Ivy returns home. Set the morning after Judge Not.
Ivy awoke with the sun just over the horizon. The day promised to be a fine one. With a sigh, she gazed out at the small clearing. Was the night before only a dream? she wondered. Something moved in the foliage. Extending a tendril she pulled the object towards her.
Ivy was staring at a small picture wallet. It was of black vinyl and contained many pictures. Ivy flipped idly through the wallet. No ID, hmm, how strange, it must belong to one of the people who charged through my front porch last night, she mused.
Suddenly a picture caught her eye. In the background a school playground was clearly illustrated, and in the foreground… Ivy's stomach lurched and she quickly flipped through the remanding pictures. In every envelope was a picture of a boy between the ages of 6 and 12. Ivy flipped back to the original picture. What was someone doing with a picture of my boy? was the only thought running through her stunned mind.
She tried to gather herself, but thoughts continue to run unbidden through her mind as she stared at the picture. Looking more though the wallet, she reached for any writing or notes on the picture or anywhere else…
Ivy removed the photos and turned them over one by one. On four of the older boys the words -'Col.' followed by dates ranging from the first of the year till a few weeks ago. Ivy felt a coldness, why was Andrew's picture in this wallet? What did it mean? Unbidden a vision sprung to her mind. A man standing outside the school yard where her children played, watching, marking Andrew out from all the other boys, raising a camera and taking a picture…
Ivy stood. The worst thought a mother could imagine running through her mind. Clasping the wallet she strode from the grove, staying the shadows of plants and trees where her form provided a natural camouflage. She was looking for something to conceal her nature, a large coat or something she could "borrow" for a time. Simply using her ability to "spirit shift" into other plant life would work, but leave her unable to bring the wallet with her. She would have to physically cross New London this time.
Ivy moved through the trees of the place she know called home. An hour dragged by and her patience was awarded. A hat from a picnic and a trench coat from the back of a park bench where its owner read a newspaper. Now all she needed was a bus fare or some other means of transportation.
Pausing for a moment in guilt, she lifted the coat from its resting place and pulled the hat down over her emerald "hair". Covered as best she could manage, Ivy headed for the edge of the park, mulling over how to cross the city. Coming to the edge of the city was like reaching a border, a line marking the end of area where she had some control to place where life had almost became alien. The concrete felt hot and unnatural under her feet, the faint pulse of the "Green" further away, buried under manmade stone. There was a strange fear in her, partly instinctive, partly fear of reentering the human world, which she had turned her back on. The image of her son rose in her mind, she had to do this… there was no other way. Taking a deep breathe, more for psychological reasons than anything else she started walking, looking for some method to speed her journey…
The sun beat down as she walked. Cars roared by and people moved past her. She walked quickly, fearing that someone might look down and see her legs. Certain the more she walked that someone would stop and point to the freak that walked among them. Unconsciously, her steps quickened until she was almost running.
Suddenly a horn blared and she turned to see a bus sliding to a stop not inches from her. She looked up into the face of the bus driver. His eyes were wide with fear.
There was a pause as she looked up into the man's eyes. Shock, fear, perhaps some revulsion seemed to swim through them in that instant and in that Ivy's fear of discovery became a harsh resentment. She's done nothing to deserve this and her son was in danger, the feelings of these meaty things be damned! The thought struck her with its alieness even as its intensity shook her. Part of her mind recoiled… was she that far gone…? Swallowing her anger, she felt in the coat pockets for change, looking up to read the destination sign for the bus…
Cookston Route 6. It went right by her old home. Ivy's left hand encountered coldness. Removing her hand she glanced down at the change. Moving around to the side of the bus she waited for the driver to open the doors.
"Are you all right, miss?" The driver asked the second she stepped onboard. A slight look of shock ran across his face as she deposited the coin and walked to the back. A second later the bus started moving.
Ivy studiously ignored the various looks from the passengers and stared out the window, willing the vehicle to go faster. Stores, and buildings soon gave way to houses and she watched for the street sign that would get her off this hellish ride.
"Are you sick, lady?" The voice was the high pitch of a child and filled with curiosity.
Ivy looked away from the window. In the seat ahead of her, a young girl about eight watched her with curiosity.
She looked at the girl, searching her face for some similarity between her and her own daughter. How had she changed in these months… how long had it really been?
"No, honey, I'm fine… "she smiled thinly and held up a green-skinned hand. "You ever heard of people having a green thumb? I have sort of a green everything…" With that, she closed her hand briefly and opened it to reveal a small purple flower which she offered to the little girl, willing it to detach.
The young girl took the flower with delight and amazement. She then climbed off the seat and ran over to a woman in a green dress. The woman had a pale look to her and appeared very tired.
"Look mama, the lady made a flower appear isn't it pretty? And she's not sick too," the little girl climbed into the seat beside her mother and offered her the flower, the little girl was very careful not to jog her mother.
The woman took the flower with slow movements and placed a kiss on her daughter's head. She looked over at Ivy, smiled and mouthed a thank you. She then doubled over in a cough, and the patrons on the bus stopped looking at Ivy to glance at the woman and then quickly away again. The little girl leaned over so her head was beside her mother's and whispered to her as she rubbed her back. The flower dropped unnoticed to the floor.
Struck with a pang of sympathy and a feeling of fellowship, Ivy moved over to the pale woman and placed a hand softly on the woman's shoulder.
"Please, ma'am, what's wrong? Perhaps… perhaps I can help," she whispered quietly, forcing her voice into a more human sound, not the breathy hum it was typically.
"There is nothing anyone can do, thank you for the flower," the woman spoke barely above a whisper and Ivy received the impression that this was normal for the woman, now," You are brave to travel in the open, we have no choice."
The speech seemed to have left the woman breathless and she closed her eyes. The little girl spoke up, "Mama's been sick for a long time, we're coming from the hosb…hos. pit. al. We goning home. Where are you goning? My name is Crystal whatsyours?"
"Ja… Ivy…" she replied, catching herself, though partly relieved to have responded with her human name reflexively. "I'm going… to visit some special people…please, tell me more… what is your mother's illness?" She whispers, kneeling a bit to get on eye level with the girl.
"Are they special like my mom? She has a really bad cold. It starts with a p but I cant say it."
On the inside of the woman's arm, Ivy noticed a small sore. The woman straightened and Ivy looked up into her eyes. There a vast sadness rested and something akin to resignation, pride and determination all in one. As she waited for Ivy to react as so many had done before.
Ivy smiled, looking the woman in the eye and taking her hand gently.
"Yes, they are special… not like your mother though…" Ivy said, running a hand through the girl's hair.
The bus pulled to a stop and the driver strode towards the back, "Your stop, Maria, do you need some help?"
The woman opened her eyes and smiled, "Thank you Kenny, no. We will be fine."
She rose slowly to her feet and moved towards the door. Ivy glanced outside, the stop was only 8 blocks from her old home.
Ivy caught the girl's hand as she left, easing her closer to whisper to her.
"If you or your mother need me, come to Midland park… I'll help you anyway I can… "with that she brushed her lips over the little girl's cheek and tucked the flower back into her hair.
Crystal nodded solemnly and scrambled after her mother.
She urged the girl after her mother and returned to her seat. Holding up her hand, she looked between it and the woman and child. Perhaps she was selfish, her problems could be worse… at least the thing within her gave something back even if it did make her, what had Diamond called her, aphid bait. She chuckled lightly at the thought, waiting for her stop.
Ivy reached up and pulled the cord when her stop rolled into view. She stepped off the bus and looked up the street. Her house was how she remembered it. The lawn was neatly cared for. The porch that she and Jonathan had built the summer before.
She could remember it clearly. The two of them in old clothes, playing during the day more then actually building the porch. Chasing each other with the water hose. Drinking iced tea, laughing…
Pausing at the fence gate, she looked over the house, mind going back over the day. Squeezing her eyes shut, Ivy forced herself back to the present, almost wishing for the tear that her new body denied her. She stepped onto the lawn, feeling the warm earth under her feet, touching the "Green" here again and probing its particular essence here. She walked around, lost in recollection looking at the house, the room they added on for Andrew and finally in the backyard, her garden. It was a small plot, mostly filled with experimental hybrids of flowers or garden vegetables. She noted with some amazement that it was still thriving. Jonathan and/or the kids had kept it going… Smiling she sank to her knees among the plants reaching out top them, feeling as they did the affection and care they'd been given.
Feeling movement behind her, Ivy spun around. Standing on the back porch was a girl of about 10 years. Her black hair hugged her head and was held by pink berates. Her dress was short sleeved and showed an old scrape that ran the length of her dark arm. Rebecca. Ivy's breath caught in her throat.
For moments the two stared at one another and then Rebecca screamed. From inside the house came a crash and Jonathan Hamilton charged out the back door. He stopped only to grab the nearest item from the ground. Before his daughter had stopped screaming, the accountant had placed his body between danger and her.
"Stay back! I have a," he paused and looked at the plastic shovel in his hands, "a… a shovel and I'm not afraid to use it!"
Ivy looked into the eyes of her husband and saw only determination and fear.
The scream still echoing on her ears, Ivy reached out to her daughter, a pleading look crossing her face, then a resigned one as she dropped her arms. "Jonathan… Jon… I need to speak with you… its important… Where's Andrew… ?",she whispered, trying to minimize the impact of her inhuman voice. "Please don't be afraid…"
"Who are you, how do you know my name?" Anger flashed into his eyes. "What have you done with Andrew? Where is he, goddamn you?!"
Behind her father, safe now, Rebecca peeked out from behind Jon's legs. Her fear was already replaced by curiosity. She frowned to herself as she looked Ivy over.
Ivy's eyes went wide as Jonathan's words sank in. "My God… you don't know… you don't know where he is?" she stood slowly, trembling, her vines and leaves rustling under the coat. "Jonathan… its its… me… Jane… please… I have to know… what's happened to my son?" she said quietly, taking a tentative step toward him and tossing off the hat. "Look at me, you must recognize me… you have to… you just have to…"
Jonathan Hamilton took a step backwards, moving his daughter with him. His voice shook, "I don't know who you are but my wife is dead. Please, if you have my son I will pay anything, do whatever you want, just please, don't play these games."
"Please I just want my son back," his voice was little more then a whisper and his hands shook.
"Jon, please… I'm not…look at me…" Ivy stepped closer and dropped to her knees, lifting her hands to her husband and daughter.
"I am Jane… look at me… the merger it caused some restructuring of body tissues, my features must a little different but not to much… " Her voice took on an edge of desperation. "We built the add ons to the house… remember… I said you had the plans laid out wrong… but you wouldn't listen… we ended up putting the light switches in upside-down and what you said when Andrew was born, that its good he didn't have your nose."
Jon shook his head slowly. "Anyone could have known that. Jane… Jane is dead. Why are you doing this?"
He had stopped moving and the shovel fell unnoticed to his side. Pain flared in his eyes and he swallowed hard, blinking back tears. Rebecca bit her lip and turned her head sideways, looking from one person to the other.
"How could anyone have known that… I am Jane… I'm here… please I love you… " she replied voice barely above a whisper. " I've changed but nothing will ever change that." Looking at her daughter, she risked a smile. "Rebecca, honey… its ok… mother's just been a little ill…" Tentatively she reached out a hand to her…
Rebecca continued frowning, working her lower lip in thought. Jonathan grabbed his daughter and pushed her into the house. He squared himself to Ivy," I don't know what you are playing at. But I will not let you hurt my family. My kids are just getting over the loss of their mother I will not have you…"
"Jon," the voice was female and coming from inside the house. Kate Lowe came through the back door and threw her arms around him, "I came as soon as I heard."
Kate Lowe, young, pretty, with that sensual walk. Kate Lowe, one of the scientists Jane had saved that night. Kate Lowe, who Jane had thought of as a friend. Watching her body language, everything became clear. Kate had come to all their parties, helped watched the kids, talked and laughed with her all because she had wanted Jon!
For a long moment, Ivy was struck silent, staring at that two, then her eyes flared. "Kate… you… you… what are you doing here, in my home… with my HUSBAND!"
Her voice rose to shrill hiss as she came to her feet. "Jon, I am not… I lived for you… longed for you… what have you done!"
For a moment she was unable to speak, an unnatural fury surged through her. Kate Lowe, a rival… a threat to be eliminated. The presence of the symbiont loomed closer in Ivy's psyche feeding off of her emotions of betrayal and jealousy, reacting to them like any other negative stimuli. Shuddering she fought them down. I am Human, she thought, not a mindless thing limited to tropistic reactions. "Kate, tell me this isn't what it looks like… tell me…"
Kate turned at the first words and started. She moved behind Jon and her voice shook but interest sparkled in her eyes, "Oh, my God, what is that hon."
Jon stood where he was, staring dazed at the bristling fury in front of him, "Ah, she… she's a … friend, yes a friend of Jane's."
A blur of movement caught his eye and he made a grab for Rebecca as she dashed the distance to Ivy, "Rebecca !"
The small child threw herself at Ivy, wrapping her arms around her.
"I am Jane… not a thing… you bi…" she stopped herself, gathering Rebecca into her arms. "Oh, my baby… you know me… don't you…" she whispered, holding the child close for a moment then looking up at Jon and Kate. "Where is MY son, Jon, what has happened here?"
Reaching into the coat pocket she drew out the photo wallet. "This had a picture of him in it and other children, it was dropped, I believe, by some very evil men." Her voice had become a cold whisper, full of barely contained rage. "You thought I was dead Jon, I let you all think that, and perhaps you had to go on." She glared daggers at Kate, "Perhaps you had encouragment… but only Andrew is important right now."
It was Rebecca that answered, "Andy's gone. We went to school and he walked off, and he just disappeared!"
She turned in her mother's arms, "It is Mama. God sent her back because Andy's in trouble."
Rebecca then looked up into Ivy's face, hope clear in her eyes, "You'll find Andy, won't you, Mama?"
"Interesting," Kate whispered, and Ivy noticed the speculative look in her eyes. Kate then turned to Jon, "You don't believe this do you. She has pictures of Andrew and others, the police should be notified."
And with that she turned and walked into the house. Jon looked from Kate to Ivy and then dashed after Kate.
"Yes, I'll find him." Ivy whispered, holding the girl and walking into the house after Kate and her husband, hurriedly. "Jon! If you don't believe your daughter or your on eyes, then what will it take!?"
Heading for the nearest phone, Ivy moved to intercept Kate, knowing her intentions. Only to find Jon plucking the phone out of Kate's hands.
"You tried to steal my husband, my life and my children…admit it!" Ivy loomed over Kate and a stray thought brushed Ivy's mind: We used to be the same height, I have a inch or so on her now. Doubt flashed through her mind. Kate is younger and has those fantastic… no! Ivy sneered, she was younger but human, just an ordinary woman who was trying to steal her life.
Kate flicked back her long dark hair and crossed her arms. Her brown eyes looked steadily at Jon, then looked at Ivy, "I do not know who or what you are. You obviously know a lot about Jane Hamilton. But not everything. Jane and I were friends, I would never do anything to harm her. As a matter of fact she saved my life. But you are right about one thing, Andrew is the important issue. Now if you will just tell us who you really are and why you are here, maybe we can get around to finding him. Or maybe he is how you know so much about this family, hmmm."
Rebecca squirmed out of Ivy's arms, kicked Kate in the shins and ran back to her mother.
"Rebecca! You apologize right this second! And you two," he gave both women the same steely eyed look, "will sit down while I think this through."
Ivy put a hand on her daughter's shoulder, suppressing a smile. "I am Jane, and I want to find my son, get that through your thick skull and don't you dare call yourself my friend. you come here, step into my life before my body would have gotten cold and you call yourself my friend, you vulture. I lived here, built this home for me and my children, that's how I know about it and you are not taking it away from me." Turning to Jonathan, she met his gaze steadily. "Jon, ordering me never worked before and its not suddenly going to start working now… tell me what happened to Andrew."
Jon fell onto a chair and buried his head in hands, "A nightmare," he muttered.
Then he sighed, "I put the children on the bus as usual. They both got to school but Andrew didn't show up for his first class and when he didn't show for the second one, the school called the office wanting to know if he was sick. The police want to wait for 24 hours before they are going to place him as missing. He might have just skipped school and could come home any time now."
Jon stared at the ceiling through the whole speech, sounding as if he had said the same speech before. He refused to look at either woman as if he felt more comfortable without seeing them.
"There has been no ransom demand."
"My God…" Ivy whispered, looking down. "No leads, nothing…?" she asked, already dreading the answer. How… how was she going to find her son. Kate and what she may have done was momentarily forgotten as she walked up to Jon and sat down beside him, cradling Rebecca on her lap. She reached out and slipped an arm over Jon's shoulder, feeling his familiar body, even his scent was warming. It had been so long. "Whether you believe it or not, I am here for you, Jon and Andrew…"
Jon sat very still, his eyes closed. After a few seconds, he surged to his feet, "The police must be given these photos. Maybe it will convince them that Andrew was kidnapped. But why?!"
He then turned to Ivy, "Do you … do you have somewhere to stay?"
Ivy nodded, "Yes, the photos also have pictures of other children, all around Andrew's age… and some writing." She began to say she lived here, but paused glancing at Kate and wondered how true that was. Instead she merely said that she had a place to stay for now. "Jon, we have to talk… in private."
Jon hesitated and then nodded slowly, turning he walked into the living room. Ivy had a slightly harder time leaving the hallway as Rebecca refused to let go.
She kneeled, running her hands through the little girl's hair and whispered to her. "I'll be back, honey, I just have to talk to daddy a while…but I'm not going to leave you… I'll always be here for you, whenever you need me," It had been a mistake she realized, to leave her family to let them think she was dead. But, she'd been damned if she was going to lose them again, to Kate or whoever had taken her son. Giving Rebecca a little kiss, she stepped into the room with Jon.
As Ivy entered the room, Jon straightened and placed the picture frame back on the TV stand, "Okay, we are alone."
"Jon, you know who I am, why won't you admit it…we lived together, loved each other for years, God… I could tell you every detail of our wedding… our wedding night You have a heart shaped birth mark on you inner thigh… I know you because I am your wife… Jane…" She steps close to him, reaching out to put her arms around him. "I love you."
Jon stepped back and winced at the pain that flashed through the woman's eyes. He moved away and paced the room in a familiar way that sent a pang through Ivy's heart.
"God," he muttered feverently, then turned and looked at her pleading in his eyes, "look at this from my view."
How many times had she heard him say that… usually when they had argued and he was losing.
"They told us there was an accident. That … that Jane was dead. They never recovered a body, we had to bury an empty coffin. And then you come in here after 6 months and say that you are Jane!"
He quickly lowered his voice, "I do not mean to hurt you but… but," he gestured at Ivy.
"You can't be my wife," his voice was almost a whisper, as if trying to convince himself. Suddenly his eyes fell on the picture he had been holing. Crossing the room, he grabbed the picture and thrust it at her.
"See, this is my Jane!"
The picture was of Jane Hamilton before the accident, sitting in her garden. A gardening shovel in her gloved hands, dirt on her nose, laughing at the person behind the camera.
For a moment, she stood in silence, looking from the picture then to his face and back again. Then Ivy spoke. "Is that what matters to you… my face, my body… you loved me… I thought you did… If I'd come back maimed or crippled… you would have done this?" She shook with barely constrained emotion, squeezing her eyes shut. "Is Kate what you want now… you can have her then… but you and she will not… cannot have my children!"
He shook his head, "Kate has nothing to do with this! She is a friend nothing more. This … God think of what you are asking. Maimed or crippled, I would have been happy that you were alive. But this … Jane, are you even human anymore? And how much of the Jane I knew is still there. I have seen you loose your temper twice since being here. I had seen Jane loose her temper, I mean really loose it only 3 times in our entire 14 years of marriage. The Jane I knew had control, of her life, her emotions. This …", Jon took a breath and let the photo drop onto the sofa.
"I don't know, give me some time. You have had 6 months to work up the courage… Or was it only because Andrew was in trouble?" he finished bitterly.
"I think she has plans of being more than a friend…" Ivy whispered.
Jon shifted uncomfortably at the comment.
"I am human…my heart and mind are human, my soul is human…even in this freakish shell… I hid away because I didn't want you to…you and the children to be afraid of me…perhaps it was selfish," She looked away, "the Jon I knew was a loving, logical man… he cared for me… maybe we've both changed."
"Maybe," he whispered agreement," give me time to get through this. Rebecca seems to have no trouble, I won't stop you from seeing her. I am going to call the police. I don't know what I am going to say but they need to see the wallet. Mary Mother of Jesus, when I think what this may mean."
He walks to the phone and dials a number.
As he talked to the police, Ivy looked around. The place, the home that had been so familiar to her now seemed somehow colder. There were little changes here and there, small things that were not as she remembered but in her heart it was still her home. Jon was right, both of them needed time. I just wish it didn't hurt so much, Ivy thought and slumped against the wall, buried her face in her green hands and wished bitterly that she could weep.