"What did you learn in school today?" Mom wondered over Monday night meatloaf.
"Should we tell her?" Mercy asked and I shrugged.
"Show her," I suggested. "She'll never believe us."
"She never believes us anyway," Mercy giggled. "Ummm…What time is it, Mom?"
"Why?" she tended to be suspicious, but Mercy's eyes were green, so it was okay. She could act like a normal mom. Kinda. "You have a date or something?"
"A date!" I laughed. "She knows everything! Run!"
"Shut-up, Stan. She doesn't know."
"Yeah. Lucky guess. You're gonna get so busted."
"It's six thirty," Mom said with a glance at her watch.
"Exactly?" Mercy smiled. "What time is it exactly?"
"Mercy…Alright, um…six twenty-eight," she smiled back. "Why?"
"I wish we could do it all night," I said. "Are you okay?"
"Just a little dizzy…Are you sure, Mom?" Mercy teased her. "Look again."
"Again? But I just…Oh!" she blinked. "It's six thirty-three. But…"
"Pretty cool, huh?"
"I just looked and it was…" Mom's brain started going through all the possible reasons she could lose five minutes. There aren't that many actually. "…My watch must be broken."
"It's not broken," Mercy giggled. "Look under your plate."
"What?" Mom smiled nervously and lifted her plate, finding the note we'd put under it. "Sorry, Mom…" she read aloud, "…your five minutes aren't hiding here."
"That's what I learned in school," Mercy shrugged and we'd finished our dinner already. "Can I go to Shelly's house after dinner?"
"How did…Where did this come from?" Mom looked frightened and we hadn't expected that, although maybe we should have. "What did you do?"
"We have to work on our migration study for anthropology," Mercy rolled her eyes. "I hate anthropology."
"Tell her it was a magic trick," I said. "Like hypnosis."
"It's just a trick, Mom."
"Yeah, you know…like a Jedi mind trick." Mercy smiled at her. "Like hypnosis."
"Hypnosis?" Mom didn't look too convinced.
"Don't worry…" Mercy said as she got up from the table, "…I didn't make you cluck like a chicken or anything."
"Magic!" Mercy laughed.
"Give her a hug before she blows."
"I love you, Mommy." She hugged our mother. "I won't do it again. I promise."
"Did he do it?"
"She always blames me," I sighed. "Why do I gotta be the black sheep all the time?"
"Stan?" Mercy ignored me and looked into her eyes. "He's sleeping."
"Liar!" I pouted.
"Oh." Mom nodded, but we knew that meant she didn't believe us.
Mercy couldn't lie on a bed, as we used to say back in third grade…all two days of it. By the time we were thirteen, Mom had enrolled Mercy in the local community college. We'd gotten offers from a number of universities, scholarships and all that, but the idea of leaving Mom all alone hadn't appealed to Mercy at all. No matter how much we both tried to convince the girl, she wouldn't leave home. She wouldn't leave her Mommy.
"I didn't do it, Mom." I kissed her cheek, ignoring the tiny jerk she tried to hide. The fear. The revulsion when Mom saw my blue eyes and knew it was me and not her daughter.
"I'm going to lie down," she decided, making the excuse to pull away from my embrace.
"She hates me," I said ten minutes later as I loaded the dishwasher.
"She doesn't hate you, Stan."
"She doesn't love me."
"Mom just needs time."
"She's had a long time already."
"I love you."
"You do not." I frowned, feeling unloved. "You love Rent."
"Brent," Mercy corrected me. "And I don't love him. I just…like him."
"I hate him."
"Don't take it out on me."
"I'm gonna take it out on him, I think."
"You better not!"
"Take a bath," I told her. "I'll make you feel good again."
"I know what you like more than Rent does."
"I want to be kissed," she said. "Can you kiss me?"
"Get a mirror."
"Shut-up!" She laughed, but I was still pretty unhappy. Pretty unloved.
"Why would a guy like a thirteen-year-old girl anyway?" I asked her. "He's like thirty years old or something."
"He's nineteen. Hurry up! I told him I'd meet him at eight."
"And he acts like he's eight."
"You're the one acting like a little kid, Stan."
"Why don't you kiss Shelly instead? She's hot."
"I'm not a lesbian."
"And I'm not a fag."
"I'm going to fuck her."
"Shelly," I decided. "I'm going to fuck her and…"
"…you'll have to watch, Mercy."
"Leave her alone," she said with a disbelieving sigh. "Are you done yet? I need to get ready."
But in reality, the one I really wanted to fuck was…
"Stop reading my mind."
"You can't fuck Mom!"
"God! Are you serious?"
"She hates me anyway."
"No! I won't let you."
"You think you can stop me?"
"Yeah!" Mercy snorted. "Don't even think about it. You're disgusting."
"Maybe she'll love me then."
"Maybe she'll really hate you."
"Like she doesn't already?"
"I'll hate you."
"No you won't."
"You think I'm lying?"
"No," I admitted. "She deserves it though."
"Yeah, and maybe you can track down our dad and kill him too."
"I don't have a complex."
"Denial," she laughed. "Always a bad sign."
"I don't want to fuck my mom."
"You just said…"
"I want to fuck you."
"Sorry. Never mind."
"Yeah. Let's go upstairs. Turn on the dishwasher."
Do you know what it's like being so close to someone every second of your life; knowing every thought, every emotion, sharing every experience she ever has…Christ. I was touching her, wrapped around the girl, and warm and safe inside her. Mercy. I couldn't tell where I ended and she started. She possessed me. I owned her, see? She was mine and yet, I couldn't even kiss her.
"This sucks so bad."
"Heh!" I smiled at that. "You got the little tits thing going now."
"Have to buy a real bra pretty soon."
"That's what Mom said."
"I know you know," Mercy giggled. "Just pretend."
"Don't I always?"
"So what are you complaining about?"
"I just want to have a normal conversation."
"With yourself?" I laughed. "What if you're really crazy?"
"What if I'm not here at all, Mercy?"
"Don't, Stan." She was getting annoyed. "I'm gonna go out, so…"
"I'm just saying…"
"…stop trying to punish me."
"…what makes you right and everyone else wrong?"
"You do," she said, giving me a rare surprise.
"Yeah." She smiled into the mirror, adjusting her halter top and those green eyes made me forget why I'd been mad. "I love you too, Stan."
"Alright," I whispered, closing my eyes and letting Mercy forgive me for all my sins.
"Explain it again."
"I don't get it, Stan. Thinking in eight dimensions?"
"Or eleven, try that. Eleven's easier."
"I can't even do four."
"You're living in four. Babies think in four dimensions. Come on! Just exercise that big melon of yours."
"It's a ball…"
"…turned inside out."
"And stretched so it looks like a funnel."
"Then why is it a ball?"
"Okay, it's just a ball made of…"
"…an infinite number of strings all pointing the same direction, except they actually go in an infinite number of directions."
"That doesn't make sense."
"Okay. Think of water. Ice. Water freezes when all the water molecules face the same direction, right?"
"Same thing with time, except time only flows in one direction, so all the threads go in…"
"One direction. I got it."
"And threads cross each other, like ours and Mom's, we intersect at specific points in the space-time continuum."
"Our thread crosses a bunch of other threads."
"More than once, like with Mom, but only once for someone else and never for most people."
"And so you can…What? Break a thread?"
"I dunno." Stan seemed to think about that. "Maybe."
"But you can definitely pull one."
"Oh yeah. You saw me do it."
"How did you do it?"
"I found her thread and pulled it down, sorta."
"That's the easiest explanation. Like her thread ran between two points in space time, well, she was just sitting there anyway…Two points in time, a second apart. I pulled the thread down between those two points so that there was more distance to travel, more time for her to exist in that second."
"What happened to her in that minute?"
"Nothing, I don't think. She had to wait for a minute before she caught up with the rest of us."
"Did her thread get longer? Her life or whatever?"
"No, it didn't change at all."
"You gave her more time?"
"She had an extra minute, but it's relative so it's only a second."
"That makes no sense."
"It's Einstein shit. I don't know. You asked, I'm telling you."
"You could have like changed history though."
"It's a big fuckin' ball, Mercy."
"It's pretty hard though," Stan said seriously. "Like lifting a car with your mind."
"Really? You don't look like Yoda."
"I mean it. The brain's a muscle. Maybe you shouldn't try."
"Thanks a lot. Just tell me how."
"You gotta find the thread first."
"Cause I don't like her."
"Because I do?"
"So? Where's her thread thingy?"
"Trade places with me."
"Because it's easier if you don't have to breathe and beat your heart and raise your hand to answer questions."
"Don't raise your hand."
"Why? I love history."
I loved it when Stan took over. It's like riding in the passenger seat. I could curl up and close my eyes and listen to the world going by. Stan would take care of me. Protect me. Drive my body around with his blue headlights and all I had to do was think in eight or eleven dimensions. Yeah right.
"You think anyone else can do this stuff?"
"I hope not."
"Because I wanna be special," he shrugged. "Don't you?"
"Stop looking at her."
"Jenna. She's gonna think I'm queer."
"If it's up to me…" Stan laughed, "…and guess what? It is…Hey Jenna," he whispered, leaning towards the young woman. "Can I borrow your hi-lighter?"
"Stan!" I warned him, but he ignored me.
"She likes to suck on it, ever notice that?"
"Oh…" Jenna shrugged. "Sure, Mercy."
"Thanks." Stan smiled at her. "You look really great today. Love your toes."
"Ummm…" She smiled and looked down.
"Shy," Stan said. "I like that in a girl."
"I hate you."
"I mean, outgoing is nice too," he said, teasing me the way he does. "Just don't stop her for more than a minute or someone will notice."
"I was thinking like…forever?"
"You wish! You have to get deep, all the way inside. Like live in there and just start lifting Buicks, baby."
"Yeah. You know, I don't have a clue what I'm doing."
"Just don't lobotomize us, okay?"
"I'll try. It's nice in here…Like a warm bath kinda."
"What are you doing?"
"You're giving me a boner."
"You don't have a dick, Stan."
"Feels like it. You think Jenna's ovulating? Can you smell her?"
"I think I farted. Sorry."
"If we get brain damaged…"
"Do you see it?"
"I feel it."
"That's what I mean."
"Yeah…Um…I can see."
"Like the matrix, huh?"
I couldn't talk after that; I was too busy trying to sort out an infinite number of threads. Stan had been right, there really is no way to explain it and they weren't really threads at all. But you get the idea.
Imagine a ball of Silly String the size of the universe and you're looking for a really short one way down in the middle, but it's super easy to find because it's intersecting with yours right then and there. Jenna. A thin strand of blonde existence beckoned invitingly and I could pinch it and pull it, tugging her thread so that she had to travel farther than the rest of us between two ticks of the clock.
Stan was wrong though, every other thread everywhere got changed, not a lot maybe. Not enough to even notice, but I could tell. I was changing the future, but isn't that what we're all doing anyway? I'd have to ask Stan about it, because I'd grown much too tired to think about anything that heavy. Or anything at all, really. Lifting cars would have been easier.
"Are you okay?"
"Is she moving?"
"Not at the moment."
"I did it."
"I'm gonna sleep."
"Don't you want to watch?"
"Like paint drying? No."
"Well, this was fun," Stan pouted, but he'd been tired after doing our teacher too. He knew what it was like. Fucking with time was hard work.
I smiled at Brent, hoping my face wasn't as red as it looked. I'd practically run the three blocks from our house to Shelly's, but as soon as I'd turned the corner I had to walk, you know. I had to pretend like it wasn't any big deal and I didn't really care if Brent was waiting for me or not.
"This guy is so lame," Stan grumped. "I bet that's his mom's car."
"Be nice," I warned him, walking with my hands behind my thirteen year old butt, trying to walk like the models on the Fashion Channel.
"What's he got that I don't have?"
"A body, for one thing."
"Hey, Mercy." Brent leaned against a dust brown Volvo, looking like he should have been sitting on a motorcycle instead.
"He coulda washed his face…Oh," Stan chuckled. "That's supposed to be a beard? Sorry."
"Hi, Brent." I ignored Stan and focused my attention on the first man I'd ever loved.
"Wow! You look great," he said, looking me up and down with his hazel eyes. I liked Brent's eyes a lot.
"Wait until he finds the toilet paper in your bra," Stan teased me.
I hadn't even worn a bra, just a pink halter top, white short-shorts, and pink Skechers. I had my purse over my shoulder and my hair was loose, long and black and after running, I probably looked like I'd just gotten out of bed. That was okay though, I sorta liked that untamed look. At least I hoped I did. I hoped Brent did too. My small, dark nipples were hard and my tummy tingled and my sweaty palms itched. Being in love was pretty cool.
"So do you," I replied lamely. "I mean, you look cool."
"He looks like a pedophile."
"Ready to party?" Brent grinned at me and I nodded.
"Yeah," I agreed as he opened the car door for me. "Are you sure it's gonna be okay?"
"Yeah," he shrugged. "Why wouldn't it be?"
"I don't know," I giggled nervously, but I'd never been to a college party before, even if it was just junior college.
"Maybe because you're only thirteen?" Stan suggested.
"You like Jenna and she's older than Brent."
"I'm a boy, so it's different."
"I don't like her, Mercy. I just want to fuck her."
"I just want to love him."
"Yeah, but don't forget…he's a boy too."
"I thought we were going to a party?" I asked Brent fifteen minutes later, looking around his quiet apartment.
"This is better," he said, putting a hand in the small of my back and giving me a gentle push. "We can hang out and talk. Sit down; I'll get you a drink."
"I get so tired of being right all the time."
"Shut-up, Stan. Go to sleep."
"You want a beer, Mercy? Or I got some wine or…" Brent called from the kitchen as I sat down on an old sofa, the only seat available.
"Ummm…Do you have a Coke or something?"
"Pepsi?" Brent popped his head around the corner, smiling and I shrugged.
"Sure. Yeah." I fidgeted nervously. I hadn't really planned on being alone with the man and I wasn't sure how I felt about it.
Brent was nineteen and taking some computer courses at the college where we'd met. A lot of guys, most of them, ignored me. I wasn't a real genius, not even close. I'd just learned a lot faster than most kids do and most of that was because Stan had helped me. He couldn't help me with this though and even if he could have, I wouldn't have let him. Brent was the first man who liked me and I liked him back, but did I love him?
"You don't have to," Stan told me, but I was ignoring him.
"Here you go…" Brent returned carrying a glass of Pepsi with a couple ice cubes in it for me.
"Thanks." I smiled, drinking half of it right away.
"You're so pretty, Mercy," he sighed, sitting close and putting his right arm along the back of the sofa behind me.
"Am I?" I looked at his handsome face, sucking my wet lips and feeling mouth already getting dry again. My tummy was doing flip-flops, I was so scared for some reason.
"Oh yeah," he breathed and I felt his fingers on my bare shoulder, scratching lightly at my flushed skin. "You look sixteen or even seventeen."
"I do not!" I giggled softly and drank some more Pepsi.
"You're beautiful, Mercy." Brent's left hand touched my bare thigh and I jerked slightly, blinking at his fingers as they slid along the inside of my leg.
"Ummm…" I tried to close my thighs, but he gave me a squeeze, leaning close and taking a deep breath through my hair.
"It's okay," he whispered. "Shhh…"
He kissed my neck and then my cheek, pushing his hand higher, touching the crotch of my shorts where they were tight against my sex. His other hand gripped my shoulder tighter, holding me against him and I swallowed hard, feeling my heart pounding with nervous excitement. I'd grown warm all over, inside and out, and my lungs didn't want to work. I could feel his short beard against my flushed cheek and his dry lips at the corner of my mouth. He wanted me to turn my head and let him kiss me.
I took another drink instead, finishing my Pepsi with three quick swallows with the ice against my top lip. Brent pulled his hand from between my thighs to take the glass from my fingers with a smile. My heart went even faster then, picking up speed in an uneven rhythm that frightened me. A weird dizziness overcame me as well, like vertigo or something and I couldn't focus my eyes. The room seemed jumbled up, not spinning really, just…jumbled and I tried to call Stan, but it was hard to think about any one thing in particular.
"Stan…" I said aloud and Brent looked back at me as he set the empty glass aside.
"How are you feeling?" he wondered. "Just lie back…There you go…Like that, Mercy…This is going to be nice…"
"W-What?" I blinked at him, falling backward onto the sofa as he pushed me down.
I wanted to tell him to take me home. I didn't feel good. I couldn't feel my body. It was like when Stan took control of our body, except I knew he hadn't. Nobody was in control. Brent was in control. He unsnapped my shorts and tugged them down my narrow hips, yanking them from under my butt as I lay there helpless. I tried to lift my hands and stop him, and they moved, but only weakly. Slowly. Everything was slow motion and I felt Brent rubbing my pussy through my pink panties for a moment, watching my face and smiling.
"Let me see that baby cunt," Brent whispered, removing my underwear and exposing my hairless sex completely. "Fuck me, you're gorgeous, Mercy. Still a virgin too, I bet."
He slid his middle finger along my tight slit, rubbing the length of his digit up and down gently until my small pussy lips opened around him. I might have shaken my head, possibly tried to tell him to stop when Brent's finger found my hole and the thin wall of my hymen, but maybe I only imagined it. Everything seemed like a dream as he played with my virgin pussy and lowered his mouth to my thin halter top. He kissed my nipples through the cotton, getting the material wet and then biting and sucking at my flat chest.
"Mercy!" Stan yelled. He'd been yelling, I thought, but I hadn't noticed.
"I think I'm drunk," I told him. "That was good Pepsi."
Brent started kissing his way down my bare tummy, his hands caressing my thighs as he knelt between my widespread legs. He kissed the small swell of my sex and then he kissed my pussy and I could feel it, sort of, but it didn't mean anything. It didn't feel bad or good and I wasn't excited or aroused or any of that. I might as well have been sleeping, except my foggy brain knew what he was doing. I knew I wanted him to stop. I wanted to go home.
"You're not drunk," Stan told me, moving in and taking over.
You'd think being drugged like I was that it would affect Stan too, and it did at first. That's why he'd been slow coming to save me. He had to work around whatever Brent had given me and if it had only been alcohol, like if he'd gotten me drunk, Stan wouldn't even have noticed. He'd have been able to compensate and adjust and use parts of our brain that weren't affected so much. But drugs…They worked fast, like getting hit with a hammer, and Stan hadn't expected it. I hadn't expected it and now Brent was licking my pussy, dragging his tongue along my slit as if he had all night.
"Go to sleep, Mercy," Stan told me. "Just go to sleep now. It's just a dream."
For a long time afterwards, I thought Stan had told me that so I wouldn't have to watch him kill Brent. We'd never killed anyone before. We'd never even imagined such a thing as murder, but it was in Stan's thoughts and so it was in mine. Killing Brent. That would be okay, I thought as I curled up down in the dark. Stan was protecting me and after tonight, Brent would never touch anyone ever again.
I believed that for a long time.
But I'd forgotten that we were only thirteen. Stan was a boy trapped in a girl's body and Brent was a full grown man. Stan hadn't told me to sleep so I wouldn't have to see Brent die, he just didn't want me to know what it was like being raped.
Mercy knew what she looked like. My memories were hers, as much as I'd tried to protect her. We'd forgotten that or overlooked it, the way people do when it becomes convenient to lie. The mirror didn't lie and I'd seen her black eyes and cut, swollen lips. Mercy's arms and thighs were bruised and her sex torn and bleeding. Brent hadn't expected a fight, but I'd given him one anyway.
"Shhh…We're almost home."
"Oh Stan," Mercy sighed, remembering it now. Remembering everything I'd lived through.
I wanted to cry, but that would be pretty unmanly. The only person in the world I wanted to impress was the one person I didn't have to. Weird how that works, and how I couldn't let it make a difference. No boy could, we're just not built that way. Mercy understood and maybe girls are like that, I don't know. It would kinda make sense if they are, otherwise the human race would have probably died out a long time ago.
"I'm the only guy in the world who knows how it feels," I shrugged. "Except for those guys in jail maybe."
"Where is he?"
"Is he going to come after us?"
"Oh." Mercy remembered everything.
"It was really weird," I told her, walking home and wanting to hurry because being a boy in short-shorts and a pink halter would be kinda hard to explain. That and I could barely keep my eyes open. I'd never felt so tired in my life.
"Like a dandelion."
"Yeah," I agreed. "He just…blew away."
"Do you think it hurt?"
"I hope so," I told her softly. "I hope it hurt a lot."
I'd killed Brent; there was no doubt about that. I'd found his thread, it wasn't hard, being entwined with ours like it was, and I'd severed it. I'd cut his life in between one second and the next, between heartbeats, between thrusts of his raping prick inside Mercy's little body. I'd cut that fucker off and he'd just…blown away.
"It was cool," I decided. "I wasn't sure I could do it, but…"
"It was his fault," Mercy said, surprising me a little.
"You don't care?"
"About him? No."
"Why? Did you think I would?"
"Maybe." I shrugged. "I killed him."
"Well, I don't."
"You're kinda tough, huh?"
"Me?" She giggled. "You saved me."
"I got my butt kicked, remember?"
"But he's dead, Stan. We're still here."
"That's all that matters. Don't think about the rest of it."
"I'm not," I lied.
"You're tired," Mercy said. "Go to sleep. I'll get us home."
"What are you doing?" I whispered, murmured, sighed into the dark.
"Do you like it?"
"Me too," she giggled. "I woke up and it was just…hard."
"I'm not," she assured both of us. "At least I'm not afraid of it."
"What do you mean? Oh! What was that?"
"My thumb," she said, doing it again. "It kinda tickles or something."
"How about this?"
"Sorry," she said, not sounding sorry at all. "I like squeezing our balls."
"They're my balls."
"Just…not so hard. Okay?"
"Ohhh yeah, uh hmmm…Mercy…"
"You like it faster or slower?"
"What did you mean before?"
"Huh? Oh, just, um…you know. I'm glad I'm not afraid of boys."
"After last night?"
"Just don't trust them."
"You were right before," Mercy sighed. "We can't trust anyone else."
We were quiet for a minute.
"Is this incest?" Mercy asked out of the blue, except I'd been wondering the same thing.
"Ummm…" I laughed.
"I wish I had my own body sometimes."
"You know what I mean. If I was here? Right now with you?"
"I'd let you fuck me."
"I'd suck it too."
"I'd do everything. Yeah. All that stuff."
"I think last night messed you up, Mercy."
"No." She giggled. "It just woke me up. Hey! Can you see this?"
She imagined us together, Mercy lying on my chest with her green eyes looking into the blue windows of my soul. Her puffy brown nipples burning against my chest, her legs spread with her knees at my hips. She wasn't jerking me off; Mercy was riding my cock slowly, up and down the shaft. She held my shoulders and I held her small, round butt in my hands. We were thirteen-year-old twins, Siamese twins…
"Siamese twins?" She laughed at me.
"We're joined, aren't we?" I asked and this was a new experience, something unexpected.
"I can see you."
"Me too." I nodded and I could feel myself nodding, I could see the world moving. I looked down and I had a body and hands and feet. "Is this a dream?"
"Yeah." Mercy sat up, pulling her hair out of her eyes as the wind picked up, a cool breeze under the hot sun. "I like it here."
"I can smell the grass." I grinned stupidly and stretched out my arms, feeling a thousand blades of green grass caressing my skin.
"I can hear a bird!" Mercy looked around and we'd forgotten our sex as a forest grew around us.
No. That's the wrong word. It appeared. We made the world. I wanted an ocean and there it was, lapping at the sand a hundred yards off, where the grass thinned. The scent of brine was suddenly strong and I licked my lips, tasting humid salt.
"I made the ocean."
"I made the moon!" She giggled, and there it was all full and white the way it is sometimes in the daytime.
"Can I kiss you?" I asked.
"What?" Mercy blinked at me. "Ask me something else."
"Can you read my mind?"
"Yeah, um…" I tilted my head, looking for her, but…
"You can't," she said. "Can you?"
"This is weird." She looked around. "I want to leave."
"I don't like it anymore," she breathed, glancing over her shoulder nervously, as if we might not be alone.
Mercy started getting up, lifting her body from mine and I didn't understand. I felt…cold. Empty almost. I felt apart. I'd never experienced anything like it. I was small and diminished somehow. Incomplete.
"You feel it?"
"It hurts," I said and I didn't like that place either. "What is it?"
"Loneliness," she said.
"That's how everyone else feels all the time," Mercy decided, sitting silently in the passenger seat of Mom's Volvo.
"Lonely," I said.
"Lonely," she agreed. "That's normal for them."
"That would suck," I decided. "I'd kill myself."
"If I didn't have you? Yeah," I told her honestly. "Wouldn't you?"
"Probably." Mercy nodded, drawing a glance from Mom.
"Are you alright?" she asked and Mercy shrugged.
"Ask her what it's like."
"Come on," I prodded her. "She's the only one we can ask."
"She won't understand," Mercy predicted. "She grew up lonely. It's normal for people like her, I told you that."
"I know," I said. "But still…Just ask her."
"Fine," she agreed somewhat reluctantly, but I knew Mercy was just as curious as me. "Mom? Do you ever get, um…lonely?"
"What?" She smiled self-consciously. "I suppose so. Everyone does. Why?"
"Does it ever hurt?" Mercy asked. "Or anything?"
"Hurt?" Mom made a face and shook her head. "I wouldn't say that exactly. When your dad died I was pretty lonely."
"So it did hurt?"
"Losing him hurt," she said. "The loneliness…I don't know. I think I wanted that."
"Because I didn't want to forget him," Mom said with a weak smile. "I was afraid at first, ummm…"
"What?" Mercy smiled at her.
"I forgot things," she explained slowly. "Little things and they weren't important, but I was afraid that I'd forget too much."
"You mean, if you loved somebody else?"
"Yeah." Mom nodded. "I'd rather be lonely than love someone else, I think."
"That's depressing," I said and Mercy frowned.
"Daddy died a long time ago," she said. "Are you still lonely?"
"Sometimes," Mom replied. "But I have you, so…" she smiled and touched Mercy's leg, "…I'm okay."
"You have Stan too," Mercy reminded her and I snorted.
"Mercy, um…" Mom pulled her hand back.
"You don't have to be scared of us, Mom."
"She hates me," I sighed.
"No, she doesn't," Mercy rolled her eyes and she'd said that out loud, drawing a questioning look from Mom.
"Doesn't what?" she wanted to know.
"Stan thinks you hate him." Mercy giggled, as if that idea had to be funny for some reason, but Mom didn't even smile.
"Is he here right now?" she wanted to know.
"He's always here," Mercy said and then looked out the window again. "I told you that before."
"I know," Mom replied and there were wheels turning in her head.
"Your mom's pretty worried," Dr. Heyburn said. "Does that bother you?"
"She hates me."
"Can't you tell by now, Doc?" I widened my blue eyes just for him.
"Oh," he sighed, sitting back in his chair. "They were green a moment ago."
"We're a lot stronger now."
"Why is that, do you think?"
"Practice makes perfect?" I shrugged. "Maybe we just had to get older, I dunno."
"But you can…switch…anytime you want?"
"As often as you want?"
"So far," I said with a smile. "Bodies too."
"But that's still kind of hard," I admitted. "We don't like to do it too much."
"Shut-up, Stan," Mercy told me.
"What?" I asked with a mental frown. "He's the only one we can talk to about this stuff."
"You said never to trust him."
"I don't trust him," I said. "I just like talking to him."
"You want to show off?"
"Be special? Is that it, Stan?"
"We are special," I told her. "Someone ought to realize that."
"You're gonna get us in trouble."
"Nah," I said, smiling at the good doctor. "I can handle this guy."
Famous last words. We were all of thirteen and like most teenage boys, I felt pretty cocky.