An Interview with Allen and Elaine from CHANGING FACES
By Barb Caffrey
A lean, tall, dark-haired man of average looks comes in, sits down on a long, comfortable couch, and crosses his legs at the ankles. He seems nervous, but friendly.
“Hi,” he says. “I’m Allen Bridgeway, clarinetist, graduate student in Music at Willa Cather University, and the fiancé of Elaine Foster—also a graduate student at WCU. I’m partial to Weber, allergic to cats, and I’m thirty years old.” He smiles wryly, adding, “Is that enough detail for now?”
Then a shorter, rounder, beautiful woman of Hispanic descent comes in and sits next to him. After giving him a quick hug and a squeeze of the hand, she speaks.
“And as you may have guessed, I’m Elaine, Allen’s fiancée. Though I’m not quite what I appear. I might look female, and I always identify as female for whatever it’s worth—”
Allen butts in. “You’re a feminist scholar, love. How could you be anything else?”
Elaine gives him a fond look. “But I’m not straight, and more to the point, sometimes I feel more male than female.”
Allen shrugs. “Whatever you are, however you present yourself, I will always love you.”
Elaine blushes. “Good to know.” Then she turns to me, the interviewer—otherwise known as author Barb Caffrey, who wrote their story in the new romantic fantasy, CHANGING FACES—and says, “Can we get to the questions now? So we can get back to playing our clarinets and living our lives?”
“Of course,” I tell them. “What is your idea of perfect happiness?”
Allen and Elaine look at each other, smile, and say nothing for a long time. Finally, Allen husks out, “Any day with Elaine suits me fine.”
Elaine blushes again, nods, and squeezes his hand. Apparently she agrees.
Next, I asked them, “What is your greatest fear?”
“Living without Elaine,” Allen says right off the bat.
“Telling Allen who I really am, because once I do, he’ll leave,” Elaine says in a low tone.
Allen looks confused for one moment, until Elaine squeezes his hand. “I’ll explain later, love,” she says.
“What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?” Then I look at them both, and ask, “Can Elaine answer this first? Allen, you always jump in…”
Allen mumbles something, and motions with his hand to Elaine.
“Ah, I like it when he goes first,” she says playfully. “It gives me more time to consider my answer.” Then she turned serious. “I am often hasty, and while I try to think things through, sometimes I just don’t. This causes trouble, but I can’t seem to break the habit.”
“I like all your habits,” Allen said, giving her a sidelong look. Then, focusing on me, he added, “I am reserved. This makes it harder for me to open up to people, and it takes a long time for me to make new friends. That’s caused me a lot of trouble in my life, especially as musicians are supposed to be gregarious sorts and I’m just not.”
“Who you are is just fine with me, love,” Elaine put in loyally.
I raised an eyebrow, and told them, “I like you both. So stop all this nonsense and just answer the questions, will you?”
“But it’s so much fun to tease you,” Elaine said.
Allen just laughed.
These two. What could I do with them?
“All right. What is the trait you most deplore in others?” I asked.
Elaine went first again. “Hostility. I can’t stand it. And ignorance is a close second.”
“People who think the arts are silly,” Allen said after a long pause. “Without the arts, we’d not have any culture to speak of and we’d probably be brute beasts.”
“I never knew you felt that strongly, love,” Elaine said, squeezing his hand again. “But I like it.”
Allen blushed dark red.
“And in that vein…what do you consider the most overrated virtue?”
After a look at Elaine, Allen went first this time. “Charity. Because people who believe they are charitable often have problems with hypocrisy, and I can’t stand it. They also seem to think that they are the best people on the face of the planet, and that annoys me, too.”
Elaine nodded, but her answer was different. “I think faith is the most overrated virtue, because most people seem to think of it only as faith in the Higher Power, not as faith in yourself. And really, it should be both.”
“Interesting,” I told them. “Now, here’s an easy one. Which living person do you most despise?”
Allen and Elaine looked at each other, looked at me, and in one voice said, “Donald Trump.” Then Elaine continued, “That man never should’ve become President, and has caused all sorts of problems, especially for the LGBT community, of which I am one.”
“Donald Trump gives Americans a bad name,” Allen added. “I am embarrassed for our country. We should have Hillary Clinton as our President, right now.”
“So, would you say that Hillary is the person you most admire, then?”
Elaine nodded, saying, “Her work with women and children throughout her lifetime—not to mention the disabled—has been exemplary.”
“Personally, I admire Nelson Mandela more, but he’s passed away. I can say that, can’t I?” Allen gave me a worried look.
“Sure. Who doesn’t admire Nelson Mandela?” Then I smiled, and said, “Here’s another easy one. Who is the greatest love of your life?”
Both Allen and Elaine burst out laughing. “If we weren’t each other’s biggest love, we’d not be here, Barb.” Allen raised an eyebrow, but still looked amused.
“Yeah, why are you asking us this. You know better.” Elaine wagged her finger at me, playfully.
“All right. Here’s a more serious question, and it’s the very last one. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Elaine, you go first.”
“If I had the power, I’d allow my gender-fluidity freer rein. Some days, I would be fully male outwardly. Other days, I’d be fully female. Maybe I’d change during the day, for variety’s sake…that way, I wouldn’t feel so alien in my body all the time.”
Allen gave her a look of concern. “This is a tough one. When I was younger, I wanted more athletic talent. When I first met Elaine, I wanted to be bisexual like her, so we’d have more to talk about.”
“I never knew that,” Elaine interjected.
“You weren’t supposed to,” Allen muttered. “But I’m depressingly heterosexual.” He sighed. “Now, I think the only thing I’d change, if I could, is to be healthier. I had a gall bladder operation last year that should’ve been routine, but wasn’t because of a complication…and poor Elaine had to take care of me.”
Then, he smiled. “Thanks for interviewing us in our original bodies, by the way. It’s harder for us to explain who we are, looking like each other.”
“No problem,” I told them. “Glad to do it.” (If this throws you, gentle reader, you really need to go read at least the blurb, and possibly the sample chapters, of CHANGING FACES. And as it’s only ninety-nine cents/ninety-nine pence for an e-book for a limited time, it’s quite affordable. Really.)
Title: CHANGING FACES
Author: Barb Caffrey
Genre: Contemporary LGBT Fantasy-Romance
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Allen and Elaine are graduate students in Nebraska, have been together for seven years, and are engaged. They love each other very much, and have many things in common. Both play the clarinet, are teaching assistants, are well-respected and seem to have their lives firmly on track. In fact, their life should be idyllic, but Elaine’s past includes rape, neglect, and abuse from those who should’ve loved her—but didn’t, because from childhood, Elaine identified as transgender.
When Elaine tells Allen right before Christmas, he doesn’t know what to do. He loves Elaine, loves her soul, has heard about transgender people before, but didn’t think Elaine was one of them—she looks and acts like anyone else. Now, she wants to become a man and is going to leave.
He prays for divine intervention, and says he’ll do anything, just please don’t separate him from Elaine. And in the form of a car accident, he gets his wish.
Now, he’s in Elaine’s body. And she’s in his. But both were injured, and Allen’s old body (with Elaine inside) is in a coma.
Allen can’t tell anyone who he is. But one thing’s certain: if Elaine can wake up, he wants to be with her. He doesn’t care what body he’s in, or that he, too, is now transgender.
True love matters so much to the universe, once you have found your soulmate, the universe will do anything to keep you together—even change your faces.
Two angels decide to take a hand and help Allen and Elaine by changing their faces.
From the ether, I watched as Allen’s little car crashed into something. No one saw it but us, perhaps because of the dense fog along with the ice and snow. “What is that thing?”
“It’s a road grader,” Michael said absently.
“Is there anyone around to help?” Surely we couldn’t just leave them in this condition—could we?
“I thought I’d help them,” Michael told me, sounding deceptively casual. Then, just like that, he wore a human body again and stood directly behind Allen’s wrecked car—to human eyes, he now looked like a healthy, compact young woman. I wasn’t sure why he’d picked that particular form, but Michael liked variety. The light around his body danced with his usual rainbow prisms—what I thought of as his true form— before he said, “You could help, too, you know.”
Stung, I incorporated also, using the form I’d used at Jolene and Paula’s wedding months ago. “Will this do?”
“I hope so.” He turned to look at me; his blue eyes were grave, unchanging. “We have about two minutes, maybe three, before this car blows up.”
“They had extra gas in the back of the car in case of emergencies.” As he said this, he opened the passenger side door. Elaine’s head had hit the windshield so hard, the windshield had cracked; fortunately, her seatbelt and airbag had protected most of the rest of her body. She was still breathing, albeit shallowly. “Help me get her out.”
On this plane, we could not tap into any primal energy sources; at least, I couldn’t, or I’d risk an explosion. I was limited to what this body could do, as it was the only one I knew well enough to summon; fortunately, Elaine didn’t weigh very much, and we were able to get her out of the car. I picked up her purse and put it beside her, along with a blanket that had fallen to the floor, before racing back to help with Allen.
This was going to be much harder. Allen’s body was wedged in between the steering wheel and the bent, damaged door. The road grader was firmly on the other side; no help there.
“Why can’t we keep the car from blowing up?” I asked.
“I can only interfere so much. Now, help me with Allen!”
“Get the other blankets out of the car, and put them on the ground. This is going to be tricky.”
While I hastened to do that, Michael reached inside the car. I heard the seat belt unlatch, and as I ran back to the car, I saw Michael start to pull Allen away from the steering wheel. Then, I don’t know how, Michael had pulled him backward, out of the car.
“He’s got a pulse. But he’s got multiple fractures, minimum,” Michael reported.
“We have to use their cell phones to call an ambulance.” As I blinked, he added, “Elaine’s phone has a pink cover. Get it and call 911—that’s for emergencies.”
I raced back to Elaine’s purse, grabbed her phone, and ran back. By this time, Allen was on the ground, but only a foot or so from the car. And there was something going on with the car, now…it looked unstable, to me, as an energy-being, rather than solid. I’d only seen this in the elderly, who were about to end their existence.
My unfamiliar fingers fumbled with the phone, but I was able to use it. I reported the emergency, said two people were on the side of the road after a crash, and gave the location. Before they could ask anything else, the phone went dead.
“Here. We need to get them to safety. Now!”
I helped Michael pull first Elaine, then Allen, about thirty feet. We did our best to protect their heads, but there wasn’t much time; we had to get them away from that car before it exploded.
Just as we got them both onto the nearby sidewalk, the car blew up. Even the foggy sky couldn’t hide that conflagration…surely someone would get here soon to take care of them. Right?
But before I could ask Michael anything, he yelled, “Now! Shift to the ethereal plane!”
I shifted planes, and saw Michael—now the Big Man, in his accustomed rainbow-prism form—dance over Allen’s body, then Elaine’s. “What are you doing?” I asked in pulse-speech.
“Changing faces,” he said succinctly.
He took Elaine’s soul and bound it into Allen’s body, then put Allen’s soul into Elaine’s and bound it there as well. As the ambulance came, he told them, “Be well, children. This is the best I can do.”
“Why do this, though?” I asked. “It’ll disrupt so many things.”
“Separating them wouldn’t?”
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Barb Caffrey is a writer, editor, and musician who holds two degrees in Music.
She has a particular fondness for the clarinet, lived in Nebraska for the better part of
three years, and appreciated the ability to combine both her loves with the writing of
Her other books are An Elfy on the Loose and A Little Elfy in Big Trouble (otherwise
known as the Elfy duology), while her short stories have appeared in a number of
places (most recently in Realms of Darkover). She’s also the co-writer of the Joey Maverick
series of stories (with late husband Michael B. Caffrey), so the next story you might see
from her could be military science fiction—or better yet, military science fiction with
She lives in Wisconsin.
Social Media Links:
Blog: Barb Caffrey’s Elfyverse https://elfyverse.wordpress.com