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  1. “Honey, do these pants make me look fat?” Beth gave her boyfriend a twirl as she showed off a pair of cute purple leggings. “No.” Ryan said with a smile, though he felt like he’d said it a million times. His girlfriend was the epitome of slenderness as always – tight and skinny in the middle, with limbs made sinewy from long hours swinging kettlebells in the gym. Beth pouted. “Really - you’re in perfect shape.” he insisted. They’d been together for three years, and rather than getting comfortable, if anything Beth had only gotten thinner. She’d never been remotely big, even when they’d met, but it seemed each weekend when they spent their nights together in Ryan’s apartment he’d have a little less of her to cuddle up with. He hated waking up at seven in the morning, rolling over in bed to find his girlfriend no longer there – that she’d gone off for a swim or a five-mile run, and would have gone back to her place after. He hated watching her pore miserably over salads when they went for meals out, then skipping dessert no matter what the occasion. Sure, she looked fantastic. But it seemed no amount of complimenting would ever make her feel that way. Ryan desperately wanted her to be happy. But how could she be, listening to the niggling voice in her head that told her joy and contentment always lay in the next size down? That was why he put his plan into action. Seeing Beth happy on the inside was the most important thing. So that when he told her he loved her, she would finally believe him. His planning was meticulous. He purchased a paper shredder, a set of little magnets and a bigger refrigerator, set up a standing order with a grocery and made contact with a friend of a friend from college, a pharmacist going by the name of Dr. Pihl (for ‘trademark purposes’, he’d said in a rush). His bank balance was going to suffer, but Ryan knew in time, it would be worth it. It all began with one slice of carrot cake. “Carrot cake?” “Yeah, thought you might like to try some. It’s delicious.” “But it’s cake.” “I know. But carrots are one of your five a day,” said Ryan cheerfully. “Though you’d have to eat that slice and the other half.” Beth put down her women’s health magazine and smoothed back the tresses of her long blonde hair. She reached forward from the sofa and sniffed the cream cheese icing. She gave it a tiny tentative lick. “The idea is, you put it in your mouth,” said Ryan slowly. “Then you bite it, chew and swallow.” “Shut up,” Beth groaned, as she got up to fetch a bowl and spoon. “And before you ask, no – I don’t need you to spoonfeed it to me.” “You’re not gonna make a mess? You don’t need me to clean you up later?” he cooed. Beth picked up a pillow and threw it at his head. He laughed as he darted behind the door and let it hit the wall. Beth smiled as plopped the cake slice in the bowl and took a little spoonful. The taste hit her like a train – it was sweet and delightful. She gobbled down the rest mechanically, and licked at the remnants of the icing left in the bowl. “I think I’ll go to the gym later.” she said, passing Ryan by while she returned the bowl to the kitchen. “Maybe run home. Could you run a bath for me?” “Sure sweetie.” She changed into a running vest and shorts upstairs and kissed her boyfriend goodbye. When she came back down the stairs she found the carrot cake on the table by the door. “No. I shouldn’t.” Beth turned her eyes away and shut the door behind her. But the cake was waiting when she came back, tired and sweaty. Sighing after she took a shower, she relented. She left her boyfriend’s apartment for work the next morning. Ryan was pleasantly surprised to discover that half the cake had left with her. Ultimately Ryan managed to tempt his girlfriend into enjoying carrot cake at the end of every dinner they shared together. The colour had come back to Beth’s cheeks, and they flushed every time he brought it to the table. Slowly, ounce by ounce, spoonful by spoonful, he’d been increasing the portions of her mains too. He made sure though, through careful re-arrangement on the plates, that her meal always looked smaller than his own. Day by day, she’d finished a little more each time. Beth came back to hers one day with a huge shopping haul. She passed it off as just some extra workout clothes and a couple pairs of jeans when Ryan, who’d stopped over the previous night, had asked what she’d got. In truth, her size fours had been pinching her a little too much around the waist during her workouts. The sixes and eights were only temporary, she told herself, as she quietly threw the receipts in the trash before her boyfriend could get a look in. Him not knowing quite how much she’d spent was a bonus, too. Later, before he left, Ryan secretly retrieved the receipts from the bottom of the trash can. The next day after work he visited every store that they listed, and with a little help from the shop assistants rebought all the clothes his girlfriend had purchased the day before – only in sizes ten, twelve and sixteen respectively. He hung them all on a pipe in a dark space in his attic – he knew his girlfriend hated the spiders that skulked up there, so there was no chance they’d be discovered. To be doubly safe, he put all the new receipts through his paper shredder. The rest was just a waiting game. “Huh. Still a hundred and ten.” Beth got off the scale and accepted Ryan’s offer of a piece of Swiss roll. Ryan allowed himself a coy smile. His handiwork was slowly paying off; he had fixed magnets to the base of the scale so that they’d give a skewed reading. It’d taken an hour’s worth of trial and error but eventually he’d managed to rig it in such a way that it showed a weight ten pounds less than the correct figure. From there it was merely a case of adding the right number of magnets – he could make it go all the way up to forty pounds out. In truth, there really wasn’t a great deal of difference in his girlfriend’s weight. It was Beth’s appearance that had altered a little more. Skipping a couple gym afternoons each week had caused her to lose some muscle mass, while extended post morning workout brunches at Ryan’s and carrot cake desserts had replaced much of that and more with fat. Her face was a little fuller as a result, and biceps that once stood out starkly now fought for room with a newly-acquired smoothness of fat. Another month saw love handles sprout from her sides. Ryan knew it was time to make another move. While she was at work, he snuck into her wardrobe and swiped her size six outfits. He replaced them with the eights, and hung the sixes in his attic, but not before he’d cut the labels out of each and carefully sown them back on. Beth continued for two months unawares, until they too started to get tight. Then Ryan made the switch again. A month after that, as they cuddled on the sofa for a film night, Ryan reached a hand around his girlfriend’s shoulder and was pleased to be met with a smooth curve. She afforded him many more places for his head to rest on – gone were the jabby bones of her chest and hips, swallowed by a layer of softly rising fat. In the half-light his eyes fell to her stomach, and he noticed the little new tyre that mushroomed over her shorts. Ryan kissed her forehead. “You’re gorgeous” he whispered in her ear. “I think you mean enormous,” Beth retorted. She raised her legs and flung herself off the couch. “Look at this pudge. I’m cutting out the cake. And I’m only eating carbs once a week from now on. After a spinning session.” “Sweetie, you don’t have to do that.” “Ryan – I’m getting fat. You won’t want to see me if I’m fat. I should have started this ages ago.” Ryan felt his spirits sink. It wasn’t working. Beth’s body was fighting back. Her urge to punish herself on the track or in the pool was still strong as ever. He needed something to take it away, and to that end, he contacted his friend of a friend. “You’ve got Hiberplex. They’re the most effective on the market,” said Pihl, examining the sachet of appetite stimulants. “But they’re also a hundred bucks for a pack of four plus dispensing fees…” “Errr…what are the most effective not on the market?” Ryan asked jokingly. He wiped his brow. It was a summer’s day and yet Pihl’s store was centrally heated. “Trophopin.” the pharmacist said, to Ryan’s surprise. “It got discontinued after beta testing. Its effects were a little more…lasting, shall we say? Dangerous, perhaps…no, definitely.” “What?” said Ryan, laughing. “You mean it nearly starved people?” “Oh no. It just eats your energy away, literally. You wouldn’t just feel hungrier before a meal – you’d feel hungry all day long.” “Fine by me.” Ryan shrugged. The pharmacist gave him a funny look. He eyed Ryan’s sturdy six-foot frame. “You sure don’t look like you’re starving.” said Pihl. “Oh no, they’re not for me…I was looking for something for my girlfriend…if that’s…I don’t know.” “Hey, I don’t mind. I didn’t build my business on asking questions. Or answering any for that matter. So, she doesn’t like her food?” “No. She loves food – she just hates her body. She’ll eat half a cookie and go spend an afternoon thrashing herself in the gym to work it off. I want to show her she doesn’t have to.” “I’m no love coach, but couldn’t you just tell her?” “She won’t hear it. But if she were to face her fears getting bigger, curvier, and then realise I still love her just as much, she might stop hating on herself.” “Huh. Sounds like it could work, I guess.” Dr. Pihl exclaimed. “You want Trophopin then? Speed up the process?” Ryan raised an eyebrow. “You mean you’ve got it?” “Sure. Just cause it’s not on the shelf doesn’t mean it isn’t here”. Pihl winked. He fumbled in the cupboards beneath his desk and eventually produced a little pink bottle. “But between you and me, it’s not here. Here you go.” Ryan took the tiny bottle. “It’s a liquid?” “Yeah. Two doses in her coffee and alakazam. But absolutely positively don’t even think about going any further than two – the side effects include chronic fatigue, amongst other things. Delacroiss Pharma pulled it way before they found them all – weight gain was definitely another. Not sure of the rest...” Ryan eagerly slipped thirty dollars out of his wallet and signed a waiver. He left the backstreet pharmacy, barely able to purse his lips back over his smile. It was going to be perfect. Beth wasn’t sure whether to go for a mocha or just a latte from her home coffee maker. She knew the added chocolate wouldn’t do her figure favours in the long run, but the extra sugar might perk her up, because for the last two weeks she’d felt more and more like a sloth. Or a maybe a snail; over weeks and months she felt herself carrying around a lot more weight than she was used to. The effects of her excessive eating were growing clearer; her strength was faltering – her firm muscles had fast disappeared beneath new, bouncy fat. It piled on most heavily around her stomach. Where she’d once had a set of washboard abs she now packed a soft paunch that hung over her underwear. It swung left and right on her mid-afternoon jogs, which were becoming less and less frequent as her tiredness grew and grew. She was content just to sit and read, or watch TV, while her boyfriend cooked and offered her meals and cups of frothy coffee. At hers, it was a different story. She needed to muster up strength just to do the most basic housekeeping – sorting the laundry, taking out the trash, vacuuming; it all left her exhausted. She mustered it in the kitchen, in the form of profiteroles, chocolate cake and whipped cream. Sometimes all three at once – for some reason her appetite had been going crazy. Three hours later, after a breakfast that rolled into a brunch, Beth plunged into the swimming pool, soon feeling herself rise back up to the surface. She kicked her legs into gear as she tried to finish her twenty lengths – a much depleted target she’d set for herself optimistically after her morning mocha. Two lengths down, she needed a break. Catching her breath, she tried to see how long she could hold it under the water. Her lungs gave out after just twenty seconds, and she rose to the surface gasping. Her best had been over a minute. “Not good.” she mumbled to herself. She drowsily breast-stroked for a quarter hour more, covering another six lengths. Her lungs burned and she grit her teeth as cramp began to course up her thigh. Beaten, she paddled weakly back to where she could stand up, then hobbled over to the poolside. Beth eased out her tense muscles, then lay back and let herself float lazily back down the pool. Her breasts and belly broke the surface, tight in her one-piece swimsuit. She liked the feeling of weightlessness in the water. Because on dry land, it was a very different kettle of fish. A little while later, after her hunger had returned, Beth gripped the metal bars of the pool steps and heaved. Her ass rose out of the water, rivulets dripping from her glistening, wobbling curves. She huffed as she climbed the steps, and grimaced as she felt fat slap against fat. Her hip brushed the bars as she struggled through, nearly filling the space between them. Between her thighs she felt the slick water drip away, and the unfamiliar noxious rubbing return. She widened her gait again, resulting in a slight waddle as she headed off to the changing rooms. Getting changed again had become a nuisance. There was so much more of herself to dry – droplets snuck into all of her rolls of flab, around all her bulges and curves. Her stretchy leggings clung to her damp thighs as she tried to pull them up. Her fat stomach jiggled and sloshed as she danced awkwardly, thrusting herself up and down, pushing wet hair out of her eyes, then thrusting again. Her weightier boobs were making her back sore. “What’s wrong with me?” she said to herself. It was like somebody else had forced their way into her body, stealing all her energy, telling her to covet chocolate and cake and cream. Carrying an extra person around would certainly explain her new weight. Beth knew something was up when the springs on her bed started moaning as she rolled about at night, and had been stunned at the payscale at the gym when she discovered she weighed two hundred and twenty-two pounds. That was fat. That was really fat. She half considered going to see a doctor, but she was too afraid of what he might say. What if there was nothing wrong with her? Her boyfriend still hadn’t though. Each day she’d slipped into her size eights and tens, which somehow miraculously still fit her, and would ask him how she looked. His reply was always the same. Beautiful. “Never ‘slim’ though,” she muttered. “Never ‘fit’.” The way she was going, ‘never slim and never fit’ were looking to be her future. She couldn’t resist the lure of Ryan’s cooking, or fight the urge to nap rather than go running. It felt pointless to try. She had no more skinny days left. Just fat days, one after the other – days filled with napping and snacking, leggings and hoodies to cover up her bulging form. Beth was starting to stretch her boyfriend’s hoodies out, to her immense embarrassment. “It won’t be like this forever,” she told herself. “I’ll diet and exercise. This time next year, I’ll be different.” she promised. “I will be me again.” But after she ordered three bags of Reeses’ Pieces from the vending machine on the way out, the thought soon died away. “Honey, did we leave any cake last night?” “No.” said Ryan from his laptop. “You ate it all, remember?” “Oh.” said Beth. “Is there any more? I asked you to get another yesterday.” “I did. It’s in the cupboard.” There was a pause. “I’m hungry. Could you bring it over? And…you know…” Another pause. “Yeah. Just give it a minute…I’ll be right over.” Ryan finished what he was doing on his files and closed his laptop. He went to the kitchen and pulled the chocolate cake out from the back of the top shelf. He found a plate, a knife and spoon, and walked into the living room. Beth lay on the couch watching a romance, a cosy sheet over her body. She smiled and nudged herself to the side to try and make room for him. “Nnnghh…ooooh, you’ve kept me waiting. Heh. Come sit with me?” “It’s ok,” said Ryan. He pulled up a wooden chair. “I think it’ll be easier from here.” “Oh. Alright.” said Beth. She sat up straight. Beneath the sheet her belly creased into rolls. While he turned to lower the television volume she pulled it up and let it billow over her again, shrouding her wide, wobbly waist. Ryan cut the cake up into small slices. Beth felt herself grow warmer as he closed in with a cold, silvery spoonful. She opened her lips. The cake was gooey and rich. She chewed slowly, but eagerly. She swallowed and took another succulent piece. She knew this wasn’t right. She could feel the steady stream of helpings of vanilla ice cream, chocolate mousse and more cake adding to the inches on her hips. The stretched, squishy new inches. She had another bite. Her office colleagues had said nothing, but she knew they were snickering. They were laughing at the changes life had brought them. At least they didn’t bitch about her anymore –they didn’t have to. Their jealousy was gone. They were content to settle their gossip on the daily morning show – Beth Sanders, breathless, lumbering up the stairs late after stopping off for takeout someplace in the early hours. They’d compliment her outfit – always something new, since nothing lasted long at the front of her wardrobe – then leave her to go towel her sweat. Then in hushed, awestruck voices they’d discuss the latest developments. Was she packing more in the rear? Did it balance up her front now – her bulging, jiggling belly? Was the fitness freak chafing? Waddling? They were just some of the reasons Beth was reluctant to go out with her boyfriend. She hadn’t enjoyed a proper date with him in months. She was too embarrassed at how far she’d let herself go, and she was afraid that Ryan would be too. There were skinny girls in the outside world. Fit girls. A night in town was just inviting the chance for his eyes to skip from her to theirs. She locked her gaze with her boyfriend on her next mouthful. A quarter of the cake was gone. Beth was painfully aware of herself. How each bite was making her bigger, and bigger. She forced a chocolatey smile. “Mmmphh. More.” Beth leaned closer with the next mouthful. The sheet slipped off her chest. Her breasts looked voluminous and round in her patterned black bra. Ryan’s eyes widened. “Ooops.” she exclaimed. She stretched out and took his left hand, letting it rest on her bosom. She twitched her fingers to prompt him to squeeze. He smiled. She giggled. His other hand came around and flicked off her bra strap. Beth felt her assets fall into his hand. They jostled for space, huge and heavy. Her left boob slipped from his fingers. He threw her bra aside and palmed it in his right hand. Beth’s surging weight had at least left her with two things she could be happy with. She knew Ryan loved her boobs. Beth smiled again. She kinda loved them too. She sighed as she let him fondle her, then brought his fingers away. She guided them back to the cake, and coaxed him it picking up a slice. Beth pulled Ryan close by his collar. She opened her mouth and sunk her tongue into the slice. Her eyes found their sparkle. “I love you.” she said, her sultry voice muffled in thick cake. “I love you too.” said Ryan. His hands left her breasts. They rolled down her chest again, Ryan’s hand with them. She giggled nervously. She felt his thumb trace the line of her panties. He tugged softly. Then a little harder. He slipped his fingers under the tight waistband and pulled. Beth froze as she felt his knuckles press into her love handle. This was too much. She couldn’t let him feel her fully naked. She cringed as she remembered the last time at her place – when she’d rolled on top of him and felt a breeze in her hair from the air that had been forced from her boyfriend’s lungs. She realised she was smothering him in fat. She’d apologised. She had tried to roll off, but found herself wobbling atop her blob of a stomach. She apologised again. “Don’t” Ryan had said. His voice was croaky. “You’re amazing.” He helped push her onto her back. She flopped on the mattress beside him. The bedsprings crunched. She lay mortified as her boyfriend pushed her thighs apart to feel her. She remembered how she’d jiggled, from her thighs to her chubby cheeks. “Enough.” she said, snapping back to reality. She guided his hand away, and rustled the sheet back over himself. “I feel tired. Maybe we could finish this cake tomorrow?” She looked over his shoulder to the muted romance on the television screen. “Yeah, sweetie,” said Ryan, sighing. He returned the chair to the table. “Sure.” He thought he’d followed the instructions clearly. A dose was one drop, and Pihl had said two doses in her coffee, no more. Ryan had put them in Beth’s morning coffee every day. At first he’d been met with a hidden happiness watching the expansive changes in her form, but it stopped when he checked the readings on his rigged scale over her shoulder and realised her weight had crossed one hundred and seventy-five pounds. A quick search online confirmed his inklings – Beth was plenty. More than plenty. Sensing he’d overshot the mark, Ryan felt a twinge when he checked a BMI calculator, and realised his gym bunny girlfriend was now twenty pounds overweight. He cut out the Trophopin accordingly. Beth by now had curves galore. Sexy as she’d become, Ryan knew it was time to take the focus off her body. It was time to focus on loving her for who she was. But within a week his girlfriend’s weight has eclipsed his own. She continued to eat to excess. Even without the stimulant she wasn’t curbing her portion sizes. Ryan was sure there’d be a sticking point. He was sure her old instincts would kick in again – she’d see she was getting chubby and go on a crash diet. Then he could say she didn’t have to. He’d say she was more beautiful than ever. The crash never happened. Her strong, toned arms and legs had slipped into softness and roundness as her curves quickly turned into rolls. The real kicker came when Ryan returned from work and found his girlfriend back on his couch, home early. She was surrounded by bags of fast food. She hadn’t changed from her work outfit. Her soft blue eyes looked reddened and raw. He asked her what she’d been doing. Beth’s tears fell anew as she admitted she’d ripped her shirt at a quarterly review. Everyone heard her split her seams. She’d run out of the room, unwilling to look anyone in the eye. She left the building and took refuge in a greasy spoon. Her boss phoned and asked her back. Kindly as he was, she insisted on no. She sunk lower and lower as they discussed what had happened in the boardroom – and earlier. Eventually, she took the offer of a sick leave. A few couple weeks of stressless rest, and a chance, her boss had hinted, to try and establish some control. “They think I can’t stop.” Beth sobbed. “And they’re right. I can’t stop. I just can’t stop eating!” Ryan stood alarmed and helpless as she shoved an arm past him for another box of fries. She stuffed hungrily, angrily. Beneath her strained shirt her stomach bulged. Half the box disappeared in moments. She rocked on her big bottom, reaching for more. “So hungry. So so hungry.” Beth thrust a fistful of salty fries into her mouth. Her cheeks swelled. The tear in her shirt grew a little wider as she stretched for a glass of soda. “Fat.” she snarled. “Fucking fat.” She seized a handful of belly that poked through the rip and jiggled it furiously. “Why am I so fucking fat?” Ryan couldn’t coax her away from more junk – not on that day, and not for weeks. Even when her sadness had subsided – even when her appetite slowly clambered down from the angry crest it reached the day she’d lost regular employment, her meal choices still cultivated comfort over effort. Through pizza, fries, chips and chocolate Beth was still consuming thousands of calories more than she should. She’d given up with the scale but for Ryan it was plain to see. She was getting fatter and fatter. Ryan reached Dr. Pihl for answers. He flung open the door. His pharmacy as ever, was balmy, stuffy, and empty. “You look mightily pissed.” said Pihl. “Too right,” said Ryan. “My girlfriend was skinny and unhappy. All your stupid cure-all’s done is make her huge and unhappy.” “Hey – like I said, I’m not a love coach. Happy’s your job, mister.” “Huge. I’m talking about huge.” said Ryan. “She’s so wide and round. She keeps bumping into things with how big she’s gotten. It’s a shock to her. It’s a shock to both of us. I never expected she’d get like this.” “Alright. Back to the pharmaceutical side. How much Trophopin did you give her? Was it two doses, like I said?” “Yeah. Two drops in her morning coffee. I remember. I gave that to her every time. Not a millilitre more.” “What do you mean every time?” Pihl raised an eyebrow over his glasses. “Every other day for about a month.” “Jesus – I didn’t mean every day! It’s supposed to be one time only!” Pihl seized clumps of his dark hair. The two of them paled to white. “Shit.” said Ryan. “Yeah, no shit,” said Pihl. His hands returned to his desk. “I hope you love your girl dearly. You’re going to be seeing a lot more of her.” “Is there an antidote?” “To what, Trophopin? No, for heaven’s sake. It’s a stimulant, not a poison.” “Is there anything else?” “For what? To stop it working?” “To stop her ballooning.” said Ryan. “I don’t think you understand. She’s over three-hundred. Fifteen more pounds and I think she’ll have tripled herself. And she’ll gain those fifteen pounds. Her eating…her gaining – it’s unstoppable.” “It will stop, eventually,” said Pihl. “You haven’t still been giving her the doses, all the better for both of you. Naturally, the effects will wear off. She’ll be herself again.” “But she’ll still be so overweight.” said Ryan. “She won’t get her old body back the way she is. She doesn’t go to the gym any more. She eats to comfort herself. Her confidence is in pieces.” “Maybe that’s what you need to cure.” said Pihl. “I think I’ve done my part. It’s time you do what you set out to. Do you care that she’s fat?” “Yes.” Ryan said. “No – I mean really. Do you really care what size your girlfriend is?” Pihl stressed. “I…well…no. No. I don’t care.” “And do you love her?” “Of course.” “Then prove it.” said Pihl. “Happiness isn’t something you can buy. It’s not a gym membership. It’s not junk food. Heck, it’s not even in one of the packets on my specials shelf. Those things will only make you happy when you’re using them. Sure, you can just keeping using them – but too much of anything makes you sick. You got me?” Ryan nodded. “You’ve gotta do something that will make her happy forever. Not get her flowers or a handbag or a fancy car. You’ve got to make a memory. Because that’s what sticks in the heart for as long as you both shall live…unless you try Claslateen Zero. That stuff wipes your head clean, I swear. I’m running a two for one.” “Damn Pihl, till that part you were really on a roll. But I get you. I think I know what I’ve got to do.” said Ryan. “Pleasure to be of service.” said Pihl. “Have a nice day.” Ryan chuckled as he opened the door. It was nine at night, and pitch black outside. “You’re not really a pharmacist, are you?” he said. “Heck no. I studied history and philosophy.” “Really? Which college?” “Oh, I never finished my degree. You see, I found Claslateen Zero – coincidentally that was round about the time I got this gig. At least…I think…” Ryan left the doctor to reminisce. He drove back to his apartment. He had a plan. It was Beth and Ryan’s five-year anniversary, and they’d both agreed on a meal at Augustus’ Buffet, an upmarket all-you-can-eat out of town. Down the corridor at her place Beth had watched her boyfriend don a tux from the bathroom mirror, as she applied her lipstick. She watched him spray himself with cologne, and realised she’d never seen him do that before. What if he’s going to propose? she wondered. More sinister thoughts soon bounded round her mind. “What if he’s bought a ring…” she mumbled to herself. “…and given it to the waiters to put on a lobster or something… he gets on one knee, pops the question, the whole place is watching, and then I can’t even put it on, because my fingers are too fat…” She shuddered at the thought. She cast a brief glance over at Ryan again from the mirror. For months it seemed he’d taken no notice as she’d piled on the pounds. Dieting and exercising had gone out the window. She was too tired to anything but sit, and eat, and grow before his eyes. How could he be so blind? Knowing him, he’d have bought her a ring at size two and a half. The kind she could have shown off in her skinny days. What am I thinking? He’s just being polite. He must think I’m a blimp. As if he’d propose to me now…now I’m like this. She cast her sad eyes down to her body; warm, soft, hulking and massive. She watched her considerable bosom heave as she breathed softly, then decided she didn’t want to stare at herself any longer. She waddled to the wardrobe in her room and dug out the dress she’d ordered for the occasion online – it was a deep sensual red. It brushed her knees where it should have trailed her ankles – half a foot or so above it hugged her hips and chest tightly. She gave it a tug. It just about fit. She tried to raise a smile as she joined her boyfriend in his car. She had some reason to be happy – she’d gotten her job back. A good word from Ryan had allowed her to switch firms and get a role in his office. She was in the company of people who’d never known her as skinny, fit – just enormously plump. She didn’t have to suffer the shame of returning to her old job having gained considerably more weight. But it was her weight that still weighed on her. An hour later, Beth grunted as she tried to unpick the folds of material out from her rolls of fat, using the mirror in the buffet’s restroom. She hated the way it made her stomach bunch up when she sat down. She lifted her blonde hair and let it fall over her shoulders, letting her double chin slip back under the shadow of its tresses. Once she was finally satisfied that she looked somewhat presentable again, she joined her boyfriend outside. Beth bit her lip nervously when she saw their names on the table Ryan had booked. They had been seated inside a booth. “Go on, honey.” said Ryan. Beth looked at him nervously, then cautiously made her move. She held her breath and squeezed herself in, grunting as she pressed down on the cushiony leather with her fattened fingers, shifting her butt inches at a time around the table. Her three-hundred and fifty pound figure wobbled gaily, and the restaurant furniture creaked in protest. She brought herself right around to the back and breathed out again. Her breasts sunk down to the top of the table. She mumbled a curse as she felt the pressure on her upper belly. “You say something?” Ryan asked. “Nothing,” Beth said quickly as she eyed the waiter. “Let’s get drinks.” Ryan ordered a gin and tonic, and Beth a strong red wine. She’d need it. “It’s kinda busy tonight.” Ryan noted as he watched his girlfriend gulp down half the glass. There were other couples in booths, and plenty of families, with a lot of kids running round between the waiter’s feet. “Maybe it’d be easier if you stay here and I get food for the both of us?” “Sure” said Beth, huffing. The table was making her breaths short. “What would you like?” “Anything. Anything would be good.” she said. She looked mildly jealous as she watched her boyfriend slip smoothly out of the booth and walk in the direction of the build-your-burger bar. She wanted to build her own burgers. But at least Ryan’s idea would spare her from getting up and down all the time. She tucked in to a huge triple stacked burger with fries when Ryan came back, himself with just a lowly single cheeseburger. She asked for pizza next, and together they shared a twenty-four inch cheesy meaty feast – she barely noticed she’d munched up nine slices to her boyfriend’s three. Just as she was starting to fill up she asked Ryan for a plateful of succulent cuts of steak. Then kebabs – each bite chewy and rich. Beth’s eyes had glazed over as she methodically poked the last two bites of popcorn chicken into her mouth. She had never felt so stuffed. Her belly was drum tight “That was…heh…that was awesome.” she smiled. It had been so good. The myriad of flavours coursing through her mouth. For a time all her worries had felt half a world away. “Dessert?” Ryan offered. “Err…yeah…one sec…” Beth had her eyes on the ice cream maker. She tried to breathe in, but found she was stuffed so full that she simply couldn’t. Instead she rolled onto her side, and edged her way along from beneath the table. Her back pressed against the seat as she squeezed out her legs. She tried to sit up, awkwardly, using her flabby arms to assist her ascent. Then she tried to stand up. “Ooof” she muttered, as her hips made contact with the table again. “Ooooooff” she said, as she pushed a little harder, and found the pressure had increased. “Ngghhh….nghh…oh!” “Beth? What’s wrong?” Beth felt a warm sweat appear on her brow. Her voice was shaky. “I’m…I’m stuck, Ryan.” Her body was jammed sideways between the table and the seating. Her feet didn’t quite reach the floor. She was sat at too awkward an angle to pull herself up. Ryan grabbed hold of her arms and gave her a short firm tug. She didn’t budge. He wrapped his arms around her chest and tried to lift her. It was a futile effort. She was simply too heavy for him. He saw Beth’s face was plastered with sweat and worry when he let go. “I’ve got an idea,” he said. “Stay here.” Beth threw him an angry look. “Yeah, it’s not like I’m going anywhere soon.” “Sorry…err…just wait a moment.” He went to the rotisserie, then the all day breakfast bar, and came back with three little packets of butter and a steak knife. “It’d be easiest if I open up your dress at the sides,” he whispered. “The butter’s a lubricant. You’re okay with me doing this, right?” “Sure.” Beth nodded. Her double chin creased up. “Just do it quickly…please…” Ryan knelt down and stroked the serrated edge along the red material. An inch wide tear appeared, and Beth’s eyes widened as it slowly grew in size. She felt coolness on her side as a love handle, freed from its cotton confines, morphed out onto the table. She stared as Ryan looked over his shoulder, picked the foil off the square of butter and quietly slathered it over her soft, exposed fat. “Ok, err…now the other side.” he whispered. His girlfriend was far too tightly pressed to the back of the seat for him to make another incision in her dress. “Err…bear with me here.” He unwrapped two more squares of butter and let them melt a little in his palm. He looked over his shoulder again then got down on one knee, and pretended to fiddle with the straps on her shoe. When he was confident no-one was looking, Ryan slipped his buttery hand underneath her dress. He shifted his fingers over the outside of her leg, past her enormous butt, and just before the tightness made him lose the circulation in his hand he smoothed the butter over the other side. “Ok,” he said, quickly withdrawing his forearm. “I’m gonna wash my hands. Then I’ll pull you out of here, and we’ll go. Are you okay?” “Yeah,” she mumbled, not looking him in the eye. “I’m fine.” She felt a lump in her throat as she watched Ryan walk to the restroom. Beth closed her eyes. How had she gotten so fat…so helpless? She was becoming dependent on others for everything – her boyfriend most of all. He’d helped zip up her dress when she couldn’t do it herself. He’d helped get the seatbelt over her stomach for the drive to the buffet. And now, he was going to help squeeze her out of the tight mess she’d gotten herself stuck into. A waiter dodged past her chubby legs, sticking out into the aisle. He gave her a brief glance. She smiled, and he headed back to the kitchen. He’s coming back for our plates… she realised. He’s going to see me wedged in here. No more help, she resolved to herself. She had to take back control. She tensed up the little muscle she had left in her arms and scowled as she saw nothing but more jiggling fat. She still felt she had some strength left inside though. Maybe that would be enough. Either way, she had to do this. She readied herself mentally, then gripped the edge of the table with one hand, and the top of the leather seat with the other. She scrunched up her face and heaved. Nothing. She slumped back down, took a deep breath and kicked her wobbling body back into motion. She felt the butter seep into her skin as she inched a little upward. Her feet found the floor again, and she pushed. The gap became impossibly tight, but she was moving. Her butt pressed up against the edges. Just a couple inches more... By the sink, drying his hands with a paper towel, Ryan turned his head to the door. He had heard an almighty crash come from the dining room. “Hey…” Ryan rubbed Beth’s shoulder as he drove home. “Don’t worry. Nobody got upset. The staff apologised more than anything. They even offered us another buffet, on the house.” Beth sniffled. Yeah, like I can ever go back… Her soft sobs had ceased, but the humiliation still felt painfully raw. So too did the marks on her hips, where the table had pushed into her yielding flesh. Her dress had split completely down the side, but her near-nakedness was not plain to see. Over the top she was now wearing a dessert platter, meant for the family of four whose table she’d crashed headlong into after popping out from her booth. The flimsy wood had smashed, and a whole host of cakes, fudges, creams and sauces had careened all over her. She lay there, paralysed by shock, and pinned by her heavy, quivering fat. It took Ryan and two more waiters to pull her back to her feet. Beth had wanted the ground to swallow her up. She felt weak and numb as Ryan put an arm around her and led her back to the car. Beth licked a smidgeon of cream off her cheek, wallowing in self pity. They drove for half an hour in silence before she could finally pluck up the courage to say something. “I’m…so sorry.” “Don’t be” Ryan said soothingly. “You did nothing wrong.” “I ruined our meal together…and somebody else’s…and I fucking broke a table, Ryan.” She lowered her head. “You must think I’m a pig…or something…” “No” said Ryan “You’re not. You’re beautiful.” “But – I’ve gotten so big. I’m fat, aren’t I?” “Yes.” Expecting a steady stream of the same-old sweet nothings, Beth hesitated. “You…you think so?” “Yes. I think you’re fat. And I think you’re beautiful. You know you can be both, right?” Beth’s mind spun. Her lips quivered. This was supposed to be her worst fear come true. And yet, it felt strangely lovely. “You think I’m beautiful?” she asked, as if for the first time. “Yes.” “Do you love me?” “I do.” Beth smiled. Her grin was even wider than the one she’d worn in her time at the buffet. “We’re here, by the way.” said Ryan. Beth only registered then that he’d parked the car and turned off the ignition. Ryan got out first, then led his girlfriend – still splattered with food – through a woodland. The air was cool and her dress was torn, but Beth still had the heat of shame amidst the warmth of her many layers of fat to keep the coldness away. She closed her eyes and waddled softly into the breeze, letting the wind rustle her hair as they approached an old oak tree. She saw a carving in the wood – a love heart, surrounding the letters B and R – and realised she was at the park. They’d had their first date there, and many more since. “Why are we here?” asked Beth, perplexed. She stroked a finger over her belly and licked up a slither of chocolate fudge. “To cheer you up, maybe?” Ryan smiled. “I was going to save this till after dessert, but, hey…” He took her hand as he got down on one knee. He produced a little box from his inside pocket. Beth gasped as he flicked it open. A diamond ring glittered in the moonlight. “Bethany Sanders” said Ryan, softly. “Will you marry me?” Beth couldn’t find words to say. She felt fresh tears mush up over her chubby cheeks. She guided a wobbly hand to the ring box, and slipped it over her ring finger. It was a golden band, size eleven. And it fit her perfectly.
  2. “Is it Eye-way or Eee-way?” Lauren asked as she studied the sign above the office door. “I’ve been calling it both in my head. I don’t know which is right.” The sign read ‘Tim Maxim’ in white, and a little further down were the words ‘CEO, Eyway Patisseries’. “It’s Eh-way, actually.” the secretary said. “Oh, right…” said Lauren. “Was the founder Canadian or something?” “British.” A light flickered green on her desk, on a box by her computer keyboard. “I believe he’s ready to see you now.” “Oh so, the boss and the guy who started the company – they’re the same guy?” “Yeah, they’re both the man you’re about to see. Is that news to you too?” “Uhh…now it’s not.” “Wonderful. I’m sure he’ll be glad to see you’ve done your research. His name’s Tim, by the way, in case you didn’t read the sign either.” “Okayyy....” Lauren muttered as she shimmied past the secretary. “Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.” she whispered to herself. The secretary raised an eyebrow over her horn-rimmed glasses. Lauren tried to look away as she walked by, but her eyes were drawn to the cat brooch on her jacket, right next to her name tag. “Thanks…Ursula…” Lauren smiled inwardly. “It’s Ms. Newman.” the secretary snapped, not looking from her laptop. Lauren could only cross her fingers and hope her boss wasn’t as narky. She gave herself a quick look in the reflection on the window. Her soft reddish brown hair, which fell down her shoulders into long, tumbling curls, looked perfect. She smoothed out the little creases in her dress, running her hands down her slender waist, and back over her hourglass form. Fresh out of college and away from the late night parties, she had managed to shed a stone that had never made her look anything more than slim anyway. She never really had to obsess over her body, and never really did as a result. She opened up her folder and nervously skimmed through her printouts, checking all of them were there. This was the first graphic design job she’d applied for, and the first interview she’d faced since she’d got into college. She’d rehearsed her answers, but after the dressing down Ursula had given her she had no idea what to expect. She pushed open the door and was filled with the aroma of warm, swirling chocolate. The office she was in looked like it had been pulled out of a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Tim Maxim, a swarthy fortysomething man in a purple suit, shook her hand firmly and offered her a seat shaped like a toadstool. Her little legs dangled over the edge. He sat behind a desk with two brightly painted vases on a giant pink cushion shaped like Turkish Delight. “You had a pleasant journey here, I hope?” “I did, thank you.” said Lauren. She lived in a flat just ten minutes away. The day had been warm and bright; the walk over the Market Street Bridge to the centre of Harrisburg had refreshed her. “Excellent. I’d better introduce myself – Tim Maxim of Eyway Patisseries. I’m alone up here today, usually I’d have my friends downstairs up to say hello as well, but they’re all busy doing business. I guess you’ve met Ursula, though, how was she?” “Yeah” said Lauren, straining a smile “She’s…yeah…she’s fine…she’s – “– a bitch?” Tim offered. He laughed. “Tell me about it…no, no, please don’t, it’s just the way she is, really. Can you believe the first time I met her here she was applying for a job in market research? Basically in talking to people about our products? “Really? How’d that go?” “It went nowhere, I didn’t give her the job,” Tim exhaled. “I kindly suggested she’d be better at sorting my letters, speaking to the board and shareholders over the phone, telling them I don’t run this business for their money and I don’t really know or care what the stocks are… yeah, she’s good at all that bullshit.” He sighed again. “Don’t try to get in her good books,” he suggested. “She hardly keeps any anymore. I think I might have had a page once that fell out the day I said I wouldn’t let her bring Jezebel into the office.” “Jezebel’s her…daughter?” “Cat.” Tim said with a chuckle. “I wouldn’t mind except I’m deathly allergic. I can barely be in the same room as her – sneak a look at her jacket when you go, it’s always covered in hairs. I swear she sleeps wearing all the clothes she wears to go to work the next day, with the cat in her bed, just to spite me.” “That’s crazy…” “I know! I still try, I still give her the first dibs on everything I dream up in here, but I’m still dreaming of something that might melt her heart. Syrupsuckle? Melbas? Swampmallows? She threw them all away.” Lauren gaped. “How can anyone hate something that’s marshmallow and chocolate fudge?” “I know, right? You like them?” “I love them!” “Then try these,” Maxim smiled, nudging a plate filled with a stack miniature muffins across his desk. “One of my latest, I call them Fluffytops.” “That’s cute!” Lauren smiled, as she pried the one at the top of the stack. She daintily separated it from its casing and took a soft bite from the edge. “Mmm!” she squealed. “These are incredible!” She bit into the delicious gooey centre, letting it drift along her tongue. She wiped the crumbs off her cheek with her finger, then licked them up. “You like them?” “They’re the best thing ever!” Lauren licked her lips again. “You’re sure?” “Of course I’m sure!” “Fantastic! You’re hired.” “Thank you! Wait – what?” Lauren nearly spat the rest of the muffin out in surprise. “Well, honestly, I’ve never met a model before and I had a couple reservations, I’ll admit.” said Tim. “But you seem like an honest, genuine person and you’ve really blown me away. I’d be delighted to give you the job. Are you free to shoot this Thursday?” “Shoot?” “Modelling. Photo shoot. This Thursday.” “But…I’m sorry, this can’t be right. I’m not a model.” Tim gave her a puzzled look. “What do you mean you’re not a model? You’re beautiful.” “I…” Lauren blushed. “…I thought this was an interview for a graphic designer.” Tim shrugged. “Are you a graphic designer?” “Yeah…err…here’s some of my stuff.” Lauren grinned nervously as she handed him a folder containing her work. Maxim thumbed the corner, buzzed through the portfolio like a flickbook then threw the whole thing over his shoulder. The papers flew out across the room. “Great,” He clapped his hands. “You’re hired for that too. Like I said, are you free to start this Thursday?” Lauren stared at him, trying not to let her jaw go slack. What was happening to her? “Umm…sure,” she finally said. “Do I have to bring anything?” “Yep. Yourself. That’s all.” “Ok, great. Is there anything I need to wear?” “Wear anything you like for the desk job, we don’t care.” said Tim. “We’ve got costuming for the model stuff. We start at ten am every day because early starts are for the wrong kind of people. We go on to six in the evening but it’s not so bad because you get free dinner at five. You’re on the third floor, your supervisor is Sarah.” Tim pushed his Turkish Delight seat – there were tiny wheels underneath – over to an intercom box. He pushed a button and a little green light flashed. “Ursula darling, tell whoever’s supposed to be here later that there’s no need, we’ve filled the positions. Thank you.” He stretched his arms. “Everything good?” “Yeah…everything’s awesome” said Lauren, beaming. “Good, I’ll see you soon. Would you like another Fluffytop?” Lauren arrived at the third floor ten minutes early on the Thursday morning. Upon entering she was engulfed in a hug. Sarah, her curly-haired, bubbly supervisor, gave her a quick tour of the office. There were no doors, no cubicles, not even any panes between the wide windows. Sarah introduced her to Darren, her ‘cubemate’, as they were known. Eyway operated a buddy system at all levels to promote friendship and ‘joyful efficiency’, as it said in the visitor’s guidebook. Darren was married and twenty years older than herself; as it turned out, they’d studied art and design at the same college. They got on like a house on fire. It was from him that she learned that employees got a colossal discount on Eyway’s products. “It’s something like sixty to seventy-five percent,” he said at their lunch break. He bit into an apple, which mushed on his bushy beard. “Rises the longer you stay on the books. Though after three years I called it there and then. I was struggling to get into my suits!” Lauren smiled and nodded. She was getting to know how it felt. After just a couple weeks of free cafeteria food at dinner she’d regained the stone she’d lost over the holidays. Clothes that once hung loosely went back to feeling a little tighter. Still, she was happy to begin her first modelling shoot at one hundred and twenty six pounds. She felt good. Lauren was a little nervous about having no experience in the industry, but the photographer reassured her that it was fine. He just wanted pictures of her enjoying Eyway, which was easy enough. She did a kitchen set with Fluffytops, a scene on greenscreen that showed her on a beach with Eyway’s famed Napoleone Supremo melts, another set of her and some extras standing in line at a queue in a cinema. Rather than queuing for a movie however, they were queuing at the snack bar for Eyway’s Delectable Doughnuts. It was there where she first tasted one. “Oh my goodness, this is fantastic!” she almost screamed. The chocolate was luscious and succulent, the dough was like a heavenly cloud. “Please, tell me you’ve got more!” she begged the extras playing the movie theatre staff. “Right here.” said the photographer, opening a box. Her reaction became the centrepiece of Eyway’s first television advert, filmed a few weeks later. It premiered primetime in the ad break between the first and second quarters of the Super Bowl. Watching it over again, Lauren wondered if she was enjoying those doughnuts a little too much. She cast a sceptical eye over the swell of her ass, and the chubbiness of her cheeks. The camera adds ten pounds she told herself, though she knew she’d already added ten pounds onto her one-hundred and twenty six pound frame, bringing her to one thirty-six, and that had been three weeks ago. Lauren lifted her shirt. A little layer of fat creased over her jeans button. She gave it a tentative squeeze. It was warm, soft and squishy. With her modelling commitments and her hours in graphic design combined, coupled with the fact that she often got home at half six and wanted to do little more than watch TV, eat and sleep, she found little time to hit the gym. Her workout clothes found the way to the cobwebbed shadows of her wardrobe. Replacing them on the hangers were new dresses, blouses, shirts and pants bought with her new earnings – some in slightly larger sizes than before. Lauren thought nothing of it. The advertising campaign was finishing soon, and once she’d done the shoots, she’d have time to get back in shape. Social commitments were undermining her drive, however. Office parties were a regular thing under Sarah’s stewardship – she celebrated every holiday, regardless of who it was supposed to be important to. Fancy dress was mandatory, and snacks courtesy of the boss were always in abundance. Meanwhile Lauren lost a day she’d saved at the end of the month as her workout day attending the christening of Darren’s baby daughter, Maria. That day she agreed to help babysit every weekend night for a few months for his other daughter, Anna, a five year old who loved baking cookies, and loved making Lauren try her latest icing strewn creations. She would sit on the couch, say what an amazing little baker she was, and munch, weekend after weekend. A meetup with her college girlfriends at the Rubicon Bar had been awkward to say the least. One had got a job as a lifeguard, another as a consultant, most of the rest were in the middle of work experience, but all of them had stayed skinny. The look that said she’d been letting herself go was written on all of their faces, but none of them mentioned it. Lauren smiled and tried to calm her nerves with pizza. She ate and ate. After a few cocktails the mood changed a little, when one of her friends got a bit too friendly and straight up tried to shove a hand under Lauren’s tight top on the dance floor, whispering something about curves into her ear. The rest of the night was spent looking after her – later they crashed at a house belonging to one of their fathers. Staggering around the morning after, the girls breakfasted, showered, then changed – they had the benefit that the girl whose house it was had moved her whole wardrobe back from her college room. Since they were all within one size of each other, they could pick out an outfit for the day. For Lauren however, this was no longer the case. She had advanced into the plus sizes. She wrestled some pants partway up her legs, then decided to spare herself the embarrassment of potentially ripping the clothes she once could have fit into, and put her ones from the night before back on. She reluctantly confessed that she’d have to leave early and get back to hers for fresh clothing. They nodded in tacit understanding and said their goodbyes, and Lauren spent an awkward hour sat in a crowded carriage on the train, trying not to let her beer-stained tee hike up over her tummy. She wondered what working life was doing to her. This weight gain thing did happen to everybody eventually, right? Lauren coveted the feel of fresh, loose fabric on her skin when she returned to her apartment with takeout in a taxi. But the feeling was getting harder to find. Morning after morning, shirt buttons gapped too much, and blouses pushed out too far. Lauren winced wearing her old jeans – for a time she released the button and hid the gap with a designer belt, but the strain of the seams on her chunkier bottom was getting untenable. The thought of cutting back hit her hardest when she wrested them up on a Sunday and found them ramrod stiff just halfway up her widened thighs. She shunned a takeout meal from the mall after she scoured the shelves for some size sixteens. But her resolve crumbled on Monday morning with the mere whiff of chocolate-scented creamy dessert bagels – or Changelrings, as Tim termed his latest treat. By the end of the week, her jeans no longer felt comfortable. By the end of the month, neither did she. She studied her puffed up cheeks in the mirror with increasing consternation. Her ass, as she’d grown to expect, was fattening the most. Lauren could handle a little ballooning behind her. Yet the features of her face – her model good looks – were suddenly softening up. Between the coppery strands of her rich long hair that framed her dancing green eyes she was a rare beauty – but she was a rounded beauty now. Lauren poked the pooch of flesh that had formed around her neck. “A double chin? Geez, Lauren…” she mumbled. “Someone’s getting fat.” There still was one place in the world where she could feel at ease with all of herself, and that was on the forty-fourth floor. Every time she made the journey up, she’d receive a scowl from the secretary, usually accompanied by a catty suggestion. “Maybe take the stairs next time?” was one of them. “Maybe you need to rethink your measurements?” was another, soon after Lauren felt her upsized bra start to pinch. Ursula clearly found her growing belly offensive, so Lauren swiftly decided that it was cute. She would wear shirts a couple sizes too small to accentuate it when they came to see each other, usually on Thursdays. Sometimes she would wear a shirt in her own rising size, but leave the second and third to bottom buttons undone, letting Ursula get a glimpse of her deepening bellybutton. “What sort of model binges on cake twice a day?” she muttered as Lauren arrived to pick up some papers. “What sort of model would I be if I didn’t try the produce?” Lauren smiled, pushing her fingers under the swell of her chubbier belly and letting it hang a little over her beltline. “I call it brand loyalty.” “I call it two-hundred pounds.” Ursula retorted. Lauren raised a hand to her open mouth and pretended to be offended. “It’s a hundred and eighty, for your information!” She gave her belly a jiggle and a slap before stuffing it back under her skirt. She collected the results of the Eyway website customer satisfaction survey. A lot of people felt underwhelmed by what was on display there, so she was needed to give it a snazzy new feel to capture the spirit of the company. She got to work on new borders, textures and headings and a month later Tim called her back to discuss her progress. “Two hundred pounds calling!” Lauren declared with a wicked smile when the elevator doors opened up. She’d found herself eating extra just for the chance to say it to Ursula. Her body had readily obliged. The weight piled on thick and fast. Lauren struck a sexy innocent pose with her knees pressed and a finger curled between her lips, then walked backwards, spun, and ground her backside up against the wall, purring and softly moaning as she fondled her fat. Ursula raised her eyes over her glasses. “I don’t recall ordering a kissogram from FetishFinders Anonymous.” she muttered. Lauren brushed her hair put of her eyes. “No, but your boss did.” she said. She strut to the table, rolling her hips in a languid circle, then planted her thickened thigh over the desk. “I trust you’ve warmed him up for me?” Ursula’s mouth hung open. Her face went white, then the blood rushed to her cheeks. She struggled for something to say as Lauren sauntered through to the office. She was just toying with her. Tim in her mind had never struck her as being into fat chicks, as she’d had to admit she’d become, or even skinny chicks for that matter. The signs weren’t quite all there, but she didn’t think he was straight. In any case Maxim still fawned over her and the work she’d been doing. He loved the new site and its interactive features, and commissioned her to design a new logo. She made hundreds of potential designs, showing them to him, rehashing them and showing them again. Whenever she went up to Tim’s office she made sure to bring a snack on her journey to the forty-fourth floor. She’d save it right until she met Ursula, whereupon she’d eat it all right in front of her. She got as much pleasure from the reaction as the taste. Every blissful bite felt like sticking her middle finger up at that icy toad. After spending a month agonising over which design he loved the most, he finally settled on one of Lauren’s earliest, a cute smiling cupcake wearing a doughnut rubber ring in a pool of chocolate and sprinkles. Then she had to work with the uniform makers, the label designers, even a bunch of steelworkers for the rebrand; with her guidance they recreated a thirty-foot square version of her logo to put right at the top of the tower, replacing the Eyway ‘E’. Darren surprised her with a minor office party for the switch on ‘ceremony’ the night after it was put up by a crane. There were nibbles, wine, and naturally plenty of doughnuts. When the sun went down they left the building to watch the logo take its place amongst the lights in the skyline. Lauren smiled as it lit up, watching it reflect off the windscreen of her brand new Nissan Micra. Her bank balance was climbing undented by her impulse buys – like her new black dress, beneath which her boobs had been growing. She looked curvy, spunky, daring and ravishingly buxom. Life was good. A few more months of vigorous eating passed before she was asked up to Tim’s office again. Sarah asked her up from her desk and put her hands on her shoulders when they came to the elevator. Lauren noticed that they were shaking. “Are you ok?” she asked her supervisor. “I’m fine, just a little shell-shocked. I’ve just been to see the boss. He wants to see you after lunch.” “Why?” “I’m not meant to tell you.” Sarah’s auburn curls swung as she glanced over her shoulder. “You’ll see why when you hear from him yourself. Good luck.” Lauren puzzled over what she’d meant at the cafeteria with a coffee and a sandwich. She couldn’t figure out what it was. Five minutes before lunch finished, she got in the elevator and made her way up. The doors pinged open. It was time for some fun. She clicked open her handbag and whipped out her present for Ursula – one Deluxe Delectable doughnut. Lauren made eye contact with the secretary as she brushed past the desk, smiled, then crammed it into her mouth all at once, pushing it past her lips with her fingers. “Mmm…” she moaned. “So so good…” She produced another from her handbag and stuffed it into her puffed-up cheeks. “Mmmphh…” A squirt of chocolate cream settled on her chin. She tried to ease her tongue free from the mass of soft doughy goodness to lick it up. With her other hand she rubbed her swelling tummy through her dress. She giggled as Ursula balked in disgust, then gulped down her snack and patted her stomach tenderly. “Urpp…ooofff…excuse me, I’ve someone to go see…” Smirking, Lauren swung her ample hips around and sashayed off in the direction of Tim’s office, giving his secretary an eyeful of her swaying derriere. She stopped, winked at herself in the window, then rapped the door. “Come in” said Tim. His voice sounded a little strained. Lauren took her familiar seat on the toadstool, but found it felt less familiar this time. She sank a little lower as her ass spread out across the top. Her heels now touched the honey coloured carpet rather than dangling over. Her boss swung around on his Turkish Delight, clutching a hank of crumpled papers in each hand. His hair was dark, but she noticed just a little fleck of grey on the sides. “You’re probably wondering why I’ve asked you here?” said Maxim. “Yeah, is everything ok?” said Lauren. She felt a hint of concern. “Not quite. We’ve discovered we’ve a rather large problem. It’s not something to do with you, I don’t think. I certainly don’t hope so. It’s a mole. A corporate mole. Someone’s been selling our secret recipes to our rivals.” Lauren was stunned to silence. “We’ve got a detective agency on the case,” Tim continued. “I just wanted to let you know they’ll be accessing your account on our intranet here. They’ll be searching your desk too – as we speak, I expect. It’s not just you, it’s everybody. They’re going through every floor, one by one, from the bottom to the top. I just brought you here to say I’m very sorry to have to do this.” Maxim chipped away at one of his thumbnails. He looked the picture of worry. “It’s fine,” said Lauren. She offered him a comforting smile. “I get it.” “Great,” he said. “Could you fetch Darren for me when you get back? I’m so sorry to disturb you all, but well…you know what I mean.” “Sure. I’ll do that.” Lauren left Maxim’s office with a strange and unwanted feeling inside. She was surprised to find herself alone in the foyer. A note was left on Ursula’s empty desk with her name on. She reached over and opened it up. I’ve booked a table for two at Gabriella’s at quarter to seven tonight. Be there. We’ve much to discuss. P.S. Put this in the shredder. And don’t let him know where you’re going. Gabriella’s was an Italian restaurant where Walnut Street met Jonestown Road, about ten minutes away from the office. Lauren’s thoughts were filled with that note, which she didn’t shred, but kept in her breast pocket, taking it out and reading it again periodically as she finished the rest of the day’s work. She left at six, said her goodbyes to Sarah and Darren (who still looked visibly shaken after his meeting with the boss), got some cash out from an ATM and hailed a cab. Hungry even after dinner in the cafeteria, Lauren ordered a Black Angus New York Strip, with a side of meatballs and gnocchi marinara. Ursula rolled her eyes at her as she ordered sauted mussels. “You don’t have to embrace it.” the secretary stressed after the waiter had left with their menus. “Yeah? Well you don’t have to be so bitchy.” said Lauren. Ursula slapped a hand on the table. “Look, when we first met, I thought you were an airhead. I didn’t think you’d stand a chance at getting a job there and that’s why I let you go in. So you’d embarrass yourself and never come back.” “Okaayyy…” said Lauren, munching on a breadstick. “But now, I’ve realised I was wrong,” said Ursula. “I shouldn’t have let you see him. I should have come up with an excuse and turned you away like all the other girls. I even switched the appointments that morning for the model and the graphic designer because I didn’t want you to get that job. I didn’t want anybody to get it!” The waiter brought back a bottle of red wine and poured each of them a glass. Ursula thanked him as he left, then to Lauren’s surprise she seized the glass and downed it in one. “I wanted Tim to have a load of shitty interviews with all the wrong people, get frustrated, throw in the towel and just outsource the graphics for his stupid advert,” she ranted. “Instead, you walk in, bowl him over, get the job, become all his Muses at once, and then you become his favourite.” “What?” said Lauren. “What’s that supposed to mean?” “Tim doesn’t have a wife,” said Ursula. “He doesn’t have a girlfriend, or a boyfriend. He doesn’t even have anybody he has a crush on, I don’t think. But he has favourites. You’re one of his favourites. And if you’re one of his favourites, you start to feel it here.” Ursula placed her hands on her bony hips. “Trust me, I’ve seen it happen. And I still think you’re an airhead, because clearly, you can’t see it happening to you. You’ve doubled in size, you’ve…” “Whoah, whoah, hold it right there” said Lauren, her anger mounting. “I know I’ve put some weight on. You remind me literally every time I see you. I’m a big girl now, I get it, okay?” “You’re getting huge…” “Geez, I see why Tim threw the door in your face for that job in market research…” Ursula’s lip wobbled. Lauren sensed she’d struck a tender nerve. She decided not to go in for the kill, and swung the conversation back to herself. “Look, like we both know, I’m fatter now. And I know that’s because I’ve been eating a lot more. But the food is delicious, and if it feels so good, it can’t be a bad thing, right?” Ursula cooled down and shook her head. “Honey, crack cocaine feels good. But I’m pretty sure it’s still a bad thing. And while we’re on the topic of drugs, you might want to check this out.” Ursula glanced over her shoulder, then produced a briefcase from underneath the table. She put it on the desk, clicked it open and showed her a crinkled paper with splodges of ink. “That’s a list of every chemical I’ve found in Eyway’s Extravagant doughnuts. Half of them got banned in Europe after the Creamgate scandal. And there’s a couple illegal in the U.S.” “But they’re made from all-natural ingredients,” said Lauren. “It says on the box…” “Look, cocaine is all-natural, if you think about it…forget I said cocaine again, the point is, Eyway likes to be economic with the rules when it comes to these things. They’re sneaking all these dangerous additives into their chocolate and cream. They’re making people fat and dependent. They’re becoming the biggest pillar of the obesity epidemic.” She fidgeted with the buckle of her belt as she spoke. “Lauren, please.” she pleaded. “You’ve got to help me bring them down.” Lauren’s faced paled as she registered what she’d heard. The waiter laid her food down in front of her and she didn’t even notice. “You’re the mole.” she whispered. “Please…” Ursula begged. There were tears in her eyes. “You have to help me. There’s a detective’s, it’s called Aviary P.I., they’re compiling all the evidence. We’re getting closer to what we want. I just need someone on the inside. I need someone close to Tim to finally root him out and show the world what he is.” Lauren struggled to find words to say. “If what you’re saying is all real…why didn’t you tell me before? Why didn’t you warn me?” “He’s planted bugs in my office,” said Ursula. “He listens to everything I say. He has spies everywhere. That’s why I could only meet you here. Otherwise he’ll destroy us both.” “Ursula…” Lauren bit her lip. “Ursula…I’m sorry, but this really doesn’t sound like Tim. I don’t think he’s capable of destroying anything.” “You don’t know who he is!” she screamed. “His name isn’t even Tim! He’s ruthless. He’s vicious. He won’t stop at anything to get what he wants!” Lauren looked over her shoulder. The other customers looked concerned. “Ok,” she said. “Maybe he hurt you once. Maybe you haven’t forgiven him and maybe you never will. But I can’t let you do what you’re doing to this company. There are a lot of people’s jobs at stake here, not just his, not just mine. I mean yours, Ursula – do you really think this is worth throwing your life away?” Ursula tightened her fists, seething. “I only got a job at Eyway to bring him down. You don’t know how far we go back together. My name…my name isn’t Ursula…” Her phone buzzed and she pressed it to her ear. She listened for ten seconds. Then her face dropped. “Oh my god,” she mumbled. “Oh my god. I’ve got to go. I’ve got to get out of here.” Ursula pushed out of her seat, threw her bag over her shoulder and hurriedly fled the restaurant, letting the door slam on the way out. The customers had all gone quiet. The waiters looked baffled. “Well…that was weird.” Lauren mumbled to herself. She felt the stares and tried to pretend nothing had happened. Her steak was starting to cool, so she cut a piece and ate it. “Mmm…” she said. She quickly started chewing her way through. After ten minutes, she looked over her shoulder. It looked like Ursula wasn’t coming back. She shrugged, picked up her plate of sauted mushrooms, and dumped them onto her meal. Then she resumed her eating. Lauren was called to Maxim’s office almost the first thing the next morning. Strangely, Ursula wasn’t at the desk to greet her. Tim sat her down and leaving every detail murky, quietly explained that she’d left on her own terms, leaving her job open. He then went on to say since they were so chuffed with her graphic design work, and that there now wouldn’t be all much more for her to do in that department for the time being, he was wondering if she’d consider leaving Floor Three and joining him as his new secretary. Lauren took a while to make her decision, but after a big lunch and a hefty prodding from Sarah, who insisted she’d never live it down if she threw away a chance to see all the inner workings of the company, she graciously accepted. “You can start right now, if you like.” Tim smiled as he took her hand in his and shook. “Sure thing.” said Lauren. She spun on the spot, and felt her ass collide with something cool and smooth. There was a spine-chilling crash. They looked down to see the remnants of one of Tim’s vases scattered in a thousand pieces on the floor. “Oh my god,” said Lauren, clapping her hands to her mouth. “I am so sorry. Was it expensive?” Tim forced a smile. “Don’t worry, darling. It wasn’t irreplaceable.” He found a dustpan and brush by the little trash can in the corner and swept up the pieces while Lauren stood there, paralysed by awkwardness. “It’s no worry,” he said, dumping the porcelain chards unceremoniously into the trash. “The Ming Dynasty existed in China for nearly three hundred years. I’m sure they must’ve made lots of other vases.” Lauren agreed, left, then after a temp had brought up her things from Floor Three she threw herself into her new work, her face still a mask. She snacked unconsciously for days on end to try and take her mind off the incident. She worked solidly ten till six, even though she knew it’d probably take her twenty years of the same to pay off the damage. Tim was fine with it, but it was two weeks before she could look him in the eye again and smile genuinely. She was glad to have rebuilt the bridges she’d nearly torched, because without Tim she was quite lonely up in Floor Forty-Four, with just the strangers on the phone to keep her company. Only on occasion did she meet Darren in her new role, and Sarah rarely if ever. She daydreamed about them a lot, and Ursula too. She fantasised about what it would be like if they both still had their old jobs. Her getting up the morning of the day of an appointment with Tim, squeezing on a pair of jeans a couple sizes too small, prepping herself in the elevator, practicing her moves for when the doors opened up… The phone rang. She picked it up. “Hello, two hundred and sixty pounds calling.” Lauren smiled. Then she froze. Shit, what did I just say? The person down the other end of the line coughed. He then said he was a prospective chocolatier looking to make a start-up in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and that he was wondering if Mister Maxim was available to answer his questions about founding a confectionary business. Lauren started breathing again. She quickly said that he wasn’t present (he’d actually gone to the bathroom) then offered to answer his questions for him. They talked a lot about staffing, pay and perks. They thanked each other and then Lauren put the phone down. She breathed out again. Beyond the phone calls a lot of what she did in her new role was fairly similar to what she did before. She worked with her own laptop, and she had her Bonsai tree and her picture of her mom on her desk. But her comfy Floor Three chair remained where it was, and she was left to deal with Ursula’s steely, sharp cornered and non-reclinable seat. She desperately wanted to switch it around, but that would mean leaving it to Marty, the new hire on the graphic design team. Pulling her superior position to make him use a chair that looked like an antique from a Spanish Inquisition torture chamber wasn’t fair in her mind, because he was only eighteen, and moreover she found him kind of cute. When Tim called him up to see him he’d march in a straight line from the elevator to his office, his head rigidly fixed between his skinny shoulders, his eyes focused on the door as he strode with his long legs. Lauren soon sussed that he was trying to avoid eye contact with her, or more properly, avoid staring at her bulging breasts. With no-one else to fool around with now that Ursula had gone, Marty fast became her new favourite playmate. When she knew which days he was due to see the boss, she’d select a shirt with the deepest plunging neckline she could get away with to greet the boy when he arrived. She’d drop pens underneath her chair and pretend to be unable to see them, goading him into getting right next to her to pick them up, giving him an eyeful of her bosom as she sat up straight again. Her favourite moment had come not long after a board meeting, when Tim had announced Eyway’s was hitting the Mexican market and had ordered a new logo to promote its range of ices. Marty was summoned to floor forty-four, arriving with a sweaty brow and a satchel crammed with designs. His shirt and trousers were pressed and his tie was wound tightly around his neck. “Hey Maaaarty…” Lauren cooed. “Hey Lauren…Miss Wilson, I mean…sorry…” “Lauren is fine,” she insisted. “Would you like some cake?” She lifted the lid on a faux silver platter, where a deep and rich Eyway Kaykay carrot cake rested. She took a knife and cut each of them a small slice. Marty held his piece tentatively while Lauren crammed half of hers into her mouth. “Are you sure Mr. Maxim is ok with this?” he stuttered. “Mmmphhh…it’s fine, we get free food up here. Did you know that?” “N-…No.” Lauren hadn’t known herself until she was a week into the secretary job. She and Tim could order anything they liked, in any quantity, fresh from the factory out of town in Lancaster County. Ursula unsurprisingly had never made use of the privilege. Marty took a small, shaky bite. “Are you feeling ok?” Lauren asked him. Marty nodded his head. “I’m just kinda nervous…that’s all.” “Don’t be,” Lauren smiled. “Just relax…” She calmly wrapped her fingers around his tie and pulled. Marty staggered forward to the desk and bent over. She flicked the top button off his collar. Lauren locked her eyes with his flickering blue ones as she pulled him closer. She pressed her boobs against his chest. She undid the knot, slowly. The green light began to flicker on her intercom box. She gently pushed him back and let the tie slip away. “Oh. I think the boss wants to see you now. Mmm…” she licked a few crumbs of carrot cake off her cheek. “…good luck.” Beet red in the face, Marty stumbled as she picked up his satchel and bounded to the door, his knees weakened. Lauren giggled, then turned her attention to the cake. This was where the fun really began. She flicked off her screensaver, opened Google and found Stevie Wonder’s Superstition on Youtube. She plugged her earphones in and started listening. Then she minimised the browser and got back to her work, but not before she’d cut herself a generous slice of cake. Lauren rubbed her big belly and started eating. Marty’s meeting lasted thirty minutes. She heard him stammer through a profuse chorus of thank yous while Tim held open the door. There was a rushed rustling as Marty scrunched his scattered papers back into his satchel. Then he walked past Lauren’s desk, and stopped dead in his tracks. Lauren was laid back, her head resting on the top of the chair, her hair a long, blowsy mess, her eyes delirious. One chubby arm dangled while the other softly massaged her drum tight stomach. It had grown so stuffed that it was riding up her shirt, and fallen over her belt buckle and the button of her skirt. “Sorry Marty,” she groaned. “I wanted to save you some more, but it was…it was so good…so delicious…” “It’s ok,” he stammered. “It’s fine.” His eyes barely registered the empty platter. He couldn’t take them off the bloated beauty softly groaning in front of him. “How’d it go in there?” Lauren mumbled, half dozing. She burped loudly and Marty pretended not to hear. “Yeah…he really liked my pictures. He’s narrowing it down to his favourite three, he told me he wants to see me again...” “I knew you’d pull it off.” she said warmly, giving her stomach a pat. Marty’s lips quivered as he smiled. “There’s just one more thing before you go. Please, could you get me a cup of water?” Lauren gestured lazily to the dispenser in the corner of the office. “I’d get it myself but I…I just can’t move out of this chair…so stuffed…” Marty got a plastic cup and filled it up. He stepped around the desk and put it in her open hand. Lauren took a long gulp. She felt the tightness of her shirt ratchet up a notch. “Ooooh…” she groaned, half in pain, half in pleasure. She raised her head and tried to take her stomach in her eyes. Her double chin creased on her neck. Her boobs obscured her view. Lauren huffed and tried to sit straight. Her aching belly made her desist. “Could you….ufff…could you give me a little hand?” Marty nodded in dumb disbelief. She found his skinny wrist with her chubby fingers. “Undo my buttons.” she commanded, sweetly. She pressed his hand against her stomach. His thumb hurriedly fumbled for the whining piece of plastic over her bellybutton. He chipped it away from its cotton confines. The flaps of Lauren’s shirt parted a few inches. Marty shivered and pulled away as a swell of belly fat rolled onto his fingers. “Aaaah...” she sighed, as her belly flopped out to its full extent. “So much better. Thank you Marty. Come back here soon, won’t you?” Marty smiled dumbly as he walked away. The elevator doors opened and closed, and Lauren swore she heard him do a little dance on the way down. She grinned. The work was done and the day was almost over. Lauren listened to some more music, drank her water, shut down her laptop, put the silver platter back on the plate then screwed up the cake casing and threw it at the bin. She scowled as her throw fell short. She planted her feet back on the ground and stood up to retrieve it. To her surprise, the chair came up with her. Her love handles always spilled over the steely armrests, but now they looked close to engulfing them. The seat of the chair was firmly fused to her ass. Lauren sat back down, fixed her hair and smoothed her shirt. With a little struggle, she got to her feet again. The chair remained stuck around her backside. She tried to wiggle it loose, but it wouldn’t budge. She pushed on the armrests with her chubby hands, but she couldn’t get the right angle. “Well, this is embarrassing.” Lauren mumbled to herself. She jostled and wobbled and strained, and soon she was exhausted. The chair was still stubbornly stuck to her rear. It could get worse. She certainly did not want to let Tim see what had happened to her. She looked to the elevator for sanctuary, and then she had an idea. Lauren picked the third floor, as she knew there would be no-one left there to see her in this state. She shuffled into the elevator like a turtle, watched the doors close and silently prayed for no-one to press the buttons from the floors in between. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. She shuffled out onto the third floor, but stopped just when the edges of her heels left the metal plate at the bottom. She crouched and lifted her ass into the air. The sleek doors sealed on the bar that connected the seat to the six little sets of wheels. Once the chair was firmly in place, Lauren tried to walk out of her predicament. Her heels scraped the floor, but she didn’t move. She snatched at the air for some invisible rope to grab on to. She heaved and pushed, but got no further. Suddenly, she felt herself begin to rise. Her chunky love handles were being pinched more and more, and as her feet left the floor she suddenly realised what was happening. Lauren squealed. The elevator was starting a slow ascent back to her floor while she was still trapped in the doorway. “Help! Hnghhh….Hnggh…somebody, please…help!” She kicked and kicked, and tried to twist. She swung left and right, dropping her handbag, still trapped in the spinning seat while she climbed higher and higher. She thrust herself forward as the bar made contact with the ceiling. There was a crunch, and finally she fell out. Lauren crumbled belly first onto the floor, briefly a jiggling heap. The chair snapped in two above her – the top half missed her side by an inch as it landed loudly. Lauren breathed deeply, burying her face in her plump arms as she recovered from the shock. Her chest throbbed and she softly whimpered. That was close she thought. But at least she was free now. She lay on the ground a few moments more to gather herself. Suddenly, the elevator pinged, and the metal doors opened up. Tim strode out, holding the wheeled half of the chair somewhat bemusedly. “Lauren? Are you alright?” Lauren turned red as she pulled down her skirt and tried to get to her feet again. Tim put down the wheels and offered her a hand and helped pick her up. She let out a gasp as she stood up again; glad to be in one piece. “If you mind me asking…” Tim said, looking down at the wheels. “What exactly happened to you?” Lauren bit her lip. “Uhh…I disapparated” she said, without knowing why. “Like in Harry Potter. And I apparated here.” “Oh, I see. And the chair got split in two because you splinched it in the attempt.” said Tim, clapping his hands together. “It all makes sense now, you being a witch. What else explains the sense of happiness and joy cast over us all in your prescence?” Lauren couldn’t help but giggle. “You always know the right thing to say, Tim.” She sighed. “…I’m sorry.” “What for?” “I’m sorry about the chair.” “I don’t mind about the chair. Honestly, are you sure you’re alright?” “Yeah, yeah. Good. Totally.” “Shall I accompany you to your car?” “I’m fine. I’m not actually taking the elevator down.” Not after that near death experience, she thought to herself. She didn’t want to be at the mercy of those doors ever again. “Then should I help you descend the stairs?” he asked. “Really Tim, I’m ok.” she said. “Then I shall see you tomorrow!” He got back in the elevator and waved as he let the doors shudder shut between them. Lauren picked her handbag back up, checked that she hadn’t broken her laptop, then found the stairs on the other side of the room. The elevator experience had been bad, but the stairs were nearly another nightmare. Unable to see where she was placing her feet over her stuffed stomach, Lauren had to crane her neck, nudging her chin into her cleavage. She clung to the bannister for support, wobbling like blancmange while she shuffled down step by step. By time she got to her car she was winded again. Her ribs felt bruised and her boobs hurt. She got in and tutted when she noticed she’d smudged her makeup. How had Tim not said anything? How had he not said anything about her snapping her office chair – unless he genuinely believed in magic? That was just Tim being Tim. At least since Ursula got outed he was back to his usual self now. Weirdly gentlemanly, gentlemanly weird. But what had he said about helping her downstairs? Who even needs help to get down a flight of stairs? Me, apparently. Lauren glared at her double chin in the wing mirror as she caught the rest of her breath. He knows exactly what happened. He knows I’m struggling with being a fatass. Lauren grunted as she got in and slipped the seatbelt over herself. “If only there was a spell to stop packing it on.” she groaned, pushing her jelly roll under the steering wheel. Or maybe one to stop the doughnuts going to my hips. She started the ignition, reversed out of her spot, and drove away.
  3. Chapter 11 "My friend's running late...umm, she's still in the duty free," Olivia explained to the airport staff. "Am I okay to board?" With unwarranted instinct, the airport staff member gave her elevator eyes. "Uhh. Yeah," the skinny guy garbled. "No sweat, enjoy your flight." "I mean - am I okay to board with her ticket? Hers and mine?" He gave her a perplexed look. "She's a total drama queen," said Olivia. "She's always late. She's the one who'll come running up with four bags in each arm, like ten seconds before boarding closes - I thought it'd be help if I could speed up the process...you know?" "You're sure she's okay with this?" "A hundred percent," said Olivia. "She'll thank me. And you...err...thank you..." She bustled by his desk, one passport, two tickets in hand. Feeling his eyes on her ass, Olivia dropped her wheel bag and let it roll behind her. She spied her reflection in the clear glass of the corridor stretching to the airplane bays. Her ensemble consisted of a stretchy white t-shirt and an old, fleecy purple zipper jacket. Her ripped black jeans were new - the widest she could find. A scraggly, homemade scarf shrouded her newly jostling cleavage, while a branded pink raincoat, slung over the shoulder, tactically covered the roll of uncovered flesh peeking from her beltline behind her. A dark pair of shades completed the look, complimented by a thick set of headphones in matching colours. If she was going to survive the next twenty-four hours, Olivia needed to block out the world. Don't get flustered, and don't get upset she told herself. Everything will be fine, so long as you don't cause a scene. Olivia neared the final turn. Her legs were beginning to burn again. She hadn't walked so far in so long. The comfort break she'd taken in the lounge had been worth it, but it had left her with little time. She pushed on through the tunnel, stretching her waddling strides. An air hostess was waiting to greet her, her eyes lingering wide. Her own eyes widened in turn. The woman looked as if she'd been cut from a magazine. She waved a greeting, her nails trimmed and painted, gave a frozen smile and a staccated hello. Olivia lumbered to a stop, and showed her the tickets. "12C, on the left. Middle, by the emergency exit doors. 13C, directly behind." "Behind?" said Olivia, surprised. "I thought they were together?" "No Ma'am. You have two seats on separate rows, if you look at our diagram..." Olivia tuned out. She felt the sweat. She felt cold. How could she have made such a stupid mistake? She wound back her mind to the night she'd made the booking and tried to get a clear picture - naked, slovenly, cloven from her designer makeup, covered in crumbs from comfort food, drunk on a rising stack of cans of beer to steel her for the moment her parents saw her in her shocking, eye-bulging, pitiful new state... "...as you can see coloured in green -" "Uhh. It's my friend's seat. We need to sit next to each other!" Olivia stammered. The hostess paused. Olivia earned her second puzzled look. "She has...she has needs. You might be wondering where she is...she's - with the staff in the departure lounge. They're helping. Are you able - could you swap some people around? I'll - hey, I'll give her a call..." Olivia mumbled and coughed. She produced her phone, and instinctively turned the volume as low as it would go. "Ohh....Madison, hi, how are you?" she called. Olivia cast her glances left and right, hiding the black screen under her hair. She noted everyone had found their seats. She was last to board, and the plane was nearly full. "Oh...I see. Yeah, yeah, I understand. So you're..." Suddenly she felt her fingers tingle. The screen lit up. A chopped recording of Taylor Swift filled the monotone air. Olivia exchanged the hostess' befuddled complexion. She was first to break away, turning to the passengers. She made the ill-awaited announcement. The student thumbed the call button, quickly. "Olivia." "I mean - sorry...hi Maeve, how are you?" The big girl scrunched her brow. "Maeve? Seriously? What is it - " She lowered her voice to a whisper "- why are you calling me?" "Listen - I know what's happening," said Maeve. "You don't have a disease." Olivia glanced around the plane. The hostess had her arms raised, conducting her fellow ushers like an orchestra. The grumble of the passengers made for uncomfortable music. A horde soon clogged the aisle as families struggled to reset their carry-on luggage. Olivia looked over the other shoulder. She double checked. No-one was listening to her. "No, you listen. There's something seriously, genetically wrong with me. If you're going to preach that I'm fat because I've been overeating, thanks for stating the obvious. But it doesn't matter what I do. I've tried diets, I've tried the gym, I've tried to dance again, I've tried starving myself, I've prayed - nothing is working!" "Olivia - I know why..." "You study English. Since when were you a doctor?" "No...I'm not but - please trust me. I...figured out what it is. Whenever you get mad, you gain weight." "I'm pretty sure I'm mad because I've been gaining weight." "That's - there, you're halfway to understanding. It's a self-propelling cycle." "Are you trying to sell me your book or something?" muttered Olivia. "What's your point?" "It isn't natural and it isn't something this holistic wellness ranch place is going to fix..." "It's a hospital," Olivia insisted. "Unlike you, they're professionals." "It's a curse," Maeve blurted out. Olivia lifted her phone from her ear and stared. She tittered in disbelief. "A curse? Really?" "Yeah, we'll call it that." said Maeve. Olivia laughed. "Okay, two points. One, there isn't a 'we'. Two, curses aren't real. There's always an logical explanation!" "Please, listen to mine - okay, maybe curse isn't quite the right word, but I can tell you what is is if you - " "Freak." Olivia cut her off. She pocketed the phone in a huff. She was done. The last overheard locker clattered shut. She surveyed the scene around her. The hostess was encouraging the last few holdouts to sit. She gave her a tap on the shoulder. The lady flinched as if she were shocked. Olivia mimicked the reaction. "Oh...err. Sorry!" The lady raised her eyebrows, regained her smile and straightened her crispy jacket. Olivia's mind raced to her shirt. A flick of the wrist and she corrected where it had ridden up suddenly over her stomach, cotton gripping her bothersome fresh flesh. "Yes ma'am?" "My friend - I just called her, she's not coming with me," she declared. The hostess batted her eyes. A simultaneous groan echoed from the rows around her. "Just you then," she exclaimed. "That's no problem. Your seats are free. Please be seated." She took two deft paces backward and showed Olivia to her row. Olivia followed on, wincing as she felt the bite of the button under her jelly roll. She considered the warmth of the air, her slight sweat and the cabin pressure, struggling to turn her head facts she couldn't add up. The dull pain blinkered her thoughts. She jabbed a thumb through her waistband, easing the ache as her jeans pinched her with every step. A woman in her eighties slept gently by the window, a doily-like cover on her eyes. Olivia thanked the hostess, clacked open the locker, and in a quick movement clandestinely produced the seatbelt extender from the top pocket of her bag as she pretended to wrestle the zipper shut. Palming the strap as she closed the locker, Olivia brought down her arms and shuffled into her spot. She gave a grunt of discomfort. It was tighter than she'd predicted. Twisting round, the student lowered both armrests as much as she could. She quietly clamped the extender to the male end of the regular harness, and brought it across her round, turgid tummy. Her t-shirt was riding up; she corrected it. Olivia scooted her butt further but found she had reached her limit. Her stomach pressed on her cramped thighs and her boobs were up to her chin. Olivia sighed. This would just have to do. She clicked the extended seatbelt shut. She peered over her sunglasses. The hostess was still standing over her. "Ma'am, I'm afraid we can't get ready to fly just yet." she said, between demeanour of cheer and despotism. "Our procedures require our cabin crew to have access to the aisle at all times." The hostess clasped her hands. Olivia felt stung. She took the hint with a puff of baited warm breath and a lowly whispered curse. She had just sat down, and she felt drained. The student took stock of herself - a hefty love handle, her ass, the side of her thick, wobbling thigh; all had bust the unwritten limits of her right armrest, and were bulging off the precipice of her seat. Rolling her eyes, she lifted the armrest on her left and tenuously adjusted her position. Her tummy grumbled. Olivia winced. She rested her bottom between the seats, and leant back on the plastic divides. She nudged and budged her body, trying to make herself comfortable. "Our apologies, our regulations state that won't be a viable option - we need you to be seated and to be wearing a seatbelt prior to take-off." "Ugghh, okay. Middle seat it is." Olivia made sure to lock eyes with her powder-puffed oppressor as she slid jauntily across the row. She seized the leftmost armrest for leverage and pushed with her legs. Her jeans lifted from the seat, tearing like Velcro and her fingers tingled with static. Suspended for the briefest moment, Olivia swung her bottom deeper into her gaudy, plastic confines. She heard a sudden squeak. Her heavy hip bounced and buffered into her window seat neighbour. Olivia threw her head around, her face paling. "Oh my gosh! I'm so sorry!" she cried, mortified. "I didn't see you!" She lurched to the right, or rather she tried to. Olivia winced as cramp wrapped round her calf, strangled by her jeans. Digging in through the pain she inched herself away a little more. She flipped her hair, fighting her body into position. "You're on my leg," the elderly lady croaked. "Shit - I mean, sorry!" Olivia chastised herself for cursing. She fumbled and shoved her weighty waist rightward, until she felt the familiar sensation of hard plastic pressing her coccyx. She was wedged in the space between seats again. Olivia looked up to the air hostess in desperation. The slender woman extended her manicured fingers. Her arm brushed the dishevelled girl's heaving chest, a palm softly placing itself on her distressed fellow passenger's shoulder. "We're so sorry!" she said, palpably emotional. "We have an upgrade we can offer you. Are you able to follow me to business class? Are you hurt?" She raised her eyebrows once, twice quickly in Olivia's direction. "Excuse us!" she hissed. Olivia whimpered. She swayed herself into motion. She half stood, half rolled her way from her seat, planting a chubby leg back in the aisle. She hauled the rest of herself out into the cooler air. The hostess zipped down into the space she occupied, a comforting arm stretching around the valued guest's shoulder. "I'm...err...I'm just gonna go to the restroom..." The student twisted away from the awkward scene and barrelled for the toilet. She opened her eyes to the rest of the flight. She swore she heard a sharp, collective intake of breath as she sighed, holding her head low. Olivia swung her legs, mumbling apology after apology as her hips brushed by. Some apologised back. A row of boys shifted to the side, a few comically far, earning a laugh from their friends. The older women tutted. The younger stared with pity. The worst was the rearward rows, and the squat, bryl-creemed businessmen in the premium economy seats. There was one who pretended not to see her, or hear her after she pleaded excuses. Groaning, she trundled by, his shoulder brushing the sides of her belly, soft fat slipping past a cheap, crinkled suit. Olivia winced. She could have sworn she felt him smirking. The door couldn't have come quickly enough. By time she pressed up against the handle her spirits were shot. She rattled the door, stepped through, twisted and closed it tight behind her. Olivia was in darkness. There was minimal space to move. She fished her phone out from her vice-like pocket. She couldn't see a light switch. She couldn't sit. She could barely turn around, but with a grunt and a thrust, she did so. She was alone. She locked the door. The former dancer began to seethe. Hot and waxy tears ran down her cheeks. She covered her mouth, determined not to let anyone hear her. She wished the plane would just take off, with her in the shadows. She wished she was invisible. She wished everyone else was every bit as uncomfortable as she was. She wished she was slim, fit, graceful again most of all. She heard voices outside, simple chatter, kids cajoling each other, broken in segments by the obnoxious blare of the businessmen on the last row. "We're running ten minutes late," His partner swore. "Au contraire," said a third man. "I'm confident we'll arrive ten minutes early, after the crew force her off..." "Throw her down the slide," someone laughed. "She'd roll to China." Olivia's temper flared. Her brow boiled to volcanic proportions. Her fists were clenched tight. Her chest grew warm, her breaths grew furious and ragged. Didn't they know who she was? Didn't they know the girl she used to be? How dare they? How could they? How could everyone see, but nobody know? Suddenly the pressure welled up in her midsection. Olivia choked. Her cheeks flushed in agony. Before she could seize her stomach the noise hit her eardrums. No longer in pain, she felt under her belly. She found one edge of her jeans, then the other, split by a gaping zipper. There was no button there. It had gone. Olivia's fingers curled at the feeling of soft flesh, sticking out in front of her, hanging in half an inch of space where there'd been nothing at all. Olivia's mouth hung open. She hadn't moved her feet. But her gut was now pushing against the door. Shell-shocked, she took out her phone. "Maeve, it's me. I believe you." she breathed, the moment she heard her pick up. She wiggled and nudged. The door rattled. Olivia peered through the millimetre slit left in the wall by the hinges. Someone was waiting for her. "I'm glad. Where are you now?" Maeve replied. Olivia bit her lip. "A runway. About to burst out of an airplane toilet...oh god, I must weigh a tonne by now. How come I didn't notice it before?" "You weren't meant to notice, the weight gain happened to you overnight because I delayed it, I mean - the curse was delayed..." "YOU DID THIS?" screamed Olivia. "I'm really sorry!" Maeve wailed. "I can fix this! I didn't want it to be like this, I swear! The curse - the...thing, I think I'm losing control over it, I just wanted you to know so you can stop..." There was silence on the line. "Ugghhhhh" Olivia moaned. "Ohhhhhhhhh!" Her bottom pressed harder on the sink. Olivia leant forward. Her belly flattened along the width of the door. She gasped. Her breasts were beginning to brush the signage. Her shirt pulled tight across her shoulders. Olivia heard a stitch split. "Please," Maeve pleaded. "Please don't get mad! Just do something to get out of there!" The student staggered. A rumble emanated from the soles of her feet. She shivered as the buzz crept through her tendons. The plane had ignited its engines. Her burst of growth had pinned her in place. Olivia's blood ran cold. "You can't go," Maeve urged. "Get off the plane!" "I - I can't get out," Olivia whimpered. "I'm about to fly!" "The thing - the thing I used to do this to you. It's called -" The line howled with hiss of static. " - from a book I read but then I lost it, I don't know where it is!" "What did you say?" said Olivia. "I can't hear you!" "Please - don't shout! Don't -" Kkkkrrrrhhh....krrrrhhhhhhh…. "Maeve, it's okay, I'm not mad - tell me what it is, tell me what to do!" Kkkkrrrrhhh…. "- livia, we're being watched. You've got to keep quiet!" "Just tell me. Hurry, I think I can - hhgggnnnhh....heerrrrnnggghh!" Olivia pounded the door and tried to unstick herself. "We need to stay together!" shouted Maeve. Olivia heard a rumble from deep down below. The tinny lights shivered and buzzed. The plane was shifting its gears. "You need to stay here!" Olivia fumbled for the latch, palms sweating. She pushed her left hand past her heaving stomach. She drew a breath. Her fingers slid on the steely bolt piece. "Tell me." whispered Olivia. "Maeve, tell me what's going on." "I used a - krrrrcchhh - device. It's c - krrrrcchhh - Penultimator!" The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPS OVER THE LAZY DOG " - . The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog Aaaaand that wraps it up for the night! Any and all comments, critiques and criticisms worth your time will be given mine. Leave a like, I hope to see you again for the final chapter! Shift, exclamation point. I sighed as I checked the time. 1:52 am. I clicked the post button and switched tabs to a piano cover of Yesterday. My eyes were straining and I dimmed the screen. The music helped ease the ache. I switched tabs again to an article I'd skimmed past a couple hours before on rising cat ownership. I read it until the song stopped, glugged some water and closed the page, then the curtains. I was ready for bed. Down below, I heard someone open the front door. I lived alone. I stopped breathing. I turned in my chair, my mouth opening slowly. Two wet footsteps struck the tiles of the porch. I wasn't imagining the noise. A rustle of material and a thud echoed down the hallway as someone discarded a soaked raincoat on my shoe rack. Click The hallway light was on. Click I switched my bedroom light off. I dimmed my laptop to black. I scrabbled for my phone as my eyes adjusted to the darkness. I stepped away from where the light was seeping through under the door, into the shadows by the wardrobe. Thud....thud...thud.... Serial killer. Do I shout out? I stuck a hand in the door. I gripped my old hockey stick. Thud....thud.. The footsteps were closing towards me. I unlocked my phone, and entered three digits. Creak... The figure had reached the stairs. It was coming for me. Creeeaaakk…. The footsteps grew slower, louder. I had nowhere to hide. Nowhere to run - but back down the stairs, audibly groaning as someone ascended. "Hello?" "Ughhh...hey! I finally found you...." The voice was a stranger's. But it was young. Feminine. Loud and accented. "Are you looking for me?" I said, balking. "Geez, didn't you see me waving at your window?" she gasped, then huffed. "Of course you didn't. You were on your computer." She paused for breath. My mind hung on the inflections. Far as I could tell, she wasn't from England. "Phew....so I tried the front door, your doorbell doesn't work, but you left it open - so..." She flicked on the stairway light. "Sorry - do I know you?" I asked her. "Yeah...kinda...phew - look, we'll get to that later. Second door on the left's your room, right?" "Err, yeah. Wait, I'll get the door." Heart still pumping, I returned the hockey stick to the wardrobe. I found some slippers and threw on a hoodie. The pyjama bottoms would have to do. I tossed an empty can of Coke in the bin. I pocketed my phone, switched the light back on, and opened the door. There was a girl in ripped jeans, a thin purple zipper jacket and a white t-shirt, leaning with her hands on the balustrade, a loose scarf dangling over the edge. She pushed back her soaking blonde hair over her shoulder and looked me dead in the eyes. I tried my best not to peel mine away. I couldn't overstate the obvious. She was fat. She was immense. Her every move exaggerated her mass. As she approached my doorway her rolling stomach hung out from under her shirt, drooping over the crumpled zipper of her straining, buttonless jeans, puffing out her shirt into a taut band around and between her belly roll, supported by faint, silvery vertical lines. I couldn't afford to peer down any more as she drew closer. My mind built a picture of her stretchmarks as speech marks, flanking her round belly button. A similar noise escaped from my mouth. She stopped, inches away from me. Her plump lips tightened. "Can I come in?" My eyes were on the doorframe. I was dumbstruck. "Uhh...huh, I dunno," she said, mocking my voice. "Can you?" I'd gone mute. She groaned. She motioned for me to move out the way. I did. She stepped forward, and true to my inklings, the hinge side gave her hips a firm press. For a second she was held, but she was heavy, and she bouldered through. She smoothed a hand down the redness on her side, then rolled her shoulders. Her jacket, like the soft, chunky arms it wrapped around, looked purely vestigial. She clearly couldn't close the zipper across her body. The girl closed the door. She occupied the centre of my room, vast and fat, coughing soft and rapid breaths. "Hey. First of all...fuck you, this is all your fault. Second of all, don't talk unless I tell you. Don't make me angry. Third of all, I'm exhausted. Can I sit down?" "Uhh...sure?" "Thanks. That walk couldn't have been worse. Why do you have to live up a hill?" She deposited herself on my lounge chair. I heard a wheeze of air escaping leather. "I'm so unfit. I haven't been to the gym since I split my leggings trying to run on a treadmill, it was - how d'you put it - humiliating, watching my butt wobble in the pristine glass." I simply stared. She was giving me a queer look. "Am I ringing any bells here?" "I...err...I don't think we've met before..." "No, we haven't." the girl said, shrugging. "But you definitely know me. You know everything about me. You know more about me than I do." I found my own chair, by the laptop. "I'm lost." I admitted to her. "Who are you, exactly?" "I'm Olivia Johnson. Remember me? I'm the straight-A student college star dancer you wrote about and thought - wow, wonder how I can wreck her life? I know! Destroy her figure with some rapid, uncontrollable college weight gain." I blanched. "Yeah. I remember you. And clearly I must be dreaming." Olivia smirked. She lifted her shirt to just underneath her breasts. "No, this isn't real. You're from one of my stories," I told her. "Nooo" she said, mocking my voice again. "All of this...is very, very real." She drifted closer. Her belly was stretched, round, plush with armfuls of quivering fat. "Feel it," she offered. "Give it a rub. Don't you want to?" "This is a dream!" I repeated. But I wasn't waking up. "Touch..." she cooed, pursing her lips. "Feel me. You don't have to hide it here. I know what you really want." Closer and closer she came. She put a shoe on my chair's rolling wheel. I felt my hand travelling upward, to protect myself. But then I stretched out a finger... No sooner had my fingertip poked her stomach than she had seized my wrist with claw-like nails. She slapped me across the face. I felt a burning sensation. "That's for making me get fat. Totally what my plotline needed. Aspiring dancer, star of the family, super fit, starts college and balloons into a separate ZIP code. Thanks." "Nightmare," I decided. "Holy shit. I'm having a lucid nightmare." "I'm real, you dumb asshole! The story you wrote about me was true!" "But...but how is this happening? I didn't write a part where you come alive and travel all the way to my house and break in to confront me! Look...here, let me show you!" I grabbed the mouse, swivelled it and brought up the document on my laptop. The title flashed up in bold. Olivia's New Moves. I scrolled down. Chapter 11. "Look, I haven't even finished the whole thing. You... you're on the plane to your home state. You've left your last lecture that day, it's the end of term. You wanted to go to a health facility for summer, Maeve called you, you got stuck in a toilet. You're trying to get off the plane - how did you get here?" "It's that stupid device," said Olivia. "The Penultimator, it's a thing that transfers fiction to the real world? It is real. The college, the classes, my family, stupid Maeve, all that fricking food - you don't know how, but you created all of it. I got off the plane. I did a search to find out what Maeve told me in the toilet and I found your story online. My story. Word for word, exactly what happened to me. I tracked your username, found your accounts elsewhere, found out where you lived, skimmed your address off a data hosting company and then found you." "Wow," I mumbled. I curled my toes. "Where do I start....err, didn't know it was that easy. I should change my passwords...hang on a minute." I scrolled. The words ended where I thought I'd left them. My sign off. Shift key, exclamation point. "I didn't write any of that last part. The train, the walking. In fact I literally just wrote the plane sequence. How could any of what you just said have happened?" "You haven't written it, but you're going to." "That doesn't make any sense." "It does. Think about it. Nobody writes in the present tense. Everything you've written about me happens in the past. You're going to write how eventually I flew over here, how I boarded a train, how I walked a mile from the station in the pouring rain and found you in the past tense. Like everything else, got it?" "Got it. I think..." Olivia glowered at me, indignant. She tapped her watch. "And?" "Oh...right, I'm guessing you want me to rewrite what happened? The whole...weight gain thing?" Olivia patted her stomach, eyes on me. "You're driving me crazy. I'm literally getting heavier as we speak. What do you think I want?" "Sorry" I mumbled. "I could just delete everything? That's if, you know...you're okay with being wiped from history, maybe." "Try it," she shrugged. "Maybe it's my time. Maybe I had it alright in my little existence as someone's fantasy." Wincing, I clicked my documents and sent the whole folder to the recycle bin. I returned to the internet and ventured to the forum where I'd made the last post. One like, one comment. Not bad for seven minutes. I found the edit button. I highlighted the text. I hit backspace, running page after page away. I found Chapter 1. Olivia's New Moves. She was in my room. She was still there. She was still - I quickly glanced over my shoulder - fat. The text glowed blue. My finger balanced on the button. I closed my eyes. Gone. I scrolled up, and scrolled down. No more fiction. But she was still there. "Errm. Are you feeling anything?" I asked her. "I feel fat," said Olivia. "Just like you wanted, right?" "Didn't work then," I murmured. "Unless..." "Unless what?" "I can figure why. I put it all online. I can't eliminate the possibility that someone copied and pasted them. Maybe for a collection? There's no way I could get it back." "Someone's collection. You're flattering yourself...but shit, you're probably right." Olivia sighed. "You'll have to write an ending with me getting skinny again. Sorry to put you through the torture." Somehow, I had to smile. "I'm not that bad, am I?" "Let's see." Olivia folded her arms. I turned back to the screen. I fished Chapter 11 out of the recycling bin, opened it and scrolled until the page was blank. I began typing. Olivia decided she wanted to lose weight. She walked to the gym. "Walked?" said Olivia. "Seriously? You're letting me walk? I'm walking now? Dude, I waddle. That's how you've moved me since Chapter Eight - she squeezed herself from the booth and waddled to the restroom. Because I'm so swollen from all the plates of food I stuffed myself with at the buffet, remember? That's how I get from A to B when I leave my room, increasingly rarely these days..." She seized a thick roll of her belly. "Hmm. I wonder why?" She gave it a furious shake. "Point taken." I said, bleeding a little on the inside. Like I'd imagined, it took Olivia's fat more than a moment to settle. "Weird. I never saw the point." she said, still jiggling as I turned in my chair to the laptop. "Why was I in bed all morning? Was I tired because I'm fat? Was I lazy because I'm fat? Maybe I was too embarrassed to go downstairs to the real world...because I'm fat? You left it pretty ambiguous. Guess you've got a few different tastes to please, huh? More fool me thinking there's only one fricking track in the world of your fetish." I reddened. "It...could be worse?" I said with a shrug. "No shit," Olivia muttered. "I trawled through a lot of stories after I found mine. Lot of heavy reading. You didn't feed me to a giantess, I guess. Also, am I supposed to thank you for not making me immobile? That seems to happen a lot." My eyes dashed to my edit history. "Yeah. Totally." I mumbled, the colour of my cheeks draining as the first thoughts were struck down by one more harrowing. "Err...are any of the other stories real too?" "Who knows?" the softened dancer replied. "Maybe they are real, to the good writers." She rolled her eyes. "That's...hey, that's not an insult," I said, cheerily. "Oh yeah? I hate you," she blurted. "Your stories like, really suck." "Owch?" "Not done." She eased my hand off the mouse, scrolled up and highlighted the sentence she wanted. "A hefty love handle, her ass, the side of her thick, wobbling thigh; all had bust the unwritten limits of her right armrest, and were bulging off the precipice of her seat. Who the hell do you think you are? Do you get off on Shakespeare too?" "Again..." I shrugged. "Wouldn't call that an insult." "Urgghh! You're the worst! Stop flattering yourself, you fucking narcissist!" I kicked myself from the desk and rolled away. "Give it a go yourself," I suggested. "You're better than me, clearly. Prove your point." "If I could write my own story - " Olivia grumbled " - would I really be standing in your bedroom. I already tried, it didn't work. You're the one with the power to change this." "Look, I don't know how I did it." I said. "You mentioned the Penultimator - that's just a word on a page, to me. I thought I made it up. I don't know what it is. I wouldn't know where to find one. If we could just stop arguing for like, one minute, maybe we can come to some sort of agreement? Then I can go to bed, wake up and it'll be like it was all a dream. No sod that, we're too far gone. A bad trip on acid." I breathed in. "If I'm going to write something that's - if not good, at the very least, plausible - I need to get a feel of what it's really like for you. What was it like, being in my story? Was I controlling you? Did you feel like some sort of puppet?" "No," Olivia said, calmly. "It wasn't. Not in a sense you were directing every movement. I had plenty of freedom between chapters, just not when I was around junk food, clearly. I think you used the phrase eating machine? And seriously, why did you keep making me hungry at midnight? It was so annoying! I had to get up, squeeze into my forlorn pyjamas, somehow not wake my parents while I plodded down the stairs to cram my face and go back to bed on a full stomach! No wonder I slept late so much!" I was about to warn her not get mad again but, as if on cue, she yawned. "You have a place to stay tonight somewhere, right?" I said. "No," Olivia said again with a shrug. "You haven't written one for me." "I'll put you somewhere nice. If I wake up and you still exist we can think about this tomorrow." I flicked on the bedside light and tapped on the keyboard. And after her detour to the bedroom, Olivia grew sleepy. She left through the open door, descended the stairs and was promptly whisked away for a night at the London Ritz I hit enter to post. I spun in my seat. My muse was still standing there, incredulous. She shook her head. "Nope. Not happening." said Olivia. "Maybe it'll work when you go down the stairs," I said. "Maybe there's a footman and a limousine?" "It didn't work. I can't leave through the open door. It's closed, you idiot." "Oh." I muttered. "Sorry...I must be tired too." "Screw it. Get some sleep, you'll write better in the morning. I think I can handle one more night of morbid obesity." I rubbed my eyes. "Fine." I closed my laptop, stood up, opened my wardrobe and fished out my sleeping bag from between the hiking boots at the bottom. I took my laptop in one hand and the bag under my arm as I approached the door. "Where are you going?" said Olivia. "Living room couch." I mumbled. "But this is your bedroom." "And that's your bed for the night. Enjoy." "I can't take your bed from you." "You're not going to fit on the couch. No offence." For the first time that night, she laughed genuinely. "Oh, because I'm huge? Can't let anyone forget it, can we?" She slapped a hand on her plump rear end. "Aren't you a little afraid I might break your bed into splinters? Because I'm so overweight?" She plopped herself down hard on the mattress and the springs squealed. Her boobs were bouncing. But nothing yielded. The bed held firm. "It wasn't made out of plywood, like yours," I said. "Pretty comfortable too. Goodnight!" "Hey, wait," she shouted. "You're making me feel guilty" I found myself grinning. "I wrote a sense of guilt for you?" "I guess so... your writing's awful by the way - I mean, you can stay up here, if you like. It's your place. I don't want you to feel like I've crashed everything." "Wow, Olivia. Thanks, but I'd rather not feel the bruises in the morning. It's an old floor." "I mean in bed, idiot," she whispered under her breath. "Stay with me. I know you're having a rough ride with your stories coming alive at your doorstep but I don't know what the hell's up with me either. It's something bigger than me, if that's even possible. I don't what it is. I just don't want to be alone. I'm always alone. Please?" My feet were rooted. My stance was awkward. "...I can do that." I said. "Woohoo. Get in bed." she replied, deadpan. "Err...let me go brush my teeth." I hopped out of the room to the first door on the left, the bathroom. The first thing I did was splashed cold water in my face. I stared at myself in the mirror. Still real. I could tell as I could hear my bed creaking, with the sound of Olivia slowly stripping her damp clothes off her body. I hung on the last two words. I splashed some more cold water. I took my time with my teeth. I wanted her to be comfortable. I wanted her to believe I was the opposite of everything I'd done. Returning to my room, I shuffled to what was now my side. Her clothes were strewn all over the floor. The t-shirt was pulled out of proportion, and on the verge of ripping. I opened the duvet. Her pillowy form was under the sheets, softly stirring, naked but for her knickers, or panties as she'd have called them. Her breasts had tumbled to each side of her frame, braless. I breathed out. Shit. I hadn't given her a bra that fit since Chapter Eight. I left my side of the sheets tucked in. I lay down over the top, and pulled the duvet to my chin. I stared up at the ceiling. Olivia flicked her eyes at me. She looked me up and down. She saw what I'd done. "Ughh!" she mock-groaned, with a giggle. "Such a virgin." I was too tired to press a case for the defence. She threw the duvet over both our heads, and bucked her hips until she faced the bedside table. She loosened the sheet, kicking her legs free, shoving the edge under her back then rolling over the top. Olivia stuck out a hand and switched the lamp off. Then, breathing a little less softly, she rested. I faced the wall. I uncurled my legs, and rose my head in consternation as gravity drew them to the other side of the bed. My unexpected guest was tanking the mattress from the edge, creating a wallowing depression. Her form unmoving, Olivia was sucking me in, and she knew it. I relented. I rolled from one shoulder to another, facing her side. Now there were centimetres between us. She felt my breath on her shoulder. She softly cranked it up. I let it touch my chest, breathed in, breathed out and closed the gap. She let me push her dark golden hair a little away from my eyes. "Is this...is this really okay with you?" I repeated, whispering in her ear. She took my hand. She purred as she placed it delicately on her plush, yielding waist. "Mhmmphh. Night Campbell." I sighed, then I yawned. "Mhmmm. That's not my name..." I heard no reply. In seconds, the biggest little spoon in the world and I were asleep. If she snored I didn't hear her. I remembered only my dreams. They were never like my stories. I saw a dog, equally sleepy, lazing lonely on a plane, unmoving as a lithe fox swept from the hazy shadows, unflinching as it leapt over its back, again and again. A drooping pair of eyes, and a flash of brown.
  4. **Author's Note: This is a teaser to a story I posted on Deviantart! If y'all want to check it out it's under the same name for the story and my profile name is the same like here as well!** Description: Alison works at a gym near where she goes to school. Due to an accident she has to leave. Alison gets hired at Jack in the Box and the pounds begin to pile on... Diary Entry 07/22/17 Today Roy and I said our goodbyes. We figured we would simply text each other, or rather he would text me once he left. I mentioned this before in a previous diary entry, but Roy had been accepted into this college across the country. We ended our year long relationship just like that, in a peaceful yet mutual agreement. I never thought I would be in this position with him after meeting him at the gym where I work at about a year ago. I think it's been a great, crazy year though. I had a lot of fun with him, sex was amazing. He even encouraged me sometimes to cheat my diet and gorge a bit. I'm really going to miss Roy, but I know that this the best for the both of us. I guess in the end he's just going to be another ex boyfriend or girlfriend that wasn't the one. sincerely, Alison Alison closed the Day One app on her phone and grabbed her things to go to work. Alison had been working at her local gym to help support her tuition at USC in California. She worked part time there as to keep her sanity between balancing work and school. Getting into her cute little Honda Civic, she started her car and headed to work. Arriving through the front sliding doors she waved 'Hi' to her coworker Betty. Alison made her way to the counter to check in for work. "So how are you hun?" asked Betty, with concern on her face. "Eh I've been better. I think I need some distraction from all of this," Alison said as she signed her name on the check in sheet."Girl, if I were you I wouldn't worry for finding another man! I mean look at yourself, your literally one hot Mexican Momma! You seriously got ass for days!" Alison couldn't deny it she did have a spectacular ass, and working at the gym helped a ton to keep her physique in check. She took the compliment and smiled at Betty in a thankful look to her. Alison headed her way to go to her morning trainer area where she was scheduled to train someone. Alison arrived and to her trainee and began her morning program. Five minutes into the program Alison did a very wrong movement on the treadmill, tripped, bent her her ankle in an awkward position and fell off the treadmill machine. "OOWWW," she yelled. People around her, including her trainee tried help her get up, but to no avail. "Please, just put me down. It hurts to much keep standing on it." Alison was sent to the emergency room and was released later that day. Only she had a severely broken ankle and crutches to go with it. The next morning she got a call from work. "Hello?" answered Alison, wondering who was on the other line. "Ali, it's me Troy. I heard what happened yesterday. I'm really sorry, and it's unfortunate that it happened to you. I was calling to see if you're doing any better?" asked Troy, her boss, also the owner of the establishment. "I'm doing a bit better, but Troy I wanted to talk to you about something. Well concerning my job," said Alison hesitantly. "I'm really sorry but I don't think I can come back. I got hurt pretty bad, and the doctor said I'll be out for at least a month." "Damn, that's really a shame," said Troy with great sorrow. "I guess we'll have to mail you your last check. Seeing of course that you can't come down here with out tiring yourself out." "Yeah I think that'll be the best thing to do I'm really sorry it had to come to this Troy. You know me, I loved it there," Alison replied. After talking everything over from her having to quit her job at the gym, Alison hung up the phone and lay in bed looking up at the ceiling. In just twenty four hours she broke up with her boyfriend, broke her ankle severely, and to top it off she had no other choice but to leave her job. Which she very much enjoyed. Suddenly her belly started to protest in hunger. She grabbed her crutches that were set on her nightstand and struggled her way to the kitchen. Alison lived on her campus at USC and got along very well with her roommate. Both Alison and her roommate Vanessa shared a lot of things, even food. Despite Alison's gym addiction, she was opened up by her ex, Roy, that she should indulge in fattening delicacies every now and then. That was the case for her breakfast. Even though she just wanted some fruit she only found things like left over meals from previous nights. Such as pizza, cookies, chicken wings, you name it. Alison settled for some donuts, she then rested herself down on her couch and began eating. Diary Entry 08/17/17 It's been almost a month since everything that happened. I started looking for a job last week, but no call backs yet. My ankle has gotten better, but I feel like I've gotten pretty lazy. I think I'm eating more now than before, I noticed my clothes are getting a little snug. I don't think I'll ever say this out loud to anyone but, I kinda like it. I've always been so uptight with my body, but now I like indulging with extra foods. I like eating more than I usually do, and I'm kinda aroused by it sometimes. The feeling of having my belly full, and tight over my shirt feels sexy to me. Like I said though, I would never say this to anyone. Besides I'm pretty sure it only a few pounds, like 3 or 5 at the most. sincerely, Alison Alison was actually very, very wrong. This last month she has eaten more and more everyday. Her once toned abs and arms were now shapeless and getting flabby. But the one thing that was a positive, at least to her. It was her ass that grew even more. Alison's butt was already nice, round and large, due to her Mexican genes. Now however, it was growing at quite the alarming rate. Since Alison had become accustomed to wearing sports attire. She would always wear joggers, shorts, or leggings to be comfortable. With her ass growing rounder, jigglier by the day. Her clothes looked fantastic on her now, to say the least. Toward the end of the month Alison had gotten her cast off and was completely healed. Her eating however, well let's just say it grew along with her waistline. On a random mid afternoon, Alison got a call from an unknown source. Cleaning her fingers from the great, greasy chicken she was eating she answered the phone. "Hello?" answered the little blimp. "Hi is the Alison Perez? I'm calling from Jack in the Box, and wanted to know if you wanted to set up an interview?" "Yeah sure, when can I come in?" asked Alison struggling to get up from the couch to sit upright. "Does next Wednesday work for you?" asked the young woman on the other side of the line. "Wednesday works for me. What time should I arrive?" Alison asked, without realizing her belly was poking out of her gray tank top. "Get here before 10 in the morning and we'll get started," said the woman on the phone. Hanging up the phone excited, Alison got up from the couch and went to her room. Entering her room she saw herself in her mirror. She saw her belly coming out from beneath her tank top. Alison came over closer to her mirror and surveyed herself. Since she was home alone Alison lifted her tank top over her modest gut. She rubbed her hand in a circular motion just once over her flabby belly. Alison pinched and grabbed her belly, and shook it. Surprisingly she was not mad, shocked or even worried of her newly formed belly. In fact she kind of liked it, just a little. Alison bit her lip as she shook her belly and held it with both hands. She felt pleasure build from near the top of her vagina and she shook it more. "Uggh," moaned Alison softly as she grabbed her gut and jiggled it in front of her mirror. Alison was really getting horny now and proceeded to her bed. She plopped down onto her small twin bed. Alison rather ravenously took off her black shorts and matching panties. Immediately going for her pussy, Alison instantly felt that it was drenched. Growing even more turned on, Alison reached over to her nightstand drawer and grabbed her vibrator. Before going back and pressing it on her wet, almost squirting vagina, she saw a pack of Oreos on her roommates nightstand. "She won't mind," thought Alison going over to get the cookies. Laying back down she multitasked between stuffing herself with the delicious, fattening Oreos, and rubbing her clit with her vibrator. "Mmmph fuck this is so hot, I feel so fwucking fwat," Alison said while chewing with her mouth stuffed. She pressed harder on to her wet pussy and felt another wave of ecstasy crawl up her whole body. Reaching her point of no return Alison orgasmed hard as she soaked her bedsheets and finished her pack of Oreos. Dropping both her vibrator and empty pack of Oreos she laid in her bed for a moment with her eyes closed. After a second or two Alison ran her hands over her stuffed mountainous gut while looking at it smiling slightly. "I think I can get used to this sort of lifestyle. But it'll be our little secret, right tummy?" she asked as she patted and slapped her engorged belly.
  5. Maisy Pinkerton was rueing how tough her day would be. It was seven o’clock in the morning, and she took advantage of the lull in custom at the beef hot dog stand to talk to Bethany, who was manning the grill behind her. They wouldn’t get a chance later on. It was the day of the big race, and the place would be packed to the rafters. “See? Look at that. Look at that fat.” Maisy cursed the little roll of pudge that had appeared from her reliance on the meaty stock as her lunch, and sometimes her dinner, as she compared bellies with her best friend. “I don’t want to show up for spring break with a rubber ring.” she lamented. “You won’t,” Bethany assured her, laughing as she let her shirt drift down. “It’s a month away – you’d have to eat so many hot dogs.” “Doubt it – I think my metabolism’s packing up on me. I can’t shift any of this.” Maisy fingered her friendship bracelet and jumped. Her belly button quivered a little. She grit her teeth. “Don’t panic,” Bethany said. “Panic makes you stress. Stress makes you fat.” “And fat makes me panic…ughh…” Maisy pulled down her shirt. “Face it, you’re gonna have to roll me to Panama City.” “Hey, I’m still heavier than you, don’t forget.” “Yeah, but you’re three inches taller.” Maisy was fairly tall herself for a girl, at five foot eight, belied by the rush of wavy blonde hair that flowed half way down her back. But at five foot eleven, Beth towered a head over most of the rest of the girls in their cheer squad at college. “Stop worrying. You’re still going to be the flyer when we get back to practice,” said Beth. She wrapped Maisy in a hug and lifted her off her feet. “See. You’re not heavy. You’re a hundred and thirty pounds soaking wet.” “A hundred and thirty-five.” Maisy said lowly as she was squeezed. Those five pounds had crept on to her from three weeks ago. She was fearful of what the future would bring. She did not soon expect to be fearing for her life. “Oooh. Customer!” said Bethany. “Look alive.” Maisy turned with a prizewinning smile to the stocky man on the other side of the counter. She immediately recognised him as one of the drivers. “Two please, m’lady.” he garbled through his helmet. He slapped down a twenty dollar note. Beth went to work at the grill behind her. “Lotta sauce,” he called. “I like ‘em sloppy.” He turned his back, stuck a finger through his visor, scratched his greasy nose, then pushed something up against his ear. “Y’ello? Can’t hear ya, buddy. Speak up.” Maisy ducked beneath the counter for some napkins. “Are you alone?” she heard a voice say. Above her, the driver looked over his shoulder. “Uh-huh. Oh, howdy Marco…yeah, yeah, we’ve got it covered. Framed, fixed, rigged, ready to go.” “Excellent. The room’s clear. The rest is up to you.” “Yee-haw, whatever. When do I get my money?” There was a buzz of static, then a pause on the line. “When you win, Mick.” the Italian-flecked voice said quietly. “When you win.” Maisy paused as her hand found the napkins. She stood up slowly and received the hotdogs from Beth. Mick looked in the eye as he held a hand out for his snack, before she’d even put the sauce on. “Thanks darlin’.’” he mumbled. “You’re welcome.” she said, quietly. He broke his stare first as he turned to walk away. Maisy stared at his purple and green striped racing suit as he strode across the food court, his paces wide and fast. “Could you mind the counter a minute?” Maisy asked Beth. “I’m gonna go check something out.” “What?” “That guy.” “Slick Mick Ovett? Seriously? You’ve just turned twenty. He’s like, forty. And greasy and….eeeww.” “Not like that…” she muttered. “I think he’s up to something. Wait here.” Maisy pushed her hands down on the counter and vaulted over in a flash, landing with barely a tap on her tiptoes. She tailed Mick quietly, out of the food court and around to the garages. He crammed his first hot dog in through the gap in his helmet, then dropped the napkin on the floor. He looked over his shoulder. Maisy froze in her step, then in a move from something she’d seen on TV, she bent down and pretended to retie her shoelace. Mick paid no notice to her. He carried on walking to the garages, approaching the open bonnet of a stock car. Maisy hid behind the corner of a wall. He said something to the voice inside his helmet. Maisy presumed the red and white car with the number 50 was his as he leaned in and tinkered around the engine. Then he reached deep inside, rattled his gloved hand, and ripped out a wire. Maisy heard herself gulp. Something was definitely wrong. Mick looked over his shoulder again, then carried on walking. Maisy fished her phone out of her pocket, unlocked it, and opened the camera. She pointed it at him as he carried on walking. He approached another car – the number 10 – and brushed past it, nipping a back tire with his boot. Maisy heard a hiss as it deflated, capturing the whole moment on video. She guessed there was a metal edge along his shoes. Mick finished off the last of his second hotdog, then threw the waste in a trash can, along with the oily wire. When he was a safe distance away, Maisy pelted over to the trash can and held her phone over the bag. Mick strode over to the number 12. Maisy whipped her phone back around. There was someone working on the car, tinkering on a slider under the chassis. She half expected Mick to throw a cold-clocker when she watched him put a boot on the wooden board and pull the mechanic back, but instead they bumped fists. Mick stroked a greasy hand over the roof as they chatted to each other. It looked like that car was his. Maisy committed the number to memory. The oily driver laughed as he held out a hand and helped his crewmate to their feet. She was a full-figured woman. Her brown hair was tied in a messy bun, with the flyaways held back by her thick-rimmed glasses. Maisy watched her flip a wrench in the air and catch it, then plant a foot on the slider and skate to another stock car. Deftly for a girl of her size, she crouched down, put her back on the board and slid perfectly through the gap between the tires with a wide smile. There was a clang as the wrench made contact with something underneath the chassis. Slick Mick guffawed. Maisy closed her phone. She had all the evidence she needed to prove that Mick and his team were manipulating the Daytona 500. She bit her lip as she saw her phone’s charge was just 2%. She knew if it ran out before she could let the cops see it, she’d have to go home to charge it up. She wouldn’t have enough time to get them to stop Mick racing. On instinct she stepped out from behind the trash can. Maisy didn’t know much about cars, but she knew they were easily broken. She tiptoed on her skinny feet to the number 12 and dipped her hands inside the open bonnet, feeling around for the wire Mick ripped from the 50. She reckoned it’d buy her time, and give him a taste of his own medicine. Maisy found a wire, wrapped her fingers around it and pulled. It came out with surprising ease. But in her haste, her friendship bracelet rattled along the engine coolant reservoir. “What in tarnation?” Slick Mick wrenched off his helmet and stared at her. Maisy looked back, the wire curling in her hand. Her face was a mask. Mick dropped his helmet, reached into his pocket and with an infuriated sneer, he drew a pistol from inside his racing leathers. Maisy screamed. The dirty driver fired straight from the hip. The bullet flew over Maisy’s shoulder, ricocheted off the bonnet and sunk into the engine. Mick swore viciously and fired again. Maisy ducked as the second bullet bounced off the windscreen. She ran, her loose blonde hair flapping out behind her. A third bullet zipped past her feet. The pit crewmate scrabbled to get out from under the other car. Mick snarled and took off running while she screamed for him to stop. He still had four bullets left. He fired again as Maisy escaped the garages, and missed by inches. Maisy sprinted out into the open air, running for the stands of the Daytona International Speedway. It was hours before the 500 would start, so the waves of seats were empty. She didn’t know where to go. She didn’t know what to do. She kept running. She crossed the track, slid through the metal wires of the catch nets, leapt a barrier on the stands and charged up the steps to the thirtieth row. She jumped over another barrier and pumped her sinewy legs past Row 36. She turned to see if he was following her. Suddenly, Maisy lost her footing. Her ankle twisted awkwardly half-way up a step, and she tumbled backwards. Her head reeled as it collided with the concrete, and she screamed in agony as she fell head over heels, her twisted ankle thumping on a step edge once, then twice. She landed on top of it as she came to a halt at the bottom of the section, moaning in pain. A medic heard her cries and dashed out from her station in the stands to collect her. Maisy was crying. The medic administered a painkiller then radioed in for more help. Her ankle was fixed in place with splints, and two guys helped bear her into a stretcher. Maisy was taken to an ambulance waiting in the car park outside. She tried to look up from her reclined position just as she left the stands. Slick Mick was nowhere to be seen. Maisy was driven to the Florida Hospital Memorial Medical Center. She recovered from the shock, but the doctors informed her breaks in her ankle would take far longer to fix, since they were in two places. She was given a local anaesthetic and the broken bone fragments were realigned. Her leg was immobilised for the rest of the night, through to the following morning. It ached a lot after she woke up. News of her tumble got around fast. Bethany was her first visitor – she brought a giant bag of M&Ms, and they shared them as she filled her in on what had happened. Mick Ovett did not race – he had been found and arrested for reckless endangerment with a firearm. Maisy wanted him in the dock for attempted murder too, and game-fixing, and damage to property, but Beth said there’d be no need – the local police chief had assured her that from that and his past offences, he’d likely be jailed for a very long time. The chief himself was the next of her visitors. He took off his hat, revealing a balding head and introduced himself as Kevin Kint. He made to light a cigar, until one of the nurses reminded him that he was in a hospital. He smiled and put it away. “Might I request we be left alone together?” he asked them both. “Maisy and I have important matters to discuss.” They murmured their acquiescence and left the room. Kint immediately rekindled his cigar. “Maisy Pinkerton,” he said, shaking her hand through a gentle puff of smoke. “It’s a pleasure. I understand you’ve been through a great deal very recently. There may be things that you might not wish to discuss. But it’s vital at this stage that you let the police know everything that you remember about what happened that day.” “The first thing we need to know is, were there any other witnesses to the event?” Maisy thought back. “There was nobody with me,” she said. Her concussion had hazed her up memory. “Not after I started following him. There was a woman who saw it, a mechanic in his pit crew.” She gave him a physical description, noting the hair, glasses, the shape of her body. Kint took it all in, and nodded. “Did you acquire any evidence from the scene of the incident?” “I had a video on my phone…ughh…I wish I could show it to you. I smashed it when I fell down those stairs.” “I see.” said Kint. “That’s unfortunate. Was there anything else?” “There was this wire he ripped out of somebody’s car. It had these two plasticky parts on the ends.” “A spark plug wire,” Kint nodded. “What happened to it?” “He threw it in a trash can by the garages – I don’t think it’ll be there now. Someone will have taken out all the trash after the race yesterday.” “Yes. A pity. So that’s all there was?” “That’s all I can think of. There’s just what I saw…and what I heard. Mick was getting messages from a guy through the radio in his helmet. I think he was telling him what to do. Who to sabotage.” Kint pursed his lips. He took a long puff on his cigar. Then he took a seat, and sighed. “That’s the main thing I’ve come to talk to you about, Maisy. We’ve reason to believe that Mick Ovett was in contact with a criminal organisation. A crime family, known as the Trafficones, led by a man known as the Commissioner. They have rogue business interests all over Florida, and plenty around Daytona. Because of what’s happened, and because of your involvement…we think you’re now in terrible danger.” Maisy’s face paled. “What are they going to do to me?” she asked. “That’s dependent on whether they find you,” Kint answered. “And I promise, they won’t find you if you enter our witness protection service. It would mean changing your name, changing your address and moving into a safe house, but the benefit’s right there. You’ll be kept safe, Maisy, for as long as it takes until the danger goes away. Then we’ll take you straight home.” He reached down, pulled up a briefcase and opened it up. “We’ve already done a lot of work to establish your new identity. Your name will be Hannah Selles. You’ll live in Eldora – it’s a little town not far from here. There is a lady there who hosts lodgers, and who’ll be happy to have you around as long as you’re happy there. You’ll be able to keep up with your classes at UCF. But you won’t be able to come back here until we’re resolutely sure that the threat to your life is gone. Do you understand?” “Yes.” Maisy said. “And whatever happens, whatever you say or do, you must not talk about what happened to you before the race. You never know who might be listening. Got that?” “Got it.” said Maisy. “Excellent,” said Kint. “I’ll be back to collect you when your ankle’s healed up. If you need me, or you think you’re in trouble, call 911. We’ll do whatever it takes.” The police installed a guard outside Maisy’s room to monitor her visitors. He wore thick black glasses, and he never spoke to her. The only time she saw anything other than the back of his head from the window was the morning of the next day, when he brought over a box of a dozen Bubbunut donuts ‘courtesy of the force’, as the note read on the box. She had those to eat along with her hospital meals, plus sweets from Beth, homemade cake slices from her mom, and a colossal ‘Get Well Soon’ cake moulded in the shape of the tri-oval from NASCAR, with her name and a kind message written in icing on the centre. Maisy was certainly well-fed throughout her week-long stay – an ankle break usually meant one or two days in hospital, but the extent of the damage warranted an extra five on top. The lack of physical activity left her tetchy at first, but food was an ample way to stave off her boredom. And there was certainly plenty of food around. It was of little surprise to Beth to see her friend a little larger on her last day. She gave Maisy’s jelly belly a teasing poke. Her finger sunk almost to an inch. “Well, you might not be able to make it to Panama, but I’m glad to see you’re enjoying yourself.” she said, smirking. “Errr…you did this to me,” said Maisy. She breathed in, briefly finding the flat tummy of her former self, then breathed out, letting her puffy belly roll back. “Can’t you blame yourself?” Beth protested. “You’re the one who sat there and ate it all.” “Heh. I didn’t have much of a choice.” Maisy said, smiling, giving her tummy a pat. “Your fault, leaving me alone with chocolate…I think I heard the nurses say I’ve nearly put on a stone.” “Hey, look on the plus side,” Beth said. “Your boobs are bigger.” Maisy nudged her chin down, looked at her and smirked. “Really? You think?” “Yeah…I think it suits you, having more to play with. Don’t tell me you haven’t had a feel already?” “Err…no. Not with four-eyes outside the door.” Maisy said, shivering. “He gives me the creeps.” “Really? You mean Jojo? He gives me bubblegum.” “Jojo?” Maisy inquired. “It’s Giovanni, or something. He’s cool. You should take your top off and show him, it’ll really brighten up his day.” Before Maisy could grace that comment with a reply, a nurse informed Beth her time was up and escorted her away. Chief Kint returned that afternoon, and Maisy said goodbye to her parents from the bed. They wrapped her in a soft hug together, and told her to be strong like always. Her mom promised she’d keep her supported, since Maisy couldn’t go back to her job, while her dad pledged to keep her pet Bichon Frise company while she was away. Bethany’s goodbye after she walked out of the hospital on crutches left her nearly in tears, but she was sure they’d see each other again soon after spring break. She’d been told UCF had another location in Eldora – she’d be out of the scope of regular campus life, but they’d be able to keep in touch. Maisy’s parents helped pack her stuff into the boot and back seats of Kint’s cop car, and in the early hours of the morning he drove her from the hospital to her new home. Eldora was a pretty place – palm trees lined clean and tidy streets, and the houses were all pearly white. The house Maisy had been offered to stay in was bigger than her old home, with a wide porch and a grove of orange trees in the back yard. A plump old lady with a big grey perm answered the door when Kint knocked, and immediately invited the three of them in for milk and fresh-baked cookies, straight from the oven. Her name, as Kint told Maisy, was Anne Gretel. “Hannah, pumpkin, it’s so lovely to have you here!” she beamed, embracing her in a hug. Maisy was confused for a moment, until she remembered she had a new name now, as well as a new home. “Call me Annie. Grannie Annie, if you like, your Grandma number three. I’ve got a room upstairs right and ready just for you. Let me show you around!” Maisy took a tour of the house, hobbling around on her crutches. Her room was the most spacious in the house; the bed was a double, warm soft and inviting. The living room featured a huge plasma television, which made a strange contrast with the dated but plush-looking furniture. The kitchen was wide and sparkly. Annie opened the cupboards. They were stocked to the top with goodies – potato chips, chocolate bars, cakes and biscuits, box after box of Twinkies… “I wondered what your favourites were and I just couldn’t decide,” Annie told her. “I thought I’d go the whole hog and have fun figurin’ out!” Maisy smiled. She decided she’d like it here. The following morning Maisy got herself acclimatised with the rest of the town. Eldora had a bus service, and the lone driver was a kindly fellow who offered to pick her up from the sidewalk even before she’d hobbled anywhere near the stop. He’d find her whenever she was walking by and give her the ride to the plaza never for any more than fifty cents. Maisy noted that everything was really cheap in Eldora. Especially the food. Maisy put her crutches to one side, and then scrolled through her phone as she waited for her pizza at one of the local pizzerias. She looked out for messages from Bethany, but couldn’t find any. She was a little sad that she’d have to miss out on spring break, but with crutches, a foot in a cast and nascent new love handles, she reasoned that perhaps it was for the best. Bethany assured her that the next year would always be better. Maisy made pains to avoid calling her during the week she was in PCB – not out of any ill will, but because she knew hearing the inevitable tales about the wild partying from a bed in a sleepy little town miles and miles away would only make her feel worse. She kept off Facebook too, to avoid the inevitable flood of photos of towels and sand, cool cocktails and bronzed bodies lying in the sun. She visited just once, biting her lip as she saw a blissful crowd of tanned, toned bellies, and miserably compared them with her own – thicker, paler, rounder, doughier. She gave her flesh a soft, sad pat. She logged out, and had a thought to create an all new Facebook account, under her new name. It’d help her keep in touch with the friends she’d make in Eldora. She entered her details, then flipped her phone to take a profile picture of her on the couch. It took twenty tries before she settled on one she was relatively happy with. She rued the chubbiness of her cheeks, the little pocket of flesh that formed under her chin as she looked at the camera, smiling. Annie’s irresistible southern cooking – her fried chicken, her pork loin steaks, her wicked weekly barbecues – was taking its toll. Maisy Pinkerton had been skinny, slender and fit. Hannah Selles, it seemed, was blooming into a chubby young woman. For however much longer, Maisy was irksomely unsure. In a town with a pizzeria, a burger bar and an ice cream parlour – but no gym – Maisy could only sit, eat and sigh. She knew her body was softening in her slow recovery. Arms that were tense with twine like muscles now wobbled a little when she tried to make her biceps bulge. Legs that once carried a lithe figure now carried weight – fat weight – above them and around them. Maisy was pining for a return to jogging on the beach, to shift the rubbing sensation she was feeling between her thighs when she hobbled from her comfy bed in the mornings. But that required an all-clear from the doctor on her ankle. To measure her progress healing, she had an appointment with him every two weeks. But much to her dissatisfaction, the only progress she seemed to be making was found on the reader above the little white square on the floor. “One hundred and sixty-nine pounds,” the doctor said, writing the number in his notes. Three other numbers were in the margins of a file page that bore her name, each a little higher than the last. “That’s a gain of eight pounds since your last visit.” Maisy grimaced. She fingered the roll of flesh that hung over her underpants, bought a size larger than what she normally wore. She thought most of the weight had gone to her belly, but then looked down at her legs. Fat was beginning to cocoon around her knees. “Err…how soon can I go running again?” she asked, flinching a little. “Judging by your most recent bone scans, not for another month,” the doctor said. “And that’s dependent on you allowing yourself time to rest, Hannah. I can see you’ve been putting excessive stress on fractures that haven’t fully healed yet. You need to stop exercising on your leg.” “But I have stopped exercising,” Maisy said. “It’s my…it’s my weight gain doing this. I’m getting heavier and heavier because I’m moving less, because of my ankle. But it’s hurting my ankle anyway.” “Then you need to stop moving it completely,” said the doctor. “You need to give it some proper rest. No exercising. No long walks. Prop it up in bed, and maybe it’ll have chance to recover from the stress.” Maisy wondered if she’d recover from her stress, of spending the next day cooped up on the couch, feeling her fitness further go to waste. The only distractions from her pointless self-criticism were television and food. She asked Annie for ice cream; her theory was that dairy would help her recovery, as milk was good for the bones. The little old lady put on her apron, and a while later wowed her with a huge triple milk chocolate sundae, smothered in whipped cream. The day after that, Maisy asked for another, and she soon fell into the routine of having one after every dinner, She’d have a chocolate milkshake when she relaxed on the porch through the warmth of noon, a hot chocolate and cream before bed, cookies and milk after breakfast in the morning. However fast her bones were getting stronger from all the extra milk she couldn’t really tell, for the other effects of her excessive dairy consumption were becoming increasingly apparent. Maisy’s shinier smile was becoming ever more laced with concern as she lathered her body in the shower every morning. She realised there was more of herself to soap up and scrub, more flesh to rub and dry, then slide into her clothes. Her jeans were feeling pinchy, so she forewent them on the morning of her thirtieth day of rest in favour of her underwear and an oversized tee. Annie was out, so she made herself a hearty breakfast on the grill, then slaked her thirst with two big glasses of milk. Maisy retrieved a big pack of mini chocolatey brownies from the top of the cupboard and opened them on the couch. Two by two, she popped them in her mouth. The Florida sun was shining through the windows, and her treats were beginning to melt in her hands. Undaunted, Maisy simply sped up her consumption as her eyes remained fixed to the TV. She scowled as the chocolate smeared over her cheeks as she ate – a little dropped on to her shirt, a little more on her thighs. She stuck out her tongue to lick it off her nose, then Annie arrived back and bustled into the living room. Her eyes shone when she saw Maisy. “Gosh, darling, I didn’t recognise you a moment there. My, my, haven’t you blossomed?” Maisy’s thicker cheeks flushed red as she smiled. Is it that noticeable already? she wondered. “Err…hello to you too, Annie.” “My, my, those college boys ain’t gonna know what hit ‘em. C’mere, let me get a look at you.” Maisy’s awkward smile stayed plastered to her face, like the chocolate, which was all over her hands too. Wanting to avoid smearing it on the upholstery she tried to stand up with using the armrests. She immediately flopped back down. Maisy felt her belly jiggle, then jiggle some more as Annie hoisted her up off the couch from her elbows. “Oooh, my gorgeous girl’s gotten so healthy. Heck, it’s like someone rigged you up to a garden hose and turned the pressure on high. Just like the cheaters do to the pumpkins at the state fair. Do you want waffles? I brought you some waffles.” “I’ve err…I’ve just had cookies.” Maisy said sheepishly. “Oh, give them a try. They’re delicious. You don’t want ‘em when they’re cold now, do you?” Maisy reluctantly had her waffles. Caving to the sweet homely tastes she had bacon sandwiches, a milkshake, steak, another sundae and another box of cookies all before she saw the doctor again the next morning. Once more she tripped to her underclothes in his office, though this time she did so slowly. Her pinchy jeans had left marks on her sides, and her shirt was bunching her boobs uncomfortably. The regular scan on her ankle was performed, and the doctor returned with a readout. “Good news,” he chimed. “You’re well on the road to recovery. You’ve no new fractures, your old ones are fixed up, and your breaks are finally unbroken.” “Yes!” Maisy shouted with a joyful bounce. “Does that mean I can run again?” “If you really want to, you’ll have to take it easy. It’s still early days.” the doctor said. “Don’t go too far or too fast. And don’t over-exert yourself. In your present condition, I wouldn’t recommend any more than thirty minutes of physical activity. Per week.” Maisy frowned. “Well…it’s something, I guess.” she said. Her hand massaged her belly softly, then she gave it a slap. It rippled, far more than what she would have allowed. Catching the doctor’s eye, she nervously pulled down the hem of her shirt. “Miss Selles…if you’d mind me asking this question…” he said. “How have you been keeping with your weight?” “Umm…fine, I think,” Maisy said. “I might have put on a few more pounds. Is that bad?” “It’s perfectly normal for patients that have suffered debilitating skeletal damage to gain weight over the course of their treatment.” he said. “But you’re a special case, and from looking at you now after last month…let’s say I feel a few pounds may be an understatement. Would you mind stepping on the scale?” “Oh. Um…not at all.” Maisy said. She bit her lip. These were words that she was not used to hearing. She stood by the scale, then tentatively stepped on, a finger pursed over her concerned pout. “A hundred and ninety nine pounds.” the doctor read. “Okay, Hannah, take a seat.” Maisy stepped off and planted her bottom on the cold steel of a chair. It spread over the smooth surface. She felt rather rotund. “You’ve put on thirty pounds since the last time we saw each other,” the doctor explained. “Like I said, it’s perfectly normal for people in your situation to put on weight.” Maisy nodded. “But this has come on quite rapidly, and unfortunately, it does look like you’ve ventured into overweight territory. You’re two stones above the upper line of what a girl your height and age should ideally be.” “Okay” Maisy said, unblinkingly. “There are steps you can take to help reduce your weight, but you don’t need the whole shebang. You were in great shape before your accident. I’m confident you’ll be able to get your body back to how it was. If you’d like to book another appointment in a month’s time to measure your progress, that’d be fine.” “Sure.” mumbled Maisy. She arranged a date, thanked him without looking him in the eye and left, hastily. With her ankle fixed, Maisy could walk normally again. But the bounce was gone from her step. She walked out the doctors red-faced, painfully aware of her softly shifting paunch, and the rolls that squished over her hips as her legs shifted. I broke my ankle. I’ve been out of training a while. It’s normal. Just like he said. Normal. As she felt her breaths begin to shorten, she began to wonder just how normal suddenly being thirty pounds overweight really was. It felt completely alien to her. A little chubbiness she could tolerate – an extra cup size, a smoother curve around her hips. But this, she knew, was fatness. This was pinchy, jiggly, pot-bellied fatness. Maisy decided there and then that something had to be done. She couldn’t go back home to her parents, to college, to work as a fat girl. Out on the sidewalk she tied up her hair and broke into a run. Her little feet pounded the street in their sneakers, aching from lack of recent use. Her softly swinging belly began to hop and bounce over the waistband of her sweats. I’ll do the circuit the bus does Maisy decided. I think it’s three miles. Just an easy-peasy three miles. Her body felt like it’d gotten to the three mile mark after just three hundred metres. It felt like years since she’d last done some running. Sweat emerged from under her arms, under her neck, and around her wobbly paunch. As she got close to Annie’s house, Maisy felt a stitch throbbing along her side. She clutched herself as she hobbled on, pressing into the fat. Annie was out on the porch, wearing big pink baking gloves. She gave her a wave. “Is that you darling?” she called. “You’re right on time, I’ve got poundcake in the oven!” Maisy groaned as her aches and pains brought her to a plod. The last thing she needed in her condition was more cake. “Whatcha say, you comin’ in?” Annie asked her. “Sure…Annie,” Maisy huffed. She put her hands on her knees and looked out to the road in front of her. “I’ll have some right after…right after I take a shower.” She pushed back the loose strands of her sweaty hair and hobbled inside, feeling breathless and weak. She didn’t want to give up so easily. But the doctor did say take it easy, after all she told herself. You’ve run a mile, almost. That’s worth a slice of cake, right? Maisy’s belly gurgled. She did feel hungry. “I’ve got whipped cream and chocolate sauce too. I’ll leave it in your room” Annie chimed. “Great,” Maisy puffed. “Thanks….ughhh…” She passed the kitchen on the way to her room, stripped off her clothes, showered, then slumped on the bed in a dressing gown. She spooned herself cake, numbly, as she nursed out the cramp in her soft thighs. Maisy decided to finish off her three miles the day after next. She wanted just a little more rest.
  6. ‘They are of the People, and return again to mix with the People, having no more durable preeminence than the different Grains of Sand in an Hourglass…’ - Benjamin Franklin, letter to George Whatley, May 23, 1785. Madison fingered her belly, adjusted her glasses and skimmed the front page of the Boston Herald. Her face beamed back, glowing and resplendent, though she scowled at the sight of the tiniest roll that had appeared under her chin in the picture of her shaking a pig farmer’s hand. The headline was ‘THE BIG V’ – BOSTON MAYORAL RACE HEATS UP AT EASTERN STATES EXPOSITION. The rest of the words were unimportant to her. She was keenly aware that in this election, image was everything. It could make or break her victory. Her opponent, Moira Dixon, was the hardened heir of a Boston Brahmin, himself the scion of a longstanding political dynasty, with a string of distinguished ancestors moulding and shaping their power base in New England ever since the end of the Civil War. Madison lacked such a pedigree – though her senator father could offer her a trove of political connections, his home state was California. She grew up on the West Coast, not the East. As such, despite a decade spent first at MIT and then around various local councils she still felt that she was struggling to convince people she belonged. Her bronzed skin, long blonde locks and undeniably sensual hourglass figure were the traits of a pin-up girl, not a politician. Madison knew she had to work not just to promote her vision, but to promote an image that would not be a detriment to her chances. Thus her campaign team made clear she was Madison, rather than Maddie. She was not ‘in her twenties’; she was twenty-eight years old. She was mature, she was driven, and she was the future of the city. But for people to believe in her, sacrifices unfortunately had to be made. She swapped her prescription contact lenses back for her bifocals, which she’d not worn since high school, but which her campaign manager Isabella insisted encapsulated an authoritative look. Before her first rally Madison had relented to having the waves straightened out of her golden hair, an inch (but no more) taken off the ends and the colour itself dyed to a sharp jet black. Changes, again not voluntary ones, were also being forced upon the body she’d honed through years of swimming and diving. Amidst the hustle and bustle of campaigning, Madison was proud, even a little bit surprised, that she’d kept herself under one hundred and thirty pounds. The social gormandizing – drinking in Irish pubs, a barbecue at the NAACP meet, pizza at several Italian-American restaurants – was pushing her closer and closer, she knew, but her campaign manager Isabella was keeping her fighting fit with a string of carefully chosen appointments at Boston’s basketball arenas, ballparks and football stadiums, where she’d inevitably be called upon to get in the game. It had taken time, practice and a select few cuss words, but Madison had surprised her team by sinking a free throw on her first attempt at TD Gardens in front of eighteen thousand people. The cheer she got had been the highlight of a long, dragging start to the year. The late night snacking was a little bothersome. But it was the late nights themselves that were taking their toll. Backstage, Lillian dabbed the little bags under Madison’s eyes with eye cream and concealer. “You’re a lifesaver.” Madison mumbled. She tried to glance one more time at the additions Isabella had made to her stump speech. “Keep looking at me,” said Lillian, pressing a finger on the side of her temple. “There. Just a little more. Perfect, you’re done.” She returned the makeup to her handy carry case. “And no, I don’t save lives. For you I barely have to. You’re beautiful. Remember that when you’re out there.” “Thanks. Urghh…how long do I have?” “You’re on in one.” said Scott, her pollster and math man. “One hour?” said Madison, smiling sweetly. She warmed at the thought of a nap when all of this was over. “Fifty seconds and counting” said Isabella. “Now Madison, focus. Those questions are going to be coming thick and fast this time next week, from all corners. This right here is going to be a breeze, but don’t let your guard down. Who are you?” “Umm…Madison Greene…” “I said who are you?” “Madison Greene!” she said with a little more vigour. “What do you want?” Food…Sleep... “A better future for Boston!” “Fantastic. Now where are you?” Madison blinked. “Umm….err…” She tried to peer out of the window. Isabella put a palm to her face. “The harbor. It’s called the harbor.” “I knew that!” Madison protested. “I just thought it had a special name or something, like…” “Boston Harbor?” offered Scott. “Yeah. I mean…no…” “And what happened in Boston Harbor two hundred and forty two years ago?” asked Lillian. Madison groaned again. Her personal stylist slash makeup artist had majored in History and rarely let her forget it. “Something important?” “Hell yeah, something important. It begins with a B. B…Buh-” Buh…Bubbunut Doughnuts. Oh god yes. “On in twenty.” said Scott. Madison suddenly stopped daydreaming. “- Boston…” Lillian drew out. “Boston…” Madison murmured. “Boston T…T…” “…twerking?” Lillian gave her a puzzled look. The she nearly doubled over laughing. “Are you serious? The Boston Twerking Party?” “Oh…oh right. I get it now.” said Madison. “That thing where the patriots…” “…got together and threw their asses out into the harbour. Okay, get that image out of your head.” said Isabella sharply. “You’re on now. Ready?” “Ready.” Isabella lifted the curtain and Madison strode out into the bracing air of the bay. A healthy crowd had formed around the stage set up next to the USS Constitution, and they applauded warmly as she strode to the veiled object on the table in the centre. The President of the Boston Nautical Heritage Society, a seventy year-old man dressed in full colonial naval regalia, shook her hand and took to the microphone, offered his greetings and thanks to the crowd and to Madison. “And without further ado, I’ll unveil what you’ve all come here to see!” he shouted. He hobbled over to the table and with a flourished whipped away the veil. Beneath it was an hourglass, vast and gleaming. A mound of shining sand, glittering like a mountain of gold, lay at the bottom chamber while the sun’s rays dazzled out of the top. The frame was beautifully carved mahogany - the ocean waves were cut into the grooves, where angels and mermaids linked hands. “After last year’s unfortunate incident, I hope you’re all as glad as I am to see the Franklin Hourglass again.” the president said to more applause. “Over the past nine months, our experts at the society, with help from the Sandwich Glass Museum and the late Folger Meadows, one of Boston’s last traditional whittlers, have painstakingly restored this prized artefact to its former glory.” His wrinkly hands lifted the hourglass up. “It gives me great pleasure to present this masterpiece in Mister Meadow’s memory to Madison Greene, so that she may have the honour of returning to the captain’s quarters of the USS Constitution, the very place Benjamin Franklin intended it to occupy when he created it two hundred and twenty six years ago.” Madison held out her hands and he passed it over. Her foot shot forward in her high-heeled shoes – it was a lot heavier than she’d thought. She gripped it by the side, with a hand on the top and bottom to manage the weight, then smiled at the crowd though inside her lungs were straining. She let the hourglass rest on the table a moment before she spoke. “Thank you Mister President. And thank you the citizens of Boston, for joining me on this lovely day to return this beautiful hourglass to its home aboard the – oh SHIT!” Madison’s mouth hung open as she saw the hourglass teeter on the edge the table. Having laid it on its side, she hadn’t seen it slowly roll away whilst she was speaking. She made a lunging grab for it but it tumbled off the edge, bounced, then fell off the stage. She dashed to the front, just in time to see it roll to the end of the harbour. She cringed as a splosh echoed across an audience that had fallen deathly silent. “Uhhh…” Madison mumbled. The eyes of the crowd were turning back to her once the antique had sunk to the ocean floor. The Boston Nautical Heritage president looked utterly shell-shocked. She snatched a pleading glance at Isabella backstage, behind the curtain. Her campaign manager held out her hands and mouthed ‘Don’t…move…’. She said some other things but Madison couldn’t read her lips. All she knew was that the worst thing she could do at this point was run away. Madison looked at the crowd. She had to say something. “Well, maybe I’m not the best person to handle Boston’s past…” she exclaimed to a slight titter. “But does the past always have to matter? I’m sure we as freedom-loving people don’t want to forever be trapped by the past and the mistakes we might have made. Maybe you put an odd pair of socks on this morning. Maybe you parked your car too close to an intersection when you came here. Maybe you just dropped a priceless hourglass into the ocean…” Some people started laughing. Madison smiled. “But, it doesn’t have to mean anything if you don’t want it to. You don’t have to be confined by your past, and neither should this city. It’s time we started looking forward. It’s time we started looking to the future. It’s time we started looking for a better future for Boston!” She raised a triumphant hand, and to her amazement, the audience began to applaud. She left the stage, more than happy to leave the still stunned president to handle the rest of the ceremony. “I don’t know how you pulled that off, but you did.” Isabella whispered as she descended the stairs. “Good job. Now let’s get in the car and get out of here” She eyed the audience. “Before they ask us about paying for salvage.” When they made it back to the downtown campaign office, the team agreed a good rest was in all of their best interests. They took the rest of the afternoon off, scheduling to meet up again the next morning. “Somebody please tell me my chances didn’t sink with that hourglass yesterday…” Madison said the moment she walked in. The memory still made her feel sick to her stomach – her stomach itself had given her no end of trouble in groaning and rumbling. “Nothing’s unsalvageable.” said Isabella, skimming through another edition of the Boston Herald. “How’s the social media?” “Well, the older generation think you’re a clutz, especially the WASPs” said Scott. “But there’s not many of them on Facebook. And on the plus side. the eighteen to twenty five demographic is finding it hilarious.” He showed her a picture on Facebook that had been doing the rounds on the rest of the internet – already it had accrued over 135k of likes. It was Nathaniel Currer’s old-timey painting of the Boston Tea Party, albeit with her image photoshopped in between the men dressed as Native Americans, holding a hand out while the Franklin Hourglass fell beneath her into the water. ‘Oh Shit!’ was the caption. “It isn’t important,” said Isabella. “The papers are having a field day, but you’re still closing the gap on Moira. That’s what matters. We’re going to build on that ahead of the debate, starting at the creamery tomorrow.” Madison licked her lips. Finally, now came the event she’d been looking forward to the most. “You’ve been taking it ok, right?” Lillian asked her. “Yeah” Madison shrugged. “Why?” “You’re looking a little…fed up.” “What?” said Madison, her hand nervously covering her tummy. “Literally or figuratively?” Lillian stared at her again. “Both, I guess. Have you been eating okay?” “Yeah…I’ve just been feeling a little bloated. That’s all.” Madison put her hand to her stomach again. Strangely, it was curving out. She was perplexed to find that even after skipping her usual morning frappuccino, the bloatedness did not subside. She pursued an answer at the office restroom, where she found an old spring scale by the cleaning supplies. She took off her heels and stepped on. Her eyebrows rose. She was one hundred and forty-nine pounds. She stepped on again. The arrow pointed to the same place, a dash just shy of 150. She gave herself a puzzled look in the mirror. She could no longer see her ribs, nor feel them as she smoothed a hand down her side. Her face was a little rounder, her waist a little wider, her breasts a tad bigger than she remembered. Where did all that come from? I weighed myself a month ago. I was one twenty-nine, wasn’t I? She wondered if she had been kidding herself all this time. Had she really been seeing a four as the middle number, rather than a two? Madison wiggled her hips. Clearly she’d lost her youthful metabolism. She made a silent resolution to start watching what she ate. “Stating at the creamery tomorrow,” she told herself in the mirror. “Or maybe later…” She’d allow herself an ice cream. She had to, of course, to make it look like she was enjoying her time there. One ice cream couldn’t do her any harm. It wouldn’t take her to one-hundred and fifty pounds. “Wouldn’t that be a disaster?” Madison grimaced, thinking about the press. She found the paper and checked the latest political reports, casting a keen eye over Moira. She smiled when she remembered where her opponent would be tomorrow – not at the creamery, but at a waste treatment plant. She was glad to have Isabella on her team. No matter what happened, she’d always pick the long straws. The thought made her crave a sundae. So she had one. Just a little one. The creamery ice cream, in fact, did not take her to one-hundred and fifty pounds. She learned she had passed that point, and then some, long before she even arrived at the creamery. “No, I’m not ok,” she said to Lillian before she could ask. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Madison glared at herself in her hand mirror while they stood by her car. She looked chubby. Primped, poised, and chubby. “It’s fine,” her stylist said. She felt a sharp tug down her shoulders as she tried to pull down the hem of her jacket. “Nothing I can’t fix.” Madison got Isabella on the phone and told her she was going to be later than she’d thought. She’d lost fifteen minutes already that morning, taking a lot more time than she was used to squeezing herself into her skirt. She bust a bra trying to secure the button, and her eventual success left her curiously disappointed when she found her jacket wouldn’t cover up a jelly roll of hers that hung over the edge. Lillian worked tirelessly to tie a matching coloured girdle under her shirt and jacket, around the areas of exposed flesh that stuck out at the bottom. “This is ridiculous.” Madison said, to no-one in particular. “You’re just having a fat day. It happens to everybody.” “Not like this. There’s a difference between having a fat day and waking up fat.” “You’re not fat.” “I’m one hundred and seventy pounds. I gained twenty pounds in less than a day. And that’s on top of the twenty pounds I think I gained before the last time I saw you. I literally got huge overnight. I went to bed and woke up with these...” Madison cupped her soft, fleshy, bigger boobs. “And this.” She gripped the nascent thickness on her sides. “Love handles, Lillian. You don’t get love handles from being bloated.” “Just hold your hands up a mo…” Madison grunted as Lillian pulled the strings tight. She felt her boobs mushroom out the top of the girdle. She tied them together at the back then offered Madison her jacket. She grit her teeth in discomfort as she twisted to put it over her shoulders. She brushed her hair over her back then looked at herself again in the hand mirror. Her slim figure had returned – she was her normal self again, save for the slight slither of fat beneath her chin. “Seriously, you’re a lifesaver” Madison told her stylist. “I wouldn’t recommend bending” Lillian said quietly. “And be careful when you sit down. The strings might snap.” “That’s fine. I can still eat, right? This thing won’t burst off?” “Yeah. A small ice cream won’t hurt.” “Great” she sighed. The taste would help take her mind off the painful pressure on her ribs, and her steady, yet sudden and wildly speedy weight gain. At least for a little while. A whiff of rich milk drifted to her nose. Her taste buds titillated. “All done?” Madison asked Lillian. “Oooh!” Lillian tightened the last string. “Yeah, all done.” Madison checked her handbag and the two of them walked together through the creamery car park. The smell of sweet ices grew and grew. Madison widened her strides. Suddenly, she heard a giant scratch. She felt a light breeze, and the gentle easing of pressure. Her hands zipped to her derriere. “We’re leaving” said Madison, mortified. “I’m getting out of here before anyone sees me.” “But they’re expecting you” said Lillian. “I can fix it, I’ve got safety pins…” Madison ignored her as she shimmied back to her car. The tear on the seat of her skirt rippled and grew. “Please!” Lillian shouted “The show has to go on!” Madison bustled in and started the ignition. She reversed out of her spot and wound down the window. “Tell them I’m sick or something. Tell them anything. Tell them I’m sorry. But don’t tell them what just happened.” She wound the window back up and sped away, cringing. Her tummy brushed the bottom of the steering wheel as she reached the freeway. What’s happening to me? she wondered, desperately. The next day at 2:00pm, after a very light lunch, Madison reluctantly turned to the campaign office after receiving Isabella’s thirtieth text message. Her campaign manager was uncharacteristically ruffled. She rattled off her questions as soon as her candidate opened the door. “Why didn’t you show yesterday? We’ve been calling you all morning, where have you been? What have you been doing?” “Growing…” said Madison. Her voice was low, and strained, like the stitches on her shirt. Ovals of pale, soft fat peeked out between each button, from the bottom of her shirt up to her breasts, where she’d had to leave them undone. Her boobs overflowed from the tops of their cups. Her campaign manager was visibly shocked. “Do you wanna hear the latest poll figures?” said Scott, cheerfully trying to break the silence. He forced a smile when Madison looked his way. “Scott, none of that bullshit matters now,” she huffed. “Do you have idea how much I weigh?” “Err…it’s not a big deal…” “Two hundred pounds. It is a big deal.” Madison muttered as she slumped on her chair. She had been unable to cram herself back into her girdle than morning – thus every pound showed. The chair groaned in complaint as she twisted around to face Isabella. “You remember how I made a sugary drinks tax a cornerstone of my health policy?” Isabella numbly nodded. Madison let her fingers trace the creases in the thick rolls of fat that formed around her middle as she sat. Her shirt buttons stretched. “How am I supposed to lecture people on the obesity crisis, looking like this?” Her voice drew quieter as she gripped her pot belly tightly. “I am the obesity crisis. Either we find a way to work around this, or I can’t keep campaigning.” There was more silence. Isabella broke it this time. “Maybe it doesn’t feel good, but it’s a little late to change your platform now. You’ve gotta keep fighting. You’ve got to remember being a mayor is not about what you look like. It’s about what you do, and what you say.” “But I’ll never get to be the mayor looking like this. They’ll say I’m lazy, that I can’t control myself.” Madison insisted. “I’ve got to lose this weight.” She got out of her chair and left the office in a hurry, leaving her team to the rest of the work. She drove back to her house, pinged off the super tight buttons of her shirt and pants then changed into some stretchy leggings and a vest. She found her long forgotten exercise bike in a cupboard, brushed off the dust and cobwebs and set it up in front of her television. Madison worked out forty minutes on, twenty minutes off for the rest of the day, right up till ten pm. Her belly bunched up and slapped her thighs as they rotated. Sweat poured off her chubbier cheeks. To keep her going she drank only water, and ate just some leftover celery from the fridge and the apples and pears in her fruit bowl. When they ran out, she ate nothing at all. By ten her legs felt like jelly. She staggered off the bike to her bathroom and showered. The burst of cool water made her calves seize up. She had to roll off the side of her bathtub to get out, and crawl to her bedroom. She was too weak to even step on a scale. She collapsed into her bed and nursed out the cramping knots in her muscles. Madison’s belly woke her up the next morning with an unsatisfied rumble. She ignored it, changed from her pyjamas into a fresh pair of leggings and a vest and got back on her bike. She found herself tiring more easily, and put it down to her lack of food and her efforts yesterday. She’d noticed her belly had stopped slapping her thighs – by the afternoon it was rubbing along the top, itching her as it sweated even as she leaned back to give her chubby rolls more fresh air. After working herself to the point of crumbling again, Madison eased herself off the bike. She took another long shower, dried herself, then found her scale. She dropped her towel and stepped on. “Five pounds,” she told herself. “At least five pounds…come on…” She tensed up as the reading flickered. She tensed up even more at the figure it came up with. She was two hundred and thirty pounds. “That’s impossible!” she screamed. She kicked her scale back into the cabinet. “I’ve done nothing but work out, all day! How am I bigger?!” Her legs were giving way, and her stomach was roaring for food. Teeth bared, she gave in to what her body was craving. She cleared out her cupboard, fridge and freezer of what she wanted, piled her living room table with cookies, potato chips, chocolate and ice cream, then dropped on the couch, turned on the TV, and stuffed herself relentlessly. When her snacks were gone she pulled her clothes back on and ordered pizza. She ate and ate, till her stomach was as painfully tight as her leggings. “What the hell?” she shouted through a mouthful of food, when they started to split down the outside of her thigh. She swore viciously and ripped the tear open herself, dumbstruck by the vast expanse of doughy fat, wobbling freely. She found herself a giant Hershey bar donated a while ago by a kindly supporter, and ate late into the night.
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