Sure enough, the articles of clothing on my desk chair were in fact a cream satin blouse and a knee-length navy skirt. When I saw the pumps under the chair, I literally bowed my head and gave thanks to God Almighty; I’ve seen enough funny shows and movies to know that learning how to walk in heels under time pressure is only funny if it isn’t you. I grabbed the skirt, zipped it down and stepped through it, buttoned the inside and zipped it back up – BAM! Done. Then, after I stepped into the shoes, I had the most brilliant idea ever – I went to get some breakfast before I got my pretty, white blouse on.
I went through the family room just in time to see Dad and B-4 going out the back for a morning walk; I remembered those walks well, and was a little sad that I was going to miss one. Then I recalled some of the things Dad and I talked about when I was thirteen, and thoroughly agreed that this was a good time for a man-to-future-man talk with no ”gurlz” allowed. Not that L.L. or I would have a problem with the discussion, but…it’d be good for them to bond. Dad turned back to the house before going down the outside stairs, and I smiled and waved. He returned the favor. Interesting that, as a girl, I was much more aware of my dad’s handsomeness. Not attracted, per se, but…kind of the way I imagine I’d feel about L.L., as a guy. Then again, maybe he was just happier, having both girls and a boy. I breathed in the crisp autumn air, while it was still cool and crisp, then I closed the sliding door so it wouldn’t get too chill inside.
I poked around in the ‘fridge to see what we had on hand for provisions. I saw an old familiar item inside, and some more in a crisper bin at the bottom. I checked the pantry to confirm the last, and then went to knock lightly on the master bedroom to see if Mom would like me to make breakfast. I cracked the door open enough to see that she was still sleeping, and whispered, “Sorry.” «Silly me, if she’s sleeping, don’t say anything!» Still, it felt more polite. I closed the door again, and went over to L.L.’s to see if she wanted some.
“Yeah! Lemon and apples, please?”
“You got it,” I replied, and returned to the kitchen.
Five minutes later, she came out in a pair of blue shorts and shirt with “Saguaro High Cougars” in red, chopped to barely cover her breasts– or, no, the shirt was just tucked under to work like a cover over her sports bra. She sat at a bar chair at the end of the counter separating the kitchen and family room, and I dropped a 16-ounce mug crammed full of yogurt, Grape-Nuts® and apple slices in front of her.
She looked at it as if it were going to force itself down her throat, then reluctantly pushing it aside. “I can’t eat that much, I’m singing – and running – later.”
I scooted it back in front of her. “You’ll need the energy and two-plus hours is plenty of time for your stomach to settle. Also, it’s morning; you’re hungrier than you think you are and you’ll finish once you start eating. So eat!” She pulled out an apple slice and nibbled on it as if it were going bad, or something. I crossed my arms and frowned at her, until her taste buds kicked in, and she started eating for real. Then, just when she started getting into it, I started “slyly” moving the mug around…until she “cheated” and got me in my super-ticklish ribs again. Not being able to get her hips or knees, I immediately called “Truce,” pulling her mug back, and wrapping my arms around her in a hug. I interpreted her snort and continued munching as acceptance of my more-than-generous terms. I kissed her cheek, and then I got a spoon and worked on my own mug, one with peach yogurt and peach slices.
Just as I finished, I heard the bedroom door open, so I popped in the fridge and got out the third mug of sweet-n-crunchy goodness; peachy-peach, just like me. Well, , I mean like my breakfast. Anyway, when she came around the corner, in her oval-lensed glasses and Mickey Mouse nightshirt, I felt a pair of conflicting emotions: love and wariness. «It’s Mom! My mom…but not my Mom. Will she know it’s not “really” me, and what’ll happen if she does…» “Hi, Mom! I got your breakfast right here.”Along with breakfast I gave her the state of the Home: no menfolk, just us chickens here
“Hello, girls. Thank you, Johanna.”
My name is Johanna?
What happened to Wilma Georgia?
I’ll explain; One day when I was, I don’t know, maybe ten or eleven, my mom and I had a talk about, among other things, how I got my name. Obviously, when it was just me, naming was a non-issue. Dad’s name is William George Bates III, and Mom let Dad name me, thus “William George Bates IV, AKA B-4, ‘Little Will’ or ‘Willy’”. She told me, though, that if I’d been a girl, that she would have been the one to name me instead, and that she would have chosen Wilma Georgia Bates. I thought it was kind of a mean way to treat a poor defenseless baby, no matter how painful the labor was. I could have thought of about three names that still have that “WGB” initial pattern. I myself liked “Katherine” with a “K”, if you’re going for fun patterns with initials. It’d be kind of fun, someone tries to call me “Kitty”, and I make it known that it’s a bad choice of nickname by scratching their face off. How’s that for a “cat fight”?
Anyway, using your middle name for stuff is a time-honored Southern tradition, and I’d been in the process of getting folks to call me “George,” if only to stop Dad’s friends from calling me “Will Jr.” I wasn’t a “Jr.”, I was a Fourth, dammit! If you’re gonna use generationals, get it right. Anyway, George, or “Geo”, which I use when I write, kind of side-steps all of that “Jr.” junk, and since both “G”s get sounded more in the female version, I had simply assumed that “JoJo” was a stylized form of “Georgia”. Especially since I’m the oldest, I should have the George/Georgia name. Yet, here, I am, with a younger brother named William George. This tells me that something changed here, even before…before I was born. What the heck is going on here?
L.L. was shaking my arm, trying to get my attention.
“Yes?” I looked coldly at this younger sister, who had so far given me such joy.
“…you still need to get ready, if you’re still taking me.”
I paused. I was still disturbed at something not being right with my name, but L.L. didn’t deserve to be grumped at, not when I had just told her I wasn’t going to be so bitchy. “Sorry, sis, you’re right,” I declared. “Thanks.” I gave her a hug. Then, I gave Mom a cheek peck and shoulder-hug, and semi-excused myself, with a “got to finish getting dressed, and take L.L. to practice,” before going back in my room. L.L. stayed with Mom in the kitchen, likely to rinse out the mugs, since all she needed to do was put her choir clothes on over her track stuff.
I went back to my room, and closed the door…and started to freak out. At least, I felt like this was what was happening. It started with a soft tapping on my closet door, the far side, by my desk. Without thinking, I went ahead and opened it with my right hand – the one with my bracelet-watch on it. As I slid open the door, a brilliant white light inside shined forth, causing me to squint and blink, and my bracelet to glow. Reeling my hand back to shade my eyes, I saw what looked to be a glowing boy in my closet.
He was a cute, if scruffy-looking white boy, about L.L.’s height, or taller, with medium-length white hair, and golden eyes; his eyebrows were also white, or “platinum blond” I should say. Sticking out through his hair on one side, at least, was the tip – the pointed tip – of his ear. His jaw line was well-defined, and had a light dusting of stubble, somewhere between blond and his seeming platinum. His skin was pale, but not sickly; in fact, he looked as if part of the pallor was from light coming out, not because of not enough light falling on it, his closeted visitation habits notwithstanding. He wore one of those fleece-lined jean vests and blue jeans. He was holding a hand-rolled cigarette in his hand, and the scent of it was sharp, but not that of tobacco. He smiled…handsome. And very weird. I closed the door again.
The knocking began again.
I found myself backed into my bed, and sat down, drawing my legs up, and wrapping my arms around them.
The tap-tap-tapping at my closet door went on. I looked at my window, to see if it would start at my sill, like Poe’s poem says it’s supposed to be. No dice.
The tapping stopped.
Then the snickering began. Well, not exactly snickering, more like air leaking.
Some seconds later, he started tapping again.
“Who in Hell are you, and why are you in my closet?”
“---- - -- - ----- - - ----- - - - --- ---- -…”
I got the hint, and reached to open my closet again. I then noticed that my bracelet was glowing, even before the door was open. «How dare you!» I thought to myself, «I like this bracelet, quit making it glow!» I shook my wrist, and it dimmed…as far as I kept it away from the closet. I reluctantly opened it again.
“Are you gay?” I asked belligerently.
“Not the way you mean it, no.”
“Then why are you in the closet?” I stuck my tongue out, and slammed the door shut.
“A-hem,” came from behind me.
“GYAAAH!” I remarked with poignant eloquence. I spun around and put my back to the closet doors, confirming with my eyes, that my ears had indeed placed the weird stranger in the middle of my room.
“Courtesy,” he enigmatically said.
“How-do-you-do,” I said automatically.
“Why I Appeared in your closet – courtesy.” He smiled again…and then he looked down from my face and really smiled.
I Snapped my right hand fingers in his face, and used the time-honored formula, “My eyes are up here, bucko!” As I did, I saw that he was looking at the bracelet. For just a second, I felt…insulted. I crossed my arms, hiding the bracelet under my left arm. Then he looked at my breasts. «That’s better…wait, no it isn’t!» I grabbed my blouse and put my right arm in it, neatly hiding both lingerie and bracelet. “Turn around, please,” I asked, thinking how impressed Mom would be at how I could still be polite…sort of.
Incredibly, he did, and answered my earlier questions, somewhat. “I am here to Guide you, in your Time of Trouble. I am Esebiel." He called it “Eh-SEB-ee-el". "If you like, you can call me 'Sebby'.” It sounded French.
“The name, it’s Hebrew. It means, ‘God is my herb.’”
«No, I meant, you can read my mind?» I thought at him.
“Only when it’s obvious what you’re thinking,” he replied.
«So, how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?»
“Whatever that was, wasn’t obvious, though I gather it was funny.”
Finished with buttoning my blouse, I smoothed it down, and was about to say I was done, but he must have freaking-read-my-mind again, and turned around on his own. Disturbingly, I noticed that his butt was somewhat cute in those jeans. Even more disturbingly, I noticed that I felt regretful at not checking it out more while he was turned around. Freaking girl hormones.
“So, by ‘Time of Trouble’ do you mean my being a girl?”
“Technically, since you are eighteen, you are a woman. Although, you’ve likely looked the way you do since you were sixteen. But mostly, it means why you’re here in your childhood home, and taking your sister to choir and track practice.”
“You said ‘track practice’ but she’s running cross-country. No track.”
“Ah, right, this is autumn, so longer running times are in.”
“So, not meaning to be totally self-absorbed, but... wait, what’s so important about me taking L.L. to practice?”
“Well, you’ll need her help to figure out what happened to you, as well as allay suspicion on you.”
“Suspicion? Why, what do you think I did?”
“I think you’ve been trapped in a cross-time experiment gone horribly, if selectively conveniently, wrong.”
“…what the talk are you fucking about?!?”
End of Part I