CHEWING THE FAT WITH TIA CARRERE
Ernesto's face broadened into a smile. He felt it his job to stand near the doorway of his exclusive restaurant, Planet Delicious, welcoming his guests. But this guest received a bigger smile than usual, along with a kiss and a hug. It was Tia Carrere and her current squeeze -- Ernesto couldn't remember his name, and preferred to think he didn't exist. But, ever polite, he shook his hand fiercely before concentrating on the delectable Tia. He saw immediately that she had put on some weight; she was appreciably rounder in the face and body. She was wearing cream slacks, and a tight black blouse with a palm tree of jewels near the left lapel. Both her arms and a good bit of cleavage were exposed. The flesh glowed on her.
As he hugged, he felt the extra softness of her body. Where had the sinews in her arms gone? Where were the bones? “Tia!” he said, “so great to see you! And you too -- sir. You haven't been to see us for ages. Six months at least!”
“I know,” Tia smiled, “Chuck and I were away, checking out business opportunities. You know how it is!”
“Well, we have your favourite table.” Ernesto led them into a secluded corner, let them settle, then handed them the menu. “Wow,” he thought, “she's finally turned the corner and put on some serious pounds!” He appreciated women with meat on them, and had long wondered if Tia's appetite would ever conquer the pressure to maintain a compact physique. Her career, he pondered, had been idling recently: other sun-kissed beauties with cheekbones had come up and got the decorative parts in movies, leaving Tia twiddling her thumbs. And, it seemed, with more time to eat. God, he thought, she's looking hot! And Chuck, is it? Looks like a car mechanic.
“That's not Tia Carrere, is it?” Ernesto's number two, Juan, whispered as he relayed their order to the kitchen.
“Yes it is.”
“She's put on some weight! Didn't recognise her straightaway. She was so cute in Wayne's World.”
“We don't make personal comments about our customers,” Ernesto said in a huffy tone. Then he added, “I'm going to give her my special attention.”
Back at the table, mild bickering was going on. “You do know, Tia, you've chosen the dish with the most calories? The Tuna Heap? It's the only one with cream sauce.” Chuck had only commented the other night in bed how Tia was starting to gain, softening substantially around the belly, and getting curvy, well-cushioned hips. He found her new voluptuousness sexy, but wondered if he'd continue to do so if the pounds kept arriving. Besides, there was her work. He not only looked like a car mechanic, he actually was one; and he liked Tia's bank balance.
Tia pulled at her blouse, trying to give her breasts more room to breathe. For a second, a little double chin appeared, then sank back into her face. “I know I've gained a bit recently, but I like my food. If a movie comes along I can slim down. I did it for Wayne's World. I can do it again.”
“I thought you said last night it was getting harder to do that, that's why the pounds were sticking.”
Tia grew exasperated. “Harder but not impossible. Look, let's not talk about this. We've come here to enjoy ourselves. I can't do that if I'm always thinking about the bathroom scales. I've half a mind to throw them out when we get back.”
“But that would be disas--“
He stopped suddenly. Ernesto had returned with the bottle of red wine, the carbonated mineral water, and, most important, the nibbly things -- olives, bread sticks. “Here we are!” he said breezily. “Something to be going on with.” Placing them on the table, Ernesto noticed the slight bulges of fat under Tia's arms around the edges of the blouse. He also noticed the speed with which Tia shot out a hand to reach for the olives. It seemed such an automatic, unconscious response.
“-- Disastrous,” Chuck continued when he felt Ernesto was out of earshot.
“Oh don't be so melodramatic. I've only put on a few pounds. Well,” she said, acutely aware suddenly of the fat on her tummy pressing against her waistband, “maybe a few more than a few. But nothing major.”
Tia didn't seem to realise -- or maybe she was trying to blot out -- the drip drip drip effect of one added pound on top of another. In her earlier years in Hollywood whenever she had gained weight she had easily dieted herself back to the sculpted face and figure executives insisted upon. But over the last few years each time she dieted some of the extra pounds had stayed, gradually edging her body away from the fighting-fit babe machine to a curvaceous body succulently carpeted with flesh from head to toe. She was well aware that she'd acquired bigger hips and a bulge on her tummy -- dress after dress now gave her difficulties. She was much less aware of the overall softening and rounding out, and the way her most recent gain had tipped her over the dividing line that separates the woman carrying a few extra pounds from the woman who's looking chubby.
They fell to talking about other matters. She should be getting more than she was for repeat screenings of Relic Hunter, she said.
“I liked that show,” Chuck mused. “But wasn't that ironed out in your contract? Difficult to change the rules now, isn't it?”
“I know, I'm just grousing. I'll feel better about it when I've eaten something.”
“Your wish,” Ernesto said with a flourish, “is my command,” and he placed their starters in front of them. As he stepped back from Tia's loose leaf and potato salad, garnished with a glutinous Zillion Islands dressing, he caught sight of the puckerings in the blouse round her breasts, and the little gaps that had opened up down the front between one button and another. She had not bought that blouse recently, that was for sure; one more outward breath, Ernesto thought, and a button might actually pop off.
Tia grinned. “Thanks, Ernesto, this looks -- delicious. What do you expect at Planet Delicious! I must admit I'm a sucker for sauces. It's the Hawaiian girl in me.”
He bowed graciously. “Enjoy your meal!”
Back near the kitchen, Josie, one of the waitresses, surveyed the diners. “Who is Ernesto fussing around over there?” she whispered to Juan.
“That's Tia Carrere and her boyfriend.”
“Tia Carrere? It looks like she's becoming a different person. A fatter person. She used to be not much more than a stick with boobs. She's really filling out!” A stick herself, she sounded envious.
““Extra cream in the sauce for Miss Carrere's tuna, chef!”, said Ernesto, passing by.
The talk at Tia's table, meanwhile, had returned to the topic she preferred not to dwell on.
“I know why you've been gaining weight! It's just come to me.” Chuck looked as though a light bulb had just been switched on in his head.
“And what is that?” Tia said wearily, cupping her head in a hand, as though expecting a long boring speech. Couldn't they just eat? she thought.
“You've been off the screen. You did that voice-over for that stupid animated thing, Lilo and Stitch, and after that, zilch. A movie camera's not come near you.”
Tia wondered if it was time to choose a different boyfriend. “Zilch? I am resting between engagements -- that's what you should say. And anyway, Chucky boy, cartoons are good money. There was the movie, the TV series. I got a fat sum for -- oh, Ernesto, thank you, that was delicious!”
Fat? Did he hear the word fat? Ernesto smiled, and with the smooth skill of a master magician he spirited the empty plates away without disturbing any cutlery or glasses, or indeed Tia's hand, still cupped round her chin. He suddenly noticed there was enough fat there under the skin for her wrist to buckle into several little folds; he noted her wristwatch, too, not riding her arm with space to spare but lightly embedded in the flesh, tight and cushioned. Tia, he realised, was putting on weight everywhere.
“What you need,” Chuck said, going back to basics, “is a really good movie.”
She gave him the look an exasperated mother gives her child. “Chuck, be realistic. When have I ever been in a really good movie? We all have our limitations. You're a car mechanic, and I'm not Meryl Streep. You wouldn't find her starring in Operation Delta Force 3. But that's OK. As long as we feel fulfilled --“
Ernesto was back replenishing their wine glasses, keeping an eye this time on the opulence of Tia's upper arms and the teasing hint of a double chin under her face. “May I say, Miss Carrere, that you look especially beautiful tonight. And you too, sir --“ He bowed respectfully and left.
Chuck was bemused; Tia looked pleased. “There you are! I'm especially beautiful. So lay off the weight stuff. My body can cope.”
“OK, OK,” Chuck said, fiddling with his cutlery. “The extra pounds certainly make you look sexy.” He thought for a moment. “So he thinks I'm especially beautiful too? He's not gay, is he?”
That took them through the main courses, presented by Ernesto with the equivalent of a trumpet fanfare. Tia prepared herself for her Tuna Heap by shifting position in her seat and straightening her shoulders, causing her blouse to ride up briefly over her midriff. Ernesto couldn't help peering. In the flash of second he saw a substantial lip of golden fat hanging over her waistband; at the side, a love handle, at least an inch wide and deep. And there were no cheekbones any more; she just had cheeks, well padded, blending into the face that seemed softer each time he served the table.
After Ernesto left, Tia made straight for the sauce. “M'm!” she said to Chuck. “This is what I came here for.”
“It's really good.” Involuntarily she passed a hand across her tummy, lightly patting the cushion of fat that lay from one hip bone to another. It made her feel comfortable, taken care of. Wasn't this better, the feeling told her, than strutting around, all angles and hard surfaces, like some damned Hollywood skeleton? What was that old Doris Day song? “Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be?” The words trickled into her head. Chuck sighed inwardly and returned to his Fried Chicken à la Steven Seagal. It was its last week on the menu.
Twiddling pad and pencil waiting for her next order to emerge from the kitchen, Josie set to wondering. “How much weight do you think she's put on? Twenty pounds?”
“Something like,” Juan whispered. “Enough to make a real difference.”
Josie peered intently across the room. “You know, I think it actually suits her. From a distance, anyway. But does she have a tummy? I bet she has a tummy.”
“All our customers have tummies, Josie,” Ernesto said, back on the beat, and looking testy. “That's why they come here. Now leave her alone. No personal comments. Let a girl eat.”
Back at the table, conversation fell away as both of them worked through their plates. “Delicious!” Tia kept saying. Chuck looked on a little warily, and his thoughts returned to topic A. She could scarcely fit into that blouse anymore. She was so much rounder in the face. The flesh wasn't tight on the bone either; as she sat there digging in with knife and fork he could see it quivering with her movements, almost settling into jowls. What would she look like, he wondered, if she put on another ten pounds, or, heaven forbid, twenty? Being a little voluptuous, well, OK. But being fat? Another ballgame. He gazed hard into her burning brown eyes.
“What?” she said. “Why are you giving me that look? You're like the Spanish Inquisition.”
For once he avoided conflict. “Oh, nothing, nothing. Just admiring you.” They touched hands, and stroked fingers.
Before you knew it the plates were clean, Chuck was talking about carburettors, and Ernesto was two inches away.
“May I?” he said, gesturing toward the plates.
“Ernesto,” Tia said, “that was -- delicious!” She couldn't think of another word. As she spoke, her right hand gave her tummy the briefest, politest of strokes. Ernesto's heart skipped a beat. If only he could stroke it too! It would feel like jelly, he knew it. He hoped she knew how lucky she was. A beautiful woman gaining weight, and becoming more beautiful! How he would like to have changed places.
He dampened down his private thoughts. “I'm glad you liked it,” he said. Then he made his voice purr. “I hope we can tempt you to some dessert” --he lingered over the last word as though tasting it with his tongue. “And in honour of your return visit, your dessert will be on the house.”
Then he caught sight of the bothersome Chuck. “And you too, sir,” he added quickly. He even managed a wink.
Chuck looked uneasy again. “That guy's a fruit,” he whispered once Ernesto and the plates had left. “If he comes anywhere near my garage, I'll throw hubcaps at him.”
“Don't be absurd. He's just being polite.”
Chuck looked even more uneasy after Tia had chosen from the dessert menu. Chuck had chosen Goldie Hawn's Pineapple Surprise. Tia had picked a Mexican item, Ernesto's specialty, a reproduction of an Aztec pyramid made of chocolate-covered ice cream.
“You're looking at me again,” she said. “You're thinking of my figure, aren't you? Look, Chuck, I just want to be a normal woman. I've had years of cutting back on food, being on treadmills, trying to be a size or two sizes smaller to please some male in a suit. I'm just trying to live and enjoy myself. And you know what?” She bent her head towards Chuck and lowered her voice. “I like myself a little fatter.”
Suddenly Ernesto stood before them, Goldie Hawn's pineapples in one hand (slices laid on a plate in the shape of a smiley face, two cherries for eyes), the Aztec pyramid in the other.
“My, Ernesto, so quick!” Tia said. Ernesto gave a silent bow, and retreated. “Oh God, this is heavenly,” she said. “Try it!” She dangled a spoonful before Chuck's face.
“It's pure calories, Tia. Nothing but calories.”
“Nuts,” she said with a wave of her spare hand, “I'll take a long walk on the beach in the morning.”
Chuck was having difficulties spearing the pineapple slices. “Where's the surprise in this? This dessert sucks.” A cherry skidded off the plate, onto the floor. “If you ever see Goldie Hawn,” he said, “thwack her for me, will you?”
Forkful by forkful, Tia demolished the pyramid. An easy enough job, in one way -- as her appetite had grown, so had her stomach's capacity. But there were also difficulties. By the she reached the pyramid's bottom layer, she realised she had better do something with the clasp on her slacks' waistband. Already tight at the start of the meal -- there weren't clothes in her wardrobe that didn't feel tight -- her slacks had now become impossibly restrictive. Her full stomach had no space to move to; it was imprisoned, locked in chains. Even so Tia hesitated before loosening the clasp. The waistband was visible -- six months before the blouse would have covered it, but not any more -- and she didn't want to unclasp in public. She was a lady, after all.
So she struggled through the final mouthfuls, her enjoyment tempered with physical distress. And then suddenly she could take it no more. Holding the clasp in both hands, Tia eased it gingerly out of its hook. She gazed upwards in relief as her stomach escaped and the slacks hung loose, only to find Ernesto next to her gazing back down. He had seen everything.
Their eyes met. Both felt embarrassed. Tia had to say something. She sounded vulnerable, and apologetic. “I've been gaining a little weight, Ernesto. Your cooking's just too good!”
If she'd been dining alone Ernesto would have kneeled down and kissed her feet. He felt in awe: in awe of her new softer beauty; in awe too of her open admission that she was gaining weight and the tremulous, slightly guilty, naughty-child way that she'd said it. Surely no-one, he felt, looking at her now, well-upholstered, round in the face, generous in the breasts, expansive in the hips, could ever prefer her as she used to be?
“I take that as an honour,” Ernesto said, bowing once more. “It really suits you, if you don't mind me saying so. You're looking radiant.” He'd said enough, he thought, more than enough probably, and started backing away. Chuck was throwing him a basilisk stare. “You too, sir --“ he added, quickly.
“The check, Ernesto,” Chuck snarled.
It came; it was dealt with. Ernesto noticed the way fat gathered under Tia's chin as she lowered her head to write her signature. Beautiful, beautiful, he whispered inside. And then, too soon, it was time for them to leave. Once she stood up, he did the gentleman waiter thing and pushed her chair back a few inches to give her more space. In the interim, he realised, she had clasped her waistband tight again. It was clearly digging into her, forcing the fat swathing her middle into two sweet bulges, above and below, clearly outlined under slacks and blouse. And her hips! In his mind he wanted to kiss her feet all over again.
But he stayed upright, stood his ground, shook hands with Chuck, gave Tia a cheek kiss -- so much cheek to kiss! -- and bade farewell. “Don't be a stranger now. You're always welcome at Planet Delicious!”
They turned to walk toward the car park, Tia's bottom round and luscious, her curves accentuated in the setting sun, Chuck hurrying her along, desperate to escape Ernesto, or the food, or both. “You'll come back soon, won't you?” Ernesto called out.
Chuck winced, but Tia turned round with a little wave. “Of course,” she said. Then she took two steps towards Ernesto, cupped a hand around her mouth and whispered, twinkling, confidential: “Providing I can still fit into my clothes!”
Copyright Swordfish 2003