Christine Dale was defined by her work and her family. She was 22, and frank about it. She had a strange last name, which she would thank you very much not to mispronounce. Her curly brown hair had long since been clipped, curtailed, and brought to heel. She lived to save lives and help people.

Christine Dale was a very different girl from what she had used to be. In the fifteen years following her father's death, she had forgotten how to day-dream. If you mentioned the very word to her, she would laugh in your face. She echoed her mother, and told you it was a waste of time that didn't result in anything productive.

Christine Dale had had a series of relationships with normal boys. All right, so they were a touch more polite than most boys, but she did have her standards, after all, and she didn't take anything from rude men. In her mind, though, she was well on her way to finding 'Mr. Right'. In her mind, finding that elusive thing was just another thing to cross off her checklist (she actually did have a checklist made out), and she was steadily approaching the right combination of characteristics in her men. There had been Rob, who was slightly vulgar, Mark, who was a little too stupid, and then Jason, who had been just a tad bit too messy. Yes, it was almost a matter of time before she found the right man, and settled down. Another check on her list.

She was very happy now, and very glad for that fact. Ten years of being irritable and upset can wear away at one's mind, and to say that Christine had been an ill-tempered child after her father's death was the understatement of the century. But, right before she had gone off to college, she had made a concerted effort to clamp down on the unwelcome memories that made her so frustrated, and that included expunging the memories of her father. Well, so be it. She was much happier now.

She lived in a pocket-sized apartment right off campus. Oh, she was in graduate school now. She was training to be a doctor, so she could probably call it medical school, really. In fact, she had just begun her residential period in the local hospital. She only treated outpatients though, generally speaking, because her area of specialty was the counseling of people with eating disorders. Yes, she treated anorexia and bulimia nervosa. There was the occasional manic-depressive (bipolar, rather), and sometimes she took shifts with the nurses to manage changing bandages and such. But generally speaking, she was a counselor.

Actually, med school was superfluous. She didn't need this much education to be a talk therapist. But she wanted it. She wanted to know everything, so that she could save lives and help people. It was what she lived for, after all.

Anyway, back to her apartment. It was scrupulously neat, at all times. If she tracked in dirt on a late night at school, she swept it back out. Her bookshelf was a curious mélange of self-help books, medical journals, and the occasional bestseller.

Christine Dale's mother was still alive, thankfully, and the poor woman had put up with enough from her to qualify her for sainthood. Christine also had a step-father and a little eight-year-old half-brother. She loved them all. To complete this resume, she also had one best friend (Meg, blond hair blue eyes) and one rival (Carlotta, red hair green eyes).

The long and the short of all this is as follows: Christine Dale had not had anything new happen in her life for the last fifteen years. She was not prepared for anything new either, no matter how much she might insist that she was.

It was the understatement of the millennia to say that that was not exactly what was going to happen to her.