Her roommates were conventionally pretty and shallow, and things began to go wrong when they interpreted Jane's silence and awkwardness as disdain of them. Jane was plump, dark and deep-voiced and prone to wearing capes that covered her body; the room-mates, Lisa and Emily, referred to her as "the bat" and her room (which they never entered) as the "bat-cave."
Before too many months of her freshman year had passed, Jane was struggling with the old feeling of insubstantiality, as if she were no more than a cloud which might be dissipated by any passing breeze. She came out of her room less and less and spent most of her time at her Apple II, logged on to the Darkworld BBS.
For this purpose she had put a special phone line in her room, so that she could stop fighting Lisa and Emily for use of the phone. The bulletin board was based in New York City, which was a long-distance call, and her monthly bills were soon appalling, but Darkworld was the only community in which she felt welcome.
The board was operated by a man in New York who designed and sold role-playing games. It had sections in which people talked about the games and others in which they actually played them, by describing moves in messages. Jane's character, both in the game and discussion areas, was a shapeshifter named Thing who could not shift; she was suffering from a disease which trapped her in a lumpy body. She had never disclosed her gender to anyone in Darkworld.
The board also had a chat function; you could look up a list of other users who were logged in simultaneously, and type back and forth to any one of them in real time. Lately, Jane had been having typed conversations with another player who called herself the Lady Ewas. Jane was convinced from certain clues that Ewas was really a man. Ewas cursed freely, played a warrior character in the game section, and frequently resorted to violence as the solution to problems. Jane herself was a thief in the game, not because she particularly wanted to be but because there were a limited number of roles to choose from. Shapeshifters in general were good thieves, because they could flow under doors or through locks, but a shapeshifter who couldn't shift wasn't worth very much.
Jane majored in music, minored in French and played chess at the chess club until nobody would take her on any more. Her instrument was the clarinet, which she played beautifully but which didn't give her much pleasure. She had the sense that she had started making bad choices years ago and was now at the wrong school, living with the wrong women, and studying the wrong subjects. She felt helpless to do anything about it, especially because she did not know what would be better. Sometimes she thought about quitting and going back home to live with her mother Alana in Montauk until she knew what to do; but the idea was so frightening that she compensated by not going home at all. She felt very close to losing herself entirely.
Sometimes she lay in bed trying to comfort herself by reliving the stories she had made up as a child. That was when she had invented Thing, and her brother Aidan had been the Sand Prince. They had played together for hours on the beach, elaborating the adventures of the two characters. Jane had continued making up stories about Thing when she was alone.
Alana had once purchased a beautiful ballerina doll, more for herself than for her lumpy daughter. The real doll was a reproach, but Jane incorporated it into the story as a beautiful princess named Dancer, who so loved stocky Thing that she traveled out from the glamorous city to see her on her secluded beach.
There were days when she felt like she was buried deep underground, scratching at the earth with her fingernails, waiting for the sound of a sympathetic spade digging her out.
One thing she enjoyed beside the Darkworld BBS was programming in Turbo Pascal. Borland had just published the first $99 programming language and she was teaching herself to write in it, with advice from other on-line friends she met on boards dedicated to the language. She thought at times she would have been happier studying computer science, but there was no department at the college.
Lisa and Emily were thin and pretty and wore make-up. She saw them only at meals, when the women piled up on one another in the little kitchen. They moved and talked around her as if she were invisible and soon she started making her own dinner at 4:30, when they were not yet home from class.
Colman College was set amidst woods ten miles outside of Hopeworth Junction, a small town in western New York; on the other side of it was a small co-ed college named after the town. Most of the Colman women dated Hopeworth College men, as the townies reputedly all had pointy heads, wispy hair and tattoos. "They all marry first cousins," Lisa said.
By mid-winter Jane knew she was deteriorating. She never said the word "depression" to herself, but she was showering less often, washing her clothes rarely, and going out of her room only when necessary. When she went out for groceries or to buy a text at the college store, she wore her cape, kerchief and sunglasses. She imagined being a shapeshifter able to turn into a rock or a tree. She obsessively ate cookies in her room while writing Pascal code or exchanging messages on Darkworld with Ewas and her other friends.
She and Ewas had typed to each other for a half hour one afternoon and Ewas suggested that they meet at midnight, when there would be less traffic on Darkworld. The BBS had only six incoming phone lines, and the sysop would ask people to log off who spent too much time chatting with each other during peak hours.
Ewas was ten minutes late and when she arrived Jane was lively with indignation and fear. Nobody had made her feel so intensely there for as long as she could remember.
THING> Ewas, I thought you weren't coming.
EWAS> Sorry, Thing, but I had to jumpstart my neighbor's car.
THING> I am sure you are really a man when you say things like that.
EWAS> *LOL* Thing, I didn't know lack of a Y chromosome prevents one from owning jumper cables.
THING> I am even more sure you are a man because you won't answer my question.
EWAS> Would it matter to you if I am a man?
THING> No but it would make me nervous.
EWAS>You don't like men?
THING> I do but they don't like me.
EWAS> I knew you were a woman, Thing.
THING> I am but how did you know?
EWAS> I could tell. I am never wrong.
THING> Spoken again like a man.
EWAS> Thing, I am a woman. You would probably call me a tomboy.
THING> I'd be very upset if you lied to me.
EWAS> Cross my heart which has a breast over it.
THING> Where are you?
EWAS> I live in western Mass. What about you?
THING> Colman College in W. NY.
EWAS> Why do you think men don't like you?
THING> I'm fat and I'm not pretty.
EWAS> Do you have the usual number of eyes and noses?
THING> Yes, why?
EWAS> Just checking. You could be beautiful and not know it. What color eyes?
THING> Deep blue....I've been told my eyes are beautiful....only thing.
EWAS> *marvelling at Thing's eyes*
THING> Thank you, Ewas.
EWAS> De nada....do you weigh 800 pounds?
THING> Of course not!
EWAS> Do you fit through the door of your room?
THING> Ewas, don't tease me.
EWAS> Just checking....you said you were fat.
THING> About thirty pounds overweight.
EWAS> By whose definition? There've been times in history that was the ideal of beauty.
THING> You're nice, keep talking.
EWAS> How old?
THING> Nineteen, you?
EWAS> I'm twenty-four.
THING> What do you do in RL?
EWAS> Game designer.
EWAS> No, don't know computers 'cept to type on one. Board games and RPG. "Sea Lion"--Flying Buffalo has the license. I made thirteen thousand last year, eight year before.
THING> Can you live on that?
EWAS> Dad still helps.
THING> Do you live with your folks?
EWAS> God no.
After that, Jane met Ewas online after midnight as often as she could persuade the other woman to be there. Jane herself was always available but Ewas was not: she had friends in her town, went to concerts and movies, and got together with groups to play role-playing games. There was always a Renaissance fair, gun show, or town meeting occupying her. Jane at times felt needy and afraid of irritating Ewas; but the other always seemed even-tempered and glad to be with her when they typed to each other.
THING> Ewas, I am Jane D. Molloy.
EWAS> Goodness, you must really trust me.
THING> I do but why?
EWAS> Name=power in Darkworld....I could cast hex.
THING> Then tell yours and we're equal.
EWAS> I am Victoria Sawe....constant jokes growing up, "what Vicky saw" etc.
EWAS> You got it. Even stranger, Dad owns mills-- "Sawe mills". I call "dark Satanic mills"--Blake.
THING> Victoria....I like it.
EWAS> What is "D" for, Jane D. Molloy?
EWAS> Beautiful! Who saddled you "Jane"?????
THING> Mom wanted Jane after dead sister, dad wanted Deirdre, mom won.
EWAS> You're Deirdre to me....use it. "J. Deirdre".
The next day, Jane went into town to the stationery store and had letter paper printed headed "J. Deirdre Molloy."
EWAS> Hello, J. Deirdre.
THING> Heklo, Eqwas.
EWAS> Heklo, Eqwas? Your fingers shapeshifted or what?
THING> I gad spme wine.
EWAS> J. Deirdre you're drunk!!!!
THING> I am drink Vuctiria. Cheds clib had a qine abd cherse dinnet.
EWAS> *ROFL* J. Deirdre, you should be ashamed of yourself! Wish I was there to tie your shoelaces together!
THING> I wiuld deginitrly fall...fall fir yiu, Ewas?
EWAS> Fall on the floor, J. Deirdre.
THING> I akreafy frll fir yiu, Ewas...I live yiu, Ewas.
EWAS> You live me??????
THING> Love you. Ewas.
EWAS> *very serious* You're drunk, J.D. Don't know what you're saying.
THING> Im sating brcayse Im drynk, but live you when In siber.
THING> Lobe you all werk, adraud to tekk yiu til drynk.
EWAS> You best drink some coffee.
THING> OK, Ikk gi make ppt.
The next night the women met on the board again.
EWAS> Last night you typed you love me?
THING> *Thing is bashful*
EWAS> Are you drunk now?
THING> Sober with head of moldy cheese.
EWAS> Do you remember?
THING> Remember and mean it.
THING> I love you, Ewas.
THING> Are you there Ewas? Say something.
EWAS> Don't love me, Thing.
THING> Why? You love man?
THING> You with somebody?
EWAS> No and don't want.
THING> Then why?
EWAS> I'm selfish and cruel.
THING> You're nice to me.
EWAS> Being nice to you is easy, but I am not a good person.
Ewas made Jane promise not to talk of love again, but after that she was sometimes affectionate in her speech:
EWAS> That's funny, Deir.
EWAS> Yes, dear.
Sometimes Jane would try to establish why Ewas thought she wasn't a good person.
EWAS> Impatient. Think only of self. Sometimes violent maniac.
THING> Killed anyone lately?
EWAS> Only in Darkworld. Not for lack of wishing.
EWAS> Some days would eliminate entire world, except for few people.
EWAS> Fishing for compliments, Thing????
THING> *blushing* Yes
EWAS> Except for you. Me and you in empty world.
The phrase became Jane's mantra as her life at Colman became more unbearable: "me and you in empty world," she would whisper to herself, thinking of Victoria.
In March, Jane had an attack of panic that Ewas after all was really a man who had taken advantage of her. Ewas recounted meeting Lady Silverlake, another Darkworld regular, at a Renaissance Fair in the town of Lee. The group had gotten into a particularly messy food fight:
EWAS> Silverlake hid in rest room--almost followed.
THING> Why couldn't follow?
EWAS> Pointers v. setters.
THING> You couldn't follow in lady's room????
EWAS> Silverlake is a man. Thought you knew.
Thing found Silverlake logged on one afternoon:
THING> Heard you met Ewas.
THING> Whats she like?
SILVERLAKE> Beautiful woman, thin, blonde hair, hazel eyes.
THING> She says she chased you in bathroom?
SILVERLAKE> Yes, I hid in lady's room.
THING> She couldn't come in lady's room????
SILVERLAKE> I locked door.
Jane emailed the sysop of Darkworld, but he replied it was against his policy to give out personal information about users.
She called Flying Buffalo and ordered a copy of Sea Lion. Six days later, she picked up a box at the college's mail window: "SEA LION A game of trireme warfare. Designer V. Sawe."
Jane considered suggesting a phone conversation to Ewas, but was frightened to do so.
Her roommate Lisa was a junior and the other, Emily, a senior. Emily dominated Lisa, who admired her; the two women were always together. Lisa's boyfriend, Rick Bauer, was a recent graduate from Cornell Law School who drove up from New York City one or two weekends a month. He was tall and darkhaired and, to Jane's eye, patrician-looking. Rick was the closest thing Jane ever saw to a male intellectual, and sometimes when he was alone in the apartment, and Lisa and Emily were out, he would talk to her. For a class, Jane was reading fiction about music, and one day he saw her with a copy of The Kreutzer Sonata and spoke to her about Tolstoy. Rick was already reserved and somewhat pompous--not as bad as he became later on-- but he spoke well and seemed to like Jane, so she looked forward to his visits to the apartment. Once, closed in her bedroom, she overheard Rick defending her against Emily's jibes.
Jane introduced Rick to her eldest brother, Liam, then starting his recruiting business in New York City, and Liam became the first law client Rick brought into his firm.
Brown-haired Emily also had a boyfriend, Steve James, who went to Hopeworth, and sometimes he brought friends over. One of these was the warmest, most charming young man Jane had ever seen, Phill Thompson, who had a charismatic, humorous manner and who always made eye-contact with her when he came into the apartment. Sometimes Jane would open her door and hear Emily, in the kitchen, lecturing the boys on something in her assertive humorless manner; Phill, in the living room, would grimace humorously at Jane.
One day, Jane was on one of her increasingly rare visits to the laundry room in the building's basement when Phill came in carrying a math textbook. "Lisa says you're very good at calculus," he said, smiling at her charmingly. They cleared someone else's unclaimed dry laundry off a table and she worked with him for an hour. Jane, who rarely thought of herself as a sexual being, was gripped by a terrible arousal and confusion as they worked together; he sat too close, and at moments her throat sealed up so she could not speak to him. She had never had a long-term boyfriend, and though she was not a virgin, her entire sex life so far consisted of two hurried and unhappy encounters with boys in high school.
She began tutoring Phill weekly in math, meeting him at the apartment or in the Colman library. Soon Phill was all Jane could think about; she felt a strong suspicion he was using her to get a better grade, or that at most he liked her as a friend, but there were moments when it seemed as if something more were possible. Then she would look up from the book and see Phill looking at her, or he would let his elbow rest for a moment on her shoulder as they reviewed a problem together. Jane concluded he was the most adorable, insincere man she had ever met. He made her middle brother Aidan, who was similarly wonderful, light-hearted and unreliable, seem as dour as Ricky Bauer.
Jane found herself reluctant to spend time online with Ewas, as she neither wished to lie to her or tell her the truth. For the first time, Ewas became the pursuer, requesting meetings which Jane was ill-disposed to grant. Ewas complained several times about Jane's new disregard for her, and Jane claimed to be very busy with midterms. Finally, one night Jane found email waiting on the Darkworld BBS:
I think you are avoiding me. We have had a sincere open friendship and now you are making silly excuses to me, which leads me to think there is a man in the picture. I can handle any truth but I hate to be lied to. Tell me the truth or I am gone.
The time of the message was only minutes before. Jane typed WHO at the prompt and confirmed that Ewas was on the board. She pinged her and Ewas typed:
EWAS> What is going on with you?
THING> Are you angry at me?
EWAS> Yes, I thought you were better than this. What's going on?
THING> How do you know anything's going on?
EWAS> Stop immediately or I disconnect.
THING> I met a boy, Phill. I'm helping with calculus.
EWAS> Are you fucking him?
THING> No, friends.
EWAS> You like him.
THING> I think so Ewas.
EWAS> What's he like?
THING> Blond, charming, funny.
EWAS> If you're as ugly as you say he can't be interested.
Words on a screen had never caused physical pain before, but Ewas might as well have slapped her in the face. Jane broke the connection immediately by unplugging the phone cord from the jack. She couldn't cry but sat in her chair leaning forward on her knees, with a stinging pain in her chest.
The next night there was email waiting. If Ewas had apologized, Jane would have contacted her, but the tone was imperious: "Meet me tonight, I must speak to you." At midnight it required an effort of will not to log in to Darkworld. When Jane connected the next afternoon, Ewas pinged her, but Jane ignored her. After that Ewas did not write again.
Jane hoped that Phill would ask her out on a weekend. One day, when she and Lisa were alone, Lisa, whose motives seemed more compassionate than jealous, warned her that Phill had a girlfriend at Hopeworth. Jane went back in her room and sat looking at the cover of the calculus text: a mixture of reds and oranges, it reminded her of a sunset, and right now symbolized the further sinking of her hopes. She opened her bedroom shades for the first time in weeks and stared out at the hills until the sun went down, recapitulating the scene on the textbook's cover.
The next night, a Thursday, she tutored Phill at the library and unexpectedly, he asked her to dinner. They drove into Hopeworth in his ten year old Datsun and ate at the Italian restaurant, sharing two bottles of Chianti. His apartment was next door and they ended up sitting on the couch in his living room, drinking another bottle of wine he had picked up at the liquor store on the corner. Phill had been utterly charming without touching her all evening. Jane felt out of control, out of her own body, when he began kissing her and touching her breasts on the couch. She felt wild desire for him but had enough self-respect left to know that this was not the way she wanted things to happen. She had hoped for something rare, not another drunken grope like high school. She made a nice little speech about liking him but being too intoxicated to do anything, and Phill responded that he was unable to drive her home. Colman was miles away, it was after midnight, and Jane considered calling a taxi, but he suggested she could sleep in Steve's room. Steve was staying with Emily. She peered into Steve's bedroom, but it seemed clean and the bed was neatly made. She lay down on top of the covers fully dressed and fell asleep to wake an hour later with her skirt off and Phill on top of her.
Jane was dressed again and walking down Hopeworth's main street crying. Jim Thomason, a town policeman, picked her up in his cruiser and asked what had happened. She wouldn't tell him and he concluded that she had merely had too much to drink. He drove her back to the apartment. It was three in the morning and everyone was asleep. Jane went right to the bathroom and undressed. She found she was not wearing her bra and panties; she heard later that Phill had kept them as a trophy. She stood in the shower for an hour, washing down there again and again and crying so hard her body was racked and bent. She wrapped herself in a towel and threw her skirt and blouse in the garbage, then went to her room and did not come out until the next evening.
For several days, she could not keep anything down and even when she ceased vomiting she had no appetite. She stopped attending her classes and when she came out of her room she would sometimes see Emily and Lisa, the one staring at her coldly and the other looking at her sympathetically, but they did not say anything. Jane fasted until she felt weak and spiritual, like a concentration camp victim, but nothing could address the desperate emptiness in her mind and heart. She constantly found herself staring wide-eyed at the hills out her window, but she wasn't thinking about anything. She felt like a huge, diffuse fog as a west wind begins to blow. If the sun came out, it would be at her expense; she would no longer exist.
One April afternoon, she logged into Darkworld for the first time in ten days and found Ewas waiting. (Jane did not know till later that Ewas was now connecting to Darkworld whenever she was home, returning to the computer to type WHO every few minutes while working, watching television, or speaking on the telephone. Her phone bills for that month ran into hundreds of dollars and she had to ask her father's help to pay them.)
Ewas pinged her and typed merely "Deirdre? Deirdre..."
THING> Ewas, I love you. I'm so sorry.....
Jane dressed in jeans, hiking boots, a thick sweater and her cape and went for a walk in the hills at four o'clock on an April afternoon. The weather was unseasonably warm, in the low fifties. The trail was marked with white blazes, but she took a footpath off to one side, then walked on a leaf floor amidst widely separated pines, then began blundering through thickets which inflicted bloody scratches on her arms. She finally sat down at dusk and leaned against the trunk of an evergreen. She wrapped her cape around her and imagined listening to voices within the tree: Ewas and Truthseeker and Silverlake whispering through the roots. Night came and she could hear the occasional crashing of a large animal, the chittering of a disturbed bird, nearby scamperings of smaller creatures. The temperature descended into the thirties and she began shivering uncontrollably, dozing off and waking with a start. She thought she should move and wondered if she was freezing to death, but realized she would welcome an end without any pain, if she could go to sleep now and not wake up.
Jane fell asleep and had disjointed dreams, in which she lay against the flank of a huge warm animal, took a bubble bath in hot water, bought a wonderful thick white wool sweater in a store. She dreamed that her mother Alana drove up in a station wagon to take her home. When she woke, it was ten thirty in the morning, the sun was shining down through the trees, and she was cold, stiff and sick. She felt disappointed to be alive.
Jane walked downhill until she found the trail again. She stepped in a mud-hole and lost a boot, so she went the last mile to her apartment building in her thick socks. She threw the other boot away in front of the apartment house along with the muddy socks, and entered the apartment barefoot, disheveled and covered in pine needles. Emily stared at her but did not say anything. Jane undressed and got into bed, staring at the ceiling, speechless as a stone.
In Lee, Massachusetts, Victoria Jane Sawe could not stand the suspense any longer. She knew the sysop of Darkworld in "RL"--real life--through the game publishing community, and called him. He was reluctant to give out the information but she shouted at him until he capitulated and told her Jane's address and phone number, which he had from Jane's original registration with Darkworld. Victoria considered telephoning, but could not take the chance that Jane would tell her not to come. She packed a duffel bag and a briefcase full of design work. At five on Saturday morning, she put them in the small trunk of her elderly Volkswagen Bug, hid her loaded Smith and Wesson .38 beneath the carpet under the driver's seat and admitted Juno, her red setter, to the passenger side. She drove south on highway 7 and west on 28 into New York State. At sunup, she was driving through the Catskills, past towns with names like Shokan, Olivaera, and Big Indian. It took five hours to drive to Hopeworth.
She stopped in town and got directions and twenty minutes later, she was parked outside Jane's apartment house. She left Juno in the car and rang the buzzer; after a brief dialog, Lisa let her up. The two roommates indicated Jane's door and Victoria pounded on it as hard as her heart was pounding at that moment.
Jane was feverish and weak and couldn't easily get out of bed. She hadn't had anything to eat in more than forty-eight hours. "Who's there?" she called weakly. "Ewas," was the answer. Victoria tried the door, found it was open, and entered with such force that the door banged on the wall. Jane saw a thin blonde woman five feet eight inches tall, with a handsome, hawklike face and hazel eyes. Victoria sat next to her on the bed and felt her forehead. "Deirdre, you're burning up," she said. "What happened?" "I spent a night in the woods," Jane said.
Victoria went out to confer with the roommates and came back with a thermometer, a bottle of juice and a plate of muffins. Jane's temperature was a hundred and two. Victoria helped her to sit up and drink some juice. Jane wanted to decline food, but Victoria made her eat half a muffin. Jane began to gag and Victoria grabbed the wastepaper basket in time, then held her head as she threw up.
Victoria brought ice wrapped in a wash-rag for Jane's forehead. She went out again, leaving the door ajar, and Jane heard her interrogating Emily. The voices got louder until Victoria shouted, "You couldn't tell?" "How could I know?" Emily said in her most petulant voice. "She's always weird." There was a startling sharp noise and Emily yelled, "She hit me! How could you come into my house and slap me? What kind of person are you?" Victoria came back and said, "You live with shrews and vixens. Why didn't you get out?" Jane wondered for the first time why she hadn't left them and taken a room alone.
"I have to get you out of here," Victoria said. Jane had begun to feel like a human again, under the care of another; she snuggled under the cover. Victoria went out and Lisa, who had never been in her room before, came in to sit with her for a while. Jane liked her dark hair, pale skin and brown eyes. Jane was moving in and out of clarity but she thought Lisa was trying to apologize to her. "I didn't mean to be mean, but its so easy to fall in with Emily." A little later, she asked, "What's that?" Beyond the Apple II, the piles of clothing, the sheet music, the clarinet and the stacks of books, Jane had taped notes to the dresser and the wall, and connected them together with pieces of string. "That's the outline for a paper I was writing on The Kreutzer Sonata," Jane said, and fell asleep.
She woke when Victoria came back. Victoria had located a motel with semidetached units with kitchenettes, and had stocked the room with supplies. She dressed Jane and Lisa helped her half-carry Jane to the car. They put her in the passenger seat and Juno surged from the back, licking her face. Lisa stayed to talk to her through the window while Victoria went back up to pack up some of Jane's clothes and toiletries.
Victoria took her back to the hotel, undressed her, put a clean nightgown on her and put her in bed with the heat turned up. Jane haltingly told her about Phill. "You were raped," Victoria said. "Was I? I wasn't sure," Jane replied. "I was very careless. I drank wine and went to his apartment."
"Did you ask him to stop?"
"Did he continue?"
"Did he penetrate you?"
"You were raped."
Late that night, Jane's temperature had spiked up over a hundred and four and Victoria put her back in the Bug and took her to the emergency room at the student health center at Hopeworth College. Jane had pneumonia and a nurse scolded a suddenly quiet Victoria for not bringing her in earlier. Jane, delirious, was telling Victoria a long, incoherent story about Aidan and some sea otters. The nurses rushed Jane past people waiting with cuts and bruises. When she woke again, twenty-four hours later, she was in a private room with an IV in her arm. She saw Victoria leaning forward in the armchair, her hands joined as if in prayer. "What are you doing?" Jane asked. Victoria stood and turned to her with a brilliant smile. "I was praying." "I didn't know you believed in God," Jane said.
"Let's just say I was doing some horse-trading."
Victoria rented a furnished apartment in Hopeworth. It had a view of the hills similar to the one Jane saw from her bedroom. Lisa came to spend an afternoon at the hospital and Victoria drove a U-Haul van round-trip to Lee, Massachusetts in a day, emptying her small rented house and bringing all her things to Hopeworth. She brought Jane home and installed her in a queen-sized bed, under a beautiful thick comforter. She made phone calls to arrange for Jane's medical leave; Jane had to repeat the semester but would take summer courses to get a head start. Now that the emergency was over, Jane called Alana in Montauk, but asked her not to come to Hopeworth.
Victoria sat cross-legged on the bed with Jane's head in her lap, stroking her fine black hair. "Let me tell you about Deirdre," she said. "Deirdre is a fine compact young woman with strong shoulders and beautiful skin. She has a kind, open, handsome face with the most beautiful blue eyes in the world. She has compassion and intelligence, a great heart and mind, both waiting to unfold. I see hands made for work and legs which could walk a thousand miles if needed."
"I love you, Ewas."
"I love you, Deirdre," Victoria said, momentarily looking away, as if embarrassed to love anybody. But Jane knew it was true.
There was one thing which Victoria still wanted to do, but it had to wait until Jane felt well enough to go out. On a morning in late May, Victoria helped Jane, who was still very weak, into the car, and they drove to the river which bisected Hopeworth College. Victoria wouldn't say what their mission was, but Jane was content to lean back in the seat with the sun on her, in a nice down jacket Victoria had bought her. Victoria and Juno got out, and Victoria got something from the trunk, but Jane couldn't see what it was.
A tiny figure appeared on the jogging path along the bank, and Jane recognized Phill. She panicked, turning to Victoria, who had already set off down the hill with Juno. Victoria, her hair pushed up under a cap, was carrying a baseball bat. As Phill passed her, she swung it and hit him in the knee, and he fell immediately to the ground, where Juno romped on him until Victoria grabbed her collar. Victoria bent over Phill, who lay holding his knee with one hand and protecting his face with the other. She said something to him and then came back to the car. She drove away very quickly as Jane said, "It looked like you broke his leg."
"I didn't break anything. It was a warning tap. He fell to the ground like a big baby."
"You could be arrested."
"He won't dare, because I told him I'd have him charged with rape. And you're not the only girl he's done that to."
"I wouldn't have let you do that, if you told me."
"I didn't do it for you," Victoria said. But Jane didn't believe her.
Jane told Aidan and a few of her Darkworld friends whom she trusted: "My life is the most beautiful story I know."
Jane called herself Deirdre ever afterwards. Almost halfway into the following century, she was still telling people: "A woman came by uninvited one afternoon in April 1982. And she stayed for the rest of her life."