Illustrated by BeakerFA

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~ Three ~

According to standard procedure, the third yearly review was optional, since it wasn't officially tied into an agency's certification process. But over the past year, June had been in touch with Audrey so frequently that the two of 'em saw the trip as a social visit more than a work trip. Less than a month after the second year's review, Audrey had broken up with her control freak boyfriend and in the intervening weeks found a new beau in the booths at Aaron's. Contrary to June's expectations, the guy was not himself rotund. As she'd learned from her Internet explorations, "fat admirers" came in all shapes, sizes and orientations.

June, it should be noted, had still not been dating. At some point, she fully expected to re-immerse herself in that scene, but for now she just never seemed to find the time. She'd finally gotten to the point where she could replicate nearly every fast food entry from her part of the country. And while she still liked going out some nights, as her appetite and capacity increased, it was simply more cost effective for her to whip up her own meals. She was requiring upwards of 6,000 calories a day just to keep from waking in the middle of the night with an aching desire to raid the fridge. A Double Whopper with Cheese, say, only contained about 1000. At her salary, it was cheaper to buy the ingredients and make her own Triple Whoppers at home.

June could never fully duplicate the taste of Aaron's lusciously addictive cheeseburgers, though.

She'd also gone into her mother's recipe boxes, rediscovering the butter-heavy comfort meals of her childhood. It made a good change of pace from faux fast food - and was definitely superior to the taste-free low-cal stuff she used to favor - so she'd begun rotating it into her dinner routine. The recipes were gauged for family-sized dinner servings, but June never saw the need to cut down on 'em.

As a result, June had added another 125 pounds to her frame over the past year, putting her firmly in the super-sized range. Two years of her new lifestyle had built her up to 365 pounds, a size 30-32 at most plus-sized shops. Her breasts had climbed a double letter and measured 57 inches; her belly was just two inches behind. Her hips had widened to meet the challenge of supporting her, and they now extended her tape measure some 66 inches. June's calves were each over 22 inches around. Though she still liked to show them off, she'd taken to wearing tan colored nylons to mask the light striations that had begun to appear on them, particularly on the inner part of her legs. There was no way she could mask the dimples that appeared in her knees, however, or the cellulite on her lower thighs.

There was something, she realized, preternatural about her growing appetite and weight, but it wasn't anything profoundly magical. No - bam! - wake up and suddenly you're fat. This was something more deliciously insidious.

She'd switched to working out of her home office two or three days a week, which was helpful since it meant June usually only needed three work outfits (at her current size, they could be plenty costly.) At home, she relaxed in strapless terry rompers, basic cotton sweats, tee-shirts and occasionally one of her mom's "gently worn" caftans. Plus-sized clearance racks had become one of her new favorite things: if some of the items looked a trace more polyestery than she was accustomed to, they still were suitable for work. Plus, any money she saved on clothes went into the grocery budget.

Today, June was wearing a grey skort that hugged her belly a smidge more tightly than she would've preferred (halfway into her trip across state, she pulled both it and her panties beneath her overlapping belly so she could drive in comfort), a simple light cotton top and basic black flats. Her top showed more cleavage than she used to reveal: as a fat woman, she apparently was given more leeway in this area, since she no longer was being viewed by her peers as much of a threat. More than once, though, she'd caught a male co-worker's eyes growing transfixed on the darkened space between her pendulous EEs.

At 365 pounds, June'd joined the company of the super-sized blonde she seen at Aaron's Eatery. Her own face had itself filled in substantially, which astonishingly made her look at least five years younger than her 33 years. Her cheeks bulged girlishly, smoothing away the tiny creases that had started to appear under her eyes, while an extra chin was making it increasingly more difficult to see her neck. Though she usually wore it up at home, she'd continued to let her hair grow over the past year: she liked the way her wavy dark brown hair framed her face.

As for Audrey, the QA Coordinator had grown back to her old size over the past year - with maybe twenty more pounds to spare - and was wearing the same outfit June remembered from the first day she'd met her. It showed a wee bit of gap-osis around the midriff if she moved too suddenly, but still remained appropriately professional. The morning of the review, the chunky girl brought a large box of still warm Krispy Kremes into the conference room. "If there's any left over by lunch," she said, holding a glistening glazed donut between a pudgy well-manicured thumb and forefinger. "I'll take 'em over to the break room." Unfortunately for the rest of the office, though, the box was cleaned out by 11:00 . . .

Despite her non-stop breakfast snacking, June was starving by lunchtime. It took a lot of eating to get her feeling full these days, and even then it wasn't 'til late in the night when her body started saying, maybe it's time to quit. This didn't usually bother her. And on those rare occasions that she did start wondering if she'd grown too accustomed to a way of life that would make Morgan Spurlock blanch, she'd only start thinking of Aaron's. As she mentally revisited that humble li'l Eatery, it'd be almost as if she could taste their wonderful cheeseburgers - not to mention, their special after dinner mints - and her doubts melted.

She left for Aaron's ahead of Audrey, as quickly as she could move her super-sized body. At her present size, she wasn't getting around as rapidly as she used to, and while this didn't usually bother her, as soon as she caught the restaurant's scent, she almost wished she didn't have so much poundage slowing her down. Too, walking at her present weight, she found she was breathing a lot more through her mouth, which generally made her thirstier. Carrying the remains of a two-liter bottle of A&W root beer (she'd hung an XL-sized bottle holder on her car's unused ashtray for long drives), June toddled into her personal Mecca.

Once inside, she quickly ordered two fruit salads, a cheese dog and a trio of quarter-pound Carolina cheeseburgers - since the latter were already made as if they'd waiting just for her - then sought out a booth large enough for a threesome. The only one she saw was right next to the oh-so-familiar fat gal. As she carried her tray over to the vacant booth, June impulsively gave a tiny wave to the woman, who was apparently taking a breather between half-pounders.

"Haven't seen you here in a spell," the woman said, in a Midwestern voice surprisingly high for a woman her age and size. She'd added a bit of weight in the last year, of course, but was only a couple of dress sizes bigger than June now. That she recognized the plus-sized June didn't seem the least bit strange. They both were part of the same mysterious sorority, the Sisterhood of Aaron's.

"Only come into town once a year," June explained, as she pried open her first salad and speared two mandarin oranges with her spork. "If I lived here, I'd probably eat here daily."

"I do live here," the woman said, "and I do eat here daily. 'Course the fact that I'm married to the owner may play into it a bit, too."

"You're Missus Aaron," June marveled.

"Bess Honeydew," the woman said, as she rose from her booth. Standing before June, with her magnificent belly looming in front of the smaller woman's face, it was obvious Miz Honeydew was thoroughly unashamed of her size: it was almost as if she dressed to draw attention to her voluminous forefront. Her bright white shorts clung to her quivering paunch demonstratively; her sleeveless top showed every bulge and fold within it. She extended a fat hand to June, and when they shook, it felt like something coursed between them. In that moment, June had an understanding.

"You help your hubby with the recipes," she knew. "You're the secret behind Aaron's success."

"I know a few things," the lady admitted, and for an instant something deeper and more mysterious could be seen behind the fat woman's eyes. She eased onto the booth seat opposite June, "But I'm not that good when it comes to carrying 'em out in the kitchen. You look like the kinda woman who knows her way around a stove, though."

"Didn't used to be," June replied. "But I learned. The candies are yours, right?"

"Guilty as charged," Bess laughed, sending waves through her avoirdupois. "Nuthin' like the right kind of mint to settle your digestion and keep your appetite fresh! It's the little touches which make for repeat customers - that and plenty of good food! But I should leave you to your lunch," she said, patting June on the arm. "Before your sandwiches grow cold." And, with that, she rose once more for a return trip to the counter. On her way, she passed Audrey and a young slim guy who could only be her beau.

"That's the owner's wife we just passed," Audrey told June once they were close enough to keep it low.

"So I'm told," June replied once she'd finished swallowing her first bite of burger. "And you must be Jeffrey," she continued holding out a hand as the young man slid his girlfriend's tray onto the table. She saw him give her a quick - and plainly appreciative - appraisal, but he had the good sense to immediately look back toward Audrey, who was watching him with an amused expression. Ol' Jeff was handsome in a Country Music Television kinda way: not her type, really, but he was clearly enamored with the chubby Audrey. He also - as became very clear quite quickly - enjoyed watching both women eat, and for a moment June found herself wondering if her friend hadn't just replaced one kind of control freak for another. Far be it for her to judge, however, since it became obvious over the course of the meal that the two were in the see-no-evil phase of their relationship.

Her own appetite was really going full-blast today, so Jeff was in the right place for a show. She finished off all three of her sandwiches in record time and was ready for two more: half-pounders this time, which Jeff was all too glad to retrieve for her. Though she'd never done it before in so short an amount of time, June finished her second course feeling like she could go for a third. Delightful as the thought was, though, duty called. As they stood to leave, the round-face gal (this place definitely kept employees longer than you saw at your usual fast food joint!) dashed up to June and set what looked to be a five-pound candy box in her hands.

"Gift from Missus H.," the girl explained. "She liked your idea about packaging and selling the mints to those who ask about 'em. Here's a five-pound sampler."

"How sweet," June said, surprised Missus Aaron had even known that she'd been the one who'd made the suggestion. Though a part of her wanted to tear the box open right then and there, she resisted this temptation until she got back to the agency - in part, because she half suspected that she'd never get out of the restaurant if she started the candy there. Once she sat back down to do her review, though, she didn't feel the slightest qualm about ripping off the shrinkwrap and popping a handful of mints into her mouth.

Fifteen minutes later, she started feeling so ravenous that she trundled down to Audrey's office and placed an order for a family-sized take-out Hawaiian pizza. To her credit, the QA coordinator didn't look the least bit surprised by the request. When it arrived, she offered some to the plump girl, but in the end she wound up devouring all but one slice.

What's more, it still didn't fully assuage her hunger. Her exit conference took twice as long as usual because she kept digging into snacks she'd purchased from the break room every time Audrey asked a question - and she didn't want to answer any of 'em with her mouth full.

When her review was finished, she drove back to Aaron's - and didn't leave the restaurant until closing time. Red-faced and exhausted, jaw aching from her marathon binge, she'd lost track of how much she'd gorged herself. At some point, she'd quit returning to the counter to re-order, simply letting the round-faced girl from lunch bring fresh trays to her booth as she steadily worked through serving after serving. It wasn't until she shakily rose to leave that she realized how outlandish her night of gluttony had been (three servings in, and the girl had even stopped asking her for any money).

June felt so full, she could barely breathe. Both her skort and top hugged her form like painted latex; a good two inches of midriff gapped in the space where both articles of clothing would never again meet. Before she got in the car, June hit the ladies' room to discard both her bra and panties. She drove home that night with her skort unzipped and her top only buttoned to cover her breasts, merely stopping once at a BP food mart to buy three sandwiches and some two-liter bottles of pop.

When she got to her apartment, she left a message on the office answering machine to let them know she'd be taking a personal day, then she collapsed on her bed and slept until noon. Next morning, June woke feeling stodgy and bloated, but a couple of those Aaron's mints banished the latter feeling - and a good hearty breakfast did away with the former. Donning her baggiest sweats (she could barely pull them over her waist) and a too-tight cotton shell, she headed for the closest Mega Mart and its Women's Size section.

There, she found a selection of clearance sundresses that went up to 8X. She bought four and changed into one in the women's room (it was a little loose, but she knew that wouldn't be the case for long), bidding adieu to her old 6X clothes forever. A decent brunch at the in-store MacDonald's, and she was once more heading for home - having deposited her old outfit in the parking lot's Goodwill box . . .

Part Four

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