“Let me tell you what my life is like now,” said Melissa, “all thanks to you.”
We had left her suite and were travelling downstairs in the lift. It had mirrors on every wall, even built into the doors, and gave an uncanny sense of other dimensions shifting off, endlessly repeating images of us that slowly curved out of sight. Melissa was facing the door. She didn’t look my way. I stole glances at her from every angle through the differing mirrored views.
“Because of your support and this grand adventure we’re on, I have lost a phenomenal amount of weight,” she said. “I’m almost as slim as you were when we first met.”
It was true. Her body looked amazing. For quite a long time now it had looked a lot better: simply exercising constantly had enabled her to carry the weight better almost from the start. Now she was very shapely and if anything looked slightly better than I had before we left England.
After all, by then I had let my own weight slip a little already and hadn’t maintained as intense an exercise schedule as her for some time: years. Melissa’s developing form was the result of intensive physical training. And her boobs were a little fuller too.
She didn’t have my facial features (though hers weren’t a million miles from mine), but she was similar enough in other ways that a member of the public who followed my modelling career might almost have thought she was really me – if they were told as much.
“And losing weight is only the start of it,” she said. “Living here as you; enjoying the life of a wealthy woman; something I could never have done before; has changed something inside of me. I see myself differently now. I see a strength and...” She went quiet for a moment. “... a beauty even, that I never had before. I look in the mirror and I don’t recognise the incredible woman looking back at me.”
She turned her body so that she stood beside me and put her arm round my back, gripping the chubby bingo wing on my left arm so that we were looking at our reflections, pressed side by side.
The sight of it was barely credible and dimly disquieting.
She was taller than me; because of her heels and my flat working shoes; because my posture was... different: shoulders slumped; back a little bowed; head lowered. She was so slim and athletic and that gave her a bearing and confidence that was visibly magnificent. My dark brown hair seemed almost black in the soft lighting while her lovely golden curls danced about her face. Her hair had grown massively since we came to Greece. It looked fabulous now.
And I looked tremendously fat: my stomach rolls; my round, sagging chin, my inflated bottom and wide hips, the swollen calves, the round chubby arms. I peered, blinking, through the thick lenses of glasses that covered much of my face.
I looked so much like the original Melissa now. So much like her.
“Thanks to your generosity and kindness,” said Melissa, I feel like a princess. I used to have a drinking problem – did you know that? I used to drink all the time, just to dull the ache I felt from living my life; from looking the way I did.” She grinned. “Not anymore. Now I have it under control. I still drink but only for fun. You don’t know how different that feels. It’s wonderful!”
She hugged me tighter. I said nothing, only smiling a little.
I felt comforted to hear this; to know that she was happy; but I also felt strangely awful and I didn’t know quite why. This had been my choice. It was what I wanted. Why should I feel bad now that I was so close to achieving my outlandish dream?
“I’m so grateful to you,” she said. “So grateful that you gave me the chance to live your life and find out what it’s like. I love it so much.”
She stopped speaking but I sensed there was more she wanted to say. Her eyes clouded and she said nothing. She released my arm and stepped away. I was going to ask her what was wrong but the lift dinged and the doors opened.
Melissa strode out without a glance to see if I was joining her. I scurried after her. I was going to catch up and walk alongside her but that felt wrong. Despite everything I knew about our true pasts, there seemed a gulf between us now that I... didn’t want to close; that I liked. This was what I wanted, wasn’t it? I wanted to be subservient to her; to feel as though she was the wealthy lady and I the portly cleaner with dowdy clothes and hair and thick glasses.
It was my dream come true; or almost. We weren’t quite the same shapes as our opposite had started. The way she was viewed compared to me was startling. It had been a long time since we had appeared together among other people and it was astonishing how differently we were treated now. Men and women openly admired Melissa as she strode proudly along, chin up, apparently unaware of the adulation. Her stride was long and measured. The hotel staff nodded deferentially as she passed but she ignored them.
To me they were openly disdainful, sneering in my direction as I glanced shamefully at them. Everyone we passed either ignored me completely or gave me some grimace of disapproval or derision. And my footsteps were shorter than hers, my pace more laboured with my greater mass. I had to hurry to keep up, frequently speeding up to match hers
Melissa seemed unaware of me now; totally dismissive of my presence, and I started asking myself if she meant for me to follow or if she had dismissed me without even bothering to address me directly. She had been so open and kind in the lift but immediately upon stepping outside, the wall had come down and I was only her underling; largely beneath notice and only worth contempt.
It was horrible; almost a betrayal; and yet it made me feel alight inside, like I craved this desperately; as though this subservience to her and the pitiful life she had crafted for me were was a dingy hell and her disregard was something I yearned for: a light I could gaze at in the darkness.
Melissa strode on and I hurried after her.
I wanted her to remember I was there. I wanted her to be kind to me. But I also hungered after the casual disdain she was capable of showing me. I wanted her to make me feel pathetic next to her. I wanted to feel as though she was so much better than me.