In my line of business, I've met too many." With nothing else to discuss Kara Thompson walked out leaving the device turned off.
"She's doing fine." Julie answered curtly with the scrapping of her chair, she seated herself directly in front of him. She could see his hands were cuffed, handcuffs clearly threaded between by a clamp fastened to the table firmly bolted in place, properly secured.
"I hated doing it." Paul Owen started to explain. "The plan was just to grab Jenny and take her to Mikhail."
"What would have happened to Jenny?"
"I don't know." She heard the cuffs rattle where he had tried to raise his hands. "I assume, transported back to Russia."
"You mean you were willing to give up my niece just like that?" Julie felt sick to her stomach. "That's where this man, Markovic comes in isn't it?"
"Yes, he arranges it. But he often takes them too. He was meant to take her back. But your friend, the Fed got to her first."
"By her you mean Jenny, don't you?" He just nodded. Julie looked him directly in the eye. "You know Paul, any feelings I once had for you…." Leaning slightly forward towards him. "After this they're gone. I have never hated anyone. But I'm beginning to now."
Breaking eye contact and pulling back into her seat from him he looked down. "I know I can never make this up to you or Cassie, Jewels, but I know what Mikhail has planned."
"Don't you ever call me Jewels. You lost that right when you committed this audacity. You're right though, you can never make this up to us. Did you even think of Cassie when you did this? It's going to be hell for her knowing what you tried to do."
"Look Jewels… Julie, I'm trying to make things right. I admit I screwed up big time. But I've been offered a second chance. They offered me a place within the special witness protection program if I turn States evidence."
"Is that why you wanted to see me? To clear your conscious? Or is there something else Paul?"
"By now, I'm sure you know all about Elena's family. Jenny's father, Michael was aware of it just after Jenny was born. It took him years to build up all the evidence. With him being a Lawyer he knew what he would need."
"Is this why he had no objection to Jenny going to a Private school? I'm guessing that he was trying to protect her."
"Yes, it was. He asked me to contact the Feds, when he had all the evidence..."
"You never told them, did you?" She accused. "You were too deep in their pocket with failed businesses." Having suspected all those years ago. "Away in Europe leaving us alone. All those failed business deals Paul which left us in ruin, penniless if not for my father. And yet you always seemed to have money until the end." Her family had tried to see if Paul had other bank accounts off shore during their divorce. They checked the obvious places such as the Cayman Islands. "That's how you had money at times wasn't it." His silence answered the finality of her question. He looked to the floor. She realized that nothing more needed be said. An icy cold sensation ran down Julie's back. "You betrayed my brother didn't you Paul Owen?"
"You have to believe me I had no choice."
"Just tell me what I need to know to save Jenny. Then as far as I'm concerned you can rot in Hell." She told him with so much venom that it caused Paul Owen to shrink back.
He was fully aware this was the best he could expect from his ex-wife. It pained him on two levels. First off was his love still for Julie despite the evidence he'd been a complete asshole to her. As a result of his act, that love would forever be lost to him never to be reciprocated. Secondly with his consideration of turning state evidence he would probably never see Julie or Cassie, his daughter ever again.
"I know. I can never make this up to you or Cassie."
"You already said that." Julie answered tersely.
Completely ignoring what she said. Paul continued. "Mikhail is going to try and grab her this weekend. He has a large van, it will be a fast grab and run."
Growing alarmed, "Where is he planning to do it?" her words taking on a sense of fear.
"I don't know Julie. What I do know is that there's a private plane on hand. Used as part of transporting them to Russia."
"Why Paul, why do they want her? She's not eligible to any money until she is twenty-one."
"I don't know for certain. I think that Elena had promised her to Mikhail Markovic."
"She promised her own daughter?" Shocked at hearing this.
"Markovic is a distant cousin of Elena's. She knows Jenny is too much like her Father. She could never be swayed in being a part of the family business."
Julie Owen just shook her head in total disbelief. Sickened how a woman could do such an atrocity to her own daughter. Then Julie realized why. Elena would have control of the money Jenny's paternal Grandfather would have left her. But Elena was dead so what the Hell was going on? causing her to worry further. Would Paul have done something like this to Cassie? His own daughter as more revulsion crept into her about her once husband. There was no point asking how deep of his involvement, his willingness to go into this. If Paul was offered protection within the Witness Protection program there was no doubt left in her mind to the level he would stoop. Words could not convey the depth of his involvement, so deep in trouble, virtually up to his neck, Julie now realized in what he would do to have even considered to have sold them out.
"So, is there anything else Paul?"
"No, well maybe ... Yes. I have the registration number of the van."
"Then I suggest you give that to the Police. You really could have told them that instead of dragging us into it."
"I wanted you to understand first. To understand why I had to do it and, hoped, that you and Cassie would forgive me."
"Let me guess the reason." Julie Owen closed her eyes a moment dredging up past hurts. "Both Cassie and I are well aware of your sordid affair with Elena. You'll never know how hard it was for us in my deciding to keep it from both Michael and Jenny. So as for understanding, or forgiving you, I don't think that is going to happen. Not from me at least. Be assured I will pass this onto Cassie. Being older she does have the right to make her own decision." She paused a moment. "However, I'm going to inform her how you betrayed her favorite Uncle with your involvement in the Nazarov family so don't expect an easy ride from her. It's just not going to happen."
His shoulders drooped, head hung at hearing her plans. He knew that after Cassie was told this forgiveness would not be on the table. Plans of at least seeing his daughter turned to vapor with Julie taking her leave having gotten up and left. At that point, she felt to where she no longer could maintain control of her actions much longer. She had listened. And with all he had and done this was all she was willing to listen further to or say not willing to trust herself alone and him restrained else she risked being charged for assault.
Previously Jana had intercepted Kara Thompson just as she left the interrogation room. Escorting her to the accompanying observation room, Steve Richards observed how the meeting was taking place as they were not in the interrogation room listening in an observation room.
"A recording Ms. Thompson? I thought we had agreed in advance we would provide you with a tape." Officer Jana asked.
"I'm well aware of my actions Officer. But not doing so would have put neither at ease or raised suspicious with the idea that I didn't try to do my job for my client. If I relinquished so easily to her wishes even with her threat of involving the State Department wouldn't that have raised suspicion?" Kara Thompson asked.
"I see, so you were playing to both." Steve asked.
"Agent Richards, I'm thinking of the welfare of my client. No lawyer worth their grain of salt would agree to such a manner. State involvement or not."
"I see. So, per our agreement then, a copy of this recording will be provided to you for consultation purposes only. None of this meeting would be presented in court." Steve Richards asked with growing concern listening on where Paul Own talked of being placed within this witness protection program. The first he had heard, as it had not been mentioned to him. The attempted kidnapping ensured it was an FBI case not a police matter. Steve looked towards both Jana and Jozef. Both appeared to know something he didn't.
"Steve, we understand your concern in this matter. Given both the harm to Jenny and Maria we are aware of the level of those involved. The Chief wants this matter resolved with as little publicity as possible. He has his reasons as with being a personal friend of Grandmother's." The two conveyed once the meeting had concluded as with the leaving of Ms. Thompson.
With the end of school for the week, Jenny was looking forward for a relaxing weekend. Part of her planning was wanting to catch up on her homework, then maybe watch a little TV as cable provided her with a means of watching a few shows from across the pond as they said leaving her a tad homesick. At least that was the plan until the ringing of the phone in the kitchen ending those happenings.
"Jenny it's for you." Maria called from the kitchen.
"Thanks Maria." Jenny said taking the phone. She wondered why her aunt kept such a device given how many had taken to carrying cell phones. A much more convent way she thought.
"Hi Jenny, sorry to disturb you, but Lucy and I wondered if you'd like to come out to a water park we know. It's a fun place called Bikini Beach."
"Oh Erika, I'd love to." Giving in to a girlish giggle. "I know the place perfectly well." To the astonishment of her new friend. "What time shall I meet you there?"
"Lucy's expecting me to pick her up at 10:30 is that OK?"
Noticing the hour, "It's 10 o'clock now. You don't leave me much time, do you?" Jenny teased. "Give me fifteen more minutes to meet you there."
"Why? Have a hot date planned?" Erica teased back. "Thanks Jenny, I'll let her know you're joining us."
Forty-five minutes later Jenny was pulling, into the parking lot at Bikini Beach. She saw Erika and Lucy just getting out of the car with Jenny thankful in how fortunate she had been enough to have found an empty spot close to where Erika had parked. Stepping from her own car ready to greet and welcome each other.
"Jenny wait, stay where you are," came the call drawing their attention. Turning towards where the raised voices came from Jenny as with the others saw Anya and Liz, the chief life guard, running over, waving for her attention. Confused the group moved to meet the oncoming group when they first heard the sounds of an engine whine followed by a large black van. As it drew closer a side door swerved open. Hastily Jenny ducked between a set of cars leaving it to drive off at high speed. Just as it was about to look where the van would make it outside, the wail of sirens broke the air stopping the van as a couple of police cars forced it onto the curb followed by an unmarked car pulling up. And as the girls watched transfixed, as with several others, the scene unfolded where armed officers took position behind their cars weapons at the ready. Shortly after Officers Jana and Jozef climbed out of their unmarked car. It was then the black van slowly opened the door by one single man. As he climbed out he had first pushed the door open with his foot making sure his hands were clearly in sight for all to see. It was then officers raced forward ordering him to lie prone on the ground. Still in a daze Jenny watched it all unfold as he lay down surrounded by the officers. It was then Jenny saw his face. A face she recognized some years back forcing a small scream of both fear and surprise. And as she took in his face a look of complete horror engulfed her as the remnants of the past days happenings etched itself on her face. It was Mikhail Markovic's face, a prominent figure in both parts of memories.
"You alright Jenny you look pale." Lucy asked growing very concerned for her with her attempts to calm the girl.
"Just something about that man, something from eight or nine years back, he scares me Lucy." Jenny shuddered in fear within arms comforting the very badly shaken girl.
"It's ok Jenny, he can't hurt you now. He has to get through us first." Erika reassured her in a strong yet soothing tone as she too took to hugging her friend, casting a hateful look towards the man in question.
"Get the girls in the office Liz," Anya instructed. "I need to talk with Jana and Jozef."
"Come on girls everything's going to be okay now. Let's get you into the office. Grandmother wants to talk with you all." Leading Jenny, her two friends, gently, but firmly escorted by Liz Nelson into the grey office building, who reassured them the situation was under control with matters now under police authority. And as they all waited just within the entrance way for their eyes to adjust Grandmother, as with the rest of the office came into view, waited in the area reserved for informal meetings.
"Thank you, Liz you'd best head back to work now. She has it under control – for now."
"Yes, I best hurry, poor Holly trying to maintain two classes won't be easy. Anya was in such a rush having me come along and Lisa unavailable, I'm sure she's a little overwhelmed." With that Liz left.
Meanwhile outside, unbeknownst to those inside, Markovic had been placed in the back of a police cruiser. Standing nearby Anya gave a shiver at the thoughts going through his mind from what she could read. She still wasn't too sure what had been planned for Jenny. She could only determine it wouldn't be too pleasant for her. Yet there was some secret he was managing to hide. Something her senses couldn't reveal. On the strength of this Anya came to a bitter conclusion. He knew more of what happened in this vicinity of town and had taken precautions to block others from reading his mind.
"We won't be able to hold him long Anya," Jana informed her. "We can detain Markovic on charges of possible kidnapping but with no further proof of intent he'll probably be back on the streets within 24 – 36 hours."
"I understand. Without revealing to much of what goes on here its most likely the best you can do." Once the group had started to leave ensured Mikhail Markovic was safely in custody, she knew it wouldn't be for long before he was free. Making her way back to the office Anya arrive just in time to see Liz come out of the office.
"So, the creep's to be held safely behind bars?" Having decided to wait out front for Anya's arrival.
"Probably, not for long though Liz." Anya sighed. "He'll probably have a smart lawyer lined up. And I'm sure the people behind this will also no doubt be pulling strings."
Liz pulled a face, unhappy with the prospect of what she had heard. With what little she knew nothing more could be done at the moment.
Anya then let herself into the office when she heard the click for entry.
"He's being taken to jail," Anya stated reassured the trio seeing her enter, sitting on the couches. "For now." Between the two Anya heard where her Grandmother wasn't so reassured as with that angry glint in her eyes.
"We'll now that we have that settled, you three came to have some fun in the park." As they were about to leave Grandmother called Jenny back. "Share these with them." Placing a few tokens for a free meal at the Tiki hut. "Once they purchase their passes." On that note, Jenny bid them adieu for a fun day at the park with the other girls.
"Jenny's going to need a lot of help soon Grandmother."
"Yes, I'm afraid she will child." Grandmother sighed.
"I'm feeling something very unpleasant in her future, Grandmother but it's very unclear exactly what it is."
"There's something very unpleasant in her past as well. It all seems to be connected to her Mother's family." Grandmother confirmed.
"I get that feeling too Grandmother. I also heard her say something a little revealing to Lucy earlier as well." Anya informed her Grandmother what she had heard Jenny say to Lucy and Erika. With their abilities, it wasn't difficult to ascertain what probably happened at some point.
"This isn't what I had intended for this park, Anya, I created it as a place for woman to be safe from men ogling over them. All woman need to have a refuge at times. But this may be a bit too much. If found out, I don't want to close the park for espionage misuse."
"I agree with you on that Grandmother. I would have to say that's a sticking point though. This must have happened to Michael at some other place as well. I'm not saying that it was by the same person, but we always see parallels of some form in the reality of our clients' lives."
"You're right Anya. Taking advantage of young children is a common problem. It's been going on for generations."
Shortly after Mikhail was processed and placed within a holding cell his van had been taken in and searched.
"The evidence is self-incriminating," Jozef said as he took to calling Grandmother personally as Jana talked to Steve Richards. "The results of the search would prove instrumental of tightening the case against him. We're keeping it mostly under wrap as others might leak the information to the press as with sending unwanted shockwaves through the community." Taking to leaning back in his chair causing a momentary squeak of its needing to be oiled as he stretched out a lanky frame loosing built up tension. He'd have to make a personal trip soon to the park of his own accord in needing to unwind as with trying to avoid any unexpected overseas calls.
"I know a few within our ranks would be rattled to hear of such a group being close if certain portions of the search had been publicly released."
"You're sure of the evidence," Grandmother asked.
"Damned sure. The guy was cocky. So, over confident, in making both his kidnapping, and getaway known by emailing both his success and escape to Jenny's maternal Grandfather. Clear evidence of previous dealings. Even if the evidence isn't admissible by a lawyer the one received by her Grandfather surely will be. You're sure this will extend to Michael when he changes back?"
"Trust me Jozef the evidence will present itself when the time comes."
Relieved, "It seems, in what Paul Owen had foreshadowed, Jenny would have been virtually a prisoner of his. A sex slave to a vile and conceited man, forced to be the mother of his children."
"So, congratulations are in order I take it," Grandmother asked.
"Not yet, I'm afraid, there's still the chance of his lawyers springing him before trial even with the aborted kidnapping earlier. Without her being taken it can't be admissible in court as it could be used as circumstantial evidence or speculation on faulty witness's testimony. His part claiming his vehicle malfunctioned," stating a common ploy used by others, "not based on hard facts or evidence even with where she would have been enslaved, but with this vital revelation it provides a pivotal piece of evidence in being able to convict him."
"Problem?" Jozef asked when he finished seeing Jana's look of relief but worried it seemed as well. There was something he couldn't shake just yet. His intuition kicking in not letting the matter go.
"He considers it good news as well. He said he'd be the one informing Mrs. Owen. He wants to hold back certain pieces given what we all heard from her ex-husband. Wants to ease her into it just not all at once."
"Fair enough, once convicted and serving out his sentence I'm sure there'll be those wanting Mikhail's extradition to face further charges of blackmail, extortions as with others."
"As with Mr. Owen's own confession," Jana stated having taken to leaning semi-provocatively against his desk. "You got that look about you. What's up?" Jana asked having refilled her empty coffee mug.
"Not sure, it's just."
"I'm guessing we're not done yet with this case." Jana said ominously. "Let's brief him. He'll want to know about it."
"As with the other cases, calling my attention." Jozef stated. "Increased cases of burglaries by teens as with a covert smuggling ring to cover."
"Not including a rivalry brewing between gangs on the far side."
It was their going over more burgeoning cases as in briefing the Chief, Grandmother picked up her business phone.
"Yes, Julie how can I help you?" Surprising the woman.
"Caller ID my dear. I figured I'd receive a call soon after Officer Donovan called."
"Well I hate to be a bother, but could I impose on you to contact Jenny? I tried her cell, but there was no answer."
"We'll we are a water park meant for fun. I'm sure she's out with her friends enjoying the rides. You're not the first to ask." Reassuring the woman." I was just informed by Jozef of the evidence."
"Yes, well I was thinking of taking her out to celebrate and need her to come home early to get ready."
"Reasonable, but might I suggest that she allowed to stay. You would be surprised at how mystical the park seems to calm ones' nerves even after such a harrowing ordeal."
"I'm sure but, well Jenny's not one to take a lot pride in her appearance."
"Ah, then might I suggest having someone drop off the necessary ensemble. Many of our patrons do the same given that the equipment needed is readily available within the changing rooms."
"Are you sure? I mean."
"I'm sure she wouldn't be put off in needing to get ready. They're enjoying themselves immensely with their taking Jenny's mind off what happened."
"Are you sure."
"Very positive," having sensed what the girls were doing, "she'll be ready for a night on the town when you arrive."
Having agreed to the suggestion Julie arranged to where Maria would deliver both dress and assorted necessities. It kind of antagonized both Julie and Cassie in how Jenny seemed to take no pride in how she presented herself. At least this way she would be given a gentle push if not tender force to address her femininity a little more appropriately. At that time, they guessed, Jenny's appearance was probably, if not likely, due to the traumatic death of her parents. She had entered grief counselling as were most of the family and their therapist had felt that Jenny had taken her slovenliness as a coping mechanism in some kind of acute denial. Now her Aunt Jewel was going to use this event to put a stop to such mannerism not wanting it to take further hold.
It present Julie would have found Jenny having fun with her friends in riding down the 'Pipeline'. A captivating ride which was Erika's favorite, as it was great treat for catching those unawares of what was to come when one reached the bottom to those unfamiliar with the slide. Jenny would find out to her consternation why as she had seen the ride but bypassed in staying with Melanie and Katie. As she reached the bottom to her complete an utter surprised embarrassment she expelled an almost expletive cry. "My top!" Watching it floating on the surface a foot or two away.
"Nice boobs Jenny." Lucy laughed as Jenny squealed, and swam off after it only to have Erika reach the garment first.
"I'll swap you this for," holding up the desired piece before her, yet safely away. "Let's see. How about ice cream all round?"
"That's blackmail!" Jenny exclaimed, chasing after the girl who managed to keep her distance from an outstretched arm.
"I prefer to call it aggressive bargaining." Erika said grinning taking to wave it back and forth to her for others to see.
"OK. Deal, it's not like I have a lot of choice, is it?"
"Don't sulk Jenny it's not lady like." Lucy said getting into the scandalous bribery.
"I'm not sulking." Jenny replied having retrieved the cultivated covering fastening it up.
"OH, such a nice pout Jenny." Lucy said wherein all three girls started to laugh where Jenny had started to feel better about things joining in the revelry. Not only was she accompanied by a couple of good friends, they were helping her overcome several unpleasant aspects of her life. The starting of accepting her parent's death, as well the near scare of when she first arrived earlier today. And as Lucy helped Jenny secure her top she revealed how, and when to hold better onto her top. A fun fact she would need when she neared the end of the pipeline. It seemed she wasn't the first nor presumably the last to have such an encounter. A little while later Jenny managed to extract her own version of revenge.
Erika had wanted to drift and take a relaxing swing around old man river. Seizing the opportunity Jenny swum undetected beneath her floating raft and with a mighty shove upturned it eliciting a piercing shriek as Erika went under the water.
"Jennifer Leigh Stephenson, that was so mean. I could have drowned then." Having surfaced throwing her wet hair behind her.
"I don't think so Erika. Not with the size of those." Jenny laughed pointing at her boobs.
"She's a big girl" Lucy agreed holding her hands outwards of her chest having followed close behind. "I'm not sure about you but standing next to her is intimidating."
"Tell me about it." Then a sly grin came over Jenny as she continued. "But you know what I always say don't you? Anyone over a B cup is abnormal."
"Abnormal am I Jennifer Leigh Stephenson?" Erika answered close enough to reach out to her.
Before the girl could react Erika had pushed Jenny under the water. Although caught totally by surprise she was able to hold her breath just before her head disappeared. The water level in the area they were in was just above waist height leaving Jenny able to stabilize herself easily. Unexpected there came the piercing shrill of a whistle attracting not just the three girls but several others as well. Seeing the girl sitting atop a raised lifeguard chair shaded by a pink beach umbrella, Jenny had heard about the lifeguard. A brief description of the safety officer given from her cousin.
Most of the staff had been informed from either Liz, Grandmother, or Anya of the incident earlier and requested her key staff to keep an eye on Jenny while she was in the park. Holly wasn't in any way angry, or upset at what was going off. The girls were possibly a little loud but that was normal within the park. Nor was she upset with the slight horseplay they had displayed. She had been involved with a few herself when off duty. A playful act seen by other teenaged girls brought a smile to Holly's face with having heard what Jennifer was going through unlike another girl she knew. With her taking psychology the playfulness was a good indicator of her wellbeing from a pretty bad time. Hearing Holly's whistle all three girls looked up now having their attention.
"OK guys you're not in trouble.... Yet, but carry on like that and you will be." Holly joked being half-serious before continuing. "Your Jenny Stephenson correct." Seeing the acknowledgment. "I've just been given a message to relay. Your Aunt just phoned Grandmother. Both your cousin and aunt will be over to pick you up later. It seems she booked a table, at Giordano's for dinner, you lucky girl."
Hearing this revelation Jenny grew frantic, "But I need to go home and get changed." A started Jenny said, her mind thinking how long it would take to drive, change, shower, dress.
"It's been arranged," Holly said calming the girl. "Your Aunt and Cass have arranged a change of clothes for you. Grandmother said you can shower, and leave your old clothes in the locker, until tomorrow. But be warned this only gives you a couple of hours left."
Relief washed over Jenny at the thoughtfulness of her Aunt, wondering what was so special about this Giordano's. "OK Thanks Holly I'll be ready."
Later at the appointed time Jenny left for the changing rooms dragging Lucy with her tossing her the car keys with minor instructions on when to take her car home. It was then Lucy gave a thrilled cry at being allowed to drive such a luscious car as she would need to coerce Erika to follow her for a needed ride home later. Lucy was sure Erika was going to be so envious when told.
And as Jenny showered and readied herself within the changing room it was then she noticed how much more modern it was compared to other facilities. Blow dryers, softening gels for tanned or sunburned skin, as with not just those metal type mirrors due to thieves, but real mirrors with ample lighting for doing ones' hair as with plentiful space for cosmetics and such. Then it hit her when she thought of this being her first visit Girodano's, her excitement of going gushing forth. But not for Michael, as his recessed memories surfaced of how he had been to the plush restaurant a couple of times with his Aunt and she gave a small shudder on how powerful the parks magic had been affecting her since her change weeks before. She had come to be so immersed into her Jenny persona she had nearly forgotten her other self. The memories of growing up as a girl grew more dominate as she struggled to remember who Michael was wondering how much longer she would need to be staying as Jenny. Worse was the idea of if she didn't want to go back. To stay as Jenny and another shudder coursed through her.
It was just after five-fifty when Aunt Jewels and Cassie arrived. Jenny was surprised to see that Cassie was driving.
"What's the matter Jenny, afraid of my Yank driving?" Cassie teased revving the engine as Jenny was regulated to the back.
"Of course not." Jenny answered. "I mean you're the one getting the ticket not me." Which brought a few laughs.
"Don't worry, it's not as you think." With the warning glance from her mother having revved the engine once more before placing it in gear. "Cassie's just going out with Marta afterwards. So, she would need the car." Aunt Jewels explained.
"If I had known I would have just left my car here when we were finished," a sense of remorse in having asked Lucy to take her car until the following morning. "I asked Lucy to bring it home in the morning."
Cassie smiled and just shrugged it off. "Well it's just as well. "Leaving it in the parking lot wouldn't have been safe." Cassie simply said. "Don't worry Cuz, I'll be happy to drop you both off at home after the meal."
Adjusting herself with the pulling of a black three-quarter length dress Maria had brought, a slit of a split cut down one leg exposed itself past midthigh. The front was short as well with its pretty low cut. The exposure showed ample cleavage, too much cleavage or so Jenny thought. She had simply blow-dried her hair, having then brushed it out. Using a barrette, her hair held in place, allowing it to hang loose in small wavy curls down past her shoulders. With a little light makeup, she had to admit that she liked the look, hot, even if it was a little more girly than she wanted. If she was honest with herself though, the dress really accentuated her figure with its firm placement of clinging in just the right places, long thoughts of Michael now forgotten once more.
Earlier, "Wow look at you girl. That dress really looks good on you." Anya commented just before exiting the park to the many stares of the few males coming in as with a few audacious looks from other teens.
"Not one I would have picked. I would have preferred Capri pants with a plain white blouse." Feeling uncomfortable with the many stares.
"To Giordano's? Good thing you never picked them. You'd have sold yourself short." Anya teased.
Jenny just laughed and as an afterthought stuck her tongue out at Anya unladylike. Joining in the conversation up front Jenny kept crossing her legs, trying to maintain her modesty as with the feel of hose and two inch strappy heels, it had taken her several tries to finally secure the tiny closure as she wasn't used to wearing such heels and the need to keep from exposing herself on the seat, the skirt either rising or opening from the slit.
They got to the restaurant just after six-thirty, a little early. Fortunately, their table was ready and as they were escorted to their table Julie carried herself well for a woman of her age, a pose of one still a striking woman. A woman who looked ten years younger than one of forty-two. Cassie, herself, was almost a lookalike of her Mom as she walked with a self-assured confidence carrying herself elegantly the distance from where they first entered. And as they strolled towards their table the three of them turned heads as they walked in. It was then as they sat down at their table Mr. Giordano himself appeared.
"Mrs. Owen, how good it is to see you." Giving the woman an appreciative glance. "We heard about the attack on your niece." As word on the street seemed to be moving fast along the elite. "It must have been a scary situation for you." He said gazing pointedly at Jenny.
"It was Mr. Giordano. It would have been worse. Had it not been for my friends Erika Watson and Lucy Johnson being there. I'm not sure what would have happened without their support. I'm greatly relieved they were with me."
"I know both girls, but not well." Mr. Giordano said as he went to leave only to take a few steps then as an afterthought turned to speak directly to Jenny. "Miss Stephenson anytime you and your friends would like a meal, let me know. I'll ensure you have the best meal in town." What really sent a pleasant shiver down Jenny's spine was the wink when he said friends. She knew he meant boyfriends.
"Thank you, Mr. Giordano. Please call me Jenny or Jennifer. Not Miss Stephenson I'm called enough of that at school."
"Of course, Miss... I mean Jennifer."
"I promise you Mr. Giordano. I will remember that and I'm sure I will come back soon."
"Well you certainly made a hit there Jenny. I've lived in this town just about all my life and here you get what amounts to a cheap meal in a few minutes." Cassie said almost in awe.
"Not just with Mr. Giordano Cassie. She has with Maria too." Aunt Jewel corrected. "That poor girl was terrified of her at first. Now she's picking out her clothes."
"You mean Maria picked out this dress? I thought she liked me." Nearly shocked on who.
"She does Jenny. But sometimes you don't dress, shall we say as attractively as you could." Indicating the current attirement.
"Mom has a point Jenny." Cassie chimed in. "We do feel for your loss. But don't forget Uncle Michael was Mom's brother as well as my favorite Uncle. We're not trying to make you feel bad Jenny. We care about you."
"So, you think that by my not dressing attractively enough, is a part of my mourning process?" Jenny snapped curtly if not hostile, unsure as to why.
"Isn't it Jenny?" Aunt Jewels asked taken aback by the attack.
Sitting there, Jenny strived to achieve an inner calm taking several deep breaths and thought for a moment. Seeking to reclaim herself it was at that moment a flood of girl memories started to kick in on overdrive.
"Yes! No! I don't know," herself confused. The only time I really dressed nice was when Daddy came to visit at school." Jenny felt her chest tighten and her eyes start to fill. She immediately fought back the tears. To manage the emotion of what wanted to dominate her, taking control of her breathing hoping against hope. Neither Julie nor Cassie said anything, both glimpsed the sudden display with a thoughtful look at one other silently knowing what had been a brief outburst as Jenny thought 'I hope they didn't notice.' to herself.
"You've never got on so well with your Mom. Had you Jenny?" Deciding it best to change leave a painful subject as Jenny continued to try and compose herself unnoticed.
"No Aunt Jewels she seemed to resent me." Looking down to where she draped a napkin across herself to distract them from see her. "We were never very close. It was the same with her family too." She looked at Cassie sensing what she was going to say. "No Cass she never used to visit me at school either."
"Let's change the subject. This is a celebration after all." Julie suggested once more uncomfortable with how their conversation was progressing.
"Have you heard from Coach Young yet?" Cass answered taking a different subject non-related to either now gone parents.
"Not since the tryouts Cass. But there was a lot of competition." Jenny had been horrified at the idea of going to tryouts as she found it pretty scary to even make the attempt. Yet it seemed almost second nature to her as she let the rhythm flow within her. And as she performed she just seemed to have a natural flair for it. But after all was said and done, she still had her doubts. First off, she was British not American. Yes, there was cheerleading in the UK, but not deemed worthy of the same level as here. Secondly and probably most importantly she was really a boy and cheerleading was definitely too girly for his male ego. And then there was the third. What would her life be like once she returned to being Michael? What changes, challenges, was she going to face then?
"I heard Coach Young was very impressed with you Jenny. Up to now our family has had a cheerleader in every generation. Before you ask, yes I did make the cheer squad." Aunt Jewels said.
"Up to now?" Jenny gave her aunt an inquisitive look. "Aunt Jewels are you saying that you hope I will?" Unsure if she was hearing her aunt correctly of such a desire. The conversation was never finished as their server arrived as with waiter both with menu's and a plate of freshly baked bread with a selection of assorted spreads, their aroma to tempting not to taste.
The following day was Sunday to where Jenny felt more than a little upset. Over the last few weeks she had grown very close to Melanie, a bolt of energy so outgoing it seemed as if the world couldn't contain her. As foolish if not dumb as it may sound it was almost like Melanie had dug a hole within her worming her way into Jenny's heart to where this demanding pixie of a little girl was now a little sister to her. So taken was Jenny she felt overly protective towards her. They were like kindred spirits, the two having suffered a terrible loss. And now all of that was to end soon with this being the last full day they would spend, this Sunday full of splendor. To soon would they be separated by the morrow. A final day together with Katie and Melanie's presence to feel that kindred spirit. She would still have more time but not like this for with her Aunt's help she had managed to work a day off from school come Monday. A final chance to accompany them as they drove to the airport for their catching a mid-morning flight back to the UK. She was spending the whole day at the park with them. 'Who would have thought that a small girl would have had such a big impact on my life?' Jenny thought to herself as she waited for that ball of energy to come tearing into her possibly one last time.
"Hey Anya" Jenny replied her voice evident of the feeling that dwelled inside her.
"What's with the sad face?"
"I'm sure you know." Jenny sighed. "It isn't fair Anya that little girl has so much happiness inside. And this has happened to her." Jenny was close to tears. "It's just so unfair."
Anya closed her eyes for a moment looked at a very unhappy Jenny. "I hate to say this Jenny but life is unfair sometimes. But I can give you some consolation."
"I can't think of anything that could be a consolation to this at the moment."
"Come with me, I have something to show you that may help." Taking Jenny's hand she followed, it seemed as if she was being led within the office. Sitting in her usual place at her desk Grandmother waited patiently her face conveyed a seriousness of one used to being heard and Jenny felt that need to be obey.
"Sit." Grandmother gestured, waited, holding an object concealed by a light cloth an object tenderly cared for as if waiting to feel the gentle touch of its owner's hands. A soft glow seemed to appear beneath the cloth of white when a finger touched over the cloth leaving one to wonder what lay beneath. A simple cloth draped lightly over an object that if one had seen it before one would know its outline. An outline nearly forgot perhaps only to those from bygone days. The outline of what many folks' generations past took as a way to see ones' future. A piece of crystal used in a carnivals trade, many believed, considered once real now rarely seen in today's age of electronic belief.
"Sit please Jenny." Indicating the chair before her. Compulsively Jenny complied as if in a near trance.
Both girls watched where Grandmother very reverently placed the item on the table lifting its veil with a slight flourish once used from days of her youth. None who viewed her showings would lay claim of her ever been a charlatan like many others.
"Understand many considered this a parlor trick used by gypsies to separate one from his or her coin. For some that was true." Reverently it looked as if she took to polish the ball as she spoke, her voice taking on a far different intonation, a far cry from her days sitting, waiting for the few who came in for such an exhibition. Many to find later, the truth of what was viewed.
"I rarely use such an item, the last had been to help a young orphan boy named Austin with a difficult problem for him. He asked a question about his future unsure of what path he should take." And silently aged hands took to caress the crystal placed yet never touching. And as they stared Grandmother took to muttering a few strange words which Jenny could not understand sending the ball to cloud as Grandmothers hands continued to encircle the small globe and the world around them seemed to dim away. Her words were hypnotic as Jenny continued to gaze within the ball, eyes mesmerized as the misted fog within took to clearing causing Jenny to put her hand to her mouth in complete dismay. For as she stared within the mist, it had consolidated to form an image in one she deeply cared for. The image of that spark of energy waited patiently in contrast of whom she knew, standing waiting as if somehow grounded in place; Melanie. She couldn't be sure, only the girl didn't seem much older than she was now. Her apparel of one dressed as a bridesmaid along with her, Cousin Cassie Owen. And just close enough to see stood the bride. A bride she knew immediately as Katie Harris, the three together before an altar, then once more the crystal grew misty, hazy as the images vanished from view veiled once more within a swirl of mist leaving only a solid globe of glass once more.
"I don't... I don't understand." Jenny stuttered trying to understand what she had seen.
"You were there Jenny. But I can't say how you are there if you follow me." Grandmother answered cryptically.
Jenny slumped down further into her chair as it hit her. She would see Melanie again. From the looks of it, it would be soon. Very soon as Anya sat down next to her a moment later.
"Jenny, you have a very diverse future. We're not sure how it will all work out. But if you continue down this path this viewing will very likely happen. The good news is that Melanie will be a part of your life but for how we don't know for certain." Anya informed her.
"This could also be part of the reason in how she means so much to you Jenny." Grandmother added, then almost as an afterthought Grandmother produced some tokens within her palm, seemingly out of nowhere. "Have a meal and some ice cream for the three of you at one of the concession stands my treat." With that Jenny left as she attempted to understand what she had seen as with Grandmothers words. Within now alone with Grandmother Anya had a very worrying thought.
"Grandmother, there's a very real possibility she may not survive to see this."
"I know. We'll have to try and make sure she does."
Despite the somber mood Jenny found herself having a great last day with Katie and Melanie. She was impressed to see just how far Melanie's swimming had improved from when they first met that weekend. There was not any of the usual sandcastle building this time, instead spending most of their time frolicking in the shallow area of the pool. Separately Katie and Jenny spoke of their sadness well out of earshot of Melanie deeply aware Melanie would have her own thoughts on their impending separation all too soon. As long as the day was for them it seemed so short when the inevitable had to come, the three of them been in the making. Unbeknownst to Jenny a surprise had been arranged as they left the park for one last time meeting up with her Aunt Jewel. A surprised sleepover on where Katie and Melanie would spend with them overnight to the little girls' excitement.
In the morning Jenny, would be the one to drive Katie and Melanie to the airport. That night everyone had been feeling sad and Jenny had a restless night finding it difficult to sleep, knowing what the morning would bring. Breakfast itself was also a solemn affair and soon it was time to set off for the airport. Melanie complained as they climbed into the car she wanted Jenny to sit with her. Cassie willing to comply with the little girl gave a fond smile as she took the keys from Jenny with Jenny climbing into the back. And as they drove Melanie drew near cuddling close as Cassie drove chatting with Katie Harris. Promises were made about keeping in touch with the swapping of email addresses as well as Skype. When it was time for the final good-by with the passing through security into the departure gates Jenny picked up and hugged a very tearful Melanie but promised they would see each other soon as with the taking off of her flight. And as she waited to let the air blow through her hair Jenny gave a tearful wave in seeing the plane taking off leaving her standing there soon with its vanishment lost within the clouds as with her sudden misting of eyes. The return journey back home was very quiet. Cassie questioned Jenny on her promise with Jenny's insistent in knowing they would once more meet. After several tries of wanting to know how, Cass let the subject drop given how stubborn her cousin could be.
After her first encounter with Chip Monroe, Jenny had managed to avoid any further confrontations with the jock. It was after school had finished Jenny stood talking with another star athlete, Bill Branson. It was painfully obvious to everyone he was obviously smitten with the school's foreign student as he was hanging onto her every word. It was as if, to him, they were the only two around at that time having blocked out the rest of the outside world as they had taken to looking over Bill's motorbike. For him he was far more interested in Jenny's car with his insistence of surveying the gleaming piece of machinery with the claim it was from a pure mechanical point of view.
"How does it feel, driving on the other side of the road?" Bill asked having seen movies where, to his eyes, Brits drove on the wrong side having grown up driving on the right-side vs the left.
"At first it felt weird, I soon got used to it. But, saying that I had only driven a couple of times in the UK as it was hard attending a private school."
"I can't imagine what that would be like. Not being able to go home to your parents each day. Little sisters can be annoying but hell, I'd miss them all to be honest."
"I don't have any siblings. So, it wasn't such a problem to me Bill." It was at that moment, she noticed Chip Monroe on his way over. "Oh great, that's all I need." Jenny exclaimed on the pending encroachment.
"Well, well, well if it isn't the Ice Queen herself. I'd give up hope if I were you Branson. According to rumors she's a lesbian and not interested in real men." Chip sneered.
"Wrong again Monroe, I am interested in real men. As for being a lesbian, come here Bill." Growing bold before Bill Branson could react, Jenny cupped his face in her hands going then upwards on tiptoes, planting a kiss full on the lips. For a second or two Bill was caught by surprise with Jenny's sudden affection. Soon enough he recovered from this sudden display with his own body starting to respond only to have their moment cut short with the interruption of Ms. Serrano.
"Don't eat him whole Ms. Stephenson we need Mr. Branson here for the rest of the athletic season." She quipped.
Feeling embarrassed at being brazenly caught in an affectionate manner, Jenny quickly dropped her hands and stepped back breaking the embrace with Bill following suite. It was then they had drawn a crowd of lookers with Jenny's public display of affection, a large group of kids gawking as with phones out snapping pics compounding the problem as with the slow immersion of a Ms. Serrano's seemingly approval of a smile.
"Mr. Branson, I would suggest, you go to the ice cream parlor to cool down. I'm sure Ms. Stephenson will be happy to join you - in a few minutes." Bill Branson needed no more prompting as he quickly disappeared with the excitement now over. The rest of the students were also scattering just as quickly. Some started running to catch their bus whereas others left the school ground walking home. A few went towards their own cars.
"You two seem to be attracting a lot of attention of late." When she waved a hand to silence Chip Monroe who was about to speak. "Don't try to argue with me Monroe you need to focus on football not on what female students are doing."
"Yes Ma'am, I'm sorry Ms. Serrano I need to go." Seeing where he didn't want another confrontation with a school official.
"Then I'd suggest you leave. I need to talk to Ms. Stephenson. Alone." Ms. Serrano paused a moment as she waited for the football player to be out of hearing range, taking the time to look at Jenny as though she was appraising her. "Nice car you have Stephenson. Is that the Lexus 450h F Sport?"
"Yes, Ma'am and thank you. It was a gift from my Aunt after..." Jenny struggled to finish the sentence but couldn't.
"You know, I have always loved these cars." She paused a moment. Gently putting her hand on Jenny's shoulder, she said. "Things will get better Jennifer. You just have to give it time. As for Monroe, he's harmless. A jerk but, pretty harmless. You want my advice Stephenson?" She waited to allow Jenny to consider the request giving a nod. "I think you should stick with Branson. He's a solid guy, and works hard. If I were you I'd get my butt over to the ice cream parlor now. Athletic stars of Bill Branson's caliber don't remain available very long." As she said this Ms. Serrano gave Jenny a sly wink then left. Needless to say, it didn't take Jenny long to make off to the waiting Branson as fast as she could.
"That was embarrassing." Bill said as Jenny scooted on the opposite side of the booth he was in.
"I'm so sorry Bill I wasn't aware Ms. Serrano was around."
"That's okay." His embarrassment, just barely evident with his talking. "I'm flattered. To be honest, there's no one I'd rather be caught out with." His face taking a blushed crimson as he said this, only to curse. "Oh hell it's my little sister Abi." When the sudden appearance of a girl between fourteen or fifteen approached their booth.
"Hey," Abi said as she eyed the two seated alone in a booth. "I just heard this story from a couple of girls from your track team Bill." Her eyes never strayed, focusing on her brother.
"I can't imagine what they'd say."
"From the look on your face I think you know exactly what they would say."
"Abi must we go through this each time you hear something concerning me?"
"Anyway," ignoring her brother's retort as with Jenny, referring her to the 3rd person, "I heard that the new English chick just threw herself at you after school."
"Is that so?" The problem was as his sister talked, Bill Branson's face was taking on the shade of a bright red stop light.
"So, you finally got yourself a girlfriend at last?"
It was at this point. Jenny couldn't contain her laughter any longer even as Abi finally focused on her. It was a disappointment to Jennifer as she was really enjoying the exchanges between these two siblings.
"Jenny this is Abigail my sister. Abi this is Jenny."
"Hi Abi, it's really nice to meet you."
"So, it's true then. You threw yourself at my brother."
"Abi please don't embarrass me like this."
"Shush Bro can't you see I'm interrogating your new girlfriend?"
"It's OK Bill I don't mind. It depends on your perspective. But yes, I guess I did do." Jenny stopped a moment. She looked over at Bill. Who just shrugged at her, Abigail just gave her the. 'OK get on with it look.' "In my first week at school I was pestered by a football player called Chip Monroe. On the advice of the deputy principal we avoided each other. Until today that is. After school, he showed up when me and Bill gathered to talk. Then when we were all going home Monroe started it all up again."
"Don't tell me. Big brother stepped in like a knight in shining armor."
"Abigail! That's enough you're asking too much."
"So, what happened then?" Abi asked, totally ignoring her brother.
"Well truthfully, I liked his bike and he liked my car. But Monroe called me the 'Ice Queen'. Then he told Bill not to bother, because the rumor was that I'm a lesbian. So, I grabbed hold of your brother and kissed him full on the lips..."
"Until we were interrupted, and stopped, by Ms. Serrano." Bill finished off.
"That is so cool. I wish I'd seen it, careful Bro. This is a girl who knows what she wants. I hope I get to see more of you Jenny, Bill needs someone like you." She hugged Jenny. "But don't you dare hurt him." She admonished.
"I promise you Abi I'll never do that."
"Good, from the moment I saw you I kinda knew that." She smiled, walked away, to talk with some friends who had just arrived giving a parting, "You missed a spot Bro," touching the side of her lip with a gentle finger swipe.
"I'm sorry about that Jenny. Abi can be a little relentless." His face just a shade darker of the last remanence of lipstick.
"She's sweet, I really like her. Plus, she obviously loves her elder brother too. Now Mr. Branson, are you going to buy me a chocolate sundae." Being a bit forward on him. "Or do I have to buy it myself?"
"We have really got the whole spare apartment?" Erika asked in awe looking over the place having set down her bags once she and Lucy had stepped through the entranceway being invited in by Jenny. There was an activity room, complete with TV and DVD. A kitchen area well equipped so they could prepare their meals as with space to set up camp beds, plus two large overstuffed settees that they could use to watch movies.
The week nearly over Jenny looked forward to an opportunity of having an impromptu sleepover with her Aunt Jewels permission. Naturally Jenny knew who to chose to spend that time with her inviting Erika and Lucy over with their arrival at about 7 o'clock.
Having stepped into the basement apartment both girls were struck in how the converted basement had been made into a small flat feeling homey. It even had its own private entrance leaving them free to come and go. Given this was to also be her last week as Jennifer there was more than an element of sadness with her pending return; as Michael, the social/culture difference was huge.
"Yes, we do." Having helped the girls bring in their things setting them down on the floor. "All to ourselves."
She hadn't expected to stay much longer but due to the upcoming arraignment of Mikhail Markovic, Anya suggested it may be far better for Michael to stay as Jennifer for a little longer. Come Monday morning tho, she could expect to being Michael once again.
"So, we're going to the Shell Game tomorrow?" Carefully hanging the dresses up, as with trying to move things about not wanting to clutter the living space. The place was a favorite hangout with the older teens, seeing the excited nods Jenny had heard of it. That was she had heard talk of the place when she was Michael, not having visited the establishment herself. She had also heard talk from Erika of the band playing that weekend, a favored regular established there; Radical Chick. A band whose members attended her own School.
It was pretty clear that Erika had some kind of problem or altercation from their conversation with the band's female singer; Brittany Williams, but Jenny didn't push her on any details about it as she felt that it was probably a sore subject. There was another of the members, a guy called Nikolai Belekov who was also obviously a Russian, or of Russian descent, not that she felt any attraction to the guy. But it was nice to have something in common with someone. The feeling was very much mutual in fact when they meet in school having bumped into him on the way to class.
Nicolai or Nick as he preferred to be called had said that she looked and behaved more American than Russian as they quickly drew a small crowd with their conversation mostly spoken in Russian. She had spent considerable time trying to figure out if that was either an insult or compliment with the jury still out. As far as she was concerned, his interest might be because her govoryashchiy or speaking was better than his due to the fact her Mother's family hardly bothered about her. She had to learn the language in order to speak with them. And like many children, she picked up the language far quicker than an adult would. By the age of ten or eleven she was pretty versed in Russian. She had tested out as being bilingual in both Russian and English. There was definitely no attraction there between the two though. Sure, Nick was a cute guy but he was a non-contender, she had Bill Branson. Damn not after this weekend though and that was eating her up inside. With her upcoming change this was causing even more confusion and conflict.
"Anyway, I want to change the subject a moment." Lucy said as she gave Erika a playful looking grin.
"OK. Shoot, what do you want to talk about?" Jenny answered tentatively.
"Well at school today we heard this rumor circulating the halls concerning you." As she said it Lucy had this curious look on her face. A face that started Jenny to worried.
"Really, I can't imagine what it could be. Would you care to elaborate a little more?"
"OH, we can elaborate, as much as you like, Jennifer Leigh Stephenson." Both girls responded in kind. There was growing sense of teasing forthcoming in their voices at this point.
Closing her eyes for a moment, "I'm sure I have no idea what you mean." Only to see their glaring stares once opened.
"How about, if I were to mention the name Bill Branson?" Erika prompted.
"I still have no idea what you mean." Jenny now cringing, sure of where this was leading.
"I knew it was true!" Lucy triumphant in confirming what Jenny wouldn't deny. "OK Jennifer spill it" Lucy said delightedly.
"We just chatted a little in study hall." Jenny replied with both look and vague sounding answer. Her answer, naturally was very uneasy, giving the two girls the opinion that she was holding back.
"But there's more to it than that."
"No, no there isn't, that's it." Jenny lied.
"OK then no problem Jenny. I'm sure we can torture, I mean coax it out of you."
"That's blackmail Erika Watson!"
"Such a nasty word 'blackmail' Jennifer," Erika teased. "Besides I prefer to call it aggressive bargaining. But you already know that." Reminding Jenny of the incident back at the slide, Erika was now grinning like a cat ready to pounce fully at Jenny.
"OK, OK, I get it." Conceding defeat. "Bill came to my defense when Chip Monroe started his crap again."
"Uh huh and this from the girl who said she wouldn't date jocks or athletes right Jenny?" Lucy inquired.
"I told you I've not dated him." Then as an afterthought she clarified. "Well, it wasn't actually a date. But we went for an ice cream after school. Last Tuesday," now blushing. She was also aware that although not a member of the football team Bill Branson was highly regarded as one of the schools' track stars. He excelled in the events: 100m dash, 200m dash, long jump, and javelin. Although, the high jump was not one of his best events he was classed as a serious contender. Bill Branson was very much an all-rounder in athletics.
"What a lovely shade of red you're wearing Jenny." Erika teased.
"OH, Shut up!"
"Do you remember the last time Jenny went that color Lucy?"
"You mean at Miyoka the Japanese restaurant when she was trying to eat with chopsticks."
"Yes, Luce do you also remember? I think, that there was more beef teriyaki on the table than what went into her mouth."
"I don't think she did any better with the fork." Both girls were then laughing leaving poor Jenny struggling to keep some dignity.
Before they could say anything else to further embarrass her Jenny suggested. "OK OK, enough you two. We'll order pizza."
Gleefully the two girls crackled in their good fortune for her two friends previously had hatched a diabolical plot against her. It was a gamble, to be sure, of where they hoped to get Jenny and Bill connected as a couple this weekend. It was just their luck of fruition when Jenny had opted for pizza. They had already known of the two's connection having seen their make out session on several others social media. It was pure fun on their part in taking to tease the confirmation out of the poor girl. At that time, both girls were unsure of how to coax Jenny into being their unwilling pawn only to have her unwittingly play their dilemma into their hands.
Unknown to Jenny, Bill Branson worked most evenings at a restaurant named the 'Pizza Palace', which his Uncle owned. This was one of the most popular pizza places in town. As soon as Jenny suggested pizza Lucy whipped out her cell phone to call in the order. Both girls conspired unobserved while Jenny set up the DVD on an earlier agreed to movie. The general consensus was to watch the movie with the pizza. This gave Erika and Lucy time to launch their plan convincing Jenny into letting Erika play with her hair. She relaxed as Erika gently brushed it then tied it into a pony tail laid over her right shoulder. As she saw it Jenny started to pose a little.
"That's really cute Jenny I love it." Lucy said in an enthused voice.
"Yeah I have to admit I do like it."
"Just pout a little for me Jenny." Erika asked taking several pics.
"Like this?" Jenny put her hand on her hip and pushed it out a little. Then turned her head slightly to the side, puckering her lips slightly as she grabbed hold of her pony tail mane tugging it close playfully.
"Whoa girl! That is so sexy. Seriously how does that make you feel?" Lucy asked.
"To be honest Luce I feel pretty good. I do feel a little sexier."
"Sheesh Jenny that was hot! I never expected that when I started on your hair. But it totally transforms you."
After that time seemed to fly as the three of them swapped thoughts on makeup. Jenny obviously used her girl memories to help her through several rough spots. With past events behind them both Erika and Lucy seemed happy in seeing a side of Jenny that they had not seen before. In the last hour or so Jenny had become so much more outgoing. No one at school would recognize the girl she was now. Soon the Pizza would arrive as Erika looked at Jenny's phone showing how long till delivery. It was then that Erika whispered to Lucy and both girls giggled.
"OK you two what's going on?"
Erika just said, "Oh nothing, just wondering how would it be if one of us was to answer the door in a bikini."
"We have bikinis but we've not unpacked them yet." Lucy said with a familiar faint smile on her face.
Suspicious. "Why do I get the idea that I've just been set up." Jenny asked.
"Be a sport Jenny," Erika pleaded. "What harm would it be in showing off to the delivery guy. You can get to yours easier than me or Lucy."
Without saying another word, Jenny retrieved her bikini, pulling it out from one of the bags, and started to get changed. By now, changing with other girls was second nature to her. 'Not like it would to Michael though.' She thought. Jenny was just about ready as the delivery guy was on his way to them; her Aunt Jewel had pointed him in the right direction with Cassie stood watching. Neither was sure of what was going to happen. Both had enjoyed sleepovers in the past. So, they pretty much had an idea of what may happen, but just hoped that all would be well. When the delivery boy knocked on the door Jenny opened the door ready to accept the pizzas dressed in a simmering styled bikini. With the door now fully opened her mouth opened slightly in shock in finding that Bill Branson stood waiting on the other side which is just what Erika and Lucy had planned for.
"UMM Hi, I brought your pizza." Bill clearly unsure on where not to look or what to say, well truth be known he knew where he wanted to look. But ever the gentleman Bill opted to gaze her in the eyes. Most of the time at least. Unsure to why with his looking, Jenny felt a small shudder of excitement as his eyes couldn't help to stray down to look over her breasts.
"Yeah I just need to get my purse." Jenny answered equally embarrassed in the unexpected confrontation giving a deadly glare to her friends as Bill waited to eye her further with the sashing of her butt. She would think it tame in what was to come.
It was as Julie had directed him to the basement apartment, which was situated around the corner Julie and Cassie discreetly followed Bill at a distance concerned over her niece.
"Mom looks like Jenny's just been pranked." Cassie giggled as both mother and daughter caught where Bill Branson waited. From their view, it looked as if he had nearly dropped his delivery when Jenny stepped into view. It was just dark enough to hide their figures from sight.
"You do know she has a crush on him, don't you?" Before Cassie could answer Julie had a gleam in her eye. "Cass grab that DVD marked Jenny, will you?"
"Is that the one I think it is?" When Julie never answered but simply grinned Cassie knew just what was at stake." Mom that is so evil. I love it. You do realize though that this could..."
"Yes, Cass I certainly do. But she has to let it go sometime."
By the time Jenny had found her purse and paid Bill for the Pizza her aunt had just shown up.
"Don't go just yet please Bill." Placing a hand on his arm to stop his departure. Turning to Jenny. "Go put a robe on sweetheart." Aunt Jewels said casually ignoring both Bill's and Jenny's discomfort.
"Please Mrs. Owen, don't get mad at Jenny, this was my idea."
"I'm not mad at anyone Erika. We're all girls here. I know how sleepovers go." She smiled a moment. "You've both done so much in helping Jennifer over a very difficult time. Both Cassie and I are grateful to you for that."
"I really have to get back to work. Mrs. Owen my Uncle will be..."
"She's back now Bill," when Cassie came running down towards them. "Could I please ask you to wait another ten minutes?" Forestalling his wanting to depart. "I'll get Cassie to phone him. Tell him there has been a slight delay."
Relenting Bill agreed to stop no more than ten minutes. Well that had been his intent, to have it instead go from a mere ten minutes to one closer to half an hour. Julie Owen looked over at Jenny and gave her an approving and yet nonjudgmental nod. At Julie's request, everyone found a seat. Erika and Lucy made sure that Bill was seated next to Jenny, much to Cassie's amusement of where Jenny's robe separated near the top leaving Bill a more enticing view.
"When Jenny was a baby she loved music like all babies I guess. But we had a special name for Jenny didn't we sweetheart?"
"Aunt Jewels you can't, you wouldn't." Jenny implored, aghast as she realized what was about to happen. This was when her girlhood memories floored her of and early childhood event to her mortification. A favorite of theirs whenever she visited with her father.
"Oh, but I can Peggy Sue. This is a very special moment preserved for us as a family. Which, is why we'd like to share this precious memory with some of Jennifer's closest friends." Cringing, she heard her father had talked of days where his mother had taken to show his baby pictures back in the day.
At that moment, the DVD that Cassie had put in the player, came to life. The T.V. flickered with scattered vertical lines from when the video had been captured over from tape. Soon the image cleared with the showing of a small girl of about eighteen months old running into the waiting arms of her father. She was dressed all in a pink fifties style dress, her blonde hair was framed in a ponytail. By all account it was clearly Jenny seen as a small child. Once released from her daddy's hold, music could be heard in the background to where she was jigging round. Her steps and swaying of her body showcased the way only an eighteen-month-old child can when trying to dance with Buddy Holly's tune 'Peggy Sue'.
If you knew Peggy Sue
Then you'd know why I feel blue without Peggy
My Peggy Sue
Oh well, I love you gal, yes, I love you Peggy Sue
Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue
Oh, how my heart yearns for you
Oh, Peggy, my Peggy Sue
Oh well, I love you, gal
Yes, I love you Peggy Sue
Peggy Sue, Peggy Sue
Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, Peggy Sue
Oh, Peggy, my Peggy Sue
Oh well, I love you, gal
And I need you, Peggy Sue
I love you, Peggy Sue
With a love so rare and true
Oh, Peggy, my Peggy Sue
Well, I love you, gal
And I want you, Peggy Sue
To the amusement of her friends and to Jenny's mortification as soon as she saw what was going on Jenny picked up one of the cushions to cover her face in total embarrassment. Unsure if he was doing the right thing, Bill reached out taking hold of her hand. Although no one said anything as the movie play this had not gone unnoticed.
"Whoa shake that tush girl." Lucy teased. "Pity the diaper spoils the effect." To several giggles. Jenny squeezed Bill's hand hard.
"Actually, I was wearing big girl pull ups, not a diaper." Jenny answered indignantly unable to fully ignore the show.
"So, I guess Jenny danced like this to other music then Mrs. Owen."
"Yes and No Bill. Yes, she danced to other music. But not like this. It was just this one that she really got into. So, she earned the nickname Peggy Sue."
"Is that your Dad there Jenny?" Erika asked now dreading of having done so.
"Yes, it is." Jenny could feel her voice crack with emotion. "Just before he left for the last time he said to me. 'The one thing that I regret is we're not going to see a cheerleader this generation.'"
"He said that?" Cassie asked her voice full of regret.
"That's the reason for the tryouts, wasn't it?"
"To be honest Aunt Jewels I don't know. I have always loved dance, gymnastics etc., Daddy used to jitterbug with me to songs like this. Right up until..." As she looked longingly at the screen Jenny saw the frozen image of her being thrown into the air by her Father. The glee of surprise evident as she looked down at him. This alone unleashed a full tsunami of emotions that overcame her so much so. She cried uncontrollably immediately at seeing a fond memory, her friends gathered close to consoled her. Bill was understandably confused at what to do at the time. But looking at his watch he noticed that it was getting late. Erika caught sight of him as he was leaving.
"Leave me your cell phone number Bill. I'll make sure that Jenny phones you."
"She's too upset to say anything Erika. I'll see her at school on Monday."
'He's right', she thought as she watched him slowly walk away. Noticing what was going on, Julie made her way to Erika. Noticing how angry the girl looked Julie had an idea why. Before Erika could say anything, she passed her a piece of paper with a number on it.
"Bill Branson's cell phone number, I'm certain Jenny would love to speak with him later."
"I don't understand why you did all this? How can you hurt her so much Mrs. Owen?" Erika looked confused.
"Erika, I was, we were both worried about Jenny. When she came and had to live with us she was in a complex situation. Not only had she lost both parents, she was living in a private school. In short Erika, Jenny had very little love in her life. Only from my brother, her Father, did she receive that love." After pausing a moment, she continued. "We, being Cassie and I, noticed that Jenny seemed to become different. She was happier and more confident in herself of late. She mentioned you and Lucy a lot. We both noticed a tremendous change in my niece. What I'm trying to say Erika is that she has to let it all go sometime."
"I guess you're OK with Bill too. Have you mentioned all this to him? I mean you had his cell phone number."
"No! He knows nothing of this. If he and Jenny date then that will be part of the learning process as or if they build their relationship," there was a long pause as both looked over Jenny who was still sobbing on Lucy's shoulder. Complaining about how unfair it was that her beloved father was killed in such a horrid way. "Possibly for the first time in her life she has made some true friends. Jenny hasn't cried or even let her feelings out at all. That isn't good for anyone."
"So, you think that this is going to help her?"
"That was blunt and honest. I like that Erika. Yes, I do. In fact, I know it will. We're going back to the main house now, leave you girls to your sleepover. If I'm right, and I believe I am, this is going to be the best way forward for her, for all of you" She paused. "I got Bill's number from his Uncle. It seems that Bill has reciprocated Jenny's feelings. Yes, I'm happy about it, I like the boy."
With that, both Julie and Cassie left telling the girls to try and get some sleep tonight. Despite, the sudden upset the sleepover didn't seem to go flat. First of all, Erika and Lucy had Jenny phone Bill Branson to reassure him she was feeling better now. Under their insistence they made sure that Jenny would hint to Bill in taking her to the Shell Game come Saturday night. For the rest of the evening, they swapped and compared clothes. Except for their undies of course. No one in their right minds swapped panties. The following morning saw the girls waking up later than usual as they hardly slept during the night. Waking first Jenny started to mix some pancake batter reading for breakfast. Lucy helped her as Erika excused herself in having to use the bathroom. After she had finished Lucy exited to use the bathroom next. Being a good hostess, Jenny in not needing to, had opted to go last. Both Erika and Lucy had the decency to lay the table. Breakfast was eaten as quickly as it had been prepared. So, with the meal out of the way the girls spoke of who was going to wear what, on their shopping trip. After deciding all three took their turns in showering. Then getting dressed and applied their makeup.
"Did you bring that peasant blouse Lucy? You know that's my favorite?"
"Erika, you know I did." Ruffled in thinking she would forget.
Opting to use Jenny's car and not Erika's, Jenny picked up her car keys and allowance as with retrieving some extra money that she had been saving. Saying goodbye to her Aunt and cousin, Jenny made her way back to the basement apartment where the two girls waited.
Exiting out of the garage she tooted her horn along with giving a parting wave from the car. Very little was said making their way to Lynwood Mall as Jenny drove. Each reflected on how much had happened from the previous night in such a short order. A growing common bond had formed between the trio and it was Jenny who grew the most upset over the upcoming Monday. For come that day there would be no more Jennifer Leigh Stephenson. It was then she realized she could never tell her newfound friends of what would happen. First, who would they even believe such a wild fairy tale? Then there were her ever growing feelings towards Bill Branson. It simply wasn't normal for her. What type of relationship could she expect once back as Michael?
'I'm not gay I shouldn't be feeling like this. What is wrong with me?' Not that Michael had any problems with gay people male or female. In fact, he was certain that a couple of his former dormitory mates were gay. None of her questions were answered as she found a parking space near the Mall's entrance. Parking had been relatively easy considering the time they arrived.
Once finished their shopping Erika and Lucy would transfer any purchases to Erica's car later having returned.
"OK so what do we hit first?" Lucy asked.
"I suggest we hit Jean Queen. They're having a 50% off sale going on." Erika suggested.
"I umm need to look at the baby shop." Lucy said rather uncomfortably. "I promised my Mom I'd buy a gift for my sister's new baby."
"Really Luce? I thought you were making an announcement." Jenny teased.
"My gawd, you can be so mean sometimes Jennifer Leigh. I really wonder why I hang out with you." Lucy answered stamping her foot in mock anger.
"OK, we can include it in our schedule." Jenny said, concluding their mock anger towards one another agreeing that it would be included. It didn't take them long to find Jean Queen with each going over what sale items were available.
"I need some new shoes and a bag to go with the dress I'm wearing for tonight."
"What have you decided to wear Jenny?"
"Do you remember that black number I wore when Aunt Jewels took us to Giordano's? I thought I'd wear that. But I may need a wrap if it gets chilly tonight."
"You don't need a wrap if it gets chilly silly. Just get wrapped up with Bill." Lucy told her suggestively.
"I'm shocked Lucy as if I ever would." Jenny answered in mock surprise.
"Is that a self-supporting dress? If so you don't need a bra." Erika hinted. "This means that Bill would have easy access to play and explore more upstairs."
"Oh the nerve of such a thing, a proper lady never discusses these things openly." Jenny said laughing as she answered. Deep inside her, Michael was astounded at the revelation. He had never taken girls to be so raucous and loud. "How about you and Phil, Erika? How far do you go?" Jenny asked curious.
"I plead the fifth." Erika answered all in good humor.
"Are you trying to say that we're not ladies Jennifer Leigh Stephenson?" Jenny grinned at Erika and Lucy and made a zipping motion as she closed her mouth.
"Oh, you are so in deep now Jenny." Lucy warned her
It was at this point that the girls noticed their chatter was getting a little too loud, attracting way too much attention causing them to start giggling. Deciding it would be a good time to leave, now seemed as good as any to visit the baby shop. Leaving Jean Queen, they made their way to the baby shop. Having looked around the baby store but not buying any clothes Lucy was not aware of the gender of the baby. Opting for something neutral it was decided amongst the three to purchase a baby bottle sterilizing kit complete with four feeding bottles.
"How about we grab a salad and a drink?" Jenny asked starting to grow hungry.
"That works for me." Erika answered feeling the pangs of hunger herself.
As they reached the food court Erika noted a nearby table free deciding to occupy it with their purchases else someone might grab it leaving the two of them to collect the food. It was as they were waiting in line the girls inevitably bumped into a few friends of Jenny's from school including Billi Harding and Lana Nguyen. Erika or Lucy didn't know Billi or Lana very well as they did not share the same circle of friends. But, they had seen them at school on occasions.
"Hi Jenny, look I know I shouldn't be the one telling you this." Billi said gushing with still wanting to tell the girl. "But, you have been selected for the cheer squad."
"I have?" Slightly flabbergasted. "But Coach Young said that I'd not know until the start of school next week when she posts it."
"I'll admit that I was skeptical at first. We all were, but you proved us wrong. Coach Young was shall we say really impressed with you. That's why she called you back. To do another routine to make sure of your skills when the others were allowed to leave."
"I thought it was because I'd messed up."
"Are you kidding? You pretty much blew them all out of the water. That includes Shelly and she's tried out several times before."
"I'd watch out for Shelly though, she's awful jealous from losing out - again." Lana warned.
"Shelly lost out to me in a previous tryout. We heard from Tori's boyfriend Paul Kensing that for spite she made a play for Bill Branson."
"What a bitch! Why would she do that? I hardly know the girl."
"Doesn't matter." Erika replied. "To her way of thinking, you've taken what's rightfully hers. Sorry Jenny, I knew you had been selected," Erika apologized. "Coach Young posted it as school finished yesterday. I wanted to tell you. But with your Aunt showing that DVD I forgot." Erika informed her.
"That's OK Erika, I know. I was pretty emotional as well." Jenny turned to Billi. "Thanks for letting me know Billi. Hopefully I'll not let anyone down."
"You're welcome Jenny. I'm pretty sure you'll not let anyone down." Giving Jenny a congratulatory hug as with their goodbyes once they received their food.
After getting their own meals as with taking one back for Lucy they sat down to digest over as with sharing the news to Lucy as they ate.
"It also seems that Jenny has made the cheer squad so the school can now boast an English cheerleader." Erika announced once back.
"No way!" Lucy squealed a little too loud. Jumping over and hugging her friend. "I'm so happy for you Jenny. The really sad part is that you'll not want us as friends now."
"That's not going to happen Luce. Both you and Erika are my best friends. We're like the three Amigos." Jenny answered hugging both her friends further.
After finishing lunch the girls made their way to Samuelsohns. It was there Jenny bought her shoes but changed her mind on the wrap. As much as she wanted to, Jenny could not deny the feeling of being wrapped up with Bill Branson's arms. The thrill of having them encase her excited her. Once again it was with Michael's memories she became conflicted, and wanted to doubt those desires. Those were hers not his and after a long afternoon shopping the girls made their way back to the Owens home where they picked up their belongings and prepared for their dates at the Shell Game.
After her friends had left Jenny took a long luxuriant bath. She could have just taken a shower but the bath was so more appealing. After washing her hair, she just rolled the bath flannel firmly in place leaving a small part to put across her closed eyes, enjoying her bath. She must have dozed off for a few moments because the next thing she was aware of was Cassie tapping on the door telling her it was ten before six. Reluctantly getting out of the bath Jenny slipped her bathrobe on. Looking in the mirror she noticed that her skin was now all pruny.
"I'm sure Bill would love that look Jenny it's so..." Cass paused a moment as if to think. "So wrinkled prune, that's the phrase I'm looking for." With having left the bathroom and endured Cassie's teasing.
"Oh, shut up!" Jenny scolded good naturedly.
"Take your time Jenny. It'll give Mom and I plenty of time to interrogate Bill."
"You wouldn't dare!" Appalled.
"Just wait and see." Cassie implied.
Over the next hour and twenty-five minutes Jenny hurried herself. At first it seemed the more she tried to rush and save Bill it seemed the more time she lost. So, giving up she figured that he could fend after himself. After all, didn't Abigail Branson interrogate her a few days ago? It wasn't until 7:15 Jenny made her appearance downstairs. Sure enough, to Cassie's threat there they were, both Aunt Jewels and Cassie giving Bill the third degree. It was poor Bill who suffered as he sat in one of the easy chairs his back to her. Both, Aunt Jewels, and Cassie were seated together on the settee. Cassie motioned to her to be quiet a moment with a gesture so subtle that Bill Branson never noticed it.
"Mrs. Owen, Cassie, I have the greatest respect for Jenny. She's an incredible girl. I promise you, I'll have her back by 11:45."
"Are you being sure that will give you enough time? You have to get home before curfew as well Bill."
"No Bill that will not give you enough time. I'll take you home and come back here." Jenny interjected.
"You'll do no such thing young lady." Aunt Jewels insisted giving her a wry smile and indicated for Jenny to sit down. "Jenny, you are my responsibility now. At risk of being called an interfering Aunt I have taken the liberty of checking a few things out."
"Not just Mom I have too Jen. After what has happened in the last couple of weeks we had to." Cassie conceded.
"Before you both get angry at us. "Raising a hand to quell any argument. "Not without good reason, if I'm honest. Jenny both Cassie and I are in full agreement that as long as you are both dating, Bill may use the basement apartment as a sleep over arrangement."
"But before you get any ideas Jenny there will be a few ground rules as you are still in high school." Cassie admonished.
"Yes Mother." An exasperated Jenny responded to Cassie.
"I have taken the liberty of speaking with your parents Bill. They're happy with the arrangements. Cassie will pick up a change of clothes for you."
"You look stunning Jenny by the way."
"Have a good time but remember Bill I'm trusting you to take care of my favorite niece."
"Aunt Jewels I'm not a child." Jenny complained.
"Mrs. Owen, you have my word of honor. I will treat her like a Princess."
"I know you're not Sweetheart. But you're very precious to me. Thank you, Bill that is all I ask."
"As it's now almost 7:30, I suggest you hurry, else one may turn into a scuttle maid." It was as they left the Owen household Jenny saw where Bill had borrowed his father's car for the evening. Julie and Cassie watched with delight as Jenny gave him the keys to hers. It was an enthralled Bill who opened the passenger door for Jenny before walking round to the driver side.
"They're besotted with each other." Cassie murmured to her mother.
"What do you expect Cass. All High School romances start out like that. I do wish that she had worn a wrap with that dress. It's too revealing for a first date."
"Mom she'll be fine." Guessing why Jenny abstained. "I know how you feel about her. This is the closest Jenny has ever had to a Mother." Cassie answered reassuringly. "Besides she'd die rather than upset you, you know that."
As agreed Cassie took the car back as Mrs. Branson had already packed a small case of clothes waiting at the ready. Before leaving, Cassie had an interesting conversation with Bill's sister Abbie. Julie had followed not far behind to bring Cassie back home. On the short journey home Cass revealed a little of what the two had talked about. They both grinned and evil grin as they colluded in how best Cassie would use this newfound information to tease her cousin.
And as Jenny and Bill arrived at the Shell Game unawares of what might be waiting in store at the end of their day they met with Erika and Phil Williams. A few minutes later Lucy joined the pair with her boyfriend Mark Hammond.
"The gang's all here then." Jenny announced scoping out the establishment. "As I'm the new girl here what happens now?" She turned to her date. "I'm sorry Aunt Jewels and Cass had to interrogate you Bill."
"For you it was worth it." As he said this Bill put his arm around her waist.
Jenny shivered a little inside. She wasn't sure just why. Was it a girl thing? Or was it because Michael was still lurking there somewhere in the corner of her mind? But either way she had to admit that it was a wonderful feeling all the same.
"Hey, why don't we introduce Jenny to the video games room?" Mark suggested.
"If you do that Mark Hammond, Siberia will have nothing compared to the cold shoulder you will get this week." Lucy advised him.
"It was just an idea." Mark sheepishly tried to explain.
"Not a very good one." Lucy countered.
"I'm not sure about you guys, but I'm hungry." Erika said changing the subject.
"Who is up for a pizza?" Phil asked.
With that decision made the girls sat down at a table as the boys went to order the food. They didn't have to wait too long as their respective dates arrived shortly with the proffered food. Although, a salad was preferable Bill brought Jenny over a veggie burger. She found its size difficult to cope with having found she needed to cut it into quarters. She had no intention of ruining her dress by having juice and innards fall suddenly onto her lap much to the delight of her friends, who teased her over it. Bill chose to share the pizza with Erika and Lucy. It surprised Jenny on how Bill with working part time at the 'Pizza Palace', could contemplate eating one. She thought he would have had enough of pizza. Both Mark and Phil had gone for burger and fries with a large soda. But in the end, it was all too much for Jenny, so Bill, who seemed to have an endless appetite, ate most of her fries. And then to top it off finished half of her diet coke as well. Almost telepathically it was then the girls rose to use the bathroom.
"We won't be long guys." Lucy said as they stood up.
"So, we'll see you in the game room OK girls?" Bill hesitantly asked almost hopeful in fact.
Jenny walked up to Bill pulled his face towards her before kissing him full on the mouth putting her hand, in his jacket pocket. Bill found that he was so engrossed in the kiss he missed where she fished out her car keys, so lost within the kiss, devoid of all will power unable to try and stop Jenny's advancement. The girls just giggled as the other two boys stood there dumbfounded as well as astonished.
"Now should we come back," dangling the keys in front of him, "to find that you boys are in the game room the girls and I will simply head on home, leaving you all with for a very lonely week." With that Jenny smiled sweetly at Bill. Then walked over to Erika and Lucy twirling the car keys on her finger.
"That could have gone better." Bill sighed as the girls went to the rest rooms.
"Guys, when it comes to girls. You never know what to expect." Phil continued. "That's probably the reason we're so fascinated with them."
"Sometimes I wish they came with an instruction book." Mark added. "Or some directives on what to expect."
"Hallelujah to that brother." They both replied.
"Two things puzzle me though. The first is how do they do it? I mean no one said anything. But the three of them got up at the same time." Mark said.
"Very true it's pretty scary really."
"The second point is. What do they do or talk about in there?"
"I don't think I want to know." Bill answered. At this point the three boys laughed. But all were in universal agreement. What was said in the restroom, stayed in the restroom.
Meanwhile in the restroom the girls touched up their makeup, and chatted for a few minutes. Not wanting to talk too much, or too loud as they noticed that on entering Erika noted one of the cubicles was occupied.
"Looking at that dress, do you still think Jenny is ideal for the role of Sandy in the school musical Erika?"
"Absolutely Luce she has that innocent look. That and the naivety she would be perfect."
"No way guys, I'm not going to audition for Grease. Don't you think that Miss Simmonds has tried to get me to audition?"
"You have to Jenny, picture it; Erika as Rizzo, you as Sandy and me as Frenchy. It'll be a lot of fun."
"Aw Come on Jenny. You even have the same accent as Olivia Newton John in the movie."
"Just one major point to that Erika she's Australian and I'm British." As she said this Jenny looked over at her two friends whose facial reactions were pleading with her. "Quit it with the puppy dog eyes you two." Looking at her two friends, it became obvious that they were going to be relentless. "OK I'll think about it, but I've got enough going on with the cheerleading too."
"What was it you said to me earlier Jenny, when I said about us drifting apart now? You said it'll never happen. We're like the three amigos."
"Alright, alright already I'll try."
"Do or don't do, there is no try." Erika said in a remarkably good imitation of Yoda. All three girls burst out laughing knowing that they had more or less persuaded Jenny to audition. Erika brought the subject back to Bill Branson.
"That was a pretty neat trick removing the keys from his pocket as you kissed him." Erika said.
"It just seemed a good idea at the time to be honest." With the discussion over, the girls started to redo their makeup. They had eaten and now they wanted to enjoy the latter part of the evening. Dancing to the band and having some fun. This would require a little more makeup especially round the eyes to highlight them as the lighting would be a lot more varied. So, to keep them alluring to the boys these things had to be done. It was at that moment the only occupied cubicle door opened as Brittany Williams appeared. It was clear from the look on her face that Brittany was not happy. A chilled hush filled the room like an icy Siberian wind just blew in engulfing the room as Brittany coldly eyed up first Erika then Jenny. She had heard that Brittany could and did have a nasty side to her. But this was the first time that Jenny had actually felt it.
"I thought I recognized a couple of voices." As she looked over Jenny. "Pretty revealing dress. You seem to like putting yourself on display, new girl."
"So, says the girl with a skirt that barely covers her ass." Jenny answered acidly.
"This from the British girl whose been throwing herself at Bill Branson." As she said this she walked round Jenny.
"As I have said before that would depend on your perspective." Jenny responded shrugging off the obvious challenge.
"I saw your little display a few moments ago so according to my reckoning that's twice now."
"Good, I hope that it dispels the story about me being a Lesbian."
"Cut her some slack Brittany. She did that to extract her keys from Bill's jacket pocket."
"I know I saw that, the girl's smart Lucy." She turned to Jenny. "I've known Bill since Kindergarten Jennifer. He's a really sweet guy. If you hurt him, you'll answer to me." Brittany said throwing down yet another challenge.
"Funny I've had a similar threat from his sister Abigail."
"I don't have a great deal of respect for cheerleaders." Brittany almost snarled.
"I'll repeat to you what I said to Abi. I would never hurt Bill. Now if you'll excuse us Brittany." Looking to move past the girl. "We're here to have a good time with our boyfriends."
Stepping aside Brittany let the girl pass. And as she watched the three girls walk away she'd heard parts about the new girl and decided that she wasn't sure about her. She had heard a lot about her from her guitarist Nikolai Belekov. The problem was that no one really seemed to know much of anything about this new girl. Even when Nick spoke to her he found no common ground. She apparently spoke Russian better than him. However, he felt that she was blocking something. But right now, her break was nearly over as it was time to prepare for their next set. Her game plan was to phone, or contact Bill sometime over the weekend. There was no mutual attraction other than friendship there. But she had always felt protective towards Bill. It was the same kind of protection one would have for a younger sibling. Despite all that she thought of Erika Watson and Lucy Johnson, the duo seemed to have hit it off pretty well with her.
Concludingly, Brittany realized that things will have to be resolved one way or another very soon between them. But all of that would have to wait for now. Because after washing her hands as Brittany made her way back to the rest of the band she heard Jenny's comment on how much of a bitch she had been. Erika had even taken to say that she'd been on the receiving end many times concerning comments so she kinda ignored her now. The boys noted of where Brittany had followed not too far behind and gave Jenny, in what can only be transcribed as an ice-cold glare of foreboding. Jenny's response was just to put her arm protectively around Bill, pull him in close and kiss him.
"Not that I'm complaining. But what was that about?"
"Oh, nothing really. A reward in not straying, to just to let you know I'm back. Take your pick from any of those three." She said impishly, knowing that the kiss would infuriate Brittany even more as with wanting to reward the boy for being patient and not straying.
He looked at Mark and Phil. Who both shrugged as if to say 'Who knows.'
"Looks like the band is back to play another set. Shall we dance?" Lucy suggested.
"That's a pretty corny line but that's why we came." Mark responded by taking Lucy's hand.
Phil led Erika to the dance floor as well leaving Jenny and Bill along at the table. Unsure what to say Jenny took a look at the stage and saw Brittany look over their way. Not sure if she was doing it to annoy Brittany or not she took Bill by the hand. Dragging him reluctantly to the dance floor with her friends.
Despite his being a prominent track star Bill Branson felt a bit of a klutz once on the dance floor. But, under Jenny's guidance he started to overcome his fear. Soon it didn't take long to where he became more confident and after three or four fast numbers, Radical Chick played a slower song.
Bill stood six or seven inches taller than Jenny so as she just put her arms around his waist she nestled her head against his chest. Cuddling up close to him she looked up and smiled. For the first time in a month Jenny felt happy. 'Should I have these feelings?' She thought to herself. Instead of pulling away an inner voice seemed to tell her no. It was within his arms there, Jenny suddenly felt a lot safer than she'd felt for a long time. After a few more dances it was decided to go back to the table. Relaxing they basked in the others company taking to sit out the rest of the dances.
Radical Chick had to finish their final set by 10 o'clock to allow themselves and the others ample time to get home. They had gotten loading their equipment down to a 'fine art' with the band packed, changed and gone to make their way home due to the city's local ordinance concerning youths. As Radical Chick played their final song of a predetermined set Brittany used the number to make up her mind concerning the new girl. It was going to happen tonight. One way or another she was going to confront Jennifer Leigh Stephenson and push her points at her. However, she had to give the girl credit in having managed to have Bill take to the dance floor. No matter how much of a klutz he felt Jenny had actually got him moving even if it had been awkward at first. It was soon after the final song played Brittany had left her bandmates to start packing with the promise she would be back soon. They knew how pointless it would be in trying to talk her out of the act knowing of her affection towards Bill Branson. Making her way over to where Bill and Jenny were Bill's look changed to one of surprise as he watched his friend since early childhood approach their table.
"Hey, how are you doing Bill?" Brittany asked nonchalantly.
"Back at yah Britt, I'm doing good thanks. How are you doing?"
"Busy, what with school and the band. When do you start training again? You know the athletic season starts in a few months and we need our star athlete more than ever. We can't allow you to get too distracted." She looked pointedly at Jenny as she said this.
"Coach is calling us in over the next month or so, but don't worry. I've got no distractions. It's going to be a good year." He pulled Jenny closer to him as he felt the icy conflict going on.
"Bill, can you give Jennifer and I a couple of minutes please? We need to clear the air on a school problem."
"It's OK Bill." Jenny insisted pulling away from the boy.
"Jenny, I made a promise to your Aunt." Bill protested.
"I know Bill. You've not broken that promise. It'll be fine." She kissed him gently to reassure him. Both sat at the table as Bill went to find Erika and Lucy casting a concerned last look.
"I've been watching you about as well as I could from the stage. You really do care about him. Don't you Jennifer? I also noticed you got him up to dance, that's a first." Brittany gave a small unplanned smile almost of approval.
"Of course, I do Brittany. Bill treats me like a Princess."
"Yeah that's Bill. I just want you to know he's not like a lot of the other jocks or athletes at the school. There's no big ego with him. But he's also very fragile, no, what I mean is vulnerable. He's too gentle, caring for his own good."
"I got that impression from talking to Abigail, it seems a lot of girls who know Bill are very protective of him. I'll be honest with you Brittany, I have very strong feelings for Bill. I have absolutely no intentions of hurting him in any way."
"That's all I'm asking of you Jennifer because Bill is like a brother to me." Again, there was the hint of a threat in her voice that made Jenny aware of how serious Brittany was.
"I take it from that, we're not leaving this table as friends are we Brittany?"
"No, but we're not leaving as enemies either."
"Frenemy's. I can live with that."
As they both got up Erika and Lucy came over with Bill, Mark, and Phil.
"Hey Jennifer, if you can sing Erika's right you'd be great playing the part of Sandy. In fact, I'd take a front seat to watch. The three amigos play Frenchy, Rizzo and Sandy."
"So? Where to next?" The girls asked as they still had a few hours left before having to be home with two giving a knowing wink to the boys.
"Dixon Park?" Both Mark and Phil hinted at as Bill grew uncomfortable with hearing where.
"Three cars, three pretty dates. What more could you want?" Phil suggested as he took to pulling Erika closer.
"What's Dixon Park?" Jenny asked suspecting the obvious.
"Well," Bill said reservedly. "It's a local hangout for umm guys and their dates."
"Like Lovers Leap," Jenny asked coyly.
"Yeah, but no leaping," Bill answered as they headed out to their cars. Jenny shivered a little of the tidbit of what Lucy had suggested earlier to her about cuddling up to Bill. She never said anything to anyone but gave Bill a warm smile as he played the gentleman opening the passenger door for her having given him the keys back to drive them home. It just seemed to be so right for him to drive. True it was her car, but Bill was her knight in shining armor.
The three cars pulled from the parking lot making the journey one behind the other as if in a convoy. They all parked close to one another with Jenny noticing that a few others must have had the same in mind not wanting to head home. Bill took Jenny in his arms. He held her a moment, she looked up. Then to their mutual surprise she kissed him despite the fact that her brain was screaming at her that this was not right. Then to add to her alarm Jenny felt the stirrings of being aroused. Unlike the kisses back at the Shell Game their kiss out at Dixon Park had turned far more passionate than either intended leaving them a little embarrassed about it all.
"I wanted to kiss you like that all night but..."
"Shh, it's OK Bill I know. I felt the same, but it just never felt right until just now."
"Look I'm sorry about the situation with Britt. I don't know what's going on with her."
"She thinks a lot of you Bill. I get the feeling she doesn't want you to get hurt."
"I'm a big boy now Jenny."
"Hey, don't tell me, tell her." Jenny answered with a sly smile. She then snuggled up closer to Bill. "Just hold me."
Draping his hand over her she felt where Bill's hands accidently brush over a hardened nipple. The motion caused her to moan a little. Looked up at him and his sheepish overture she smiled at his awkwardness. Then shuddered a little having remembered how Erika and Lucy had teased her mercilessly earlier in the day. Laying her head back on Bill's shoulder she closed her eyes indicating for him to continue with his accidental ministrations for a few moments. He was gently rubbing then massaging her breast outside of her dress, but daring enough to tempt in sliding fingers inside which he could have done quite easily earlier. She wasn't sure if she wanted him to stop or not as she basked in his gentle fondling of her breasts. They spent their time making out until just 11:30 breaking away from another passionate kiss.
"Sorry Bill. I think we'd best go home." She paused even as she wanted to continue with his lingering touches. "I…, I like what you're doing to me but I don't want to go any further."
It was obvious that their making out was leaving her feeling a little shaken. Truth be known Bill Branson felt the same way. He had after all promised both Julie and Cassie Owen that he would look after Jenny. Feelings of guilt were beginning to overwhelm him with the obvious thought in his mind now being if Jenny was reciprocating the same way. Or was he taking advantage of a vulnerable girl?
"Of course, Jenny I'd never force you into anything... Look I'm sorry if it was all too much too fast. I guess I got carried away," Bill spluttered out realizing his own guilty feelings.
"It wasn't anything I didn't want you to do but I just." She stopped, but it was quite clear in what she was thinking.
"Jennifer don't you dare think badly of yourself." Bill admonished her. "You will always have my full respect."
"Even if we had gone all the way and actually, you know, done it?" Jenny asked in a questioning tone.
"But we didn't. And even if we had it still wouldn't change my opinion of you."
"Thank you, you have no idea what that means to me." Tears welling up. "I feel so many mixed up emotions about everything right now."
After arriving home Bill pulled into garage and as a gentleman rushed to open the door leading into the house before giving her a goodnight kiss then went to the basement apartment. Even in the late hours of the night she took a relished shower to wash some of their heated perspiration from their making out as with removing make-up and brushing her teeth. It was while in bed that she replayed in her mind what happened at Dixon Park. Immediately she felt the crinkling of her nipples as they hardened. Thoughts of Bill Branson's tender ministrations assaulted her mind. Fingers gently massaged her breast imagining it was Bill's touch once again leaving her excited.
Just as it was before they left Dixon Park the gentle rubbing and teasing of her nipples caused a tightening almost like an electric shock causing an irresistible itch crying out to be satisfied in her most intimate and private spot. She knew just how to satisfy it and after a few minutes of touching, playing with her inner sensitive 'private' spot, Jenny felt herself erupt with in a field of pleasurable recourse best described as fields of electricity swept over nerve endings flared up like a Christmas tree nearly ready to explode from the sudden surge of arousal. A few moments later having come down from a physical high she retrieved a tissue to wipe dampened fingers followed by her having to head once more to her bathroom having never experience anything so deep in need, to clean up far more than she had ever imagined feeling. Feeling better yet exhausted from her excursions, sleep came to her within minutes of hitting the pillow. The following morning Jenny reminisced over the previous night. Sighing she carried out her morning rituals with another shower as the feelings from that nights stirring seemed to return once more. With Bill stopping overnight as a guest Jenny opted on where she would give Church a miss this week. Dressing in her favorite bath robe and a towel wrapped neatly round her head like a turban to soak up her dampened hair she pulled out a white matching bra and panties set. Dressed casually in faded blue jeans and a white shirt her overall look in the mirror was one of being pretty plain. 'Just like Sandy in Grease,' she thought. It would have been fun to audition, for that part but it's not to be she ruminated for Michael would be back tomorrow. As she arrived for breakfast she saw Cassie, wearing a very amused look on her face.
"You know. The walls here are pretty thin, don't you?" Informed Cassie with a mischievous look.
"I'm not sure, what you're talking about." Jenny answered somewhat perplexed.
"Well let me make it easy for you Jenny. My bedroom is right next to yours. And judging by the noises emanating from your room that must have been a pretty hot date last night." Cassie said casually enjoying Jenny's sudden growing discomfort.
Mumbling something that was totally incomprehensible to Cassie, Jenny was relieved upon seeing Maria walk in each giving the other a good morning only to have Cassie continue unabated.
"Relax Jenny. I'll say nothing to Mom but you're the closest I have to a younger sister now so expect to get teased."
"Teased about what?" Maria asked. "Come on Cassie. You can't keep me in the dark." Maria begged.
"I'll not say directly Maria, but it seems we definitely have a moaner amongst us."
"Cassie, just please just shut up." Jenny pleaded her cheeks going flush.
"In fact, Maria, she's a very loud moaner." Cassie giggled enjoying her cousins discomfort.
"I'm guessing that Jenny's not aware of how sound travels in this house." Maria said then continued. "I'm sure that 'whoever' it is Mrs. Owen already knows."
"OHHH Gawd, Nooo, my life is ruined, over." Jenny blurted out holding her head in her hands in shame.
"Oh, my word that is just so precious." Maria said before bursting out laughing finally giving in to who Cassie meant. Then held Jenny close in her arms and in a tight embrace hugging her. At this point all three girls were laughing. Unknown to them it was then Julie Owen decided to walk in. For poor Jenny, things were about to get a lot more uncomfortable as her Aunt had heard the whole conversation having stopped outside the doorway. For Julie, this was a heartwarming scene for she loved all three girls. They were her family. Two by virtue of blood, the third by love and loyalty. Given all the trauma they had been put through these last few weeks hearing the girls laugh Julie was astonished and pleased that finally her girls were happy once again. Just as they deserved to be and as a consequence of their happiness she, herself, was happy.
"Just what is all this frivolity about?" Julie Own asked after pausing a moment before continuing. "Jenny the girls are right. The walls are pretty thin and noise does carry. Was that you I heard last night?"
"Oh no, this has got to be the start of the worst day of my life," Jenny groaned as the other three took in her once again obvious discomfort, tittering like a bunch of school girls having found one of theirs at being caught doing something naughty.
Fortunately for Jenny sake of humanity Bill arrived putting an end to such goings-on. Sadly, there was no going for another visit to the Shell Game that night for Bill could only remain at the house until lunch time. In was in the early afternoon Jenny sat down to get her homework finished. Any other time she would have easily had it done by now only to have the sleepover and Bill's stopping over Saturday night prevented its completion not that she minded. She enjoyed the time with Bill immensely if however brief. It was her aunt's insistence that Jenny's education come first in continuing her studies as with her doing all necessary homework as her Aunt Jewels would not allow a free pass.
It was then as the day drew to a close Jenny knew her time was ending as she worked diligently into the night growing tired before the stroke of Midnight. Come morning she wouldn't know what to expect as Michael for Grandmother and Anya had informed her not all would be the same in what she experienced as Jenny. The memories of her would fade to the background as his would come with a vagueness of knowing he had done something only to have never really been present in having done so. She had spent weeks as a girl and had grown accustomed to her female form. Apprehensive grew as she threw herself into her studies. As a Grandfathers clock chimed the passing of each hour with its sounding gongs soon her approaching end would be nigh as she returned once more back to her former self. She had flourished past her troubles as Jenny with the making of new friends and opening up to her woes. How much would convert over to her male self she wondered as she readied once more for bed. Drowsily the thoughts lingered until she drifted away into slumber.
Michael still felt some pangs of lingering regrets in his reappearance. It was still early in the days since his return yet there was still plenty of time for him to settle into High School life. Once again, he was finding it difficult to make friends. It wasn't that people didn't want to be friends. It was just, they were the wrong people. For the last few weeks as Jenny she had established a network of friends and activities to keep her occupied. Yet now, here he was trying to make a go of it on his own. And he knew that he wasn't making a good job of coping with it either. The main thing lingering on his mind was that amazing weekend with her friends still fresh and as with it being the problem now. Of course, was the given fact he was the only one who remembered it for what had been.
After the arrest and the charging of Mikhail Markovic, things seemed to move faster at an accelerated if not alarming rate. Within the Nazarov family plans had been set in motion to hasten their efforts with another attempt to abduct Michael.
Michael had just driven home from school one Wednesday afternoon when he spotted what looked like a very familiar looking car. So very similar was its style with having once been used by his late Mother it drove a surge of panic as the style was not one commonly seen on American highways. No thoughts came to him with having ever seen this make of car around the neighborhood. It was then Michael found himself trying to telepathically contact either Grandmother and Anya at Bikini Beach not really knowing what he would find inside the house.
'Michael," Anya implored within his mind. 'Stay away. Wait for the police to arrive."
'But what of my family? They're inside,' having seen where his Aunt Jewel's car was sitting outside.
'I understand, but you need to wait.' Anya beckoned.
'I can't,' explaining to Anya as he slowly made his way into the house, 'this is the only family I have now.' Closing the door as quietly as he could he heard what he shouldn't have been.
'It can't be,' Michael thought to himself not really believing what he was hearing. 'She's dead, killed in an automobile accident' once more upon the telltale voice of his Mother's words. Moving as quietly as a church mouse he made his way to just the fringes of the family room. Within he saw where his Aunt Jewels stood by a giant of a man who looked of Slavic descent. Holding her firmly by the shoulders Julie had glimpsed of seeing Michael. Silently she looked intently at Elena as he hoped that Aunt Jewels would not give him away. Michael was keenly aware of the pressure mounting on him with their being held. He knew the situation was grave, given the people he was facing, a serious dilemma in the making as with the need of not being spotted. Make no mistake he dared to think as the gravity of the situation weighed heavily on his mind. He had no game plan at that moment, but realized that he was their only hope. Who else could there be? He reckoned on how best to save his Aunt Jewels and Cousin Cassie. He listened intently and hoped that given enough time he would come up to some sort of plan of sorts to help them. Standing just outside the doors edge it was then he noticed to where his Mother had something unwavering pointed towards them. A small metallic object to what looked very much like a gun. Silently he waited arbitrarily safe as he listened in on the conversation unfold.
"Your faithless husband and I had an affair." Elena taunted. "He was actually my inside man. However, he was not instrumental in Mike's death. I have to admit that was a sad event. Believe it or not I did and will always love Mike. But he was never going to be onboard with my family." Elena told her.
"Yes," ruining the effectiveness of Elena's confession. "We know all about it Elena. You and Paul were not very discreet about it."
"It was blindingly obvious Elena." Julie stated matter-of-factly. "But Cassie and I were able to keep it discreetly hidden from both my brother and Michael."
"That is your weakness Julie, as it does seem to be a family trait of one's weakness. You are all too sentimental, even Paul has said that. And now I'm afraid it will be your undoing." As she said this Elena turned and pointed the pistol at Cassie.
"NO!" Screamed Julie lunging forward only to be restrained, pulled back again by Elena's bodyguard.
"Don't worry Julie. I'll get to you in a minute." Elena sneered contemptuously.
"Elena at least wait a moment." Julie asked stalling for time. "What are you going to do about Michael?" Julie questioned in having noticed a slight movement by an adjacent door.
"What does it matter Julie? It's not like one of those movies you see on TV where the bad guy divulges to ones' victims of what they will do." Elena gathered her thoughts for a brief moment. "I can see some reason in wanting to brag a little about it though. It's not like you can do something about it. Your ex-husband thought it up actually. With your brother, you, and Cassie taken out of the picture, it makes my son the sole surviving beneficiary as he inherits everything...."
"And you control him from inside Russia. Where no one can touch you?" Cassie spat out in open anger.
"That's right Cassie. You always were a bright girl. Such a pity it ends this way." Elena answered.
"Paul thought of this?"
Giving a venomous laugh. "Not to kill you both. That's what I added when he failed. Although if I'm honest enough that's what I would have planned to be done anyway. And trust me I would have had my own way on this."
Listening Michael had only one plan on his mind now and that was how to save his aunt and cousin from imminent death. They were the only ones who counted in his life now given his mother's confession of wanting to use him for her own ill-gotten gains. Even knowing help was on its way he had no idea of when such help would arrive. Factoring in all this plus with both Aunt Jewels and Cassie in immediate danger his only recourse of action afforded him was a deep conviction of saving their lives with his decision to act now.
"Mum, don't do it." Michael shouted having stepped out of his hiding place only to find that Elena was taking no such notice as she continued to aim the gun at Cassie. Instinctively he threw himself towards his mother causing a brief tussle between the two followed by the sound of a gun going off. Standing there in front of them Michael screamed in agony with the spurting of blood with an assured fatal gunshot to the stomach. With Michaels scream of agony his voice was heard not just physically but also a mental crying unleased.
Elena looked down at her now dying son with the knowledge that his survival was going to be virtually nil from having been shot so close with the splattering of blood and innards against a wall. True she wanted both women dead but with Michael's unexpected intervention the facts had changed with their having watched her shoot Michael as with the added pained effect of both having lost both brother and Uncle. No, this was far better she reasoned, if they lived now, and suffer more pain and anguish in having witnessed another loss in their lives. It made her feel better to know that she, Elena Nazarov-Stephenson of Russian decent and heritage had taken away everything dear that mattered from them.
Over at Bikini Beach both Anya and Grandmother had been busy when they heard the boy's cry of anguish making sure that certain sections were in place. Having read of Michaels future they knew that the police would not arrive there in time. Acting quickly Anya first teleported herself and Marta to the Owen's home. Using magic Anya forcibly stopped the escaping occupants by compulsory commanding the driver to ram into a nearby tree damaging one of the car's front wheels rendering it unserviceable. Again, using a compulsorily spell she willed them to secure the other inside with whatever was available ensuring those within were going nowhere until the police arrived.
That left Marta to her purpose, a daunting task if not next to impossible in her having to reassure Julie and Cassie that matters were being taken care of and everything would be okay. Marta was well aware of what was at stake.
"Mrs. Owen, Cassie I need you to trust me. I can only promise you that all will be OK." When Anya appeared she knelt down to look at Michael’s wound. Noting that it would not be in his best interest to lift him, she gently pulled Michal's body towards her, washing her with his blood before vanishing.
"Where has my Cousin been snatched off to Marta? And who was that who took him? What the hell is going on?" Cassie demanded.
"You don't look too surprised at all Mrs. Owen." Marta said deliberately ignoring Cassie's questions.
"Marta when you work for the Government you witness many surprising things. But that doesn't mean that I don't share Cassie's concern."
"If I tried to tell you, you'd likely never believe me. But believe me when I say Michael will be okay. But, you will both need, to go to the hospital for a checkup."
"Not good enough Marta we need to know. Marta, please he's family." Cassie pleaded.
"Look I'll make a deal. A compromise if you will, OK?" she looked at both Cassie and Julie Owen. Both nodded. However, Marta knew that this was a temporary agreement. She would have to come up with something pretty convincing and quickly. "You both agree to go to the hospital for a checkup. And I'll explain everything on the way."
And as this was happening Grandmother telepathically informed Dr. Chastity immediately of an incoming patient. Vicky, who was in the office, dialed 911 requesting both an ambulance and the police. Thankfully center point bullets had not been used. Teleporting a nearly unconscious boy Anya had appeared within the emergency room of the parks medical facility. Within Grandmother, Selena, and Dr. Chastity waited for his arrival. Quickly she evaluated the wounded boy. One look of both penetration and exit she didn't need to be a doctor to understand the ramifications of his chances of survival. No actions taken by her would change the fact of what was going to occur shortly as she acted to suppress the hemorrhaging of where Elena's bullet had entered, ruptured Michael's stomach spewing out portions of his intestines just to the right of his spine upon exiting. As she worked Michael was semiconscious moaning in pain.
"If he doesn't bleed to death first" as Dr. Chastity applied dressings compressing the wounds. "Peritonitis could kill him I'm afraid" Dr. Chastity gravely informed Grandmother.
Finished with the makeshift dressings. "We have to keep him stabilized as we lower him into the waiting tub." Indicating that one was to grab hold of Michaels legs as with one on each side as they lowered him into a bath used for heat strokes as with pulled muscles and sprains.
"Under normal circumstances I would never move a critically injured patient like this, but if we going to save him I would suggest we do it now else we'll lose him." Dr. Chastity informed them.
"What are the chances of his surviving the transition?" Dr. Chastity asked once having lowered the boy within the small pool of water. She purposely left the drain partially open as with a constant stream of water to flow through to a waiting basin to catch the bio hazard not caring to feel the wrath of Jenny's ill temper when it came to her care of machinery. It was her skills in fact who had jury rigged the contraption of catching the waste.
"It's gentle enough, hopefully we'll see the results shortly. It will be close I'm afraid, we can change reality only so much, hopefully her wound won't be so severe." Grandmother answered as they waited.
"A shame the waters can't be used to cure one's ailment," Dr. Chastity surmised.
"I'm a sorceress not a doctor. My park was meant for providing a safe-haven for woman not to be used as some sort of hospital in ones attempt at healing one's wounds. He is only the second person I've ever allowed to breach a portion of my park and only under my admittance." Grandmother said as a reminder. "I would hate to close this place for fear of those under the misbegotten belief that they could change their reality if hurt. Its only by chance Melody lived when I allowed her to come within."
"And you’re willing to risk it once more," Dr. Chastity conceded. "So, I'm taking it then his changes are nearly slim to none."
"Perhaps." Grandmother admitted. "I do admit I have a certain fondness for him as with Melody. I guess I'm willing to risk it for the sake of trying an nothing more."
It was as they waited the water turned clear with the closing and shifting of Michaels wound that Dr. Chastity detected an irregularity in Michaels heart.
"Defibrillator, Now!" Dr. Chastity called as she and Anya took to pulling the boy from within the water. "He's going into ventricular fibrillation.
"Towel him off as with the surrounding ground quickly as I ready his chest. It needs to be as dry as possible," having laid the unconscious boy prone to the ground ripping open his shirt having started to dry off all water. Stripping open the packages pads once the AED arrived she moved methodically placing one over his right pectoral, quickly she stripped away another the other adhesive covers attaching both sensors and applicators to Michaels exposed chest. She'd risk the chance of being electrocuted as she turned on the device waiting.
"Analyzing," came a prerecorded voice as the device took to detecting Michaels heart rhythm. "Detecting shock needed. Preparing to administer necessary shock." All heard the whining tone as the device built up the necessary charge.
"Stand clear." She warned.
Patently she waited for the voice command to press the red button. Nobody was supposed to press the red button it was once joked in med school as she waited for the increasing tone to vanish.
"Press the flashing red light."
"Clear," Dr. Chastity stated as she administered the first electrical shock.
"Analyzing," came the voice once more. "Patient needs shock, charging."
Once more Dr. Chastity waited growing concerned having repeated the process.
"Analyzing. Patient needs shock."
"Damn." Only to pause when…
"Patient does not need shock."
"Blasted machines, can't you get it right?" Pressing her stethoscope against Michael chest she breathed a sigh of relief detecting a steady rhythmic heartbeat.
"Help me lift him back into the tub. Damn if that wasn't close." Once the pads were removed.
Seeing to where no new blood was found within the water she took to closing the drain allowing the tub to fill readily at seeing where Michaels wound had moved to a more favorable location. Raising the ever so slowly changing boy his features took on a more feminine aspect as she took to applying a fresh dressing just to the right of his shoulder. As luck had it the bullet had made a clean exit missing the bone. A flesh wound that would heal but still leave a nasty scar. "He's still unconscious," taking vitals as they continued to wait. "She'll still need to go to the hospital for minor surgery as I don't have the necessary surgical equipment to deal with her wound. From what I can tell it's a clear path."
"I suggest that we include Erika and Lucy, Grandmother. The last time the three of them had formed a strong bond of friendship." Anya suggested.
"Yes, dear I remember. I think you're probably right about that. It's good to see that you are using your sight more."
"I had already gone and put a suggestion in the minds of Erika Watson and Lucy Johnson," Anya said, "compelling them to come this way. They should be here shortly Grandmother."
It was just as Michael was undergoing deeper changes the two girls ventured into the waiting room just outside the closed room. All three magic users were aware of the presence of the two girls with Selena signaling to follow her and to remain quiet. It was as they were watching a slow morphing of him they both still knew him as Michael from High School unaware that he had been Jennifer.
"That's Michael or was he Jenny." Both Erika and Lucy asked shocked in what was happening to the boy.
"Girls," Grandmother stated going into a standard speech having called both over to observe the transformation. "It's best you know why you’re here," as she explained the circumstances of her wanting their attendance as Dr. Chastity continued to monitor Michael now Jenny's progress. And as she explained a somewhat disorientated Jennifer Leigh Stephenson seemed to wake from a shocked trance. Lying in a pool of water she was now ready to take her place once more in the world of the living.
"I know it's so cliché. But what happened? Why am I here?"
With a saddened heart, "It's all over Jenny. Michael was a very brave young man. You, as Michael saved both your cousin and your Aunt too." Grandmother told her. "But it came with a great cost."
"Meaning I'm a girl again." Seeing her breasts having looked down. Small blood stains were visible on her shirt as she laid back in the tub of water.
"The only chance we had in trying save you was to bring you into the park and let the water do its work on you."
"Then that means." Jenny whimpered. "There's no chance of me going back this time?"
"Stay still a moment young lady. I'm not finished in my examination of you." Dr. Chastity instructed. "We nearly lost you if not for having and AED ready. We wouldn't be having this conversation."
Jenny did as she was told reluctantly letting Dr. Chastity carried out her examination. "We have an ambulance on its way to transport you to the nearest hospital." Anya said as she waved for Erika and Lucy to come over. Michael, now Jennifer looked surprised at first. Then a very embarrassed Jenny smiled.
"Hi, this is erm a little awkward." Touching where the bandage covered her wound. She found it difficult if not slightly painful to move her arm as she took to covering her exposed breast.
"Don't move your arm," Dr. Chastity admonished the girl taking to close the blouse.
Nobody had to say a word. It was one of those moments, even with her wound where the silence spoke volumes. Erika and Lucy threw their arms round each other as Jenny reached out with her good arm. Tears flowed down all their faces. Not so just tears of joy but tears of joy and relief.
"This is so girly." Jenny complained.
"Welcome to the sisterhood Jenny." Lucy quipped.
As the girls grew reacquainted the three magic users left leaving Jenny in Dr. Chastity's care in waiting for the arrival of the ambulance. The next few days were going to be crucial to Jenny. But first was the need in having to resolve the situation within Jenny's Family.
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