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Do You Know Who You Are?

The question encompasses much more than a name or even an occupation. 

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If I have a theme as an author (and a person), it is identity. The question, “Who am I?” encompasses much more than a name or even an occupation. 

Who am I? 

I have several theories about why this is a question I come back to again and again in my books (and in my life). My earliest theory is because of when I grew up. My early childhood was the 50s, but I came of age in the 60s and 70s, when women’s roles were in a huge state of flux. 

Here’s an example of my “before.” 

When I was in high school, we were given a test that involved flattened boxes. We were supposed to pick what they’d look like put together. I was talking with someone recently who mentioned this same test as military? I have no memory of that. 

But the person I was talking to go 100% on the test and got contacted by all branches of the military. 

I got 100% on the test all those years ago and got told by our guidance counselor that I was a good fit to be an interior decorator. 

I was probably ill-suited for the military and definitely not suited to be an interior decorator. 

But it is a pretty good indicator of how much the world I’ve lived in has changed. I don’t say this to whine or complain, but as a matter of interest. (My grandmother was born in 1898 and went from horse and carriage to seeing a man on the moon and beyond. Change is inevitable.)

I spent the bulk of my life (so far) without computers or cell phones. I used to drive across the state to college with quarters for the payphones I used to report my progress. I will admit that when I think about it now, it seems a very long time ago. Lol

I think we all live several lives as we change and the world around us changes, too. 

So that’s my main theory. My other theories? Well, not sure they’d count as theories and they all seem to spin off the basic question: who am I?

But what if you had forgotten who you are? Okay, I’ll admit to being fascinated with amnesia stories and have written two. One is a short story called “Men in Jeans,” and the other a novel in my Lonesome Lawmen series called Missing You. 

“Men in Jeans” is an amnesia story with a twist. And amnesia is the least of my poor heroine’s problems. Here’s an excerpt from the short story:

There was a peephole, so Rick held up his ID so she could see it.

The door didn’t open.

“What do you want?” The voice sounded muffled coming through the red door.

“We need to speak with you, Ms. Smith.”

The door opened a crack, the chain still on. Part of a face peered out the gap.

“Let me look at your ID.”

Rick put it in her hand. They weren’t FBI but she wouldn’t be able to tell. It was an authentic forgery.

“He doesn’t look FBI.”

Rick looked at Fyn. She was right. He’d crossed his arms over his chest and planted his feet, like someone who meant to stay as long as needed. If he’d really been FBI, the dreads would be long gone.

Rick tried to look safe and trustworthy. “You can call that number on the badge, ma’am. They’ll vouch for us.”

“I’m sure they will.” Her voice sounded a bit dry, a bit cynical.

Lady wasn’t a fool.

Another long pause, then the door closed—and opened again, this time without the chain. She stood in the opening. She had a cordless phone in her hand, her thumb on the speed dial. Just a guess, but he had a feeling nine-one-one was the number. Very smart lady. Pretty, too. Way better than her driver’s license photo, but then most people were. Green light spilled into the dim hallway, highlighting the fact that she was, well, hot. Great features, great body in shorts and a tee-shirt. Bare feet, the toes painted same red as the door. She had gathered her hair into an untidy mass on top of her head, but silken strands escaped to curl against creamy skin.

Her eyes were so blue, they almost looked purple.

Not what he’d expected from a writer. Or ET. Now if she was Mata Hari…

The eyes narrowed in suspicion and her body language was defensive.

“Why would the FBI be on my doorstep?”

Her gaze met his. Her chin lifted. Slid Fyn’s way. Fyn stared back without speaking. Huge shock that. After what seemed like a long time, his shoulders lifted in what might have been a sigh. Or a shrug. A slight, a very slight frown formed between his brows.

“We’d like to talk to you, ma’am.” Rick smiled in a friendly way. Whether he wanted it or not, he’d been cast as Good Agent. Fyn was tailor-made to be bad.

“So, talk.”

Since no one could see them, it was hard to make a case for taking it private. At this rate they wouldn’t be inside before she wrote and released another book. Speaking of which…

“We were wondering where you get the ideas for your books, ma’am?”

Her jaw slackened. Her eyes widened. It didn’t reduce her hotness factor at all.

“What?”

Rick wished he had a tie to tug on. Not that he liked wearing ties, but the moment seemed to call for a good tie tug. “We need to talk to you about your books, ma’am.”

“Is this some kind of weird joke?” She looked past them, as if she expected a camera crew to pop out of the underbrush. “A new reality show?”

“We’re not allowed to joke, ma’am.” It took some work, but his lips didn’t twitch.

She didn’t try to keep hers from twitching.

“I—you…” She sighed. “You’d better come in.”

Finally she stepped back so they could enter. She kept the phone in hand, though.

Nothing unusual, or even that interesting, about the hall or the Great Room at the end of it. Rick wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, or would that be hoping? Maybe a picture of her home planet on the wall? Alien furniture. Her certificate for passing spy school? Garradian artifacts?

“I understand you only recently moved here?” He looked around. She’d settled in fast. He’d been at Area 51 for two years and he still had some unpacked boxes lying around.

She arched her brows, her body language still defensive. Or annoyed. Hard to tell those two apart sometimes.

“Can we sit down?” Rick had had twenty-four hours to come up with a plan. Twenty-four years wouldn’t have been enough. He was basically winging it. So far couldn’t feel any lift. More like they were running along the ground. Hitting stuff.

“Of course.” A pause. “Can I get either of you something to drink?”

Lot of reluctance in her voice, a bit of polite.

“Water would be nice.” Rick smiled.

“Yeah.” A pause from Fyn. “Thanks.”

He kept that up, he really would be talking too much.

She disappeared into the open plan kitchen that butted up against the Great Room. Fyn settled on the edge of a chair, like it was a hot seat, his hands clasped between his splayed knees.

When she returned, both men stood again and she handed them each a bottle of water. Rick twisted the top off and took a drink. The cold water felt good going down. Nevada was hot, but that was a dry heat. Texas was damp hot.

“Thank you, ma’am.” He waited for her to perch on the edge of a rocker, before resuming his spot on her couch. He let the silence grow, hoping she’d give him an opening.

She didn’t.

“You been writing long, ma’am?”

She rubbed her temple as if it ached before she answered. “About five years.”

“You were a librarian, weren’t you?”

“Yes.”

Most people would be babbling by now, spilling their guts. She just looked at him, her violet eyes wary.

Okay. He thought a bit, then tried, “Any reason why you chose science fiction?”

She looked away. Looked back. “It’s what I like to read.”

“Really? You read science fiction? Why is that?”

Her lips tightened and he thought she’d lose it.

“Because I like it.”

Point to her. “Right.”

Fyn shifted restlessly. “Why’d it take you so long to answer the door?”

Wow, a whole sentence.

“I was reading. Science fiction. With my headphones on.”

He could see temper simmering in her eyes.

Fyn looked around. “Where’s your book?”

Her fingers tightened around her bottle of water. “I was outside. On the deck.”

Fyn rose, pointed out the patio doors. “Out here?”

“Yes.” She snapped the word off.

“Mind if I look?”

He got a look that might be permission.

Fyn pulled the glass door back and stepped out. Rick could see the foot of a lounger, saw Fyn pace toward it and stop. He turned. Retraced his steps.

She stood up, her arms crossed again. “It’s called Games of Command. Do you need me to tell you the plot to prove I was reading it?”

“Actually,” Fyn said, “I was wondering about the dead guy.”

* * * * 

I wrote this short story for an anthology call-out—I think it might be the first time I’d done that—and I enjoyed writing the story. I’m dark like that. Lol

You can find “Men in Jeans” in Project Enterprise: The Short Stories. Since I put this together, I’ve written more short stories in my Project Enterprise Series, but at the time, I thought this was going to be it. You can find out more about the stories here. 

Like I said, life changes and I have had to change with it. 

Do you ever ponder who you are or do I think too much?

Perilously yours,

Pauline

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