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Side Effects

Part Three

Gwen couldn't wait for her husband's annual family reunion. They'd been happily married for several years now but she still admired other men from afar just for fun, especially the stunning Lever family. Brad grew up with three brothers and eight male cousins so he got plenty of healthy rivalry that helped shape the high achiever he was today. Brad was probably overall the most successful of the family although his oldest brother John was the most virile and handsome.

All the men were good looking and clearly related but Gwen found John the most seductive version. She would never act on her attraction but every year she looked forward to subtle flirting or at least some sexy scenery. Several of the wives actually flirted shamelessly with him but they made sure to get drunk so they couldn't be held accountable. Maybe Gwen would try that this year.

The she remembered how she was disappointed yet curious that he was bringing a girlfriend for the first time. She'd seen the cute picture of Heather but couldn't imagine what was so special about her. Of course John was pushing forty, maybe he was finally settling down. She almost sighed aloud picturing the lithe but solid form that drove her to distraction at last year's family reunion.

Suddenly she noticed Brad was more quiet than usual on the long drive to his mother's place. Gwen didn't bother asking about it as that always shut him up even more. Instead she admired how he just seemed to get better looking every year himself; she supposed it ran in the family. Her friends were always complaining about the ten or twenty pounds their husbands put on but Gwen never had to worry about that.

“Gwen, I have something to ask you.” Finally he spoke. “Would you think less of me if I told you there is mental illness in my family?”

It wasn't the kind of question people just asked so she thought carefully before answering. “I would be a little concerned for you because I know it can be genetic but I wouldn't think less of you. Why do you ask?”

“I guess I'm nervous about today.” He paused so many times Gwen wanted to shake him but she waited patiently. “Apparently my brother has had a mental breakdown and I just don't know how I'll talk to him now. I don't know what to expect when I see him.”

“What are you talking about? Which brother?”

“Mom finally decided to inform me that John was in the hospital last winter, that he was recovering from a psychotic episode. It's so bad he has to take medications now and may never be the same.”

“But how can that be?” she protested. “He's the most stable person I've ever met. I mean, he was a professional athlete and Special Forces and all that.”

“That was before he got this, it changes you. Mom says the biggest shock is how much weight he's gained, that he even has a gut on him.”

“John does? I can't believe that.” Suddenly she felt a little queasy.

“I really can't either. Fat simply doesn't exist in our family, least of all for him. Anyway, I guess I'm just trying to prepare myself for anything.”

They were both silent again. Gwen was preoccupied with trying to process such unexpected news. She finally decided he must have allowed his muscle definition to blur a little and his mother just panicked. She'd be sure to give him a hard time to shame him into getting back on track. On the other hand it might be kinder and more effective to give him a pep talk about not giving up on himself just because he had some problems.

The party had been going for some time when Gwen and Brad finally arrived. Many of the younger people were involved in the traditional rigorous volleyball game while others chatted and drank beer. As usual there was still plenty of food mostly ignored as the family all liked cooking but few of them liked to eat. Gwen noticed an unfamiliar brunette in the game and figured she must be Heather but John was nowhere to be seen.

Brad joined the game automatically but Gwen had to see John for herself before she could focus on having fun. Normally he would be easy to find either dominating the game or entertaining adoring females with his quirky sense of humor. This time she must have scanned the crowd a dozen times before noticing a man with a ponderous pot gut eating at the picnic table. Her first thought was to wonder what a fat guy was doing there. Then her heart seemed to jump into her throat when she remembered what she'd been told and recognized John under that mound of flesh.

“Hey Sabrina, tell me that isn't John over there,” she asked one of the in-laws who used to admire him as much as Gwen did.

“I know, isn't it depressing? He looks terrible, poor guy.”

“I just saw him a year ago and he looked hotter than ever.”

“I guess he's having some problems now.”

Gwen watched him a while longer before gathering the nerve to approach. In a way she was disgusted that he was drinking beer and eating with abandon in front of everyone. Didn't he realize they'd all be watching how plump he'd become? He certainly wasn't making the slightest effort to hide it with his tight cotton shirt literally riding up his paunch, about halfway to the navel. She didn't think very highly of Heather for letting her man go out like that, let alone allowing him to get so cumbersome.

But the longer she observed him the new look started to grow on her. He was a lot more muscular than usual so he clearly hadn't been neglecting himself he probably just wasn't controlling his appetites as well as he should. He looked much like one of those stocky football players and although she never cared for the type, on John it looked far from terrible. In fact, she quite thought it flattering and appropriate on him. It was like he'd gone through a second puberty and hadn't fully developed until now.

“Hi, John, how have you been?” Gwen blurted out as she approached him. She'd waited for him to finish his plate of food so he wouldn't have to be embarrassed about how much he was eating.

“I've been better.” He smiled and he didn't seem crazy but there was an edge to him that wasn't there a year ago. “How about you, Gwen?”

“Oh, fine, you know.” She sat next to him to have a beer. To her surprise the sight of his soft belly jutting deeply into the table before him was almost irresistible. She suddenly had the urge to wrap her legs around that sexy belly, at the same time wondering what was coming over her. That kind of thinking was definitely not normal! “I'm surprised you aren't out playing with the other guys.” She changed the subject, nodding toward the seemingly endless volleyball game.

“Are you kidding? I ate way too much.”

“Something tells me you've been making a habit of it.” She took the opportunity to reach over and pinch him, right where his swelling love handle and belly united. To her horror she got even more aroused by the cushion-like sensation and hastily withdrew her hand back to her beer bottle.

“Actually I have a few old injuries that have been acting up lately. I don't want to aggravate them.” He piled a few desserts onto his plate only minutes after it had been cleared and resumed eating. He did seem shy that someone was sitting right there watching him.

“Your extra weight is probably taking a toll, don't you think?”

“Yeah, maybe it is effecting me more than I want to admit. I sure don't have as much energy.”

“So, why don't you do something about it?” Gwen was amazed at how excited she was getting as she talked to John about his fattening body. She'd enjoyed flirting with him before but this was even better because he was unaware of his effect on her.

“There isn't much I can do, it's a side effect of some medication I have to take.” He looked away as if he wasn't sure about confiding in her.

“Oh, I'm sorry to hear it.” Just when it got interesting she saw her husband coming their way.

“Hey, butterball, tear your fat ass away from the trough and get some exercise for once!” Brad ran up to John, grabbing the plate of desserts and setting them out of reach. “I've been watching and you've already had enough to eat for the next few days.”

“I don't think he feels like it, Brad.” Gwen thought he was being a jerk but she had to admit she wanted to see how well John could move his excess heft.

“Come on, I'm serious, you have to start working off that blubber.” Brad peeled John's shirt up over his middle and rubbed while Gwen wished she'd done that.

“I don't have to be in great shape to keep up.” John's ungainly paunch bumped against the table as he stood, taking up the challenge. He pulled his shirt back down over his beer belly but that didn't contain the bouncing just from walking across the yard.

“Are you sure you should be doing this in your condition?” One of the cousins joked when John joined the game, patting his stomach as it bobbed past.

John ignored the laughs and at first he held his own but it certainly wasn't enjoyable and he wasn't exactly the most valuable player anymore. He basically stood in one place hitting what came his way trying to conserve what little energy he had. The strategy only worked so long as he became exhausted within half an hour. He tried to hide it from the others because he used to be able to go all day but it was obvious he was getting slower and breathing heavier.

“Maybe you should take a break.” Gwen overheard Heather whispering to him but he disregarded it. He was used to handling greater fatigue than this and at this point he thought he had to prove something. It was bad enough that he looked flabby, he didn't want people to know how out of shape he really was.

The rest of the guys were shirtless but Gwen noticed John kept his on for what little cover it offered. She wished he would just take it off; it probably just made him look fatter since it wasn't fitting as well as it presumably did in the not so distant past. She had assumed John would look clumsy and corpulent forcing his bulk to play a sport but instead she found him even more tempting. Based on the comments she was overhearing, others didn't necessarily agree but she didn't care.

“No wonder he's moving so sluggish, he must have grown a hundred pounds since last year.” Sabrina interrupted her trance to comment.

“Do you really think so? We should ask him.” Gwen thought one hundred sounded like so much, it was unthinkable.

“He probably doesn't even know, he's obviously just letting himself go. He acts like he hasn't seen a mirror or a scale in a year and thinks he still has a washboard stomach.”

Gwen could tell John was so worn out now his coordination was suffering. He was making errors he would never make in his former state of fitness. Finally he landed wrong, sideways on his right foot with a loud snap as he collapsed heavily to the ground. Immediately people stopped to help but he was already struggling to stand on his own.

“I think I heard something crack.” Heather was at his side as he limped to the benches.

“What happened?” Instead of the appropriate concerned response Gwen was actually admiring how John's injury was adding an even more indecent jiggle to his walk.

“It feels fine. It might be a sprain, is all.”

“Sorry, I feel a little responsible.” Brad got some ice for John's foot. “Do you think it's broken?”

“We'll have to get an x-ray to find out.” Heather inspected the injury but couldn't tell just how extensive the damage was.

John lounged with his leg propped up for rest of the evening, sending Heather to bring him plates of food and bottles of beer despite all the negative attention he was getting for being a pig. Once everyone saw he wasn't hurt that badly they teased him mercilessly as he overloaded his system with calories. Gwen thought if John were her boyfriend she would never let him humiliate himself like that but Heather obviously encouraged it. Maybe she thought this was the only way she could have him all to herself and his potbelly was only the beginning!

“I hope you didn't break your foot with the tonnage that just came down on it.” Brad couldn't stop taunting him. With John incapacitated he felt quite superior, as was his competitive nature. “I still feel guilty I encouraged you. You should have told me you were in such poor shape.”

“This could happen to anyone, don't worry about it,” John assured him.

“Your belt is looking a little tight there, why don't you loosen it up?” Sabrina suggested wickedly, certainly not thinking he would actually attempt it.

“That's not a bad idea.” John couldn't see his belt past his overhanging paunch so he didn't realize it was already on its last setting. It was a struggle as he fumbled to undo the belt, jostling his swollen stomach painfully but he finally managed. He'd also forgotten that his top button was left unsecured for comfort and now his belly bulge was on straining for attention with nothing but a threadbare shirt to stop it. The belt that had seen his waist through such a wide range of sizes sat worthless in the loops of his jeans.

“Wow, maybe it was a bad idea.” Brad laughed and tried to shake John's tummy but it was stuffed to capacity and didn't jiggle like it had when he first got to the party. “Look at that, it's tight as a drum.”

“When he's full you have to massage it like this.” Heather rubbed with gentle circles that seemed to relax John and his voluminous gut. Soon it became somewhat doughy and yielding again although it didn't protrude any less. “If I keep this up he'll even get hungry and start eating again.”

“In that case, I think you better stop,” Brad said. “His appetite has been more than robust.”

Gwen couldn't stop her gaze from falling on John's burly injured body for the rest of the evening. The combination of increased masculinity and vulnerability was unbearably exciting for some reason. She watched with particular interest as he prepared to leave. Slightly reclining he squeezed his jeans closed, powering the buttons through the holes. Certainly this would be the last time he could wear those. He leaned on Heather a little as he hobbled to the car, plopping his great paunch into the passenger seat. The last thing Gwen saw was a seatbelt extending around his thick body, the straps framing a belly that ballooned toward the dashboard.

“Shoot me if I ever get like that,” Brad exclaimed smugly on the way home.

He had no idea Gwen was infatuated with John and his weight gain. All year she could hardly wait for the next reunion, especially since she heard he actually did break his foot and had to stay off of it as much as possible. She could just imagine what that was going to do to him.