My worries that I had gotten myself mixed up in something far too complicated weren't lifted when I was awakened by the sound of a knock on my door. Expecting James or maybe Jane, I answered it dressed iny the clothes I wore to bed, a crop top and underwear - since the transformation, the Inn has taken on a dormlike anything-goes atmosphere, there seemed like no need to be bashful.
I didn't recognize the man who answered, apparently in his late 20's or early 30's, even after speaking to everyone who had been transformed. With nothing to cover myself within arms reach, I moved my hands to cover my lower half. "Do I know you?" I said in a breathless squawk.
"No," he said, maintaining eye contact, "And it's probably better you don't. I'm just here to make a delivery."
He carried a manila envelope. He handed it to me and I felt it thick with papers. On it was a plain printed label, "DiStefano, Bianca."
"Bianca sent you?" I asked.
He shook his head. "My boss. Our bosses did."
"What happened to her?"
"Dunno. It's not important."
He produced a pad of paper from his back pocket. "You can sign here to confirm receipt... there's a sample of Bianca's signature inside, if you want to compare."
I opened the envelope and flipped through it. Unsure of myself, I did a very poor imitation of the swooping, messy "B.DiStef" autograph.
"Was she one of us, did she know this was going to happen?"
"They don't tell me these things," the delivery guy said, growing a bit aggravated with me, I could tell.
"You have to know something. What do they want me to do? They went to all this trouble, they have to have something for me."
He squared his stance and looked me in the eye. He gestured to the package. "It's all in there," he said. "But if you want it put simply? Just be Bianca. Park yourself in her life, keep out of trouble, and when the time comes, they'll ask for something and you'd better be ready to give it. Okay?"
My heart nearly stopped in my chest as I said, "Okay."
He excused himself, then poked his head back through the door and said, "Welcome to the Agency, Bianca. I doubt we'll be seeing each other again." Then he closed it behind him and I heard his footsteps echo down the hallway.
I went through the paperwork. It was as comprehensive as you could want... banking info, address, social, e-mail and other passwords, family and personal history, job description... personality profile. There was a memory stick with electronic versions of all this date and more. It was all written from a very distant, objective point of view, which chillingly gave the impression that all this was observed or investigated about her, not given voluntarily. I scanned the sheets for the word "fiance."
A moment later, Jane came to my door. She was dressed in a grey tank and a pair of plaid boxers. I tried to delicately guide my eyes away from the distinct bulge, though.
"Did I just hear someone in here?" she asked.
"Yeah," I said, "Someone Bianca knew... I think."
"That's weird," she said, leaning on the doorway, "Was he one of us?"
"Kind of, I think," I said. There was a pause where it must have looked like I had something I needed to say, because Jane leaned forward, as if to say out with it.
I thought about confessing that I was a veteran to this Inn, that I knew what was going to happen, that I specifically put myself in a situation to become this woman because I thought it might... I don't know, help me in some way. I thought about telling Jane about the blog, but... I chickened out. Which is stupid, because it's not like I wronged Jane in any way, we're still friends, I've helped her, I just... don't want to admit what I really am, I guess.
I should. It's indefensible that I haven't already, but I just don't know how to say it without seeming like a liar and a bad person. Maybe once we get to Chicago, and things are more stable, the time will feel right. I don't know.
We spent the day trying to somehow enjoy our last moments in Maine, and it was quite honestly the best day I've had since. Putting the ordeal we're about to plunge into out of my mind, and with the pressure of anticipation long gone, I feel like this is the one moment I was able to relax and get my guard down. It didn't hurt that James is back to being a total goofball, and Jane seems to be taking a cue from the two of us to take it in stride, although she's had a moment or two of "This can't really be happening, can it?"
We made arrangements for a flight tomorrow. I went home and got studying up on my part. As bland and unassuming as she seemed from the outset, I thought maybe being Bianca wouldn't be such a terrible thing, at least for now.
Then, buried way on page 3 of the document, under "relationship status," I saw it:
"Bianca currently resides at [address] with her longtime partner Kathleen Mayfield, a professor of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago" followed by some biographical details.
Oh. Um. Interesting. Maybe I would have put that nearer to the top if I was compiling a list of pertinent details about a person's life.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.