Clara couldn't believe the train was overbooked. Three days and two nights in these crowded conditions were going to drive her crazy. She couldn't even find a seat. Finally, a conductor told her they were opening the club car up for passenger seating. This was too much. Three days of sitting in a booth - someone was going to be hearing about this. She wanted to cause a fuss with the conductor, but she just didn't have it in her. She was too shy.
The club car already had some passengers staking out tables when she arrived. She didn't really want to get stuck with an over-talkative bore for a traveling companion, so she chose the small one person booth in the corner. The booth was rather small, and Clara wondered if it was meant for children. She didn't care. It was just right for her.
She arranged her stuff under the table and took out one of several trashy novels she had packed. It was around 1:00pm and her tummy was grumbling with hunger. She had heard the meal prices on the train were rather high, although the food was good. She was on a tight budget so she figured a couple of Pro-Nutrition Bars a day would tide her over until she reached her destination. Also, she hoped the Spartan diet would help her drop a couple of pounds she had put on from the Bon Voyage parties her friends had thrown. A couple of nights of drinking beer and eating nachos and pizza had her jeans fitting a little tighter than she liked.
The flutter of activity was dying down when the conductor came into the car and announced they would be departing shortly. He apologized for the over-crowded train and said that in order to make amends to the displaced passengers the railway would be providing free meal service. Clara was a little disappointed. She was already fired up to write a letter of complaint. Also, in some perverse way she had been looking forward to practically starving herself for three days. It would have insured a sleek and trim figure when she met Brian in San Francisco. Now she'd just have to eat the free food. She couldn't see herself having the will power to say no.
The conductor left and she continued her reading. The promise of free food just made her more hungry. There had been no word when the first meal would be served, so she took out a chocolate flavored Pro-Nutrition Bar and made fast work of it. She soon regretted her hasty decision, because 10 minutes later a food service worker appeared with a cart full of pastries and beverages and began serving everyone in the car.
The food service worker, who was middle aged and matronly in appearance, brought the cart over to Clara. She smiled warmly. "Are you traveling alone, dear?" asked the worker, whose name badge read Abby.
"Yes, I am," replied Clara.
"Going to visits relatives?" asked Abby as she served Clara a large, cream filled pastry.
Clara smiled politely and shook her head. "No, just a friend."
"Would you like hot chocolate or milk, dear?" Clara looked at Abby and suddenly realized that Abby assumed she was younger. With her soft, milky skin, and full, round face, Clara was always being mistaken as younger than her 24 years. Clara, not wanting to be rude, said nothing to shatter this image. Instead, she asked for hot chocolate.
"If you need anything, you tell me. Okay, sweetheart?"
"Sure. Thanks," replied Clara. Then Abby put a second pasty on the table.
"For later," said Abby with a wink.
Clara told herself she would only indulge in one pastry, but 30 pages later, both had disappeared. She felt warmly satiated. "It's my vacation," she told herself. "It's okay to enjoy myself just a little."
After reading through half of her novel, she stared out the window for a while and thought about Brian. Things had been going great until he took the job offer out on the West coast. In the past 6 months their relationship had been reduced to e-mail and weekly phone calls. Although they both still professed love, she could tell by the way he skirted the subject of commitment that he was seeing other women casually. She couldn't really blame him. She had had a couple of one-night stands since he had left, but she wasn't looking for another relationship. It was unspoken, but both knew that this visit would either be a final goodbye, or the first step in her move to the west coast.
The bar on the club car opened for Happy Hour. Clara felt odd about drinking, afraid she would feel guilty if Abby caught her and found out her true age. Still, the situation between her and Brian left her anxious, and she knew a margarita would calm her down. Abby was no where to be seen so she went ahead and ordered one. She also took the little bag of corn chips and plastic container of salsa that was being offered. In no time at all she felt a little tipsy, but also more relaxed. She dozed off.
When she woke up, Abby was placing a tray of food on her table.
"Here you are, sweetheart," Abby said. "I didn't mean to wake you up, but I didn't want you to miss dinner. I know how hungry teenagers get."
Clara smiled appreciatively. She wanted to explain that she wasn't a teenager, but somehow couldn't bring herself to say it.
"I'll see if I can't get you an extra dessert."
"Oh, you don't have to," said Clara. "I really don't need it."
"Oh, now," Abby chuckled," You're only young once. Eat it while you still can. There will be plenty of time to watch your weight when you're my age."
Abby moved on to the next table. Clara looked at the evening's offering: A small green salad swimming in a creamy dressing, a generous plate of pasta with marinara sauce, a roll and butter, and a thin slice of dark chocolate cake. She wasn't terribly hungry, but it did look very good so she dug in. A second food server came around with beverages. Clara ordered glass of milk. Maybe playing the teenager could be fun. Certainly no one would think it odd of her sticking to comfort foods and rich desserts. "I'm still young enough to have my metabolism knock this stuff right out," Clara assured herself. Still, her jeans were feeling pretty snug. By the time Abby was taking away the empty dishes, for she did manage to clean her plate, Clara could feel her belly hanging over the waistband just a little.
She grabbed her overnight bag and went to the ladies room. She looked at herself in the full-length mirror. She looked the same as usual with her T-shirt covering the top of her jeans. She pulled the shirt up. Her belly was certainly filling out the front of her size 9 Calvins. "I just ate," she told herself, "Of course I'm a little larger right now." She changed into a pair of warm, comfy sweatpants and a sweatshirt, then finished the rest of her evening toiletries. It was around 8:00pm and she figured there wasn't much else to do on the train other than sleep.
When she returned to her table the promised second desert and a mug of hot chocolate were waiting for her. Abby was nowhere to be seen. "Either this woman has raised only boys, or she has no children at all," thought Clara. "Anyone brought up with a mother this "nurturing" would be positively elephantine before she hit 20."
She drank the hot chocolate, and then picked at the cake. She kept telling herself to just throw the rest out, but before she knew it, it was all gone. She dozed off feeling cozy and full.
When she woke up the next morning, she thought the booth seemed a little smaller to her, as if there was less room between her and the table. She decided it must just be because the sweatshirt was bulkier than her T-shirt had been.
The rest of the day seemed to be a blur of reading and food. Abby continued her motherly demeanor when serving her, and Clara found it comforting. However, she was also glad that Abby seemed to go off duty during Happy Hour. Clara wondered why she continued to play along with charade of being a teenager. She figured it must have something to do with her insecurity about Brian. "I could be traveling 3000 miles - by train no less - to be dumped," she worried. "Am I the dumbest girl in the world or what?" She had dark fantasies about getting off the train, disheveled and smelly from three days without a shower, only to find Brian waiting there with his new girlfriend. In the fantasy Brian looked immaculate and buff. The girlfriend was of course bordering on super-model status, tall and stacked with perfect hair.
After two Happy Hour margaritas she assured herself he would not be letting her come visit for a month if he only wanted to make her miserable. She did, however, decide to remain in her sweats, so her other clothes would at least be fairly fresh.
During her second night, she had a bad dream. The actual image that frightened her disappeared from her mind as soon as she woke up, but she knew it had something to do with Brian. When she checked her watch it was 3:00am. She felt ravenous, which had to be nerves. She had devoured a huge steak dinner complete with a sour-cream topped baked potato, onion rings and an apple turnover before going to bed. Still, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get back to sleep, her growling tummy protested too much. Finally she gave in and ate a Pro-Nutrition Bar.
She thought that would hold her for a while, but when breakfast was served at 8:00am, she was ready for it.
"Well, you must be excited about today," said Abby as she served Clara a double stack of chocolate chip pancakes. "We're getting into San Francisco around 7:00pm this evening. Have you been there before?"
"Nope, this will be my first time," replied Clara.
"Well, it's a beautiful city. I hope you have fun." Abby set down a side of bacon and a glass of milk and then moved on.
"I hope I do, too," Clara said to herself. The pancakes were delicious and she polished them off quickly. Funny, the only time she wasn't worrying about Brian was when she was eating, she realized. When the plates were finally cleared away, Clara sat back and just stared out the window. Then she noticed something odd, something she hadn't noticed before. When she took a breath, her belly actually touched the table. She was sure she had had several inches of clearance before. This was a very small booth, but she didn't remember it being this restrictive. She reached down and touched her belly. Underneath the bulky sweatshirt it felt fairly firm, probably because she had just stuffed herself on breakfast. Then she felt down further to her lap. Was her belly really resting on her thighs? It wasn't a lot, but there were definitely a couple inches of contact. And as for her thighs themselves, they seemed a little softer and more expansive than usual. Now that she was focusing on her body, she also noticed the tightness of her bra across her back.
Clara grabbed her overnight bag and went into the ladies room. She locked the door and undressed in front of the full-length mirror. She couldn't believe her eyes. The swell of her belly gave testimony to too many double deserts, over-indulged Happy Hours and enormous gourmet meals. The long hours of sitting seemed to have widened her hips, filled out her thighs. All over her flesh jiggled and folded over as she turned round and around to examine her now Rubenesque form. "This is impossible," she thought. "How could I have gained so much weight in just three days of . . . of sitting around and eating non-stop . . ."
She felt like crying. How could she have tricked herself into believing all those calories were going to be magically wiped out by her average metabolism? She looked closer. Even her arms and face seemed a little rounder. On the positive side, she noted, her breasts were also larger. It really can't be more than 10 or 15 pounds, she decided, but on her 5'1" frame, that was plenty. She pulled her jeans out of her overnight bag and endeavored to pull them up over her fleshy thighs and defiantly full hips. That proved to be the easy part. There was at least a three-inch gap between button and buttonhole at the waistband. She sucked in her gut as much as possible and made a painful attempt at closing the pants. It wasn't going to happen. She threw her T-shirt on. The outline of the open jeans showed through. She tried the sweatshirt. That worked better. This was not how she was planning to look when she met Brian.
She went back out to her booth. Even though they weren't closed, her jeans were still quite binding in through her thighs and crotch. In fact, she noticed the tightness was turning her on; the thick seams were rubbing against her clit. She leaned forward. Between the stimulation of the material and just the fullness of her belly, she thought she might orgasm right there. Maybe this wasn't so bad after all.
She thought about Brian. He had never really mentioned any preference in the size of his women. She had lost some weight while with him, and he hadn't really encouraged or chided her size change. What was he going to say? She stared out the window and replayed her dreaded fantasy. This time, as she got off the train, she was so large so could barely fit through the door. Brian and his super-model girlfriend stood on the train platform giggling at this fat lady having so much trouble disembarking. Then Brian stopped laughing and realized it was Clara. She waddled up to him. "Hi Brian," she said as opened her arms for a hug. Brian looked shocked.
Clara wiggled in her seat a little, feeling herself get wet. She replayed the fantasy one more time. This time, in addition to being so large, she was also eating a candy bar and growing bigger. When she approached Brian and his girlfriend she was friendly and confident. They were the ones who were taken off guard by her size and her ease with it. Clara like this fantasy the best.
When lunch rolled around she asked Abby for a chocolate milkshake instead of milk, and also wanted to know if there was anyway that she could get a double order of cheese fries instead of the regular potato chips that came with her cheeseburger. She offered to pay the difference, but Abby said she wouldn't hear of it. She also accepted Abby's offer of a double chocolate fudge sundae for desert.
After the lunch plates were cleared, she waited for the club car bar to open. She ordered her regular margarita, and then added an order of nachos and a taco salad. As a desert for her second lunch she had the remaining Pro-Nutrition bars. She was really stuffed now. She could feel her belly spilling out onto her lap, and love handles were forming over the sides of her jeans. She took a nap.
Because the train was scheduled to arrive at 7:00, dinner was served a little early. Clara didn't know if she could actually eat anything else, but it was eggplant parmesan, which was her favorite dish.
"Abby," she said in her best pleading voice. "I'm really hungry and I love eggplant parmesan. Do you think I could get two dinners?"
Abby studied her for a moment. "Well, sure I guess, honey. But you had such a big lunch and I don't mean to hurt your feelings but-it looks like you've put on some weight."
Clara almost burst out laughing. The same woman who had been feeding her double deserts after every meal was now concerned she had gained some weight. "Oh even if I have, I know I'll lose it real fast. I'm on the track team at school, and come August the coach will have me run it right off," Clara lied. That seemed to appease Abby, and she went off to get the second dinner.
Clara really had to force the second dinner down, but she managed. The train was just pulling into the station as Abby cleared away her plates. Clara shifted in her seat and then burst out laughing.
"What's so funny?" asked Abby.
"Abby, I'm stuck."
"What?" Abby looked shocked, but it was true. With all that food in her belly, Clara had outgrown the booth. She couldn't move. Physically it hurt, but the whole situation struck her as hilarious, so she laughed the entire time it took a maintenance worker to come and unscrew the table from the wall. Passengers began disembarking the train as Clara waited to be freed from her little prison.
"Did you just sit down and realize you couldn't get back out?" asked the worker.
"No," replied Clara smugly. "I just kept eating until I got too big for the booth."
The maintenance worker looked annoyed at her. She smiled sweetly. When she was finally free, she picked up her things and left the club car.
Most of the passengers had already left, so the platform was nearly deserted. Brian stood alone looking anxiously at the empty train. When he saw her get off the train his whole face lit up and he ran towards her. She dropped her bags and embraced him and he picked her up off the ground and swung her around.
"I have missed you so much," he said in between kisses.
"Oh god, I've missed you too," she replied.
Finally they moved apart and looked at each other. Brian looked pretty much the same as she remembered, but tired. She wondered what he was seeing.
"You look great," he said. "God, you're gorgeous."
"Really? You think so?" she asked. "I . . . I've put on some weight recently."
Brian smiled. He picked up her bags and motioned her to follow him.
"Come on," he said. "Let's go back to our place. We'll order a pizza and you can tell me all about the trip."
She wanted to tell him she just ate, but the phrase "our place" took her off guard.
"Our place?" she asked.
Brian turned towards her. He looked nervous again. "Well, only if you want it to be our place. I mean, I hope you'll make it our place."
"Yes," replied Clara. "Of course. A pizza at our place - what could be better?"
Brian grinned. "Two pizzas at our place?"
Clara knew she was home.