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‘All Free Today’ 

 My teeth chattered. I scraped open my sodden campus map. I locked eyes with the girl in the sandwich board by the window, grinning in her little red riding hood. Her speech bubble glowed in flowery pink. All free today? Seriously? I glared at the sign above the door.  

 Grimm’s House of Sugar. I wiped my eyes on my sleeve, looking at my map. I was so pathetically lost. The auditorium with the signups – that was ten minutes away. Residence halls were up the hill. I was somewhere in between. I could’ve gone to the cafeteria like a normal person. But that meant more lines, and tables, and chairs, and noise, and...ugghhh...more people. 

My starved muscles were chastising my stupid nerves. I bit my lip, trying to concentrate, scrying for a blob of pink – maybe, somewhere between the football field and the cafe I wanted, tucked away under a crease, or a fold. What’s the international sign for a sweetshop? I checked the grid.   

 Nothing. Great. It wasn’t even on the map. First day of college, and so far all I was getting was a cold. And a drenched sweater. I squinted my eyes. I felt wet fabric bunching and shrinking under my arms. The wind howled down the avenue and the cold sucked on my bones. I cursed, clenching up my zipper jacket and pressed it tighter to my chest, dipping my chin as the gust hit, blowing my hair into a maelstrom.  

 The map flew away behind the flash of blue. I swept my hair back and stretched a wispy arm, too late to stop it falling headlong into the gutter. Great I mumbled, weakly, watching the colours drain. Asking a stranger for directions while looking like a drowned rat. What could be worse?  

 I swallowed. I practically curled up, shivering. I was skinny as a damn toothpick – another gust like that and I’d be carried to the clouds. The biting air breathed its last, and my arms ached as I regained my composure. I needed warmth. I needed fuel. I needed somewhere to just fall in a heap... 

Then the door opened, and the smell nearly swept me off my feet.  

 A man, a woman and their two kids pealed past me beaming and smiling, laden with armfuls of boxes and bags, everything brightly stamped, all packed to bursting with pastries, muffins, cream cakes and chocolates. I widened my eyes. One of the kids had a golden-brown paper bag the size of his sister’s head. It was loaded with warm fudge, strawberry laces, love hearts and gumdrops in every color under the sun.  

Pick n’ mix. I burst through into the storefront. I gasped.   

You’re a long, long way from New Jersey, I wondered to myself. 

 The colors were radiant. The whole room looked like it’d been lifted out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. There were crowds and counters and helpers and makers of all kinds of crazy delectables. Everyone was dressed in Bavarian lace, the men in lederhosen, the women with flowers and ribbons in their hair. Grimm’s House of Sugar. It was like a palace for the tip of your tongue.  

I needed something. Anything. Something sweet

Sweets.  

 A little old lady beckoned me from by the hot chocolate bar. Her basket almost glowed. Her soft hands parted the checkered covering to reveal a host of Mozartkugels. My cheeks lit up. 

“Hey, um. Can...can I try some?” I asked.  

“Of course!” she beamed, handing me the whole thing. “Take as much as you want, deary!” 

 She turned on her heel and picked up another basket from the straining stand behind her. My mind buzzed. My arms buckled under the weight of the thing. I thanked her, smiled, and dipped hurriedly to a quiet spot by a bookshelf and a long, glassy window. There were tables and booths, then couches, beanbags, and lounge chairs collected in a cosy corner with a warm, tempestuous fire.   

I found a chaise-longue and eased myself down, slowly. 

I unwrapped my first sweet in years. 

I put it to my lips.  

I ate.  

And I ate. 

 

-------------- 

 

 Two weeks was all it took for management to start recognizing my greedy ass as a regular. All my self-consciousness fell to the sidelines. To be honest, I might as well have left my credit card behind the counter – I couldn’t help myself. Two more weeks and they even reserved me a seat by the donut dispenser for my breakfasts. From there on in, I was hooked.  

Weirdly I guess I really could help myself – to chocolate cream and marble frosting, sprinkles, glazing and dashes of fluffy powder. Two became three, every single morning, then a box of five to snack through to lunch. I loved choosing the flavors. There were just so many that I couldn’t wait for my appetite to accommodate them all. I took a sizeable chunk out of every working day just to feed myself, massaging my belly beyond the point of fullness. It was otherworldly.  

And if I didn’t already have proof this place was literal magic, I even made a friend.  

Her name was Sally. She was a freshman like me. She was from England. I saw her on shift when I started dropping by for pancakes in the afternoons – she might’ve been five foot nothing but she wasn’t easy to miss. Her hair was pink ringlets, her eyes were forest green, she walked with a spring in her step and she had this gigantic smile. She wore her Dirndl with a burgundy apron; it brought out her rosy red cheeks. 

“Sakura, right?” she said, reading my name on the box I’d ordered. 

 I nodded, murmuring my thanks, snaking my arms back through my jacket. I was late for my seminar. I had deadlines on my mind. It’d barely been a month and I was already falling behind on my studies. But all of that worry withered away the moment she pressed that slice of cake into my hands.  

“You should come over for Happy Hour,” She looked me dead in the eyes. “That cake’ll be half price.”  

“Really?” I said. “What time?” 

 “Five o’clock until seven, every Wednesday afternoon,” 

“Oh...oh no, sorry – that's when my seminar group meets for our weekly discussion,” I cringed. I hated leaving strangers disappointed in me. “I can’t let them go – actually I've missed a few of the meetings already. I really need to catch up.”  

“That’s okay,” She tossed her hair, pouting, piling up my leftover plates on her platter. “We’ll wait. Would you like anything else?” 

 I curled my toes. I lowered my gaze to the cake. A big commiseratory bite was bound to make her feel better. It sure would for me... 

Within seconds of me sinking in my teeth, that slice was devoured. Gone. It was orgasmic. I rolled my tongue. I half tugged off her arm of her shoulder begging for another. We sat down together. We drank pearly peach schnapps. I ate. We chatted about bands and concerts, then home life and family. I ate. Then we talked about cooking, and baking, and traditional recipes. I missed my goddamn meeting. 

Then I ate some more. 

 Grimm’s House of Sugar. It soothed all the strain. Pretty soon I started bringing books from the library to study there instead. Sally joined me when she was off the clock. There was always something special to savour no matter how I felt. Happy? Blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream. Sad? A Jolly James gingerbread man with gumdrop buttons. Tired? Some tangy fructose strawberry whips. Too hot? A Silvretta Glacier slush, naturally. Winter melted into spring and I was already feeling warmer. And cramped. And even a little bloated, though nothing a Cracklepop Plum Soda couldn’t fix.        

 It was getting close to Thanksgiving when I started to notice Sally’s eyes peering over my shoulder, every so often. At first I thought she reading my research, when she brought over her platterfuls of fruity pie. It took a while to see she was staring just a little lower. At my lap. At my jeans. Something about the shiny button drew her in like a magpie.  

 I was curious. I started wearing them more. And washing them more. Which would explain why they were feeling a little snug every time I sat at the dispenser for my six of the best. I swapped fabric softeners but they were still feeling uncomfortable. I switched to plaid skirts for a few weeks before the winter weather stiffened its grip. A storm shorted out the electricity to half of campus midway through my laundry routine. My clothes were still damp the next day, and I was left with no other option but to claw through the bottom of my drawers. I blew the dust off my jeans and prized them over my thighs. They’d shrunk a size in the darkness. My struggles ate into my schedule. Thrusting on a tee and a duffer jacket I had to stagger to class with the button still undone, bustling the route with a carefully placed fanny pack until I could flop into my desk, worn out, and seal the two pieces whilst gasping for breath. I spent the next hour and half scribbling notes in shorthand in a mild amount of pain. Life was so unfair.  

Grimm’s, praise all goodness, hadn’t suffered any power cuts, which probably explained why it was twice as busy all of a sudden the moment I stumbled in for lunch. I bit my lip, a bag of nerves all over again, shifting through the crowds. So many voices. So much noise. But I swear, if they’d run out of donuts I was ready to scream... 

I had Sally to thank for keeping my tiny table reserved for me. Seats were scarce. My tummy began grumbling. I hopped up the last couple steps. I tapped the glowing green ticker on the flavour creator interface, and threw myself into the chair. 

 In an instant my zipper exploded. The button pinged off the dispenser, bounced under the table, then rolled into the clamoring throngs of people. Twenty different stunned faces zeroed in on me. My belly gurgled. Soft, fatty flesh pooled into my lap, pressing down the zipper into a full-on rip down my inside thigh.  

 My face drained to snow white. I tried to stand, and run, and the next thing I knew my hand was in Sally’s. She appeared out of nowhere. We ducked and dived through a grove of thick coats and jabbering customers, then suddenly she was leading me through oaken doors. We trotted up a wooden staircase with paintings lining the walls. The rip snickered and lengthened as I pounded my legs to keep pace. My heart raced. She took me through a curtain, a corridor, then a final door for which she kept a key in a pocket sewn subtly under her breast.  

“Oh my god. I don’t know what happened,” I babbled. “I must’ve dried them funny or something, this has never happened to me before, I -” 

“Sshhh,” Sally calmed me. “Shhhhh...” 

She opened the door of the room on the floor directly above.   

“Where are we?” I mumbled. 

“The Lips,” said Sally. “What you guys would call the second floor. It’s where we keep our makeup and wardrobe wings. And our advertising resources. You’ve gotta be quiet – the Brain’s the floor above us.”  

“Management?”  

“Yeah,” Sally whispered. “Let’s make this our little secret, okay?” 

 She reached into one of the closets, and withdrew a pullout handrail. I saw rows of clean, sparkly, beautiful dresses on silvery hangers. She wafted through each with a prying hand, scanning for the sizes. 

“This should do,” she uttered, passing me one of the employee uniforms. The cotton was gossamer soft. The handiwork was exquisite. 

“No way,” I whispered. “I couldn’t possibly,” 

“Just so you can get home,” Sally unzipped the zipper and laid the dress by my feet. “You’ve got stuff that fits you, right?” 

I clasped a shielding hand over my stomach. I shrank into the pit beneath me.  “I...” I choked on my words. “I don’t know...” 

The sound of footsteps curdled my blood. I heard business shoes. Men in suits, shaking hands in the corridor. Idle chatter.  

“Hurry up!” Sally hissed, crouching low.  

I peeled off my jacket and tee, and slipped into the dress. My skin bristled with softness. It sat prettily around my hips, the skirt poofing out a little, the apron a pristine hue of navy blue, like my hair. Sally drew close, kicking my discarded outfit under the floor-length mirror. She helped me ease in one of my shoulders, tensing my bra under the neckline.    

“Does it look a little big to you?” I mumbled, nervously twizzling my hair. “Do I look a little big, I mean?” 

The fabric had plenty of stretch, which I was glad for. It held up quite nicely. The apron covered up my gut. Yeah, my gut. My thick, chubby, fat girl gut that had stuck itself to my body without me realizing... 

“You look fantastic,” Sally insisted. “It really suits your figure,” 

I watched her cross her fingers in the mirror. 

“Sakura, do you wanna work here?”  

I paused. I looked at her. A queer expression formed on my face. 

“What, you mean like a waitress?” I asked. 

“I could teach you everything,” Sally offered. “It’ll be fun. You’ll love it,” 

“Um. Is there even an opening?” I said, raising an eyebrow. “I didn’t know they were taking new hires.”   

“I can put a good word in for you,” Sally smiled, reaching into the wardrobe. “I could even speak to the guys outside. You could start tomorrow!”  

“You’re sure?” 

Sally spoke with her fingers. She helped me ease in my other arm under the frilly neckline, then grasped the zipper. Looking me in the eye through the mirror she pulled the corset tight, and ignoring my wince, she drew up the fastener. I let out a gasp as my boobs went up to my chin. Suddenly I found myself staring at cleavage I’d never had before. I looked like a temptress. I looked curvy. I looked big.  

“Sure, I’m sure,” she whispered into my ear. “You’ll fit right in.” 
 

-------------- 

 

 Given a prod, I’m certain the shy girl I still was...deep down... might’ve made a quiet comeback. But you’d have had to prod me pretty hard. Turns out, I’d put on forty-six pounds in fewer than three months. No wonder I was struggling to tie my shoelaces.  

 But becoming overweight wasn’t everything I expected. Somehow, I sort of became more energetic. My new job brought me a new personality to go with my new, voluptuous body. I was Sakura the epicurean. Sakura, the sugar-plump fairy. Sakura the slut, if I didn’t keep an eye on what my boobs were up to. They sewed my name along the bodice of my uniform in sapphire blue, my favorite color, but already I was beginning to overflow the cups. My breaks were spent tinkering with lace and tweezing my nipples – they were always so sore. Oh – not to forget eating, of course. Grimm’s granted its employees a budget of twenty dollars' worth of baked goods a day, and unlimited pick and mix. Most took the extras home to their families. But I chowed down on mine through the hours, and pretty soon Sally started offering her allowance to me too.  

I accepted. I grinned and I gorged. I was raking in the tips, the love, the extra inch...or two. I embraced it. It felt so nice to be somewhere where people looked so happy to see me all the time. I let my cheeks grow with my smile. It never budged, even when I started having to fasten my Dirndl dress with safety pins. 

Oooofff. Did someone say bigger buns? 

I marshalled my smirk as I tried on my new plus-sized panties. Sorta came with the territory, I guess. 

 But that territory was getting smaller by the day. I kept continuing to eat, through every bust seam and broken zipper. My cravings were consuming me. A couple more weeks and I couldn’t pass the tables by the muffin maker without my hips giving battle. My waving curves were a breeding ground for nudges and bumps; my hitlist of glasses knocked off the tabletops only grew starker as I grew larger and wider. Nobody was complaining. I started getting comfortable with some of the regulars. Knickerbocker glory with an eyeful of ass? You betcha. Sweet churros with some sidefat on the side? Sure thing. Muffintops? Ohhh, coming right up... 

 I never went home that summer. Strangely, things picked up while the students were gone – Grimm’s took a lot of trade from vacationers on their way to the Sound. They asked if I’d like to stay through to the next year, mostly serving ice cream. I barely needed convincing. I loved my job, the pay was great and...let’s face it, so were the perks. I couldn’t live without practically throwing my face under the soft scoop machine when my shift was up. I traded in for five unadulterated minutes every day after my takeout, letting Sally turn the crank while I gulped and slurped my dessert from the nozzle. It was heavenly.  

 Of course I cleaned it afterward – I was the model employee – and it’d probably be baffling to the outward eye that my room in residency was a wreck. My roommate had moved back to Kansas and I was ashamed to say my trash was spilling over into her side. It had become nothing more than a pit for me to sleep in. I let the leftover muffin casings blanket my bed – sometimes I even napped on top of them, waking up and snacking through the time I was meant to be in lectures. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t make me feel delicious, but cross my heart, the walk up the hill was taking the wind right out of me. By time I hit my bedroom door I couldn’t be bothered to clear up. My energy just wasn’t there, physical or mental. If I wasn’t working, or sleeping, or eating, then pretty quickly I wasn’t interested.   

 To no-one's surprise but my own, I’d plumped up another forty pounds by the week before term rolled around again. Not to mention the forty more I’d put on before we even broke up for summer vacation. Grimm’s House kinda marketed itself as a special trip out for the family – not some lazy student’s breakfast, lunch and dinner – and it was little surprise I was ballooning so massively. My skin took on a creamy shine, stretching over my fat. My cheeks became rounder. My chin grew thicker and thicker, filling out my face, but I was spared the shame of feeling it fold in on itself. I started to take on a very feminine shape – huge hips, thick thighs, a blossoming chest offset by a heaving, swelling stomach, and soft shoulders framed by my long blue hair. I got it dyed darker before freshman’s week, and I could hear the salon chair creaking underneath me. Sakura the student, Sakura the sophomore, Sakura the six stone overweight mockery of the slender girl who’d burst through Grimm’s front door the year before. 

“How do you do it?” I remember saying to Sally while she rifled through the deepest rack in the Lips. “How do you stay so petite?”  

“Diet and exercise,” she exclaimed, winding the tape over my jiggling waistline.  

Yeah. Right. 

There wasn’t the time to make any drastic adjustments. Freshman’s week meant ‘All Free Today’ - turns out it was an annual promotion. I bunched and bustled through shift after shift and by the end of the free stuff giveaway, I needed a bigger uniform all over again. Even my name tag was getting distended – the pink stitches slowly pulling free over my burgeoning boobs, fraying the lettering – though it was only when an elderly customer called me ‘Akuri’, that I swallowed my pride. I put on a smile and took their order. I wasn’t offended. I really had become a completely different person, after all. A quick, quiet word with the Lips assistants at closing and I was back to being Sakura again – in size XXL, the largest they carried. Any more expansion of my blubbery midriff and I’d have to put in a special request. It wasn’t a humiliation I was ready to face.  

 But if the option meant giving up chocolate, and jelly tots, and marshmallows...   

 It wasn’t my most mounting concern yet, anyway – that was my fitness level. The strength boost I got from swapping my thinness for thickness soon dissipated. The pounds kept piling on. The walk home after work was really starting to suck. My hips ached. My legs burned. Even my arms felt heavy. And my lungs felt like they were lathered in honey; probably a symptom of all the sugar I was inhaling. I could barely take a deep breath anymore and I kept coming to work ringed in sweat. I had to evaluate my options. The campus bus didn’t run through the avenue, only around it. You couldn’t get a car between the tightly squeezed streets up in residency. When my sister suggested a bicycle I had to laugh. I could barely squeeze into the desks in the lecture theatre, let alone fit my lardass on a bike seat. Most of my family hadn’t seen me since I’d started gourmandizing at Grimm’s, twelve or twenty dress sizes ago, depending where you shopped. For me, those options were growing limited; another couple of worries for the back of the drawer, another caramel-thickened fudge slice to take my mind away... 

 Worst was that my sense of balance was creaming in all over the place. My belly had gotten huge and my thighs were like tree trunks, wobbling past one another. I wheezed and I waddled, and when Christmas came I couldn’t seem to stop chafing under my dress. By New Year's I was fighting the blubbery slap of my belly under my skirt line. I was morbidly obese before Valentine’s Day. And I felt it.  

“Sally,” I puffed, struggling into the kitchen, setting down my platter with a crinkle of clattering glass. “Could you cover me for five?” 

“Sure babes,” She squirted the last drop of icing on the dessert she was making. “You need a drink?”  

“Heh. I need.... phew.... I need to sit down,” 

 I dropped my knees, panting, and blobbed out on the stool by the bain-marie. My flesh hung over every side, softly jiggling. I lifted my dress to give it some relief, closed my eyes, placed a palm on my chest and breathed until my heart had stopped pounding relentlessly. Five tables cleared, four more to go. It was getting tough to keep up.  

Sally pried a glass of juice into my hands. I thanked her.  

“Maybe you could do some shifts behind the counter,” she said, her hand on my shoulder. “I’m sure Mildred would be happy to swap with you,” 

“It’s not...phew, that’s great, that’s really kind of you...but it’s more than that,” I breathed slowly, dipping my head back, squinting my eyes in the light. “I’m getting so heavy. I’m leaving earlier and earlier for work because I’m taking longer to climb the stairs, and even then, I’m late sometimes. It’s getting hard for me to move.”  

I swung my legs, smiling weakly. Flab squeezed from the ladder in my stockings. Even my socks felt tight. A soft groan escaped my lips. 

“Then maybe you could move in with us,” Sally exclaimed after a pause. 

“Huh?” I mumbled.  

“You could live here. There’s rooms in the Brain. Didn’t you know?”  

 I blinked. Grimm’s was huge. It made sense there’d be space on the top floors, near where the managers worked. But was it what I needed right now?  

“We’ll take care of everything,” Sally reassured me. “We’ll send our deliverymen to yours tonight to help you transfer your things across. You could save loads of money on rent,” 

The scent of liquorice wafted through the air. I nodded with a blank stare.  

“And you’d only have to walk a couple flights of stairs every morning,” she smiled. “That’ll help you out, won’t it?”  

“But I’m gaining weight like crazy,” I murmured, smoothing a hand over my stomach. “Sally - can't you see what’s happening to me?” I raised my eyebrows with a dumb smirk, feeling for my bellybutton under the dress. “I’m pushing three hundred pounds. I’m addicted to all the food in here. I’m always so hungry...” 

“Then maybe you could try some of my pecan pie,” Sally smiled sweetly. “I’m sure it’ll make you feel much better...” 

 She dumped the warm pan on my stomach. My eyes bulged in awe. The pie sank into my fat, sitting level, as if it were on a shelf. I stroked my pinky finger around the edge, picking flecks of pasty into my chubby palm. 

“I’m not sure if this is what I need,” I said, concerned.  

“I made it myself,” said Sally.  

“It’s gorgeous,” I admitted. “But it looks so fattening. I don’t know. I really think I oughta be watching what I eat...” 

“I made it...” 

 She seized my index finger. Her eyes were radiating. She planted it dead in the middle of the pie. My knuckle rose out, covered in butter and vanilla. 

 “...myself.” She curled her lip. 

Sally let go. Her eyebrow remained arched. A chill and a warmth concocted within me both at once. I tried to form a smile. She waited, watching like a huntress. 

I placed my finger to my lips, looking her coyly in the eye, and sucked.  

 Fireworks rocketed. My hairs tingled. My tongue surged. My soul yearned. I scraped up a great globby handful straight from the middle of the pan and ploughed it into my face. Staff sweeping back from the breakroom balked while I pigged out in front of them. I was insatiable. I groaned, drawing my tongue up and under the delicate toppings. My stomach billowed and swelled with every bite. 

“Good girl,” Sally praised me, though from which ear I could hardly tell. “Keep going...I’ll make you some more...”  

 

-------------- 

 

“You’re doing a great job down there,” 

“Mmmpphh,” I gulped, rolling my eyes with a grin. “Yeah, totally. Sure.” 

“No, honestly,” Sally trotted down the stairs. Her breath was sparkly in the refrigerated air. “Management sent me to tell you handling our excess stock is a vital role. It warms their hearts that you’re taking to it so well.” 

“Oooh,” I batted my eyes at her. “Do they say that to all their human dumpsters?”  

I burped. Guess it was as good a time as any. It freed up some space in my gurgling belly for me to wolf down a double chocolate éclair, smacking while lips while I got my grip back on the controls. I cranked up the heat of the oven stroke furnace, where we sent everything we couldn’t sell or recycle. The atmosphere was a glimmering haze. Even the smoke tasted sweet.      

“Don’t be silly. You’re more than that,” said Sally.  

 I snorted. A couple hundred pounds more, if I could see what the scale even said. My tummy was quaking on my knees as another trough full of perfectly good stock tumbled down the chute into my chamber. They called it the Belly, unsurprisingly, and it was cold and colossal. I’d underestimated the depths of this place. I’d underestimated a lot of things. My appetite for sure, on the daily. How quickly the hours blitzed by while I sat in my reinforced chair. How little I could move after dinner. How much I’d have to concentrate just to place my pudgy fingers on the correct buttons.  

But Sally was right. I was doing a good job. I had everything – snacks and sweets and...well, I don’t really know what else. She was there to help though. She was good like that. She reached the edge of my chair and helped me put on a fresh napkin, tying it nice and snug under my pillowy chin. She stroked a droplet of cream off my cheek with a smile. 

“Hungry?” she asked me, her eyebrow raised facetiously. 

“It hurts,” I admitted. “I can’t let all this food go to waste. The thought of all those poor cinnabon swirls burning up in that thing...” 

 I turned my eyes to the iron hulk by the conveyer belts, flicked a switch, then leaned on my blubbery paunch, grasping the travelling muffins with a greedy grin. Crumbs fell into my cleavage. I plucked them out, smirking. I’d kinda given up on wearing uniforms now I was working out of sight. My job at the counter had lasted about as long it’d taken me to become unable to squeeze behind the register. I’d said goodbye to most of my clothes. I’d resorted to a wintery jacket over a stretching wire vest, with the largest leggings I could find online. My mountainous belly was fully bared, heaving and pulling against me.  

“You’re so kind, Sakura,” she said, her voice almost like a song as she returned to the stairs. “So generous. So good to us.” 

“Mmmpphh. Thanks,” I called. “Wish you could write my appraisals – I don’t think my tutors are pleased with me...” 

 I sighed. The rigours of the job, my physical exhaustion, my tendency to get pointed if I was any more than a couple hours gone from Grimm’s – it was starting to add up against my grades. I’d told my folks I was studying for a Master’s; in reality, I’d been forced to extend senior year. I’d fallen too far behind, and now I needed another twelve months to retake everything I’d failed. Luckily I had the savings – but my enthusiasm was waning. I hadn’t made it to the library in months. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure if there were any chairs that could hold me anymore.  

“Hey, graduation’s boring,” Sally – the postgrad princess, answered. I couldn’t help but glare in envy. “And besides, they might not even get jobs. Especially not somewhere like Grimm’s.” 

“True,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “At least I’ve got my feet on the ground here.” 

 Then I tried to get up. It was a long-winded process. My soft feet kicked. I pressed down with my arms. I tucked my chin to my chest and twisted my face with effort, grunting. My belly dropped between my thighs, bouncing on my chair with a weighty plop. I shot down a few inches, and yelped as I felt myself begin to slide.   

“No, no...wait...don’t hurt yourself. Let me help you!” Sally leapt the last two steps and ran toward me. Just as I was about to tumble off, she grabbed my arm, tucked under shoulder and hauled me back onto my seat with a surprising burst of strength. Sapped, glutted and stuffed, I felt the sweat travel down my spine as she settled me into place. Her arms held me tight. I caught my breath, smoothed back my hair, and stared.  

She wasn’t letting go. A crackle echoed from the innards of the belt-fed oven, and a spew of embers shot out onto the floor. 

“Hah,” I flicked my eyes back from the fire and winked. “Is this the part where you shove me in?”  

Sally turned her soft cheeks. Her green eyes seemed to glow.  

“Don’t be silly, Sakura,” she giggled. “You’re too wide.” 

I stopped breathing. My jaw would’ve dropped if It weren’t for my chin. It cushioned my shocked, fat face as I tried to find my words. Basically, it framed her point. 

“Thanks,” I mumbled, blinking. “I’m too heavy for you to lift as well. For the record...” 

“You’re not too heavy for me,” 

“Sally, I weighed myself on the industrial scale,” I scoffed incredulously. “I peeked over five hundred pounds yesterday.”  

“You’re not...” She put a finger to my lips. “...too heavy for me.”  

 She stroked my hair, then my shoulder, then traced her fingernail down my napkin and onto my swelling chest. My muscles tensed all at once, the shiver shifting through my layers of fat. I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing would come. 

Then she kissed me on the stomach. Slowly, she gripped my love handles and began to squeeze. I crinkled my toes as she fondled and groped. I found myself slipping back on the chair a little. She lifted the lowermost roll of my belly, wafting it up in her palms, like a pizza chef kneading his dough.   

“Umm.” I tilted my head. “Heh, err...plenty to go around down there, huh?” I said in a low voice, frozen in apprehension. 

“Mmmm...” she hummed. “More,” 

“More? Umm, okay. I thought maybe you’d wanna talk about this, but –” 

More.” 

 The éclair hit my tongue like a rocket. My cheeks bulged. The cream mushed on her fingers as she shoved it down my throat. The sugar rush warmed my brow, surging through my veins as she settled in my lap, smooching my neck, cooing as I munched and swallowed the chocolatey mass in my mouth between my moans. My eyes stayed rigidly open. 

“You’re beautiful, Sakura...” she murmured, spellbound by my sloshing stomach.  

“That’s...” I coughed with a gulp. “That’s...very kind of you Sally, but I -” 

“I know you don’t want me.” she pouted. 

I blanched. “Hey...err...it’s not like....I think you’re great... you’re pretty, you’re smart...” 

 She turned her face away. She clasped her fingers round my thickened wrist, removing it from the controls. She punched a button, and twisted a dial. 

 “But I know what you really want.” she breathed in my ear. Cogs whirred. I trembled. The sound of clanking ratcheted around the room as my secret little machine was brought to life.     

I began to pale. 

“This food,” she went on. “These sweets. I’ve seen what they’ve done to you.” She pinched my sausage-like finger. “I’ve seen it in your eyes. I’ve seen what you’ve been doing to yourself,” 

She took that same finger and guided it lower, and lower. Beneath my belly. Between my thighs. 

 I winced. I moaned. I looked up at the cavernous rafters above, at the staircase that twisted to the lights of the shopfront beyond. I wasn't going to make it up that thing. Not tonight. Not without her help. 

Not that I wanted to. My secret was laid bare. My eyes caught up with two towers of delicious donuts, stacked on a set on approaching tongs, bowed in the direction of my quivering mouth. Suddenly I found myself licking my lips. Sally’s pupils grew shiny and wide.  

“We could help each other feel better,” she whispered. “You...and me...I think we could something work...” 

She rested her palm on my stomach. The machine hissed to a halt before us. 

“Now, would you like anything else?” Sally whispered.  

I was throbbing. I was whimpering. I was so, so hungry.  

I jabbed the red button. I moaned. 

The donuts surged toward me.

I closed my eyes.

I ate.  

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