The day started amusingly enough, with Drew trying to talk Jeff into wearing a bikini.
"Are you kidding me?" The three of us were at a local spot, happily doing the "calories be damned" thing, and Jeff almost ruined it by nearly spitting his grapefruit juice all over my omelet.
"No. Why? Those baggy clothes don't do that great a job of hiding what a great bod you inherited from Brianna. You should get some use out of it. Let some guy come up and treat you to something. Observe how tongue-tied they get around you, see what feels good. Know what the girl is thinking when you're back looking at them from the outside."
"What's so sick about it? It's still your body, just rearranged, right? You were the one who was awake when we changed last year and told us it wasn't like your soul was pulled out and deposited somewhere else. You're a woman for the time being--"
"I'm a girl. Not a woman, a girl. Brianna just had her sixteenth birthday last June. She's younger than my sister. Are you certain you want to keep going on about how hot a high-school sophomore looks?"
Drew paused, and extended it by taking a sip of his coffee. "Maybe I shouldn't. But you're only, what, two or three years older than her? If you saw her lying on the beach in a bikini, would you think it was sick?"
"If I knew what I know, yeah."
"That these tits you think are so awesome? They're fake. They were a birthday present from Brianna's parents." I stopped eating, but Jeff kept going. "That's why Brianna was spending the summer away from home - so that her friends wouldn't realize this wasn't anything but a growth spurt."
The table got very quiet. It took a while before I decided to break the silence. "That," I said, "is fucked up." Drew agreed. "I thought having to work for a complete simpleton who everyone thought was me was bad, but, that..."
"Yeah, it sucked. I mean, I put up more of a fight than Brianna did - there's a guy paying for a bunch of expensive dental work who can attest to that - but... Well, remember how I said I'm not letting anyone go back there? That's why."
"Damn." Drew used his fork to push some scrambled eggs around his plate, but didn't pick any of it up. "Look, Jeff - you live in Michigan, right? And so does Brianna?"
Drew put his purse on the table and started rooting through it. "Here's my card. After we're all changed back, I want you to to make sure whoever winds up as Brianna gets it. I don't practice family law, but I have an old law-school buddy who does. If the new Brianna was an adult before the change, we'll make sure she's legally emancipated. If not, we'll find a way to have your father appointed her legal guardian."
Jeff took the card "Thanks. I... I don't know what to say."
"Don't worry about it. It's a fair price for a little perspective."
It got quiet again, so I decided to lighten the mood a little. "So, you kept your old business cards?"
"Ha! No, not quite... I was working as my own assistant, and when 'Mr. Dawson' wanted more, I tacked an extra box onto the order. It's amazing how much security you can get out of a simple piece of paper with your real name on it."
"I wish I'd had some of those. When even my own sister was calling me Bree... Well, you know I freaked out. When I finally shook it off, I was just going to book a room here and hope for the best."
"Ah, I didn't have that problem. Me and 'Mr. Dawson' were able to come to an arrangement pretty quick." He put down some money to cover the bill and stood. "And with that, I am out of here. I am going to enjoy the beach even if you two aren't."
Jeff and I ate for a bit longer, but soon started heading back to the Inn. I was still a little surprised by some of what Jeff had said.
"You really would have just thrown the dice?"
"Yeah. It was pretty bad. Although there are some things that might be worse."
"I can't imagine."
"Well..." He looked around, making sure we could talk uninterrupted. "The person who became me? She was a seventy-year old grandmother. You'd think turning young would be great, even if you changed sex, right? But her mind was starting to go, and even if her brain turned younger just like the rest of her, I guess once the decay starts..."
"My god." The idea of living another fifty years like that, and subjecting Jeff's family to it...
"Yeah. At first, she was okay, but it got worse. It wasn't until almost the last minute that she decided that was no way to live, and that forcing her life onto someone potentially much younger than herself was even worse."
"How'd you find out all this?"
"It was in the letter."
"You've read your letter?"
We were just outside the Inn at this point. He stopped to get his key. "You haven't? Why not?"
"I don't know. I just haven't. It's... you know, it's not what we do."
"Well, why wouldn't you?"
I had no good answer for that, so we went to my room and opened the closet. I looked at the suitcases and got a sinking feeling in my gut. I hadn't thought they looked familiar, but I hadn't given it much thought. But as I knelt down to look at them, I got a sinking feeling, which threatened to become nausea as I looked at the tag on the first one. "R.J. Hobart"
Jeff scootched down next to me. "Who the hell is R.J. Hobart?"
"I don't know... But I'm going to find out!"
I pulled out my cell phone out of my purse and dialed Jeremy. It was only about seven or eight in California, so it went to voice mail, so he got a bunch of screaming voice mail about wanting to know who the fuck R.J. Hobart was and what the fuck he was doing in our fucking room. I was just hanging up when Jeff told me to ask about Nell Lincoln.
Jeremy got more profanity.
I hung up, and dropped to the bed. Jeff sat next to me and gave me a pat on the back. "What are you going to do?"
"I don't know." I took a deep breath and tried to think logically. "Maybe he stayed in a different room. He said room 9 specifically..."
We knocked on doors. We only covered ten rooms, but none of them had "Arthur Milligan's" luggage. A couple people aren't here yet, and one guy just told us to buzz off.
Jeremy has yet to call back, despite repeated calls. There's only ten people in the hotel tonight, so it doesn't look like I'm going to change tonight. Which is good.
I'm not sure if I can handle another new life.