Chapter One

Jami walked down the empty hallway that connected the entrance area to one classroom wing of the school. She had asked her mother to drop her off early so she could look around before the other kids began arriving. Helping teach the photography session at this Arts Camp had been her idea, but as always she was more than a little afraid of meeting new people, especially people her age. Not that anyone actually had x-ray vision, but she never could loose the fear that people could tell she was a freak just by looking at her.

She had checked in, found out what room she'd be in, located the room and returned to this hallway to watch the other students arrive. Setting her camera bag on the broad ledge that ran along the window wall, she hopped up and sat cross-legged beside it, leaned her slender body against a pillar between two sets of windows and pulled her laptop out of her backpack. The early morning light in the hallway was interesting. Perhaps she'd find a reason to take photos in this space.

She booted her laptop, created a new project directory with a folder for Monday, and started to record her experience of the first day of the All Schools Spring Break Arts Camp.

I'm here at this week-long Arts Camp, and I know exactly no one. There are kids here from every high school in the area, so it's not like I'll be an obvious outsider. Though I probably look more like a generic teenager than the usual artsy type, since home-schoolers have no need to stick out in a crowd, and I sure as hell have no such desire. Still, no one will know everybody. I'll probably go all day without anyone saying as much as 'boo' to me, except in the photography workshops.

Which is not a good thing, I know. Since Joanne moved away last year I have had no close friends. It wouldn't hurt to get to know some people here. I must have something in common with some of these people. So in addition to helping teach, and finishing up my final homeschool walkabout project, I should try to make friends.

Soon the students began arriving, checking in and going off in search of the rooms for their first sessions of the day. One girl, tall and stocky, with short brown hair, wearing overalls and sturdy black boots, walked into the hallway and stopped when she caught sight of Jami. The early morning sun was shining softly though Jami's long hair, making patterns on her arms as she typed. The sun refracting through a crack on one window also threw a cascade of rainbows across the floor and up the opposite wall.

Holy shit, thought Carys, maybe I'm not in Kansas anymore, please? And I do not want to go home. She slowly walked closer. God, she's pretty! The back of the girl's laptop was plastered with stickers, including—could it be? yes it was!—a rainbow and a pink triangle. Toss those ruby slippers in the trash!

The girl stopped in front of Jami. She let her pack and a gym bag slip to the floor, bent to take a closer look at the back of Jami's PowerBook, then looked at her face and quirked an eyebrow.

Jami stopped typing to watch the girl. Okay, she thought, so much for my theory of no one noticing me. Maybe she's lost and thinks I know my way around this building? Maybe she likes Apple computers? Jami looked up and smiled helpfully, the way she did when she was working behind the counter at the photo store. The girl spoke.

"Hi. I notice you have some interesting stickers on your laptop. Are you from Oz? Or is that just wishful thinking on my part?"

Jami looked puzzled.

"There's a rainbow sticker on your laptop. Over the rainbow? Oz?" She bent to pick up her pack, pointed to the back pocket, "See, I have rainbows, and triangles, too. That could mean we have something in common? Or not?" She stood there smiling hopefully, but her eyes were searching Jami's face for an answer.

Now this was making sense, thought Jami. "Sorry. I'd forgotten about those stickers. I picked them up at a conference I went to with my parents earlier this year. I couldn't figure out what you were trying to ask. Now I think I understand, but I'm not exactly sure what to say." Jami bit her lip. She certainly hadn't expected this.

The girl dropped her pack again and leaned against the ledge next to Jami. In profile Jami noticed her short wavy brown hair, small but well defined nose and serious mouth. She had the impression that this girl was strong, and not only in a physical sense. Very intriguing.

"Don't be upset, please," said the girl. "I can just keep on walking, if you don't want to talk?"

Jami realized she'd been staring at the girl. "No, don't do that. Keep on walking, that is." Jami chewed on her lip some more, trying to figure out what to say.

"Don't chew your lip! Your mouth is too pretty."

Jami stopped and stared again.

"Sorry. That is kind of a personal comment isn't it? I don't even know your name. Mine is Carys, by the way." She leaned closer to Jami to look at her nametag. "Jami, from HBEP? That's a school I don't know."

"HBEP stands for Home Based Education Program. Whoever made the nametags wasn't paying attention. It would have made more sense to say home-schooled."

Carys snapped her fingers. "That's why I haven't seen you before! And now that I have seen you, the question is how do I make sure I see more of you?"

"What?"

Carys smacked herself on the side of her head. "I cannot believe I'm talking like this!" She cupped a hand behind one ear, then spoke into her other hand. "Note to self. Self, write your dialog before you say it, so you don't come across sounding like a fool, even though you are a fool." She looked at Jami again. "I'm sorry. There is an explanation. May I explain? Please?"

Jami nodded. She had no idea what was going on, but the more she watched this person, the more fascinating she found her. "Please, do. Keep talking, I mean."

Carys took a step back and motioned with her hands. "When I walked into this hallway, you were sitting here in a halo of light and hair, with patterns of shadow moving on your arms as you typed, surrounded by a cloud of rainbows. Look, you can still see them on the wall."

Jami looked where Carys was pointing, then noticed how the light had changed in the hallway while she had been sitting on the ledge. She shut her laptop, set it down, unzipped her camera bag, pulled out a camera and hopped off the ledge. Grabbing Carys's hand, she said, "Come on. Over here. I want to take your picture."

Carys let Jami pull her over to the wall. Ohmygosh. She just grabbed my hand and is pulling me around. Now that they both were standing, Carys could tell that Jami was only a little shorter than she was, but more compactly built.

"Turn just a little this way," said Jami. "I'm not using flash, so you can look right at me. Smile please, not a grin, but the kind of smile that goes with a happy memory." She took several shots.

"Now step right next to the wall. Don't lean your whole body against it, but let just your shoulder rest against the wall. Turn your head just slightly more toward the wall. Don't smile now. Think of something or someone that has made you feel sad." Several more shots. "Now straighten your head up, look at me, and imagine a large spider dropping down in front of your face."

Jami took several more shots, taking a quick look at them using the LCD panel on the back of her camera. "One more. I remember what you said about a halo of light." She grabbed Carys's hand again and led her back to the window. "There, just stand relaxed. Let me turn your head just a little." Jami gently placed her fingertips on Carys's cheek and pushed lightly. "Okay. Hold it there."

She looked down at her camera and changed a setting. "Now this is really rude, but I'm going to kind of stick the camera in your face and take a reading. I need to expose for your face, not the background."

Jami did so, then stepped back a few paces and took another stream of shots.

"Okay, thanks. I could do this for a long time, though. Your face is really interesting. Both strong and soft, and always under control. I bet you practice, looking in a mirror?"

"That's very observant," said Carys, feeling somewhat dazed from having been pulled all over the hallway by this girl she badly wanted to get to know better.

Jami had pulled a small notebook from her camera bag and was making an entry. "I realize I've been dragging you all over the place and I don't know anything about you, Carys." She looked at Carys. "You don't have a nametag."

Carys looked down. "Oh, that's right, I put the nametag on my other self, because I'm headed to change and didn't want to forget. I'm Carys, at least for the next few minutes." She spelled her name for Jami. "It's Welsh. I go to East Lansing."

"I live in East Lansing, too," said Jami. Did nothing this girl say make any sense?

"That's good, it's great! Assuming you haven't already added me to your list of people to run from if encountered again?"

"Certainly not," said Jami, "and we have unfinished business. I'm going to make prints of some of these shots and I'll want you to see them."

"Is that a digital camera? Are you taking the photo class?"

"I'm helping teach the class, and writing up the teaching experience as my final walkabout project before graduation. The home-school thing, you know. And yes, this is digital. I'll show you the shots on the LCD, but it's really too small. I don't have time to upload them to my laptop now, though."

Carys stood next to Jami to look at the photos on the camera's LCD. In spite of being incredibly conscious of Jami being only inches away, she was captivated by the photos.

When Jami had finished running through the shots, Carys said, "They look different somehow than anything anyone's ever managed to take of me. I'd like to see them larger, but I do have to run off to my class. Can I find you later?" Please, I have to find you later, she thought.

Jami was about to reply when a boy stopped in front of them, pausing just long enough to nod at Jami and beckon to Carys. "Hey, come on clown, I think we're late!"

"Right! I'm on my way." Carys touched Jami's shoulder lightly. "May I look for you at lunch? Please?"

"Sure. I don't know anyone here, so I'll probably be at some table by myself."

"Awesome! See you then!" Carys grabbed her pack and bag and ran off down the hallway. "David! Wait up!" She ran until she caught up, then slowed down to keep pace.

"Who was that, Carys?"

"That was and is Jami. I just met her. She was surrounded by rainbows, but I never finished asking her about Oz. She wanted to take my picture, and pulled me all over the hallway. Then you came to take me away."

David looked at her, snapped his fingers in front of her face. "You are making no sense, girl. But I think I see stars in your eyes."

"She took my picture. Lots of pictures, good ones. She's a photographer. She said she lives in East Lansing, and something about teaching. She's home-schooled, which is why I've never seen her. Almost as tall as I am, but smaller. Incredibly pretty. Beyond pretty, but not in the usual way. Smart and observant. I'm having lunch with her. I have to get an answer to the rainbow question!"

"Yikes, Car! Should I reserve a room at the No-Tell Motel for tonight, or are you going to slow down?"

"David, pull your mind out of the gutter. The odds are that once Jami finds out more about me she'll run the other way."

"I thought you said she's queer?"

"No, I said I thought she might be from Oz. She does have rainbow and triangle stickers, but she said something about going to a conference with her parents. Maybe her parents are gay. She's rather straight looking. No piercings or obvious tattoos, and she's dressed in casual girl style. But there's something about her."

"Maybe she's a trannie?"

"Anything is possible, until proven otherwise. But I don't think so."

"I suppose if I have gay-dar you have genderqueer-dar."

"Yes, and Jami doesn't set it off, exactly. She doesn't have that 'I'm not what you think I am' air about her. It's almost the opposite, which doesn't make sense. There's something about her that seems very under control, held away from the world. I don't know what I'm trying to say, but she's definitely different, somehow. I'm sure of it."

"Being queer does do that to a person. There's hope, kiddo."

"Well, at least she didn't stick a finger down her throat and call me a dyke. But then she's home-schooled, so maybe she simply isn't attuned to the subtle modes of expression so common in our wonderful schools."

"Maybe she's polite? I know, radical concept, but there are nice people in the world."

"Maybe I'll see if I can crack this case at lunch." Hope springs eternal, thought Carys. Could I actually have found someone I can click with? Sure, and what are the chances she'll be interested back, once she knows more about me? Sigh. Not for nothing did I choose Lovelorn as a clown name.

* * *

After the morning break, which she had spent in the photography room, checking the computers and printers, Jami was outside in the courtyard. The photography class was experimenting with natural light in portrait shots.

"Try putting that reflector over here. You need more light coming from below so the shadows on the face aren't quite so deep." Suddenly she noticed everyone was looking behind her, and turned around to see what was happening. A line of almost a dozen clowns was walking along the sidewalk from the auditorium wing toward the gym. They were waving and making faces.

One of the two tramp clowns looked at her and said, in a sad voice, "Hello, Jami," as it passed.

Jami stared. The girl in the hall this morning. Her friend had called her a clown. That's why she had the gym bag! No wonder she had so much control over her face.

"Jami?" said one of the photography students.

Jami turned her attention back to her class, trying to put the clown, and the girl, out of her mind.

"How's this?" asked one of the students.

"Better. But you don't want to light the face completely evenly. This isn't a mug shot. Try moving the reflector a little that way. Good."

Now Jami spoke to the boy modeling. "Keep that pose but, very slowly, move you head from side to side. See how the shadows change? Okay. Pose your model, take some shots, then trade places. Move the reflector again if you like. Make notes so you know which exposures go with which set-ups!"

She tried to concentrate on helping the students, but the face she kept seeing in her mind was the one she had photographed that morning in the hallway.

* * *

Jami had taken her lunch tray to an empty table and was watching the door and the serving line for Carys. She was pleased when Carys walked through the door, looked around, and headed for Jami.

"May I join you?"

"I was waiting for you."

"Great! Back in a jiffy." Carys dropped her pack and bag and headed to the serving line. Soon she was back with a loaded tray and sat down across from Jami. There was a fringe of makeup along her hairline.

"You're the clown who said hello, right?"

"That was me," said Carys in a sad voice. Then she held her hands up in front of her, making them into puppets having a conversation: "Is this person smart, or what?," said the right hand. "I thought this person was Jami," said the left hand. "You're right!" replied the right hand. "No, I'm left!" said the left hand. Between the banter and the expressions on Carys's face, Jami couldn't help but laugh.

"That's me," said Carys, putting her hands down, "The clown. The hungry clown." She took a cautious bite. "Hey, this food is actually edible!" She had taken some pasta dish, rolls, desert, milk and a can of soda. Jami had a salad, fruit and iced tea.

They ate in silence for a while, then Carys put her fork down and opened the soda. "Jami, I'm sorry, but I've got to get this over with. If I'm wrong, I'll just go off to the side and fall on my fork." She took a deep breath. "The rainbow thing. I have a rainbow patch because I'm in the GSA at school."

Jami smiled. "That would be the Gay/Straight Alliance?"

"Yes indeedydoody."

"That's good. I picked up my rainbow sticker at a Creating Change conference last year."

"I've heard a lot of great things about those conferences," said Carys. "You said you went with your parents? That's awesome."

"I'm very lucky, I know."

Carys took a deep breath. "Are you gay, Jami?"

After a short pause, Jami replied, "There's no easy answer to that question, for me."

"That's okay," said Carys. "I realize it's not necessarily simple, that's why we have all those letters, GLBT and Q and even I. I'm a Q at the moment, meaning that I'm not completely certain what I am, but I know I'm different and I'm not happy with all the usual implications of the label of 'girl' that goes along with my body."

Jami was silent for another moment. "GLBT, Q and even I. How many intersex people do you know, Carys?"

"Well, none. They aren't common, and I don't blame them for staying hidden. Trans people, transgender and transsexual, they usually don't have a choice, they have to be out, at least for a while. But intersexed people, well, I just don't know, really. I've never even talked with an intersexed person."

I have to do this, thought Jami. I will not lie to or mislead this person. She looked straight at Carys and said, "You have now."

Carys swallowed. "Ohmygosh. I am a fool. Jami, I'm sorry if I've said anything unusually stupid. It's just so hard to start talking about any of this with a new person. I joke too much." She smacked her forehead, hard. "I really am a clown."

"Don't!" Jami grabbed Carys's hand. "You didn't know. I'm kind of amazed I told you. I never imagined I'd be talking about this at lunch on my first day here. I'm usually so shy I won't say two words to someone I've just met." She paused, giving voice to a thought as soon as it formed, as she'd been doing all along with Carys. "I guess I just trust you, for some reason I can't put words to."

Jami realized she was still holding Carys's hand and let go, slowly. Carys ate a few more bites, then put her fork down again. "Are you done? Would you like to go outside and talk, where it isn't so noisy? I can take my brownie and soda."

"Sure. I'm done," said Jami. "Let's go."

They took care of their trash and their trays and went out into the courtyard, sitting on a bench, facing each other. The sun had warmed the courtyard, and there was almost no breeze.

"I made a couple of prints from this morning," said Jami. "I needed to demonstrate how in the photography class, so I used some of the photos I took of you." She pulled the large prints from a folder in her pack and handed them to Carys.

"Oh, my gosh." She looked back and forth at the prints. "I think this is the first time someone has taken pictures of me and I feel that it's really me. Do you know what I mean? I don't look posed, and yet you posed me very carefully. Wow, girl, you know your stuff!"

"Thanks. I do a lot of photography. I'm trying to document this Arts Camp, from my own peculiar point of view."

"And what is your point of view?"

"It's a little outside of what most people think about sex and gender."

"An intersex point of view?"

"No, intersex is way too complex for a single point of view. It's my point of view. The Jami view on life, the universe, and everything."

"I gotcha. Similar to, but necessarily different from the Carys view on the ultimate question: why am I not like everyone else?"

"How are you different?"

"I don't know why, but I know that everything about sex and gender that seems obvious to other people seems like a mystery to me. Everyone seems so certain about everything. My clown friend David, he's gay, but that's just a different set of certainties for him. He says I'm confused, which I suppose is true enough."

"Confused about whether you like boys or girls, or about whether you are a boy or a girl?"

"This is going to sound totally weird, Jami, but what confuses me is the 'or,' the need to choose, the idea that there are only two choices for everything. It drives me crazy! I don't get it!" Carys had let herself go further with revealing her feelings than she ever had before. Her eyes were misting up. She rubbed at her face, trying not to cry.

Jami put a hand on Carys's knee. "Hey. You're not crazy. You're just unusually sane. Almost no one admits they find sex and gender confusing. No wonder I find you so interesting."

"You what?"

Jami blushed. "I mean intellectually, and esthetically. The way you think, the way you look, uh, in a photograph."

Carys concentrated on breathing slowly. She looked at her watch. "Damn. I really want to talk more with you, but I signed up for script writing in the afternoon session, and it's time for class." She grabbed her pack and bag and stood up. "I'm riding with David. He has to leave as soon as the afternoon session is over, to get to his job. Maybe we can talk more tomorrow?"

"I hope so! Oh, I almost forgot. May I tag along tomorrow morning and take pictures of the clowns, when you all get into costume and makeup?"

"I don't see why not."

"Cool. I'll talk with the photography instructor and see if I can take time off from helping with the class. I'll be in the hallway again, early, either way."

"Great!" Carys glanced at her watch. "Argh. I have to go. Hey! Maybe I can I catch you at break later? Where's your class?"

"Sure. We'll be in the computer lab on the second floor, 204, printing what the students shot this morning," said Jami.

"Two-oh-four. Got it. I'll try to stop by." Carys picked up her pack and bag, suddenly felt awkward, not knowing what to do. She settled for saying, "Uh, see you then!" and jogged off into the building. As she neared the classroom for her script writing class, she realized she hadn't asked Jami for her phone number. She didn't even know her last name. Idiot. What if I can't find her at break? What if she isn't here tomorrow? You are a fool!

Jami, on her way to the afternoon photography workshop, was having similar thoughts. She wasn't planning on taking no as an answer to whether she could photograph the clowns tomorrow. Fortunately Ms. Steffani, the photography instructor, agreed it was a good idea, and asked only that Jami prepare an exhibit of the photos and give a short talk to the class about how she went about the shoot and chose shots to print.

* * *

Most of the photography students had gone into the hall when the afternoon break began. Jami was standing by a printer, talking with the photography instructor. Carys looked through the door, saw them, and quietly walked over to stand a little way behind Jami.

Jami noticed Ms. Steffani looking past her and turned to see Carys.

"Hi," said Carys.

"Hi," said Jami, her face lighting up with a shy smile.

Carys took a step toward Jami, opened her mouth, didn't know what to say, finally decided on, "I found you," said that, and just stood there, feeling silly.

"Jami?" said Ms. Steffani. "Is this a friend of yours?"

"Oh, yes, sorry. Ms. Steffani, this is Carys. I just met her. I took photos of her in the hallway this morning. She's one of the Clowns. We had lunch together."

"Hello, Carys." Ms. Steffani smiled at them. "Why don't you two go out in the hallway. We can talk later, Jami."

"Okay," said Jami. She stepped closer to Carys. "Hi."

"This conversation is in a rut, Jami. Let's go walk." Carys grabbed Jami's hand and pulled her out the door.

Ms. Steffani watched them leave, thinking to herself, then went to her desk for her thermos of coffee. Jami hadn't set off her gaydar, but that other girl, Carys, sure did. She'd better keep her eyes open. Jami seemed awfully naive, and somehow fragile, different in a way she couldn't put her finger on, and without a doubt, very talented. It looked like an interesting week. She was glad she'd volunteered to teach at this arts camp, after all.