THE ORIGINAL MELISSA
My first impulse after the former Dahlia left what had suddenly become my room was to call the room service number again and order a big steak dinner with a lavish dessert but I had resisted. It was the old me who teetered always on the brink of despair from which excessive eating provided a welcome and necessary release.
The new me was going to be strong. The new me was going to be my own creation. I didn’t aspire to be the same as the... former Dahlia. After all, she was a sorry individual really, twisted up inside and desperate for release from her own demons. I planned to design my new persona almost from scratch. Yes, I had taken her name and her money but the new me was going to be superior to the old her.
I hadn’t yet decided on the spectrum of qualities I was going to develop in this new purloined life but there was plenty of time for that. I had all the time in the world and no stinking menial job to do; no nasty husband to run me down.
I was so happy. I hadn’t been so happy in living memory.
Instead of the huge meal my weaker self wanted I chomped down the salad my... employee had had sent up. Again, it wasn’t that bad once I got into it. The feeling of virtuousness countered the lack of strong flavour.
With that done I went down to the foyer and spoke to the concierge. With a generous incentive she was more than happy to make a booking for me at another hotel on the east coast. It was a five star hotel and the room was reassuringly expensive. It was actually obscenely overpriced. Or just-enough-priced. I grinned to imagine it. I didn’t know if she was confused by my change of appearance but she didn’t question me and we would be gone in no time.
I wondered for a moment what to do about Dahli— No. Melissa now. I was Dahlia.
I wondered what to do about Dahlia’s accommodation but then the kind of thing I wanted came to me and I made a few enquiries with the concierge. Once she understood what I was after – and she did seem perplexed by it – she brightened and did a series of internet searches until she’d found something that matched what I wanted.
That made me grin even more.
I asked her to make the booking and order a taxi to take us then gave her a liberal tip, enjoying the slapdash frivolousness of throwing away the money. When I broke off I sent Melissa a text, telling her to meet me an hour later.
I spent that hour coating around the hotel, enjoying the idea that this was me now. I wasn’t my old self anymore. I was this new person; this new Dahlia. Everything seemed possible to me: the weight loss; that I could stay this way for a long time. That happiness was becoming a deep maturing contentment. I couldn’t imagine really feeling this good day after day but why wouldn’t I? As long as the new Melissa went along with her side of things then I could go on enjoying mine.
And it had been so delicious to put her in her place; tell her straight who was the boss now. That had been the best moment of my life thus far. I could imagine her trying to break this all off and me telling her no. I pictured myself standing with my arms folded while she begged to swap back, telling her not a chance; that she was the cleaner now. I was the rich woman. I imagined her hanging her head and going along with it.
I really wanted that to happen so that I could enjoy it for real.
But that would have to wait for another day. I really didn’t think she would let me bully her that far and there was no sense in rocking such a precariously balanced boat.
When the hour was up I had a porter bring my luggage downstairs. The new Melissa was already waiting with the battered old suitcase she’d inherited from me.
She looked remarkable in her banality; more distant and diminished now than she had up in the room. She’d obviously had time to think and the new identity was closing its grip around her. She looked nothing like her old self now. I didn’t think her own brother would have recognised her, though of course, he was dead.
“Hello Melissa,” I said, underscoring her new name.
Hearing it had an effect on her and colour rose to her cheeks, her eyes quivering. “Hello... Miss Western.”
“Are you ready to go?”
She nodded. “Yes miss.”
“Good.” I strode past her. The taxi was pulling up outside. “Hurry up then. I want to get there quickly and the taxi will have to drop you off at your accommodation first.”
The new Melissa stopped hurrying after me when she heard that and stared after me, her face befuddled. “My accommodation?”
“Yes,” I said. “You didn’t think you’d be staying at a posh hotel did you? That would hardly be appropriate.”