Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 14
The sun peeked through a slit in the blinds and gently caressed Lin’s face.
“Wake up, sleepy head.”
Lin sat bolt upright and bumped heads with Tiger Lily.
“Ow!” they both said and started laughing.
“I’m sorry,” Lin apologized. “I’m not used to anyone being in my house. I forgot you slept here.”
Tiger Lily rubbed her head. “It’s alright. I shouldn’t have been so close to you like that. You sure do have a hard head.”
“Yeah, I guess so,” Lin said with a laugh, as she rubbed her own head.
“Say, I know we need to get started setting up traps for tonight and everything, but I really need a shower. Do you mind?”
“No, not at all. It’ll give me a chance to review the video logs from the other cameras. There are towels in the cabinet. Just grab one.”
“Great. I should have taken one last night, but we had too much to do and I was so tired.”
Tiger Lily got up off the bed and stripped off her shirt before she was out of the room, giving Lin a side glance of her smooth, perfect profile. Lin looked down, but Tiger Lily turned around — causing Lin to look up — with her arm covering her breasts.
“I forgot, is everything in the shower? I mean shampoo and all that?”
“Oh, yes.” Lin could feel her cheeks burning. She’d never felt this way, but she’d also spent so long sheltering herself that it was bound to happen. She just wished it hadn’t been with Tiger Lily that she had these embarrassing feelings. How could she tell her? Sure, they had a lot in common, but how do you tell a friend that you find her attractive?
Was that it? Was Lin attracted to this woman? Was that what caused these confused feelings? No, it couldn’t be. Lin wasn’t gay. She’d never had a lesbian thought, so why should she have one now? Just because she’d never thought about boys didn’t make her gay, did it? She was just sheltered, that was all. Nothing more. She needed a vacation to get away. That’s what she needed.
Lin got up and stretched and ran her hands down her body. She bent down and touched her toes and rotated her neck several times before she went to the computer chair and took a seat. She was comfortable with computers and phone calls. Those she could handle.
She pulled up the video log file and started watching. Each camera showed the same thing they’d seen when it’d happened. The woods just changed into some strange jungle. The stars shifted, the clouds cleared, the moon grew. She manually reversed the clip and watched intently as the change happened. It was so quick, almost instantaneous. She slowed the video down to frame-by-frame and watched intently as the transformation happened, baffled. She leaned in closer to the screen, even though the video was full screen, trying to ascertain anything that might give her a clue at to what was happening.
Lin nearly jumped out of her skin. Tiger Lily stood wearing nothing more than a towel wrapped around her body and brushed her black hair. At least the towel covered up her body and gave her less of a distracting shape.
“This is the video from the Sandy Bar. It shows the change the best I think. This view looks across the highway.”
Tiger Lily stopped brushing her hair and leaned down. She smelled of chamomile and kiwi and her breath smelled minty fresh. Whose toothbrush had she used? Lin tried to clear those thoughts from her head.
“See this frame? This is before everything happened. One second before. When I step forward, you can see that everything blurs to the point it almost looks like it faded out. Then in the third frame it’s all changed, but shimmery like.”
“Why is the moon so big? It almost looks like it grew. Is that an effect of the atmosphere?”
“This video is too grainy for me to get better detail, but I’m not sure that the atmosphere has anything to do with it. It doesn’t even look like the same place. Kind of like it’s not the Earth. Like we got moved to another planet or something.”
“Another planet? How could that be possible?”
“You’re looking at the video just like I am. Do you have any explanation?”
Tiger Lily sat on her feet on the floor and tapped the brush against her pouty lips. She did this several times before she said anything.
“You know, this may sound crazy, but I’ll bet whoever connected to the system last night is the person responsible for the shift.”
“Well, duh! I had already figured that one out.” Lin bit her lip after saying that. She didn’t want to sound like such a bitch.
“Well duh! I’m not as quick as you are, I guess. But regardless, we’ll have to assume that this person will try again and when they do, we’ll have their info and know where they’re from. It has to be someone in the park because all the camera angles we looked at show that all the trailers are still around when the woods change.”
“What if it is something like that? I mean do you think it’s some transporter thing or something like that?”
“I’ve seen a lot of strange things, Lin, but nothing like this.” Tiger Lily stood up. “I don’t want to go guessing at anything just yet. What I figure, and we’ll have to go through the logs more thoroughly and check the logs from the Canadian servers, but if we can track this person down, he can tell us.”
“Oh, I’m just guessing it’s a man, is all. For all I know it’s a kid like you doing all this.”
“Kid like me? What’s that supposed to mean?” Lin didn’t know if she should feel offended, but she was.
Tiger Lily swallowed hard. “I… you know… I didn’t mean anything by that. I’m just saying that I said ‘he’ generically and that I was thinking it could be some old guy doing this but it could as easily be you doing this, but not that I’m saying it’s you that’s doing this. Oh crap.”
Tiger Lily wrapped her arms around Lin’s neck and hugged. “I’m sorry, Lin. I love you. I didn’t mean anything by that. Please. I don’t mean you’re a kid. I just, I just… I should just shut up, shouldn’t I?”
Lin had forgotten all about the ‘kid’ comment and was trying to grapple with not only the tight hug but the comment of ‘I love you.’ Where had that come from? She didn’t know if she should hug Tiger Lily back or get away from her.
“Um, I – I need to take a shower too. You smell so nice and I’m all stinky.”
Tiger Lily released Lin and stood up, adjusting her towel tighter. Nothing had been going as Lin thought it would go. She quickly exited the room and locked herself in the bathroom and sat on the toilet and started to quietly sob.
Perhaps Tiger Lily had spent too much time alone too? They both seemed to be really good at working on the server and pulling up and analyzing data, but when it came to associating with each other, it was strange. But what was she going to do? Hide in the bathroom all day? One of them had to be the stronger person and get everything out in the open, didn’t they?
Lin wiped her tears away with a piece of toilet paper and went back to the door. When she opened it, Tiger Lily was standing there looking as if she were ready to knock on the door.
“Lin. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean anything by that. Please. I feel like I made you freak out and that wasn’t my intention. I just meant that we’ve worked together so much that I feel like you’re my sister or something and that’s what I meant when I said ‘I love you’. I didn’t mean that to be anything weird or like that. I didn’t want you to take that the wrong way. Please forgive me. I’m rambling, aren’t I?”
Lin laughed. “Yeah. You’re rambling and yeah, you pretty much freaked me out. I mean, I’m sure it’s not you, it’s me. I don’t get out a lot and I’ve never had anyone in my house, let alone my bed and it’s all just really strange.”
“Oh, I totally understand.” Tiger Lily’s eyes widened. “I remember when I was sixteen and went to my junior prom and my date wanted to take me to a hotel. I was so nervous I couldn’t go through with it. I felt sick for like three days afterwards and half my friends all had gone with their dates and we all shared stories about what happened.”
“What? What happened?”
Tiger Lily cocked her head to the side and wrinkled up her face. “You really don’t know?”
“I mean, did they have sex?”
Tiger Lily laughed. “I guess you’ve lived a more sheltered life than I thought. Prom night, for a lot of girls, is when they lose their virginity. It’s supposed to be a big deal, but some of us thought everyone had done it, but it turned out that most of us couldn’t go through with it and those that did said it was totally overrated.”
It was Lin’s turn to laugh, but she really didn’t understand what Tiger Lily was saying.
“Oh, Lin. You’re so smart and I know you did a great job with your education, but you missed out on a lot of experiences. I went through school and college with kids my own age, something you didn’t get to do. That in no way makes me better than you, I just have a different set of experiences. That’s all. You’ve got so much life ahead of you. I hope that I haven’t made you uncomfortable in your own home.”
“No. Don’t worry about it. I should really get out more.”
“Tell you what, we know that nothing is going to happen until later tonight. Why don’t you get showered up and we’ll go somewhere around here and get you out of this place. You can show me around. I can even let you drive if you want. My Lexus is an automatic. It’ll be fun. Something different, and help us get back on a level playing field.”
“But what about the files and the video and all that?”
“It’ll still be here when we get back, right? We can take a little nap when we get back and then get to work and catch this guy… or this kid.”
They both laughed.