Multiple Muse Disorder: 1970

Chapter Five: Fitting In

• 6 June - Saturday - Smalton

Back in our room following our attempt at a group discussion, I flopped down on one bed and covered my face with a pillow.

"You okay, Lisa?" asked Maggie from the other bed.

I put the pillow under my head. "I don't know, Maggie. At first, after we appeared in Woodward Park in Tulsa, I was feeling great and was all jazzed up about living like this. But now it seems that if anything we have more problems. I'm feeling rather lost."

"How did you feel the first time you were about to turn eighteen?"

"Hah! Defiant, immortal, unstoppable; all the usual teenage crap. When I think back on all the things I just blindly rushed into and somehow survived, I'm amazed. Now I see problems to be solved, or perhaps avoided, compromises to be made and commitments to be honored. Which is probably why so much innovation and discovery happens when one is young; old people are too risk averse."

"What do you think you would have done back then, in a situation like this?"

"Something stupid that would get someone hurt eventually, no doubt. I'm still too naïve and trusting for my own good, and I'm not at all certain I understand human beings.

"Which reminds me that I need to find Sean and smooth things out somehow. You and Anna going to be okay here for a while?" I sat up and looked around. "Uh, where is Anna?"

"That's a very good question," said Maggie. "I thought she was going to use the bathroom, but now I suspect she's wandered off. I'll go look for her."

— ∴ —

Sean and Nan were not in their bedrooms or in the den, so we went outside. Aunt Sarah was weeding the flower bed around the patio. She said she believed that Nan and Anna were in the park, so Maggie headed in that direction. I saw Sean in the backyard near the shed, somewhat savagely throwing darts at the board hanging on the shed's wall. I walked toward him.

"Hey, Sean. Can we talk?"

Sean threw his final dart, then turned to look at me. "Sure, if you really want to."

"I do. Let's take the trail through the woodlot, okay?"

We cut through the field behind the house and followed the street to the entrance to the woodlot, without saying anything. Once under the trees, Sean stopped. Not looking at me, he said, "Last summer, we would have been holding hands. I don't know what to do now."

"We can hold hands if you'd like. I'm naturally a touchy-feely kind of person."

He turned around. "But you don't remember? Anything?"

"I remember you, and doing all kinds of things with you and Nan. But I don't remember being romantically involved with you. As I've said, this is a different me than you used to know."

"I hear you say that, but I can't really wrap my head around it. I mean, I was prepared for things to be different when I saw you again, after almost ten months. It's not like we promised each other anything. And we're cousins, so it's not like anything could come of it, probably. And I've made myself go out with a couple of girls this past year. We agreed that would be a good idea. But, my feelings didn't change."

"And then I show up in a cloud of drama and casually walk all over your feelings. Oh, Sean, I am sorry!"

"So now what?"

"Let's walk and talk. And hold hands, please. I haven't held hands with anyone for, gosh, it must be almost thirty years now." I offered my hand to Sean, but he just looked at it.

"Okay, then we'll just walk and talk. Are you going to college in the fall?" I strode off down the path, hoping Sean would follow.

From behind me, Sean said, "I'm enrolled at UMR, but I was also thinking of taking a gap year. It's something I wanted to talk with you about."

I glanced back and slowed down, letting Sean catch up. We continued on side-by-side. "Let me guess. You were thinking we might go to college together?"

"Yeah, possibly."

"In a different state, where no one would know we were cousins, I assume?"

He stopped walking and clenched his fists.

"Sean, I'm not making fun of you. It would be the obvious thing to do. I'm sure I would have gone along with a plan like that."

"You would?"

"I would have. Now that's not an option, or probably isn't. I have to take care of Anna and Maggie. My life is a lot more complicated now than it used to be."

"Then this is just stupid, isn't it? Me thinking about you."

"It's not stupid, but it's suddenly different. I did not do this on purpose. Well, I did come to see you all on purpose, and maybe that was a mistake. If this is too hard on you, I'll leave."

"Leave? And then what?"

"I'm not sure. I can probably find a job somewhere. We might be homeless for a while."

"Are you crazy? Three girls on their own? Do you know what could happen to you?"

"Anyone who lays a hand on Maggie is going to be sailing through the air in two seconds, and any stranger who touches Anna will have a seventy-pound hamster to contend with."

"And what about you?"

"Anna and Maggie will protect me. And I'm a lot more street smart than you think!"

We stared at each other for about thirty seconds. Then Sean walked past me, on down the trail. I followed. This was not going well.

In a couple of minutes we reached the part of the trail that went up the side of a ridge. "I left my boots in Tulsa," I said. Sean offered me his hand without looking me in the eyes, and I quickly took it.

Once the trail leveled out again, Sean tried to release my hand, but I held on. It had been so long since anyone had held my hand! We walked a few more steps before he yanked his hand free. I stopped walking and felt my eyes tear up.

"Lisa? Are you coming?" said Sean, from about fifteen feet down the trail.

"Just a minute," I said, wiping my eyes. Crying was a lot easier without eyeglasses. I walked to catch up with Sean.

"Sorry," I said, "it just felt good to hold your hand. I've been alone for a long time."

"In 2017 you were sixty-five. You've lived longer than my parents. I assume you've done all kinds of things."

"Yes, all kinds of things. But it's all gone, the good and the bad. Even my first eighteen years are gone now. I'm a lost soul in an eighteen year old host body."

"You talk like that around anyone but me and Nan and you're going to get locked up."

"That's right, they still have mental hospitals in 1970! There's one in Fulton."

"Still have . . . what do they do with crazy people in 2017?"

"Let them live homeless, or put them in prison if they're violent. And in a few cases, cure them using drugs. Or elect them as President of the United States."

"Holy shit! What happens in the next fifty years?"

"Some good things, and some bad things. Quite a few bad things, actually. But maybe not here. This isn't the exact same timeline." I took a deep breath and let out a long sigh.

"Hey." Sean was holding out his hand again, and I quickly took hold. "Let's head back," he said. "We need to figure out what we are going to do. And it is not going to be you going off alone."

Going down the steep part of the trail I slipped and Sean put his arm around my waist until we reached level ground. "Thanks," I said, and kissed his cheek. "Let's try not to make any assumptions about what's going to happen and see how things turn out, okay?"

Sean nodded. "I guess that's the best way to approach life."

— ∴ —


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