I woke up at about 7am, which was fairly usual, I suppose. There was something odd, though… It took me a few moments to work out what it was. Then I realised that I wasn’t in my bedroom- I was in the dining room? But no, that wasn’t exactly right either. This was Ellie’s room. Why on earth was I in there? I tried to sit up and found that it was really hard, so I gave up on that and tried to move my legs. I couldn’t. I reached down to touch my thighs and instead of feeling pyjama fabric I felt skin, but… it felt odd- almost not like my own. Then I felt something really weird- soft and squishy and thick, and it was between my legs. What… what was going on? I drew my hands out quickly and looked at them. They looked like my hands, certainly. But what if… what if they weren’t mine- what if they were, in fact, Ellie’s hands? And then I realised that somehow, though I knew I was Beth, I was in Ellie’s body.
I lay there, hardly able to take it in. Suddenly the door opened and in came my mum. I remembered what Ellie had complained about yesterday, when we were talking alone:
“Everyone seems to have forgotten about knocking on my door before they come in- you’re the first person who’s actually done it. I guess I’m too helpless to have any privacy any more.” Ellie had said.
“Good morning Ellie, how did you sleep?” Mum smiled at me briefly before she turned to pull out some things from the pile of medical supplies.
“Um, okay, I guess.” I reply, somewhat dazedly. I wasn’t sure quite what to do- I mean, I had to pretend to be Ellie, but I didn’t know what Ellie usually said or did or how she felt any more. I knew mum had learnt how to care for Ellie while she was still in hospital, so she would be prepared for her coming home, but I didn’t know how co-operative Ellie was supposed to be. Did she usually just lie there and let people do things? That would be the easiest way… and there couldn’t be much that I could really do, not lying flat on my back and unable to even feel anything below my waist, never mind move my legs.
I didn’t have a very good viewpoint because the bed was flat at the moment (though the top end could be raised at an angle) and there was only a very thin pillow, but Ellie would be used to what was going on so presumably wouldn’t hurt her neck by trying to see. The covers were pulled back from me and then mum took the hospital style nightgown off, so I was lying there with only the nappy on. She slid a sort of padded square under my hips, and then she took the nappy off. I couldn’t actually feel anything different, and in a way it wasn’t too bad- it wasn’t my body, after all, and it still didn’t feel very real. She came over again with a latex glove on her right hand, holding something small, but I didn’t see what she did with it- but then she set a timer- I knew that later when it went off. Before it did, she had given me a sponge bath all over. It had been several years since I’d last been this exposed in front of my mother, or anyone, for that matter- and I guess Ellie was similar until other people had to start doing things for her. Neither Ellie nor I were especially… developed, in the chest area, but as my mum bathed me I felt like I was three or four years old again.
After the timer went off, she brought over a sort of basin and pushed it under my hips. “It’ll be better when we’ve got the bathroom adapted and you can sit on the toilet… I know you don’t like the bedpan much, but at least it’s better than accidents.”
She carried on with the sponge bath until she returned to the bedpan, removed it swiftly and left the room for less than a minute. When she returned, she spread my legs apart and, I supposed, began to clean and prepare for a fresh nappy. It should have felt terribly humiliating or embarrassing, but I couldn’t feel anything at all, and it was almost like it wasn’t happening. When that task was finished, she took out a t-shirt and helped me into it, and threaded some jeans on to my legs- she didn’t actually ask me what I wanted to wear. It really was like being a toddler again.
“Do you want to get up and come into the kitchen for breakfast, dear?” she asked.
“Um, okay.” I replied, without enthusiasm. She took this as fairly normal and lined up the wheelchair by the bed and then helped me into it. Luckily she also decided to push me rather than expecting me to wheel myself- I think without practice I’d have bumped into everything and got nowhere. She didn’t ask me what I wanted to eat, either, she just put food in front of me, but I wasn’t going to complain because it did make it a lot easier for me.
“I wonder where your sister is- she should be down by now. I’d better go and see.” Mum was halfway down the hall by the time she’d finished the sentence, heading for the stairs. I stopped automatically putting food in my mouth when I realised that if I was Beth in Ellie’s body, then Ellie would almost certainly be in mine, and she would be quite clueless too. I wanted to talk to her but there wasn’t much I could do at the moment, and even if she did come down to breakfast I didn’t want to say anything with mum and dad there. Somehow it seemed impossible to let them know that things weren’t as they were supposed to be- and in any case, would they believe me? It would sound totally crazy, after all.
When I’d finished (and still with no sign of ‘Beth’) dad asked me if I wanted to go back to my room, and I said that I’d like to lie down. When he’d helped me onto my bed, I asked if Beth could come and talk to me when she’d had breakfast, trying not to sound too anxious about it. After he’d left, I began to think some more about what was going on. I recalled something which had happened not that long after we’d first got the necklaces, which had seemed sort of odd at the time. I hadn’t been able to explain it then, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense now.
We must have been about six years old. I had an appointment to see the doctor, and I was scared about it- I can’t remember exactly what it was for, it might have been tonsillitis, as we both got that a few times when we were younger. I had gone to sleep the night before worrying about it and wanting to get out of it. In the morning I woke up in Ellie’s bed- but that wasn’t exactly uncommon, since we shared a bedroom and swapped around quite often. Everything seemed quite normal until at breakfast, both mum and dad were calling us the wrong names. We protested and insisted they were wrong, and they thought we were playing a game. All day at school people got us mixed up- even people who usually got us the right way round- and at lunchtime, when mum came to pick me up to take me to the doctor, she went for Ellie. This seemed great to me, but Ellie wasn’t having it, and in the end she had to take both of us to the doctor. He couldn’t tell us apart because he didn’t really know us that well, and so he had to look at both of us.
In the end it wasn’t so bad, of course, like many things which seem very scary until you do them. He decided that we were both okay and we went back in to school for the afternoon. Things were still weird, though, until the next day, and everything went back to normal. I suppose now that we might have swapped over then, too, but we didn’t really know it had happened- why make up such a complicated explanation when it made more sense for people to just be extra careless about telling us apart? The more I thought about it, though, the more it made sense.
I was jolted back to the present when I saw myself entering the room, and I… she… looked like she’d been crying.
“Ellie?” I asked, hesitantly.
[I can’t promise to keep up this posting rate- I had this chapter written before posting the first one, just in case I needed to edit anything in chapter 1.]