Monday, August 30, 2004
Well, Maureen got back just fine, but didn't want to talk last night. That's fine; she doesn't owe me anything, and if she wants to open up, she will when the time is right.
So. The weekend. There was actually a driver with a little sign waiting for me, although it took me some time to find it, since it was labeled "Hart". Folks reading: Do not change your name every few months. It leads to nothing more than confusion. Not that I regret any time I've done it, but it's a pain in the neck. If I ever decide to get married, I'm staying Martina Hart. Screw doing this again.
The Lincoln Town Car took me to a Tampa hotel, where Nat met me. She's huge. I knew this would happen, but I couldn't help but think that she's got three more months; how big is she going to be by the time she's ready to give birth? She does carry it well, and all the clichés about pregnant women looking raidant apply.
We got caught up in the hotel restaurant; she asked me how things were going with Doug, my friends, and my roommates (probably at the very moment those roommates were getting it on). I asked what her baby was going to mean for her career, and she said a lot of working from home, which wouldn't be too bad. Apparently her cell phone is her single most important piece of office equipment, and she can use that just as well anywhere. Then it was just idle chitchat until we headed to our rooms, knowing what we were planning for Saturday morning.
It was surprisingly easy to get dressed that morning. I'd been worrying about what kind of impression I was going to make, but sometimes when a situation one's been worrying about finally comes up, you just know what to do. In this case, it was baby-blue capris, closed-toe sandals and a white to that left my shoulders bare (aside from the two strappy things) but didn't reveal any cleavage. Truth be told, I looked more grown up than usual. Now that I think about it, it's mostly teenagers and college girls who usually go for the revealing thing, not because they're the only ones with the body for it, but because they're still getting used to it and showing off. Like someone I know.
Nat looked nice in her maternity dress, and tossed me the keys to the rental car. Made sense; I figure having that huge bulge in your lap must make driving uncomfortable, and I know my way to the place; I'd been there a couple times in my past life. We pretty much rode in silence until I turned off into the development, parking in an open visitor space. We locked the car and headed to the Hartle place, where Nat rang the bell.
Mom opened it, and I just stared. She hadn't changed; she still had the same hairstyle as the last time I saw her a year and a half ago, didn't seem any grayer or more wrinkled or anything like that, and her back was still straight. She looked at us, saw Nat was pregnant, and invited us to come in and sit down without even asking what we were there for until we were in her living room.
"Well, Mrs. Hartle, my name is Natalie Tartakovsky, and I'm from Seattle--"
"Do you have news of Martin?"
I let Nat do the talking. "Yes. I suppose the best thing I can do is show you." She reached into her large-but-stylish purse and pulled out a scrapbook. "The first entry, as you can see, is in October." When Mom looked up from the scrapbook curiously, Nat blushed. "I'm kind of, you know, sort of a person of interest to parts of the local media. They like to get pictures of the single blonde twenty-five-year-old daughter of a local multi-millionaire, for some annoying reason."
My mother reached the point where the clippings started to be about "Martin" being missing and closed the book; she'd probably heard about this stuff from the local FBI office. "So your saying that my Martin is your baby's father?"
"Yes and no. It's complicated, which is why my friend is here."
Mom turned her gaze to me. "I didn't catch your name?"
I hadn't offered it, and now that the time had come, I could only whisper "Martina Hart".
Mom sat up a little straighter, but didn't get excited. "Now that is a peculiar coincidence. Assuming it is a coincidence, of course. I'd ask if you'd had some sort of operation, but you don't look anything like my son. So just who are you?"
"I..." I cleared my throat and started again. "Last year, in mid-July, someone did something - the FBI thinks it was something added to the drink - so that the contents of this body's brain switched with the contents of Martin's while he slept. When I woke up the next morning, I was in a room I didn't recognize and I was a girl and there was a note saying not to tell anyone..." I let it trail off like the rest should be obvious.
"Are you saying you're my son?" The look on her face was raw disbelief.
"At the very least, I remember being him. There's some things about me that seem to be more the result of hormones and brain chemistry and structure and stuff, but, yes, for the most part, I'm Martin. That's why I legally changed my name after everything started blowing up this spring, because calling myself 'Michelle Garber' didn't seem right any more."
My mother turned to look at Nat. "This isn't funny."
"No, it's not. I had to find out that the father of my child, the man I was going to marry, was some kind of wraith or something, who had been pulled out of his comatose body by his son - who's older than I am! - and used that body as a stepping stone to get to your son's because apparently the whole switcheroo thing doesn't work between members of the same sex, and then lied to both of us to keep us from asking questions. Your son had to learn how to be a woman without any help, and she's done an amazing job of it. You should be proud."
"Proud? That's not my son--"
"Then who is? The guy who ran off on me? Is that what you want from a son?"
"Natalie, please." She stopped shouting when I put my hand on her shoulder and let me talk. "I know I'm not your son. I mean, look at me; I can't lay much of a claim to be anybody's son. And that's even without you knowing that I've got a boyfriend. But it's important for you to know that the person who abandoned his fiancée and unbord child - your first grandchild, at least by blood - isn't your son either. And if he comes to you for money or help hiding from the FBI, you can't trust him, because you don't mean anything to him."
"But I mean something to you?"
"I love you. Even if this isn't the body you gave birth to thirty years ago, you raised what's inside it. If you want to prove something - and you should, because what we're saying is complete science-fiction until you're in the middle of it - you can ask me anything and I will know, no matter how obscure it is."
And she did. Oh, she did. Everything from how long I wet the bed to the girls I dated in high school to how we wound up choosing this place for her retirement. By the time we were done, and my description of Martin was far more familiar than Nat, Mom couldn't believe she was believing us
That did not, unfortunately, translate into wanting us to stick around. She said she knew I was the closest thing to her son there was, but she wasn't at all comfortable with my being comfortable with it. She didn't ask point-blank whether or not I'd been celibate for the past year, but she's not stupid. And I think that bugs her, especially since she had some comments about Alexei fathering a child out of wedlock. My mother is older than those of many of my contemporaries, and is kind of conservative about such things. After a few hours, she stiffly thanked us for bringing everything to her attention and took down Nat's and my contact information.
We waited around Sunday morning, hoping for her to call us at the hotel, but even though we waited to check out until the last minute, she just wasn't ready yet. I'm trying not to be disappointed, but it hurts - you grow up expecting your parents to love you no matter what, and the fact that there's doubt in my mind right now hurts.
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