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"I know we spoke on the phone a bit, but I'd like to hear more detail on what brings you here today," Pearl Wong, licensed clinical social worker, said, leaning back in her chair and folding her hands on top of her appointment book.

Megan grimaced and ran a hand through her hair, resettling herself in the giant chair provided. She took the opportunity to study the therapist across the coffee table. Megan guessed Pearl to be in her early 60s, her face pleasantly lined around mouth and eyes, her iron gray hair caught back into a long, thick braid that reached her waist. Pearl wore a loose batiked blouse in burgundy and royal blue over dark gray slacks. There were a few silver and copper bangles on her left wrist, though her right wrist was bare, and a single three-metal band on the ring finger of her left hand. Her necklace was an understated delicate silver filigree piece with a clear pale green cabochon in the center.

She wondered idly what Pearl's para power was.

"I, um, well, I've gotten into a relationship that's kind of... messed up," Megan said. The clear sharpening of Pearl's attentiveness made Megan hesitate briefly, and then she plunged on. "I got involved with an older woman. She's intelligent and charismatic and butch, with a pretty minor para power, and a career as an architect. And things were fun. I mean, the sex was great and she was really amazing herself... though I guess kind of withdrawn and hard to read sometimes." She paused, leaning forward, elbows on knees.

"How did that make you feel?" Pearl said.

Megan tried to think about that. "I guess... I guess I just assumed it was a butch thing. And an older woman thing. I mean, I guess I'm still in the whole overshare-in-an-instant state of mind from college and I assumed that... you, know, grownups don't do that." She laughed a little. "Whatever that means."

"No, I think that's an interesting insight," Pearl said. "How do you think it affects the dynamic of your relationship?"

"The dynamic...," Megan started, then thumped her palm against her forehead. "Oh, yes. Puts her in a one-up powerwise. I'm sharing, she's not. Yeah."

"And are you the higher-rated para power?" Pearl said.

"Yeah," Megan said, feeling miserable. "And I'm physically larger. And stuff like that." She put her head in her hands. "I haven't even gotten to the really messed-up part yet."

"Okay, why don't we bookmark this for later and you go on?" Pearl said.

"Sure," Megan said, and paused to take a sip from the small cup of water on the table beside her. "Anyway. She was always standoffish that way, but -- okay, now I have to tell you that I don't date people who are in spandex. I won't. And I... I don't really want to talk about that today."

"All right," Pearl said imperturbably.

"So I ask everyone I get involved with if they're in spandex," Megan said. "And... well, she lied to me. Said she wasn't."

"Did that really surprise you?" Pearl said.

"What do you mean?" Megan said, blinking.

"Do you expect everyone who is in spandex to be honest with you?" Pearl said.

"I... uh... yeah?" Megan said, feeling like a fool.

Pearl smiled a little and said, "What I'm really asking is this: are you asking because you expect a true answer, or are you asking to assuage an anxiety and don't actually expect truth, just the answer you want to hear?"

"Oh." Megan sat back and stared at the coffee table. It was polished burlwood, uneven around the edges, the grain appealingly complex. "Oh."

Pearl let her think quietly for a moment, then said, "How did you find out she lied to you?"

Megan shook her head and smiled grimly. "She transformed in front of me. We were in that scrum in downtown back before Christmas."

"Ah. Yes. I saw you in the paper," Pearl said, serene.

"Not going to ask which one was her?" Megan said before she could stop herself.

"I'm not in the business of secret identities," Pearl said with just a hint of an edge.

"Sorry," Megan said.

"It's all right," Pearl said. "So, I'm guessing you were a little busy at the time. How did you deal with it afterward?"

"I avoided her for days," Megan said, starting to feel embarrassed by it all. It really was childish. "I finally went to talk to her. And that's the weirdest, most messed-up part."

"The discussion?" Pearl said.

"Yeah," Megan said. "She... told me that she didn't technically lie to me because she herself isn't technically in spandex. She's possessed by some crazy ghost from the 40s who wants to use G to be the superhero she could never be."

"Do you believe her?" Pearl said.

"I... think so. No, I know so. She and this other person just aren't at all alike. And I..." Megan looked down at the floor, face burning. "I snuck into her apartment last week while she was at work. I... told myself it was because I missed her cats. But there's this... little corner of her bedroom that's set up like some sort of bizarre shrine. It's a little antique vanity with... with makeup and hair spray and jewelry scattered all over it. On the table part, hanging up over the corners of the mirror, and the chair has this baby blue ruffled pillow on it. It smells of baby powder and perfume and... it wasn't there before." She realized her hands were shaking and clenched them together hard.

Pearl watched her for a moment, then said, "What's happening now? In your head, I mean."

"I guess," Megan said, then stopped because her voice was shaking almost as hard as her hands had been. She swallowed and took a couple of deep breaths, then went on, "I guess I'm feeling like... like she was someone I could really have... and she's being taken away by this... this thing, this disease, almost, that's taking her over. And I think she asked me for help, but I'm not sure, and I don't know what I can do anyway." She swallowed hard again. "Her... her other girlfriend and I have been asking around, looking for someone to help get the ghost out of her."

Pearl quirked one eyebrow. Megan braced herself for the inevitable question, but Pearl only said, "And how is that going?"

Megan shrugged, feeling savage about the whole thing. "The first guy told us his 'ethics' wouldn't let him help unless she asked him for help. The next person we talked to -- a woman, a psychic at Holy Moly -- said that 'revenants' of this sort were difficult and dangerous to take on, and that we had to let things take their own course. We tried another person whose card was on the board at Holy Moly, but she won't return our calls." She gripped her knees until her knuckles went pale. "I don't even know if I should help. One of my friends asked me if I was really comfortable being G's magical negro..." She looked up, catching herself, and said, "Uh..."

"I'm familiar with the term," Pearl said, waving a hand. "It sounds like you have a lot of anger and grief around this. And perhaps," she added, raising that eyebrow again, "not just around this?"

Megan sighed and nodded reluctantly. She really, really didn't want to get into this. Not right now. Not involving G. But it did involve G, and it involved Tanya, and Annette, and everyone else that had ever been fucked over by being in spandex.

"What do you want most out of this situation?" Pearl said. "Let's say in El Mundo Bueno."

Megan gave her a crooked smile. "I want G back so I can find out if there could ever be an 'us'."

"And how about in the real world?" Pearl said. "What do you think the absolute best you could hope for at this very moment would be?"

Megan dropped her gaze to the floor. "I want to help. No. No, that's not right. I want some measure of control about what's going on. I want to feel involved so I can... I don't know... feel better about myself somehow."

"Is that the current situation, or history speaking?" Pearl said.

"History," Megan said heavily.

Megan could feel Pearl studying her. Then Pearl said, "Shall we bookmark the history conversation for next time then?"

Megan nodded. Her mouth felt thick and her eyes felt heavy and her throat was constricted tightly and painfully.

There was another pause. Pearl said, "Are you all right?"

Megan nodded, then shook her head, then, much to her disgust, began to cry. Little choked noises kept finding their way out of her. Pearl expertly slid a box of tissues under her groping hand.

After a few minutes, Megan blew her nose and said, shakily, "I'm so goddamn snot-ridden when I cry."

Pearl said, "Everyone is. It's only Hollywood that wants to make you think that some people weep perfect tears."

Megan laughed and hiccoughed and wiped her face on her sleeve. "Our hour is up, isn't it?"

"Yes," Pearl said. "The bathroom is through that door there, at the end of the hall, if you want to splash some water on your face."

"Thanks." Megan accordingly found the little pale green bathroom and leaned over the small basin. She returned to the therapy room a few minutes later, looking blotchy but feeling better.

"Do you mind dogs?" Pearl asked as she stood to walk Megan out. "Because I think my wife has let ours in."

"No, I don't mind dogs at all," Megan said, thinking of Simon.

"Come on then," Pearl said, and opened the door.

A sleek brown mutt scampered into the room immediately. It circled the room, staring at the ceiling, and therefore collided with Megan's legs. It bounced off and sat down abruptly. It stared at her for a moment, then began to pant and look around. A second dog, an Irish setter with a somewhat skeptical expression peered around the corner to eye the brown dog. Finally, it trotted over to sniff Megan's proffered hand and submit to ear skritiches.

"What are their names?" Megan said, giving the brown dog a sidelong glance and settling on rubbing the setter's head.

Pearl smiled. "Mulder and Scully. He got his name because he always looks up. You can probably imagine how she got hers."

Megan gave Scully a final pat and straightened up. "Are they therapy dogs then?" she said, following Pearl to the door.

Pearl shook her hand and held the door. "All dogs are. Didn't you know?"


From the Author:
Wonder City Stories has been nominated for the Rose & Bay Award! Voting starts tomorrow -- I'll post a link when I have it. I would adore it if you voted for Wonder City.

I'm posting twice weekly during January. If you like this twice-weekly thing, I'm doing it again in January: if January's posts draw 50 comments total, I'll post twice weekly through February too. As before, if you provide a comment bonanza, I'll extend appropriately.

Vote for us at Top Web Fiction! Come on and click. You know you want to.


Date: 2011-02-01 08:26 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
You did a really good job with the drama conversation there. *sigh* Wish I had a knack for 'bookmarking' points in a conversation (mine or someone else's) but I really don't.

The Webcomic voting post is active for the Rose & Bay Awards; others should appear soon, so watch the Crowdfunding community on LiveJournal. Good luck!

Oh, and my February poetry fishbowl is 2/1/11 if you want to come play there. This month's theme is "vision and sight."

Date: 2011-02-01 04:56 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
Oh, I'm glad Megan is talking to someone about this.

Date: 2011-02-04 03:52 pm (UTC)
kyleri: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kyleri
About a whole lot of things.

Date: 2012-01-28 05:15 am (UTC)
the_leaky_pen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] the_leaky_pen
"All dogs are."

I like that.


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