The plane made its final descent into Detroit, and Dave was tired. A cross-country flight, and now another 90 minute drive to get to the hotel. All this for a college reunion. He lumbered toward the exit, keeping his mask secure over his face. Though he felt fatigue down to his bones, he couldn't help but feel even more excitement. As much as he complained about all the hassle, he genuinely loved seeing his friends, and times like these always turned into a wild party.
The small grace of car service took him down the long winding Michigan roads into the rural parts of his old college stomping grounds. He passed the trees, and the farms, and a whole lot of not much else. All he could think about were the faces he hadn't seen in person in almost 3 years. Not since Martin and Marlene's wedding. Before the pandemic, when things were still easy. As the car rolled up past the blocky "LeGrande Hotel" sign, he felt his heart beat faster. His mind whirled at the idea of spending a weekend in the same hallways as all his friends, just like the dorms. He stepped out, luggage in hand, giving a thoughtful nod to the masked face behind the wheel, and practically skipped to the sliding door entrance of the hotel.
He entered into the affordable-hotel world of beige and slightly darker beige. There were LeGrandes all over the country that looked exactly like this one. But there was only one LeGrande that the ten of them had decided to share this weekend. Dave mingled past the bustling check-in counter, keeping his eyes peeled for a familiar face or two. Something struck him: no one was wearing masks. It felt so odd after so long to see stranger's faces. He approached the counter and spoke to the young woman behind it.
"Checking in, Dave Canning. I have a room in the Reunion block." he said.
"Right, Mr. Canning. We have you all set." the desk clerk replied, clacking away on her chunky keyboard.
"Is it ok if I..." Dave asked, motioning to his mask.
"Yes, sir. We are officially mask optional here at the LeGrande as of this week. Feel free to remove it whenever you see fit." she answered.
Dave slowly removed the mask of his face, revealing a cautious smile. "Seems a bit early, doesn't it?"
The clerk nodded. She kept her mask on, he noticed. Unlike the see of exposed faces, she still had to take precautions. "You're all set. Here's your room key, and a complimentary welcome basket courtesy of the organizers. You're on floor 4." She handed him his keycard and a very frilly basket of snacks.
"Thanks. Say, do you know if anyone else from floor 4 has checked in? Some might be on floor 3, too..."
The clerk just looked at him, helplessly. He wasn't giving her much to go on. "Right, I'll check myself. Have a good one."
Not even waiting for the customary, "You too!" Dave hustled to the elevator and within a minute was sitting on the firm, reliable bedspread of Room 412. He threw his jacket on a chair opposite the bed, and whipped his phone out to text Kevin, only to find a text waiting for him. Kevin had beat him to the punch.
*You make it to the hotel yet?* Dave smiled. Already in sync. Just like college.
*Just got to my room* he texted back. *Who's all here so far?*
*Most of us. We're all at the bar. Come down.* buzzed a quick reply.
Dave stuck his shoes back on and gave his face a quick wash in the sink. He looked at himself. Just shy of 30, and still not half bad looking, if he had anything to say about it. He wondered if everyone else would look the same. He wondered if Ashley was there yet. The answer was just a quick elevator ride away.
As the doors beeped open, Dave walked out past the still-busy lobby into the hotel bar adjacent. It was early, but a decent crowd had already formed. Most looked to be around his age. Probably more reunion folks, off to have their own adventures. He had no interest in making new friends. He spotted the back of Martin's big head from across the bar and made his way to the same familiar group he'd joined one hundred times before.
"There he is!" Heather shouted as Dave approached.
"This guy." Pat added, grabbing him by the shoulder into the sort of side hug that only very heterosexual people give. And just like that, they'd slipped back into the same rhythm. Dave looked over at Kevin, next to his wife Heather. He and Kevin were roommates since freshman year, and Heather was quickly a constant in their small dorm room. There was Tracey, Heather's roommate right next to her already finishing her first cocktail as usual.
Pat had already moved himself back to his original spot next to Erica. No sign of Erica's husband, which Dave took as a freebie since he could never remember the man's name. Martin and Marlene were opposite them, attached at the hip as ever. And next to them, Ashley smiled up at Dave with a little wave.
Ashley. Ever since they'd met, there was always something between them. They could never figure it out, though. They seemed to trade availability, jumping into a relationship just as the other became single. But here she was now, seemingly by herself. And coming out the gate pretty flirty. Was this finally the moment for them? Dave waved back. "The gang's all here." he chirped.
"No sign of Rebecca yet." Martin corrected.
"I wonder if she'll come at all." Marlene added. "She was always something of a hypochondriac."
"She was rightfully cautious. As we all should be." Tracey added. "I can't believe they actually went through with all this, given the circumstances."
"It's a tradition, Tracey." Pat said. "Everybody does it. Plus, they'd cancelled it the last couple years, so we're overdue."
Martin chimed in, "And cases are down. It's not like it was at the start."
"Did anybody get it?" Ashley asked. "You all look... the same?"
"Well you all always towered over me anyway." Tracey shot back.
"Not everybody, Tracey. I've only got a couple inches on you. And Rebecca was always the shortest. We're all still us." Heather replied.
"Yeah, I was extra careful. If the college dance floors were any indication, I don't need to be any taller." Erica laughed. Pat laughed with her, a little too hard. She smiled at him. "You were always game, Pat."
"The night's still young. Where's that husband of your's anyway?"
"Oh... he's... he couldn't..." Erica stammered. Ashely noticed, and picked up the ball. "So did they ever figure out why it's only affecting women?"
"Chromosomal thing." Martin announced. "Women have a thing... that..."
Marlene laughed. "He acts like he knows."
"Do you?" Martin laughed back. Marlene shook her head and kissed him to shut him up.
"Well I know I'm thirsty." Dave said. "Anybody else need a drink?" Half the group raised their hands and followed Dave to the bar. Ashley got close as they approached. "So what have you been up to?" she said.
"Oh, same old data entry. Nothing new to report. Easy to transition for stay-at-home though. What about you, are you still working in... athleisure?"
Ashley laughed. "I never worked in athleisure wear. Why do you always think that?"
"I don't know! I feel like you told me that once and now it will never leave my brain." Dave flagged down the bartender and ordered a round of cocktails for himself, and the four who followed him. Pat gave him another side hug. "So what do you do, then? I promise I'll remember this time."
"Just general apparel design. You don't have to be an athlete to wear it."
"But I bet it helps." They both chuckled, and clink glasses.
They looked around at the bar. Pat, Kevin, and Erica had huddled into their own conversation. Beyond them, different huddles murmured their own stories to themselves. Dave noticed a woman or two who seemed a bit taller than average. Ashley caught him noticing. "You think they had it?"
"Some people are just tall." he replied.
"Yeah, but it's hard to tell these days. I saw online the other day a woman had grown bigger than her doorframe. And she was fighter her landlord over accessibility fees."
"Crazy world. Only getting crazier." Dave said, almost to the world itself.
"That's the point of reuniting I guess. See how things change. Everything changes." Ashley sighed.
"Almost everything." Dave replied. Their eyes settled in on each other. The world fell away from them as the moment became wholly their's. Dave watched the ends Ashley's plump lips curl into a coy smile. That same shape he'd seen her lips so many times before, but could never bring himself to touch with his own. She was staring at him, her big green eyes fluttering up and down as she took him in. He did the same. She had always been curvy, but age had softened her into a beautiful, hourglass figure. Her round face was nestled between the twin tresses of her auburn hair. They leaned closer together. Her hand touched his. "It's really good to see you again, Dave. Especially after all this..."
"Holy shit, Rebecca!" The moment shattered, they turned around to the wide entryway of the bar.
There, her head poking above the crowd, was Rebecca Chalmers, dressed in the tightest jeans Dave had ever seen, and a capital V neck shirt. Her eager eyes scanned the crowd before locking on Dave and his small group. Her face lit up as she bounded over, her chest jiggling dangerously with each step. She made it to Ashley and wrapped her in an enormous hug. Ashley wheezed, trying her best to reciprocate. "Hey roomie! Sorry I'm late."
"Rebecca, you're... here!" Ashley said, catching herself as her chin dangled just above her college roommate's ample bosom. She tapped her on the arm, and Rebecca released her.
"Sorry! Still getting used to this whole... you know. And sorry I'm late, oh my god! Dave! How did you beat me here?" She wrapped Dave into another hug, which Dave accepted, still stunned. She kissed him on the cheek, pulling away to look him square in the eyes. "Oh god! Sorry again. I don't know where that came from. I just... never looked you square in the eye before, Dave. What a rush. And is that Pat!?"
She pushed past the other two, harder than she meant to, and approached the other small group of friends. Pat jumped out, ready for his hug after watching the others. He squeezed her as tight as she squeezed him back. Ever the competitor. His body still maintained the strength it had the first day of freshman year, and Rebecca could feel it. She moaned, as quietly as she could. She looked down at him. "Look how tiny you are now." Pat blushed.
"He's not tiny, Rebecca. You're huge." Heather said, approaching along with Martin, Marlene, and Tracey.
"Heather, oh my god!" Rebecca started back up. They all waved back, hoping to stop the hugging circle before it reached critical mass.
"So..." Heather, continued, "You got it."
Rebecca composed herself. "I know what it looks like. Don't worry, I've been testing all week. All negative. No longer infectious. Not a danger to others in the least."
"That remains to be seen." Pat nudged her. She giggled.
Ashley pushed him aside. "When did all this happen? We just facetimed last month."
"About 3 days after that, pretty much! I was being so careful, but this virus is such a nasty little fucker. I think I must have got it from the grocery store. I was masked, but the woman in front of me at the checkout looked like her shirt didn't fit right, and I just knew something was up. I bet she didn't even know yet, the poor thing. And then, boom. It starts." Rebecca spread her arms out, standing at her full height, the second tallest person in the whole group after Martin.
Tracey, mouth agape, stared up at her formerly shorter friend. "Did it... what were the side effects?"
"Oh, the same things they say on the news. You spend a whole day feeling really flushed. And then it's like... a very long, pleasant feeling. I mean, unless your clothes get too tight. Learned that the hard way. Lost my favorite pants to... the rippening." Rebecca patted her taut thighs, gesturing to her skinny jeans. "Had to get a whole new wardrobe, obviously. Which is probably why they're telling us to stay indoors. It's a hassle."
"Other people are actually getting sick, like really sick, Rebecca." Heather stated. "They don't even fully know what this thing does to people long-term."
"Well I'll tell you what it's done so far. 10 inches! No more getting carded at the liquor store for me." Rebecca declared.
Tracey spat out her drink. "You're five... eleven?"
Rebecca struck a pose, placing her arms on her hips and jutting them toward Tracey. "Don't I look it?" Tracey blushed.
"Why didn't you say anything?" Ashley interjected.
"Well at first I was kind of scared, obviously. I didn't even know if I could go, or how long this would last. And then when it all cooled down, I thought it would be, you know, a fun surprise."
"I'm having fun!" Pat interjected.
"Enough about me, I want to hear about you guys!" Rebecca said, letting her whole body jiggle as she did. Dave felt that made her remark a bit disingenuous. "Honestly I'm surprised no one else got it. I didn't think I'd be the tallest one of the group."
"Second tallest" Martin shot back suspiciously quickly. Rebecca laughed. She sized up the tiny little inch between Martin's six foot frame and her own.
"Nope, I'm still the same 5'4" I've always been." Ashley said, trying her best to ease the strange tension growing in the group. Rebecca had shown up like a lightning bolt, and didn't fully realize how much attention she was taking up at their happy reunion. Her roommate had always been shy and careful, and this new confidence was most likely just as different a fit as her new wardrobe. "Marlene, you're still..."
"5'7, on the dot." she said, nuzzling up to her husband. "I like the way Martin makes me feel small."
"Feh, small. Try 5'1". I USED to be the second shortest of us. Thanks for that, Rebecca." Rebecca stopped, watching Tracey after she said that. Tracey smiled. It was a joke, and Rebecca finally felt like the issue was becoming normal to them.
"I for one, am glad there's a girl taller than me for once." Erica joined in.
"Wait, you're not 5'11" too?" Rebecca questioned. "Nope, 5'9". Since I was in middle school. Now that you're one of us, it'll be easier to tell apart." Erica winked.
"Well I'm 5'5", and I'm happy being 5'5", which is why I've been careful and wore a mask even in the car." Heather said.
"A lot of people were careful, Heather. It's a virus, not a game of dodgeball." Kevin added. "It's ok, Rebecca. We know you've been careful. Welcome back to Michigan." Kevin hugged her and she gave him a very sweet, simple hug back. Kevin, ever the dad of the group. First to get married, first to buy a house. First to make Rebecca feel like her old self.
Rebecca hid her sniffle and said, "I never realized how short you were." Kevin pulled away.
"You ruined the moment." he said, jokingly.
"Completely stepped on it." Dave added.
"Probably steps on a lot of things these days." Kevin continued. The old routine. "5'8" is average height by the way."
"5'9" is average." Pat argued. "I should know."
Erica jumped in, "Well you're all shorter than Rebecca now-"
"Not me." Martin said quickly. "Six foot."
"Most of you are shorter than Rebecca now, and that's not liable to change. So let's fuckin' move on!"
"We've got all weekend to catch up, let's get you a drink." Ashley said, leading Rebecca and Erica toward the bar.
"I dunno, this bar is kind of... in a hotel." Marlene said. "I might be tapping out."
"Oh no you're not!" Rebecca declared, standing in front of her, showing off their 4 inch height difference. Marlene stared her down. She was used to lording over someone bigger than her. Rebecca immediately crumpled. "I just got here."
"You know what hotels also have?" said Ashley, still coy. They all looked at her, completely baited. "Pools."
"Yes! Pool party! I haven't even worn my swimsuit yet!" Rebecca shouted.
"We should definitely get in the pool." Pat added watching Rebecca jump up and down in excitement.
"There's no alcohol at the pool, though." Tracey interjected.
"I got this! I haven't done this yet, and I have been waiting to for like... ever." Rebecca sashayed over to the bar. The others watched as she leaned in front of the bartender. She leaned deep, letting her arms rest on the bar, and her breasts squeeze between them. They couldn't hear what she was saying, but they could see in the bartender's eyes that he wasn't really listening either. Finally, Rebecca raised her long, shapely leg up, as her ass tightened even more in her jeans. The bartender wiped his brow.
And each of them walked out of that bar carrying a full bottle of wine or spirits. Rebecca brought Ashley in for another hug. "Learned from the master."
"So we all get changed and meet back down at the pool in like 10?" Dave said.
"20." Heather corrected.
"Fair enough." Dave replied.
As they reached the fourth floor, each of them peeled out to their respective rooms. Heather and Kevin stopped at 432 on the far side of the floor. Martin and Marlene were close to the elevator at 403. The others watched Rebecca bounce to her own room at 421, right next to the stairs. Pat shuffled to his room at 426, the beginning of the other side. Erica followed close by to 428, right next door. Tracey went quietly into Room 401.
That just left Dave and Ashley. They walked together, toward the middle of the hall, not sure where either would stop. "We have the makings of an interesting weekend." Ashley said.
"That we do. And it's only just begun." Dave replied.
"The night is young." Ashley said.
Dave stopped at Room 412. So did Ashley. He watched her, curious. She turned around and slid her keycard into Room 411. Right across the hall.
Interesting weekend, indeed.
Dave made his way toward the pool, t-shirt over his swim trunks, and his own personal bottle of booze tucked tightly under his arm. The lobby was now much quieter, as everyone had wandered off to their chosen destinations for the evening. The low rumble of hotel bar patrons leaked out as he passed into a narrow hallway toward the aquamarine glow of the pool room.
When he stepped through the door, he found almost everyone there waiting for him. Kevin, Martin, and Pat were already splashing around, with Heather, Tracey, Marlene, and Erica sitting on the edge with their legs dipped into the clear water. No sign of Ashley or Rebecca yet. They probably got to talking, getting back into their same paired up feeling that Dave had with Kevin. Dave was sure Ashley had about 100 more questions for Rebecca she wanted to ask privately.
"You getting in or what?" Pat shouted.
"I think I'll stick with the girls for a bit." Dave said, sidling up to the women in their tasteful bikinis.
"Big shock!" Kevin added. Dave made a rude gesture at him and dipped his feet into the pool.
"So how's everyone been?" Dave asked.
"Getting in some face time before Rebecca sucks up all the oxygen again?" Tracey teased.
"Don't be like that. It takes a lot of courage to show up like this. She could have stayed home and done the over-dramatic social media announcement like the rest of them." Heather said.
"Yeah, she's still figuring herself... her new self out." Erica added.
"Must be nice." Tracey said. "I'm sorry, but isn't it a bit of an adjustment for all of us? I'm not trying to be mean, but this is how I'm gonna roll with it." She took a swig from her own bottle. The girls clinked their bottles, unable to put up a good argument.
"Hey guuuuuuys!" Rebecca walked through the door, followed meekly by Ashley in her own two piece. But all eyes were on the half-foot taller stunner in front of her. Rebecca had always been something of a small unassuming woman, even into her mid-20's, but now she'd filled out into a voluptuous, raven-haired beauty. Her bikini clung to every curve like it was afraid of heights. Her expanded breasts pushed against the sun-yellow top, creating a cleavage previously impossible for Rebecca. Her tight stomach had a thin line of shapely muscle down the middle. There wasn't an ounce of fat on it, making all the other women look down at their own ripple of cellulose that lipped above their suit-bottoms while seated.
"Join the party, girls. Don't be afraid to get wet!" Pat called, splashing water at them. Rebecca squealed. "Let me put my bottle down at least!"
Dave watched as Ashley made her way over to the rest of them. Her wide hourglass swayed as her whole body jiggled to rest next to him. "She's very excited to get in the pool." Ashley informed.
SPLASH. Louder than they anticipated. Rebecca had cannonballed in, and her tall, athletic body had made itself heard. She emerged from the pool, glistening with water, her hair wet against her back, and her nipples poking through her bikini. She rose higher out of the water, looming over Pat and Kevin with a devilish smile. "You boys want to play?" Pat gulped.
More splashes erupted as the wading crew decided their attention could be elsewhere. Tracey jumped in, "So Marlene, Heather... any pitter patter chatter on the horizon?"
"What?" Dave asked.
"Babies." Ashley told him.
"God, no." Heather said. "We're just happy doing our thing. Work is kind of, bleh. So that's been our life."
"We've talked about it." Marlene said. "But it's not part of the plan for like... awhile."
"There's a pandemic on!" Erica added. They all nodded in agreement.
"So no big plans for you and hubby either, Erica?" Tracey pushed.
It's not..." Erica started.
"Where is he anyway? What's so important he can't skip a weekend?" Marlene added.
"Craig and I... are kind of separated right now."
"God, Erica. I had no idea, I'm sorry." Marlene quickly shot back.
"No, no. It's pretty fresh. You guys were going to find out eventually."
Pat swam up, genuinely concerned. "You guys are separated? Are you ok?"
"It's fine. It's good for both of us. World's crazy right now."
"World's crazy right now." they all agreed.
Pat climbed out of the pool. He jumped into the hot tub behind them, ushering Erica to join. "This is a hot tub conversation."
Erica smiled, stood up, and slipped into the hot tub with Pat. He sat across from her, nowhere near making a move. Pat had always been kind to Erica, even after they had broken up sophomore year. They were the closest of friends well after they were lovers. They spoke quietly about their lives. Erica hashed out just how the stress ate away at her marriage. Pat replied with his own struggles with the three consecutive quarantine girlfriends he'd been dumped by. As the night wore on, they were nestled together in the warm hot tub, watching their super-sized friend harass the other men in pool games.
Ashley, Dave, Marlene, and Tracey watched as well from the sidelines as Rebecca dominated Kevin and Martin in their splash fight. Her body ripped through the water like it was nothing, dunking on them, and making them take drink after drink in a bizarre game that seemed to make up the rules as they went.
"Despite everything, it feels so similar." Tracey said. They looked at her. "Even after everything we've gone through the last 3 years, it's like we're back in the dorms again tonight."
Ashley smiled, and leaned her head on Dave's shoulder. He melted a little with her touch.
Suddenly, Rebecca's head rose out of the water, looking eye-level at Ashley. "Ok, you're up."
"Up where?" Ashley replied.
"I need backup. They're smoking me." Rebecca said, slurring a little from her nearly empty bottle.
"No, come on. I'm having fun here." Ashley protested.
"Too bad." Rebecca said, grabbing Ashley's arm with her own long one.
"Save me guys." Ashley said, a little drunk herself. The rest of the wading crew held onto her, but it was no use. Rebecca's tugging along with gravity had made it so. "God, how are you so strong?!" Ashley screamed as she fell into the pool with a splash.
Rebecca stood up straight and proud. "Side effect. I'm all muscle at the moment." Ashley emerged from the water, soaking wet. She punched Rebecca in the tit. "Ow!"
"Not all muscle." Ashley laughed. The game proceeded, with everyone else in the wading crew diving, and being tugged in by their spouses. It all devolved into splashing nonsense with bottles emptying and laughs roaring down the hall.
Back they went to the elevators, to the quiet fourth floor. It was well past 2am, and they were just wired enough to pass out as soon as they hit their beds. With whispered goodnights, they parted ways. Rebecca gave everyone another big hug. Despite her increased size, she still could get rather drunk after 3 bottles of tequila.
As Dave and Ashley made their way to their opposite rooms, they gave each other their own hug. It was a long hug, an exploring one. One that could turn into more. They looked into one another's eyes. Ashley kissed him quickly, sweetly, then pulled away.
Dave watched her slip behind her door. She turned around, her eyes looking bright and vibrant amongst the dark of her hotel room. "It's only the beginning." she purred, and shut the door.
Dave nodded, still out of it from that embrace. He walked into his own room and passed out with the skill of an expert.
When he woke, he found his room just as he left it: moderately disheveled. He heard faint noises from the other side of the door, out in the hallway. He rose carefully, feeling the weight of a hangover wash over him with the altitude change. He made his way toward the sound, just in time to see a sheet of paper slip under his door. Was it from Ashley? A joke from Kevin? Phones exist, guys.
When he picked it up, he saw it had the watermark of the LeGrande Hotel at the top. It had been typed and printed en masse. He read it slowly, with dread filling him as he did.
We are writing to inform you that the entire premises of this branch of the LeGrande hotel has been placed under quarantine. A guest who shall remain anonymous has tested positive, and it is required under state law for this establishment to shelter in place for one week to mitigate the spread of the virus. We apologize for any inconvenience this causes to your travel plans and lifestyle. You will be compensated with a complimentary personal cereal box, as well as other amenities soon to follow. Please do your best to stay, isolated, uninfected, and safe until exactly one week from this morning. We apologize, and thank you for your co-operation.
The LeGrande Hospitality Collective"
Dave peeked out through the peephole in his door. He watched hotel staff in hazmat suits distribute more cards in all the door slots. His phone buzzed suddenly like mad. Everyone was waking up to the new reality.
The interesting weekend had finally begun.