BGC Post 2040 File 6 – 3: The Real Me
The Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 Continuation Fanfic Series
by P. Kristen Enos
Most of these stories take place AFTER the TV Series! So DON’T blame me if I ruin the ending for you because you read these stories first!
Lesbian/Yuri/Shoujo Ai Warning! (Non-explicit — at least in the “PG13″/”R” sort of way.) Just not written for children because they probably wouldn’t get half of it.
All rights belong to JVC/AIC, ADV Films and the other creative powers that be. I just want credit for writing the story.
“Sit down, Nene,” Sylia instructed, pointing to the chair in front of the terminal. “There’s something you need to know before we begin this discussion because our decision has a bigger impact than you may realize.”
“Oh, okay,” she said as she sat down. Naturally her curiosity was piqued, especially with Sylia’s insistence that they have this discussion in the Command Booth, rather than a more comfortable setting for the four of them.
Mackey leaned against the counter next to her. Nigel stood off to the side with his arms casually folded as he waited for his moment to give input.
“As you know, Nene,” Sylia began to explain as she tapped some key commands into the computer keyboard, “Nigel and Mackey have been extremely busy working on a special, top secret project. And to be quite honest, while we could have used your help, I decided that the risk of you accidentally ‘leaking’ out the nature of the project to Priss or Linna would be too great.”
Nene scowled at the hint that she had a big mouth but said nothing, more silenced by her growing curiosity than anything else.
“So the bottom line is that this still needs to be kept top secret, especially from Priss!” Sylia warned her firmly. Then with some final taps of the keyboard, she stood back as a chat window opened and waited on the screen. She adjusted the microphone so it was angled toward the center of the room. “This is Sylia. I’m just testing that the microphone can pick me up.”
As soon as the words came out of her mouth, they appeared on the screen, indicating that the microphone recorded properly without her having to sit right in front of it.
Satisfied that it worked, Sylia then said towards the microphone, “Nene is sitting right in front of you. Go ahead and greet her.”
Nene watched in fascination as the words appeared: ‘Hello, Nene. This is Sylvie.’
If Nene’s eyes had been capable of popping out of her head, they would have. Even though it was a simple sentence, her eyes scanned it over and over to make certain she wasn’t misreading it.
“Sylvie?!” she finally exclaimed, as if trying to make certain the sentence wasn’t the result of some computer glitch.
‘Yes, Nene. My core is in Sylia’s private lab. She has me hooked up to the main computers so I can maintain interaction with the outside environment while I’m waiting for Nigel and Mackey to make my new body.’
Now that everything suddenly clicked and made sense, Nene looked at Sylia and demanded, “Why didn’t you tell Priss about this? She has a right to know!”
Sylia actually looked regretful as she replied, “I didn’t want to raise her hopes if it proved that we weren’t completely successful. Transferring cores is the most complex mechanical feat in boomer technology; and obviously the more sophisticated the boomer, the trickier it becomes.
“We managed to overcome the first obstacle, which was to have her core be able to survive in a stasis chamber outside of its shell. But degradation can occur to her cell matter the longer she’s in this environment. And there will be risks when we’re ready to transfer her to a new shell, either because the shell may not be able to support all of her functional intricacies or because of something we overlooked or because the tissue may reject it. She could biologically ‘die’, or be changed enough that she’s no longer the Sylvie that we know.
“So given that Mackey is much more sophisticated than even Sylvie was, the odds of failure are just as great for him with an ‘upgraded.’ And even though we’re willing to do everything we can, we need to be honest about what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Sylia looked at both of them and said, “I don’t know if you’ve determined who really has the ultimate choice, but I admit I’m going to pay to attention to what Mackey says, whether he makes a decision on his own or he’s willing to support whatever Nene decides.”
The two in question reached out and squeezed each other’s hand, showing that neither one of them had really thought that there could be dangerous risks to this upgrade process. They were only focused on if it could be done or not.
“All of the risks Sylia pointed out are very real,” Nigel said, choosing this moment to finally speak up. “However, we also have to keep in mind that Sylvie and Mackey are two extremely different projects. While Sylvie’s situation is that she needs a shell built from scratch, we have opportunities to explore different options since Mackey’s internal functions are pretty much set. His ‘upgrade’ is cosmetic in that we would need to enlarge his body frame and modify his outer layers. Whether that will really take a brand new shell, I don’t know yet.
“And that’s where the additional analysis and research help from both Sylvie and Nene could help expedite the process as well as help us brainstorm the safest option. — I’m sorry, Sylvie, since this means we’d have to put your shell recreation on hold. We don’t have enough resources to tackle both projects at once. Especially if we’re also trying to resolve the white noise problem.”
The text on the screen appeared: ‘I understand and I support the decision. The other problems are far more time critical than mine. It pleases me to be able to help with both efforts.’
Nigel actually smiled as he said, “Well, if we have everyone’s commitment, I think we have a good chance at ‘aging’ Mackey by the New Year, at the earliest, by the Spring at the latest.”
“Still,” Sylia mused, “that won’t solve the problem of how to deal with Nene’s mother, especially if she’s staying here during her visit. At the very least, Mackey, you have to make sure not to come around during that time. The last thing we need is for her to run into you while you’re still 15 years old.”
Her brother nodded and said, “There’s a lot of work I can still do at Nigel’s during that time. I don’t see a problem with that.”
“And, Nene,” Sylia said to her, “you’ll have to continue your little white lies to your family about Mackey’s absence for a while longer.”
“I can do that,” she answered. She wasn’t pleased with the option, but she knew it was the one that genuinely caused the least complications.
* * * * *
“Hey, Kiddo,” Leon greeted from the office doorway, “You’re here pretty late. Special project?”
“You could say that,” Nene said as she motioned from him to come in. “Mitsuuichi gave me a crash course today on how to use the facial profiling software and I’m testing out the aging enhancer. What do you think of this?”
He came over and saw on the the terminal a headshot of a young man with bushy brown hair who looked vaguely familiar. He frowned and said, “Is that some sort of rock singer?”
“No, no, no!” she countered adamantly, apparently not pleased with his answer. She then hissed in a distinctly lowered tone so no one passing by in the hallway could hear, “That’s Mackey at age twenty-five!”
Leon’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. Then he frowned skeptically. “Are you sure you only used the aging enhancer on him? He looks, um, more attractive than usual.”
“That’s because you haven’t seen him dressed up,” she said smugly. “He can be quite handsome.”
“Yeah, but that much?”
Nene scowled at him and remarked, “Since when were you such an expert, Leonardo?!”
“Never mind!” he said, the red on his cheeks showing that he didn’t want to pursue the conversation further. He was glad that Daley was already gone for the day so he couldn’t put in his two smart-ass cents. “So why the exercise? Do you have a new case dealing with long lost suspects?”
Nene shook her head and beamed a smile at him. She answered in a lowered tone, “We’re working on ‘aging’ Mackey. That way I don’t have to keep hiding him from family and unknowledgeable coworkers.”
“Oh really?” Leon looked impressed. “Well, it’s about time. But why are you projecting him at twenty-five? He’s supposed to be three years younger than you and you’re only twenty-two.”
She paused for a moment and realized he actually had a point. “I guess you’re right about that,” she said, a little deflated for her effort. “Nigel did tell me to fudge his age projection a bit so we didn’t have to go through this effort every year. I guess I could put him at twenty or so. After all, nobody ages at the same rate anyway. — So why are you here?” she asked at a normal volume. “Is the CU consuming your life now?”
“It sure feels like it,” he muttered wearily as he broke out into a yawn. “We’re preparing to take the entire unit away for a two week boot camp out in the woods. Since we’re overhauling the CU, we felt we needed a clean foundation to work with and the boot camp idea seemed to be the best. And especially now while things are quiet.”
Nene grinned devilishly and remarked, “Boy, you sure use ‘we’ pretty comfortably. So are you and Jeena actually making a good team?”
He was quiet for a moment, apparently reluctant to immediately answer her question. “I’ll admit Malso knows what she’s talking about when it comes to strategies and team dynamics,” he offered. “And she definitely knows the equipment inside and out. It’s only her personality that gets in the way of actually getting along with her.”
“Well, she’s going through a rough time and all. Finalizing her divorce with Billy and everything, even though she says it’s been over for a long time,” the young woman said as she continued to tweak the image on her screen. “Someone like that might need some support.”
Leon looked genuinely surprised. “I didn’t know about the divorce. It’s too bad; she and Billy made a really good couple. God knows she wouldn’t be able to find another man to put up with her.”
Nene frowned and then said brightly, “Well, I think she’s really pretty. Don’t you?”
“I guess,” he answered with a noticeable squirm in his shoulders. “I’ve never really cared to notice.”
“Really?” Nene then grinned again. “You certainly seem to notice whenever she’s around. I’d almost say you protest too much whenever you have one of your ‘disagreements’ with her.”
Leon’s face flushed red now as he demanded, “And just what are you implying by that, Nene?!”
“Not. A. Thing.” The firm answer came from Jeena, who stood at the doorway, looking at Nene with a warning glare. “Right?”
The younger woman merely grinned back with obviously teasing innocence.
Jeena was apparently not completely satisfied with the response but was willing to let the matter drop as she shook her head to herself. “Good night, Nene, McNichol,” Jeena said and then continued her exit for the day.
Getting the hint that something was going on that he didn’t want to know, Leon looked at the young woman warily and said, “I think, for once, I’m going to take Malso’s lead on this. Good night, Nene!”
“Good night, Leo-Peo!”
“That’s not my name, damnit!”
“You’re protesting too much again!”
Nene went back to focusing on her project with a very pleased grin on her face.
— End Chapter 8 —
* * *
“I’d forgotten how much I love this view,” Reika mused as she stared out at the landscape of lights under the clear night sky. “It never ceases to amaze me how much it can make you forget your troubles, even if it’s only for a few minutes.”
“And how are your troubles these days? Or are they too numerous to mention?” Sylia asked as she refilled their glasses with wine. The two women were having a relaxing dinner out on her patio, both casually dressed to wind down from the busy day.
Reika tsked and returned her attention to her food. “The critics are becoming more and more vocal these days. My New York trip was apparently a lot more controversial than I realized.”
“Was it a Clan trip?”
Reika shook her head. “No, just checking out our U.S. headquarters. However, Grandpa told me that it’s finally been voiced that there are concerns that my American influence will affect decisions I make for the Clan. But Grandpa told me it’s just a variation of a criticism from when he led the Clan and married a British woman. Back then the family was in an uproar that our ancient Chinese traditions would be tainted. And Dad didn’t help matters by marrying a Japanese woman.”
“And now you’re engaged to a Japanese man.”
“That combined with having lived in the U.S. for five years, as well as being raised primarily Japanese. My suitability as the Clan leader is being severely criticized. And it doesn’t seem to get any better, no matter what my actual decisions or achievements are.” Reika sighed and remarked, “Relatives can be such a pain some times. There are moments that I honestly feel they would be more approving if I had announced plans to marry a Chinese woman instead.”
Sylia giggled but wisely chose not to comment on that one.
“We’re hoping the criticism doesn’t escalate into action. But it’s so hard to tell these days. And I’m still learning things as I’m going along… I can’t believe how much my life has changed in less than a year…”
Reika looked at Sylia for a moment, obviously wanting to say something but holding back. The other woman merely waited, knowing that whatever was on Reika’s mind would surface eventually.
“So is it true that you’re coming to the wedding with Linna?” Reika finally asked.
Sylia nodded as she took a sip from her glass. “I was fairly surprised to receive a separate invitation from Irene, but I realized she was probably increasing the odds of Linna coming if I was going to be there.”
“Afraid to bring Nigel because the setting might cause awkward conversation?” Reika teased.
“Bringing him never would have crossed my mind anyway. He’s not particularly social when it comes to events of that nature. I guess that’s part of his charm.”
“I suppose,” Reika commented, her tone indicating that she didn’t identify. “Have you two ever talked about marriage?”
“Once or twice in passing. The bottom line is that marriage wouldn’t bring us anything additional that we don’t already have. We are quite content having extremely different lifestyles that overlap. Neither one of us wants children, and we trust each other when it comes to other distractions.”
“Is Linna considered a distraction?”
Sylia blushed and smiled. “Part of Linna’s charm is that she honestly has no idea how much of a heart breaker she is. It’s sweet but maddening.”
“I’d better state ‘no comment’ on that one,” Reika said as she took a healthy swig from her glass, wanting to indulge in a little bit of alcoholic bliss.
Sylia watched her for a moment and then commented, “You’re really hurt, aren’t you?”
“There’s a part of me that’s relieved that she’s gone from my house,” Reika answered as she stared at her glass. “And while I’m disappointed that she didn’t say goodbye, I think it was probably the easiest way to end it for both of us. Otherwise, it just would’ve kept dragging out and neither one of us would’ve been any better off. We both need to wish each other well and move on.”
“You’re going to see her at the wedding though. And she’ll be working for your company starting next week.”
“I’m an actress. I’ll manage.”
Suddenly Sylia had the look of something unpleasant crossing her mind and she narrowed her eyes at the other woman. “Speaking of Linna, how much did you tell her about our past relationship?”
Sensing that there was something behind that question, Reika gave her an evasive shrug and answered, “This and that. Just little things that might come up when we were discussing something else. Why?”
Sylia frowned at her for a moment and then said, “I don’t know if Linna meant to fish this out of Mackey, but during dinner the other night and in front of Priss and Nene, he managed to blurt out that time he saw the hickey on my neck and wanted me to go to the doctor because of it.”
Reika broke out into a fit of giggles. “I thought his concern was cute! Be glad he only saw the one on your neck. If he had seen the others, I’m certain he would called an ambulance!”
Sylia let out an indignant snort. “He also accidentally overheard us once!”
Reika stopped laughing but her smile remained. “Was it you or me? Or couldn’t he tell which one of us it was?”
“I have no interest in asking!” Sylia declared with a blush. “I’m terrified of ever bringing up this subject again with him. He might blurt out more things he accidentally stumbled upon.”
“Well, the boy did have a sister who was in the throes of teenage hormones,” Reika said with a smirk as she sipped more wine. “And it probably didn’t help that she was an occasional screamer.”
“Don’t be a hypocrite!” retorted Sylia as she kicked her under the table, causing Reika to spit up some of her drink.
The two women exchanged a look and then laughed heartily.
“It seems like forever since the last time I had an evening of just kicking back and having fun,” Reika commented as she emptied the wine bottle into their glasses.
“That’s a rather interesting comment given whom you’re engaged to,” Sylia said with a grin. “He’s an expert on partying, after all.”
Reika scowled. “That was cruel!”
“Speaking of which, when are you going to schedule your wedding?”
“It’s already been scheduled,” Reika commented softly. “It’s going to be in April. We won’t be sending out invitations until February.”
“Ah, so now there’s a deadline.”
“I realized I couldn’t postpone it for too much longer if I wanted to have my first child while I’m still in my twenties. And since I’m committed to this whole idea, there’s no reason to stall any further…”
She paused and looked at Sylia for a moment, again looking as if she was wrestling with something inside. Taking a fortifying breath, she asked, “Will you be my maid of honor? I’d ask Irene, but I’m afraid she’ll strangle him.”
Sylia broke out into a kind smile and reached over and squeezed her hand. “I’m honored that you asked, and the answer is yes.”
Reika smiled, letting out the breath she had been holding. “Thank you. Your support means a lot to me. I do ask, however, that you don’t bring Linna as a date. I don’t plan to send her an invitation either because, well…”
Sylia gave her hand another squeeze and said, “I understand. And I agree.”
— End Chapter 9 —
* * *
Linna opened her apartment door and was surprised by the sudden smell of chicken laced with onions and spices.
“Priss?” she called out as she entered, carefully maneuvering through the entrance with her full book bag, purse and cane while dressed in a blouse and skirt.
Priss’s head popped out from the kitchen as she said, “Welcome home. Want some help?”
Linna broke out into an embarrassed smile and said, “Please?”
Dressed in a tank top and shorts, Priss stepped forward to take the book bag and purse, obviously more assistance than needed but there was no protest.
“It smells great,” Linna commented as she walked after the other woman with careful steps.
“Thanks. I figured it was the least I could do to celebrate your first day at work.” Priss put the items down on the nearby desk and then disappeared back to tending to the food.
“Wow,” Linna said as she saw the spread in the living room.
The main table was set up with a dinner for two, complete with bucket of chilled wine and candlesticks.
Even though Priss was in the kitchen, she apparently understood the meaning of the simple exclamation, stating, “Hey, if I was going to go through the effort, I figured I may as well go all out. Otherwise, we’d be eating on paper plates and using plastic utensils.”
“Who’s cleaning up?” Linna asked warily.
“We’ll arm-wrestle over it. I’m not slave-labor after all.” Priss emerged and opened the wine bottle. “About ten more minutes and it’ll be ready. So, how was it? Everything you had dreamed of?”
“It’s incredible!” Linna exclaimed with a pleased smile, which barely masked her weariness. “I knew I was going to like the job when I realized I was the most over-dressed person there. Apparently computer programmers are not exactly expected to have any fashion sense. It’s a very international staff, which is actually fun. And I have a female boss, who’s really great so far!”
“It sounds like you really struck gold,” Priss said, joining her on the couch and handing her a glass for a toast. “Congratulations!”
“… So, did you run into Reika?” Priss asked after a pause for a sip.
Linna shook her head, looking both sad and relieved. “It’s a five building complex, much bigger than Hugh-Geit. Her office is in the one farthest from mine, and she’s always traveling anyway, so she’s probably not even in town. I have to admit, I feel more comfortable knowing that we’ll rarely run into each other.”
“Then it sounds like everything’s going to be okay.”
“Yes, I guess so,” Linna said as she stared into her glass.
Priss said nothing as she took another sip, watching her out of the corner of her eye.
* * * * *
Linna broke through the surface of the water with a splash, taking in a healthy gulp of air after being submerged for so long.
“Had enough?” Sylia asked as she tread water off to the side. She had a pleased smirk on her lips as she watched her friend enjoy the luxury she rarely shared with others.
Linna nodded and they both swam to the pool’s edge, neither one getting out since the warm water was still more appealing than the cool autumn air that was ready to envelop them.
“Boy, I feel foolish not taking you up on this sooner!” Linna exclaimed, as she wiped the water from her face. “This is the perfect way to relieve the stress from both work and the physical therapy session.”
“It’s a lot more fun to watch you swim than watch you hobble around on a cane,” Sylia commented, pleased to see the responding blush in the other woman. “How are your hip and leg holding up?”
“It feels fine. In fact, swimming is a perfect way of getting exercise without me putting too much weight on it.”
Sylia finally risked the cold air to get out of the pool to grab the towels that were waiting for them. She quickly dried herself and then held out a hand to help boost Linna out of the pool.
Linna blinked at the sudden appearance of the hand, realizing she had been distracted with watching Sylia in her swimsuit. With her face completely red, she tried to act casual as she accepted the help, hoping that Sylia was actually going to be merciful and spare her any further embarrassment.
For once, Sylia didn’t make a comment, but her amused smirk was there. Instead, she asked, “Didn’t your therapist say you could start going without the cane as soon as next week?”
“He said I really could start right away. The sooner I get used to walking without support, the sooner my body would balance itself out.” She said as she carefully sat down in the pool chair. She took the towel Sylia handed to her and started to wipe the excess water from her body and the swimsuit she wore.
“And when do you think you want to try on a hard suit again?” Sylia asked as she took a sip of tea. She sat down on the nearby chair, not showing any sign of the fact that she had been doing constant swimming laps and dives for the past hour.
Linna grinned as she looked up at the clear Tokyo sky. “Give me a couple more weeks, okay? I want to be in top form before I get in one again. It just wouldn’t feel appropriate to try it before then.”
Sylia nodded and said, “Just let me know when.”
“How’s the Mackey project going?” Linna asked. “Nene couldn’t stop talking about it when she called me last night. She said there’s a good chance you really will be able to get him fully – uh, ‘aged’ by New Year’s.”
“It’s going extremely well. The team we have is exceptional so I shouldn’t be surprised that we’re making the break-thrus that we are.” Sylia smiled and added, “I’m just bracing myself to have Mackey look so drastically different almost overnight. After all, with humans, we at least watch each other age over time.”
“They’re both good kids. They deserve a break.” Linna then paused as another thought clearly surfaced. “Have you, um, talked to Reika lately?”
Sylia paused with a sip of tea before answering, “I had dinner with her Sunday night. She asked about you, and I told her you were doing well.”
“Oh. Um, thanks. How’s she doing?”
“Same.” She opened her mouth as if to add something, but then decided such information shouldn’t come from her and therefore remained quiet.
Feeling like she didn’t want to know what was censored, Linna pretended to focus on her drink.
“And how are things with Priss?” Sylia asked. “Better than the first night?”
Linna chuckled. “Yeah. It turns out she’s actually a pretty mean cook. She made a great chicken dinner last night to celebrate my first day at work. However, I had to do the dishes… But I feel kind of bad with her sleeping on the couch. I was going to suggest that we go shopping for an extra futon, or even look into getting a two-bedroom place. Especially now that I’m making some really decent money with my job for a change.”
“When do you know whether things are working out roommate-wise?”
“That’s the thing. We never really determined when we should reevaluate things. And I don’t want her to feel like it’s not working because she doesn’t have enough space or enough privacy when I’m willing to try a new living arrangement. I’m not emotionally attached to the apartment so it makes no difference to me.”
Sylia watched her for a moment and then said, “Well, it sounds like you have a choice: Either tell Priss what you feel, or wait for her to make the first move.”
Linna then blushed, as if a different thought crossed her mind, one that caught her completely off-guard. She shook her head to clear her mind and then said, “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I should have a talk with her soon, just to make sure there’s no misunderstanding about our situation.”
“Better safe than sorry,” Sylia answered airily as she took another sip of tea and closed her eyes in relaxation.
Linna frowned at the strange comment offered in the even stranger tone. She shrugged it off and finished off her own drink.
— End Chapter 10 —
* * *
“So can you read our minds?” Nene asked in fascination into the microphone as she watched her words turn to text before her.
‘Not exactly,’ was Sylvie’s reply. ‘I can pick up extremely strong or important images. But it’s not as if I can “listen” to your thoughts. The only person I was able to do that to was Priss in the beginning, but she’s somehow restricted herself.’
“Do you think she knows you’re there?”
‘I don’t think she does consciously, but it’s possible she may have detected another presence. Galatea’s essence has also heightened her awareness for boomers. I have to admit that I am glad she’s not so easy to “read” anymore because I found out more about her than I should.’
“Really?! Like what?”
‘Nene.’ Even though it was one word on the computer, the parental chastising tone was obvious.
“Okay, okay!” the young woman relented. However, she was still determined to pursue the conversation. “So what have you discovered about me?”
‘You think of Mackey and food quite a bit.’
Suddenly there was a ‘ding’ and the elevator door to the command booth hissed open. Alerted by the noise, Nene jumped out of her seat and turned to see Priss, who was dressed in her biker outfit with her helmet in her hand.
“Priss!” she exclaimed in panicked surprise. “You’re here!”
Just beyond Nene, Priss noticed that her computer monitor suddenly went blank. She stared at the younger woman and said, “Were you doing something you weren’t supposed to?”
“NO!” Nene responded indignantly, and then caught herself, knowing that otherwise it really wouldn’t make sense why she would react with surprise. “I – uh, thought everyone had left. That’s all.”
Priss stared at her again. Then she said, “Nigel told me to come here to pick up my bike but I can’t find anyone. Even Henderson’s out.”
“Oh, Henderson’s out grocery shopping.” Nene sat back down in her chair to relax. “Sylia and the guys got an emergency call. Apparently one of Genom’s main labs had a break in and some stuff is missing, plus there was a lot of vandalism. One of Sylia’s connections is trying to use the incident as a cover to make some boomer materials ‘disappear’ too, for us to use on Mackey and Sy – spa — spare hard suits.”
“A Genom lab, hm? Hard to feel sorry for them,” Priss said with a smirk.
“I know what you mean,” Nene said with a distracted smile. She began to nervously twiddle her thumbs.
Priss silently noted the gesture. “So any idea when they’re supposed to come back?”
She shook her head. “Sylia said she’d call as soon as they made contact with her source.”
Realizing that her presence was unwanted for some reason, Priss decided to sit down in the nearby chair. “Guess I’ll just have to wait then.”
“… So, are you excited about upgrading Mackey?” Priss asked.
“OH YEAH!” Nene blurted, her usual energy returning with full force. “It’s going to be such a relief when I don’t have to hide him from anybody anymore.”
“And then what?”
Nene blinked and frowned. “What do you mean?”
Priss arched an eyebrow and pointed out, “They’ll be bugging you about marriage next. And then there’ll be children. We know Mackey’s limitations in both departments. How long are you planning to play this charade before finally accepting how futile is?”
Now Nene was genuinely angry. “Boy, Priss, are you trying to make everyone else miserable too?! Don’t point fingers at me because you screwed up with Leon!”
The other woman just stared back in response. After a pause, she stood and said, “I think I should go wait upstairs…. And, Nene, I just don’t want to see you get hurt. That’s all.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Nene responded as she turned back towards the terminal to resume her work.
* * * * *
Priss sat bolt upright, her breath coming in ragged pants and her body covered in sweat. Because of the darkness, it took her a moment to reorient herself to the fact that she was on the couch in Linna’s apartment.
She pressed her fingertips to her chest and felt the harshly pounding heartbeat. The images in her mind were hazy, but the sheer terror and helplessness lingered.
It was in times like these that she would roll over and curl up against Leon, who never had issues with sleeping through the night and was therefore never aware of her sporadic sleeping patterns. If that didn’t work, she would get up and take a hot shower just to soothe herself.
Now she had no one to curl up to, and the shower was in the bathroom in Linna’s room.
She rubbed her face and ran her fingers through her hair. With a toss of the blanket, she got up and went into the kitchen for a glass of water.
A few minutes later she was out on the balcony, staring at the surrounding neighborhood with its night-lights. She felt more in control after clearing her mind and fighting for emotional calm.
“Priss?” a sleepy Linna called from the patio door, supported by her cane. Dressed in her silk pajama shirt and pants, her attire was in direct contrast to Priss’s oversize T-shirt. “Is everything okay?”
The other woman turned in surprise. “I’m sorry if I woke you. Don’t worry about me. You’ve got to get up for work in a few hours.”
She mentally noted that she hadn’t made that much noise, so Linna must have been having trouble sleeping, too.
Linna frowned and walked out, joining her beside the railing. After a yawn, she finally said, “You’re my best friend, Priss. You’re supposed to inconvenience me. Now what’s wrong?”
“It’s nothing you can help me with,” Priss said with a shake of her head.
“Talking sometimes helps. At least a little, even if it doesn’t solve the problem or get rid of it.”
Priss was quiet for a long time before saying, “I have absolutely no idea where to start rebuilding myself, much less how to do it. Even now, I can’t tell if my actions and thoughts are truly my own, or if there’s… other influences somewhere. Or if it’s still me who’s repressing myself, which would be the biggest joke of all.”
Linna was stunned, not knowing what to say. She had had no idea Priss’s issues were still that strong. Then she mentally chastised herself since Priss’s low energy level for the past couple of weeks should have been a big clue that something was wrong.
Still, she had to try to help so she asked, “Priss, is this related to what happened on the Umbrella? With the whole Sylvie experience, I realized a lot more happened than what you told me. Is this what you’re struggling with?”
“It’s just a part of it,” she answered softly. “Galatea had nothing to do with my break-up with Leon. That was all me. And as for Sylvie… Well, I don’t know how honest I was with myself then either. I often wonder if Galatea had some influence there to make me… receptive to connecting with a boomer, especially one like Sylvie.”
“Oh… Did your feelings for Sylvie feel fake in any way?”
Priss shook her head. “No. I honestly thought the emotions were real. Only, now I’m wondering why I even felt them to begin with. I mean, I know why I began things with Leon, and because of that, I have to admit I’m not confident that some of the preliminary factors were that different. I just don’t trust…” She fell into a frustrated silence, coupled with a frown.
“But if you honestly had those emotions for Sylvie, does it matter how they got there? If those emotions were real, then maybe you shouldn’t question the source but accept that they happened. Maybe you just need to take the time to grieve her.”
“Yeah, maybe that’s it,” she said softly as she continued to stare ahead.
Linna took a breath and then said, “By the way, there’s something else I’ve been meaning to ask you. It’s about our living arrangement. Are you feeling like you’re not getting enough privacy or that you need more space?”
Priss tilted her head at Linna and asked, “Is that your hint you want me to move out?”
“No! That’s not it!” Linna blurted. And then chuckled when she realized she was being teased. “I guess I got used to having someone around with being at the Chang’s. I just thought, well, I’d hate for you to think things weren’t working out because you’re getting the worse end of the deal. So if you’re willing to try, I’d be interested in looking for a two-bedroom apartment. Chang Enterprises has some really nice employee housing I might be able to look into, or we can look somewhere else in the city.”
The other woman was quiet as she thought it over. “And if it doesn’t work out?”
Linna shrugged. “Then we get separate places and things return to the way they were before. I can live in a nice apartment, and you can live in an old trailer.”
“I’ll admit that I don’t want to be alone right now. But that could change.”
“Well, do you think it’s going to change soon enough that we shouldn’t bother to at least try it?”
Priss finally smiled and said, “I’ll start looking for apartments tomorrow. And that’s the end of the conversation for now because you have to go back to sleep.”
Linna grinned back and said, “Yes, Ma’am.”
— End Chapter 11 —