We Can Work It Out: A MORFS Universe Story
By Terry Volkirch
Chapter 9: May 26 to May 28, 2035 The weekend promised to drag by in spite of my usual fun activities. The last few days before my birthday always seemed long because I loved birthdays so much. I loved everything about them, and this one was special - for a girl. I was turning sweet 16, the half way point through the teenage years. I was on my way to becoming a woman and I couldn't be more excited about it. Daddy had already gone off to work on his strange project, whatever it was, leaving me alone with mom. I remember feeling curious about the project when I was a boy, but then it was because I was interested in it from a technical standpoint. The only reason I wanted to know about it now was because I didn't like secrets. I just wanted to know. Mom and I were having oatmeal together and I had to bring up the subject - in my own roundabout way. "I wish daddy would have breakfast with us. I don't get to see him much during the week." "Your father works hard, Bobbi. He needs a little time to himself on the weekend." "I know but I still wanna see him," I pouted, earning an amused look from my mother. "We have breakfast together Sunday mornings, and we nearly always have dinner together. I'm afraid that'll have to do." "What time did he have breakfast this morning? Maybe I could get up earlier and eat with him." Here's where I played around with the truth. I knew he didn't usually eat breakfast on Saturdays. He once mentioned something about grabbing a small snack in the morning with his buddy so they could dig into their project as soon as possible. "That wouldn't work. He skips breakfast, or has a bagel or something over at Fred's." Fred was the name of my father's friend. I always thought it was funny that my father's name was Will and his best friend's name was Fred. I put the names together to make Willfred, the two-headed beast that stole my father away every Saturday. It used to be funny but I didn't find it funny any more, especially when I thought about my father skipping breakfast. Breakfast was supposed to be the most important meal of the day. "That's terrible!" I acted horrified. "He should always have breakfast. I should take him something." "I don't like it either," my mother said. "But your father's a grown man. I have to let him misbehave once in awhile or he gets cranky." That earned a laugh from both of us. It doesn't take much to get my father cranky so I didn't want to do anything to set him off. I still had a mission though. I wouldn't give up. "It wouldn't hurt if I took him something once in awhile, would it? Maybe I could bring him some orange juice." "The only thing your father would drink in the morning is coffee. You know that." "Oh. Right." Daddy was a coffee addict but I wouldn't bring him that. He drank too much of it as it was. I was running out of ideas. "What about a banana?" I asked sheepishly. "They're quick and easy." My mother's eyes narrowed at that point. Her intuition was in fine working order that morning. "Let it go, Bobbi." "What?" "I said, let it go, sweetie. Fred's workshop has more security than Fort Knox. I know because they caught me snooping around not so many months ago." "Mother! You?" "I was out on one of my walks and I just happened to be in the neighborhood so I wanted to drop by. Your father warned me not to visit but I conveniently forgot about his warning." I had to snicker at that because I was planning on doing the same thing. My mother shushed me and then continued. "I walked up to the workshop and the most obnoxious siren went off, scaring the life out of me. Then Fred and your father came running out and made even more noise than the siren. It isn't worth it so just let it go." "Oh fine then." I was back to pouting but I hadn't given up. I was determined to see what daddy was up to. Maybe if I secretly followed him and got binoculars, I could see though the open door as he went inside. "You're not letting it go, are you." Mom knew me too well. I was lost in thought and it was obvious what I was thinking about. "Okay, but you've been warned." I spent the few couple hours plotting to uncover my father's secret. It was fun, and it felt like I was getting close to a solution. That's when Michelle called of course. She wanted to compare notes about our date last night. It totally threw me off balance. I didn't understand what the big fuss was about but she wouldn't take no for an answer. She was crazy about Jamie and wouldn't stop talking about him. My plotting would have to be postponed. I wasn't able to get a word in edgewise so I just let my mind wander. It was a pleasant trip at first. I thought about how happy I was for my friend. Then I started thinking about Reggie. What was I going to do about him? I did sort of encourage him after all. I was sure I'd be seeing more of him. Was I okay with that? "Earth to Bobbi!" Michelle shouted. "Ow! That hurt my ears. I'm here. I was just... thinking." "About Reggie?" I could imagine the playful smirk on her face as she said that but I answered truthfully anyway. "Yes, but it's not what you think." "I knew it! Nice first kiss by the way. I'd rate it a 7 out of 10." "Now you're just being mean." I pouted. "I am not! Look, Bobbi. You did sort of leave him an opening. I had the window rolled down. I heard what you said." "I know. I know. I couldn't stand to hurt his feelings. So what can I do about it?" "You'll just have to date him again... and again and again and again!" Then she had a giggle fit. She was incorrigible. I managed to change the subject and ask Michelle how she escaped to date last night. I know she's 16 but her mother seemed so protective, I didn't think she'd be allowed to date until she was 30. Michelle explained that she had to send text messages at several points during the date to let her mom know where she was. She thought it was a minor inconvenience but well worth the outcome. I thought it was nothing short of amazing. Maybe I'd have to rethink my opinions about her mother. When I finally got off the phone, it was well past lunch time, and I had to hurry to make it for my assigned hospital time. I was only a volunteer but I didn't want to be late anyway. Today I was to read to a wonderful elderly patient named Doris. She had a delightful sense of humor and was always so nice and thankful for my time. I couldn't imagine making her wait. My ever thoughtful mother handed me a lunch bag as I left the house so I could eat on the train. I just hoped the train wasn't late. Once I was on my way, I tried to resume where I left off before Michelle called. It was impossible. There were too many things going on in my life, and since I was going to the hospital, I naturally thought about finding Sandy. I hadn't had any luck so for now, I could only hope that she'd eventually change her schedule to overlap with mine. I'd have to wait until I was out of school before I could volunteer on weekday mornings. * * * Sunday was different. I was invited over for lunch at Michelle's house. I'd never been there before so I couldn't wait. I was especially interested to see her bedroom. I was dying to see how it was decorated, and of course I wanted to check out her closet. I liked her taste in clothes and I wanted to see them all. My mother dropped me off on her way to run some errands, and she'd be back to pick me up after she was finished. I knew some of the errands would probably involve some shopping but I had to admit that I couldn't shop all the time. Yes, there was more to life than shopping. The front door opened before I could knock twice. Michelle's mother must have been waiting for me. That was creepy, but nice I suppose. She was her usual, friendly but distracted self, and wore her usual outfit of slacks and cardigan sweater. She always wore the same thing when I saw her. The only thing that varied was the color. She invited me in and called Michelle down from her room. That's when the tour started. I was about an hour early for lunch so Michelle gave me the grand tour of her house. It was slightly larger than mine but similar, except that the two car garage was detached and a couple rooms were switched around. The walls and rugs were slightly different colors too of course, and there was an assortment of African woodcarvings, masks and stone sculptures. Every house was as unique as its owners. We ended the tour just outside every teenage girl's shrine: Her bedroom. The dark brown door was closed and there were small pink letters that spelled out "Michelle's Room". It was a nice touch. They matched the color of her hair. I thought about doing the same thing with my door. Then, with a slight fanfare, Michelle threw open the door. I expected a color scheme involving her favorite color but I wasn't prepared for what I saw. Inside, there was an explosion of pink, and I wasn't ready for it. As I entered, it made my head spin and I flopped down immediately on a bean bag chair. Virtually every single thing in the room, walls and ceiling included, was a shade of pink, from dusty rose to fuchsia. "What do you think?" Michelle asked with a big smile. She was obviously proud of her decorating skill. "You really like the color pink," I said in a daze. "Well, duh." At least the photographs and some posters on her wall were different colors. Most of her photos were black and white, and the gray tones went well with the pink, but that's as far as I was going to go. "Michelle," I began tentatively. "Not that your mother would allow it, but I suggest you never bring a boy here." "Well, yeah. Guys don't like pink. Duh!" Then she giggled. She wasn't getting it so I thought I'd try one more time. "What I really meant to say was, don't you think it's a bit excessive?" "No! I love pink. What's the big deal?" "Never mind," I sighed. "I guess I just need to get used to it." I sat and concentrated on the black and white photographs. There were a few dozen glossy 8 by 10 inch prints spread among the two opposite walls. Almost all of them portrayed people of all different ages going about various activities. One wall had a lot of photos of young children playing on monkey bars, swings and a merry-go-round. The other wall contained a more random mix. One that caught my eye displayed several elderly men playing chess at a park with children playing in the background. I thought that was clever. It was like each child represented the inner child of one of the old men. "These photos are really good, Michelle," I said after a minute of studying them. "Did you take them?" "Yeah. I told you I liked photography. Wanna see my camera?" She didn't wait for an answer. Her camera was her pride and joy and she couldn't wait to show it off. I think she said it was a fixed-lens digital SLR camera, whatever all that means. I just thought it took great photos. They were all so clear and sharp. "You have a good eye," I told her. "But why did you print them all as black and white? Is it because they go well with your pink walls?" "You catch on fast, girlfriend" She teased. "I have color copies of the same pics of course. I keep them in a scrapbook." She pulled a large photo album out of a desk drawer as she spoke. She pushed the album into my lap so I opened it and flipped through the pages. How could I say no. Again, most of the photos had people in them, and most of them were taken in urban or suburban settings. I would've liked to have seen more wildlife photos but that wasn't really Michelle's style. I couldn't see her slogging her way through the woods to get a picture of a wild animal. I didn't think she owned any outdoor or casual clothes. After looking at all the different people in the album, I suppose I should've seen it coming. It was inevitable. She asked to take pictures of me, and again, I didn't have a choice. The camera was odd. I thought all expensive cameras took zillions of pictures a minute but not Michelle's. She only took about one pic every couple minutes. She fussed with lighting and location, and had me try several poses between every shot. I was concerned how they'd turn out with a pink background but my camera obsessed friend assured me that my lavender hair, matching blouse and violet jeans were perfect. I was shy at first, but I slowly warmed up to the idea of being a model. By the time we were pulled away for lunch, I was actually enjoying myself. I forgot all about wanting to check out Michelle's clothes. Michelle kept telling me that the camera loved me. I was a star! Lunch time was upon us so we both reluctantly trudged down the stairs and entered the dining room. I was hoping to meet my friend's father and see what sort of influence he might have on her but he was out playing golf. Sunday was his play day, and Michelle also whispered that he mentioned lunch would most likely be too feminine for him. Then she giggled that silly giggle of hers and I couldn't help but join her. It was contagious. Michelle's mother smiled and let us get the giggles out of our system. Then she had us help set the table, and as soon as the table was finished, I was ordered to sit while my two hostesses brought everything out. It was a wonderful spread. We started with fresh fruit and several different tropical fruit juices. I'd never heard of guava juice before but it ended up being my favorite, and it was pink. How weird is that. After nibbling fruit and sipping juice, I was treated to a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich along with a small bowl of lentil soup. It was fantastic and I finished it all. Then came dessert - freshly baked brownies. They looked and smelled great but I wasn't too interested once I found out they had bits of walnuts in them. It was just as well because I was stuffed. Michelle's family name was Dyson so I tried calling her mother Mrs. Dyson when we first met. That just wouldn't do however. She insisted we be on a first name basis so she only answered to Gloria. "That was wonderful," I sighed. "Thanks Gloria." "You're welcome, dear. I'm glad you liked it." Then she turned to her daughter. "I'll clear the table and clean up. Why don't you two go back up and have some more fun." "Thanks!" Michelle and I said in unison as we started to get up from the table. "Has she taken pictures of you yet, Bobbi?" Gloria asked suddenly. "I'm betting she has." "Oh yeah," I said. "I wasn't too sure about it at first but I think I'm getting the hang of it now." "She's a natural," Michelle chimed in. "Her outfit blends in well with my room too. It'll make for some great photos." "Oh?" Gloria smiled. "What do you think of Michelle's photos, Bobbi?" "I really like them. I think she has a very good eye for photography." "I agree," Gloria said, obviously proud of her only child. "I'm hoping she considers it for a career. It's just too bad her father doesn't approve." I didn't know what to say to that. I just looked sad and Michelle and I slipped quietly out of the room. "Do you think you'd like to be a photographer?" I asked my friend once we were upstairs in her room again. "I'm not sure. I think so. We'll see. For now, I just wanna have fun with it." So we had fun. Michelle took a few more shots of me and then we transferred them to her computer to look at them at full size. I was amazed, and very flattered, though a couple of them embarrassed me a little. I tried the sultry, pouty look with my lips pursed and I think it was a little too sexy. Phew! I loved the results in general, and I found myself longing for a picture of myself. I didn't have any photos of myself as a girl. It would be easy for Michelle to print a copy for me but I didn't want to impose. Instead, I made it a point to linger over a few of my favorites and hope Michelle noticed. It was my birthday tomorrow after all. A couple framed photos of me would make a nice birthday present. My mother came to get me soon after lunch so I didn't have a lot of time to drop hints. I had to go to the hospital for some more volunteer work. Since I'd be going to the mall tomorrow, I decided to volunteer for both Saturday and Sunday. I didn't want to overdo the shopping and besides, I really loved candystriping. I'd miss helping to care for patients after I finished stage 3 of MORFS and became susceptible to illness again. I could still help retrieve gifts and medical supplies but they wouldn't let me go near the patients. The hospital's insurance policy wouldn't cover me if I got sick. The nurse I checked in with performed a quick test to make sure I was still in stage 3. If I tested positive, I could go make the rounds with her and see her patients. Visiting was my favorite part. I wasn't sure I'd continue if I couldn't visit. I'd have to wait and see. I suppose I'd still continue to candystripe as long as I hadn't found Sandy. She was turning out to be quite elusive. I thought I saw her one Sunday morning but before I could get to her, two men came out of nowhere and started asking me all sorts of stupid questions. I tried to get around them but they kept moving to block my path. It was very annoying and frustrating. By the time I got rid of them, the woman I thought might be Sandy was long gone. It was almost as if they were keeping me from her. That sounds kind of paranoid but that's the way I felt, and it was reinforced by two strange voices I heard talking to each other. I caught bits and pieces of a conversation that sounded like it was about me. What was really strange was that it almost sounded as if the talking was coming from inside my head. I was afraid I was going crazy, but thankfully the voices stopped after the men went away. * * * Happy birthday to me! It was Monday morning and not even the ritual of getting ready for school dampened my mood. I laughed at my school uniform and playfully taunted it into trying to do a better job of making me grumpy. It failed of course. I flew downstairs as soon as I caught the scent of my 'true' favorite breakfast. I was in the bathroom applying my mascara and I almost poked myself in the eye when the smell of French toast hit my nostrils. Bacon and scrambled eggs was actually my common favorite breakfast, but my ultimate favorite was French toast. I rarely got it as it was saved for special occasions - like my birthday. I didn't care much for maple syrup but that didn't stop me. I used corn syrup instead. Most people thought it was too sweet but I dribbled a small amount on each slice and savored every sweet delicious bite. "Happy sweet 16, Bobbi!" mom said as I entered the kitchen. "Thanks mom!" Then I plopped down on a padded chair in an unladylike fashion and dug into the stack of French toast slices. I quickly guzzled my orange juice first - since it would seem too sour after the corn syrup - and attacked my food. Between bites, I managed to ask if we could get some guava juice. I'd had my first glass of it only yesterday but I was craving it again already. Once is never enough. My birthday was off to a great start. Too bad I had to go to school. It was dull until lunch, when Michelle and Adrian got together to sing happy birthday to me in the cafeteria. It was a little embarrassing but I still liked the attention. After the song, Adrian surprised me by hugging me. He was really becoming a much more pleasant person. I think Michelle and I were a good influence on him. As I sat down to eat, I saw someone standing near me out of the corner of my eye. I turned and there was John, my former best friend, looking down at the floor. He looked very nervous. I think he wanted to wish me happy birthday and was probably looking for some kind of encouragement. I wasn't about to make it easy for him though. I gave him a slight frown and bored a hole into him with my eyes. I was still upset that he left me. John looked up briefly and gulped. Then he turned and walked away. Evidently, I put a little too much anger into my look and not enough disappointment. I'd have to work on that in the mirror later. With a heavy sigh, I turned back and saw that my two friends were very quiet. They had to have noticed my wordless exchange with John, but thankfully they didn't say anything about it. We went on to other things like our shopping plans after school. Adrian was invited but I told him it was okay if he declined. I didn't think he was ready to handle two girls on a birthday shopping spree. This time I wasn't surprised when Adrian told me he'd take a rain check. Science class was notable. Michelle and I were giddy with anticipation so it was very hard to concentrate in that class. We were even shushed more than once. Michelle kept passing notes to me that cracked me up. At least her last note sobered me up. It read, "I think you should talk to John." I hung my head and thought about that for the rest of the class. When school was finally over, Michelle and I impatiently waited in the school parking lot for my mom to pick us up and take us to the mall. There was no serious talk about John or school. It was time for my birthday shopping spree. My mom showed up three minutes late. That was three less minutes for shopping but she made up for it by handing me a gift card for Bingham's department store. I couldn't help it. I squealed with delight, though I noticed Michelle looked a little glum - envious even. She didn't have much money for shopping today. It was really her own choice to buy camera accessories but I still felt bad for her. She really loved photography and clothes both. We got to the mall and Michelle and I left my mom in the dust after promising to meet back at the car in 2 hours. The two of us made straight for Bingham's and didn't look back. Bingham's was an upscale department store, filled with very nice things. It was rapidly becoming my favorite place to get clothes with the elegant casual look I liked so much. Michelle approved. That's where she got most of her clothes too. She said they were good for dates. I stuck out my tongue at that statement, causing a fair amount of giggling. We controlled ourselves better though. There was no way we'd do anything to get thrown out of Bingham's. Michelle helped me refine my style a little. She found clothes that she thought looked more flattering on me so naturally I listened. It didn't matter that I might attract more boys. I just wanted to look my best. Having a girl's opinion didn't bother me so much anyway. I'm sure she didn't see me the same way boys did. We made it out of Bingham's with 30 minutes to spare. I had two shopping bags full of clothes and Michelle even got something. She found a cute baby blue silk shirt that looked beautiful on her. She had to buy it when she saw how I eyed her in it. My attraction to girls made me even more valuable as a shopping partner. Michelle had very little money left but I had some of my own allowance. Since we still had half an hour left, I insisted on continuing. I wanted to go to a little shop that specialized in casual clothing and swimwear. Summer was nearly upon us. Michelle wasn't crazy about the idea but she started to loosen up once we got inside. She really liked a lot of the clothes there. It didn't matter that they weren't dressy. They were cute, fun and comfortable; something I felt was just as important a part of a girl's wardrobe as the elegant casual style. It was when I caught Michelle lusting after some crop tops that I realized they might make good birthday gifts for her. I thought about getting her some so I kept a close eye on which ones she liked and would come back later with my mom to get them. There was only one thing I wasn't sure of - her size. I didn't notice what size she wore when she got the silk shirt but I had my ways. "Hey Michelle. Those are cute. Let's both get one." Wearing identical outfits was out of the question but having the same shirt style in a different color was acceptable. They'd be fun to wear on a girl's only outing. "I'd like to," she sighed. "But I don't have enough money. You know my camera habit is expensive." "I know. Consider it my treat." "Bobbi! It's your birthday. I couldn't." "But I really like crop tops," I whined. "I feel like I can't wear any with you. I'd feel underdressed." Michelle just looked down at her dressy blouse and skirt so I continued. "Do you even own any?" "I have one... somewhere." "Yeah, but you spend most of your allowance on nicer clothes to look good on dates. What about something fun for you?" She thought about it for a moment and then smiled. I finally got through to her. "Okay," she said. "Let's do it." We sorted through the tops and found the perfect pair. They both had a single large heart in the middle of the chest. Mine was lavender with a purple heart and hers was light blue a dark blue heart. They were adorable, and they allowed me to get her size. I'm glad I didn't try to guess. I would've over estimated. She was so tiny! I was just about to suggest buying them and leaving when we walked by the bikini rack. I didn't think I was ready for such a skimpy article of clothing but they called out to me. Copely had some very hot summers that cried out for skimpy. "Hang on a minute," I said to Michelle. I tried to resist but it was futile. What was coming over me? "You might not believe this but I'm getting the strangest urge to buy a bikini." My friend stopped, but she hesitated before turning around. When she finally did face me, I saw her biting her lower lip, and I knew exactly what that meant. "Don't tell me you don't own bikini," I whispered. She ever so slightly shook her head no. "Well get back here then because you're getting one now," I told her. This time I wouldn't accept no as an answer. She'd done it to me enough yesterday. She briefly tried to talk me out of it but I just smiled and pounced on her with irrefutable female logic. I explained that the bikinis were on sale and they were a boy magnet. I finished her off by telling her about the potential for great photo opportunities at the lake. The lake would be swarming with people this summer. Michelle didn't stand a chance. She got a goofy grin on her face and immediately started sorting through the bikinis with me. I had one other reason for getting her the bikini but I couldn't tell her. Her birthday was in October. It would be far too late to get her a swimsuit then. I might still get her a couple crop tops but I'd have to get her some warmer casual clothes too. It was difficult but we quickly decided on the style and color. Michelle got a string bikini that matched her hair color. It was perfect. I wanted to get the same style but I was talked out of it. I ended up getting a bright blue halter style top for better support of my large chest instead. Then we rushed to the checkout stand to buy them. There wasn't much time before we had to meet my mom in the parking lot. In my haste, I wasn't watching where I was going. I nearly mowed down a brown haired girl who was about my height. I stopped just in time and was about to apologize when I saw her face. It was her - the girl of my dreams. "Jill!" I blurted out. "Do I know you?" she asked with the cutest confused look on her face. No, I thought. But you will.
To Be Continued...
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/