Chapter 9: The Girl in the Mirror (part 1)

Joanna and Bob strolled down the trail in the forest together. "Do you ever wonder what things would be like if one day, you had just made one completely different decision?" Joanna questioned, keeping her head down towards the ground as she watched herself walk.

Bob shrugged. He hadn't really thought of that type of stuff recently. He was comfortable with the way that his life currently was now. "I guess," he answered.

"Did I ever tell you that the inn my father owned was originally left to me?" she questioned.

"No, no you didn't," he responded.

Joanna stopped and sighed. "Well, it was," she stated, looking over to him. "I knew that when I was younger, and before I moved to Chicago and got a job. I knew that I always had something waiting for me if I failed," she explained. "I've had most of my life set up that way."

"Like, uh, a security blanket of some sorts," he suggested.

Joanna nodded. "Yeah," she softly laughed, looking back to the ground as she slowly started walking again. "I could always get on a plane or drive off somewhere and be fine with staying where ever, just as long as I could clean the area I was perfectly okay with not knowing exactly where I was going to end up, but when it comes to certain things," she trailed off, thinking back to Stephanie's situation.

"You couldn't even imagine taking the risk?" Bob attempted to finish for her.

"In my mind, I have this perfect man in mind," she said and then looked per to Bob. "And you're right, I am making it hard for me to find someone, but, I feel like if I don't stick to that description, I might end up with a man like Stephanie ended up with."

"And what if, what if you pass up a man that's perfect for you?" Bob implored, causing her to stop and look to him with desperation.

After a brief moment, she shook her head and continued walking. "That's not possible. I just got comfortable with walking out here like this where it's dirty. And that's only because I forced myself to get used to it. Not many people can put up with that," she reasoned.

"Look, I was just trying to point out that you'll never know," Bob told her.

"I know that. That's the very reason I'm picky," she informed him.

"You know, I'm sure that Stephanie and Carl didn't start out bad. They, they could have started out really getting along. And there are some people out there at, at each other's throats that might end up getting along and loving each other tomorrow," Bob informed her. "There's never going to be a sure fire way of telling. So it comes down to whether or not you think it's worth the risk."

Joanna looked down and thought about what he had said. Yes, it was true, she could have passed on a man who was perfect for her. She could have had the life that she was talking about to him yesterday by now. "What if I decide that I don't think I want to take that risk?"

"Well, then, uh, you don't have to. There are plenty of people out there who are single and happy because they prefer to stay that way," Bob answered, although, he knew that she didn't really want to be single.

He stopped and turned to Joanna, who stopped right after he did. "It seems to me like you have a hard time trusting some people. Not everyone, just men that you like," he observed.

Joanna looked up to him. "What makes you say that?" she questioned.

"Do you, do you remember when this group only consisted of you, Mr. Carlin, Larry, Darryl, and Darren?" he asked.

"Yeah," she answered, slightly smiling.

"It wasn't hard for you to trust them. You had to take some time to adjust to Mr. Carlin, but, you seemed to have no problem talking about anything with them," he informed her.

Joanna nodded. "That's true. It seems like I did a lot more talking in those days," she said.

"Right," Bob replied. "Then, uh, do uh, do you remember who the next person was to join?"

Joanna thought for a moment. "Kirk," she answered with hesitance. What was only about a year ago seemed so long ago. "It had to have been Kirk."

"And how did you act when he got there?" Bob asked, leading her.

"I didn't talk as much," she responded.

"Also, the same time that you developed a crush on him. The, the one that made you almost want to leave the group," he said.

"I don't distrust every guy that I have feelings for," she argued as she started walking. She didn't want to get into this now, they were getting close to a dangerous area that she didn't want to cross. Not here, not now, possibly not ever.

"That's good," Bob said as he caught up to her. "Does, does that upset you?" Perplexed, he started going back through what he had said, trying to figure out what had upset her.

"No," she sighed, coming to a halt. "I just, I don't think I want to talk about this anymore," she stated.

"All right," Bob replied, a little surprised by the sudden turn of events that had just taken place.

"Thank you," she quietly responded as she turned and started back towards the cabins.

ooo

"I refuse to go out there until I know those two men are fully clothed," Stephanie announced as Michael stood and looked out the window.

"Okay," he gave in to her.

Right now, the two were alone. Bob and Joanna were on their walk, Larry and his brothers went out to look around the camp ground, and then Kirk and Elliot were out getting close to nature.

Michael turned and looked back to her as she sat on the couch, playing with her hair. He wanted to ask her more about what had happened, but at the same time he was a little nervous to. He really did not want to upset her.

"You ever read anything?" he questioned, trying to get a small conversation started.

Stephanie looked up to him. "Does Cosmo count?" she implored.

"Yeah," he answered.

"I read that," she stated and then went back to playing with her hair. After talking earlier, she just wasn't in the mood to really talk to anyone about anything.

"How about tv?" he questioned.

Stephanie sighed, dropping her arms to her sides. "Look, I like you, but I think I'd like you a lot more right now if we weren't talking," she told him.

"Oh, sorry," Michael said, dropping his head in disappointment. He went and turned his back to her again as he returned to looking through the window. He knew that he shouldn't have tried so hard.

Stephanie now felt a little bad for what she had done and decided to go along with him. Besides, these were simple questions. It had nothing to do with her life with Carl and Renee. At least he knew where he couldn't go.

Stephanie rolled her eyes and went for it. "You ever watch Green Acres?" she asked. It wasn't really something she liked, but Renee used to like it, so she would put up with it.

"You watch that?" Michael inquired, turning back to her with surprise. He just couldn't picture her watching that.

"Well, I used to every once in a while. I prefer movies," she explained.

Michael nodded and turned back to the window. He could she wasn't really interested, so he decided to just stop, let it go, and sulk quietly to himself. Instead of just standing there in the silence though, he turned and started for the door.

"You're leaving?" Stephanie implored, insulted by the idea that he was just going to walk out on her.

"Well yeah Steph. You told me that you would like me a lot better if I wasn't talking, so I figured that you would like me a lot more if I left," he informed her. He just wanted to get out of there before he made things worse between them.

"If I wanted you to leave I would've told you," she explained.

Michael smiled. "Really?" he asked.

"Michael, I have no problem telling people what I want. You should know that by now," she assured him.

"Okay, I'll stay," he said, a goofy smile plastered on his face as he went and sat down on the chair by the fireplace.

She had to admit, this man did peak her interest. He was willing to do anything to keep her happy. Sure, it might have been an insecurity, a psychological problem and he couldn't stand to make anyone unhappy, but he was still doing a lot more than Carl ever would. She had to wonder if there was a little more behind it though. "Even though it's probably the obvious answers, I have to ask. Why do you insist on being around me all the time?" Stephanie implored. She knew that he liked her, that wasn't too hard to see, but she wanted to know why. After the incident with Carl, she felt like she had to ask. She just had to make sure.

"Well, you're pretty, you dress nice, I agree with a lot of what you say," Michael started. Some other things that he was never going to tell her were that she was a brat, she was whiny, and she had no problem being demanding or letting people know when she did not like them. These were not things that he enjoyed, per say, they actually annoyed the hell out of him, but he never had to worry about what she really thought of him. He knew that she wasn't just acting when she said that she was happy, and when she started whining, it was quite obvious what to do to make her happy. There was no second guessing mixed signals and he would never have to wonder what it was that upset her.

Stephanie smiled. "Yeah, it was the obvious," she smugly remarked.

"When we get back home, do you think that maybe we could do something like meet for dinner or something?" he nervously requested.

"Where?" she asked.

"Um, do you like, hamburgers?" he asked, not really knowing how to pick a place right on the spot. Right after he said anything though, he mentally kicked himself.

"Ew! I don't think so," she quickly responded. She was still looking to Michael, though, awaiting for him to try again.

"Wait! How about," he started and then looked to her, starting to get more nervous. "How about you pick," he offered.

"Sounds good," she said and then sat back and went back to playing with her hair.

ooo

Joanna was walking down the trail, her arms crossed as she kept her eyes down to the ground.

"Something wrong?"

Joanna turned and saw Kirk standing behind the bushes. "That's nice," she responded.

"It's not like I'm completely naked," he told her, noting that she looked a bit uncomfortable.

"Prove it," she requested, slightly smirking. She knew that he would back down and admit to the truth.

"Fine, I am," Kirk admitted. "But you never answered my question."

Joanna shrugged. "I guess I'm just not an outdoors person," she answered, looking around the area. She grew a little tense once she glanced down to the ground.

"You think you're not now, don't go over to the other end of the loop. Elliot found himself a rock that he likes to stand on over there," he warned her. "Now that's the truth."

"I believe you," she assured him, slightly laughing.

"Good, I don't wanna have to listen to people re-account their bad experiences with him tonight," he explained.

Joanna laughed and then looked down towards the end of the trail. "Listen," she began, turning to look to Kirk. "Listen, I think I'm gonna head back to the cabin. Maybe see what's going on there," she said as she started down the trail.

What she really wanted right now was to be alone. She had something on her mind, something that she had to think about what had been happening. She truly was scared about what had happened between Stephanie and Carl, and how she should have someone by now, but she couldn't because she was scared. That, and also he was starting to get to something that she had kept secret for a long time.

It wasn't right away, but after talking to him a few times, she had developed a small crush on Bob. She hated it because first off, she knew that he was married. Second, he was her doctor, it just wasn't right. What he didn't know, was that she never actually had feelings for Kirk, even though she did think that he was kind of cute when he first joined, but she wanted to leave because she knew that it was wrong to have those feelings. That was also why she stopped talking as much, she didn't want to say the wrong thing, she was almost paranoid about every little thing that came out of her mouth.

"Joanna!"

Joanna turned and saw Larry walking down the path leading his brothers. "Yes?"

"Have you by any chance seen Elliot?" Larry implored, stopping beside her.

Joanna shook her head. "Thankfully no," she replied with a smile.

"Oh, because Darryl here has some tips for him about avoiding ticks that he forgot to mention last night," Larry explained.

"Well, that could come in handy," Joanna responded, not really sure what was going on after missing the previous night's conversation.

"He and Darren decided that maybe it's not a bad idea to have a little trepidation towards lyme disease," he stated. Darryl and Darren both nodded in agreement.

"It's never a bad time to think about disease prevention," she agreed.

"Right," Larry replied and then looked back to his brothers. "Now come on, I wanna catch him before he runs through any open fields," he instructed.

Joanna stepped off to the side and watched as Larry lead his brothers down the trail. She just shook her head and continued to the rec room. She got down to the cabin and made her way around the back to the door.

As soon as she opened the door, she froze a second. Before her, she could see Stephanie sitting up on the dining table with Michael standing before her. His arms were wrapped around her waist, pulling her in as her arms were loosely around his neck. She was leaning into him, kissing.

Once Stephanie realized they weren't alone anymore, her eyes widened as she scurried to push Michael back off of her. "Michael!"

"Aww! What did I do wrong?" Michael nearly whined as he backed away from her.

"Hey Joanna," Stephanie greeted, not hesitant to make it obvious how disappointed she was at the moment.

Michael quickly wheeled around and saw Joanna standing there with Elliot behind her, wearing his clothes once again. "Oh, hey you two. How's it going?" he asked, starting to nervously laugh.

Joanna wasn't aware that there was anyone with her. She turned back and noticed Elliot.

"People like are the reason why I can't share a cabin with the girls," he remarked as he walked in and sat down on the couch.

Joanna sighed as she looked over and saw Stephanie looking off to the side as she nervously played with her hair and Michael stood there, smiling to himself.