The McComber Switch
By Karen Singer
Chapter 73 Part 1 of 2 – Epilogue
Twelve Years Later
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
Even though St. Nicholas wouldn’t be there.
No children were nestled all snug in their beds,
They’d all left the house, their own lives they led.
And Sue in her nightgown, Clint snuggled to her back,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
Clint sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window he flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave a luster of midday to objects below.
When what to his wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature car…that had crashed into his mailbox.
“Jaaaasmiinne! You wrecked the mailbox…again!”
“Sorry Daddy,” Jasmine called back as she got out of the car and floundered around a bit in the still-falling snow. “I couldn’t see the driveway!”
“So you had to hit the mailbox?” He felt Susan pulling him back away from the open window. “Damn!” he exclaimed. “That girl has to be the worst driver on the planet!”
“Oh hush!” Susan chided as she took his place at the window. “Tommy will fix it.”
“That’s just the point! He shouldn’t have to!”
Susan leaned out the window. “Hi Darling! We thought you weren’t getting here until tomorrow!”
“We decided to come tonight instead, in case the snow got any worse!”
“How was Paris?”
“Great!” Jasmine called back. “I can’t wait to tell you all about it.”
“Well hurry on in!” Susan yelled back, “I can’t wait to hear.” She pulled back away from the window and closed it.
“Damn girl,” Clint muttered as he put his pants on. “And did you see how small that car is that she’s driving? How the heck did she get it here in all this snow? And all the way from the airport at Little Rock!”
“Oh hush,” Susan chided as she grabbed her robe and threw it on. “At least they got here. And you be nice to her boyfriend this time. She loves him.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Clint replied. “But how the heck am I supposed to like someone who’s never been hunting before? And the last time he was here, when I offered to take him, he turned absolutely green! Literally! How do you trust a guy that doesn’t know the difference between a gun and…a baseball bat?”
“Don’t be silly,” Susan said as she breezed out of the bedroom and headed for the kitchen. By the time she got to the door, Jasmine and her boyfriend were just climbing the steps. She held the door wide and a moment later she was hugging her daughter. When the hug ended she turned to the boyfriend. “Come here Ronald,” she said. “You can get a hug too.” She hugged the man that her daughter was intending on marrying…eventually.
Clint finally reached the kitchen and got a big hug from his daughter, then he shook Ron’s hand. “You two got suitcases and stuff I’d guess,” Clint said. “Let me help you get them into the house?”
“I’ll get them,” Ron replied. He went out and Clint followed.
Jasmine took a seat at the table while Susan got busy making coffee. “I thought you were getting the kitchen redone,” Jasmine said as she looked around.
“We are,” Susan replied, “we just haven’t gotten there yet.”
A few minutes later, the bags had been deposited back in Jasmine’s old bedroom where her doll collection still resided, and everyone was sitting around the table with mugs of hot coffee. “So how is New York?” Susan asked. “As busy as ever?”
“Worse!” Jasmine said. “You wouldn’t believe how much I hate living there.”
“You’re the one who wanted to move there,” Susan reminded her. “And you’re more than welcome to move back here any time you want.”
“I have to live there,” Jasmine told her. “That’s where the fashion industry is.”
“You can’t do your work from here?”
“Mom,” Jasmine replied, “don’t be ridiculous!”
Susan shook her head. “So how was Paris?”
“Delightful!” Jasmine said with a smile. “Busy, but really wonderful!”
“And how did your show go this time?”
“Pretty good,” Jasmine replied. “I’m afraid I’m still playing second fiddle to the really big designers, but I think I’m moving up in the world.”
“You’re definitely moving up,” Ron threw in. “I’ve told you that for the last few years.”
“I’m not at the top yet,” Jasmine replied. “But I’m going to get there, one way or another!”
“Isn’t your sister still helping you? Isn’t she still modeling in all your shows?”
“Jade? Yeah. She’s still doing every show I’ve got…mostly. And she still doesn’t charge me a dime, which is really great. But she’s so darn busy! She still stay’s booked over a year in advance!”
“You’re lucky she does what she does for you!” Susan told her.
“You don’t have to tell me,” Jasmine agreed. “I owe her. I owe her my life!”
“You may be being a bit overdramatic dear,” Susan told her.
“No I’m not! You know what happened. She found me when I was nearly dead. She killed that bear that would have killed and eaten me for sure. I owe her for that, and I’ll owe her for it forever!”
“You make it sound like she holds it against you.”
“I know. And I know she doesn’t. But after that happened, well, everything really went so crazy, for both of us.”
“I know dear. It was an awfully trying time for me too. For a while there, I didn’t know if I had two girls, two boys, a boy and a girl, or which boy was which girl.”
Jasmine chuckled. “Yeah. Things were pretty wild back then.
“What do you mean?” Ron asked.
“Ugh!” Jasmine grunted. “I hate just thinking about it!”
“I know you know that Jasmine lived as a boy for a few years,” Susan said to Ron.
“Yeah. She told me,” Ron replied. “And it’s pretty much common knowledge all over the place.”
Susan nodded. “Well, after Jasmine’s accident…”
“Except that I was Jimmy Joe back then,” Jasmine threw in.
“Right,” Susan replied. “Anyway, after the accident…” But Susan still couldn’t let out anything that might hint at the real reason Jimmy and Jasmine had switched places back then. Not even after all this time. “Um… After the accident, Jas here, who was Jimmy Joe at the time, decided she wanted to go back to being a girl again.” She couldn’t mention that Jasmine really didn’t want that, but that Jacob had come out and demanded that she change back – shortly after he had demanded that Jade go back to being Jimmy. “And then that Hunting show came along,” Susan continued.
“Yeah, that pretty much changed everything,” Jasmine agreed. “And as it turned out, the TV station wanted to see more of Jimmy Joe than anyone figured.”
“So you couldn’t go back to being a girl again,” Ron noted.
The real truth of the matter was something that Jasmine couldn’t tell him. Not even considering that they were going to get married…eventually. If she ever decided on picking a date. She couldn’t tell him that Jacob had demanded that she become a girl again, so she had been stuck dressing like a girl whenever the TV people weren’t around, and then dressing as a boy again when they were. But since she couldn’t tell him that, she quickly reached for the story she had spread so many years ago. “Um…I tried to be a girl as much as I could when the TV people weren’t around…”
“And as much as I really wanted you to be a girl again, it turned out to be nothing but a horrible disaster!” Susan added.
“Tell me about it!” Jasmine agreed. “I’m the one who was running around wearing girly stuff during all those times. I tried, but I looked and felt totally ridiculous!”
Susan nodded. “You really did, I’m afraid,” Susan agreed.
“She looked like a damn boy wearing girl’s clothes,” Clint added. “Totally ridiculous!”
“Anyway,” Susan continued for Ron’s benefit, also not letting out the real truth. “When they okayed the show for a second season, Jas here decided she’d rather just stay Jimmy Joe and she went back on the hormones again.” What she didn’t say was that, when the show went into its second season, since they really did want to see so much of Jimmy Joe, that Jacob was pretty much forced to let Jasmine remain Jimmy Joe all the time – and especially since she did look so ridiculous dressed as a girl. But again, it was only supposed to be until the show ended.
“And let me tell you, I was really much happier back then as a boy. Much!” Jasmine added.
“Yeah,” Susan said. “We were all glad.” Again, what she didn’t say was that even though Jacob had decreed that when the show ended, Jimmy Joe would have to go back to being Jasmine again, everyone else in the family already knew it would never happen.
“So what made you decide to finally become a woman again?” Ron asked.
“Well, the show went on for a longer time than anyone thought it would.”
“I’ll say!” Clint added. “Year after year!”
“It was only three years,” Susan corrected him.
“Seemed a lot longer,” Clint replied.
‘Hey! That was a good show,” Jasmine told him. “And they loved me!”
“Yeah,” Clint replied, “they loved you alright. And I guess the show did a lot for the family. As much trouble as it brought us, we also raked in a pile of money. And that doesn’t come close to what it did for our regular business.”
“There were other good things that came out of it too,” Jasmine noted.
“Yeah, Elliot for one thing.”
“No Dad. Elliot told me that scout from the Olympic rifle team got his name from the first big video the family did.”
“Well, two Olympic games now, and a silver and bronze medal, ain’t exactly too bad,” Clint said. “No matter what got Elliot on that team.”
“Yeah, he was always the best. But how about Nichole? She’s done really, really well. And that was directly because of that show.”
“I’ll say,” Susan agreed. “Marcy has two kids that have gone off and done far better than anyone ever expected.
“That’s for sure!” Jasmine agreed. Nichole really made it to the big time. Two platinum albums after that hunting show ended – back to back. And look at her now. She’s married to another big country star, they’ve got two adorable kids, a big house in Nashville, and she told me that she and her husband might be hosting next year’s country music awards on TV.”
“She is?” Susan exclaimed. “Marcy didn’t mention anything about it to me.”
“She probably doesn’t know. Nichole only told me in confidence last week.”
“You two were always so close,” Susan noted.
“Mostly,” Jasmine replied. “All except those years when I was living completely as a boy.”
“True,” Susan replied. “That was sad.”
Ron tried to bring the conversation back to where it had been. “So you were a boy back then and you liked it.”
It took a moment for Jasmine to switch gears again. “Yeah,” she said. “To tell the truth, I was much happier as a boy back then and I wasn’t really planning on changing anything. I was simply more comfortable that way than anything else. But I guess it was…little things. Little things that finally made me start to wonder about if maybe I should give up being a boy and go back to being a girl again.”
“What kind of little things?” Ron asked.
“Jasmine looked at him for a moment. “To tell the truth, I’m not really sure. I’ve never been really sure. Maybe when Elliot got his first really serious girlfriend. I think that might have started things. That happened right before they cancelled the hunting show.” She looked at her mother with an almost comical expression on her face. “I used to be soooo hung up over Elliot.”
“He’s your cousin,” Susan said.
“And didn’t I know it! Not to mention he never ever looked at me as a girl he might like anyway. Ever!” She turned her attention back to Ron. “But it was about that time that things started to hit me. And then when Ethan got married and his wife got pregnant right away, well, I think it was then that I realized that I had been born with a girl’s body, but I would never know what it’s like to have my own baby. I guess that had a lot to do with it all. So I guess thinking about all those things kind of led me in that direction. And one day, I simply knew I really did want to be a girl again. And it was time.”
“I can’t tell you how surprised the entire family was about that,” Susan told her.
“I know,” Jasmine replied. “I think I was just as surprised.
“I know,” Jasmine replied. “I think I was just as surprised.
“And look at you now,” Ron said as he smiled at her. “I’m very happy you made that decision!”
Jasmine smiled. “You’re so sweet. But I’m not anything like I’d really like to be. My hands and feet are still too big because of it, and you have no idea how long I had to work on my voice to get it to sound right.”
“I like you just the way you are,” Ron said, trying to appease her over the issues she had with her body.
“You better!” Jasmine replied. “Or I’ll find some way to get back at you so you’ll never forget it!”
“Don’t threaten like that!” Susan said quickly. “Every time you do, you go way overboard with things…and you know it!”
“I only do what I have to,” Jasmine replied.
“Don’t worry, I’ll always love you,” Ron said as he leaned over and gave her a quick kiss.
There was a brief lull in the conversation, and Jasmine had other things she wanted to talk about…only she preferred to talk about them with just her mother. “Ron,” she said when no one said anything for a moment. “Why don’t you go to bed now. I’ll be along in a little while. I want to talk to Mom for a few minutes first.”
Ron nodded. “Sure,” he replied. He got up, leaned over, and gave Jasmine another little kiss. It wasn’t mentioned, but both Susan and Clint noticed again what they had noticed the first time they had met Ron. He did everything Jasmine told him. Always! But then he worked for her and part of his job was to handle whatever things she wanted taken care of.
“More coffee?” Susan asked, knowing Jasmine wanted to talk.
“Sure,” Jasmine replied, pushing her mug over toward her mother.
When they were finally alone, Jasmine said, “I talked with Jade on the phone last night. She told me you and Grandma made your usual pre-Christmas trip down there to see her.”
“Then you know she’ll be here tomorrow for Christmas dinner with the family.”
Jade nodded. “It’s about time! It’s been so many years since she’s done anything at all with the whole family.
“Almost ten years,” Susan told her.
“Does Grandpa know she’ll be there?”
Susan nodded. “Actually, it was his idea.”
Talking about it reminded Jasmine of all the trouble back then, back when that darn TV show started, and when things got even worse afterwards. “Grandpa sure made life hell for Jade back then,” she noted.
Susan nodded. “And the war between the two of them made life hell for all of us. Staying a girl and modeling was the one and only thing I’ve ever seen your sister dig her heels in over. The only thing! Ever!”
“And of course, you all knew that she was so much happier as a girl than anything else.”
“Yeah, we knew, but your grandfather didn’t see it that way. He never really has I think. Despite what he had to keep saying publicly for the TV people, he completely blamed himself for Jade becoming a girl and was never happy about it at all.”
“Yeah,” Jasmine agreed. “As far as I know, he never got over feeling responsible for it. He’s always blamed himself.”
“I’m afraid he still does.”
“He blamed himself,” Jasmine said, “but he took it out on Jade. He made her dress like a boy for a while, no matter what she wanted. Except that after a few months of being forced to be a boy…”
“Whenever she wasn’t needed for the TV stuff,” Susan reminded her.
“Yeah. That was the only time he let her be…herself. But after a while of it, Jade just refused to dress as a boy anymore – anytime! And she didn’t care who didn’t like it. She wasn’t going back to being a boy again and that was that! And Grandpa got pretty darn furious at her.”
“Yeah, that’s when things went from really bad to worse.”
“Yeah, I remember. I saw some of those yelling matches they had, and I saw how she cried every time her bottom got blistered for talking back to him the way she did.”
“It was…pretty awful,” Susan agreed.
Jasmine shook her head. “I’ll never forget that one summer when things got so bad with him demanding that she become a boy again, and she wouldn’t, that you and dad were out hunting for someplace else for us to live. That was downright scary!”
Susan nodded. “Things were…really bad back then. We had to get you two away from it. And we ourselves wanted away from it all. We had picked out a house down near your Uncle Jack’s store, and we were about to put a down payment on it, when your Grandmother found out and started her own little war with your grandfather. She started insisting that Jacob stop being so adamant about things, and…well, after most of the family pleaded with us to stay here, we decided we would stick it out for a while more and see how things went.”
“But Grandpa never really liked it.”
Susan shook her head. “No. Never. We stayed here, and Jade and your Grandpa wound up avoiding each other at all costs. And whenever a big holiday came up and the family got together, there was nothing but a feeling of absolute animosity between the two. Things were so bad it nearly tore the family apart.”
“And that was when Jade started refusing to go to any of the family get-togethers.”
“And she hasn’t been to one since. Ten years now.”
“But despite how bad things were with Grandpa, you still backed Jade all the way. You still did everything you could for her. You even let her stay on the hormones the whole time. Even during those few months when I wasn’t on them.”
Susan looked at her for a moment before replying. “We knew it had gone too far with her, even before that TV show came out. As your Grandma always said, Jade was lost from the time your cousins adopted her into their little gang.”
Jasmine smiled remembering all the girls so long ago. “The Four Musketeers.”
“Yes,” Susan confirmed. “But it had gone on too long, and Jade had changed too much. And then when she discovered she actually liked the modeling, well, something inside of her seemed to change in an awfully big way. And, well, your dad and I knew she was happier than she had ever been, so we had your Uncle Brian keep her on the hormones.”
“And you even carted her down to that modeling school in Little Rock for a while.”
Susan rolled her eyes. “Yeah, that was a pain. It was so far away we wound up renting a place to stay for a few months. Fortunately, the school only lasted a little while, but all those fashion shows all over the place were the biggest pain to get to.”
“And Jade was pretty much a star right from the start,” Jasmine said.
Susan nodded. “Your sister had been all over the TV for one reason after another, and then after that first little fashion show you girls put on with your Home Ec class, she was broadcast all over the place again, modeling that one dress you had designed back then. And I think the news media pretty much decided then and there that she was destined to be a model.”
“And they didn’t even know that the Bertram Agency had already signed her up…right after that silly little show!”
“No. They didn’t,” Susan replied. “But all the agency had to do was to mention that Jade would be among the models for their next show, and I’m afraid Jade’s career was launched.”
“Huh! It sure was!” Do you know how much money she makes now? How much she’s always made?”
“I know it’s a lot.”
“A lot is an understatement. I’ve got my own design business, and I’m doing pretty darn well. But even I fly coach class whenever I get on an airplane. “She never flies anything but first class, and she does it so often that everyone in almost every airport in the world knows who she is.”
“She’s famous. Her pictures are all over the magazines and TV,” Susan countered. “And if you want to fly first class, why don’t you? You were rich from all that TV money, even before the hunting show came out. And then you piled up even more money. We all did!”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to touch that money. And I’m getting there with my business. Slowly but surely, I’m getting there.”
“Actually Jas, I think you’re getting there pretty darn quickly. You’re only twenty-four. And don’t forget, your name was already showing up in the fashion world right after that first school fashion show you did.
“Yeah. I owe Gloria Bertram for that. And later, she really helped me launch my career. And…I guess I am making pretty good money now. I can at least afford my apartment in New York and a place for my business too. And at New York prices, that’s saying something!”
Susan smiled. “So I understand. But from what you’ve told me about it, your places both sound…um…a little on the small side.”
“Well, no. Just…small.
“Mom, it is small. But not nearly as bad as a lot of places in New York. And the building I live in is pretty nice, and the apartment itself is great. It’s everything I could ask for…in New York.” She shook her head. “It’s a lot nicer than that place that Jade has!”
“Jade? Are you kidding? You’ve seen how nice her place is. It’s beautiful!”
“Yeah. It’s beautiful alright…inside…where she lives! But the rest…”
“Well, she wanted that business.”
“So she had to go and buy the ugliest building in Little Rock?”
“So she had to go and buy the ugliest building in Little Rock?”
“It’s not that bad. Besides, it’s only fifteen minutes from the airport.”
“Mom, it’s a big square cinder block building. And the area around it looks more like a junk yard!”
“But her apartment upstairs from her business is beautiful.”
“Jasmine nodded. Yeah, it really is. It’s just all the rest that looks like trash.” She smiled. “I still can’t believe how big her closet is though!”
“Yeah, it takes up half her house! And it’s actually divided up into separate rooms! Do you know she’s got one room just for her gowns? And don’t even get me started on her shoe room. I could live there and never come out!”
Susan smiled. “You and many other women in the world.”
“But it’s that stupid fix-it business she has that takes up the entire downstairs. It’s…ugly!”
Susan shrugged. “I guess that’s the way businesses like that seem to get. I understand she does a pretty good business there though.”
“Ha! Good business is right. Have you ever seen the way things get there when everyone knows she’s in town and her shop will be open?”
“What do you mean?”
“People line up left and right to bring their stuff in for her to fix. Four wheelers, all kinds of ATVs, lawn mowers, and any other junk they want her to fix.”
“Oh, it’s not quite like that.”
“Are you kidding? Have you ever seen her when she’s working that fix-it stuff?”
“No. Not really.”
“Mom, she wears these skin tight jumpsuits all the time, and absolutely stupidly high heels. And then she flips that long thick luscious hair of hers all around when she’s working. It’s practically pornographic! She tells me that a lot of the guys who come in, break their stuff purposely, just so they can watch her fixing it!”
Susan looked at Jasmine skeptically, but somehow believing it. “Well, knowing your sister like I do, I guess I believe it. Who would have ever believed she’d be like that after the way she was when you two first started switching things all around.”
“Huh!” Jasmine grunted. “She’s got a body to die for and she knows it. Of course she exercises two hours every single morning and she doesn’t eat a damn thing all day to keep it that way. She once told me that one of the best things about that fix-it business she’s got, is that it keeps her from thinking about food and eating.”
“She’s always been good at fixing things,” Susan noted.
“Yeah. Everyone always said she was.”
“She was good at it long before you two switched things around. Like your father always said, she simply always had the knack.”
“Yeah,” Jasmine agreed. “I remember. Even back when we were little kids. Back before Reverend…what was his name?”
“Yeah, back before he kept us out of church that Easter and started all the ruckus. Whatever became of him, do you know? Didn’t he leave about the time they started filming the hunting show?”
Susan nodded. “Nobody’s mentioned him in a long time now. Last I heard, he was still up at some big church in Saint Louis.
Jasmine nodded and took another sip of her coffee before speaking again. “So Grandpa knows Jade’s going to be there tomorrow?”
“Yeah. Like I said, it was actually his idea.”
“All I can say, is it’s about time! But what brought this on? Even Grandma has never able to solve the differences between him and Jade. And I know how hard she tried…for years!”
“Um…I’m not totally sure, but I think some of it may have been the new still Jade built for your Grandfather and then gave it to him for his birthday.”
“Jade saw Grandpa? For his birthday? And she built him a new still?”
“Well, actually, Jade built the thing and gave it to him, but she never saw him. She carted the thing up here and then Jed and Ethan installed it. Don’t ask me where the thing is though, because as far as I know, Jed and Ethan are still the only ones in the family, other than your grandfather, who know where it’s at.”
“And Jade,” Jasmine said. “Jade was there a few times.”
Susan shook her head. “Jade knows the general area it’s in, but even she says she could never find it again if she tried.”
“So Jade made Grandpa a new still for his birthday. Even after all the…difficulties between them.”
Susan nodded. “From what I hear, he needed a new one. Even now, McComber Moonshine is our biggest seller down in the gift shop. And if we had a license to sell it on more than a limited basis, then I have no doubt your Grandpa would happy as a lark doing nothing but making the darn stuff all the time.”
Jasmine smiled. “Yeah, even I like it. I always have.”
Jasmine took another sip of her coffee before she changed the subject. “Um…Mom. I talked with Olivia yesterday too. Did you know her husband left her a few days ago?”
“Jane told me,” Susan replied. “It’s so sad. And right before Christmas too. And they just had another baby not six months ago. Jane said that Olivia’s supposed to be there tomorrow, but I haven’t heard that she ever got here.”
“Mom, I talked to Olivia yesterday when I talked to Jade. She’s down there with her right now.”
“She went to Little Rock?”
“You know that the first place Olivia always runs when she’s got problems is to Jade. Those two have always had a thing for each other since they were kids.”
Just thinking about that made Susan more glad than ever that Jade had gotten her big operation a few years ago. “Well, I guess with all this snow, she has a better chance of getting here with Jade than any other way.
“Mom, Olivia said she’s leaving California. She’s moving back to Arkansas.”
“Oh! Jane didn’t tell me that. I’m sure the family will be thrilled to build her a house on the new street along with the others.”
Jasmine shook her head. “Mom, I think she’s wanting to stay with Jade. Live right there with her.”
That was a much more troubling thought for Susan. “That’s…strange.”
Jasmine shrugged. “Like I said, Olivia always runs to Jade when she’s got problems.” What Jasmine didn’t say though, was that she was pretty sure the two had slept together a number of times over the years…even before Jade had gotten her operation. But then, the rumor mills in the industry had it that Jade had slept with a lot of people, men and women both. And Jasmine didn’t doubt those rumors for a minute!
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