Fresh Start 2

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Now with additional editing and slightly enhanced.

Fresh Start 2

By Julie O, Amelia R and Bob Arnold

Edited by Amelia R


Synopsis: Josh Reid was a typical teenage boy before he was
transformed physically into a young woman. She became Jirra Reid and
struggled to accept her new female persona. This is the continuation
of her journey to find balance in her life.

This tale also contains cameos of characters from many of Julie's
other stories, including Ambition, Celestial Awakenings, and the
Turbulence series.

It also features a major guest star, Jennifer Stevens, from Bob
Arnold's wonderful series "Zapped."

Chapter 1

It was almost 3 AM on a cold Wednesday in January when Jirra sat down
in the corner of the mud bath room. She was sitting on a thick Navajo
blanket with her legs crossed. She had specifically picked the spot
because she knew she wouldn't be interrupted; a vision quest needed
privacy. Cari, the woman who ran the baths, had given Jirra
permission to use the room. Jirra's mom, Liz, also knew where she
was. Jirra wasn't about to repeat the grief she had given her mom and
friends the last time she had gone out to seek her spirit guide. While
it was a successful quest, she had neglected to tell anyone where she
was, and a massive search had been launched.

Jirra had much on her mind, and she needed the advice of her spirit
guide, Killara, a kangaroo rat. Jirra smiled at the idea that seeking
advice from Killara wasn't the strangest thing that had happened to
her. It was now just seven months since she had been struck by
lightning while sitting in one of the copper kettle baths enjoying a
warm mud bath. She looked at the kettles and could picture the June
afternoon when her life had been changed. There had been a bolt of
lightning, and it had somehow combined with the chemicals in the mud
to transform her into a girl.

Unfortunately, the transformation was only physical, and while Jirra
begrudgingly accepted that she was female, mentally she was still
Josh.

Jirra turned away from the kettles, took off her hiking boots, and
made herself comfortable. The last time she had sought her guide, it
had been up in the hills above the spa, but being it was in the
mid-twenties and there was three inches of fresh snow on the ground,
Jirra decided that the mud bath room would have to do.

She was wearing a pair of jeans, a turtleneck top and a sweater. She
took the sweater off and stared down at her chest. Thanks to a recent
growth spurt, her breasts now stretched out the top. It was just one
of many things that she hadn't gotten used to.

Jirra closed her eyes and began to clear her mind, which wasn't easy.
While she had been totally accepted by her mom and friends at the spa,
she was carrying a lot of mental stress about her transformation. The
recent holidays hadn't helped. It was agreed that for the most part
the truth about Jirra's transformation would only be shared with the
most trusted of people. The agreed story was that Jirra was
transgendered and had decided to live as a girl.

Jirra understood that they needed a cover story even though it would
cause all sorts of waves. Liz and Jirra had told their immediately
family, and while they accepted the story, many pulled away.

Oh, there were a few relatives that still accepted her, but it hurt
Jirra's feelings that many did not. Her dad's sister was totally cool
about it. Aunt Gail even talked about coming out for a visit.
Unfortunately, her dad's parents were less than understanding and
didn't even send a Christmas card.

This rejection particularly hurt, as her dad had been killed the
previous year. It was bad enough going through the holidays without
him, but the added rejection only made it worse. While she tried to
be upbeat, it was the most depressing holidays she had ever
experienced.

Jirra was also worried about what her life would be like once she
left the spa. While it was wonderful that she was so accepted at The
Caldera de Gaia Spa, it was also a concern for her. She was about to
finish her high school education and head off to college, and the
idea of being off in the real world troubled her.

Then there was the issue of her relationship with Alexis Eden. In
spite of her best efforts to just consider the actress as a "good"
friend, Jirra was still deeply in love with her. There were numerous
reasons why their relationship shouldn't happen, but Jirra didn't
care. Even the great distance between them did nothing to diminish
her feelings for Alexis, who had spent the last few months in Crete
filming a movie.

Another issue on Jirra's mind was the simmering homophobia in the
local town. Thanks to an idiotic ex-employee of a spa contractor,
Jirra had been outed as a lesbian, and some of the local high school
students had attacked her for this. What bothered Jirra most about it
was that the harassment was anonymous and petty. She knew that Randy
and some of his friends were behind it, but she had no proof. Just
the other day, someone had hacked into the spa's website and slipped
in an anti-gay tirade. Thankfully, it had also crashed the page, so
no one saw it, but it was still disturbing.

Several of the employees at the spa were gay or lesbian, and so were
many of the guests. The owner, Judy, didn't care, but apparently
there was a growing backlash in town.

The combination of all these things only increased the urgency of
seeing Killara. Jirra sat and cleared her mind and began to focus on
seeing her guide.

"Well, Roo, I've been wondering when you'd seek me again."

Jirra opened her eyes and, instead of the mud bath building, she was
sitting on a rock overlooking a small stream. The warm sun felt good
on her face.

"Killara?"

"Of course, who were you expecting, Yoda?" replied the kangaroo rat,
as he hopped into view.

Jirra smiled back. She decided not to waste her time asking how her
spirit guide knew about a movie character. "It's wonderful to see you
again."

Killara moved next to her. "Likewise, Roo."

"This is beautiful," she stated as she looked around. "It looks
familiar."

"This is what it looked like here 1,500 years ago at the time of the
people you call the Anasazi."

Jirra looked around and while she didn't see any people, there were
signs that someone else had been there. There were footprints in the
mud by the stream.

"Who made those," she asked, pointing to the prints.

"The Anasazi, who else?"

"But, from what I've read, they were never around here," replied
Jirra, looking around.

Killara cocked his head and using his rear leg, scratched his head.
"Who are you going to believe, your spirit guide or some dusty book?"

Jirra giggled. "Okay, you got me there."

"You have a lovely laugh, too bad you've stifled it so much lately,"
he replied.

"I'm still seeking balance, and am failing."

"I wouldn't say that," he replied.

"I caused a split in my family," stated Jirra. "They can't accept
that I'm now a girl."

"It's their loss," he replied. "In time the true ones will come
around. Give them time and don't give up so easily."

Jirra nodded. "Okay, but what about what will happen when I leave
here? Killara, I'm terrified about how others will treat me."

"You're surrounded now by wonderful and caring people; you'll add
others to this circle. Soon, you'll meet a person who'll have a great
influence in your life."

"Really? Who is it?"

"Roo, you're not the type to skip to the end of a mystery are you?"

Jirra laughed again. "Okay, that would be too easy wouldn't it?"

"I will tell you that there will soon be more conflict in your life,
and this won't just affect you, but the entire spa," continued
Killara.

"What do you mean?"

"I can't tell you, but the old will save the new."

Jirra sat back. "What does that mean?"

"The old will save the new, it's pretty obvious if you ask me," he
replied as he scratched his ear with his foot.

Jirra repeated the words a few times.

"You're doing fine, Roo. Life is full of challenges, and you've taken
them on. I'm very proud of you."

"I wouldn't have made it this far without my mom and friends," stated
Jirra.

"A strong person relies on their friends for strength, only a fool
goes it alone," replied Killara.

"It's so difficult. I'm just not a very good female. I hate putting
on makeup, I hate wearing dresses, and you don't want to get me
started on having my period!"

"I'd say you've done pretty well; it's only been a few months. You're
adapting better than you're giving yourself credit for. I think you
protest too much sometimes, just to remind others and yourself that
you were once male."

Jirra absorbed his words silently.

"To find balance, you can't hide your feelings or repress new
sensations. I think you know what I'm talking about."

Jirra bit her lower lip and nodded.

"Jirra, you have a long and exciting life ahead of you; remember the
past, but don't dwell on it. Now, it's time for you to go," stated
Killara.

"But I just got here; I have so many more things I want to talk to
you about. Please don't send me away!" pleaded Jirra.

"It's time, Roo," he replied firmly. "You can come back in a few
months."

In a flash Jirra was back in the empty dark room. She looked at her
watch and saw that it was now 6:30. She put on her boots, sweater,
and jacket and stepped outside into the frosty morning air. She
looked to the east and could see the predawn glow in the distance. It
would be a clear day. Jirra turned and looked up into the hills and
wondered if the Anasazi really had been this far east into New
Mexico. .

She walked briskly back towards her house, the sound of the snow
crunching under her boots; she wanted to record her observations as
quickly as possible.

Chapter 2

Jirra was still typing away when Liz entered the kitchen.

"I take it you were successful," greeted Liz as she leaned down and
kissed her daughter on the cheek.

"Good morning, Mom," replied Jirra. "Yes, I met Killara. I'll let you
read this once I'm done."

"I find it all fascinating," stated Liz. "I'm heading up to the
dining room for breakfast; I have an early morning, as it's time for
the staff physicals. You want to join me?"

"Sure, I'm just about done."

As they walked up to the dining room, their conversation centered on
Jirra's vision quest.

"Aren't you curious about what your spirit guide looks like?" asked
Jirra.

"I may try it some time in the future, but for now I'll leave the
mystical trips to you, Roo," replied Liz.

Jirra giggled. "Okay."

"By the way, just to remind you, your physical is tomorrow morning at
ten," stated Liz.

"Is it really necessary?" asked Jirra.

"It's required for all spa employees. I even have to get a physical."

"Are you doing it locally or are you going to Santa Fe?" asked Jirra.

"Santa Fe, why?" asked Liz.

"Can I please tag along? There's a bookstore I want to check out.
It's for my history project," replied Jirra.

"Sure, just as long as it doesn't interfere with your job."

"The newsletter is almost done for the week," Jirra replied
immediately.

"Okay, I'll be going there Thursday."

They walked up to the counter and were immediately greeted by Hannah,
the head chef.

"Good morning, Liz, and good morning, Jirra. What would you like this
morning?" asked Hannah.

"Just some oatmeal, please," asked Liz.

"Regular or cinnamon-raisin?" asked Hannah.

"I'll take the cinnamon-raisin," replied Liz, as she filled a mug
with coffee.

"What about you, Jirra?" asked Hannah.

"Are you making pancakes this morning?" she asked hopefully.

Hannah nodded. "Lindsey's back in the kitchen making up a fresh
batch. I also got a new supply of real maple syrup in from Vermont."

"That sounds great," replied Jirra.

"Oh, Liz, Judy was in a few minutes ago; she wanted to me tell
everyone that there'll be an emergency staff meeting this morning in
her office at ten," stated Hannah.

"Did she say why?" asked Liz.

"No, but she seemed upset."

"Thanks, Hannah, I'll see you at ten," replied Liz.

'Oh, Jirra, you need to be there too," added Hannah.

Liz and Jirra sat down next to Cari and Tara.

"How did it go this morning, Jirra?" asked Cari.

"As usual, I was left with more questions than answers," replied
Jirra as she poured some orange juice from a pitcher into her glass.

"I know the feeling. I think my spirit guide takes special pleasure
in confusing me," added Tara.

"He cut me off before I could ask him half the questions I had,"
continued Jirra. She then looked down and sighed. "Like if my breasts
were ever going to stop growing! I mean, is it normal for them to jump
a whole cup in just a few weeks?"

"Ahhh, the breast growth spurt, I remember how mine popped up a cup
just before school started," mused Cari.

"You mean it happened to you too?" asked Jirra.

Cari nodded, as did Tara.

"Mine happened when I was younger than you, but considering
everything you've been through, this just might be part of the normal
maturing process," stated Tara.

Jirra looked down at her chest. "Normal or not, I just hope they
don't get any bigger. It's a pain enough as it is sleeping with them."

Cari, Tara and Liz laughed.

"We're laughing with you, not at you, Roo," stated Liz.

"On the plus side, you'll need to do some shopping," stated Cari.

"Did someone say shopping?" asked Lindsey as she walked up with a
tray of food.

"Yes, Jirra needs to 'expand' her wardrobe," joked Cari.

Jirra shook her head in mock disgust. "That's not funny."

"Oh, I see what you mean," stated Lindsey. "No worries, we can go
into Carsonville this week. They just opened a new boutique near the
coffee house. Don't worry, Jirra, it's not ultra-fem sort of stuff,
it's more outdoorsy."

"Okay," replied Jirra, as she began to pour syrup on her pancakes. "I
do appreciate the fact that you all care about me, even if it means
that I'm providing you with entertainment."

"So I wonder what the big meeting is all about," stated Tara.

"I have no idea, but Judy seemed upset this morning," added Cari.

Chapter 3

Judy's office was crowded with the spa staff by nine fifty-five. Judy
walked in and sat down at her desk.

"I'm sorry to interrupt your busy schedules, but I have some
important news that I want you to hear before it reaches the local
grapevine," stated Judy. "As you know, the land along the road that
leads up here is owned by the government; however, it looks like a
large tract of land that borders the entrance of the spa will be sold
to a major hotel chain. Right now the sale is being contested, but if
it goes through we'll have a competitor right outside our gate."

There was immediately a lot of murmuring among the gathered staff.

"Please hear me out," interrupted Judy. "The company that wants to
build there has contacted me and has made me a very generous offer to
buy the Caldera de Gaia. If I sell out, they will leave the land
adjacent to the spa undeveloped. Just so you know, I have no
intention of selling. I am also trying to raise the capital to make a
bid on the land, should it be sold."

"Do you think the land will be sold?" asked Cody, Hannah's husband
and the spa entertainment director.

"My lawyer says that it's 50-50 right now, although he also thinks
that the land sale might just be a bluff to get me to sell. I expect
that the hotel chain will turn up the heat on us. Actually, I take
this as a sign that we're doing a great job if we've attracted the
attention of the corporate suits."

"How can we help?" asked Liz.

"Just do your jobs. I promise to keep you updated on anything that
happens. This is my land. It's been in my family for generations, and
I have no intention of selling it just as it's becoming successful,"
stated Judy defiantly.

There was a round of applause.

"I've also been in contact with the town. They've offered their
support," continued Judy.

"Why? Wouldn't they profit by another resort being here?" asked
Gregory, the head groundskeeper.

"No, they're afraid of being priced out of here, as has happened in
other towns. They like the fact that the spa is bringing new life
into the town, but they don't want to change completely."

"What about those who don't like us?" asked Cari, referring to
several anti-gay incidents involving local townspeople.

Judy nodded. "I've talked to the town leaders. They acknowledge that
there are some people in town who feel that we're bringing in an
'unsavory' element. I told them that I treat all my employees and
guests the same and have no intention of giving in to ignorance."

"So what happens next?" asked Liz.

"The initial hearing on the land sale won't happen until spring.
There needs to be an environmental statement on the land; there're
also concerns about water usage. Nothing is going to happen
overnight, but I promise to stay on top of it," replied Judy.

They talked for a few more minutes before the staff began to disperse.

"Jirra, I need you to stick around please," stated Judy.

Chapter 4

Jirra sat across from Judy, who was now sitting on the edge of her
desk.

"I have another assignment for you," stated Judy. "We have another
VIP arriving here next week."

Jirra looked up.

"Actually, she requested you. Apparently, your friend Alexis told her
about the spa and you."

"Who is it?" asked Jirra, her eyes lighting up at the mention of
Alexis' name.

"Jennifer Stevens," replied Judy.

Jirra stared back. "Isn't she the one who used to be a guy?"

"Yes, according to her biography on IMDB, she was transformed over a
three week period. Now if this hits too close to home, I'll assign
her to someone else," replied Judy.

Jirra stared down at the ground in deep thought. It would be nice to
be able to talk to someone who had gone through a similar experience,
she thought. She also knew that Alexis would never have told Jennifer
about her own transformation without telling her.

"You don't have to make up your mind immediately; you can give me
your answer later," stated Judy.

"No, it's okay. I don't mind," answered Jirra.

"From what I've read, she seems like a nice person."

"When is she arriving here?" asked Jirra.

"Monday. Thanks to the storms in the Midwest and back east, we're not
going to be all that busy. I've already gotten three cancellations
this morning. Thankfully, all three rescheduled for later in the
month," replied Judy.

"How serious is the threat of the big hotel moving in next to us?"
asked Jirra.

"If everyone plays honestly, I wouldn't be worried, but these big
chains often play dirty," replied Judy. "I've told the town that if
the land goes on the market, and if I get it, I'll keep it as is and
declare it a nature preserve. I should get local support for this."

Jirra wondered if this was what Killara was talking about, but
decided not to share this with Judy.

"Back to Jennifer, will she be using a pseudonym?" asked Jirra.

"No, she's too well known for that. She's coming here to relax and to
enjoy our mud baths. It shouldn't be too stressful for you," replied
Judy. "Not like last time."

Jirra cocked her head.

Judy smiled back. "Yes, my dear, I know about you and Alexis."

"Was it that obvious?" asked Jirra. A slightly horrified look was
forming on her face.

"No, but then again I got to observe you two together more than most
people. I also want to let you know that I'll support you in whatever
happens."

"Right now we're just friends, and I'm okay with that," replied
Jirra, her voice drifting off.

"That's probably best for now, considering how far away she is,"
replied Judy. "Is she still in Crete?"

Jirra shook her head. "She flew back last week, but she's in New York
this week. She's doing some re-recordings for the movie."

"Tell me again what the movie is about?" asked Judy.

"It's a big screen telling of the story of the Minotaur. Alexis is
playing Ariadne, daughter of King Minos. She falls in love with the
Greek hero, Theseus, and helps him defeat the Minotaur," replied
Jirra.

"Is that why the movie was filmed in Crete?" asked Judy.

Jirra nodded. "That and the producer's daughter is on an archeology
dig there."

"Must be nice to combine business and pleasure," replied Judy.

"Alexis says that the hardest part of the movie was pretending to be
afraid of something that wasn't there. The Minotaur will be CG."

"I wonder if she's worried about when they make the actors all CG,"
replied Judy with a laugh.

Jirra laughed. "Well, Alexis says that she's also contracted for the
computer game. She'll provide the voice for her character."

"Will there be action figures too?" asked Judy.

"Yes, along with fast-food tie-ins."

"Sounds like this could make Alexis very wealthy."

"That will make her happy, if only because it will allow her to
retire soon. She wants to give up acting as soon as her contract
expires. She'll have four more movies to make after this one. She
only went into acting to pay off her tuition and create a nest-egg."

"I hope she can walk away from it all, as long as it makes her happy."

"I can relate in some ways to what she's going through, keeping a
secret that is. She's seen as a leading lady in movies and TV
directed at males 18-24. If word got out that she's a lesbian, her
career would be over. I don't think Alexis would care, but she feels
obligated to the people who got her to where she is."

"I'm not surprised. She seems like a woman of honor."

"She's very special."

Judy smiled. "You're still very attracted to her, aren't you?"

Jirra's eyes began to well up with tears. Her voice cracked slightly
as she spoke. "Yes."

"It's okay, Jirra," replied Judy, as she handed her a box of tissues.
"Does she know how you feel?"

"I think so. We've mostly communicated via e-mail since she left the
spa. It's hard to express true emotions in e-mail."

"I hope it works out for you, Jirra."

"Thanks, Judy. I appreciate that."

Chapter 5

Jirra spent the rest of the morning in her small office searching the
Internet for information on Jennifer Stevens. She had read an article
on her a year earlier, but had thought it was all nonsense, which was
of course before her own transformation. She found it interesting that
lighting had been responsible for both transformations, although
Jennifer's took place over a three week period. Jirra wondered if
there was a connection. Maybe the mud acted as an accelerant, she
thought.

As she read Jennifer's biography, she discovered that Jen had also
experienced a reduction in age. Jirra let out a sigh of relief that
she hadn't gotten any younger, the last thing she wanted was to be a
little kid again. It did make her think though, what if my aging
process has changed? She would mention this to her mom when she had
her physical.

As it was, Jirra was already getting a medical checkup every few
weeks. Liz wanted to have a running database of Jirra's health and,
in addition to height, weight, blood pressure and things like that,
she drew a sample of Jirra's blood to be analyzed by a friend back
east.

Jirra printed out one of the more reputable articles to show her mom.
Then she checked her e-mail and was very excited to see one from
Alexis.

Dear Roo,

I guess you know by now that Jen Stevens is coming to the spa. I've
known her for a while and she's very cool. You can trust her
completely. I wish I could find the time to swing by the spa, but
it's crazy nuts around here. Between re-recording audio tracks and
doing voices for the computer game, I'm exhausted. We might even have
to fly back to Crete for some additional scenes, although the studio
is trying to shoot them on a sound stage. Anyway, stay in touch and
have fun with Jen. She knows that I like girls, so don't feel the
need to hold back.

Love, Alexis

Jirra smiled and let out a sigh. She then typed out a reply.

Dear Alexis,

Great to hear from you. Judy just told me about Jennifer Stevens
coming to the spa. I do plan on talking to her, when the time is
right. She'll be the first person that I've met who has experienced
what I have. Any idea of when you'll be free?

Love, Jirra.

Jirra reviewed the mail and then hit send.

Chapter 6

"This is very interesting. I wonder if Ms. Stevens would be willing
to let me see her medical records to see if there are any
similarities, especially in your blood samples," stated Liz, as she
read the article that Jirra had printed out.

She was sitting at her desk in her medical office, taking a break
from the physicals. Jirra had brought over some vegetable soup for
lunch.

"I don't know. Alexis says that she's pretty cool, but many of the
articles say that she doesn't like talking about what happened. I
suppose she's found her balance and sees what's done is done," stated
Jirra. "I wish I could do that."

"It'll take time, Roo. As for her talking about it, I think she
might, considering you've had a similar experience," replied Liz. She
then took a sip of the soup. "Oh, this is really good."

Jirra nodded. "I just get worried thinking about what could happen. I
mean, my recent breast growth has freaked me."

"Like we said this morning, it's normal," stated Liz. "Your latest
hormonal readings are normal for a woman your age."

Jirra nodded as she drank some of the soup.

They finished lunch and Jirra departed. She immediately headed over
to see Tara.

Chapter 7

"I'm sorry to bug you, but I have some questions that need your
expertise," stated Jirra as she sat down across from Tara.

"I'm no expert on the spirit world," replied Tara. "But I'm still a
good listener."

Jirra smiled and took her laptop out of her backpack. "I typed it all
down as soon as I got back to the house. I wanted to record every
detail."

"That's better than I've ever done. Then again, I didn't have a
laptop with me when I had my last vision quest," she stated as she
read Jirra's text.

"Where were you?" asked Jirra.

"Sitting naked in a small canyon twenty miles from here," replied
Tara.

"I'm not up to doing it naked."

"You should try it sometime. I did it after spending time in a sweat
lodge. It makes the vision more detailed."

"I'll take your word for it."

"Jirra, you have a lovely body. You should be proud of it."

Jirra began to blush. "Thanks."

Tara smiled back. "Would you have done it naked when you were male?"

Jirra cocked her head to the side. "I don't know. I don't know if I'd
had even gone on a vision quest when I was male."

"See, in some ways you're more adventurous than before," noted Tara.

"Maybe you're right... but I'm not ready to sit in a canyon naked!"

Tara laughed. "By the way, your writing is very detailed. I'm very
impressed."

"So do you think that this rival company coming in is what Killara
referred to?" asked Jirra.

"It could be. I just wonder what the salvation will be," replied Tara.

"I have no idea."

Tara handed Jirra back the laptop. "Anything else on your mind?"

Jirra smiled back. Tara had become like an older sister to her.

"Well, I'm still in love with Alexis. I have no idea of what to do
about it."

"Long distance romances are difficult."

Jirra nodded slowly.

"Can I ask you something personal?"

"Sure," replied Jirra.

"Do you only have feelings for girls? Now, think about your answer
first."

Jirra stared back. "I haven't felt anything towards a guy. I mean I
like Barrett, the guy who works at the coffeehouse in town, but not
in a sexual way. Why?"

"You're still changing and adapting. I know as Josh you were hetero,
but you're not Josh anymore. You won't find balance if you repress
your true feelings. I'm not saying that your feelings for Alexis
aren't real, but you need to be honest with yourself. Does that make
sense?"

"Yes... yes, it does. Thanks for the advice, Tara." Jirra then got up
and hugged Tara.

Tara smiled and then looked at her watch. "Well, I have two guests
arriving in twenty minutes. I need to get going."

"Thanks for listening," replied Jirra.

"Anytime, Roo, anytime."

Chapter 8

"So? When do you want to go shopping?" asked Lindsey as she stepped
into Jirra's office.

"I don't know, it's not like it's an emergency," replied Jirra
without looking up from her computer.

"Bull. Judging by the way you've been twitching around in your seat
lately, I imagine that your bra is killing you," stated Lindsey as
she sat down across from her friend.

Jirra looked up. "Is it that obvious?"

Lindsey nodded. "It's not like it's the end of the world, Jirra. Big
deal, your boobs grew."

Jirra laughed in spite of herself. "I just feel funny going in to get
some new bras."

"Look, you need comfortable clothes. A tight bra is awful."

"I guess it just makes sense to get some."

"You might as well get some new tops while you're at it. Your
t-shirts and sweaters should be okay, but you've been stressing out
the threads holding your buttons on your blouses lately."

"Anything else?" asked Jirra in a tone of mock annoyance.

"No, that should be enough for now. Come on, we can get to town and
be back before dinner if we leave now." She held out the keys to her
parent's Jeep.

"I need to let Mom know that I'm going," stated Jirra.

Lindsey picked up the phone and dialed the number to the medical
office. "I talked her into it. We'll see you tonight." She then hung
up the phone.

"Bitch," whispered Jirra.

Lindsey laughed. "Okay, this was a conspiracy, but in a good way."

The drive to Carsonville was uneventful. They parked right in front
of the new boutique. It was next to the coffee shop and Jirra
wondered if Barrett was still working there. He had been working in
the family owned business during his winter break from college, and
she wasn't sure when he was heading back.

"Clothes first, coffee later," stated Lindsey, as if she was reading
Jirra's mind.

The shop was filled with mid-ranged to expensive casual clothes. The
type of things people with money wore to look as if they weren't
rich, but without actually wearing everyday clothes.

"Thankfully we get a twenty-five percent discount in here. I love
their stuff, but there's no way I could justify buying things in here
at full price," whispered Lindsey as they walked in.

A blonde woman in her late twenties walked over to greet them. She
flashed a bright smile. "Lindsey, it's great to see you again. Oh,
please tell your mom that I tried that recipe she gave me for beef
Stroganoff. My husband loved it!"

"I'm glad to hear that, Grace. Oh, this is my friend Jirra; she's
also from the spa," replied Lindsey.

"My mom is the spa doctor, and I work part-time for Judy," stated
Jirra as she extended her hand.

"I've heard all about you, Jirra, from some of the other businessmen
and businesswomen in town. We really appreciate the business your
newsletter has sent us," replied Grace. "So are you two girls just
looking, or do you have something specific in mind?"

"Jirra needs some help," said Lindsey before Jirra could say a word.
She then leaned over to Grace and whispered. "She's had a little
growth spurt."

"Well, we can take care of that. Jirra, please follow me. I want to
get your measurements," stated Grace as she headed back to the
fitting rooms.

Jirra glanced over at Lindsey who stuck the tip of her tongue out.

Back in the fitting room, Grace asked Jirra to take off her sweater
and bra. As Jirra undressed Grace nodded knowingly.

"Looks like you're long overdue for this. I'd say that your bra is at
least a cup too small. Have you ever been sized for a bra?"

Jirra shook her head. "No, why?"

Grace began to measure Jirra. "A poorly sized bra can cause all kinds
of problems, ranging from just discomfort to bad posture. Now, I'm
going to measure your chest and breasts. Then I'll give you a few
bras to try on."

After a few minutes, Grace was done measuring and made a few quick
calculations. "Okay, try this one on," she stated as she handed Jirra
a plain white bra. "Don't worry about the style, we're just going for
comfort and fit now."

Jirra tried it on. Thankfully, she didn't struggle anymore with the
back hooks as she had for the first three months after her
transformation.

"Well?" asked Grace.

"It feels good," replied Jirra.

Grace made a few adjustments to the straps. "I'd say it's a good fit."

"What size is that?" asked Jirra.

"36-DD," replied Grace. "I know you were wearing a 36-C, but it's not
that unusual for a girl to just up a cup or higher."

"I didn't realize that they were that big," replied Jirra as she
stared down at her chest.

"For your size they look good. Now, I have a few bras that you might
like, but between you and me, I think for your everyday bras and
sports bras you can go to the Target down the road. That way you can
save money for the real nice things."

Jirra giggled in spite of herself. "Okay. I do need a few tops while
I'm here."

"I think we can help you," replied Grace. "Look, having big breasts
can be a pain, but you'll get used to them. I did."

Jirra hadn't noticed until now that Grace was rather large breasted
herself.

"I'm 38-DD myself, and trust me that you'll be much happier with
properly sized bras," replied Grace.

An hour later Jirra and Lindsey walked out with several bags of
clothes.

"You still want to get some coffee?" asked Lindsey.

Jirra nodded vigorously. "I really need some caffeine now!"

After putting their clothes in the back of the Jeep, they walked into
the coffee shop. Jirra was pleased to see that Barrett was behind the
counter. He saw them walk in and he waved.

"I thought you were heading back to college?" asked Jirra.

"I leave this weekend, although I'm trying to convince my advisor to
allow me to do some studying back here in the spring," he replied.

"Cool. So what do you suggest today?" asked Jirra.

"Ahhh, I want you to try this, it's my new mocha recipe. If you drink
it, you'll see things that no one else can see and do things no one
else can do," replied Barrett with a wink.

Lindsey turned to Jirra with a confused look on her face. "What is he
talking about?"

Jirra just laughed and took the cup. "Are you calling it the Jack
Burton?"

"Who?" asked Lindsey.

"Damn! I thought I could slip that one past you," replied Barrett.
"Obviously, Lindsey has never seen Big Trouble in Little China."

"I love that movie," stated Jirra. "The mocha is pretty good by the
way."

"The mocha is good, but I've never heard of the movie you're talking
about," interjected Lindsey.

"I have it on DVD. My dad loved that movie. We can watch it tonight,"
stated Jirra.

"What is it, some Kung Fu movie?" she asked.

Jirra looked at Barrett who began to laugh. "It's sort of hard to
explain. Just watch it."

"Well, I hope you get your way, Barrett. Good luck," stated Jirra.

"I'll keep in touch," he replied.

Jirra and Lindsey paid for the drinks and headed back to the jeep.

"Is this movie really good?" asked Lindsey.

Jirra nodded. "Trust me."

Chapter 9

On the way back to the spa, Jirra kept looking down at her chest.

"What's wrong now?" asked Lindsey.

"My breasts look huge!" replied Jirra.

"And?" asked Lindsey.

"This isn't funny. I mean I'm trying to blend in, and then 'they'
decide to grow!"

"Barrett didn't seem to notice," replied Lindsey.

"He's cool. He knows that I only like girls," stated Jirra. "I know
this is normal, but I don't need something like this to attract
attention... especially from boys!"

"I see, well I suppose the only alternative is to bind your chest."

"Very funny!" replied Jirra.

"Seriously, we can strap those babies down every morning, squishing
them against your chest. How does that sound?" asked Lindsey with a
laugh.

"Stop it! I don't want to start laughing!" replied Jirra.

"Oh, wait, there's always duct tape!"

Jirra started to laugh.

"That's better," replied Lindsey. "Look, at least you have a nice
body. Grace's right, they look good on you. I wouldn't worry about
the boys, most just look anyway. Don't tell me that you didn't stare
at the girls with big boobs in school."

Jirra shrugged her shoulders. "That was different."

"How?" asked Lindsey. "Guys have no idea what a pain it is to have
them always staring at our chests. Look on the bright side; at least
you're not in a real high school setting."

"Oh yeah, that would go over great. It's bad enough that the local
cliques know that I'm a lesbian, then to throw in these... ugh, I
don't even want to think about it."

"Yeah, it's a good thing that college boys don't care about big
breasts," added Lindsey.

Jirra laughed again. "Speaking of college boys, how's Dave."

"He emailed me this morning. He said that he misses me," replied
Lindsey.

"I'm sure he does. He spent most of his break with you."

"Speaking of long distance romances, how's Alexis?"

"Busy. Apparently, this movie is going to be a big deal. The studio
is trying to get it ready for release later this year, most likely
for around the Christmas vacation period."

"Why not this summer?" asked Lindsey.

"Too many special effects to finish before summer. Alexis said that
they're going to be spectacular."

"Cool. I can't wait to see it."

"Do you think that it's dumb for me to be in love with Alexis?"

"No more dumb that me being in love with Dave. Love is like that,
it's never convenient."

Chapter 10

Liz thought that the movie idea was excellent and invited over
Lindsey's parents, along with Tara and Cari. Jirra helped her make
several big bowls of popcorn.

"I'd forgotten how funny this movie is," commented Cody, as he
munched on some popcorn. He was sitting on the couch next to Hannah
and Liz.

"Kurt Russell is still pretty sexy," stated Liz.

"Kim Cattrall is pretty hot too," added Tara with a wink; she was
sitting on the carpet next to Cari.

"I can't believe how corny the dialog is," commented Lindsey.

"It's supposed to be corny," interjected Jirra. "That's what makes it
so good."

"You know, we ought to do this more often, have a movie night,"
commented Hannah. "It's way too far to drive to a movie theater."

"I agree," stated Cari as she motioned for one of the bowls of
popcorn.

"We can host it next time," stated Tara as she reached into the bowl.
"I have the perfect movie too, The Princess Bride."

Jirra just smiled and soaked in the warmth of having so many good
friends around her. Still, her mind drifted to Killara's words and
she wondered what they meant.

Chapter 11

On Thursday, Jirra and Liz drove down to Santa Fe.

"I should be done by lunch time," stated Liz.

"Okay. The bookstore I want to go to is only a few blocks away from
the medical center. There's supposed to be a good pizza place next
door; why don't we eat there?"

"I could go for some good pizza. I don't like the place in town; they
don't know how to make thin crust pizza, but then again very few pizza
places do, away from the Northeast," replied Liz.

Liz dropped Jirra off at the bookstore. It was a store that Barrett
had mentioned several times; he claimed it had a great section on
local history. He was right, as it had a huge section on New Mexico's
history. Jirra was soon browsing away, finding several books on the
Anasazi. As soon as she picked up a book, she skimmed the index. None
of the books mentioned any evidence of settlements in the area around
the spa; still she knew what she had seen in her vision quest.

"May I help you, Miss?" asked an older man's voice.

Jirra turned around to see a small elderly man. He still had a full
head of hair, although it was completely white. The nametag on his
sweater identified him as Abe. He had a friendly smile, and there was
a tinkle in his gray-blue eyes. Jirra immediately knew she could trust
him.

"Yes. Do you know of any books concerning Anasazi settlements in the
northeast part of the state? Say in the area north of Santa Fe?"
asked Jirra hopefully.

He put his hand to his chin and began to rub it, as he appeared to be
contemplating her question. "That's the second time in the past few
weeks that someone has asked me that question. The first was by some
grad student. He claimed that he had found some evidence of them
being much further east that earlier suspected," replied Abe.

"Did he have a goatee?" asked Jirra.

Abe nodded. "Yes, he did. He also suggested that I put a coffee stand
in my store."

"Was he named Barrett?" she asked.

"Yes, do you know him?" asked Abe.

Jirra nodded. "His family runs a coffee house in the town near where
I live."

Abe shook his head in disgust. "Coffee stand in a book store?
Whatever happened to just buying a book?"

Jirra laughed. "So, were you able to help him?"

"There's one book we have in stock. It was written by an
archeologist, back in the 1930's. He claimed that he found sites in
the hills north of Santa Fe that he dated back to the Anasazi. The
trouble is, he never bothered to document these finds. The book is an
interesting read, but I don't know how much you'll learn from it. He
refused to note the exact location of the sites, something about not
wanting to disturb them until the time was right," stated Abe as he
led Jirra to the book.

Jirra noted that the shelves were filled with books on local history
ranging from Billy the Kid to Roswell.

"Ah, here it is. Technically, this could be considered a rare book,
as it was published in 1939, but since no one, other than your
friend, has looked at it in all those years, I'll sell it to you for
five dollars." He handed the book to Jirra.

Jirra held the book and opened it up carefully. It was covered in
cheap leather. The title was The Anasazi of Santa Fe by Dr. Randolph
Margate III.

"The book was a failure, and everyone with a college degree laughed
at his findings. He claimed that he was planning an expedition to the
sites to prove his theories, unfortunately he disappeared," stated Abe.

"Disappeared?" asked Jirra.

Abe nodded. "Yep. I found an article in the newspaper's archives
stating that he was going up into the hills in the spring of 1940. No
one ever heard of him again. Not that unusual, people come and go all
the time. Still, it would have been nice to have known what happened
to him."

"He was a doctor, didn't anyone look for him?"

"No. His biography says that he earned his PhD from Oxford. I wrote
to them and they have no record of a Randolph Margate III. So, he was
either using a fake name or he was lying."

"Sounds like you have more than a passing interest in him," stated
Jirra.

Abe laughed. "You could say that. This shop has been in my family for
three generations. I suspect that will all end when I pass on; none of
my kids want to run it. Anyway, it's hard to compete with the big
chains, and I'm not willing to put in a coffee stand. My father
bought one hundred copies of that book. I was working as a stock boy
back then, and I read everything new that came in. I must have read
that book twenty times. I bought a topographical map and tried to
figure out where he had gone. I suppose it became a hobby or maybe an
obsession. Now, there is one catch to me selling you this book; if you
find out anything, you must promise me that you'll share it with me.
Is that a deal?"

Jirra nodded and extended her hand. "It's a deal, Abe."

Abe took her hand and shook it. "And what's your name, young lady?"

"It's Jirra," she replied with a smile.

He began to chuckle. "Your parents named you kangaroo?"

She joined him in the laughter. "It's a long story, but it has
something to do with a vacation they took before I was born."

Abe laughed. "Well, Jirra, in addition to the book, I think you'll
need some maps. Maybe you can figure out where old Randolph was
hiking about. Just so you know, his descriptions are vague enough to
describe almost any canyon in the state."

An hour later Jirra had added three topographical maps and two
additional books on the Anasazi to her pile.

"I'm sorry to hear that you can't get your family to continue the
store," stated Jirra.

"All may not be lost. My granddaughter is expressing an interest in
running it," he stated.

"Do you have an e-mail address?" asked Jirra, "just in case I find
out something on Randolph."

"Of course. I may be old, but I'm no fuddy-duddy," he stated as he
handed her his business card. "But I'm not going to put a coffee shop
in here!"

"Thanks. I promise that I'll let you know if I find out anything at
all about Randolph or the site."

"I know you will, Jirra."

Chapter 12

A short time later Jirra was sitting across from Liz in the pizza
place. She told her all about Abe and the book.

"I wonder if Judy knows about Randolph," stated Liz as she ate her
salad.

"Or Abe," added Jirra. "When will that pizza get here? I'm starved!"

Liz laughed.

"I'm going to e-mail Barrett and tell him that he made quite an
impression on Abe," continued Jirra.

"That reminds me, no exploring up in the hills without telling
someone where you're going. Also I don't want you going up there
alone," ordered Liz. "Promise me."

"I promise," replied Jirra.

Just then the pizza arrived. The waiter's eyes were locked on Jirra's
chest. She noticed and nervously crossed her arms. The waiter winked
and walked away.

"What a jerk," she muttered as she crossed her arms over her chest.

"I know it's hard, but try to ignore it. Just remember you can use
those to your advantage," stated Liz, as she put a slice of pizza on
her plate.

Jirra's eyes opened up. "Mom!"

Liz smiled back. "I'm just saying that there will be times when
you're glad you're well developed. Men turn into idiots around them.
I got out of a speeding ticket once, just for having my top three
buttons on my blouse undone. They don't call them boobs for nothing."

Jirra broke up laughing, so hard in fact that she was soon crying.

"Now eat your pizza before it gets cold; it's not too bad, but the
crust is still too thick," noted Liz.

"True, not like what we used to get back in Philly," replied Jirra.
"Do you ever miss it?"

Liz shook her head. "I've lived so many places, so home is where you
make it. Your father loved Pennsylvania."

Jirra let out a soft sigh. "I really miss him."

"Me too, Roo."

"I dreamed about him the other night," continued Jirra. "Nothing
special happened; it was just nice to see him again."

"I dream about him all the time."

"I can't believe that it's almost been a year."

"I know."

"Did he really have to go to Afghanistan?" asked Jirra.

Liz cracked a small smile. "Your father loved both of us, but he also
had his honor. He was a soldier, like his father and his father's
father. I joined the service on a lark, to help pay my college and to
piss off my family. But with Travis, it was his family business. He
once told me that Reids had always been soldiers; he joked about the
fact that they weren't good at anything else."

Jirra knew the family history well. Her grandfather had served in
Viet Nam and her great-grandfather had been killed at Normandy. Her
father had traced their family's service all the way back to the
Civil War, when the first Reid had enlisted in the Union Army just
ten days after stepping off the boat in New York City. Sgt. Ephraim
Thaddeus Reid had survived the war, minus an arm he lost outside of
Richmond in 1865.

"Still he never pressured me to join," interrupted Jirra. "Why?"

Liz nodded. "That's true he didn't. He wanted you to pick your own
path. I think he was hoping that you wouldn't join up."

"Why?"

"He loved his job, but he also hated war. He treated the loss of
every one of his men as if they were his children. I don't think he
could stand losing you."

Jirra stared back in silence.

"You were so young when he was in the first Gulf War. His unit lost
three men. When he got home, your father went and personally visited
the families of those men. It was the only thing that seemed to
bother him about the war. I think that's part of the reason he
insisted on going along with his unit to Afghanistan; he didn't want
to be away from them if they were in harm's way."

Jirra felt a tear run down her cheek. She wiped it way. "He never
talked much about the war with me."

"No, he didn't want to burden you with it."

"I know I've asked this before, but how do you think he would react
to what happened to me?"

Liz smiled. "It wouldn't have made any difference. He loved you
dearly and would have loved you just the same, if not more. Although,
I think he would have been slightly overprotective of you."

"What do you mean?"

"Let's just say that the he probably would have had a talk with the
waiter," replied Liz.

Jirra laughed. "Are you serious?"

Liz nodded. "Now, let's finish lunch so we can get back to the spa."

"Thank you for telling me this, Mom."

"You're welcome, Roo."

Jirra stayed up to nearly one reading the book. While it wasn't the
best written book she had ever read, it was incredibly interesting.
Dr. Margate stated that he had found proof that there were Anasazi
sites in eastern New Mexico and proposed that they might have gone
even further east. While he described several small sites where he
had found evidence of the Anasazi, he didn't give any specific
details on the locations of the sites. He described an area that
covered much of the land north of Santa Fe.

What really excited Jirra was that he described one site that could
be near the spa. Granted, she may have been reading in between the
lines, but he did mention the local town, stating that he stayed
there overnight before heading north again. She wondered if Barrett
had also picked up on this.

Chapter 13

Friday arrived bright and clear. The temperature had dipped into the
low twenties overnight leaving a fine layer of frost covering
everything. The sun was out in full force, melting the frost off the
darker colored walkways around the spa. Almost everything else looked
like it was covered in a blanket of glistening diamonds.

Judy was already in her office when Jirra arrived, and she decided to
ask her about Dr. Randolph Margate.

Judy examined the book. "I wish I knew you were so interested in
this; I could have saved you ten dollars."

Jirra was about to ask Judy what she meant, as Judy opened the door
of a bookcase. She pulled out a much nicer copy of the same book.

"Does this mean that he was around here?" asked Jirra excitedly.

"My grandparents told me about him. They said he was a very eccentric
man. He claimed to be English, yet they said he had more of a
Midwestern accent. He spent a summer here searching the hills. He
asked for permission to search the canyons on many of the private
lands around here."

"Didn't anyone ask him what he was looking for?"

"Jirra, back then this land was mainly used for cattle ranching. My
grandfather thought he was looking for gold or silver. He would head
up into the hills for weeks before coming back for supplies. My
grandfather offered to help him, but he refused all assistance. He
did send us this copy of the book. He came back a few years later
before he disappeared."

"Didn't anyone look for him?" asked Jirra.

"By the time anyone noticed he was missing, it was fall. They
searched the hills, but didn't find a thing. Almost anything could
have happened to him. It was foolish of him to be alone up there.
Nature is very unforgiving."

"As you've reminded me several times since my vision quest last
summer," interjected Jirra.

"Exactly! Oh, just so you know, I'm starting a new rule for hikers
once the weather improves; they'll have to log out before heading up
in the hills. That rule will also apply to staff. I'm thinking of
calling it the Jirra Rule," stated Judy.

"You wouldn't!"

Judy laughed. "There will be a log, but I'm not naming it after you."

"Thank you."

"I got an update on our latest VIP; she's coming in early and will be
here on Saturday. I'd like you here at ten to meet her," stated Judy.

"Okay. Actually, I'm looking forward to meeting her."

Chapter 14

Saturday's weather was a repeat of Friday's. The frost was quite a
bit heavier though and everything, even the walkways, glistened in
the reddish glow of the rising sun.

Jirra slipped on a skirt, even though she wasn't fond of them
especially with the colder temperatures of winter. It was an
important day, and she figured that she had to make a good impression
as a representative of the spa.

She picked out a matching sweater and then slipped on the black
leather knee-high boots that her mom had given her for Christmas.

Jirra even put on some makeup. It wasn't much, but she wanted to look
professional. Thankfully, Liz had shown her the art of minimal makeup.

As she stepped into the kitchen, Liz nodded approvingly.

"You look very nice, Roo."

"Thanks," replied Jirra, as she ran her hands down along her skirt.
"I figured that this is a big deal for the spa and the least I can do
for Judy is wear girl clothes."

Liz smiled. "Well, you look lovely, very professional. So what time
does Ms. Stevens arrive?"

"Sometime after ten," replied Jirra.

"I'm sure you'll do fine," said Liz, as she washed out her coffee
mug. "I'm off to work. I'll see you later."

They gave each other a quick hug.

Jirra made herself a mug of tea and watched some TV. She was slightly
nervous about meeting Jennifer Stevens, not because she was a
celebrity, but rather it was her background. The more Jirra thought
about it, the more anxious she became. She had so much she wanted to
ask her, but at the same time didn't want to bother her.

Jirra looked at her watch and saw that it was nearly nine-thirty; she
sighed and headed up to the spa office.

Chapter 15

"Jirra, you look lovely," stated Judy. "And I thought you hated
wearing skirts!"

"I do," replied Jirra, "but this is business, and you've taught me to
look professional."

Judy nodded and smiled knowingly. "I'm glad you've remembered that."

"So where is she staying?" asked Jirra.

"In the same cottage that Alexis used; in fact, she requested it
specifically, something about the view," replied Judy.

"It does have a nice view of the sunrise from the deck, not that
she'll be using that in winter," replied Jirra with a laugh.

"Well, we'll find out soon enough, as it looks like she's arriving,"
stated Judy looking out the window of her office.

A dark green Ford Expedition pulled up in front of the main office of
the spa. A young woman with a blonde ponytail stepped out of the
passenger side and stretched. She was wearing jeans, boots, and a
black leather jacket that was open to show her red turtleneck
sweater. She was also wearing a Syracuse University ball cap with a
pair of sunglasses propped on top of the cap. In many ways, she
looked like a college coed instead of a famous movie star.

Judy walked over to the main door and waved her in.

"Ms. Stevens, I'm Judy Ramone, and I want to welcome you to Caldera
de Gaia Spa."

The woman smiled. "Please, call me Jen, Judy."

Judy smiled back. "As you wish, Jen, this is Jirra Reid; she'll be
your guide around the spa."

Jen's eyes opened up as she turned to Jirra. "Well, I've wanted to
meet you for a while, Jirra. Alexis raved about you."

Jirra felt her face getting warm as she greeted Jen.

"And please don't tell me you got dressed up for me," continued Jen.

Jirra was at a loss of words.

"Please, in the future, Jirra, dress as you normally would. I don't
want you to go out of your way for me. Still, I'm very impressed;
it's nice to see a young woman who knows how to make a good first
impression," continued Jen with a smile.

"Okay, I will. Now would you like to see your cottage?" asked Jirra.

"That sounds wonderful, Jirra," replied Jen.

"Your bags are being delivered as we speak, Jen," interjected Judy.

"Thank you. What I said to Jirra applies to everyone. The last thing
I want is anyone going out of their way for me. I just finished a
movie, and all I want to do is relax," answered Jen.

"Oh, how do you want us to handle your privacy? We don't have a lot
of guests this week, but I want to make sure that you're not
bothered," continued Judy.

"I'm not into fake names or anything like that. Just as long as no
one barges into my room or is snapping photos for the tabloids, I'll
be okay. I've sort of gotten used to the publicity," she replied.

"I'll get the word out to the staff and quests," replied Judy. "I
want all our guests to enjoy their stay here."

"If it's half as good as Alexis told me, then I'll be pleased,"
replied Jen. "Okay, Jirra, lead away."

Jirra slipped on her coat and led Jen down the path to the cottage.
She still felt funny about the cottage, as it was the place where she
had been with Alexis.

"It's so beautiful here," exclaimed Jen as they walked through the
cool morning air. "Now, you're not originally from around here are
you?"

Jirra shook her head. "No, I was an army brat. We lived all over the
place before moving here. My mom is the staff doctor."

"And your father?" asked Jen.

Jirra took a breath. "He was killed last year in Afghanistan."

"Oh, I'm sorry. Damn, Alexis told me that. I'm sorry."

Jirra turned to Jen and smiled softly. "It's okay. Well, this is it."
She then opened the door to the cottage.

They walked inside and Jen nodded. "It's perfect. It even has a
fireplace."

"It's gas, cleaner than wood," noted Jirra.

Jen walked around the room and noticed her bags were in her bedroom.
"Very nice indeed. Now, I've been warned about the wonderful food
here, still I like to cook for myself."

"The basics are already stocked in the kitchen. For anything else,
just fill out the form on the fridge door and drop it off at the main
office; it'll be filled as best as possible the same day."

Jen smiled. "Judy knows what she's doing."

"You can say that again."

"Well, hang around here while I unpack, then you can start the grand
tour," stated Jen.

Jen unpacked and made small talk with Jirra, who was finding that she
was fast learning to like the young actress.

"Oh, Jirra, can you hand me that bag? It has something very valuable
in it," stated Jen.

Jirra handed her a black leather duffle bag. "What's inside?"

Jen opened it up and pulled out a box of Tastykake chocolate
cupcakes. "These are one of my guilty pleasures. Have you ever tried
them?"

Jirra laughed. "Tried them? Before we moved here, we lived outside
Philly. I lived on these things!"

"Have you had any since you left?" asked Jen as she opened up the box.

Jirra shook her head.

Jen smiled and handed her a package of the cupcakes.

"Thank you," replied Jirra, who after opening it up, peeled the
frosting off the cupcake and ate it separately.

Jen laughed. "Now I know you're from Philly; no one else would know
to do that!"

"You wouldn't have any of Amoroso's rolls in there too?" asked Jirra
hopefully.

Jen laughed and shook her head. "I know how good those are, but I'm
not from Philly."

"Still, thanks for the Tastykakes."

"You're welcome. By the way, I only share them with people who
appreciate them!"

Chapter 16

Thirty minutes later Jirra led Jen out of her cottage for her
orientation tour. The temperature had warmed up to thirty-four.

Jirra noticed Jen shivering slightly as they walked down to the mud
bath building but didn't say anything about it. She didn't think it
was that cold and she didn't know Jen well enough yet to comment on
it.

Jen was very impressed with the mud baths and signed up for her first
one for later that afternoon.

As they walked up to the dining hall, Jen commented how much Alexis
loved the mud baths.

"It's one of the main reasons I picked this place," remarked Jen as
they walked inside.

"How long have you known Alexis?" asked Jirra, as she hung up her
coat. "You can hang yours here."

Jen shook her head. "No thanks, I'll keep it on for now. I first met
Alexis in the green room of a late night TV show. We immediately hit
it off, and while I wouldn't consider us best friends, we do see each
other around. What I like about her is that she's very genuine, even
if she has to hide her private life."

"Oh, you know about that too?" asked Jirra softly.

Jen smiled. "I was the one who set her up with her last fake
boyfriend. I really feel for her and others like her. It's amazing
that they have to keep their sexuality a secret, especially when they
live and work in Hollywood!"

Jirra nodded as they approached the counter. "Okay, we usually have
several choices for lunch, in addition to salads and soups. Hannah,
our head chef, makes the best soups!"

"Also if you don't see anything you like, I can try to fill any
special orders, assuming I have the ingredients," interjected Hannah.
She extended her hand across to Jen. "I'm Hannah, and I'm pleased to
meet you, Jen."

Jen smiled. "I've heard wonderful things about your cooking from
Alexis. She still raves about the barbecue you prepared. I'm also
pleased that you called me Jen."

Hannah smiled back. "We're a small spa. Judy got the word out pretty
quick. Let me know if you need anything."

Jen nodded. "Yes, I do. I'm sorry to say that I have a deficiency
problem."

"Deficiency problem? What are you lacking?" asked Jirra.

"A good cheesesteak!" Jirra's jaw dropped open. Jen reached over and
gently lifted Jirra's chin. "Hey, just because I'm not a Philly girl
doesn't mean that I'm not hooked on 'em. Hannah, I ordered everything
we need, even Amoroso rolls, fresh from Philadelphia. With a bit of
luck, we'll be having Philly style cheesesteaks for lunch or supper
tomorrow. I ordered enough for the entire staff and all the guests.
And, yes, I DID get the Cheez Whiz!"

"If you don't mind, I'll have some other types of cheese available
for those who'd prefer something a little healthier," interjected
Hannah with a grin.

Jen shrugged her shoulders. "That's fine, but the best place in South
Philly uses Cheez Whiz! Besides, you shouldn't worry about healthy if
you're eating a cheesesteak."

"How did you get hooked on cheesesteaks anyway?" asked Jirra.

"I used to make a lot of public appearances for a national chain of
computer stores. I've been to Philly several times to visit the
stores there."

"Ordering all that stuff must have cost a small fortune. Are you sure
you want to do this?" asked Hannah.

"I have more money that I can possibly spend. My money just sitting
there in the bank is only good for the bank. Besides, I enjoy sharing
my good luck with the people around me. I just figured it would be a
nice way to introduce myself to the spa," replied Jen.

"It's a lovely gesture, and I'll alert my staff to watch for the
arrival of the food," stated Hannah.

Jen selected a bowl of rich-looking beef barley soup and a grilled
ham and cheddar sandwich on rye. Jirra had the soup with a small
chef's salad.

Chapter 17

After lunch, Jirra left Jen with Cari.

"I'll see you at dinner," stated Jen.

Jirra nodded and walked back to the main office. Judy waved her into
her office as soon as she arrived.

"How's everything going?" asked Judy.

"Great," replied Jirra. "Jen is very nice. Did you hear that she's
throwing a cheesesteak lunch for everyone tomorrow?"

Judy nodded. "Sounds interesting, although I'm not really into that
sort of food."

"You've just never had the real thing!" replied Jirra with a grin.

"I'm glad to see that you're in a good mood again."

"I guess you're right about that," replied Jirra. "Well, I'm going to
work on the newsletter if you need me."

Jirra retreated into her office and turned on her work computer.
Jirra had a system down for the newsletter and it usually only took
her a few hours each week. The hardest part of the job was ensuring
that her contributors turned in their articles. Jirra usually sent
out an email the week before the newsletter as a reminder. This week
there was a recipe from Hannah for venison chili, and an article on
cold weather hiking from Cody. There were also listings of spa events
and the week's discounts in town. The last thing she had to do was
type in the names of the week's guests.

Jirra glanced over her shoulder and saw that the US map now had pins
in 39 of the fifty states. The world map had pins in twenty-four
countries. This was her way of keeping track of who was visiting the
spa. A set of duplicate maps was now hanging in the dining room.

After running the text through an editing program, Jirra e-mailed the
newsletter to Judy for the final review. Judy usually caught a few
minor grammar errors, which annoyed Jirra to no end. She prided
herself on the newsletter and every mistake bugged her.

Jirra then checked her own e-mail and was pleased to see that Alexis
had sent her some mail.

Roo,

Hope you and Jen are getting along. Be warned; don't try to keep up
with her in eating! I have no idea how she can eat all the junk she
does and keep her figure! Attached is a preview of what I look like
in the computer game. I think they made my boobs way too big! BTW I'd
like to see an updated photo of you! Catch you later.

Love,
Alexis.

Jirra opened the attached file and saw what Alex was talking about.
The character was an overly curvaceous blonde in a short toga-like
dress. She had a very large chest, several cups bigger than the real
Alex. Jirra then typed her reply.

Dear Alexis,

Thanks for the mail. Jen is very cool and we're hitting it off
famously. As for your alter ego - well, at least teenage boys will
like it!

Love,
Jirra.

Jirra then headed back to her cottage. She had some reading to do for
her history project.

Chapter 18

Around six Jirra got a call from Jen and she headed up to the woman's
cottage.

She found Jen relaxing in her cottage. Jen was dressed in a sweat
suit with a throw wrapped around her shoulders. There were fuzzy pink
slippers on her feet, and she had a big mug of hot chocolate in her
hands. A fire was burning strongly in the fireplace. The stereo was
playing some old 60's Motown.

"Oh, Jirra, the mud bath was wonderful!" exclaimed Jen. "I plan on
doing one every day I'm here!"

Jirra just nodded and sat across from Jen who sat down on the couch,
well within the warmth created by the fire.

"Do you want some hot chocolate?" asked Jen.

Jirra had found that since her transformation she had come to crave
chocolate more than she ever had as a boy. "Sounds good. Is it in the
kitchen?

Jen got up. "No, please let me fix it for you. Trust me, you'll love
this!"

Jirra watched mutely as Jen filled a mug with hot chocolate and then
added a handful of mini marshmallows, followed by a big squeeze of
Hershey's Chocolate Syrup.

"I call this The Chocolate Overload, and it's marvelous! Oh, wait,
you'll want some of these to go with it," explained Jen as she handed
Jirra some Oreos.

"You must be kidding!"

Jen shook her head. "No, you'll love it."

They walked back into the living room. Jen returned to the couch and
kicked off her slippers. In one graceful movement, her feet
disappeared under her body.

"Sorry, but even though I grew up in an area that has cold winters,
I've never liked it. I guess I get cold too easy," complained Jen.

Jirra nodded as she sipped her drink. She noticed that she had become
more sensitive to the cold since her transformation.

"Well? What do you think?" asked Jen.

"It's very good, but how do you keep so... slim?" asked Jirra, as she
licked some of the chocolate off her upper lip.

"I'm blessed with a high metabolism I guess," replied Jen.

Jirra wondered if it was a result of the transformation, but she
still didn't think that she knew Jen well enough to ask her about it.

"Do you usually eat dinner at your cottage or up in the main hall?"
asked Jen, as she dunked an Oreo into her mug.

"Depends on Mom's schedule. Judy also likes the staff to eat with the
guests a few nights. We also have dinner with our neighbors once a
week," explained Jirra.

"Who are your neighbors?"

Jirra told her about Lindsey and her family and Cari and Tara.

"It must be nice to have such good people around you," stated Jen.

"It is. At times, it feels like we're a big family. Judy was very
selective about who she brought in here."

"So you moved out here after your father died?"

Jirra nodded. "Yes."

"How long ago did you father die?" asked Jen.

"It'll be one year next month."

"How're you doing?"

Jirra held out her hand and rocked it back and forth. "I miss him so
much."

"I sensed that you're under some emotional stress," noted Jen.

"I have good days and bad days, as does Mom. The upcoming anniversary
doesn't help," replied Jirra. She then told Jen how they'd ended up at
the spa.

"I can't imagine having to deal with all that," said Jen. "So are you
eating up at the hall tonight? If so, I'd love to join you and meet
your mom."

"Really?"

Jen laughed as she nodded.

"I'll call her up and see what her plans are," replied Jirra. "Can I
use your phone?"

"Sure."

Jirra picked up the phone and called the medical office. She talked
for a few minutes before hanging up.

"Mom says that she'd love to go to dinner with you," stated Jirra.
"She said that she'll meet us there at seven."

Jen looked at her watch. "Well, I'd better get dressed then."

Chapter 19

Jirra and Jen walked into the dining hall. It was less than half-full
due to the partial booking of the spa. Jen's presence was immediately
noticed by the guests and staff.

"Excuse me while I make the rounds," stated Jen with a wink,
"Otherwise I won't get a chance to enjoy whatever smells so
wonderful!"

Jirra watched as Jen introduced herself to everyone in the room.
Jirra sat down next to Liz.

"I must admit she's a mistress of crowd control," commented Liz.

"She's pretty cool. Did you hear that she's throwing a cheesesteak
party tomorrow for everyone? She's even flying in Amoroso's rolls!"
replied Jirra.

"Well, that's one meal I won't miss. I'm glad that you're hitting it
off. Have you talked about your situation yet?"

Jirra shook her head. "No, not yet. I'd like to get to know her
better before telling her."

"I understand. You do what you feel is right," said Liz. "Well, it
looks like she's almost done."

Jirra noticed too that Jen was at the last table of guests. A minute
later Jen walked over to Jirra's table.

"Well, that's out of the way. I told them that I'll be happy to talk
and sign autographs and the like before dinner, but would appreciate
not being bothered while I eat."

"And does that actually work?" asked Jirra.

Jen laughed. "Sometimes."

"Jen, this is my mom,"

Liz stood up. "I'm Liz, pleased to meet you Jen; it's a pleasure to
meet you."

Jen smiled back. "I've wanted to meet you; Jirra has told me a lot
about you in the short time we've known each other."

"Well, why don't we go see what Hannah and Lindsey have prepared for
tonight's feast? And then we can talk," suggested Liz.

"That sounds like a wonderful idea."

The special of the evening was a variant on Chicken Parmesan, with a
layer of sautŽed mushrooms between the chicken and the cheese. It
came with a side of small pasta shells with a chunky tomato sauce
that had bits of ham and fresh broccoli florets in it. All three of
them chose that, along with small side salads.

Over dinner, they got to know each other a little better. Jirra
noticed that Jen was guarded about her past and wondered if Jen felt
the same sort of anxiety that she felt.

Jirra was pleased to see Lindsey walking over towards their table
with a tray of her own.

"I was hoping you'd find time to join us," stated Jirra. She then
introduced Lindsey to Jen.

"I'm a huge fan, but I promise to let you eat. Besides, I wanted to
see if you like what I prepared tonight!" stated Lindsey.

"You cooked this tonight?" asked Jirra.

"Yep. I planned the whole menu. Mom gave me two nights a week from
now on!" exclaimed Lindsey with pride.

"Well, I for one am very impressed. This is much better than most of
the overpriced slop they serve in trendy Hollywood bistros,"
commented Jen.

Lindsey laughed. "Thank you, even if it is an exaggeration."

Jen shook her head. "No exaggeration, Lindsey, this is wonderful.
Have you ever eaten in one of those places?"

Lindsey shook her head. "I've never been to Hollywood."

Jen smiled. "Keep up this sort of work, and you can put most of them
out of business. I mean, even the ranch dressing on my salad is the
best I've ever had."

"My first celebrity endorsement!"

They all laughed.

Lindsey continued, "The secret to the dressing is making it from
scratch using fresh buttermilk, and I add a small dash of horseradish
to give it just a little bite."

There was a quiet pause as they all savored their food.

"Have you invited Jen for our movie night, Jirra?" asked Lindsey.

Jirra shook her head as she swallowed a bite of food.

"What is that?" asked Jen.

"We've started watching movies together, rotating between our house,
theirs and Cari and Tara's," replied Lindsey, as she pointed to
Jirra. "I think it'd be cool if you joined us."

"I don't want to intrude," stated Jen.

"You wouldn't be," interjected Liz.

"When is this weekly event?" asked Jen.

"Wednesday evening at Cari and Tara's cottage," said Jirra. "You met
Cari today at the mud baths; she lives with Tara who runs the massage
and hot spring baths."

"Oh, I met Tara too, they're both very nice. You don't think they'll
mind?"

Jirra looked at Lindsey and they both began to giggle. "No, they're
both cool."

"Okay, that sounds great as long, as it's not one of my movies that
you're watching. I tend to be way too critical of myself to enjoy
them. Oh, by the way, what time do the hot spring baths close? I was
hoping to get a soak in before bed."

"Midnight," replied Jirra.

"Wonderful. Well, if you don't mind, I'm going to take a soak and
then retire for the evening. I'll see you all in the morning," stated
Jen.

"Wait!" said Lindsey. "You have to try my new dessert!"

Jen groaned. "I'm not sure I have room for dessert."

"Yes, you do," replied Lindsey. "It's chocolate."

"Oh. Then you may have to twist my little finger." Jen laughed.

"Just a minute, I'll get it for you. It has to be warm when you eat
it." Lindsey hurried off to the kitchen and soon returned with
portions for each of them.

"Ta da! Chocolate shortcake!" she announced.

It was made with warm, split, fresh-baked biscuits filled with a
generous helping of hot, rich dark chocolate pudding and topped with
a big dollop of fresh whipped cream.

Jen licked the chocolate pudding from the corners of her mouth after
she licked her spoon clean. "Lindsey, my tummy thanks you, and I
thank you. I still say those snooty Hollywood places could learn a
thing or two from this place and from you!"

Jirra agreed it was excellent, although she had never been much of a
chocolate fan until lately. She wondered if it had something to do
with her change.

"Cool, what time would you like to meet for breakfast?" asked Jirra.

"How 'bout eight?" she replied.

"Sounds good, have a nice soak," answered Jirra.

Jen nodded and left after saying goodnight.

Liz turned to Jirra. "Well, she certainly doesn't fit the stereotype
of a big star."

"No, I doubt if Alex would tell a diva about our spa!" added Jirra.

"I'm so psyched about what she said about my meal; I can't wait to
tell Mom!" stated Lindsey giddily.

Chapter 20

Later that evening, Jirra lay in bed thinking about her day. She
wondered when the right time would be to bring up her past with Jen.
She let out a long sigh and stared at the ceiling. She reached up and
ran her hands over her breasts and shook her head in disbelief over
their size.

As her fingers swept past her nipples, she felt a minor wave of
pleasure emanate from them, which then swept through her body. This
was something else that she wasn't used to. It was so much simpler
when her sexual pleasure zone was concentrated between her legs; now
she had multiple areas of gratification. This should have been a
blessing, except for the fact that Jirra still didn't accept that
this was her body. When she did pleasure herself, she felt guilt, as
if she was betraying herself. There was also the feeling that it was
wrong. She tried to shake these feelings, but it was hard.

She had been so lost in her thoughts that she hadn't even noticed
that she was now massaging both nipples with her fingers. By the time
she noticed what she was doing, it was too late to pull back, as she
was now too excited to stop.

Jirra leaned over to her nightstand and pulled the vibrator out of
the drawer. Liz had bought it for her and told her it was normal.
Jirra fumbled to turn it on and began to rub it against her labia. It
was so much simpler when she was a guy; all she had to do was stroke
herself and think about Kathy Everett, the cute brunette that sat
next to her in chemistry. Now, she had to give equal time to several
parts of her body.

Jirra's thoughts drifted away as she slowly worked towards her
orgasm. In spite of her internal struggles, she had to admit that
overall the female orgasm was superior to that of a male. It lasted
longer and seemed to spread out over her whole body, unlike the male
orgasm that was concentrated between the legs.

After her orgasm, she relaxed and felt her body come down from the
sexual high. A strange thought ran through her mind, and
instinctively she shook her head to get it out. This was not the
first time that the idea had slipped into her thoughts, and it
bothered her to no end.

As if she was trying to chase it away, she whispered softly. "I don't
like boys."

Chapter 21

Mid-morning on Sunday found Jirra sitting in her office fixing a few
minor errors in the newsletter. She shook her head in disgust as she
corrected a minor grammar error.

Earlier that morning she had read an e-mail from Barrett. He told her
that he was using the Randolph book in his studies, but so far he had
found nearly sixty canyons that might be the one that the book
mentioned.

"Knock-knock," stated Jen from just outside the door.

Jirra looked up and smiled. "I thought you were working out."

"I did, in case you haven't noticed it's almost eleven," replied Jen.

Jirra looked at her watch. "Wow, time flies when you're having fun."

Just then, they heard Judy's voice bellowing out of her office.
"Shit! Those little bastards have done it again!"

"What's wrong?" asked Jen.

"I don't know, but it might have something to do with our website,"
replied Jirra, as she got up and headed towards Judy's office.

They walked in to see Judy glaring at her computer's monitor.

"Look at what they did!" she exclaimed.

Jirra noticed that across the opening page of the spa's website was
written NO FAGS and NO DYKES. The writing was bright red, and the
lettering looked as if it was dripping red paint.

"Has this happened before?" asked Jen.

Judy nodded. "Third time in the past two months."

"Alexis told me about the trouble you had with the local high school
kids," said Jen.

"It's gotten worse. There's a small minority in town that has been
giving us trouble. They're worried that we'll turn the town into a
miniature version of San Francisco," replied Judy with disgust.

"Can I look at your system?" asked Jen.

"Sure," replied Judy.

"I used to do this sort of work before I went into acting," stated
Jen as she sat down in front of Judy's computer. "I'll need your
password for the site."

Judy nodded and reached into her file cabinet and pulled out a
folder. "This has all the information on the website."

Jen opened the folder and looked at the technical data. "I can see
one problem right off the bat, your security software is definitely
outdated. No offense, Judy, but a sixth grader could have done this."

"Great, that makes me feel even worse," replied Judy with a laugh.

"I can get you a better program and install it if you'd like."

"Can you figure out who has been doing it?" asked Jirra.

"Maybe, if they were sloppy."

Jen turned her attention to the problem as her fingers started flying
over the keyboard. Judy and Jirra looked on in amazement.

"Do you mind if we watch what you're doing, Jen?"

"No, not at all, Judy. In fact, I think that it's a good idea that
both of you know a bit more about the system. You might be able to
catch things before they get out of hand again."

"Great!"

"You two should feel free to stop me in my tracks and ask any
questions you might have as I'm working. I used to be so good at
doing stuff like this that I just do things almost on automatic
pilot. Make sure you get enough of an explanation so you're
comfortable with my answer. If I use words that are way too technical
just whomp me upside the head and make me explain 'em, okay?"

Judy and Jirra nodded in agreement, as Jen turned her attention back
to the video screen and keyboard.

Almost an hour later, the system was upgraded with all latest
security patches and the spa's web site was repaired. A stack of
paper nearly an inch and a half high was in the output paper tray of
the laser printer attached to the system.

Jen leaned back in the chair before shaking her head and sighing.
"Damned script kiddies. Older Rug Rats or usually teenagers that get
their jollies by breaking into systems using tools developed by real
hackers. They weren't very smart though. They made no attempt to
cover their tracks and left a trail of evidence all over the system."
She pointed toward the paper tray on the laser printer. "That stack of
paper is the appropriate sections of the system logs for all of the
break-ins and print outs of the compromised web pages of this
break-in. This is the same information I burned onto a CD. I suggest
that you make copies of both of these and keep the originals."

Jen handed the CD to Judy. "Do you think it was someone local?" asked
Judy with a concerned look on her face.

"Probably, Judy. I traced the TCP/IP address they came from back to
the same local Internet Service Provider that you're using. There's
only one in the town, right?"

Judy answered after pausing a few moments. "I think so."

"If I were you, I'd take this up with the local police first. If they
can't or won't do anything about it, let me know. I have some friends
in high places that might be interested in helping."

Jirra seemed a bit surprised. "Just who do you know anyway?"

"Well, all I can tell anyone is that when I was working at a college
in upstate New York, I stopped a hacker who was using a system he
compromised in our network to break into a government computer. Once
I saw what was in the files he was going after, I was able to stop
him and track his location. He was arrested within an hour or so
after I called the Agency. That much was on the news, anyway."

"What was in the files?"

"That's something I can't talk about unless you happen to have a
security clearance equal to the President of the United States. I
have that same level of clearance now, by the way. That's why I take
anything told to me as being strictly confidential unless the person
telling me says otherwise, Jirra."

"Okay, please forget I asked, Jen!"

Jen winked at Jirra. "Asked what?"

Judy picked up the stack of paper then placed the CD on top. "What
are the chances that this will happen again?" She put the stack and
the CD in her top desk drawer.

"I don't think you need to worry about the kiddies now. With the
security upgrades I installed, it will take someone a lot more
knowledgeable than that bunch to cause problems. I'm not saying that
the system is hacker-proof, but it should be a lot more resistant to
tampering than it was."

"That's fantastic! Okay, what do I owe you for the help?"

"Nothing except lunch, Judy. It was a real pleasure for me. This was
the type of work I did before my transformation. I'm glad to know
that I've still got those skills. So much has changed for me that I
sometimes wonder if there's something that I've lost."

"Well, you paid for the lunch today. A FedEx truck delivered several
boxes this morning marked "Keep Refrigerated." I sent them right over
to the kitchen after I peeked inside the first one."

"Thanks, Judy! That's great! I can't wait to get my lips around a
real Philly cheesesteak; right, Jirra?"

Chapter 22

Since some of the food was still frozen, the decision was made to
serve the cheese steaks for dinner. At Hannah's insistence, an
alternative meal would be available for those not wishing to partake
in the feast. In addition to the ingredients for the cheesesteaks,
there were bags of Herr's potato chips and Bachman's pretzels, plus
several boxes of Tastykakes.

Jirra, while excited about the upcoming meal, had other things on her
mind. Her previous night's sexual pleasuring was heavy on her mind,
and she sought out Tara.

She stood outside Tara's office nervously, and after a slight
hesitation, she knocked on the door.

"Come in," stated Tara from behind the door.

Jirra took a deep breath and entered.

"Hi Jirra, what's on your mind?" asked Tara.

Jirra smiled slightly. "Is it that obvious?"

"I could tell from your knock, when it's soft and barely audible I
know it's you with a problem."

Jirra laughed slightly. "I guess I'd better not play poker then."

Tara nodded in agreement and made a motion with her hand to the other
chair. Jirra closed the door and sat down.

"Hmm, closing the door, this is serious."

Jirra sighed. "I'm troubled by some new feelings."

"Please tell me, Jirra."

"Last night I had... well, you know, those urges... and well, I began
to play with myself," started Jirra. "That's not what's troubling me;
it's that once I was... well deep into it, I began to think about...
boys."

Tara stared back. "And this worries you?"

Jirra nodded vigorously. "I've only ever thought about girls, both
before the accident and afterwards."

Tara cocked her head. "Only girls?"

"Well, that is until recently. It's not serious, but I've had
thoughts a few times."

"Any specific boy?"

Jirra shook her head. "No."

"I see. Why does this bother you?"

Jirra stared back. "Why? Why does this bother me?"

Tara nodded. "Yes, tell me why."

"I can't like boys!"

"Why? It makes more sense than you liking girls."

Jirra was about to make a counterpoint but stopped with her mouth
half open.

"Jirra, you underwent an incredible transformation. The physical
changes were almost instantaneous. Doesn't it make sense that there
would be emotional and mental changes too?"

"But why is it happening now?"

Tara shrugged her shoulders. "I can't tell you that. I can tell you
that I've known many people who have had issues regarding their
sexual attraction. Do you still like girls?"

"Yes!" replied Jirra immediately.

Tara laughed. "Okay, and now you're experiencing certain thoughts or
fantasies about the opposite sex."

Jirra smiled back. "And in my case what is that?"

Tara put her index finger up. "Ah ha!"

"Huh?" replied Jirra.

"Look, Roo, you're a special case. Who is to say what's normal and
what isn't? I wouldn't get all wrapped up in locking your sexuality
up into gay or straight. I do know that hiding or repressing your
feelings is bad, trust me on that one."

"So you're saying that I shouldn't get all worked up over a sexual
fantasy?"

"Exactly. Like it or not, you're still changing. You've only been
female for six months, that's nothing! What's more, lots of people
have sexual fantasies that they never act on."

"It just scares me, that's all."

Tara nodded. "You're afraid that you're losing the old you?"

Jirra bit her lower lip gently and nodded. "What little is left."

"Change is hard, but look on the bright side of this, you have a lot
of support to help you through all this; many of us who have faced
change haven't."

"I guess you're right. I still don't like the idea of being attracted
to guys."

"Why? Maybe you'll like it?"

"Tara, please!"

"Look, you're not going to get kicked out of the 'I like girls club'
just because you find guys attractive. Just be honest with those
you're with."

"Have you ever liked guys?"

"I experimented once or twice, but it's not for me," replied Tara.

"Can I ask how far you got?" asked Jirra leaning over towards Tara.

"I'm not a virgin, if that's what you mean."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to pry, but I was just wondering what its
like," continued Jirra.

"I'm not the best person to talk to about this, as I didn't exactly
enjoy it fully."

"Thanks," replied Jirra with a smile. "I appreciate your honesty."
She began to stand up.

"Just one thing, I know you're not about to go out and do something
stupid, but if the time comes, please be careful. Remember, Roo, you
can get pregnant now."

Jirra stared back. "Oh."

"Oh is right!"

Tara began to laugh and Jirra joined in.

"I have no intention of having that happen to me," stated Jirra
firmly.

"No one ever does."

Chapter 23

Jirra was still thinking about her conversation when she met her mom
for dinner.

"So are you ready for your first cheesesteak since we left PA?" asked
Liz.

"Yes."

"You okay?" asked Liz. "You seem a bit subdued."

Jirra smiled. "It's nothing. I'm just dealing with another issue
regarding my change."

"That's not nothing," countered Liz.

"I know. I'm doing better since I talked to Tara," replied Jirra, as
they entered the dining hall.

"I know that there are things you prefer to talk to her about, and
I'm not jealous or anything, but you can always talk to me," stated
Liz.

"Anything?" asked Jirra, as she took off her coat.

"Yes, even sex," replied Liz.

Jirra froze and turned around. "How did you know it was about sex?"

Liz laughed. "I'm a mother. Now, let's get in line and place our
order."

Lindsey and Hannah were behind the counter taking orders. There was a
sign at the head of the line with the options for the sandwiches.

"Excuse me, Lindsey, but there's a misspelling on your sign, it's not
'with,' it's 'WIT'!" stated Jirra.

"Okay, but I refuse to say 'Yo' every time someone speaks to me,"
replied Hannah, as she handed Jirra and Liz a slip to record their
orders.

"Not everyone in Philly says 'Yo,'" replied Jirra, as she wrote down
her order for a steak with Cheez Whiz and peppers, no onions.

Jen walked over and greeted them. "I'm glad to see that you dressed
appropriately, Jirra."

Jirra was wearing a grey Philadelphia Eagles sweatshirt.

"It seemed like the thing to wear," replied Jirra.

"Do you like football?" asked Jen.

Jirra shook her head. "No, I love it."

Jen looked slightly confused. "Really? I wouldn't have thought you
liked football."

"I've always liked it," replied Jirra. She noticed the look on Jen's
face and decided to shift the subject. "I see that you've been busy."

Jen nodded as she glanced over her shoulder at the guests. "I must
have posed for a photo with everyone here. Oh well, the price of
fame!"

"Don't you ever get tired of it?" asked Liz, as she filled out her
order for her steak, plain with provolone.

"It can be a pain at times. I still like to go out to do my own
shopping. Back home people know me and treat me accordingly. But when
I'm in a strange area, it's a hassle when I'm recognized. Sometimes I
just tell them I just look like Jennifer Stevens."

Liz and Jirra laughed.

"Jirra, come back and eat with me," stated Lindsey from behind the
counter.

Jirra turned to Liz who nodded.

"Thanks, I'll see you two later," stated Jirra.

"Have you picked out a seat?" asked Jen.

"No," replied Liz.

"Well, why don't we sit together?"

They walked over to an empty table and sat down. A short time later,
their sandwiches were brought out.

"They look wonderful," commented Liz.

"What, no onions or peppers?" asked Jen looking at Liz's steak.

"They give me terrible heartburn," replied Liz, as she picked up her
steak.

"Thankfully, they don't bother me," replied Jen.

"I just want to tell you what a wonderful daughter you have," stated
Jen. "She's very mature for her age."

"Sometimes she is," countered Liz with a wink.

Jen laughed. "There's something about her that I can't put my finger
on. She seems different, yet very familiar. I mean there aren't a lot
of teenage girls who like - correction, make that love football."

"She picked that up from Travis, her father. They used to watch games
together from the time she was three."

"She told me about your loss. I'm so sorry," said Jen.

"Thank you. It hasn't been easy," replied Liz, as her voice tailed
off.

"I'm sorry; I shouldn't have brought it up."

Liz shook her head. "It's not your fault. I encourage Jirra to talk
about it and be open with her feelings. After everything she's been
through this year, the last thing I want her do is hide her feelings."

Jen nodded and wondered what else Jirra had experienced in the past
year.

They talked for a few more minutes before Jen got another photo
request; this one was with the kitchen staff.

"I'll talk to you later, Liz," stated Jen as she got up.

Liz nodded. "Have fun."

Jen struck a pose and then laughed. "Actually, this is all a lot of
fun."

Chapter 24

While Jen and Liz were talking, Jirra was eating with Lindsey.

"What do you have on your cheese steak?' asked Jirra, staring at
Lindsey's sandwich. There was a look of disgust on her face.

"Barbecue sauce, why?" replied Lindsey.

"On a cheese steak?" asked Jirra.

Lindsey shrugged her shoulders.

Jirra shook her head. "That's so wrong in so many ways."

"It's good, you want to try it?" asked Lindsey.

"No," replied Jirra with a smile.

"So what's Jen really like?' asked Lindsey.

"Pretty much the way she acts. She's really down to earth and totally
unpretentious. You know, we're really going to be in trouble if a real
celebrity ever shows up here; we won't know how to handle them."

"I can't believe she was once a guy; then again, I can barely imagine
that you were a guy."

"Do you mean that?" asked Jirra.

Lindsey nodded. "Oh, you have your moments, but most of the time
you're pretty much a girl."

"Is this something new?" asked Jirra.

Lindsey took another bite of her sandwich. "Yes, I'd have to say that
you've changed since I've known you. You seem softer, more accepting
of what happened to you."

"Not from my point of view," countered Jirra firmly.

"Okay, now you're acting like a guy."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Jirra.

"I've just noticed that there are times where you seem to try to
emphasize that you're still part male; it doesn't seem natural."

"Wow."

"I wouldn't worry about it too much," continued Lindsey.

Jirra stared back at Lindsey. She then told her about what had
happened the previous night and her subsequent talk with Tara.

"Does it really bother you?" asked Lindsey.

"The more I think about it, the more it confuses me. I guess I'm
afraid of what might happen if I give in to my feelings. I guess part
of me is hoping that I'll change back, and if I do, I'll be too
feminine."

"Have you talked to Jen about this?"

Jirra shook her head. "I don't know her well enough yet."

"Or maybe you're afraid of what she might tell you," stated Lindsey.

Jirra nodded. "Maybe you're right."

Chapter 25

Jirra and Lindsey rejoined Liz and the others in the dining hall. Jen
was sitting on one of the tables telling a humorous story about some
mishap during her latest movie. There was a scene where she was
supposed to fall face first into a mud pit and come up covered
completely in thick gooey stuff. The director had her do the scene at
least a dozen times before he got one take he felt was good enough.
She had the crowd in tears from laughing.

When she finished, she sat down next to Liz, Jirra, and Lindsey.

"I must tell you, Lindsey, that you and your mom did an excellent job
cooking the steaks," stated Jen.

"Thank you, it was fun," replied Lindsey.

"Jirra tells me that you want to have your own restaurant one day,"
continued Jen.

"That's right, but I have a long way to go. I'm going to business
school, in addition to cooking classes."

Jen nodded. "Good for you. I've known a few chefs who have absolutely
zero business sense."

"I'd love to see some of the restaurants in Hollywood, out of
professional curiosity of course," stated Lindsey.

Jen laughed. "Oh, of course!"

Lindsey and the others laughed.

"Okay, I'd love to do it because it was cool too!" added Lindsey.

"Honest answer. Maybe I can arrange something sometime for you,"
replied Jen.

Lindsey looked at Jirra and then back at Jen. "That would be so cool."

"It's the least I could do for someone who filled my cravings for a
cheesesteak."

"I won't tell you what she put on her steak," piped in Jirra while
giggling.

"It wasn't mayonnaise was it?" asked Jen with a horrified look on her
face.

Lindsey shook her head vigorously. "It was barbecue sauce."

"I don't exactly approve, but I won't hold it against you," stated
Jen.

Tara and Cari walked up and thanked Jen for the feast. They then
began to talk about the upcoming movie night.

"We're thinking of one of three movies, and we thought we'd ask your
opinion," stated Cari.

"What are they?" asked Jen.

"The Princess Bride, Local Hero, or The Freshman with Marlon Brando,"
answered Cari.

"Wow, all three are great movies, and I like them all. I'd say, go
with the Brando flick."

"Cool, I love that movie," stated Tara.

"So when is the movie night?" asked Jen.

"Well, we'd like to move it up to Monday, as we have to go to Santa
Fe for a few days starting Wednesday," stated Tara.

"Is everything okay?" asked Lindsey.

Tara nodded. "We're just taking a few days off and decided to go see
the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum."

"Among other things," added Cari with a wink.

"I think Monday would be fine," answered Jen, "as long as everyone
else approves."

"It's fine with me," stated Liz.

"Cool, we've already asked Hannah and Cody. So see you at our cottage
Monday at seven," stated Cari.

Chapter 26

The movie, The Freshman, was excellent, but Jirra's mind was on her
present situation. In the movie, Matthew Broderick plays a college
freshman who gets caught up in a wild scheme run by Marlon Brando, a
New York City importer/mob boss. She immediately found herself
relating to the character played by Matthew Broderick, and how his
life was turned upside-down by circumstances beyond his control.

She also took notice of how his character decided to be totally
honest with Marlon Brando's character. Jirra began to think, "What's
the worst thing that could happen?" by telling Jen her past; after
all Jen would be leaving in a week, so she made up her mind to sit
down with Jen the next day.

"Hey, you've been quiet all night, are you okay?" whispered Lindsey.

"I just have a lot on my mind," replied Jirra. "But I think I know
the right thing to do now."

After the movie, they all talked about the movie.

"Have you ever worked with any of the people in the movie, Jen?"
asked Cari, as she passed the popcorn bowl around.

"No, but, I've met a few of them. Unfortunately, I never met Brando;
that would have been exciting," replied Jen.

"He stole every scene he was in," stated Hannah. "I especially loved
the reference to On the Waterfront when he was trying to walk the
Komodo dragon at the end of the movie."

"That was pretty good. He was able to parody himself without going
overboard," added Tara.

"I also love the fact that the dialog was so well written; that's
something that's becoming a lost art," said Jen, as she ate some
popcorn.

"I know. Alexis says that while the movie she just made was fun, the
dialog was juvenile at best," piped in Jirra.

"That's true. Richard Thorn's movies are never known for stimulating
dialog, but he certainly knows how to make a great action movie. I
think it's because he's such a great fan of movies himself. He'll
watch a movie from a filmgoer's point of view, not a director or
producer's; that's why his films are always big moneymakers. I know
he'll never win an Oscar, but he sure gives the fans their money's
worth," stated Jen.

"So do you think it'll be a big hit?" asked Jirra.

"Most likely, he's got all the ingredients for a blockbuster, too bad
for Alexis," replied Jen.

"Why do you say that?" asked Liz.

"She's already being typecast from her TV show; now all she'll get is
more films like this one."

"Won't they let her try something else?" asked Lindsey.

"Unlikely, she's not big enough yet or well enough known to go out
for something more serious, and if this movie is a hit, producers
might be afraid that no one will take her seriously in the role. Her
best bet is to do some small independent films, that is, if she wants
to try something different."

Jirra nodded, as this wasn't anything new; Alexis had written to her
about this several times.

"Changing the subject slightly, are you going to the Academy Awards
this year?"

Jen nodded. "I'm not up for anything, but the studio wants me there."

"What's it like?" asked Lindsey excitedly.

"It's pretty cool, especially when you get to walk down the red
carpet. I did it last year."

"That would be pretty cool," sighed Lindsey. "I'd love to go."

"I agree," piped in Jirra.

Jen just smiled.

They talked for another hour or so before heading out into the crisp
cold night air. It was a clear night, and the stars were shining
brightly.

"While this is too cold for me, I do love how the night sky looks,"
remarked Jen, as she stuck her hands deep into her pockets.

"It's wonderful up here; I'd forgotten how many stars there were in
the night sky," commented Liz.

"Being this is New Mexico, have you ever seen anything strange in the
sky, I mean you're not that far from Roswell?" asked Jen.

Jirra and the others laughed.

"Unfortunately no, stated Lindsey.

"So nothing strange happens around here?" asked Jen.

"I wouldn't say that," piped in Lindsey, who immediately got a nudge
in the ribs from Jirra.

"Judy can tell you some stories sometime," interjected Hannah.

"I must talk with her then, I'm looking for ideas for my next movie,"
stated Jen. "Well, I see we're at your places, I'll see you all
tomorrow. Again, I had a wonderful time," stated Jen, as she walked
away to her cottage.

Chapter 27

Mid-afternoon Jirra knocked on the door of Jen's cottage. She smirked
slightly as she realized this was the same place that she had come out
to Alexis.

"Just a sec," yelled Jen from behind the door.

A moment later the door opened up; Jen had a look of surprise on her
face. "Well, I didn't expect to see you this afternoon, but it's
always a pleasure, come on in, I just finished a workout."

Jirra noticed that Jen was wearing sweats.

"I'm sorry, I can come back later," replied Jirra.

Jen shook her head. "No, it's okay, come on in."

Jirra walked in and took off her coat. She then sat down on the couch
next to Jen.

"You seem to have something on your mind," stated Jen. "I may be a
blonde, but I'm also observant."

Jirra nodded slightly and let out a sigh. "May I ask you something
regarding your change? I don't want to be rude or anything, but it's
kinda important."

"Actually, I'm surprised that no one has asked me about it yet. I was
beginning to think this place is too good to be true," replied Jen
with a smile. She then noticed that Jirra wasn't smiling. "Sorry,
Jirra, I've developed a bit of an edge regarding what happened to me.
I forget that no one else can relate to what I experienced."

"Do you ever wish you were a man again?" asked Jirra in a very
serious tone.

"No. I've accepted that the change is permanent. I mean the doctors
have no real idea why it happened, so they don't have a clue on where
to even start to look for a way to reverse it. By all rights I should
have been killed by the amount of electricity that went through my
body."

Jirra stared back. "I hadn't thought about that."

Jen got the impression that Jirra wasn't talking about her situation.

"Do you miss being male?"

Jen shrugged her shoulders. "Not really, oh there are things I miss
being able to do. I wish I was strong like I used to be. There are
other things I don't like about my new gender such as no one taking
me seriously as an intellectual; I mean, they look at the blonde hair
and the body and assume all bod, no brains! I guess I shouldn't
complain about that too much though. There have been a few times
where having someone underestimate what lies under the blonde
ponytail has been an advantage."

Jirra smirked slightly.

"I guess my biggest complaint is that my change was so public. I
didn't have a chance to live a normal life, as I was reborn right
into the spotlight so to speak. I guess this forced me to accept what
happened and not to live in the past."

"I have one more question, I read that you date men, has this been an
issue?"

"Again, not to sound like a broken record, but no. I'm very happy
with my sexuality. It feels normal, even though as a male I never
thought about being with a man."

Jirra looked back as if she was absorbing and processing everything
that Jen had said.

Jen wondered where all this was leading to, as she was kind of taken
aback by the questions asked by Jirra.

Jirra stared off to the side and appeared to be wiping back a tear.
"The reason I needed to ask you these questions is... is... that
I... used to be a boy."

Jen's eyes opened up. "Excuse me?"

"Last year I was in one of the mud bath caldrons, and the building
was struck by lightning. The combination of the mud and the lightning
changed me. When they got me out I was a girl," stated Jirra. She then
reached into her bag and pulled out some photos and handed them to Jen.

Jen took the photos and looked through them. She kept glancing up at
Jirra as if to compare them to her. The boy in the photos definitely
looked like Jirra.

"I'm not playing some sort of sick joke on you, Jen. My mom, Tara,
Cari, Lindsey, and several others were there when I was helped out of
the caldron. They all agreed to protect my secret. You can ask them if
you want."

"I believe you. Did you tell Alexis this?"

Jirra nodded and wiped away another tear with her hand. "I figured I
could trust you with my secret."

Jen smiled and pulled Jirra close in a long hug. "I wondered why
Alexis said to answer any of your questions if I came here, even the
things I don't like to talk about. Thank you for trusting me."

They hugged for a long time before releasing. Jirra reached for the
box of tissues on the end table and wiped her eyes.

"I guess you're more emotional now too. I know that I am," commented
Jen.

"Oh, yes. Just one of the many things I haven't gotten used to,"
replied Jirra.

"What do you mean?" asked Jen.

"Physically, I'm all female, but mentally, that's another story. I'm
dealing with a lot of issues, and I figured that you might be able to
help me."

"Oh, of course! Okay, that was a blonde moment there!" laughed Jen.

"I mean we were both transformed via lightning, although my
transformation was apparently instantaneous."

"And mine appeared to be both mental and physical."

"Exactly," stated Jirra.

"I need some hot chocolate, what about you?" asked Jen

"I'd like that," replied Jirra.

Chapter 28

Over the mugs of chocolate, they began to compare their
transformations.

"So you've been developing feelings for males?" asked Jen.

"Yes, and I don't like it," replied Jirra.

"Why? You might find that you like it; I do," replied Jen.

Jirra sighed. "It's hard to describe."

"You don't want to be seen as queer, even if it's in your own mind?"
asked Jen with a wink.

Jirra giggled. "Okay, you got me. I know that since I like girls I'm
seen as a lesbian. I've been harassed for that, and it bothers me
because it's none of their business. But I can't come to grips with
the idea of being with a guy."

"Give it time. You're young and have your whole life ahead of you.
You may find that the changes aren't done yet."

"That's what really scares me," replied Jirra as she sipped her
chocolate. "I don't want to lose any more of me."

"I can understand that. Thankfully, I didn't have your problem," she
replied.

"I know and I'm envious of you."

"I'm envious of you, Jirra," stated Jen.

Jirra put her mug down and stared back in shock. "Me? Why?"

"You have a chance to live your life relatively normally in peace and
private. I'll never have that. I'll always be that girl who used to be
a guy!"

"I never thought of it that way. I'm sorry; I guess I've been too
wrapped up in my own sorrows to think about what it's been like for
you."

Jen smiled. "Thanks. I guess we both have some baggage to deal with.
At least we both now know that we're not alone."

They hugged again.

"Oh, I have another thing to ask you; my mom would like to talk to
you regarding your health, if that's okay," stated Jirra.

Jen hesitated for a moment. "I guess since our transformations have
similar circumstances that might be beneficial for both of us. Has
she noticed anything unusual about you?"

"No, other than that fact that my DNA has some Anasazi in it,"
replied Jirra.

"Well, that's pretty cool," replied Jen. "I'll tell you what; why
don't I go down and see your mom now and set up a meeting?"

"Do you want me to go along?"

"That won't be necessary. Thank you again for sharing this with me,"
answered Jen.

Chapter 29

Jen was sitting across from Liz in the medical office.

"I can't imagine what the past year has been like for you," stated
Jen.

"It's been trying. I love Jirra so much, and I'm just happy that
while she's struggling to deal with this rather dramatic change,
she's pushed forward and hasn't given up."

"She's a remarkable young woman," agreed Jen.

"I also appreciate the fact that you're willing to share your medical
history with me. I've been monitoring Jirra and well...."

"What?" asked Jen.

"She's almost too healthy. Her immune system is above average, as is
the rest of her body."

Jen nodded. "Would you consider me one of your patients now?"

Liz smiled. "Of course."

"Then I'm going to share something with you that only a few people
know, and I expect you to keep to yourself. Whatever caused my
transformation gave me a very strong and healthy body, to the point
where I never get sick and my injuries heal virtually overnight. My
doctors think that I may live for hundreds of years."

Liz stared back in shock. "Have you told Jirra this?"

Jen shook her head. "I wanted to talk to you first."

"Thank you. I'd like to keep this a secret for now, until I can see
your charts and compare them to Jirra's, with your permission of
course."

"I insist. In some ways, it's a curse. I dislike the idea of
outliving all my friends," replied Jen.

"I think it might be too much for Jirra at this time. She's making
progress on finding balance in her life right now, and this would
throw her for a loop."

"I agree. If it looks like she's like me, I'd like to be there when
you tell her. I liked her before knowing her secret, but now I see
her as a sister, if you know what I mean," stated Jen.

"I do. I appreciate that you see her this way."

Chapter 30

While Jen and Liz were talking, Jirra typed out an e-mail to Alexis.
Knowing how flimsy e-mail security could be, she never directly
mentioned her transformation when talking to Alexis.

Dear Alexis,

I had a long talk with Jen and we talked about my situation. She's
been wonderful. I have one question for you, did you rave about the
spa to her for this reason?

Love, Jirra.

An hour later Jirra received a response from Alexis.

Dear Roo,

I'm happy you had a great talk with Jen. As for your question, who me?

Love, Alexis.

Jirra laughed as she read the e-mail. Of course Alexis was thinking
of her when she suggested the spa to Jen, she thought. She really
does care about me!

She got up and walked out of her office and noticed that there were
two strangers standing just outside Judy's office talking to her.
Jirra didn't recognize either one of them. One was a man with gray
hair who looked like he was in his sixties, and the other was a
younger looking woman with short brown hair. Both were dressed in
business suits, carrying briefcases, and definitely didn't look like
guests.

"Jirra, please come here, there are some people I'd like you to
meet," stated Judy as she waved Jirra towards her. "This is Neal
Covington and his daughter Nancy; they're my lawyers."

Jirra smiled and greeted the two attorneys.

"They stopped by to give me an update on the land sale," continued
Judy.

"Is it going to happen?" asked Jirra.

"Not if I can help it," replied Neal with a broad smile. "I have my
office working on a series of obstacles that should delay the sale
for years, if not forever."

"Let's not get too optimistic," piped in Nancy. "The hotel chain has
a huge staff working on this deal, and they're not going to just give
up without a fight."

"True, but I'm working on a whole coalition to fight this, from the
ranchers to the Native Americans," stated Neal.

"Are they still trying to buy you out?" asked Jirra.

"Yes, they just upped the offer," replied Judy, "but I'm still not
selling."

"They really want the land, I'm still not sure why; there are plenty
of places in the area they could start a spa," said Nancy.

"Not with both mud and hot mineral baths," stated Judy.

"Anyway, Judy, we'll be in this to the very end. I'll keep you
apprised on what's happening," said Neal.

"I appreciate that, Neal. I have full confidence in your firm,"
answered Judy.

After they left, Judy motioned Jirra into her office.

"Neal was my father's lawyer, and his firm has represented our family
for years. Nancy's his handpicked successor, and it has nothing to do
with her being his daughter, she's a damn fine lawyer," explained
Judy. "They're the ones who processed your name change."

"Really? I wish I had known it was them; I would have loved to thank
them," replied Jirra.

"You can do that another time. Actually, the reason I introduced you
to them was they wanted to meet you," continued Judy.

"Oh," replied Jirra.

""They just wanted to meet the young woman that I've been raving
about," added Judy with a smile.

Jirra grinned. "Thanks."

"No problem. They were telling me about their meeting with the local
business association. Apparently, they're going to support us, even
though there were some issues raised by some of the members."

"Like what?"

"The 'unsavory element' the spa has been attracting," stated Judy in
a sarcastic tone.

"What are you talking about... oh.... you mean people like me?"

Judy nodded. "There are some of the good people in Carsonville who
have been grumbling about how the spa has been lowering morality in
town."

"I'm sorry," stated Jirra.

"For what? You're not the problem, they are. The spa isn't trying to
change Carsonville into a gay resort, and at the same time I'm not
about to turn away paying clients or get rid of talented staff. So
far their complaints have fallen on deaf ears from most of the
business community, but it could be an issue with the land sale."

"Why?"

"The hotel chain could use it against us, but they have to be very
careful themselves about how they do it."

"Why?"

"Because, Jirra, they have hotels in Key West, San Francisco, and
several other cities that are popular gay tourist sites; if they try
to raise a stink here, I'll make sure that the word gets out; two can
play hardball. A boycott of their inns and resorts would hurt them
badly."

Jirra laughed. "I'm certainly learning a lot about running a business
from you, Judy."

"I told you, dear, that I'm not giving up this place without a fight."

Chapter 31

Jirra arrived back at her cottage to find Liz and Jen sharing a
bottle of sparkling grape juice.

"I invited Jen over for dinner, I didn't think you'd mind," remarked
Liz with a wink.

"No, not at all," replied Jirra, as she walked into the kitchen to
grab a soda. A few moments later, she returned to the living room and
sat down across from Jen and her mom.

"Liz was just telling me how they've explained your change. It's not
a perfect solution, but it beats what I've had to go through," stated
Jen.

"I can't imagine how horrible it must have been for you in those days
after you woke up," commented Liz.

"It was pretty awful. Thanks to the tabloids, I'm now old news. The
good thing about being a celebrity is that there are always other
celebrities doing all kinds of stupid things. My real life is kind of
boring," replied Jen.

"I just wish I could get on with my life. When I applied to Penn,
they seemed more interested in my gender status than my academic
record," lamented Jirra.

"We're different, and that will always spark interest. It's not all
bad; I've met a lot of transgendered people and their supporters.
I've also met people who are just curious about it, as gender is
something that people just assume is stable and set in stone. If
you're born with a penis, then you have to be a male; when there are
people who disprove this, then it causes waves in what people
believe."

"I know, but I'm not transgendered, even if I have to pretend that I
am," stated Jirra.

"You are transgendered, Jirra, just like I am," retorted Jen.

"Jen's right, Roo, you didn't have a say in all this, and neither did
anyone else," added Liz.

Jirra appeared to be contemplating what the others had just said for
a few moments. "I guess you're right. I never thought of it that way."

"We just did it backwards," stated Jen with a laugh.

Jirra smiled at Jen's quip. "Do you think that there are others who
have changed like we have?"

"I imagine that there are. I've gotten some rather strange letters at
times that have hinted at it, but you're the first person I've met who
has been changed in a similar manner."

"The mud has some rather interesting minerals and chemicals in it,
nothing that would change a person's gender soaking in it for days,
weeks, or even months at a time," explained Liz. "It does have some
natural compounds in it that are beneficial for a woman."

"Like what?" asked Jen.

"Well, I'm still studying it, but it does seem to ease PMS, and it
does seem to have some effects on fertility. All I have now is
anecdotal evidence, basically comments from guests and staff. I have
no real proof, and we don't advertise it; still we're getting guests
here who have heard about it from friends," stated Liz.

"PMS relief? Well, I may stay here more often. If it works, I may be
here more!"

"Do you suffer from it?" asked Liz.

"I don't suffer as badly as those do around me," laughed Jen. "All
kidding aside, I don't look forward to my period. I've tried several
drugs and nothing really works."

"I hate my period too," piped in Jirra. "Thankfully, I haven't got
PMS."

"You do get a little bitchy during your period," noted Liz, as she
refilled her glass. "The last one was a real pain for both of us."

"MOM!"

"I'm just helping you, Roo. A part of being a young woman is being
embarrassed by your mom," replied Liz with a smile.

Jirra felt her face turn red.

"It's okay, Jirra. I wish I had someone like your mom around me at
times," stated Jen.

"I know, I just don't like talking about it," replied Jirra.

"Have you had any other issues down there?" asked Jen.

"Just a minor problem, I'd like to change the subject now."

"Minor problem?" asked Jen.

"Yeast infection," answered Liz.

Jirra rolled her eyes.

"Roo, I'm a doctor; besides it happens to most of us," replied Liz.

"Uh huh, can we talk about something else now, please?" begged Jirra.

"Okay, Roo, we'll change the subject," stated Liz.

"Thank you. How do you get used to this sort of stuff, Jen?" asked
Jirra.

Jen shrugged her shoulders. "It really doesn't bother me. I guess it
has something to do with my transformation, maybe because I'm older

than you and have had a longer time to deal with it. I was forty-five
when I was transformed. It's been almost four years now since I
changed."

"That make sense, I guess," replied Jirra.

"Well, I need to get started on dinner; why don't we move this
conversation into the kitchen, and you two can help me," stated Liz
as she stood up.

"I'm not sure how much help I'll be," stated Jen.

"It's not that hard," stated Jirra.

"What? You like to cook, isn't that something girls like to do?"
kidded Jen as they walked into the kitchen.

"Funny! I'm not a chef like Lindsey, but I can cook a few things,"
replied Jirra.

"Jirra, why don't you take care of the pasta? I'll defrost some of
the meat sauce I made up last month," stated Liz.

"Hmm, I love Italian food. Canastota, the little town I grew up in,
had a large Italian population, so we had some of the best food
possible with lots of things imported from Italy," stated Jen.

"It's actually a recipe from a friend back in Philly. It's a holiday
pasta sauce that contains several types of meat. My friend said that
they would serve it after midnight mass. It has Italian sausage,
ground beef, ground veal, and ground pork in it," explained Liz.

"Also pancetta, when you can find it," added Jirra, as she filled a
large pot with water.

"Oh yes, cannot forget that, but if you can't get pancetta you can
use Italian cured pork," stated Liz. "I usually make up a big pot and
freeze the rest for later. If you like it, I'll give you the recipe."

Soon the kitchen was filled with the aroma of the sauce as it was
heated up.

"What else is in it?" asked Jen.

"Tomato sauce, beef stock, celery, carrots, onions, garlic, and red
wine, along with some herbs and spices," noted Liz.

"It's really thick, so we usually use penne pasta with it," added
Jirra.

"It smells wonderful. I might have to actually try this sometime, or
at least have someone cook some for me," replied Jen. She smiled and
threw her hands up in the air. "Hey, what's the point of being rich
if you can't treat yourself?"

Jirra and Liz laughed.

"Hey, that's an idea!" exclaimed Jen.

"What's an idea?" asked Jirra, as she checked on the pasta.

"Be right back, I need to make a phone call!" stated Jen as she
rushed to get her cell phone from her purse.

"What was that all about?" asked Liz, as she tossed the salad.

Jirra shrugged her shoulders and spooned out a piece of pasta to
taste. "Almost done."

About the time Jirra was straining the pasta in the colander, Jen
walked back into the kitchen. She had a very satisfied look on her
face.

Jirra noticed this. "Okay, what's up? You look like the cat that ate
the canary."

"Maybe. I'll tell you later," replied Jen.

As they ate dinner, Jirra wondered what Jen was up to. As they
cleaned up after dinner, Jen's cell phone went off. She excused
herself and went into the living room to talk. A few minutes later,
she returned with a bigger smile on her face.

"I was trying to think of a way to thank you for everything you've
done for me since I've been here, and I just checked with a few
friends to confirm it could be done," Jen said.

"What?" asked Jirra.

"Well, this is dependent upon Liz's permission and also that of
Hannah and Cody. I'd like to take you and Lindsey to Hollywood for a
weekend," stated Jen.

"Really? That would be so cool!" exclaimed Jirra.

"When are you talking about, Jen," asked Liz.

"Early March," replied Jen with a smile.

Jirra cocked her head for a moment; there was something special about
that time of year. Then it hit her. "Isn't that when the Academy
Awards take place?"

"Oh, didn't I mention that? I just talked to some friends, and we'll
be going with them, if that is okay?"

"Mom, can I please go?" begged Jirra.

"Don't worry, Liz, I'll look after her, besides one of the friends is
Alexis," replied Jen.

"You're kidding?" asked Jirra.

Jen shook her head.

"I suppose it is a once in a lifetime opportunity," replied Liz.
"Let's see what Hannah and Cody think about it."

Jirra ran over and grabbed the phone and dialed Lindsey's number and
handed the phone to Liz, who proceeded to tell Hannah Jen's offer.
They talked for a minute before Liz handed the phone to Jen.

"Well?" asked Jirra anxiously.

"All I can say is that you'd better tell me everything!" replied Liz
with a smile. "Oh, and you must write a report about it as part of
your home schooling."

"Oh my God! Does that mean yes?" asked Jirra.

Liz nodded and was immediately hugged by Jirra.

Jen hung up the phone. "Lindsey sounds pretty excited about it too."

"This is very generous, Jen," stated Liz.

"I don't mind, besides it'll be fun. Most people who attend the
Oscars act so jaded; it'll be nice to go with a couple of wide-eyed
young women."

"Thank you so much," stated Jirra, as she hugged Jen.

"You can show your appreciation by letting me breathe!" gasped Jen.

"Sorry, I didn't realize I was hugging you that tight," replied Jirra.

"Now, I know you're not totally comfortable with your feminine
appearance, but part of going to the awards is dressing up. If you're
coming with Alexis and me, then you're going to have to look
glamorous. That means everything from the top of your head to your
toes. Don't worry, it's all part of the Jen Stevens Oscar tour
package," explained Jen. "Oh, and that also goes for Lindsey."

"She'll love that," replied Jirra.

"Come on, Jirra, you have to admit that you like getting a facial and
a makeover."

"Okay, I've only had it done a few times, but it does feel okay."

"Just okay?" asked Jen cocking her head to the side.

Jirra looked over at Liz and then Jen. "Well, maybe better than just
okay."

Jen winked at Liz. "That's better."

Chapter 32

Jirra got together with Lindsey the next morning over breakfast.

"I can't believe that we're going to the Academy Awards!" squealed
Lindsey.

"I know," replied Jirra.

"Are you worried about it?" asked Lindsey, as she took a spoonful of
oatmeal.

"Worried, about what?"

Lindsey took a moment to swallow her oatmeal. "What will you do if
someone interviews you?"

Jirra's eyes opened up slightly. "I hadn't thought about that, but I
doubt if anyone will even notice us."

"Even with those?" asked Lindsey, pointing towards Jirra's breasts.

Jirra stuck her spoon in her own oatmeal and cocked it back as if she
was about to fling it at Lindsey.

"You wouldn't!"

Jirra squinted. "Go ahead... make my day."

"Okay I surrender... no more John Wayne imitations."

"It's Clint Eastwood. Jeez, if you're going to the Oscars, you'd
better improve your movie knowledge!"

"What are you girls arguing about?" asked Jen as she walked over with
a mug of coffee.

"Lindsey is rather lacking in her movie knowledge," stated Jirra.

"And you hitting her in the face with a spoon of oatmeal will help
this?" asked Jen.

"It couldn't hurt," laughed Jirra.

"I do know some things about the movies, but I'm no trivia expert
like Jirra," stated Lindsey with a wink.

"Really? So, Jirra, how often do you go to the Internet Movie Data
Base?" asked Jen.

"Only three or four times a week," shrugged Jirra.

"Good girl," replied Jen. "Now have you two seen any of the movies
that should be nominated for awards?"

"I've only seen two of the movies that should get a best movie award.
We have to wait until they're released on DVD," bemoaned Jirra.
"Carsonville has a duplex, but they only show the big budget films."

"Well, I can provide you with some DVDs of the major films, but
you'll have to sign a release and promise to send them back. If you
do that, I'll also send you a copy of my new movie when it's
finished," stated Jen. "You can use it for your movie night."

"That would be great," replied Jirra. "Is there a chance you'll come
back to watch it with us?"

Jen smiled back. "Anything is possible."

Chapter 33

"Well, I'm both stunned and pleased by your offer," stated Judy, who
was sitting behind her desk in her office.

"This isn't being done on a whim or anything. I'd like to own one of
the cottages here. I love the spa, but more importantly, I feel like
I belong here. I've become rather close to Jirra and Liz," stated Jen
who was seated across from her.

"It's just that I never considered your sort of offer before," stated
Judy.

"If you want, I can have a new cottage built near the staff housing.
I won't be here all the time, but it'd nice to have a place to get
away from it all. I talked to Alexis about it, and she's interested
in going 50-50 with me on it. We're not interested in changing the
spa and turning it into some celebrity hideaway; the exact opposite
is on our minds, we like the spa the way it is."

Judy nodded. "I need to let you know that there may be changes going
on down the line." She then briefed Jen on the hotel chain's offer
and land bid.

"Is there any way I can help?" asked Jen.

"I appreciate the offer, and I may take you up on it later, should my
lawyers fail. What angers me is that this land has been in my family's
hands for generations and now some big corporation just waltzes in and
thinks that I'll just sell it to them. I spent almost every summer as
a kid on this land. My parents and grandparents had their ashes
spread out from the top of the mesa you can see from the spa
building. And if I don't sell it to them, then they're going to try
to run me out!"

"Well, let me know if you need help. I do know a few people who owe
me favors," replied Jen.

"Thank you. I promise that as soon as we win this, I'll consider your
offer for the cottage, but in the meantime, if you give a week
heads-up, I can always get you in."

"Will do. Oh, Jirra shared her secret with me. I think it's wonderful
how you've protected her."

"She's pretty special," replied Judy.

"I have to agree. Were you there when she was changed?" asked Jen.

Judy shook her head. "No, I was off in Carsonville. However, I made
it very clear that we would protect her and her secret."

"I wish I had had someone like you to protect me," stated Jen softly.

"I can't believe the way your privacy was betrayed."

"Well, I'll do everything in my power to help preserve Jirra's
secret. I also want to help her see that she has a great future ahead
of her and not to let this drag her down."

"Join the club. I initially gave her the job as newsletter editor
just to keep her busy; now it's just one of her duties. If she wasn't
so set on being a writer, she would make one hell of a businesswoman."

"Looks like she has her share of guardian angels."

"And woe be it to anyone who hurts her," stated Judy.

"I'll drink to that," replied Jen.

Judy smiled and got up and opened up her desk drawer, and removed an
aged bottle of whiskey. "I just happen to have something worth
toasting with. It's Irish and has quite a punch to it." She poured
two glasses.

"I normally don't drink, but this is one time that I'll make an
exception!" Jen picked up the glass and touched it gently to Judy's.
The liquid felt warm going down. "Wow."

"That's a good description."

Jen looked at her watch. "Well, I have a mud bath in twenty minutes,
and I don't want to keep Cari waiting."

Judy smiled and returned the bottle to its drawer. She then picked up
a framed photo from her desktop. It was her great-grandfather. He had
shot three men who'd tried to steal the land back in the 1800s.
"Well, Jake, it's too bad I can't do the same with corporate
executives," she stated aloud with a smile.

Chapter 34

Jen was sitting next to Lindsey and Jirra in the mineral bath.
Outside, the spotlights were illuminating snowflakes drifting to the
ground.

"I'm so excited about going to Hollywood with you, Jen," exclaimed
Lindsey. "Hey, this is going to require a new outfit." She then
glanced over at Jirra.

"Well, other than the awards and the post-Oscar party, we're going to
be casual. We'll go out for dinner one night to a trendy place, for
your education, Lindsey. But for the most part you can dress the way
you normally do," stated Jen. "I've already contacted the owner of a
boutique to have some outfits standing by for you two. I got your
sizes from your mothers."

"Wow, you think of everything," stated Lindsey.

"What's the weather like in LA this time of year?"

"Winter is the rainy reason. The temperatures can drop down cool at
night, but not like this place. It should be in the sixties during
the day, but at night it can drop down into the low fifties," stated
Jen. "It'll feel like a heat wave compared to New Mexico."

"So who else are we going with besides Alexis," asked Jirra,
"assuming she can be there."

Jen smiled. "I have a favor to ask you two. If you don't want to do
it, I won't mind. You know that Alexis often dates men to hide her
real sexuality."

Jirra and Lindsey nodded.

"So she'll be with a guy?" asked Jirra.

"Yes, one of her co-stars from the Minotaur movie, he's gay and so it
serves both of them," replied Jen. "There are two young actors who
you'll be with, if you want."

"Are they gay?" asked Lindsey.

Jen nodded. "It's silly, so much of Hollywood is LGBT, but it has to
remain a secret to the public. Anyway, these two guys are really
nice. Kyle Hoffman was a supporting actor in my latest movie and Nick
Carlton plays a supporting role in Alexis' movie. They're also dating
each other, but as neither is big enough of a star yet, they have to
stay deep in the closet. Both are twenty and really nice."

"Nick? Isn't he in CSI: Seattle?" asked Lindsey. "He's cute."

Jen nodded. "Kyle thinks so too. All you'll have to do is walk in
with them down the red carpet and then sit next to them at the
awards."

Lindsey looked at Jirra and shrugged her shoulders. "Why not?"

"What about Dave?" asked Jirra.

"I'll tell him the truth, more or less. I will make it clear that it
wasn't a date and it's definitely not serious," replied Lindsey.

"Who is Dave, your boyfriend?" asked Jen.

Lindsey nodded. "He's a freshman at New Mexico."

"Be honest with him, but don't tell him that Nick is gay," stated Jen.

"I won't. I'm very good at keeping secrets, right Jirra?"

Jirra laughed. "Yes, you're wonderful at keeping secrets."

"That's good to hear. My situation has made me rather well-trusted
among the gay and lesbian community. I'm powerful enough to get who I
want on my films, while at the same time helping to protect those who
need it."

"Is that how you met Alexis?" asked Jirra.

"No, Alexis is lucky in that she's in demand and that she's not dead
set on being a star. She could quit tomorrow and never look back."

"Do they know she's a lesbian?" asked Jirra.

"If you mean Hollywood executives, yes, they do, but since it's not
public knowledge they're willing to take the risk. Although there are
those who know and are also sympathetic," stated Jen.

"Like who?" asked Lindsey.

"Try Richard Thorn, the producer for her new movie."

"Really? That's cool," replied Jirra.

"It's not that surprising, after all, Richard's only daughter is a
lesbian. I met her once at a party; she's very nice, as is her
partner," stated Jen.

"Why should the public care away? I mean they're playing roles!"
stated Jirra.

"Beats me, but they do. What really is strange is that a straight
actor can play a gay character and not lose credibility, but if an
'out' gay actor plays straight, it's a big deal. I mean, I could play
a Nazi and no one would accuse me of being a fascist; they'd call it
acting."

"Maybe it's because of the whole fantasy side to Hollywood," stated
Lindsey. "So a guy or girl can fantasize about being with the star,
even though it will never happen, and still have hope, but if it
turns out that the star is gay or lesbian then all bets are off,
right?"

Jirra looked at Jen and they both looked at Lindsey.

"I think that made sense," replied Jirra. "So where do you fit in,
Jen?"

Jen smiled. "That's part of the big mystery. I get letters stating
that there is no way I could have been a man, that it's all a
publicity ploy. It doesn't hurt that I'm a fair actress, if I do say
so myself! I've lost roles because some director or studio doesn't
want to take the risk, but now I've solved that problem by producing
my own flicks. The studios won't argue with success, as money is
money."

Jirra and Lindsey laughed.

"I'll arrange your airline tickets and everything else. Just bring
casual fun clothes for a few days and your cameras."

"This is so very nice," stated Lindsey.

"I like both of you and want to share my success," replied Jen.

"Looks like the snow is coming down a bit heavier," noted Jirra.

"Well, I think we'd better get out of the bath, before we turn into
prunes," stated Jen, as she climbed out of the tub.

"Or frozen prunes," added Lindsey.

"Just so you don't think I'm rude, but as soon as we step outside, I
plan on sprinting back to my cottage to sit in front of the fire for
a while," stated Jen as she began to dry her hair.

"Just don't slip and fall," said Jirra.

"Not a chance," replied Jen with a smile.

Chapter 35

Jen met up with Jirra the following afternoon. Jirra was in her
office working on the latest newsletter.

"Are you busy?" asked Jen.

"No, just adding the names of the new guests arriving this week,"
replied Jirra.

"I wanted to talk to you a little more about what happened to you and
how you're adapting to it, if you don't mind?" asked Jen.

Jirra stopped typing. "I don't mind talking about it. I have some
questions for you too."

Jen smiled back. "Okay, so roughly twenty-five people here know what
happened to you, and the rest assume that you were born female. Is
that right?"

"Yes," replied Jirra.

"But you've told your extended family that you had SRS, correct?"

"We had to tell them something. Even if I tried, I couldn't look like
Josh."

"And how have they reacted?" asked Jen.

"Most have politely and quietly pulled away. I doubt I'll be invited
to any family reunions soon. There are a few cousins and an aunt on
Dad's side who have been cool," explained Jirra.

"Were you close before?" asked Jen.

Jirra waved her hand back and forth.

"Give them time."

"What about your family?" asked Jirra.

"My father and sister knew about the change before I did; they
watched it happen. I was never very close to my dad before and that
hasn't changed much. I guess I'm a little closer to my sister now
though."

"What about your mom?"

"She died almost fifteen years ago, Jirra." A stream of tears rolled
down Jen's cheeks. "Damned emotions. I never know when they'll
overwhelm my self-control." She dabbed at the tears with a tissue.

Jirra hugged Jen tightly. "I'm sorry."

"It still hurts when I think about her. Somehow I think she would
have easily accepted my change. I was much closer to her than I ever
was to my father. I never met any of the family on her side, so I
have no idea how they would have reacted. On my dad's side of the
family, most of my relatives did accept me. A few never wanted to see
me again. They changed their tune when I became famous and started
making lots of money. I'll never be able to trust them."

"What about your friends? Did they accept your transformation?"

"Most of my friends did accept me. A few were like some of my
relatives; they rejected me, only to say they accepted me again when
the fame and fortune started."

"Wow! At least I know who my friends are. Things are strange enough
without having to deal with that."

"Okay, changing the subject slightly, tell me about the troubles in
Carsonville?" asked Jen.

Jirra explained all about the troubles with Randy and his friends.

"Sounds like it's grown to be more than a few stupid high school
kids," noted Jen.

Jirra nodded. "The business community has been supportive, and a lot
of that is because of Judy. She's well respected in the area. She
told them that she wouldn't tolerate any harassment of staff or
guests. She reminded them of how much revenue the spa has brought
into the area. Most are pretty cool and fully supportive, but there
are some who aren't."

"So where is the problem coming from?"

"Judy seems to think that it's from a citizens group that originally
formed to fight sex education in the schools."

"You're kidding?"

Jirra shook her head. "Judy told me that it started as a group of
concerned parents and has sort of become the morality firefighters
for Carsonville. When they see a threat to their morality, they try
to stamp it out."

"Let me guess, Judy came up with the firefighters analogy?"

Jirra smiled and laughed.

"So they feel threatened by the spa and its influences on the
community," stated Jen.

"Yes. Judy hopes they'll come around and see that no one is trying to
destroy their community."

"How do you feel when you go into town? Be honest."

"I feel nervous at times. I still get dirty looks from some of
Randy's friends, but that isn't what scares me. I can handle that. I
may not be as strong as I once was, but I can protect myself."

"You're afraid that they'll discover the truth about you, right?"

"Yes, that's it. They would have a field day with something like
that. I don't want to see the spa get hurt either."

"That makes sense. Tell me more about Randy and the barbecue."

Jirra described how she had fought off Randy's advances at the
barbecue the previous summer. In arguing with Randy, she'd outed
herself as a lesbian.

"That fits with the bits and pieces of the incident that I got from
Alexis. You fought back, but afterwards you broke down and cried,
right?" asked Jen.

"Yes," replied Jirra.

"Sounds like something a woman would do. I think you're changing more
on the inside than you're willing to admit," observed Jen. "Having
been around you these past few days, I don't see a lot of masculinity
in the way you act, except when you're trying to be butch."

Jirra nodded. "You're not the first person to tell me this."

"But you don't buy it."

"I still feel the same inside," replied Jirra, gently hitting her
chest with her fist. "I've noticed how I've changed in how I react to
things, but I still don't feel different inside, and that's what so
frustrating... and scary. I just want to be normal, but there's a
part of me, a very deep part, that resists changing, as if there's an
outside hope that I will be male again. Does that make any sense, or
am I rambling?"

"It makes perfect sense. I felt the same way."

"Mom, Tara, Cari, Lindsey, Judy, and Killara all tell me that it will
take time to find balance."

"Who is Killara?" asked Jen.

Jirra let out a small laugh. "He's my spirit guide."

"You've had a vision quest?" asked an astonished Jen.

"Two actually," replied Jirra.

"I've been curious about them."

"They're amazing; you can feel the wind blow and the heat from the
sun."

"Maybe someday," replied Jen.

"My guide is a kangaroo rat, and he can be very frustrating. For
every answer he gives me, he creates two more questions. Still, I
look forward to our next meeting."

"Except for looking forward to our next meeting, that sounds like my
lawyer."

Jirra laughed.

"I have one more thing to talk to you about; if the trip to the
awards and being dressed up is too much for you, we can do something
else. The last thing I want to do is force you into something,"
stated Jen.

"It's okay. My practical side is slowly learning to adapt. I wear a
skirt or a dress when I have to; Judy and Mom have taught me that. I
may not be overjoyed with dressing up and putting on makeup, but I've
learned how to do it. I'm more nervous about being in the spotlight,
but I've rationalized it to myself that no one will be looking at me.
I'll just hold onto his arm and smile and hope that I don't trip. I do
insist that my dress not be low cut; the last thing I want is for my
boobs to pop out!"

Jen laughed. "Okay, no 'wardrobe malfunctions', I promise! Trust me,
Jirra, you'll have a wonderful time and no one will bother you."

Chapter 36

Three days later Jen was standing in the main office waiting for her
ride to the airport.

"I wish you could stay longer," lamented Jirra.

"Me too, but I have to get back to work. My movie is in
post-production and, since my name is on it as the producer, I want
to make sure that it doesn't get butchered," replied Jen. "Besides
we'll be seeing each other at the end of February, that's not that
far off."

Jen and Jirra hugged.

"Now, you have my personal e-mail address and phone numbers; when you
have issues concerning your status, don't hesitate to contact me. If
you can't find me, call Barb at my office. I've already told her to
track me down wherever I am if you need me," stated Jen.

"I'll do that."

Judy walked out of her office. "Jen, it's been a pleasure having you
stay here; you're always welcome."

"I'll be in touch about my cottage," replied Jen. "This is a special
place, and I'm already missing it. Let me know if you need help in
the fight."

"I will, Jen. It's even more special to me."

A few minutes later Jen was sitting in a Ford Expedition waving
goodbye.

"She was very nice," stated Judy.

"I'll definitely miss her," said Jirra. "Oh, I'm going to town this
afternoon, you need anything?"

Judy shook her head. "Where are you going?"

"I got an e-mail from Barrett at the coffeehouse. He's back in town,
and he's going to show me his research on the Anasazi."

Chapter 37

An hour later Jirra was sitting inside the coffeehouse drinking a
latte. Barrett was sitting next to her with a topographical map of
the area around Carsonville in front of them.

Jirra looked at the map and pointed to a red circle. "What does that
mean?"

"It's a canyon that meets some of the descriptions in Dr. Margate's
book. The ones with an X through them I've eliminated," replied
Barrett.

"That still leaves a lot - looks like forty or fifty," remarked Jirra.

"Forty-seven to be exact," he answered.

"How long will it take you to check them all out?"

"I think I should be through a quarter of them by the end of this
summer. The biggest difficulty will be getting to them. Some are very
accessible, and anything of interest would have been discovered by
now, so I'm eliminating them from the search for the moment. I've
made up a list of the ones that I think have the most potential.
Unfortunately, several of those are on private land, and I'm waiting
for permission from the owners."

"Won't it take a long time to examine the sites?"

Barrett shook his head. "The good thing about archeological sites in
New Mexico is that they stay pretty well preserved. I'll be able to
tell in a few minutes if the site has any promise to it."

"Why hasn't anyone ever discovered the site before?"

"Some of the larger sites have only been discovered in the last fifty
years, and some of those were large settlements. What I'm looking for
was a place that was kept hidden, away from the rest of their
society. From what I read in Margate's book, he seemed to think it
was a sacred site, to be used by only certain members of the tribe.
Unfortunately, as you know, he was deliberately vague in his
descriptions."

"So it may be untouched from the time of the Anasazi?"

"That's my hope, especially if it's in some remote canyon."

Jirra noticed that two of the circles were on Judy's property. "I can
get you permission to search these two."

"That's nice, but neither of those is very promising."

"Why?" asked Jirra.

"Just the general location, I only included them because Dr. Margate
stated that he searched the ranch as part of his investigation of the
area. I'm thinking that these three sites hold the most promise," he
stated, pointing to some canyons south of town.

"What will you do if you find anything?"

"Stop immediately and contact the university. The last thing I want
to do is to be accused of being a grave robber."

"Grave robber?"

Barrett smiled. "Sorry, it's a term we use even when there aren't
actual graves involved. Archeologists aren't the only ones searching
for Anasazi sites; there's a huge market for their pottery in both
the open and black markets. Then there's the whole sensitivity thing
with the native people. Any site that is legally found must follow
very strict rules. If I find the site, I know it'll be protected. If
it's rare enough, then the Feds will get involved."

"But won't that lock you out?" asked Jirra.

"That's a risk I'll take. I want this site to be documented and
protected; hopefully, I can get in on the excavation."

"I don't know, I have a feeling about Judy's ranch," stated Jirra.
She thought about the vision quest and how the land looked.

"Feeling, huh? Well, if you can tell me something more solid than
that, I'll check them out with you, but it won't be until summer."

"Why do you have to wait?"

"Jirra, it's winter. Why, this canyon will be an all day hike from
the spa just to get there. I like camping, but not in the dead of
winter."

"Oh, I hadn't thought of that," replied Jirra.

"You can still come along; don't worry you can trust me," replied
Barrett.

Jirra nodded gently. She hadn't thought about spending the night out
in the hills with Barrett. It would have been different if she was
still a guy, but she wasn't so sure about doing it now.

"What's the matter, haven't you ever gone camping?" he asked.

"It's been a while," she replied. "I suppose it'll be okay."

"Cool, I don't mind the solitude, but it's more fun with someone
else."

"Is there really that big of a market for Anasazi relics?" asked
Jirra, as she thought about camping as a girl.

"Unfortunately, yes. They'll dig up a site, destroying everything
just to get a few potshards. I don't know who I hate worse, those who
dig up the sites or those who are paying for the artifacts."

"So it's illegal then?" asked Jirra.

"Well, it's legal to own Anasazi items, as long as they were
excavated from an established site. The illegal side comes into
effect when the relics are gathered without permission of the
landowner. Many of the known sites are on tribal lands, and... well
some people still feel they have a right to take whatever they want
from the native people. Some sites are actual grave sites, and often
the remains are discarded as if they were garbage."

"That's disgusting," replied Jirra.

"I know, it makes it more difficult for those of us doing legitimate
research, many of the most promising sites are now off limits. Even
with private land, getting permission is difficult."

"I see, but if you have permission then you can sell the items?"

Barrett nodded. "Sure, but I'd rather anything I find end up on
public display, preferably in a museum. Why are you asking?"

"I saw some jewelry in one of the new gift shops that looked like it
was made using small pieces of potshards. They could have been fakes,
but they look like some of the pottery in some of my books. The
patterns look like Anasazi."

"Which shop?" asked Barrett. There was a serious note to his voice.

"I'll show you if you want," replied Jirra.

"Sure, that sounds good. I'll put this stuff away and get my coat."

A few minutes later, Barrett and Jirra walked into a gift shop. It
featured art and jewelry of the Southwest and had a whole section of
native art. Everything was upscale and rather pricey.

"Do you know the owner?" whispered Jirra.

Barrett shook his head. "No, they're new to town. They arrived here
last fall, and the shop just opened a few weeks ago. Pretend we're
just shopping," he whispered back.

They slowly made their way back to a jewelry counter, and Jirra
pointed out some necklaces that had what looked like small pieces of
decorated pottery attached to them.

Barrett leaned over to examine the pottery shards.

"That's a really nice piece," stated the saleswoman as she walked up.

Her nametag said her name was Cindy, and she had a broad smile on her
face. Jirra estimated she was in her forties, although judging by her
bleached blonde hair and wardrobe; she was trying to look much
younger.

"Can you tell me about it?" asked Barrett.

"It's genuine Anasazi," replied Cindy.

"Really?"

Cindy nodded vigorously. "I bought these items from an artisan who
told me how he created these works of art from discarded potshards.
He told me that he gets them from local sites."

Barrett's left eyebrow rose as he cast a quick glance at Jirra.
"Really? I didn't think that the Anasazi were this close."

Cindy shrugged her shoulders. "That's what he said; to be honest, I
don't know that much about the local tribes. It's a lovely piece,
isn't it? Would your girlfriend like to try it on?"

Jirra almost choked when she heard Cindy refer to her as Barrett's
girlfriend.

"That would be nice," said Barrett as he was handed the piece and he
slipped it around Jirra's neck. "How much is this piece?"

"That's three hundred, but it's worth every dollar," replied Cindy.

"It is nice, don't you think so, Jirra?" asked Barrett.

Jirra nodded. It was a nice piece, she thought. There was something
familiar about it, but she couldn't put her finger on it. She also
felt a strange feeling sweep through her body as Barrett slipped the
necklace around her neck.

"Well, maybe another time. Oh, do you know the name of the artist?"

Cindy smiled and walked back to her office. She returned with a
business card. "All we have is a name and phone number."

Barrett looked at the card. The only thing on the card was R&S
Jewelry and a phone number.

Jirra took off the necklace and handed it to Barrett, who examined it
before handing it back to Cindy. "Thank you, Cindy."

As soon as they left the store, Barrett pulled out his cell phone and
dialed the number. All he got was an answering machine asking him to
leave his name and number.

"Well?"

"It's definitely Anasazi, and from what I could see it's a very
unique pattern. I'd like to talk to whoever found it."

"You don't think that it was obtained legally?" asked Jirra.

"I have no proof one way or the other. Cindy is either rather
clueless or clever like a fox. If it's legal, then whoever made this
would have documents and permits. I'll talk to my professor; he'll
know if this is legitimate or not," replied Barrett.

"Too bad he's not closer, you could have him look in the shop
himself," replied Jirra.

"Well, he is coming out this way in April to check up on my progress.
He's the one who is allowing me to do my thesis work here. His name is
Dr. Gil Shackleford, and he's really cool. I love working with him."

"I'd like to meet him."

"Well, you just might. He'll be out here for a week, and the spa is
the best place around to stay."

Jirra opened her purse and pulled out a business card. "Here's the
spa's number and website."

Barrett took the card and examined it. "What? I don't see your name
on it, what gives?"

Jirra laughed. "Very funny."

"Well, I need to get to work. Let's keep in touch," replied Barrett
as he gave her a big hug.

Jirra smiled and walked away. On the way back to the spa, she thought
about the hug and the way Barrett treated her. Did he like her as a
friend, or something more? And what also bothered her was that she
began to question her feelings for him.

Chapter 38

After dinner Jirra told Liz about the trip to the gift shop and her
feelings when Barrett touched her.

"I wouldn't read too much into it, as it's just another new sensation
for you," explained Liz. "It doesn't matter to anyone who you like or
are attracted to, other than you and that person."

"So it wouldn't bother you if I started dating a boy?" asked Jirra.
"Not that I'm about to start dating or anything."

"No, it wouldn't bother me; it would take a little getting used to,
but as long as you're happy I wouldn't mind," replied Liz, as she
sipped her coffee.

"Oh, I guess that makes sense. I'm just confused about these
feelings; they seem both foreign and well... normal," stated Jirra.
"Does THAT make sense?"

"It does. Look, as I've said before, you're still adjusting to your
new body. Jen's transformation took weeks, yours was almost
instantaneous; it would make sense that you were still changing."

"That's what scaring me."

Liz nodded. "Anything else on your mind?"

"Well, how do you feel about me going camping with Barrett? It would
be for educational research purposes, and I do trust him," explained
Jirra.

"You'll be nineteen in June; I think I can trust you, although I
would like to meet Barrett before you go off into the hills with him."

"I can invite him to dinner sometime," replied Jirra.

"Now, I know you used to go camping with Dad, but things are a bit
different now," stated Liz.

"We'll use separate tents," replied Jirra with a grin.

"That's not what I was talking about; have you thought about the
bathroom situation?"

Jirra was about to answer and then stopped.

"I thought so; it's not as simple as it used to be for you. Don't
worry, I can teach you a few tricks I learned," continued Liz.

"I'd appreciate that," replied Jirra. "Changing the subject, have you
found any similarities between Jen's and my transformations?"

"I haven't got her full medical files yet. Obviously, lightning is
the common denominator; I'll start with that and look over the files."

Jirra nodded. "I still can't believe that it happened to either of
us."

"I know. Both of you should have been killed, or at the very least
severely injured from the bolt; instead neither of you suffered any
physical injuries such as burns. I treated one lightning strike
before when I was an intern; some guy was hit while playing golf. He
had burns on his head and at the base of his legs. He also was
temporarily deaf. He was lucky that one of his partners was a doctor
and was able to perform CPR on him."

"Did he live?"

Liz nodded. "He was in the hospital for a while, but he was able to
walk out a few weeks later."

"So do you think that there might be something about me that was
different even before the strike?"

Liz shrugged her shoulders. "If there was, I wouldn't know where to
even start looking. No, I think it was a combination of the energy
from the lightning and the chemicals and minerals in the mud. I don't
have proof yet, but the composition of the mud was different after the
strike."

"Jen said that she's envious of me and the fact that my
transformation has been kept a secret," said Jirra.

"Jen's a remarkable woman. I doubt many people would do as well as
she's done considering everything she's been through."

"I like her a lot," added Jirra.

"Me too."

"If I haven't told you lately, thank you for putting up with me. I
know I can be a pain sometimes," stated Jirra.

"Roo, you're my child. I love you, even when you are a pain," replied
Liz with a wink.

Jirra laughed. "Still, I know how hard this last year has been for
you. My whining about my period or wearing a dress must get on your
nerves."

"It does, but I try to put myself in your shoes and imagine what it
would be like to be the opposite sex, and I cut you a little more
slack."

Jirra laughed. "I appreciate it."

"Oh, I almost forgot, I got a call from Penn today," said Liz.

"About what?" asked Jirra, barely holding in her excitement.

"They wanted to know more about your homeschooling projects. I told
them what you were working on, and then gave them the numbers for the
people grading your projects. The man from Penn seemed impressed,
especially when I told him about your interview with Alexis that
appeared in the local paper," explained Liz.

"Oh yes, The Carsonville Tribune, published six days a week, suitable
for wrapping fish of all species!"

"Really? Then why did you buy five copies of the issue with your
article in it?"

"Okay, you got me. So he really sounded impressed?"

Liz nodded. "I also told him about your Anasazi project for your
history grade."

"Cool. It would be great to go to Penn!"

"Well, all you can do is to continue to work hard. Speaking of which,
I have a long day tomorrow; Judy is sending over three new employees,
and I need to give them their physicals. See you in the morning, good
night, Roo."

"Good night, Mom, I love you."

Chapter 39

The next few weeks seemed to drag by for Lindsey and Jirra. Lindsey
was in a tizzy over the prospect of seeing Hollywood, and she told
Jirra that she felt like a little kid waiting for Christmas.

Jirra had a mix of feelings. She was looking forward to the trip and
seeing the Oscar ceremony. Then there was the possibility of seeing
Alexis. It was still fifty-fifty on whether or not she would be in
Hollywood for the ceremony. There were some post-production scenes
for her movie that were being re-shot at a studio in London. Jirra
really wanted to see Alexis again, but was also worried about where
it might lead as she still had strong feelings for the actress.

Then there was the date for the Oscars. At first it seemed like a
simple thing to do, just pretend to be the girlfriend for an
in-the-closet gay actor, but the more Jirra thought about it, the
more it caused her concern. It had nothing to do with the actor's
sexuality; rather it was related to her own situation.

Her growing sexual confusion only added to her concerns. Jirra knew
that there was little to no possibility of her having a relationship
with the actor, rather it was just that whenever she was close to a
male that she liked, she felt strange.

She found herself feeling this way around Barrett, and it was getting
harder and harder to ignore. Now Barrett hadn't made any moves towards
her other than the standard greeting hug that he gave her, but then
again he did this with other close friends. It wasn't that Jirra
didn't like Barrett, she did, but it was the idea of being attracted
to boys.

She still felt a strong attraction to women, and she often pleasured
herself thinking of them, but twice in the last few weeks she'd found
herself dreaming about men, and twice she woke up so hot and bothered
that she needed to use her vibrator to get relief.

A week before the trip, Alexis called her.

"Wow, it's so great to hear your voice!" exclaimed Jirra.

"I know how you feel, Roo," replied Alexis.

"So, are you going to be back for the awards?"

"I'm planning on it. Barring any major problems, my last scenes will
be done on the Wednesday before the show, and I've already booked a
flight back to the states. I should be back on Thursday evening. I
assume that you'll be staying at Jen's place," said Alexis.

"She insisted on it. She's so nice," replied Jirra.

"I know, I like her a lot myself. So are you looking forward to your
date with Nick? He's a nice guy."

There was a long pause before Jirra spoke. "I'm feeling a little
funny about it."

"In what sort of way?"

"My feelings for the opposite sex are growing," replied Jirra.

"And in your case, what would the opposite sex be?" asked Alexis
holding back a giggle.

Jirra also began to snigger. "Okay, very funny. I'm finding that I'm
developing feelings towards boys. I still like, rather make that love
girls, but I've noticed that I'm changing."

"And this bothers you?"

"Yes!"

"Why?" asked Alexis.

"Because I'm a...."

"You're not a boy, Jirra," interrupted Alexis. "You were once, but
that's in the past. Times change, and you need to accept the fact
that you're not the same person."

"You don't understand," replied Jirra.

"Don't I? Roo, I used to be an average college student, now I have
action figures modeled after me. I have to sneak home to see my
family to avoid the local media. I know it's not as dramatic as a
gender shift, but change is a part of life. You can't live in the
past, even if you want to."

"I'm sorry... I guess I was feeling sorry for myself... again, but it
still feels strange."

"And throw on top of that the fact that we have feelings for each
other," added Alexis.

"Yes, there's that too."

"Look, Roo, we'll always be friends, and if the fates allow, we might
be more than that. As for now, I don't mind if you feel the need to
explore your feelings. If you want to date a guy, I don't mind. Just
because I'm a lesbian, it doesn't mean that I hate men."

"Oh," replied Jirra sheepishly.

"I'm telling you not to jump into something without thinking either,
do what you think is right, but I can tell you that it's not healthy
to hide your feelings, trust me on that one. Just remember you can
always talk to me."

"You're not the first to tell me that either."

"Oh, that reminds me, how's Tara?"

"Gee, how did you know I was talking to her?" asked Jirra with a
laugh.

Alexis laughed back. "Seriously, Roo, you need to accept the fact
that you're changing, and sometimes change is hard to accept.
Speaking of which, I may have a big change in my life soon."

"What do you mean?" asked Jirra in a concerned voice. "Are you okay?"

"Oh, yes. No, what I'm talking about is a career change. I've been
given a big offer, and I have to make up my mind in the next few
days."

"Can you tell me what it's about?"

"I'd love to, but I can't, not even to you. I will tell you that
you'll be one of the first to know."

"Oooh, a mystery!"

Alexis laughed. "If it happens, it should be a great change. Anyway,
I gotta run, I have to be at the studio in forty minutes. Take care,
and remember that I love you."

"I love you, too, Alexis."

Chapter 40

"I want lots of pictures, and I promise to tape the pre-show red
carpet walk," stated Liz, as she drove the Land Rover down the
highway. It was a clear cool Thursday morning in late February with
just a hint in the air that winter might be over soon.

Jirra laughed. "I'll promise, and I promise not to fall down or make
a fool out of myself."

"What time is our flight again?" asked Lindsey nervously as she
looked at her watch.

"Relax, Lindsey, Jen said that her jet would pick us up as soon as we
reached the Santa Fe airport," replied Jirra.

"Well, we'll be there in less than twenty minutes," said Hannah.

"I can't believe that we're going to Hollywood in a private jet!"
squealed Lindsey.

"You sure you still want to go with her, Jirra?" asked Hannah, as she
glanced over her shoulder. "She's been running on full power since
four this morning."

"You got up at four?" asked Jirra.

"I couldn't sleep anyway; besides, that way I got all the hot water I
wanted!" replied Lindsey.

A short time later they pulled up to the private jet terminal. A
security guard stopped them at the gate.

"Excuse me, we're here to meet Jennifer Stevens's jet," stated Liz,
as she leaned out of the window.

The security guard checked his clipboard. "Okay, but I'll need to see
your ID first, that includes everyone in the vehicle."

A few minutes later they were parked next to a fence line. On the
other side was a private jet.

"Does Jen actually own the jet?" asked Lindsey.

"No, she gets use of it as part of her contract, or at least that's
what she told me. She says that it's a lot easier than getting mobbed
for autographs in airports when she travels," replied Jirra.

A man walked over and smiled. He was wearing a pilot's uniform. "I
assume that you are Ms. Stevens's guests; let me get your luggage for
you."

"I could get used to this real fast," stated Lindsey to Jirra.

The man heard them and smiled. "My name is Marco and I'm the
co-pilot, which also makes me the luggage handler, flight attendant
and head bottle washer. Is this your first time in a Lear jet?"

Jirra nodded.

"Well, I promise that you'll love it. Ms Stevens is one of our
favorite customers, and I'm happy to assist some of her friends,"
said Marco. He then pulled out several business cards and handed them
to Liz and Hannah. "This number will ring in the passenger
compartment, and the other number is our main office."

"Thank you very much," replied Liz. She then turned to Jirra. "Have a
wonderful time, and I'll see you Tuesday."

Jirra hugged her. "I wish you could come along."

"That's nice, even if you don't mean it," laughed Liz. "Trust me; no
one wants to go to Hollywood with their mom!"

Jirra smiled back. "It still would be fun."

A few minutes later they were inside the jet. Marco gave them a quick
safety brief and then showed them where the food and drinks were.

"I'll be up front, but if you need anything, just pick up that
phone," explained Marco.

"So if you're the co-pilot, who's the pilot?" asked Lindsey, as she
sat down in one the plush leather seats.

"That would be me," stated a pretty red-headed woman. "My name is
Carly Ashburn, and I'll be flying you to LA."

"Carly's our best pilot in the company, as she just got out of
rehab," stated Marco with a grin.

"Yes, and I'm glad to see that you finally got paroled. What was it
for this time, impersonating a pilot?" retorted Carly with a wink.

They both started laughing. Marco then turned to Jirra and Lindsey.
"Carly and I both served together in the Air Force; we've been
needling each other since flight school."

Jirra and Lindsey introduced themselves to the two pilots.

"So Jen is taking you two to the Oscars? That's pretty cool of her,"
stated Carly. "She's really nice. It burns my buns when I read that
trash about her."

"Jen's one of the good ones, that's for sure," added Marco.

"So who are some of the bad ones?" asked Lindsey with a grin.

Carly glanced at Marco and then both began to laugh again.

"Sorry, Lindsey, but that's a company secret!" replied Marco.

"Okay, we'd better get going, it was nice talking to both of you,"
stated Carly. "Has Marco shown you everything?"

The two girls nodded.

"Okay, we should have you in LA in a few hours, just sit back and
relax," said Carly.

Jirra sat back and stared out the window as they flew towards LA.
Lindsey was busy exploring the flight compartment. She even placed a
call back to her mom.

"This is so cool, Jirra. I mean this jet has everything including a
TV!"

"The sad thing is that this will probably be nicer that my first
couple of apartments while I'm a struggling writer," replied Jirra
with a laugh.

"Not me. I've decided that I definitely want to be rich," exclaimed
Lindsey.

"How many restaurant owners have their own jet?" asked Jirra.

"I don't know, but I'm willing to be the first," replied Lindsey.
"Hey, I can't help it, but I like luxury."

"It is pretty nice. When Jen invited us I was expecting First Class,
but this is beyond my wildest dreams."

"So will Alexis be joining us?" asked Lindsey, as she opened the wet
bar.

"Won't know for another day, but she's planning on it," replied Jirra.

"You want something to drink?" asked Lindsey.

"I'll take a SoBe if there's one in there," replied Jirra.

"Green Tea or Cranberry-Grapefruit?" asked Lindsey.

"Cranberry-Grapefruit, please."

Lindsey sat down next to her and handed her the bottle. "If you want
to spend time alone with Alexis, I don't mind, and in fact I insist
upon it," stated Lindsey as she opened up a can of ginger ale and
poured it into a glass.

"Thanks. I hope she gets free."

"I hope you two can get together, and I'm not talking about just this
weekend," continued Lindsey. "You make a great couple."

Jirra smiled back. "Thanks. By the way, how's Dave?"

"Mildly jealous of my trip, but overall he's pretty cool about it."

"Did you tell him about the date?"

Lindsey nodded. "I told him that he didn't have a thing to worry
about."

"You didn't mention that Kyle is gay, did you?"

Lindsey shook her head. "No, but to most college guys all the
Hollywood pretty boys are gay."

"From what Jen and Alexis have told me, they just might be!" laughed
Jirra.

Chapter 41

Upon arrival in LA, a limo picked up Jirra and Lindsey to drive them
to Jen's condo.

"Ms. Stevens apologizes for not being able to be here herself, but
there was a last minute problem she had to take care of," stated the
chauffer. "She just called and will meet you at her condo."

The drive through the city was uneventful. The driver seemed to know
which roads to avoid as they arrived outside Jen's place with little
delay. Jen was standing outside the renovated warehouse as the limo
pulled up. She was wearing jeans, a red t-shirt, and a denim jacket.
The temperature was in the low sixties with overcast skies.

"Welcome to Hollywood," she greeted them as Jirra and Lindsey stepped
out of the limo. Jen immediately hugged both of them. "Let me give you
the grand tour."

They followed Jen into the huge building. The doors led into a
massive central common area. The ceiling looked like it was the
actual ceiling of the building over eighty feet up. "Impressive isn't
it?" asked Jen with a smile.

"It certainly is." Jirra leaned her head back to get a better look at
the large room. She counted five different levels to the balconies
lining the walls. An elevator large enough to drive a car into was at
the far end of the room with stairs zigzagging up the walls to the
balconies. The balconies formed a ring around the wall for each floor
with the elevator stopping at each one.

"I found that I was spending so much time out here on the west coast
that I decided to buy the building and have it renovated into condos.
Mine is on the second floor."

The chauffer finished loading the baggage into the elevator then
waited patiently for them to walk aboard. He pulled the huge gate
closed then hit the button for floor number 2. The old elevator
groaned to life slowly lifting everyone. It took almost half a minute
to move between the floors before it lurched to a stop.

"Oh, don't worry about the elevator. It's been fully reconditioned;
it just acts old. My apartment is this way." Jen walked off the
elevator then turned right to walk down the long balcony that ran to
the front of the building. She stopped when she came to a set of
large double doors made of steel.

"This used to be rented warehouse space for a lot of local businesses
many years ago. I have the whole floor on this side of the building."
Jen pressed a few numbers into the security pad by the door. There
was a low clunk as the door lock released. "I'll give both of you
your own access codes a bit later. Don't let me forget that."

She pushed the large doors open. "Let's get your things to your rooms
then I'll give you the rest of the tour."

They all followed Jen up a winding staircase off the entrance hall.
It looked a lot like one of those sets of stairs that you used to see
in large houses in the older movies. At the top of the stairs was a
hallway with four doors along one side and several more doors on the
other.

Jen pointed to the second door. "Lindsey, that's your room. The third
door is Jirra's room. Your baggage will be up in a few moments. Now go
have a look."

Jirra opened the door to her room then stepped inside. It looked like
a miniature version of an entire house. The living room had a large
screen television and several overstuffed chairs in addition to the
large couch in its center. There were several doors off the living
room. One was a large bedroom with a huge king-size bed. The thing
that really grabbed her eyes was the huge picture window that looked
out over the city. There, standing out through the slight haze, was
the HOLLYWOOD sign perched on a hilltop. It looked just like the
pictures she'd seen so many times in books and magazines.

Off the bedroom was a separate bathroom. It had the largest tub that
Jirra had ever seen, larger than even the spa's hot springs tubs
were. In one corner of the bathroom there was a large glass booth.
Jirra made a mental note to ask Jen about it. There was even a small
room containing a complete kitchen. Somehow, Jirra doubted that she'd
have any need for it over the next few days.

Jirra heard a knocking sound on one of the doors and opened it to
find Lindsey bouncing with excitement.

"This is so cool! Did you see the view we have from the bedroom,
Jirra?"

"Yes, I did. I doubt that I'll ever forget it."

"Have you looked in your closet yet?"

"Closet? What closet?"

Lindsey walked into the bedroom and opened a door that Jirra hadn't
noticed. "This one, of course!"

Lindsey pulled Jirra inside then pointed to the clothing rack.
Hanging there were at least a dozen different outfits and their
various accessories. In the rack next to the clothes, Jirra saw about
eight different pairs of shoes; some were heels, a few were flats and
there were two pairs of running shoes too.

"What's all this?"

They turned around when they heard a small laugh behind them. It was
Jen.

"A little surprise for you. I know that you both brought your own
casual stuff, but I wanted to make sure that you could fit in with
the California crowd if you wanted. You're to take these home with
you, and I'm not taking no for an answer!"

Lindsey was nearly ready to explode. "Thanks, Jen! Thank you so much!"

Jirra made a quick scan of the clothing and found to her approval
that nothing appeared to be too feminine or outlandish. "It's a very
nice gesture, Jen, thank you very much."

"Now do either of you have any questions about the rooms?"

"Are those actual satin sheets on the beds?" asked Lindsey.

"Yes, they are. I found that they feel so nice against your skin when
you're sleeping. If you haven't tried them, please feel free to do so.
I recommend sleeping au naturel on them though."

Jirra passed a quick glance towards Lindsey, who began to snicker.

"Um, Jen when you say au naturel you mean naked, right?" asked Jirra.

Jen smiled back and nodded. "Of course, trust me on this one; it's an
experience you won't forget. Of course, if you prefer cotton sheets,
there's a supply of them and other things like towels in each of the
closets"

"Well, I'm willing to give it a try!" stated Lindsey confidently.
"What about you, Jirra?"

"We'll see," replied Jirra softly as she ran her hand over the
sheets. She had to admit that the sensation was pleasant.

Lindsey was off exploring the rest of the room. "I noticed a glass
booth in the bathroom, Jen. What is it?"

"I almost forgot to explain that. When I was traveling in Europe
shooting a movie, I ran into them in the hotels over there. They're
actually whole body driers. They use warm air to dry your body
without needing a towel. I love them and installed them here."

Jirra walked over to join Lindsey and Jen. "I also noticed the big
tub. One of the seats in the corner of the tub has about double the
number of jets that the other seats do."

"Very observant, Jirra. They are a bit special. There's a red button
near each of the seats. If you push that button, it activates a
special program for the water jets. I can guarantee that you'll feel
very... uh... well, let's just say 'relaxed' if you decide to try it!"

Jirra and Lindsey both blushed deeply. "You don't have to if you
don't want to, but I do strongly recommend trying it."

Jirra looked at Lindsey then at Jen. "I'll consider it, Jen."

"That's all I can ask of either of you. Want to go see the rest of
this cavern?"

After nodding in agreement, they followed Jen out of Jirra's room
back into the hallway. Lindsey pointed to the fourth door at the end
of the hallway.

"What's that?"

"Another room like yours. It's empty at the moment."

Jen walked down the staircase back to the lower level of the condo.
"This is the living room. It has a large screen projection TV set and
a thirty-five millimeter projector setup in a room next to this one.
There's a screen that drops down from the ceiling and a full theater
quality sound system. There's even a theater style popcorn machine at
the bar."

The next stop was the gigantic kitchen. "I hope you don't mind doing
a little cooking duty, Lindsey. Since we're here for only a few days,
I didn't bring my housekeeper out with me on this trip. At times I
don't trust myself to boil water."

"Mind? Are you kidding? This is a kitchen fit for a professional
chef!"

"Well, I think it will be just breakfasts and snacks, Lindsey. We'll
be rather busy and probably won't eat here much. By the way, I'm not
one for the fancy foods. Plain and simple is fine with me. If there's
something you want to make and we don't have everything, just let me
know."

"Okay."

"Just to let you know, there's an indoor pool on the first floor. You
both have access to it if you want to go for a swim. If you didn't
bring a suit, there are a couple in the things I got for you. One
other thing, you're very likely to see a few other famous faces
around here. All I ask is that you respect their privacy while you're
here. When I built this place, I decided that the residents here would
have a safe haven to just be themselves without the pressure of the
public intruding on them. If you see someone you'd like to meet and
they don't introduce themselves first, just ask me and I'll arrange
an introduction. Okay?"

Both girls nodded in agreement.

"Well, that's about it for the place. Oh, there's more to see, but
you can explore that later. What do you two want to do now? Maybe get
settled in?"

"That sounds like a good idea," replied Jirra.

"I also suggest that you two change into something more suitable for
California, this isn't cold New Mexico," said Jen.

"Oooh, that sounds like a great idea. I'm going to pick out one of
the outfits in the closet!" replied Lindsey.

"Dress casual nice, no jeans, there's a restaurant that I want to
take you two for lunch," stated Jen. "Oh, and bring a light coat, it
might rain later."

Chapter 42

Jirra picked out a pair of khaki slacks, a white cotton tee-shirt and
a short jacket. The jacket was a deep azure colored denim jacket. For
shoes, she picked out a pair of brown flats. She was impressed that
everything fit perfectly.

Lindsey was wearing a pair of black pants, and a deep purple colored
top. She topped it off with a black leather jacket.

"You look great, Jirra, I'm really impressed with your growing
fashion sense," stated Lindsey. "Like it or not, you know how to
dress."

"I just don't like standing out," said Jirra as she applied a touch
of makeup. "If I dress down too much, I stand out; if I dress too
feminine I stand out... at least in my mind. I'm just trying to find
a balance."

"Well, you're doing a great job of it either way," replied Lindsey.
"Come on, let's go meet up with Jen."

Jen had also changed and was now wearing black chinos, a red silk
blouse and a black leather jacket. She nodded approvingly at the two
girls' appearances. "Very nice. Now, let's go hit the town."

They walked outside. Jirra and Lindsey stopped and stared at the
vehicle parked in front of the condo.

"You've got to be kidding!" exclaimed Jirra.

Jen laughed. "Nope, this is my baby!"

The vehicle in question was a bright metallic red H2 Hummer.

"I know it's not exactly practical; it's a bitch to park, and it gets
lousy mileage, but this is Hollywood, and it doesn't hurt to stand
out. Besides, I love the look on the faces of people when I step out
of it," continued Jen.

"I thought you didn't like unnecessary attention," stated Jirra as
she walked around the Hummer.

"I don't. But in Hollywood, there is no such thing as unnecessary
attention. I probably wouldn't drive this around New Mexico, but
here, this isn't that unusual," answered Jen. "Come on, you'll love
the way it rides. Also, being this is LA, the only thing safer to
drive in is a tank."

She hit her remote and the doors unlocked. A step automatically came
out on the side. "I had those installed to allow me to get in and out
in a skirt."

Jirra sat in the front passenger seat and Lindsey hopped in the back.
"I get shotgun the next time," she stated from the back.

"Do you want to listen to the stereo or a CD? I have both XM and
Sirius satellite radio systems, as I like channels on both."

"Cool!" exclaimed Lindsey.

"Doesn't matter to me," replied Jirra. "I'm just happy to be out
here."

"That's the spirit! Now, how hungry are you, or do you want to see
some of the town first?" asked Jen.

Jirra turned around and looked at Lindsey, who shrugged her
shoulders. "I'm game either way."

"Let's just drive around first," said Jirra.

"Okay," stated Jen, as they pulled out of her driveway.

Jen drove them around, giving them, as she put it the "fifty-cent
tour." Eventually they pulled next to the curb in front of a trendy
Italian restaurant. A valet ran out and opened the doors of the
Hummer.

"I think you'll like this place, the food is excellent, although they
do try a little too hard to be hip," stated Jen.

The owner of the restaurant appeared almost immediately to greet Jen.
He fawned over her for a few minutes before they were shown to their
table. Lindsey made mental notes about the layout of the restaurant.

"Is it always like that, Jen?" asked Jirra.

"No, usually only in places around here," replied Jen, as she picked
up her menu.

"Is there any chance that I could take a peek into the kitchen?"
asked Lindsey.

"I think I can arrange that," replied Jen with a smile.

Jirra ended up ordering a pasta dish called orecchiette affumicato,
which was made up of smoked chicken, sweet onions, gorgonzola cheese,
rosemary and a port wine cream sauce over small pasta shells.

Jen nodded approvingly. "You'll love it, Jirra, now what are you
ordering Lindsey?"

"Have you had the pasta al frutti de mare?" she asked.

"Oh, yes, it's very good, especially the mussels," replied Jen.

"What are you having, Jen?" asked Jirra.

"I'd like to order the veal, but it's not politically correct here,
so I'm having the mustard crusted golden trout with the orange
scallion pesto," replied Jen.

"That sounds great, I'd like to add that to our menu," said Lindsey.

The food was excellent and halfway through their meal the owner came
over to see Jen.

"Excellent as usual, John," stated Jen.

"And who are the lovely young ladies with you, future co-stars?" he
asked with a smile.

"They're my guests for the weekend," stated Jen, as she introduced
Jirra and Lindsey to John. "Oh, is there a possibility that you could
let Lindsey see your kitchen? She's an up and coming chef at a lovely
spa that I stayed at out in New Mexico."

"Really?" asked John as he sized up Lindsey with a grin. "So in your
professional view, how would rate my place?"

"I would use a little more garlic in the pasta al frutti de mare."

"Excuse me?" he stated, slightly upset by Lindsey's blunt comment.

"Seriously, it would complement the taste of the seafood better,"
replied Lindsey.

John cocked his head for a moment. "May I?" he asked as he pointed to
her dish. Lindsey nodded as he picked up a fork from an empty table
and took a small sample. He ate it and then nodded. "You're right, it
does need more garlic. You have an excellent sense of taste. When
you're finished, I would be happy to show you our facilities."

Lindsey looked over at Jen and Jirra. "I'm ready now, if you don't
mind."

John laughed. "No, not at all."

Lindsey got up and followed John back towards the kitchen.

"You just made Lindsey's day," stated Jirra, as she took a drink of
water.

"It was worth it to see John's face. He thinks everything here is
perfect; granted, he's not that far off most of the time," replied
Jen, as she broke off another piece of bread.

"I'm glad that things have worked out for you, you deserve it," said
Jirra.

Jen stared back. "That's one of the nicest things that anyone has
said to me in a long time, thank you."

"I mean it. You're also a role model for me, as you show me that I
can overcome my incident."

"I hope you do have a successful life too, Jirra. I know that it must
be hard for you to adjust, but I also know you can do it."

Jirra stared back and nodded slightly. "I hope so."

"So, changing subjects, do you want to know the schedule for the
week?" asked Jen.

"Sure," replied Jirra, as she watched one of the stars of Lost walk
by their table.

"After lunch we'll go and get your dresses fitted. I took the liberty
of picking out several dresses that I thought would look good on you
two, but they will need adjustments, you'll also have to pick out
shoes and other accessories," explained Jen.

"What are you wearing?" asked Jirra.

"Well, I'm wearing a rather simple, yet elegant, red silk strapless
gown; it was designed by a friend of mine, and she's giving it to me
to wear so she'll get some publicity," replied Jen. "There is a
slight pattern in the material, but the light has to hit it just
right."

"What sort of gowns did you reserve for us?" asked Jirra.

"Basic black for you, emerald green for Lindsey," replied Jen. "I
selected some styles that should show off your assets, while at the
same time looking chic."

"When you say assets, you mean my boobs, right?"

"That's only part of it; you have a lovely body, with very nice
curves. I know you may not like what I'm about to say, but you'll
need to show off a little cleavage; with your looks, it would draw
more attention if you didn't."

"I'm afraid they'll pop out," whispered Jirra, leaning over towards
Jen.

"I wouldn't worry about that. The woman we're going to go see has
dressed women with much larger assets than yours, and she's never had
an accidental wardrobe malfunction," replied Jen with a wink.

"You mean some of those weren't accidents? I thought so," replied
Jirra.

"Not all the visual effects are in the movies, Jirra!"

They both started laughing, which drew some attention their way.

"Well, as soon as Lindsey returns, we'll head out. I'm too full for
dessert, besides I know a much better place to get some sweets,"
stated Jen.

A few minutes later Lindsey returned with John.

"Thank you very much, John. I really appreciate the tour," stated
Lindsey.

"It was a pleasure showing our kitchen to someone who actually knows
what they're looking at. By the way, don't forget our deal!"

"What deal is that?' asked Jen.

"She's sending me her mom's recipe for southwestern chicken breast,
and I'm sending her our trout recipe," replied John.

"Having had both, that seems like a fair trade," said Jen.

Chapter 43

Thirty minutes later, they were in the fitting room of an LA
boutique. The woman attending them was named Greta, and from what
Jirra could guess from her accent, she was from somewhere in Europe,
but she couldn't quite place it. Jen was no help as to Greta's origin
either.

"I have no idea where she's from; one minute she sounds German and
then Italian or even French," whispered Jen. "Personally, I think
she's from New Jersey, and she's just faking the accents."

Greta was a short thin woman who, even though her hair was nearly
totally grey, still moved with the dexterity of a younger woman, and
she wore a tailored dress than seemed to flow over her shapely body.
She retrieved two gowns and approached Jirra and Lindsey.

"Now, Ms. Stevens picked out several gowns for each of you. However,
after now seeing you both in person, I believe you should start with
these two," stated Greta, her accent sounding slightly British now,
as if she had overhead Jen and had changed to deliberately mess with
Jen's mind.

"Greta, please call me Jen. I think I've been seeing you long enough
now that you can call me Jen," requested Jen.

"Ja, Fraulein Stevens," replied Greta in suddenly heavily accented
German.

Jen threw her hands up in mock disgust.

Jirra then caught a wink from Greta as she was handed the dress.
Jirra could barely hold in her giggles.

Jirra retreated into the changing room and examined the gown. It was
jet black and was strapless. As she examined the gown, she found that
the top of the gown had been reinforced to provide much needed
support. She stripped down and tried it on. While she felt that it
showed off her breasts too much, she had to admit that the hidden
support made her feel more at ease. The only thing that needed to be
adjusted was the hem.

Jirra stepped out and was immediately inspected by Greta.

"This fits you perfectly, young lady. Now, may I suggest the
three-inch heels; they go very nicely with the gown. You don't want
anything higher than three inches if you plan on walking down the red
carpet," stated Greta. Her accent was back to sounding slightly
French. She held out a box of shoes to Jirra.

"Three inches is fine with me," replied Jirra, as she tried on the
shoes.

Greta reexamined Jirra after she put on the shoes. "Yes, I thought
those would be perfect. Now stand up on that block, and I'll get your
hemline straight.

"I like how the dress holds me in," stated Jirra.

"Yes, I designed it that way, as Ms. Stevens told me how you're a
little uncomfortable with your chest size. You have nothing to worry
about, young lady, everything will stay in place. Now, I have a
lovely shawl for you to wear with it, that auditorium can get rather
chilly."

"So have you been to the Oscars before?" asked Jirra.

"Several times. I must admit that I still get a thrill out of it, but
don't tell Jen!" whispered Greta.

Jirra smiled back. "I promise!" She noticed that there was no trace
of an accent in Greta's voice.

"Okay, my dear, now carefully slip out of your gown. I'll have it
ready on Saturday morning for a final fitting," stated Greta. "Now, I
need to get your friend."

Lindsey came out wearing a deep emerald gown. It was a bit fancier
than Jirra's gown, as it had a tight bodice, but was more sweeping as
it flowed down to the ground. It was also strapless.

"Lindsey, you look fab!" exclaimed Jirra.

"So do you!" replied Lindsey.

"Come, come, my dear, I need to get you in some heels," interrupted
Greta.

Jirra smiled and walked carefully back to the changing room. She
slowly removed the dress and shook her head in disbelief that she was
trying on a gown to attend the Oscars.

She redressed and met up with Greta and Jen.

"The dress looks perfect on you, Jirra. You're really going to turn
some heads Sunday night," stated Jen.

"I agree with Ms. Stevens, you'll look lovely," concurred Greta.

"Thank you," replied Jirra, figuring there was no use to plead for a
less revealing gown. "Not that anyone will notice me anyway with all
the stars there."

"I'll notice you," stated a familiar voice.

Jirra's eyes opened up wide at the sound of Alexis's voice.

"Surprise! I got here early!" exclaimed Alexis as she stepped out
from behind a fitting screen and ran over to hug Jirra.

"I've missed you so badly!" stated Jirra as she hugged the actress.

"The feeling's mutual," replied Alexis.

They slowly broke away from the hug. "When did you arrive?" asked
Jirra.

"A little over an hour ago, I was hoping to meet up with you at the
restaurant, but not even Lindsey could stall you there forever,"
replied Alexis with a grin.

On cue, Lindsey stepped out of the changing room.

"So was everyone in on this?" asked Jirra.

"Just about everyone, except we didn't count on a three car crash on
the 405," stated Jen. "Come on, we can continue this back at my
place. Greta, as always, you've done a masterful job."

Greta nodded somewhat formally and replied, "It's always a pleasure
to serve you, Ms. Stevens." This time she spoke with a slight New
Jersey accent.

Chapter 44

Lindsey sat up front with Jen as Alexis and Jirra shared the back
seat.

"I'm so happy to see you," stated Jirra.

Alexis smiled back. "I feel the same way, Roo. So are you ready for
some big news?"

"What is it?" asked Jirra anxiously.

"I've been offered my own TV show," said Alexis.

"Really? But I thought you wanted out of TV."

"This is totally different. It's on a premium cable channel, and I'll
only have to do fifteen episodes a season," replied Alexis.

"What's the show?" asked Jen.

"It's a detective series. I'll be playing Erin Flynn, and the series
will be filmed in Boston," replied Alexis.

"Erin Flynn, huh? That's a great series, I've read most of them,"
said Jen.

"It'll be great; the author is the executive producer and has control
over the scripts. Faith Collins is really something, and get this; she
personally picked me out to play the lead!"

"But won't this prevent you from doing more movies?" asked Lindsey.

"Yes, but that's no great loss. The new flick looks great and should
be a hit; unfortunately, between the movie and my past TV experience,
the only movies I'm getting offers for are more action/adventure
flicks. There's not a long career for actresses in those sorts of
films. I want to do something more interesting, and I doubt if I'll
get any offers," replied Alexis. "The TV show's going to be well
written, and I have a three year contract."

"They gave you three years?" asked Jen. "That's amazing."

"It's the only way that Faith would agree to the plan. They've been
drooling over doing her books for TV for ages; she's sold millions of
copies, and that means a solid audience before the first show. We're
going to be extremely faithful to the books."

"So you'll be filming in Boston?" asked Jirra.

"Yep, and I'm planning on moving there too."

"How far is Boston from Philly, Alexis?" asked Lindsey.

"Just a few hours by train, so what's in Philly?" asked Alexis with a
straight face.

Jirra stared back for a moment before she realized that Alexis was
kidding.

"Did you get accepted to Penn yet?" asked Alexis as a smile came over
her face.

"No, but I should find out, one way or another, any day now," replied
Jirra.

"You'll get in, I know that for sure."

Jirra just nodded back and stared into Alexis's eyes. Alexis smiled
back and reached out and placed her hand against Jirra's face.

"It's good to see you again, Roo."

Chapter 45

"By the way, I love your tan," commented Jirra as they walked into
Jen's condo.

"It's mostly natural. I needed it for my character in the movie, and
thankfully, I was able to get to the tone they wanted on my own. I
had to use a tanning booth to maintain it while we did the studio
shots. No one can tan in England in the wintertime!" replied Alexis.

Jirra laughed. "So are we sitting near each other for the awards?"

"I'll be in the same row; you being with one of my co-stars will make
it look natural to the press. I'm going alone this time."

"Won't that cause some talk?" asked Lindsey.

"No, as I've been on a movie shoot the past few months, it won't
cause a stir. I will be getting some spotlight as the Erin Flynn
announcement will be released tomorrow."

"When do you start shooting?" asked Jen, as they sat down in the
living room.

"I've already got the first couple of scripts, and we're going to
start shooting in six weeks. Apparently they've had everything in
place for a while as they worked out the final agreement with Faith."

"So if it's cable, will there be lots of sex, violence, and cursing?"
asked Lindsey.

"What do mean by lots?" replied Alexis with a smile. "It's not going
to be like The Sopranos or Deadwood, but it will be real world and
gritty. Erin has a love interest in the stories; actually, she has
several throughout the series. Have you read the books yet?"

Lindsey shook her head.

"I have, they're very good," replied Jirra.

"They don't have a lot of violence in them, but they don't pull any
punches when it comes to sexual assault and spousal abuse, which are
major themes in the stories," added Alexis.

"So where in Boston do you plan on living?" asked Jen.

"Initially, I'll be in a condo rented for me by the studio, but I
plan on buying a place eventually."

"Alexis, since I haven't read the books...yet, tell me about Erin's
lovers," requested Lindsey.

"Well, she's bi and that will cause some interest," replied Alexis.

"So the studio is going to include that part of her character?" asked
Jen.

"Faith insisted on it," replied Alexis.

"Does Faith know about your sexuality?" Jen asked.

"I spent a weekend at her home in Connecticut. I told her that I'm a
lesbian and hoped that it wouldn't be an issue. She just smiled and
stated that it was my life and that she didn't care. I brought up
that it could affect the ratings of the show, and she just laughed
and told me that she wasn't worried about that. She said that over
the years she had invested her royalty checks from the books, so that
she could quit immediately and not have to worry."

"She sounds pretty cool," added Jen.

"Cool doesn't even start to describe her; she's almost as exciting as
Erin. Did you know that she helped to break up a teen sex ring back in
the 80's?"

"I remember something about that, she wrote a non-fiction book about
it, right?" asked Jen.

"Yes, I've just found a copy and have started to read it."

"So back to you telling her your sexuality, does that mean that
you'll be coming out publicly?" asked Jen.

"I'm not going to make some grand announcement or anything like that,
but I'm not going to hide it anymore," replied Alexis, casting a
glance at Jirra. "I'm not dating anyone at the moment or anything
like that, but I don't plan on staying in the shadows either."

"That's a major decision," said Jen.

"I know, but I'm not going to live my life afraid either. I've made a
lot of money in a short time. I'm going to make a bundle from the
movie, and I have a very good contract for the Erin Flynn series,
guaranteed three years, six figures, with options for DVDs and
reruns. My agent worked a hard deal. If the series is a hit, I have
the right to automatically renew my contract, with incentives. I'll
be able to walk away from this not having to work again in show biz
if I want," explained Alexis.

"Well, living in Mass won't hurt," added Jen.

"Exactly," replied Alexis.

"Well, I'll be in your corner," said Jen, as she got up and hugged
Alexis.

"I really appreciate that," replied Alexis.

"Maybe you can appear on the show!" interjected Lindsey.

"I'd love that, Jen. We're getting a killer supporting cast, and
we're already talking about bringing in guest stars. The director
believes that once the show hits the air, she'll have to beat away
stars who'll want to appear on it," stated Alexis. She then looked
over at Jirra. "I might even find a small role for a certain young
Penn student."

"Really?" asked Jirra. "Um... on second thought, the last thing I
want to do is be on TV."

"It'll be fun, trust me, Jirra, no one will know your past by then or
care."

Jirra nodded softly. Alexis was right, and it would be cool to be on
a TV show; still, there was the lingering doubt in the back of her
mind. "Okay, I'll do it."

"Well it won't be for a while, but I'll make sure you get a good
part."

"How 'bout a hooker?" suggested Lindsey.

Jirra nudged Lindsey in the ribs. "She's casting me... not you!"

Chapter 46

For dinner, Jen said she had the perfect place to continue their
conversation. They piled into her Hummer and headed up towards Studio
City.

"I know where we're going," stated Alexis in a sing-song tone as they
headed down Ventura Boulevard.

"Shhhh, don't say a word," replied Jen.

"Obviously, we're not going anywhere fancy," interjected Jirra. "I
just hope they have good food, I'm famished!"

"You won't be when we leave," said Alexis.

They pulled up in front of Art's Delicatessen a few minutes later.
The valets ran over in competition to drive Jen's Hummer.

"A Deli?" asked Lindsey.

"Not a deli, the best one in LA," replied Alexis.

"This is a favorite spot around here, and what's great about it is
that they treat everyone the same," explained Jen.

The hostess smiled at Jen and led them to a booth. Jen passed out the
menus.

"Everything is great here," she stated.

"The sandwiches look huge," noted Jirra.

"Trust me, they are," replied Alexis.

"So, you've eaten here often?" asked Lindsey.

"Many times, it's a very popular place to eat after work. You come
here to eat, not to be seen," replied Alexis as she plucked a pickle
from the bowl in the center of the table.

Jirra ordered the hot pastrami on rye, and she had it admit it was
the best she had had since she left Philly. Alexis ordered corned
beef on rye, and they shared an order of fries. Lindsey also went for
the pastrami, as did Jen, who also had a bowl of matzo-ball soup.

"How can you have soup when you're eating that huge sandwich?" asked
Jirra.

"The question should be, how can you pass on soup this good?" replied
Jen. "Just remember they also have killer desserts here."

"I doubt if I'll have room for dessert," replied Jirra. "If I eat
much more, Greta will have to alter my gown."

"We can split an order of apple strudel; trust me on this one, it's
killer," interjected Alexis.

"So, what's the plan for the rest of the week?" asked Lindsey.

"I have some things to do at the studio tomorrow, so I figure that
you can hit the town with Alexis. If you want, we can go up to
Universal Studios, it's actually a lot of fun," stated Jen. "However,
I want you two to relax on Saturday, as Sunday will be very hectic.
We're getting our hair, nails and makeup done, and then we have to
get dressed. The limo will pick us up mid-afternoon so we can meet up
with your dates, and then off to the Oscars."

The flash of a camera interrupted their conversation. Jen turned
around to see a man with several cameras hanging from his neck.

"Smile, Ms. Stevens," he exclaimed. "You too, Ms. Eden." He began to
snap off photo after photo.

"Hey you, get outta here; you know the rules," announced the night
manager as he ran over.

The photographer ignored him and continued to snap photos. He moved
closer until he was only a foot away from their booth. His lens was
almost in Jen's face. It was as if he was trying to provoke Jen into
doing something, but she just kept eating and ignored him.

"This is private property, get your butt out of here before I call
the cops," stated the manger angrily as he approached the
photographer.

"Hey, hey, don't you dare touch me, I know my rights," the
photographer yelled back. "Besides, the cops can't do anything to me."

"I beg to differ," came a voice from another booth as two policemen
stood up. "You're interrupting my dinner, and in here that alone is a
crime. Please stop taking photos and come over here."

The two officers were motorcycle cops. The first one was a large
burly man with a full brown mustache. His partner was a younger
Hispanic man who was clean-shaven.

"I'm just trying to do my job," complained the photographer to the
cops.

"What a coincidence, so am I," replied the cop with the moustache.

"Hiya, Rick, Miguel, I didn't see you two come in here tonight, but
then again I just came on shift" stated the manager, as he shook the
hands of the two cops.

The photographer looked slightly nervous when he saw the cops and the
manager were friends.

"We were just ready to order dessert and coffee, but now it looks
like we're going back to work early. You want to press charges?"
asked Rick.

"I just want him out of here," replied the manager. "They know that
they're not allowed in here."

"What about you, Ms. Stevens? Does anyone at your table wish to press
charges?" asked the Hispanic officer. "What about you, Ms. Eden?"

"We're just trying to enjoy our dinner, officer. I agree with the
manager, and would just like him out of here," replied Jen in a
friendly manner. "I won't bring charges - unless any of those
pictures appear in the media."

Alexis nodded in agreement, as Jirra tried to disappear into the
recesses of the Naugahyde covered booth. The last thing she wanted
was a confrontation with a paparazzo.

"Well, that makes it unanimous, why don't you leave, before we charge
you with trespassing and disturbing the peace," stated the first cop
to the photographer.

"Fine, but I'll be waiting outside," stated the photographer.

"That's your right, but if you bother anyone, we'll be back here,"
replied Rick.

The photographer, seeing he wasn't going to get his way, walked out
of the deli watched closely by the two cops.

"God, I hate those bloodsuckers," mumbled Rick, but just audible to
Jen and the others at the table.

"I'll have your coffee and dessert right up, guys," stated the
manager. He then turned to Jen and the others. "Sorry about the
interruption, I hope it won't affect your opinion of Art's."

"It wasn't your fault, besides I appreciate the way you and the
officers handled it,' replied Jen. There was a big smile on her face,
as she shook their hands.

"Can I pay for your dinners this evening?" asked Jen as she turned
towards the two policemen.

"That's okay, but I wouldn't say no to an autograph from both of
you," replied Rick. "My wife is a big fan of both of you."

"It would be a pleasure," replied Jen with a smile.

The manager handed her a couple of paper placemats, and Jen and
Alexis signed them for the officers.

"Thanks a lot, and give us a call if that guy gives you any
problems," stated Rick, as he examined the autographs.

The two officers returned to their booth for their coffee and dessert.

"Well, that was pretty exciting; does that happen a lot?" asked
Lindsey.

"It gets pretty crazy leading up to the Oscars. We get a lot of out
of town photographers, and the competition is pretty tight as it is,"
replied Jen. "That guy broke the rules by coming inside; they don't
usually do that. Now, let me warn you, it might get a little nuts
when we leave. Our friend might have called some of his friends to
make it more difficult for us. Just keep your cool and don't let them
get under your skin," explained Jen.

"They want you to do something crazy as that will make their
photographs worth more. I doubt anyone will pay big bucks to see Jen
eat matzo-ball soup," added Alexis.

"So he was trying to provoke you?" asked Jirra.

Jen nodded. "Yes, it makes for a better photo. I have a bad temper
left over from my old life. I control it most of the time, especially
when I'm out in public, but it's difficult around jerks like that."

"I'm glad the two cops were here," added Lindsey.

"So am I," said Jen. "I would have hated to waste my soup by tossing
it in the face of that parasite."

"What'll happen if he's out there?" asked Lindsey.

"Remember, I drive a Hummer; I just hope one of those Neanderthals
steps in front of me," replied Jen with a laugh.

"We could get you a stamp to put silhouettes of them on the side,
like fighter pilots do," added Jirra.

Jen laughed. "Now there's an idea!"

Ten minutes later they walked out of the deli. A few people stopped
to ask Jen and Alexis for autographs, which they readily agreed to.

To everyone's surprise, the photographer was nowhere to be seen. The
valet brought up Jen's Hummer, and they drove away without incident.

"I guess there was someone more famous to bother," noted Alexis.
"It's things like this that makes me want to leave Hollywood."

"I don't see how either of you deal with it," said Jirra.

"It's an occupational hazard. Most of the paparazzi are harmless, but
there are those who press the boundaries of privacy. It was hell the
first few months after I had my accident, but eventually they lost
interest in me," stated Jen. "Other than the fact that I used to be a
man, my life is too boring for them."

"I shudder to think what my life would be like if they learned my
secret," sighed Jirra.

Alexis slipped her arm around Jirra. "I noticed that you got a little
camera shy back there. You do know that your photo will be taken when
we go down the red carpet?"

Jirra nodded. "That's different. This was like an assault. I know
that I'll have to deal with others concerning my change someday, but
I'd like to be in control of it."

"That may not be possible," countered Alexis.

"I know that. I've already had to answer questions from Penn
concerning my being 'transsexual.' I don't like the idea of lying to
people, but at the same time I just want to live my life."

"I know you'll handle it, and just so you'll know, I'll be there for
you," said Alexis.

"Count me in," added Lindsey.

"Me too!" stated Jen.

"Thanks," replied Jirra. "That really means a lot."

Chapter 47

The four friends sat up until well after midnight talking.
Eventually, it was just Alexis and Jirra.

"I must remember to thank Jen and Lindsey for suddenly feeling
sleepy," quipped Alexis.

Jirra chuckled. "And I always thought that Jen was a better actress
than that."

They were sitting on the couch cross-legged, facing each other.
Alexis reached over and took Jirra's hands into hers.

Jirra trembled slightly, feeling a rush of emotions that had been
initially sparked back at the spa.

"Well, obviously distance and separation did nothing to lower the
feelings I have for you," said Alexis. "You do still have feelings
for me, right?"

"Yes... yes, I do. I tried to put them off as a crush and that I was
just star-struck, but every time I got an email from you, I felt all
tingly all over," replied Jirra.

"Me too," stated Alexis. "The question is, can we do anything with
it?"

Jirra nodded softly.

"When I told Faith that I was a lesbian and planning on coming out, I
half hoped she would want someone else for the series. I'm so tired of
hiding the real me. I have enough money put away that I could walk
away if I wanted, but I can't."

"That's because you're proud of what you do and want to prove that it
doesn't matter what your sexuality is, right?" asked Jirra.

Alexis cocked her head slightly. "You're pretty bright."

"I understand a little of what you're going through. Alexis, it
terrifies me that I might be outed. I mean, if the truth comes out,
what will happen to me, Mom, the spa, and everyone there?"

"Let's not get all upset over something that might never happen."

Jirra tried to smile but instead a tear began to run down her cheek.
Alexis saw it and gently wiped it away.

"Look, Roo, you're going to make it. I know that it's tough, but
you're a sweet person who is blessed to have a strong circle of
friends around. I can only speak for myself that it's not out of pity
either; that sort of thing passes quickly. I'll be your friend and
maybe more, through thick and thin. Jen has made it, and she's had
some hard times too, but like you she's blessed with people who care
deeply about her."

"I know, but sometimes I can't help feeling sorry for myself. I've
had so many wonderful things happen to me since the... change. I
asked my spirit guide about it, and he said that it was just
something that happened... no big cosmic reason or purpose; one
minute I'm a guy and then in a flash I'm female. The universe has a
perverse sense of humor if you ask me," said Jirra.

"I don't think your spirit guide was telling you everything. I don't
believe that you had this life-changing event just out of the blue;
there must be a purpose to it. From what your mom has told me, you
were a nice smart kid before the accident, and you're still a nice
smart kid. This happened for a reason, and I think that you'll learn
the reason someday when you're ready. Right now, you're still
adjusting to the change. That's enough for now; if you also knew you
had some great task ahead of you that would be even more
overwhelming."

"Why didn't I get the same sort of mental adjustments as Jen did?"

"I have no idea, Roo. I'm not sure which way I would prefer myself.
By the way, how's the guy thing coming along?"

Jirra rolled her eyes. "It's still there. It's weird having feelings
that I know are natural and everything, but at the same time being
disgusted and horrified that I might actually act on them."

Alexis laughed. "I felt that way the first time I was turned on by
another girl!"

"It's not exactly the same thing," replied Jirra.

"It's not that different either. Look, I don't care if you like guys;
if we can somehow make this work, I do expect you to be honest to me
and loyal to me, and I will give that back in return."

"Do you think that we might make something out of this?"

"I hope so," replied Alexis. She then leaned over and in a gentle
movement kissed Jirra softly on the lips.

"That was nice."

"It was, but I think that's where we should stop for now. But I do
want you to know that this isn't the end."

Jirra smiled and they kissed again before heading up to their rooms.

"Goodnight, Roo, sweet dreams."

Chapter 48

Jirra undressed and debated Jen's suggestion regarding the sheets.
She had never slept naked before and had never slept on satin sheets.
She wondered if she should do it.

"Come on, Jirra, it's not like they're going to bite back," she
stated aloud to herself.

Jirra decided to give it a try, and after turning out the lights, she
removed her pjs and got into bed. The sheets felt very smooth, and it
was momentarily overwhelming to her senses. For a moment, she thought
it might be a mistake to do it, as she was still slightly aroused from
her contact with Alexis, but to her total surprise she drifted off to
sleep almost as soon as she closed her eyes.

Jirra slowly awoke feeling very rested. To her total surprise, when
she looked at the clock on the nightstand it was showing 9:45. She
sat up in bed and reached for her watch, which confirmed how late it
was. She couldn't remember the last time she'd slept in this late.

Stepping out of bed, she also found that she had forgotten that she
was naked. "Well, mark that down for another thing Jen was right
about," she stated aloud as she drifted slowly towards the shower.

After a very long shower and an invigorating experience in the dryer,
she got dressed. She decided that she would take a bath tonight before
going to bed to try it out.

She decided to go with jeans, a sage colored sweater and the cowgirl
boots that Tara and Cari had bought her for Christmas. She hadn't
worn them too often back at the spa as she felt funny about wearing
them, as if she wasn't western enough for them. She knew it was
silly, as many of the girls in town wore them and some of them didn't
know one end of a horse from the other.

They were really nice boots, modeled after a style from the 1880's.
The leather was distressed brown softened goat, with a very minimal
pattern. For boots they were very comfortable and as soon as she put
them on, she was glad she'd brought them. They went perfectly with
jeans or something dressier.

She walked downstairs and found the others in the living room.

"Well, look who's up! It's true, the dead lives!" stated Alexis.

"I thought the dead came out after dark," added Lindsey.

"Very funny," replied Jirra, as she sat down next to Alexis.

"Oooh, nice boots!" commented Jen.

Alexis ran her hand down the side of one. "I agree, these are very
nice, where did you get them?"

"Cari and Tara gave them to me," replied Jirra, as she eyed the tray
of muffins on the coffee table.

Alexis bent down to examine the boots. "Wow, these are genuine
Luccheses!"

"I'm even more impressed," stated Jen.

"What's so impressive about them?" asked Lindsey.

"They've made boots for everyone from John Wayne to Michael Jordan,"
replied Jen. "The cool thing is that they put the same quality into
their boots for the general public."

"I like them, as they're comfortable, if only I could feel more at
ease wearing them back home. I mean I'm too much of an East-Coast
person," replied Jirra, as she picked out a blueberry muffin and
began to pick it apart.

"I wouldn't worry about that," replied Alexis, "soon you'll be kidded
for being a hick at Penn by East-Coast snobs!"

"Gee, I guess I'd better get a cowgirl hat too!" replied Jirra as she
began to giggle. She was so happy to be around Alexis again, even if
it was for a couple of days.

"Well, I guess breakfast is out of the question," commented Jen as
she looked at her watch. "I gotta run down to the studio. I'll be
back for dinner. Do you have any requests?"

Lindsey raised her hand and began to wave it back and forth. "Ooh,
ooh, I have an idea!"

Jen laughed. "Okay, what is it?"

"Let me cook you all dinner! I'd love to use your kitchen and cook
you your favorite meal as a way of thanking you," stated Lindsey.

"Well, you already cooked me a cheesesteak," replied Jen.

Lindsey shook her head. "Come on, Jen, I'm serious. I want to cook
you something special."

"That's a great idea; we can go out to some of the local grocery
places to get what we need. There's a Whole Foods in Beverly Hills,
that'll be fun just going there!" stated Alexis. "We can also go to
Trader Joe's, they're everywhere."

"You can't be serious, Lindsey. You're in Hollywood and you want to
cook me dinner?" asked Jen.

"I'm deadly serious. Jen, I love cooking and creating meals for
friends; it's not a chore for me. I'd love to go through some of the
food shops around here," replied Lindsey. "Besides, if I make
something you like, it could be something for my resume!"

Jen nodded. "How can I say no to that?"

"Cool!" replied Lindsey as she got up and hugged Jen. "Now, I'm going
to see what you have in the kitchen before I make up my shopping list."

"Now that's something the supermarket rag sheets would love to know,
what sorts of horrors exist in Jen Steven's kitchen!" stated Alexis,
fighting back tears as she started laughing.

Jen simply shook her head. "No science experiments running amok in
there, I'm afraid. My housekeeper, Gertie, keeps everything in top
shape when she's here, and I tend to use the microwave or eat out
whenever I'm here by myself."

"Darn! No juicy tidbits for the tabloids then. Well, that won't stop
us from making up a few!" Alexis continued to giggle.

Jen looked skyward. "Sheesh! With friends like these, who needs
enemies?"

"So, Jen, what do you want for supper anyway?" Lindsey had a pad of
paper and a pen ready to take notes.

"Well, I eat out so much that something nice and simple would be
great. I guess my favorite meal is a good beef stew. Nice big chunks
of beef with loads of veggies." A far away look formed in Jen's eyes.
"I remember my mom telling my dad to take a walk through the garden
whenever she made stew in late summer or early fall. Almost anything
in the garden was a fair target to put in the pot. Potatoes, carrots,
celery, turnips, green beans, onions, leeks and whatever else he
planted that year that was still growing. A real treat was the fresh
baked bread or biscuits too. We never had much money, so mom would
scratch bake as much as possible when she did bake. Sometimes we had
dark chocolate Devil's Food cake with a vanilla buttercream frosting
or plain brownies for dessert."

Jen stood there not moving or saying anything for several seconds.
Jirra started to worry and put her hand on Jen's shoulder. It seemed
to bring her back to reality.

"Sorry. Just having a little bit of a flashback to simpler times in
my life folks. I'm fine."

Jirra wasn't so certain since she noticed tears starting to form in
the corners of Jen's eyes.

Jen picked up her purse from the table. "I'm certain whatever you
decide to fix will be fine, Lindsey. I trust you with my taste buds.
I've got to get going, so you all have a good time today."

Jirra looked a bit confused. "Jen, you only have the H2. How are we
going to go shopping? Take a limo or a cab?"

"Oh, I forgot to show you something. Follow me." They all followed
Jen to a garage at the back of the building. They saw two spaces to
park cars. One was empty while the other held a shiny red Dodge Viper
two-seat convertible.

"This is my other California transportation. I tend to use it when
it's just me or when I'm with one other person. There isn't room for
more than that comfortably. It fits the 'star' image I have to keep
up too."

Jirra and Lindsey looked the car over as Alexis stood back and
watched. She'd seen the car before and on occasion borrowed it when
she was in town. "Uh, Jen, you know I don't like driving the Hummer."

"That's okay, Alexis. Jirra can handle it." Jen opened her purse then
tossed the keys to the H2 to Jirra. "The registration is in the glove
compartment along with the insurance card if something happens."

"Jen, I can't drive that!"

"And why not? You drive an SUV at home don't you? Your mom told me
you drove hers, and Judy said you did fine on your business trips
with hers, right?"

"Yes, but..."

"Just remember that it's a bit wider than a normal SUV and you'll do
fine. Besides, you need to use it since there are three of you and
you'll need the room in it for the groceries." Jen took another look
at her watch. "Damn, I'm gonna be late if I don't get moving!"

She pressed a button on the wall that opened the door behind the
Viper then settled herself in the car. Moments later it started up
then settled into a throaty purr as she carefully backed it out of
the garage bay. With a wave through the open roof, she was gone.

Alexis pressed the button to close the door. "There she goes again,
Hurricane Jennifer."

"Hurricane?" Lindsey and Jirra said in unison.

"Yup, a force of nature not to taken lightly."

Jirra laughed. "It does sort of fit her doesn't it?""

Lindsey was laughing too. "Well, I guess I'd better survey the
kitchen then get going." Lindsey took a few steps then stopped in her
tracks. "Darn. How are we going to pay for the food?"

Alexis smiled. "Oh, don't worry about that, Lindsey. I'll take care
of it. Jen's let me stay in one of her guest rooms and use her car
whenever I've needed a place to crash. It will help me to say thanks
to her too."

Lindsey left to inspect the kitchen as Jirra and Alexis took a few
moments to lock up the garage.

Chapter 49

When they entered the kitchen, Lindsey was busy looking into all the
cabinets.

Jirra laughed. "The cook is in her element now. I'd say that within
ten minutes she'll have the entire kitchen memorized as to where
everything is and how much there is of it."

Alexis nodded. "You're right, of course."

They watched for a couple of minutes more as Lindsey finished by
checking out the contents of the huge walk-in refrigerator. She
scribbled a few notes on a pad of paper then sat down at the kitchen
table.

"Well, Jen was right. She doesn't keep much around. I'll have to pick
up almost everything I need. I can use some of what's here, but I'll
have to replace it." Lindsey picked up the phone book and flipped
through the pages until she found a certain phone number then dialed
the phone.

"Hello? Is John there please? ... Okay, I'll wait. ... John? Lindsey
Dylan calling.... Yes, we met last night. I was with Jennifer
Stevens. ... You can help me by telling me where you get your meat
and produce. ... Well, I'm cooking for Jen tonight, and I need a few
things. ... Okay, I got that. Now what about produce? ... Great. ...
Oh, how about fresh Italian bread? ... Really? Thanks! ... Yes, if
she does, I'll make sure you get it, John. ... Thanks again, bye!"

"Who were you talking to, Lindsey?" Alexis looked confused.

"I was talking to John, the owner of the Italian place we were at
last night. I needed to find out where to get a few things, since I'm
new to the area."

"What was that about 'if she does, I'll make sure you get it' anyway?"

"John just asked that if Jen liked what I was fixing, he'd like a
sample and the recipe. He likes to add his guests' favorites to the
menu, if he can find out what they are. He also offered a few loaves
of fresh baked Italian bread. They have a batch to put in the oven a
little later today. All we have to do is stop by to pick it up."

"So are you ready to go?"

"Let me get directions to these two places, and I'm all set."

It took a few more minutes for Lindsey to get good directions, and it
turned out that Alexis knew the area well enough to be able to
navigate for Jirra to find the stores. It took only a few minutes for
Jirra to feel comfortable driving the H2. As long as she allowed a bit
of extra room around the huge SUV, it wasn't too different from
driving any of the smaller vehicles she was already used to.

Lindsey decided that the first stop was the supermarket. While her
own plans didn't need much from the store, she'd decided to replace
what she was going to use and to replenish the stocks of the various
things she had already used in making breakfast the past few days.

Jirra found a parking spot for the Hummer then started to follow
Lindsey into the huge Whole Foods store. She stopped a few feet away
from the Hummer and grabbed Alexis' arm.

"Alexis, do you want to put on some sort of disguise or something?"

"Why?"

"Aren't you concerned about being recognized and getting swamped with
autograph requests in there?"

"No, not really." Alexis noticed the look of confusion on Jirra's
face. "Jirra, there are probably two places where I can walk around
without a disguise and not be bothered too much. The first is my
hometown where everyone knows me anyway. The other is here in L.A.
There are already so many famous faces running around here that one
more isn't going to cause a major riot. Yes, I will get recognized. I
doubt that I'll get a mob of people trying to tear my clothes off
though. People may point and stare, and a few may come over to talk
to me or ask for an autograph. It's just something I have to live
with."

Jirra shrugged. "If you're sure about it, then I guess we'd better
get moving."

"Lindsey's probably got a shopping cart half-loaded with stuff by
now."

Once inside the store, Alexis grabbed a shopping cart then circled
around the aisles until they found Lindsey staring at something
inside a freezer case. She seemed to snap out of her trance then
opened the case door, grabbed several bags of what appeared to be
unsweetened frozen dark cherries and put them in her shopping cart.

Alexis turned to Jirra. "What was that all about?"

"I've seen that look in her eyes a few times before. I'm just taking
an educated guess here, but I'd say she just got an idea for
something new to make. Knowing what she's capable of and the fact
that she put those cherries in the cart, I'm guessing that we're
going to have a very special dessert to go with supper tonight."

"I think you're right, Jirra. We'd better catch up with her before we
lose her again."

A few minutes later, Lindsey had nearly filled her cart and started
in on the one Alexis was pushing. They spent nearly an hour in the
store as Lindsey finished the rest of her list.

It took two baggers to help move the load of groceries out to the
Hummer. Fortunately, there was a large ice chest in the back, and it
was soon loaded up with the items that needed to stay cold. A cord
with a cigarette lighter plug came out of the end of the cooler. It
was lying next to an outlet in the back of the H2. Alexis plugged the
cord into the outlet and a low whirring sound came from a small
compartment on the end of the chest. "Cool. It's one of those camping
type refrigerators. The stuff in there will stay cold for as long as
we're out. Jen uses this when she does her own shopping."

Jirra started the H2 then turned to look at Lindsey. "So where to
next?"

"Well, the butcher shop is the farthest out. Let's make that the next
stop. We've got room in the chest, so I'm not concerned about the beef
getting warm while we're doing the rest of the shopping."

Jirra nodded as she moved the H2 back out of the parking spot then
headed in the direction Alexis pointed.

The butcher shop was easy to locate, and it took only a few minutes
for Lindsey to pick up the order she placed over the telephone.
Several pounds of prime stew beef, cut into two inch cubes, were
added to the cooler.

By this time, it was getting close to noontime, so the trio decided
to head back to the Italian place for lunch and to pick up the bread.

As Jirra parked the Hummer in the restaurant's parking lot, the cell
phone in Alexis' purse started to ring. "Hello? ... Oh, hi Jen? ...
Okay. Let me ask her."

Alexia turned to face Lindsey. "Is it going to be a problem for you
if Jen invites someone for dinner?"

"No, not all. I'm planning for around a dozen as is stands now. It'll
probably wind up being a buffet style layout, since we don't really
have a staff to serve everything."

"Did you hear that, Jen? ... Okay then. I'll let her know. Bye!"

"Lindsey, Jen said to tell you thanks. She's inviting a friend of
hers over at about seven tonight."

"I'll be ready." Lindsey scribbled another round of notes on her pad
of paper before following the others into the restaurant.

To save room for supper, they all decided to have a small antipasto
and a soda for lunch. John popped out of the kitchen and filled
Lindsey in on the produce place he'd recommended. It was run by an
Armenian-American family - a father and two sons, all of whom were
short, stocky, and barrel-chested with full heads of curly black
hair. The father was known as "Hal" and the two sons, even though in
their thirties, were simply known as "Junior" and "the kid." They
were all very knowledgeable, helpful, and very friendly. Their place
of business was the whole bottom floor of a big, old brick warehouse,
and it was always cool in there, even on the hottest summer days. Most
of the produce is still in cases stacked on pallets, with the top case
being open for retail trade and to let wholesale customers see - and
sample - the produce. Anyone, like Lindsey, who could talk to them
about produce in a really knowledgeable way would get wholesale
pricing, no matter how little they bought.

As they finished their meal, John brought out a half-dozen loves of
fresh Italian bread, still warm from the oven. Lindsey had inquired
about getting some wine to serve with the stew and to use a small
amount in the preparation of the meal. John surprised her with three
bottles of an excellent Beaujolais, saying that Jen was personally
responsible for bringing him a lot of business and that he'd be glad
to contribute the bread and the wine so she could enjoy her meal in
style.

It took just a few minutes to find the produce place. Jirra and
Alexis followed Lindsey inside then trailed behind her, pushing the
cart as she started to fill it with a large assortment of vegetables
and other goodies. Lindsey stopped at a pile of boxes containing
celery. The top box didn't have much left in it and as she looked at
the box below it a large frown spread across her face. She told Jirra
and Alexis to wait then took off in the direction of the checkout
counter. A minute or so later she came back followed by a stocky man
with slightly graying hair.

"See? The code says these two boxes were packed at least four days
ago. All of the rest have today's date on them."

The man looked at the boxes then turned back toward the counter.
"Junior!", he bellowed, "Pull the order you picked up from Graystone
Farms this morning and tell them I want two new boxes of celery
delivered or the cost for these two cases of old stock taken off the
bill. You can also tell them that this is the second time that this
has happened. Three strikes and they're out. There are other places I
can get celery!"

The man moved the two cases out of the way then opened a brand new
case. "There you go, young lady. Please accept your order for celery
with my compliments. We do try to keep an eye on our suppliers, but
this order was picked up as a wrapped pallet this morning. I guess
they grabbed a couple of boxes of old stock when they got our order
together."

"Thank you, sir! I do appreciate it." Lindsey picked out three
bunches of celery and placed them in the cart.

"Hal, please call me Hal. Sir makes me feel like my Dad was around
somewhere." He looked at Lindsey then the cart for a few moments.
"Are you by any chance in the business?"

"Yes, I'm afraid so. My mother is the chef at a spa in New Mexico.
I'm out here to attend the awards this weekend with a friend and
decided to cook supper tonight. My name is Lindsey."

"Again, thank you, Lindsey, for calling this to my attention. Our
customers have come to accept that we carry only the best produce
available. We'd never sell something that old to anyone. When you're
done shopping, come and see me at the checkout counter." Hal bowed
slightly then headed off to talk with a few other customers.

On the way to the register to check out, Lindsey passed the store's
exotic produce section. The selection of produce included several
fruits she'd only seen in the pictures in her cooking books. She even
spotted some fresh blueberries and raspberries and got a couple of
quarts of each to use in pancakes or waffles and for desserts over
the next few days.

The big surprise came at the register when Hal encouraged her to
register for a wholesale card. He told her that she'd be able to get
whatever she wanted at wholesale prices with the card. They would
even ship her things at the spa if she needed something she couldn't
get locally. Considering the delicacies she'd seen in the exotic
section, she jumped at the chance.

Chapter 50

Back at the condo, it took several trips for the mountain of bags and
boxes to get carried into Jen's kitchen. Instead of pulling the Hummer
into the garage, they'd parked across from the back entrance, since it
was closer to the elevator. With their activities out in the open,
several photographers spent a few minutes snapping pictures. Jen's
Hummer was well known to the paparazzi crowd, and that, plus the fact
that a mountain of groceries was being lugged into the building by
Alexis Eden, meant that the word that some kind of party was being
planned got spread around town faster than the news that a TV show
was being cancelled. Within minutes, both entrances to the building
were staked out, with the crew at one entrance in cell phone contact
with the other. Whoever showed up would be certain to have their
picture snapped. The rumor mill kicked into high gear.

It took a few minutes to put much of the pile of groceries away. What
remained on the kitchen table were the things Lindsey needed for the
meal.

Lindsey put Jirra and Alexis to work cleaning and chopping the
veggies as she browned the meat for the stew. After lightly browning
it, she drained off the pan drippings to cool slightly. Later she
would remove as much of the grease as possible from the drippings
then add them back to the stew for additional flavor.

A generous quantity of chopped onions then got sautŽed in olive oil,
with chopped garlic being added for the last minute. These were added
to the beef, along with boiling beef stock, some black pepper, thyme,
and a couple bay leaves. Lindsey carefully adjusted the flame under
the pot then placed a lid on top.

After the beef had simmered for an hour or so, Lindsey would add in
the vegetables in stages, so that all would reach the appropriate
degree of doneness when the stew was finished. A final garnish of
fresh chopped parsley, basil, savory and chives would be added just
before serving.

While the kitchen was fairly large and well equipped, several
collisions with Jirra and Alexis prompted Lindsey to shoo both of
them out of the kitchen with the task of setting up the dining room
properly.

The dining room was positively huge; Jirra counted at least a dozen
round tables and guessed that the room could seat at least fifty to
sixty people comfortably. Lindsey wanted to server dinner buffet
style, so they set up three long folding tables they found in a
storage closet. It took close to an hour to set up the room the way
Lindsey wanted it.

Since Jen hadn't brought her housekeeper, Jirra and Alexis did a
quick clean up of the first floor areas of the condo. The time just
seemed to slip by as they worked with a vacuum cleaner and the
cleaning kit they found in the storage room. With everything
finished, they headed back to the kitchen to watch Lindsey.

Just after five in the afternoon, they heard the front door open,
then slam with a loud bang. Moments later, Jen came storming into the
kitchen and tossed her purse on the table.

"IDIOTS! Those flaming idiots! A whole week's worth of editing
screwed up because..." The smells wafting through the kitchen finally
tickled Jen's nose enough to completely register. "Ooooo, what smells
soooooo good?" Jen headed for the range to peek into the pots
bubbling away there. Lindsey cut her off though.

"Uh, Jen, things won't be ready until about seven, since that's when
you said your friend was coming. Since you seem so keyed up, how
about you go take a good soak in the tub and relax?"

Jen looked at Lindsey with the pout of a three-year-old girl who has
just been told she can't have a new dolly.

Jirra laughed. "That won't work on her, Jen. Alexis and I already
tried. She said no samples or peeking until everything is ready. And
she owes us, because we've been helping!"

Jen crossed her arms over her breasts and stamped her foot. "Oh poo!
It's my kitchen!" All three of the girls laughed even louder.

Alexis gently grabbed Jen's shoulders and guided her toward the door.
"Now go take a good soak. That's Doctor Alexis' personal prescription.
And use that special setting of yours. You need to work out all of
your frustrations. I'll have Jirra bring in a mug of hot chocolate in
a little while too."

"A hot soak in the tub and hot chocolate too? Why am I still here?"

Almost half an hour later, Jirra knocked lightly on Jen's bathroom
door. There was no answer after several seconds, so she slowly opened
the door, concerned that something had happened to Jen. As Jirra
stepped into the bathroom, she saw Jen leaning back in the tub with
her arms on the rim of the tub. The water was swirling furiously, and
the mounting froth of bubbles hid what was going on just under the
surface as Jen made little noises of pleasure. Jirra also noticed
that the special button Jen had mentioned was lit in a brilliant red.

Jirra was about to set the mug on the edge of the tub and leave when
the humming of the pumps stopped as the red light extinguished. After
several more seconds, Jen sighed as her eyes fluttered open. She
didn't seem upset at all to see Jirra standing there.

Jen smiled up at Jirra. "How long have you been there?"

Jirra felt the warmth flooding into her face. "Not long."

"But long enough, huh?" Jirra nodded. "Jirra, I'm not ashamed of
this. There's no need for you to be nervous or ashamed either. In
trying to find my own balance, I had to learn not to hide my feelings
or refuse new sensations. This is just a part of that."

"Killara keeps reminding me of that."

"Ah yes, your spirit guide. He's quite right you know." Jen sipped
from the steaming mug of hot chocolate. "Maybe it would have been
easier for me if I had someone like him. Can I ask a personal
question?"

Jirra thought for a few seconds. "If I can decline to answer it."

"Fair enough. Are you still afraid that you're going to lose the old
you?"

"How did you know?"

"Talking with your mom and Judy, but mostly from watching you.
Occasionally, I see a very brief flicker of something on your face.
Nobody would ever notice it unless they'd been through it too. It
still happens to me, but not as often as it used to. Something
happens that will trigger an old memory or behavior from before, and
I struggle with that for a while. I..."

A knock came on the bathroom door, then a few moments later it opened
slightly. Alexis peeked around the door. "Okay, ladies. Your time is
up. Jen you need to get dressed. It's a little after six now. You've
been in here for over an hour. Jirra, you're needed in the kitchen."

Jen sighed. "Thanks. Alexis. I'll be out shortly." The door closed
again. "Well, we can always talk later. Remember, don't be afraid to
fully experience the wonderful gift you're been given. You really
should try the red button you know."

Jirra smiled. "Have you been talking to Killara?"

Jen shook her head as she smiled. "I have not now, nor have I ever
been on a spirit quest, although I'm not certain how close a session
in the tub with the red light on comes. Now go see what Lindsey
needs. I'll be recovered enough in another few minutes to get out and
get dried off. Tell them I'll be ready around six thirty, okay?"

"I'll let everyone know, Jen."

"The three of you might want to freshen up and change before our
guests arrive too."

Jirra nodded before closing the bedroom door behind her.

Chapter 51

About thirty minutes later, Jen was sitting on the couch in her
living room, dressed in jeans, an orange Syracuse University
sweatshirt, and sandals. She was looking through a stack of scripts
and story proposals when the doorbell started ringing.

It was the start of a steady flow of guests arriving, and soon ten
additional residents of the building were milling around in the
living room. Jirra circulated around the room carrying a tray of
finger food and introducing herself to each of the guests. She
recognized the stars of three TV shows and at least one well-known
supporting actor in the movies. She learned the rest were either
involved in the production or distribution of movies and TV shows.

Alexis greeted one female guest by running over to her and giving her
a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. Jirra felt a surge of jealousy for
a few moments, until the man with her was introduced as her husband.
Alexis explained that the woman was her stunt double on her latest
movie and had been nominated for an award for her stunt work on
another picture.

Shortly before seven, the doorbell chimed again. Jen greeted her
guest with a warm hug and a little kiss on his cheek, then introduced
the gray haired man as Wayne Zachery, the host of Around Midnight and
the owner of the studio that had supported her latest picture.

The group quickly moved to the dining room when Lindsey announced
that everything was ready. It was a stretch since there were several
more people than Lindsey had planned for, but with some extra salad
and some additional appetizers, there was more than enough for
everyone.

The meal went off without a hitch. Jen noticed how professional
Lindsey was when it came to cooking and serving the food; nothing was
overlooked. The food was excellent, and the guests asked Jen who
catered for her.

Lindsey beamed with pride when Jen introduced her as the chef.

There was a further round of congratulations after everyone tasted
the dessert. Lindsey had keyed on Jen's love of chocolate, and served
a hot dark chocolate bread pudding, topped with the pitted black
cherries and a butter-cream frosting that melted over the hot
pudding.

The after dinner conversation was interesting, and Jirra really
enjoyed the evening. Her only concern surfaced after the conversation
turned to the spa. Everyone wanted a business card to have the spa's
phone number after Jen and Alexis raved about the service there. It
certainly didn't hurt that Lindsey was a chef at the spa either.
Jirra was a bit concerned that the people calling the spa would be
asking for her instead of Judy to make a reservation or get
information. She wondered if Judy would be upset about it.

Jirra was also amazed at the amount of business that seemed to
transpire during the dinner. She heard at least three deals for
appearances on Around Midnight and a couple of proposals for movie
deals. She wondered if things were always like this whenever a group
of people in the entertainment industry gathered anywhere.

Things broke up around eleven, and it wasn't long before everyone was
sound asleep.

Chapter 52

The next few days flew by, and soon it was Sunday morning. Lindsey
made omelets for brunch, and as they ate, Jen went over the schedule.

"The stylist and her crew are coming over at noon," stated Jen.
"They'll do our nails, hair, and makeup in that order."

"I know how to do my own makeup," interrupted Jirra.

"No offense, Roo, but this is different; you're walking down the red
carpet, and you need to look gorgeous," answered Alexis. "Trust me on
this one; you'll definitely stand out if your makeup is understated."

Jirra nodded and let out a sigh. "Okay, I guess that makes sense."

"Don't mind her, Alexis; I'm looking forward to getting a makeover!"
interjected Lindsey.

"What time will the limo be by to pick us up?" asked Jirra.

"Three. I know that sounds early, but as we're not on the A-list we
need to be there earlier for our trip down the red carpet," replied
Jen. "We'll stop along the way and pick up the boys, and you two will
switch to their limo. Now don't worry, as I've already told them to be
perfect gentlemen or else!"

"So you and Alexis will be arriving at the same time?" asked Lindsey.

"No, I'm going in solo, and Alexis is going in with her producer,"
replied Jen.

"Richard Thorn?" asked Jirra.

Alexis nodded. "I promised him that if he let me go I'd walk down the
red carpet with him, good publicity for the flick, but don't worry;
we'll all be sitting together."

"What's he like?" asked Lindsey.

"He's very nice, I'll introduce you to him at the party afterwards,"
replied Alexis.

"So he won't be sitting next to us?" asked Jirra.

Alexis shook her head. "No, I think he'll be sitting with his
daughter."

"Why isn't he walking down the carpet with her?" asked Jirra.

"She's almost eight months pregnant, that's why," replied Alexis with
a smile.

"Yikes," replied Jirra.

"I met her a few times while we were in Crete; she a budding star in
the archeological world. She's really nice; I hope she'll come to the
party."

"Cool, what's her name?" asked Jirra.

"Hallie Thorn Pappadimos."

"Oh, I remember you e-mailing about her; isn't she a lesbian too?"

Alexis nodded as she sipped her juice. "Yes, and her partner, Kim, is
also very nice."

"Does Richard know about you?" asked Jirra.

"Yes, and he was totally understanding. He's so excited about
becoming a grandfather."

"That's pretty cool."

"Well, I don't mean to be the mother hen, but I think it's time for
you all to go take your showers," interrupted Jen.

"Cluck, cluck," said Alexis as she stood up and carried her plate to
the sink.

Jirra and Lindsey giggled and likewise make chicken sounds.

Chapter 53

The woman assigned to assist Jirra was named Gail and was an
attractive woman with short blonde hair. She was friendly and went
right to work on Jirra.

"This hair style looks good on you, Jirra. All I really need to do is
mousse it up a little to make you look a bit more glamorous," stated
Gail.

Jirra nodded nervously as she still wasn't used to being given so
much attention. She kept her hair short to avoid extra work. As Gail
worked, Jirra noticed that there was a bottle of nail polish already
picked out. The color appeared to be a glossy red. It wasn't a bright
red, rather it was slightly dark.

"Is that the color you're going to use on me?" asked Jirra.

"Yes, it's perfect. Jen sent us color photos of you and your friend,
so we would know your colors. You have a very natural beauty, Jirra."

Jirra felt her face getting slightly warm. "Thank you."

"So are you trying to break into the business?"

Jirra began to shake her head, but was stopped by Gail's firm hand on
her head.

"Oops, sorry. No, I live on a spa in New Mexico, and I met both Jen
and Alexis there. I want to become a writer," replied Jirra.

"Smart move, but I tell you, Jirra, you have the looks to get the
door opened for you," replied Gail.

"I think I'll pass," replied Jirra.

Gail laughed. "Well, you'll be the only young woman there tonight who
isn't wishing that she'll get noticed by some hotshot director."

"Do you work on many stars?" asked Jirra, trying to shift the
conversation.

"Oh yes, most are a real pain in the ass. Jen is cool, and from what
I've heard so is Alexis, that's why we're here."

Gail began to work on Jirra's nails.

"Can I see my hair?" asked Jirra.

"Nope. Hun, I'm an artist, and I'm not letting you see yourself until
I'm done. Now relax and don't worry. You're going to turn some heads
tonight by the time I'm done with you!"

"That's what I'm worried about," mumbled Jirra.

An hour later, Gail told Jirra to carefully close her eyes.

"Okay, now open them up," ordered Gail.

Jirra opened her eyes and was stunned by the image that was staring
back at her in the mirror that Gail was holding up. She looked
stunning, and in spite of herself, she felt a wave of pure joy sweep
through her.

"Oh my God, I can't believe that's me!" gasped Jirra.

"Jen said that you don't like a lot of makeup, but I think what I did
is understated, considering where you're going," replied Gail.

Jirra could only nod slightly as she stared at her reflection. She
never used much eyeliner and was amazed by what Gail had done. Her
lips also looked fuller and thicker.

"That lipstick color looks great on you. I'll leave you a tube, along
with the eye shadow colors," stated Gail, as if she could read Jirra's
mind.

"Thank you," replied Jirra, barely holding back her smile. She felt
all giddy inside, and it was a confusing feeling, as she had never
felt this way about wearing makeup before.

"I'm also leaving you a DVD that has my makeup techniques on it.
Granted, you'll probably never need to get this dolled up at the spa,
but you never know. Still, the basics can be used in your everyday
makeup," continued Gail.

"How did you do the lips?" asked Jirra.

"Make up trick my boss taught me; it's on the DVD," replied Gail with
a smile. "Now, you'd better go get dressed. Come right back out here,
and I'll check you makeup again."

Jirra smiled and nodded as she stood up. "I'll be careful."

"That's what they all say!"

Chapter 54

As the dress had built-in support, Jirra didn't need to wear a bra.
She stared at herself in the mirror and shook her head in disbelief.
A year ago, she was a boy back in Pennsylvania, and now she looked
like a starlet. The dress fit perfectly, although she felt she was
showing too much cleavage. The only thing missing from her outfit was
jewelry, and Jen said she would provide that.

She carefully walked downstairs in her heels and found Jen and the
others waiting for her. They were all dressed and looked wonderful.

"You look dazzling, Roo," stated Alexis, barely holding in her lust.

To her disgust, Jirra felt her face getting warm as she stumbled to
find a response.

"Almost," interjected Jen. "I have these for you to wear."

She handed Jirra a simple gold chain with a small diamond hanging
from it. There was also a matching pair of earrings. The earrings
each had a diamond hanging from a gold chain.

"Here, let me help you get them on," stated Alexis, as she took the
jewelry from Jirra.

Jirra couldn't help but feel like she was in a movie.

"Well, you all look wonderful," stated Gail. "Let me take a few
photos of you all."

Jirra stared at Alexis. Her gown was completely white and looked like
it came directly from a Greek Goddess. It seemed to flow over Alexis's
body as if it was liquid.

"You look wonderful, Alexis," stated Jirra.

"Thank you. I have to admit that I wasn't pleased about wearing this
sort of gown, but the studio insisted. But it does look nice," she
replied.

Jirra shook her head. "Nice isn't the right word, fabulous is a
better choice." She wanted to say how much she still loved Alexis,
but couldn't find the words.

Alexis put her hand against Jirra's face and smiled back. "I know."

A short time later, they were in a limo heading towards Hollywood and
the awards.

Chapter 55

"I forget, Jen, which one am I going to be with again?' asked Jirra
as they drove towards the hotel to pick up Nick and Kyle.

"It doesn't really matter, do you have any preferences?" asked Jen.

"Can I be with Kyle?' asked Lindsey. "I love his green eyes."

"You know, Lindsey, they're really contacts," interjected Alexis.

Lindsey glanced over at her. "No way!"

Alexis broke out in a laugh. "Sorry, I couldn't resist; yes, his eyes
are that green."

"That's fine, it doesn't matter to me; I'll be Nick's arm candy,"
stated Jirra with a wink.

"Arm candy? You sure that this is your first time to Hollywood?"
asked Jen with a laugh.

"I heard it on E!" replied Jirra.

"Okay, I just told them that they would be escorting two lovely
friends of mine, and if either of them did anything immoral, illegal
or rude, I would make them wish they were never born," stated Jen in
a matter of fact way.

"Wow, you're harsher than my dad," said Lindsey with a giggle.

Jen just laughed.

Ten minutes later, they pulled up in front on one of the luxury
hotels. Nick and Kyle each had suites in the hotel. They both had
condos up in Malibu, but were staying in the hotel to make things
easier.

They came down and greeted Jen and the others. Both were wearing
classic black tuxedos.

Kyle was twenty-two and was six-one, with wavy blond hair and green
eyes. He was originally from Seattle and had taken up acting after
blowing out his knee playing football. His career had been mostly
action adventure movies. He joked that he had been killed in four of
his first five movies. His upcoming role in Jen's new movie was to be
his breakout role.

Nick had classic Mediterranean looks - dark piercing eyes, black
slightly curly hair, short, but very muscular. He was a native
Californian; his family had immigrated to the states in 1902 and had
become fishermen. He started acting when he was sixteen and had
appeared in numerous commercials and bit parts before getting the
role as a lab tech in CSI: Seattle. Those roles lead to a role in
Alexis' movie.

Nick met Kyle while on location in Seattle, and they immediately hit
it off. At first, they kept their sexuality secret from each other as
they hit the bars and clubs together. However, after a night of
numerous shots of Jack Daniels, Kyle confessed to Nick. They had been
lovers ever since.

Jen made the introductions.

To her total surprise, Jirra found herself suddenly very nervous in a
sort of silly way. At first, she couldn't even speak to Nick.

"I'm sorry," she stammered. "It's just you look exactly like you do
on TV."

Nick laughed. "I'll take that as a compliment. Actually, it's me
who's blown away; I had no idea that Jen was fixing me up with such a
lovely date."

Jirra smiled and felt her face getting warm.

"Look, why don't we get in our limo and head on over, the traffic
will be awful soon," stated Kyle. "We can talk on the way over."

"That's sounds great," said Jirra. She turned to Jen and Alexis. "See
you there."

The chauffer was an attractive Japanese woman; she was wearing a very
short black mini-skirt, high heels, white blouse, black tie, black
jacket that barely hid her shapely breasts, and a black chauffeur's
cap.

"Good evening, I'll be your driver this evening," she announced in
slightly accented English. "My name is Mika, please let me know if
you need anything at all."

She walked over and opened the door for them. As Jirra walked up to
enter, Mika cocked her head and stared at her with a strange look in
her eyes.

The look immediately caught Jirra off guard.

"I'm sorry, but there's something very familiar about you; are you
from San Diego?" asked Mika.

Jirra shook her head. "Sorry, I've never been there."

"Strange, you remind me of a very good friend I have down there,"
replied Mika with a smile. "Oh, well, I'm sorry. Please watch your
head."

A few minutes later, they were heading to the Kodak Theater, the site
of the Academy Awards.

"What was with the limo driver?" asked Lindsey.

"Beats me, she thought she knew me."

"Jirra, Lindsey, I just want to thank you both now for doing this,"
stated Kyle.

"I agree with him," added Nick.

"We don't mind," replied Jirra.

"Still, it helps us out a lot. Neither of us is big enough to survive
being outed right now," said Nick.

"It really stinks having to keep a major part of your life a secret,"
added Kyle.

Jirra nodded to herself, as she knew all about keeping personal
secrets.

"It must be awful," noted Lindsey.

"You have no idea. I mean, our close friends know, but whenever we go
out we have to pretend that we're hetero," answered Kyle. "I wish I
could just walk away from it all, but I really love acting."

"What would happen if your secret was exposed?" asked Lindsey.

"Our careers would be over. We're almost always cast as heartthrobs,
not as serious actors. I get hundreds of letters and e-mails each
week, almost all from women. It's why my part has grown since last
season. Now, if it came out that I was gay, I would be a corpse by
the next episode," explained Nick. "Pretty faces are a dime a dozen
out here, and we would be replaced in a moment."

"So if you were older and more established, no one would care?" asked
Jirra.

"Only if we agreed to be typecast in certain roles," answered Kyle.
"But only a few have made it that far. It's far less risky for
studios to cast a straight man than a gay one."

"You know what's funny, a straight man can play a gay man and no one
says shit, so why can't a gay man play straight? It is called acting,
right?" vented Nick. His voice was rising and his anger was growing.
He then caught himself and smiled. "Whoa, sorry, I shouldn't have
gone off like that."

Jirra smiled back. "No, I don't mind. I understand you both a lot
better now."

Nick laughed. "I should have trusted Jen to get us some cool dates. I
wish now that we had gotten together before tonight."

Jirra wasn't sure, but Nick suddenly seemed to have taken an interest
in her.

"So tells us about yourselves," said Kyle.

Jirra motioned to Lindsey, who went first. They each gave a short bio
of their lives.

"And neither of you wants to get into the business?" asked Kyle with
a confused look on his face.

"No way, I'm going to own my own restaurant," stated Lindsey
confidently.

"I'd rather write," said Jirra.

"Well, that's a breath of fresh air!" stated Kyle glancing over at
Nick who nodded in agreement.

"So it's true about everyone in LA wanting to get into movies?" asked
Jirra.

"Well, not everyone..." stated Nick. "Have you ever acted, Jirra?"

Jirra was about to say that she was acting right now, but instead she
just shook her head.

"Too bad, a girl as attractive as you could get a lot of doors
opened," continued Nick.

"But I'm not an actress," stated Jirra.

"Neither is the brunette on my show, but that hasn't stopped her,"
replied Nick with a wink.

Jirra laughed as she pictured the woman. "I'm glad I'm not the only
one who thinks she's a lousy actress."

"She's sleeping with the director," added Nick.

"Really, or is that another joke?" asked Lindsey.

Nick made a motion across his chest. "Cross my heart and hope to die!"

Jirra had to admit that she liked Nick a lot, as he was genuinely
funny. They also shared something in common, keeping part of their
lives secret.

"We'll be in front of the theater in five minutes," announced Mika
over the limo's intercom. "I'll give you the signal when they want
you to step out."

Jirra let out a long breath.

"Nervous?" asked Nick.

"Me?" asked Jirra as she pointed at her chest. "No, nervous would be
good, I'm presently terrified."

"Just hang onto my arm, smile, and wave. If we get waved over by the
press, just follow my lead. I'll get you through this," stated Nick
confidently.

"Walk, smile, and wave, I can do that," replied Jirra.

"And you said that you can't act," said Nick.

"You mean that you're scared?" asked Jirra.

"You bet, Jirra; this is my first time at the Oscars. I've been at
the Emmys a few times, but that's nothing compared to this."

"So we're both rookies at this?"

Nick laughed. "I like that choice of words instead of virgins."

Jirra felt her face turning red again.

"Okay, everyone, put on your best smiles; it's showtime!" announced
Mika, as the limo slowly came to a stop.

Jirra had tried to imagine what it was going to be like to walk down
the red carpet, but even in her wildest dreams, she couldn't imagine
the frenzy of the crowds and the press. Just walk, smile, and wave,
she repeated to herself.

She was also amazed by the change that overcame Nick. He was no
longer the laidback guy she had been chatting with in the limo,
rather he was now Nick Carlton, TV star and supporting actor in the
much talked about Minotaur movie. He slipped his arm around Jirra's
waist and acted as if they had known each other for years, instead of
only a few minutes.

Their walk down the carpet seemed almost dreamlike, as Jirra lost all
track of time. In some ways, it almost felt as if she was in one of
her vision quests, and she scanned the crowds for a kangaroo rat.

Several times along the way, Nick stopped and they turned towards the
hordes of photographers. They would walk a few feet and then stop to
pose again. Jirra noticed that there were photographers and TV
reporters from all over the world, and she wondered how many people
would see her photo.

Several more times along the red carpet, the actors she met at the
dinner party at Jen's stopped to greet her warmly. When Wayne Zachery
greeted Jirra, it set off an explosion of flash units as the press
snapped what seemed like an endless string of pictures as he hugged
her. Jirra saw out of the corner of her eye that Lindsey was getting
similar attention.

Nick whispered in her ear, "You sure travel in some powerful circles.
You sure you don't want to be an actress?"

Jirra whispered back, "I just met all of them at Jen's dinner party a
few days ago. It's no big deal!"

They were almost at the end of the carpet when Nick led Jirra towards
several TV cameras. Suddenly, a microphone was shoved into their
faces. The first person was from Entertainment Tonight, and she asked
Nick about his upcoming movie. She was quickly followed by several
other reporters. While Jirra wasn't surprised that they ignored her,
it did bug her a bit, after all she did look very good.

"Nick, who's your lovely date this evening?" asked one of the local
LA TV reporters.

Nick smiled back and gave Jirra a slight nudge.

"I'm Jirra Reid," she replied cheerfully, surprised that she didn't
stammer.

"And have you known Nick a long time?" asked the reporter, moving the
microphone closer to Jirra's face.

She smiled and nodded, not knowing what else to do. Thankfully, there
were other people to interview, and Nick and Jirra were again moving
along the carpet.

"Well, you look lovely," replied the reporter, as they walked away.

"You did good," whispered Nick.

"I didn't do anything but say my name and nod," replied Jirra.

"That's all they want to hear," stated Nick.

They walked into the theater together and were soon joined by Lindsey
and Kyle.

"Well, what did you think?" asked Kyle.

"That was so cool! Can we do it again?" asked Lindsey. She had a big
smile on her face.

"I think someone is star struck!" said Jirra as she kidded her friend.

"Come on, Roo, you have to admit that was fun," replied Lindsey.

"Roo?" asked Nick with a grin.

Jirra flashed Lindsey a dirty look for using her nickname and then
turned back to Nick. "My name means kangaroo, so some of my family
and so-called friends call me Roo."

"Cool, I like it," replied Nick as he took Jirra's arm. "We need to
get to our seats."

Chapter 56

Jirra was pleasantly surprised by their seats. While they weren't up
front, they were in the very back either; they also had a great view
of the stage.

"I can't believe we're so close, I half-expected to be in the very
back," commented Jirra.

"I know," replied Nick. "Someday, I hope to be up closer, in the
front rows, but for my first time here, these are perfect."

"The cool thing is that we'll see all the big stars walk by," added
Kyle.

A few minutes later, they were joined by Alexis and Jen.

"So did you have a great time?" asked Jen.

Jirra and Lindsey both nodded.

"Thank you so much for bringing us here," said Jirra.

Jen smiled back. "It's a pleasure."

They chatted about the red carpet experience.

"So where is Richard Thorn?" asked Jirra.

"He's sitting up front; he produced two movies that have nominations.
I'll introduce you to him at the party," replied Alexis. She then
leaned over and whispered, "How's Nick been?"

Jirra smiled and whispered back. "He's been very nice. I like him."

Alexis nodded back.

Overall, Jirra found the show to be very entertaining and enjoyed the
people watching. Her personal highlight of the show was when the
winners for visual effects were sitting directly in front of them,
and Jirra wondered if she showed up on TV.

As always, the show ran late, and there was almost a mass sense of
relief in the crowd when the last awards were given out. As they
filtered out, Jirra tried to take it all in one last time.

"You okay?" asked Alexis.

"Oh, yes. I guess I'm just overwhelmed by all this; I never imagined
in my wildest dreams that I would ever be here... especially with
you."

"I know what you mean. This is my second time here, and it's just as
exciting now," replied Alexis.

The party they were going to was also a fundraiser for AIDS, and it
had an '80s theme. The group running it had even brought in several
bands to play live. They all rode over in one limo. Jirra noticed
that Mika also gave Jen a strange look, similar to the one that she'd
given Jirra earlier. Jirra wondered if Mika somehow knew that she had
once been a boy, but decided that she was just being silly.

"We'll be at the party in twenty minutes, ten if the traffic clears
up," announced Mika as they drove off.

"Now, remember what I said about being careful," reiterated Jen.
"There'll be a lot of people at this party who aren't as nice as Nick
and Kyle."

"Thank you, Jen," stated Nick with a smile.

"I also promised your mothers to keep you out of trouble," continued
Jen.

"Gee, thanks for making us feel like little kids," said Jirra.

"Don't sweat it, she plays mother hen to her cast too," added Kyle.

"You know, your part could end up on the editing room floor with any
more comments like that," stated Jen with a wink.

"So are you two taking off from here?" asked Alexis, as she turned to
Kyle.

"Yes, we'll stay here for an hour or two, then we're heading up the
coast to a more private party," explained Kyle. "Since the party will
be rather loud, I guess we'd better say goodbye now. It was really fun
and, Lindsey, when you get your restaurant, I want to be invited to
opening night."

"I will," stated Lindsey with a grin.

"Jirra, if you change your mind, give me a call," stated Nick.

"Thanks, but no thanks," replied Jirra with a grin. "I'm content to
just see this from the outside."

"What're you talking about?" asked Alexis.

"I just suggested that Jirra try acting," stated Nick.

"Really?" replied Alexis. "And what did you base this suggestion on?"
There was a slight tone of irritation in her voice.

Nick smiled and held up his hands as if he was trying to protect
himself. "Easy, Alexis, I wasn't making a move on her. I just
commented that she has more going for her than many actresses out
there... no offense."

"Or for that matter most actors," replied Alexis with a wink.

"TouchŽ," replied Nick.

Jirra was slightly surprised by Alexis's display of protection for
her, and was also pleased.

"Actually, I already offered her a role in my new series, but she
turned me down too," continued Alexis.

"I'd rather write anyway," replied Jirra. "Maybe I'll write a script
for you someday."

"I'd like that, Roo," replied Nick with a wink.

Jirra giggled in spite of herself.

"You're a sweet girl, and I wish you all the best," stated Nick as he
leaned over and gave her a quick kiss.

Jirra was mildly shocked by Nick's action, and even more so by her
reaction, she actually liked it.

"Thank you," she replied softly.

Kyle gave Lindsey a kiss.

"You know, Jen, if you decide to give up acting and producing, you
can always open up a dating service," quipped Kyle.

"Yes, Jen's dates for the hopelessly closeted!" added Nick with a
laugh.

"Well, I know a lot of men and women who'd take advantage of that
service," added Alexis. "But I doubt if she could get such high
quality dates for everyone."

"How true," added Nick, smiling at Jirra.

"I bet you say that to all the girls," said Jirra. "Oops, that's not
what I meant to say."

Nick broke out laughing and was joined by the others. "That was a
good one, Jirra."

Jen smiled at the banter going back and forth, but she also took an
interest in Jirra's comments about writing.

"You serious about wanting to write scripts?" asked Jen when the
laughter died down.

"Sure, why not? Based on a lot of what I've seen on TV and in movies,
it doesn't look that hard," replied Jirra.

Jen cocked her head and stared back at Jirra.

"Okay, okay, I know it's not that easy, but it would be fun to give
it a try after I get out of college," said Jirra.

Jen nodded and thought to herself that she might give Jirra a shot
sooner than that.

Chapter 57

The limo dropped them off at the party, which was being held at a
club that was rented out for the evening. It was one of the newer
parties and attracted a mixture of new and old Hollywood.

The DJ was playing Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" as they walked
in.

"I thought you said that there would be live bands," asked Jirra.

"It's early, most of the partygoers haven't even arrived yet,"
explained Jen.

"Oh, Jirra, there's Richard Thorn; come on, I want to introduce you
to him," stated Alexis excitedly.

Lindsey smiled and waved her off. "Go on, I want to mingle around.
Don't worry, I'll be fine."

Jen nodded. "Go on, Jirra. Richard's really worth meeting."

Alexis slipped her arm around Jirra's waist and lead her towards a
tall man. He had a rugged, weathered face with a well-groomed beard.
His hair was now streaked with gray, and it only made him look more
distinguished. He saw Alexis approaching and broke out into a huge
smile. He was talking to a very exotic looking young pregnant woman.
She was wearing a flowing dark purple gown. Her hair was long and
flowing with large curls. Jirra immediately picked up on the sense of
dignity and strength the young woman gave off.

"Alexis," he exclaimed.

"Richard, Hallie, this is my good friend, Jirra," said Alexis.

Richard leaned over and gave Jirra a big hug. "I've heard so much
about you from Alexis, it's wonderful to meet you in person, and this
is my daughter, Hallie."

Jirra smiled and received a hug from Hallie.

"I'm sorry if our greetings seem over enthusiastic, but it runs in
the family," stated Hallie.

"It's okay," replied Jirra.

"Is Kim here?" asked Alexis.

"No, she's back in Columbus," replied Hallie. She looked at Jirra.
"Kim is my partner; we're both grad students back at Ohio State."

"Not for much longer," replied Richard proudly. "They're offering
them both full time teaching positions!"

"Thanks, Dad," replied Hallie. "Parents! They can always find a way
to embarrass you."

Jirra laughed.

"Hey, I'm just proud of both of you."

"Do you mind if I sit down, Dad? My back is starting to kill me,"
stated Hallie.

"There's an open couch right over there," noted Jirra.

"Perfect!" replied Hallie, who walked slowly over to the couch.

Jirra followed and sat down next to her. Alexis was still talking to
Richard.

"So, when are you due?" asked Jirra.

"Late March, early April," replied Hallie. "Not much longer, I can't
wait!"

"Do you know what your baby is?" asked Jirra.

"A girl," replied Hallie with a smile, as she ran her hands across
her extended belly. "By the way, you and Alexis make a nice couple;
you're so much prettier in person."

Jirra felt her face getting warm again. "Thanks, although we're not
really a couple."

Hallie smiled. "You will be, trust me on that one."

Jirra was about to ask Hallie how she knew, but decided to let it
slide. "Thanks. Oh, congrats on getting a fulltime position."

"You're welcome. The cool thing is that it'll allow me to continue my
work back in Crete. Alexis said that you're going to college in the
fall; do you know where yet?"

"I'm hoping for Penn," replied Jirra, holding up her hand with
fingers crossed.

"Whoa, I didn't know you were an Ivy Leaguer. Makes my Big Ten degree
look downright shabby," replied Hallie with a laugh.

"I wouldn't put it that way, besides you can always kick our butts in
football," replied Jirra.

Hallie laughed. "I can understand why Alexis likes you so much." She
then stared at Jirra.

"What's wrong?" asked Jirra.

"Nothing, there's just something familiar about you," she replied.

"That's strange, you're the second person to say that to me tonight,"
said Jirra.

"Maybe it's just because we're in California!"

They both started laughing.

They talked for almost an hour, and Jirra found herself forming an
immediate friendship with Hallie.

"I'd love to see the site you're working on in Crete someday,"
commented Jirra.

"Well, we'll be working there for years; we haven't even begun to
uncover all the secrets it's hiding. You'd always be welcome," said
Hallie. "I'd love to keep this going, but it's way past my bedtime. I
think I'd better find Dad and head out; it's been a real pleasure
talking to you, Jirra."

"It's been fun for me too," replied Jirra. She helped Hallie up and
they walked over to where Richard, Alexis, and Jen were talking.

"I'm trying to get your father to produce my next movie, Hallie,"
stated Jen.

"That sounds like an interesting idea," replied Hallie. "Dad, I need
to go home now."

Richard and Hallie made their goodbyes and left.

"Where's Lindsey?" asked Jirra as she looked around.

"I saw her over by the band in the other room," stated Jen. "Let's go
see if we can find her."

They walked together through the crowd into the main room where a
band was playing their hits from the '80s. There was no sign of
Lindsey.

Jen lead them through the crowd and towards the back rooms.

"I wonder where she is," stated Jirra. She was slightly worried as it
was unlike Lindsey to just wander off.

They walked into one of the side rooms and looked around. There was
still no sign of Lindsey. Jen headed towards the next room with Jirra
and Alexis right behind her. Jen stopped so suddenly that Jirra and
Alexis almost ran into her. At first, Jirra couldn't see what Jen was
looking at, but she could see that, whatever it was, it was making Jen
furious. From the back, Jirra could see Jen tense up and her ears turn
red.

Jirra also noticed a red glow surrounding Jen that hadn't been there
moments before. The air around her also seemed to crackle and Jirra
could feel little pin pricks on her exposed skin. Since she wasn't
sure exactly what she was seeing and feeling, she decided not to say
anything about it. Nobody else in the room seemed to notice the glow
either.

"Benito, you pig, take your hands off her," exclaimed Jen in a loud
clear voice that was heard by everyone in the room.

Jirra could then see a short, very fat, balding man sitting on a
couch next to Lindsey. Jirra wasn't sure, but Lindsey looked as if
she was drunk. He nervously slid away from her and then stood up
slowly.

"Trying to warm up the old casting couch again, Benito? Just so you
know, that girl next to you isn't even eighteen, and if I found out
you touched her..." continued Jen, her anger increasing. The glow
surrounding Jen also seemed to pulse then increase in brilliance as
it changed to a much deeper red. Again, except for possibly the
target of Jen's anger, no one else seemed to notice it.

The man looked up and tried to open his mouth to explain, but the
scorn of the crowd and Jen's anger left him speechless. His face
suddenly went pale as a dark wet stain formed in the crotch of his
expensive Italian light gray linen suit and said all that needed to
be said.

Jirra walked quickly over to Lindsey, who was semi-conscious on the
couch.

"Are you okay?" asked Jirra, as she sat down next to her friend.

"My head is swimming. All I had to drink was a glass of mineral
water," replied Lindsey. Her head dipped down for a moment, when she
looked up she moaned. "I don't feel so good."

Jen took the glass and sniffed it. She turned to Benito and glared at
him. "You slipped something in her drink? Get out of here, before I
make you the next Roman Polanski!"

Benito stood there trembling and the wet stain increased. He then
turned around and waddled out of the room to the laughter of the
crowd.

"Oh my GOD! The legend is true!" exclaimed Alexis.

"What legend?" asked Jirra, looking up from the couch.

"The legend that Jen verbally castrated that little asshole then
handed him his family jewels on a platter and made him eat them. He's
tried to pull that casting couch shit with me and hundreds of other
women too," continued Alexis. "I'm just surprised that he'd try
something here."

"By the way, I am eighteen," stammered Lindsey, as she fought to
regain her senses.

"Shhhh, I know that, Benito doesn't," stated Jen with a smile. "Now
tell me what happened, dear."

"I was watching the band, and he offered to get me a drink. I told
him nothing alcoholic, and he smiled and agreed. He said it was
citrus flavored mineral water. After a few sips, I began to feel all
funny and had to sit down; that's when you guys arrived."

"So he didn't do anything to you?"

Lindsey shook her head. "No, he never touched me. I don't feel very
good; can we go now?"

Jen smiled and nodded. "It's getting late anyway." Jirra noticed that
the angry red glow that had surrounded Jen was completely gone.

A man walked over. "I'm very sorry about this, Ms. Stevens. I'm with
security, and we had no idea the girl was underage. We've escorted
Mr. Tossilinni off the premises. Do you wish to press charges?"

Jen shook her head. "Would you have my limo ready? We're leaving now."

The man nodded and began to speak into his headset.

On the way back, Jirra turned to Jen. "So what was in Lindsey's
drink?"

"I'm not sure, but I have the glass. I'll have a friend in LAPD check
it out."

"Will Lindsey be okay?" asked Jirra.

Lindsey appeared to be asleep next to her.

Jen nodded. "She may have a headache in the morning. Not as big as
the one Benito will have."

"Did you really castrate him?" asked Jirra.

Jen shook her head and laughed. "That just got blown all out of
proportion. I was temporary CEO of a production company when it
happened. I just told him that he was full of shit and threatened to
charge him a million dollars if he didn't finish the film he was
working on on time. I told him that if it was left up to me, I
wouldn't hire him to direct a dog food commercial."

Jirra laughed. "Did he have a little accident then too?"

"No, not the first time. It's not my fault he can't hold it in. Come
to think of it, he had that same reaction the last time I saw him a
couple of months ago. Didn't even have to talk to him either. I was
so angry when I saw him since I'd just learned that he had several
sexual harassment suits filed against him."

"Still, if he tried to drug Lindsey, isn't that a crime?" asked Jirra.

"I don't think he meant for her to pass out. He normally gives them
just enough to loosen up his victim; that doesn't excuse what he did
by any stretch of the imagination. He's been suspected of doing this
to others. I may now have the proof to put him out of business."

"What do you mean?' asked Jirra. "Are you going to the police?"

"No, he's too much of a big shot. Still, he has as many as a dozen or
so sexual harassment civil suits against him right now; I think this
little bit of evidence might make him settle with all of them,"
stated Jen with a satisfying grin on her face.

Lindsey then spoke up. "Ugh, I feel awful."

"We'll be home soon," stated Jirra as she comforted her friend.

"I'm okay. I'm just glad that he didn't pee himself until after he
got off the couch, now that would have been gross!" said Lindsey as
she sat up. "I'm feeling a little better now."

"Are you sure he didn't touch you," asked Jen. "We can press charges
if you want."

"No, we had just sat down when you arrived, although if we'd been
there a few more minutes, I have no idea of what would have happened,
as I was out of it. Oh, I did hear something about your plan involving
the lawsuits, and I like that. God, I'm sorry I didn't listen to you,
Jen," said Lindsey, as she held her head.

"It's okay, the important thing is that you're fine," replied Jen.
"However, if he had laid one finger on you, then I would have his ass
in jail right now."

"Did he really do that with you, Alexis?" asked Lindsey.

"He tried," replied Alexis.

"How far did he get with you?"

"A knee in the groin," replied Alexis. "If I hadn't been a lesbian
before it happened, it would have definitely turned me into one!"

Chapter 58

Back at Jen's house, they were all too keyed up to sleep. Lindsey was
back to normal and was now wide awake. So after they changed into
their pjs, Jen made some of her special hot chocolate, and they
watched the replay of the red carpet walk and then parts of the
awards.

"Look! There you are!" exclaimed Lindsey. "God, Jirra you look hot!"

"Thanks!" replied Jirra as she stared at her image on the TV. She
barely recognized herself.

"You and Nick do make a nice couple," noted Alexis, who was sitting
next to Jirra on the couch.

A minute later there were Lindsey and Kyle, followed a few minutes
later by Alexis and then Jen.

"I think we all looked great," commented Jirra. "Is there any way I
can get a copy of this? They don't show the whole red carpet coverage
back home."

"I can arrange that. Now, let's scan ahead in the show to see if we
show up!" stated Jen.

Jen reached the spot where the winners stood up in front of them.

"Look there we are!" shouted Lindsey. "That is so cool! Look, that's
us!"

"I'd say that whatever was in her drink has left no lasting effects,"
quipped Jirra.

"Do we have any more?" asked Alexis while giggling.

"Very funny!" replied Lindsey as she joined in with the laughter.

A short time later, they headed off to bed. As they carried their
mugs into the kitchen, Jen turned to Lindsey.

"I just want you to know that we're not downplaying what happened to
you. We have enough witnesses that, if you want to press charges, the
police will listen to you," explained Jen.

"It's okay, I'm not hurt, and besides I like your form of justice
better," replied Lindsey.

"I doubt I would be so accommodating," stated Jirra.

"Oh, trust me, Jirra, if he had placed a single finger on me, I would
insist on charges. I just like Jen's idea better. Maybe it will put a
stop to what he's been doing."

Chapter 59

No one was up before lunch, and after eating Jen placed a few phone
calls.

First, she called a lawyer friend who she knew was suing Benito. The
lawyer was very excited about Jen's plan and gave Jen the numbers of
several other lawyers also suing him.

Then Jen called up Benito and told him what she had done.

"Now, I'm waiting for the chemical analysis of the contents of the
girl's drink, and I should have it by mid-afternoon. I will
immediately forward the results to the lawyers and several friends I
have in the press."

"Jennifer... Ms. Stevens... that will ruin me," stammered Benito.

"I will hold back on several conditions; one, settle all your sexual
harassment cases today; you have what, six outstanding lawsuits now?"

"Nine," replied Benito.

"You cad. Okay, if I hear of you doing anything like this again, I
will send this off to my friends in the press."

"Is that all?" he asked.

"No, there's one more thing. I'd like you to arrange for dinner
tonight for my friends and me at Spago Beverly Hills, and of course
I'd like you to pick up the tab," continued Jen, as she smiled at
Lindsey.

"Tonight? Impossible!" replied Benito. "They're booked solid this
week, you know that!"

"Okay, well, then expect to see your name in the news. I think it'll
show up first on the net," stated Jen.

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone. "Fine, I can
cash in a few favors."

"Excellent. I'll expect confirmation from your lawyers this
afternoon," said Jen.

"I understand, thank you for being sooo understanding," replied
Benito.

"You're welcome, and you're also lucky that you're not sitting in
jail right now," said Jen angrily. "Just for that, I plan on having
something very expensive for dinner tonight."

There was another long pause.

"I'd also like confirmation for the reservations," continued Jen.

"You don't trust me?" asked Benito.

Jen just laughed. "Always a pleasure doing business with you, Benito.
Oh, and I want this to be on your personal account and not the
studio's!"

She hung up the phone and was met by a round of applause from Alexis,
Jirra, and Lindsey. Jen just smiled and bowed.

"I'm glad you're my friend," stated Alexis.

"So we're really going to Spago?" asked Lindsey excitedly.

"Why not? Besides, I'm not paying for it," replied Jen with a laugh.

Chapter 60

Jirra called home after lunch and talked to her mom.

"I thought I saw you a couple of times," stated Liz.

"I have a copy of the red carpet ceremony and also lots of photos,"
replied Jirra.

"I can't wait to see them. You and Lindsey are the stars of the spa
right now," said Liz.

Jirra laughed. "We're going to Spago tonight."

"I bet Lindsey is more excited about that than you are," said Liz.

"She is," replied Jirra. She wasn't sure if she should tell her mom
the reason why they were going to the restaurant.

"Oh, by the way, make sure you order something very expensive,"
continued Liz. "Jen called us this morning and told us what happened
to Lindsey. Her parents felt that sticking it to that pig with a big
bill will be a nice punishment."

"You're not angry," said Jirra.

"Not at you and Lindsey. That jerk is just lucky neither Hannah nor I
were there."

Jirra laughed. "I'll make sure that I have something very costly."

"Are you still coming back tomorrow?" asked Liz.

"Yes, we're due to fly out tomorrow around noon," replied Jirra.

"Okay, I'll be at the airport to pick you two up. Hannah can't make
it due to the evening meal."

"I love you, Mom."

"I love you too. See you tomorrow," replied Liz.

As Jirra hung up the phone, Alexis knocked on her door.

"You free to talk?" she asked.

"Sure," replied Jirra.

Alexis walked in and sat down next to Jirra on her bed.

"We haven't had too much private time," noted Alexis.

"I know."

"I noticed that Nick gave you a kiss last night. Judging by your
reaction, you didn't seem to mind."

"It was my first one, from a guy anyway. I didn't mind, and that's
been on my mind."

"Why?" asked Alexis.

"I don't know. A few months ago I would have freaked out, but last
night it felt... well, rather nice," replied Jirra in a soft voice,
almost as if she was confessing some sin.

"It's okay, Roo," stated Alexis in a comforting tone. "So you might
like guys, no one is perfect." She then smiled at Jirra.

"I'm not bothered by the fact that I wasn't grossed out or anything
by Nick kissing me, rather it's that I'm still changing; that's what
bothersome," stated Jirra.

"Oh, of course. I can see how that would bother you." Alexis then
took Jirra's hands into her own. "I keep trying to compare what
you're going through to when I realized that I was a lesbian, but
it's not even close."

"It's just that now that I'm starting to like boys, then I might
start dating them, and then who knows where that will lead to,"
continued Jirra.

"You don't have to have sex with them," said Alexis.

Jirra broke out in a forced smile. "I know, but the possibility
exists that it will happen. When I first became female, I didn't
worry about becoming pregnant, as I had no interest at all in men,
but now that I'm changing, the thought of having a baby is
terrifying."

"Well, let's not jump to the worst case scenario; besides, there may
be a time when you want to have a baby. I've even thought about it."

Jirra's eyes opened up wide. "You?"

Alexis smiled back. "Sure why not? You talked to Hallie last night,
didn't you see how happy she was? And she's in a deep relationship
with another woman."

"I hadn't thought about that," replied Jirra. She then looked over at
Alexis and began to blush.

"It's okay, Roo. Look, you're handling this better that I ever could.
I can't imagine waking as a guy."

"But there's a part of me that still wants to be a guy," exclaimed
Jirra. "I know it's silly, but I still keep hoping that there's a way
to reverse this."

"It's not silly at all, and if you told me anything otherwise I
wouldn't believe you anyway."

"But Jen is so well adapted. She has so much self-confidence and
doesn't let anything bother her," continued Jirra.

Alexis rolled her eyes. "This is Jen Stevens you're talking about,
right? Her change was different from yours in many ways. She's also
had more time to deal with it. It might look easy now, but it wasn't
always that way for her. I've talked with her quite a bit about that.
Maybe when you two can spend more time together, she'll really open up
to you. As for your change, give it time, Roo, give it time. Now, what
is really bothering you?"

Jirra gently bit her lower lip. "I guess it's that if I'm still
changing, what else will change? What happens if I find out that I
don't like girls?"

"I don't think that will happen," stated Alexis.

"Why? How do you know that?"

"I think it's part of your core personality, the real you," continued
Alexis.

"But how do you know that?" begged Jirra.

"It's simple, Roo; I fell for you long before I knew you had been a
guy. I dated guys before I accepted that I preferred women, so I know
the difference, and trust me on this one, Jirra, I fell for a girl. I
didn't see anything masculine in you, and the only time I do is when
you're trying hard to prove that there's still some in you."

"Oh," replied Jirra.

"When we met, you had been a girl for only a month or two, right?"
continued Alexis.

Jirra nodded.

"So liking girls is part of the real you. I wouldn't worry about it
fading away," stated Alexis with a gentle smile on her face. "I know
it's hard, but trust in the future. So far you've turned out pretty
nice; anything else on your mind?"

Jirra took a deep breath and let it out. "Um... what about us?"

Alexis smiled and placed her arm around Jirra's shoulders. "I was
wondering when that would come up. Our forced separation hasn't
diminished my feelings for you one bit."

"Really?" asked Jirra. "I feel the same way!"

Alexis nodded. "Obviously! The question is, what do we do about it?
I'll be out here for the next month or so, finishing up the movie,
and then I'm off to Boston. You won't be out in Philly until late
summer. I won't have time to see you much, if at all."

"I know... but I still want to be with you."

"Jirra, I don't know if I can change when it comes to the way I am. I
like being in control, I always have. You had a problem with that
before. Now I have noticed something about you, and that's that you
have a strong submissive side when it comes to being in a
relationship. This might not have been the way it was when you were a
guy, but now you definitely act like a sub. Yes, you were conflicted
when you had time to think about it, but the way you acted it seemed
pretty natural to me."

Jirra nodded.

"I take it you've been thinking about it," continued Alexis.

"I know what you mean. When I fantasize while I pleasure myself, I
find myself in the more submissive role, whether I think about girls
or guys. I guess it's another part of my change."

"Are you sure that it's part of the change?"

"What do you mean?" asked Jirra.

"You told me about the time you lost your virginity back when you
were a guy. It sounded like she was the aggressor, am I right?"

Jirra nodded.

"So maybe you've always had a submissive streak in you," continued
Alexis. "There's nothing wrong with that. I know lots of guys who
like the woman in charge. It's just hard for men to accept it when
they've been told their whole life that men are in charge."

"Really?" replied Jirra.

"Roo, sweetheart, sex isn't black and white, there is a whole rainbow
of possibilities, and as long as those involved are doing it
willingly, what does it matter?"

"Oh. I hadn't thought of it that way."

"Look at Nick and Kyle; would it shock you to know that Kyle is the
submissive in the relationship?"

Jirra stared back. "I hadn't given it a thought, but I guess it makes
sense."

"You're slowly opening up your mind to a whole new world of
possibilities. This is a good thing," said Alexis. "And just so you
know, submissive doesn't mean passive; it just means that you prefer
to have someone else take the lead."

"Just be patient with me, okay?" asked Jirra.

Alexis smiled and leaned over and kissed Jirra on the lips. "We've
got plenty of time, Roo."

Chapter 61

Jirra picked out her outfit for the evening. Jen told her that pretty
much anything goes as long as it's stylish or trendy, or a combination
of the two.

"The richer or more famous you are, then the more leeway you get,"
joked Jen. "You know, I have something for you that would be perfect!"

She walked to her room and returned with a long skirt that had the
subtle print of a mottled cheetah skin.

"I got this, but it didn't look right on me; the length should be
perfect for you, Jirra," stated Jen.

"It's lovely," replied Jirra.

Jirra tried on the skirt, and it did look good. She picked out a silk
cotton mix white boat-neck sweater to go with it. Simple but stylish,
she thought, as she examined herself, after doing her makeup. She
then tried on her boots and was pleased with the way they looked.

"Hey, Alexis said they were trendy," she said to herself.

She walked downstairs and found that she was again the last one ready.

Lindsey was wearing a white silk blouse with a green skirt. Over the
blouse, she was wearing a short jacket. The jacket had an earthy
pattern of leaves in subtle shades of green.

Alexis was wearing a brown knee-length skirt and a silk blouse that
was also in a cheetah pattern. Jirra saw the blouse and then looked
over at Jen.

Jen smiled. "I though it would be cute for you two to have a
connection."

Jen was dressed in pair of black slacks, a white silk t-shirt, and a
copper colored jacket.

"Ooh, I love that you're wearing your cowgirl boots with your outfit;
you're really developing a talent for dressing," noted Jen.

"Thank you," replied Jirra.

"What! No disclaimer or argument about the fact that you used to be a
guy? I'm shocked!" exclaimed Lindsey.

"I'm not that bad," countered Jirra.

Lindsey began to laugh. Alexis cocked her head and stared at Jirra.

"Okay, okay, I am that bad, but I'm trying," stated Jirra.

"That's what counts," said Alexis as she gave Jirra a kiss on the
cheek.

Chapter 62

The valet at Spago could barely contain his delight as Jen handed him
the keys to her Hummer.

"You made his night," noted Alexis as she watched the young man hop
into the Hummer.

"I know what the mileage is, and I'll whip his butt if there are
extra miles on my baby," replied Jen.

They walked in and were greeted by the Maitre D'.

"Ms. Stevens, I've been expecting you and your party. It's very
unusual that Mr. Tossilinni would make reservations for anyone
besides himself," he stated. "You must be very good friends of his."

Jen laughed. "I wouldn't say that. Let's just say that Benito is
paying off a debt her owes me."

The Maitre D's eyebrows rose at hearing Jen's comments, as he wasn't
quite sure what to make of them.

They were taken to one of the booths in the main room. The walls were
covered with local art and stained glass.

"Good evening, my name is Ashley, and I'll be your server tonight,"
stated a thin blonde young woman. Her hair was pulled back into a
ponytail. She was very attractive, and Jirra wondered if she was
trying to become an actress.

Jirra also noticed that Ashley was now aware of who she was serving
as she handed out the menus. She didn't seem overly excited, but then
again Jirra assumed that, working in Spago, Ashley would see many
celebrities.

"I understand that you're the guests of Mr. Tossilinni this evening,"
she stated.

Jirra and the others noticed the look on her face as she said
Tossilinni, as if she was saying something disgusting.

"Ashley, Benito is paying for dinner, but I wouldn't exactly call us
his guests," explained Jen. "I take it you don't care for him either?"

Ashley had a shocked look on her face. She looked around to see if
anyone was listening. She leaned down and whispered. "I can't stand
him, none of us like him. He's always trying to grab us; none of the
staff wants to wait on him; besides, he's a really cheap tipper." She
then stopped as if she felt she'd gone too far.

"It's okay, Ashley, Benito is paying for this dinner because he let
the little head do the thinking for the big head," whispered Jen. "I
can guarantee that he'll be more than generous with his gratuity this
evening. Now, what do you suggest that is incredibly expensive and
tasty?"

Ashley broke out in a big smile. "Well, you can't experience Spago
without having some caviar for an appetizer. It's real Russian
Beluga!"

"Hmm, I think we'll do that. Of course, we'll be ordering several
other appetizers," stated Jen with a smile.

Ashley smiled back. "Well, I can make several suggestions."

They settled on marinated Japanese Hamachi and Tuna Sashimi, crispy
Monterey calamari, and fresh oysters.

"You know the foie gras isn't cheap," noted Lindsey.

"Sorry, while I'm not a member of PETA, I don't do that or veal,"
stated Jen. "No, we did enough damage on the appetizers, save room
for dinner."

"Are you ready to order dinner?" asked Ashley.

"You know, Lindsey, since you're going to become a chef, you should
order the chef's tasting menu," stated Alexis.

"Oh, that's so good. I had that for my birthday," piped in Ashley.

Lindsey looked at the menu. "It does look good."

The chef's tasting menu had samples of eight different appetizers and
entrŽes, ranging from grilled grouper to duck breast. It was listed at
$120 a person.

"You only live once, and that's also the number of times that Benito
will be paying for it," said Jen.

"Okay, I'll have it," stated Lindsey.

"Excellent choice," stated Ashley.

"Jirra, let's have this one," stated Alexis, pointing at the menu. It
was prime Cote de Boeuf for two.

"Okay, that does look good," she replied.

"And you, Ms. Stevens?" asked Ashley.

"Please, it's Jen, and I'll have the grilled prime Kansas City steak,
as it's the most expensive thing on the menu," replied Jen with a wink.

"And would you like to order wine?" asked Ashley.

"I think some champagne would be nice with the appetizers. What do
you have that's nice and expensive?" asked Jen.

"Well, we have a fine selection here. May I suggest this one," stated
Ashley as she pointed to a bottle of Krug that was listed at $525.00.

"That's a nice selection, but I think we'll go with the Dom Perignon.
I like it better, and it's almost $300.00," stated Jen.

"Yes, Jen. We'll have it out here shortly," stated Ashley with a
smile.

"I'm glad to see that our server is getting into the swing of
things," noted Alexis. "And I thought you didn't drink, Jen."

"I usually don't, but tonight is a special occasion and Jirra can
drive us home safely."

The food was excellent, and Jen even let Lindsey and Jirra have a sip
of the champagne.

Ashley returned with the dessert menu. "I hope you saved room, our
desserts are wonderful."

"Oh, everything looks so good, why not bring us one of each?" stated
Jen.

"Excellent choice, Jen," noted Ashley. "Would you like coffee?"

Everyone nodded.

"I'm going to have to spend the next week in the gym, but this is
worth it. I only wish I could be there when Benito gets the bill,"
said Alexis.

"Me too. He loves money even more than he does young women. Too bad I
don't drink more, or we could have really jacked the bill up," stated
Jen.

"Looks like we have company," noted Jirra, as she pointed to a woman
walking over to their booth.

"Oh, that's Maggie Hill, she covers Hollywood for the Times," noted
Jen.

Maggie was dressed in a tailored black dress. Her brunette hair was
styled in soft shoulder length curls.

"Jen Stevens, it's always a pleasure to see you," she greeted with a
big well practiced smile.

"Maggie, how are you this evening?" replied Jen.

"I was just wondering what the big celebration is? I couldn't help
but notice you and Ms. Eden over here," said Maggie.

Jirra cast a quick look at Lindsey as if to say, what are we, chopped
liver?

"We're having a little goodbye party for these two friends of ours,"
stated Jen. "This is Jirra Reid and Lindsey Dylan."

Maggie looked at Jirra and Lindsey as if she was making some mental
notes.

"Really?" asked Maggie. "And are they actresses too?"

"No, they live at a spa in New Mexico that Alexis and I both visit.
Jirra works in customer service and writes the spa's newsletter,
Lindsey is one of the spa's chefs," explained Jen.

Jirra glanced over at Lindsey and smiled. They both enjoyed Jen's
descriptions of their jobs.

"Really, what spa is this?" asked Maggie.

"Caldera de Gaia," answered Jirra with a smile, as if to say, that's
right I can talk too.

Maggie smiled back. "I've never heard of it"

"Oh, you don't know what you're missing; they have the most wonderful
hot baths, and you can't beat the mud baths," interjected Alexis.

"Really? And you've both been there?" asked Maggie, turning to Jen
and Alexis.

"Yes, it's really relaxing," replied Jen. "I can't wait to go back."

Maggie then looked at Lindsey and Jirra. "Now I know where I remember
you two from, you were with Nick and Kyle at the Oscars last night."

"That's right," replied Lindsey.

"You both looked lovely, and you did a good job," replied Maggie with
a wink. "Don't worry, I like both of them and would never hurt either
of them."

"Would you like to join us, Maggie? We're about to sample the dessert
tray," asked Jen.

"Really? And is this part of the goodbye celebration too?" asked
Maggie.

"No, we're just ensuring the bill is sufficiently high, as it's being
paid for by someone else," explained Jen.

"Who is paying for it?' asked Maggie, as she sat down.

"Benito," replied Jen with a wicked grin on her face.

"That pig. What caused him to be so generous?" asked Maggie.

"He tried the old couch trick on Lindsey last night; we caught him
before he got very far," continued Jen.

"I had a run in with that jerk back when I was getting started out
here. I was promised an interview, and he tried to undress me in his
office," stated Maggie. "I still cringe when I think about it."

"I guess he's had his hands on many of us, or at least he's tried,"
said Alexis as she winked at Jirra.

"I know he's virtually untouchable out here, so it's nice to see that
someone got something out of him," stated Maggie.

Jen looked over at Alexis and smiled. "Maggie, I'm going to give you
a tip. Do you know Randy King?"

"Of course, he's one of the top lawyers in town."

"Call him tomorrow, I think he'll give you a good story, but remember
you didn't hear it from me."

Maggie smiled. "Wait a minute; I remember he was handling some
lawsuits against Benito."

Jen nodded. "Oh, here come our desserts; why don't you join us?
There's more than enough."

"I'd like that," replied Maggie.

Over dessert, Maggie talked to Jirra and Lindsey about the spa.

"It sounds wonderful. I'd like to come out and see it sometime,"
stated Maggie.

Jirra reached into her purse and took out a business card. "This has
our website on it too."

Maggie took the card. "So tell me about the newsletter; sounds like
we're in the same business."

Jirra laughed. "It's just a weekly newsletter, nothing special."

"Jirra's being modest. She's going to Penn this fall and has also had
an article in the local paper," interjected Lindsey.

"I haven't been accepted yet," stated Jirra.

"Penn, that's wonderful. I went to Princeton myself; you can't beat
an Ivy League education," said Maggie. "Don't downplay the
newsletter; every bit of writing experience is useful."

They talked over sampling the wonderful selection of desserts. Jirra
was particularly fond of the mignardises, a variety of small pastries.

"You know, I think I will visit your spa. I need a vacation, and I
owe an article to LA Magazine," stated Maggie. She looked at the
business card. "Is this your number?"

Jirra shook her head. "It's the spa's main number. I don't have my
own number."

"But if I request to speak to Jirra Reid, they can get ahold of you,
right?"

Jirra nodded.

"Excellent. I'll use you as my point of contact for the article. I'd
like to come out there in the spring; I'll call this week to make
reservations," stated Maggie.

"We'll be looking forward to your visit," said Jirra.

"And I want to try some of the great meals that you told me about,"
continued Maggie.

"I can't wait, I love cooking for new guests," said Lindsey grinning
ear to ear.

"Well, thank you for the dessert, Jen. As always, it was nice talking
to you. Alexis, can I get an interview with you sometime? I'd like to
beat the rush before the new movie comes out," asked Maggie.

"Sure, call Emily and she'll set it up," replied Alexis.

Maggie stood up. "Well, thank you very much. It was even sweeter
knowing who paid for it."

They watched her walk away.

"She's smooth," noted Lindsey.

"And trustworthy, I can't say that about all her colleagues," added
Jen.

"You can learn a lot from her, Jirra," remarked Alexis. "She's after
a scoop as much as anyone out here, but as Jen said, she's one of the
few reporters that you can trust."

Jirra just nodded.

Ashley came up. "Can I get you anything else?"

"Too bad Wolfgang isn't here, I'm sure that Lindsey would love to
meet him," piped in Alexis.

"Sorry, he was here last night for the post-awards party. However, we
do have some of his cookbooks that he signed. They're selling them for
a charity, so they're a bit expensive. They're asking $100 a book,"
stated Ashley. There was a sly grin on her face.

"We'll take four, one for each of us. I know you don't cook, Jirra,
but it would be a nice gift for your mom," stated Alexis.

"I'll return with the books and your, rather make that Benito's bill.
I just want to say that what you all did tonight made a lot of the
staff happy," stated Ashley.

"It was a pleasure. Well, like they say, revenge is sweet," replied
Jen as she picked up one of the small pastries.

There was a chorus of groans from the others.

They added very generous tips for Ashley and others who had served
them, leaving Benito with a very sizable bill.

"I wish I could have made it bigger; the only way would have been to
buy everyone a drink, but that might have pushed it," stated Jen, as
she looked at the total. "I don't want him so angry that he won't
come back here. Besides, the staff will remember what we did here
tonight."

"I still would like to see Benito's face when he gets this," said
Lindsey.

Jen broke out in a laugh. "Oh, I forget to tell you. I heard from a
friend this afternoon that Benito has been getting deliveries of
adult diapers all day. I guess the word got out about his little
accident last night."

Chapter 63

After spending an hour or so talking about their evening's adventure,
Jen and Lindsey both said their goodnights and went to bed.

"Looks like we're all alone," noted Alexis as she slipped her arm
around Jirra's shoulders.

"Sounds like a bad line from a B-grade movie," replied Jirra.

"I've said worse," said Alexis with a giggle. She reached over and
slipped her hand next to Jirra's cheek. "I'm really going to miss
you, Roo."

Jirra felt her heartbeat jump up a notch along with her breathing. "I
know. I've never been with anyone who made me feel like you do."

"Now who's spouting bad movie lines?" replied Alexis. She then leaned
over and kissed Jirra softly on the lips.

Jirra sighed softly and offered no resistance. Don't think, she said
to herself, just enjoy it. Don't think; don't try to rationalize it.

Alexis pulled Jirra closer to her as they continued to kiss. Her hand
began to rub Jirra's breasts. Hearing Jirra's muffled gasps and moans
told her that she was achieving the desired results. "You like that,
Roo?"

Jirra, who was now breathing heavily, could only nod back.

Alexis smiled back and returned to kissing her.

They continued to kiss for several more minutes. "You want to go up
to my room?" asked Alexis.

"Yes," gasped Jirra.

Alexis smiled and stood up. She took Jirra by the hands and helped
her up. They walked upstairs arm in arm.

Once inside Alexis's room, they sat down together on the edge of the
bed.

"Now, I know we're in the heat of the moment and all that, but are
you sure you want to continue?" asked Alexis.

"Yes, I want to be with you," replied Jirra.

Alexis leaned over and began to undress Jirra. "And you don't mind
the fact that I'm taking control?"

Jirra hesitated over her answer; she had never thought of herself as
being the submissive one in a relationship, but there was no denying
her response. "I don't mind."

Alexis smiled. "Just remember, this is for both of us."

Jirra set aside her reservations and surrendered to her lover. Soon
she was being undressed and caressed by Alexis. She found herself
trembling, not out of fear, but due to excitement and joy as Alexis
began to make love to her.

Chapter 64

Jirra cuddled next to Alexis in their bed. This was a new sensation,
and for the first time since her transformation, she found herself
reveling in her new body.

"That was wonderful, Roo," cooed Alexis.

"I've never felt like this before," replied Jirra. "I didn't know it
could be like that."

"And are you still okay about me taking control?"

"Yes, although I had to turn off rationalizing it all."

Alexis laughed. "I felt the same way the first time I slept with
another woman. I was so confused, as it felt so right, but I was
being overwhelmed by the feeling that I had committed a major sin."

"My first time as a guy was just a blur; I barely remembered what
happened," stated Jirra. "But, I'll remember this for the rest of my
life."

Alexis was tempted to make a make a smartass reply, but didn't,
sensing how emotional Jirra was over their lovemaking.

"So, do you feel better about your gender issues now?" asked Alexis.

"I crossed a bridge tonight, and it felt right. I guess I'll be
analyzing this later, but right now, I want to just soak in the
energy I feel flowing through me," replied Jirra.

Alexis smiled and placed a kiss on Jirra's cheek. "I love you, Roo."

Jirra rolled over slightly and returned the kiss. "I love you too."

Chapter 65

Jen was up first and was making coffee when Alexis came downstairs.

"I've never been one for not being direct, so how's Jirra?" asked Jen
as she watched the coffee pot slowly fill.

"She's fine; actually she's wonderful," replied Alexis with a wink.

A slight smirk formed on Jen's face. "You sure you know what you're
doing?"

Alexis shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know, but it feels right.
There's something very special about her. I partly hoped that our
initial fling was just a summer romance, but when I saw her again
last week, all those feelings came rushing back. It's not just lust
or a fling; this is love. For the first time in my life, I'm really
in love. You know me, Jen; I don't just jump into things."

Jen nodded. "That's what I was hoping to hear. While I don't have the
same sort of feelings for her, she's very special to me too. I guess
part of it is because we share an experience. I can't describe the
feelings that went through me when I found out that I wasn't alone. I
kinda see her as a little sister, feel rather protective of her, but I
want you to know that I'm happy for both of you."

Jen then noticed the pot was full and she filled her mug. "You want
some?"

Alexis nodded and watched as Jen filled up another mug.

"This won't be easy for either of you, you know," stated Jen.

"We know; we talked about that last night. Even when she's in
college, we'll still be apart. The logical thing for me to do is to
call it off, but no one ever said love was logical."

Jen took a sip from her cup. "I think I know what you mean. I'm
amazed that Adam and I have been seeing each other this long and yet
still spend so little time together. Is that what Jirra thinks?"

"As far as I can tell. This is another big step for her in accepting
her feminine status and finding her true self."

"And what about her growing feelings for guys?" asked Jen, as she
sipped her coffee.

"All I ask from her is honesty, and I'll give her the same."

"Are you afraid that she might change?" asked Jen.

"No," replied Alexis, who then took a drink of her coffee. "Okay,
maybe a little. But for now, I just want to be with her."

"I wish you both the best," said Jen, extending her mug.

Alexis touched her mug to Jen's, and there was a loud ceramic clink.
"Thanks, Jen."

Chapter 66

The ride to the airport was sullen. Jirra sat in the back, silently
holding hands with Alexis. The sky was gray and heavy with rain.

"I wish we could stay longer," sighed Alexis, as she looked out of
the window of Jen's Hummer.

"I know, but unfortunately real life beckons," stated Jen. "I have to
get back to work on my movie."

"And I've got a ton of stuff to do before heading out to Boston,"
said Alexis, glancing over at Jirra.

"Well, it was a wonderful trip; thank you so much, Jen," said
Lindsey. "I've already found several items I want to add to the menu
at the spa."

"I can't wait to try them," stated Jen.

"Does that mean you're coming back to the spa?" asked Jirra.

"Of course. I've even talked to Judy about having a permanent cottage
there," replied Jen.

"That would be cool," said Lindsey.

They pulled up to the airport and were waved in.

"Thank you so much for the trip, Jen. I'll remember it my whole
life," stated Jirra.

"You're welcome, Roo. I want to see a copy of the article you're
writing," stated Jen.

"You mean for the newsletter?" asked Jirra.

Jen smiled. "Judy has already talked to the local paper; they want an
insider's view of the Oscars."

"Really? I guess that was going to be a homecoming surprise!" replied
Jirra with a laugh.

The same jet that brought them to LA was waiting on the ramp. Marco
walked up and greeted Jen. "It's good to see you again, Ms. Stevens.
Oh, Ms. Eden, I didn't expect to see you here today. So girls, did
you have a wonderful time?"

Lindsey and Jirra nodded.

"I'll get the bags onboard. We're ready to take off as soon as
they're ready, Ms. Stevens."

"How's the weather?" asked Jen.

"This front is pretty much along the coast, so as soon as we head
inland, we should have a smooth flight to New Mexico."

Jen nodded. "Well, looks like this is goodbye."

Jen hugged Lindsey and Jirra. Alexis then gave Lindsey a hug.

Jirra was fighting back tears as she looked into Alexis's eyes.

"Hey, hey, none of that. We'll be together soon. Until then, we'll
always have email... here's looking at you, kid," stated Alexis with
a smile.

Jirra began to laugh in spite of herself. "I already miss you."

Alexis smiled and leaned over to give Jirra a hug and a quick kiss.
"I'll miss you too."

Chapter 67

"I can't believe how fast that week went," stated Lindsey.

"I know," replied Jirra, who was staring out the window.

"If you want to talk about Alexis, I'm a good listener, and if you
don't want to talk about it, I won't bug you about it," stated
Lindsey, as she pulled a can of ginger ale out of the fridge.

Jirra turned around and laughed. "How did I get such a good friend as
you?"

"Beats me," replied Lindsey. "But I figure it's the least I can do.
Look, I know that if it wasn't for you, I wouldn't have had this
wonderful week. I don't mind being your sidekick."

Jirra shook her head. "You're not my sidekick, you're my best friend."

"Maybe, but you have to admit that you have a way of making friends
with celebrities. Just remember me when I open my first restaurant,"
continued Lindsey.

Jirra raised her hand. "Deal."

"So do you want to talk about her?" asked Lindsey.

"Okay, but can you see if there's another can of ginger ale in there
first?" asked Jirra.

Chapter 68

"So what's plan B, if you don't go to Penn?" asked Lindsey.

"I can always apply to some other northeastern schools, but it's
getting too late for the fall semester."

"Where else did you apply?" asked Lindsey.

"Nowhere else," replied Jirra.

"Are you crazy?" asked Lindsey.

Jirra laughed. "No, but I sort of went all or nothing on this. My
grandfather attended Penn, and my grades are good enough."

"Were you thinking of going there before the change?" asked Lindsey.

"No, it wasn't in my plans. I was applying to Penn State and some
other area schools. But for some reason I seem to be drawn to Penn; I
can't explain it."

"You're gutsy, I'll give you that," replied Lindsey.

"Have you heard back from New Mexico?"

"No, but I should in the next few weeks. They told me that I was
almost a lock to get in the business college. They also have a
cooking school there, although I plan on applying to someplace more
prestigious after I get my business degree," explained Lindsey.

"That's a smart choice, getting your business degree first," stated
Jirra.

"Hey, Mom and Dad have told me that just knowing how to cook isn't
enough. Look at Spago, and how Wolfgang Puck has marketed himself.
That's what I have in mind."

"And I'm going to become a writer."

"Any idea of what sort of writing?"

"I don't know, although I have to admit that the idea of writing a
movie script sounds like fun."

"So we may attend future awards together, you as the famous script
writer, and me as the famous chef to the stars!" stated Lindsey
holding out her can of ginger ale.

Jirra laughed. "To the future."

Chapter 69

"So I take it you all had a wonderful time," stated Liz as they drove
back to the spa.

"It was great; it was also warm," replied Jirra, as she cranked the
heat up in the Land Rover.

"Well, I want to hear everything," said Liz.

"Everything?" asked Jirra.

Liz smiled back. "You told me that Alexis was there, so I assume you
two got together. You can tell me as much or as little as you want."

"Really?" asked Jirra.

"Roo, you're eighteen and will be nineteen in a couple of months; on
top of that, you'll be leaving for college this fall, so I trust
you," explained Liz.

Jirra glanced back at Lindsey who just shrugged her shoulders.

"Okay, here goes nothing. Alexis is going to have her own series on
cable, and the show will be filmed in Boston, and... we love each
other," stated Jirra.

"Roo, I knew that," replied Liz.

Jirra was about to say something but was stopped by Liz.

"Just as long as you're happy, then I don't mind. Alexis is a
wonderful young woman, and you two do make a nice couple," continued
Liz.

"So you don't mind the fact that I'm dating another girl?" asked
Jirra.

"No more than I mind you being a girl. Roo, I love you, and like I
said, I just want you to be happy," said Liz.

"Hey, what did you say, Jirra?" asked Lindsey.

"What do you mean?" replied Jirra.

"You said that you're dating another girl," stated Lindsey.

Jirra turned around. "Oh... you're right."

"Well, we'll be home in an hour or so; let me get you caught up on
what's going on at the spa, that way you can save your stories for
this evening. Judy, Cari, Tara, and Lindsey's parents are coming over
tonight for dinner. Hannah's bringing a big pot of chili over," stated
Liz.

"Cool," replied Jirra and Lindsey.

Chapter 70

"Is that the last of the dishes?" asked Liz, as she rinsed a bowl.

"Yep, looks like we got them all," replied Jirra as she picked up a
dishcloth to start drying the dishes.

"Well, I'm happy you all had such a wonderful time," replied Liz.
"Hand them to me when you're done, and I'll put them away."

Jirra nodded. "It was pretty cool."

"So, tell me about Alexis," said Liz, as she took a plate from Jirra.

"We're going to try to make a long distance relationship work. If I
get selected by Penn, then we'll only be a few hours apart by train."
She handed a dried off bowl to Liz.

"Well, long distance love affairs are difficult, but not impossible,"
replied Liz with a smile. "Your father and I did it."

"I know," replied Jirra. "You're my role models, in more ways than
one."

Liz stopped and sighed. "It's only a few days away."

It was the anniversary of Travis Reid's death.

"I know," replied Jirra.

"I'm thinking of taking a few days off. I really don't feel like
working on that day. I've talked to Judy and she agrees."

"Where are you going?" asked Jirra in a concerned tone.

"Nowhere in particular. I just want to spend some time with you. I'm
thinking we could go for a drive and see where we end up."

"That sounds nice," replied Jirra. "I really miss him."

"Me too, Roo, me too," replied Liz as she stared out the kitchen
window.

Jirra looked around. "Looks like that's it." She wasn't sure, but it
sounded like her mom was crying; she was also struggling to hold in
her tears.

Liz nodded, turned around, and then pulled Jirra close to her. "It's
okay to cry, Roo."

They held onto each other and shared their grief over the death of
Travis. No words were spoken or needed.

Chapter 71

"That was a good cry," stated Liz, as she sat down at the kitchen
table. She began to pour some honey in her tea.

"A good cry?" asked Jirra.

"Yes, it was cleansing and brought back good memories. That's one of
the benefits of being female; you don't feel guilt over crying,"
explained Liz.

Jirra cocked her head. "I hadn't thought about that; I don't feel any
guilt."

"Don't get me wrong, it's good and sometimes necessary to hold in
your emotions, but it's also good to purge them."

Jirra nodded and sipped her tea.

"I always knew that there was a possibility of your father getting
hurt, but still I was stunned when the Army arrived outside our door.
I was also angry," continued Liz.

"Angry? You were angry at the Army?"

"The Army, the war, the government, and I was also angry at your
father. It was strictly a knee-jerk reaction. I was just so mad that
I would never see him or hold him again."

"I was just angry at my teachers," piped in Jirra.

"Really?" asked Liz.

Jirra sipped her tea and nodded. "I mean, up to the day that Dad
died, I had put up with the sniping by some of teachers. They knew
where he was and threw in little barbs to get me angry. I took it
upon myself not to give them the pleasure of getting angry. Then when
Dad was killed, they all tried to be 'so' supporting; it made me
sick," explained Jirra.

"Why didn't you tell me this?" asked Liz.

"I figured that you were carrying enough on your shoulders. I didn't
want you worried about me at the same time."

"I see."

"I felt the same way at the funeral with many of our relatives. I
mean, they didn't have to tell me to be proud of Dad. They all said
that they would be there if we needed anything, and now most won't
even accept our Christmas cards!" continued Jirra.

"Yes, I'm pissed about that myself."

"Thankfully, we have this place. I feel closer to the people here
than I do to most of our relatives. I also feel very close to Jen."

"I've noticed. I think that your friendship is beneficial for both of
you," stated Liz.

Jirra nodded. "I wonder if there are more people out there like us."

"Well, from a strict medical opinion, I suspect that if it has
happened twice, it must have happened many more times. There are
several similarities in both the process by which you two were
changed and in your post-change cell structures."

"Do you know if this was something preordained, or just something
that happened?" asked Jirra.

"I have no proof, but I don't believe that things just happen. Most
people who are struck by lightning are seriously injured or killed.
Other than the gender change, neither Jen nor you were injured.
That's very strange."

"So was this something in my genes?" asked Jirra.

"I have no idea. I don't have a sample of your pre-change DNA to look
for anything out of the ordinary. Even if I did, I wouldn't know what
to look for."

"So if this is a natural function, what do you think happened to
others?" asked Jirra.

"Depends on the society, I imagine some were killed as being witches
or being evil. Some Native American societies would have treated them
as shamans and holy people."

"I guess I'm lucky this wasn't Salem," replied Jirra with a smile.

Liz laughed. "Well, Roo, I guess it's time for bed. It's good to have
you back."

"Good night, Mom," replied Jirra.

They got up, hugged, and went to bed.

Chapter 72

Just as Liz promised, she took Jirra away for a few days on the
anniversary of Travis's death. Fortunately, the weather was good, and
they decided on a whim to drive up to Denver.

Neither felt like doing anything touristy, so they spent most of the
trip just driving and talking. They talked about Travis and retold
old stories. They shared both laughs and tears.

On the way back down to New Mexico, Jirra brought up something that
was on her mind.

"Assuming I do get accepted to Penn, do you mind that I'll be going
to school cross-country?" asked Jirra.

"I'd miss you even if you were going to New Mexico with Lindsey,"
replied Liz. "However, I think it's a great opportunity, and you'd be
foolish to pass on it. Why? Are you getting cold feet?"

Jirra shook her head. "I'll miss you and everyone at the spa. It
really feels like home, but something tells me that I need to move
out on my own."

"You mean your spirit guide?" asked Liz.

"No, he's got nothing to do with this. It's just that I need to find
out if I can function away from the spa. I did okay in Hollywood, but
that's not a real test; it's so different there. I'm scared that if I
don't go, I never will."

"I don't believe that."

"I'm still spooked over what happened to me. I mean, it's turned out
wonderful in so many ways, but sometimes it feels like a nightmare.
I'm also scared about the fact that I'm still changing."

"You mean how you feel about boys?"

Jirra nodded. "I know, I know, I should get over it and move on."

"No, Roo, you should do what feels right. Maybe you and Alexis will
stay together and maybe you won't. And if you fall in love with
someone else, male or female, I'll always support you, as long as
you're happy."

"Even if you can't stand them?" asked Jirra with a grin on her face.

"I can't imagine you dating someone I wouldn't like."

"So that means you like Alexis?" asked Jirra.

"Very much so. I just wish that she didn't have to keep her sexuality
secret. It will make things more complicated for both of you," stated
Liz.

Jirra nodded slowly. "I know, we've e-mailed each other about that."

"I just don't want to see either of you get hurt."

Jirra let out a sigh. "Well, at least life can't get more complicated
for me. It has to start getting easier, right?"

"I hope it does, Roo."

They drove for the next thirty minutes without a word between them.

"Mom, do you think that you'll start dating again?" asked Jirra.

"What brought that up?" asked Liz with a surprised look on her face.

"I was just thinking... I mean, I loved Dad, but you still have a
long life and all; I just want you to know that I wouldn't mind,"
said Jirra softly.

Liz, sensing that Jirra was serious, glanced over and smiled. "I
appreciate that, Roo. I haven't really given it much thought."

"Still, if you meet someone nice, don't push them away. I don't want
you to be alone. I don't think Dad would mind," added Jirra.

"No, he wouldn't," replied Liz. "In fact, we talked about it right
after we married."

"You're kidding, right?" asked Jirra.

"Nope. You know his service record and what he did when he was on
active duty; he was at the 'tip of the spear' as he liked to say. I
loved him, and trying to get him to put in for something less
hazardous would have been futile and disastrous to our relationship.
I loved him for what he was. We talked about the fact that he could
be killed, and he said that the last thing he wanted was for me to
waste away pining for him; those were his exact words too. I promised
him that should the worst happen, I would go on to live a full life. I
also promised him that he would forever be in my heart."

"Wow."

"Wow is right. I thought it was all behind us when he moved into the
reserves. When I heard his unit was being activated to go to
Afghanistan, I knew he would find a way to go."

"I know. He told me that he couldn't stay back with his men going
there," added Roo.

"I had a bad feeling about him going. I'd never had that feeling
before, even though he had been in combat before. This time I just
knew he wasn't coming back."

"You need to stop?" asked Jirra.

"No, I'm okay. I appreciate your comments and concern, Roo. I may
date again, but don't be disappointed if I don't start immediately."

"Deal."

Jirra stared out the window for the next twenty minutes before
turning towards her mom.

"You know, my not being around here will probably be good, should you
decide to start dating again," she stated.

"What do you mean? I don't think the fact that I have a daughter in
college would make a difference to him," replied Liz.

"How will you explain me?" asked Jirra.

"Oh... you mean about that?" said Liz as she glanced over at Jirra.

"It might scare him away," added Jirra.

"Roo, you're my daughter, and I love you. If I do meet someone and I
like him enough to start dating, I won't cast you aside if he's
unable to accept you," replied Liz. "We'll start with the gender
reassignment story and take it from there."

"I just don't want to cause you problems."

"Too late," replied Liz as she laughed. "Trust me; I'll be able to
tell if he is open-minded. And if he isn't, it's his loss."

Chapter 73

A few weeks later Jirra was sitting in the coffeehouse drinking a cup
of hot chocolate as she worked on her computer. On the table in front
of her was a topographical map of the area that included the spa. On
it were two sites that Jirra had circled as potential areas that
might fit the descriptions in Dr. Margate's book.

The weather wasn't good enough yet to head into the back area of the
spa grounds, so all Jirra could do was wait. In the meantime, she
worked on her senior project. It was about the Anasazi and their
migration into western New Mexico. The possibility that they'd made
it this far east was still a theory, and she didn't dare put it in
her project.

"Hey, Jirra, how're you today?" bellowed Barrett as he walked into
the coffee shop.

Jirra smiled as she looked up from her computer. "Welcome back. How
was it?"

Barrett had spent the last week hiking into a back canyon.

"Another miss. It was a great hike in and out, but there was no trace
of the Anasazi. We did find evidence of some later tribes, possibly
Apache, but otherwise it's another canyon to check off the list," he
explained as he sat down next to her.

"I thought you were going alone?" asked Jirra.

"I never hike alone when I'm spending the night out there. No, I
actually got one of the professors from the university to go along
with me. He wanted to get out of the office for a few days, and he
had never gone into that canyon before."

"Cool."

Barrett nodded. "So how does it feel to be a big time celebrity?"

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, does that mean you didn't see it yet?" he asked.

Jirra shook her head.

"Be right back," he stated. He got up and retrieved a copy of the
local paper. On the front cover, bottom panel, was Jirra's story on
the Academy Awards.

Jirra took it from him without a word. She was totally stunned.

"They said it would be in the entertainment section," she said.

"Slow news week, I guess. Hey, don't knock it; it's a good article.
You can write."

Without looking up, Jirra thanked him. She was too busy reading the
article to see if the editor had changed anything. The story was
continued to page five, and she quickly opened it up to see that in
addition to the rest of the article, there was a photo of her and
Nick.

"Oh my God," she exclaimed.

"It's a great photo; they pulled it off the newswire. My uncle
thought you'd like it."

"Your uncle?" asked Jirra.

"Oh, yeah, my Uncle Walt runs the paper."

"Are you related to everyone in town?" asked Jirra grinning.

"No, just the poor people and other assorted riffraff," he replied
with a laugh. "Hey, you're a local celebrity now. Can I get you to
sign a copy of that photo? I'd like to put it up next to the ones of
Alexis Eden and Jen Stevens."

"You're kidding, right?"

Barrett shook his head.

"I'm not famous. I was just with someone who was."

"You will be," he replied in a serious tone.

"You sound pretty confident," said Jirra.

"I am. I see great things ahead for you," he said as he picked up her
map. "Are you still planning on going into the back country to check
out these two canyons?"

"Not until late spring," she replied.

"This one is a full day hike in. You'll have to spend the night; I
doubt if your mom would allow that," continued Barrett, as he pointed
to the map.

"I'll be nineteen then," countered Jirra.

"And? No offense, Jirra, but parents don't let go that easy," he
replied. "Have you ever camped before?"

"A few times with my dad."

"Do you have any gear?"

Jirra shook her head.

"You'll need a backpack, a tent, sleeping bag, cooking utensils...."

"Okay, I get it," she interrupted. "I still want to check them out."

Barrett looked at the map. "You know that there's nothing there,
don't you?"

"I won't know until I see it for myself."

He nodded. "Do you think that your mom would trust me to take you
back there?"

Jirra's eyes opened up wide. "You mean that?"

"Sure, why not? The earliest we could go would be May. Judging from
the map, we can make this canyon first and then cross over to the
second one."

"Why can't we cut through this way?" asked Jirra, as she pointed to a
shorter route.

"That's some rough territory, and you being a...."

"Watch it," interrupted Jirra with a grin on her face.

"I was going to say a novice, but you are a girl, and you have less
upper body strength. We'll have to hike in with full packs, and
that's some tough terrain," said Barrett.

"Okay, but can we at least try it?"

"Let's not jump too far ahead. I still need your mom's permission."

Jirra nodded. "I'll talk to her, and we can set up a date for you to
come over for dinner."

"That sounds good."

Jirra picked up her purse and pulled out her cell phone.

"You're calling now?" asked Barrett.

"No time like the present," she replied.

Jirra talked for a few minutes.

"She says that she'd love to meet you. How about this Sunday for
dinner?"

"That won't work. My professor will be here to review my research
project," replied Barrett.

"Where is he staying?"

"The Best Western down the road," replied Barrett.

"Down the road? Barrett, that's twenty-five miles from here!"

He laughed. "Hey, twenty-five miles is down the road for around here."

"We have plenty of rooms available at the spa. I can even arrange for
an employee discount. He can stay there and join us for dinner."

Barrett laughed. "I'll call him up and see if that will fit into his
plans. The spa is certainly a lot nicer that the Best Western."

"What's his name?" asked Jirra.

"Dr. Daniel Montgomery," replied Barrett.

Using Jirra's phone, Barrett called Dr. Montgomery and told him
Jirra's suggestions.

"I'll be damned, he agreed to everything," said Barrett as he handed
Jirra back her phone.

"Told you!" replied Jirra, as she dialed the spa.

A short time later, she put her phone back in her bag. "That's all
taken care of. Here's his reservation number."

"I'll e-mail it to him, thanks," said Barrett.

"Hey, you're the one who's going to help me get into those canyons."

"Tell you what, we'll go to the outdoors shop this week and pick out
the things you'll need," said Barrett. "They have rock bottom prices
right now, and you'll save a bundle."

"Sounds like a good idea."

Barrett glanced at his watch. "Well, it's time for me to go to work.
You want a refill?"

Jirra nodded. "Thanks."

She went back to her online research and didn't pay any attention to
the people who walked into the shop.

"I wonder how they faked this photo," stated one of the girls, loud
enough so Jirra would hear it.

"It has to be a fake, there's no way a stud like Nick Carlton would
be with... one of those!" replied the other girl.

Jirra looked up to see Tina and Ashley looking at the article in the
paper. She decided not to reply and went back to work. They were the
two girls who had threatened her the previous summer and were two of
the bigger instigators in the anti-gay comments against the spa and
its staff. Jirra didn't think they had the intelligence to hack the
website, but she was sure they were involved.

"Well, I have heard that Hollywood is full of sexual deviants, so
maybe the photo is real," stated Ashley.

"I just don't understand how she gets to go to Hollywood and
righteous people like us don't!" exclaimed Tina. "It's not fair."

"No one ever said that life was fair," mumbled Jirra to herself.

"What did you say?" ordered Tina angrily. "You said something, what
was it?"

Jirra looked up and pointed to her chest. "Me?"

"Yes, you. What did you say?" asked Ashley.

"I just said that life wasn't fair."

"How did you get to go to the awards? I mean, you don't even like
men!" stated Ashley.

"I never said that I dislike all men - just oversexed, moronic,
conceited, macho jerks," replied Jirra.

Ashley and Tina stared back in shock.

"That's... that's not possible, you admitted that you liked girls!"
stammered Tina.

"What's the matter, didn't they cover that sort of thing in your
sex-ed class?" replied Jirra with a grin.

"Our school doesn't require that sort of filth," snapped back Tina.

"Too bad," replied Jirra.

"What does that mean?"

"Look, I don't have time to explain it to you right now; it would
take too long to put it into small words that you'd understand. Go
online and look up bisexuality," replied Jirra.

The two girls looked at each other in disgust.

"You're even more of a sinner than I thought! Just wait until we tell
Randy!" stated Tina.

Just then Barrett walked over. "I told you two to keep your bigoted
statements out of here, and the same applies for the rest of your
friends."

The two girls stormed out. Barrett shrugged his shoulders and handed
Jirra her hot chocolate.

"It takes time. Unfortunately, there are a lot of unenlightened
people in town. All the changes have them confused, and the sexual
orientation of the spa's staff and guests is an east target. There's
quite a gap forming in the town. Thankfully, only a small group is
very vocal and active."

"Do you know any of them that are computer savvy?" asked Jirra. "Our
website has been hacked a few times. It had the looks of kids doing
it."

"I can think of a few people who could do it."

"We should be safe now. The site has been upgraded and now has a much
stronger security system."

Barrett shook his head in disgust. "I don't know whether to be angry
at them or pity them. They have such closed minds, and I was hoping
the spa would help open them up. Still, change is always resisted,"
he stated. "I'm just glad that I had the opportunity to go to
college."

"I can't wait to go," sighed Jirra.

"Have you been accepted yet?" asked Barrett.

"No, but I should find out any day now."

"Let me know as soon as you know," he stated. "Also, don't let those
idiots get you down; they're not worth it."

Chapter 74

Over dinner that night, Jirra told Liz about the run-in with the
girls at the coffeehouse.

"I did my best not to get involved, but I'm not going to sit there
and be insulted either," stated Jirra. "By the way, the beef stew is
excellent."

"Thank you. Now, I understand your reaction, and in no way do I want
you to let anyone walk over you, but be careful," said Liz as she
spread some butter on a biscuit.

"Why? I've always handled myself," replied Jirra.

"Yes, but you're not as strong as you used to be. You're also dealing
with a whole new set of emotions; I just don't want to see you get
hurt," continued Liz.

"I'll be fine," replied Jirra confidently. "Besides, I can handle
those two jerks without any problem."

"I'm not worried about the girls," stated Liz.

"Randy's all mouth," stated Jirra as she scooped out some more stew
into her bowl.

"Don't be so sure. Guys like him can be trouble. You hurt his pride
once, and he'll remember that. He won't let you do that to him
again," warned Liz.

"You don't think he'd actually try to hit me, do you?" asked Jirra.

"I treated more than my share of abused women while I was on active
duty. When guys feel their manhood has been threatened, they do
stupid things. He's a lot bigger than you and is much stronger. So my
suggestion is to be careful."

"But I haven't said a word to him since the incident last summer,"
said Jirra.

"Yes, but those two girls are interested in him and will tell him
what happened today."

Jirra stopped eating. "Oh... I hadn't thought of that."

"I'm not telling you not to go to town, but just be careful."

Jirra nodded. "I've never liked being bullied. I got picked on when I
was the new kid when we lived in Georgia. Dad told me to avoid trouble
too, but he also told me to stand up for myself."

"And you got a bloody nose out of that, if I remember it correctly,"
added Liz with a smile.

"That's true, but I gave him a pretty good black eye, and he never
bothered me again," replied Jirra.

"You're not in the fourth grade now."

"TouchŽ."

"Just promise me that you'll be careful; there's no shame in refusing
to be drawn into a fight."

"I'll try," replied Jirra. "Oh, thanks again for having Barrett over
for dinner."

"I don't mind, besides I've wanted to meet him for a while," stated
Liz.

"I also appreciate you agreeing to have his professor over too."

"I'm looking forward to it. Apparently Judy knows him, and she says
he's a really nice guy."

"Who doesn't she know?" replied Jirra with a laugh.

Chapter 75

It was a beautiful Sunday morning. It was unseasonably warm, and
everyone was enjoying the pleasant weather.

"Well? Has he checked in yet?" asked Jirra as she walked into Judy's
office.

"If you mean Dr. Montgomery, yes," replied Judy as she looked up from
reading the NY Times.

"Mom says you know him," stated Jirra.

"Actually, I know his younger sister, Lisa, better. We took some
business classes together. She now runs a resort up in Aspen. I first
met Dan when I stayed over at her house. He's really nice, and even
back then was very charming. I might even have been interested in
him, if I hadn't been engaged at the time."

"Oh." replied Jirra. "Wait a minute, you've never been married."

Judy laughed. "That's true. James and I had different ideas of what
marriage should be like. He didn't like the idea of me having a
career, and I wasn't going to be a housewife. Thankfully, we figured
it out before the actually marriage. The last I heard of him, he was
happily running a lumberyard up in Utah and had a wife and six kids."

"Oh," replied Jirra, at a loss for anything else to say.

"Oh is right. I definitely dodged a bullet there. Don't get me wrong,
I'm not against marriage, but it has to be equal," said Judy with a
laugh.

"Well, I'm just glad that Mom is willing to hear out my plan to hike
back to those canyons. I know she'll like Barrett, and hopefully Dr.
Montgomery will convince her that he's trustworthy."

"I've been thinking about that. I seem to remember that one of those
canyons you showed me on the map may be sealed off. I'm not totally
sure, but I think it's one of those that you're interested in."

"Do you think that we can still access it?"

"Maybe, but it'll be difficult. If it's the same canyon, there's a
rock slide blocking the entrance."

"Well, I'd still like to see it for myself."

Judy smiled. "I'm not trying to talk you out of going there. It's
quite beautiful back there...." her voice tailed off.

"What's wrong?" asked Jirra.

"My lawyers told me that the hotel chain is pressing hard to get the
land at the entrance of the spa. If they get it, they can just about
cut us off from the main road. If that happens, I'll have no choice
but to sell."

"Can't you block the land sale?"

"I wish it was that simple. The hotel chain makes rather large
donations to the local congressman, and he's got connections that
would put the land up for sale. Granted, I went to high school with
him, but there's a difference between friendship and politics. The
large resort would also bring a lot of jobs into the area, and the
town is eyeing the potential tax revenues. If the land goes on sale,
it'll have to be auctioned off. But I'm sure the hotel chain will be
willing to overpay for it."

"I can't believe that you'd lose this land," stated Jirra confidently.

"Oh, I'm not giving up, but the deck is starting to look stacked
against me."

"I wish there was something I could do to help."

"Just listening to my venting has been very helpful."

Chapter 76

Late that afternoon, Jirra walked into her home and was greeted by
the aroma of chicken cooking.

"Hmmm, that smells wonderful," she exclaimed.

"It's a new recipe for Teriyaki chicken that Hannah gave me. I've
wanted to try it for a while," replied Liz.

"Can I help you with anything?"

"You can set the table; everything food-wise is either done or just
waiting to be cooked."

Jirra nodded. "Will do. Oh, have you talked to Judy lately about the
land sale outside the spa?"

"Yes. Judy's going to do everything possible to fight it, but she's
scared. I'm worried about her, as I've never seen her scared about
anything since I've known her."

"Is there anything we can do?" asked Jirra as she set the table.

"I don't know. The corporation can afford to outspend her, and even
if she outbids them, she'd be in deep debt."

"It's not fair; this is her land and her dream," stated Jirra angrily.

"I know, but don't count her out yet; Judy always seems to find a way
to twist the bad into good."

Jirra nodded and returned to her task.

Chapter 77

At six Barrett and Dr. Montgomery arrived.

Jirra was slightly shocked to see that Barrett was wearing a tie. It
looked out of place on his stocky frame.

Dr. Montgomery followed him in. He was dressed in khaki Dockers, a
dark blue shirt, and a tan suede jacket. He was tall, maybe 6-1, and
looked a little like Harrison Ford. His face was tanned and bore the
signs of being outdoors. Jirra had checked out his biography on the
university website and knew he was forty-eight, but she decided that
he looked younger.

After introductions were made, they sat down in the living room. Dr.
Montgomery presented Liz with a bottle of wine.

"And please call me Dan," he said as he looked into Liz's eyes.

While the others drank the wine, Jirra settled on a glass of
sparkling cider. She really didn't care about drinking; it was the
fact that it reinforced the idea that she was the youngest one there.

They made small talk and became acquainted for a while. Dan
eventually turned to Jirra. "So, you're the young lady who wants to
drag one of my top grad students off into the back canyons of this
ranch. I'd like to know what makes you think that it's worth the
expedition?"

Jirra realized that he wasn't making fun of her and was trying to see
how serious she was. He had even used the term expedition.

"Well, I read Dr. Margate's book, and on a hunch I looked at possible
sites in this area. I know from Judy that Dr. Margate did some
searches in this area," she replied. "These two canyons meet the
descriptions he wrote about."

"Is that it?" he asked with a sly grin on his face. "Half the canyons
in New Mexico could fit the descriptions in Margate's book." Obviously
he was testing her.

Jirra hesitated for a moment. "I know this will sound silly... but I
just have a feeling that something is up there."

Dan nodded knowingly. "That's what I was hoping to hear. Why do you
think that something's up there?"

"I've been thinking about this for a while. This place is special.
Judy said that the native people used to come here to take mud baths.
They never settled in this area. That seems strange, and I think it's
because it was a special place. But the area around here is too open
and unprotected."

"So you think that the canyons to the north of here might have been
used by the native people and maybe the Anasazi?" he asked as he
sipped his wine.

Jirra smiled as she nodded. She liked the way he treated her as an
adult. "It makes sense. The Anasazi used canyons all the time for
protection. If they knew about the water and mud here, they would
have used the canyons as a place for protection. I've been doing my
senior history project on them."

"That's right, Barrett told me that you were finishing up the last
part of your high school education on your own," said Dan.

Jirra glanced over at Barrett who just smiled back.

"He also said that in addition to being a very good researcher that
you're an excellent writer. Would you mind if I looked at your
project when you're finished?" asked Dan.

Jirra shook her head. "No, I wouldn't mind at all."

Dan smiled back. "I wish you luck in your expedition. I think it's
wonderful to play a hunch, but you've also thought this out and
applied what you know about the Anasazi. I wish all my grad students
did that."

Jirra looked over at Liz.

Dan caught the look. "Liz, I think this would be a wonderful
opportunity for Jirra. My young associate here can be trusted to be a
perfect gentleman. I also know that he's more than capable of making
this trip safely."

"Tell me more about what the trip will include?" asked Liz as she
looked over at Barrett.

"We'll just hike up to the canyons and do an inspection. Due to the
distance and the terrain, we'd have to spend the night there,"
answered Barrett.

"What'll happen if you find anything?" asked Liz.

"We'd do nothing except taking photos. As soon as we got back, I'd
call Dr. Montgomery," answered Barrett. He noticed confusion on
Jirra's face. "We can't touch anything, as it could contaminate the
site. Because so many sites have been used by different cultures,
it's vital to take our time and excavate the site slowly and
meticulously."

Jirra nodded. "Of course."

"And do you think that there's something up there?" asked Liz.

"Beats me, I've been in twenty canyons in the past year and have come
up empty each time," replied Barrett with a laugh. "Still, some of the
greatest discoveries have happened due to someone playing a hunch."

Liz laughed. "But your hunches haven't worked, right?"

"That's why I don't go to Vegas," replied Barrett, joining in her
laughter.

"Actually, Barrett isn't quite telling you the truth; he's made some
significant discoveries in the field," interrupted Dan.

Barrett turned to Jirra with a surprised look on his face and
whispered to Jirra. "That's the first time he's given me a public
compliment."

"Well, I suppose there's no harm in this," stated Liz.

"Really? That's so cool, Mom! Thank you," exclaimed Jirra as she got
up and hugged her.

Chapter 78

During dinner, Dan turned to Jirra. "Tell, me Jirra, how did you
happen upon Dr. Margate's book?"

"I bought a copy in a used bookstore in Santa Fe," she replied.

Dan nodded. "Santa Fe, huh? So, what did you think of Abe?"

"He's quite a character, hey... how did you know that?" she asked.

"I've been going there for years. Abe knows more about the history of
this area than most of the professors at the university."

"Does he know as much as Judy?" asked Jirra.

Dan laughed. "Almost." He then turned to Liz. "I understand you have
a long history with Judy."

Liz nodded, and they began to trade good-natured stories about her.

As the night progressed, Jirra couldn't help but notice that Dan and
her mom were hitting it off quite nicely, and to her surprise, it
didn't bother her at all.

Chapter 79

It was later in the evening, and Jirra was helping Liz clean up.

"Thanks again for allowing me to go on the trip back into the hills,"
stated Jirra as she washed the dishes.

"I feel better about it, now that I've met Barrett," replied Liz, as
she wrapped up the leftovers.

"I like him a lot, but not in a romantic sort of way," stated Jirra.

Liz cocked her head and stared at Jirra. "So, you're becoming more
comfortable thinking about boys?"

"Barrett's different; he's like a big brother in some ways. He's also
one of the few locals that I've talked to who's cool about my
sexuality."

"I'm pleased to hear that."

"So what do you think about Dan?" asked Jirra as she rinsed off the
last of the dishes.

"He's nice," replied Liz.

"That's it?"

Liz laughed. "I enjoyed his company."

"I like him too; you know, if he asks you out, I don't have a problem
with it," remarked Jirra.

"Thank you for your permission."

Jirra turned around and smiled. "No problem."

Liz nodded. "I do appreciate that you don't mind if we were to go
out."

"Hey, after everything I've put you through this year, it's the least
I can do."

Chapter 80

A few days later Jirra was driving into town with Lindsey. The
weather was still nice, and it was sunny and pleasantly warm outside.
Jirra wondered if they had finally seen the end of winter. They were
heading to the outdoor sports shop to pick up her backpack. Barrett
had helped her pick the correct model, and the store had to special
order it.

"I can't believe Dave will be home this week," said Lindsey
excitedly. "I've missed him so much."

"How're you two doing?" asked Jirra.

"Pretty good, but as you know, long distance romances stink," replied
Lindsey.

"That's the truth. I did get another e-mail from Alexis. She's
started filming her new series this week."

"That's so cool," replied Lindsey. "So you and Barrett are really
going to camping together?"

"It's not really camping; we're hiking back to see if there are any
Anasazi sites near the spa."

"And what makes you think that there are?"

"I think I saw it when I was on my last vision quest," replied Jirra.
"I couldn't tell Dan that."

"Ohhh, I saw him the other morning; he's handsome... for an older
guy. How're things going with him and your mom?"

"They're going out to dinner tonight," replied Jirra. "And before you
ask, I love it."

Jirra was pleased to see that the backpack was a perfect fit. It was
smaller than the one she had used when she had gone camping with her
dad, but then again, she was now smaller.

As they looked around the store, Jirra's cell phone went off.

"Hi, Mom, what's up?" she asked.

"The mail just arrived, and you have a letter from Penn," stated Liz.
"Do you want me to open it for you?"

Jirra paused and took a deep breath. "Is the envelope thick or thin?"

"Thick... very thick."

Jirra felt like screaming for joy, but held it in. "Go ahead and open
it."

Jirra could hear the sound of the envelope being opened.

"You're in!" stated Liz after a pause that seemed to last for hours.

Jirra's eyes opened up wide, and a huge smile broke out on her face.
"You mean it?"

"Roo, I wouldn't kid you about something like this. I'm so proud of
you."

"What's up, Jirra?" asked Lindsey as she walked towards her.

"I just got the letter from Penn. I've been accepted!"

Lindsey dropped her basket and gave Jirra a huge hug. "Oh, Jirra,
that's wonderful!"

"Mom, we'll be home soon," stated Jirra.

"Okay, but be careful driving home."

"We will!"

Chapter 81

When Jirra and Lindsey arrived at the spa, they found a note on the
front door of Jirra's house telling them that Liz was up in the main
building.

They walked together into the hall and were stunned to see that the
dining room was decorated in red and blue streamers and balloons. A
large banner was hanging congratulating Jirra on her acceptance into
Penn.

Most of the staff were in the hall, and they began to applaud as
Jirra walked in.

Jirra was nearly speechless, and she walked the gauntlet of hugs and
congratulatory handshakes. Cari and Tara each gave her a big hug, as
did Gregory and Cody.

Liz was waiting up front next to Judy and Hannah, watching it all
with a huge smile on her face.

Eventually, Jirra made it up to the front. "How did you put this
together so fast?" asked Jirra as she hugged Liz.

"We've planned this for a while," replied Liz. She handed her a box.
"Here, open this up and put on what's inside; you're not properly
dressed."

Jirra opened the box and pulled out a blue sweatshirt with the Penn
logo on the front. She immediately slipped it over her head. "This is
so cool."

Hannah then waved to a member of her kitchen staff, who wheeled out a
large cake on a cart. It said "Congratulations, Jirra, on becoming a
Quaker."

"Whoa, nice cake," commented Lindsey.

"Baking and decorating the cake was the easy part; keeping it a
secret from you was the hard part," stated Hannah, as she slipped her
arm around her daughter.

"Hey, I can keep a secret," stated Lindsey. "Okay, maybe not
something like this, but Jirra is my best friend."

Liz handed the letter to Jirra, who immediately opened it up and read
it. "This is so cool."

"Go to the next page," stated Liz.

Jirra shifted to the next page of the letter and her eyes opened up
even wider. "Is this real?"

Liz nodded.

"What is it, Jirra?" asked Lindsey.

"I've been awarded an academic scholarship. It'll pay twenty-five
percent of my tuition for the next four years!"

"That's wonderful, Jirra," said Lindsey. "Who's the scholarship from?"

"Oh my... it's from a veteran's group," stated Jirra. "Hey, I didn't
even apply for this."

"I did it. I got a call from them back in the fall when your
application was received," interjected Liz.

Jirra began to get all choked up and had to wipe some tears from her
eyes.

Later in the afternoon, Jirra, Liz, and Judy were sitting together
enjoying the cake.

"I wanted to save this until things calmed down," stated Judy, as she
handed Jirra an envelope.

"What's this?" asked Jirra as she looked at the envelope with a look
of confusion.

"Open it up, Jirra. This is something that I've talked to your mom
about," stated Judy.

Jirra opened the envelope and read the letter and then stared at Judy.

"That's right, dear, I'm picking up the rest of your tuition, and I
expect you to do well," stated Judy.

Jirra looked over at her mom.

"It's okay, Roo. Judy made this offer last year, and knowing her as
well as I do, I knew it was pointless to argue."

Jirra swallowed and turned to Judy. "I promise I won't let you down.
Thank you so much." She then wrapped her arms around Judy.

"I know you will, dear," replied Judy.

It took a while until Jirra regained her composure. She picked up the
acceptance letter and re-read it.

"I took the liberty of going through the letter; we have to fill out
some forms. Oh, we also need to decide where you'll be living,"
stated Liz. "Apparently, due to construction, they'll allow you to
live off campus. I have a list of prospective places for us to look
over."

"You wouldn't mind me living off campus?" asked Jirra.

"If it's the right place," answered Liz.

Jirra nodded. She was going to Penn.

Chapter 82

The next day Jirra and Lindsey were in town. It was another nice
spring day, and they went into town to meet up with Dave.

"He said that he'll meet us at the coffeehouse around two," stated
Lindsey as she closed her cell phone.

"That's fine. If you two want to be alone, just let me know. My
laptop is in the car, and I can always find a corner in the
coffeehouse to go sit in," replied Jirra.

"It's okay, besides Dave likes you, and besides, we can't make out in
town," said Lindsey with a wink.

They walked around town and noticed two new businesses that were due
to open in the next few weeks, one was a boutique and the other a
restaurant.

"This looks interesting," said Lindsey as she looked at the menu
posted in the window. "It looks like they grill everything. I can't
wait for them to open."

"Maybe you can do a restaurant review for the newsletter," suggested
Jirra.

"There's an idea," she replied.

"Well, well, look what crawled into town," exclaimed Randy.

Jirra and Lindsey turned around and saw him standing with Ashley and
Tina.

"Randy, you've been told to leave us alone," stated Lindsey.

"Yeah, right. I just heard from Tina that your degenerate friend
insulted me," stated Randy.

"That's right!" added Tina.

Randy nodded. "She said that you called me an oversexed, moronic,
conceited, macho jackass. Do you deny this?"

Jirra shook her head. "I never called you a jackass."

Randy hesitated for a second as he tried to mentally absorb what
Jirra had just said. At the same time, Jirra and Lindsey were looking
for a way to escape.

"Wait... then you did call me all those other things, right?"

"I never mentioned your name, I just told Tina that I don't like
oversexed, moronic, conceited, macho jerks," replied Jirra. She
paused for a second. "But if the shoe fits...."

Randy stood there and glared at Jirra. He then struck her across the
face with the back of his hand.

The blow knocked her to the ground. Randy stood over her, not knowing
what to do next.

Jirra touched her cheek and winced in pain. She immediately stood up
and tried to hit him back. Randy seemed shocked that a girl would try
to hit him, and even more shocked when Jirra's fist hit him under his
right eye. As she tried to hit him again, he grabbed her by the
wrists and threw her to the ground.

"Stay on the ground, bitch, before I really hurt you!" he said,
taunting her. "Stay down on the ground, you perverted dyke slut."

By now, Jirra was furious and refused to stay down. As she got up,
Randy hit her again across her face.

"Hit her again!" screamed Tina.

"Yes, hit the lesbo!" yelled Ashley.

Jirra struggled to get up, and for the first time since she was
little, she felt totally helpless. Still, she wasn't about to give
up, and she began to stand up.

Randy sneered, moved in and was about to hit her again, when Dave
came out of nowhere and tackled him.

"What the fuck are you doing?" yelled Randy as he tried to get away.

Dave was able to pull Randy's arm behind his back, and at the same
time, he slammed Randy up against the wall.

"Dammit, let me go!" ordered Randy.

"Not so easy as beating up a girl, huh, Randy?" stated Dave, as he
twisted Randy's arm.

"Shit, man, that hurts," cried Randy.

Ashley and Tina began to scream obscenities at Dave.

"It's supposed to, you bastard," said Dave. "Lindsey, see if Jirra's
okay."

Lindsey knelt down next to Jirra. "You okay"

Jirra couldn't answer and tried to nod, but instead she began to cry.
The whole right side of her face hurt. She reached up and touched her
face and winced. She pulled her hand back and saw the blood.

"It's just a bloody nose, Jirra," comforted Lindsey. "You feel like
standing up?"

Jirra nodded.

Randy was still struggling, but Dave had no intention of letting him
go. By now, a crowd had gathered.

Jirra was helped to her feet by several of the observers and helped
to a park bench outside of one of the shops.

"I'll get you an ice pack," stated one of the women who ran into her
shop.

Another woman handed her a tissue.

Jirra just nodded. She felt so stupid and helpless.

A minute later, the sheriff's car pulled up. He stepped out of the
car and ordered Dave to let Randy go.

Harold Cross had been town sheriff for six years. He had been an Army
MP before returning to New Mexico. For eight years, he had been a
deputy before being promoted. At six-three, two hundred and twenty
pounds, not too many people challenged him. The funny thing was that
he was actually a very gentle man. His wife, three kids, and three
dogs and two cats could testify to this.

"But until I figure out what happened here, you just stand there. You
understand, boy? Remember, I know where you live," he said sternly to
Randy.

Randy nodded submissively.

He then turned to Tina and Ashley. "You two stand over with him."

The two girls nodded and walked over to stand next to Randy.

Harold then turned towards Jirra. "Now, are you okay, Miss?" the
sheriff asked, as his voice lightened and softened.

Jirra wiped her eyes. "I think so. I just want to go home"

The sheriff nodded. "Okay, however, I think you should get checked
out. Do you feel well enough to answer a few questions before the EMT
arrives?"

Jirra nodded and held the icepack against her right cheek.

The sheriff smiled. "Okay, now tell me what happened?"

Jirra began to him her side of the story.

"Hey, why are you letting her go first?" screamed Randy.

"Because it's obvious that she was the one assaulted. If you speak
again without my asking, I'll lock you up right now," interrupted
Harold angrily. He turned back to Jirra and smiled. "Now, Miss,
please continue."

After Jirra finished, Harold took Lindsey's and some of the other
observers' statements. Lindsey had seen Dave driving down the road
and waved him down. They had seen Randy hit Jirra and had run over to
help. He then turned to Randy and the two girls.

By now, the EMT had arrived and was conducting an exam of Jirra.

"Okay, let's hear your side," Harold stated as he stood over Randy
and the two girls.

"She attacked me. I was just defending myself," said Randy. He then
looked over at Dave. "Then this jerk assaulted me."

The two girls nodded in agreement.

Harold stopped writing in his notebook. "You've got to be kidding?
That's the best you can come up with?"

"She really attacked us," interjected Tina.

Harold rolled his eyes. "I want to know one thing; did you call her
the names she said you did?"

Randy shook his head.

Harold just nodded and then turned to the EMT. "How's she doing?"

"I don't think there's any serious damage. Still, I think she should
go to the ER, just to make sure," replied the EMT.

"Go on, Miss. I'll take care of this," stated Harold.

"Don't you want to know if I want to press charges?" Jirra asked as
she slowly stood up.

Harold smiled softly. "It's okay, Miss. I really don't need you to
file a complaint. It's obvious that he assaulted you, and under local
law that's all I need to arrest him. You live out at the spa right?"

Jirra nodded.

"I'll come out and talk to you and your mother later. Now, why don't
you go to the ER with your friends?" said Harold.

"I'll call your mom and let her know that we'll be at the ER," stated
Lindsey.

Jirra's eyes opened wide as she thought about her mom's reaction.

Chapter 83

Jirra was sitting in the examination room as her mom and the ER
doctor talked. Thankfully, there was no real damage, although they
did take x-rays to ensure that there were no fractures.

"She's going to have a real nice black eye, but once the swelling
goes down, I think she'll be okay. I can't believe that jerk beat her
up," stated the doctor.

"I'll keep an eye on her. Thank you for all you've done," said Liz.
"Okay, Jirra, you feel up to going home?"

"I was ready an hour ago," replied Jirra.

They walked out into the waiting room and met up with Lindsey and
Dave.

"I never thanked you for rescuing me, thanks," stated Jirra to Dave.

"I only wish I had been there sooner," he replied.

"I'd hug you, but I'm little too sore right now. Can I give you a
rain check?" asked Jirra.

Dave smiled. "Sure thing."

"We'll follow you guys home," stated Lindsey.

On the way back to the spa, Jirra turned to Liz. "Mom, I'm sorry."

"You have nothing to apologize for, Roo. You're the victim in this."

Jirra nodded and didn't say another word the rest of the way home.

Chapter 84

Back in the house, Jirra sat down on the couch and let out a sigh.
Liz sat down next to her.

"Okay, Roo, let it out," she said in a comforting voice as her arm
slipped around her daughter's shoulder.

"I... I couldn't defend myself. He knocked me down like I was a rag
doll. I tried to fight back, and he just beat me down... I can't
believe how helpless I was...."

Liz didn't say a word and just let Jirra continue to vent.

"Mom, I'm scared. I was never a muscle man, but I could defend
myself. Back when I was a guy, I might not have been able to whip
Randy's ass, but I could have defended myself; now I'm totally
helpless. I... I don't know if I can go on like this," continued
Jirra, her voice starting to crack. The tears began to slowly roll
down her face, soon turning into rivers as she broke down and began
to sob.

Liz pulled her close and let her cry.

After a long cleansing cry, Jirra wiped her eyes.

"You feel better?" asked Liz.

"A little," replied Jirra.

"I was hoping that you'd avoid this lesson in being female, but maybe
it was for the best. Roo, I'm not happy that Randy assaulted you, and
trust me, I'm going to press for him to be punished, but you've got
to realize that you're not a boy anymore. He's both bigger and
stronger than you, and you're lucky that you weren't seriously
injured."

"What am I supposed to do? Run away every time someone confronts me?"

"I'm not saying that. First off, you could have walked away without
saying a word; isn't that right?"

"Maybe," replied Jirra.

"Okay, but there's no guarantee that he wouldn't have followed you
and hit you anyway," stated Liz.

"So what do I do?"

"Right now, you need to calm down and heal. We can talk about the
rest tomorrow," stated Liz.

Jirra nodded and gently touched her cheek and winced. "I can't
believe how much that hurts."

"Do you want something for the pain?" asked Liz.

Jirra nodded.

"These will help, but they may make you sleepy," stated Liz as she
took out some pills from her purse.

"I could use some sleep," replied Jirra.

Chapter 85

Jirra was sleeping soundly in her bed as Liz quietly closed the door.

There was a knock on the front door, and Liz walked over to see who
it was.

"I thought you could use a drink," stated Judy as she walked in with
a bottle of wine.

Liz smiled and hugged her friend.

They walked into the kitchen, and Judy opened the wine.

"How's she doing?" asked Judy as she poured the wine.

"Physically, she'll recover; I'm not sure about her mental state,"
replied Liz.

Judy nodded. "It must be tough for her."

"This was a rude reminder of her transformation," commented Liz. "She
feels very vulnerable now."

"I have a suggestion, have her talk to Tara," stated Judy as she
sipped her wine. "She used to teach a women's self-defense course."

"Really?" asked Liz.

Judy nodded. "I think she can show Jirra that being female doesn't
mean being defenseless."

"Sounds like a good idea," said Liz. "Is this going to cause any
problems with the townies?"

"It may actually help the situation. I talked to several people in
town, and Randy's attack has shocked them. While there's a definite
conservative movement that doesn't exactly embrace diversity in town,
the physical assault of a young woman is even worse. The fact that
he's a big football player doesn't help."

"That's good to hear. I'm glad they draw the line somewhere," replied
Liz. "I still want to talk to the sheriff about what charges he's
going to file."

"Harold Cross is a good man," said Judy as she refilled their glasses.

"Look, I don't want Randy's head on a stake or anything like that,
but he needs to be punished. He's the type of bully who puts women in
the hospital or even worse."

"I agree," replied Judy.

Liz drank some more of her wine.

"Changing the subject slightly; how did the date go?" asked Judy with
a smile.

"It wasn't a date. We just went into town for dinner," replied Liz.

"Who paid?" asked Judy.

"He did," replied Liz.

"Then it was a date."

Liz laughed. "Okay, okay, it was fun. Dan's a nice guy, and we had a
lovely evening."

"That's wonderful to hear. Are you going out again?" asked Judy.

Liz smiled. "My, we're nosey."

Judy smiled and touched her glass to Liz's.

"He had to go back to the University. We plan on getting together the
next time he's up this way," replied Liz. "It felt nice to be out with
someone again."

"Good for you. How does Jirra feel about it?"

"She's fine with it."

Judy nodded. "I'm happy to hear that."

"Thanks for coming over this evening," stated Liz. "I really
appreciate it."

Judy smiled back. "That's what friends are for."

Chapter 86

Jirra woke up the next morning to find she now had a bruised cheek
and a pair of black eyes. She stared at her reflection and sighed.
For a moment, she debated trying to use some makeup to cover the
bruises, but decided that even with the skills she had picked up in
Hollywood, it would be pointless.

She joined Liz out in the kitchen for breakfast.

"How did you sleep last night?" asked Liz.

"I slept fine," replied Jirra as she poured herself a glass of orange
juice.

"How does your face feel?" asked Liz.

"Are you asking as my mother or my doctor?" replied Jirra.

"Both, Roo."

"Okay, I guess. It looks worse than it feels," said Jirra.

"Let me know if you have any discomfort," stated Liz.

"Have you talked to the sheriff yet?"

"No, I expect him to call a little later in the morning; after all,
it's only six-thirty, Roo."

Jirra smirked and then winced slightly in pain.

"I talked to Judy last night, and she suggested that you go and talk
to Tara this morning," said Liz.

"I thought I heard her laugh last night," replied Jirra. "Why should
I see Tara?"

"She might be able to help you."

Jirra nodded.

"Do you want to eat here or go up to the hall?" asked Liz.

"Might as well go up to the hall; I'm sure people are concerned," she
replied.

"Not everyone knows what happened."

Jirra laughed slightly and winced again. "Mom, the entire spa knew
what happened by the time Randy hit me the second time."

Liz smiled. "True." Inside she was pleased that Jirra seemed pretty
upbeat.

It was slightly overcast that morning and felt like rain. Liz and
Jirra walked over to the dining hall together. They smiled as a
jackrabbit ran across the sidewalk in front of them.

In spite of having to answer the same questions over and over again,
Jirra was pleased to see the staff was concerned about her health.

Jirra talked to Lindsey while she placed her order.

"Those shiners are quite impressive, Jirra," stated Lindsey. "Do they
hurt?"

"No, but my jaw does. I'll just take some oatmeal this morning,"
stated Jirra. "Oh, and please thank Dave again for coming to my
rescue."

"You can thank him yourself; he's coming over this afternoon,"
replied Liz.

"Cool. I'll see you later," she said.

Jirra took her food and looked around the hall. She saw Cari and Tara
sitting next to each other and walked over towards them.

"Good morning, may I join you?" asked Jirra.

"Please, Jirra, do join us. How're you feeling?" asked Cari.

"Better," she replied.

"I should have kicked that jerk's ass when I had a chance," stated
Tara. "I'm glad you're okay."

Jirra sat down. "I'm upset that he was able to handle me so easily."

"Jirra, he's bigger and stronger than you. He must outweigh you by
sixty pounds," said Cari.

"It might just as well have been a hundred pounds," sighed Jirra.
"Judy suggested that I talk to you, Tara."

"I can teach you some self-defense techniques," stated Tara. "It's
not martial arts, but I can show you some moves that could prevent a
repeat of what happened to you."

"That sounds good, when do we start?" asked Jirra.

"Give yourself a few days to recover, Jirra," replied Tara.

Jirra nodded. "Okay."

Their breakfast was momentarily interrupted by Judy.

"I just want to reassure everyone that I'm doing everything possible
to prevent a repeat of yesterday's horrible incident. I'm going to
town today to meet with several of the civic leaders. I want to make
it clear that the people I've talked to in town are just as angry
about what happened as we are. I've heard rumors of a possible
boycott of town, and I'd like those considering such a move to back
off. It would only hurt my efforts," stated Judy. "Thanks for your
attention, and I'll send out an e-mail later today to let you know
what happens."

"Well, if anyone can make peace, it's Judy," stated Cari.

"I agree. The sheriff is supposed to meet with my mom later this
morning," remarked Jirra.

"I heard he did a good job breaking it up yesterday," added Tara.

"He was nice to me. He also seemed really angry at Randy," said Jirra.

"Lindsey told us that Randy yelled some pretty awful slurs at you,"
said Tara. "This could be classified as a hate crime."

"I don't know if the local laws cover that around here," answered
Jirra.

"Just keep it in mind when you talk to the law," said Tara.

"He was so angry at me. I'm just glad he doesn't know the whole
truth," stated Jirra.

"If he knew your secret, then maybe he wouldn't have hit on you in
the first place," stated Tara with a wink.

"Stop, it hurts when I laugh," replied Jirra.

"Keep laughing, Jirra. What happened, happened; there's nothing you
can do about it," stated Cari.

"I'll try," replied Jirra.

Chapter 87

Mid-morning, Jirra was sitting with Liz in her office. Harold Cross
was sitting across from them.

"We've filed charges against Randy for assault and battery. This
isn't his first offense," stated Harold.

"What else has he done, Sheriff Cross?" asked Liz.

"Please call me Harold. Well, he's been involved in a few other
fights and things like that. He did a few things when he was a minor,
and those records are closed. In his recent cases, the charges were
always dropped when his parents, the football coach, and football
boosters talked to the victim. Now that his football career is over,
only his parents are pleading for the charges to be dropped. It's too
bad; if he had been punished earlier, he might have turned out
differently," stated Harold. "I'm surprised that they haven't called
you."

"They did, and I referred them to my lawyer," replied Liz. "I don't
want to talk to them."

Harold smiled. "Good for you."

"What about the anti-gay slurs he called Jirra?" asked Liz.

"It'll come into play during his trial. I think it'll show that the
attack was premeditated," replied Harold.

"And what about his minions?" asked Jirra.

Harold stifled a chuckle. "I wish I could charge them with something.
I have given each a written warning for harassment, and I've talked to
their parents and let them know that they were involved," said Harold.
"I just want you to know that I will not tolerate anyone harassing
people in my town. I hope this is the end of this, but if it isn't,
let me know immediately."

"They were the same kids who vandalized my car last fall," noted Liz.

"I know. I'm sorry about that. I try to work things out without
taking it to the courts. I guess I hoped that Randy would have
learned a lesson."

"It's not your fault, Harold. I didn't press charges either," stated
Liz.

Harold nodded. "Still, I was hoping the kid would come around; now
he's looking like a repeat offender."

"You can't blame yourself," commented Liz.

"I know, but it's the one part of this job I can't stand, especially
in a small town. I arrest kids and then watch their little brothers
and sisters play little league with my kids."

"Well, I appreciate you coming out here today," stated Liz.

"I just wish that it hadn't gotten this far. I'll keep you appraised
on the case,' stated Harold as he stood up.

"By the way, where is Randy?" asked Jirra.

"His parents bailed him out of the county lockup this morning,"
replied Harold. "He and his 'minions' have been told to stay away
from you and to stay out of trouble."

"My lawyer is filing paperwork this morning for an official
restraining order against all three," stated Liz.

Harold nodded. "That's probably a good decision. I know the judge,
and I don't think he'll have a problem with it. Well, I need to get
back to town. I'm glad you're doing better, Jirra. Thanks again for
meeting with me, Dr. Reid.

After Harold left, Jirra turned to Liz. "I didn't know you filed
papers against Randy."

"Judy suggested it this morning. Her lawyers are acting for us and
filed the paperwork this morning."

Jirra nodded and then hugged Liz.

Chapter 88

Jirra spent most of the day doing nothing. She was filled with
conflicting feelings. Part of her was furious over what had happened,
part of her was frustrated over her inability to protect herself, and
part of her was frightened. Randy would have really hurt her if Dave
hadn't arrived. She sat outside and watched the clouds pass over the
mesas and thought about how she would have to handle this.

She slowly walked home, lost in her thoughts. She walked inside and
could hear her mom in the kitchen. She took off her jacket and walked
into the kitchen.

Jirra noticed a large bouquet of flowers on the kitchen table. It had
all sorts of brightly colored flowers in a crystal vase.

"Nice flowers, although I don't recognize the vase, did you just buy
it?" asked Jirra.

Liz shook her head and continued preparing dinner.

Jirra smiled. "Did someone send you flowers?"

Liz turned around and shook her head. "They're not for me, Roo,
they're for you."

Jirra's eyes opened wide and she pointed at her own chest. "Me?"

"There's a card on the table next to the vase."

Jirra picked up the envelope and eagerly opened it. She pulled out
the card and read it.

Dear Roo,
I thought you could use some cheeriness. I'm sorry about what
happened, but I know you'll get over it. Give me call when you get a
chance.
Love,
Alexis.

"Alexis sent me flowers," stated Jirra aloud.

"That was sweet of her," commented Liz.

"How did she find out?" asked Jirra.

"I told her," stated Liz while she returned to preparing dinner.

Jirra smiled. "Thanks Mom." She then looked at the flowers and felt a
strange feeling sweep through her. She was happy that Alexis
remembered her, but she was feeling tears form in her eyes.

Liz looked over. "You okay, Roo?"

Jirra stared back and wiped back a tear. "I don't know. This is the
first time someone has sent me flowers."

Liz nodded knowingly. "Tears are appropriate."

"Really?" asked Jirra, her voice cracking slightly.

"Yes, Roo."

Jirra smiled and wiped another tear away. "I need to call her."

Chapter 89

"Thank you so much for the flowers," said Jirra.

"You're welcome," replied Alexis.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you what happened," continued Jirra.

"It's okay, Roo. But in the future, please let me know; you mean a
lot to me."

"I will," replied Jirra.

"So how're you doing?" asked Alexis.

"So-so," replied Jirra.

"Why don't you tell me about it?" asked Alexis.

For the next hour, Jirra vented her feelings to Alexis. For the most
part, Alexis just listened and let Jirra purge her feelings.

"Thank you, that felt good," stated Jirra, as she blew her nose.

"Hey, there will be a time when I'll need to vent to you," replied
Alexis.

"So, how's the show going?" asked Jirra.

"Really good. The scripts are excellent and very intelligent. I'm so
happy that I got the part," replied Alexis.

"So when will the first show be on TV?" asked Jirra.

"Not until November," replied Alexis. "By then, we'll have fifteen
episodes completed."

"Sounds like they're keeping you busy."

"Yes, but I'm busy in a good way. I really enjoy doing this show. Oh,
and Boston is a great city. I can't wait until you come up sometime.
Do you know when you're moving to Philly?"

"Sometime in August. Mom and I are going there next month to look for
housing. I've decided that I don't want to live in a dorm," stated
Jirra.

"I've heard that there aren't a lot of dorms there in the first
place. Still, don't cut yourself off from campus life. The best
education you can get at college is from socializing," stated Alexis.
"And I'm not talking about partying either, although there's nothing
wrong with having a little fun too."

"Is that a hint?" asked Jirra.

"Yes. Penn will be a great place for you to refine your social
skills. Keep an open mind and get involved," answered Alexis.

"I'll try," replied Jirra.

"That's not good enough, Roo. I don't want you to try; I want you to
succeed!"

Jirra laughed.

"Well, this phone call must be costing you a small fortune; we'll
talk later. I love you, Jirra."

"I love you too, Alexis. Thank you again for everything."

Chapter 90

That night, Jirra poured herself a nice steaming bath and slowly
lowered herself into it. The bath felt great and eased the aches and
pains from the assault. Jirra laid back and closed her eyes. She
stretched out and felt her body relaxing. Surprisingly, her injuries
seemed to be healing rather quickly, but she didn't give this too
much thought. Her mind was on Alexis.

The gift of the flowers was so thoughtful and so surprising. It had
never even occurred to Jirra that someone would give her flowers. She
reached down and began to rub her nipples as she pictured Alexis. Her
mind drifted back to their lovemaking in California.

While she still wasn't totally accepting of her transformation, she
had to begrudgingly admit to herself that female orgasms were much
better than male ones. There was something exuberating about the way
they swept through her whole body.

Her right hand drifted down to between her legs as she continued to
focus on Alexis. As she pleasured herself, she licked her lips,
thinking about how sweet it was to be kissed by her lover.

Maybe it wasn't so bad to have Alexis take charge, she thought. It
wasn't like there were official rules or anything like that. What was
important was that they were in love. Jirra then closed her mind to
serious thoughts and concentrated on Alexis until she was rewarded by
waves of carnal pleasure.

Jirra let out a long sigh as she recovered from her orgasm. She
opened her eyes slowly and peeked over the edge of the tub and
giggled. Oh, well, she thought, she would have to clean up the water
that spilled out of the tub, but it was worth a few soaked towels.

Chapter 91

Two days later Jirra was standing across from Tara. They were both
dressed in sweats, and they were in the room used for yoga classes.

"Okay, Jirra, after Randy hit you, what did you try to do?" asked
Tara.

"I tried to punch him back," replied Jirra.

"What were you aiming at?"

"His big fat mouth," replied Jirra with a smile.

"Okay, you stood up and immediately swung at him, is that right?"
asked Tara.

Jirra nodded.

"I assume he blocked your punch, and that's when he hit you again."

Jirra nodded again.

"Okay, obviously that was a mistake. He's bigger and stronger than
you, and you reacted the way he expected you to. Now tell me what you
were wearing," continued Tara.

"I was dressed in jeans and the boots you and Cari gave me," said
Jirra.

"Why didn't you just kick him?" asked Tara.

"In the... ba... groin?" asked Jirra.

Tara shook her head as she laughed. "Good idea, but if you'd tried
that, you probably would have ended up on your back and made him even
madder. No, I mean in his shins. With those boots and several hard
kicks, Randy would have been on the ground in agony. There are a lot
of nerves with very little protection running up the shins."

"Okay, so I blast him in the shins a few times, then what do I do?"

"Running for help comes to mind," replied Tara.

"That's it?" asked Jirra.

"No, that's just one way you can get away. Jirra, I'm trying to teach
you ways to get away. I'm not showing you ways to beat someone up. I
mean, look at Randy; he's bigger and stronger than you; there's
little chance you could beat him up, unless you take martial arts.
When you're attacked by someone bigger and stronger than you, the
goal is survival."

Jirra stared back without answering.

"I assume your dad taught you how to fight, right?"

"Yes," replied Jirra.

"And he told you to fight fair and to be a man, right?"

Jirra nodded again.

"No eye gouging, no hitting below the belt, no kicking, no biting,
right?"

"Yes, so what's your point?"

"Forget everything he told you. If a guy is trying to hit you, then
he's not a real man. He's still physically a male, and that means
he's probably bigger and stronger than you. So, you must use
everything you can to get away. This isn't a schoolyard fight, Jirra;
this is survival."

"Randy was just being a jerk. I doubt he really meant to hurt me,"
replied Jirra.

"How do you know that? He assaulted you, and you're damn lucky that
all you got was a few bruises. You insulted him in terms of his
manhood, and that can lead to rage and even worse things."

"You mean like rape?"

Tara nodded. "Sexual assault is really a crime of violence."

"I hadn't thought of that."

"It's something you need to be aware of."

"So you mean that I should use every means possible to get away, even
if it's dirty?"

"Dirty? Jirra, this isn't a prize fight. Here, let me show you a very
effective move," stated Tara. "You just stand there with your arms
down at your sides. Don't worry; I have no intention of actually
hitting you."

Tara then lifted both her arms above her head and brought them down
on both of Jirra's shoulders, stopping just before making contact.
"Do that if someone attacks you, and if you do it hard enough, you
have a good chance of breaking one or both of their collarbones.
They're very fragile if you hit them from the top. Even if you don't
break the bones, the person will be in great pain. But remember, you
have to hit them hard."

"I've never really tried to hurt someone before," replied Jirra.

"Look, I hope you never have to defend yourself again, but if you do,
it's not a game; you do whatever it takes to get away. Now if a guy
grabs you from behind, use your heels on his shins or stomp on his
feet. That works great when you're wearing heels."

"When would someone grab me from behind?"

"Say as you're walking to your car at night or stopping to open your
front door. This brings up something else; you need to think about
your personal safety when you're alone, especially at night. You're
going to college in a big city, so you need to be aware and try not
to put yourself in dangerous situations."

Jirra sat down on one of the benches that lined the wall. "I had no
idea how vulnerable I've become."

Tara sat next to her. "I know it must be difficult for you. At least
I've had the advantage of growing up female and being taught about
this when I was younger. You don't have to go through life afraid,
just aware."

"But it's hard to change what's inside," replied Jirra. "When I was
hit by Randy, all I could think of was getting up and hitting him
back; getting away was the last thing on my mind. This is different
than putting on makeup or a skirt; this is inside."

"This will take time, Jirra. Don't get frustrated about being in
transition."

"I just wonder where I'm going to end up," added Jirra. "I can learn
to adjust my feelings concerning fighting, but there's other things
that I have no control over."

"Then there's no reason to be angry at yourself," interjected Tara.

"Angry? I'm not angry at myself about Randy."

"That's not what I'm talking about; you feel like you're weak because
you can't rid yourself of feelings you're developing for boys."

Jirra stared back at Tara in silence for several seconds. "Is it that
obvious?"

Tara nodded. "Every time you bring it up, you have a look on your
face that is very easy to read, or maybe it's just easy for me to
read."

"Maybe going off to college isn't such a good idea after all," stated
Jirra.

"Bullshit," replied Tara. "The last thing you need to do is go into
hiding."

"Who said anything about going into hiding?"

"Your mom," replied Tara. "I was talking to her, and she says that
since the incident you've refused to go into town."

"It just didn't feel right," replied Jirra.

Tara cocked her head. "Don't BS a champion bullshitter. You've
usually gone to that coffeehouse several times a week, even when it
was the dead of winter."

"Things have changed."

"Not that much; in fact, things have gotten a little better. While I
doubt that your assault will completely change the minds of those who
hate us, it has caused them to look at what they're saying and doing.
I doubt they wanted to see someone get assaulted on Main Street. What
I'm saying is that you can't give in. Randy has to stay away from you;
he can't afford to try anything else. Besides, don't give the bastard
the satisfaction of driving you out of town. What do you say we head
into town for a couple of cappuccinos?"

"Who's buying?"

"You are, consider it payment for the lessons I'm teaching you,"
replied Tara with a smile.

"Okay," replied Jirra. "But it will take time for me to get my
confidence back completely."

"It always does," replied Tara.

"What does that mean?" asked Jirra.

"I'll tell you on the way into town. Go change, and I'll meet you at
your place in thirty minutes."

Chapter 92

On the way into town, Tara told Jirra how she and Cari had worked
with several friends who had been assaulted, physically and sexually,
over the years.

"Cari is usually better at the touchy-feely stuff than me. I'm better
at the physical side of things," stated Tara.

"You did pretty well with me," stated Jirra.

"You're a special case," replied Tara.

"So how did you get involved with helping abused women?" asked Jirra.

"Cari and I met at a group meeting for abused women when we were at
college," replied Tara.

"Oh my god, I'm sorry," replied Jirra.

Tara cast a quick glance at Jirra and smiled. "It's okay, Jirra, I
don't mind talking about it. I was jumped as I was walking back to my
car late at night. The guy tried to rape me."

"Tried?" asked Jirra.

"Uh huh, tried. I was so angry that I hurt him pretty good."

"What did you do to him?" asked Jirra.

"I punched him repeatedly in the groin. He had to have one of his
testicles removed... I feel bad about that," replied Tara.

"Really?" asked Jirra.

"Yes, I was hoping both would be cut off. Seriously, I don't feel
sorry for him, as it turned out he had committed several rapes in the
campus area,' continued Tara.

"Did he know you were a lesbian?" asked Jirra.

"No, he just jumped the first woman he saw. But that's a good point
to remember; as you learned with Randy, some guys take it very
personally when a lesbian turns them down."

"So what happened to Cari?" asked Jirra.

"She was sexually assaulted by one of her professors. She went to see
him for help, and he asked her for sex. When she refused, he forced
himself on her."

"That's awful," replied Jirra.

"You know what the worst part is? Initially, no one on campus
believed her! She continued to fight, and eventually she found
several other students who had been attacked by the same guy. The
police were forced to react."

"What happened to him?"

"He served six years in prison, and the last I heard he was living in
Florida," replied Tara.

"Six year for rape?" asked Jirra. "That's it?"

"I know. Unfortunately, the local DA wouldn't prosecute for the other
rapes," answered Tara.

"That's sucks!"

Tara laughed. "That's what I said when I heard the verdict."

"I can't believe you can laugh about it."

Tara shrugged her shoulders. "What can you do? I'd rather laugh about
it than cry. I just want you to be careful; you still have a guy's
mentality about many things, and as you've seen, it can get you in
trouble. We'll continue our little classes, and by the time you go
off to college, you'll be much more aware and careful."

"I hope so," replied Jirra.

"Well, well, looks like we got lucky; there's an open spot right in
front of the coffeehouse," noted Tara.

Chapter 93

Tara and Jirra ordered their coffees and took seats in a pair of
overstuffed chairs near the window.

Tara looked around as she drank her coffee. "This is a nice place; I
can understand why you like coming here."

"It is nice. Thanks for bringing me back," replied Jirra as she
sipped her cappuccino.

"You're welcome. Now if you really want to show your gratitude, you
can buy me one of those biscottis," answered Tara with a smile.

Jirra laughed back and stood up. "One biscotti coming up."

As Jirra returned, she was pleased to see Lindsey and Dave walk
through the front doorway.

"Hey, there she is, I thought I saw Tara's car out there," Lindsey
greeted them.

"We're right over there; come and join us," replied Jirra.

"I'll get our coffee, Dave; it's my treat," stated Lindsey.

Dave nodded and followed Jirra.

"I should be the one treating you. It's the least I could do for you
saving my butt," stated Jirra.

"Well, it is a cute butt," replied Dave with a wink. "Seriously,
Jirra, how're you doing?"

"I'm doing better," replied Jirra. "The bruises are fading."

"What about the other injuries?"

Jirra smiled. "They're coming along."

Dave nodded. "That's good to hear."

A few minutes later Lindsey joined them.

"So, Dave, what's the feeling in town right now?" asked Tara.

"Surprisingly, it's pretty calm. Randy has a pretty big reputation
for being a bully and a jerk. Unfortunately, he's also a pretty good
football player, and that cut him a lot of slack over the years.
However, attacking a woman is inexcusable even among the more
narrow-minded citizens."

"So are they just passing this off as a random act of violence by the
town jock?" asked Tara.

"Some are, at least on the outside, but it's forcing some people to
look at their beliefs. This doesn't mean that there will be a Pride
parade here soon," stated Dave.

Tara nodded as she sipped her coffee.

"The town's changing, and that's scaring some people. My family is
all in favor of the growth; if it wasn't for the spa, the town would
probably be dead in a few years. My younger brother actually wants to
stay here now!" continued Dave.

"Then again, you're not originally from here," noted Lindsey.

"True, but we have family here, and they reluctantly admit that the
spa is a good thing," noted Dave. "They're also starting to learn
that money is money."

Tara laughed. "Yes, green is the great equalizer."

Dave nodded.

"So have you heard anything new on Randy's case?" asked Lindsey.

"His family is trying to work out a deal with the county DA," stated
Dave. "My aunt is friends with Randy's mom - hey, it's a small town."

"That's what Barrett keeps telling me," said Jirra.

"Hey, speaking of Barrett, I was hoping he'd be here today," stated
Dave as he looked around.

"The girl behind the counter said that he's down in Santa Fe doing
some research," stated Jirra. "He's supposed to be back tomorrow."

Dave nodded. "He was interested in buying a bike from my dad, and I
wanted to talk to him about it."

"Well, I need to get back to the spa; you want to ride back with me,
Jirra?" asked Tara.

"We can give you a lift back," stated Dave.

Jirra thought about it. "Thanks, but I'll go back with Tara. Thanks
again, Dave."

He stood up and hugged her.

Chapter 94

"You didn't have to leave on my account," stated Tara as they walked
out to her car.

"I didn't, I just wanted to give them some time alone. I figure they
like me too much to ask me to leave," replied Jirra.

"That's cool, and very un-guy like," said Tara with a wink.

Jirra grinned back, fighting the urge to give Tara the bird. Just
then, two women walked by and Jirra couldn't help but overhear their
conversation.

"I just love your new necklace, it's wonderful. Is it real or a
reproduction?" asked the first woman. She was a brunette in her early
thirties whom Jirra recognized as one of the spa's guests.

The other woman was a blonde who was wearing a necklace that appeared
to be made of potshards. Jirra realized that the blonde was also
staying at the spa. She then remembered they were both from Chicago.
She then noticed the necklace and something stood out.

"The woman at the store says it's genuine Anasazi," replied the
blonde.

Jirra turned to Tara. "You got a few minutes before we go back?"

Tara nodded and watched the two women walk by. "Sure, what's up?"

"I want your opinion on something. That necklace the blonde woman was
wearing; she said it was Anasazi, but the color of the potshards
looked almost like the mud at the spa."

"You know, you're right," replied Tara.

"The Anasazi were never supposed to be this far east, and from what
Cari told me the mud at the spa is very unique," continued Jirra. "So
if it's from the spa, that either means that someone is making fake
artifacts and ripping off the guests, or that they're poaching real
artifacts. Barrett and I went in there a while back, and they seemed
a little evasive."

"So let's go check them out," replied Tara. "I'm up for some
detective work."

To Jirra's relief, there was a new saleswoman in the shop.

"Excuse me; I just was talking to a woman who bought a lovely
necklace that she said she bought here. It was a silver chain with
pieces of Indian pottery on it; I was hoping you had another one like
it," asked Tara.

"I'm sorry, but that was the last necklace we had in stock, and we're
not due to get another shipment for another couple of months," replied
the woman, whose nametag stated that her name was Tiffany.

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Do you have any other pieces left?"
asked Tara.

"Let me see," stated Tiffany. She began to look in the showcases.
"There's just this small piece."

Jirra and Tara looked at a small potshard hanging from a silver
chain. The piece of pottery was reddish brown and maybe an inch in
length. It was roughly oval, and several fine lines were visible in a
diagonal pattern.

"How much is it?" asked Tara as she examined it.

"It's $195.00, but today we're offering ten percent off," replied
Tiffany.

Tara nodded. "Great, I'll take it," she stated as she pulled her Visa
card out of her purse.

"Would you like a gift box?" asked Tiffany with a big smile. She had
just made two big sales in one afternoon, selling what looked like
pieces of dried dog poop to some tourists, and she could barely
contain her joy.

"That would be nice. Oh, do you have any information on the artist
who made this?"

"I think we have something in the back. I'll go check," stated
Tiffany as she swiped the credit card.

A few moments later, she returned with a piece of paper.

"We were out of the information, but I was able to download this off
our computer," stated Tiffany as she folded a piece of paper and
placed it in the bag along with the necklace. "I put your receipt in
the bag. Thank you very much."

Tara and Jirra walked quickly out of the shop and headed back to the
car.

"So what does the paper say?" asked Jirra.

Tara reached in and unfolded it. "The artist's name is JT Pearson,
and it says he works out of a studio in Santa Fe."

"Is there a point of contact on the sheet?" asked Jirra.

"Yes, there's a PO box and a phone number," replied Tara, as she
handed Jirra the piece of paper.

"I'll call Barrett and see if this is the same number as the shop
gave us before," stated Jirra.

Tara pulled the necklace out of the box. "It definitely looks like
the mud at the spa. Cari has made several pots out of the mud, and
the color and texture look identical."

"I didn't think that it would cost so much," stated Jirra.

"I don't mind, actually I like the piece," replied Tara.

Chapter 95

"Are you sure?" asked Barrett.

"Yes, the color looks almost identical," stated Jirra.

"Just like the number you gave me. Something isn't right. Look, don't
do anything for now. I'll talk to Dr. Montgomery and see what he
thinks," stated Barrett.

"Okay," replied Jirra.

"By the way, great job," he said.

"Tara's the one who bought the necklace," interjected Jirra.

"Thank her for me. I'll get back to you soon. Take care," he said.

"You're welcome," replied Jirra as she hung up the phone and turned
to Tara. "Barrett says thank you."

"That's nice," said Tara. "So what do you think, Cari?"

Cari was holding the potshard up against her pots. "The color looks
closest to this one."

"I agree," said Tara.

"That's the one I baked in the outdoor oven that Gregory made for me
last summer," stated Cari. "He said that it was like the ones he made
as a kid with his Navajo friends."

"I'm sure that Barrett's friends at the university could do some sort
of analysis of the shard, hopefully without destroying it," said Jirra.

"I certainly hope so. If they do have to destroy it, I want full
payment," interjected Tara.

"How could something like this exist?" asked Cari.

Jirra explained about the possibility of the Anasazi having been in
the canyons north of the spa.

"So if it's real, then someone has been trespassing on Judy's land,"
interjected Tara.

"This is getting more and more interesting," added Jirra.

Chapter 96

The next day Barrett called Jirra.

"Dr. Montgomery and I are driving up right now. He wants to see the
piece," said Barrett.

"Cool, so does he think we're onto something?" asked Jirra.

"He won't know until he sees the piece," replied Barrett.

"Is he staying the night?" asked Jirra.

"He's nodding yes," replied Barrett.

"We have some open rooms here," added Jirra.

She heard Barrett laugh. "He says that he already called Judy... and
your mom."

A big smile broke out on Jirra's face. "Cool."

Chapter 97

Jirra walked over to her mom's office.

"I'll be with you in a few minutes, Roo, I have a patient to help,"
stated Liz.

Jirra nodded and took a seat by her mom's desk. She reached up and
touched her cheek and was pleased to feel that the pain was totally
gone. Standing up, she moved close to the mirror that was mounted on
the wall. There was almost no sign of the black eyes she'd gotten in
the fight with Randy several days before. That was strange, she
thought, the last time I had a black eye it took over a week to clear
up.

Liz walked in a few minutes later. "Sorry for the delay, but one of
kitchen staff cut her hand."

"How bad?" asked Jirra.

"Just five stitches and a shot. So what's up?"

"Did Dr. Montgomery tell you why he's coming up here?" asked Jirra.

"Something related to your canyon search, but he didn't go into
details," replied Liz.

Jirra then filled Liz in on what had happened in town.

"I think we should check out the canyons now," stated Jirra.

"We'll wait to see what Dan says," replied Liz.

"That's better than a no," added Jirra.

Liz smiled. "Hannah's making chili for dinner, and even Judy is
joining us this evening."

Jirra was a little surprised. "Why so many people?"

Liz began to laugh. "This isn't a date, Roo."

"I know," replied Jirra, feeling her face start to get warm. "That's
not what I meant."

"I know, Roo. I like Dan, and we do plan on spending some time
together, but right now he's working," replied Liz.

"Okay, I'll see you later. I want to look over the maps I have of the
canyons," stated Jirra.

"See you later," replied Liz.

After Jirra left, Liz picked up her phone and called Jen Stevens.

Chapter 98

After dinner, Dan looked at Jirra's map and the assorted satellite
photos that she had downloaded from the internet.

"I wish they were better, but I didn't want to spend money for the
actual photos," stated Jirra.

"No, they're good enough for now," replied Dan. "How long will it
take us to get up to these canyons?"

"By foot, it'll take you a full day to get to the first one," stated
Judy. "However, we have a fire-road that will cut a half day off the
trip. It's not on the map, but it should get you to here." She then
pointed to a spot on the map.

"How far are the two canyons apart?" asked Dan.

"If you try to go this shorter length route, it'll actually take you
longer, as the terrain is awful. I'd recommend that you backtrack to
the drop-off point first, and then use this path," stated Judy.

Dan sighed. "I was hoping to do a quick survey of both in one day,
but that looks out of the question. So, I suggest we go up in two
groups. Barrett, you and Jirra will go to the second canyon, and I'll
take the first one."

"You're not going by yourself are you?" asked Judy.

"I can go with you," suggested Liz. "I've been camping many times."

"This isn't an easy hike," stated Dan.

"I was in the army," replied Liz. "Seriously, I'm in good shape, and
I won't hold you back."

"I can get you up to that point in my jeep," stated Cody.

"Sounds like a plan," stated Dan.

"I'd like to go along," interjected Dave,

Dan shook his head. "Let's keep this small. If there are artifacts up
there and someone is poaching them, we don't want to let them know
that we're on to them. If there are Anasazi relics in the hills, then
I'll need time to get the bureaucracy of the state going. How's the
walkie-talkie reception up in the hills, Judy?"

She rocked her hand back and forth.

"I'll tell you what, I'll camp out at the drop-off spot, and you can
try to contact me. I can then forward the message," suggested Cody.

"Can we stay with you?" asked Lindsey, as she pointed to Dave.

"The Jeep doesn't hold that many people, honey," replied Cody.

"We'll hike up and meet you there," suggested Lindsey.

Cody looked at Hannah, who nodded.

"Okay, sounds like a plan; we'll be the base camp," stated Cody.

"I wish we could go too, but we can't have the entire staff off on an
adventure," stated Cari.

"I claim dibs on the next one," said Tara with a laugh.

Dan then went over the rest of the plan. They would spend the next
day getting ready, and the expedition would start early the following
morning.

"Can I see that sheet you got from the gift shop?" asked Judy.

Jirra nodded and handed it to Judy.

Judy read the limited information and nodded to herself.

"Does the name mean something to you, Judy?" asked Tara.

"I'm not sure, but I think I'll be doing a little sleuthing myself,"
replied Judy.

Chapter 99

It was a tough drive up to the base camp, and it took them an hour
longer than expected to get there.

"Okay, try to keep in touch," stated Dan. "Barrett, as soon as you
get to the canyon, set up your camp. As you know, it can get dark
quickly up here."

"Will do, Doc," replied Barrett as he unpacked the back of the jeep.
"We should reach the canyon in three or four hours, maybe less."

"Take your time and be safe. Besides, if the Anasazi were here, you
might see signs along the way," stated Dan.

After some quick goodbyes and equipment checks, they were on their
way.

While there wasn't a true trail, the terrain wasn't too bad. Jirra
followed Barrett, who set a slow but steady pace.

"Let me know if you need a break," he stated.

"I'm fine," replied Jirra. "I'm sort of surprised that Dan let my mom
go with him."

"Me too," replied Barrett.

The weather was nice, and the temperature was in the low sixties.

"Thankfully, there's no sign of any rain," stated Barrett.

"I'm just glad it's warm," replied Jirra.

"It is now; tonight it'll drop off quickly," explained Barrett.

After an hour, Barrett checked his GPS receiver. "We're right on
track."

"Does that look like an old creek bed to you?" asked Jirra as she
pointed to her right.

"Yes, it does. Strange that it's not on the map," he stated. "I guess
it's been dried out for so long that it was ignored."

"Looks like it's paralleling our route. Do you think it's coming out
of our canyon?" asked Jirra.

"Maybe, we'll find out soon," stated Barrett.

Twenty minutes later, they discovered a long trail that ran along the
dried out creek.

Barrett stopped and slipped off his pack. He then knelt down and
examined the path.

"What's up?" asked Jirra.

"This is too straight to be a game trail, and if it's manmade it
almost looks like it was designed to be hidden. I mean, if we had
been ten feet to the right we never would have seen it."

"I take it that that's a good sign," stated Jirra.

Barrett nodded. "It's very old, and it looks like it hasn't been used
in hundreds of years."

Two hours later, they reached the mouth of the canyon.

"Crap," exclaimed Barrett.

There had been a landslide that effectively blocked any entry into
the canyon.

"Wow," replied Jirra. "Does this mean we made this trip for nothing?"

Barrett smiled and shook his head as he took off his backpack. "No,
it just increases the difficulty points. Judy said that there was a
landslide, but I was hoping that it wasn't this big. We'll set up
camp and then do some exploring."

An hour later, the camp was set up. The small circular tents went up
in no time. The hard part was finding sufficient firewood. Barrett
called Dan and Liz, but only got static. He was able to reach Cody
who copied his report.

"Okay, let's start to see if we can find a way into the canyon,"
stated Barrett.

They walked around the front of the landslide looking for possible
ways over it.

"Looks pretty steep," commented Jirra.

"It is. It's also not very old; it could be hiding something
interesting behind it," replied Barrett as he opened his map.

As Barrett looked at the map, Jirra walked around, looking at the
ground. She then noticed what looked like a reddish rock. She bent
over and picked it up.

"Barrett, look at this!" she exclaimed.

Barrett took the small red object from her. "This looks like a piece
of pottery."

The piece of pottery was the same reddish color as the piece that
Tara had bought. It was much smaller, with rounded edges from being
worn down by the environment.

"It must have washed down from the canyon. I wonder if this is where
they found the potshards."

"Maybe, but they don't usually last long in the open environment."

After a few attempts, Barrett ruled out climbing over the landslide.

"Let's eat lunch, and then try another way in there," stated Barrett.

Chapter 100

As they finished lunch, Barrett pointed to an area south of the camp.
"That's where I set up the latrine. The bushes should give you some
privacy."

"Thanks," replied Jirra. She had totally forgotten about this aspect
of camping, and she silently cursed herself.

She walked over to the site prepared by Barrett. There was a log near
the hole that she could use to sit over the hole. Jirra decided to
just squat over it. As she cleaned up, she made a mental reminder to
give her mom a lot of credit for going camping so many times.

Jirra rejoined Barrett, and they headed off towards the canyon.

"I think there might be a path down this way," explained Barrett, as
he looked at the map. "I called Cody and told him about the shard. He
passed it on to the others. So far they've found nothing."

They walked along the base of the canyon for nearly twenty minutes
before Jirra noticed what looked like a game trail leading up the
side.

"What do you think?" asked Jirra.

"It's worth a try. It doesn't look that steep," stated Barrett.

Barrett took the lead, and they started up towards the crest. The
trail seemed to head right towards the top.

Forty minutes later they were on top, looking down into canyon.

"Look, there's the landslide. It doesn't look natural," stated
Barrett.

"What do you mean?" asked Jirra.

"It looks like both sides of the canyon were broken off; it almost
looks like someone did it with explosives," he noted.

"Okay, how do you know that?" asked Jirra. She couldn't see what
Barrett was talking about.

"One of my uncles is in demolition, and I used to go out and watch
him blow things up. It was pretty cool. Anyway, it looks like someone
blew up both sides of the canyon to close it up. I bet we'll find some
proof when we get down there."

"Who would do something like that? The looters?" asked Jirra.

Barrett shook his head. "I doubt it was them. No, the rocks have been
there for a while. See how there are plants growing out of some of the
rocks? But you can also see how the edges of many of the rocks still
have sharp edges. If the slide was really old, those would have worn
down by now. I have a feeling that Dr. Margate might have been
responsible."

"Dr. Margate? Why?"

"Think about it, Jirra. If he discovered something here, he might
have wanted to hide it from others until he was ready."

"Well, this path seems to lead down into the canyon," noted Jirra.
"You want to go down?"

Barrett looked at his watch. "We have three hours of good sunlight
left, so we have time for a short trip."

Before going down into the canyon, Barrett called Cody and told them
what they were about to do.

The path switch-backed down into the canyon, and it only took Jirra
and Barrett a half hour to reach the bottom.

Barrett looked up at the path. "That's definitely a manmade trail.
It's also interesting how it's barely visible from down here, almost
as if someone did it on purpose."

"Margate again?" asked Jirra.

"Maybe," replied Barrett. "The trail is old enough."

"Look at this; it looks like this is part of that same creek bed!"
exclaimed Jirra.

"I noticed that on the way down. Let's follow it up into the canyon;
we can check out the landslide area tomorrow," stated Barrett.

As they walked up the creek bed, Barrett and Jirra scanned the
ground. In less than five minutes, they had found ten pieces of
pottery.

"Leave them where they lie," instructed Barrett. "This is starting to
look very promising."

"Is the pottery Anasazi?" asked Jirra.

"I can't tell; the pieces are too small to tell by the naked eye," he
replied.

Ten minutes later, they reached an area where the canyon curved. As
they walked around the corner, they were stopped dead in their tracks.

"Oh my god," exclaimed Barrett.

Jirra just stood there, speechless.

Chapter 101

Barrett fumbled for the walkie-talkie and tried to get ahold of Cody.

"There's no reception here," he stammered.

"What do you think it is?" asked Jirra.

Barrett took out his camera and began to take pictures. "I'm not
sure, but judging by its location, I would say that it looks like an
observation post."

It was an adobe brick structure built into the cliff wall. It was
located ten feet off the floor and would have afforded the residents
a dominating view of the canyon. Anyone coming around the bend
wouldn't have stood a chance of surprising the canyon's residents.

"Can we go up and check it out?" asked Jirra hopefully.

"I'd love to, but the doc would kill us. No, we'd better go back and
let him know what we found."

"Can't we go up there first?" pleaded Jirra, pointing up into the
canyon. "I want to see what this was guarding."

Barrett nodded. "Sure, why not."

The canyon twisted to the left as it narrowed. The dry creek bed
meandered through the canyon.

"I wonder what was up here. This doesn't seem large enough to support
a real settlement," stated Barrett. "Obviously this place was
important, but why?"

"Is the building Anasazi?" asked Jirra.

"It looks like it, but it'll take a closer inspection to make sure.
It's definitely old, and doesn't look like it's been used in
centuries, if not longer."

They walked up slowly into the canyon, following the creek bed. The
walls of the canyon were now only eight feet away.

"According to the map, we should be reaching the end of the canyon
soon," stated Barrett. "The opening at the end should be much bigger
too."

"Do you think that that structure back there is enough to preserve
this land?" asked Jirra.

"If it's Anasazi, definitely," replied Barrett.

"So what will the state do? After all, this is private land," asked
Jirra.

"If they feel the site is important enough, they'll try to work out a
deal. If the site is really significant, then the Feds will get
involved," replied Barrett. "They can't just grab the land, but I'm
sure they'd be willing to make a deal for a real significant site."

"I wonder if that will help Judy," stated Jirra.

"I don't know about that," replied Barrett.

They reached the end of the canyon, and as the map showed, it opened
up into a bigger area. The creek seemed to continue into the walls.
The whole area was about fifty feet in diameter, and was in the shape
of an oval. The canyon walls seemed to go straight up.

"Look at that," exclaimed Barrett, as he pointed to the right.

Carved into the canyon wall, there were a series of small structures.
Each one seemed large enough for one person.

"What do you think this is?" asked Jirra as she looked into one of
the structures.

"Please don't go in," instructed Barrett. "It's too small to be a
community village. Only a few people could have lived here."

Jirra turned around and saw what looked like a circular structure.
"Look at that."

"It was probably used to store grain," he answered. "This is so
curious, why would they build this? There's no place here to grow
crops."

Jirra walked carefully towards the structure and almost stumbled as
she crossed the creek bed.

"You okay?" asked Barrett.

Jirra nodded. "Look at the ground." She knelt down and began to push
the dirt away.

"What did you find?" asked Barrett.

"It looks like there's a structure buried here by the creek," stated
Jirra.

"I agree," replied Barrett. "Okay, we'd better go back; it's getting
late."

"You've got to be kidding? We can't leave now."

"Jirra, this site has been here for ages, and it can wait for another
day," stated Barrett. "Besides, we need do a careful study of the
site."

"Okay," replied Jirra. "You're right."

"Thank you," replied Barrett with a bow. "Come on, we need to get
back and tell the doc what we've found."

They left the canyon the same way they arrived. When they reached
camp, they called Cody and told them that they'd found something.

"What did you find?" asked Dan.

"Hey, Doc, I didn't think you could hear us," replied Barrett.

"We're back with Cody at the base camp. Our canyon was empty," he
replied.

"Our canyon isn't. I think you'd better get here as soon as you can,"
replied Barrett. He then went on to describe what they had found.

"We'll be there tomorrow morning; it's too late to reach you this
evening," he replied. "Can the jeep make it up to the canyon?"

"Maybe, but it'll be slow going," answered Barrett. "You could
probably make it at least half-way though."

"Well, we'll try to bring it up," he said.

"Okay, and we'll sit tight here tonight," replied Barrett.

Chapter 102

"So this is an MRE?" Jirra asked, as she examined the dark green bag
that Barrett handed her.

"Yep, it's a meal ready to eat; actually they're not that bad and a
lot cheaper than the fancy dehydrated meals, besides I like them
better. "So what do you want, spaghetti with meatballs or chicken
with pasta in tomato sauce?"

"I'll go with the spaghetti," stated Jirra.

"Okay, let me show you how to heat it up. They're pretty simple to
prepare; after all, they were designed for the military," he stated
with a laugh.

"Excuse me? Remember my parents were in the army!" retorted Jirra.

"Just kidding," he replied. He then showed her how to use the heater
for the meal. "Just pour in a small amount of water, and it'll heat
up the meal in just a few minutes."

Jirra followed Barrett's example and watched as her meal heated up.
While she waited, she examined the rest of the meal. There was a
small package with salt, pepper, hot sauce, eating utensils, a
napkin, and a wet wipe. There was a side dish - in her pack, it was a
container of sliced peaches, and a dessert, which was a bag of
chocolate chip cookies. Additionally, there were two beverage
envelopes; one was orange drink and the other hot chocolate. The last
part of the meal was a bag of raisins.

"This doesn't look all that bad," she stated as she poured the orange
drink powder into her cup.

"I like them; besides, they don't add much weight in the pack,"
stated Barrett. "I'll boil up some water later for the hot chocolate."

They ate their dinner by the firelight.

"So?" asked Barrett.

"It's pretty good," replied Jirra.

"You want to try the chicken?"

Jirra nodded and stuck her fork into Barrett's bag. She pulled out a
small piece of the chicken and ate it. "That's not bad."

"Unfortunately, they don't make breakfasts," stated Barrett.

"So what will we have tomorrow morning?" asked Jirra.

"You get first choice," he stated as he dumped out several of the
green packages in front of her.

She looked at the contents. "Chili-Mac, beef stew, beef ravioli,
jambalaya," she read as she sorted through them.

"We have enough for several days," he stated. "Water is our limiting
resource."

Jirra switched to her peaches. "So what do you think the site is?"

Barrett laughed. "I was just thinking of that. I don't think the site
was a permanent settlement. It's too small, and there's no sign that
they did any farming here. The food silo was probably used to store
food they brought here."

"It looks like only a few people lived there at a time," noted Jirra.

"I agree."

"Now, about that observation building, what was its purpose?" asked
Jirra.

"Again, I'm just guessing, but I imagine it was there as a guard post
to protect the people in the end of the canyon," answered Barrett as
he carefully filled the kettle.

Jirra nodded. "But why wouldn't the guard house be closer to the
front of the canyon?"

Barrett paused before answering. "If the site was sacred, then the
Anasazi would have wanted to keep it a secret. Placing the
guardhouse, as you call it, back into the canyon would make it less
noticeable. If the site wasn't occupied all the time, then it would
be less likely that another tribe would see it."

"That makes sense," replied Jirra.

"What's curious is that thing you found in the dirt. It was next to
the creek, and I imagine that the creek wasn't dry back then. I
wonder if it was a bath of some kind."

"Hey, that might be it; the site was a sacred bath, maybe even a mud
bath!"

"Okay, how did you come up with that?" asked Barrett.

"Judy said that the native people used to come into the area to use
the mud in fertility rites. Maybe that's what brought the Anasazi
here."

"That actually makes sense," replied Barrett. "You ready for some hot
chocolate?"

Jirra nodded.

"Well, the site is definitely worth excavating," stated Barrett. "I'm
sorry I doubted you."

"It's okay," replied Jirra. "I sort of cheated on this one. I think I
was here in my last vision quest."

"Really?" replied Barrett.

"You think I'm crazy, don't you?"

Barrett shook his head. "No, not at all. In fact, it makes sense that
your spirit guide would lead you here."

Jirra blew on her cup of hot chocolate and then took a sip. "Thanks."

Barrett then reached into his pack and pulled out a bag of
marshmallows.

"No sense in wasting a perfectly good fire," he stated as he handed
Jirra a long thin stick.

They sat up for another hour, drinking hot chocolate, roasting
marshmallows, and talking before going to bed.

Chapter 103

Jirra woke up and crawled out of her sleeping bag. She hadn't
remembered sleeping so soundly in a long time. It was a nice morning
as she stepped out of the tent.

Barrett was already up and smiled. "Good morning, Jirra."

Jirra stretched. "Good morning, Barrett. I slept great, what about
you?"

"Like a log," he replied. "You hungry?"

Jirra nodded as she walked towards him. "I'll take the beef ravioli,
please."

"I talked to the doc, and he said that they're on the way," he said,
as he handed her the MRE.

As they ate breakfast, Jirra checked her watch. "I wonder when
they'll get here."

"I think I hear someone coming up the trail right now," he stated.

To their surprise, it wasn't who they expected. It was a single male
hiker. He was listening to his MP3 player and didn't notice them
until he was almost on top of them.

He appeared to be around thirty, with short brown hair and blue eyes.
He seemed shocked that someone else was at the site.

"Good morning," stated Barrett as he stood up.

The man nodded and removed his earplugs. "I wasn't expecting to see
anyone else up here."

Jirra thought that wasn't exactly a friendly reply.

"To be honest neither did we," countered Barrett.

The man looked at Jirra and Barrett. "You know, this is private
property," he stated.

Jirra was about to open her mouth, but Barrett stopped her. "I'm
sorry, we didn't know," he answered.

"Look, you just pack up now, and I won't tell the owners," the man
stated.

Jirra stared at the guy, studying every detail of his appearance. She
noticed he had a GPS receiver on his belt. He was wearing a pair of
binoculars around his neck. Additionally, another object was hanging
around his neck; Jirra recognized it as something her dad had shown
her, a laser range finder.

There was also something about his voice that sounded different. He
didn't sound like the locals, and in fact, he sort of sounded like he
was from back east.

"Well, that's mighty kind of you, so who owns the land?" asked
Barrett. "I was hoping we could get permission to continue hiking up
here."

The man just shook his head.

Jirra was tempted to get her camera and take a photo of the man.

Just then, they heard the sound of Cody's jeep. The man looked
slightly confused. He then looked at his watch. "Well, I need to get
going. I fully expect you to be gone when I come back this way." He
then started walking down the trail, away from the sound of the
jeep's engine.

"What was that all about?" asked Jirra.

"I think he's our looter," replied Barrett.

"What? Why didn't you do something?" asked Jirra.

Barrett smiled. "I know what he looks like now."

"Hello, the camp," shouted Cody.

"We're over here," replied Barrett.

Chapter 104

"The guy sounds like he has a lot of chutzpah," stated Dan as he took
a drink of water.

"He obviously didn't know why we were up here, probably thought we
were just hikers," replied Barrett.

"So can we go back to the canyon?" asked Jirra.

"Sounds like a plan," replied Dan. "Again, I must remind all of you
to be very careful about touching anything."

"I'll stay here and watch the camp," stated Cody.

Liz, Dave, and Lindsey all wanted to see the canyon.

"You sure you don't want to join us, Cody?" asked Dan.

Cody shook his head. "I better hang around here, just in case our
friend comes back."

"Okay, then lead on, Barrett," stated Dan.

Chapter 105

Before they headed down into the canyon, Dan took a series of
photographs.

"The outpost, or guardhouse, is just around that bend," stated
Barrett.

"Do me a favor, go down there and listen. I want you to see if you
can hear us coming down this trail," stated Dan.

"Will do, Doc," replied Barrett.

As soon as Barrett moved around the curve in the canyon, the others
slowly worked their way down the trail to the canyon floor. A few
minutes later, they re-joined Barrett.

"That was pretty cool. Not only could I hear you, but I could just
about make out how many of you there were," stated Barrett.

"That's what I expected. The Anasazi were experts at placing their
guard posts in the best possible locations. I imagine it was placed
here as the best acoustic location. Any unexpected guest would never
know what hit them," stated Dan as he looked at the guard post.

"So this is Anasazi?" asked Jirra.

"It definitely looks like it. The architecture looks very similar to
other sites I've studied. There would have been another structure
nearby that would have housed the rest of the warriors," explained
Dan. He looked around the canyon. "Did you look over that way,
Barrett?" he asked, pointing to the other side of the canyon.

Barrett shook his head. "We didn't have time yesterday."

Dan walked towards what looked like a solid wall of rock, but it was
soon obvious that it was an optical illusion, because there was
another opening in the cliffs, and there, above the canyon floor, was
another structure, similar to the guardhouse, but larger.

"This is where the warriors would have lived," stated Dan.

Jirra took out her camera and took photos, as did Barrett and Dan.

Next, they headed to the end of the canyon. Dan walked around
carefully and took photos; he stopped to examine the object that
Jirra had tripped over. The whole time he didn't speak a word.

He then took off his hat and wiped his brow. A large smile broke out
on his face. "I think we've just hit the mother lode."

"So what happens now?" asked Liz.

"First, we need to guard this site. Barrett, do you mind staying up
here for a few more days?" stated Dan.

"Mind? I'd love it!" replied Barrett.

Dan smiled. "It should only be for a few days, because as soon as I
notify the university, we'll have more than enough help up here."

"What then?" asked Jirra.

"Well, I've already talked to Judy, and she has something in mind.
The main thing is to protect the site. I imagine our friend will be
back to see what we were looking for. If the word gets out that we've
found a pristine Anasazi spot before we protect it, then it will be
stripped clean like an antelope on the Serengeti," continued Dan.

"What about the landslide?" asked Jirra.

Barrett then explained his theory that it was manmade.

"Let's go take a look at it," stated Dan.

Soon they were standing at the edge of the landslide at the front of
the canyon. Dan scanned the edges of the canyon wall, while the
others looked around at the base of the rockslide.

Jirra walked towards the far edge when something caught her eye. It
was a wire leading away from the slide. She slowly followed it, as it
curved around a large boulder. She walked around the huge rock and
found the source of the wire, and let out a loud scream.

Barrett and the others ran over as Jirra tried to regain her
composure.

"What's wrong?" asked Liz.

"There's a dead man behind that rock," replied Jirra in a near
whisper.

Dan and Barrett knelt down by the skeletal remains. What was left of
the body was covered with rocks from an apparent landslide that
occurred right above him. Next to the body were a leather backpack
and a detonator.

"Looks like the explosion killed him by accident," noted Dan.

Liz knelt near the remains and nodded in agreement. "I'd say that his
skull was fractured."

Barrett looked at the bag. "Should we look inside?'

Dan nodded and gently opened the bag. The leather began to fall away,
but thankfully, the contents were still in relatively good shape. The
bag's location had apparently shielded it. Dan pulled out an old pair
of binoculars and a .38 caliber pistol. There was also a leather bound
notebook. There were faded letters on the cover - "R. Margate."

"Oh my god, this is Dr. Margate!" exclaimed Jirra.

Dan nodded as he stood up. He then took off his hat and bowed his
head. The others followed his example.

A few moments later, he let out a long breath. "Well, it looks like
we'll have help up here sooner than I expected."

Chapter 106

"It's no good, I can't reach the spa either, I guess we'll have to go
back," stated Cody, as he set his radio down.

"We'll need to let the authorities know about this, and I want to let
the university and the state know too," stated Dan.

"I can stay up here," offered Barrett.

"That's a good idea, but I don't want you up here alone," replied Dan.

"I'll stay!" offered Jirra.

"Absolutely not," interjected Liz.

"I must agree. We don't know who that person was, and whether he was
alone," stated Cody. "I'll come back after I drop the rest of you
off. I can also bring some more supplies."

"I'll stay up here with Barrett," said Dave.

"Come on, Mom; I'll be safe," pleaded Jirra.

Liz shook her head. "You can help us more down at the spa."

Jirra looked over at Barrett who just shrugged his shoulders. She was
about to say that she would have been able to stay if she was still a
boy, but stopped before she opened her mouth.

"It's not fair," she muttered.

Liz smiled and put her arm around Jirra as they walked to the jeep.

They offloaded the remaining meals and several large jerry cans of
water for Barrett and Dave.

"This should be more than enough for the two of you. I expect to be
back tomorrow," stated Dan as he surveyed the camp.

"Won't the authorities want to see the body sooner?" asked Liz.

"There's no rush, Dr. Margate's been dead for years," stated Cody.

Dan nodded in agreement. "In my expeditions, I've found bodies
before, and since Margate's been dead for over sixty years, I doubt
if they'll rush up here today. Besides there's no place for a chopper
to land, so they'll have to come up like we did, and they won't do
that at night."

Liz cocked her head. "You've found other bodies?"

Dan nodded. "Twice, one turned out to be a dead cavalry trooper from
the 1880's, and the other was probably a miner circa 1890. I'm just
glad we could tell the remains were Margate's. If there was even a
chance they were native remains, then this would get even more
complicated."

"What do you mean?" asked Liz.

"I'll tell you on the way down," stated Dan.

On the slow ride down, Dan told them that if native remains were
found, the local tribal authorities had to be notified immediately.

"In the past the body was just shipped to a museum, and you can
understand the anger that has caused over the years. One thing that
should make studying that canyon easier is that it looks
uncontaminated from other native cultures," he explained.

"That means that you'll be able to study the site without
interference, right?" asked Jirra.

"That's right. The tribes agree that the Anasazi are a different
group, and it makes it a lot easier to study a site," replied Dan.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm very sensitive to the Native Americans. I
understand their anger and frustrations, but at the same time I have
a job to do too."

Halfway back to the spa, they were able to get Judy, and she agreed
to call the authorities.

"I imagine things will get rather exciting around here over the next
few days," stated Dan. "I don't imagine too many exciting things
occur up here, everything seems so calm and well... normal."

Jirra and the others did their best not to break up laughing.

Chapter 107

By the time they arrived at the spa, the sheriff was already there.
Harold Cross was holding a mug of coffee and talking to Judy. They
waved as they saw the Jeep approaching.

"This is getting to be a habit, coming up here," he remarked.

Jirra and the others stepped out of the Jeep. Liz made the
introductions.

"So the body is Doc Margate, huh?" asked Harold as he wrote down what
they were saying.

"It looks like it," stated Dan.

"Well, that certainly will clear up an old mystery around here,"
continued Harold.

"I can lead you up there," stated Cody. "The site is being guarded by
Barrett and Dave."

Harold nodded. "I know both of them, good choice."

"When do you want to head up?" asked Cody.

"Not until tomorrow, there's not enough light left today; besides,
the county coroner won't arrive until later this evening," replied
Harold.

"I'll be ready," replied Cody.

"Sounds good, we'll head up at first light," replied Harold. "Now,
Judy, how do you want to handle this?"

"You can't hide the fact that there's a body up there," replied Judy.

"What about the site?" asked Dan.

"I've already contacted my lawyers concerning the archeological
site," replied Judy. "They'll be coming up here tomorrow. Don't
worry, Dan, I won't block your access, but if the state wants the
site, then they'd better be prepared to deal."

Jirra noticed a wicked smile across Judy's face.

"What does that mean?" asked Dan.

"We'll talk about it later," replied Judy confidently.

While Judy and Dan talked, Harold turned to Jirra. "You're looking
much better. I'm surprised the black eyes went away so quickly."

Jirra nodded. "I'm sort of surprised myself."

"Hey, Harold, what about the trespasser that Barrett and Jirra saw?"
asked Cody.

Harold looked at Jirra. "Would you recognize him again if you saw
him?"

"I think so. I would definitely remember his voice," replied Jirra.
"He had a distinctive accent; I just can't place it. He was
definitely from back east."

"Really?" replied Harold.

"It'll come to me," replied Jirra.

Harold smiled. "I'm sure it will. Well, right now all I can book him
on is trespassing; that is, if you want to press charges, Judy."

Judy nodded. "I'll be glad to press charges, especially if it can
lead to other charges."

"I assume the press will have to be notified, assuming they don't
already know," remarked Lindsey.

"The local paper knows something is up, but not much more," replied
Harold.

"Jirra why don't you call them and offer to write the story?"
suggested Lindsey.

"That's a great idea," concurred Judy. "That way our side of the
story can get out first!"

"You feel up to it?" asked Liz.

Jirra nodded vigorously as her anger over not being allowed to stay
at the site passed.

"Good, come on, you can call them from my office," stated Judy.

Chapter 108

Jirra was sitting at her desk typing out her story. She was wearing
her pjs and terrycloth robe, having had a long soak in the tub. It
was funny, she thought, until recently, she had always preferred
showers.

The article mentioned the discovery of both the site and Dr.
Margate's body. The editor of the paper was thrilled to have an
eyewitness at the site. He was even going to use some of the photos
that Jirra took of the canyon. Thankfully, he drew the line on
showing the actual skeletal remains.

As Jirra typed, she wondered what Judy had in mind regarding the
canyon.

"You almost done?' asked Liz, who was standing just outside Jirra's
room.

Jirra turned around. "Yes."

"You still mad at me?" asked Liz as she entered the room.

Jirra shook her head.

"It's okay to be angry at me," continued Liz, as she sat down on the
bed across from Jirra. "I would have been angry if I was you."

"Was it just because I'm a girl?" asked Jirra.

"That's part of it. If there are any problems up there, I'll feel
better knowing Barrett and Dave are there. They can handle
themselves."

"And all I would do is either get hurt or get in the way, right?"

"I wouldn't put it exactly that way, but you're right," replied Liz.

"I know you're right," said Jirra. "I still wanted to stay there."

"On the plus side, you get to write this article," said Liz. "By the
way, how's it coming along?"

"Almost done, you want to read it?" asked Jirra.

"I'd like that," replied Liz.

As she read the article, Liz spoke to Jirra. "I know it's hard for
you to accept that you're female and that you're now perceived as
weak. I know you're not, but I don't want you to get hurt again."

Jirra absorbed her mother's words. "I hadn't thought about that."

Liz turned and faced Jirra. "I almost didn't allow you to go on this
trip after what happened to you in town."

Jirra saw the seriousness in Liz's eyes.

"I'm sorry, I was so wrapped up in myself that I didn't think of what
you were going through," said Jirra softly. "I guess my transformation
has caused you to worry about me."

Liz got up and began to hug her daughter. "I've always worried about
you, Roo. Your gender change hasn't affected that. I guess I'm just
going through some premature empty nest syndrome."

Jirra held onto Liz tightly.

Chapter 109

The next morning, Judy was reading Jirra's article.

"Very well written, Jirra," commented Judy.

"Thank you, Judy. I'm emailing it to the paper this morning," replied
Jirra. "They'll have to hold it until the body is recovered and
officially identified. I understand that Dr. Margate doesn't have any
living relatives."

"Assuming his name was Margate," interjected Judy.

"That's true. The editor told me that the story will even be sent out
on the wire to other news services, and that I'll even get paid for
this one!"

"This will become a big news story. Margate's death won't be the big
story, but the discovery of an Anasazi site here will be," stated
Judy. "My lawyers have already contacted National Geographic."

"So what is your plan?' asked Jirra with a grin.

Judy smiled back. "I'm offering a land swap. The Anasazi site for the
land outside the spa grounds."

"Do you think they'll go for it?" asked Jirra.

"The hotel is important, but the site is also important. If they
think I'm bluffing, I also have a trump card."

"What's that?" asked Jirra.

"I can always threaten to give the site to the local tribes. Trust
me, that's the last thing the state wants."

"Do you think they'll call your bluff?" asked Jirra.

"If they think I'm bluffing, then they're in for a very rude
awakening. My granddad taught me to play poker when I was nine, and
he was very good," replied Judy.

"What about the hotel chain?" asked Jirra.

"That part is still up in the air. However, I'm working on something
that might freeze them out."

"What's that?" asked Jirra eagerly.

Judy shook her head. "Sorry, I can't even let you know that one yet,
as I haven't worked it out completely. But I promise you'll be one of
the first to know."

Jirra smiled. "Any word from Cody?"

Judy shook her head. "They left early this morning. I don't expect
we'll hear anything until later this afternoon."

"What about Dan?" asked Jirra.

"He agreed to my plan. He also has agreed to help me and let the
state know that I will block access if I don't get my way. Granted,
he knows it's a bluff, but he's willing to be a coconspirator."

"I like him," replied Jirra.

"So does your mom," said Judy.

"I don't mind; she deserves to be happy too."

Judy nodded. "Speaking of being happy, have you e-mailed Alexis
today?"

"Yes, I sent her a note about the site this morning. She's in Boston
taping her show, so I don't expect an immediate reply. Oh, I also let
Jen know."

Judy nodded. "That's fine; I know we can trust both of them."

Chapter 110

It was right after lunch that Jirra got a phone call from Jen.

"I just read your e-mail, sounds exciting," stated Jen.

"I'm sort of on the outside looking in," replied Jirra.

"Be patient, dear."

Jirra laughed. "Patience isn't one of my better virtues," replied
Jirra.

"Well, I have something that might keep you busy. I want you to start
to write a story about the spa and the archeological discovery. I know
that you don't know everything yet, but don't let that bother you.
Also, I'm not looking for factual history; I want an entertaining
story, so feel free to exaggerate events."

Jirra was slightly confused. "Why?"

"I think you have the makings of a good script writer. I'm looking
for ideas for my next movie, and I'm thinking what's happening at the
spa could produce a great script," replied Jen.

"Jen, I don't have any idea on how to write a script," interjected
Jirra.

"Jirra, I don't want you to write a script, just write the story. If
you, as I expect you will, produce a good story, I'll have it turned
into a script. Don't worry, you'll get both credit and payment, I'm
not looking to rip you off. I just have confidence in your writing
ability."

Jirra took a big gulp. "Okay. When do you need it?"

"Already interested in the deadline, I like that; no rush, how 'bout
in the next month?"

Jirra laughed. "No rush, huh?"

"Of course not! There's just one rule. No nudity. I've never done
nudity in any of my films."

"Any particular type of story, Jen?"

"Well, maybe an action adventure or mystery type story - something
that would appeal to a wide audience. A romantic interest would be
nice too, but nothing so heavy that the story gets labeled as a
'chick flick.' Feel free to call me if you have questions, and you
can also e-mail me rough drafts to see if you're heading in the right
direction," replied Jen.

"I'll do my best."

"And no one could ask for anything more," replied Jen.

Chapter 111

The next few days were very hectic. The spa served as the
headquarters for both the recovery of the remains of Dr. Margate and
the exploration of the site.

The coroner agreed with Liz's initial diagnosis that Dr. Margate had
died from a fractured skull and ruled the dead accidental.

Dan sent Dr. Margate's journal to a friend who did document
restoration. While it had been protected somewhat from the elements
by its leather cover and the backpack, the pages had been repeatedly
soaked. Dan was optimistic that they might be able to recover most of
what Margate had written. He promised Jirra a copy as soon as it was
possible.

Judy was immediately locked into negotiations with the state over the
site. Dan had to hide his smile when he saw the jaws of the state's
representatives drop when they arrived and were greeted by Judy's
lawyers. They were even more shocked when they saw the plan for the
land swap already typed out in contract form.

Jirra was more than a little frustrated by not being in on everything
that was going on. She desperately wanted to see more of the site, but
it was off-limits to almost everyone. Barrett was still living at the
site, but Dave had to leave, as he had to get back to his own classes.

Dan brought in several other grad students to baby-sit the site.
Jirra noticed that they were all male. The present plan was to have
two up there at all times, and rotate them through, so that they only
spent three days in a row at the site. They would spend their days off
at the spa. The university was picking up the tab for a cottage, and
Judy was throwing in a discount.

Dan and Judy had dinner with Liz and Jirra the night before he headed
back up to the site. After dinner, they talked shop over coffee and
Dutch apple pie.

"Jirra, l read your article in the local paper; it's very well
written," stated Dan as he sipped his coffee.

Jirra smiled. "Thanks." She was pleased to see that Dan was sitting
next to her mom on the couch.

Dan then turned to Judy. "You really pissed off those lawyers from
the state."

"Good, that's what I was trying to do. Trust me, Dan; my battle is
with the state and not you. I want the site studied, and I want you
to be the one who does it. But I'm not about to give up the site and
eventually my spa," stated Judy. "If I just sell the site, I still
won't have enough money to fight the corporation."

"I understand that the hotel chain is providing some legal assistance
for the state," replied Dan.

"That's not unexpected," replied Judy. "My family got involved in a
little land war back in the 1880s, and the other guys brought in some
hired guns from out of state to force us off. We won then, and I have
no intention of losing now."

"Hey, I'm on your side; I just think that you might show a little
more tact," stated Dan.

Judy shook her head. "Not at this point of the battle. I can't afford
to look weak."

Dan then gave them an update on the work at the site. The campsite
that Jirra and Barrett had slept at was now being expanded as the
base camp for a long stay. A generator had been hauled up to the
site, along with larger tents and lots of supplies.

"We now have communications with the site 24/7," stated Dan. "This is
good, as I want the site to stay secure."

"Has the mystery man been back?" asked Jirra.

"Barrett said that they'd heard someone moving around the campsite as
if they were trying to get up the track to the trail," replied Dan.

"You sure it wasn't a coyote?" asked Judy.

Dan laughed. "Barrett's pretty experienced as an outdoorsman. He even
found wrappers of protein bars and boot prints in the area they heard
the noise."

"Aren't you worried that this guy might get violent?" asked Liz.

Dan shook his head. "Not from this guy, but he might have friends.
That's why I wanted to establish a large base camp up there so
quickly. Looters thrive on secrecy, and the last thing they want to
do is mess with a site being excavated."

"Any idea who he is?" asked Jirra.

"I took the description we got from you and Barrett and sent it to a
detective friend. She's checking it against a list of known looters
who've worked the Southwest," replied Dan.

"Do you think that this guy would get violent to keep others from the
site?" asked Jirra.

Dan's eyebrows raised and glanced at Liz and then looked back at
Jirra. "That's an unusual question coming from you," he stated.

Jirra laughed. "I'm working on something for a friend; she wants me
to write a fictional account of what's happening here. I just want
what I write to be at least somewhat plausible."

"Let me guess, you're writing a movie screenplay," replied Dan with a
smile.

Jirra nodded. "Well, I'm just writing the story, the script will be
written by someone with more experience."

Dan broke out laughing, as if he was in on a big joke.

"Dan, she's not joking. Jennifer Stevens is having her write the
story," interrupted Liz.

"Jennifer Stevens, the actress?" asked Dan.

Liz nodded. "She's also a director."

Dan shook his head and turned back to Jirra. "I offer my apologies,
Jirra."

"It's okay, I doubt if anything will come from it," said Jirra.

"Don't be so sure," replied Dan. "Okay, back to your original
question, yes, the looters are sometimes violent. They've beaten and
intimidated landowners over sites. I've had colleagues threatened
when they've started digs in areas where looters were working."

"Even here in the states?" asked Judy.

Dan nodded. "The problem is that there's been such a huge market for
the objects. Huge profits can be made in a very short period of time."

"Do you think that this guy is the same person selling the artifacts
in town?" asked Jirra.

"Could be. He's probably running a pretty small operation, and I
doubt he would want to share the profits. He's making a few hundred
on each sale for some potshards. The big money is in dealing in whole
pots, but with that, you need help to make the sales. Even with the
computer age, it's not easy to sell whole pots illegally."

"Do you have a database of legitimate buyers of Anasazi goods?" asked
Judy.

"I know where I can get one, and even provide a few names of those we
suspect of buying illegally items," answered Dan. "Why?"

"Just something I'm working on," replied Judy. "Can you get me that
list in the next few days?"

Dan nodded. "You're not going to tell me what you're up to, are you?"

Judy shook her head. "That way you can't be indicted later."

Dan laughed, but he wasn't sure if Judy was kidding.

"Well, I'd better get some sleep; we're heading up to the site in the
morning. By the way, I'm sending Barrett down to get a shower and a
good hot meal. Please feel free to ensure he actually gets some
sleep. You can threaten him by saying you'll tell me if he doesn't do
as he's told," said Dan. "He's got great potential, but he has to know
to keep himself in good shape."

"Don't worry about him," stated Judy.

Chapter 112

Jirra made notes before starting to write the story. She went to
several websites, including one related to Jen's movie. She found
good information on Jen's character Rayana Martin from a movie
insider's website. The buzz on the movie was very good. This only
made Jirra feel more apprehensive about her story. The story would
have to be very good to follow in the footsteps of the original.

She started writing the story on her laptop, deciding to start the
tale in a spa very similar to the one she lived in. Many of the
characters were based on the actual staff, and she even made a
character based on Randy. He worked in the stable and was in charge
of mucking out the stalls. True, Caldera de Gaia didn't have any
stables, but it was fiction. Jirra decided she would take great joy
in torturing the fictional Randy and that she didn't mind one bit if
Jen cut it all out.

Barrett was hanging around the spa, and while he wasn't happy about
his forced R&R, he did take the time to enjoy the baths. He even
commented to Judy that it would be nice if townspeople could buy a
pass to access the baths. Judy thought it was an idea worth looking
at.

Jirra was pleased that the spa was not only doing well with all the
confusion over the discoveries, but that reservations were increased
by twenty percent. The guests didn't even mind that they couldn't
actually access the site.

"So what are you going to do regarding the guests and the site?"
asked Jirra, as she ate lunch in Judy's office.

"I talked to Dan, and he's going to help me develop a display on the
site. He's going to have weekly updates videotaped for the guests.
He's even considering doing weekly lectures on the site, with any
artifacts they find," stated Judy.

"That would be so cool," replied Jirra. "I wish I could go back up
there."

"Me too, Jirra. From what Dan told me, they're still surveying and
mapping the site. They won't actually start excavating until summer."

"I don't have the patience to be an archeologist," said Jirra.

"That's why we're being kept out," added Judy.

"Part of it is that I'm curious about what's up there, and part of it
is... well, I'm hoping that there's a connection to what happened to
me. I know it doesn't make sense, but there's something in the back
of my head that keeps telling me that this wasn't just an accident,
that there has to be a reason for what happened," stated Jirra. "I
know that's silly."

Judy shook her head. "It's not silly. It makes sense that you want to
find a reason for what happened to you. If Dan finds anything that
seems related to your transformation, I promise that you'll learn
about it."

"Thanks, Judy."

"Now tell me, Jirra, when are you going back east?"

"Mom wants to go as soon as possible, so I can find a place to live
when I'm at Penn. She's found a few places that look promising,"
replied Jirra.

"You don't want to wait too long; trust me, you don't want to live in
a dump," stated Judy.

"I'm hesitant to leave right now. I'm afraid that something might
happen at the site," stated Jirra.

"Jirra, now that's silly," stated Judy. She picked up her phone and
hit one of the speed dial buttons. "Liz, why don't you take off next
week and go to Philly. I'll call my travel agent, and she'll make all
the necessary reservations. Okay?"

Judy hung up the phone and looked at Jirra. "There, that's all taken
care of. If something is discovered, I'll call you immediately."

Jirra shook her head in disbelief. "I can't believe that those
corporate guys think that they can beat you."

Chapter 113

"So how long will you be in Philly?" asked Alexis.

"Four days," replied Jirra. "We're staying downtown at the Marriott
on Market Street."

"Okay, I know where that is. I'd like to try to see you and your mom,
if I can sneak away from here," stated Alexis.

"I'd like that; I'd like that a lot," said Jirra, as she adjusted the
phone in her hand.

"Any idea of where you plan to live?" asked Alexis.

"Mom came up with a list of a few places that we're going to check
out. I just want a place that's close to campus, safe, and clean."

"That's rules out the first place I lived off campus. I slept with
the lights on the first few weeks," said Alexis.

"Why? You afraid of the dark?"

"The dark, no; mice, yes," replied Alexis. "Still, at least the mice
ate the roaches."

Jirra laughed.

"Okay, maybe it wasn't that bad, but it was a dump," confessed
Alexis. "Are you going to tour campus too?"

"Yes. I'm pretty excited about that. I can't believe that I'm
actually going to be attending an Ivy League school."

"I'm pretty excited about it too, just as long as you don't turn into
an elitist snob," said Alexis with a giggle.

"Fat chance of that happening. They'll probably snub me for wearing
cowgirl boots," replied Jirra.

"Just imagine if they find out that you were once a guy!"

Jirra laughed. "That'd probably impress some of them."

"That's true, they can befriend you so they can show how open-minded
they are!" said Alexis who was fighting back laughter unsuccessfully.

"Yes, but I'll lose points for dating an actress," added Jirra.

"A TV actress, even more disgraceful."

They were soon both laughing uncontrollably.

Chapter 114

A few days later Liz and Jirra were driving from their hotel to the
first place on their list.

"You don't mind me driving?" asked Jirra, as they waited for the
traffic signal to change.

"No, besides you need to know how to drive in this sort of traffic,"
replied Liz.

"Does that mean you're letting me get a car?" asked Jirra hopefully.

"You've got to be kidding!" replied Liz with a laugh. "Actually, I'm
considering it; we'll see how your first semester goes."

"So I'll need a place close to campus or at least the bus," replied
Jirra.

"The first place on the list is only a few blocks from campus," said
Liz. "This place was recommended by your academic advisor."

"When did you talk to her?" asked Jirra.

"Keep going straight; we don't have to turn for a few blocks," said
Liz. "Actually, she called me last week. She wanted to know how
you're adjusting."

"Adjusting? Adjusting to what?" asked Jirra. Then it hit her, her
paperwork documented that she'd had SRS. "Oh."

"Anyway, her heart seems to be in the right place. She said that this
place might be perfect for you," continued Liz. "The owner of the
building is also a student at Penn."

"Really?" asked Jirra.

"That's what she said," replied Liz.

"Okay, she owns the building, but why would that make it a good place
for me to live?" asked Jirra.

"I don't know, but we'll find out soon," replied Liz.

Twenty minutes later, they pulled into one of the visitor parking
spots in the parking lot of a converted warehouse. The access code
for the parking lot had been included with the directions.

"This place looks pretty cool," stated Jirra as they walked over to
the elevator.

"I'm impressed that they have secure parking," noted Liz.

They took the elevator to the third floor, where they were met by a
young woman. Even though she was only wearing jeans and a Penn
t-shirt, she looked elegant.

"Hi, I'm Liz Reid, and this is my daughter, Jirra; are you Celeste
Farnsworth?" asked Liz.

The young woman nodded. "Yes, I am. It's a pleasure to meet both of
you. Did you have any trouble with the directions?

"No, not at all," stated Jirra.

"Great, well why don't we go out to the deck area and talk?" stated
Celeste.

"Can we see the apartment?" asked Jirra.

Celeste gently shook her head. "I like to talk to potential tenants
first."

Jirra followed Celeste outside and stared at the view from the deck.
"Wow, this is great!"

"I know. It cost me a lot to convert it into an open deck, but it's
worth it," stated Celeste. "Please sit down, would you like something
to drink?"

"I'm fine, we just had breakfast," replied Jirra.

"Same here, thank you for asking," added Liz.

Celeste nodded and sat down. "I suppose you're curious about how I
own the building. I was married to a wonderful man, who passed away a
few years ago. He left me with a rather sizable fortune. I decided to
go to college so I could learn how to run my various business and
charitable organizations."

Jirra just nodded.

"Anyway, I live here along with two wonderful friends. Beth is also
an undergrad, and she's studying cognitive science."

"Who's your other roommate?" asked Jirra looking around the deck.

"Her name is Spirit, and she's out having a walk with Beth. Although
she's not currently enrolled at Penn, she does like to chase the
squirrels on campus," replied Celeste with a smile. "They have an
agreement; Spirit promises never to actually catch one, and they
promise to actually run when they see her. She's a very sweet dog and
wouldn't hurt a thing."

Jirra and Liz laughed.

"Here, I have a photo of her," stated Celeste as she got up and
retrieved a photo of a large mixed breed dog. "She's Labrador-
Chesapeake mix."

"What a beautiful dog," commented Jirra as she looked at the photo.

"Thank you. So, tell me about yourself, Jirra," asked Celeste.

Jirra gave Celeste a short bio and her plans for Penn. She left out
the gender side of her story.

Celeste nodded. "I've never been to New Mexico; it sounds wonderful."

"It is, although I do miss this area," replied Jirra.

"That's right, you used to live around here," stated Celeste
knowingly.

"You seem to know a lot about me," said Jirra with a surprised look
on her face.

"Can I ask you something personal, Jirra?" asked Celeste.

"Is it about my past?" asked Jirra softly.

Celeste nodded. "I just wanted you to know that I've had SRS myself."

Jirra's jaw dropped, and she stammered for a response.

"It's okay, Jirra. I have an unofficial agreement with some people in
the admissions office. They tip me off when they are admitting a
student who's like us. I like to be the first to offer them a place
to live. You seem very well adjusted, but sometimes it's nice to be
around people you can be open with," continued Celeste. "We can sit
down and discuss our life stories another time, but I just wanted you
to know that you'll be safe here."

"Is Beth also TS?" asked Jirra shaking off her surprise.

Celeste paused for a second. "No, but you'll like her just the same."

"Is everyone who lives here transgendered?" asked Liz.

"No, but I make sure that they're accepting. I bought this place
essentially for myself. I rent out the other units, but I don't need
the money, so I get to pick who my neighbors are. The apartment that
is open is a nice one bedroom on the second floor. The couple who
live next door are very nice. I know you'll like them."

"Does that mean I pass the initial test?" asked Jirra with a smile.

"Absolutely. Come on, I'll show you the place," stated Celeste.

The apartment was a corner unit. It had high ceilings, with brick
walls. There was a small, but modern, kitchen area and a small living
room. The bedroom had a large walk-in closet.

Jirra was pleased to see that the bathroom had a large tub.

"There's a laundry room on the first floor," said Celeste.

Jirra looked out of the windows.

"I installed central heat and AC. It's nice outside now, but in
summer you'll appreciate the AC," added Celeste.

"I forgot about the humidity here," replied Jirra.

Celeste turned to Liz. "The building is secure, and each unit has a
security system. The neighborhood is pretty safe, and there's a
police station two blocks up the street."

"Is it safe to walk to campus?" asked Liz.

Celeste nodded. "Yes, but I don't really recommend it after dark. We
haven't had any trouble, but why take chances? But since most of the
people staying here are students at Penn, we've worked out a ride
system; so if Jirra decides to stay late on campus, she can call for
a ride."

"That's rather nice," replied Liz.

"Like I said, I've screened my tenants. I want a neighborhood in this
building."

"Cool, sounds like the staff at the spa," stated Jirra.

"We try to get together weekly, even if it's just for a pizza and a
DVD," stated Celeste. "So do you want the place?"

Jirra looked at Liz. "I really like it, Mom."

"I do too. What is the rent?" asked Liz as she turned to Celeste.

"Affordable," replied Celeste with wink. "Let's go back up to my
place to work out the details."

Chapter 115

"I can't believe how easy that was," stated Jirra as they drove away.

"Things sure seemed to work out," said Liz.

"I also can't believe that Celeste used to be a guy too. I can't wait
until I hear the whole story," noted Jirra. "She seems like someone I
could tell the truth about my situation."

"I agree," concurred Liz.

"What? No telling me to be careful about who I tell about my
transformation?" asked Jirra with a laugh.

"No, I trust your intuition. You've made good choices so far, and I
think you'll know who you can trust," said Liz. "Speaking of which,
when is Alexis coming down?"

"Not until tomorrow. She's coming down for the evening, and then
she's heading back up. They have to shoot a few days in Newport,
Rhode Island.

"Now there's a nice place to spend a few days. Your father and I
spent a long weekend there. He tolerated my wanting to see the
mansions."

Jirra smiled. She had heard about that trip a few times.

"How're things going between you and Dan?" asked Jirra.

Liz smiled. "Nice."

"Just nice?"

"Yes, just nice. We talk and trade e-mails. He lost his wife ten
years ago, and he's sensitive to what I'm going through. Neither of
us wants to rush into anything, and we're content to let it just
happen, even if that means nothing more than friends."

"That's really nice," replied Jirra.

Liz smiled. "See what I mean?"

"I do, and I'm so happy for you," replied Jirra. She then took a deep
breath and let it out. "Mom, I'm so in love with Alexis, even though
everything logical tells me that it's going to be difficult for us to
have a relationship."

"Don't try to analyze everything logically, just let it happen,"
stated Liz.

"Thanks, Mom."

"Okay, we just have time for lunch before you have a meeting on
campus," noted Liz. "You don't want to start your time at Penn by
being late."

Chapter 116

Alexis arrived outside Jirra's hotel room a little after one. She was
dressed in jeans, a maroon top, and had a Boston Red Sox hat on.

Jirra answered the door, and they immediately hugged.

"I made it down here in only six hours," stated Alexis.

"Aren't you afraid of getting pulled over?" asked Jirra as they
continued to hug and kiss.

"Hey, I'm a movie star; we don't get tickets," replied Alexis with a
giggle. "No, I just drove with the flow. Actually, coming down the
Jersey Turnpike, I had a hard time keeping up with some of those
idiots."

Jirra laughed.

"So, where's Liz?" asked Alexis.

"She's out seeing some old friends; she'll meet us for dinner."

"Good, I worried that she wouldn't accept my invitation out of being
polite," stated Alexis.

"I know," replied Jirra. "So have you eaten lunch?"

Alexis shook her head.

"You want to go get a real cheesesteak?"

"That's sounds great. My personal trainer will have a fit, but I need
some real food."

"I'll drive; we'll go down to South Philly to Pat's."

Thirty minutes later, they arrived near the famous sandwich place.

"It's not Spago, but the food here is so good. This is my treat. My
dad brought me here after every sports game we saw," stated Jirra.
"Now, make sure you know what you want BEFORE you get in line.
They'll kick you out of line if you hold up the orders."

Alexis laughed as she read the posted menu. "I heard all about this
place from Jen. Speaking of her, how's your scriptwriting coming
along?"

"It's not really a script," replied Jirra. "I think she's just doing
it to be nice.'

"Nonsense, Jen isn't doing this just to humor you. Now, don't be
afraid to put in notes on how'd you like the scene to be filmed,"
stated Alexis.

"I don't know. I really don't know a thing about filming movies."

"It doesn't matter. Just picture the scene and write that down. Trust
me; you'll probably be better at this than you think."

"Thanks," said Jirra. "So what are you having?"

"Cheesesteak with onions and provolone cheese," stated Alexis.

"That's 'wit' not with," corrected Jirra.

"Excuse me, 'wit' onions!" laughed Alexis.

"I'm just having a cheesesteak wit-out onions and wit Cheez Whiz,"
stated Jirra.

"Ugh! How can you get that?"

"It tastes really good, trust me!" replied Jirra. "Now let me show
you how to eat one, without spilling anything on your top." Jirra
then demonstrated how to hold the sandwich outward, while leaning
forward.

"So that explains the colorful stains on the sidewalk," noted Alexis.

As they placed their orders, the man behind the window stared at
Alexis. "Hey, I know you; you're Alexis Eden aren't you?"

Alexis nodded.

The man nodded and then turned to another of the men. "Hey, look
who's out here, Alexis Eden. Yo Vinny, get the camera!"

Alexis turned to Jirra and laughed. "Looks like I'm about to be
immortalized at Pat's."

They were handed their steaks and sodas just before the man came out
and snapped a quick photo of Alexis holding her steak.

"Thanks a lot, Ms. Eden; we'll stick this on the wall next to the
other celebrities," he stated.

"It's a pleasure," replied Alexis, as she took a bite of her sandwich.

"What do you think of your steak?" asked the man.

"It's wonderful. Better than I was told," replied Alexis, flashing a
big smile.

"Thanks, Ms. Eden, I only wish those guys at Geno's could have heard
this!" he exclaimed as he returned to work.

Jirra was amazed at how easily Alexis could switch into being Alexis
Eden the star and back to being an everyday person.

"Sorry, I didn't think that they'd recognize you here," stated Jirra.

"It's okay, but this will really bug Jen. She doesn't have her photo
in Pat's. So what's with the comment about Geno's?"

Jirra pointed across the street to the rival cheesesteak place. "They
have a rivalry that goes back decades. They both claim to make the
original and best steak."

"And who do you think makes the best?" asked Alexis.

"I was brought up on Pat's, so I really don't know. Dad would never
let me try Geno's."

Alexis smiled. "Oh, so it's something passed down from generation to
generation. Well, I wouldn't want to break a family tradition."

Jirra laughed as she held out her sandwich. "You want to try mine?"

Alexis cocked her head. "Okay," she replied reluctantly. She took a
small bite and a smile broke out on her face. "Hey, that's not bad."

"Told you," replied Jirra with a wink. "Here, try a sip of birch
beer."

Alexis sniffed the soda and sipped it. "That has a nice bite to it.
It's not as sweet as root beer."

"I know, it's very hard to find outside of the Philly area."

"Well, I learned a few things today," stated Alexis.

Just then, the man from behind the counter came out and handed both
Alexis and Jirra t-shirts.

"If you get a chance, can you maybe wear these sometime, especially
if you're going to be on TV? It'll kill Geno's!"

Chapter 117

They spent the afternoon walking downtown, taking in the historic
sites, while at the same time doing some shopping.

Jirra told Alexis all about the apartment and Celeste.

"She sounds pretty interesting," noted Alexis.

"I feel better about coming here now, knowing I'll be safe. The
apartment is really nice too."

Alexis updated Jirra on the TV show and the upcoming movie. "The good
thing is that my movie will be opening before Jen's. I couldn't
imagine us opening the same weekend."

"From what I've read, the buzz is good on both movies," noted Jirra
as she stared in the window at a throwback jersey of the Philadelphia
Phillies. It was something that she would have worn when she was a
guy; sadly, it wasn't something that would fit into her wardrobe now.

"The buzz? For someone who's a novice scriptwriter, you definitely
have the terms down," said Alexis.

"Seriously, both movies sound like they're going to be big hits,"
stated Jirra.

"I know, I'm kinda enjoying this lull before the storm," said Alexis.
"It'll take a while for the hype to die down. Thankfully, Boston is
more interested in the Red Sox than a movie star."

Jirra laughed. "Well, we'd better get back to the hotel to meet up
with Mom."

Chapter 118

Dinner was a blur, as all Jirra could think of was spending time with
Alexis afterwards.

Liz knowingly smiled at Jirra as they arrived back at the hotel.
"That was a lovely evening, Alexis; it was good to see you again.
Now, Jirra, don't forget we have an eleven-thirty flight."

Jirra smiled and felt her face blush. It was strange, knowing that
your mom knew you were about to spend the night with your girlfriend.

Jirra went to her room and was joined by Alexis a few minutes later.

They sat down on the couch and began to kiss and caress each other.
As before, Alexis took the lead, but tried to ensure that she didn't
totally dominate the situation.

"You want to go to bed?" whispered Alexis into Jirra's ear.

"Hmmm, yes," replied Jirra.

As they walked into the bedroom, Alexis turned to Jirra. "I just have
one question, do you want 'wit' or 'wit-out'?" asked Alexis as she
pulled her vibrator out of her bag.

Jirra started giggling and was joined by Alexis as they sat down on
the edge of the bed.

"Well?" asked Alexis, as she began to tickle Jirra. "What's your
reply?"

"Wit," squealed Jirra as she tried to move away. "Oh, no, please
stop!"

"Ohhhh, this is new. I didn't know you were ticklish; now this is
going to be fun," continued Alexis as she continued to tickle Jirra.

Jirra was now laughing and squirming around on the bed. Alexis
stopped tickling her and began to kiss her. "I've missed you so much."

Chapter 120

They ate breakfast at a diner around the corner. The hotel restaurant
didn't have scrapple on the menu, and Liz wasn't about to miss an
opportunity to have some.

Jirra smiled when she saw Alexis was wearing a Pat's Steaks t-shirt.

"I want you to take my photo, so I can send it to Jen," stated Alexis.

Jirra laughed. "Okay."

"So, do you think that Judy will find a way to beat the corporation?"
asked Alexis. She was just having some scrambled eggs and wheat toast.

Jirra was having pancakes and nodded as she ate.

"I would never underestimate Judy," interjected Liz.

"I can loan her some money if she needs it, I'm sure Jen would help
too," said Alexis.

Liz shook her head. "I'm sure Judy would appreciate the offer,
Alexis, but money isn't the issue. The corporation can outspend us
easily. No, she's looking for something to make them pull back. I
have no idea what that is, but she's got her feelers out."

"The more I learn about Judy, the more I think someone should make a
movie about her," noted Jirra.

"I can't think of anyone who could play her and do her justice," said
Liz.

"I agree," added Alexis. "So how's your history project coming along?"

"It's almost done. I have to turn it in next week. I'm just writing a
short addition concerning the discovery we made. I wish I had more
time, but they won't let anyone on the site right now."

"Well, it's been there for thousands of years, so I'm sure you'll
eventually get an opportunity to see the site. I wouldn't worry about
not having too much info on the discovery; I mean, how many people can
say that they found a site?" stated Alexis.

Jirra laughed. "I guess you're right."

"So can I give you a lift to the airport?" asked Alexis.

"Thanks, but we have to return the rental car down there; besides,
you'd be going the wrong way. In fact, you'd better get on your way
soon yourself," said Liz.

Alexis glanced at her watch. "I suppose you're right. Well, it was
fun seeing both of you again."

Liz smiled. "Thanks, Alexis. Jirra, I'll go get the car and meet you
here."

Jirra smiled. "Thanks, Mom."

Chapter 121

"Well, once again we have to say goodbye," said Alexis.

"I know. Do you think you can get out to the spa anytime soon?"

"I don't know; summer's going to be crazy. I have a huge promotion
schedule for the movie, and we still have a bunch of shows to film. I
will try to get away when you move in. We can go out to Ikea and pick
out your furniture."

"I'd like that," replied Jirra. She was hesitant to show any
affection towards Alexis in public.

Sensing Jirra's apprehension, Alexis leaned over and gave her a hug.
"It's okay, Roo, I know exactly how you feel," whispered Alexis.

Liz pulled up a minute later, and Jirra reluctantly got into the car.
She turned and watched Alexis waving goodbye.

Jirra let out a big sigh.

"It's okay, Roo, she obviously loves you."

"How did you and Dad get through the separations?" asked Jirra.

Liz glanced over and smiled. "It wasn't easy, Roo."

"Please tell me about it?"

"Okay, Roo."

Chapter 122

Jirra finished up her senior history project shortly after her return
to the spa. She called up the head of the social sciences department
at the local high school and made an appointment to turn it in. She
had both a written report and a presentation on CD-ROM. This included
some photos of the newly discovered site.

There was a buzz in town over the discovery of the site, even though
information was slow in coming out. Jirra smiled to herself as she
saw many shops now carrying Anasazi souvenirs. She desperately wanted
to see the site again, but for now it was off-limits to all but those
on Dan's team.

Barrett was back up in the hills, having the time of his life. He
left a long letter to Jirra thanking her for forcing him into looking
for the site. He promised to keep her informed on any discoveries.

The teacher agreed to meet Jirra off campus to avoid any conflicts
with Randy's supporters. They picked the coffee shop as the place
where Jirra would turn her report in. She was a little disappointed
that she wouldn't be allowed to give an oral presentation, but the
teacher insisted that he only wanted to see the hardcopy report.

Still, Jirra dressed up for the meeting. Judy had drummed it into her
that she needed to dress up when she was doing something professional.
She was wearing a Kelly green skirt and a white cotton blouse. She
even took the time to put on some makeup.

Jirra arrived early and waited nervously for the teacher to arrive. A
few minutes later, a slightly overweight man walked into the coffee
shop. He was wearing Dockers and a green shirt without a tie. He was
also wearing a well-worn suede jacket.

"Good afternoon, Jirra," he greeted. "I'm Mr. Dawkins."

Jirra smiled as she shook his hand. "Pleased to meet you."

He smiled back. "I should be the one honored to meet you. That was
quite a discovery you made."

To her horror, Jirra could feel her face getting warm. The last thing
she wanted to do was start blushing. "Thank you."

"I mean, most of us have read Margate's book, but I never thought he
was actually telling the truth. I can't wait until they open the site
up."

"That won't happen for a while. I'm not even allowed back up there.
Apparently, it's a rather unique site."

Dr. Dawkins nodded. "It would have to be for it to be so far out of
their normal range. Now, I believe you have an assignment ready for
me."

Jirra nodded as she took the report and CD out of her bag. "The
CD-Rom has photos of different sites, including a few of the new
site."

He nodded as he paged through Jirra's report. "Very professional job,
but that's what I'd expect of a future Ivy Leaguer. Well done, Jirra.
I only wish that you had spent some time in my classroom. I could use
more students like you."

"It wasn't meant to be; just as well anyway."

He cracked a slight smile. "You didn't miss much."

Jirra smiled as she suddenly wished that she had been in his class,
as he seemed pretty cool.

"I'll read through this and get back to you by Monday. I wouldn't
worry, from what I can see, you have nothing to worry about."

"Thank you again for agreeing to this," she stated.

"You're not the first home-schooled student that I've had. Around
here, it's rather common. I'll call you Monday. It was nice meeting
you."

Jirra shook his hand. She felt confident that she would get a good
grade. She decided to celebrate and have a cappuccino. The girl
behind the counter did a double take.

"Sorry, Jirra, I didn't recognize you all dressed up fancy," she said.

Jirra smiled back. "I'll take that as a compliment."

After she got her coffee, she sat down and opened up her laptop. She
was just about to check her e-mail when a man walked past her and up
to the counter.

He looked familiar, even though he paid her no attention. He was too
busy listening to his MP-3 player. He was dressed in jeans and a crew
top shirt and had on a well-worn cowboy hat.

She shrugged it off and went back to her computer, when she heard the
man's voice. He had forgotten to take off his headset and was almost
shouting his order. It was then that Jirra recognized his voice. He
was the mystery man!

Jirra listened as he placed his order. He ordered a latte to go.
Jirra decided to follow him.

The man paid for his coffee and headed out of the shop. Jirra slowly
got up and followed him out. Her heart was pounding in her chest as
she tried to look casual as she followed him. He walked a block down
the street before stopping in front of a blue Ford pickup. He placed
his coffee on the roof as he pulled out his keys.

Jirra pretended to window shop, while at the same time trying to read
his license plate. The plates were from Arizona, and she was able to
see the entire plate. She pulled a pen out of her bag and wrote it
down on her palm.

The truck pulled out and headed south out of town. Jirra watched it
leave and then called Judy.

"I just saw the mystery man!"

"Calm down, where did this happen?" asked Judy.

Jirra explained what had happened.

"Give me the number, please," requested Judy.

Jirra gave it to her.

"Thank you very much. Now are you sure it's him?"

"Absolutely, the voice gave him away."

"Wonderful. Thank you very much," stated Judy.

"What are you going to do?" asked Jirra excitedly.

"I'll let you know later," she replied.

Chapter 123

"Dan's back down from the site," said Liz. "He's coming over for
dinner tonight."

"Really? That's cool," replied Jirra. "Do you want to be alone?"

Liz shook her head and smiled. "While I appreciate the offer, it's
not necessary... at this time."

Jirra's eyebrows rose. "At this time, huh?"

Liz just smiled. "Anyway, he specifically requested to see you. He
wants to update you on the site."

Jirra nodded. 'I still wish I could see it myself."

"Well, at least you'll see his latest photos," said Liz.

"Okay, I suppose that's better than nothing. I'll see you later.

Jirra sat in the main hall and worked on her story for Jen. She had
taken Alexis' advice and added notes on how the scenes should look.
She also decided to throw in some fun twists. She decided that the
skeletal remains of the lost archeologist would turn out to be
someone else, and the real archeologist would turn out to be the used
book shop owner. She figured Abe would get a laugh out of that.

She also played up the mystery man and added a lot of comic book sort
of violence and some literal cliff-hanging scenes. To her surprise,
she found that she was actually pretty good at this sort of writing.
She was soon lost in her writing when Lindsey tapped her on the
shoulder.

"Hey, what's up?" asked Lindsey.

"Oh, I'm just writing that story for Jen," said Jirra without even
looking up.

"You've been working on it for the entire afternoon."

Jirra looked at her watch. "Crap, I have to get going, Dan is coming
over for dinner, and he's going to show us the latest discoveries."

"Exciting," said Lindsey pretending to yawn.

"Hey, you have to admit that it's pretty cool that ancient people
might have used the springs and mud baths here."

Lindsey cocked her head. "How do you know that?"

Jirra looked around. "My spirit guide showed me the site during my
last meeting, only I didn't realize it until just now. The Anasazi
used the mud and springs, but what I don't know is why."

"Maybe Dan knows now," said Lindsey.

"I hope so. I keep thinking that this is related to what happened to
me," said Jirra.

"Why? I mean, why would the Anasazi want to turn men into women?"

Jirra shrugged her shoulders. "Maybe the people transformed have some
special status in the tribe, like a shaman or something like that."

"You're really reaching on this one," replied Lindsey.

Jirra smiled. "I suppose, but I just can't believe that my
transformation was pure chance."

"Does it really matter?" asked Lindsey. "I mean, you have a pretty
interesting life now; you're writing a screenplay, and you're dating
a movie star. I doubt that would have happened if you hadn't been
transformed."

Jirra stared back. "You can be irritatingly wise sometimes."

Lindsey laughed. "Hey, it's one of my many talents. I just want you
to move on. This doesn't mean to forget your past, but accept that
you're a woman. It seems sorta silly to deny the truth."

"Easier said than done," replied Jirra. "I really want to fully
accept what happened to me and just live as a woman, but it's very
hard to overcome what's up here." She then pointed at her head.

"I guess you're right, but don't stop trying."

"I won't, even if it does cause some confusion for me," replied Jirra.

"Well, I gotta get into the kitchen; we're cooking lasagna this
evening. Mom is trying a new recipe to make it have a Southwestern
taste."

"That sounds interesting," stated Jirra.

"I'll save you some; it's pretty good," replied Lindsey.

Jirra nodded and shut down her computer. "See you later."

"Just one thing, am I in the story?"

"Of course," replied Jirra. "I'm even giving you a romance scene."

"Cool!"

Chapter 124

After dinner, Dan showed Liz and Jirra a videotape of the site.

"What's interesting is that we've discovered that the thing in the
end of the canyon is a bath. I suspect it was used in fertility
rites," stated Dan. "Look, see how it's built right into the cliff?
We've found mineral deposits showing that there was once a spring
there, but it went dry a long time ago."

Jirra could see the red stains of the mud. "That looks just like the
mud we use here at the spa."

"I noticed that too. It looks like the same mud used in the potshards
too. We've sent a sample of the mud away to be analyzed," said Dan.

"So why do you think that this was used for fertility rites?" asked
Liz.

"We've found some pictographs that seem to show that the site was
off-limits to men. I suspect the guards at the front of the canyon
were there in part to enforce this," explained Dan.

"Well, Judy said that the native people used to use the springs
around here," added Jirra.

Dan nodded. "What is surprising is that the site lay undisturbed. In
many Anasazi sites, we've had to deal with cross-cultural
contamination. There's none at this site."

"Maybe they didn't know it was there?" asked Liz.

Dan shook his head. "We have documented sites nearby showing at times
a sizable population of people lived here. The area would have been
rich in game too. But the absence of any other races in the canyon is
confusing."

"Maybe they knew about it and stayed away on purpose," said Jirra.

"I've wondered that myself, but I have no proof. I've contacted a
friend who specializes in the myths and legends of the indigenous
people to see if there is anything about a canyon like this."

Jirra was tempted to mention her theory, but decided that it wasn't
the right time. She didn't want to scare Dan off by freaking him out
about her change. Maybe later she would find the right time.

"Anyway, we still have a lot of work to do. The university has
assigned me to the site. I won't be at a loss for help either. I have
a long list of willing volunteers and grad students."

"I hear that you're going to set something up here to tell the guests
about your latest discoveries," said Jirra.

Dan nodded. "Judy insisted on it, and I think it's a great idea to
promote and protect the site."

"Any word on what Judy's up to?" asked Liz.

"No, but she says that she knows who the looter is. She's asked me to
trust what she's doing with him."

Jirra nodded and wished she knew what Judy was up to.

Chapter 125

Two weeks later, Judy was sitting behind her desk. It was a little
after ten in the morning, and she had left explicit instructions not
to be disturbed.

Sitting to her right were her lawyers, sitting by the door was a
stocky man in a sport coat that was stressed by his muscular frame.
An athletic looking young woman was standing next to him. She may
have only been 5-8, but she also had several martial arts black belts.

Sitting nervously across from Judy was the mystery man that Jirra had
identified.

Judy picked up the thick file in front of her and opened it. "Scott
James Spears, age twenty-seven, several arrests for trespassing on
federal and native lands. One conviction for selling stolen artifacts
in Arizona, suspected of selling stolen artifacts in Colorado, Utah,
and New Mexico."

The man said nothing. He just stared confidently back at Judy.

"The word on the street is that you are strictly small time... but I
know better. Thanks to Mr. Barnes and Ms. Gonzales, we have proof
that you've been selling some very expensive native artifacts,"
continued Judy.

The man just smirked. "You got nothing on me; if you did, I would be
talking to the police."

"That's one way of looking at it," stated Judy without showing any
emotion in her face. "Assuming that I want the police to get
involved."

For the first time since he agreed to talk to Judy, Scott looked
nervous.

"Mr. Black and Ms. Gonzales are private detectives who have been
working for me the last few weeks. They've had you under surveillance
almost continuously and have built a rather sizable file on your
activities."

Scott turned around and looked at the two detectives as if he was
trying to remember if he had seen them before.

"They're too good for you to have picked them up," continued Judy.
"They've provided me with evidence that you've trespassed on my
property, and that of several of the Native-Americans. They also have
photographic proof that you looted objects from the reservations."

"Bull," stated Scott.

Judy opened up the folder and pulled out a series of photos showing
Scott. There were also photos of what looked like the inside of a
truck. The photos showed a near perfect Anasazi pottery jar hidden in
the back part of the cab.

Scott turned angrily and stared at the two detectives. "You broke
into my truck? That's illegal!"

"We also broke into your laptop," said Mr. Black in an unemotional
tone.

"The correct term is hacked," corrected Ms. Gonzales.

"Pardon me, we 'hacked' into your computer and found all sorts of
interesting things," continued Mr. Black.

Scott looked nervous and turned and looked at Judy. "What do you
want?"

"There was a file in the computer which showed photographs of native
artifacts. I assume these were items you sold," stated Judy.

Scott nodded. "That's right."

"There's a code next to each photo. In some cases, the codes are
repeated. I assume the codes are the buyers of your looted objects,"
said Judy.

"Maybe, what do you want?" asked Scott.

"I want those names and copies of any proof you have," stated Judy.

"Is that all?" asked Scott sarcastically.

"It's a start, and depending on how cooperative you are, we'll see
about what happens to you."

"I'm not afraid of being arrested. The local cops could care less if
I steal a few pots," stated Scott as he leaned back in his chair.
"You'll have to do better than that."

Judy nodded. "Okay, how about the tribal police? They would love to
get their hands on you. Also the feds don't like looters either."

"You can't turn me over to the redskins," sneered Scott.

"Ms. Gonzales back there is part Navaho. Before we go any further,
I'd like you to apologize for that racial slur," said Judy.

Scott turned around and saw Ms. Gonzales intently staring at him, and
he mumbled what sounded like sorry.

"I want the names of your clients," demanded Judy.

"What do I get out of it?" asked Scott.

"You won't go to jail," stated Judy.

"That's it?" he asked.

Judy shook her head. "From the information we got from your computer,
we know you have a rather sizable offshore bank account. I assume this
is from your illegal activities. I want half of it to be donated to
the tribal schools on this list." She handed him a piece of paper.

"Half my money! You've got to kidding!" he exclaimed.

"The feds would take it all, and stick your ass in the pen," said
Judy.

Scott stared at Judy and felt a drop of sweat run down the side of
his face. He wiped it off. "What else?"

"You never come back to New Mexico. If you do, I promise you'll end
up in prison."

Scott seemed to be debating his choices. He stared down at the ground
and shook his head slowly. "Okay, I'll do it. Do you want the whole
list?"

Judy nodded.

"Hand me my computer... don't worry, I'm not going to do anything
stupid," stated Scott. His computer was in a case next to Judy. It
had been taken from him when he entered the office.

Judy nodded and Mr. Black handed Scott his laptop. He started it up
and in a few moments had called up a file that had a list of all his
clients. He then handed the computer to Judy.

She scanned the names on the list, recognizing many of them. She then
saw a name in the file, and for the first time that morning she
smiled. The man had been one of Scott's best customers.

"Tell me about this one?" she asked as she pointed to the name.

He smiled. "He's the one that pot was going to. Thinks he's doing
everyone a service by buying from me. He keeps them locked up in his
office safe in Santa Fe," stated Scott.

"Scott, I'm going to ask you to be my guest here at the spa for a few
days, all expenses paid. All I ask is that you stay in your room.
We'll provide room service."

"Can I get a bottle of bourbon?" he asked meekly.

Judy nodded. "If everything goes as planned, you can drive out of
here in a day or so."

Scott nodded. "Why him? I mean there are some important men on that
list, and they all knew they were buying stolen goods."

Judy just smiled and shook her head. "Sorry, you don't need to know.
I do recommend that you go straight; consider this the proverbial
dodging the bullet."

Scott stared at Judy. "I just might."

Chapter 126

That evening, a man drove onto the spa grounds in a Mercedes sedan.
He was wearing jeans, a short sleeve shirt and had a very worried
look on his face. He went immediately to Judy's office.

"I'm very pleased that you could make it up here on such short
notice," Judy greeted him.

The man nervously nodded. "What do you want?"

Judy smiled; he wasn't even going to deny it. "Please sit down."

Other than Judy and the man, her office was empty.

"Mr. Blair, I appear to have you over the proverbial barrel. I have
proof that you have been buying looted rare artifacts from sites all
over the state, including my property. This isn't going to look good
when the papers get it, especially since you're trying to force me
off my land," stated Judy.

"Right to the point, Ms. Ramone," said Mr. Blair. "I've heard that
about you."

"Yes, in the old west I would have shot you. This is my family's
land, and I will do anything to protect it," stated Judy firmly.

"I'm only one man, I can't kill this deal myself," he stammered.

"Yes, you can. According to information my lawyer has provided, this
whole hotel project has been your idea. All you have to do is stop
the plan and you walk away."

"That's it?"

"One more thing, you'll donate your entire stolen collection to The
University of New Mexico... anonymously," stated Judy. "I'll know if
you do, and I'll know if you don't. This ends today, one way or the
other."

Mr. Blair stared angrily at Judy. "My entire collection? You must be
kidding?"

Judy nodded. "I'm not going to let you steal and get away with it. If
you don't agreed to this, I'll contact every reporter I know, the
feds, and the tribal police. I have a witness who'll testify that you
knowingly bought stolen artifacts."

"You're a cunning bitch," he growled.

"I've been called worse, so what's your answer?"

"I want to think about it," he said.

Judy shook her head and pushed the phone towards him.

"Just because I'm not getting that plot doesn't mean you will. Any
one of a dozen companies will jump at the opportunity to get it, and
like me, they can easily outbid you."

"The first person you're calling is on this list," stated Judy.

Mr. Blair looked at the sheet, and in spite of his anger, he couldn't
help but smile. "You've really thought this all out, haven't you? I
must say we definitely underestimated you."

"Just call him," ordered Judy.

He dialed the number. "Jim, this is Robert. Hey, I just want to say
that there's been a change in plans; we no longer have any plans for
the site near the Ramone property. What? Yes, I'm serious; we will
drop all challenges to the land deal she proposed."

They talked for a few minutes before Mr. Blair placed several more
phone calls.

After the last one, he hung up the phone. "Is that all?" he asked.

Judy nodded. "I'll send you the proof of the theft of the artifacts
as soon I get confirmation that the university has received them.
After that, I hope we never have the displeasure of seeing you again."

Mr. Blair nodded. "I feel the same way."

Judy watched him walk slowly back to his car and then drive away. She
then walked over to the mini-fridge in her office and removed a bottle
of champagne. While she usually didn't like to drink alone, this was a
worthwhile exception. She held the glass up to the photos of her
family and made a toast. She drank as tears rolled down her face.

Chapter 127

Judy stared at the list of Scott's other customers. It would have
been easy enough to let it go; after all, she had gotten everything
she wanted from the list. Still, it bothered her that these men had
knowingly bought looted objects.

She took the CD-ROM of Scott's files, and after a short time on her
computer, she had created some very informative letters. They not
only informed the men in question that it was known that they had
bought looted artifacts, but showed photos of the objects in
question. The letters anonymously informed the men that they had one
week to donate the objects in question to one of several museums
listed. If they failed to comply, the authorities would be contacted.

Judy was sure that the men would comply, as the negative publicity of
buying looted objects would cause them much pain. She wasn't na•ve
enough to think that this would stop all of them from collecting
looted objects, but it might force some back to the straight and
narrow.

Chapter 128

The official announcement wasn't until a few days later. Judy called
the entire staff into the main hall.

"I just wanted to let you all know that the threat to the spa is
over. The hotel chain has decided not to build here. Additionally, I
have worked out a land swap with the state. They will get the Anasazi
site in exchange for the plot along the access road," announced Judy.

This news was met by thunderous applause and cheering.

Judy put her hands up to quiet the crowd momentarily. "So, your jobs
are secure, and we will continue to build the finest spa in New
Mexico."

Jirra joined the others on their feet cheering Judy. At the same
time, she was wondering what Judy had done. She had tried to get Judy
to tell her, but it was to no avail.

"Jirra, if I tell you, then you're a co-conspirator," Judy had said
that morning before the meeting.

Jirra was about to ask Judy another question but stopped, figuring it
would be pointless. "Promise me that you'll tell me someday!"

"I will when the time is right," replied Judy. "Oh, by the way, I
never congratulated you for the grade you got on your Anasazi
project."

Jirra nodded. "Thanks. Dan also looked at it and said it was better
than some of his grad students' work, but I think he was just being
nice."

Judy shook her head. "No, Dan wouldn't do that; he's always been
brutally honest."

Chapter 129

The news that the spa had been saved lifted a huge weight off the
collective minds of the staff. There was sense of excitement that
seemed to be bursting from them as they prepared for the summer
season.

Jirra wished she knew how Judy had gotten the hotel corporation to
back down, so she could incorporate it into her story. She did the
next best thing and made up something. She remembered Judy's interest
in the mystery man, so she came up with a story of the spa owner using
information from the looter and then blackmailing the backers of the
hotel. It was a little farfetched, but Jirra felt it worked.

She finished the story and sent it off to Jen. Even if nothing came
out of it, it was a fun writing exercise, she thought.

Two days later, she got a call from Jen.

"Jirra, I finished reading the story, and I must say that I'm very
impressed. I sent it to a screenwriter friend of mine, and he's going
to refine it, although I must admit there's not much that needs work."

"Thanks, Jen," replied Jirra.

"By the way, I liked how you sketched out some of the scenes, that
definitely helped," continued Jen.

"That was Alexis's idea," confessed Jirra.

"It doesn't matter; what's important is that you wrote a very good
story. The screenwriter will send you a copy of what he produces.
He'll expect you to approve what he's done."

"Jen, does he know that I'm only eighteen?" asked Jirra.

"No, and it wouldn't matter to him anyway. Besides, you're almost
nineteen, if I remember right."

"You're right, I turn nineteen in two weeks," replied Jirra.

"Well, I may have an interesting way for you to spend it. I'd like to
show everyone at the spa a sneak peek of my new movie. I have a DVD
version and would love to show it there first," said Jen.

"Really? That's so cool."

"The national release will be two weeks later. We had to get it in
before the big blockbusters come out."

"Have you told Judy yet?" asked Jirra.

"Of course, she's already contacted a large screen TV dealer in Santa
Fe to get the right system. I'd like to show it in the main room, and
plan on showing it on a large screen TV. They'll also need to hook up
the sound system."

"That sounds expensive," noted Jirra.

"It is, but I want the spa to have the system. That way you can have
regular movie nights. By the way, only you and Judy know about this,
so keep it hush-hush. You can tell Liz and Lindsey if you want."

"I will," replied Jirra.

"Okay, well. I'll be out there next week. I want to relax a few days
first. When I leave the spa, I'll be hitting the road on a major
promotional road trip. I have a lot wrapped up in this movie."

"Well, I read about the movie in Entertainment Weekly, and they call
it the sleeper hit of the summer," stated Jirra.

"That's nice, but I need to make sure that people go to see the
movie. Great reviews don't always mean good revenues. I'll be doing
the talk show circuit and will be on all the major morning shows."

"Sounds like fun," stated Jirra with a laugh.

"I'd rather have a root canal, but it's part of the deal."

"Alexis says the same thing," said Jirra.

"Speaking of good reviews, her show is getting a lot of good
publicity. The word is the network might move the show's premier to
September."

"I know, Alexis told me that; it means she's working seven days a
week right now," said Jirra with a bit of sadness in her voice.

"You miss her, don't you?"

"A lot. I mean, besides being a really cool person, she knows the
truth about me and totally accepts me."

"I know what you mean, Jirra."

"I just wish we could be together more often," continued Jirra.

"I know exactly how you feel. How's everything else going?" asked Jen.

"I still have some feelings for guys, but thankfully I'm so in love
with Alexis that it represses those feelings. I'm still not happy
about them, but I'm starting to accept them."

"That's good, you can't be in conflict with yourself all the time;
its not healthy."

"I've been told that a few times from various other people."

"What about your sense of vulnerability?" asked Jen.

"Thankfully, I haven't had another incident."

"You didn't answer my question, Jirra."

"Okay, it still bothers me a bit... make that a lot. It hasn't quite
gotten into my mind that I'm female, which means that to some people
I'm a potential victim. Tara has been showing me some moves to
protect myself, and that has helped a little."

"You're honest."

"Does it still bother you; I mean, that you were transformed into a
woman?"

"A little, but I've learned to move on with it," replied Jen. "My
circumstances were a little different from yours, in that my
transformation was publicized. It would have been very easy for me to
shrink away, but I decided to move on. Partly, I didn't want to give
the bastards the satisfaction of winning."

"I feel a little funny about my circumstances; I mean, even the woman
who I'm renting my apartment from in Philly thinks I'm TS. I mean, I
know I needed some sort of cover story, but I've read about what most
TS's go through, and now I feel guilty," stated Jirra. "I'm also
worried that once she gets to know me better, she'll see through me."

"So... tell her the truth," replied Jen.

"That sounds too simple," said Jirra.

"Sometimes the simple answer is the best. She sounds pretty
open-minded, so when you feel the time is right, let her know."

"I'll think about it," said Jirra. "I've been pretty lucky so far in
the people who I've told."

"Well, if she was once married and is TS herself, I'm sure she'd be
compassionate regarding what happened to you," said Jen. "I wouldn't
worry too much about it; you'll be too busy just adjusting to college
when you get to Philly. But when the time feels right, I would tell
her."

"Okay. Thanks for listening to me, Jen. You have no idea what it's
like to have someone else who I can talk to about this. I mean, with
someone who has similar experiences," said Jirra.

"I feel the same way, Jirra. We share something unique, and I'm glad
that we've become friends."

"Me too."

"Well, I'll see you soon. Good bye," stated Jen.

"I can't wait," replied Jirra.

Chapter 130

"What's up?" asked Jirra as she walked into her mom's office. "Judy
said you were looking for me."

"I just got a call from the sheriff; Randy's lawyer made an offer
regarding the charges," said Liz.

Jirra sat down. "Go on."

"He'll plead guilty to the assault charges in exchange for a reduced
sentence. He'll still have to do eighteen months in the county jail
and then be on probation for two years; additionally, he'll have to
attend and pass an anger management course as part of his sentence."

Jirra thought about it. While eighteen months wasn't that long, she
really didn't want to go to trial. "I guess that's fair; I just want
it to be over."

"That's what I thought you'd say. I'll call the sheriff back and let
him know the deal is acceptable to us," said Liz.

Chapter 131

On a warm late spring morning, Jirra walked into the main hall
looking for Lindsey. She saw Judy supervising the installation of the
new large screen TV.

Judy looked over and smiled. "I thought you were going to the airport
to pick up Jen?"

Jirra nodded. "Her flight doesn't get in until this afternoon. I'm
trying to find Lindsey; she's supposed to ride with me."

"There she is," said Judy, pointing towards the back of the hall.

Lindsey came bounding up. There was a huge smile on her face.

"Why are you so happy?" asked Jirra.

Lindsey looked over at Judy. "You didn't tell her yet?"

Judy shook her head. "I was going to let everyone know tomorrow, but
you can tell her."

"Judy's going to expand and add a separate dining room for dinner.
The hall will still be used for breakfast and lunch, but now we can
serve dinner like a real restaurant."

"Sounds great," replied Jirra.

"Well, we're already booked for most of the summer season, so I'm
going to expand the number of cottages too. We're not going to be
huge, but I don't see a problem in adding two dozen more cottages,"
stated Judy.

"When did you decide this?" asked Jirra.

"Actually, right after last year's season; however I had to wait
until the crisis with the hotel chain passed," replied Judy. "We're
also going to have a dedicated exhibit on the Anasazi site, even
though the site itself will be off-limits for a while."

"I'm so happy for you, Judy," said Jirra. She then looked at Lindsey.
"You ready?"

"Sure, let's go," replied Lindsey.

Chapter 132

"I want to stop in town before we head to the airport. I want to get
something for Jen," stated Jirra as they drove down the long road
from the spa.

"What are you going to get her?"

"I don't know, but I'll know it when I see it. I just want to give
her something for everything she's done for me."

They stopped on Main Street and walked into the jewelry shop where
Jirra had first seen the Anasazi art. There was a sign announcing it
was now under new management. Jirra wondered if that was related to
the looted objects, but no one was saying a thing.

Jirra looked around the shop, not really knowing what she was looking
for.

"Hey, Jirra, how about these?" said Lindsey.

Jirra walked over to where Lindsey was holding a pair of silver and
turquoise earrings. They were in the shape of lighting bolts.

"What do you think?" asked Lindsey.

"They're perfect," stated Jirra as she examined the earrings.

Chapter 133

They arrived at the airport just a few minutes before Jen's Learjet
landed. Jen stepped out of the jet wearing a short sleeve white
blouse, jeans, cowgirl boots, and a tan Stetson hat.

"I figured that if I'm going to have my own cottage out here, I
should dress like the locals," said Jen, as she hugged Jirra and
Lindsey.

"Who dresses like that?" asked Jirra with a grin.

"They will, once I start hanging out here more!" replied Jen as she
gave Jirra a playful nudge in the ribs.

The bags were quickly loaded, and they were on their way back to the
spa. As they drove, Jirra and Lindsey gave Jen an update on doings at
the spa and the Anasazi site.

Jirra also shared her theory that the site might have something to do
with her own transformation.

"Granted, all I'm going on is a theory and some memories from my last
vision quest, but I'm sure the site is related to what happened to
me," said Jirra.

"It's possible. In many ancient races, people of mixed gender were
important figures in their culture," said Jen.

"Really?" asked Lindsey.

"Yes. In the time since my own gender metamorphosis, I've looked for
information on it happening to others," replied Jen.

"One of the problems with my theory is that the Anasazi didn't leave
a lot of information about themselves, and I doubt this site will be
any different," said Jirra.

"Maybe you'll see it in your next vision quest," remarked Jen.

"I hope so, but I usually leave them with more questions than
answers," replied Jirra.

"Sounds like a therapist," said Jen with a laugh.

"So how long will you be here, Jen?" asked Lindsey.

"Just for the weekend, Lindsey. I have to start the big promo tour
for my movie on Monday. Still, it will be nice to relax for a few
days. I can't wait to get into one of Cari's kettles and soak in the
nice hot mud."

"Well it's great to have you here, even for just a weekend," said
Lindsey. Then it hit her. "You came here for Jirra's birthday!"

"Jirra's having a birthday?" asked Jen with a straight face. She then
started laughing. "It's part of the reason why I'm here."

Lindsey shook her head as she laughed. "Jeez, I can be so dense at
times."

"Most artistic geniuses are absent minded," piped in Jirra.

Lindsey's eyes opened up wide. "Who's a genius?"

"You are. I mean, you can do magical things in the kitchen, Lindsey,"
said Jirra.

"Thanks," replied Lindsey.

"I agree; anyone can cook, but it takes skill and talent to be a
chef," said Jen in concurrence.

"Well, I can't wait to play in the new kitchen," said Lindsey. She
then told Jen about the spa expansion.

"I'm so glad that Judy won, although I personally never had a doubt
that she would beat those corporate suits," said Jen.

"I just wish I knew HOW she did it," said Jirra.

Jen laughed. "I suspect that even Judy likes to keep a few business
secrets. Still, I like your solution in the story; it was very
imaginative, and it doesn't seem that out of character for her."

"I showed it to her and she laughed," remarked Jirra.

"Oh, am I going to meet the professor who's been wooing Liz?" asked
Jen.

Jirra laughed. "Yes, he should be down from the site this weekend. He
usually comes down on Friday and gives the spa an update. He's been
living at the spa since the site was discovered; that is, when he's
not up in the hills."

"And how do you feel about him seeing your mom?"

"I like it. He's good for her," stated Jirra.

"Does he know about you?" asked Jen.

"No, not yet. Mom said that we'll cross that bridge when we get to
it."

"Which story are you going to tell him?" asked Jen.

"We'll start out with the SRS story and see how he reacts. A lot will
depend on how serious they get," said Jirra. "I hate lying to people."

"I know how you feel, but I don't think you'd want to go through what
I did," said Jen.

"I still don't know how you survived that," said Jirra.

"It wasn't, and still isn't, easy," replied Jen.

They started up the long access road to the spa.

"Is that the land that Judy got in exchange for the site?" asked Jen.

"Yes. As Judy says, it's not big for around here; but to me, six
hundred acres is still pretty big," replied Jirra. "Still, it will
act as a buffer for the spa, and it's nice that the land won't get
developed."

As they drove under the sign of Caldera de Gaia Spa, Jen nodded.
"Looks like we're here."

Jirra nodded and smiled. "Yep, we're home."

Chapter 134

Dinner that night was barbecued chicken at the Dylans. Of course, Liz
and Jirra were there, along with Judy, Cari, Tara and Jen.

"I'm so glad that the warm weather is back," said Hannah, as she
stood over the grill. "I love outdoor cooking."

"Me too, I can't wait until we start using the big barbecue again,"
said Lindsey, as she carried the plate of chicken to the grill.

"Well, once we're in the full summer schedule, we'll be doing it once
a week," said Judy.

"What's the big barbecue?" asked Jen.

"I bought a large mobile barbecue unit last year, and it's large
enough to roast a steer," noted Judy.

"That sounds like fun," said Jen.

"Well, it adds to the western feel that many of the guests want,
especially those from back east and those from Hollywood," said Judy
with a laugh.

Jen smiled and gave her a tip of her Stetson.

"I just like cooking with it," said Lindsey.

After dinner, Jen made her announcement concerning the unofficial
movie premire. "We'll show it Saturday night in the main hall.
Please don't tell anyone else until Saturday morning."

"So that's why you had the new entertainment center installed in the
hall," said Cari.

"That's another gift from Jen," said Judy.

"Well, if you're going to have movie nights, you need a decent way to
see them," added Jen.

"Well, this calls for a toast," stated Cody. He held up his wine
glass. "To Jen, welcome to the family."

The others followed by lifting their drinks.

Jirra smiled and soaked in the feelings of the crowd, and it hit her
how much she would miss everyone when she went to college.

For dessert, Lindsey brought out a Key Lime Pie with nineteen candles
in it.

"We decided to have this now, as Saturday will be too hectic," said
Liz.

"Now, just remember, Jirra, when I asked what was your favorite type
of cake, you told me you prefer this," said Lindsey.

Jirra smiled. "It's perfect. Did you make it?"

Lindsey nodded as she set the pie down in front of them. They all
joined in a chorus of "Happy Birthday."

"Now make a wish and blow out the candles," said Liz.

Jirra thought for a second and then leaned over and blew out the
candles.

"So what did you wish for?" asked Jen.

"I thought if I told then it wouldn't come true," said Jirra.

"Come on, tell us," said Tara.

"Okay, okay, I wished that Alexis could be here," said Jirra.

"That's a good wish," said Lindsey as she nodded.

Jirra shrugged her shoulders as she passed out the pie.

"Hey, don't forget me," said Alexis, as she stepped out of the
darkness.

Jirra turned around at the sound of Alexis's voice. She stood there
facing Alexis, stunned and unable to speak.

"It's good to see you too, Roo," said Alexis as she hugged her.
"Happy Birthday."

Eventually, Jirra regained her composure. "Were you all in on this?"
she asked the others.

"Pretty much," said Liz.

"I flew in this afternoon and arrived just after you started dinner.
Thankfully, Hannah brought me some food," said Alexis, as she sat
down next to Jirra. "I'm just here for the weekend, and then I'm
flying out with Jen."

"My first appearance is in Boston, so it all worked out," said Jen.
She took a small bite of the pie and smiled. "Lindsey, this is
wonderful."

"Thanks," she replied. "I got the recipe off the internet."

"I'm stunned that you'd fly all the way out here for my birthday,"
said Jirra.

"Hey, get used to it," replied Alexis as she leaned over and kissed
Jirra on the cheek.

"This is the best present I could ask for," said Jirra.

"Oh, so we should return our gifts?" asked Judy.

Everyone started laughing.

"I wasn't kidding," said Judy.

"Actually, since Lindsey's birthday is next month, we've decided to
kill two birds with one stone," said Hannah as she motioned to Cody.

He got up and walked into the house.

"Since you're both heading off to college, we've decided that you'll
both need some help," said Liz. "These are from all of us."

Cody brought out what looked like two binders. Each had a large bow
tied around them. He handed one to each of the two girls.

Lindsey and Jirra opened up the binders at the same time. Inside each
was a collection of gift cards, ranging from Ikea to Target.

Jirra paged through the cards and found several for restaurants and
even movie theaters.

"These will allow you to set up your places and still have some fun,"
said Tara.

Jirra looked at one card and held it up to Liz. "A gas card?"

Liz nodded.

"I don't own a car," said Jirra.

"Not yet. We'll pick something out when you go back to Philly," said
Liz.

Jirra's jaw dropped, and she hugged her mom.

"We'll help you pick your car out, Lindsey," said Cody.

Lindsey pointed at her chest. "You're buying me a car? Cool!"

"Well, it's too far for you to ride a bike," said Cody, as Lindsey
hugged him and then Hannah.

Chapter 135

While the others talked, Jen took Judy aside.

"Have you had any more computer problems?" asked Jen.

Judy shook her head. "The security system you set up seemed to do the
job, that and the arrest of that punk Randy. After he assaulted Jirra,
I went into town and laid it out with several of the adults who were
making the most trouble. I explained to them that it had gone far
enough and that if there were any other problems I would unleash my
lawyers on them and make their lives a living hell."

"And that did it?" asked Jen with a laugh.

"Well, we haven't had any more problems since my little talk. They
know me, and know that I don't make idle threats. Still, I don't
think it's over. I look at this as the way I do wildfire season, you
stamp out one fire and another one starts somewhere else."

"Too bad you didn't catch the hackers in the act," said Jen.

"I know. I don't think that it was Randy or those girls; they don't
seem smart enough to do something like that," said Judy. "No, I
suspect it was someone else, and I don't think we've heard the last
of them."

"If you have any more computer problems, let me know," said Jen.

"I will, thanks," replied Judy. "Oh, by the way, thanks for all the
referrals. Your reporter friend also made a reservation for next
month."

Jen smiled back. "Maggie is one of the few reporters that I trust out
there; you'll like her."

"I'm not looking to become a trendy spa, but it doesn't hurt to have
the occasional celebrity here," replied Judy. "Trendy doesn't last
long in this business, and I want this place to last for a long time."

"That's good to hear," replied Jen. "May I ask you something?"

"Sure," said Jen.

"I know you see Jirra and Lindsey as family, but when are you going
to start one of your own?"

Judy smiled back. "Don't worry; I have no intention of being a
spinster. Contrary to what my personal life appears, I do date, and I
do want to have some kids of my own."

Jen's left eyebrow rose. "No offense, but isn't your biological clock
ticking pretty loud?"

Judy laughed. "Oh, I have no intention of getting pregnant. No, I've
been looking into adoption. I like children who I can talk to; I'm
not into babies."

Jen nodded.

"What about you, have you thought of raising a family?" asked Judy.

"I'm still rather young," replied Jen.

"You didn't answer my question," counter Judy.

"Okay, you got me. I'm physically capable of having children, but the
idea of actually doing it.... well, it sort of terrifies me," replied
Jen.

Judy laughed and put her arm around Jen. "I've always felt the same
way, Jen."

"It's one aspect of being female that I've never really felt
comfortable about," said Jen.

"I can imagine how that could be an issue," said Judy. She then
wondered how Jirra felt about it.

As if she was reading Judy's mind, Jen nodded. "I'll be available
should Jirra have the same issues; we do share a common heritage."

"I'm happy that you two have each other. It must be somewhat
comforting to share feelings that most people have no concept of."

"It is," replied Jen, looking over at Jirra, who was laughing at
something Tara just said. "In some ways, she's my sister."

Judy nodded in agreement. "That's the nice thing about being able to
choose your family."

Chapter 136

It was almost midnight, and the only two people still up were Jirra
and Alexis. They were sitting out on Jirra's deck, staring up at the
stars.

"I love the night skies here," said Alexis as she pulled Jirra closer
to her.

"Me too. It hit me tonight how much I'll miss this place when I'm off
at college."

"It is a special place. I could live here very happily," said Alexis.

"It's magical," sighed Jirra.

"I like that," said Alexis. "Not what you said, but the sense of
peace that I sense in you."

"I'm still not balanced, but I'm closer than I've been since my
change," said Jirra. "I guess the thing is that I'm not giving up."

Alexis smiled. "That's what I want to hear. Now, I'd better be off to
my cottage."

"Oh," said Jirra. The disappointment in her voice was obvious.

"Don't worry, we'll find some time to be together."

Chapter 137

It was early morning, and Jirra was knocking on Alexis's cottage door.

"I'm coming... I'm coming," groaned Alexis. She opened the door,
fumbling with the latch. "Jirra, what time is it?"

"Seven. Sorry to wake you, but Cody is driving up to the site to drop
off supplies and the weekend shift. There's room for us to ride along;
do you want to?"

"Really?" said Alexis, now awake. "Cool, what time is he leaving?"

"Twenty minutes, can you make it?"

Alexis nodded and waved Jirra in. "I'll be dressed in a few minutes."

A short time later, they were sitting in the back of the jeep,
heading up to the Anasazi site. There were two male grad students
heading up as relief. One sat up front with Cody; his name was Sean.
The other one sat in the back with Alexis and Jirra. His name was
Rick. He was a friendly Mexican-American, originally from Taos.

"So, Jirra, you're the one who was with Barrett when the site was
discovered?" he asked.

She nodded.

"That's incredible. I would kill to make a discovery like this," he
said with a smile. "Just kidding about the killing part."

"It's okay," replied Jirra.

He looked over at Alexis. "By the way, I loved your old show. I hear
you're in a new one now."

"Yes, it's premiering in late September."

"If it's not too much of a bother, can I get you to pose with me for
a photo? My roommates will never believe me otherwise," he asked.

Alexis smiled. "I'd be happy to," she replied.

"Thanks, I appreciate it. So, Jirra what made you think that this
canyon was special?"

"I read Dr. Margate's book and talked to the woman who runs the spa.
She told me that he spent time around here."

"I love that book; it's what made me want to be an archeologist,"
replied Rick. "So, have they decided where they're going to bury him?"

Dr. Margate's remains were currently in a state of limbo. He had no
living relatives that anyone knew of, and there were several groups
pressing to have the remains.

"I've heard that Judy is offering to allow him to be buried here,"
said Jirra.

"That seems appropriate," said Rick.

Chapter 138

"Well, Jirra, I didn't expect to see you up here," said Dan, as he
greeted her.

"I was hoping that you'd let us take a peek into the canyon," replied
Jirra. She then introduced Alexis.

"Pleased to meet you," said Dan. "Do you really want to see the site?"

Alexis nodded. "I just finished a movie in Crete and got to see a
very interesting site there. One of the archeologists there was the
daughter of my movie's producer."

Dan nodded. "Oh, yes. I read the article on that site in National
Geographic. Okay, come on, it'll take them some time to unload the
jeep."

"Where's Barrett?" asked Jirra.

"Up at the site, where else? I can't keep him out of it," said Dan.

Jirra noticed that the trail was larger and was better marked. As
they headed down into the canyon, Jirra noticed that there were now
several tents set up.

"We use those as our workshops," said Dan. "Eventually, I'd like to
have a permanent structure built just outside the canyon, and I'd
like to have the landslide cleared too. However, we won't allow any
permanent structures in the canyon itself."

"Any idea of what they were doing here?" asked Alexis. "Jirra said
something about it being used as a fertility site."

"That's starting to look more and more reasonable. The site is
definitely religious in nature and wasn't used year-round," said Dan
as he showed them around.

"How do you know that?"

"From the construction of the structures; they don't have the signs
of being used permanently," he replied. "We also haven't found any
garbage pits, which are usually common. The food storage areas are
also small."

"So they could have come up here for a ceremony and then left?" asked
Alexis.

"It looks like. While the site was obviously used a long time, it may
have only been used for a few days each year," he said. "We have a lot
of work ahead of us, and we may never find the answer. The Anasazi did
a great job in covering up their secrets, and this may just be another
of their mysteries. But I'm willing to try to solve this one."

They walked around the bend and found Barrett working by what they
had called the guardhouse.

"Hey, Jirra, good to see you," he said, looking up from his work.
"Doc, looks like we found some potshards. They look similar to the
ones we found at the head of the canyon."

"Great, Barrett. Rick and Sean are up at the campsite unpacking, and
they'll be taking over for us," said Dan.

"Barrett, this is my friend Alexis," said Jirra.

"I'm sorry; I didn't mean to be rude. Pleased to meet you," he said
as he stood up. "Jirra's told me so much about you."

"Likewise, I've wanted to meet you for a while, Barrett," said Alexis.

"Have you started to dig out the bath yet?" asked Jirra.

Dan shook his head. "Not yet, we're waiting to get some equipment in
first. I want to see exactly what we have there before we dig it out.
Don't worry, Jirra, I have your e-mail and will keep you up to date on
any discoveries."

"Did you show her the sign yet?" asked Barrett.

"No, I forgot. We'll see it when we leave," he said.

"What sign?" asked Jirra.

"Trust me, you'll love it," said Barrett.

Dan showed them some more of the canyon and the archeological
progress before they headed back to the base camp.

There were four large tents at the base campsite now. Two were for
sleeping, one for meals, and the other served as office and supply
storage.

The tents were now larger, and you could actually stand up in them.
There were cots inside for sleeping. It was looking very civilized.
There was also a small tent that served as the outhouse.

"Very nice," noted Jirra. "Where's the sign you were referring to?"

Barrett pointed to a detailed carved wooden sign, hanging above the
mess tent. It had a cartoon kangaroo drinking a cup of coffee. "One
of the other grad students carved it in your honor and mine for
discovering the site."

"I love it," said Jirra as she took out her camera.

"Let me get a photo of you and Barrett with it," said Alexis. "Then
you can take care of the photos for Rick."

After the photos were taken, Dan talked to Rick and Sean and gave
them their instructions for the next few days.

On the way back down, Jirra and Alexis talked to Barrett while riding
in the back of the jeep.

"Are you going to stick around for the movie tonight?" asked Jirra.

"No, I need to see the family. They miss me, and it's been a few
weeks since I went home," he replied.

The conversation then turned back to the site.

"I would have thought you'd have more people up here," said Alexis.

"We will in the next few weeks. Doc is bringing up a team of ten to
work for the summer. He'd bring up more, but it's so hard to get
supplies up here," replied Barrett. "One of the first things we're
going to do when the funding starts is to improve the trail up here."

"Will you be up here?" asked Jirra.

Barrett nodded. "Oh yes. I love it up here. This is why I wanted to
study archeology."

"Wouldn't it save time if you slept in the canyon?" asked Alexis.

Barrett shook his head. "We tried that."

"What happened?" asked Jirra.

He smiled. "You may think I'm crazy, but it was made clear to us that
we could study the site, but we weren't welcome to sleep there."

"By whom?" asked Jirra as she sat up.

"Them," replied Barrett.

"Them?" You mean the Anasazi?" asked Alexis.

"Maybe. I just know that we camped in there one night, and we all
woke up after what seemed like the same vivid nightmare. We hiked out
that night and have never tried it again."

"A nightmare scared you off?" asked Jirra.

"Maybe a nightmare isn't the best description of what we had, Jirra.
It had the texture and reality of a vision quest more than a
nightmare or a dream. I just know that we're welcome to study it, but
that's it."

"When you say 'we,' you mean that other people had the same dream?"
asked Alexis.

Barrett nodded. "Two other grad students had nearly the identical
dream. So, we accept the rules and sleep outside the canyon. Hey, I
don't know if it's real or not, but when we told the doc about it, he
didn't disagree with us. I have noticed that he has no problem with
sleeping outside the canyon."

"I knew it was a special place," said Jirra.

"I agree. I think we're going to make some cool discoveries there,"
said Barrett.

"So, tell us more about the dream," asked Jirra.

Chapter 139

Saturday morning Judy made the announcement concerning the movie to
the rest of the staff and the guests. As expected, the announcement
caused a great buzz of excitement throughout the spa.

Right after Judy made the announcement, a delivery truck pulled up to
the main hall and a large crate was unloaded.

"What's that?" asked Jirra, as she watched the crate being moved
inside.

"Can't watch a movie without popcorn," remarked Jen with a smile.

The crate was opened, and what looked like a circus popcorn wagon was
unloaded.

"Oh, Jen, it's wonderful," said Hannah.

"Well, I know its overkill, but it makes great popcorn," replied Jen.

Lindsey was already reading the manual. "It even has a butter warmer
built in."

"You have to use real butter, not that butter flavored motor oil they
use in theaters," said Jen. "The salesperson said that it's pretty
easy to clean too."

"That's the most important feature," said Hannah as she read over
Lindsey's shoulder.

Seeing that Lindsey was lost in figuring out how the popcorn machine
worked, Jirra headed off to find Alexis. She found her soaking in one
of the mud kettles.

"Enjoying yourself?" asked Jirra.

Alexis just moaned what sounded like a yes.

"I take it you're too busy to talk right now?" asked Jirra.

Alexis moaned again.

"I won't disturb you then. I'll see you later," said Jirra.

"Hmmm," replied Alexis.

Jirra walked over to her office and finished up the latest
newsletter. She would miss doing this and wondered who would take
over for her when she left for college. Suddenly, she was overcome by
thoughts of all the problems associated with going to college.

It was strange, she thought. For months, she had been looking forward
to leaving, and now that she was getting closer to that date, she was
almost dreading leaving. Life was becoming more complicated, and she
now had many new worries.

Jirra sat down and thought about how she would tell Celeste the truth
about her own gender situation. She knew that she would do it as soon
as she could, as she didn't feel right about lying; besides, the
secret would eventually come out. Celeste would eventually know that
she wasn't really a post-op TS, and then what would happen? thought
Jirra.

Then there was school itself; who was she kidding? She wasn't ready
for Penn; she would fail out in just a semester and end up at
community college.

Jirra took a deep breath and let it out. "You're letting all your
fears take over," she said to herself. "It's not that bad."

A moment later, Judy stuck her head inside Jirra's office and looked
around. "You okay?"

Jirra nodded. "Sorry, just having a pre-college anxiety attack."

"Oh? Is that all?" asked Judy with a smile.

"I guess it just hit me that I'll be leaving soon. Moving never
really bothered me before; why should it now?"

Judy sat down across from her. "Maybe it's because you always moved
with your family. This is your first step away from that."

"That sounds reasonable. Did you feel this way when you went away to
college?"

"Oh yes. I was a nervous wreck; that is, until I arrived at college,
and then I lost myself in that world. You'll do fine, Jirra."

"I wish I had your confidence," replied Jirra. "There are so many
things that could go wrong...."

"Don't worry about those right now, focus on what can go right,"
interrupted Judy.

"Okay, I'll try," replied Jirra.

"Look, you've earned this opportunity, and considering all that
you've overcome in the past year, freshman year at college will be a
breeze. On the plus side, you've got a much larger family supporting
you now."

Jirra let out a sigh. "Would it be okay if I hugged you right now?"

"It would be inappropriate if you didn't," replied Judy

Chapter 140

The main hall was packed with staff and guests for Jen's movie party.
The popcorn popper was working overtime to meet the demands of the
crowd. Jirra, her heart and mind much lighter now, was sitting next
to Alexis, a large bowl of popcorn sat on their laps.

Jen made a short speech before the start of the movie. She explained
why the movie was getting its premire at the spa. She then said that
if the movie did well, the sequel would be filmed at the spa. This was
met by a round of applause.

"Well, enough of me; it's time for you to get the first look at my
new movie; I hope you enjoy it," said Jen.

With that the lights dimmed and the movie started on the TV.

It was soon evident that the movie was destined to be a hit. The
crowd loved the combination of adventure and humor. Jen sat nervously
next to Judy, torn between watching the movie and gauging the crowd's
reaction, occasionally burying her face in her hands.

When the credits appeared at the end of the movie, the crowd stood up
and applauded wildly. A few people started shouting about playing it
again.

Jen stood up and accepted the accolades of the crowd.

"I'm sorry, the studio will only let me show it once, but it will be
out nationwide soon," she said. "I'll be glad to answer any questions
you might have."

There weren't a lot of questions; rather, most people wanted to say
how much they enjoyed the movie.

"I just want to say that it was refreshing to see a movie that was
actually fun to watch," said one of the guests, a man from Chicago.

Jirra and Alexis sat back and watched Jen work the crowd.

"I'm so happy for her. The movie was great," said Jirra.

"I know, it should do great. I just hope my movie is half as good,"
replied Alexis.

"I wouldn't worry about that; Richard Thorn always puts out an
entertaining movie, even when the critics hate it."

"That's true," replied Alexis.

"Did I hear her right about her making her sequel here?" asked Jirra.

"It's true. She was very impressed with your story; looks like you
may get a movie credit before you finish your first year of college."

"I'll settle for making it through the first year of college."

"If you don't, I'll put you over my knee and spank you," whispered
Alexis.

"You wouldn't dare!"

Alexis smiled. "No, maybe I'll tie you down and tickle you. Hell, I
just might do that for fun tonight."

Jirra began to giggle. "You're wicked."

Alexis leaned over and kissed her quickly on the cheek. "You have no
idea."

Chapter 141

The movie was long over and everything had been cleaned up and put
away. A fire was burning in the firepit out in the yard. A small
crowd of people was sitting around the fire. There were Judy, Jen,
Cari, Tara, Hannah, Lindsey, Cody, Liz, Dan, Alexis, and, of course,
Jirra.

The conversation shifted from the movie to the site and then to
Jirra's choice of a car for college.

"I think she should get a Hummer. I love mine, and it's so safe,"
remarked Jen.

"A Hummer in the streets of Philly? She'd never find a parking spot,"
said Alexis.

"I've never had a problem," countered Jen.

"Yes, but Hollywood is far from the real world," rebutted Alexis.

Jen laughed. "Point taken."

"How about a small SUV," suggested Dan, who was sitting next to Liz.

"I was thinking of a Mini Cooper," said Jirra.

"I wouldn't get one of those; someone would just come along and pick
it up and steal it," said Cody with a laugh. "You want a disposable
car, something that will get you through school and who cares if it
has a few dents and rust on it. You know like some Dodge or Buick."

"Ugh! Dad, she's going to an Ivy League school; she can't drive a
beater," said Lindsey with a disgusted tone.

"How about a hybrid?" suggested Cari. "I know they're not cheap, but
they're great for the environment."

"That's a good idea; they're getting more reliable. If not one of
those, maybe a Honda or a VW," suggested Tara.

"Are you going to drive it there?" asked Dan.

"We haven't decided yet," said Jirra.

"Just remember you'll need something with heat and that can get
through snow," said Alexis.

Jirra let out a big sigh. "I'm just happy that I don't have to make a
decision this evening."

"A Hummer?" said Alexis with a grin as she nudged Jen, who playfully
nudged her back.

"If we decide to wait until we get there, I have an old friend who
runs a Mercedes dealership in South Jersey," said Liz. "I think we
could get a nice pre-owned sedan."

"I could live with a Mercedes," said Jirra.

"They are nice cars," added Cari.

The conversation then shifted to the merits of German cars.

Jirra just sat back and smiled. Judy was right; she now had a whole
family at the spa. It wouldn't make leaving any easier, but it was
nice to know that she had so many people who cared about her. She
rested her head on Alexis's shoulder.

"You okay?" asked Alexis.

Jirra nodded and smiled contently. "I couldn't be better."

Chapter 142

Alexis and Jirra spent the night together and most of the following
day, until it was time for her flight out. They were walking along
one of the paths along the spa's grounds.

"I wish you could stay longer," bemoaned Jirra.

"Me too, but I've got to be in makeup at five tomorrow morning," said
Alexis. "Don't worry; I'll come down to Philly often."

"I can't wait."

"When will you be moving there?"

"I need to be there by the end of August for orientation. We're
thinking of going out at the end of July."

"Okay, that should work out well for me. I can help you pick out your
furniture at Ikea. I don't want you to make a mistake and get the
wrong size bed; you should have a queen size," said Alexis with a
wink.

"We did okay in a twin last night," replied Jirra.

"True, but we can do so much better than just okay," said Alexis.
"Seriously, feel free to call me anytime. I'll get back to you as
soon as I can."

Jirra nodded. "I will. I just want you to know that you've really
helped me survive my transformation. I mean, I know I have a lot of
people on my side who are supportive, but with you, it's different. I
can't really put it in words."

"I know what you mean, Roo; you don't have to try to explain it,"
replied Alexis. "I think you're doing wonderfully, and that you're
making wonderful progress in accepting your new life. I don't know if
you'll ever fully accept the fact that you're a woman, but I give you
credit for trying, even when you don't always want to."

"It's silly isn't it, I mean, my resistance to the obvious?" said
Jirra.

"No, it's not silly; it's only human. If I woke up as male tomorrow,
I doubt I would just accept it all and move on."

"I wish I could be like Jen, but part of me wants to hang on to the
old me," said Jirra.

"Jen's special, I think she's accepted her circumstances because of
the public nature of her change. I guess she decided that she
couldn't fight everything and put her efforts into being accepted and
successful. At least you have your privacy."

"I guess that's a fair tradeoff."

Alexis looked at her watch. "Looks like it's time." She then pulled
Jirra close and they kissed.

"That was nice," said Jirra.

"Yes, it was," replied Alexis. She took Jirra's hand, and they walked
back up to the spa.

Chapter 143

It was a week later, and Jirra was preparing for another vision
quest. She had wanted to do it at the site, but there were too many
people there now, so she settled for the yoga room at the spa. While
not exactly a spiritual place, it did give her privacy.

She focused on seeing Killara and drifted off from the conscious
world. She wasn't sure if she would reach him, but it was worth the
try.

"I give you credit, Roo; I half expected you to try to see me several
months ago."

The voice was familiar and Jirra smiled as she opened her eyes. She
found herself outside, sitting in the canyon where the Anasazi site
was located. She looked around for Killara and noticed that the
building looked almost new.

"Where are you, Killara?" she called out.

"Turn around, Roo."

Jirra turned around and saw the kangaroo rat sitting on a boulder ten
feet in front of her.

"I was hoping you'd bring me back here," she said.

"I didn't bring you here; you brought me here."

Jirra was about to ask what he meant, but let it pass. She wanted to
stay focused. "Is my transformation connected to this place, Killara?"

"Everything is a connection, one way or another," he replied.

Jirra rolled her eyes. "Come on; please give me a straight answer for
once."

Killara scratched his left ear with his hind foot. "Yes, this site
and your change are connected. However, it wasn't planned."

Jirra nodded. Earlier, he had told her that her change had really
been accidental.

He noticed that she seemed to sag slightly. "Just because something
isn't planned doesn't mean that it's without purpose."

Jirra tried to absorb what he had just said. "So this change does
have a meaning, a purpose?"

"Yes, but I can't tell you what it is; you're not ready," he replied.

"You mean, because I'm still struggling with the change?"

"That's part of it. You also have much to learn before you're ready
to know your purpose. You've changed in ways you haven't begun to
comprehend."

"Is my transformation related to what happened to my friend Jen?"

"Yes, but there are significant differences too. She is a good role
model for you, and you can learn much from her."

"Wait a second, back to the previous answer; what other ways have I
changed besides the obvious?"

"You're not ready for those answers right now. Don't worry, Roo, the
changes are for the good, and you will do great things with them. You
will also soon have some new friends in your life; they will help you
grow and discover your new inner strength."

Jirra signed. "I'm more confused now than when I sought you out."

"Then I've done my job," he replied.

Jirra laughed. "I know this place was special, but what was it used
for? It had to be more than just a place for fertility rites, right?"

"That is correct. It was used every spring for fertility ceremonies,
but it had a greater purpose. Once every ten years, it helped them
find a new shaman."

"How?" asked Jirra.

"You'll recognize it when the time is right," said Killara. "And
before we part, I want you to know that you and Jen aren't alone."

Jirra's eyes opened up. "What? You can't leave me without telling me
more than that."

"All in due time, little one. The important thing is that you found
the site and that it will be protected, as will the spa. You did a
good job, Roo," he said.

Jirra then opened her eyes and found herself back in the yoga room.
"Damn it," she exclaimed. She fought off her frustration and opened
up her notebook to record her observations while they were fresh in
her mind.

She returned to her cottage and found that her mom was already up.
She told her what happened.

"Sounds like he left you with more questions than answers," said Liz
as she squeezed some orange juice.

"I think he does it just to annoy me," said Jirra. "However, it is
exciting to know that Jen and I aren't alone. I just wonder how we'll
meet the others."

"I suppose it'll happen in the way that you met Jen."

"I suppose so," said Jirra. "Thanks again for putting up with me."

Liz smiled. "I don't mind, Roo. It's part of being a parent."

"Still, what I've been through isn't exactly something you expected,"
said Jirra.

"That's true, but I love you all the same," replied Liz. "In some
ways, it's made the bond between us even greater."

Jirra smiled and then hugged Liz.

Chapter 144

Up in the canyon, the archeologists were hard at work. Dan was taking
photos of the canyon walls near the bath area. He was using a special
camera that could detect any marking on the walls. The photos would
then be enhanced using a computer. It had been used in many other
sites around the world to detect hidden or faded markings.

It wasn't until later in the afternoon that the photos were
downloaded into the computer. The photos could be viewed separately
or together.

Dan looked at the images and could see that there were what appeared
to be pictographs on one wall. The images were very faded, and it
took several hours to enhance them sufficiently to view them.

He stared at the images and tried to figure out what they meant. The
problem with looking at images like these was that he wasn't sure if
they were meant to be seen as real or figurative; maybe they were
part of some mythology.

"What do you see Barrett?" he asked.

Barrett looked at the screen.

"Don't try to over analyze them; just tell me what you see,"
continued Dan.

"Well, this figure on the right looks like a man; he's then immersed
in this pool or tub, and it looks like he's struck by lightning."

Dan nodded. "What do you make of this figure?"

"It looks like a woman. However, those lines around her make it look
as if she's glowing, almost as if she has some powers - like they
were trying to show her strength, said Barrett. "Is that what you
see?"

"Yes. I suppose it could be a story of their gods. It doesn't make
sense otherwise."

"I guess you're right; it's not like they had a way to change the
gender of their people."

"Well, it's another riddle we'll have to try to solve," said Dan.

Barrett looked at the images and wondered if Jirra would be
interested in seeing them the next time she came up here.

The End

Note: Fans of Bob Arnold's "Zapped" series should be aware that the
events in this story take place over a year later than the latest
posted part (Part 21) of that series. For those who have not read the
series, it can be found at:
http://www.sapphireplace.com/stories/arnold.html


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Magnificent!

When three of my favorite authors get together my anticipation for the result is high.

This story exceeds my expectations, weaving Julie's wonderful characters with Bob's delightful Jenny in a captivating, and endearing story.

For my part, it also deals with issues I've pondered in the writing of my own story: in particular, the longing to know that you aren't utterly alone in your situation. Bringing Jen and Jirra together is a wonderful way to bring comfort to both.

The building of the Jirra/Alexis relationship is also handled nicely, with all the uncertainties inherent in that deep commitment.

My thanks to each of you, and all of you, for this splendid tale.

Itinerant

Nicole (a.k.a. Itinerant) -- "Power corrupts. Powerpoint corrupts absolutely." - Edward R. Tufte, professor emeritus of political science, Computer science and statistics, and graphic design at Yale

Another Incredible Adventure!

I echo Itenerant's magnificent and add my own absolutely incredible! Jirra is such a wonderful character and to have her meet and befriend Jen was just so right. Of course it was great to see all the other cameos as well. (I'm wondering if the motorcycle cop Rick in LA might have been Rick Blaine?)
The only bad part was as I saw that I was nearing the end...I wanted the story to magically lengthen! Jirra has an exciting future ahead and I can't wait to read more.
Thank you Julie and Amelia and Bob for creating wonderful stories, fantastic characters and a genuine feeling of love and hope!

Sincerely,
Scott

Sincerely,

Scott

Calvin: You can't just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
Hobbes: What mood is that?
Calvin: Last-minute panic.

Great Sequel!!

A wonderful followup to an already great story! I'd just went back and re-read 'Fresh Start' last week and was hoping that the sequel would be out soon! Thanks to you all for this great story! I do hope that there will be more of this excellent storyline on tap for the near future!

Nora Elizabeth

"Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition."

-- Timothy Leary --

"Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition."

-- Timothy Leary --

Exceptional

A sweet but still exciting story, well done.

If I were editing it, I would search on the word "stated" and replace 90 percent of them with "said." Stated is usually not the right word in a narrative for a dialog tag--it implies a pronouncement by some authority or a response to an interrogation. Using it as a synonym for said weakens it for its more appropriate uses.

The story has it's own flavor and Jirra is an engaging and believable heroine--I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Thank you.

Hugs,
Erin

Fresh Start

I agree with all the others' comments ,the story is a clever combination of Bob's & Julie's universes. I have one query though ,in Fresh Start 1 it says "Judy had married well & often" but in Fresh Start 2 towards the end in conversation with Jen she indicates she had never been married by saying " I don't intend to be a perpetual spinster " . Which statement is Correct?

"somewhere around Ch 50"

Gifted & gifting authors;
I consider it a priviledge to follow (inadequatedly), the informed comments that drew me into this story. Having just completed "Zapped" and now entering into Chocolate-Overload withdrawal, I still marvel at the events that 'yellow-brick-raoded' this barnold junkie to Fresh Start 2. Though sensitized to the 'stated vs. said' issue, I suspect it would have just 'burred my chair ' a widdle bit anyway. Hey, do words of editorian spurring always find multiple targets? Here is where the 'gifting' salutation applies, please endure my ramblings.
This mind 'closets' a dormantcy stirring weakly as a season of growing appetite for these works accompanies quite a drive to carve out a new path while wearing some of the literary shoes that leave such nice tracks thru your tales. (Hhmmmmm, Why did tandem helecopters just draw me & my black lab out onto the sunny deck as they zoomed towards the nearby Pa. Grand Canyon)? Similarly, after a read-til-3am intro into your compelling characters where I empathized with the social struggles, it hit me! Are not all who choose to reach beyond their immediate grasp finally pulled toward that with-out which can catalyze stirrings with-in? A mid-morning stroll to relieve my pond's beaver-plugged overflow found my mind wandering thru familiar & pleasant other-worlds making enticingly different tracks than ever before. All the while a breeze-voice becconing, " begin yet now humbly, soon enough the chronicle looms large!" I've covered details with my fault of loose verbosity as again I long to dive back into your living flow trickling from common dinner at Jen's condo to the building riptide of fraud and truth about to strutt & cut the Red-Carpeted Runway. Please pardon my savoring and imprinting techniques like that endearing mental drift I've labelled ,Jen's homestead garden beef-stew motif ! Can't you just hear the soft "klinnngg" as the lifted lid releases aroma-laden steam from an heirloom dutch oven kettle? Jen helped me hear it ! You did too,Bob.
Tearful thanks;
john

johncorc

No wonder this is number 1 on the hit parade! WOW!

This is outstanding writing, a wonderful story, and, and, and, GEEZE, this is GOOD!

Huggles Julie O, Amelia R and Bob Arnold
Angel

"Be Yourself; So Easy to Say, So Hard to Live!"

Fresh Start

Wow, this has been a fantastic read. It took me several days to read it, but it was well worth it.

I don't know how I missed this before, but I had read Coeds before I read this story. I'm glad I found it. I am enjoying the story of Jirra very much. I hope to be able to read more in the future.

Very nice ending by the way.

Joni W

Great

Awesome story, any consideration for a follow up? We still need to know about her college life, then her life after college, so say.. another 10 or so sequels would be appreciated!

I like her relationship with Alexis and Jen, and the trip to the Oscars was a really great and interesting story, can't wait to see how Jirra's story script and later life turn out.

Also you can't leave us hanging wondering what her connection with the Anasazi is beyond the obvious that we can infer from what you've told us. Also her specific beneficial conditions like faster healing and longer life.

How will she deal with Alexis if she outlives her, and do they really end up together? etc. etc. Sorry I'm so greedy and am never satisfied, I guess take it as a compliment I want more!

Thanks for the great story, I read both part 1 and 2 in 3 days, couldn't stop reading.

FS2 follow-up

Coeds by Julie O is the follow-up story to Fresh Start 2. It's also on this web site here.

A sequel to Coeds is also in the works.

Bob Arnold

Great Story!!!!

It took me almost half the day to get through parts 1 and 2.

Now to tie into Coeds!!!

Thanks for a nice read!

Theide