"No! They want me to stay like this!"
"Andi, no. They want you to not become a stranger and get into something you maybe can't handle. They want to avoid having some series of randos that they have to introduce as their son in their house!"
I pulled away and started walking toward the Inn. "I thought you'd be on my side! Someone took your life, too!"
"I am on your side! I'm fucking pissed for you! I just--" She groaned. "Can we please go see Cary? He's much better at this than I am!"
I kept stomping even though I knew Krys was right. But I figured I was, too. "Don't you get it? If I change into someone, Andy will have to come and get his life back, and then i can get back to normal!"
Krys was running at this point. "And what if it doesn't work out? Look at us, we're both living proof that this shit does not go according to fucking plan!" She caught up and got in front of me. "Godfuckingdammit, Andi, will you tell me what is going on so that I can maybe help? I'm not entirely a fucking kid, you know!"
There was a bench nearby and people were starting to stare, so I reluctantly sat down and put my head in my hands. Krys exhaled and dropped down next to me. "Thank you! So why is Andy doing this? He didn't get knocked up too, did he?"
"No, and even if he did, I'm pretty sure he'd get it taken care of. That's not illegal back home yet." I looked over at Krys and reminded myself not to talk down to her, that she is really about 30 even if she feels like she's about my age. "It's... I mean, you remember Andy getting sick while we were out here last year, right?"
"Well, he never got better. He and I and our parents all thought that all his lack of energy and not being able to focus and stuff was depression, just the grind of living someone else's life for a couple years and finding out your best friend is a real dick to women and stuff."
"Right. Cary and me see a lot of folks like that passing through. And you said he was doing better since graduation."
"He was, or so we thought, but then he collapsed during a hike, so they took X-rays and..." I took a deep breath. "It's long covid. He's got, like, diminished lung capacity and mild brain fog and a couple other symptoms that don't explain everything, at least if you don't know everything else that's been going on in our lives."
"Oh." Krys went from looking at my face to the ground. "Well, shit."
"Yeah, and once he realized, he said there was no way he could give me damaged lungs and make me take medicine for my heartbeat--"
"What?" Apparently Krys hadn't heard the full list of what Covid could do before.
"It's mild, the doctors think it'll clear up within a year. But, yeah, Andy wasn't sticking me with that, let alone the brain fog. I said from all we could tell, the Inn would make your brain better but not worse, but he didn't want to bet on that for me." I pounded my first on the bench's armrest. "Just where does he get off deciding that for me? And Mom and Dad are acting like he's doing such a good, unselfish thing. Which he is, but... Ugh!"
She grabbed my other hand. "Hey, I get it. I get it maybe more than anybody else. It sucks so much! It's been like ten years since I talked to Momma or my sister, but I have to hear about how proud they are of Jonah and Moira, and sometimes I just wanna scream. And I didn't even get along with Karla!"
"I know, and I know I'm lucky, but... I was really looking forward to being me again!"
"Yeah, I get it." She leaned her head on my arm. "You're cute like this, though."
"Thanks." I kissed the top of her head. "I guess I've still got a girlfriend, though." I half-chuckled. "God, I could wind up marrying Cindi, couldn't I?"
"You sure could. Although, I may not be the ho I once was any more, but I still wouldn't recommend tying yourself down to the first person who sleeps with you. Like I said, you're cute. You could have options."
I sighed. "I guess. And we're just starting college so I can aim this life in a different direction."
She punched my shoulder. "That's the spirit!" Then she seemed to get an idea. "Hey, I've got to ask Cary, but we've got a fold-out bed, so why don't you stay with us for a couple days?"
Cary, it turned out, was all right with that. Mom and Dad weren't particularly happy when I said I wanted to stay here for a few days, promising that I wouldn't go near the Inn, but it's been nice hanging out with Krys's friends and going to the amusement park and stuff.
I overheard Cary talking on the phone to my folks last night, though, and he said that I just needed some time away from my family because I felt betrayed, and that word stung. So I guess it's time to go back home, although Krys and I are going to spend a day in Boston first tomorrow. She's joking about showing me all the places new students don't learn about, although we'll probably have more time for that once I'm actually enrolled in school there.
-Andi with an I (in my heart)