Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Our Little Secret Travel Agency – Chapter 3: Jerinda


Morgana is lying comfortably on Dr. Valenzuela’s couch. The cocoon-like setting and Dr. Valenzuela’s gentle voice soothe her almost instantly. Her cathartic crying jag has drained away into a deep sense of peace that is almost a stranger to her. A detached stillness settles upon her entire being. Her eyes close slowly.

“So, Morgana, tell me about Jerinda, and of course, what has happened to her.”

“Well, Dr. Valenzuela, it’s a long story. How much do you want to hear?”

“That depends on how important Jerinda is to you. Judging by your reaction, I’d say she is a key player in your life. And if she figures THAT prominently in your life, then maybe I’d better hear the whole story. You understand that this is not mere idle interest on my part, but rather one of the conditions for your Adaptation—the client should be emotionally stable. Since we are a travel agency, it is very important to us that we provide our clients with the very best and the most enjoyable travel experience possible. We like to think of this requirement as a baggage limit.”

Morgana managed a weak smile at the “baggage limit” metaphor.

“Alright, then, I’ll start at the beginning. I met Jerinda years ago at church. Her daughter, Mitzi, and my daughter, Gerri, were the same age—10 years old–and in the same youth group. We found each other because we were like twin skunks at a lawn party in this incredibly snooty menagerie of pious social climbers. The only reason we both stayed was because it was the ‘in’ church in town. They had a youth program that all the kids just HAD to belong to. We both shuddered at the thought that our daughters would be such slaves to peer approval, but you know, at least it was a good, safe, wholesome environment. Both Jerinda and I thought that the perfunctory bible thumping was pretty vacuous, and how we hated those WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets that the kids wore! When they were not around, we would say things like, ‘What Would Jesus Drive?’ and “Who Would Jesus Divorce?’ and much worse things which I won’t bother recounting for you right now. But truth be told, it provided both girls–and my son, Travis, who is two years older than the girls–with an endless array of fun, supervised activities. You know, I didn’t consciously realize it then, but that church experience filled in the gaps in our kids’ personal lives, and for them, it was really great…and great for Jerinda and me as well.”

Dr. Valenzuela tapped her pen on her notebook a couple times. “Oh, did you and Jerinda eventually discover that you had a spiritual connection with the church?”

Another peaceful smile from Morgana.

“No, we were way too irreverent for anything spiritual to happen there–at that church, I mean. But we did find a better connection to each other. Jerinda and I used to solemnly walk the kids to the ‘Childrens’ Chapel’ and instead of going down the hallway to the left to enter the adult worship service, we would turn to the right and duck out through the back door, practically running down the street to a little coffee shop that was always empty at that hour, but would be crammed right after the service was over. Every Sunday, we would drink bottomless cups of coffee and eat French fries with endless squirts of watery ketchup, compare our lives, divulge all our secrets, laughing and guffawing. We quickly became each other’s best friend. We did things with the kids, too, but since we both had jobs with flexible hours, we managed to get together just by ourselves during the day at least a couple times a week. We would walk around the Lake and talk about everything—recipes, movies, double chins, the latest gossip, our kids, cellulite, our kids’ school projects, sugar substitutes, clothing disasters, vacation plans, relatives, shoes, dental work, the latest weight loss miracle, hair styles, our jobs and thigh bulge, stuff like that.”

“Just like a sister,” commented Dr. Valenzuela. “What a gift to have someone like that in your life! So what’s Jerinda’s background?”

“Jerinda is an ex-waitress who is now married to a physics professor, Chlaus Zaugg, whose latest specialty is something called, ‘the Singularity.’ She met him on ‘Arista,’ a dating website which pairs up non-geek, but geek-loving singles, with geeks who would like some companionship, and of course, a loving relationship, or at least some sex, or something approximating sex. It was inspired by the television show, “Stank Eye for The Sloppy Guy.” Both parties have to be open to change, particularly the geek, and it is understood that the geek will not only allow him or herself to be “improved,” starting with a makeover managed by the non-geek, which is the most noticeable change, and the continuing with improvements in diet, exercise, etiquette and attitude. The geek also assumes the financial responsibility for these changes. People jokingly referred to it as, ‘Tweak a Geek.’ I don’t know if it’s still in operation.”

The name, “Tweak a Geek” elicits a chuckle from Dr. Valenzuela. “What about the non-geeks? What kinds of changes do they have to make?”

“The non-geeks have to pass a series of interviews and submit to psychological testing. They also have to take a three-month course in life coaching skills. Jerinda was able to skip that part since she is already a certified life coach—and a good one, too! The non-geeks have to have certain personality characteristics like empathy, kindness, creativity, a positive outlook, and intuition. They also must be energetic and have the ability to motivate and inspire others. There are something like twenty traits you have to have. She also had to take a beginning course in physics so that she would have some shared ‘area of interest’ with Chlaus.”

Dr. Valenzuela, impressed with this strange dating service, says, “I find it somewhat curious that a woman like Jerinda would need to go through all that trouble to find the right partner.”

Morgana agrees with Dr. Valenzuela. “I did too, but if you really knew Jerinda, it would make more sense. Jerinda was always on the lookout for a really special guy, although her first priority was raising her daughter, and to tell you the truth, I don’t think she trusted any man around Mitzi. Once Mitzi was out of the picture, though, she began to think about a life partner. She wasn’t sure about what she wanted in a man, but she sure knew what she DIDN’T want! She has pretty good radar for identifying and avoiding the jerks, sexual deviants, married men who want a little something on the side, lazy luggards looking for a mother, and the ‘Barnacle Bills,’—that was her term for it—the guys that cling onto you and won’t let go. The last thing she wanted was a guy who sat on the couch in his underwear, eating cereal and watching cartoons in a darkened living room on Saturday mornings. Handymen were great when you needed them, but she really didn’t want a guy who spent half of his free time at the Tools for Fools Warehouse and the other half installing hundreds of square feet of pegboard to hang up all his steady stream of tool and hardware acquisitions. She didn’t want anyone who owned a rolling tool cabinet, a gun or a fishing pole, an SUV, CRV, ATV, or a motorcycle, and she really didn’t want anyone who insisted on sleeping with a big, smelly, dog. She has a sharp tongue and a plucky personality. Men really like her and women don’t know what to make of her. She’s so smart, and despite not being highly educated, most people always assumed she had a college degree. Believe me, she always does her very best. I admire her so much. I don’t know that I would have had that much spunk.

“By the time Jerinda met Chlaus, she was free again. She had already responsibly raised her fatherless daughter to adulthood, had two years of community college under her belt, was finally making some decent money with her own private practice as a life coach, and was now hoping to expand her horizons. At 39, she was one good-looking woman. Chlaus was, of course, an obsessed academic who spent no time trawling for women. It was really fortunate that the two found each other. She is a good person, and he was in need of someone like her. Money wasn’t the deciding factor for her, but let’s face it–it’s always nice when money is no object. He really loves her, but in a way, she’s just one more of his obsessions. She is faithful to him and truly adores and appreciates him, but because he thinks she’s the most attractive woman on the planet, he always suspects that she must be doing a little romantic dabbling here and there. That’s really the only thing about him that drives her nuts. She spends a lot of time reassuring him that he’s the only one for her. And that’s true. In fact, if she ever leaves him, it will be only because his jealousy will drive her to it.”

“How long have they been married?”

“It’s been five years already! Hard to imagine! She’s got an enchanted life with Chlaus, kind of a fairy tale actually—I think of her as the princess who kisses the frog, and he turns into a prince. Well, not quite a prince, but that’s how Jerinda sees him, and Chlaus couldn’t be happier.”

“So, is it safe to assume that you don’t have a very high opinion of ‘The Frog Prince’?”

Morgana’s eyes close more tightly. “No, I think he’s a great guy. He’s been good for her and she’s been really good for him. When she first met him, he was so dorky and awkward, unkempt and lacking in social graces. He used to wear these awful, high-water, sky-blue polyester slacks cinched way high up with a huge, ceramic, blue belt buckle featuring a sailing ship. The first thing she did was get control over his ‘wardrobe,’ if you could call it that. Then, she cut his long, tangled, greasy hair into soft, short layers, and trimmed that nasty beard of his into something of a showcase for his rather attractive face and features. Who knew he was a such good-looking guy? She then instructed him very emphatically on issues of hygiene and aesthetics, and insisted that he follow a very strict regimen of personal grooming and maintenance. She even taught him how to interact with people more smoothly in non-scientific, social settings.”

Dr. Valenzuela interjects, “So, Jerinda is the glue that keeps Chlaus all together!”

“Yes, absolutely! He realizes that and is quite attached to her. He loves her not only because she is his dream-come-true but also because he needs her to help him navigate the social side of his life, something he struggled with very unsuccessfully before he met her. Maybe ‘struggle’ is the wrong word, because there was no evidence that he had ever even thought about trying.”

“So, what’s going on with Jerinda now?” asks Dr. Valenzuela, tapping her pen once again.

Morgana brings the back of her hand to rest on her forehead and without opening her eyes, exhales a long sigh.

“Well, I guess it would be safe to say that she’s never been worse. She had a freak accident, and the only thing I know about her right now is that she is in Chlaus’s home town in Switzerland, in some medical retreat somewhere in the mountains, where Chlaus and a whole team of experts are trying to nurse her back to health. I’m worried sick about her. We’ve never been out of communication with each other for this long. I’ve contacted Chlaus by e-mail several times, and all he ever tells me is that things look promising but nothing much has changed. Her daughter Mitzi has been impossible to find, but I’m still working on it.”

“When was the last time you saw Jerinda?” Dr. Valenzuela’s anticipation was evident in her tapping pen.

“The last time I saw her was almost two weeks ago, the Monday before last. That was the day of her freak accident. That was also the very day that I told her all about my ‘escape’ plans with The Our Little Secret Travel Agency. She was intrigued by the whole process and was disappointed when I had to leave early to get to a dentist appointment.

“Jerinda continued the walk on her own, and according to eyewitnesses, she was on a long stretch where there were no other people, and, in an unbelievable, totally unforeseen two or three seconds, ‘The Rubber Man’ comes running out of the surrounding woods, grabs her by the shoulders and flings her into the water, some five feet below the surface of the walkway.”

“Oh my God!” reacts Dr. Valenzuela. “I just can’t imagine such a thing happening!”

Morgana concurs, “I can’t either, but it did! Had the water been deep, Jerinda would have suffered no more than an icy dousing and a ruined Prada bag, but unfortunately, the water was only two feet deep, and she broke her neck. The only reason she didn’t drown as well was that three joggers jumped in and pulled her out of the water almost immediately.”

Dr. Valenzuela taps her pen. “So what about the ‘The Rubber Man’?”

Morgana continues, “He disappeared into the woods, and despite the best efforts of the police, he has not been found. A photocopied drawing of him is posted on every pole and tree all over the city.”

“Does anyone know who this guy is?”

“Yes and no. He’s known to just about everyone who frequents the Lake as ‘The Rubber Man.’ He’s probably homeless, but who knows? He’s a wild-eyed guy with long, disheveled, blond/grey hair who wears a filthy French beret with a battered, black wet suit. He skulks around barefoot, mumbling and laughing. He usually hides out under the trees in the thickets surrounding the Lake.” Morgana can see him now, his raptor-like eyes burning through the foliage of his private vantage point, watching all the doting grandmothers pushing their precious prized progeny in ridiculously expensive strollers they bought themselves for just such a proud promenade. “Other than occasional panhandling, he never bothers anyone.”

“What about Jerinda do you think might have set him off? I mean, why her and not someone else?”

“I have no idea, Dr. Valenzuela! I’ve thought about it and can’t figure out why. Jerinda is such a soft-hearted person, and I’ll bet you that she’s the only person who is ever nice to him. He’s so creepy and he just makes my skin crawl, but she must see something good in him that escapes me and everyone else. She always manages to give him some money or a piece of fruit or a candy bar. She talks so sweetly to him and smiles at him as if he’s normal. He’s always happy to see her, and she usually anticipates bumping into him each time she walks around the Lake, but it’s hit or miss.”

“How very tragic for poor Jerinda! And for you, too, in addition to already grieving your husband’s situation. You’ve lost two major sources of support.”

Morgana nods her head. “Yes, I feel awful about my husband, but during most of our marriage, he was not a source of support for me, and now, as much as I would never want my kids or anyone else who knows me to hear me say this, he’s a millstone around my neck. Jerinda, on the other hand, has always been a joy and a comfort to me.”

Dr. Valenzuela asks, “So, where would you say you are in the acceptance phase of both these horrible events?”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Morgana is very direct: “With my husband, I’ve accepted that I will be his caretaker for as long as I can. I have different health care workers who come in and bathe him, administer physical therapy, respiration therapy, and tend to the majority of his needs. I’m just there to manage their coming and going, and to look in on him. I read to him a lot and talk to him about lots of things, but I’m not sure how much he understands. I’m hopeful that he’ll come out of this someday soon, but who knows? I have more faith that Jerinda will recover—maybe because of her indomitable, bouncy spirit and amazing spunk—and I do trust that Chlaus will do everything in his power to make sure that happens. When I think of how much he loves her, and considering all the resources he has at his disposal, I feel less worried. So, in answer to your question, aside from my breakdown just now about Jerinda—which I know I needed to have–I think I’m emotionally stable. At any rate, there’s not a lot I can do about either Jack, my husband, or Jerinda. Going forward, I think that hope will just have to be my mainstay.”

“Alright, then, Morgana. I’m also feeling a little more confident about your state of mind, and your ability to handle the Adaptation experience. But one more thing….What exactly did you tell Jerinda about The Our Little Secret Travel Agency?

Switching gears, Morgana steels herself to reconstruct the conversation she had with Jerinda that fateful day, about 3-D body printing. Her main preoccupation was that it sounded so…well, creepy.

To be Continued in Chapter 4 – Body Issues

Photo Credit: (Thandie Newton Medium Curls, 2013)

Music Credit: Tanya Tucker – Without you, What Do I Do With Me? (lyrics),



Filed under Proto-Novella, Science Fiction, Short Story Series

The Our Little Secret Travel Agency – Chapter 2: The Design Room


Luckily, the Design Room is not far from the pink laboratory, so Morgana only has to shuffle 15 or 20 tentative steps to get there.

Calliope escorts Morgana through another whooshed door opening in the wall. Morgana is still woozy from the sedative. They both sit down on the same side of the console where Calliope manipulates a small touch screen which is projected onto the wall in front of them.

This time, an unexpected “whoosh,” which is actually starting to sound almost normal to Morgana, ushers in a handsome young man with an engaging smile who sets a gleaming, vintage silver tea service for two between them.

“Excuse me, Ladies! I have some jasmine tea and blueberry scones for you!”

“Morgana, meet Armando—he’s our new intern, and he’ll be with us for the next six months.” Morgana takes his hand and mumbles an awkward, “Hi ya.” Embarrassed, she reflects that she never, ever says “Hi ya.” Where did that come from?

“Well, I’ll leave you to it—Enjoy the tea. Nice to meet you, Morgana.”

Morgana manages a more confident, “Thank you for the tea, Armando—and good luck to you!” She presses her back into the soft chair and inhales the intoxicating fragrance of the steaming tea.

In between delicate bites of a blueberry scone, Calliope begins with, “Alright, then, Morgana! It is here, in the Design Room that we plot out what you’d like to look like. The new body we create for you will be referred to as your ‘Tenum.’ That’s an acronym from the phrase, ‘The New Me.’ Your Tenum will be more you than you’ve ever been before. It will fit you like a glove and will be the ‘you’ that you were always meant to be. The contours of your face, your complexion, and your basic bone structure and musculature will guide our creation but within those confines, there is a lot of room for variation, and here’s where the magic happens: You get to make some very important decisions, so here are our options.”

Morgana’s hands are wrapped around the hot cup of tea. The warmth delights her, as does this delicious news that she, a person who has spent so many years
feeling powerless, can help create her new self. That deserves another blueberry scone!

On the screen, there are computer-generated face and body composites. There are faces with dimples, low or high hairlines, widows’ peaks, cleft chins, long, aquiline, upturned, pointed or snub noses, high or low cheekbones, prominent or moderate chins, sharp or softened jaws, deep set eyes, thick or thin eyebrows, full lips, thin lips, rose petal lips, all shapes and sizes of ears. Then there’s teeth—long, short, straight, spaced. A slight overbite can be kind of cute, but maybe not. Hmmm…So many decisions! What kind of hair? Long, short, thick, thin, curly, straight, wavy, frizzy, out-of-control, restrained, blond, red, chestnut brown, ebony black. Any styles you’re partial to? Oh, and then there’s the body! Breasts—what size, shape, amount of bounce, pert and perky? Waist? How small? Hips? How large? Derriere—round or flat? Ample or not enough to jiggle? And what about the thighs? Legs in general? Thin, thick, muscular, shapely, soft, sinewy with bony ankles?

“Well, for me, the choice is simple! Right off the bat, let’s go with thin ankles and thick hair! That’s the exact opposite of what I’ve always had! I’ve always hated the mousy-brown, fine hair that runs in my family. I used to imagine myself with thick, rich, long, dark brown hair, until I realized that hair dye, shampoo or conditioner could only do so much—But is that a real choice for me, even though I’m 47 and have mostly grey hair now?”

“Oh, yes! We can take 15 years off your chronological age, so you will be a beautiful young woman of 32, which is really the perfect age for any kind of hair.”

“At 32, I wasn’t all that gorgeous, but, I looked a lot better than I do now,” she says sheepishly, eyeing Calliope’s flawless face.

Calliope pats her hand reassuringly. “Well, don’t you worry about it because all that will be behind you in just a short while.”

“Speaking of ‘behind me,’ the new me must have slim hips, and a nice, tight derriere! Since I’ve always been flat-chested, I don’t think I’d like big breasts—smallish breasts would be just fine, but I’d love to have some cleavage—not a lot, just a little!”

“That can all be arranged,” smiles Calliope as she swipes different body parts onto a grid-like armature that rotates on the screen to reveal all the contours in 3D.

An exquisite, lithesome body begins to take shape, so sleek and sexy that it takes Morgana’s breath away. For the face, she chooses large, limpid, green eyes set wide apart, veiled by thick eyelashes. The eyebrows are so beautiful—almost aerodynamically shaped. The nose is not some cute, little pixie thing, though—it’s a little less than prominent, and on the long side, but it’s the perfect nose to offset those thick, pouty lips. The mouth is wide—good for smiling, she figures. And good for talking, too! She’d kept her mouth shut for so long, maybe now she’d find her voice, and maybe she’d discover that it would be as sensual as those lips!

Calliope tells Morgana to pick out a hat as she is presented with a serendipitous array of all kinds of outlandishly cute hats that she would never, ever consider wearing. Morgana chooses a very loud, black and white striped sun hat with a wide brim, something you’d see a Vargas Girl sporting on an old pin-up calendar hanging in a 1950s gas station. After a couple of clicks, Calliope announces, “And now…the new you!”

The rotating armature disappears and in its place is a rather intense brunette beauty with large, hypnotic eyes regarding them with a lazy, somewhat piqued interest. Her red, painted mouth is just barely open as if to entertain an incipient orgasm. Her skin glows with a limited palette ranging from dusty rose to toasted peach, backlit by a high-wattage celestial gold. Almost as an afterthought, there are a good four inches of cleavage lurking in the shaded area of the photo where her left shoulder intercepts the sun.

Morgana presses her finger tips to her closed eyes, hoping to stanch the tears that sting her eyelids, but only succeeds in rubbing some greasy cookie crumbs into the hot tears that spill over her cheeks.

“I’m sorry!” She blubbers. “I don’t know what’s come over me…it’s all so overwhelming. I’m feeling so many emotions right now that I’ve just never felt before.”

Calliope turns towards her, takes her hands and holds them tightly between her own.

“I know what a challenge this is for you. All our clients have very similar reactions. It’s totally normal and actually quite healthy. The decision you have made to commit to the Adaptation is huge. This is a life-changing event, and not one to be taken lightly.

Calliope lets go of Morgana’s hands and rummages through the console’s desk drawers until she finds a tissue. She hands it to Morgana and smiles.

“OK, Morgana, there’s a left-over scone on that plate, and since we’re not taking any hostages today, you and I have to finish it off! What do you say?” If there’s anything that can get Morgana to stop crying, it’s a blueberry scone! She happily agrees and they laugh as the scone disappears between the two of them.

Behind them, a door whooshes, and another beautiful person (of whom, around here, anyway, there seems to be no lack), Dr. Hosanna Valenzuela, strides towards them. Her face and head are almost Betty Boopish. Her thick, black, shiny hair is short and clings to her head in a cap of wavy curls that caress her face. Her big, jet black eyes sparkle mischievously as her pretty lips scrunch up to repress a silly smile.

“Call-i-o-pe!” she sings in a pleasant, airy, girlish voice. “I’ve come to steal our new client away from you!”

“And, hello, Morgana, I’m Dr. Valenzuela. I feel as though I already know you—I am the person who has reviewed your psychological profile and I will be working with you to get you started with the Adaptation.”

Momentarily dazzled by Dr. Valenzuela, Morgana manages a vacant smile as she wonders if Dr. Valenzuela can feel the greasy crumbs from their soft handshake.

“Nice to meet you, Doctor,” and she adds, “If you had only come two minutes earlier, we would have had a nice scone for you, instead of a crumby, greasy handshake.”

“I lose out on more scones that way,” jokes Dr. Valenzuela. “If I were to arrive on time and talk less, I’d weigh twenty pounds more than I do.”

Not that Dr. Valenzuela can avoid it, but Calliope points to the projected image in front of them. “So Dr. V, what do you think of “the new Morgana?”

Dr. Valenzuela is clearly hamming it up to put Morgana at ease as she does a little double-take, wide-eyed wowing. “What a work of art!” she exclaims, carefully adding that the same is true of the old Morgana. Inwardly, Morgana chuckles at the absurdity of telling aging, dowdy, frumpy fat people that they are beautiful works of art. On the other hand, what is Dr. V supposed to do? Plus, it’s a whole lot better than being publicly—or even privately—humiliated. Even if it can be a bit patronizing, political correctness at least errs on the side of being kind.

“But,” wraps up Dr. Valenzuela, “This is the conversation we’ll have in my office. So if you and Calliope have finished up here in the Design Room, you and I can adjourn to my office.”

Calliope says, “I’d say we covered everything! Wouldn’t you, Morgana?”

Dr. Valenzuela’s office is a cozy little hobbit hole of a refuge. It is so out of character with the rest of “The Our Little Secret Travel Agency,” that it’s hard to believe that they haven’t left the premises—low, rounded ceilings and round openings to different rooms coming off the small office, low, yellowish soft lighting coming from little wall lamps with tiny shades made from old fashioned, Laura Ashley prints and end tables covered with pretty Provence motif fabrics–very cozy, very safe, very comforting.

They settle down comfortably into the soft, overstuffed, low sofas and armchairs, ready to talk.

“So, Dr. Valenzuela. I’m just curious as to why I wasn’t interviewed before the Design Room.”

Dr. Valenzuela, picking up on that little edge of challenge in Morgana’s question, proceeds gingerly. “That’s an easy question to answer. We wanted to see how you would react to the new you—your Tenum. The fact that you recovered quickly is a good sign. It shows that you will easily adapt to your “rediscovered” youth and beauty. If a client has a problem at this point, and there are some who do, the client will be given the option of breaking the contract with only a $1,000 penalty. By the way, should you have any doubts, you will have the same option right up until we actually begin the Adaptation.”

“No,” says Morgana, “No matter what, I want to do this. I cried before because I didn’t think I would ever experience what it’s like to be young again. And to be so beautiful! I really don’t know what I’m looking for. Maybe it’s just to rekindle a sense of hope that I’ve lost all these years. I’ve never been a very vain person, but my reaction makes me wonder.”

Dr. Valenzuela, trying to reframe her earlier comments, says, “Before, I told you that the old Morgana is also beautiful, but, I know that you’ll have none of that, because, of course, here you are, “escaping” to another body. Someone who can accept that they are still beautiful probably wouldn’t be doing such a thing.”

Morgana fidgets and concurs, “I’ve never felt beautiful. In fact, most of the time, I feel downright ugly. When I was fairly young, I gave up on being pretty. My goal was just to look normal, less ugly than I felt. I had two older sisters, each ‘just as pretty as a picture,’ as my mother would say.”

“Well, Morgana, even the most gorgeous women share our sense of unattractiveness. I, personally, have always envied women who project a complete lack of self-consciousness about their looks. But here’s what I’m getting at: having read your background, I believe that the experience of perceiving yourself as beautiful will exceed your expectations in so many ways. You will be able to see yourself in a whole new light.”

“I guess that’s also a bit of what made me cry. I know I’m putting the cart before the horse, but I was also grieving in advance for what it will be like during my 31 visits to know that each visit will be one less occasion that I am able to hang onto this new me. I’ll just be getting accustomed to being attractive, and then I’d have to give it all up, and I’ll be right back where I started.”

“Well, Morgana, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about. The new Morgana will teach you how to be more confident and how to be who you truly are. Each person is different, of course, and so much depends on the individual, but there is every reason to believe that during and after your experience being the new Morgana, the old Morgana will find herself renewed and invigorated, but at the end of the experience, you will find that your negative emotions can be severed from your self-perception, replaced by a new confidence that will transcend the physical realities and limitations of time of nature.”
Morgana considers this new insight and feels more at ease.

“You know, Dr. Valenzuela, there’s something I didn’t divulge in the paperwork. My husband is at home, just about comatose. He had a stroke two months ago, and it’s not looking very good. I feel so guilty about spending this money on something so frivolous and self-indulgent. On the other hand, I really need an escape, some kind of distraction, even if that distraction is me. Aside from feeling behind the eight ball, I’ve never thought about myself very much. This might not be a good time to start, but it’s probably as good a time as any.”

“Oh, Morgana! I’m so sorry to hear about your poor husband. This must be so hard on you!”

“Believe it or not, it was harder before he had the stroke. My life had become so unhappy with him. But I still feel an awful lot of loyalty towards him, but to be honest, I don’t love him anymore. I feel trapped, and am still trying to figure out what needs to be done. So far, all anyone tells me is just to wait and to be patient. I’m so sick of that! This “indulgence” is perfect because my “visits” will take place when he’s sleeping and when I’m sleeping. I don’t leave the house, he won’t be alone, and whatever happens during my “visits,” will be “our little secret.”

Dr. Valenzuela smiles and nods her head in an empathetic, well-practiced gesture of active listening. “So tell me, Morgana—Is there anyone in your circle of family and friends who knows about your venture with The Our Little Secret Travel Agency?”

“Only my best friend, Jerinda.” It is at this juncture that Morgana breaks down into an almost convulsive fit of breathless sobbing which lasts almost five minutes. She avails herself of a big box of tissues on the coffee table in front of her, blows her nose several times, wipes her face, and sighs in utter exhaustion. Her face is splotchy and her eyes are glassy.

“We need to talk about Jerinda,” suggests Dr. Valenzuela. “Are you up to that right now?”

To be continued in Chapter 3: Jerinda

Photo Credit: Charissa du Plessis in “The Perfect 10” by Kass Dea for Gaschette Magazine, June 2013

Music Credit: Gotye – Easy Way Out – Official Video (


Filed under Magical Realism, My Very Short Stories, Proto-Novella, Science Fiction, Short Story Series