I felt drugged-up all the way back to my hotel on the cranky old bus, tipping sideways over the potholes; jolting my tender stomach and making my flab shudder.
All I could think about was Melissa’s absurd offer and its insanely tempting nature.
Because of course, in some ways, that was exactly what I wanted. It was what I had wanted all along. Of course it was. I had wondered what life would be like if I truly became Melissa. I had wished for a magical transformation to occur. I had aped her life and longed to live it fully. This Greek charade was very close to that preposterous ideal but it was also a million miles away from it.
But it was preposterous. And there was a world of difference between playing this game that we had been playing and going all the way as it were.
I had put on a costume here in Greece. I was pretending to be someone else. I had even put on a vast amount of weight and trained my eyes to grow dim and watery. But nothing I had done was as drastic or potentially irrevocable as what Melissa was now suggesting.
Was it even possible, through surgery, to make us really look like one another? And though talked about reversing it whenever I wished, surely it wasn’t so simple. We were talking a serious piece of surgery. The change really could be one way. Let’s say it was even possible... How much trauma could the human face stand and still bounce back from it? The change into her might be possible but trying to change back could make a hash of any beauty I had or wanted to get back to.
Though I had my doubts even that was possible. I was so grossly obese now. My eyesight was ruined. The habits of overeating as well as the booze and the cigarettes was so deep-rooted now. I wondered if I would ever be able to give them up. I wondered if we even swapped back now whether I would have a chance of recovering my former looks. Surely they were lost to me now. Surely I was going to remain corpulent and homely for the rest of my life, even if I was Dahlia Western again. Surely the old me was lost forever. I didn’t know where Melissa had found the motivation to lose all that weight and gain so much in fitness. I envied her that. I didn’t feel I could ever do it.
And if I was going to be fat and four-eyed for the rest of my life, maybe I should stay as Melissa. She made a better Dahlia than I did nowadays. That was abundantly clear. It felt wrong for me to steal that away from her. I was undeserving surely now. I'd let everybody down; most of all myself. I couldn’t bear to think about Tommy or Katherine, or... or my brother. I couldn’t bear it. And I couldn’t bear the thought of going back to England looking like I did and trying to pretend I was really myself again. Tommy and Katherine would look at me and know I had gone mad.
And what of the press? If they got wind of how low I’d fallen, how clearly ill I had to be mentally to allow such a thing, they would ridicule me into obscurity. After all the years of admiration and esteem for my beauty, that I couldn’t cope with.
Maybe Melissa was right. Maybe this was the best option. Maybe it was my only option. And surely if I could really pull it off; really become her and assume her life; I could be happy... with her husband. If he loved me anywhere near as much as he loved her then I would be content forever.
The bus rattled to a shaky stop and I got out, wheezing as I climbed down the narrow steps awkwardly, worried I might lose my footing and topple out headfirst like a gargantuan, misshapen peach. I thanked the diver in pigeon Greek and walked back to the hotel, resenting the heat and the way it made me sweat beneath my breasts and in the folds of my fat.
As I walked I imagined the reality of taking on Melissa’s face and completely subsuming her identity. The arousal growled away in my lower regions but so did a scratching anxiety at the back of my brain that made my eyes feel parched and too big for their sockets. Maybe Melissa was right and it was just a continuation of the game. It wasn’t real. I could back out at any time. I could go back to my real life.
Or maybe deep down she hated me. Maybe all this was about her stealing my life and never giving it back.
I shuddered to think such a thing of my friend. I made the conscious choice to place that thought to the side and away.
Maxine and one of the other cleaners were chatting in the foyer of the hotel. They had cleaning implements out but, as usual, weren’t using them. In fact I’d seldom seen Maxine ever doing work herself. She mainly chatted while her flunkies flitted round her doing it themselves.
“Hey, look who it is!” she cried, grinning. “It’s Big Piggy!”
I frowned at the new version of my nickname, noticing that this time she didn’t even bother to mention he shift. I looked down at my bulging body and shrugged inwardly. It was nothing if not descriptive. And what did I care? I’d brought this on myself. Still, it did hurt me; it really did; but only as much as it gave me a certain thrill of masochistic pleasure. It made me feel both good and bad that she ridiculed me so openly. It meant I was accepted. It meant I was part of her social group. That was as much a turn-on as anything else.
I gave a self-deprecatory smile and shambled over to them. “Hi.”
“Careful,” said Maxine, smirking, “you might crack the floor tiles you’re so fat now.” She chuckled. “You should win an award or something, the amount of weight you’ve put on. If I didn’t know better I’d think you’d done it on purpose, but no woman I know would ever willingly get as fat as you. You’re a real porker now. You’re massive!”
She and the other cleaner had a good laugh at my expense and I laughed along with them feeling uneasy and a little angry. I wanted to talk back to her but I just didn’t have the confidence anymore. She was right. I was gargantuan. I looked like a prize pig being fattened up for slaughter.
“Where are you off to Big Piggy?” asked Maxine.
I shrugged. “Don’t know. Up to my room.”
“They have loads of leftovers from lunch in the kitchen if you want to go on fattening yourself up. Get in there before they chuck it out.”
I stepped to do as she said and saw the smirk break out on her lips. That made me hesitate, blushing.
“Go on,” she said, coaxing me. “We won’t judge you. You’ve got a big appetite. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
I shuffled on the spot for a minute, questioning myself. I didn’t have to go on shovelling food down my throat. I had reached my target weight. Soon I was going to start slimming down. And if I went and got it then they’d laugh behind my back. I knew they would.
But my tummy was rumbling and I really fancied something good and greasy. I was starving. And what did it matter? If I went along with Melissa’s plan then it might even help.
“Go on Lard-arse,” said Maxine. “You’ll have to waddle in there quick or you’ll miss your chance.”
I turned the corners of my mouth up and said, “Thanks for telling me.”
I hurried toward the kitchen door, my fat swinging pendulously with each step, and behind me Maxine and her friend’s sniggers turned into laughter. With burning cheeks I pushed open the kitchen door and fell on the piles of leftover food, scooping it onto a plate, my mouth salivating as I eagerly imagined how good it was going to taste.