It was still dark outside when Samantha Young crawled out of bed. She went over to the door of her room and put her ear to the wood. She couldn't hear much of anything over the sound of Prudence's snoring, which was even louder than the growling of Mr. Pryde's pack of dogs had been. Samantha opened the door slowly so the hinges wouldn't squeak.
To her relief she saw the other girls all still asleep. Prudence was on the pallet of straw closest to Samantha, her snoring even louder without the door to muffle it. As Prudence stopped snoring, Samantha paused, her heart starting to thump loudly. Her friend rolled onto her left side with a piggish snort and then resumed her snoring.
Samantha crept past the line of beds, the girls in the beds getting younger the closer she got to the door. As she reached for the door, Samantha sniffed the air. Someone's pallet would need fresh straw later. With any luck it would only be one. Five years ago she and Prudence had been forced to change almost every pallet each morning. Now that they no longer had any babies and very few toddlers that chore was much simpler.
At last Samantha made it outside. She breathed a sigh of relief upon emerging into the air that still had the crispness of spring. Real summer lasted only a month or two on Eternity, while the winters seemed to never end. Did the summers last longer on the mainland? She had wondered about that for the last five years, but still didn't have an answer.
The rest of the village was silent as she passed through it. Five years ago she never could have walked this freely through town at this hour, or else Pryde's dogs would have torn her to pieces. The dogs and their owner were gone now, though every now and then a howl could be heard from the forest.
Samantha quickened her pace as she reached the edge of the forest. She wanted to hug herself to ward off the cold, but she couldn't. Whenever she did, she felt the things on her chest. She broke into a quick trot instead; the activity would keep her warm against the chill.
When she reached the stream, Samantha paused to listen again. She didn't hear anything rustling in the bushes or the trees. She didn't hear anyone on the path either. For a few minutes she could be alone.
Samantha had grown used to the coldness of the stream. Even at the height of Eternity's short summer the water never got anywhere near room temperature. She had learned the best way to face it was to just plunge in. She bit down on her lip to keep herself from gasping at the coldness of the water. She waded in until the water covered her up to her neck. She planted her feet into the muddy bottom of stream so she wouldn't fall. Despite Rebecca's patient teachings, Samantha still couldn't swim.
She gave herself a moment to acclimate to the cold. As she did, she closed her eyes, allowing herself to indulge in the fantasy that her body had not betrayed her, that she was the same as she had been. That moment ended far too quickly. Then she took out the bar of soap and set to work on scrubbing this strange new body.
It had all started shortly before her twelfth birthday. Prudence had asked her to come into her shop to have her try on a new dress to wear for the party. Ordinarily Prudence's dresses fit without needing alterations. This time when Samantha tried on the dress, something was wrong. The dress felt tight around her chest, as if someone were squeezing her there. That was when she really noticed the two new bulges on her chest.
In the last two months, she had noticed other changes as well. She grew at least four inches seemingly overnight. Even the shape of her body seemed to be changing, her hips widening and waist narrowing. And there was hair where she hadn't had any before.
At that point she stopped bathing with the other girls. She didn't want them to see her monstrous new body without clothes to disguise it. When Prudence or Rebecca asked about it, Samantha said only she couldn't sleep. They accepted this, at least for the moment. She didn't know how long she could keep fooling them.
As if reading her thoughts, Prudence called out, "Samantha?"
Samantha ducked back into the water, keeping only her face above water. Prudence stood on the edge of the shore, still wearing her nightgown. Her body had changed as well in the last five years, getting ever pudgier. Her fat cheeks were still bright red from the walk and despite the chilliness, sweat plastered red hair to her forehead.
"What are you doing here?" Samantha asked.
"I woke up and you were gone."
"I thought maybe you were feeling ill."
"No, I just couldn't sleep."
"I was thinking, perhaps we could go pray in the church. That always helps me when I can't sleep."
"Oh, I see." Prudence looked down at her feet. "I suppose while I'm here, I might as well take my bath as well."
Prudence started to take off her nightgown until Samantha snapped, "Can't you give me a few minutes alone? Why can't I ever have any privacy around here?"
Prudence's face reddened, though this time not from exercise. "I'm sorry," she said. "I thought we were friends."
"We are, but that doesn't mean I need you around me every second of the day."