Disclaimer: See Chapter 1.

Chapter 5: Let's Talk About This

The sky was blue, the sun was yellow and the grass was brown. Very brown and very prickly for sitting on.

Deirdre flicked an ant off her leg and rolled her eyes as Jessica squealed. "There's a bug on me."

Joni reached over, silver bracelet giving off a blinding twinkle in the sun, and brushed the girl's arm. "There, dear, it was just a little gnat."

Jess snatched her arm away as if burned. "Don't touch me!"

Dr. Istar cleared is throat loudly. "Now, ladies. . ."

Jessica snorted. "I don't know where you're getting your information, buddy, but I am not a lady." She bared her teeth. "If you need proof I could break a few more windows."

"I only meant. . ." Dr. Istar sighed. "Well then, if you prefer, girls, we are. . ."

"Excuse me, doctor," Megan waved her hand, "in the interest of accuracy, I would like state that I am not a 'girl.'"

He turned to her with forced courtesy. "Really, Megan, the point is not. . ."

"I'm not a lady, either," she continued blithely. "Hasn't been any blue blood in my family for centuries. Not, in fact, since King Sven Svenson of Sveden. He went mad, you know." She gazed, wide-eyed, at Istar.

"Erm, well, that's. . .interesting."

"But as you said, that's not really the point. The point is that 'woman' would be a more accurate term to describe me since I am old enough to smoke and drink alcohol. Not that I do either. Personally I consider them habit- forming, disgusting and unhealthy, not to mention expensive, activities." She smiled brightly.

The doctor grimaced back. "Yes, well, that is, la. . .gi. . .We are HERE. . ."

"AAAAHHHH!" Jessica sprang to her feet, shaking her arms convulsively. "A SPIDER! THERE'S A SPIDER ON ME!"

Istar pulled the Advil bottle out of his pocket. Joni placed a warning hand on his arm. "Doctor, it's only been two hours since your last dose."

In complete contradiction to her earlier sentiments, Jessica grabbed Joni's arm. "I'm going to be sick!"

"Perhaps," suggested the doctor, "we should adjourn until this evening."

Later that evening...

The group was again congregated, this time in the (bug free) living area of the cabin. The moment everyone's rear end was pressed against a cushioned surface, Dr. Istar began to speak. "This is the first of our group sharing times. It is an opportunity for you to discuss your problem openly with each other. We have two topics I'd like to cover tonight, so let's not waste any time."

"Like. . .we have somewhere to go?" Deirdre demanded.

Istar raised his voice. "Each of you is here because of a person close to you. For Jessica and Deirdre it was their mothers. For Megan it was a young man who loves her deeply."

A snort floated from the depths of Meg's easy chair.

"Despite your close relationships with these people, you are not happy to be here, and it is natural some negative feeling might be reflected onto your relationships. Perhaps you feel angry, perhaps betrayed. Jessica, let's start with you. How do you feel about your mother right now?"

Jess took a trembling breath. Be strong, Jess. Don't give them anything they can use. "My mother is none of. . .none of. . ." She glanced wildly at Istar and then, in the bravest move of her life, whispered, "your business."

"Way to tell 'em, Jess," Deirdre congratulated. "My mother isn't any of your business, either. And just in case you were wondering, I DON'T have an electric complex."

"I beg your pardon?" Joni looked confused.

"I believe she means Electra complex," Meg offered. "I don't have one either, but I would love to talk about my mother. She's a wonderful woman, a noted Tolkien scholar, in fact. She actually had the privilege of meeting the professor."

"So totally cool!" Deirdre leaned forward in excitement. "Did she. . ."

"Megan," Istar interposed hastily, "your mother is not the person I wish to discuss."

"Oh right. . .Justin." Meg sounded less than thrilled. "If you insist, but I assure you my mother is much more interesting."

"I do insist." Istar welcomed the chance to use his 'firm but kindly' tone.

"Ah, yes, Justin. I find it hard to believe I was so stupid. The first time we met was in the computer lab. I had a CD labeled LOTR Fanfic sitting on the desk, and Justin was at the station next to me. He looked over at my disk and asked, 'Lotur? What's a lotur?'" Meg shook her head. "That should have clued me in, but I fell for a pair of bright blue eyes and a head full of silky blond hair." She looked meaningfully at Jessica and Deirdre. "Take a piece of advice from someone who has been there. A pretty face isn't worth a piece of stale lembas if there's nothing up here," she tapped her temple, "to back it up."

There was a small silence, and then Jessica, her eyes glittering with tears, whispered, "Poor Megan."

Even Joni looked touched.

"On to our next topic," Istar chirped. (That is, chirped like a starling that had just had its tail feathers nipped by a mischievous Mirkwood archer.) "All three of you. . .young women. . .have dedicated a great deal of effort to works of fiction. Not, however, stories that stem from your own creativity, but ones centered around someone else's invention, namely, The Lord of the Rings. Tell me, do you think this is really a worthy investment of your time and work? Is it fair to YOU that all your work must give credit to another author?"

"Disclaimers are a pain," drawled Deirdre, but Istar, eyes widened with concealed triumph, ignored her. During his speech, a most remarkable change had come over the irascible Megan. Her hands covered her mouth, and there was an expression of agony about her eyes. "Megan," Istar inquired. "Is there something you would like to share with us?"

"Yes!" cried Meg, leaping up from her chair. "Your words about unworthiness have a struck a terrible chord in me, doctor! There is something I must. . .MUST confess." She took a deep breath. "I am deeply ashamed to stand before and say that I once wrote a fan fiction. But not just any fiction. It was a Mary-Sue Legomance!" She buried her face in her hands, gathering the strength to go on.

Joni offered her a tissue and patted her shoulder. "There, there dear."

Meg scrubbed her cheeks. "Yes, I, in the guise of a human-elf hybrid, with eyes as sparkling as the stars and hair as golden as the sun, I caused Legolas to fall in love with me against every natural inclination of his character. And the worst part is. . .that in the scene where the heart-felt confession of love takes place, not only was I, the Mary Sue, dressed in gown that was pink, yet purple, I. . .sang. . .I sang 'Circle of Love' and played an electric guitar, using a hollow tree for an aaaaaamp!" She fell to her knees, sobbing. "Forgive me, Legolas, oh, forgive me!"

Jess sprang from her chair and threw her arms around Megan. "Don't cry, Megan dear. You can go back and edit the story! I'll help. It will be all right, you'll see!"

If Megan's sobs after this point sounded a trifle hilarious, no one mentioned it.