I admit, I was starting to get worried.
After all, everything seemed to make sense on paper. The last group to stay at the Inn in the fall goes back as the first group of the spring, its mojo kicks in, and they change back. That lets the second-to-last group - including me - change back after returning, then Liz's group, and so on however far down the line we can go. Of course, there was one little tiny flaw in that logic, which I admit we all kind of willfully ignored: We didn't all change back the night after we'd changed, even though there were still thirteen of us in the Inn.
I came up with ways that that might not be an issue: Maybe the Inn had batteries to recharge. Maybe it doesn't work on the exact same group of people twice in a row, so not having Stephen return to reclaim his life, meaning that the group will have at least one different person, would be enough of a difference. Maybe six months without changing people would make the place anxious, and it would bend whatever rules it had. At least, that's what we told ourselves. Because we really didn't want to think of the alternate explanations: That nobody could be changed a second time, or changed back to a form they'd had before, or twice in a row.
We didn't talk about those possibilities, because talking about them might make them true. As you might imagine, there's been a lot of finger-crossing to go with the preparation. Fortunately, it looks like I can uncross my fingers.
The phone rang at about seven this morning, just as Ray was finishing breakfast. I was just stumbling out of the shower when he answered it. "Liz... Some guy for you."
I saw the look on his face and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "You don't think there's any reason to be suspicious after last night, do you?" His expression changed to slightly embarrassed and he handed me the headset. "Hello?"
"Arthur? It's me, Jeremy. 'Germy' Boyd." My heart jumped into my throat. It had been months since I'd heard a man's voice call me that, and even if I didn't recognize the voice, I realized that I had never heard Jeremy's voice before he had changed. "It worked. Took it long enough, but it finally worked last night. Two-twenty-seven by my watch, it all happened."
I felt a quite frankly amazing sense of relief. "That's great. You can't imagine... Well, I guess you can."
"Right. Anyway, I've got some things to do, so I just wanted to give you a heads up."
"Of course... Thanks." He hung up, so I did likewise.
Ray looked at me. "What was that about? I haven't seen you look that happy in... hours." A satisfied grin snuck onto his face.
"Just some news I'd been waiting a long time to hear. I... Uh... I might have a chance at a part, but I'd have to go to New York tomorrow...."
"That's great!" He picked me up and kissed me on the lips. "See? You get free of that job and that guy, and things are starting to fall into place!" He started to loosen his tie. "I think this calls for a little celebration..."
I pulled it back into place. "Hey, someone's got to earn some money around here. Besides, who knows if we can repeat last night? I swear, I've never seen a guy so excited over someone else's orgasm."
He turned bright red at the word, even turning away. "Well, you said it's been months, even with... him... I just think this is a really good sign for us."
"It is. And I want you to remember that, because one good sign doesn't mean..." I didn't know how to finish the sentence. "Look, it's still going to take a lot of effort to make this work. So no matter what happens, be patient with me, okay?"
"You know I will."
"Good. Now get off to work, since by the time I get home tonight, I'll have spent my entire last paycheck in a bar. Or five. Zoe was unclear."
He left, and I cleaned up from breakfast before typing this.
I can't believe it. Jeremy's himself again, which means the odds of my being myself again without a couple weeks are looking real good. And I somehow managed to do it without wrecking Liz's lif - maybe even making it a little better. There were times when I thought there'd be no way out, but seeing the light at the tunnel... Well, don't tell Ray, but this really is the best thing I can imagine feeling.