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9. Joni and her sister have a tal

8. Just what *is* "normal," aroun

7. Jon the *externally* normal gi

6. Just how *do* you fix this...?

5. Karyn shares the feminine expe

4. "Joni" goes to school...

3. Jon wakes up as an *entirely*

2. A wish for something interesti

1. You Are What You Wish

Jon the Entirely Normal Girl: The Facts of Life

on 2024-05-04 20:28:38
Episode last modified by nothingsp on 2024-05-04 21:57:29

701 hits, 99 views, 5 upvotes.

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She stepped carefully up the stairs, minding the cocoa; she was slowly getting the hang of her new legs, but it was still weird having hips quite this broad. But she did manage not to spill, even as she was preoccupied with thoughts of what she could do to fix this. If she could just get a moment alone with the stone...okay, she'd promised not to roll back to a world without "Joni," but surely she could be excused for taking away the genuinely freakish side of this reality. It wasn't like any of Karyn's precious childhood memories of her revolved around-

She squirmed upon remembering that they apparently did, shook her head, and peeked into Michelle's room. Her sister wasn't there; but Mom had said she was upstairs, hadn't she? Then she recalled Michelle coming over to hang out the other morning; was this just a thing with them? She didn't remember Mikey being prone to that; did it mean that Karyn was right about their relationship...?

She went to her own room; sure enough, there she was, huddled up on the bed with the blankets around her stomach and lower body. In spite of her current emotional muddle, Joni couldn't help but find it oddly charming, and smiled gently as she entered; but it didn't take her long to notice that her little sister looked a bit addled herself. "Hey," she said, feeling a little concerned, "you okay there?"

Michelle glanced up, and her face brightened; she was visibly exhausted, and seemed a little dazed and confused, but also a little excited. She scooched over, and Joni sat down next to her on the bed. "Mom thought you could use this," she said, handing over one of the mugs and taking a sip from the other herself; the warmth felt so good spreading through her abdomen, soothing the ache in muscles she'd never imagined having before...after a moment, the two of them sighed almost in unison.

Joni still found it strange to see this other-version of her sibling; but the more she saw of her, the more she found herself connecting the two in her mind. They weren't identical, or anything quite so simple as being the same mind in a different body; her mannerisms were definitely more feminine, and she was less boisterous and more easygoing. But there were so many little things that were so very Mikey - her laugh, the particular way she bit her lip when she was thinking, her habit of flicking her head rather than reach up to brush her hair aside - that there was no doubt in her mind: they were, in a real sense, the same person.

(Was this what people meant when they tried to define a "soul" as some kind of unique essence transcending the boundaries of brain and body? She wondered, again, what it implied for her.)

They sat there for a minute or two, sipping cocoa and saying nothing. Michelle clearly had something on her mind, but hadn't quite psyched herself up to say it; but she pressed up against her big sister, who could feel her almost vibrating. Joni wasn't sure why, but she found herself very bemused. "Alright, you," she said, a little surprised at the tone of warmth and affection in her voice, and how much it reminded her of her mother, "Mom said you had something to tell me. C'mon, out with it."

Michelle looked surprised for a moment, then a little nervous, then smiled sheepishly. "I, um..." she began, hesitated, and glanced up at her sister, who gave her the best she could muster for a supportive smile; it seemed to work. "I...laid my first clutch today."

Joni felt a kind of mental whiplash as her train of thought forked off in two separate directions at once. One part of her - the tactful, emotionally-intelligent part, the part she hadn't really developed 'til he was in his second year of junior high, but which thank God was ready to step in here - put an arm around her sister's shoulder, squeezed her gently, and kept her mouth and face occupied in saying: "Really? ...Wow."

The other part of her brain juddered like a car stripping its gears as she tried to simultaneously process A. the raw fact of the matter, which she was still coming to grips with re: herself, B. a sudden wave of squirming guilt at the thought that she'd dragged her own little brother into this, and C. the question of how the hell she was supposed to react here. What did you say to that? "Congratulations!"? "I'm sorry..."? "AAAIGHH!?"?

While she was busy juggling wildly disparate mental processes in her head, Michelle took another sip of cocoa and then leaned against her, laying her head on her sister's shoulder. Her expression mingled faint embarrassment (which Joni fully understood) with happiness, of all things (which was utterly baffling.)

How could anyone be happy about this!? She wasn't lacking context, anymore; she'd lived through it herself, and she could say authoritatively that it was uncomfortable and goddamned inconvenient, even if you were prepared to accept it as "normal" instead of freaky and gross (which she wasn't.) She felt like grabbing her erstwhile brother by the shoulders and impressing upon him/her that none of this was normal and neither of them were who they really were...

...but, well...that wasn't what her li'l sis needed right now, was it. She heaved a sigh and gently rubbed Michelle's shoulder, letting her thoughts converge onto that single point of focus and leaving the other stuff for later; her sister responded with a considerably less troubled sigh of her own.

"It's funny," Michelle said. "Like, 'm still just a kid, aren't I...? I'm not gonna be a grownup for forever, but my body's already getting ready to have kids of my own someday. And even if I didn't, I'd still keep laying 'til I'm, like, an old lady..."

"...Yeah, I guess it is funny," Joni said, after a moment; she still felt wildly unqualified to be offering insight here, but it felt less like she didn't belong in this conversation when she focused on the thought that it was for support. "But, well, even boys start growing up long before they're grownups."

"Mom says it means I'm 'becoming a young woman,'" she mused quietly, sipping her cocoa. "She never used to call me that; I was always a 'big girl...'" She glanced up at Joni. "Did that happen with you, too?"

"Ah, you know, I don't really remember," Joni replied; that was strictly true, but she wondered how much of "Joni's" history she was gonna have to fake her way through recollecting here. If she could use the stone right now, it'd be easier; but the thought of filling her head with memories of her other self still made her uneasy.

"I guess it was a long time ago," her sister said, nodding thoughtfully. "Mom says you were an 'early bloomer,' just a coupla years after she laid me." She smiled fondly. "She always tells me about how you used to brood for her while she was nesting with me, but I guess this was even new to you sometime..."

"Heh, it sure was," she said, feeling a bit guilty about getting through this on technical truths; but she was more preoccupied with the mental image of herself as a...a little girl...and the egg that would eventually hatch into her sister. She felt another weird surge of hormonal feelings at that. "A-and, yeah, that was a while back..." she stammered, trying to distract herself.

"She talks like it's a funny story that it was you who hatched me," Michelle said, and nuzzled against her, "but I'm glad it was, otherwise I wouldn'ta imprinted on you. I guess we'd still be sisters, but..." She sighed happily. "...well, Mom's Mom, but you're special too, Sis."

For a while, Joni said nothing, first because she was trying to sort out the implications, and then because she was in another total emotional jumble once she had. Did that mean that...what, that Michelle saw her as almost literally a secondary mother-figure? Forget puberty, was that where this supposed "mom energy" Karyn talked about came from, because she'd actually seen a child into the world!? (Even if it wasn't hers... ...and there went those damned hormones again.)

And here was another precious memory of someone's that simply wouldn'tve been possible in the old reality. She wanted to protest that they'd still be close even if it hadn't happened that way, but she had no idea if that was even true for this reality. Instead, she finished her cocoa, set the mug down on the footboard, and began to gently run her fingers through her sister's hair. She wasn't sure why; it just seemed like the thing to do.

"Mm," Michelle murmured, leaning into her touch. "...Oh, Mom got a picture from Karyn's mom the other night. You guys did each other's hair..."

"U-uh, yeah," Joni said; she hadn't been aware that Mrs. Black had taken any photos, but her own mom had been ready enough with a camera for cute-kid moments, back in the day, that she knew the drill.

Her sister smiled. "You looked pretty with your hair up like that. Um, d'you think you could do that for me...?"

"Well, Karyn was the one who did that," she said, hoping to deflect (and still feeling weird about feeling good about being called "pretty;") but she was completely powerless before her li'l sis's excited face, and immediately knuckled under. "But, uh, I guess we can try..."

She went to the bathroom and rummaged through the drawer where she vaguely recalled Zoe keeping assorted hair stuff. Let's see, Karyn had used that donut thing, and luckily enough there were a couple to be had; that, a hairband, and one of the fourteen million bobby pins that seemed to infest the house. That was everything, wasn't it...? Oh, she'd brushed it out first, might as well grab that...

Joni tried to remember how this'd gone, as she sat back down on the bed. She began to gently brush Michelle's hair; it was easier to mind how she handled the tangles after doing this with Karyn, and she was able to straighten it out without any visible signs of discomfort on her sister's part. She felt a little proud of herself at that.

"But, um, boys don't have to deal with this, do they?" Michelle said, while she was trying to do the ponytail. (How much hair had Karyn left for the braid, again...?) "Even what, um, other girls do..."

"Well, no," she said, thinking wistfully back to the period of her life where she hadn't been able to make a truly informed comparison. "There's...still stuff about puberty that's uncomfortable or weird, but they don't have anything like that."

"D'you think that's why they tease us about it...?"

She paused in the middle of arranging her sister's hair around the donut; that hadn't sounded like a very hypothetical question. "...Is someone picking on you at school?" she asked. If her little sister (brother, brother) was getting hurt over something having to do with this bizarre reality she'd accidentally conjured up...

Michelle sighed, shrugged, and leaned into her big sister's touch, prompting her to continue. "It's Trevor," she said.

Joni frowned as she snapped the hairband into place around the base of the bun. "I thought you two got along, normally...?" Mikey didn't really have a lot of close friends that she knew of, but the Travers kid was a classmate he seemed to like well enough. Had even that changed?

"We were at recess last semester and my shirt came untucked on the jungle gym," she replied. "I guess he didn't know 'til then, 'cause he got all surprised. And ever since we started back at school, he's been calling me 'egg girl...'"

"And that bothers you...?" She sounded more confused than hurt, but Joni still felt concerned for her. Michelle shook her head slowly, as Joni fumbled with the braid; her fingers were defter than she remembered, but how did Karyn make it look so easy?

"I don't get it," she said. "We've been friends since first grade, but now 's like that's the only thing he can think of with me." She glanced up at her big sister. "Is...is it really that weird...? Mom says it's 'special' and something to be proud of, but if it is, why's he being like that about it...?"

Joni tensed, and stabbed herself in the thumb with the bobby pin; she was grateful for the little plastic beads on the end. Was this weird, hell!!! It was freaky and wrong on so many levels, absolutely Not Normal no matter what her new instincts said, no matter what the world thought, something she meant to undo as soon as she could figure out how to square that with her promise to Karyn...

...but...that wasn't what her li'l sis needed to hear right now. It wasn't her fault that reality had changed; and even if Joni couldn't accept this insanity herself, within this context it was apparently "normal." That was nothing for her to be ashamed of, was it...? But she struggled to bring herself to say that...

She sighed. "...Do you think it's weird?"

Michelle thought for a minute, and shook her head. "I don't think so...?" she mused. "I mean, I guess I'm not used to how it feels yet, and it's weird to think that I'm starting to grow up into a, a woman, but I don't feel like it's something bad. And Mom says other girls have, like, blood 'n cramps and stuff." She frowned. "Gosh, I guess Karyn must have to go through that, huh?"

Joni nodded dazedly, wondering at the fact that she was actually having this conversation. "She was, uh, complaining to me about it just this morning."

"Were you talking about...? Oh, I guess you must've had yours too," Michelle said, putting the pieces together as if this was a normal, everyday kind of topic between girls. "Mom said you...I mean, we...tend to 'sync.' Um, they have places you can put 'em at school, right?"

Joni turned a little pink at the memory, as she pinned the braid into place. "Uh, yeah."

Her sister nodded, and sighed. "I guess that's another thing I gotta get used to. Boys have it so easy..."

"D-do you...er, uh, would you want that...?" Joni asked, a little surprised at herself; she hadn't meant to say it, the words just sort of slipped out. "I mean, um, if you could...?"

Michelle blinked. "What, be a boy...?" She frowned, biting her lip in that characteristic way as she thought about it. "I don't think so. I mean, Daddy's great 'n all, but..." She smiled. "...well, 'm glad I'm like you 'n Mom."

She hadn't really been meaning to conduct a poll on the topic, but it felt strange hearing from another person who felt attached to this reality not just because of the changes she'd unwittingly made to it, but because she herself had changed. Michelle saw "Joni" as a second mom, or something like it, and wanted to be like her even to the extent of not wanting to be what she'd used to be. What would she really think, if she only knew? Could Joni bring herself to tell her...?

Or...what if that didn't change anything!? If there really was some essence that transcended realities, such that you could say they were two variations but the same person, why would changes within the bounds of reality alter them so fundamentally? But if that were true, and these feelings could be considered "legitimate," why were her own feelings such a confused jumble!? Why would her altered instincts clash with her knowledge of how things were supposed to-

She felt a thin pair of arms wrap around her torso as her li'l sis hugged her tightly. "You're doing that thing again, Sis," Michelle said; she gazed up at Joni with a sympathetic look. "Charity Ferguson said her big sis was being hen-pecked by the popular girls at your school, and she thought maybe you were too."

For a moment Joni just stared in confusion, before putting two and two together; she hadn't even known Nadine had a sister. How was it that she and Michelle knew each other? Was there some sense of community between them, because of...? "N-no, it's...it's not that," she sighed, shaking her head and trying not to think about it. "Just...wondering, is all."

"'Bout what?" Michelle gave her a little hug, then reached over to the cupboard at the head of the bed. Joni felt a momentary flare of concern, wondering irrationally if her sister somehow knew about the stone; but after a moment the younger girl fished out a circular plastic clamshell thing that Joni only recognized as one of those folding mirror/makeup-case deals ("compact," that was it) when she popped it open for a look at herself. "Oh, it's so pretty!"

Joni needed a moment to collect her thoughts after that; it was hard to feel appropriately pensive when confronted by her li'l sis's delighted face. "Uh, just...stuff, is all," she said, hearing that warmth creep back into her voice again, almost feeling it glow inside her. She wondered why she'd never felt this way towards Mikey; and she felt proud of herself, too, for making her little girl happy...

Michelle set the compact down, clenched her little fists under her chin, pinned her arms in at her sides, and really did vibrate with happiness; then she nuzzled back up against her sister. Joni's reaction to this hit her straight in the gut; forget warm, she felt straight-up gooey, like she was going to melt. "Well I think you're great, Sis," the younger girl said (...and right to the gut again.) "Um, and if anyone does try to make you feel bad for, for being one of us, well...you shouldn't let 'em!"

Lost in gooiness, it took a moment for her to parse that. She found she'd slipped her arm back around Michelle without even thinking about it. "Uh, h-huh...?"

Her li'l sis's smile brightened into the kilowatt range. "Let's...let's promise!" Michelle said excitedly, turning to face her and clasping her shoulders. "I'm not gonna let it bug me when Trevor teases me, so...so you gotta not let anyone else make you feel bad about it, okay?"

"O-oh, um...that's, ah..." Joni struggled to sort out her own reaction(s) to that. It was one thing to be supportive of her sister in the abstract (and frankly, even that got pretty weird,) but the thought of doing anything that might count as endorsing this insanity made her squirm...at least, the rational part of her. Sure, her own instincts might be adapted to it, and the world at large might be fine with it, but how was she supposed to just accept-

Her thoughts were interrupted by a plaintive "C'mooonn, Joni!" from Michelle, which was a little higher-pitched but followed the exact cadence it had when she was Mikey. She used to find it annoying, but for some reason she found herself smiling, feeling warm inside again; she almost didn't notice when she chuckled and gave a little grunt that she didn't realize her sister would take as a sign of assent.

But Michelle noticed; she beamed and hugged her tight. "It's a promise!" she said, nuzzling into her chest. Then, with zero prompting and only an "oh, lemme try," she took the brush and began working on her sister's hair. This caught Joni by surprise, but she couldn't actually muster an objection; while she was still all muddled up with awkward questions and confusing feelings, the personal attention felt nice, and she found herself charmed by what she realized was Michelle's desire to emulate her big sis, even as she felt all weird at thought that she was the "big sis" in question.

"Gosh, it's kind of a mess," Michelle said, as she fought with the tangles that Joni's hair seemed to manifest out of nowhere even when she wasn't experiencing freakish biological surprises on top of...everything else. Her touch was not as practiced as Karyn's. "Was...um, was it bad...? I know how Zoe gets, but you usually seem pretty okay..."

Joni was in no mood to revisit her experience this morning, and nearly laughed outright at being asked if it was bad. But there was touch of uncertainty to her sister's voice, and it wasn't hard to guess at the real question: am I going to be okay? In spite of herself, she tried to focus her thoughts on answering the question honestly, telling herself over and over that it was for the sake of supporting her li'l sis...

"It...wasn't...that bad," she sighed, forcibly clamping down on her own intellectual squeamishness and trying to keep an even keel. It hadn't been agonizing or anything, just uncomfortable and physically intense; the worst part had been having no goddamn idea what was happening to her, followed by trying to come to grips with it once she did understand, neither of which were probably even issues for someone who'd grown up knowing about this from an early age and thinking of it as "normal." She felt her cheeks burning a little as she said it. "J-just, um...it...caught me off-guard, is all."

Michelle nodded thoughtfully, and for a minute or two she said nothing, focusing on her brushing. "...I still don't get it, though," she mused at last, starting in on what Joni guessed was a simple, non-French braid. "With Trevor, I mean. Like, 'egg girl?' That's just dumb."

Joni frowned. "I thought you weren't gonna let it bug you?"

Her li'l sis hesitated for a moment, then shook her head. "Well, 's just...I mean, when he's around the, um, the other boys...he's smarter'n that. Like, when they get in an argument or something..." - Joni glanced back and found her with a sheepish little half-smile on her face - "...he, um, makes me laugh. Even if they're being stupid boys and arguing about nothing, he's funny when he does it."

Michelle focused intently on her task as she tried to sort out her thoughts, another very Mikey touch. "Like, even if he called me 'Mi-shell,' that'd at least be a joke, sorta. And he gets all weird after he says it, like he's waiting to see if it bugs me or something." She sighed. "If...if we're really friends, why can't he be like that with me?"

Joni turned it over in her mind, glad for the chance to steer the conversation towards topics at least slightly less directly about...that. Kids could have any number of motives for random jackassery, she knew, but it was rare for there to be no reason; when you dug into it, an explanation usually presented itself, even if it was "kid logic" and not really reasonable. (She'd seen enough of that between Mikey and Zoe, back when the latter was more prone to acting out than brooding; she wondered if it'd been like that in this reality.)

But something seemed naggingly familiar about the specifics here: a boy of that age going out of his way to annoy a girl in his peer group, but in a way that didn't seem to indicate malice per se so much as a newly-developed awkwardness and inability to communic-

When the light finally went on, she couldn't help but snort, lurching forward enough that the braid-in-progress tugged at her scalp. "What?" Michelle asked, trying to sort out the strands she'd lost hold of in her sister's outburst.

The thought of it brushed up against a whole host of things that Joni found weird and awkward right now, but the realization was nevertheless too damn funny not to laugh at. The more mature side of her mind found the humor in seeing childish pretense for what it was, while the part of her that'd been a little boy once herself had plenty of memories of his peers doing variations on the same thing. Hoo boy...

"Listen," she said, trying to steady her voice and turning back towards her li'l sis. "There's, well, this thing boys do, when they get to be a certain age and first start, um, noticing girls." She frowned, trying to think of how to explain it; she'd never really done that himself, that she recalled, and had always found it strange.

"...I think they get the idea that they're supposed to act different around them now," she said, after a minute, "but they don't really know how. So some of 'em start doing whatever they can think of to get a girl's attention...and the easiest way they know to get a reaction out of someone is to tease them."

The younger girl frowned in confusion, letting the braid go slack; then it began to dawn on her. "You...you think he's making fun of me 'cause he likes me...?" she said, audibly baffled.

Joni considered how to answer that for a moment. "Well...I don't know for sure," she said. "It might be more that he's coming to terms with the possibility than anything; most boys don't even start to think of girls that way 'til they're around his age. He might not even know how he feels yet; even grownups can have trouble figuring that out."

"That...that doesn't make any sense!" Michelle said, shaking her head and returning to her efforts. No, she didn't really sound hurt, just flustered - which was a relief to Joni.

"No, it doesn't," she laughed, and gave her li'l sis's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Boys don't do this stuff 'cause it's a good idea, they do it because they don't have any better ones - and they worry about 'missing the boat' if they don't do something." It was funny to reflect on this with the benefit of hindsight; it made her feel older than seventeen, but not in a bad way. It was funny to see it from an outside perspective, too...

"...Did you ever have to deal with this?" Michelle tied off the braid and surveyed the results of her labor; she smiled in spite of her confusion and brought it over Joni's shoulder to show off to her.

"Ah, n-not that I can remember, no," Joni said - yet another technical truth - "but Karyn did. There was this one kid who thought he was quick, and so he got it into his head to start running up, tapping her on the shoulder, and dashing off." She saw the look her sister was giving her and shrugged. "Yeah, it was dumb. All these kinda things are."

"Well, what happened?" the younger girl said, leaning up against her shoulder again.

"Karyn eventually got used to it," she replied. "The timing of it, I mean. So one day she spotted him coming and acted like she didn't notice - then dodged just in time. He overshot, missed his footing, and face-planted right in the middle of the playground."

Michelle didn't even try to hide a satisfied little smirk. "And...did he leave her alone, after that?"

Joni laughed. "No, he was back at it in a day or two. What finally stopped it was that his family moved to Idaho that fall."

Her sister frowned. "I...I don't want Trevor to move, though."

"Well, yeah," she replied. "That's not the kind of solution you can just engineer, anyway." She had to stop herself from thinking about the possibilities the stone offered again, and gave her li'l sis a comforting pat on the back. "Besides, you can probably figure out a better one. Just remember: he doesn't really mean to hurt your feelings, he's just, well, being dumb."

Michelle got lost in thought for a little bit, and Joni couldn't helped feeling charmed by the expression on her little face. Then, after a couple minutes, she perked up, the lightbulb practically visible over her head - and got a devious little smirk. Joni stared in surprise; she'd never seen a look like that on either version of her sibling.

"I...think I got it," Michelle said. "When...when Mom finishes painting 'em, well, one's for the family display, right? And we're s'posed to give the others to friends or family, for luck. I'm...I'm gonna give one to him. And, and..." She glanced around the room, as if she didn't want to be overheard; her voice dropped to a confidential near-whisper even as her face broke out into a grin. "I'm gonna make him call me 'Shelly,'" she told Joni. "He's gonna be the only one."

Joni just stared for a bit. It was strange enough being her little sister's confidante, but she felt like they'd just taken a turn from general life advice into Things Man Was Not Meant To Know. Were all women like this, deep down? And they'd looped right back 'round to the thing she was still coming to terms with herself; and to drop all this on a boy who was still figuring out how to feel about the fact that Girls Are Different...?

That poor, poor kid, she thought.

Abruptly, Michelle stretched, yawned, and nuzzled back into her sister's bosom. Typical kid, Joni thought, in spite of her confusion; a big exhausting life event, and she still burns hard 'til she drops. She smirked. You're not all grown up just yet, li'l sis.

"Mmm, and...there're three," Michelle said. "Mom says...it's unusual f'r a first clutch, but...she says 's a good number." She smiled drowsily up at her big sister, and sighed happily. "I'm...'m gonna give th' other one to, t'you, Joni. Sis...sisters f'rever, right...?" And with that, she dropped off, sliding down to rest in Joni's lap.

Sisters forever...? Joni glanced uneasily over at the cupboard - but even if she did know what to wish for here (let alone how to feel,) she couldn't have done so without waking Michelle. She couldn't really get up, either; it seemed wrong to wake the sleeping girl, like disturbing a napping cat. It was still early afternoon, but - for a while, at least - it seemed like she was stuck here, left alone with her thoughts.

She felt awkward and confused about so many things right now; how was she supposed to feel about...all these feelings? How long could she continue masquerading as "Joni," getting by on vague hand-waves and technical truths? What was she supposed to do about this reality? What did she want to do about it, and how could she keep her promise to Karyn...?

It's a promise! The words kept echoing in her mind. And there was another half-truth; after all, it wasn't letting "anyone else" make her feel bad about their new nature if it was her doing it, was it...?




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