Part 38 – Epilogue
“–In what experts are calling a landmark victory for Twisted rights.” The female reporter’s voice blared from the television as video footage played on-screen of Mr. Hails and me descending the steps of the courthouse.
I muted the volume, a smile spreading across my face as I watched the news report. I shook my head still unable to believe that it was real, or that I was the focal point. Star Capital Realty and Development Corporation, the company that owns the Clearville Mall offered to settle out of court, in exchange for my silence, but Mr. Hails and I agreed that I needed to share my story.
On the surface my case had been a simple lawsuit claiming damages against Star Capital, but Mr. Hails seemed to think there would be more far-reaching implications. Such a victory could pave the way for civil cases like Loving v. Virginia or Brown v. The Board of Education.
Though painful, relating my memories of what happened in the mall in a courtroom for everyone to hear, the tears I shed on the stand helped drive my point home. All of Star Capital’s money and their slick lawyers didn’t stand a chance.
The judge awarded us more money in damages with which I might have otherwise know what to do, but with which I already began to make plans. The cost of higher-education wouldn’t be getting cheaper any time soon, and if the future I envisioned would ever come to pass I would need some of that money to fund it.
At first, Mr. Hails wanted to take on my case pro bono. He insisted that the notoriety alone would be a major career booster, but I persuaded him to take a portion of the judgement. He relented and suffice it to say that I wouldn’t be the only one who would be paying for her college expenses with all the money.
With everything that had transpired, I did a lot of self-exploration and made some decisions about my career path. I wanted to help people and… well, I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my dad. Not Carrie, but the man who took me in and protected me when my own mother wanted nothing to do with me. As you guessed that would be Mr. Hails or John as I was calling him these days.
My mind turned to Jeff Goldwin and those jackasses at the convenience store. One of the first things I asked Megan about after our reunion had been about Jeff. As I already surmised I was premature in assuming I killed him. He tried to pin the whole thing on me, but someone in the park filmed the entire confrontation on their smartphone. Mr. Hails used it as leverage to get the charges against me dropped.
As far as ‘Jet’ and his friends in the convenience store, they didn’t come forward until after the lawsuit against Star Capital and only because they saw my face on the news. Again, video footage saved my ass, this time from the convenience store security cameras. Like Jeff, Jet and his friends had been the ones to face the music. Unfortunately, the worst charges that were levied against them had been disorderly conduct. I would take any victory I could get, even the small ones.
Though I escaped both unscathed, Mr. Hails saved me from the legal repercussions of their actions. It was a sad truth that the victims in situations like mine tended to be ones who faced criminal charges. Namely because no one would stand up for them. Maybe I was meant to help others in the same way Mr. Hails helped me.
I glanced at my reflection, a smile touching my pink gloss-stained lips as the girl in the mirror peered back at me. It took some time, but I put to rest the war between my male and female halves. My masculine half surrendered to my inner girl, and I embraced her with no reservations.
I don’t think any of that would have happened without the help of Dr. Mansfield. Our regular counseling sessions helped me realize that aside from my desire to be pretty and a few weird compulsions I was still pretty much the same old me. I still liked video games, I still ogled girls, and I was as big of a nerd as ever. The only difference being, most people didn’t see past my looks. For some that meant they saw a freak, but for most people in Spiral it meant another pretty face albeit one who looked a little more exotic.
The other big change in my life, was twist-related as well and that too I embraced. As I guessed I would, I took the dive into martial arts. I enrolled in lessons just two short weeks after walking past that studio in the mall and didn’t look back. My sensei told me he’d never seen anyone progress as quickly as me, but that would surprise no one who knew what caused my twist.
Since learning of my interest in martial arts, there had been no other surprises. I hoped that doing a little research of The Rise of the Anthecron the game which triggered my twist, might offer some clues, but I gleaned nothing helpful. Even the character bio for Kalena had been a bust. If there was anything new to discover about my twist, I would have to uncover it on my own. The version of the game I played was a demo and had yet to see a final release. When it did, I would be sure to get a copy. Who knows? I might enjoy it if nothing else.
My attitude towards my twist had changed in recent months and I was beginning to see that despite all the hardship it caused me, it was the best thing to have ever happened to me. I found my father… won over the girl of my dreams and my future seemed brighter than ever. College always seemed like wishful thinking when I lived in Clearville. Now, it had become a very likely prospect.
Armed with my ambitions I started applying myself in school and went from an average student to one of the top in my class. I made new friends and found a family, some of whom were blood and some not, that supported and lifted me up. As devastated as my mother’s rejection left me, she’d never been very supportive. My new family had their difficulties, but when it counted they were always there for each other. I couldn’t say the same for my mother.
Even the twins seemed to have accepted me. I overheard them discussing me with one of their little friends and although they still thought I was an ‘icky girl’ I was ‘kinda nice’ too. Not exactly a glowing recommendation, but an improvement from the accusatory glares they used to level at me. Amanda, was a highlight and while she could be needy and temperamental, she made even my worst days worth living. Drew, seemed pleased to have me around and included me in all the family activities. Our dynamic isn’t what you would expect of a stepfather and stepdaughter. He treated me like a younger kid sister, which was just fine by me.
As for Carrie… The paternity test had been a closer match than anyone had anticipated. Dr. Clark had seemed surprised, but I made perfect sense to me. I looked just like her, after all. Nevertheless, it was reassuring to have confirmation, even if Carrie insisted it wasn’t necessary.
Liz and David had become something of a fixture in my life. Though their visits were less frequent than I’d like, I looked forward to the times they visited. I’d even started learning sign language so I could communicate with my grandfather.
I gazed into the vanity mirror one last time, giving my makeup a quick once-over, and smiled. Though I’d been reticent to give cosmetics a go, because of the price, I had to admit that the results were well worth it. There weren’t a lot of places that sold makeup to match my blue skin tone, but I managed to find a place that custom made it. I lived in Spiral after all.
I moved away from the mirror and grappled with the remote, flicking off the TV mounted on the opposite wall, a recent addition, and tossed it onto my bed. I stopped by the dresser, retrieving an envelope with the address to a certain convenience store scrolled across the front it and my purse. Sliding the former into the latter, I slipped out of my bedroom and down the hallway.
I found Carrie and Drew lounging on the couch in the living room. She was wearing her scrubs from the clinic and he was still sporting the t-shirt and jeans he usually wore out to the job site. I stepped into view, spinning around on the balls of my feet.”Well? How do I look?”
Carrie rose to her feet and rested her hands on my shoulders. “A slam dunk as always.”
I nodded, glancing down at my outfit pleased by her compliment. It was less revealing than my usual fare, but I didn’t want to out-do Megan by too wide of a margin. She was still very much a t-shirt and jeans sort of girl and I always felt so overdressed when Megan and I were out together. I sported a pink halter top and black knee-length-skirt and matching pair of heels.
“Do me a favor, and try not to stay out past ten-thirty, okay?” She asked.
I nodded, biting my lip. Though she made the same request every time I was out with Megan, I was more than happy to accommodate her. “Okay… Mom.”
She froze, her gaze never leaving me. It was the first time I’d called her by anything other than her first name and, I managed to catch her off guard for a change. Eventually, her mouth cracked into a smile, and she turned away wiping a tear from her face.
Before either of us could speak, the doorbell rang, and I tore down the stairs tripping over myself to get to the front door. Somehow I made it without face-planting into the hardwood steps and swung the door open to reveal Megan standing on the other side.
My heart fluttered at the mere sight of her and I stopped momentarily short of breath. Megan was my everything, we’d been through so much together and I couldn’t imagine life without her. Our relationship had raised a few eyebrows because of our age, but I didn’t give a fuck what anyone thought. The way my heart yearned for her whenever I was apart from her was more than just a simple crush.
Our relationship had evolved a lot since my flight from Clearville. It had been a little bumpy at first, due largely to the aforementioned flight, but we’d had a long talk and cleared the air. Megan still thought me a bit dense for fleeing town, but she had come to accept my reasons. She told me all about their own flight from Clearville and the sense of abandonment she’d experienced when I left.
What must it have been like all those years thinking that she was the only twisted person her age in our little town only to discover that not only was there another, but that person also happened to be her best friend? Then I had left, abandoning her just days before she’d undergone her own twist. Was it any wonder she slapped me when we met back up in the mall?
After my mother’s rejection, I understood all too well what Megan had gone through. It tore my insides up just thinking about the pain I’d caused her. I promised myself, and Megan too, that I would never abandon her again. Looking at her now, I found myself reaffirming that vow.
For a change Megan had switched things up. She wore a red button-down shirt, with half the buttons unclasped to reveal her rather generous cleavage, and instead of jeans she wore a pair of tight-fitting black dress pants. Without a doubt it was the most revealing thing she’d ever worn and yet still managed to fit into her tomboy sense of style.
Her cosmetics changed as often as I morphed my clothing and at times it seemed at odds with the way she dressed, but I’d gotten used to it. On that day she’d gone with something relatively conservative, blush, mascara, a little eyeliner and scarlet red lipsticks. The previous day she’d gone with a rainbow effect around her eyes and lips. Needless to say when the two of us were together we stood out in a crowd.
Megan’s twist had been a result of an aborted attempt at a makeover by Allison. She’d experienced a shift in appearance to more closely resemble her cousin and compulsion to wear cosmetics. Aside from that she was more or less the same old Megan which was just fine by me.
If it was possible, the rift between the two girls had widened even further. I didn’t see much of Allison these days, and though I understood much of her behavior was a result of her twist I couldn’t say I was disappointed by her absence. I only prayed that she one day found a way to make peace with herself.
I bit my lip then leaned in to peck her on the cheek. “You look nice.”
“You too,” she beamed back at me. “So what do you have planned tonight?”
I slipped outside, and closed the door behind me, my smile stretching into a grin. “Oh, I have some ideas.”