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So, who’s excited for our special guest tonight?”  

The audience whooped. 

“You can just feel it, can’t you?” Jimmy Brisket clutched the edge of his rigid lapel. “That teensy-weensy tingle in the air, you know, right before you get starstruck? Oh, I can’t wait any longer!” 

He threw out his arm. 

“All the way from sunny Los Angeles, already with two Oscar nominations to her name, and here tonight on the Daily Double Dip to promote her latest film, please welcome, the gorgeous, the wonderful – Fallon Leslie!”   

Ohhhhhhh...you gonna take me home tonight... 

The spotlight glowed gold. 

Ohhhhhhh...down beside that red fire light... 

The red curtain rustled.  

Ohhhhhhh...you gonna let it all hang out... 

Then opened wide. 

Fat bottomed girls, you make the rocking world go round... 

Fallon waved, soaking in the applause, totting up the lingering looks on her burgeoning rear end with a smirk as she strode out to shake Jimmy’s hand. He gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek. His blue eyes were as bright as his smile.   

Fat bottomed girls, you make the rocking world go round... 

The waddling starlet returned the kiss, then planted herself down on the famous blue chaise longue. The cushions puffed out with a whoosh where she landed, her tummy bouncing ever so slightly. Fallon swished her hair, letting it rest over her shoulders while she scooted over to the armrest. Her figure bulged and shifted under her shirt. Teasing and adjusting, she let herself settle, her soft sides spreading amongst the pillows. The last bars of the song echoed around the studio, and the clapping slowly filtered away. 

Fallon gave the host a cheeky wink.  

“Thanks Jimmy,” she grinned, reclining. “That was quite the entrance...” 

“I’ll say! You’re quite honestly...” The larger-than-life host eased into his office chair. “...twice the woman you used to be. Are you glad to be back on the sofa?”  

“One hundred percent. I’m a big girl, I get winded way more easily these days,” said Fallon, a palm on her chest. “It’s such a long way from backstage...whew...” 

“But you’re happy – as I’m sure we all are –” He stopped for the burst of applause “ to see you back on the show again?” 

“Yeah! I’ve got your couch to myself this time!” She gave the space beside her a cheery pat.

“Probably for the best. I can feel my producer screaming in my ear – Fallon, he wants you to know, if it breaks, he’s not responsible.” 

More laughter. Fallon felt her chin crease as she smiled.  

“Of course, speaking of last time – that was, what two years ago? You’ve clearly become an even bigger star – first there was Electra, then you had your role in Wannabe Queen, the pageant drama,” Jimmy counted on his fingers. “Then after that you starred in Uncharted Territory and only just lost out to Olivia Colman in The Favourite... 

“I know, but she’s great. I was lucky just to be there, at the Academy Awards that night – it was the same night where Barry Squires – you know, the producer – leaned way over my table with me and my agent, handed me this script he said he loved and asked if I’d consider” 

“And just to clarify – because we've been hearing all the goss – it’s definitely, definitely not a remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?”  

Fallon laughed. 

“Definitely, definitely not, no. I’m playing the main character in Weight of Gold. That’s what the movie’s called, it’s more of a feelgood, sports drama.”  

“And you have – if you mind me saying so – been undergoing something rather dramatic yourself?”  

“Oh, I’m not even done yet,” said Fallon, smiling and cupping her belly. “We’re still filming – well, technically, we’re going back to filming once I reach my goal weight, then we shoot one more fat scene, and after that we go back to a regular schedule.” 

“A fat scene?” 

“I’ve put on at least a hundred pounds,” Fallon announced, to a collective gasp. She could almost feel the press plunge into the paper, the glaring headline in thick black ink.  

“One hundred pounds?” 

“At least. Yeah.” she nodded. 

“Let’s see – just to reiterate that – let's see if we can get a picture up on the big screen. Right. Okay, so here’s what you used to look like.” 

Jimmy gestured at the giant projection. Fallon blushed at herself. The photo showed them together – albeit eighteen months, and many, many pounds ago – with her sitting sandwiched between the buxom director and Brody, her burly male co-star. She wore a strapless purple minidress, a mix of festival bracelets donned along her skinny wrists, the smooth angles of her face brought out with a shadowy blush. She looked rail-thin, waifish, pixie-like – a free spirit, airy and ethereal.  

“And now...no, wait for it...this was you, two days ago on the beach in Malibu.” 

Fallon blanched, clapping her hands over her mouth the moment the picture flashed onscreen. She dodged her moon-faced smile, dimples dipping where her cheekbones used to be, her gawping eyes skipping straight to the voluminous belly cresting on the deckchair. For a split second, she struggled to fathom it was truly hers. It demanded attention; fully bared, stuffed and taut, slung proudly over the waistband of her bikini bottoms, bronzing in the California sunshine. True to her Irish roots, her top displayed a shamrock over each breast - but they were pulled so tight they barely looked recognisable. A splatter of ice-cream rested above her belly button, and her finger lay poised to scoop it past her plump, greedy lips. Her hair was tied up in a messy bun, emphasising the swell of her jawline. Her every nourished fibre looked chunky, and round. 

“I mean, what can I say?” Jimmy shrugged. “Spot the difference?”  

“Um, I grew my hair out?” Fallon offered, smiling as she brushed aside her ebony locks. 

“It’d be harder to pick what didn’t grow out.” 

“Yeah, it kinda surprised me too,” the star agreed. “I mean – I've never been big before, and I was thinking before it happened that...because I was doing so much training to build up my glutes and leg muscles for gymnastics, I’d be bottom heavy? But then, once I gained the first thirty pounds and I started losing all that muscle, I realised all the weight was going right here.” 

She gave her belly roll a rub, then a squeeze. Thick and doughy, it wrapped around her, peeking over her pants. The host’s eyes widened at the sight.  

“And...err...ahem...here.” 

She gave her bosom a little push up, her cleavage deepening with a loving squeeze. Jimmy blinked. 

“Whoops. Sorry – missed that one.” he garbled. “Must be all the stardust in the air. Would you mind doing it again, but this time really slowly?” 

Nooo,” Fallon smirked coyly. “You’ll have to wait until the premiere.” 

“Oh! You don’t mean... wait, you do mean?” 

“I have a couple scenes where – uhh, how do I put this...everything’s laid...bare?” Fallon quipped, her voice rising in pitch as she matched the host’s arched eyebrow. “I mean, it’s all about exploring new changes, and acceptance, and loving yourself – it's really crucial to the plot.”  

“Why? Remind us – what’s all this about?” 

So I’m portraying Natalie Quartermain, she’s an Olympic gold medal winning athlete.” 

“Uh-huh,” the host spread his arms out from his body. “I totally see it.” 

“No  hush, you,” Fallon giggled, jiggling her chest as she put a finger to her lips. “Like, her story’s way more known in the U.S. She’s famous because she rose out of a poor background to become a collegiate champion, then an All-American elite gymnast, but during an Olympic trial she came off on a vault the wrong way – it was her final event – and she broke both her legs.” 

Oh my goodness.”  

“I know. It was terrible," Fallon explained. "Then, obviously she couldn’t go to London with the team, she couldn’t train because she had to heal, and then her funding got cut because she wasn’t competing – and after that, part of her just gave up. She said in her autobiography that food was her only friend, and because she couldn’t exercise, after a couple years she became morbidly obese.” 

Owch. That’s gotta hurt.”  

“Yeah, it completely blew up her life. She wrote that her breaking point was when some friends she hadn’t seen in months asked her out, she rolled out of bed on the day and discovered she couldn’t paint her toenails any more. When you think of how much pride...you know, how much gymnasts put in their fitness and their flexibility, and now she’s at a stage where she’s too big to reach her feet – that's where the reality sinks in.” 

“I see,” said Jimmy. “Although obviously, it’s not like you’d mind, you can just get a runner to do it for you.”  

The ice broke. The audience tittered again.  

Ughh, it’s tempting,” Fallon smirked, leaning back on the sofa. “Just to totally lie around all day and be like – excuse me, why aren’t you helping me? Where’s my pedicure? Where’s my tub of vanilla ice cream?” She sat up again with a little grunt of effort and a giggle. “I’m kidding...chocolate’s my favourite.” 

The audience laughed. Then, they cheered and applauded. The spotlight shot across the studio to the curtain, tracing the waves from the other side.  

“Oh, you don’t say? What a lovely coincidence!” said Jimmy, as a PA parted the veil to reveal a glittering service cart, laden with a huge bowl of sprinkled ice cream. Fallon’s eyes shone as he rolled it over to the host’s desk, and set it carefully next to her. She leant forward to accept a hefty silver spoon, and plummeted it into the bowl with a gracious smile. Her first bite was cold, creamy and delicious.  

“You know, I’ve often thought of diversifying the show, include those things they do online with the food – what's it called?” said Jimmy. “When you talk when you’re eating?” He put a finger to his ear. “No! Not bad manners! The other thing.” 

Mmmpphh!” Fallon laughed, her cheeks full with icy goodness. “Mmmphh...Mukbang!” 

“I beg your pardon?!” shouted Jimmy.  

The audience howled with amusement. Fallon nearly choked on her spoon. 

Haha! I’m...mmmpphh...I’m - I’ve been vlogging my transition since I started, a lot of the time when I’m giving people updates...” She swallowed. "Like, when I'm showing them my progress, I'm also eating, that’s how I connect with people. Like, everyone’s asking me, do I do ASMR now? And I’m lying around in bed like – I don’t even know what that is? I just see food and then I eat it, that’s all I do every day.”  

“You must’ve had time to sample a few new places? Maybe some new recipes?” 

“Oh my god, I’m addicted to penne alle vodka. And crispy oysters. My chef has been such a hero throughout this whole thing,” Fallon beamed, inhaling another spoonful. “I’ve been touring restaurants too, like fast-food places, and I’m developing a weakness for cheeseburger omelette with pancakes. It’s my favourite.”  

“That’s wonderful. I’ve got to ask – and don’t take this the wrong way, you’re practically glowing with positivity – but I’ve got to ask, what one aspect, if there is one, has surprised you the most, going from where you were, to where you are now? Have you experienced any big shocks since, you know, becoming bigger?” 

“No, like, genuinely,” Fallon lowered the spoon. “What’s surprised me the most, is how supportive my circle of friends and family have been for me. They’re the most important thing for me, they’re like a whole squad of cheerleaders, I’m really open around them and... yeah, at the beginning everyone told me, why not wear a fat suit? Why not just do it with CGI? But I said to them that I couldn’t expect normal people to embrace Natalie’s story if...I wasn’t gonna embrace it myself. That’s why before we started shooting, I got super into gymnastics, I had a world class coach, I had a diet plan, I had a training schedule...” 

“Wait  so, I’m guessing – start of the film’s all about big gymnastics contests, it’s bound to be full of jumps and flips and cartwheels and so-on. And all of that’s you?” said Jimmy. 

“Yeah. That’s really me.” Fallon smiled. 

“No CGI, no stunt doubles, nothing?” 

“Nothing but hard work and determination,” she beamed. “I got myself down to thirteen percent body fat, I had abs, I had these really toned thighs, I had guns,” Fallon lifted and tensed her flabby arms. “I was in the gym three times a day, I was sooo fit, it was insane. And now my....mmpphhhh...” 

She dipped her spoon back in the bowl for another mouthful. 

“Now my....mmm...my stunt doubles are all looking at me like – jesus, do we still have jobs?  You’re huge! Do we have to pig out too? It’s definitely been a life changing experience for a lot of people. But everyone’s been uber supportive. My friends are constantly handing me their leftovers – like, that’s how they greet me now. They’re like, ‘Hey Fallon, could you finish these fries for me? I’m full’ or ‘You’ve gotta try some of my mom’s poundcake  I’m practically breathing in calories. Mmm...”  

“But the sooner we hit your goal, the sooner we get to see you in the film, right?”  

“Uh-huh.” Fallon let out a little burp. “Ooh, excuse me.” She licked a chocolatey drop off her lips. “I got a nutritionist and set myself a target to put on four pounds a week for a month, then five a week for two months, and now I’m just seeing what my limits are and pushing them a little further every day. This ice cream's so good, by the way.” 

“Fallon. You know what I’m about to ask next.” 

“Hmm?” 

“How much do you weigh?”  

Mmmpphh,” Fallon swallowed, flicking her eyelashes. “Well, my end goal is two-hundred and forty pounds, but right now I actually don’t know. I haven’t weighed myself in a long time, ‘cause I love surprises, but I know I hit two hundred over summer. That was a hell of a day, man. Secretly I’m hoping for two thirty by November – I know it’s a lot, but hey.” She gave her tummy a slap. “I think I’ll get there.” 

“In style too, by the looks of things. But to quote another, immensely popular leading lady, it’s October Third,” said Jimmy. “Which in the wonderful world of the Daily Double Dip, can only mean one thing...” 

 The lights dimmed to a pale, pulsing glow. Fallon heard tubas. The imposing chords of Oncoming Menace permeated the thick, heavy atmosphere. The spotlight shimmered over a rising, hissing platform. Dense smoke rose from the floor, shrouding the steely machine. 

“You can close your eyes if you want to,” Jimmy announced. “Because it’s Weigh-in Day!” 

Rapturous applause broke out as the smoke blew away to reveal a shiny digital scale. On the big screen, the blank figures sparkled in piercing red. 0.0LBS.  

“Seriously, is this the part where I hide behind your couch?” said Fallon, laughing whilst crossing, then uncrossing her legs. “I’m scared. Oh my god, why am I so scared? All I have to do is get up... 

“If it’s too much of a tall order, I’m sure we can help.” Jimmy reassured her. “Oy, Dave – did you save the forklift from the challenge last week?”  

The audience chuckled. Even Fallon had to smile. 

“No, it’s true, I’m sinking into this sofa,” the actress admitted, laughing. “Like,  I feel like I’m a few inches lower than last time. But because my butt’s bigger, I’m sitting taller – so you don’t notice. Like my head’s higher somehow, if that makes sense? But then when I stand up – brace yourself.” 

Jimmy grabbed on to the edges of his desk, veins sticking comically out from his forehead. 

“Not you, I'm talking to me,” Fallon groaned. “Ughhh, lost my breathing, okay...in one...in two...god, quit staring at me like that!” She shrieked at the host, giggling. “You’re making me nervous!”  

“Do you need a hand?” Jimmy leaned forward. 

“I don’t know!” Fallon cried out. “What if I don’t make it in one go?” 

“Is that the attitude of future gold medal winning gymnast Natalie Quartermain?”  

Yet more laughter. Fallon reddened. 

“It’s just super embarrassing right now. I've got a lot of changes to embrace I put this weight on so quickly, I don’t think my body’s had time to adapt,” She flapped her hands. “You promise you won’t laugh, okay?”   

No they won’t, here. Let me give you a boost,” Jimmy walked round his desk, offering an arm. “You ready?” He took her hand. “One, two, three!” He heaved. Suddenly he shot a palm to the space behind his hip.

“Oh god...my back, my back!” he yelled, his grip fading, his body faltering. Fallon yelped as his face sunk over her shoulder, shoving him back up with a firm press. Chortling, the hosted lifted her arms and hailed her up with him, turning to the crowd with a wave.

“I’m kidding! A round of applause, ladies and gentlemen. It’s Weigh-in Day!” 

Jimmy sported a wolfish simper, leading Fallon the distance from his desk to the scale. Carefully making sure her shirt was tucked in round the back, the actress followed on. She tapped her heels in front of the sport marked with a gratuitous 'X', flanked by the trio of cameras.  

“Now, we usually have more elaborate games on the show, but let me tell you, I’ve got goosebumps, my hairs are standing up, I literally cannot hold it a second longer. Moment of truth. Fallon, are you ready?” 

“Ready,” she nodded. 

"Your goal is?"

"Two hundred and thirty by November 30th" she recounted.

“Close your eyes, step forward...” 

The starlet did so. She heard the metalled springs crunch. Her stomach wobbled. A timid sensation tingled through her toes. 

“And...oh, oh my goodness!” 

Fallon’s heart skipped a beat. Her eyes blazed open at the numbers. 239.8lbs. Her mind rolled with the epiphany - she had gained a hundred and twenty-five pounds in little under a year and a half.  

Her legs suddenly felt very heavy. Stumbling, she stepped backwards off the scale, descending into Jimmy's arms. 

"Fallon, how do you feel?"

Fallon felt her heart galloping. A deep flush surfaced on her brow. She gasped deeply, sealing her eyes, feeling her stomach flutter beneath its sheath of soft fat. 

“I feel...amazing,” she breathed. “This is exactly what I wanted. I set myself a target...and I thought it was crazy, but it's happened to me. Oh my god. I feel so...so...” 

“You getting this?” Jimmy had his finger in his ear. “Yeah  sorry, we were just getting that down for you to read out when you win the Oscar next year." 

The audience cheered their approval.

“I mean, is there anyone you’d like to thank? McDonald’s? Wendys?” 

“Ha-ha-ha," Fallon laughed, soothing herself away from her state of nirvana. "I'm sure I Can put in a word for my sponsors myself." They returned to their seats. “Like I said...” she plopped down. “...it’s humbling to have the physical and emotional support I’ve been getting, even if it’s just to egg you through that twentieth slice of pizza. It reminds me of the relationship Natalie had with her long-time coach, he helped shape her, he helped motivate her to do bigger and better things, he was there when she was at her lowest point, and it’s a relationship we’re looking to explore a lot more in the film.” 

“The coach, played by no less than Brody Kilpatrick...” Jimmy mouthed, to the sound of wolf whistles.  

“Brody’s a babe,” Fallon agreed. “I know he looks all rough and tumble but he’s so gentle...” 

Whoah, say no more, we haven’t made it to the watershed!” The host pointed to the face of his Rolex. “Pardon us, we're British... although it's not to say we won’t have time, you’re perfectly welcome to share all the details with me later.”  

“He certainly knows how to handle a bigger girl...” Fallon raised a wry eyebrow, feeling the warmth along her pinkening cheeks. “But my point was...he’s done way more than just play the romantic interest. He’s been an ally to me from day one. At first, I was afraid for him to see me like this,” She indicated toward her stomach. “...but his reaction helped me accept that my size is only gonna be as big a problem as I allow it to be.” She swept back her hair. “Which is not at all. Like, that reminds me, I never have to worry about my wardrobe, Valkyrie Mountain stepped in to replace the clothes I outgrew, so no more malfunctions. I’m getting regular check-ups, even though I’ve gotten really unfit my doctor’s making sure I get all the nutrition I need to stay healthy.” 

“That’s good to hear.” Jimmy nodded.  

“Yeah. So, my mantra is, enjoy it while it lasts,” Fallon looked down at herself. “Like, how many more times in my career am I gonna get paid to stuff my face? And plus, we’ve still got the end of the movie to make where I’m meant to be skinny again so clearly I’m gonna have a mountain to climb pretty soon, you know, like Natalie did when she finally started losing weight and returning to the team.” 

“And then winning gold, I presume?” 

Whoah, whoah – don't spoil it!” Fallon raised up her hands.  

“But you said it at the beginning! The film’s literally called ‘Weight in Gold’?” 

“I know – wait. I was gonna say something else. Hang on – wait, was I?” 

“I don’t know,” Jimmy motioned. “Maybe more ice cream might jog your memory?” 

Oooh, yeah, let’s have some more,” She picked up the spoon and downed another sugary mouthful. “Ugghhh, it's incredible. Thanks...phew, oh man, I forgot what I was saying again. Damn” 

“It’s fine. Take a deep breath,” said Jimmy. 

Fallon sucked in. 

“And now think fast, because we’ve only got five seconds left!” he shouted to the crowd. A drum roll flared up out of nowhere. The room descended into darkness. The spotlight returned.

“Oh god, umm...oh my god. No, wait...no...errr....errrmm!” Fallon dropped the spoon and clutched her tresses. The snare drum rattled relentlessly. She shut her eyes. “I’m...errr...I’m...” 

She glared at the palms of her hands.

“I’m fat?”  

Ba-dumm tsss.... 

“Fallon Leslie everybody!” Jimmy yelled, waving as he stood up. “That’s all we’ve got time for, tune in for your Double Daily Dip tomorrow!”   

 

 

Far, far away, someone hit the pause button on the remote.  

 The screen was frozen on the credits. Stained fingers clenched the edges of the sofa. A rustle of plastic, then the sound of impassioned chewing broke the silence of the musky, secreted, garbage-strewn lounge. The occupant breathed in. The first grunt was effort, the second perturbance, the third pure fury as she hauled her gargantuan figure off the flattened pillows, her tank top peeling from the upholstery with a loathsome rip 

Two crunching, staggering steps took her bloated body to the coffee table. Sucking in, she reached down her side for her phone, wiping her fingers on her sweatpants before dabbing in the passcode. Knees creaking, she bent down, nudging shut the door of the minifridge to get the perfect light. Grimacing, she took the picture.   

Her sofa wailed through the thump of her return, her laboured wheezing dulling her mind to the splitting woodwork. She pushed a slither of chocolate past her slowly growing smile. Finally, she had what she wanted. 

She took stock of her work. The studio name, the address and postcode. The sponsor list. Her gaze narrowed at the last words, her mood drifting through every darkened hue. 

With thanks to Fallon Leslie. 

Hands sticky, she quaffed a malicious fistful of potato chips in a single, slobbering bite. 

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 Fallon Leslie’s smile glowed under the spotlight. The band played the familiar fanfare, and the audience got up on its feet, cheering and clapping. She blew a loving kiss, bowed a tad, then squeaked in surprise as she slipped into the crook of Jimmy Brisket’s arm. Fallon felt her back rolls pucker past her bra strap as he gingerly led her off the set, the crimson curtain lifting and falling. They disappeared into backstage, and Fallon let out the breath she’d been holding in. The rainbow lights burned bright while the credits played out in the distance, the jolly tune lifting the skip in the host’s step as they journeyed back to the dressing room. 

“My goodness, you were amazing!” said Jimmy, dropping his voice. “Thank you so, so much for joining me tonight, I mean it. I absolutely do.” 

“The pleasure’s all mine,” said Fallon, squeezing his hand. “I was sorta scared, I’m not gonna lie. I stayed on topic, didn’t I? Oh god – did I get my sponsors wrong? Was it Pink Palace or Valkyrie Mountain I said? I can’t remember!” 

“You were inimitable,” Jimmy declared, letting her go. “Don’t you worry about a thing, that’s for the editors to put food on the table. Hell’s teeth, you’ve just reminded me – Christ. I forgot to say my catchphrase.” 

“You were here first!” 

Yoooou got it!” he beamed in a sing-song voice. “Never thought I’d be stuck in a rut full of talk show hosts called Jimmy. Named Jimmy. Gah – wait, no. That’s right? I want to sound like me, don’t I? God, I hate it when I get mixed up.”   

“Yeah,” Fallon groaned, rolling her eyes.  “Tell me about it.”  

“It still warms my heart you chose me,” Brisket smiled gladly. “And first, too! Hasn’t happened since I cocked up the fielding in rounders back in Year Five.” 

Fallon giggled.  

“Jimmy, I don’t have a clue what you just said...but thanks.” They cut away down a quieter corridor, following the stars on the carpet as they approached the door. “You really lightened the mood for me. It was great.” 

“You don’t think I went too far?” Jimmy mumbled, surprised. “It’s a bad habit of mine, I really ought to keep my mouth shut more. I forget folks have sensitivities. I...I know I talked about your weight a lot...honestly, you are okay with taking it all on the chin, aren’t you?”  

“Which chin?” Fallon smirked, reaching for the door handle before he could grab it. 

“Ha!” Jimmy scoffed into thin air. “Goodness me. You really are all that, aren’t you?” 

Puhleaase, I bet you say that to all the big girls you interview.” Fallon winked. They found their salon chairs, the hair and makeup assistants bustling by with bottles and towels.   

“No, I really don’t.” Jimmy peeled the handkerchief out his breast pocket, wiping his face. “Also... I don’t make a point of inviting my beloved guests to the seasons-end dinner, either. I say dinner, it’s more of a buffet for the cast and crew, but I’ll be there with my wife. You’re welcome to join us, if you’re still around town – it's tomorrow at eight o’clock. In fact, cancel all your plans, we’d love you to.”  

“Heh. I’ll think about it. I’d have to check with the hotel,” Fallon licked her lips. “But I’m sure I could extend my stay a little. It’d be the perfect spot to hit my goal, after all,” 

She felt the scintillating rush running through her veins. 239.8lbs. She glared at her chubby cheeks, her cleavage, her ripening midsection in the mirror. She was so, so close.  

“It’s free food, right?” she asked.  

“Absolutely. You don’t need to bring a thing.” 

“Sweet,” Fallon grinned, relaxing her head. She lifted her calves and pried her diamond-encrusted heels from her feet. “Can I ask you one favour?”  

“Sure.” 

Catching his eye in the mirror, she relaxed her shoulders. She slyly picked off the button of her pants and with a careful glance, untucked her shirt. Her soft, delicate stomach roll oozed free.  

“Tell Dave to find that forklift from last week...” The starlet sighed, smirking at Jimmy’s flabbergasted reflection. “...I’m gonna be packing an appetite.” 

 

 

 

Fallon woke up.  

She’d been dreaming. Her hair was in her eyes, wreathing messily over the pillows. She yawned, then pursed her tender lips. The succulent tang of crème fraîche and caviar drifted over her tastebuds, her nose still tickled by the scent of champagne, a slow smile welcoming the memory. Last night’s buffet had been a good one. A long one, too... 

A crack of late morning light cleaved the dusty air. Fallon curled in her legs, her belly tight as a drum. The covers felt different on her skin – her bra, shirked away in the night, lay on the pillow beside her. Rousing, she vaguely remembered falling into bed in her underwear, too glutted and worn down to think of retrieving her nightie from the case. Her naked, sun-kissed curves shivered with the stroke of a cold breeze. She clutched the duvet closer to her chest, rolling over to her side, turning to the light. Her turgid stomach swayed, clumping on the mattress with a grumbling thunk.   

Fallon blinked, vaguely aware of the alarm she had yet to hear. Did she manage to set one? What time was it? She let out a muffled grunt, pawing lazily for her phone on the bedside table. She hadn’t slept so late in years. Her fingers probed past a crumpled packet of potato chips. She shrank back, stirring. Something was making her hairs stand on end. Reaching out again, the actress held her breath as she sank onto her pillowy front. Her hand swept the table, skimming the sticky surface. She couldn’t feel anything. Her phone wasn’t there. 

Furrowing her brow, Fallon tumbled onto her back, and sat up, her nascent folds deepening. Her eyes struggled to focus. Her belly launched a lethargic protest as she settled her feet on the hardwood floor, gurgling and groaning with her aching rise, her sullen footfalls thumping as she rubbed the sleep from her eyelashes. Her heels crunched on plastic waste, and a hasty sweep through her raven locks told her all she needed to know. 

Her eyes widened. She wasn’t in her hotel room. Fallon sucked in her surroundings with a frozen breath, her heart pulsing. A double bed, a desk drawer, a television, a cabinet, a bedside table – a lamp. She switched it on, and quivered softly. Her blood grew cold.  

The floor was thick with layers of garbage  a seabed of cartons, packets and saran wrap. Two towering trash bags stood by the door like bloated sentinels, rigid and unyielding. The drawers bore a bending tower of pizza boxes, cardboard blackened by grease, notched from where every splodge of gooey, melted cheese had been licked and picked clean. A perished houseplant lay behind the silhouette, greyed, brittle and forgotten.  

Fallon felt the hazy grasp of fingernails down her side, the sinking pit of her stomach afroth with swirling Blanc de Noirs. She silently chided her own lack of foresight, grimacing at the pang in her liver. Clearly her indulgences had taken her a step too far. Mind blurring, she had no idea whose place she had wound up in. Her belly sloshed as she made her move, slipping between the garbage bags in the way of the door. Her hips nudged the crusted ties as her hand wrapped around the handle.  

She gave it a push. Stuck. Wrinkling her nose, she pressed her shoulder against the door and gave it a shove. No, not stuck. Locked. 

 Fallon heard footsteps. She gulped, then groaned inwardly. Greeting some sweaty guy the morning after was the worst. She hoped it wasn’t someone she knew. She hoped it wasn’t someone who knew her – if that was even possible. She cupped her big belly with a protective palm while she retreated backwards to the bed, then picked up the yellowed cover and wrapped it around her soft body, trying to preserve a modicum of modesty. Her dress was nowhere to be found. She sighed, pulling the material up and over her bulging breasts. It would have to do.   

A shadow formed under the door.  

“Um...hey,” Fallon called out. “Hello? I just woke up. Can you open the door for me?”   

A pause. Fallon wondered who was on the other side, how fresh they were from having their way with the deluxe version of her. She heard the rattle of a single key, slipping into the lock. The handle jerked down. The door opened outwardly. 

 Fallon caught a glimpse of flickering bulbs along an aged corridor before the heaving figure blocked out the light. It was a woman. The starlet watched a cascade of limp, black hair falter, weaving over a wide set of shoulders, themselves worn down by the weight of two bulging bags of groceries. Her belly preceded her as she waddled into the room – globular, fleshy, straining past a patchy blue and white shellsuit, a firm handful of jiggling flesh hanging freely from under the zipper. Fearful, Fallon tenderly tiptoed backward until her calves brushed the ends of the bed. Her mouth had fallen open, and she remained gaping as the woman locked eyes with her own. 

“Let’s cut the crap, shall we?” Her voice belied her puffy face  it was young, and sharp. “You’re not going to scream, you’re not going to cry, you’re not going to ask when I’m letting you go.” she muttered. “I live alone up here and trust me – nobody can hear you.”  

She dumped her haul from the store on the ground. Fallon flinched. Her gaze crept to the boxes propped by bubbling bottles of soda. The bags were brimming with junk food. 

“Look,” the actress breathed, sweat travelling down her spine. “I don’t know how I got here, but if you could give me back my dress, and let me out, I would be super, super grateful.”  

“Didn’t you hear what I just said?” the gargantuan girl grunted, narrowing her eyes. “You’re not going anywhere.” 

“Do you need money?” Fallon offered, slowly, raising her hands. “If there’s something, anything I can help you with...I’d be happy to make you a deal...” 

“You don’t have enough,” her captor mumbled.  

“Um, don’t you know who I am?” The star tried to smile. 

“Yeah.”  

Fallon’s smile faded. The big girl was nonchalant. Her green eyes were like daggers, her chest shifting softly with her laboured breaths. She wasn’t budging. Fallon took a moment’s pause, then dropped her voice an octave.  

“Then you’ll know that I’m a very busy person...” she said quietly. “And there’s gonna be a lot of people expecting me to go to work today. I’m starring in a movie, it’s about a famous gymnast who went to the Olympic Games. Have you ever heard of Natalie Quartermain?” 

 The hulking girl glared. 

“Well, that’s me,” said Fallon. “I’m Natalie.” 

“No,” the girl whispered, pure acid on her tongue. “I’m Natalie.”  

Fallon heard a harrowing creak  the boards beneath her feet, crepitating as she staggered a backward step. The bed buffered the back of her knees, and she found herself collapsing down onto the mattress. The raking squeak of the springs barely registered. Fallon sat dumbstruck. She saw it. Her face, her piercing eyes. Her dark hair. Her stature – somewhere. Buried under so many layers... 

Fallon’s complexion paled to white. Her lip was shaking. 

“Natalie - I...” The words came through choked. She put a hand to her mouth. “I  we tried to get in touch with you! Oh my god. We sent so many emails, we so wanted you to reply...we  

“And then what? You gave up on me?” Natalie dragged her bags in, dumped them, and sunk a hand into her hip. “That’s what everyone does. Don’t think you’re special.” 

“I - I wanted to hear your story,” Fallon pleaded, looking up at her.  “I mean it, I totally do. What you experienced really means something to me.” 

“What, like an Oscar?” Natalie rolled her eyes, her rough accent salted. “Or a payday? Another fucking red carpet, another fucking interview where you harp on about how lucky you are?” 

“Oh...”, Fallon felt her spirit falter. “That’s...that’s what this is about, isn’t it? You – you must be upset. I’m sorry.” 

“Do you ever shut up and listen to yourself?” Natalie yanked a remote from the pocket of her sweatpants, then jabbed it at the television screen. It flicked on, revealing her episode of Double Daily Dip. She pressed play.   

“My end goal is two-hundred and forty pounds,” Fallon chirped merrily in the recording. “But right now, I actually don’t know. I haven’t weighed myself in a long time, ‘cause I love surprises.”  

The watching starlet felt a lump in her throat. 

“But I know I hit two hundred over summer,” she continued. “That was a hell of a day, man. Secretly I’m hoping for two thirty by November – I know it’s a lot, but hey.” Fallon cringed at the sound of the slap. “I think I’ll get there.” 

The camera cut to an audience, full of eager, sympathetic faces. Natalie hit pause. 

“Look at them,” she hissed. “Look how they’re applauding you. You put on a hundred pounds and everyone thinks you’re some kind of saint. You think that’s what it feels like? You think that’s how it is?”  

She pocketed the remote. Her hips gyrating, she slammed the door shut behind her. Fallon heard the deadlock seal with a click 

“You think you can just waltz on set with love handles and suddenly you know what it’s like to be me?” she went on. Natalie huffed, waddling over to the corner of the room. Her big belly thudded over her scraping thighs, the drawstring of her taxed sweatpants swinging as her bottom thundered from side to side. The ex-gymnast reached up her arms, stretching for the towel slung over the dusty cabinet. She gained purchase, and ripped it away. 

Fallon felt her stomach leap. The doors were darkened glass, the shelves mahogany, the space loaded with dozens upon dozens of trophies. There were cups, crystal bowls, metal figurines that looked like fairies – precious, delicate, all frozen in time.   

“When I started gaining weight, they hated me,” Natalie spat. “I put on twenty pounds and the New York Times practically said I’d betrayed my country. I was an athlete. I was a hero. I was a gold medal prospect. I wasn’t allowed to get fat.” 

She slapped her stomach. The impact was vicious. Swathes of flab rippled with the blow. 

“I wasn’t allowed to feel. Even when I got hurt.” Fallon watched the big girl’s eyes begin to water. “My story got taken away from me. It was only a blip. I was gonna stay strong, I was gonna defy the doctors, I was gonna get back on the team and be even better this time, because, you know,” Natalie shook her head. “Breaking both your legs is the perfect opportunity to find the real you, or some bullshit.” 

She sniffed, twisting the cabinet handle. 

“I was in a chair for five months. I could literally feel my biceps shrinking and my belly growing,” She reached behind the glass, turning to Fallon. “Is that what they put you through? When you said you wanted to embrace it?”  

Natalie gulped, breathing through her sobs.  

“Did...did they tell you what’s like to be wheeled to the parallel bars, to hear them tell you, today’s the day you walk again, with all your teammates watching, only for you to fail to lift yourself up, because your arms are so weak, and your gut’s so freaking heavy?” 

“I didn’t know,” said Fallon. Natalie dropped her arm and turned to her. Her tears were replaced with a snarl.  

“Course you didn’t know,” she growled. “People make up the narrative. Even that stupid book, the one your producers probably fawned over  I didn’t write Weight in Gold! Someone else did. Then they slapped my name on it. Now the only thing keeping me afloat’s a fucking ten percent royalty check off a big, fat lie.” 

“But you beat it,” Fallon insisted. “You won that gold medal, didn’t you? In Rio – I do remember! That’s what everybody remembers. You were the champion!” 

“Yeah? Then I relapsed. Big fucking deal,” Natalie sniffed. 

“It doesn’t matter when you already know you can get to where you were again. Natalie, there’s people out there who care about you – you've got your team, you’ve got your coach  

“My coach?” Natalie turned the colour of brimstone. She abandoned her search through the cabinet, and turned a slow circle. Her remote found its way back into her squishy fingers. She unpaused the television, and hit fast forward. The image skipped thirty seconds in the blink of an eye before she let go. 

“– support I’ve been getting, even if it’s just to egg you through that twentieth slice of pizza. It reminds me of the relationship Natalie had with her long-time coach, he helped shape her, he helped motivate her –” 

Fallon studied her burning eyes. She wondered how many times she’d seen the day-old tape. 

“ – he was there when she was at her lowest point, and it’s a relationship we’re looking to explore in –” 

Natalie paused the screen. The remote crackled under her grip.  

“My coach...” she whispered. “...was a monster.” 

Fallon bit her lip. Her fingers curled while her captor grit her teeth.  

“Nothing was ever, ever good enough for him,” Natalie sank her face. “We weren’t brave enough, we weren’t skinny enough. He made us cry. He cut us off for the slightest indiscretion. He told me I’d never be successful, then whirled around with some snake-ass lie that he said it to motivate me after I won, then took half the fucking credit. He...he gave me an eating disorder...and now? Now he gets his name next to Brody fucking Kilpatrick, and look what I get!” 

She stabbed fast forward, then the play button.   

 you’re perfectly welcome to share all the details with me later.”  

Mmm. He certainly knows how to handle a bigger girl...” 

Pause. Fallon shivered. 

“You think that’s funny?” Natalie snarled.  

“No,” Fallon felt cold, down to her bones. “I - I was just trying to be entertaining. I didn’t mean it! It was a joke!” 

“My life is a freaking joke.” Natalie’s hands were bunched into fists. “And if they ever make your damn movie, this is what they’ll find. Look around you. Look at me. Look at me!”  

She seized her blubbering stomach and gave it a furious shake. Her whole body quaked, blood desperately pumping from a broken heart. Fallon saw a swimmer, sinking under the waves – jowls, bulges and folds all jostling at once.  

“Do you know how hard it is to hide when you’re this big?” she cursed. “How I can barely pick up the phone because I know it’s your stupid production company looking for me? I’ve already had to move twice. I can’t let people see me like this!”  

She thundered back to the cabinet. Fallon saw her struggles. Natalie’s belly was simply so large, so heavy that squeezing it against the shelves was an issue, whilst she tried to stretch her arm further through.  

“If Weight of Gold premieres...” she said, her breaths growing ragged. “...those reporters are going to hunt me down. I’ll be humiliated forever. But that’s only if it gets made in the first place...hnnngghh...” 

“What do you mean?” Fallon murmured. 

“What do you mean? Haven’t you figured it out yet?” Natalie snapped. “That’s why you’re never leaving me, that’s why...aha! Found you! Just a little....hnngghhh...a little further...”  

Fallon felt her blood curdle. This was her chance. She had to run. She had to escape. Her eyes checked the door – locked, sealed. She glanced leftward – a service cupboard. Rightward – probably the bathroom. Behind her... 

The window. Fallon swallowed. She closed her eyes, and mustered her loudest scream from the depths of her lungs.  

Then she bolted over the bed.  

The mattress crumpled. The star dropped her covers and pounded her feet down on the other side. Racing, heart hammering, her body bucking, her bare feet sliding, she reached the crack of light and ripped the curtains away. Her flushed face reflected back at her from the triple glazing. 

Fallon sobbed. 

 There was nothing to be seen on the other side. Nothing but a plywood board, screwed into the brickwork. The crack of light flickered under the panel of wood – solid, dark and unmovable. The actress felt her lungs constrict. Her head felt light. Suddenly the room began to feel smaller and smaller.  

“Nice try,” grunted Natalie, her arms folded. “Do you want to hear what’s gonna happen next?”  

Fallon whimpered. She was too shocked to speak. 

“You’re going to live with me,” she said. “You’re going to learn what being me is really like. You’re finally going to get a taste of the truth, Little Miss Hollywood. And if you dare fucking think of making me have to chase you down, you’re gonna find out what it really means to break a leg.” 

Natalie stomped her foot, hard on the floorboards. The shelves rattled behind her. Pale, shaking, Fallon found herself rooted to the spot.  

“But I won’t have to be mean, unless you make me,” Natalie tossed back her lifeless hair. “Look - I even brought you lunch.” 

She gestured to the produce from the store. Fallon gave out a quease-inducing gulp.  

“And you don’t have to worry about all those people missing you. I’ve got it covered.” 

Natalie eased out Fallon’s phone from her pants pocket. She gave her a flash of the unlocked screen, waving it mockingly. The actress wobbled her lip. Nothing came out.  

“Far as they’re aware, you had a bad, bad case of tummy ache at that buffet.” She put on a velvety accent. “Must have been something you ate, huh?” 

Fallon felt a gale over her foggy memories. Her skin crawled as her captor scrolled through her social media profiles. All her contacts were a heartbeat away.   

“You’re giving the promotion stuff a break.” Her fingernails tapped the touchscreen keys. “You’re taking some time out to rest, and recover...and maybe, try a new project. One that’s filming day and night. One where you’re really putting your soul in the shoes of the girl you want to portray...” 

Natalie uncurled her fist, closing in on her. Fallon saw it. The sparkle. The ribbon of green, orange and blue. The weight of gold, as she felt the glowing medal settle around her neck. Her muscles were numb, petrified as the gymnast reached across, and pushed her long hair free from the back. Natalie nodded toward the groceries. Fallon saw her phone, propped between her thumb and forefingers. She was recording.  

“Don’t worry,” the gymnast muttered. “Your followers won’t see this. Not unless you swallow every last bite. You must be hungry. Because I am.” 

Her last words were sprinkled in enmity. Fallon took the hint. Quivering, she edged up her legs, padding toward the overflowing plastic bags, her rounded curves swaying. Swallowing, she dropped to her knees and thumbed through the boxes. The medal swung under her chin, nudging her bosom. Dipping down her hand, Fallon made her choice.  

Cream cakes. Good as anything. She pried one free, fingers trembling as the plastic packet split.  

She forced the first bite past her lips. A splodge of cream settled on her cheek. Fallon swung her hair to the side so that she could let her see. She needed this to work. It had to.  

“Go on, Natalie,” her captor whispered with malice. “Get stuck in.”  

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Dark heat. The judges rankled their papers. Even the flags looked frozen, awaiting, anticipating. The bone white scores on the arena screen shuddered down to zero. The next contender’s name flashed up in rays of gold.  

“And now, approaching the vault for her second attempt...” the suited emcee boomed. “From the U.S.A, the North Carolina State and Regional All-Around Champion, your very own, Natalie Quartermain!”  

The Raleigh crowd gave their favourite a rapturous applause. But there was ice when it died down, and murmurs when the tall, blonde man in the leg brace limped over to the smiling, waving athlete, seizing her by the arm. 

“Don’t do this,” Coach Gerardson whispered in her ear. “Serkovich double-fouled. There’s no more Russians left. Your first is good enough to qualify.” 

“But it’s not enough to win,” Natalie clapped back, arching her eyebrow. “If I don’t vault, I’m letting them beat me. They’ll take that edge into the finals.” 

“Natalie. Think of the bigger picture,” the coach stressed. “This is only an invitational. You were sick last week. You're not giving yourself time to recover!” 

“My last vault won’t win the trophy,” the gymnast declared. “I’m only as good as my last vault. That’s what everyone says.” 

“Only people who don't do this goddamn sport!” Gerardson swore, grimacing in pain. He adjusted his leg, then tugged on his baseball cap, years of inefficacy building in his sad brown eyes. His voice was hoarse. 

“Look, I know what the magazines said. But they don’t know your endgame, Natalie,” He clenched her hand. “Our endgame. There’s no shame in letting this one go. If you fight every battle, you’re bound to lose something. 

Natalie shot him a look of charring embers.  

“I’m doing the Produnova,” she muttered, pinning back a flyaway into her crop of glossy dark hair. She stood up, and sauntered out of the waiting area without a second glance.  

“No...no, no, no – we haven’t even practiced that one this season!” Gerardson pleaded, tailing her across the floor. “Please, listen to me, they’re about to ban that move in trials. It’s too dangerous!” 

“You told me I could do anything I set my mind on,” retorted Natalie. “You’re my coach. Aren't you supposed to believe in me?” 

She stopped in her tracks, looking him up and down. 

Of course I believe in you, Natalie.” he whispered, his expression crumbling. “But I’m asking you to believe me. Please. Don’t do it.”   

The teen sensation brushed him off her shoulder. She raised her arms, eyes rash with defiance, legs tense, muscles rife with friction. The hard lights of the arena closed on her statuesque form.  

“This is my home,” she uttered, coldly. “My rules. My championship.” 

She smiled at the judge’s table, ready to begin. The springboard loomed – bound, chastened wood, the corners cut like the horns of a raging bull. In the blink of an eye, she burst off her heel, her pace erupting. Gerardson clutched at empty, electric air. Natalie gathered speed. The crowd drew its breath. Her twinkling toes flashed, her leotard a flurry of red, white and blue, palms primed, gaze rigid on the target as she closed in – four steps... two steps... a magnificent leap, a twist into an effortless front handspring. She soared through the air, spinning once... spinning twice... uncurling... unravelling... descending into the tuck, unfurling... falling... 

 The portrait came off its panels, the paint as moist as tears. A sickening crack prickled the crowd’s ears, echoing around the stands.  Natalie collapsed, her knees buckling, her back striking the floor with a spine-chilling thwump. Cheers turned to stifled gasps. Blood calcified while the cameras closed in, like lightning on her shattered, broken form. She had fallen short – an precious inch – from the safety mats. A piercing scream, and then slow, bitter sobs.  

First aiders rushed in. Black screens blocked out the light. Natalie’s tears boiled on her face. Gerardson hoisted himself over the barrier, slid past the attendants, the safety supervisors, the shellshocked directors to duck down and cradle her in his arms. His stomach grew sick at the shape of sheered bones, bent and fractured under the skin.    

“You’re fine, you’re okay, you’ll be okay – we've got you.” He cupped her face, watching her lip quiver, clutching her tight. “I've got you – I'm gonna get you help – we need a medic!” he bellowed. “Somebody get some help!” 

“CUT!” 

The lights dimmed. The team sighed, lowering the screens. The rest of the extras were up on their feet, belaying for the restroom. The emcee let out the sneeze that had been bugging him the whole scene, sending the grips into stitches. One for the gag reel. Marching out from between the cameras, Maye Mitchell was less than impressed.  

“How many times?” she jabbered. “How many more times?”  

“Sorry, Mimi,” Brody shrugged.  

“You will be!” the director snapped. “Nobody here needs a ‘medic’ – you’re in a vaulting competition, not Vietnam!”  

“I... I got my lines mixed up...” 

“And quit looking at the camera!”   

“I said I’m sorry!” 

“Sorry? A woman lies broken in body and heart,” she screeched. “Wouldn’t you know? Or are you too busy eye-fucking the audience to notice? Fallon, are you alright, sweetpea?” 

“Sure. Never better,” Fallon sat up, beaming. “You need me to do the run again?” 

“No, you’re fine, darling, you were perfect. Every angle, you’re amazing.”  

“Oh, cool. These are getting itchy.” 

 She peeled the greenscreen wraps off her thighs, tossing the patches aside, then lay back on the crash mat, relaxing.  She gave the tops of her bronzed thighs a grateful scratch, while Mimi yammered with the script supervisor by the bleachers. 

“Ugh. I don’t know if I can take it anymore,” groaned Brody, parking himself beside her. 

“You’re fine. You just do you.” 

“That’s the problem,” Brody hissed. “I’m doing me, it just doesn’t sync with her. How am I supposed to know what she’s thinking?”  

“Maybe it’s a girl thing.” 

“What? Mind reading or just being a grade-A bitch?”  

Whoah, hey, Academy Award winner Mimi Mitchell is nobody’s bitch.”  

“Fine. What sort of twisted pike triple backflip do I need to do for her to take me seriously?”   

“I don’t know, but chin up. You’re getting a break. This was my last scene,” said Fallon, shuffling her shoulders. “Well, my last fit scene, anyway. Ha – wanna see what I did in the gym yesterday?” 

 She indicated for space. Brody got up, before she pulled off an effortless kip-up, her shiny hair whipping around, her stony calves rippling with barely a stumble. Fallon teetered on her tiptoes, falling into his arms. 

Oooh! Nearly,” she giggled. “I swear I had it when I got out of bed this morning.” 

“Cute,” Brody smirked. “What’ve you got for me when you go to bed later?”  

“Brody...” Fallon pushed herself away. “Haven’t we been through this?”  

“Have we?” the actor shrugged. “It feels everyone’s been through this except us. Your friends, my friends, the media...” 

“Exactly. The media. That’s why I'm not ready.” Fallon focused her eyes on his. “I’m working. I’m promoting a film, I’m...”  

She swallowed. No – she wouldn’t allow herself to waver. This was it.  

“I’m gonna be going through some lifestyle changes, okay?” she gulped. “I'm not saying you’re not an awesome guy. You’re fun to be around... sometimes... but the cameras never stop rolling on me,” Fallon took a breath. “I feel like I’ll need some alone time, for once, you know... especially with what’s about to happen...” 

“Yeah, yeah, method acting, big deal. You played a violin in Curtain Crawl. You did Uncharted Territory and learned how to pickpocket. Why are you saying this like it’s the only way to act?” Brody rolled his eyes, folding his arms. “They have fat suits. They have body doubles. They have the freaking state of the art CGI, for crying out loud. You don’t have to make yourself obese for just some stupid movie. It’s a choice. It’s not inevitable.” 

“It is my choice,” said Fallon. “And that’s exactly why it’s inevitable. Come on.” She gave him a friendly shove. “For your first date I’ll let you carry me to the dressing room.”  

“But it’s forty yards away.” 

“And? Aren’t you strong enough?” she teased. 

“Is this how it’s going to be? No more gym meets? No more exercise? All the gains turning to goop?”  

“My leeegs...” Fallon mock-cried. “I can’t move my legs, coach... I’ll never vault again... help meeee...”  

She laid a hand on her temple, faltering, tumbling. Brody moved to catch her before she hit the ground. Latching on his shoulder, Fallon lifted up her legs, settling into the crook of his arm. The rugged actor marshalled himself, standing up straight.  

“This is the only time,” he muttered, gruffly. Fallon settled into a self-content smile as he swept her across the set, sidestepping past the bleachers to the shutter of the open lot, and the palatial trailer parked outside. Barely breaking a sweat, even under the shine of the California sun, Brody climbed the steps and gave the door a kick. Fallon lifted her head, inhaling moist, conditioned air, sighing as he rested her on the plush velvet couch.  

“Huh. You’ve got a present,” he noted, taking stock of the wrapped gift on her vanity. The paper was brilliant blue, clashed with the curly red bow. “Fallon.” he read the crisp envelope. “With an x.” 

Gimme.”  

 The actress stretched out her arms. She clutched the package, hearing the slosh of a thick liquid from a vessel within. She stripped the paper away. A glossy sports bottle was revealed, filled to the brim with glistening cream. Fallon peeled the envelope open and read the card inside.  

“Aww. It’s from my personal trainer,” she cooed. “Dear Fallon. I asked around the dudes at my gym and we think we’ve got the perfect combination of supplements to help you achieve your new goals, wink-wink. I’ve emailed you the recipe. Enjoy your big blowout, can’t wait to make more magic with you soon, Shirley. Wow, how sweet.” 

She gave the bottle a shake, the thick fluid sticking to the sides. Fallon cracked it open and held it to her nose. 

“Yum. Smells like marshmallows.” 

Brody took a whiff. He pulled a face. 

“Yuck.” 

Mmm? What’s wrong with marshmallows?” She threw him a queer glance.  

“They’re all soft and icky and just ...no.” he grimaced. “They’re the worst. Pure sugar and gelatin. I don’t want it near me.”  

“So, not vegetarian huh?”  

“They’re not even vegan.” 

“Guess you learn something new every day.” Fallon took a sip. Her tongue bathed in a milky nirvana of flavours, caramelized and luscious. She withdrew her mouth, letting slip a sigh as she rested her head.   

“Is it good?” 

“Divine,” the actress declared. “Mmm... I haven’t had something this tasty in months...”  

“Or so unhealthy.” 

Fallon took another long draw, staring him down. 

“Or so fattening.” 

“I can’t hear yooouuu...”  

Brody watched her chug merrily, tilting back the slurry, her eyelids drifting closed, his gaze arrow straight on her rock hewn abs.  

“I’m gonna go for a run,” he murmured. “No point asking you to join me, right?” 

“Cool. Can you swing by the store on the way back?” Fallon grinned. “I feel like some cookies would really hit the spot with my next shake...”  

  

* * * * * * 

 

Glug... 

Glug... 

She paused to breathe. The froth gurgled in her stomach, sticky and sweet. 

Glug... 

Glug... 

She opened her eyes. 

More,” Natalie mouthed.  

Fallon crinkled the tube. Her grip was trembling. She could almost feel the calories pumping through her bloodstream. The last curdled residue slipped past her lips – lumps of lush, milky goo. She shuddered on the little wooden stool, panties straining on her hips. Her ass was strapped in her shorts, pouring over the edge.   

Natalie tapped her nose, zooming in with her camera phone. The cue. Fallon reached under her creased-up tee, seized her stomach, and began to squeeze. The flesh was hanging, yet firm to the touch. She heard a rumble from her gut, and forced a smile through the pain. She knew she had to. She couldn’t let on the knowledge of another weapon to be used against her. Fallon licked the lid, moaning, thumbing her bellybutton, feeling where the extra inches had landed. Three shakes a day, morning, noon and night. She was ballooning from her tan lines to her toes.    

Fallon slapped the base of the bottle, looking desperate for every last drop. Ignoring the pangs, she looked straight at the camera and lapped up the dregs, rubbing her middle in a slow, soothing circle. She mustered a smile. Natalie lowered the phone. 

“We’re done,” she grunted, copying the video over. Fallon made the mental note. Thirty days, thirty clips. Or was it forty? 

“Enough?” she asked, weakly. 

Natalie raised an eyebrow. She marched toward her and snatched the bottle away from her hand.  

“For now,” she conceded, sneering. “Only because you’ve guzzled up all my supplies. What a freaking pig you are, Natalie.”  

“Fallon,” the actress pleaded. “Please, my name’s Fallon. I’m a real person. I’m just like –” 

“No. Your name’s Natalie,” the huge girl spat. “You’re a worthless, obese hog. You eat too much. You’re pathetic and you’ll never amount to anything.”  

“Natalie, please.” Fallon raised her head, low on the groaning stool. “I know what you’re trying to do.”  

“Natalie this. Natalie that. No. The fact that you exist is literally the worst.” 

“This won’t make you feel better.” 

“Why do you keep pretending to know me? Watching you eat from a trough has made me feel more valid than I’ve done since I quit. Imagine how I’ll feel when you’re my size. When you’re fatter. When the rest of the world gets to see the finished product.”  

“Whatever you think, releasing those clips isn’t going to change anything.” 

“It’ll destroy your career. That's enough.”  

“No. You don’t understand,” Fallon stressed her words. “You won’t stop Weight of Gold being made. Even if I’m not there. They’ll just replace me with somebody else.” 

Natalie reached into her pocket. She produced her keychain – five shabby rings, bronze and silver stubs, held together by a poxy horse ornament. She pinched the door key, and shook the rest, silencing her with the vexing jangle.    

“You seriously think that’s why I should let it go? Why I should let you go?” 

“Yeah. Because there’s thousands of people like me. Literally thousands of girls going from audition to audition, dreaming of a shot on the big screen. And they’d treasure a chance to portray someone like you.”   

Natalie froze. Her face grew pale. Her body went still. 

“And I’m lucky,” said Fallon, standing up from the stool, her stomach slipping out from under her t-shirt. “Even though it isn’t turning out the way I thought it would... I’m glad I made it far enough to be here. There’s a million people like me. But there’s only one you, Natalie. I don’t care what happens to me. I need you to believe that. I need to believe in – ” 

Natalie flinched. She dropped the keys, slick in her sweat-dampened palm. 

“Shut up. Don’t say it.” 

“– yourself.” 

“SHUT UP!” the ex-gymnast screamed. Her face twisted into an anguished mask. “Why? Why does everyone keep telling me that? Why does everyone think that’s the answer?”  

“I know – I know it’s a long road, I know it won’t be a quick fix. But it’s got to be better than this,” Fallon’s voice began to crack. “Please... believe me.”  

“Where are you going with this? You think it’s better to break down? Let it all out? You think I’d be okay with another hundred million people ripping into me?" 

“I know contests used to be your whole life... once... but, not everything’s a competition.” Fallon breathed. “I... I know what it’s like to be criticised too. People don’t take me seriously because they think I’m a ditz. I... I haven’t won many awards, but I know that not everybody’s opinion matters. Sometimes people hurt you because they just want to feel better about themselves, and... I’d really, really hate for that to happen between us.” 

“You want to start over?” 

“Yes.” 

“You think my opinion matters?” 

Of course I do.”   

Natalie curled her lip. Dark metal ground deep inside her mind. A flash – a flicker – removed the glaze under her eyelashes. She wrung her phone in a tubby fist, fat fingers pulsing and constricting.  

“Then get on your knees and open your mouth, Natalie,” she snapped. “Sounds like you still haven’t had your fill, you fat pig.”  

Fallon tried not to sob. She bowed down where she stood, crouching on the carpet, slipping to her elbows, letting her hair shroud her face. Her captor leaned over, squatting, grunting to pick the keys off the floor veered toward the fridge. A delicate tear dropped from the softness of Fallon’s cheek. She quickly wiped it away. She unstuck her legs, clenching her jaw, shifting her quivering blubber, staving off thoughts of malice.  

 Even at her peak of fitness, a hundred and fourteen was no fighting weight. Not enough to smash a lockbox, or break down the door. What fury was left was swallowed the moment she stepped on the scale, filmed, for the withering milestone of a month inside, sequestered in fetters of fattening junk. A weak and wobbly two-hundred and fifty-eight pounds was what any escape effort would be required to factor in. And then some. Fallon had lost track of the days since, smothered under a smorgasbord. Her mind began to wander. Instead of chalking the wall, it was as if she could count up her stretchmarks. 

She brushed the spirit-sapping thought aside, knocking the stool with a hip, the slosh of milkshake bulking out her stomach. Fallon groaned. Her shorts were slung low, the button undone, her lower belly pressed along the zipper. It had come as no surprise that day that they wouldn’t edge up her thighs any further. But she kept them. She had clung to them long after her bra had split – the last of her possessions  but now, they were clinging to her. The actress kneeled and drew nails under the threads, the material strained to a wire, tugging harder and harder, until she could tug no more. Angry red trails lined her thighs, almost as thick as her waist once was. It was painful and humiliating. But the move had drawn no suspicion.  

Fallon planted her empty hands on the floor again. The key she’d pried free from the chain – just  lay pressed in her pocket, tucked in the shadow of her chafing legs. She’d had only a couple of seconds. She wasn’t wholly sure it was the right one. But she allowed herself a small smile. The lessons she’d learned aping the all-action heroines of her screen dreams hadn’t abandoned her yet.  

But she wasn’t free. Not without her phone.  

“Cookies,” Natalie chimed. “Two packets oughta be the perfect little snack, hmm?” 

She waddled back, handset waving, camera rolling. Fallon swallowed, then smiled. Another chance would come.  

If not after one bite, maybe the next. 

Or the next.  

Or the next.  

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