“Well,” he said, “the gang is all here.” He looked at me, “Do you want to talk with me alone, or with everybody else here too?”
“Everybody,” I said, “at least at first.”
“Ok,” he said, sitting down besides Caleb on the end of the bed. He was still in his dark blue scrubs from the hospital, and looked very concerned, but calm. “Tell me what’s up that put your mother into hysterics on the phone.” He said. I loved my father, he was always so calm. I so wanted to grow up like him… I chocked back that thought, thought for a second, and then said,
“Caleb,could you go over things?”
“Sure,” he said, brightening up. He always did like this kind of thing, the moron. When we played together he was forever issuing ‘briefings’ for whatever game we were playing.
I listened to my best friend lay out, in precise and detailed terms, why and how my life had been destroyed, and I watched my father’s face. He was strong, my father. I had felt so as a boy but, as a girl, just having him in the room made me feel safe. He flinched, visibly, at the statement that I was a boy… or, had been a boy. He grinned at the list of possibilities, to which Caleb had been busy adding, and added even as he spoke. Caleb just loved science fiction.
He glanced at me when Caleb finished, but addressed himself to Caleb, “So, what do you think has happened?”
Caleb glanced nervously at me, “Well… it depends. There are really two different classes of things. I rule out it being a joke. Roberta isn’t… wasn’t the kind of person to do that. She loved joking, but wouldn’t… wouldn’t hurt people to do it.”
“I agree,” Father said. “So what does that leave you with?”
“Well,” Caleb said, “The second question is really whether there really was a ‘Robert’. Basically, dividing the science fiction ideas from the others… insanity, hypnosis, etc. Or even,” he grinned, “whether we are all creatures in his dream.”
Father turned to me, “Tell me about your life, Robert.”
My heart stopped, and I almost cried. He had faith in me… whoever I was. Faith enough to call me by my own… or what I hoped was my own… name.
“Our house was in the same place,” I said, “and you all were the same. My room was the same too… except that it wasn’t done all in pink, of course, and I had a bookshelf right there, with a bunch of science fiction books on it. They were all Caleb’s fault. I liked Science fiction, but he loved it, and always wanted to discuss it.”
“I guess he is a good person to have with us now, then,” Father said.
“Yes,” I said, “anyway he and I were best friends since forever. We built that fort… or our fort. We grew up together and we were always at each others house. I ate as many meals at his house as I did at mine. We even went skinny dipping together,” I said, hoping to get him to blush again, “down at the pond.”
“Well, I hope that is something that he didn’t do with Roberta,” Dad said. Then, when Caleb blushed instead of answering he said, “Caleb?!” and I giggled.
“Just the once, Mr. Smith, and we were younger then.” He looked at me, blushing. My Caleb and I had gone lots of times, but our parents had known about it and hadn’t had an issue with it. I guess it was harder when your best friend was a girl. Father looked like he would have said more, but, revenez a nos moutons, he turned back to me.
“So, what else do you remember?”
“What else? My whole life! Growing up, birthdays, going to school… everything!”
“Except for whatever it was that made you change.”
I sat back. I shrugged my shoulders, tears in my eyes.
“That’s OK. It is just one more piece of data for Caleb to put in his notebook. Now, what was this about not wearing a bra?”
“I… I’m… everything is…” I burst into tears.
He stared at me, but I couldn’t stop. I didn’t even know myself whey I could not, would not, wear one. How could I tell him?
“Don’t worry about that now then. We will talk later, after dinner. Caleb can stay for dinner, if he likes, and join the talk. Caleb, this is rather difficult, but I would appreciate if you wouldn’t tell your parents just yet.”
“No problem, Mr. Smith.”
“Ok then, I will go down and see what I can do for your mother.”
“I… I’m sorry, Dad. Tell Mom I’m sorry.”
“Yes, I know. And I am sure she will forgive you. You are going through an extraordinarily difficult time right now, and will obviously react sometimes without proper thought. And I heard that you have already at least partially apologized.”
Dad left, and Caleb said, “I really appreciate your father. He had to take off work to come here, no?”
“So, Caleb, since you have ruled ‘a joke’ off your list, and I am more and more having to rule out, ‘dreaming’, what do you think of the other options?”
“Well, hypnosis is still a very valid option. There are several points in its favor. First of all, the way you can’t remember hardly anything about it. Hypnotists, at least the ones I have read about, like to do that.”
“But, I can remember my whole other life!” I objected, “How could I do that if I was merely hypnotized?”
“But Bobbi,” Jenny put in, “How can we tell, how can you tell, if it is real? Your brain could just be making it up.”
Caleb jumped quickly in, “Now, the next thing is insanity, and I think we have ruled that out.”
“Really,” I asked, through my tears, that had welled up during the hypnosis discussion, “how?”
“Well, what you are doing right now. What I understand about insane people is that they are fixated, and don’t accept being challenged. Your Dad too. He’s the manager of our ER. He deals with insane people, really insane. And he didn’t call the ambulance on you, or the guys in the white jackets. He is treating with this whole thing as if you were perfectly rational.”
I thought Caleb was being a bit optimistic, but I needed to believe him, so I nodded my head through my teats.
“So,” He said, “that leaves the fun stuff. Sci-fi stuff. Secret laboratories and…”
“Caleb!” Jenny said, but I stopped her,
“No, Jens, let him. If he can help us have fun with this it will be better than… than taking it seriously.”