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  1. ‘All Free Today’ My teeth chattered. I scraped open my sodden campus map. I locked eyes with the girl in the sandwich board by the window, grinning in her little red riding hood. Her speech bubble glowed in flowery pink. All free today? Seriously? I glared at the sign above the door. Grimm’s House of Sugar. I wiped my eyes on my sleeve, looking at my map. I was so pathetically lost. The auditorium with the signups – that was ten minutes away. Residence halls were up the hill. I was somewhere in between. I could’ve gone to the cafeteria like a normal person. But that meant more lines, and tables, and chairs, and noise, and...ugghhh...more people. My starved muscles were chastising my stupid nerves. I bit my lip, trying to concentrate, scrying for a blob of pink – maybe, somewhere between the football field and the cafe I wanted, tucked away under a crease, or a fold. What’s the international sign for a sweetshop? I checked the grid. Nothing. Great. It wasn’t even on the map. First day of college, and so far all I was getting was a cold. And a drenched sweater. I squinted my eyes. I felt wet fabric bunching and shrinking under my arms. The wind howled down the avenue and the cold sucked on my bones. I cursed, clenching up my zipper jacket and pressed it tighter to my chest, dipping my chin as the gust hit, blowing my hair into a maelstrom. The map flew away behind the flash of blue. I swept my hair back and stretched a wispy arm, too late to stop it falling headlong into the gutter. Great I mumbled, weakly, watching the colours drain. Asking a stranger for directions while looking like a drowned rat. What could be worse? I swallowed. I practically curled up, shivering. I was skinny as a damn toothpick – another gust like that and I’d be carried to the clouds. The biting air breathed its last, and my arms ached as I regained my composure. I needed warmth. I needed fuel. I needed somewhere to just fall in a heap... Then the door opened, and the smell nearly swept me off my feet. A man, a woman and their two kids pealed past me beaming and smiling, laden with armfuls of boxes and bags, everything brightly stamped, all packed to bursting with pastries, muffins, cream cakes and chocolates. I widened my eyes. One of the kids had a golden-brown paper bag the size of his sister’s head. It was loaded with warm fudge, strawberry laces, love hearts and gumdrops in every color under the sun. Pick n’ mix. I burst through into the storefront. I gasped. You’re a long, long way from New Jersey, I wondered to myself. The colors were radiant. The whole room looked like it’d been lifted out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. There were crowds and counters and helpers and makers of all kinds of crazy delectables. Everyone was dressed in Bavarian lace, the men in lederhosen, the women with flowers and ribbons in their hair. Grimm’s House of Sugar. It was like a palace for the tip of your tongue. I needed something. Anything. Something sweet. Sweets. A little old lady beckoned me from by the hot chocolate bar. Her basket almost glowed. Her soft hands parted the checkered covering to reveal a host of Mozartkugels. My cheeks lit up. “Hey, um. Can...can I try some?” I asked. “Of course!” she beamed, handing me the whole thing. “Take as much as you want, deary!” She turned on her heel and picked up another basket from the straining stand behind her. My mind buzzed. My arms buckled under the weight of the thing. I thanked her, smiled, and dipped hurriedly to a quiet spot by a bookshelf and a long, glassy window. There were tables and booths, then couches, beanbags, and lounge chairs collected in a cosy corner with a warm, tempestuous fire. I found a chaise-longue and eased myself down, slowly. I unwrapped my first sweet in years. I put it to my lips. I ate. And I ate. -------------- Two weeks was all it took for management to start recognizing my greedy ass as a regular. All my self-consciousness fell to the sidelines. To be honest, I might as well have left my credit card behind the counter – I couldn’t help myself. Two more weeks and they even reserved me a seat by the donut dispenser for my breakfasts. From there on in, I was hooked. Weirdly I guess I really could help myself – to chocolate cream and marble frosting, sprinkles, glazing and dashes of fluffy powder. Two became three, every single morning, then a box of five to snack through to lunch. I loved choosing the flavors. There were just so many that I couldn’t wait for my appetite to accommodate them all. I took a sizeable chunk out of every working day just to feed myself, massaging my belly beyond the point of fullness. It was otherworldly. And if I didn’t already have proof this place was literal magic, I even made a friend. Her name was Sally. She was a freshman like me. She was from England. I saw her on shift when I started dropping by for pancakes in the afternoons – she might’ve been five foot nothing but she wasn’t easy to miss. Her hair was pink ringlets, her eyes were forest green, she walked with a spring in her step and she had this gigantic smile. She wore her Dirndl with a burgundy apron; it brought out her rosy red cheeks. “Sakura, right?” she said, reading my name on the box I’d ordered. I nodded, murmuring my thanks, snaking my arms back through my jacket. I was late for my seminar. I had deadlines on my mind. It’d barely been a month and I was already falling behind on my studies. But all of that worry withered away the moment she pressed that slice of cake into my hands. “You should come over for Happy Hour,” She looked me dead in the eyes. “That cake’ll be half price.” “Really?” I said. “What time?” “Five o’clock until seven, every Wednesday afternoon,” “Oh...oh no, sorry – that's when my seminar group meets for our weekly discussion,” I cringed. I hated leaving strangers disappointed in me. “I can’t let them go – actually I've missed a few of the meetings already. I really need to catch up.” “That’s okay,” She tossed her hair, pouting, piling up my leftover plates on her platter. “We’ll wait. Would you like anything else?” I curled my toes. I lowered my gaze to the cake. A big commiseratory bite was bound to make her feel better. It sure would for me... Within seconds of me sinking in my teeth, that slice was devoured. Gone. It was orgasmic. I rolled my tongue. I half tugged off her arm of her shoulder begging for another. We sat down together. We drank pearly peach schnapps. I ate. We chatted about bands and concerts, then home life and family. I ate. Then we talked about cooking, and baking, and traditional recipes. I missed my goddamn meeting. Then I ate some more. Grimm’s House of Sugar. It soothed all the strain. Pretty soon I started bringing books from the library to study there instead. Sally joined me when she was off the clock. There was always something special to savour no matter how I felt. Happy? Blueberry pie and vanilla ice cream. Sad? A Jolly James gingerbread man with gumdrop buttons. Tired? Some tangy fructose strawberry whips. Too hot? A Silvretta Glacier slush, naturally. Winter melted into spring and I was already feeling warmer. And cramped. And even a little bloated, though nothing a Cracklepop Plum Soda couldn’t fix. It was getting close to Thanksgiving when I started to notice Sally’s eyes peering over my shoulder, every so often. At first I thought she reading my research, when she brought over her platterfuls of fruity pie. It took a while to see she was staring just a little lower. At my lap. At my jeans. Something about the shiny button drew her in like a magpie. I was curious. I started wearing them more. And washing them more. Which would explain why they were feeling a little snug every time I sat at the dispenser for my six of the best. I swapped fabric softeners but they were still feeling uncomfortable. I switched to plaid skirts for a few weeks before the winter weather stiffened its grip. A storm shorted out the electricity to half of campus midway through my laundry routine. My clothes were still damp the next day, and I was left with no other option but to claw through the bottom of my drawers. I blew the dust off my jeans and prized them over my thighs. They’d shrunk a size in the darkness. My struggles ate into my schedule. Thrusting on a tee and a duffer jacket I had to stagger to class with the button still undone, bustling the route with a carefully placed fanny pack until I could flop into my desk, worn out, and seal the two pieces whilst gasping for breath. I spent the next hour and half scribbling notes in shorthand in a mild amount of pain. Life was so unfair. Grimm’s, praise all goodness, hadn’t suffered any power cuts, which probably explained why it was twice as busy all of a sudden the moment I stumbled in for lunch. I bit my lip, a bag of nerves all over again, shifting through the crowds. So many voices. So much noise. But I swear, if they’d run out of donuts I was ready to scream... I had Sally to thank for keeping my tiny table reserved for me. Seats were scarce. My tummy began grumbling. I hopped up the last couple steps. I tapped the glowing green ticker on the flavour creator interface, and threw myself into the chair. In an instant my zipper exploded. The button pinged off the dispenser, bounced under the table, then rolled into the clamoring throngs of people. Twenty different stunned faces zeroed in on me. My belly gurgled. Soft, fatty flesh pooled into my lap, pressing down the zipper into a full-on rip down my inside thigh. My face drained to snow white. I tried to stand, and run, and the next thing I knew my hand was in Sally’s. She appeared out of nowhere. We ducked and dived through a grove of thick coats and jabbering customers, then suddenly she was leading me through oaken doors. We trotted up a wooden staircase with paintings lining the walls. The rip snickered and lengthened as I pounded my legs to keep pace. My heart raced. She took me through a curtain, a corridor, then a final door for which she kept a key in a pocket sewn subtly under her breast. “Oh my god. I don’t know what happened,” I babbled. “I must’ve dried them funny or something, this has never happened to me before, I -” “Sshhh,” Sally calmed me. “Shhhhh...” She opened the door of the room on the floor directly above. “Where are we?” I mumbled. “The Lips,” said Sally. “What you guys would call the second floor. It’s where we keep our makeup and wardrobe wings. And our advertising resources. You’ve gotta be quiet – the Brain’s the floor above us.” “Management?” “Yeah,” Sally whispered. “Let’s make this our little secret, okay?” She reached into one of the closets, and withdrew a pullout handrail. I saw rows of clean, sparkly, beautiful dresses on silvery hangers. She wafted through each with a prying hand, scanning for the sizes. “This should do,” she uttered, passing me one of the employee uniforms. The cotton was gossamer soft. The handiwork was exquisite. “No way,” I whispered. “I couldn’t possibly,” “Just so you can get home,” Sally unzipped the zipper and laid the dress by my feet. “You’ve got stuff that fits you, right?” I clasped a shielding hand over my stomach. I shrank into the pit beneath me. “I...” I choked on my words. “I don’t know...” The sound of footsteps curdled my blood. I heard business shoes. Men in suits, shaking hands in the corridor. Idle chatter. “Hurry up!” Sally hissed, crouching low. I peeled off my jacket and tee, and slipped into the dress. My skin bristled with softness. It sat prettily around my hips, the skirt poofing out a little, the apron a pristine hue of navy blue, like my hair. Sally drew close, kicking my discarded outfit under the floor-length mirror. She helped me ease in one of my shoulders, tensing my bra under the neckline. “Does it look a little big to you?” I mumbled, nervously twizzling my hair. “Do I look a little big, I mean?” The fabric had plenty of stretch, which I was glad for. It held up quite nicely. The apron covered up my gut. Yeah, my gut. My thick, chubby, fat girl gut that had stuck itself to my body without me realizing... “You look fantastic,” Sally insisted. “It really suits your figure,” I watched her cross her fingers in the mirror. “Sakura, do you wanna work here?” I paused. I looked at her. A queer expression formed on my face. “What, you mean like a waitress?” I asked. “I could teach you everything,” Sally offered. “It’ll be fun. You’ll love it,” “Um. Is there even an opening?” I said, raising an eyebrow. “I didn’t know they were taking new hires.” “I can put a good word in for you,” Sally smiled, reaching into the wardrobe. “I could even speak to the guys outside. You could start tomorrow!” “You’re sure?” Sally spoke with her fingers. She helped me ease in my other arm under the frilly neckline, then grasped the zipper. Looking me in the eye through the mirror she pulled the corset tight, and ignoring my wince, she drew up the fastener. I let out a gasp as my boobs went up to my chin. Suddenly I found myself staring at cleavage I’d never had before. I looked like a temptress. I looked curvy. I looked big. “Sure, I’m sure,” she whispered into my ear. “You’ll fit right in.” -------------- Given a prod, I’m certain the shy girl I still was...deep down... might’ve made a quiet comeback. But you’d have had to prod me pretty hard. Turns out, I’d put on forty-six pounds in fewer than three months. No wonder I was struggling to tie my shoelaces. But becoming overweight wasn’t everything I expected. Somehow, I sort of became more energetic. My new job brought me a new personality to go with my new, voluptuous body. I was Sakura the epicurean. Sakura, the sugar-plump fairy. Sakura the slut, if I didn’t keep an eye on what my boobs were up to. They sewed my name along the bodice of my uniform in sapphire blue, my favorite color, but already I was beginning to overflow the cups. My breaks were spent tinkering with lace and tweezing my nipples – they were always so sore. Oh – not to forget eating, of course. Grimm’s granted its employees a budget of twenty dollars' worth of baked goods a day, and unlimited pick and mix. Most took the extras home to their families. But I chowed down on mine through the hours, and pretty soon Sally started offering her allowance to me too. I accepted. I grinned and I gorged. I was raking in the tips, the love, the extra inch...or two. I embraced it. It felt so nice to be somewhere where people looked so happy to see me all the time. I let my cheeks grow with my smile. It never budged, even when I started having to fasten my Dirndl dress with safety pins. Oooofff. Did someone say bigger buns? I marshalled my smirk as I tried on my new plus-sized panties. Sorta came with the territory, I guess. But that territory was getting smaller by the day. I kept continuing to eat, through every bust seam and broken zipper. My cravings were consuming me. A couple more weeks and I couldn’t pass the tables by the muffin maker without my hips giving battle. My waving curves were a breeding ground for nudges and bumps; my hitlist of glasses knocked off the tabletops only grew starker as I grew larger and wider. Nobody was complaining. I started getting comfortable with some of the regulars. Knickerbocker glory with an eyeful of ass? You betcha. Sweet churros with some sidefat on the side? Sure thing. Muffintops? Ohhh, coming right up... I never went home that summer. Strangely, things picked up while the students were gone – Grimm’s took a lot of trade from vacationers on their way to the Sound. They asked if I’d like to stay through to the next year, mostly serving ice cream. I barely needed convincing. I loved my job, the pay was great and...let’s face it, so were the perks. I couldn’t live without practically throwing my face under the soft scoop machine when my shift was up. I traded in for five unadulterated minutes every day after my takeout, letting Sally turn the crank while I gulped and slurped my dessert from the nozzle. It was heavenly. Of course I cleaned it afterward – I was the model employee – and it’d probably be baffling to the outward eye that my room in residency was a wreck. My roommate had moved back to Kansas and I was ashamed to say my trash was spilling over into her side. It had become nothing more than a pit for me to sleep in. I let the leftover muffin casings blanket my bed – sometimes I even napped on top of them, waking up and snacking through the time I was meant to be in lectures. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t make me feel delicious, but cross my heart, the walk up the hill was taking the wind right out of me. By time I hit my bedroom door I couldn’t be bothered to clear up. My energy just wasn’t there, physical or mental. If I wasn’t working, or sleeping, or eating, then pretty quickly I wasn’t interested. To no-one's surprise but my own, I’d plumped up another forty pounds by the week before term rolled around again. Not to mention the forty more I’d put on before we even broke up for summer vacation. Grimm’s House kinda marketed itself as a special trip out for the family – not some lazy student’s breakfast, lunch and dinner – and it was little surprise I was ballooning so massively. My skin took on a creamy shine, stretching over my fat. My cheeks became rounder. My chin grew thicker and thicker, filling out my face, but I was spared the shame of feeling it fold in on itself. I started to take on a very feminine shape – huge hips, thick thighs, a blossoming chest offset by a heaving, swelling stomach, and soft shoulders framed by my long blue hair. I got it dyed darker before freshman’s week, and I could hear the salon chair creaking underneath me. Sakura the student, Sakura the sophomore, Sakura the six stone overweight mockery of the slender girl who’d burst through Grimm’s front door the year before. “How do you do it?” I remember saying to Sally while she rifled through the deepest rack in the Lips. “How do you stay so petite?” “Diet and exercise,” she exclaimed, winding the tape over my jiggling waistline. Yeah. Right. There wasn’t the time to make any drastic adjustments. Freshman’s week meant ‘All Free Today’ - turns out it was an annual promotion. I bunched and bustled through shift after shift and by the end of the free stuff giveaway, I needed a bigger uniform all over again. Even my name tag was getting distended – the pink stitches slowly pulling free over my burgeoning boobs, fraying the lettering – though it was only when an elderly customer called me ‘Akuri’, that I swallowed my pride. I put on a smile and took their order. I wasn’t offended. I really had become a completely different person, after all. A quick, quiet word with the Lips assistants at closing and I was back to being Sakura again – in size XXL, the largest they carried. Any more expansion of my blubbery midriff and I’d have to put in a special request. It wasn’t a humiliation I was ready to face. But if the option meant giving up chocolate, and jelly tots, and marshmallows... It wasn’t my most mounting concern yet, anyway – that was my fitness level. The strength boost I got from swapping my thinness for thickness soon dissipated. The pounds kept piling on. The walk home after work was really starting to suck. My hips ached. My legs burned. Even my arms felt heavy. And my lungs felt like they were lathered in honey; probably a symptom of all the sugar I was inhaling. I could barely take a deep breath anymore and I kept coming to work ringed in sweat. I had to evaluate my options. The campus bus didn’t run through the avenue, only around it. You couldn’t get a car between the tightly squeezed streets up in residency. When my sister suggested a bicycle I had to laugh. I could barely squeeze into the desks in the lecture theatre, let alone fit my lardass on a bike seat. Most of my family hadn’t seen me since I’d started gourmandizing at Grimm’s, twelve or twenty dress sizes ago, depending where you shopped. For me, those options were growing limited; another couple of worries for the back of the drawer, another caramel-thickened fudge slice to take my mind away... Worst was that my sense of balance was creaming in all over the place. My belly had gotten huge and my thighs were like tree trunks, wobbling past one another. I wheezed and I waddled, and when Christmas came I couldn’t seem to stop chafing under my dress. By New Year's I was fighting the blubbery slap of my belly under my skirt line. I was morbidly obese before Valentine’s Day. And I felt it. “Sally,” I puffed, struggling into the kitchen, setting down my platter with a crinkle of clattering glass. “Could you cover me for five?” “Sure babes,” She squirted the last drop of icing on the dessert she was making. “You need a drink?” “Heh. I need.... phew.... I need to sit down,” I dropped my knees, panting, and blobbed out on the stool by the bain-marie. My flesh hung over every side, softly jiggling. I lifted my dress to give it some relief, closed my eyes, placed a palm on my chest and breathed until my heart had stopped pounding relentlessly. Five tables cleared, four more to go. It was getting tough to keep up. Sally pried a glass of juice into my hands. I thanked her. “Maybe you could do some shifts behind the counter,” she said, her hand on my shoulder. “I’m sure Mildred would be happy to swap with you,” “It’s not...phew, that’s great, that’s really kind of you...but it’s more than that,” I breathed slowly, dipping my head back, squinting my eyes in the light. “I’m getting so heavy. I’m leaving earlier and earlier for work because I’m taking longer to climb the stairs, and even then, I’m late sometimes. It’s getting hard for me to move.” I swung my legs, smiling weakly. Flab squeezed from the ladder in my stockings. Even my socks felt tight. A soft groan escaped my lips. “Then maybe you could move in with us,” Sally exclaimed after a pause. “Huh?” I mumbled. “You could live here. There’s rooms in the Brain. Didn’t you know?” I blinked. Grimm’s was huge. It made sense there’d be space on the top floors, near where the managers worked. But was it what I needed right now? “We’ll take care of everything,” Sally reassured me. “We’ll send our deliverymen to yours tonight to help you transfer your things across. You could save loads of money on rent,” The scent of liquorice wafted through the air. I nodded with a blank stare. “And you’d only have to walk a couple flights of stairs every morning,” she smiled. “That’ll help you out, won’t it?” “But I’m gaining weight like crazy,” I murmured, smoothing a hand over my stomach. “Sally - can't you see what’s happening to me?” I raised my eyebrows with a dumb smirk, feeling for my bellybutton under the dress. “I’m pushing three hundred pounds. I’m addicted to all the food in here. I’m always so hungry...” “Then maybe you could try some of my pecan pie,” Sally smiled sweetly. “I’m sure it’ll make you feel much better...” She dumped the warm pan on my stomach. My eyes bulged in awe. The pie sank into my fat, sitting level, as if it were on a shelf. I stroked my pinky finger around the edge, picking flecks of pasty into my chubby palm. “I’m not sure if this is what I need,” I said, concerned. “I made it myself,” said Sally. “It’s gorgeous,” I admitted. “But it looks so fattening. I don’t know. I really think I oughta be watching what I eat...” “I made it...” She seized my index finger. Her eyes were radiating. She planted it dead in the middle of the pie. My knuckle rose out, covered in butter and vanilla. “...myself.” She curled her lip. Sally let go. Her eyebrow remained arched. A chill and a warmth concocted within me both at once. I tried to form a smile. She waited, watching like a huntress. I placed my finger to my lips, looking her coyly in the eye, and sucked. Fireworks rocketed. My hairs tingled. My tongue surged. My soul yearned. I scraped up a great globby handful straight from the middle of the pan and ploughed it into my face. Staff sweeping back from the breakroom balked while I pigged out in front of them. I was insatiable. I groaned, drawing my tongue up and under the delicate toppings. My stomach billowed and swelled with every bite. “Good girl,” Sally praised me, though from which ear I could hardly tell. “Keep going...I’ll make you some more...” -------------- “You’re doing a great job down there,” “Mmmpphh,” I gulped, rolling my eyes with a grin. “Yeah, totally. Sure.” “No, honestly,” Sally trotted down the stairs. Her breath was sparkly in the refrigerated air. “Management sent me to tell you handling our excess stock is a vital role. It warms their hearts that you’re taking to it so well.” “Oooh,” I batted my eyes at her. “Do they say that to all their human dumpsters?” I burped. Guess it was as good a time as any. It freed up some space in my gurgling belly for me to wolf down a double chocolate éclair, smacking while lips while I got my grip back on the controls. I cranked up the heat of the oven stroke furnace, where we sent everything we couldn’t sell or recycle. The atmosphere was a glimmering haze. Even the smoke tasted sweet. “Don’t be silly. You’re more than that,” said Sally. I snorted. A couple hundred pounds more, if I could see what the scale even said. My tummy was quaking on my knees as another trough full of perfectly good stock tumbled down the chute into my chamber. They called it the Belly, unsurprisingly, and it was cold and colossal. I’d underestimated the depths of this place. I’d underestimated a lot of things. My appetite for sure, on the daily. How quickly the hours blitzed by while I sat in my reinforced chair. How little I could move after dinner. How much I’d have to concentrate just to place my pudgy fingers on the correct buttons. But Sally was right. I was doing a good job. I had everything – snacks and sweets and...well, I don’t really know what else. She was there to help though. She was good like that. She reached the edge of my chair and helped me put on a fresh napkin, tying it nice and snug under my pillowy chin. She stroked a droplet of cream off my cheek with a smile. “Hungry?” she asked me, her eyebrow raised facetiously. “It hurts,” I admitted. “I can’t let all this food go to waste. The thought of all those poor cinnabon swirls burning up in that thing...” I turned my eyes to the iron hulk by the conveyer belts, flicked a switch, then leaned on my blubbery paunch, grasping the travelling muffins with a greedy grin. Crumbs fell into my cleavage. I plucked them out, smirking. I’d kinda given up on wearing uniforms now I was working out of sight. My job at the counter had lasted about as long it’d taken me to become unable to squeeze behind the register. I’d said goodbye to most of my clothes. I’d resorted to a wintery jacket over a stretching wire vest, with the largest leggings I could find online. My mountainous belly was fully bared, heaving and pulling against me. “You’re so kind, Sakura,” she said, her voice almost like a song as she returned to the stairs. “So generous. So good to us.” “Mmmpphh. Thanks,” I called. “Wish you could write my appraisals – I don’t think my tutors are pleased with me...” I sighed. The rigours of the job, my physical exhaustion, my tendency to get pointed if I was any more than a couple hours gone from Grimm’s – it was starting to add up against my grades. I’d told my folks I was studying for a Master’s; in reality, I’d been forced to extend senior year. I’d fallen too far behind, and now I needed another twelve months to retake everything I’d failed. Luckily I had the savings – but my enthusiasm was waning. I hadn’t made it to the library in months. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure if there were any chairs that could hold me anymore. “Hey, graduation’s boring,” Sally – the postgrad princess, answered. I couldn’t help but glare in envy. “And besides, they might not even get jobs. Especially not somewhere like Grimm’s.” “True,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “At least I’ve got my feet on the ground here.” Then I tried to get up. It was a long-winded process. My soft feet kicked. I pressed down with my arms. I tucked my chin to my chest and twisted my face with effort, grunting. My belly dropped between my thighs, bouncing on my chair with a weighty plop. I shot down a few inches, and yelped as I felt myself begin to slide. “No, no...wait...don’t hurt yourself. Let me help you!” Sally leapt the last two steps and ran toward me. Just as I was about to tumble off, she grabbed my arm, tucked under shoulder and hauled me back onto my seat with a surprising burst of strength. Sapped, glutted and stuffed, I felt the sweat travel down my spine as she settled me into place. Her arms held me tight. I caught my breath, smoothed back my hair, and stared. She wasn’t letting go. A crackle echoed from the innards of the belt-fed oven, and a spew of embers shot out onto the floor. “Hah,” I flicked my eyes back from the fire and winked. “Is this the part where you shove me in?” Sally turned her soft cheeks. Her green eyes seemed to glow. “Don’t be silly, Sakura,” she giggled. “You’re too wide.” I stopped breathing. My jaw would’ve dropped if It weren’t for my chin. It cushioned my shocked, fat face as I tried to find my words. Basically, it framed her point. “Thanks,” I mumbled, blinking. “I’m too heavy for you to lift as well. For the record...” “You’re not too heavy for me,” “Sally, I weighed myself on the industrial scale,” I scoffed incredulously. “I peeked over five hundred pounds yesterday.” “You’re not...” She put a finger to my lips. “...too heavy for me.” She stroked my hair, then my shoulder, then traced her fingernail down my napkin and onto my swelling chest. My muscles tensed all at once, the shiver shifting through my layers of fat. I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing would come. Then she kissed me on the stomach. Slowly, she gripped my love handles and began to squeeze. I crinkled my toes as she fondled and groped. I found myself slipping back on the chair a little. She lifted the lowermost roll of my belly, wafting it up in her palms, like a pizza chef kneading his dough. “Umm.” I tilted my head. “Heh, err...plenty to go around down there, huh?” I said in a low voice, frozen in apprehension. “Mmmm...” she hummed. “More,” “More? Umm, okay. I thought maybe you’d wanna talk about this, but –” “More.” The éclair hit my tongue like a rocket. My cheeks bulged. The cream mushed on her fingers as she shoved it down my throat. The sugar rush warmed my brow, surging through my veins as she settled in my lap, smooching my neck, cooing as I munched and swallowed the chocolatey mass in my mouth between my moans. My eyes stayed rigidly open. “You’re beautiful, Sakura...” she murmured, spellbound by my sloshing stomach. “That’s...” I coughed with a gulp. “That’s...very kind of you Sally, but I -” “I know you don’t want me.” she pouted. I blanched. “Hey...err...it’s not like....I think you’re great... you’re pretty, you’re smart...” She turned her face away. She clasped her fingers round my thickened wrist, removing it from the controls. She punched a button, and twisted a dial. “But I know what you really want.” she breathed in my ear. Cogs whirred. I trembled. The sound of clanking ratcheted around the room as my secret little machine was brought to life. I began to pale. “This food,” she went on. “These sweets. I’ve seen what they’ve done to you.” She pinched my sausage-like finger. “I’ve seen it in your eyes. I’ve seen what you’ve been doing to yourself,” She took that same finger and guided it lower, and lower. Beneath my belly. Between my thighs. I winced. I moaned. I looked up at the cavernous rafters above, at the staircase that twisted to the lights of the shopfront beyond. I wasn't going to make it up that thing. Not tonight. Not without her help. Not that I wanted to. My secret was laid bare. My eyes caught up with two towers of delicious donuts, stacked on a set on approaching tongs, bowed in the direction of my quivering mouth. Suddenly I found myself licking my lips. Sally’s pupils grew shiny and wide. “We could help each other feel better,” she whispered. “You...and me...I think we could something work...” She rested her palm on my stomach. The machine hissed to a halt before us. “Now, would you like anything else?” Sally whispered. I was throbbing. I was whimpering. I was so, so hungry. I jabbed the red button. I moaned. The donuts surged toward me. I closed my eyes. I ate.
  2. “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.
  3. “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.
  4. 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.
  5. Hall of Mirrors srorriM of llaH Shrubbery Logistic I tasted salt. Black smoke loomed in the air. The tongue of fire licked the lid of the glassy milk bottle beside me. Cressida looked up with a loaded grin. “Party time,” she sang. I dropped to my knees. I squeezed the life out of the flame with my leather glove. “Are you crazy?” I hissed, wincing through the pain. “They’ll use the Ripper on us!” “So? We’ve gotta break those shields somehow.” Cressida turned her eyes through the swirling crowds. The rows of police shifted and fidgeted on the stone stairwell. “Read the signs, you idiot!” I yelled, pointing my finger. The largest fluttered high against the moonlit sky, rocking with the chants and cheers. Bombing for Peace is like Fucking for Virginity. Talk to USZ !!! “Yeah, yeah, you can’t fight fire with fire. Whatever, Dani. Whatever.” Cressida rolled her eyes. Her silver ring glimmered from her lip. “We didn’t come here to make memes, for crying out loud.” She shoved the bottle back in her backpack with malice. “We’re here to send a message, and it’s not gonna work if they’re too busy stuffing their fat faces to even hear us.” I glared at the glint of the chandeliers through the triple-glazed windows. Guards marshalled past the long tables of the dining room inside, fingers on earpieces, radioing the leader of their fellow thugs outside. The suited guests began to filter in. The silky curtains were drawn to a close. “Think about it,” said Cressida. “How much damage could we do if we bust through and made it inside? We outnumber them ten to one. What are we waiting for?” “They’re arms dealers, Cray-Cray," I whispered. “Don’t give them the excuse.” I scoured the pulsing scene for the Ripper. The cops still hadn’t called for their precious WMD, but the option was getting close. Our protest was growing in numbers, and noise. Every shiver of the curtain – as waiters brushed by with platters and wine – sent spikes of rage through the masked front line; the punks, the draftees, the ones who’d already lost somebody. The metal barricade was rattling from its foundations, crumpling under feet and fists. The off-key thump of a hundred clattering batons was all that kept us back. A helicopter dipped beneath the façade of Zeldmann’s mansion, a spotlight blazing from the undercarriage. I switched my attentions from the gates to the doors – barricaded after the last perfumed guest departed their limousine. Then I traced the light, up four stories to the sneering statues on the rooftop. Suddenly, I saw it. “Second floor,” I gestured to Cressida. “Above the marble arch. The window’s open.” She squinted her eyes. She stretched to her full height, then her tiptoes, balancing on her steel-capped boots. “Huh. So it is,” she mumbled. “I dunno if I can throw that far.” “No – that’s our way in,” I reasoned. “If we dodge the riot squad, climb up on the pillars using those awnings for leverage, and then maybe if you gave me a boost – I think I could make it up there,” I crossed my fingers. A low wail echoed through the streets. “We’re gonna need a distraction,” she nodded. “Yeah,” I agreed, slipping out my phone. “I’m calling in the van,” “A dozen of us oughta get this crowd fired up,” Cressida smiled. “Actually, I’m thinking of just one.” I blew up my cheeks with a warm breath, grinning as I tapped out my text message. “Ellie?” Cressida scoffed. “Jelly belly Ellie? You serious?” “Uh-huh,” I mumbled, narrowing my eyes. “Dani, I don’t know if she can stand up, let alone fight. She’s useless!” “She’s distracting,” I raised my eyebrow. “Which is exactly what we need. We stick it her at the front of the arrowhead. She lures the cops, you and me break off round the side. We do what I said to get in the building, then...I don’t know. Profit?” “On other people’s misery?” Cressida twizzled her frazzly hair. “If it’s at a donor banquet for an illegal war, go figure. But Ellie Sanderson?” “We’ll make it up to her,” I said, turning on my heel. "Oh yeah? How are we meant to claw back our reputation?” Cressida followed me as we weaseled through the crowds. “She’s a mess. She hasn’t stopped putting on weight since we hit D-Corp last November,” “And your point is?” “It’s June.” We ducked under a banner and cut into a side street, disappearing down a corner of ragged bricks. For the first time all night I could breathe. I loosened the zipper on my leather jacket. “Also, cops have cameras,” my vice president went on. “People have phones. There’s definitely media there by now.” “Since when did you care what the media thinks about us?” I retorted. “Since we all started wearing this badge,” Cressida thumbed the image on her jacket pocket. Her painted nail blended with the spikes of the red seed planter. “S.O.W. What does that mean to you?” “Stop Overseas Wars,” I shrugged. “Wasn’t that what we voted for?” “It means respect,” Cressida stressed. “Respect for the U.S.Z., respect for the people. How are we supposed to get any if our prissy poster girl’s too fat for the goddamn uniform?” Headlamps dull in the fog, the black van trundled toward us. I clenched my gloved fist. “If you think that’s the case...” I said, dropping my tone. “...then you won’t have to worry about her sharing our emblem, will you?” I shot her an icy look, then nodded at the driver. I gripped the handle of the slider door. My nose wrinkled. Nobody talked about my cousin that way. Nobody. “But the point is, I – ” "You just concentrate on the plan,” I butted in, stamping my foot on the rolling step. “The next draft call’s coming next week. We’re all gonna have to band together if we want it to blow over. Don’t give me a reason to cut you off.” I threw open the slider. It hit the apex with a satisfying smack. Faces rose from the dark. I searched for my smile, and found it as I counted through the guys and girls around me. S.O.W. Twelve spanners in the works. Twelve guys and gals who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Twelve warriors, suited and booted and ready to go. And Ellie. She blinked in the starlight and wiped a smear of jam off her ruby-red lips, stirring from where she’d been passed out on the back seats. Her gut flobbed from under her blouse as she sat up straight. But then she smiled. She gave me her fullest attention. “Guys,” I cleared my throat. “It looks like they’re starting the first course without us,” I stripped off my glove and spat on my seared palm. “But don’t worry. We’ll make sure Zeldmann gets his just desserts!”
  6. Sadie Smith was not her sister. She saw her face a thousand times along the dock. Giggling smiles, white lace, hairpins, waving handkerchiefs while cresting waves lapped the wooden jetties, borne from the sixty steamers ploughing the bay. The men aboard were raucous. The cheers were deafening. Smoke blackened the cotton clouds around the sun-streaked sky. A long horn frenzied the crowds and they surged beyond the fence line, waving their homemade signs. Sadie read her boyfriend’s name over and over on half a hundred banners. ‘Welcome home George!’. And Johnny. And David. And Jimmy. And Sam. And the other twenty thousand guys who’d just got out of Korea. Her dress was itching. She pulled it down from where it was riding up her thighs. She pictured him leaning on the prow, his sleeves rolled up, his beret jaunty as always, cracking jokes, saying goodbye to his buddies while his eyes lay on the pier, searching the boards for his sweetheart. She hoped he wouldn’t see his name on one of those lipsticky placards, then go looking for whoever was holding it up. She wasn’t in the cheering crowd. She was not her sister. Sadie was in her boyfriend’s car, lodged in a sidestreet that faced the bay. A hurried mother might bustle by, or tightly wound couple would brush her door every now and again, stumbling home in each other's arms. But otherwise, it was quiet. She paid them no mind. When ten minutes grew to twenty, she produced the two Hershey’s bars she’d stashed in the glove compartment and peeled one open. She broke the bars into squares. “He still loves me.” She inhaled a piece. “He loves me...not.” She inhaled another. “He loves me.” One more. “He loves me not.” More, and more. The chocolate was sticky and sweet. Sadie licked her lips, and took another bite. She had a view of the ships as they spilled out their soldiers into the harbour, one by one. Barely two feet up on the edge, the marshal fought for his whistle, the back of his heels growing perilously close to the drop. The photographers buzzed like fireflies, yelling and clamoring between the troops and their dates for that next perfect shot. Times Square on V-J Day. It was eight years ago now, but Sadie could recall it like yesterday. Her beautiful older sister, walking on airs, falling backwards into her now-husband's embrace. The picture that would never fade away. She’d been too young to date, or so her father who’d accompanied her that day would remind her over and over, even into her twenties. Just as then, she was confined to a car – the back seat, palms against the glass, until her sister finally returned with her date in tow and shooed her to the front. She’d tried to look incredulous, but her father paid her no mind. She’d given them all the silent treatment for the rest of the afternoon, huffing double standards under her breath. The more things changed, the more things stayed the same, it seemed. Almost. Sadie paused to find her snack reduced to sugary smears. It was gone. Devoured. She licked her fingers clean, conscious not to stain her flowery dress. She scrunched up the first wrapper and threw it away. Her nose led her to the second. George’s chocolate called her from the inside. “I really shouldn’t,” Sadie mumbled to herself. But already it was in her hands. She parted the foil. Succulent cocoa drifted to her lips. Sadie closed her eyes. Her tongue swam in saccharine delight. Suddenly, the driver’s door clattered open. Sadie felt herself shudder. Her love handle parted from the door handle, teasing the seams of her straining outfit. The hairs stood up on the back of her neck. Her eyes bulged in surprise, and she swallowed hard. “Now, what’s my girl doing missing out on all the action?” The warm breeze, and the sound of his dulcet voice, wasn’t enough to keep her cheeks from paling. Sadie kept her line of sight ramrod straight. She wasn’t ready. Slowly, she lowered the chocolate from her mouth. “Sadiecakes...it’s me. I’m home,” said George. “I’m back. Just like I promised.” Ever so slowly, Sadie turned her head. She let out a breath she hadn’t realised she was holding in. “Hey, darling, you...you found me...” “Hey yourself,” said George. “Can’t I get a hug? At least?” She saw her hand enveloped in his. A gentle pull brought her feet outside. Twisting, Sadie staggered to her feet, her vastness grazing the steering wheel as she popped out of the car into his arms, trembling, tensing what little she could. She trusted her dress to manage the rest. It hugged her wide form firmly, leaving nothing to his imagination. Sadie had let her hair fall around her shoulders, shrouding her cleavage. She had dabbled with taking a light jacket, but she was already so warm. “Sure I did, what were you trying to hide for?” George said with a grin. “Honey, even with the roof up I could see you from a mile away,” Sadie reddened. “Was that a compliment?” She clawed back some of her old confidence long enough to cock a hip. “Thanks... schmuck.” “I didn’t mean it like that.” said George, his turn to blush. “I meant, I still recognise you. You know, behind...” “You’re digging yourself a reeaaal big hole here.” Sadie folded her arms, trying not to smirk. She raised an eyebrow, locking her eyes with his. “Real big...” George murmured. He switched his gaze. Sadie masked her displeasure until she tracked his eyeline, and noticed how perfectly she was framing her chest. With nothing to hold them but the threads of her tested ensemble, her breasts heaved softly between her arms, harvesting both of their attention. She didn’t notice him take a step closer. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” he asked. “What?” Sadie rose her head, directly into the path of his lips. Her breath was stolen. A surge of heat hummed from her heart as his arm closed round her waist, squeezing her tight. She felt her fears begin to slip away. He drew closer, his eyes closed, his other hand stroking her hair. Sadie felt herself grow weak. Her knees began to quiver. She stumbled back, until her bottom rested on the hood of the car. His touch turned from delicate to carnal as he lifted her leg, tilting her until she lay spread out and. His hand stroked the inside of her thigh. “George!” she squealed, batting his fingers away. Her boyfriend gave her an insouciant look, then bowed in for another deep, longing kiss. Her body pooling, Sadie couldn’t help but smile when he pulled away. George Miller redid the topmost button of his uniform, and skipped back to load his backpack in the trunk. Sadie lay planted on the hood, a zaftig picture of ecstasy. He loves me, she breathed to herself. “Behind...behind the steering wheel! That’s what I was trying to say,” Her boyfriend finally found his words as he planted the keys in the ignition. “Like - when did you learn to drive my car?” “When your dad taught me.” said Sadie, nonchalantly. She adjusted herself in the passenger’s side, wiggling her big hips to get cosy. “Aren’t you gonna do up your seatbelt?” “My what?” “Here, let me...” Sadie leant over his lap, and fished the male end of the belt from where it lodged by the door. She tugged it free, her belly spreading over her boyfriend’s thigh while she sourced the partner. His hand settled on her head, stroking her tresses of golden hair. “Oh. This is new...” mumbled George, letting her pull the belt tight across his waist. “What’s it do?” “It keeps you safe...” Sadie steadied herself on one arm, and smoothed back her hair. She stretched, and planted a kiss under his chin, then on his neck. She shuffled to sit up again, breasts jostling softly. George lent an arm to cradle her, then taking back the lead, she seized his shoulder, nails tracing his freshly ironed shirt. Sadie smiled. She lifted herself a little higher, digging into his muscle, then gave him one final kiss behind the ear. “You’re tough, Superman,” she whispered. “But you’re not invincible.” “Thanks, honey,” said George. “But doesn’t Wonder Woman need her seatbelt too?” Sadie eased herself away, and lifted her arms up. “Your turn,” she said with a wink. George stretched over her for the opposing end. She chuckled as his close-cropped hair titillated her thighs. He drew the cold metal buckle over her belly button, earning a soft gasp, then brought it closer to the centre. Sadie felt her waist constrict. She grunted, and shuffled to restore her comfort. Strands of her hair tingled as they brushed the roof of the car. She came to accept she’d been sitting a little higher, as of late. Sadie bit her lip. She was learning to embrace a lot of changes – her boyfriend the same. But what she couldn’t understand was how – or why – he was making her situation look natural. Sadie glared at what was keeping George busy with tepid unease. Two inches of her rolling hips separated one end of the seatbelt from the other. He tugged and pulled, digging into her waist. Sadie felt the stitches grind across her dress. “Oh...errmm. Doesn’t it go any further?” said George, veins throbbing on his forehead. “Never mind. Breathe in honey, I got this.” “I already am,” Sadie gulped, her lungs aching. He worked his biceps and the metal whined in protest. Sadie winced, trying to rein in her curves. Her hands held up the swell of her belly while her boyfriend worked from beneath, towing the fibers for every inch they were worth. She grit her teeth. Already she was as far back in her seat as her rear would allow. “This isn’t gonna happen,” she groaned, letting her stomach drop. “I’m sorry,” “No, I’m sorry,” said George, relenting. “I can’t do it. This is my fault...” He flicked the engine on. The Chevrolet Bel Air purred into life. He smiled at the long-forgotten sound, and at the humming heat that rose through the leather upholstery. He gripped the gearstick and thrust the car into reverse, deftly turning round a dark ‘51 Muntz. “I’ll just have to drive slow...” George reasoned, tapping his fingers on the wheel. “Lucky my baby’s got her own personal padding, huh?” He yanked the clutch, then tickled her belly. Sadie cringed inside and out. She shrank in her seat - or she tried. There was no room. All of a sudden, the space she occupied felt fractured and contentious. It was not enough. Or was it too much? “Yeah...about that...” she mumbled quietly. “About what?” said George. “About me,” said Sadie. “You’re doing a great job of not being shocked...” “Shocked was what I was when the Chinese came for us on Chosin Reservoir,” George shrugged. “You’re my baby girl. You’ve put on a little weight...it’s no big deal.” “It’s not a little, George – it’s like someone hit me with the A-bomb.” Sadie whined, gripping the fold of her stomach. They turned a corner, and she pinched the yielding softness with nascent indignation. “Tell me the truth, won’t you? I’ve gotten huge. I so wanted to tell you what was happening. My letters...” “I didn’t care before, and I don’t now.” said George. “All I wanted to know you was if you were okay. Okay?” He leant across, hands still on the steering wheel, and kissed her on the forehead. Sadie felt colour creep back into her cheeks. “Dad wrote too, he always said how happy he was to have you round the place,” he continued. “You’re such a great cook, he told me. And Aunty June loved that you helped with the garden, and Mom was...well...Mom was...informative...” Sadie sniffed. “...so you knew,” she mumbled. “I told her to lay off on you,” Her boyfriend breathed out with a sigh. “Three years with no leave – I know it was hard back home too. You deserve the slack. She...she didn’t actually say anything to you, right?” Sadie shrugged. “Her face was a whole lot easier to deal with than my mother’s...” George’s grin countered her frown. “Well honey, I can’t wait to see their faces when your arm’s in mine for the homecoming party.” Sadie balked. “That was meant to be a surprise...” she whispered. “It can wait, Sadiecakes,” he said, simply. “I’m back, and all that matters is where I’m taking you tonight. Just you and me. Three years is a long time to keep a date waiting, don’t you think?” Sadie paused for thought. “There’s a new place open on the interstate,” she suggested. “They’re letting vets eat for free tonight.” “A new place, huh? Like a diner?” “Kinda,” said Sadie. “It’s a little different. You’re hungry, aren’t you?” “Sure am,” said George. He looked over his shoulder to reverse. “So hungry I can hardly think...” A newsboy swung wide as he pushed his rusty bicycle by the record store. With her boyfriend distracted, Sadie reached over and snatched the hat from the top of his head. “Taking my clothes away already?” George said with a wry smile. “Uh-huh,” said Sadie, adjusting the white fold over her shimmering hair. “Better get used to it. Mine don’t fit so well any more...” Her boyfriend revved the engine. The automobile filled the street, gleaming in storefronts as it peeled away from the ocean front, then deeper into the shining city on the hill. They swung round the speckled marble fountain, chocked with champagne-soaked and drunken revellers, then streamed eastward to the countryside. Stars and stripes fluttered high from the rooftops until the towers gave way to peaceful trees. A golden archway crowned the road beyond. “So that’s...ninety pounds, right?” George furrowed his brow. Sadie smiled as they pulled into the parking lot. Math was not her boyfriend’s strongest point. “Three stone every year, give or take a pound. For all three years,” she repeated to him. “That’s how much weight I’ve gained...” She lowered her head, and was quickly greeted with her rounded breasts. Her belly loomed wide over her thighs. Sadie stared at her hands, taking in the little crease on her wrists. Even her fingers were rounder, and thicker. “That’s a whole lotta woman...” George whistled. “It’s kinda hot to imagine...” “Me ballooning while you were gone?” Sadie exclaimed. “Seriously?” “You just...being you...” said George. “What happened to ‘so hungry I can hardly think’?” Sadie put on his voice. “Well...I sure am hungry,” Her boyfriend’s hand slid over her shoulder. Sadie coyly batted it away. “Save it. What would you like to eat?” “Uhhh. Burger, fries and a Coke” said George. He lowered the window and looked into the misty air. Night had ushered in, and speckled stars glittered between the leaves of the golden oak trees where they had parked. “Where’s the carhop?” he asked, glancing left and right. “Oh, there’s no carhops,” Sadie explained. “We’re supposed to go to the counter.” “I thought you said we were eating in the car,” said George, puzzled. “We are,” said Sadie. “But it’s self-service, so we collect our own meals.” “O-kayyy. So you go in, you don’t even sit down, and then you go back out again to your car? What’s the benefit in that?” he scoffed. “The food is good,” Sadie replied, pursing her lips. “And it’s not like a restaurant. They don’t keep you waiting after you order, it’s lightning fast.” “Fast food? Pffftt. No wonder it’s free tonight,” George rolled his eyes. “It’ll never catch on.” His gaze gravitated toward his girlfriend’s body, as she swung her legs out of his car. The suspension listed, and he found himself grinning. Heels on the ground, she tossed her hair and set off with a bounce in her step. “Burger, fries, coke for one war hero. Coming right up.” she called out. George’s eyes glimmered as she sashayed through the door, her ass beating to the sound of its own drum. Nothing broke her stride, not even the brush of her hips on the doorframe. He watched her greet the lucky guy on shift as if he were an old friend. Come to think of it, they maybe do know each other well... George wondered. Thirty minutes later his girlfriend had laden the front seats with an armful of paper bags. A meaty aroma wafted through the air. Sadie let her load crumple in the space between their seats. “Geez - is this everything off the menu?” said George. “Just wanted to give you a taste of what you’ve been missing out on,” Sadie smirked, sealing the door shut. “This one’s for you.” She produced the bag with the promised hamburger and fries. George brushed the paper away with a sceptical glare. He sniffed, then took a shy bite. He paused a moment. “Mmmm. Whoahh, screw what I said – this is awesome!” said George. He took another bite. Sadie beamed, sitting back with a burger of her own. She almost groaned as she filled up her cheeks. Delicious cheese danced on her tongue. She chewed and swallowed, and soon made it disappear. Her hands swiftly found a second cheeseburger. The taste was exquisite. Her stomach rumbled softly, and she gave it a soothing rub. A long sip of chocolate milkshake came next. “Mmmphh. Hey, you know what’d make this better? If we still didn’t have to get out to order.” George returned the bare wrapper to the bag. “What if they had a system where there was... I dunno, let’s say a vendor in the kitchen, but with a window facing the street outside? So people could drive through and get whatever they wanted?” “Oooh, you could take that to the bank,” said Sadie, winking. She slipped a hand inside to gather a portion of fries – one of several – and tucked in slowly and delicately under his approving glances. “Mmmpph. Always so gooood,” she hummed. Her breaths grew shallower and lighter. Soon, the little packet was empty. “More?” said George, a clutch more of the well-salted sides in hand. “More.” Sadie resolved, licking her lips. She held her mouth wide open. George leaned in to feed her slowly. She closed her eyes. Then in an instant, her zipper shot halfway down her back. Sadie yelped as her breasts tumbled onto her belly. Her face solidified. Creamy rolls of flesh burst out from her sides as the material tapered to her hips – two flapping swathes of overstretched cotton, exposing every inch of her curves beneath. Thrusting forward, she covered her nipples with a thickset arm, and lay a palm over her exposed belly button. A curtain of hair fell over her eyes. “No...” she whimpered. “No...no...” “Ssshhh,” George whispered. “Sshhhh...” He parted her hair and coaxed her arm away, and guided it to rest on his smooth shoulders. He closed in. Sadie shivered. Her breasts pooled up against his chest, where her nipples brushed his hardened muscle. A hand flashed around, and seized hold of the hem of her dress. “Don’t fix it,” Sadie stressed. “I think I burst it open, the zipper – it’s” “Sshhhhh...” He clutched her belly in his hands, and brought it free. Sadie moaned in pleasure, balked, then moaned again as he kneaded her folds, the sensation driving her wild. Her gossamer soft skin grew sensitive, then electric. She stroked his neck as she gave up more of herself, letting him have his way with her oodles of weight. “I’m sorry.” she whispered, tensing, laying a kiss on his ear. “Don’t be.” said George. “I’m sorry that I’m sorry,” said Sadie. “I was just... “...trying to be something you’re not?” George finished for her. “I think you need a bigger dress, honey...” “I just wanted it to be like the first time.” Sadie confessed. “Like it was with my sister. I wanted what she had. She was skinny, she had a flowery dress, and it was summer, and all the ships were coming home, and she was skinny, and her boyfriend picked her up, and...” “I didn’t pick your sister,” said George, looking her dead in the eyes. “Sadie - I picked you.” His touch was gentle, coursing from her cheek to her soft chin, down her delicate neck, over her chest to her belly, soft, dull, and full. “All of you.” he whispered. “I mean it.” Sadie’s eyes glazed over, half watery, half transcendent. She moaned as she fell back in her seat with the slightest shove, then further as her boyfriend wrenched it into a reclined position. Stuffed full, she could barely move. She could do little but jiggle and whimper as what strips that were left of her dress were peeled away. She wobbled. She was completely at his mercy. “You comfortable?” her boyfriend asked her. The big girl nodded. She was all the pillows and softness she needed. “No carhops, right?” “Uh-huh,” Sadie nodded again. Her stomach churned and her heart raced through the gears. “You wanna taste of what you’ve been missing out on?” Sadie watched him unbutton his shirt, growing warmer and warmer. The hardtop’s windows began to mist up. Her cheeks were rosy red in the dashboard light. George flicked it off. Deep in the trunk, a homecoming soldier’s rucksack slowly started to tremor. The first browning leaves fell from the oaks outside onto the roof of Chevrolet – but soon, they too were shaken away. Sgt. George Miller had never found waking up so hard. It was late on an autumn morning, his last day of leave, and he was duty bound to get his kit together ready for his next reveille, fifty miles away in Fort Bragg. He made a mental note to fill up his Chevy on gas, as he swung his legs out of the duvet and straightened the pillows, then lifted the sheets as he stood up and stretched his broad shoulders. A spry robin perched on the apple sapling in the garden outside, as a calm wind rustled the rose bushes. Smoothing his jet-black hair, George remade the bed, pulling out the creases from where his girlfriend had slept beside him last night. The sunken space lingered with her honeyed scent. The soldier smelled the air, and detected the faint hints of sizzling bacon. She was in the kitchen, making breakfast. He smiled, and made another mental note. Dinner at Colucci’s tonight. Her favourite. Throwing on a white shirt, George retrieved the iron from the top of the wardrobe and set about his second tasking of the day. He sourced the plug socket. The brown ironing board rested by the bookcase in the hall. His combat fatigues however, were absent without leave. “Sadiecakes?” he called into the hallway. “Honey? Where’s my uniform?” He heard the clatter of a drawer, the tap of bare, dainty feet on a checkered linoleum floor. George tossed the iron on the bed and padded to the kitchen, rubbing his eyes. Bright flowers greeted him from the coffee table. He heard the rustling of starched fabric and the shift of crockery. “Sadie? You there darling?” he yawned as he approached the doorway. He looked around the corner, and failed to close up his jaw again. Sadie shot him a vivacious smile from behind the cupboard door, mouth dotted with sugary sprinkles from the donut she had wolfed whilst frying her second meal of the morning. She was wearing his camouflage shirt, the sleeves stretched so tight that they looked painted, with the bottom buttons fit to burst between her thickened belly rolls. She had made use of one of his vests to wear as a bra, the material riding up off her middle, sheltering a bosom the higher buttons of the shirt simply could not contain. His three-chevron rank slide peeked from her cleavage, a loose cotton thread lightly tickling its length and depth. The collar was creased up, framing a cute chin below her beaming, rounded face. George’s eyes bulged as she took a step back. Sadie licked her lips, closing the cupboard and letting him drink in the sight of her lower half. The seams of his trousers were whitened and taut all the way up from her knees, from where her wide thighs kissed all the way to the docile hang of her stomach, thoroughly exposed by the splayed ends of a button and a hole that bore no hope of ever coming together whilst she was wearing them. Sadie jiggled her embonpoint, lightly laughing, giving her belly a slap, then a rub, and a long, sensuous squeeze. She moaned. George was almost salivating. His beret completed her look, holding back her curtain of lazy blonde curls. His boots were eschewed – they were simply too big for her, but his belt was simply too small. Sadie had liberated her huge hips, and had taken to winding the bolted leather strap around her fingers, dangling the edge like a pendulum in front of George’s dumbstruck face. She winked, and pulled it with a satisfying snap. “What do you think, babe?” Sadie purred with a smile, seizing a love handle and cocking her hip. “Do I look ready for the draft?” Her boyfriend stood motionless, frozen to the spot. Gravity nearly took him before his senses did. Striding towards her he answered the only way he knew how. In a split-second Sadie was locked in his embrace, her lips one with his. She heard birdsong, and the distant hum of violas as he brought her closer. She closed her eyes to the feeling of clouds buffering against her toes, and kissed deeper, and deeper. “Screw the bombs, the Air Force should’ve just dropped you instead,” her boyfriend finally mumbled. “You’d blow them all away...” “Huh,” Sadie raised an eyebrow, smirking. “You calling me heavy, you little punk?” “Nuh-uh,” George smirked. “I’m calling you out. On these.” Sadie felt a sudden flood of arousal as he laid out his hands on her breasts. She took a sharp intake of breath. Her heart began to race as he arced his fingers around her nipples, bursting static as they stiffened through his tightening shirt. Her face burned through deepening shades of pink, then soft, sultry red. “And these...have they...grown?” He turned his attention to her juicy, thick legs, and where they creamed over his beltline. George drew long, lazy circles along her tender skin, skirting with the tantalising edge of his knuckle. Sadie shivered as he extended a roughened finger, fluttering over the bulges of her thighs, winding closer and closer to the space between. “M-maybe a little...” she murmured, her voice low. It was only half a lie. “Oh,” said George, with a glint in his eye. “Then what about...this...?” He grabbed her ass, sinking his fingers into a surge of softness. Sadie mewled, then gasped as he took a firm hold. Her illusions disappeared. There was definitely more of her. Much more than she remembered. First it was cheeseburgers, and hot pizzas and pies, and now it was inches of plushness and pleasure in her handsome man’s kneading hands. She shifted her quivering stance, tensing her knees, churning up in ecstasy. Her panties were covering less and less. She twisted the band in her fingers, as the knot in her stomach turned. George took hold of the belt, stretched it taut, and laid it against her waist. He wrapped it around her sides – or at least, he tried. The edges were a sheer gulf short of where they could come together. “Forty pounds,” Sadie admitted, blushing as the belt bit into her flesh, as embarrassed as she was aroused. “I’ve put on another forty pounds since you came home, it’s crazy...” “You say that as if you don’t have a good explanation...” George noted. He flung the belt buckle, caught it and used it as a strap to bring her closer. “I love it...” “You’d better,” Sadie replied. “This is all you. All your cooking...all the snacks...uunnff...all the food you keep feeding me...” “Uh-huh. And now look at you...” He guided her into a slow, shifting twirl. “Sergeant Sadie Smith,” George whispered in her ear. “This is not regulation standard...” “Oh yeah?” Sadie breathed, shutting her eyes. Her golden hair tumbled loose over her shoulders as she closed on his cheek. “I’m over three hundred pounds now, Miller. What are you gonna do about it?” she whispered. “Report to the bedroom immediately,” George arched his shoulders, leaning up to his full, imposing height. “And that’s ‘sir’ - to you...” Sadie stroked a finger under his lightly-stubbled chin. “Sir, to me? The only commission you’re getting...is for a handmade pumpkin pie...and some whipped cream,” She widened her eyes and tilted her head. “Please, and thank you.” George smiled, took a step back, turned to the fridge and opened the door with a flick of his wrist. “Ooohhh...” Sadie moaned, her belly warming in anticipation. “Ohhhh....” “Way ahead of you, honey. I fixed this baby up yesterday,” He retrieved the dessert on its cold platter, rich, thick and laden with cinnamon. “Baked it while you were sleeping off that poundcake, right after those ribs....” “Uhhh...huhhhh...” Sadie swallowed, her mind a haze of flavours and tastes. “Can I...can I try a little?...” “Heck no,” George pinched her cheek. “You’re not off the hook, Sergeant Smith. You owe me a show parade...” He held the pie aloft above her head. “No!” she hissed. Sadie latched onto his elbow and pulled, uselessly. She grunted and tugged, quaking her belly against him, scrabbling in nascent frustration as he fended her back with a strong, single arm. George chuckled as he switched his grip, leaving her to pound her bunched fists softly on his stony chest. “...yup, a show parade...” he continued. “And maybe some remedial physical exercise...” Sadie stopped. She looked him in the eyes. She pushed back her hair. “What kind of physical exercise?” she questioned, her every word slow and yearning. Her eyebrow was raised. “If you look in,” George winked. “I’m sure I can give you a perfect demonstration...” Sadie licked her lips. Pumpkin pie in one hand, and the slip of her waist in the other, George led her into the bedroom. Tumbling onto the bed, she seized him by his collar, and plucked off the buttons on his shirt, one by one, sneaking intermittent bites of rich, spicy pastry between his kisses. George pushed gently on her shoulders, nudging her toward the pillows. Sadie smiled and pushed back, setting him supine over the freshly laid sheets. She peeled off his boxers, then her trousers, then took to the bed on her hands and knees, straddling his naked form. “You’ve changed...” George groaned as he hardened. “You’re not the same as when I left...” “Hmmpphh,” Sadie puffed up her cheeks with a huge handful from the pie. “Mmmpph. Obviously.” “No...not this...” George shook his head. “The way you move. The way you act lately, you’re so...so full on. You’ve gotten so...confident, since I’ve been gone...” “Uummpphh. Well, what did you expect me to do?” Sadie gyrated her vast hips, flashing him a wolfish smile while filling her face with succulent cream. “Go back to being part of the furniture?” She guided him inside her, quivering above his length. She bounced down hard, reaping a moan from her boyfriend in the process. “I never thought you could be so...such a go-getter...” George breathed. “Yeah? Heh...well, you weren’t around...” Sadie tightened her legs on his torso, rocking and riding. His broiling blood rushed down his body. “And those planes....unnfff...those planes weren’t gonna screw...oh god...screw - screw themselves, right?” She bit her lip as she felt him grow ever harder inside of her. Her hair lashed and flickered, a wild, hot, untempered mess. Moaning, she thrust more pie into her mouth. “You were a riveter?” George asked, his face a picture of paradise. “How could I not know?” “Hell no. The factory took me on as a clerk,” Sadie giggled, her legs beginning to ache from pain and pleasure in equal measure. She released herself and fell back onto her bottom with a squish. “Pheeww...you honestly think I got this big from being on my feet all day? Flexing my guns?” She pulled a kiss-me face and tensed her biceps over his knees, matching one of the poses she’d seen him do in the mirror, cream in hand. She stuck the nozzle in her mouth for another long, delicious draw. George blinked. From sinewy and slender, her arms had grown toneless, pillowy and large. He poked a finger deep into their swell. They felt just as she thought – smooth, silky, malleable like the rest of her. He constricted his fingers arounded the slightest, smallest bulge of muscle in the middle, cocooned in a coating thick with flesh. “Did I tell you that I love you?” George said, grinning. “Maybe...” said Sadie, with a wry smile and a playful shove. “Ready to show me how much?” She fell back, gripping the bedposts, spreading her legs wide. Her boyfriend needed no encouragement. Minutes later, Sadie’s body was pooled on the bed with him on top of her, swimming in her curves and rolls. She peered out to the sunlight, sated and sleepy, picturing the hazy dust on the windowsill. She felt ethereal. Inches away, George snoozed softly, using her breasts as a pillow. She gingerly stroked his jawline, coaxing him out of his slumber. “Well?” she whispered, as the bells chimed for midday. Nuzzling into her neck, George sighed and smiled. “That was...that was even better than forty pounds ago,” he breathed. “Your body – it’s...there’s so much more...” Sadie giggled, then fought for her breath as she guided him off her belly and breasts, and rocked herself to a sitting position. Then without warning, she rolled on top of his muscled frame. George gasped, the air forced out of his lungs. Sadie bucked her hips, thrusting and wobbling, leering and simpering. The mattress springs whined beneath her. “Feels good, huh?” she puffed, burying his face in her breasts. “All this weight...” George turned crimson, twitching, squishing her sides as he strained pitifully for release. She turned and twisted her rolls and folds, fighting the press of his arms, straining with her own until she could match his strength no longer. Sadie relented, rolling back onto her side of the bed. She lay back for a few seconds of peaceful, breathless bliss, before propping herself up on an elbow by the pillows. “Still...phewww...” She turned to her boyfriend and swept back her sweaty hair. “Ha. Unnfff...whew...I’ve still...still got it...right?” George was motionless, still gasping, his every muscle devoid of tension and stress. He cast his eyes around the room. The whipped cream can was hollow, and the pumpkin pie was reduced to a single slice and smatter of crumbs on the floorboards. His and his girlfriend’s clothes were twisted and mixed – his white shirt beside her uniform – the latter stretched so far out of proportion that he’d had no choice but to surrender it over to her. He gazed at his girlfriend’s big belly, heaving gently between her breaths. It was round. It was soft. And tomorrow, he knew, it would be even bigger. “I think ‘it’ got you, Sadiecakes...” he quipped. “Although, I sure ain’t complaining.” Sadie laughed. She grabbed his hand and settled it on her swelling stomach, and guided it to carefully caress the underside. As if on cue, George reached for the plate. The last slice of pumpkin pie sang her name from the air above. Sadie opened her mouth, and let him fill her up, and up...
  7. “So, who’s excited for our special guest tonight?” The audience whooped. “You can just feel it, can’t you?” Jimmy Brisket clutched the edge of his rigid lapel. “That teensy-weensy tingle in the air, you know, right before you get starstruck? Oh, I can’t wait any longer!” He threw out his arm. “All the way from sunny Los Angeles, already with two Oscar nominations to her name, and here tonight on the Daily Double Dip to promote her latest film, please welcome, the gorgeous, the wonderful – Fallon Leslie!” Ohhhhhhh...you gonna take me home tonight... The spotlight glowed gold. Ohhhhhhh...down beside that red fire light... The red curtain rustled. Ohhhhhhh...you gonna let it all hang out... Then opened wide. Fat bottomed girls, you make the rocking world go round... Fallon waved, soaking in the applause, totting up the lingering looks on her burgeoning rear end with a smirk as she strode out to shake Jimmy’s hand. He gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek. His blue eyes were as bright as his smile. Fat bottomed girls, you make the rocking world go round... The waddling starlet returned the kiss, then planted herself down on the famous blue chaise longue. The cushions puffed out with a whoosh where she landed, her tummy bouncing ever so slightly. Fallon swished her hair, letting it rest over her shoulders while she scooted over to the armrest. Her figure bulged and shifted under her shirt. Teasing and adjusting, she let herself settle, her soft sides spreading amongst the pillows. The last bars of the song echoed around the studio, and the clapping slowly filtered away. Fallon gave the host a cheeky wink. “Thanks Jimmy,” she grinned, reclining. “That was quite the entrance...” “I’ll say! You’re quite honestly...” The larger-than-life host eased into his office chair. “...twice the woman you used to be. Are you glad to be back on the sofa?” “One hundred percent. I’m a big girl, I get winded way more easily these days,” said Fallon, a palm on her chest. “It’s such a long way from backstage...whew...” “But you’re happy – as I’m sure we all are –” He stopped for the burst of applause “– to see you back on the show again?” “Yeah! I’ve got your couch to myself this time!” She gave the space beside her a cheery pat. “Probably for the best. I can feel my producer screaming in my ear – Fallon, he wants you to know, if it breaks, he’s not responsible.” More laughter. Fallon felt her chin crease as she smiled. “Of course, speaking of last time – that was, what two years ago? You’ve clearly become an even bigger star – first there was Electra, then you had your role in Wannabe Queen, the pageant drama,” Jimmy counted on his fingers. “Then after that you starred in Uncharted Territory and only just lost out to Olivia Colman in The Favourite... “I know, but she’s great. I was lucky just to be there, at the Academy Awards that night – it was the same night where Barry Squires – you know, the producer – leaned way over my table with me and my agent, handed me this script he said he loved and asked if I’d consider” “And just to clarify – because we've been hearing all the goss – it’s definitely, definitely not a remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?” Fallon laughed. “Definitely, definitely not, no. I’m playing the main character in Weight of Gold. That’s what the movie’s called, it’s more of a feelgood, sports drama.” “And you have – if you mind me saying so – been undergoing something rather dramatic yourself?” “Oh, I’m not even done yet,” said Fallon, smiling and cupping her belly. “We’re still filming – well, technically, we’re going back to filming once I reach my goal weight, then we shoot one more fat scene, and after that we go back to a regular schedule.” “A fat scene?” “I’ve put on at least a hundred pounds,” Fallon announced, to a collective gasp. She could almost feel the press plunge into the paper, the glaring headline in thick black ink. “One hundred pounds?” “At least. Yeah.” she nodded. “Let’s see – just to reiterate that – let's see if we can get a picture up on the big screen. Right. Okay, so here’s what you used to look like.” Jimmy gestured at the giant projection. Fallon blushed at herself. The photo showed them together – albeit eighteen months, and many, many pounds ago – with her sitting sandwiched between the buxom director and Brody, her burly male co-star. She wore a strapless purple minidress, a mix of festival bracelets donned along her skinny wrists, the smooth angles of her face brought out with a shadowy blush. She looked rail-thin, waifish, pixie-like – a free spirit, airy and ethereal. “And now...no, wait for it...this was you, two days ago on the beach in Malibu.” Fallon blanched, clapping her hands over her mouth the moment the picture flashed onscreen. She dodged her moon-faced smile, dimples dipping where her cheekbones used to be, her gawping eyes skipping straight to the voluminous belly cresting on the deckchair. For a split second, she struggled to fathom it was truly hers. It demanded attention; fully bared, stuffed and taut, slung proudly over the waistband of her bikini bottoms, bronzing in the California sunshine. True to her Irish roots, her top displayed a shamrock over each breast - but they were pulled so tight they barely looked recognisable. A splatter of ice-cream rested above her belly button, and her finger lay poised to scoop it past her plump, greedy lips. Her hair was tied up in a messy bun, emphasising the swell of her jawline. Her every nourished fibre looked chunky, and round. “I mean, what can I say?” Jimmy shrugged. “Spot the difference?” “Um, I grew my hair out?” Fallon offered, smiling as she brushed aside her ebony locks. “It’d be harder to pick what didn’t grow out.” “Yeah, it kinda surprised me too,” the star agreed. “I mean – I've never been big before, and I was thinking before it happened that...because I was doing so much training to build up my glutes and leg muscles for gymnastics, I’d be bottom heavy? But then, once I gained the first thirty pounds and I started losing all that muscle, I realised all the weight was going right here.” She gave her belly roll a rub, then a squeeze. Thick and doughy, it wrapped around her, peeking over her pants. The host’s eyes widened at the sight. “And...err...ahem...here.” She gave her bosom a little push up, her cleavage deepening with a loving squeeze. Jimmy blinked. “Whoops. Sorry – missed that one.” he garbled. “Must be all the stardust in the air. Would you mind doing it again, but this time really slowly?” “Nooo,” Fallon smirked coyly. “You’ll have to wait until the premiere.” “Oh! You don’t mean... wait, you do mean?” “I have a couple scenes where – uhh, how do I put this...everything’s laid...bare?” Fallon quipped, her voice rising in pitch as she matched the host’s arched eyebrow. “I mean, it’s all about exploring new changes, and acceptance, and loving yourself – it's really crucial to the plot.” “Why? Remind us – what’s all this about?” “So I’m portraying Natalie Quartermain, she’s an Olympic gold medal winning athlete.” “Uh-huh,” the host spread his arms out from his body. “I totally see it.” “No – hush, you,” Fallon giggled, jiggling her chest as she put a finger to her lips. “Like, her story’s way more known in the U.S. She’s famous because she rose out of a poor background to become a collegiate champion, then an All-American elite gymnast, but during an Olympic trial she came off on a vault the wrong way – it was her final event – and she broke both her legs.” “Oh my goodness.” “I know. It was terrible," Fallon explained. "Then, obviously she couldn’t go to London with the team, she couldn’t train because she had to heal, and then her funding got cut because she wasn’t competing – and after that, part of her just gave up. She said in her autobiography that food was her only friend, and because she couldn’t exercise, after a couple years she became morbidly obese.” “Owch. That’s gotta hurt.” “Yeah, it completely blew up her life. She wrote that her breaking point was when some friends she hadn’t seen in months asked her out, she rolled out of bed on the day and discovered she couldn’t paint her toenails any more. When you think of how much pride...you know, how much gymnasts put in their fitness and their flexibility, and now she’s at a stage where she’s too big to reach her feet – that's where the reality sinks in.” “I see,” said Jimmy. “Although obviously, it’s not like you’d mind, you can just get a runner to do it for you.” The ice broke. The audience tittered again. “Ughh, it’s tempting,” Fallon smirked, leaning back on the sofa. “Just to totally lie around all day and be like – excuse me, why aren’t you helping me? Where’s my pedicure? Where’s my tub of vanilla ice cream?” She sat up again with a little grunt of effort and a giggle. “I’m kidding...chocolate’s my favourite.” The audience laughed. Then, they cheered and applauded. The spotlight shot across the studio to the curtain, tracing the waves from the other side. “Oh, you don’t say? What a lovely coincidence!” said Jimmy, as a PA parted the veil to reveal a glittering service cart, laden with a huge bowl of sprinkled ice cream. Fallon’s eyes shone as he rolled it over to the host’s desk, and set it carefully next to her. She leant forward to accept a hefty silver spoon, and plummeted it into the bowl with a gracious smile. Her first bite was cold, creamy and delicious. “You know, I’ve often thought of diversifying the show, include those things they do online with the food – what's it called?” said Jimmy. “When you talk when you’re eating?” He put a finger to his ear. “No! Not bad manners! The other thing.” “Mmmpphh!” Fallon laughed, her cheeks full with icy goodness. “Mmmphh...Mukbang!” “I beg your pardon?!” shouted Jimmy. The audience howled with amusement. Fallon nearly choked on her spoon. “Haha! I’m...mmmpphh...I’m - I’ve been vlogging my transition since I started, a lot of the time when I’m giving people updates...” She swallowed. "Like, when I'm showing them my progress, I'm also eating, that’s how I connect with people. Like, everyone’s asking me, do I do ASMR now? And I’m lying around in bed like – I don’t even know what that is? I just see food and then I eat it, that’s all I do every day.” “You must’ve had time to sample a few new places? Maybe some new recipes?” “Oh my god, I’m addicted to penne alle vodka. And crispy oysters. My chef has been such a hero throughout this whole thing,” Fallon beamed, inhaling another spoonful. “I’ve been touring restaurants too, like fast-food places, and I’m developing a weakness for cheeseburger omelette with pancakes. It’s my favourite.” “That’s wonderful. I’ve got to ask – and don’t take this the wrong way, you’re practically glowing with positivity – but I’ve got to ask, what one aspect, if there is one, has surprised you the most, going from where you were, to where you are now? Have you experienced any big shocks since, you know, becoming bigger?” “No, like, genuinely,” Fallon lowered the spoon. “What’s surprised me the most, is how supportive my circle of friends and family have been for me. They’re the most important thing for me, they’re like a whole squad of cheerleaders, I’m really open around them and... yeah, at the beginning everyone told me, why not wear a fat suit? Why not just do it with CGI? But I said to them that I couldn’t expect normal people to embrace Natalie’s story if...I wasn’t gonna embrace it myself. That’s why before we started shooting, I got super into gymnastics, I had a world class coach, I had a diet plan, I had a training schedule...” “Wait – so, I’m guessing – start of the film’s all about big gymnastics contests, it’s bound to be full of jumps and flips and cartwheels and so-on. And all of that’s you?” said Jimmy. “Yeah. That’s really me.” Fallon smiled. “No CGI, no stunt doubles, nothing?” “Nothing but hard work and determination,” she beamed. “I got myself down to thirteen percent body fat, I had abs, I had these really toned thighs, I had guns,” Fallon lifted and tensed her flabby arms. “I was in the gym three times a day, I was sooo fit, it was insane. And now my....mmpphhhh...” She dipped her spoon back in the bowl for another mouthful. “Now my....mmm...my stunt doubles are all looking at me like – jesus, do we still have jobs? You’re huge! Do we have to pig out too? It’s definitely been a life changing experience for a lot of people. But everyone’s been uber supportive. My friends are constantly handing me their leftovers – like, that’s how they greet me now. They’re like, ‘Hey Fallon, could you finish these fries for me? I’m full’ or ‘You’ve gotta try some of my mom’s poundcake’ – I’m practically breathing in calories. Mmm...” “But the sooner we hit your goal, the sooner we get to see you in the film, right?” “Uh-huh.” Fallon let out a little burp. “Ooh, excuse me.” She licked a chocolatey drop off her lips. “I got a nutritionist and set myself a target to put on four pounds a week for a month, then five a week for two months, and now I’m just seeing what my limits are and pushing them a little further every day. This ice cream's so good, by the way.” “Fallon. You know what I’m about to ask next.” “Hmm?” “How much do you weigh?” “Mmmpphh,” Fallon swallowed, flicking her eyelashes. “Well, my end goal is two-hundred and forty pounds, but right now I actually don’t know. I haven’t weighed myself in a long time, ‘cause I love surprises, but I know I hit two hundred over summer. That was a hell of a day, man. Secretly I’m hoping for two thirty by November – I know it’s a lot, but hey.” She gave her tummy a slap. “I think I’ll get there.” “In style too, by the looks of things. But to quote another, immensely popular leading lady, it’s October Third,” said Jimmy. “Which in the wonderful world of the Daily Double Dip, can only mean one thing...” The lights dimmed to a pale, pulsing glow. Fallon heard tubas. The imposing chords of Oncoming Menace permeated the thick, heavy atmosphere. The spotlight shimmered over a rising, hissing platform. Dense smoke rose from the floor, shrouding the steely machine. “You can close your eyes if you want to,” Jimmy announced. “Because it’s Weigh-in Day!” Rapturous applause broke out as the smoke blew away to reveal a shiny digital scale. On the big screen, the blank figures sparkled in piercing red. 0.0LBS. “Seriously, is this the part where I hide behind your couch?” said Fallon, laughing whilst crossing, then uncrossing her legs. “I’m scared. Oh my god, why am I so scared? All I have to do is get up...” “If it’s too much of a tall order, I’m sure we can help.” Jimmy reassured her. “Oy, Dave – did you save the forklift from the challenge last week?” The audience chuckled. Even Fallon had to smile. “No, it’s true, I’m sinking into this sofa,” the actress admitted, laughing. “Like, I feel like I’m a few inches lower than last time. But because my butt’s bigger, I’m sitting taller – so you don’t notice. Like my head’s higher somehow, if that makes sense? But then when I stand up – brace yourself.” Jimmy grabbed on to the edges of his desk, veins sticking comically out from his forehead. “Not you, I'm talking to me,” Fallon groaned. “Ughhh, lost my breathing, okay...in one...in two...god, quit staring at me like that!” She shrieked at the host, giggling. “You’re making me nervous!” “Do you need a hand?” Jimmy leaned forward. “I don’t know!” Fallon cried out. “What if I don’t make it in one go?” “Is that the attitude of future gold medal winning gymnast Natalie Quartermain?” Yet more laughter. Fallon reddened. “It’s just super embarrassing right now. I've got a lot of changes to embrace – I put this weight on so quickly, I don’t think my body’s had time to adapt,” She flapped her hands. “You promise you won’t laugh, okay?” “No they won’t, here. Let me give you a boost,” Jimmy walked round his desk, offering an arm. “You ready?” He took her hand. “One, two, three!” He heaved. Suddenly he shot a palm to the space behind his hip. “Oh god...my back, my back!” he yelled, his grip fading, his body faltering. Fallon yelped as his face sunk over her shoulder, shoving him back up with a firm press. Chortling, the hosted lifted her arms and hailed her up with him, turning to the crowd with a wave. “I’m kidding! A round of applause, ladies and gentlemen. It’s Weigh-in Day!” Jimmy sported a wolfish simper, leading Fallon the distance from his desk to the scale. Carefully making sure her shirt was tucked in round the back, the actress followed on. She tapped her heels in front of the sport marked with a gratuitous 'X', flanked by the trio of cameras. “Now, we usually have more elaborate games on the show, but let me tell you, I’ve got goosebumps, my hairs are standing up, I literally cannot hold it a second longer. Moment of truth. Fallon, are you ready?” “Ready,” she nodded. "Your goal is?" "Two hundred and thirty by November 30th" she recounted. “Close your eyes, step forward...” The starlet did so. She heard the metalled springs crunch. Her stomach wobbled. A timid sensation tingled through her toes. “And...oh, oh my goodness!” Fallon’s heart skipped a beat. Her eyes blazed open at the numbers. 239.8lbs. Her mind rolled with the epiphany - she had gained a hundred and twenty-five pounds in little under a year and a half. Her legs suddenly felt very heavy. Stumbling, she stepped backwards off the scale, descending into Jimmy's arms. "Fallon, how do you feel?" Fallon felt her heart galloping. A deep flush surfaced on her brow. She gasped deeply, sealing her eyes, feeling her stomach flutter beneath its sheath of soft fat. “I feel...amazing,” she breathed. “This is exactly what I wanted. I set myself a target...and I thought it was crazy, but it's happened to me. Oh my god. I feel so...so...” “You getting this?” Jimmy had his finger in his ear. “Yeah – sorry, we were just getting that down for you to read out when you win the Oscar next year." The audience cheered their approval. “I mean, is there anyone you’d like to thank? McDonald’s? Wendys?” “Ha-ha-ha," Fallon laughed, soothing herself away from her state of nirvana. "I'm sure I Can put in a word for my sponsors myself." They returned to their seats. “Like I said...” she plopped down. “...it’s humbling to have the physical and emotional support I’ve been getting, even if it’s just to egg you through that twentieth slice of pizza. It reminds me of the relationship Natalie had with her long-time coach, he helped shape her, he helped motivate her to do bigger and better things, he was there when she was at her lowest point, and it’s a relationship we’re looking to explore a lot more in the film.” “The coach, played by no less than Brody Kilpatrick...” Jimmy mouthed, to the sound of wolf whistles. “Brody’s a babe,” Fallon agreed. “I know he looks all rough and tumble but he’s so gentle...” “Whoah, say no more, we haven’t made it to the watershed!” The host pointed to the face of his Rolex. “Pardon us, we're British... although it's not to say we won’t have time, you’re perfectly welcome to share all the details with me later.” “He certainly knows how to handle a bigger girl...” Fallon raised a wry eyebrow, feeling the warmth along her pinkening cheeks. “But my point was...he’s done way more than just play the romantic interest. He’s been an ally to me from day one. At first, I was afraid for him to see me like this,” She indicated toward her stomach. “...but his reaction helped me accept that my size is only gonna be as big a problem as I allow it to be.” She swept back her hair. “Which is not at all. Like, that reminds me, I never have to worry about my wardrobe, Valkyrie Mountain stepped in to replace the clothes I outgrew, so no more malfunctions. I’m getting regular check-ups, even though I’ve gotten really unfit my doctor’s making sure I get all the nutrition I need to stay healthy.” “That’s good to hear.” Jimmy nodded. “Yeah. So, my mantra is, enjoy it while it lasts,” Fallon looked down at herself. “Like, how many more times in my career am I gonna get paid to stuff my face? And plus, we’ve still got the end of the movie to make where I’m meant to be skinny again so clearly I’m gonna have a mountain to climb pretty soon, you know, like Natalie did when she finally started losing weight and returning to the team.” “And then winning gold, I presume?” “Whoah, whoah – don't spoil it!” Fallon raised up her hands. “But you said it at the beginning! The film’s literally called ‘Weight in Gold’?” “I know – wait. I was gonna say something else. Hang on – wait, was I?” “I don’t know,” Jimmy motioned. “Maybe more ice cream might jog your memory?” “Oooh, yeah, let’s have some more,” She picked up the spoon and downed another sugary mouthful. “Ugghhh, it's incredible. Thanks...phew, oh man, I forgot what I was saying again. Damn” “It’s fine. Take a deep breath,” said Jimmy. Fallon sucked in. “And now think fast, because we’ve only got five seconds left!” he shouted to the crowd. A drum roll flared up out of nowhere. The room descended into darkness. The spotlight returned. “Oh god, umm...oh my god. No, wait...no...errr....errrmm!” Fallon dropped the spoon and clutched her tresses. The snare drum rattled relentlessly. She shut her eyes. “I’m...errr...I’m...” She glared at the palms of her hands. “I’m fat?” Ba-dumm tsss.... “Fallon Leslie everybody!” Jimmy yelled, waving as he stood up. “That’s all we’ve got time for, tune in for your Double Daily Dip tomorrow!” Far, far away, someone hit the pause button on the remote. The screen was frozen on the credits. Stained fingers clenched the edges of the sofa. A rustle of plastic, then the sound of impassioned chewing broke the silence of the musky, secreted, garbage-strewn lounge. The occupant breathed in. The first grunt was effort, the second perturbance, the third pure fury as she hauled her gargantuan figure off the flattened pillows, her tank top peeling from the upholstery with a loathsome rip. Two crunching, staggering steps took her bloated body to the coffee table. Sucking in, she reached down her side for her phone, wiping her fingers on her sweatpants before dabbing in the passcode. Knees creaking, she bent down, nudging shut the door of the minifridge to get the perfect light. Grimacing, she took the picture. Her sofa wailed through the thump of her return, her laboured wheezing dulling her mind to the splitting woodwork. She pushed a slither of chocolate past her slowly growing smile. Finally, she had what she wanted. She took stock of her work. The studio name, the address and postcode. The sponsor list. Her gaze narrowed at the last words, her mood drifting through every darkened hue. With thanks to Fallon Leslie. Hands sticky, she quaffed a malicious fistful of potato chips in a single, slobbering bite.
  8. 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.
  9. ‘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.
  10. The alarm clankered off the bedside shelf and smacked the floor, still ringing. Jenny groaned. She slid a leg from the duvet and fumbled for it with her toes. Eventually, she nudged the off switch, and lay on the bed in peaceful quiet a little more. It didn’t change anything. She was awake, though not willingly so, and it was past seven am on a sunny Saturday morning. Her Freshman year of college was over, and her summer had just begun. So too, had the start of her lousy summer job. “This sucks.” Jenny said, to the reflection in her bedroom mirror. She brushed her tousled hair away from her eyes. Pouting back at her was a skinny redhead on the cusp of her twenties. “This sucks so hard…” She gazed pitifully at the cheer outfit hung over the mirror’s corner. She’d gotten through tryouts three months before – the first time she’d ever made it onto a cheerleading squad. It was three months more till summer camp – three months of hard grind so she could pay her way to get there. Out of sheer longing she slipped off her pyjama pants and eased the silky red, white and blue number over her body. The smiley sequin-eyed dolphin in the centre billowed. Over last Christmas she had banished the pesky five pounds from her belly and thighs, finally cementing her transition from a somewhat chubby little girl to a slender and sexy young woman. She smiled as she brushed her hands across the loose half inch of material along her side, then frowned as she found another half inch running across her chest. Losing a cup size had been a bummer, but it was no big deal. She had finally dropped down to two pounds within her goal of weighing one hundred and twenty. She’d never think herself perfect, she knew, but in her eyes that was pretty damn close. She turned and put her alarm clock back on the shelf, then paled when she saw it read 7:50. How long had she snoozed for? She hurriedly stripped off her cheerleading outfit and threw it at the mirror. The shoulder strap caught the corner, then it teetered over and struck the floor with a smash, shedding a sprinkly cloud of glass over the rug. “Shit,” she muttered. “There goes my first paycheck.” She didn’t have time to sweep up the thousand broken pieces. Instead Jenny found a place for her cheer outfit to hang at the back of her wardrobe, and threw on a dark blouse, her favourite jeans and blue Converse. She took the stairs down two at a time, shouted a hasty goodbye to her mother, then burst through the door and made a run for the bus stop. She had seen an advertisement for her new workplace on the bus she caught, just on time. It was an ice cream parlour called Toni’s, they were newly opened and they were in need of new waitresses. She thought she’d be in contention with hundreds of other cash-strapped teens for a job at somewhere so central, but to her surprise she’d been the first to call, and the first to get hired. She made it there ten minutes late. The building looked small on the outside, with its pink tinted windows obscuring the vast interior. Jenny looked around in wonderment. The setup was like a sushi bar, but for bowls of ice cream – a conveyor belt stretched to a kitchen and back, spanning the length the room. To the side one could buy choc-ices, ice-cream sandwiches and cream sodas. Everything was pristine, and eerily quiet, though Jenny quickly remembered they didn’t open till noon. “Jenny, right?” The redhead spun to face a kindly old lady in sharp red heels. “That’s me” she smiled. “Toni Delacroiss. I’m so glad to meet you. I hope you had a safe journey here?” “Yeah, I got a little stuck in traffic…” In truth she’d gotten off at an earlier stop to hit a café. There she heartily made up for the breakfast she’d missed. She ran a hand through her hair and down over her face, quickly checking she hadn’t left any lingering crumbs from the delicious deluxe blueberry muffin for her new manager to see. It had been so good she’d stopped a few moments more to enter their number into her phone. The place was called Beauregarde’s, and as it turned out, they did deliveries. She took a quick tour of the place and got a brief on her duties. It was pretty simple – all she had to do was go round and collect empty bowls every ten minutes or so. The conveyer belt did all the serving for her. Pretty soon she knew all she needed to know, and it was only half eight. Still three and a half hours till opening. “You might be wondering why I asked you here early,” Toni smiled. “It’s because I need somebody I can trust. I’m new to this town, this state, this whole country. I had to move on outta the old country last year, and honestly I’ve barely shared a word with anybody since.” Jenny raised an eyebrow as she heard the words, and picked up the flecks of a southern Italian upbringing in her boss’ voice. Is this a place a front? she wondered. She’d read enough crime novels to get her spidey senses tingling. Seriously? Is this lady from the Mafia? “What I’m asking is if you’ll help me test some of my latest produce,” Toni smiled. “I’m paying you to eat ice cream, basically.” “Oh…” said Jenny, a little loudly. “So that’s a yes?” “Yeah yeah. Sure!” she nodded. Jenny was all up for the idea. Who’d turn down free ice cream? Or ice cream you got paid to eat, even? Maybe this job won’t suck so hard after all. As well as waitressing, Jenny arrived at nine every weekday and Saturday morning to sample Toni’s latest ice cream flavours. She served them three scoops each in a bowl, and there were usually five or six to get through. Toni was full of ideas for new flavours and combinations, as she puzzled her way to selecting which to promote in her advertisements. In Jenny’s mind, the Treble Napoleone Supremo was a massive hit. Testing flavour after flavour in Toni’s company had let Jenny get to know her a little better. She was half Italian, half French, and she’d owned ice cream parlours all over Europe before switching to the States. “I got tired of all the red tape,” she said, when Jenny asked her about the move. “They’re not so nitpicky about GMO over here.” “Genetically modified ice cream?” said Jenny, a little bemused. “No, no, dear. It’s the milk. It comes from my own little herd of cows from out of town. They’re such darlings. They make twenty times more than your regular Holstein-Friesian. And it’s twenty times as tasty – more myristics and oleics, you see.” Toni talked a lot of science, and Jenny smiled a lot and pretended to understand. It had never been her favourite class but learning a little more about her food was interesting enough. The chocolate sauce was sourced from Venezuela, the cones from Belgium, the sprinkles from England. All of it tasted exquisitely good. Better yet, Jenny got to take a carton of her favourite of the week home with her. It made an excellent dessert after every dinner. Midway through another shift of taste testing Jenny got a call. It was Hayley, her best friend. “Up for practice?” she asked. “No…gotta finish work…” Her bank balance had slipped out of four figures even before the last semester, and she desperately needed the money for California. “I don’t get why you guy are going there,” said Hayley. She was a cheerleader too, but they went to different colleges. “There’s coaches, beaches, gym halls all in Florida, right?” “I know…” said Jenny. But Costa Mesa, CA was where her newfound friends were going to be, and having worked so hard to get into the cheer squad, she didn’t want to risk alienating herself by missing out on their annual summer camp. It would mean three whole months of work to pay her way to get there, but it’d be worth it. Especially with it being so delicious. Jenny agreed to do a practice the following week. Then she licked her lips and tucked into another bowl. Two weeks passed, and Jenny woke up again one Saturday morning to find herself every bit as lethargic as before, if not more so. Coupled with her morning malaise was her discovery that putting on her size eight jeans was getting more than a little finicky. The two halves of the button simply would not meet. “Come on…fit…” Jenny mumbled. “I wore you last week. Why can’t you just do as I say?” A finger’s width of flesh spilled out from her sides with each determined pull. She paid it no notice. “Stupid pants.” She finally breathed out. Her bellybutton peeked out again, but her eyes were scanning the creases along the legs. They had been washed recently. Which meant they could easily have been shrunk. Jenny made a mental note to tell her mom to switch washing powder, then slipped out of her size eights and into a spare set of tens. They felt a little snug, but were otherwise ok. Another two weeks changed the scenario. Her mother had switched washing powders, but now it was her size tens that were giving her trouble. She put that down to poor stitching – they barely looked bigger than her eights anyway. Her size twelves, the largest she had, awaited her in the back of her wardrobe by the cheer outfit. Two weeks more and even they were testing her patience. Her quest for appropriate pants finally brought her to Hayley’s door, after she’d offered to lend her some sixteens belonging to her older sister. She’d insisted on putting Jenny on the scale first though, out of curiosity. “One hundred and seventy-seven pounds. Whoah.” Hayley whistled. “That’s not fat,” said Jenny, shrugging. Her softer shoulders wiggled just a little. “That’s not like, two hundred.” “It’s getting close.” Hayley said in a low voice. “What are they putting in the ice-cream you’re eating?” “All natural ingredients…” said Jenny, quietly. I mean, the cows may or may not have been grown in a test tube, but they’re cows. They’re still natural, right? she thought to herself. “Aren’t you worried?” said Hayley. “It’s been a month and a half and you’ve put on like, forty pounds.” “It’s more like fifty,” said Jenny, in a low voice. “But I don’t wanna focus on it.” She stepped off the scale. “I can lose weight at Costa Mesa. That’s what summer camp is all about. Training. So I can be in tip-top shape for nationals.” “I don’t get it.” said Hayley. “Last year you were fretting about getting under one-thirty. Now you’re fifty pounds up and it’s like it doesn’t even bother you.” “It doesn’t,” Jenny replied, truthfully. “I know a couple girls my weight on the cheer squad.” “Yeah, the girls who are six foot plus. Not five foot six.” “Shut up. My weight’s just a number. Getting to one-thirty was my goal last summer. My goal this summer is getting to camp. That’s all that matters.” “You can’t just ignore what’s going on around you,” said Hayley, her eyes skimming Jenny’s rounded hips. “Tunnel vision is never a good thing.” “Says who?” Jenny grinned. “There’s a light at the end of this tunnel, and I’m gonna make it there.” “Yeah” Hayley mumbled quietly as they packed up. “Not unless you get stuck there along the way…” Jenny worked overtime at Toni’s through to the end of the month, and was rewarded with a tasty paycheck on the weekend. She had accepted Hayley’s invite to her mother’s fiftieth at an Italian restaurant in the centre of town, and as a treat to herself she clandestinely ordered a big bottle of succulent rosé wine from over the bar. At midnight they’d eloped for a night out, hitting a string of bars, before crashing back at Hayley’s, snacking on potato chips right through to the morning. That had been a month ago, and while they’d spoken on the phone they hadn’t seen each other since. Besides Toni and her mother, Jenny hadn’t seen much of anyone else at all. But what she had been seeing was a lot more of herself. Still half asleep, Jenny staggered down the stairs to breakfast. She grimaced as they creaked with every heavy footfall. She made a fleeting effort to tug her shirt down from under her jiggling breasts, then groaned as it rolled up again to expose her bulging waistline. She used her other hand to steady herself along the balustrade. The tug and pull of her newfound weight was a foreign feeling to her – no longer could she glide gracefully, but only awkwardly waddle as her fattened frame shifted from side to side. Her belly carried her downwards, quite literally leading her to the kitchen, and preceding her as she waddled through the doorway. Jenny’s mother looked on with concern as her chubby daughter rifled through the breakfast cupboard. Her occasional comments about her eating habits were proving ineffective. Since taking up her job her appetite had grown threefold. She didn’t even wait to find a bowl, spoon and some milk before tucking into her chocolatey cereal, seizing fistfuls straight from the box and cramming them into her mouth. With her cheeks filled up with crispy goodness she found a bowl and poured herself a colossal portion, on which she poured a whole pint and a half of full-fat milk. She ate messily – flecks of milk stained her pyjama shirt. When she finished her first bowl and poured another, her mother was moved to say something. “Jennifer, how’s cheer practice going?” “Great.” she mumbled as she slurped up the chocolatey milk. “Hayley came by yesterday when you were out working” she said. “She wondered where you were. I said you’d be free today. How about you go practice at the gym together” Jenny grunted. Cheering wasn’t her idea of fun at this time in the morning, and especially not on an increasingly full stomach. “I’ll call her.” she said. Her mom gave her a soft smile. Eventually, after finishing her breakfast, nipping out for a muffin, eating an extended lunch and letting it all digest, Jenny got her on the phone. She packed her cheer outfit and a chocolate bar and got on the bus to a gym just two blocks from Toni’s. She found Hayley browsing a magazine inside. Hayley failed to recognise her friend at first. She’d known Jenny since her chubby junior school days, but she’d never seen her so round. Hayley quickly glanced down at her feet and took her in from her toe to the top of her head. Her widened thighs touched from her knees up, even though her knees themselves weren’t touching. Her waist was lost under a ring of wobbling fat, merging with her equally voluminous hips. Her newly developed boobs rested on her paunch of a stomach, gently rising and falling as she breathed. Chubby cheeks framed plump, luscious lips, which parted into a puzzled smile. Hayley though back to the girl Jenny had been. The nascent muscles she had worked so hard to forge had melted away beneath a soft layer of fat. She had surpassed two hundred, easily. “Yeah…” she stuttered. “Hey. Let’s err…let’s go inside”. They found the changing rooms and Jenny locked the plastic door of a booth. She peeled off her home clothes there and produced her cheerleading outfit. She picked off the specks of dust then lifted it over her head. She was surprised - but allowed herself a little smile - when it jammed along her bosom. Over the last month she had suddenly found herself blessed with a burgeoning rack – it had made getting into her bras a pain, but she wasn’t complaining. Her satisfaction simmered down though when she found the tightness heightened as she pulled the outfit further and further down her body. Her breathing grew shallow as she pressed in her paunch, trying to slip the sequin-eyed dolphin over the top. She felt the pressure along her ribs. Her fingers slipped as she wrenched down harder. The outfit was still stuck annoyingly above her belly button. Frustrated, she crouched down and pinned the edges of the skirt down with the balls of her feet. She grunted as she slowly stood up. Her outfit, pinned down, slowly shuddered over her jiggling belly. She bit her lip as she felt it clench around her hips. She pulled it down at the back so it covered up her ass, then stood up. She heard the unmistakeable sound of a seam splitting. She gave her outfit a quick check, then found the source of the noise. She fingered the little tear, the size of a quarter, just beneath her left breast. She lowered her arm to cover it, then unlocked her booth and made for the door. No sooner had she put one foot in front of the other than the outfit tore with a giant scratch. “Shit!” Jenny spun in panic. Soft, supple fat burst through a tear that stretched down her side, exposing her from her hip to her shoulder. She clamped a hand over the cleaved material before it could explode off her, and hurriedly shuffled back into the changing rooms before Hayley could see. There she pulled off the outfit and brushed her hair out of her eyes and inspected the catastrophic damage. She nearly cried. Half the stitching had ripped, and the seams on the other side had been tested to the max. The dolphin in the middle had been stretched out of its proportions. The slender sea creature now looked, in Jenny’s eyes, kind of fat. She put her clothes back on, grunting as even though she’d come to the gym in leggings, her belly was getting in the way of her bending down. What’s happening to me? She pulled the pants over her sides, still red and angry where the cheer outfit had pressed them most. She wondered there and then that she might have overdone the eating that day. Clearly, she was a little bloated. She made another mental note to skip her ice cream dessert that night, and maybe the muffin the next morning. In the meantime she was sure a little practice would soon get her back to normal. “Let’s start with some stretching.” said Hayley after Jenny tied up her hair and joined her outside. They did their forearms and shoulders first, which were fairly easy, then got to work on the legs. Jenny felt her butt and hips pool along the floor as she lay down and lifted a thickening thigh into the air. “Hnnnghh….hhnnghhh…” She struggled to reach her toes – just like before, rolls of fat bunched up around her midsection. Hayley saw her straining and helped her by pushing her foot downwards. Hayley stared spellbound as the fat creased up on Jenny’s middle, as she finally tapped her toe with a chubby finger. They went on to cat and camel stretches. Jenny rolled back onto her knees, stretched out her arms then turned crimson as she passed a little gas. She quickly kneeled up and pressed on her ass. Another fart escaped, muffled by the floor. I’m definitely too bloated… Jenny thought to herself. Hayley, her face down, pretended not to hear anything. She led the way when they practiced jumps. They went through hurdlers, spread eagles and T’s before she caught sight of Jenny gasping, and decided it’d be better to ask her what she wanted to do. “Cartwheels.” she said, resolutely. Jenny was sick of jumping. She’d worn herself out practicing low Herkies, and had no desire to add to the burn in her thighs. “Ok,” Hayley agreed. “I’ll go first.” She readied herself, then skipped, jumped and executed a perfect tumble, landing each arm and leg silently, with poise and grace. She raised her arms in a finished position. It was Jenny’s turn. She took a deep breath, then jumped and turned, catching herself with her left arm, then her right. She spun one hundred and eighty degrees, and suddenly got a faceful of her own boobs as they flopped in their bra to her chin. Knocked off balance, her elbow buckled. Her face hit the floor first with her breasts, then the rest of her body tumbled after with a heavy thud. Her butt jiggled and shook upon impact. “Ughh…” Jenny moaned. “Owww…” The pressure on her belly left her winded. She gasped for breath as she squirmed, nursing the pain in her knee. “Are you ok?” Hayley asked worriedly. She dashed over to her friend and grabbed her arm. Jenny rolled onto her back. Her belly had escaped the confines of her stretchy top, wobbling over her waistband. Hayley pulled against her wrist then juddered forward as her strength failed her. Jenny was a little heftier than she’d thought. “You’re too hea - …sweaty…” she stuttered, saving herself. “Here, let me get a better grip.” Hayley took hold of both of Jenny’s arms and with a grunt from both of them she got her back to her feet. Jenny groaned as she briefly set her weight on her knee. Hayley offered her a shoulder and Jenny lifted a pudgy arm on top. “It’s not broken, is it?” said Hayley. “No…I think it’s just bruised…” Jenny huffed. Kinda like my pride she thought to herself. How had she screwed up something so simple so badly? “We’ll try again tomorrow, ok?” Hayley said, trying to sound cheerful. “I might need some time to recover.” said Jenny. She knew her knee would still hurt the next morning, and she had no desire to be sent sprawling on the floor again. “Maybe the day after?” “Maybe next week.” Jenny had a double shift at Toni’s that day. That meant double the dollars. And crucially, double the ice cream. “Um…ok. Sure. Are you ok getting home?” “Yeah yeah. I’m fine.” They said their goodbyes and Hayley left the gym room. Jenny hobbled out, but not before setting her sights on a vending machine. She stocked up on enough chocolate to satiate her for the bus ride home. The day had felt long, the stairs to her room were doubly hard with just one good knee and despite the lingering sugar buzz, Jenny napped through to dinner the moment she cosied up in her bed. Jenny used her bruised knee as an excuse to partake in no real movement whatsoever. The next morning it had swollen to twice its size. She stayed cooped up in bed for a whole week, and after a phone call to Toni, arranged for her ice cream to be delivered to her door. Her mother brought up the rest of her meals, and the occasional box of Beauregarde muffins on request. Seeing her daughter hurt had soothed her attitude towards her rising weight. Once the swelling had gone down Jenny became a little more mobile, just enough in her mind to trek from her bedroom to the kitchen and back. When the bruising had vanished completely she made a return to work. She had to ask for a larger uniform first though – a week of virtual immobility followed by a week of reclusiveness had rendered another skirt useless. A new work outfit was shipped to her house, and Jenny was pleased to see that her hips no longer creamed over the beltline. Her other clothes were another story. Having bought a whole new wardrobe at the start of summer, Jenny could not budget for anything new if she wanted to get to summer camp too. Thus after rolling out of bed on her days off, Jenny would stubbornly shift her fat into the old clothes. Each week the ordeal was taking her longer. What had started as few minor adjustments to sooth slight pangs of tightness became an awkward shuffle over jiggling boobs and thighs. Then it became an unwanted workout – sucking her belly in, pushing it out whilst bouncing, squeezing, straining and cursing until finally, the routine turned into a full-blown wrestling match, pitting her sprawling, softening figure against relentlessly unforgiving clothing. Dabbing the sweat off her chubby face, Jenny peered over her breasts and pressed down her belly to get a better look at one of her increasingly few and far between victories from her bathroom. After a long fight her jeans button had burst off, leaving her waist to splay out the zipper. Her voluminous hips were keeping them up – keeping them taut and tight. Elsewhere her bra had snapped at the back. Only the pressure of the overfull cups against her painfully tight T-shirt was holding it in place. “Well…two out of four…ain’t bad.” she huffed with a shrug. Her shirt rolled up from her thick waist to expose the shadow of her panty line. She’d lost sight of it as soon as she’d finished pulling it up her thighs, when she let go with a snap and watched it disappear between her rolls of fat. What was she saying? It had taken her the better part of an hour just to get to this state, and not just because the clothes were too small. Months of unchecked weight gain had drained her stamina to almost nothing. Every bounce, every bend, every squeeze had pushed her further into exhaustion, so much so that midway through she’d stopped just to hit the pillows and rest, gulping air in greedily. Even now her cheeks were red, her brow was sweaty and her breathing was still ridiculously heavy. She bit her lip as her eyes caught sight of the scale. Something was wrong and she couldn’t put it off any longer. She had to know. Her belly bunched up against her as she bent over and laid the scale on the bathroom floor. She took a deep breath and stepped on. Another ten pounds…she resolved. Maybe twelve… She realised she couldn’t see it. Her breasts and belly filled up the view of her feet. She shuffled and shifted her boobs apart, then sucked in her belly. Then she titled her head down, pressing her double chin on her chest. At last, she could see. The needle was teetering on two hundred and fifty-five pounds. Jenny whimpered and let go of her fat, reburying the hard truth between her chubby feet. It was still there, though. She had piled nearly seventy more pounds on to an already voluptuous frame. In one summer, she had doubled her size. There was no denying now that she’d gotten huge. “How did I let this happen…” she whispered. The thought of summer camp, once a hive of excitement, now filled her with fear. How could she perform looking like this? She thought of the cheer outfit she’d have to wear, a size goodness-knows-what, the sequins popping off as she hopped and twirled. How could she perform like this? She thought of the pyramid, of a dozen hands pressing into the squishy fat on her butt and sides as half a dozen girls struggled to raise her weighty body. She thought of collapsing onto the bleachers, feeling them creak as she gasped for breath, while the other girls gossiped, giggled and pointed at her overflowing bulk. Jenny shook her head and let her long red hair tumble back into her eyes. She didn’t want to see any more of herself. She felt nervous and scared. But more than that, she still felt hungry. “Fuck it” she mumbled. “Just…fuck it…” She was a fat girl now, and there was no going back – not in this summer. She kicked the scale away and waddled into the kitchen for another snack. She ignored her mom’s protests that it was nearly time for lunch, and soon she was back on her bed, stuffing her face with bacon and cheese. The day of reckoning came sooner than Jenny would have liked. She was spared a journey to California on the plane because her mother had offered to drive her there, all the way across the country. She pictured the tight squeeze through the aisle, the awkwardness of having maybe to ask for a seatbelt extender, the even greater awkwardness of having someone sit next to her and being unable to avoid spilling out onto their lap, and hastily agreed. With the money she saved, she’d finally managed to buy herself some bigger clothes. She packed them into the trunk of car, and herself in the front seat, with a little wiggling. The car was no more comfortable than the plane would have been. It was an old model Chrysler, and the seatbelt was cutting into her. Every so often she would feel her mom’s hand brush her side as she adjusted the stick-shift, and earn a stern tut. “It’s not my fault…” Jenny groaned. She couldn’t press any more of herself against the passenger door. The Arizona sun was hotting up the metal, and heating up her body in turn. Even with the air con on full blast, her heavy curves were warm and sweaty. Her auburn bangs were matted to her brow. The shower she’d had at the motel en route had felt like nirvana, even more so than the huge barbecue meal she’d amassed for herself at a local steakhouse at dinner time. But both felt like they were ages ago. She was damp, she was uncomfortable, and even though she’d done nothing but sit in the car all day, she was tired. Of course, she was hungry too. Her body wobbled as the car veered off the highway onto a dirt track. She was closing in on Costa Mesa. Her humiliation was just heartbeats away. She weighed as much as any two of them put together, and probably more. Her mother made her get back on the scale three days before the journey and told her, as she had no chance of seeing herself, that the reading was two hundred and eighty-eight pounds. “The diet starts right now.” she declared. Jenny was too numb with shock to protest. Her mother left her standing there, rooted to the spot with embarrassment. She smoothed a reluctant hand across a belly bigger than a basketball, and pinched at her doughy love handles. They filled up her palms and more. Eventually, the standing left her back aching and she sat down, and a little while later she quietly recovered some ice cream to spend her afternoon with. There was no way she could lose all ten stones plus of her added bulk in that time, so she saw no point in trying to start shedding even a little part of it. Even if she cut her weight gain back by half, her friends’ shock would be all the same. Jenny decided her diet could start once she’d passed the camp sign – till then she could splurge to stave off the thought of the moment. She’d since packed another seven pounds on to her overburdened body, though by now she’d gotten so big she could barely notice a difference. Saying goodbye to Toni had added at least five of those pounds. She had never bothered to inquire about the ice-cream, though she quickly sussed the funky milk had definitely swallowed up her metabolism. As a parting gift she’d been left with the month’s remaining stock – a whole crate’s worth of mouth-watering dairy goodness. To save it melting away, she’d had to stuff herself with it practically all in one go. When it inevitably sunk into liquid, Jenny took a glass and drank it up. Over two days she had gotten through half – the rest she managed to cram into the freezer for later. She pushed one last double bar of sticky, melted chocolate halfway into her mouth as she saw the shadow of a sign loom in the distance. She pushed it the full way in, chewed and swallowed. The glint on the sun flashed behind the wooden board as the car trundled underneath. Jenny stared at the multi-coloured lettering. It read ‘Wellspring La Jolla’. “Huh?” She gulped down the rest of her snack. “Mom, this isn’t Costa Mesa.” “I know honey. This is a different sort of camp.” “Where are we?” “Don’t worry,” her mom said, blankly. “You’ll feel right at home with your new friends, I’m sure.” They drove through a tunnel cut into the mountainside, and Jenny whipped out her phone. In the darkness realised the truth. Anger and denial coursed through her first. “Fat camp?!” “It’s for your own good, sweetie,” he mother said immediately. “You’re to stay here for one month, I’ll be in touch. And if you think about leaving, remember they’ve already debited your bank account, so you might as well stay. I gave them your details yesterday.” “Mom!” “Jennifer…please…” “I can’t believe this. How could you do this to me?” Her rage was tempered by sheer humiliation. Not even four months ago she was a cheerleader, sleek, fit and beautiful, on the road to grace and glory. And then summer happened – muffins, takeout, chocolate, Toni and whatever the hell she was putting into that deliciously addictive ice cream… And then split seams, and burst buttons, and stretchy tops, and huffing and puffing and growing…and growing... And now, fat camp. “Jennifer, how you could do this to yourself? Haven’t you looked in the mirror lately?” Jenny hadn’t looked in a mirror since the first day of summer, all those months ago. As the car neared the tunnel’s end she miserably pulled down the visor to shield her eyes from the light. Then she slowly flicked open the little mirror on the inside. She tried to look defiant, but the girl who looked back at her simply looked overindulgent. But it was her, and she knew she had to accept it. She looked at the mirror, then her body, fattened up beyond her imagination. Then she looked at the chocolate wrappers screwed up in her hand. Finally, she looked at her mother. And as the car cruised out into the sunlight she smiled as she set her new goal.
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