Well at long last, allow me to present the next episode of Cleaner!
My convalescence is going well and I was able to find the strength and focus to get on with this today. I'm hoping to proceed with more episodes in the near future and start Lady Ann up again too.
It probably won't be quite as often as it was before my surgery - not for now - but I am going to do my best to keep releasing episodes semi-regularly.
I hope you enjoy them...
Over the past months, when I might otherwise have been eating excessively, I had found something else to feed on: fantasies. Fantasies about how I might really come to look like Dahlia; how I might even become enough like her to fool people back in England. I had engorged myself on these fantasies in spare moments, as I lay in bed or by the pool, as I did my training; to light myself up as one of my many men pumped and grunted on top of me, caring more for his own pleasure than mine.
Since the very beginning, standing on the side of the road in that terrible storm, just before we left the UK, when I had come inches away from ending my life, I had treasured the daydream that we could really change places. Now I had accepted that there was some true possibility there, all the ideas I’d had were flooding my mind. Surely I had worked out every little detail by now. Surely I knew exactly how I was going to do it.
And I had been working toward this from the very beginning, hadn’t I? Since we first arrived in Greece.
I had taken photographs of our faces at that starting point, from every angle. As I did it I had known exactly why I was doing it, even as I lied to poor, stupid Dahlia.
I took out those photos now and sat on the edge of my bed, my lips cured up at the edges, flicking them one after another onto the cover beside me so that they were all on display. It was so delightful seeing my old face. It was so bloated! I could scarce believe that it used to be me – I was so used to being slim now. I was disgustingly fat. But that wasn’t the best thing. The best thing was that when I first took out the pictures and saw my old face, my first reaction had been to think that it wasn’t even me – that it was her as she was now! Oh, how I had laughed at that!
As for her old face... the beautiful face she used to have... I looked at it then at myself in the mirror, over and over again, chin rising and falling. I hadn’t been imagining what I saw in the dance studio. We really did look alike now. It was uncanny. Not the same; not identical – of course not – but close enough to be cousins; maybe even sisters.
And close enough for the reason I had taken these photos to maybe work.
It wasn’t a magical transformation – I wished that it could be – but I had been doing research for some time now; watching videos online and reading loads of firsthand accounts. The advances they had made in just the last couple of years were remarkable. They really could perform miracles.
I closed my hands, the last photo resting on my knee.
Although the greater part of me was crazily excited about the prospect of that, another part of me was terrified.
But any pain, any risk, was worth it to steal this life.
I wasn’t an idiot. I knew it wasn’t guaranteed that I would look exactly as she had, but I had a plan to cover that and frankly, if it worked, it worked. If it didn’t then I would still end up a beautiful slim woman. I would have lost nothing.
And maybe gained everything.
I went to the computer and started setting it up. I made contact with the surgery in Bangkok that seemed like the best place to do it, all things considered. I looked up flights and checked prices for first class seats and scummy seats. I found a couple of hotels near the clinic for our convalescence.
I set the wheels in motion.
I was thinking about an A-list Hollywood star I knew who had had surgery to keep herself looking young and how afterwards she hadn’t looked quite the same. I was always seeing celebrities on the front of magazines who I didn’t recognise at all, who had changed their looks and updated their style.
And this was why I needed to talk to Dahlia’s agent, Tommy.
It would be him that would start the rumours of “my” facial surgery. He would get the story out there in the gossip rags so that when I appeared in the limelight, people would already be expecting a difference. All I needed to do was get as close as I could to the original Dahlia’s face. The willing suspension of disbelief would... hopefully... do the rest.
The idea of calling Tommy filled me with fear, but I could do this. I could do anything.
And it was thanks to the other preparation I had undergone that my confidence was at least reasonably high.
For the entire duration of our trade, Dahlia and I had spent long sessions recounting the details of our original lives to one another, and even longer listening back to them; learning the details of our new personas. I knew her history and relationships as well as she did now; surely enough to pass if I was careful.
I could do it.
And if it all went wrong then I could end the call. He would remain none the wiser.
I shut the computer down and went to the mirror.
“You’re Dahlia Western,” I said to myself. “You’re invincible. You’re beautiful. You are going to steal that stupid bitch’s life and there’s nothing she can do to stop you.”
I grinned at myself and took a deep breath.
Then I reached for my phone and called up Tommy’s number.