She's Me(2)By: Mimi Barbour
A strangeness settled over her as she sat to pull out the spine. As soon as her body touched the bench, a trancelike state began to take hold. Her mind felt numb, and later she would swear that her body floated away from her and disappeared in small drifts, like a cloud shifting.
Finally, she broke loose from these imaginings and turned to talk to Marnie, who was nowhere to be seen. She shook her head and reached up to rub her forehead, but when she touched herself she knew something was dreadfully wrong. It was as though she were having an out-of-body experience. Everything around her had altered. She closed her eyes and slumped further down on the bench. She twisted herself agitatedly, opened her eyes again and looked in every direction. It was then she realized that the road looked oddly different from the one she remembered.
She swivelled every which way, still seated because she felt weakened somehow, too weak to stand. And then she spied her dress and screamed. When she’d walked outside, she was wearing white jean capris and a navy-and-white designer top, with a rhinestone-decorated white jean jacket to set off the ensemble.
Now, clutched in her shaking hands, her garb seemed to be a full-skirted, polka-dotted garment that hung down well past her knees, along with—what scared her silly—white gloves over her decidedly plump hands.
“What the hell is going on?” she cried, and then, glancing up, her frantic gaze met the startled eyes of two ladies dressed for church in their flowered Sunday dresses and matching hats, their white-gloved hands carrying what looked like Bibles. They stared at her over the flower-covered stone wall, obviously wondering if they should call for a straight jacket. Across the lane a couple of teenage girls in miniskirts were gawking at her, too, eyes emphasized by lots of dark makeup, white-lipsticked mouths in O shapes. They looked like something out of an old movie. Just passing the gate was a slender man, a bit on the short side, well proportioned but of nondescript looks. He turned in quickly and came rushing to the garden bench, where he knelt in front of her.
“Are you in trouble?” he asked, greenish-grey eyes full of kindness. His straight-cut beige pants and Perry Como sweater looked strangely old-fashioned, and so did his short, side-parted, brown hair.
Jenna’s whole body trembled, shuddering so severely her purse fell from her hands and emptied onto the grass. Distressed, she moaned and covered her shocked eyes. She’d never seen that bag before.
Quickly and efficiently, the stranger gathered her belongings and waited patiently for her to calm herself. In an apparent effort to help, he began to talk.
“My name is John Norman, and I’m the doctor here in town. I have a practise in my house, which is right down the lane if you have need of medical assistance.” He kindly pried her hands from her face and manoeuvred the motion in such a way as to give him access to her wrist so he could check her pulse. “Take a deep breath, my dear, and calm down.”
Jenna looked up, fear swelling within her. “What is wrong with me? I feel so different. You’ll think me crazy, but this dress I’m wearing—I’ve never seen it before in my life, or these ridiculous gloves.” Voice rising, she stared into his wary eyes and notched the shock up one more level. “And these hands aren’t mine.”
She started to cry in great, gulping, pitiful sobs that grew shockingly louder when she heard herself. These noisy gasps—loud, brash and disgustingly honest—were nothing like her normal crocodile tears.
“Where do you live?”
“Here in the vicarage. I’ve rented it with my secretary for a few days.”
“Oh, is that so? Well, I’m surprised the Bowens would rent out their home, but I guess they were planning to be in London for at least a month. I don’t know them well, after all. I only recently moved here to open my practise. Why don’t you come in with me,” coaxed John, “and we’ll go and get you a nice cuppa. You’ll soon calm yourself. By the way, what is your name?”
Jenna was more than ready to get away from the growing crowd of nosy onlookers gathering in hope of some excitement. “Jenna McBride. I’m a freelance model. You’ve probably seen some of my work in Vogue or Chatelaine magazine. In fact, I’ve been on so many front covers, I’ve forgotten them all.”