So like I said, I'm Ellie now. I'm a senior in high school, although if I get this body back to Ellie next summer she'll still have to make up a few credits, I've been told. Extra years in high school. Ugh. If this is what High School's always been like, I don't regret missing it.
I guess, though, before I get into any of that, I should explain more about how I got here, and who's with me. This is a long story. I'm in a creative writing class right now and we're encouraged to keep journals and do exercises. Since I can't be honest with them, I'll be honest with you.
I had made the deal with Fletcher/Beatrice at the beginning of the year, and I did always intend to honor it. I never gave a second thought about it. It felt like the right thing to do to ease my guilt about getting Roger into his predicament, spending a year as Beatrice's young daughter. I had promised to do everything in my power to leave him with my "Max" body.
Of course, that assumes Max's body was mine to give. A lot of people wind up in bodies they can't get out of; it's sad but it's true, and when I investigated I found this had happened to the original Max, Tanya and Melanie, in a way. Max and Tanya had wound up as parents to a newborn: Melanie. And there was no telling what effect bringing a newborn to the inn a second time might have. I told them there was a case in the blog where someone was turned into an infant and grew up comfortable but with memories of her past lives, and they seemed comfortable with that. I don't know if they ever reached out to the original parents, but in any case it always seems like there's a break in every chain somewhere.
I just have to throw up my hands at this point or else the guilt would come back. Roger's fate is the only one I'm responsible for, I can't fix everything now can I?
It was Fletcher who arranged my return to the Inn. He set me up with a reservation for three, assuming the girls -- the ones I was calling Melanie and Tanya -- would both want to come, and to complement her party of three.
Neither of the girls actually seemed that interested. If neither of them had to give up their new lives, why should they? And I didn't blame them. Melanie, formerly a guy, was really accepting of her new role, and Tanya was starting to soften too. I thought at least Melanie would appreciate the opportunity to get back to a form resembling her original, but they'd both given up contact with their original selves. To them, it was a matter of being "healthy and safe" here rather than risking it out there. This caused a rift between them and me. I even called Beatrice and told her I couldn't get them to come, and had to give up two of the reservations. She wouldn't allow it. My job was to fill two empty beds by any means I could. I said I wasn't intending to drag two innocent people to Maine when they had no idea what was going to happen to them. Beatrice told me it wasn't her problem. My case got more desperate.
The conflict between me and the girls got to the point where I had to move out of their house, as we were all living together with their "mom." It wasn't that there were hostilities or fights, I just harbored resentments and felt uncomfortable continuing to live there. By this point I had a few options.
See, after I made the deal, all I wanted was to keep my head down and my nose clean and get through to the end of Summer, when the reservation was set for. But life doesn't work that way and you meet people and make connections sometimes even when you don't.
There was a girl waitressing at the restaurant where I was washing dishes, and I guess she got really interested in me somehow. I had no conception of how I came across to her, but I guess because she's quite attractive, with blonde hair and a busty figure, she's used to guys being intimidated by her. I certainly couldn't help noticing her in the wake of my fling with Beatrice, when my sex drive really started to crank into overdrive. But I really, really didn't want to pursue. But somehow, the more I avoided her, the pushier she got until I finally just decided to let her into my life. We started dating not long after I posted about the deal, March.
So when I had to leave Tanya and Melanie's house, I had someone willing to put me up.
It was weird. I haven't written much about my past lives, but a lot of stuff that happened during my time as Sam made me very guarded about relationships. But I was determined at least to treat her with respect and kindness, and appreciate all she was doing for me. And I really, really cared about her. Hell, despite the fact that I had this secret hanging over my head, this deadline, I maybe even loved her.
Over the summer, things got worse for all of us. Eventually, my secrecy and sketchiness caused fight after fight, ending it after a few months. But during this time, something worse happened: Tanya was attacked.
I guess her "new life" wasn't as clean a slate as she thought. Some guys representing an old boyfriend with a drug problem and connections -- or maybe someone who was owed, I don't know -- found her behind a bar and cornered her. She escaped with a black eye and stitches, but the message was clear: this body, like any body, came with baggage. She needed out. I was happy to hear that, but obviously upset about the circumstances. We tried to convince Melanie, to no success.
Then one day, my girl came back home to me and said, "So, I ran into your friend Tanya today... I was wondering about this Maine trip you guys are planning."
I just about hard a freaking heart attack right there.
I mean, I don't know how I thought I could keep this whole thing a secret. I guess I figured we were bound to break up before the trip, and somehow the Inn power would work everything out without a third on our reservation. I'd break her heart, maybe leave her sad for a while (she's a good girl, she'd rebound fine I think) and never have to explain what really came between us. But before any of that happened, this did.
"Maine? Uh, I don't know what you're talking about."
I tried to play dumb but it was no use. She said she couldn't believe I was going about this all in secret, and I had to make like this was meant to be a surprise for the both of us, and I didn't tell her sooner because it wasn't confirmed. It was by sheer coincidence her birthday was in August. As to why Tanya was coming, well, "she's my friend and she's been through some trauma, you must understand, and she could use a vacation but she'll leave us alone."
Amazingly -- and much to my dismay -- that line of reasoning worked, and my girlfriend got her heart set on a vacation to Maine at the end of summer. I searched desperately for any way out but all the walls were closing in. I couldn't go back on my word, I couldn't let my girl down, I couldn't let Tanya stay in this dangerous lifestyle. I had to hope Fletcher and his friends were more able to handle it.
And that's how, on a humid August night, I found myself sprawled out in the darkness feeling my long, lean, lanky, rough-haired male body contract and curve and mold into a young, fresh-faced girl named Ellie McClay. And as interested as I was in my own strange transformation, I kept looking over to the figure in the darkness, the girl in my bed, who just rolled over and kept sleeping as her curvy, sexy self performed a change of its own.
And I wondered, what "magic" would the Inn perform tonight... would she be sister, brother, parent... lover? A man of age and distinction, a girl of twelve?
She became a teenage girl like me. Emily. A friend of Ellie's she'd dragged into this mess. The change must've been so subtle it didn't even wake her up, even as the muffled shock of others vibrated through the walls. There was a soft knock at the door. I opened it to find the face of a man. The girl I knew as Tanya was now my father, Mr. McClay.
It was a while before we learned that Ellie had been here before, that her body once belonged to Bryan, a friend of Alia's. That raised more questions: Why had she come back? And it couldn't just be a coincidence that we're in these bodies. Fletcher had only told us we'd be all right, but he claimed to have no knowledge of where we'd end up. I don't believe him, but I don't know what to think.
But none of this was on our mind at the time. I just kept running over the question I had had in mind ever since "Emily" decided we were definitely going to Maine together: what the hell was I going to tell her about me?