~ Two ~
For weeks before she returned for her follow-up review at the river city agency, June had been anticipating lunch at Aaron's. In the year since her last visit, the auditor had eased up on her fast-food moratorium, regularly dining at a variety of drive-thrus at home and on the road. If she hadn't yet found a place offering cheeseburgers that rivalled Aaron's, it hadn't stopped her from looking. Ever since that break-through lunch, June'd developed a strong appreciation for food she'd once avoided.
At home, she diligently attempted to duplicate her favorite fast food fare in the kitchen. Most of her weekends were spent cooking and sampling, cooking and sampling. Before, June'd basically been a utilitarian cook and eater; over the past year, she'd learned to do both for pleasure. That it took so long for a woman her age to open herself up to the experience is not surprising. What's amazing is the fact that she ever managed to do it at all.
It wasn't that she'd abandoned low-cal fare entirely - even in the fast food joints, June made a point of ordering a good-sized salad with her burger and fries - more that she'd learned to love it all and had taken to ordering as wide a variety as possible each time she ate out. As the year progressed, the limits of what she could handle expanded significantly.
To match this, so had her body, a fact much less distressing than she would've expected. Eat a lot, and you gained weight: what you needed to decide was whether it bothered you. After years of listening to her scolding inner voice, she'd simply told the little shit to shut the hell up. Her new way of eating was much way enjoyable to return to her old boring habits.
Still, the numbers were indisputable: over the past year, June had increased her daily caloric intake an average of 1500 extra calories (just one good-sized cheeseburger could be anything from 700 to 1300 cals), and her body had gleefully welcomed every fattening calorie. Though she'd stayed away from her bathroom scale, to an outside observer it was clear June had gained a minimum of a hundred pounds since the day she'd first discovered Aaron's. She'd taken to buying her work clothes in the Missus section at Bergner's, fitting into sizes twenty-two and four, depending on how the clothes were cut. Her DD breasts, which stretched the tape measure to 51 inches, were a prime offender. Though June had bemoaned their size in the past, they somehow seemed less bothersome now, perhaps because her belly was offering her additional support.
She still maintained her professional mien and wardrobe, of course, and remained fond of showing off her legs, though she had to admit it was getting more difficult to reach her fuller calves when it came time to shave them. Still, the plumpened professional woman made do, and when she showed up at the agency, swinging a bag of Hardee's biscuits-and-sausage alongside her satchel, she knew she was still within the strictures of the social services dress code: a silk flair navy blue skirt that covered her knees when she walked, a simple white Ulla Popken blouse and dress flats that matched the color of her skirt.
Her agency contact, Audrey, was the same from last year, and (as with some of her other recent contacts), you could see her do a double-take when she got her first glimpse of June. To the gal's credit, she recovered quickly, and was all smiles as she led the full-sized June to her selection of review files. Where last year, the QA coordinator had outweighed her auditor by a good fifty pounds, the situation had reversed. June had seen a lot of that among fuller-sized women in the past six months especially: an unspoken thank God, you got fat whenever they saw how much she'd changed. That these women felt the need to engage in such comparisons was kind of sad when you considered it.
Nevertheless, June invited the girl to join her for lunch, but the pudgy girl demurred. "You're going to Aaron's, right?" Audrey asked, as June lowered her 56-inch hips onto a plastic conference chair and flipped open her first record. Once the reviewer retrieved her checklists from her satchel, she reached into her Hardee's sack and pulled out her first biscuit. "I've stopped visiting that place; way too tempting. My boyfriend was giving me a hard time over what it'd been doing to my figure."
June looked up from her biscuit and gave Audrey a once-over. From what she could see, the poor thing was the exact same size she'd been last year, give or take a pound or two. "Maybe you need a new boyfriend," she drawled, half jokingly. "You look just fine to me."
"I was fifty pounds heavier last Christmas," Audrey answered. "It was either buy new clothes or do some serious cutting down. So I haven't eaten out once since New Year's Eve."
"Hope your guy's worth it," June said, her mouth full of egg and sausage. The biscuit wasn't as satisfying as the ones her mother used to make, but it filled a need.
"Jury's still out on that 'un," the girl admitted with a rueful smile, appreciatively eyeing June's sack brunch. With a sigh, she left the reviewer to her files.
It took June longer to do the files this year, but she had no intention of rushing through her lunch at Aaron's Eatery to make up for it. Leaving the agency at 11:30 to beat the lines, she found the place even more crowded than it'd been the year before. In the background, the same oldies music was playin', an unfamiliar vocal group singin' the praises of "Smokey Joe's Café." When she finally received her meal (a half-pounder, fruit salad, large order of fries and a medium vanilla malted), June looked around for a vacant booth and spied one near a familiar figure. It was the super-sized woman she remembered from last year: fatter than ever and silently lunching with a gal pal almost as formidable in size. They each had a pair of half-pound cheeseburgers on their respective trays and were unapologetically enjoying 'em. As June took her seat, the sight of these two un-self-conscious diners got her own mouth watering.
Yet, amusingly enough, as she ate, June also found herself doing exactly what she'd mentally chided Audrey for doing earlier: visually comparing herself to the fatter figures before her. Was it shaudenfreude or the simple act of information gathering? She wasn't sure, but she took in as many details as she could. Seated in her booth, for example, June's newish potbelly forced her legs apart: when she leaned forward, she could feel it pressing against the cushiony seating. In contrast, both women were so paunchy that no matter how they sat, their bellies spilled onto their thighs and over the edge of their seats. Within their taut poly pants, she could see signs of dimpling on both women's hips.
She wondered if the larger woman were the other's elder sister; the two seemed to have a similar cast to their fat-padded jowl lines. The woman was also, June noted, wearing a big fat gleaming wedding ring. Probably not a farm wife, she decided.
"Would you like some of Aaron's special after dinner mints?" she suddenly heard by her side. It was the same teenaged girl from last year, holding a larger bowl of wrapped mints. Still in the midst of her half-pounder, June simply nodded, so the girl tipped the bowl over her tray and spilled a half dozen into a corner. June scooped all but one of them into her purse; that, she decided to save for when she'd finished her salad and fries.
Once she was feeling comfortably sated, she sat back, tore open the package and popped the candy into her mouth. As she let it melt against her tongue, June's feeling of fullness abated. Before her special after dinner mint had fully dissolved in her mouth, she was standing in line, ordering another sandwich.
Her extra course made her a half hour late, but since she'd already made arrangements to extend the review a day, this wasn't a serious issue. June had packed an extra work outfit - plus a pair of lightweight string pants and an oversized tee-shirt for relaxing - and since she'd historically done so few overnights in the past, she'd had no difficulty getting permission from her boss. When she left for the Holiday Inn at workday's end, there were two more files to go: these, she knew, could easily be reviewed the following morning.
Her motel was only five minutes away, so it didn't take long for June to check in, change and freshen her face. Throughout the afternoon, she'd been popping those mints, idly thinking about revisiting Aaron's and checking out the rest of its offerings. When she returned to the Eatery, she was surprised to see Audrey, seated by herself in a booth, still dressed as June had seen her at the agency. A full tray - salad, fries, half-pound cheeseburger, shake - sat before her.
"Thought about what you said earlier," Audrey explained once she noticed June approaching her booth. "And I decided that if Rich can't take me as I am, than screw him! Been making myself miserable for months, and I just don't wanna do it anymore." She defiantly raised a quartet of catsup-topped fries to her lips and slid it into her mouth.
You figured that one out years ahead of me! June thought, as she headed for the counter to put in her own order. In addition to her salad and half-pounder, she went for a large chocolate malted, a pair of cheese dogs, potato salad, cheesecake and a large order of chicken strips. When she carried her tray over to Audrey's booth, the girl didn't acknowledge the size of her order. She was too busy appreciating her own dinner, June realized. The plump girl's face was flushed from the pleasure of dining.
When they both finished their evening meal - and had a couple mints to cap it off - Audrey asked if June felt up for dessert. Amazingly, she was. They left the Eatery for an ice cream parlor in an adjacent strip mall and treated each other to a large chocolate fudge sundae with whipped cream and nuts. June was surprised to see the girl go at her sundae so vigorously: once she jumped off the wagon, she did so in a big way.
"Double chocolate fudge is my weakness," the plump girl confessed to June. "When Rich and I first started dating, he used to take me here. But after a while, if I mentioned it, he'd give me a dirty look. Didn't mind buying me dinner when he was trying to woo me, but once we became a Couple, he started noodging." Tipping her sundae bowl so she could retrieve the last of her chocolate syrup, she asked June the big question. "You've seen the same thing, haven't you? Particularly at your new size?"
"Haven't played the dating game lately," June confessed. "Been too busy with other things." Like eating my way across the state, she didn't say. "From what I can tell, though, there are guys out there who aren't as controlling as your boyfriend." There have to be, she thought, considering the number of plus-sized babes in this burg!
"Wouldn't mind meetin' one," Audrey said, as she wiped her lips with a napkin.
"Me, too," June admitted, turning back to menu on the wall. "How'd you like a two-scoop waffle cone for the road?"
She drove back to her motel with a jamocha sundae cone in hand, and amazingly managed to keep from dripping anything on her clothes. Once in her room, she happily stripped out of her string pants - which at their loosest had started biting into her belly uncomfortably - and veged out in front of the tube for an hour or two. Twice during the commercials, she left her room to hit the vending machine area; fortunately, her tee-shirt was long enough to cover her immodest parts . . .
True to her revised schedule, she was out of the agency late in the morning, and this time she beat the Aaron's crowd. "Back again?" the round-faced teenaged girl behind the counter impoliticly noticed, but June let this remark pass. She made a repeat of yesterday's lunch order and then asked the girl, "Do you, by chance, sell your mints in a box?" The eatery didn't really have any official means of selling them in bulk, she was told. But if she wanted, they could get a takeout sack and fill it for her.
Her two-hour drive home took twice the time this year, since she kept driving off the highway every time she came upon an exit with a good fast food selection. When she finished each takeout, June'd pop a pair of after-dinner mints into her mouth and then would head for Dairy Queen, Baskin-Robbins or the nearest local custard stand for dessert. Every off-ramp meal was satisfying, but none of 'em were as great as Aaron's . . .
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