First up, money-money-money, where did Aunt Sally get her money? We’re living in the burbs, so she’s not rich or powerful enough to just break the rules, and if she had a sugar daddy, I’d have found some trace of him. Just because they don’t actually spray doesn’t mean human males don’t mark their territory. More to the point, unless he was a perv or had a death-wish, he wouldn’t want me around screwing up the screwing, so no, there was nobody paying for the privilege of being called “Daddy” by either of us.
Come on, Powers, throw me a bone here, and not the usual kind. “Sally Sanders Is A what?” Nurse, teacher, secretary, what? It couldn’t be something with weird hours or lots of travel, or something fun-but-disreputable like an actress, dancer, or model, because she’d managed to convince the local powers that she could be trusted to raise a kid on her own. She might have the only six-year-old in town who knew how to drive a truck, shoot a pistol, ride an elephant, and pull a train (eventually), but the law and the neighbors were going to expect her to wash me, feed me, dress me, kiss my boo-boos, and walk me to school. School?!
Aw, shit; today was my first day of school, and I was gonna be the Fucking New Kid. Thanks, new memories, that was just what I needed to learn right now. Well, I wasn’t showing up with a goddamn slice of toast in my mouth, so I set out to see what we had that I could turn into The Most Important Meal Of The Day.
I’d like to thank Bosmarlin for making their cappucino cup sturdy enough to survive a 3-foot drop-and-roll onto my vinyl kitchen floor.
And I’d like to suggest to Nespresso that adding a little vibration dampening to their coffee makers would be a really good idea. Or at least a lip at the edge of the cup holder.
At some point, I’ll probably do a scratch redesign of this drip tray and my replacement cover for it. For now, I might just make a tall adapter for the one I already printed, with a lip, because this weekend is going to be kind of busy…
I did not set the kitchen on fire.
Okay, maybe a little, but running around in circles screaming at the top of my little lungs was better than a smoke alarm, and a freshly-awoken Aunt Sally was sufficiently coherent to put me out first, before rescuing the stovetop from permanent damage and the fruit basket from, no, that was a total loss.
I got my first look at my new Adult Supervision through tear-and-smoke-stained glasses, and she was pretty much what I’d expected: young, blonde, perky, responsible. Respectably hot, too, despite the unflattering nightgown, housecoat, and hair curlers. If my little kitchen mishap had gotten out of control, the firemen would have fought over the right to carry her to safety and check her out for injuries. I’d pulled that stunt a few times myself, without the curlers. Or the housecoat. Or the nightgown.
I didn’t even have to try to babble out an explanation. She automatically assumed that I was a complete darling who’d just been trying her very best to be helpful and loving and show how much she appreciated her new life with her new family and dear god I wanted to smack her. It was like she’d stepped right out of a glossy magazine article titled How To Be The Perfect Young Mother In Our Modern Age.
Fortunately I’d put everything back in her purse before my ill-advised attempt at cooking with gas. No point tipping her off too soon.
…zero-impact IT maintenance.
Aunt Sally’s idea of breakfast put more calories on my plate than I had in my left arm. I mean, whipped cream and butter and jam and waffles and bacon and eggs and toast and she looked like she was waiting for me to order seconds. She probably wouldn’t even recognize tofu as a fucking word, and if she’d ever made a green salad in her life, I was willing to bet she’d used bacon grease for the dressing.
I tried not to look disgusted as I took my first bite.
Ohmygod why didn’t anyone ever tell me about this stuff? Did little kids have completely different taste buds? Was this some kind of bizarro mirror universe where saturated fats were awesome or had my old body just been broken? I cleaned my plate and ordered seconds; I had no idea where I was going to put it, and I didn’t care.
I mean, I’d always loved eating, and I could navigate the menu of a five-star restaurant in 12 languages and 37 entirely different civilizations, but while I’d picked up plenty of men in diners, I’d never actually tried the food.
How could she eat like this and be so thin?!?
Wait, how could she stay thin eating like this every day? Was “Aunt” Sally a plant, part of the setup for whatever game the Old Man was running on me? Was she one of us, a different model of Muse for a different kind of job? Was her just-in-time arrival to save the day part of their plan? Was I being given enough rope to hang myself out to dry or however that goes?
Or was she just a cheerfully hyperactive over-achiever who couldn’t stay still for more than two minutes at a time, who’d woken up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and raring to go on this Most Important Day? It was possible I was over-thinking this. I had a long history of not trusting other women, after all, even if I was usually the one engaged in pre-emptive back-stabbing.
I tentatively gave my new Cooking Mama the benefit of the doubt and focused on the good news: setting myself on fire had completely ruined my PJs, and I was determined that our after-school shopping trip would include finding a replacement without feet and a back-flap. Baby steps.
After discovering that I actually could put away a multi-thousand-calorie breakfast, I had another chance for recon. I was going to need some leverage with Dear Aunt Sally, so when she went in to take a shower, I quickly tossed her bedroom.
An unlabeled box shoved way under the bed looked promising, and whoa Nellie, look at the size of this thing! For fuck’s sake, did it run on steam? This was the state of the art in 1950s lonely-woman satisfaction-makers? Damn, if I were old enough to take it for a spin, I’d be scared it’d spin me. I put it back and retreated.
I’d struck gold. All Work And No Sex Makes Sally V-v-v-v-v-v-vibrate.
Getting her laid would take a bit of work, but I was sure it would pay off. The thing people in more libertine eras don’t get is that they didn’t invent sex, they just got to show off more. Great-great-grandma could work her tongue like you wouldn’t believe, but only maybe two men and four women ever found out about it, because people would talk. Sally couldn’t pick up a nice junior executive in a bar and bring him home for the night, because what would the neighbors say?
Hell, she’d be scared that I’d tell on her, and I couldn’t possibly explain that I’d fucked more men than she had brain cells.
After my own quick smoke-removal session in the shower, it was time to gear up.
Sturdy black leather shoes, check. White socks, check. Navy blue wool skirt well below the knee, check. Crisp white cotton blouse, buttoned all the way up, check. Matching wool blazer, check. Jaunty little uniform cap and row of medals, missing in action. Did they give out medals in grade school, or would I have to make my own to complete the effect?
Yes, I was a girl in uniform, and I hated everything about it. Well, I could do some damage with the shoes, and the skirt and blazer had actual pockets big enough to hide some useful contraband, which was a huge change from my usual barely-there fashions. It just seemed a bit too dark and formal to me; didn’t little girls usually wear colorful dresses? I definitely owned some. Hell, Sally was rocking a floral-print number that showed enough leg to stop traffic, while my getup made me feel like I should be directing traffic, or handing out parking tickets or something. Give me a whistle and a badge, and I could be the shortest policewoman in town.
Instead, I was accessorizing with a cherry-red plastic coin purse, a large plaid lunchbox, and three brand-new pencils. Oh, yeah, bring it on, world! Virgin V. White, reporting for duty!
Everything I knew about life as a first-grader could be summed up with the words “first” and “grade”. I’d been near schools before, sure, turning boys into men with a wiggle and a smile while staking out a target, usually one of the teachers, but I don’t think I’d ever been inside a classroom full of kids too young to be interested in playing hide-the-sausage, and definitely not as one of those kids.
What did they do in there all day? And how? I was pretty sure things were still pretty structured in this era, with a strict hierarchy that I was going to be at the bottom of, but what about between kids in the same class? I didn’t have a clue, and my Power-provided memories didn’t supply one. I was going into the jungle, and I needed a native guide.
Shit. I needed a friend. I needed to make friends with a little girl, right away. Damn, this life was going to be elephants all the way down.
Sally walked me to school, which turned out to be of the private just-for-girls variety, a brisk twenty-minute walk from the house. Naturally, she insisted we hold hands. By daylight, the neighborhood matched the house: late Fifties, solidly middle class. I was briefly surprised by the number and variety of men we ran into along the way, politely greeting Miss Sanders and her young ward, until I noticed one of them scrambling into his car and racing off to work as soon as Sally’s legs were out of sight.
Clearly this wasn’t the first time she’d gone for a morning stroll along this route. Perhaps I should assume the role of her duenna and begin evaluating suitors for suitability; I certainly had the age and experience for the job, as well as a vested interest in the outcome.
None of them seemed to attract her interest, which I thought boded well for her standards, and, distracted by my own evaluations, I was surprised when we soon reached the school’s surprisingly sturdy gates. The resemblance to a prison was hopefully only in my head.
I didn’t need to fake a cheery farewell, because I was honestly relieved that Sally’s mystery job hadn’t turned out to be at my school. More on that later, when I had some time alone with my new memories. I headed into the courtyard and started checking out my fellow inmates.
Priority one was Finding A Friend. The older girls were out, although I appreciated the way they’d subtly modified their uniforms to be less depressingly uniform. Apparently rebellion wasn’t taught until the fifth grade, though, unless I could take it as an elective. Unfortunately, this meant that my fellow first-graders were a pretty dull bunch, and I was having trouble spotting any that showed any potential.
“Your mom’s really pretty and sweet.”
“Huh? Yeah, Aunt Sally’s a peach. Excuse me.” Damn, I could barely tell them apart. What did women actually look for when making friends?
“My name’s Katherine, but I don’t like it and I wish I had a good nickname. What’s yours?”
So much for being able to focus. “Count your blessings, kid; you could do a lot worse than Katherine, trust me.”
“Kit? That’s a great nickname! Oh, we’re going to be such good friends!”
Seriously, Powers? Could you be a little less subtle, here? I turned to look at My New Friend, and realized that I’d have to (shudder) say my name out loud for the first time. “I’m Virginia. I guess it’s nice to meet you, Kit.”
I did not kill her for having the red hair and freckles I’d been cruelly denied in my reincarnation. At least the face bore no resemblance to my old one; I guess even the Old Man knew not to push me too far on my first day.