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Old 11-14-2017, 01:19 PM   #326
Tad
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oooh, glad to see Kelly have a plan, and start driving things more on her own!
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Old 11-19-2017, 05:15 PM   #327
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Default Balls of steel!

Half an hour later, Kelly slammed the door of Lierman’s lab behind her and leaned against it with a sigh, just like in so many of the old black-and-white movies she’d watched in the past.

As she had hoped, Caleb was working in his computer at the table in the corner.

“What happened? What did you just do? Are you all right?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. Where are those doughnuts?”

Caleb pointed to the table, where the pink box sat in its obvious glory. Only three of the five were left (Caleb!!), and Kelly dove into one—a glazed cake Crueller—in something like desperation, or frustration, or exhilaration, or something like that. That didn’t stop her from appreciating how crispy it was on the outside, and how moist and clean on the inside. It made her feel cleansed, and free, on the inside. It melted in her mouth fast enough to reach for another one post haste, a chocolate-iced cake as yummy and fresh as the Crueller. Caleb, of course, was watching, but for once it seemed he was putting his smart-ass tongue in check, probably because she wasn’t giving him the answer he wanted.

Kelly invited Caleb to join her for lunch at the dining center. He knew enough about her finances to understand the significance of the request.

“Why? What the hell happened in there?”

**************

“Holy shit, Kelly!” a shit-faced Gail exclaimed. “Juss tell us! What the hell didya say to her?”

It was the aftermath of Sunday brunch almost a week later, and Kelly was sitting at the table recounting the story, Gail with both elbows on the table—her chins resting in her hands in an effort to maintain rapt attention—and her mother snugly wedged between the buffet and the table again across from Kelly, one hand resting on top of her squished-up belly and the other glued to her over-filled goblet of red wine. This week there was a bevy of others as well: Jenn and Crystal, Elektra, Marla and Monet—but no Wade. After another disappointing loss on the road, he’d gone out drinking with his teammates, and that was after he and Kelly had shared a six together shortly after the late-night arrival of the team bus. He’d begged off brunch around 6am with as drunk a text as Kelly had ever received, undoubtedly delivered as he knelt in miserable supplication before his dorm room throne.

Wade’s absence—connected as it was to the misery of another road loss, which Wade was destined to spread to the rest of them—hadn’t phased Kelly at all. She was enjoying being the center of attention, dragging out each statement of her conversation with Lennox like she was presenting a soap opera—or more like she was 14 years old relaying a conversation over the phone to her best friend. The other eight girls had long finished their meals, but from time to time she’d stop to pick over the remains of hers, kind of like she needed a little bite of fuel to power through the next little bit of the story.

The past week had been a diet disaster for Kelly. After leaving the lab she’d torn through a pile of offings at the dining center like she hadn’t done since she and Wade had blown through the buffet of buffets over the summer in Vegas, figuring she had to justify the expense, and anyway, at this point wasn’t she entitled to a release? From there she’d gone straight out to that week’s “inputs” shopping, where for the first time she’d taken Lierman’s intimations to heart and finally used that expense account to pad her own meals for the week. Not that she hadn’t already been doing that in the lab with the extra granola bars and bananas and, of course, PinkBox doughnuts these past couple of weeks. But this time she added bagels, cream cheese, fruit, oatmeal, cereal bars, Ramen noodles, candy—everything a girl needed in her dorm room—especially when she owed so much to her roommates for all the snacks she’d stolen these past weeks. Not that they’d ever complained, or that they ever would think to. But there was a reason Marla and Monet were around the table that Sunday, too.

She’d fully intended to jump back on the wagon on Tuesday, and given a couple of weeks where PinkBox doughnuts had gotten the best of her, in her mind she did. Only looking back had she realized how poor a job she’d actually done. Tuesday morning's moderation ended in a total breakdown Tuesday night at the hands of the Buford College vending machines. And though Wednesday was pretty good, she’d melted down again Thursday night at the vending machines, then piled on at dinner with Wade at the Silver Saddle after—especially since he was actually paying for once. Friday she’d blown it from the get-go with a blueberry bagel binge breakfast and a granola bar parade at the lab, and nothing about that night and the weekend had gotten any better: the bulk of Friday and Saturday she bounced from shop to shop looking for the best deals the best of her meager Thursday paycheck could withstand for new winter shirts and pants. It was time-consuming, exhausting work, and even her fit legs were sore by the end of Saturday. The temptation of cheap easy (yummy!) meals at the drive-thru was too much to resist.

Kelly’d told herself she was getting pants. But mostly it was leggings that she could really afford. She was wearing her best pair now, and though they’d taken up more than she hoped of her check, and though absolutely nothing about them was Phi Gamma, for now she didn’t regret it. She’d worry about that later! She hadn’t allowed herself to wear leggings since before she’d lost all that weight two summers ago, and she’d forgotten how oh-so-comfortable they really were.

Even now as she slipped her last half a meatball past her lips she thought about how much thinner these leggings made her feel—even as her conscience reminded her it was definitely not the case!

“Come on, Kelly! Get to it. I’ve got to get ready for a date.” That was Elektra.

Elizabeth had made profiteroles that morning, and Kelly scooped some of the remains of their soggy pastry and chocolatey melted vanilla ice cream into her mouth with a big grin. She always forgot about profiteroles until her mother whipped them up. They were her absolute favorite!

Elektra drummed her fingers on the table, but her demeanor wasn’t nearly as annoyed as her words suggested. Her face suggested she was having as much fun with this as Kelly was.

“Please, dear,” Elizabeth added. “You’re gonna give me a heart attack!”

“Oh, all right!” Kelly sighed, washing the creamy sweetness out of her mouth by savoring a sip of Chardonnay—which despite the temporary acrid combination of sugar and the dry wine in her mouth left her palate feeling clean and refreshed, the way she’d known it would, especially after following up with a sip of ice water. There wasn’t that much left to tell anyway.

“Well, surely you guessed it,” Kelly shrugged. “I told her how many of you girls had signed up for her class, and that if she didn’t change my grade to an A they were all gonna drop her course at the last minute and she’d be out of a job.”

Silent shock gripped the table. In the meantime, Kelly picked out another bite of pastry from her dessert bowl and popped it into her mouth.

“Holy shit!” Gail breathed before sitting up and tossing off her glass of Chardonnay, shaking her head at the hard finish before leaning back in her chair, the drinking hand flat on the table with the glass poking up from between her fingers. “You blackmailed her!!”

“No way!” Monet breathed.

Gail shook her head.

“Didn’t see that coming! Nope! Not at all! Not from you,” Gail continued, shaking her head. She spread her legs to make room for her belly so she could scoot forward, then reached for the Chardonnay bottle and refilled her glass.

“No way,” Monet added, again.

“Balls of steel!” Elektra noted. She lifted her glass of ice water and clanged it against Monet’s wine glass in approval.

“Balls of steel!” Monet echoed, taking a sip of her red.

Kelly might have smiled, but her mind was stuck at Didn’t see that coming. There it was again! Did no one give her credit?

As it was, it hadn’t occurred to her that what she’d done was actually blackmail. Wasn’t that some kind of crime or something? She hadn’t felt the least bit uncomfortable with what she’d done until just now.

“Well, it was your idea,” she demurred to Gail.

“Oh, no,” Gail asserted with enebriated exaggeration. “No it wazn’. My idea wz for you to help her out with her classes, then maybe she’d help get you admitted again in the Fall, juss like Lierman wz trying to do for you. Thiss iss something completely different!”

Marla, who’d mostly looked confused up to this point, finally piped up. “What do you mean admitted in the Fall?”

Kelly and Gail had already explained Kelly’s problem near the outset of her story and sworn the rest of the girls to secrecy, but apparently it hadn’t registered with Marla. Elizabeth, who looked well on her way to her afternoon nap had the same question pasted on her face. So Gail briefly explained the history again.

“The biggess part I can’ believe,” Gail added after she finished, “iss that you asked her to go back and change your grade. I didn’ know you could eben do that. How did you know?”

Kelly shrugged again. “I didn’t.”

“You didn’!” Gail exclaimed.

“Balls of steel!” Elektra proclaimed and raised her glass again.

“Balls of steel!” echoed Monet, with raised glass, and this time Marla and Gail followed right on her heels, with Kelly and Elizabeth not too far behind, tossing off what they each had left. And though for Kelly this was nothing—she’d been sipping a single glass of wine all the way through lunch—for Elizabeth it was nearly half a glass. She hummed with an mm-mmm! as she swallowed it all down, then finished with a smile and a glazed look that told Kelly it wasn’t long now before Elizabeth would begin her purposeful descent into alcohol-induced oblivion for the afternoon. Were it not for her mother, Kelly likely would otherwise have basked for a while in the warm praise of her peers. But instead, heaviness settled onto her heart, especially as she watched her mother lunge forward to refill her glass. It wasn't easy for her: she had to smush her huge seated belly into the table edge and grasp the bottle of remaining red with her fingertips.

It was a heaviness Kelly was tired of feeling every week, and this week she was finally going to do something about it. She knew she had to speed things up.

“I asked her to change the grade because that was what I wanted,” Kelly said. “Lennox called it ‘reinstatement.’ All I said was, ‘I want you to change my grade to an A.’ And she said, like, ‘You mean, reinstatement?’ Like she was amazed or something. So I, of course, acted like I’d known all along”—a skill Kelly was long-practiced at—“and looked it up later on Aphrodite.” Aphrodite, of course, was the university’s online registration website, which also contained the student handbook.

“OK. Sure. But is she gonna do it?” Elektra asked in her distinctive South Georgia drawl. Shoo-ur. “Or am I gonna have to drop it and find a different class for my easy A? Just tell me what I’ve gotta do.”

“She said she had to think about it.”

A chorus of groans and grumbles erupted from around the table. Even Jenn and Crystal joined in.

“After all that, that’s all she said?” Monet. “Fuck! You mean you don’t even know how this is gonna turn out? How are you so calm!? I’d be a fucking wreck!” She made the point by tossing off her own (almost-empty) bowl of red like she needed the buffer against anxiety.

“You know, I’m really not. I feel great about it, if you can believe it. Truth is, I don’t think there’s really much for her to think about. Seems to me she’s gonna go for it.”

“I sure hope so,” Elektra shrugged. “In all honesty her class sounds kind of cool. Whoever knew you could take Home Ec in college?”

Elizabeth laughed, sending her chins aquiver. “Sweetie, it wasn’ all that long before I went taschool thass about the only thing we girlz went taschool for!”

“Well if it means you could do all this”—Elektra swept her arm Vanna White-style above the table—“then you can count me in.

“But for now,” she added, patting the table with both hands as she stood to her feet, “I’ve gotta jet.” She was looking at her phone as she said it. “Gail, Mrs. Kingsley, as always, this was truly amazing.”

“Please. Call me Elizabeth.”

Yes. Please do, the daughter thought. These days hearing her last name just made her think about her father.

“Done. Thanks, Elizabeth. Kelly, you’re my hero.

"Balls of steel!”
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Old 11-25-2017, 05:15 PM   #328
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Default A big conversation

The other girls took Elektra’s exit as their own cue to dismiss themselves from the table, and a swarm of hugs invaded the room before in short order they were down to three. And while Elizabeth, who throughout the goodbyes had remained in her seat with her hands folded on top of her belly, graciously acknowledging the flurry of compliments offered her way, sipped her wine and hummed an inaudible little tune, Gail pushed herself unsteadily to her feet and started stacking plates to take to the kitchen.

“That waz somethin’ elss kid,” she said. “I’m real proud of you.” She finished emptying a plate onto the master, then turned and embraced her. Kelly was nearly staggered by the surprising weight of Gail’s swollen arms—or perhaps the full weight of Gail herself, as she may have been embracing Kelly as much out of affection as she was a means of keeping her balance, judging by her alcoholic breath and her arrhythmic sway back and forth.

Kelly winced privately at the painful pressure of Gail’s ever-prodigious paunch against what she suddenly realized was a way-too-full stomach.

My God, how much did I eat??

“Didja really say all those nice thingz to Lennox?” Gail asked, vulnerably, almost sounding like a little girl.

“Yes, I did.” Ow.

“Juss like that?”

“Just like that. Word for word.” Please let go!

“Word for word.”

“And didja really mean it?”

“Every bit of it.”

“Awww, thank you, Kellz! Really, you are ab-so-loot-ly the bess!!

Gail held Kelly a little longer before letting go and stepping back, dabbing tears away from her mascara. “Gawd,” she sniffled, “I turned into such a softie!

Gail turned back to clumsily building her stack of plates, and Kelly as usual made a show of helping her before begging off to the restroom, hoping she might relieve some of the pressure she felt on her insides. She couldn’t believe how what she’d thought had been just a little noshing had added up to. She couldn’t remember ever feeling so full!

Kelly finished her business, feeling mildly relieved, and after studiously avoiding looking at her figure as she washed her hands, set her mind on clearing the table for once. Back in the dining room, the table was only half-cleared and Gail was already gone—probably moments away from passing out in her bedroom. Elizabeth was still sitting with her wine and humming a barely audible tune discernible only to her.

It was a familiar sound, stretching back to Kelly’s earliest memories of she and her mother preparing meals together in the kitchen. But it was one Kelly hadn’t heard since leaving college, back when her mother was the mother Kelly remembered.

“Don’t worry, Baby,” Elizabeth smiled dreamily, “I can get to it later.”

Kelly didn’t need to hear that twice. She sat down at the head of the table next to her mother and took a sip of Gail’s untouched water glass, ice long since melted.

Kelly’d been building up to this moment in her mind for a while, but now that it was here, she couldn’t figure out how to get started—or whether she even wanted to.

Thankfully, Elizabeth opened the door for Kelly to get something else off her mind first.

“You’re looking so beautiful, Kelly. You must have loss more weight.”

Because beautiful must mean thin, right?

“Actually, Mom, I’m pretty sure I gained weight.”

“’Pretty sure’? That’s not like you. Usually you can spout off your weight right down to the ounce.”

“I’ve kind of been avoiding the scale…”

“Oh. That bad, is it?”

Kelly nodded solemnly in response.

“It’s just that, well, I was doing so good—“

“Well. You were doing so well.”

“I was doing so well! I started the semester really strong and was starting to see some progress, but then the last week or two I just…I just…I guess I just sort of lost my will power.”

Elizabeth smiled the sweet smile of motherly understanding. She’d always had a very wide smile, and she might have been smiling ear to ear, if the corner of her mouth could have pushed through the roundness of her pudgy cheeks. As it was, that smile still had enough strength to push those pudgy cheeks upward, taking those legendary wide blue eyes that she shared with her daughter and transforming them into happy little half-moon windows.

“Oh, baby, that’s just your way.”

My way?

“What do you mean?”

“Every time you’re on a diet, you give it your all for about two months, and then I guess you just give out for a while before you give it another go. You’ve always done that.”

“I have?”

“Yes, you have. Your whole life. Once I got you started you were the most dedicated person I ever saw, but I guess there’s only so much time a girl can sustain an effort like that. I can’t tell you how proud of you I was for keeping the weight off all last year. Don’t let it get you down. The last couple of weeks have just been a little break. You’ll be right back after it before you know it. Trust me.”

Her mother’s unwavering faith in her always felt so good. It felt even more encouraging realizing it was coming from someone wo actually new more about her than herself. But there was nothing about her meteoric weight gain that was anything like she’d encountered before. And she’d only managed to claw it back eight, maybe ten pounds before running out of steam.

How much more was she gonna gain before she found the will to hit her stride again?

“Thanks. Mommy.”

“Of course, Baby.”

They sat a while together without talking. Kelly sipped a melted glass of ice water and Elizabeth steadily drank her wine and hummed a barely audible song—something Kelly remembered her doing throughout her childhood, mostly while she prepared family dinner in the kitchen. And it was something she hadn’t heard from her mother do in ages.

For Kelly, it was the sound of home, and she didn’t want it to end. At the same time, it made what she wanted to say seem that much more urgent. Especially as Elizabeth’s eyes began to glass over from the alcohol.
Kelly’s window was closing, and she still couldn’t find the nerve to press the trigger!

Elizabeth broke the silence.

“That was quite the story you told today. Every one of those girls was hanging on every word you had to say.”

“You think?” Kelly asked, even though she knew she’d had them eating out of the palm of their hand. All weekend she’d felt nothing but peace and satisfaction about how everything (except her weight loss) seemed to be coming together, and she wouldn’t mind hearing a bit more about it from the person whose opinion mattered most to her.

“They all seemed very impressed with you. Me, too. Though—“

Here she paused and took a drag of wine.

Though?

“Though some of it didn’ sound much like my lil girl.”

Kelly hadn’t been expecting this.

“I mean, didja hafta treat that woman the way you did? I mean, do you think you really had to be that, um, mean?

“Cuz that doesn’ sound like my sweet lil girl much at all. Not at all.”

She said it with just the slightest hint of disappointment, but she might as well have been hitting Kelly across the face with a 2X4 it stunned her so much. Kelly couldn’t remember the last time she’d faced anything but unconditional support from her mother—and certainly not when she’d accomplished so much!

And when Elizabeth had accomplished so little.

“I did have to treat her that way. I did.”

“Well,” Elizabeth replied, “the way you talked about her to the girls, it didn’ sound like you gave her much respect. An’ you went after her personally, too. You know you had to hurt her feelings, you know?”

Hurt her feelings?!

Elizabeth took a long pull from her glass and pursed it between her lips, as she was accustomed to doing the more blasted she became.

“I certainly don’t think there was any other way I was gonna make that happen.”

“Well, sure there was. You could have done what, uh, what—whassiz name again? Your professor?”

“Dr. Lierman.”

“Dr. Lierman! Thass it!” She paused a moment. “Lierman. Lierman….”

“Yes, Lierman. What about him?”

“Oh, nothing, nothing! I was juss thinking…. Never mind. Never mind! He juss seems like a nice guy, and like he knows what hees talkin’ about, an’ you coulda juss done it the way he said do it. I juss think you didn’ hafta be so mean to her.”

“Mother, I wasn’t mean. I was strong.”

“OK, OK, OK.” The wine glass went to her lips, and the last of the wine slipped in, causing the corners of her mouth to lift in a little smile. But it wasn’t OK. She still had more to say. “Iss juss, I think you coulda made a friend, and instead you made an enemy. I thought we raised you to treat people that way.”

Hadn’t she looked around the table today? I made friends out of the people who count the most!

“Mother, if Lennox were gonna be my friend, I’d have never been in this mess.”

“Well, OK. I’m juss worried maybe you burned your bridges.” The word came out of Elizabeth’s mouth like britches. “I mean, iss, juss my opinion. I guess iss juss not what I would’ve done, thass all. I woulda been nicer. If it were me, iss not what I would have done, thass all.”

Not what you would have done? At once, Kelly found the voice and the words she’d been looking for.

“Well, Mother, tell me. What have you done?”

It was Elizabeth’s turn to look surprised.

“’scuse me?” She lifted her empty wine glass to her lips.

“Mother, you heard what I said. I want you to put down your wine for two minutes and listen to me!”

Elizabeth’s puffy brow looked cross for a moment, and Kelly’s heart cringed with a daughter’s fear. And regret. But Elizabeth’s glass went back down to the table in obedience, and her wobbly eyes focused their gaze directly on their clearer mirror image across from her.

“I’m lissening.”

“I’m sorry, Mother!”

Elizabeth pushed a heavy arm, made heavier by the wine, across the table to hold Kelly’s fingers.

“I know, Baby. I am, too. What’d you want to say?”

Nothing, now. She wanted to take it all back even before she put it into words. But her mother was waiting.

“Mommy, I—I--. What are you doing here? I mean, I love you. I’m so happy you’re so close to me where I can see you, especially since—since—“

“Since what happened.”

Since you left Daddy.

“Since,” Kelly said instead, “you found out what he did to you. Did to us.”

“You’re right Baby. He did it to us.”

“I know, Mommy. It wasn’t your fault. But he did what he did, and you did what you did, and there’s no changing any of it.” Kelly paused after she said it, wondering if, maybe even hoping that her mother might tell her she’d somehow changed her mind, that somehow there was a way it was possible that she even could change her mind after what Ben Kingsley had done to her.

But Elizabeth’s face was a closed book. She reached for her wine. So Kelly pressed on.

“So what now? It happened. And you sit here in this house every day like your life is over, drinking yourself into oblivion, eating so much you’re—well, you’re almost unrecognizable!”

Kelly paused again, but still Elizabeth gave no indication she wanted to respond, or even that she was affected by the words she was hearing.

“I mean, do you ever even leave the house?” This time Kelly waited for a response.

“I leave the houss sometimez.”

“Almost never!” Kelly didn’t know, though she thought she did.

“Yes. Almoss never.”

Kelly felt a surge of sadness that threatened to spill over into her eyes.

“Mommy, that’s not the Mommy I knew. I just want my Mommy back. Where is she?”

“Baby, I’m so sorry. I think I’m—I’m gonna hafta move over totha couch, OK Baby?”

She leaned back a moment and put her head against the wall, looking at the ceiling except for the fact that her eyes were closed. Kelly suddenly worried she might have started too late, that Elizabeth might have passed out right then and there.

But she opened her eyes and exhaled before twisting her blubbery body to the side, placing one thick arm against the wall and the other pudgy fore arm behind her on the table. With a grunt she pushed with both, apparently to free the massive hip and thigh she’d had wedged under the table, then exhaled again before leaned off the chair, her back dipping from the weight of her massive belly and bulbous breasts, before straining upward until she balanced on her feet. She inhaled almost in surprise and paused for a moment, certainly waiting for her head to stop spinning before she twisted first one hip and then the other on her way out of what Kelly had up to that point regarded as her mother’s constraining position, but as Kelly clearly understood now, was a source of security and support devised of her mother’s conceit.

Kelly averted her gaze and pushed her chair back, then pushed it back again as she realized she’d underestimated her own girth and the space she would need to slip easily out of her seat. She felt so small compared to her mother that she often forgot that she actually wasn’t. She hoped her mother wouldn’t require the support of her arm and wondered even if her support would even help. But Elizabeth squeezed herself out from the wedge of the dining room table and the wall and waddled her way around Kelly’s chair easily enough on her way to the living room. Kelly watched her mother’s fat form trudge carefully to the entryway, noticing the way Elizabeth’s back still pinched in hourglass fashion to create a waistline—albeit a thick one well-defined by the stretchy cotton mu-mu gripping tightly all around. It brought sharp definition the top of each wide, round ass cheek, wobbling every direction as she shuffled forward.

I am never, ever, ever gonna allow myself to get that big.
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Old 11-28-2017, 10:36 PM   #329
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Default Never say never.

It was a thought she wondered why she even had: never had it ever occurred to her that growing that big was ever for her—or really, for any woman—in the realm of possibility. Until just now, when she’d seen it in her mom.

Kelly heard her mother fall her way down onto the couch before following her into the living room. She half expected her to be asleep, but she was propped up attentively (grading on a curve) in the corner of the couch, heavy arms draped along the top and the arm. Kelly pulled the corner of the coffee table away from the couch so she could sit on it, winced inside a bit as she sat on it, wondering if too late that she might be too heavy for it to take her weight. It didn’t make the slightest sound. She found solace in the idea that her focus on her mother’s substantial size had led her to exaggerate her own.

“OK! I’m sorry, Baby. Please go on.”

Please go on! Surely she had to be aware of the thrust of Kelly’s concerns, and yet she received it like some kind of receptionist who’d left her on hold or something. Couldn’t she see?

“OK, Mommy. It’s like this for me. It just hurts me so much to see you like this! Do you understand? I mean, you’re the one who spent my whole life teaching me to keep my weight down, and then you, you turn out like this? So…out of control? And then every time I see you you’re a fall-down drunk!”

“I know, Baby. I know. But iss only for now. An’, I liketa cook. An’ I liketa eat. An’ what difference does it make at thiss point?”

“It does make a difference, Mommy.” Kelly grabbed Elizabeth’s hand, struck as always by its firm softness and the sheer weight of her arm. “It makes a difference to me. It’s like you just…gave up.

“You have a whole new life in front of you. I’m all grown up now. You’re free from Daddy and his business. You don’t have anybody holding you back now! You can do anything you want. You could start a business. It could be a bakery or something like that if you want. Or get back involved with the church again. Or go travelling. You know how much you love to travel!”

Elizabeth was smiling, but she was blinking slowly—or whatever you would call closing your eyes and not opening them right away while (at least nominally) awake. Moreover, she wasn’t responding. Kelly was beginning to wonder if Elizabeth even heard her behind the haze of the alcohol. She made her last push.

“Mommy, why don’t you go with me to see Dr. Lierman? Maybe he could help you find some people at the university you could get involved with. Or maybe he could set you up in a few classes until you figure out what you want to do. OK?

“Mommy, did you hear me?”

“I hear you,” she murmured her bleary gaze finding sharp focus once again.

“I said maybe you could meet with Dr Lierman and he could help you get started. The way he helped me. You said it yourself he seemed like a nice guy.”

“He doez seem likea nice guy.”

“Yeah, he does. He really does. So come on! Let’s go see him together. I just—“

Kelly stopped, because she started to choke up. Elizabeth heard it, and her eyes widened with surprising alertness.

That gave Kelly the hope she needed to bottle her emotion back up.

“I just can’t watch while you…while you…waste the rest of your life like this. OK? OK, Mommy?” Kelly wrung her hands in her lap for a moment as she pleaded. “Please come with me.”

Kelly’s eyes stayed looking at her hands even as they stopped, and for a moment there was nothing but the sound of labored breathing: Kelly’s, out of distress, Elizabeth’s burdened by the weight of too much alcohol. Kelly heard Elizabeth shifting on the couch and looked up to see Elizabeth leaning to the side so she could stretch an arm across the breadth of her seated belly, pinning Kelly’s hands to her lap with a heavy hand.

“Oh, Baby,” was all she said at first, rubbing Kelly’s thumb with her own, as she’d been wont to do in such mother-daughter talks in the past.

“You’re right about eberything, of course. Eberything. ‘Cept one.” She paused and licked her lips, her head dipping a bit, and it was clear that last glass of wine had Elizabeth just as intoxicated as Kelly knew she had to be. “You asked me what I’ve done. Well, thass obvious.

“I’ve done you.”

Kelly shook her head. “Well, yeah, I know you’ve done—“

“Nonono,” Elizabeth interrupted, shaking her own head. “Therez no ‘well, yeah” ‘bout that. You are the bess thing I eber did, and it is NOT a waste! Not a waste. Nothing I eber do will eber come close.”

Elizabeth dragged her hand off of Kelly’s, apparently because the effort of holding it there was becoming too much effort. It flopped down and cupped the bulge where her belly pressed against the edge of the couch. The rest of her belly and her massive boobs filled the entirety of the space from the cushions to the top of the padded arm, where Elizabeth’s own meaty arm kept her propped up for now.

“I love you sooo much, an’ I’m so proud of you. I waz never trapped raising you. That was the greatess freedom I’ve eber known. Maybe you can’ believe it. Maybe you hafta be a mother. But I’m happy, Baby, juss to be here so I can see the amazing young woman you’ve become.”

Elizabeth smiled and laid her head in the soft crook of her arm, looking at her daughter with dreamy eyes.

“But Mommy, you can still do that you know. Right here. But you can’t just—you have to do something more than this. Please come with me.”

“I know, Baby. You’re right. Eberything you’re saying is 100 percen’ right. An’ iss really a good idea, too, going with you to see him. I shhhould do exactly what you’re sayin’.

“I juss don’ think I’m going to.”

And with a smile she closed her eyes and hummed for a few seconds before slipping into sleep.
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Old 11-29-2017, 09:27 AM   #330
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Interesting character development there! Waiting to see where this leads
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Old 12-06-2017, 10:47 PM   #331
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Default A Girl's Gotta

This one looked a lot like Scott Gilroy: tall, wavy black hair, dimpled smile. Just a bit thicker and a lot less ... polished. Normal teeth, normal clothes, normal nails, normal skin, nothing upper-crust about him. The other students in the late shift (there were actually two girls in this round of subjects) had cleared out for the day, but he’d lingered around after. They’d talked for about ten minutes before he sent his contact info to her phone, which arrived with a wave of her Fairy Godmother’s wand—otherwise known as the sound from Cinderella that Kelly had recently downloaded to customize the notification tone on her aging iPhone.

“OK! I’ve got it,” Kelly smiled.

“Great! I’ll send you a text. Maybe we can go out sometime.”

“Yeah-hunh. I’m glad we got a chance to talk. One of the things I love about this job is getting to know so many different people. So you’re back, ummm...”—Kelly checked the schedule—“...next Monday, same time! Look for you then.”

“Sure thing. Later.”

The guy stooped for his backpack and fumbled a little bit opening the door, then looked back with a smile to cover it a little bit. It might have worked had he not closed it a little too hard.

The rattle of the grate in the heavy door had barely stopped when Caleb spoke up from the table in the corner.

“You think he figured out you were blowing him off?”

“I didn’t blow him off. He got my number, for God’s sake.”

“Mm-hm. And why exactly did you do that again?”

“Shut up, Caleb.”

“Again,” he repeated. “That was like the fourth time today.”

“Stop it. It was not!

“No. I’m serious. Count them. It was four times.”

She went back through the morning in her mind.

“It was two.”

“Count again.”

“I don’t need to. The other two were facebook adds.”

“Oh, please!”

“Caleb, those are totally different!”

“Sure. OK. Right. So two. And why are you getting anyone’s number at all? Shouldn’t someone be telling this to, I don’t know, your boyfriend?”

Couldn’t he just leave be? It wasn’t like she was gonna actually do anything with those numbers.

“Leave me alone, Caleb.”

She turned her attention to her computer, where she was working on integrating webcam footage into her Instagram profile as part of a final project integrating multiple social media platforms for her Digital Basketweaving class. But her mind was running through answers to Caleb’s question, Why?

Because what Caleb couldn’t understand was how sometimes a girl just needs a little attention to feel like she matters, like she’s not as ugly as sometimes she feels. And here was the opportunity right in front of her and she wasn’t gonna fend it off today just for something like appearances.

Because Mr. Big-Time-College-Athlete-Drama-King still hadn’t texted her back from yesterday, and, well, if anything came out of these phone numbers, who was really to blame?

Because the more she considered it, even better she felt about her meeting with Lennox and her prospects for getting what she wanted by the end of the semester. It was a like a whole new future, with entire new possibilities.

Because she was sitting there in those brand new leggings to replace her outgrown jeans which for all their form-fitting comfort didn’t have close to the containment of a quality cut of denim. So now when her hips flared out they spilled over the edge of the chair and rubbed up against the metal bars holding up the small hard worn-leather oval arms of the chair that were all-but covered by her heretofore unrealized-as-chubby forearms. And guys were hitting on her anyway-even with her boobs under full wraps in the baggy XL special-ordered Phi Gamma letter sweater she was wearing to withstand the first chill of fall and the world’s most antiquated heating system.

Because after two weeks of eating everything in sight she needed to clamp down on her diet. And she couldn’t because her stomach was a ravenous hole, which probably meant that at any time her period was about to start—her second period this month.

Because this morning. Monday morning.

203.6.
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Old 12-11-2017, 10:17 PM   #332
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Default Sorry, kid.

Kelly was on the weight bench in the house that afternoon when Jennifer Morrison walked in. Kelly’d seen her in the house a few times since Rules and Regs in her workout gear: neon leggings that heightened the feminine lower curve of her fit chunky thighs--at least until they sought refuge under the blouse of her oversized, also-neon T-shirt, which (mostly) obscured the misplaced bulge of her waistline. The neckline was cut out with a homemade, jagged (though fashionable) edge so that her neckline, chest and substantial cleavage were emphasized, boobs just only contained by a (again) neon-fringed black sports bra and a taut spaghetti-strap tank. It all looked great. Say what you wanted about Jennifer's appearance, but the girl had style.

The actual color of the neon for these outfits varied with the day, meaning she had purchased a number of matching outfits for these occasions, as if she were serious enough about her workouts that she needed (and could afford) an entire wardrobe for them.

And maybe she was.

Kelly meanwhile was still in her letter sweater and leggings, with cut-off sweat shorts stretched across her wide ass for the sake of decency. She had no kind of exercise bra that even close to fit. She did it all each day in whatever increasingly snug underwire bra for as long as she could stand. Not that today that was much of a question: with the red storm on the horizon, cardio was out of the question (maybe running would bring it on, maybe not, but it sure always felt like it would), so who needed a sports bra anyway?

She was all thrown together as it had suddenly occurred to her in her life that she should work out once in a while. Maybe. And so Kelly looked the part of the insecure newbie in her own gym, while Jennifer looked like she owned it. It was the first time she’d ever looked at Jennifer and felt threatened.

“Hey, Kelly!” she waved with her characteristic aggressive friendliness. “I thought I might finally run into you here.” She was pulling her thick hair back into a bun and preparing to jump on the elliptical. “I thought a lot about what you told us and decided it made a lot of sense. So here I am!”

Kelly hadn’t stopped doing leg presses while Jennifer spoke. She let down the weights with a gentle click. “That’s great! Say what you want about me, but at least I practice what I preach.”

“Yeah you do. You’re like a machine.” Jennifer turned on the elliptical and started a slow workout.

Rookie. “Yeah, well, you have to keep at it.” As if to underscore the point, Kelly began another set of leg presses.

“I do! I’m really serious about it,” she said, her voice quivering already with the effort of each weighted stride. “I’m already down three pounds!”

She said it with such optimism and pride! Looking at her, Kelly certainly couldn’t tell any difference.

Is that what people think about me when I say stuff like that?

“You go, girl!” Kelly strained to say it, since for some reason she seemed to be pushing a few pumps more out of this stack than she normally would have attempted. She gassed out after four more reps and this time let the stack down with a crash.

“Whew!”

Jennifer probably heard none of it: she was already perspiring and focused on her workout, oblivious to her surroundings thanks to Dr. Dre’s Beats.

Kelly made that odd duck walk people make when shuffling to their feet with a weight bench between their knees, then made like she was wiping away sweat from her brow. There wasn’t any: she hadn’t been there that long. But it had occurred to her that the two Phi Gamma fat girls were alone in the gym at the same time, and that image wouldn’t be good for either of them.

And, conversation with Jennifer always felt like a power struggle.

Nevertheless Kelly knew not to skip her easy post-weights cool down on the treadmill. She put Jennifer's and her own frumpiness out of her mind and put that image of her future out in front of the treadmill again—though this time it was an image just as easy as her gait. Where everything could return to normal, where she never had to face expulsion from the university, or ostracizing from the girls, or to fight through financial worries, where she could go back to just enjoying being Phi Gamma again. It was all in her reach.

She waved back to a struggling Jennifer on the way out the door and started toward the stairs, then jumped in surprise as someone flagged her down.

“Kelly!”

Kelly’s heart pounded far faster than it had ever beat during her workout, stepping back just in time to not run into Brittney Shore, who was standing at the bottom of the stairs next to the bathroom.

“Oh, hey. Sorry. didn’t mean to startle you. I thought I might find you here.”

You and everyone else, apparently.

“Hey, Brittney! You just ‘bout scared the pee out of me!” For all her efforts at sophistication, sometimes the rural South just spilled right out of Kelly.

“Good thing the bathroom’s right there.”

“Hunh? Oh, yeah. Hey, that’s funny!” Kelly still had to catch her breath. She placed her hand on her bosom in that gesture somehow meant to slow down the heart, which of course it never did. “Speaking of which, that thing you did to Elektra...”

Brittney looked at her quizzically.

“...the tea party, that was first rate funny.”

“Oh, yeah. Rush. What was really funny was how she handled it. She’s a riot.”

“No kidding! And she told me about what you made her do at Rules and Regs, too. Funny!”

Brittney got that quizzical look again. “What did I make her do at Rules and Regs?”

“You know, the Rules and Regs I led that one night, where she gave me such a hard time.”

“Um, I didn’t tell her to do anything at Rules and Regs.”

“Of course you did! You don’t remember?”

“No, really, I didn’t. I didn’t even find out about Rules and Regs until later.”

“Oh.” Yeah, that Elektra. She’s a riot. Stinker!!

“So, hey, uh,” she looked each way down the hall, up the stairs and behind them toward the grand entrance. “Speaking of that....”

She had a serious look on her face and Kelly’s pounding heart dropped into her stomach. Whatever was coming, it wasn’t good.

“We, uh, the Executive Council just finished a meeting, and I’m supposed to give you this.”

Kelly noticed for the first time a sealed envelope embossed with Phi Gamma’s insignia in Brittney’s hand. She handed it over to Kelly then reached her long arm around Kelly’s shoulders.

“You have a really good heart, girl. I mean it. You’ve always been one of my favorites.”

“What is it?”

“It’s—“ She stopped almost as if she’d choked up a bit. Or maybe she was miffed. You couldn’t always tell with Brittney. “You’re just gonna have to read it.”

She squeezed Kelly tight into the crook of her arm, then started her escape up the stairs.

“Sorry, kid.”
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Old 12-15-2017, 08:30 AM   #333
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Default Leaving it to chance.

Monday, October 28

From: The Executive Council, Phi Tau chapter of the Phi Gamma Psi fraternity of women
To: Soror Kellen Elizabeth Kingsley, DOB 10-16-19XX

You are hereby summoned to review by your peers for the solemn purpose of determining responsibility and potential sanctions for conduct unbecoming of the Phi Tau chapter of Phi Gamma Psi women’s fraternity. This review is to occur in the Convocation Room of the Phi Tau women’s fraternity house at

2:00 PM, Wednesday, November 27

four weeks from the date of this notification, in accordance with the bylaws of this fraternity and agreements with the Panhellenic Council, the university, and the Phi Gamma Psi national organization.

At this meeting evidence will be presented and examined pertaining to the following alleged violations representing conduct unbecoming of the chapter:

• Insubordination in defiance of officers of the Executive Council of Phi Tau
• Consistent violation of standards of appropriate dress, behavior, and appearance
• Public lewdness, facilitated and disseminated by publicly available electronic media
• Regular unbecoming interaction with other student organizations
• The appearance of improper fraternization with staff or agents of the university
• Public intoxication, with the documented inability to care for self or others
• Academic delinquency
• Violation of her solemn and eternal fraternal oath

Guilt has not been predetermined. The time between this notice and the review is to be used to prepare a defense of these charges; however, specific evidence will not be available until thirty minutes prior to the review, in accordance with the bylaws of this organization and its agreements with the Panhellenic Council and the university, as well as in accordance with commonly recognized procedures of administrative law. As this is not a legal hearing, all forms of counsel, including legal counsel, will not be acknowledged by the Executive Council, which is charged with conducting this review. Any attempt to utilize counsel at this meeting will result in termination of the meeting and summary judgment by the Executive Council without the benefit of your defense.

These proceedings may result in a full range of disciplinary actions, including but not limited to: deferred action subject to a probationary period, removal from positions within Phi Gamma, fines, suspension, or expulsion from the Phi Tau chapter of Phi Gamma Psi. All decisions of this panel of your peers and its sister chapters Information gathered as a part of these proceedings may also lead to referral for disciplinary proceedings with the Panhellenic Counsel or ultimately the university, in accordance with provisions specified and periodically reviewed in the charter agreement between the university and the Phi Tau chapter of the Phi Gamma Psi national women’s fraternity.

At any time this review may be avoided by your voluntary and eternal resignation from Phi Gamma Psi, thereby preventing potential referrals to other agencies from the Executive Council to the university or any other entity with a relevant investigating body. This action may not preclude independent actions by any or all of these entities.

Signed for the Executive Council:

Lindsey Huntington

Phi Gamma Psi, Phi Tau President
Executive Council Chair


***********

“The first thing that occurs to me is that she didn’t say anything about ‘fraud’ or ‘misrepresentation.’”

They were sitting around a stack of sandwiches at the kitchen table now—Elizabeth, Gail and Kelly. Kelly had spent most of the last hour on the couch, head on her mother’s wide thigh, crying her eyes out while Elizabeth cooed to her and stroked her hair. Kelly’s eyes were red and swollen, but the tears had stopped, and her make-up was cleaned up, and she was just now finding solace in the first bite of Genoa salami and four-cheese panini Gail had just lifted onto her plate. There were three mugs of beer on the table. Only Kelly had taken more than just a sip.

“That’s good,” Gail continued, rubbing a thick finger to and fro on her lips, holding the letter like playing cards in front of her as she perused it for possibilities. “That means they don’t know yet about your academic expulsion, though I wouldn’t guarantee that for long if they do much digging.”

Kelly sniffled and rubbed the back of her hand under her runny nose before stuffing a large bite of sandwich in her face. Crying makes you hungry!

“I think that hardly makes a difference anymore,” she muffled through her sandwich.

“Hush, puppy! Don’t be such a negative ninny. One step forward, two steps back. I thought you were past this giving up thing. You’ve got, like, a month to beat this.”

But Gail was wrong. She didn’t even know what they had on her. And once she did, she had thirty minutes to beat it.

Kelly said so before lighting into the second half of her panini.

“Nonsense. If you must know, there’s plenty here to go on. And it’s your life. They couldn’t possibly have anything but snippets of information. If you have any idea what it is they’re talking about they couldn’t possibly refute a well-planned explanation.”

The indefatigable Gail Hedges. Did she ever lose confidence? Bite.

Still, Kelly shook her head in negation while she chewed, though she had the good courtesy this time to wash her sandwich down with a gulp of beer before expressing her thoughts.

“But it won’t be about a good explanation. It’s about beating Lindsey Huntington. And she has all the power here. I was screwed the second she signed this letter.”

“No, no, no. Not so. It’s about convincing the Council. Surely they’re not all after you. This Brittney chick sounds like she may be in your corner. I’ll bet there’s a few others who already think this is a bunch of crock.

“And I’ll tell you something else you probably glossed over, too, something maybe you can’t appreciate unless you’ve been the chapter president. See where it says that any decision she makes has to be reviewed by the national board? They don’t take expulsion of a sister lightly, especially the older, crusty ones like the ones who work at the national office. It's an eternal oath, right? I mean, look at some of this stuff. ‘Standards of dress’? Really? ‘Insubordination’? What is this, the military?”

Kelly didn’t know. She wasn’t sure what insubordination meant.

“And come on, ‘public intoxication’? In a sorority? Nooooooo. Say it isn’t so!”
She held her mouth agape in mock disbelief, her empty hand fanning herself furiously a la Victorian England.

Kelly couldn’t help but smile, even after pushing that last bite of panini in her mouth. She looked at the plate and wondered about a second. She took the next panini off the top of the stack, a roast beef and cheddar that positively reeked of excess avioli.

Kelly loved avioli.

“The more I look at this, the more I try to read it the way they’d read it at the national office, the more it just looks like a witch hunt.”

“Thanks,” Kelly muffled in feigned offense.

“Oh, stop it. You know what I mean ... you witch.”

Kelly guffawed at the quick turnaround, barely managing to keep her food in her mouth. Gawd she loved these girls!

We know it’s a witch hunt,” Gail continued. “God knows why she’s after you, but we know she is. All you have to do is make that clear to the national office.”

“Will the national office be there? It doesn’t say they will.”

“They won’t be there, but the meeting will be recorded. I promise you, you embarrass Lindsey Huntington in that meeting, this whole thing will go away. Especially—“

Gail cleared her throat a second and finally took a pull from her beer, savoring it in her mouth like it was her first taste of it since the beginning of Lent—eight months ago.

“Oh, that’s so good!”

“Especially what?”

“Especially … especially ….” Gail had lost her train of thought and took another pull while she tried to track it down. “Well, it could all depend on—what’s her relationship like with the national office?”

“The national office?” From the Kelly of old, that might have been an actual question. Now, it was just a stand in for “Let me think,” which right now amounted to “Give me a second to enjoy more of my roast beef sandwich.” She remembered back during Rush, her first and only awareness that Phi Gamma had a national office at all. Now that she thought about it, Lindsey had looked pretty uptight through it all.

It could mean there was a problem there. Then again, uptight and Lindsey were virtually synonyms.

“It’s hard to say.”

“Well, OK. Whatever the case, she got thrust into that role pretty quickly when Sherry left. That means she probably has little or no relationship with the national rep, or anyone else there. And I’d bet dollars to doughnuts the national office was less than thrilled with Sherry.”

Whatever the animosity between Sherry and Gail was, nothing about time was helping her let that go.

Kelly’s Fairy Godmother waved her wand, and Kelly looked down to check the message.

THEBodie>>> Hey babe wazzup?

Now he asks! But her heart jumped a bit as she read it, and she stifled a little smile. She was supposed to be mad at him, you know. She ignored the message.

“Oh, that was cute,” Elizabeth interjected. “Bippity … boppity … boo! You remember when you were little, right?” Of course I do, Mom. Why do you think I...? “How did you make it do that?”

“I know! It’s really simple, Mom. Give me your phone and I’ll show you how.”

“It’s in my bedroom.” Kelly knew literally dozens of girls whose parents were more technology connected than even their daughters, and here her mother might as well have been connected to the world through two cans tied together with a string. “But maybe you could set it up for me a little later.”

“Well, OK,” Gail said. “It looks like my job’s done here.” She reached over and pulled a panini off the stack for herself, cut it in half and pulled it apart to watch gobs of cheese stretch and stretch until finally it gave up and snapped. Gail lifted the sandwich above her head and let the dangling end of the cheese drop in her mouth, then pulled it all in like a spaghetti noodle before taking a bite. She rolled her eyes in satisfaction, then closed them and chewed a while to savor the flavors. Then she put the sandwich on her plate and raised herself from her chair.

“God I wish I weren’t such a good cook,” she said, cupping her belly with her left hand and picking up her plate with her right. Then she scooted the letter back over to Kelly.

“Chin up, Rise-N-Shine. You’ve got a great chance of beating this.”
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Old 12-26-2017, 10:53 AM   #334
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“That’s it? That’s her great plan?”

Kelly had spent the night at Gail’s. She figured news of the review hearing would get around soon enough, and she wasn’t ready to face Marla and Monet with the puffy remnants of a night of crying lingering on her face. She’d spent the night fiddling with the settings on her mother’s iPhone 5 (which Kelly was fast realizing was becoming incredibly obsolete) and, since they all recognized Kelly couldn’t go back to the lab the next day in the same outfit, trying on a pile of some of Gail’s old winter clothes. Despite the cavernous waistline the jeans hadn’t made it past the top of her thighs. But at least there were a couple of faded old tanks that could pass for now and, more importantly, a couple of 1X sweatshirts that fit about right.

But there was no hiding the news from Caleb, who apparently was getting pretty good at gauging Kelly’s mood by gauging her eating habits, which that morning could best be characterized as “What-the-Hell-does-it-matter-now?”-type abandon, including two bananas, a box of chewy chocolate granola bars (though let’s face it, those things just aren’t that big!), and one of Lierman’s giant Snickers bars, which somehow had snuck their way back into their drawer on the back wall of the lab. Truth was, she wanted to tell Caleb, who was starting to become a kind of foil to bounce a lot of her plans off of (because if Caleb approved of it, Kelly considered it a good bet she was on the wrong track). But she played hard-to-get with the information until she parlayed it into another trip to the dining hall. On him.

Money was tight, you know.

It was now mid-afternoon during that short period when the dining hall closed after lunch before reopening for dinner. They were talking surrounded by empty plates and crunching melting ice from those tiny dining hall glasses, long empty. Only a few other conversants like them were left while dining hall staff banged in the kitchen and labored to straighten and clean the huge dining house.

“’I think you’ve got a good shot’ doesn’t sound like the kind of plan I’ve come to expect from Gail, that’s for sure.”

Leave it to Caleb to torpedo her day with negativity. Kelly’d actually been feeling pretty good about it all last night and this morning. Until now.

“I mean, I’d at least expect her to come up with some kind of diversion where you sneak into the office and find your secret file or whatever. Or maybe targeting some of the girls for blackmail—you know how to do that—or buying them off or something.”

Now that you mention it…done it. And done it. And done that, too. And except for when Kelly had blackmailed Lennox, Gail had been the brains behind most of it. Put that way, this plan did seem a little light.

But Caleb had moved past that. He was perusing the letter.

“You guys—er, girls—have a dress code?”

“Sure. Why not?”

“One so important they want to kick you out for violating it?”

“I guess we take our dress code seriously.” As much as Caleb had already mocked Phi Gamma, Kelly wasn’t about to go through the ins and outs of the Code with him now. Besides, it was secret.

“Wow. I want to see this dress code.”

“So pledge Phi Gamma. I could put in a good recommendation. You’d make a great sister.” Kelly smiled, self-satisfied at her use of sarcasm.

Caleb gave her a deadpan gaze for a moment. “When you run into that sweet naïve co-ed I once knew, could you tell her to give me a call?”

“Shut up, Caleb.” Seemed like there was never any winning with him.

Caleb knew he had won. His nose was back into the letter.

“So, this ‘appearance of improper fraternization with staff,’ that has to be talking about Lierman.”

“That’s what I can figure.”

“And they’re emphasizing the ‘appearance,’ so they’re saying they can’t prove it, but it just kind of looks like you were sleeping with him.”

Kelly had looked up fraternization. She hadn’t really captured the full implications of that word until Caleb put it just that way.

“Well that’s a pretty long reach.”

Caleb shrugged.

“Not really. I figured that’s where this thing was headed the whole time.”

“Hey!”

“Not any more, I mean.” His expression told Kelly it was a genuine backtrack, not something he had been saying. “Don’t forget, back then I was completely convinced. I was wrong, but I was convinced.”

“I always longed for you to say those three little words to me. Please, say them again.”

“You know,” Caleb continued, ignoring her, “they could mean me instead of Lierman.”

To that, Kelly just laughed.

“Don’t go underestimating my powers, now,” he joked, lifting one eyebrow in a macabre but impressive gesture. “So they’re saying your mentoring by Lierman looks like an affair. And this ‘public lewdness by … electronic media,’ that’s what? Surely they don’t mean those facebook pages?”

He paused.

“You’re fishing,” Kelly asserted. “You’re just trying to get me to tell you something you think is sexy or wrong that you might not already know!”

“I cannot confirm or deny—“

“Oh, you’re fishing all right! I didn’t send out any naked pictures or anything, if that’s what you’re driving at.” That, of course, wasn’t true: there was the cleavage picture she’d sent out last summer on Lindsey’s phone! Surely she couldn’t use that without getting herself in trouble!

“Well, I can’t help you if I don’t know absolutely everything.” Who said I was even asking for your help? “And clearly there’s something you’re not telling me, because I haven’t heard anything about you being cited for public intoxication.”

“I haven’t.”

“Well sure you have.” He ran his finger under documented inability to care for self in the letter. “That’s a legal term. And they say they have it documented.”

Kelly wondered to herself how it was that people were seeing so many things in this letter that she hadn’t noticed. But now that Caleb had pointed it out, she could see they clearly had something. Anxiety gripped her stomach like someone had grabbed it with his hand. Gail’s “plan” was starting to look a lot more like just hoping for the best.

“Well, whatever they may have, I’ve never been cited for anything. I think I’d remember that.”

“Not if you were intoxicated enough.”

Kelly didn’t like how everything in this discussion was starting to paint her as a bad person. “I guess that’s true,” she mumbled. Of course it was true. It had been true barely last week. Kelly’s stomach sank even lower as she worried there was something more she needed to know about that night.

“OK. So let’s say they knew this was done to you.” Caleb had jumped back to the facebook pages without saying so, but Kelly knew what he was talking about anyway. “You were the victim. Surely they wouldn’t be using that against you, right?”

To that, Kelly shrugged noncommittally.

“You mean they might? Holy shit! Just because you got fat?”

“Hey!!!”

It was the first time anyone had ever used that word for her, other than herself. It didn’t matter that it was Mr. Provocation who said it. She didn’t like how it felt at all.

That really is what people see! And they’re all just lying to me about it when they tell me different too.

“Calm down! Calm down,” Caleb urged, though Kelly could tell he’d enjoyed his little poke at her. That helped her get past it in her head. “I’m not the one saying it—or, rather, not saying it. I’m just having a hard time believing it. Sorority girls really are that nasty!”

Who said it's just sorority girls?

“Maybe some of them,” she speculated, focusing on the problem once more.

“Well, really just one of them. Lindsey.”

Kelly explained to Caleb who Lindsey was, and the class they’d shared together last summer. That had given her a front row seat for observing Kelly's interaction with Lierman, and now she was using that—and plenty else—against her.

Caleb shook his head in disbelief. “Remind me, did I ever remember to ask you why it is you care so much about hanging out with these people?”

There’s only so many times Kelly was willing to say “Shut up, Caleb.” She passed on it this time.

“Well, whatever. This Lindsey sounds like Queen Bitch Numero Uno. What in the world did you ever do to her, anyway?”
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Old 01-03-2018, 07:00 PM   #335
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Default Gawrrsh!

Thursday October 31

“Jinkies, Kelly!” Scott Gilroy exclaimed.

Kelly loved Halloween. Phi Gamma did not.

It was part of the Code: “Halloween is to fatten kids and sluts” was the way Kelly had heard it, straight from Sherry herself. Though she never would have put it that way, she certainly couldn’t disagree: it was pretty clear to Kelly (and anyone with at least one working eye) that Halloween had somehow become an excuse for girls who wouldn’t be caught dead in skimpy clothing (except in Las Vegas, of course) to dress up like prostitutes in children’s-themed costumes. And Halloween had long been a diet-buster for Kelly.

Not that Phi Gamma banned Halloween altogether—quite the opposite. Phi Gamma may have frowned on Halloween, but for Kappa Alpha it was traditionally one of the exclusive Greek events of the year. This year it was on a Thursday, which coincided with fraternity mixer night. And that gave Phi Gamma cover for hosting one of the more exclusive and prestigious Greek events on campus all year. Code for this event dictated costumes that were understated and “classy.” That generally translated into some sort of sexy, form-revealing sheath dress coupled with expensive pumps, matching nylons, costume jewelry and some sort of costume accessory—say a headband with cat ears or a Marilyn Monroe wig.

All of which took the kind of money that, after upsizing her wardrobe essentials last week, Kelly just didn’t have.

It hit her on Tuesday night on the way home from lab. And while the Goodwill swarmed over with (decidedly non-Greek) girls trying to score an inexpensive last-minute Halloween costume, Kelly beelined her way past the crowds sorting through the cheap witch, she-devil and barmaid costumes to the plus-size separates section, where she quietly sorted and browsed and sorted again until the available pickings called out to her with their solution. A late-night trip to Wal-Mart for fabric dye and socks, and Kelly was able to pull it all together for a grand total of $29.34—which incidentally was just about all she had.

Kelly cut out of language lab early Thursday night to put together her creation. By the time she made it to Gail’s that night, Elizabeth had finished the last round of dye for her socks and her sweater. From there Kelly steeled herself for the most difficult moment of the evening. Not technically. Emotionally—because Elizabeth’s next task was to cut Kelly’s hair. Long neglected, it needed a good cut. But this required cutting more length than Kelly had ever allowed. Tears rolled down her face as first, one after the other, her long dirty blond locks dropped to the floor, and again later, as her blond hair was subsumed by the reddish brunette color her mother washed in for her. She needn’t have cried, of course: the brunette color was supposed to be temporary, and her mother had talent, as well as long practice shaping her daughter’s gorgeous thick hair. But there was always doubt, and when she finally found the courage to study her face in Gail’s bathroom mirror—which stared back at her with chubby cheeks, softened jawline, and thick dark eyebrows framed by the thick lines of her shoulder-length pageboy haircut—only her vibrant blue eyes, chub-resistant chin, and the feminine line of her short, thin lips reminded her of the girl she’d expected to see. She might have completely broken down if she hadn’t known with absolute certainly that even if Kelly Kingsley was almost nowhere to be found, Elizabeth had done a stunningly beautiful job.

Kelly found herself again when she moved to Gail’s full-length mirror and gave herself what she’d been avoiding for weeks; the full-length inspection.

It was the XL turtle-neck cable braided sweater that had put it all together for her. Now she was squeezed in it tightly, the full shape of her round shoulders now completely exposed after the departure of her mid-back-length hair, though still long enough to cover the deep gash caused by the thick over-strained straps of the HH cup bra she’d been compelled to bring back for the occasion. Compelled because nothing about that XL 70s-cut sweater was constructed for such massive boobs. It stretched tightly around them so much that the pink of her bra underneath peeked through between the woven strands of braided cotton, and only the strong underwire construction and perfect (and expensive) shaping kept them from bulging in every direction. The sweater clung every bit as tightly around her high waist. The thick fabric of the sweater brought the illusion of a perfect hourglass contour to her otherwise (irregular and lumpy) figure, so much that she might as well have been modeling results for a surgeon’s body sculpting website.

The dyed-orange sweater ended right where her skirt began, which was right where her hips exploded outward like a bell, a shape fulfilled by the hang of pleats heavy enough to obscure the bumps in Kelly’s upper thighs right and heighten the firm curve where her lower thighs dove back in to meet chubby knees. Below them stretched her dyed-orange socks, highlighting perfect calves and still-skinny ankles before peaking out from underneath the buckle of her black Mary Janes. And though the skirt—really designed to come below the knees, but on Kelly’s hips sitting a full five inches above them—wasn’t red like it ought to be, it had a brown tweed pattern that added substance and sophistication, in just the same manner as the braided texture of the otherwise garish orange sweater above it.

Kelly had been confident about the view from the front. It was the other angles she’d been dreading. She twisted to the side and breathed a sigh of relief. Though she saw all the thickness she’d expected to see, nothing about the outward curve of her lower abdomen suggested anything like a potbelly, and instead of the bulge of love handles, which that would have obscured the line of her hips and messed with the even lay of her skirt, she was happy to see a distinct inner curve to her lower back—a sharp one that joined more or less seamlessly out to merge with her skirted derriere. Would she have liked to see more roundness there? Sure she would. But it was what it was, and there was nothing about a few pounds less or a few pounds more that was ever gonna change that. And, it was a flaw obscured well enough by the heavy pleated skirt to divert all but the most practiced eye (like hers).

As for firmness, Kelly would have loved a girdle—not for slimness, just for control—but that was something far out of the reach of her meager finances, For the purpose she’d borrowed a set of retro “control top” hose from Gail, and they seemed to do the job: no noticeable creases, ridges or bulges. Just a smooth rounded surface that appeared as firm in illusion as her workout abs had ever been in actuality. It might as well have been a model’s torso. Inflated version.

But even pudge around the midriff wasn’t her worst fear. She was pleased to confirm the perfect fit of her bra—which meant no back boobs. And below the hem of her skirt, the back of her knees were smooth and sleek—which meant no thigh cleavage.

Every one of her plus-size lines was so smooth she might as well have been drawn that way. Which was completely appropriate.

“Holy shit!” a Manhattan-sipping Gail exclaimed from the bedroom doorway behind Kelly. “Every guy in that place is gonna lose his mind. Who knew Velma Dinkley could look so damn hot?
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Old 01-07-2018, 05:33 PM   #336
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Default Falling fat.

“Who knew,” Scott continued, “Velma could look so damn hot?

“Zoinks!”

“Like, wow!”

“Cut it out you two.”

Elektra and Jennifer were standing together with Kelly and Scott with their red solo cups, filled, of course, with soft drinks. As far as Kelly could tell, their drinks were completely legit. One thing Kelly had to say about Phi Gamma under Lindsey Huntington: there was a lot less contraband alcohol around the place during officially sanctioned Greek events, frankly something Kelly thought Phi Gamma could benefit from.

Elektra was dressed Phi Gamma, meaning she wore the same black dress she did the night of initiation and looking absolutely just as stunning--adding, of course, some black stockings, a headband with gray mouse ears and some (absolutely risky, not-Phi-Gamma) whiskers and nose painted on her face in black.

“Jesus, Kelly! You look hot!” had been the first thing she’d said to her that evening.

Kelly had given Elektra the up and down lookover over the black rims of the oversized glasses she’d borrowed from her mother. “Right back at ya.”

Elektra had given a flourish in response before leaning over an whispering in Kelly’s ear.

“Uniform!”

Then she walked away, stopping to shoot a just-messing-with-you! wink over her shoulder before crossing the room to mingle with the Phi Gamma leadership types—like Brittney, Isla, Kerrie Lipscomb, some new committee leaders like the Kaylie(ley)s, and of course Lindsey and new Phi Gamma darling, her Lil Sis Elaine Richardson. All decked out in whatever body-hugging dresses suited them best, all accessorized by the merest touch of a Halloween costume.

That was how Kelly and the Phi Gamma leadership types spent the bulk of the evening: away from each other and across the room. On a nippy night like that night, mixers—which at warmer times of the year spilled out onto the house’s broad porch and expansive lawn—were generally confined to the conference room and the adjoining kitchen. An unspoken rule confined a co-ed endeavor to the first floor, which left only one other space to hang out: the cavernous stairwell and chilly atrium, separated by the impossibly snug hallways of turn-of-the-century—last century—architecture. That was where people went to escape the mingle—though mostly just to go to the bathroom.

There was always music in the convocation room at these things, but the only dancing tonight was between Kelly and the leadership types—kind of a slow-motion Gypsy dance in which the players moved around and between but never actually toward each other. Or really even looking in each others' direction. When one party moved around the perimeter the other edged to the opposite space. The other people in the room, particularly the Phi Gammas, weaved back and forth between those extremes, often leaving a no-woman’s-land in the middle, with the easiest traffic path avoiding the room altogether—that is, through the kitchen door and into the hallway out the other side.

Elektra had done a lot of that kind of weaving tonight, touching base briefly with Kelly before winding her way back toward and through the insular cluster of the Leaderships and then briefly touching base again, each time more or less making some variation of the same teasing comment about how good Kelly looked, with the occasional “Jinkies!” or “Zoinks!” thrown in.

Jennifer had spent much of that time, if not so much hitched to Elektra’s side, then certainly magnetically drawn there after some type of delayed timing measure. Wherever she stood, she really didn’t fit in much at all. Jennifer’s unfortunate midriff meant that body sheath dresses were the last thing she could ever pull off. She had a black tea-length long-sleeved wrap with her signature oversized buckled belt disguising her midriff, with stylish black boots, silk scarf headband, eyepatch, and hoop earrings to turn it into a pirate look. Clearly she was hoping to do the same kind of hobnobbing Elektra was pulling off so well.

But, Kelly saw, Jennifer’s efforts seemed to be falling fat.

No, not flat. Fat.

Invariably Jennifer’s time among the Leaderships ended with someone turning away from her after some nominal exchange. From there Jennifer would bounce from the gaggle of her pledge mates that had set up in triangulated counterpoint to Kelly and the Leaderships and Kelly (the ones who at any time hadn’t crossed the divide to socialize with one or the other of them) before finding her way back to Kelly’s side. Until Elektra would pop back in and the whole rhythm would start up again.

There were only two operational pauses in Elektra’s game. The first was for the half hour or so Wade made his appearance before having to report to the bus for that weekend’s road trip. Wade, this time with a deferential nod to Halloween by adding a cowboy hat to his ill-fitting brown jacket and Western boots—had found himself in the central position in the room, with gentle waves of curious fans and admirers lapping up and away, both Wade and the admirers much more muted in their school spirit than they’d been at the Speakeasy some eight weeks prior. It was about the only time during the short affair that Kelly, standing confidently by his side, made more than a glance Lindsey’s direction—the same moment it so happened that Elektra was in casual conversation with her.

The second was some time toward 9:00 after Wade left, when Scott, always the conquering latecomer, waded through the attentive gaggle of girls hanging next to the hallway door to cross the Great Divide to Kelly’s side. Elektra broke off from Top Clique about the same time and back to Kelly’s side. Now she was leaning just a little too much into Scott’s personal space, leaning in his direction, with as obvious a crush as Kelly could ever remember seeing in a college co-ed.

Phi Gamma may have had strictures against juvenile Halloween, but Kappa Alpha was known across campus for its highly creative (read: not particularly polished and decidedly un-PC) costumes. Scott was dressed in a red old school track suit with paper U-S-A letters pinned to it and a mullet wig. He was telling people he was a transgendered Caitlyn Jenner. Unusually, he was alone. Whoever that girl was at the Speakeasy, she wasn’t part of the picture tonight, and apparently no one had taken her place.

They were standing next to the large service window to the kitchen, where the usual assortment of party vegetables and fat free dips sat next to the assorted two-liters of mostly diet or exercise beverages.

“Why does Phi Gamma always have such miserable food at these things?” Scott noted, holding up a celery stick.

Me, Kelly thought. Or the fear of people like me.

“I suppose you have to ask Lindsey about that,” Kelly demurred.

“Naw, this goes back before Lindsey. It’s like some kind of forced group diet or something.”

You have no idea.

“Well...I’m not sure about that.”

“So Scott,” Elektra butted in. “I’m glad you finally decided to bless us peons with your presence.”

“Well, yeah, I thought it was the least I could do before heading off to the Smash. That’s where us legends are made.” He paused and looked Kelly in the eye, one eyebrow lifted. “Oh! You know.”

The Halloween Smash—so-called because of the wall-to-wall bodies. Every year, students and wannabe students and anyone in this town (and even other towns) who might have wanted to be a student once flooded downtown for a massive street party. Every club threw its doors wide open for counterculture music to flood the street, while restaurants set up beer and food stations on the sidewalks. It was a night of debauchery, voyeurism, and the occasional frotteurism fueled by contraband liquor and worse—enough that by 1am the streets were guaranteed to be plastered with beer (before and after consumption) and littered with more than a few inebriates slumped against light poles and doorposts. And though Phi Gamma played down Halloween in its Code capacity, what the girls typically did on their own time was a whole other matter. It was Kelly’s exploits during the Smash last year that, so near after her birthday binge, had cemented Kelly’s reputation as a wild partier.

And that she’d spent the better part of the rest of the year trying—with various and questionable degrees of success—to live down.

“I think I detect a story!” Jennifer smiled.

“No, no story,” Kelly lied.

“You forget. We know you,” Elektra interjected. “We know better.”

“Thanks, Scott.”

“Any time, Kells! Excuse me, though,” he said, pushing away the sarcasm and slipping into that smooth polite manner he was known for, “I need to check in with a few people before I head out. Hey,” he added, just as he was stepping away, “I wasn’t kidding about the food. Me and a couple of the guys—like Judd Appelt, I’m pretty sure you know him—are gonna head out for a bite and a few beers before heading over to the Smash. Would you like to go with us?”

He was flashing those gorgeous teeth and that killer smile, all dimples and blue eyes, and Kelly felt that physical weakness in her knees she often seemed to feel around Scott Gilroy.

“Thanks,” Kelly managed, unable to look Scott in the eye, “but I can’t afford to do any drinking tonight. I thought I’d just hang out here with a few of the girls and call it a night. I have a lot of work to catch up on and an early day tomorrow.”

Elektra, out of Scott’s direct line of sight, tightened her lips together, widened her eyes, and craned her head Kelly’s direction, in the universal “What the Hell are you doing?” gesture. Kelly gave the least perceptible shrug. The last thing she needed right now was public exposure at something as publicly bohemian as the Smash. And besides, she was completely broke.

“What? On Halloween? Nonsense! Unheard of! Not if I have anything to say about it. Come on. Scooby Snacks and a beer and a break from the Phi Gamma scene. We’ll have you back in no time. Bring your friends along, too. Come on. A bite and a beer.”

Elektra was biting her bottom lip as if trying to keep her mouth shut, one knee bouncing in anticipation. Scott Gilroy was at a party unhitched. Clearly she thought this could be her chance.

And Kelly really couldn’t afford to pass up a free meal. Her stomach was in knots, which had everything to do with hunger and (probably) nothing to do with Scott Gilroy.

“OK, sure!” Kelly smiled, glancing Elektra’s way a brief moment. Both the corners of Elektra's mouth and her eyebrows shot up in an instant Joker-grin. Kelly figured she owed her, and best she could tell, “a break from the Phi Gamma” scene meant Scott planned on steering clear of Lindsey and the other leadership types. “A few Scooby Snacks and a quick beer sound great.

"But just one.”
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Old 01-16-2018, 12:42 PM   #337
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Default Betcha can't...

No surprise to anyone, Kelly didn’t stop at just one.

“Don’ worry,” Elektra managed. “Russell’ll getus home.”

Scott, Kelly and Elektra and what turned out to be about 20 of their closest Kappa Alpha friends (along with several of Elektra’s pledge mates) had wandered behind Elektra’s lead not to the Rio Grande Brewhouse, where Scott had planned, but to Luigi’s—since Scott had taken more than an hour to hobnob his way out of the Phi Gamma house, long enough to slam up the Brewhouse with partiers looking for an early buzz before Halloween Smash.

Luigi’s had been no less slammed, but during her short time in Carter County, Elektra had made quick in-roads to the townie scene. It wasn’t twenty minutes before she parlayed her Luigi’s friends from standing room only at the bar to commandeering a reserved table, and then another, and then another. In the meantime, Kelly and Elektra and most of the Phi Gammas had indulged in plenty of Phi Gamma tea, and that was before the table started piling high with empty pizza trays and even more empty beer mugs. It was a raucous time, music pounding in from the street, and Elektra had shined as their hostess and concierge—which Kelly imagined was Elektra’s goal all along. And it worked, kind of: the two of them had hung together with Scott and Judd to the end, and yet to Elektra’s clear disappointment Scott hadn’t proffered her so much as a walk or a ride home—not to hers, and certainly not to his.

So now the two of them were propped up against the brick wall next to the door of Luigi’s, the legendary downtown Italian restaurant that owner and operator Russell put on the map by serving pepperoni and artichoke pizza long before exotic pizza had become commonplace. It was 1:45am, and the streets had thinned out of just about everyone except those intoxicated people still struggling to figure out how to get their inebriated or incapacitated friends home safely. Neither Kelly nor Elektra were that far gone. But they were drunk enough and tired enough that leaning against cold, dirty brick and sitting on an even colder, dirtier don’t-look-too-close-type sidewalk, their naked-but-for-stockings legs stretched out in front of them, might as well have felt like reclining at home on Elektra’s couch.

“I know he will,” Kelly answered. The girls sat with the backs of their heads against the wall talking straight ahead into the night. “Heez always been a nice guy.”

“You sneaky bitch!” Yee-ew snakey bee-itch. “I didn’ know you knew Russell. You know Russell?”

“Yeahhh. It’s funny, akshually. He’s akshually the one who got me home from the Smash last year.”

In style, in fact. Last year Kelly had left her Code Costume behind and opted for a stunning Kingsley-made Wonder Woman costume (thank God for the unseasonably warm Smash last year!). Elizabeth had left the “girls” prominently on display. So when Kelly and her friends found themselves dancing in front of one of the four live music stages, which happened to be right next door to Luigi’s, Russell had found her and brought Kelly and her friends in on special invitation.

Kelly imagined, Russell—a belly heavy, acne-scarred man in his 40s—had done the same with Elektra at some point earlier this semester. But he’d never been anything but a gentleman.

By the time city codes forced the closing of Luigi’s door, after slaving all night, Russell had been more than eager to get his own party on, and Kelly, half of her pledge mates, her Big Sis Sherry, and a handful of others who had gravitated upward into leadership this year (including Lindsey Huntington)—drank shots with Russell until his minions finally got the place shut down. And faced with the problem of getting a dozen or more blasted co-eds—most of whom were under-aged—home from his establishment without incident, at Kelly’s prodding he’d pulled some strings for a stretch party Hummer to do the job. Russell and the Phi Gammas drank and danced their way around town for another two hours, and Kelly and Russell spent still more time in one-on-one conversation until the sun came up. A year later, Phi Gammas still got special treatment at Luigi’s, Code be damned.

Kelly told Elektra the story best she could for now.

“You know,” she added sadly as she concluded her account, “thiss year I don’ think he even recognized me. B’cause I got so fat.”

Elektra didn’t say anything in response to that. Kelly’s tongue was a little thick, but Kelly was starting to gather that Elektra was a lot worse for the wear than she seemed at first blush. Kelly rolled her head to the side to see if Elektra was even still awake. She was. She just wasn’t saying anything.

“Thanks,” Kelly finally said.

“Yoor so very welcome. What for?”

“For not lying and saying I’m not fat. I hate that.”

“Well,” way-ull, “yoor not that fat. I think mos' of us would juss say a lil plus-size.”

“I do akshually like that better. Plus-size.”

“Or nonono! Not plus-size. Fink of yerself as A-Plus-size!”

They laughed.

“Well, akshually, I’m a, a double H plus.”

“Dubble H!! Oh-my-fucking-Gawd! Thass un-fucking un-belieb-able! Dubble H….” She lifted heavy alcohol laden her hands near her chest like she was somehow trying to relate to how big that would be on her before her arms flopped heavily back to the ground. Slouched the way they were, Kelly’s breasts, even underwire-strapped as they still were, were as much near her waist as they were to her chest.

“I guess they hadtauv been big then, too,” Elektra continued. “Like Lynda Carter big, prolly. Eben when yoo were skinny. Gawd, I wonder what they’d look like if you dressed up like Wuh…Won-der Woman now!”

“Bombshell Porno Wonder Woman from Hell.”

“Bommshell Porno Amazzon Kween from Hell!” Elektra laughed, remembering the reference to Kelly’ Rules and Regs lecture. “Sooo damn hot! You know, sometimez I can barely stop myself! I juss wanna reach out ‘n touch ‘em!”

Something gelled for a moment in Kelly’s head, where it seemed she suddenly remembered a blasted Elektra might have said the same thing on her birthday, too. And, Kelly wasn’t quite sure, but she thought maybe she remembered Elektra doing a little bit more than just saying it.

“Elektra, I want you to tell me what happened that night. My birthday. You said I didn’t wanna know how I got to your house. Well, I think I’m ready to know.”

Elektra sighed.

“No, I’m pretty sure yoor not.” Ah-m pretty shoo-er yoor not. “But I guess at thiss point you prolly need to.”

**********

Elektra told Kelly she remembered waking up that morning about sunrise snuggled next to Kelly. At some point Kelly had ralphed, but luckily had turned away from Elektra to do it. But that hadn’t kept Kelly from throwing up on herself. More than that, with all the fluid Kelly’d drunk that night, she’d peed herself. Elektra had done her drunken best to rouse Kelly but to no avail. And of course there wasn’t a chance of the slender Elektra carrying anyone anywhere, and certainly not Kelly.

So Elektra had done the only thing she could think of. She called her Big Sis, Brittney, for help.

Kelly groaned as if hearing that caused her actual physical pain.

“I know. I waz wasted. An’ I didn’ know it would turn out like this.”

“You know they’re kicking me out?”

“Brittney tole me. She said she didn’ tell anybody else, but eberybody knows. I’m real sorry.” Ahm ree-ull sore-ee.

“Don’ be. It’s not your fault. It’s just the Code.”

“Yeah. The Code. That Code iss sooooo fucked.”

“Yeah. It’s fucked. And yet, Phi Gamma, Luigi’s, no matter where you go, there it is.”

“Thass bullshit.”

“Elektra, the letter they sent me says I got a ticket?”

It had taken a while for Brittney to find them, even with Elektra on the phone with her. It took even more time to all-but-drag Kelly down the hill. By that time the morning commute into campus had started, and Brittney’s car parked on the side of the road had snarled traffic on College Ave, and a steady stream of students were on their way down the sidewalk to early classes. Brittney and Elektra (who was probably more of a hindrance than a help) had tried three times to stuff the finally awake but incoherent Kelly into the backseat of Brittney’s Corolla when two municipal cops pulled up behind them. The two cops had hoisted Kelly into the car, and, after confirming Brittney’s sobriety with a brief but very public test, had escorted the girls to Elektra’s apartment, where again it took the two cops to carry Kelly inside.

They dropped Kelly straight on the floor of the shower and left. Brittney and Elektra rinsed Kelly off first in her clothes, then stripping her of her clothes, throwing them in the washer, and soaping her down again.

“You didn’ wonder why”—wahh—“yoor clothes were all folded up nekksta you?”

Kelly hadn’t. She mostly just remembered trying to overcome the terror of having to live one more day as depressed as she had felt.

“So thass it?” Elektra hadn’t said anything about any kind of groping. Or, God forbid, making out! Kelly’d heard plenty of girls talked about doing that when they were blasted. She hoped that wasn’t her.

“Thass eberything I can remember.”

Maybe I’m just remembering being lathered up in the shower.

“Well, I guess you got your big chance”—Kelly cupped her hands in front of her the way Elektra had, (just much lower down)—"when you rubbed me down in the shower. Was it everything you thought it’d be?”

“I wishh I knew!” Elektra snorted. Ah wee-ish ahh noo! “Trooff iss, honess to God I barely remember any athiss. I think Brittney did mos’ of the heavy lifting.”

Heavy lifting! Kelly laughed, both from the inadvertent pun, and out of relief.

“Too bad, I guess,” she answered when she caught her breath.

“Yeahhh. Too bad.” Elektra sighed. “Maybe I cn get lucky another time. Whateber you do, don’ tell Scott tho, okay?”

“Scott? I don’t know. It’d prolly just turn him on.”

“Prolly juss make ‘im jealous, you mean!” She held her hands up to her chest again. “I dunno. Ya think it’d work if I gotta big boob job? Maybe notta dubble H, but maybe a dubble D?”

“Juss so you can date a boy? Therez alwayz another boy.”

“Pffffft! I don’ wanna date ‘im!” Elektra exclaimed. “I juss wanna bed ‘im.”

“Well then there’s definitely alwayz another boy!”

“Not thiss one. Heez prime choice man.”

“Not my choice. He’s cute”—he was definitely that—"but he’s all yours.”

“Now we’re juss talkin’ ‘bout nothin’,” Elektra groaned, slowly inching up the wall until she managed to get her feet under her. She leaned against the wall, weaving nonetheless as she fished in her purse for her phone. That part she managed with surprising dexterity. Unlocking it and navigating turned out to be considerably more difficult. “I’m not sure I’m eben gonna make it home! Maybe we shoul’ juss Uber it from here. My treat. Cn I flop in the Attic?”

“Sure, ifya don’t mind the floor.” Kelly pushed herself to her feet with more of a struggle than she’d have thought, first turning to her knees, then pushing her way up one leg at a time as she pushed against the wall. Her head spun as she found her full height, and her heart pounded in her chest. Was she drunk, tired, or just that out of shape? She really had no idea how much it took to get her drunk these days!

“Belieb me, the floor’s gonna be the bess way to keep me outta the toilet. I think I’m gonna miss class tomorrow.”

Class! Yup. And work.

“Oh, man. It’s late. Hey! Set your alarm on your phone for me. I dunno if I’m gonna be able to get up tomorrow on my own” Kelly had a sudden thought as their Uber, who must have been waiting around downtown to get here that fast, pulled up. Kelly’s heart rate ticked up another level with excitement “Hey, you know, I really can’t miss work tomorrow, not after what happened a coupla weeks ago. You have any Molly? Maybe just a half a—”

“Nunh-unh! No way!” Elektra laughed. “Not after wha’ happened lass time! Stop makin’ me your dealer, ‘kay?”

Kelly laughed, but that was just to cover a sudden deep disappointment—and a flash of anger. Elektra didn’t know her well enough to talk to her that way! It’s not like I’m some kind of junkie!!

Elektra shuffled to the car and talked through the passenger’s side window to the driver, an old guy, maybe 40, who was more than surprised just how short a trip this would be. Elektra slipped into the car and slid across the seat effortlessly, inebriation and all. Kelly lowered herself into the car and kind of flopped down the last few inches. She winced as she realized just how much the little car dipped and creaked and shook as she did, when it hadn’t budged an inch for Elektra.

You could never escape it. She tried to put it out of her mind. She reminded Elektra she still hadn’t told her if she’d gotten a ticket that night.

“Oh, yeahhhh!” Oh yay-uhhh! “I forgot. Yeah, thoze cops gave you a ticket. They apologized but said after all that time they had to. I know yoor havin’ money troublez, so I juss paid it for ya.”

She knew about her money troubles!

“Is it that obvious?”

“I don’ fink so. But yoor mom is roomin’ with a woman haff her age. Yoor daddy won’ answer your tekk—your tekkstes—um, yoor messidges. Yoor skippin’ Phi Gamma stuff iffit coss money…I guess I juss know what havin’ no money looks like.

“Ya know, ya coulda juss asked and I’m shoor me’n the girlz coulda helped ya out.”

They offloaded at the house more or less without incident, but the way Elektra held onto Kelly’s arm it was pretty clear the same wouldn’t be said about the path to the porch and the journey up the stairs.

“Thiss house!” Elektra exclaimed. “An’ yoor ontha third floor!”

Kelly didn’t speak, and hadn’t spoken since Elektra laid out the reality of her money problems because something had just hit her, and now she couldn’t get it out of her head.

How am I gonna pay my dues?
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Old 01-23-2018, 10:41 AM   #338
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Default Solid

Pushing toward the end of the semester...

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Old 01-23-2018, 12:42 PM   #339
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Default Solid

Monday November 4th

Lierman’s new office was on the second floor in a huge new renovation of the Simpson Student Center. The student center extended three floors high, featuring a wide center court area and three levels of balcony walkways. The Student Affairs office occupied all three floors of one of the corners of that atria and had been built outward from the corner to consume at least a quarter of the space that heretofore had been tables and sitting areas ostensibly created for studying or relaxing students. In this new age of university opulence, the student center had become a kind of new recreation area, with one corner of the atrium now an entrance to a fitness, physical therapy, and massage complex complete with a three story climbing wall, and the other corner extended outward toward Simpson stadium to accommodate a phalanx of eateries—including in addition to the usual fast food suspects a 16-hour made-to-order omelet station (similar to that available in the dining center) and a full-service Asian fusion restaurant modeled off a high-end national chain.

Once a concrete barn, representative of many such oppressive campus structures from the 70s, Simpson Student Center was now on three sides an open edifice of flora and light. The fourth corner was the Student Affairs wing, its atrial projection constructed entirely of glass to afford the administration and the denizens compelled to do business there full advantage of this progressive enlightened environment. A glass elevator gilded with sparkling etchings and polished brass dominated the center face of the wing, and matching glass doors on each side at each level welcomed students and employees alike into a spacious landing of opulent black and red décor otherwise suggestive of French provincialism. It was an architectural message preaching, for all those fortunate enough to attend and graduate from the university, the promise of future prosperity—a new future available to all in which equality, fraternity and liberty were promised to all, but for some in greater measure than others.

The opulence was not yet complete. The new red carpet stretched fully into the bowels of the student affairs complex, and squarely before yet another glass wall with a set of glass brass-trimmed doors was an extravagant carved-wood Victorian era desk with a young, professional secretariette adorning and policing entry with her annoyed half-smile. Behind her though were rows of ordinary utilitarian desks with outdated monitors and even more outdated university employees, each typing away in front of heavy ash doors, gray-carpeted walls (yes, walls), and vast chicken-wired windows illuminated only by buzzy fluorescent lights clustered toward the center of the large room, which cast long faint triple-shadows on the stark exterior of each office.

Kelly relied on the secretariette—a bony, pale dirty blonde with adenoids and bad skin Kelly’s age, who asked Kelly three times to repeat both her name and Lierman’s—to locate Lierman’s office, then weaved her way through the half-shadows to knock on Lierman’s door. Unusually, Lierman didn’t call out for her to enter—or maybe not unusually: perhaps he had called out, but this door lacked the vents of the doors for both the lab in the psychology building and for Lierman’s former office in the stolid old administration building. Kelly stepped to the side and glanced through the window to see the fluorescently-illuminated Caleb and Lierman in focused conversation, as if they’d been meeting for a while. They had some papers between them that they seemed to be discussing in detail.

Which was odd, because unlike the day after Halloween, when she had been an hour late (and because the day after Halloween she’d been an hour late), today she was showing up fifteen minutes early, at a quarter to nine, and was looking her best—which today meant she was squeezed—tightly squeezed—into her last fitting pair of jeans instead of leggings, low red boots with block heels (which also seemed a little tight. Hm.), with a button-up silk shirt she’d borrowed from Gail (that draped off of her loosely but fit well enough up top with Kelly’s broad shoulders) and a bolero she’d picked up at Goodwill. That meant Caleb and Lierman had to have been meeting at least fifteen minutes prior to that, which meant it was important enough to them to leave Kelly out of the loop, which didn’t leave Kelly with a secure feeling at all. She couldn’t decide whether to sit down at the monstrous empty metal desk behind her and wait or to brave the acrid wrath of the secretariette by slipping back out the foyer and down for a nerve-calming snack.

Apparently, though, Lierman had seen Kelly’s face poking through the window and stood, still in conversation, to his feet.

“Ah, Kelly! Oh, hey! You changed your hair. It looks nice.” he exclaimed as he swung the door inward and open, ushering Kelly through before closing the door solidly behind them. The noise from the atrium and the surrounding desks that Kelly only now was fully aware of snuffed out like they had stepped into some kind of soundproofed room, one with its own buzzing fluorescent lights. “We were just talking about you, trying to figure out your involvement in the study next semester. Don’t worry,” he added as he was sitting down, while Kelly stood by a chair hesitant to do so, “no radical changes or anything, just doing the usual necessary planning. Though”—and his face furled in sudden worry, as if this hadn’t occurred to him until that moment—“if you’re not planning on sticking with us next semester, now is definitely the time to tell me.”

With all the uncertainty around next semester, Kelly hadn’t even thought about it yet.

“Um, actually I haven’t even thought about it yet.”

“Well I—we—hope you will. Stick around, that is. Our study gains immeasurably by your presence. Just let me know, because there’s stuff I have to do to make that happen.

“OK,” he exclaimed, patting his legs with both hands before scooting in his chair. “Let’s get down to business.”

Kelly finally sat down in the new cheap office chair—a new cheap skinny office chair with the arms, it turned out. Her hips rubbed the side of each rubbery plastic arm just enough that she had to think about not missing, and of not pushing it away as she sat (a lesson learned the hard way one day in the lab), and that she had to push through ever-so-slightly before plopping a bit onto the new unforgiving cushion. The hydraulic support gave a few inches when she did, as she might have expected. It didn’t spring back up nearly as much as she did expect.

Just another reminder. She pushed it out of her mind. She had more immediate worries.

Kelly had been dreading this meeting, certain the first point of business would be a rebuke for her conduct Friday morning. Kelly had woken up at 9:00 with Marla and Monet gone and Elektra snuggled beside her in Kelly’s twin bed. The moment her eyes opened she could feel that she was still at least mildly drunk, scrambling to the shower best she could on wobbly legs in an effort to wash away the evidence of last night’s irresponsibility with water, mouthwash and perfume. She’d bumbled into the lab about 10, after passing a line of subjects in the hall, Caleb bustling around the lab with just enough time to shoot daggers at her from his eyes. Kelly’d had a miserable, nauseated, hungover morning that she couldn’t wait to end, and Caleb had stayed in the lab most of the morning doing half or more of her job. Continuously embarrassed, she kept apologizing to Caleb all day, but he didn’t say a word to her unless he had to as a part of lab business. When they packed up to go that afternoon the only thing Caleb said to her, face like steel, was, “Don’t you dare do this to me again.”

It was an aggressive side to Caleb that Kelly’d never seen before. It might have scared her if she weren’t so absolutely certain she deserved it.

So needless to say, between that and another road loss for the Mastiffs that weekend, the only comfort in her weekend was brunch with her mother (and the ritual picnic of leftovers in the Attic that night). She’d thought for sure both the boys were gonna let her have it first moment they saw her this morning. And yet, nothing. All through the meeting she kept her eye on Caleb’s body language for signs that the other shoe was gonna drop, but there was nothing. Except for Kelly’s anxiety, the meeting was routine and over early.

Until, as Caleb and Kelly were walking out the door...

“Oh, hey, Kelly!” Lierman called out. “Can you hang back a second?”

Oh, no! Kelly froze in place, though the rest of her didn’t. Every part of her not plastered into her jeans—that is, from the waist up—jiggled and shook with the motion. Something about wearing silk you could always feel every bit of it: the bobbing and bouncing of her soft tummy, the wave through her love handles and squishy lower back, the undulating little waves through the unbraissiered top of her fleshy boobs, the rotating jiggle of her chubby upper arms and upper back—and always, always the heavy pull of her breasts bouncing up then down, and sometimes, as in this case, up and down again, cutting into the tops of her shoulders. She knew not only could you feel it, you could see it—unless you were thin enough. It’s what made the silk blouse the Phi Gamma staple of status it was.

All of this went through Kelly’s mind in a flash before she stepped back into the office and let the hydraulically braked door thud shut behind her.

“Jenny wanted me to give this to you.” He winked. He meant Lennox, of course. “I imagine it’s your recommendation letter.”

He held out a regular size 10 envelope. Sealed with Kelly’s name on it.

“You’re doing good work,” he said in his usual dismissal. “Keep it up.”

Kelly left the office eager to read the letter but yearning desperately to find some place private.

It was not to be. Caleb was waiting for the elevator outside the glass doors. She tried to make like she didn’t notice him, but there was no place to hide, and besides, he’d already seen her. So she walked up and joined him in the elevator right before the doors closed behind her.

“Nice hair,” he smirked, meaning, of course, the opposite. He hadn’t commented, maybe hadn’t even noticed, on Friday.

“It’s temporary. It’s supposed to wash out.” Eventually...

“So what did he say?”

“What did you say?”

“To who?”

“To whom,” Kelly corrected. Dude, you know better!

“To whom, Officer Grammar?”

“Well get it right, then.”

“To whom?” Caleb sneered.

“To Lierman, of course.”

“About what?”

“Caleb!”

“No, really. About what?”

“About Friday!”

The door opened for the atrium floor and they walked out together.

“What about Friday?”

“You know what about Friday! Geez, Caleb!”

Caleb stopped in his tracks with a confused look on his face until something seemed to dawn on him.

“You mean that you came to work late and hung over?”

“Of course!!! What did you tell him?” Why did Caleb always have to be so frustrating?

“I didn’t tell him anything. Why would I tell him that?”

“Well, because...”

Kelly guessed she just assumed he would have told him. After all, everyone else was telling on her. And this was Caleb they were talking about, who never missed a chance to turn the knife.

“Kelly, I’m not a snitch. What you do is your own business. Just don’t make it mess up mine.”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“You said that. Like a dozen times.”

“Because I mean it. Thanks for helping me out. I owe you a solid.”

“What, just one?”

Kelly fell quiet. He knew he had a point. She and Caleb had known each other a long time no, and the favors Caleb did for her kept mounting up. And it wasn’t like she had much of anything to give back, either.

“So what’s in the letter?”

Again, Kelly wondered just how it was Caleb always seemed to know what was going on in her life—until she realized the envelope was still right there in her hand, pressed against the outside of her notebook.

“I thought my business was mine.”

“I thought you owed me a solid. Is it a note from Lennox?”

Solid or not, not letting Caleb know her business just so he had more material to make fun of her with was standard operating procedure for Kelly. But the pressure was still there.

“I don’t know what it is.” Which technically wasn’t a lie, though she’d avoided answering the question. “The way my life has been going, I’m scared to find out. Look. If you promise not to make fun of me, I’ll show you, OK? But I can’t promise I won’t break down crying or anything.”

“Sure. OK.”

“Oh. And I couldn’t eat breakfast this morning I was so nervous, so you’re buying me lunch, too. And not a word about that, either!”

He said it all by giving her an up-and-down look, even as he reached for his wallet.
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Old 01-29-2018, 09:44 PM   #340
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Default Jenny's Choice

Essentially Lennox had written, “I’ll do it”—though much more formally than that. As much as Kelly had always thought she would, finally seeing it in print was an incredible load off her mind. And her stomach. It was as if it had been tied in a knot before suddenly coming undone. Even her tight pants felt looser while she ate, and it even seemed her food tasted better.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing, either. Lennox had laid out a list of conditions, which an excited but nervous Kelly read out loud to Caleb.

“You presented me with something like Sophie’s Choice with your proposal. I love what I do. It’s important. And I’m not ready to give it up. Neither am I willing to go back to the way it was, with Phi Gammas—and others, but Phi Gammas in particular—making a mockery of my class and therefore of me. I wanted somehow to find a way to make reinstatement of your grade dependent on the behavior for the young ladies you refer to my class—or, in fact, that they would remain in my class at all. I realize that isn’t possible, but I still need guarantees from you.”

Condition 1: Kelly was to enroll in the next Intro Family and Consumer Sciences class (Home Ec 1102).

“I suspect that if a B sank you over the summer, a failing grade there would just put you right back where you started.”

She was implying she’d fail her if Kelly didn’t follow through on the deal.

“Looks like you’re not the only chick who can play the blackmail game,” said Caleb.

Kelly just shrugged. That was so far in the future she couldn’t possibly care right now.

Condition 2: Kelly would supply enrollees not just for the Spring but for the Summer and next Fall as well.

“I’m sure you can appreciate that if I’m delaying my own schooling to give this one more try, one semester simply won’t be sufficient.”

Condition 3: No one else was ever to hear of this arrangement.

“I don’t care what you tell Dr. Lierman, but it can’t be the truth. Discovery would mean more than my job. It would probably mean the end of my career. Certainly my reputation on this campus. If word ever got out, I imagine being thrown out of the university would only be the first of your worries.”

“Smart lady,” Caleb opined. “She knows what you want, and she’s using that to up the ante under pressure. That takes balls.”

“Balls of steel,” Kelly added.

“So are you gonna do it?”

“Sure. Why not? None of it hurts me. But it’s not up to just me.”

“Sure it is.”

“Nope. Listen to this.”

Condition 4:

“And before I do anything, I want a meeting with Gail Hedges.”

**********
“Me?? Why, me, for Heaven’s sake?”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” Kelly lied over the phone to Gail. “But registration ends soon and you need to do it quick.”

Quick defined Kelly this afternoon. In complete disregard of no one hearing of this arrangement, Kelly’d hit the texts right away to Elektra and the other Phi Gammas she had numbers for who were waiting for her word to register for Lennox’s class. Elektra assured Kelly she’d contact the rest.

“Quick is right. I have a Great Lakes swing coming up next week. I’d say the thing to do is invite her to dinner. And I know the perfect thing to make!”

“Don’t you dare!” Gail was talking, of course, about the Phi Gamma Slamma.

“Brunch on Sunday. Couldn’t possibly pull anything together before then. Have her come by early and by the time we start I promise I’ll have her turned around about you. And me, apparently.” Of course Gail knew what was behind this. You just couldn’t throw anything past her! “Can you make it happen?”

“I can. You’d better have her turned around by the time brunch starts or you can count on me being somewhere else.”

“Can you make it happen.”

“I’ll try this afternoon. But I have to go lie to Lierman first.”

************

Kelly’s mind had been moving quickly, too, straining to figure out what to tell Lierman.

She and Caleb had talked about it at lunch. Caleb’s treat. Again.

“You know,” Caleb said, “if she’s really gonna get you reinstated for next semester, that’s gonna put a real crimp in my study.”

Kelly didn’t have a thing against the study or Lierman or Caleb. (Well, OK. Maybe Caleb.) But the best interest of that study was the last thing on her mind right now.

She wasn’t about to tell that to Caleb right now.

“How so?”

“To be legit over there at Phi Gamma you’ll need 12 hours, right?” Kelly nodded. “Good luck getting 12 hours of classes you need that will fit around any kind of decent schedule.”

Kelly saw his point. But…

“Well, when Lierman asked me to be part of this lab last semester—”

“Instead of sleeping with you.”

“Butthead! He never wanted to sleep with me.”

“So you say.”

“When he asked me to do this last semester,” Kelly said louder, trying to head off another interruption, “he said it was a class, right? Some kind of student job? So—”

“If you enroll in classes next semester,” Caleb pounced, answer at the ready, “then he’ll know you got reinstated. And then you’re right back where you started.”

“Crap.” Caleb was right. Four classes and a job! How was she gonna do Phi Gamma that way? Why did everything always have to be so complicated?

“So I guess you’re gonna have to decide if you’re gonna figure out how to stick it out with Lierman next semester, after all he’s done for you, or if you’re gonna screw him over so you can play it safe over at Phi Gamma.”

“I would never do that.”

But in her heart, not even Kelly was sure she believed that. Just like the end of the summer, Kelly still wasn’t certain just how far she’d go to get what she wanted. It didn’t stop her from telling Lierman that very thing later.

“You asked me this morning what my plans were for the future,” she told Lierman, around noon, in his office. Lierman had just sit down behind his desk—a birch wood, utilitarian thing with drawers in almost exact proportion to the metal relic he’d had over at the administration building, but at least a step up—judging by the full bowl of steaming Chef-Boy-ar-Dee ravioli steaming in front of him.

Kelly hadn’t had that in forever. It smelled so good! Two meals before noon and she still wanted it!

“I did,” Lierman agreed, blowing on a full fork, “but I didn’t mean to put you on the spot. I just—”

“No, you didn’t put me on the spot. I just thought I’d clear it up that I’d love to stick on for next semester. And that Mrs. Lennox let me know today that she’s writing a letter for my reapplication to the university next fall.”

There it was. The lie. Kelly winced as she realized she hadn’t winced at telling it.

“Outstanding! Uh, did she give you the letter of recommendation? Can I read it?”

“She, uh, um, said she’ll send it by e-mail. Um, Sir? Why do you need to read her letter?”

Lierman looked startled for a second and blinked his eyes a few times fast. “Um, of course you’re right. Don’t need to see her letter at all. Can’t imagine why I would even ask for it. Except in my head I guess I was thinking since I’ve been helping you with this...then of course I would review it. Habit, I guess. I don’t need her letter to write you a good recommendation. But it would probably help if I reviewed your application. When do you need it by to send in your application on time?”

Oh, great! A fake application submission? What’s that gonna lead to?

“You know, I really hadn’t thought that far ahead yet.”

At least that wasn’t a lie.

************

Kelly, of course, had known when she was talking to Gail she had plenty of time to stop by Lennox’s office that afternoon. As much as she knew she needed to, she just didn’t want to. Her solution was to take a picture of Lennox’s letter, then place it back in the envelope after having written on the back of the letter:

I accept your conditions. I’m actually happy to help. Gail requests you join her at her house for brunch at 11:00am this Sunday.

She scribbled down Gail’s address and her own phone number for her to text a confirmation (she was sure to specify that Lennox should “text a confirmation”), then stuffed the envelope under the door. She could see Lennox’s light on through the metal grate, but she didn’t care. She speed-walked down the hall, mindful of the extra jiggle and, suddenly, the pressure of two meals in her tummy, then around the corner, into the stairwell and down a few steps. Double H’s pounded up and down, up and down as she did, then again as she grabbed onto the handrail for a quick stop—again, up and down, up and down, with all the jiggle of tummy, sides back and arms she’d felt that morning at Lierman’s door, magnified by force and speed. Over her own heavy breaths she heard Lennox’s door open and resisted the urge to look, knowing the long pause between open and close of the door meant that Lennox had craned her neck to spot her both ways down the hall.

Kelly let out a big sigh and slowed down to descend the stairs, aware with each now-careful step another round of up-down, up-down, accompanied by the shimmer of flabby flesh everywhere it wasn’t girdled tightly to her body. She hit the landing and sighed again: clearly this was going to be her body’s new normal, which she was gonna have to live with for a while. Besides, she’d still turned the heads of two guys along the way (and they hadn’t even seen her running). It bothered her more that just hustling down the hall had left her a little winded, which had her wondering if she was really hitting the gym hard enough. Or was this what inevitably comes with being 200 pounds? Whatever. She’d start doubling down on the House Mother regardless. Eventually.

For now, pending a text from Lennox that she was sure would come at just about any time, Kelly planned on resting on the laurels of her recent victory—certainly not in the war, with her executive council review coming up, but a major battle toward her life goals, if staying Phi Gamma could be called that. Resting on her laurels didn’t quite capture reality: her actual plans were to head to the lab to put in serious hours on her integrated web platform for her personal computing class, and, 200 pounds be damned, to eat all the granola bars, Snickers, nuts and whatever else might be available without reflection. Not that she was planning to eat, but if she did, did one day’s celebration really make a difference?

She was just entering the psychology building when she heard Fairy Godmother’s wand. She smiled as the most self-satisfying smugness she’d ever felt wiggled up her back, smugly pursing her lips together of their own accord, then shimmered satisfyingly back down again. It wasn’t often Kelly cared much or at all about besting someone, but this time she did. It was kind of intoxicating. She could see how it was a feeling one could get used to.

Four flights up the stairs at the psychology building had her self-conscious again about her fitness, but she brushed aside the concern and keyed her way into the lab. It had a comfortable warmth in contrast with the bite in the windy November air outside. She booted up her computer and was mindful to sit in her chair without flopping in it this time, the way she had in Lierman's new office that morning.

It scooted backward enough that she almost slipped down to the floor. She’d been having the problem for weeks, but this time, for the first time, she understood what was happening: unless she flopped the last couple of inches, she could count on the chubby backs of her chubbier thighs crowding the chair out of the way.

And Kelly actually took that as a good sign. Her mother flopped because she was so heavy, and Kelly’d started to worry that she was getting too heavy to sit down smoothly, too. At least she wasn't that far gone.

She settled in to work on her project, and as she waited for the apps to open she looked over to confirm Lennox’s text, if only so she could gloat a little bit to herself.

Nothing could have prepared her for what she found instead.

Daddy>>>Thanksgiving Dinner Carter Co Country Club Wednesday 11/27 1600
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Old 02-10-2018, 11:19 PM   #341
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Default Illusions

“I’m not sure what his plans are, Baby. If I’d have known your father the way I thought I did, things wouldn’t have turned out like they have.”

And that was all the assistance Kelly got from her mother on the matter.

Despite her best efforts, Kelly had accomplished nearly nothing that afternoon. She’d certainly wanted to, but her emotions swung wildly with preoccupation about finally meeting with her father—from anger (with full on visions of punching her father while shouting “How dare you, you bastard!”), to excitement, to relief that the next solution for her litany of problems (namely, money) had presented itself, to, finally, sadness over the whole situation. Which somehow was what she kept coming back to.

The emotional instability drove her back to her old familiar recourse against the forces of distraction and inattention—in this instance, three Snickers, two packages of granola bars, and an apple. It still didn’t work. She’d be trying to set-up simultaneous video and picture links between her facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds together with her fictional business’s online cart and it would start.

“Finally! Dinner with Daddy!” her mind would surge.

“Oh, no,” her mind would respond. “Dinner with Daddy!”

And off she’d go planning for a million conversations or circumstances that would probably never happen, before finally asking herself, “Wait. What was I doing again?”

By 4:00 she gave up and texted Wade, hoping he’d respond for an impromptu visit to see her in the lab, where she was hoping they could test the comfort and resilience of the round table in the corner.

Of course, he didn’t respond in time. Caleb was due over at the house to help her pick her classes at 5:30, and Kelly was still hungry, and she was out of Snickers, and she had wanted her Mommy before she and Caleb got down to business, anyway.

It felt good to see her, but the guidance underwhelmed.

Mother and Gail did spring for pizza, though—three pizzas, to be exact. Kelly bounded (and bounced and jiggled) her way to the doorbell and swung the door wide (despite the draft of cold November evening air that washed over her) to see her favorite Dominos delivery boy Billy on the stoop.

That always made Kelly smile. And that always made Billy smile.

“Hey, Kelly! Long time no.”

“You remember me? I’m not even the one who ordered!”

“Of course I remember. I always remember hot—” He cleared his throat. “A beautiful woman like yourself. And it always boosts your chances with one if you actually know her name.”

Kelly laughed. “Thanks, Billy.” Billy was tall and nervous and wiry, the hint of an unfortunate past of acne on his face, along with the patchy shadow of not quite a beard. All-in-all, pretty cute. And, all-in-all, not her type. “Remembering names is definitely a plus. And you know what? If I don’t get a text from someone here pretty soon I’ll definitely consider giving you a chance.”

Billy smiled and stood there waiting.

Is he really waiting for a text? Is he really that into—

Oh!


Duh.

“Um, Gail?” Yes, Kelly was too broke even to tip.

By the time Caleb arrived Kelly had two beers and a half a pepperoni pizza in her, as well as plans to meet up with Wade one-on-one in the psychology lab a couple of hours. They made quick but painful work of a schedule that fit both Caleb’s designs for the lab schedule in the spring, Lennox’s demands, and the university’s general degree requirements. Quick work, because there just weren’t that any options to wade through.

Painful, because there was no way to avoid putting business math on the schedule.

“Look, Kelly. You can’t avoid this forever.”

“Sure I can.”

“Not if I you want to stay in Phi Gamma and, oh, I don’t know, actually graduate.”

“I’m considering the alternatives.”

“Well, consider this: I’m not gonna be around to help you with this forever.”
Kelly’s heart actually flooded fear and sadness. She hadn’t even considered he wouldn’t be around to help her out, but then of course he would. After all, he had his own future to think about! She tried to focus on the positive and found it.

“So you’re in? You’ll help me out again?”

“Of course. Surely Daddy will be helping you out again by then.” Ah, yes. With Caleb there was always the angle. And money was always high on the list. “And if not, well, you won’t be in Phi Gamma then anyway, right?”

“I do have a mother, you know.”

“Yeah. Renting a room here. In Gail’s boarding house for hard luck cases. I’m sure for her tutoring comes before sorority.”

I wouldn’t be so sure. “You and Gail hooked up. Doesn’t that make you a hard luck case, too?”

Caleb didn’t say a thing. He couldn’t. He was trying not to laugh, and he was pointing at her as if to say, “Good one!” That and her two-and-a-half beers had her feeling pretty self-satisfied.

“Maybe…” he managed, lifting a hand to ask for time for his laughter to subside, “maybe I’m not the hard luck case in that equation.”

It was a clever retort. Match to Caleb again. But she didn’t like him talking about Gail that way. It shut down all her happy.

“By the way, speaking of hard luck cases, what did Lennox’s text say?”
Kelly reached for her phone.

Whatever came of that?

***********

Lennox’s text didn’t show up until Wednesday. Not to worry, though by then Kelly was a nervous wreck.

With the stress, she didn’t have it in her to even try self-restraint. She awoke early Tuesday morning to stock the lab with granola bars, apples, bananas—and Snickers. A 12-pack. Those were off the list, and she cringed as they beeped their way across the scanner. She’d bought more than she should before. She’d been told—encouraged really, begged even, it seemed—she could do that. But until now she’d at least stuck to the list. Until today, when she rationalized it as within the spirit of the rules: It was, after all, Lierman who kept that thing stocked. And, after blowing through his stash uninvited the last week or so, she really needed to put them back.

She wished she could put them back from where they’d ended up: her thighs.

It turned out that the lab table wasn’t so bad, actually. It was long enough that Kelly fit from head to knees, especially if she opened herself wide and rested the back of her knees along the edge. And, it was one of those older particle board jobs that gave a good bit in the middle—so much that at first she was certain the thing was gonna snap in half, since the support bar between the table legs was a Kelly-hand-span below the flat top. It didn’t. It was actually kind of springy, adding a comforting mattress-like bounce.

That wasn’t the only bounce it added.

“You know if I push on the board either side of you it kind of sends a wave from your knees to your tits and back.” He pushed twice just to illustrate the point. “Like a wave pool of Kelly with a couple of giant wobbly tits, like islands jiggling on top of the current.”

Wade. Ever the wordsmith. Now he gets poetic! Should I tell him islands don’t float?

“And then you also kind of look like a snowman, ‘cause your back and ass squish out so far when you’re laying down like this, you split into like two squishy round balls—underneath two other round squishy balls.”

If she hadn’t felt so good in the afterglow of what they’d just done on the table, that comment would have destroyed her feelings.

Instead of just really hurting them.

“Really, Wade!?” Kelly exclaimed, trying to prop herself up on one elbow without picking up any corky splinters. It wasn’t easy with the table bending around her on each side. “Do you think after you fuck me that maybe you could call me beautiful instead of coming up with new and unique ways to call me fat?”

“Oo. ‘Fuck.’ I’ve never heard you say that before!”

“Yeah, well, I get that way when people call me ‘fat.’”

“Well, I didn’t call you fat. And you’re not. Let’s just call you … a whole lotta woman.” He was grinning.

“That’s not funny, Wade.” Kelly was doing everything she could to hide that she was trying not to cry, and there he was pulling on his pants with that big grin still on his face. An infectious grin. Could anyone ever stay mad at him?

Not me!

“I thought you liked a ‘whole lotta woman’ anyway.”

“When did I say that?”

He said it when ... when .... Hold on a minute.

“I don’t know. It’s not like I wrote it down or anything.” But she did know. The first night they went to the lake when he complimented her ‘chub’ thighs. A girl doesn’t forget it when the man she’s enthralled with convinces her he’s really OK with her flaws.

Kelly pushed herself up to a sitting position. She couldn’t help but notice that those same thighs—two months later, and probably plumped right back up to the size they were that night at the lake—spread out against the table in just the manner that Wade had just pointed out. She couldn’t see them, but she could feel how her hips and ass spread out even farther, like a halo of flesh that ringed the comparatively skinny tube of her torso. “We were at the lake. I was complaining about my ... my chubby thighs and you said you liked them.”

Wade furrowed his brow in the manner he always did when he paused to think, or in this case to remember. Clearly, he came up with nothing.

“I do like your chubby thighs,” he said. Carefully Kelly figured that was about as complimentary and diplomatic as Wade was ever likely to get. “Because they’re yours, and you’re hot. But that doesn’t mean I’m one of those guys who gets off on fat chicks.”

Of course. There it was. This was the second time she’d heard someone use the word “fat” in something like a reference to her. Both times right after she’d used it for herself. Both times it felt like a punch to the gut.

Or maybe she felt that way because Wade had just shattered her illusion that Wade actually preferred her this heavy.

Of course he doesn’t. Why would a guy like him have to settle for a fat chick?

“Anyway,” Wade added, talking about himself with the same teasing grin he’d used talking about Kelly just a few seconds ago. “I’m one to talk.”
He pushed his naked belly out and rubbed his stomach in a circle like he had some kind of big buddha belly, which of course he didn’t. It was fat in comparison only to the chiseled washboard abs he’d had however many added pounds ago when they’d first met. Only the slightest definition around the top edge of his no-longer-six-pack was left. The rest of his abdomen was smooth, and it merged seamlessly into slight bumps of accumulation on his sides: the barest evidence of new love handles. There was nothing about his appearance that warranted Wade’s silly gesture.

As usual, it worked. Wade’s boyishness melted Kelly’s peevishness and completely slopped up her little pool of sadness.

“Stop it! You’re such a doofus.” But she was smiling, and she reached out with her chubby arms and pulled Wade’s smooth hard torso into her soft mountainous chest. God she loved that so much about herself! She noticed the bulge of Wade’s flaccid but enormous package, completely spent just a few moments ago, smartly firm up and push against the soft ridge of her fleshy seated midriff.

Wade’s words said one thing about her body. But is body was saying something very, very different.

Yeah, you love me this way, you clueless lump!

She pressed her lips against his stomach, then pulled him back down on top of her, where two young, heavy, desirable bodies tested just how much more enthusiasm that table could take.

It was an experiment so successful that Kelly made sure they found themselves in the lab together every night that week—including late Thursday after language lab at the community college, when Kelly didn’t think twice about devoting a significant chunk of her check at the Silver Saddle buffet, and where for once Wade didn’t have the opportunity to say a word about her wasting time on a salad.

There were only so many things Kelly could worry about at one time. Like how she could possibly handle brunch with Lennox on Sunday.
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Old 02-18-2018, 11:51 PM   #342
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Default Code Warriors

Sunday November 10

She needn’t have worried.

When Kelly and Wade let themselves in an hour late Sunday, Gail and Lennox were seated at the kitchen dinette, laughing over glasses of wine, an empty bottle on the table, and an almost-empty plate of crescent roll kielbasas between them.

“Hey, Kells, Wade,” Gail smiled. “Good thing you guys got here when you did. We tried to hold off for you, but we broke down after, oh, about five minutes.”

“Hi, Kelly.” Lennox was smiling and relaxed. Her still-firm chubby cheeks were flushed from the wine. It was as life had been breathed into her. If Kelly hadn’t known who it was, she never would have recognized her.

“It’s a long way from the Phi Gamma Slamma,” Gail said. “Right, Jenny?”

Half the dining room table to their left was filled with delights: homemade bread and jam, fresh berries and yogurt, a heaping stack of what had to be pancakes covered with a dishtowel to keep them warm, ramekins with three varieties of compote. The smell of crescent rolls just approaching being done wafted up from the oven to Kelly’s right, and the makings for omelets sat next to the stovetop and a steaming hot griddle. Egg nog, juice and the makings for Gail’s blood orange Bloody Marys were sitting next to the blender.

“It’s all marvelous. Marvelous,” she repeated. “I never knew you had so much talent.”

Gail laughed. “Talent, shmalent! I learned it all from you.”

And whether that was true or not, Lennox ate it up. Quite literally, so that by the time they were done, Lennox was holding the sides of her tummy in gourmandized pain and had to call for an Uber to get herself home. She was clearly not an experienced drunk, giggling and hiccupping and repeating herself throughout lunch, saying goodbye with a series of teary hugs. “I can’t believe I ever resented you, Gail!” crossed her lips at least a half-dozen times before she weaved her way down the front path, calling goodbye from the car with a floppy wave and a silly grin.

“And that’s how it’s done,” Gail shrugged. “I’m going out for a while—you two can have the house to yourselves for a while.” She winked and grabbed her keys off the rack and was gone just like that.

They had the house to themselves because without advance warning to anyone, Elizabeth had packed a bag and informed Gail she would be gone “to take care of a few things” over the next few days. And as mysterious as it was and as hopeful or foreboding as it could have been, Kelly was mostly pleased that she was going anywhere at all—and to share with Wade, in good spirits after the Houndz home win yesterday, the couch, and the bed, and all the beer and food she’d been too freaked out to indulge in all through brunch.

************

Monday November 11

Kelly was in the shower the next morning when she heard a couple of her floormates come in to together. Kelly was up a little later than usual this Monday morning. Instead of coming back to the house for Sunday night chapter and leftovers dinner with her roommates, she and Wade had gone over to Al and Mullet’s apartment with a few other football players and their hangers on for beer and pizza. And though she’d wound up in far better shape than Wade, she’d known she wasn’t near as sober as she should have been to drive his truck (with its stick shift) first to his dorm, and then to the house. She’d woken up blearily a half-hour later than usual and lingered too long enjoying the heat of her steamy shower in the cold stone bathroom of the draughty, poorly-insulated third floor now more than a week into a cold November. Earlier in the semester she could still have counted on having that bathroom alone this early in the morning, but it’s a universal story: college students, a mere four weeks away from finals, start buckling down on their studies to make up for the past two months of procrastination and partying.

Kelly’d been avoiding moments like these all semester. But this morning she breathed a sigh of relief, because it gave her just the excuse she needed not to follow through with her weekly Monday weigh-in.

A snowball had a better chance surviving in Hell than the odds that Kelly would ever weigh in in front of her Phi Gamma sisters.

The two girls were Anna Lewis and Allison Ailes. Anna was a middle-height, middle weight (in Phi Gamma terms, anyway, which was to say she was somewhere between slender and normal build) blonde from old money in Greenville. Allison was a tall thin athletic salutatorian blonde (a real blonde) pageant girl from somewhere in Texas, or maybe Oklahoma, perhaps Arkansas or Missouri, who had been a member of Kelly’s pledge class. Neither of them had become particularly invested in Phi Gamma in their time here, which made both of them perfect for living on the third floor—in Anna’s case, for an unusual second year. Both were well enough liked, but mostly they liked each other, and it was generally expected that unless Allison moved in with her boyfriend, they’d both ditch the third floor (or even the chance to move down to the second, should it arise) for a south-side apartment together.

There were four curtained shower stalls in the bathroom. Kelly was in the back corner, and the girls took the two front stalls across from each other. They kept up their chatterboxing as they started their showers, and looking up at the shower bar for the stall next to her, Kelly could see that they probably had the curtains peeled back, all the better to communicate.

Despite the increasing time pressure, Kelly lingered. Neither knew it was her back there, and though she certainly (if only out of habit the last few months) was sensitive to interaction with other Phi Gammas at this weight (especially in the shower), and particularly under recent circumstances, truthfully she’d always been a bit modest when sharing a shower room with other girls. It was one of the reasons (other than the almost total absence of athletic coordination) she’d avoided much involvement in team sports. So, yeah, she hoped there was some way not to be seen. But more importantly, she’d gotten so used to overhearing her name in other people’s conversations that she thought she should stick around a little while to see what they might say about her. So, she did.

But Kelly’s name was never mentioned, and Kelly was late, and she was starting to feel more than a little silly—or maybe just like she was acting a little too full of herself. She shut off the water and reached for her first towel—to swirl up her hair to dry, forgetting she couldn’t really do that anymore with her now shoulder-length hair. She toweled it dry nonetheless while she dripped in the shower, finishing right about the time she was starting to feel cold. That’s when she reached for her second towel and went through the routine of drying herself off, chin to toe. That meant a little extra time lifting and drying under each breast, knowing from experience a little extra time drying off there would save a lot of pain later. She spread her legs wide and pulled aside the chub of her thighs to give careful attention to the creases where the legs met the hips, then again around the back to service the fold of her cheeks against the back of her thighs, then down to the back where her thick thighs tapered down to soft pillows of flesh above the hollow of the knee—all places she’d come to understand that her new body now required a little extra attention. Her little towel—that’s how she thought of it now, though it was a standard bath size—was completely wet by the time she was finished. She wrapped it up in the other towel before she reached for her robe. Gail’s robe, actually, the old one she’d borrowed once and since appropriated for herself. Kelly’s old one was too tight around the armpits and constricted movement around the bosom in exactly the way a comfy bathrobe shouldn’t.

Thus comported she stepped out of the steamy shower stall and past Anna and Allison.

“Kelly Kingsley!” Allison smiled, turning in all her thin naked glory to face Kelly, soapy and shameless. “As I live and breathe. A Kelly Kingsley sighting, Anna!”

“Mark it down, Allison. In case I’m not here to back you up later. How are you, Kelly?”

They were being sweet and friendly. Kelly didn’t know either of them very well, but she knew cattiness wasn’t in their repertoire.

“Very well, thank you. Busy! Busy, busy.”

“Tell me about it!”

“I would,” Kelly smiled, “but I’m too busy!”

Allison and Anna both laughed.

“No joke, though. I actually am. But maybe we can catch up later! I want to hear what you wore for your last pageant!”

“Ohhhh, no. No, no! I don’t even want to talk about that. They had their hearts set on some Indian chi—'Native American’ chick.” She put the Native American in air quotes. “If she was more than 1/16 Indian then I’m Creole. Looked exotic, though. I swear, if you don’t have some kind of social justice warrior or ethnic angle anymore they look at you like you’re some kind of interloper.”

Whatever that is! Allison was really, really smart, and every now and then despite her efforts a word would slip out that reminded you she was really, really smart and you were just tagging along for the ride.

Kelly let it slip past.

“I don’t know how you do it! That kind of thing is why I decided not to get involved with pageants!” she empathized. It was a lie: Kelly’d always wanted to be in pageants, all the more because her mom, a former Miss Sugar Bowl, had been a successful one. But by the time Kelly’s family had the money, she didn’t have the right body, whether she was going through a chubby phase or not. “But I want all the updates about your gowns! Is it a date?”

“You bet it is!”

The date with no date set would never happen, of course, and they both knew it. But they were at least sincere in the idea that if they did actually do what it took to get together, they’d somehow push through how they were almost total strangers and have a great time.

Kelly threw a cheerful “See ya, Anna!” over her shoulder and pushed the exit to the bathroom wide in her haste, her mind already focused on her short getting-ready routine so she could make it to the lab on time. So focused that she had left her toiletry bag on the sink. She turned on her heel as the door shut closed with a two-phase, first slow, then fast hydraulically-managed wummpfhhh! Then she reached in her little bag to apply her roll-on to her underarms and inner thighs before it slipped her mind.

That’s when she heard the conversation turn to her.

“That Kelly Kingsley, she’s so sweet!” Allison opined, right before her voice was enveloped by the high-pitched whish of shower water rinsing out her hair.

“I know!” Anna answered. “Hey, maybe we should ask her to come in with us on the house!”

So it was true. Or at least it was true they talked about it. Those rumors had been around quite a long time.

“Who? Kegs?”

Kegs! That’s what they were calling her now? She hadn’t heard herself called that since high school! The more things change...

“Don’t see it,” Allison continued. “She’s a total Code Warrior.” A Phi Gamma true believer. True enough. “She’d never move out of this house.”

“She did last summer.”

“Yeah, well I heard that wasn’t her choice.”

“Really?” Anna exclaimed. She may not have been catty, but if there was a girl alive who didn’t gravitate to a little juicy gossip, Kelly certainly had never met her. “What happened?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows. Apparently she and Sherry Wilson had it out on the steps last summer, and now Lindsey Huntington and Kelly have been at each other’s throats ever since.”

No, Lindsey Huntington’s been at my throat! She resisted the urge to correct the record. They, of course, didn’t know she was here, and what these girls perceived from this whole thing was fascinating. It was just good to know that whatever Lindsey’s problem with her, she wasn’t spilling Kelly’s secrets. The ones she knew, that was.

“Love triangle gone bad, eh?”

What!?

“Yeah, probably,” Allison laughed. “Who knows? Whatever it was it was enough to get her kicked up here with us Two-Percenters.” Two-percenters: Members who did the minimum to get by and still remain in the sorority. Allison turned off the water. “You know Lindsey’s kicking her out, right?”

“How could I not? You can cut the air with a knife when they’re in the same room. That’s why I thought of her. She’s gonna need a place to stay.” Anna turned off her water as well.

Anxiety gripped Kelly as she realized her eavesdropping might be discovered. She slipped her unzipped toiletry bag under her armpit as quietly as she could and creeped toward the door. She cracked open the door and hoped to God it wouldn’t creak. It didn’t, so she pushed it open wide enough for her to slip through quickly if she had to. But she wanted to stay until she was sure she heard everything they had to say about her.

“Well I hear it’s pretty much a done deal.” Allison’s voice was shaking as if she were toweling her hair while she was speaking. “Two-Percenter or not, the last thing we need is to get on Lindsey’s shit list.”

“Code Warriors!” Anna exclaimed. “Who can figure?”

“Code Warriors,” Allison replied. “Speaking of warriors, I couldn’t figure out which episode of Game of Thrones you were talking about. I went back and looked and….”

With that, Kelly zipped out the door and into the hall, not caring about the wummmpfhh! that the bathroom door made behind her.
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Old 02-26-2018, 01:51 PM   #343
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Question Why Not?™

“Pretty much a done deal, they said?”

Caleb and Kelly were sitting together in the dining hall Monday afternoon after closing the lab. With Thursday’s check her money crunch was over, and she’d thought to even her ledger of solids with Caleb by buying him lunch for once. But Caleb had his lunch covered under the meal plan, and even if he hadn’t, paying cash at the dining hall turned out to be more expensive of an endeavor than she’d realized. Enough that she’d decided today she was getting her money’s worth.

Kelly’d mulled over what she’d heard all morning, realizing at one point that if Allison and Anna knew about her situation, then everyone did.

“Yeah,” she answered. “Done deal.”

“Well, you know what I think. If you ask me, you’re totally better off.”

“You know, Caleb, not everyone’s like Lindsey. Most of the girls are totally sweet, like Anna and Allison."

“Like who?”

“Like whom.”

“Who?”

“Anna and Allison,” Kelly repeated. Caleb hadn’t parroted the whom, but at least the Who? was grammatically correct. “The girls from this morning I was just telling you about. Can’t you at least pretend you care about people enough to remember their names?”

“I’m sorry,” Caleb retorted. “You just painted for me the picture of three hot naked chicks in a sorority house bathroom and you think I’m supposed to remember their names?”

Kelly rolled her eyes. “Caleb!”

“I mean, pretty much you just described in reality every teen boy’s ultimate fantasy, Kelly. And now I’m probably gonna have to go straight home and take my own shower.”

“Ewwwwwwww!!!”

Kelly knew Caleb was just playing her for the reaction—which bothered her even more that she couldn’t control her reaction.

Caleb chuckled in self-satisfaction and pushed around a few leftover peas on his plate until Kelly’s disgust unscrewed its way off of Kelly’s face.

“Yeah, well in my experience sorority girls deserve their reputation as selfish, catty bitches. I could have said far worse, mind you. As far as I’m concerned, I was being generous. And you haven’t told me anything that does anything but confirm that for me, OK? I mean, that Lindsey pretty much sounds evil.”

“I don’t think I would say that she’s evil.” Lindsey? She’s a sweetheart, Scott had said. She’s just a little stressed out right now. “I think she’s just...committed. Like out of principle or something.”

“You mean she’s a Code Warrior.”

“Yeah, a Code Warrior,” Kelly admitted grudgingly. Grudgingly, because Allison had lumped Lindsey and her into the same category. She’d been mulling that one over all morning, too.

“Well speaking of warriors of principle, now that you’ve pacified Lennox does that mean I can pretty much count on you to cover the lab next semester? Because I really do need you.”

“Aw, Caleb. Thanks! I love you, too.” Kelly blew him an exaggerated smooch.

“You know what I mean.”

She did. But as life post Phi Gamma began looking more and more real, Kelly could picture in her mind what next semester was going to look like. And it was hard for her to imagine that walking around campus after being expelled from Phi Gamma would feel anything other than humiliating—especially if, like this semester, she still wasn’t able to get her weight back under control. The Bone Girl, the Fakebook page, her celebrity through the lab—all of them suggested there was no way she could just blend into the background and duck her shame. Escaping to another college—and not just Buford, but another university, maybe one closer to home (or farther, now that she thought about what she would have to tell her high school friends)—was starting to look more attractive. Somewhere she could start over in anonymity.

But she wasn’t gonna tell Caleb her doubts right now, and she surely wasn’t gonna burn any bridges.

“Kelly??”

“Sure,” Kelly sighed, snapping back to the moment. “Why, not?”

**************

“Why, not?” all-but became Kelly’s new motto.

Why Not?™ presented itself that very night, when an unproductive Goodwill run ballooned into a clearance of the plus-size clearance rack at Macy’s, including: a size 16 pair of Seven jeans (just $29!); four 1X tank top tees; two pair of winter leggings, one black, one brown; two light turtlenecks, and an XL pink button-up sweater for the increasingly frigid lab. Over at Dillard’s it was the rare, expensive (even at 60% off), desperately needed HH underwire bra and, in the coup of the evening, a light faux-leather jacket for less than $50. (It was, after all, lime green, but Kelly knew she could make it work.)

It was an epic score for under $150 and would go a long way to easing Kelly’s winter wardrobe anxiety for the rest of the semester. But it left her pretty much broke again. She’d shopped late into the evening without dinner, so when she passed the AppleTree grocery store she barely thought twice about pulling into the parking lot to take advantage of Lierman’s credit card. Why Not?™ Heck, Lierman and Caleb both had practically begged her to use it for personal munchies, and in the unlikely event they suddenly changed their minds and she actually did get in trouble for it, all it would do is make her decision about moving away from campus for her. So in addition to replenishing phase two inputs she made sure to stock up on bagels, cup-o-noodles, oyster crackers, even Lunchables and a couple of bags of still-leftover Halloween candy—everything a girl needed in her dorm room with finals around the corner. She even sat down at the deli for some fried chicken and potato salad before she left. Because Why Not?™

Although Kelly stocked her dorm room, she found herself avoiding the house as much as possible. If her encounter in the bathroom had confirmed anything, it was that if of all people Anna and Allison were aware of most of the details of her situation, there couldn’t be a soul in the house not aware of her situation. She’d been uncomfortable for months passing people in the hall or on the stairs. That was nothing compared to what she felt now, knowing as she now did what had to be going through their minds.

With her mother’s bed (which of course recently had been Kelly’s bed) open, Kelly started spending most nights over at Gail’s. That kept her out of contact with the girls. Which was a problem for Gail’s strategy of winning over the girls on the Executive Council in advance of Kelly’s review.
Gail asked about it one night when she was cooking the two of them a late dinner. Gail was standing by the stove in ministrations over a pasta primavera sauce while Kelly sat quietly at the kitchen dinette.

“So have you been able to get to any of the Council girls yet?”

“A few,” Kelly lied. She hadn’t told Gail about the bathroom incident, and after a long night making up hours in the language lab she felt too wiped out to talk about it. “Brittney. A couple of the other girls. I think there’s a good chance they might see it my way.”

Kelly knew what the lie was saying, that she’d given up fighting against her fate.

“I see,” Gail said, lips pursed. She had one pudgy hand on her sizable hip while the other still held a wooden spoon mid-air, steaming with a dab of primavera sauce. It felt like Gail was looking right through her. She never could lie to Gail. “It must be difficult even bringing something like that up with them.”

She brought the wooden spoon to her lips, moaned a little bit and rolled her eyes.

“Here,” she said. “Try a little bit of this.”

Gail put the spoon in front of Kelly’s face. She leaned forward, clutching to her bosom out of modest habit the neckline of her T, and took a dutiful slurp from the spoon. The sauce had already cooled in the drafty air of the kitchen. Still, her mouth exploded in tangy flavor, radiating savory would-be warmth down into her tummy.

“It’s so...delicious! Soooooo delicious.”

“I know!” Gail smiled. “I say we bury our stress in mounds of pasta and drown our sorrows in primavera sauce and wine.”

Truth was, Kelly was still full from an impulsive run through the drive thru for value menu Taco Bell. That on top of three hours of successful surreptitious snacking while making up lost library time at Buford last night. But she already knew how yummy it was gonna be, and Why Not?™ She was long past where dropping a few pounds would help her keep Phi Gamma anymore.

It wasn’t just Kelly. There was a lot of Why Not?™ around her. The Houndz were hammered that weekend at home, sealing their fate for an ignominious fourth place in their division, in a year when more than one pundit had picked them to win the conference. The writing was on the wall (and in the papers) for Coach Feely’s job. That brought all kinds of motivation for the team to skip the extra workouts in the gym and to slide on their devotion to their training table regimens, not until the new guy stepped onto campus next Spring, bringing with him a new wave of excitement and expectations, and with them renewed motivation for the players to again impress.

If Wade was disappointed about the loss, he certainly didn’t show it. Instead he snagged Kelly after the game and went with Mullet and their friends to legendary local honkytonk the Hall of Fame, better known around Phi Gamma as the Hall of Shame. The Hall was anything but Phi Gamma: it was a haven for chubby and full-on fat girls, all with rolls of jiggly fat spilling over the top of tight Lee jeans and peeking out below plaid half-shirts and too-tight tanks stretched to half cover just-so-arranged cleavage, boasting big hair, thick foundation and even thicker color without compunction as they boot-scooted their way around the dance floor. It was a place where Kelly never would have risked being spotted before, but tonight? Why Not?™ She didn’t have to worry about what Phi Gamma thought anymore.

And though she hadn’t come dressed for the part, in her Mary Janes and her leggings and high-waisted skirted blouse, with her shoulder-length layered almost-back-to-dirty-blonde straight-ironed hair, she fit right in with all the other jiggling chubby girls. Or stood out, was the better word. Or maybe above. And it wasn’t her attractiveness or her massive bouncing boobs that made the difference: it was Wade on the dance floor, tall and handsome and as powerful and graceful a country dancer as there ever was. In his strong and steady hands, she spun and stepped like a prima donna (if the word really applied to country dancing) though she’d never stepped onto a country dance floor in her life. It was exhausting and exhilarating and exciting and sensual in a way she never knew she could feel. It pushed her to exhaustion, but she refused to let him get away for a dance with another partner all night, lest he find the same connection with some other girl who brought more to the dance floor than she. She knew by now that plowing him with a few beers was the best way to yield him submissively to her will, and she applied the strategy with devotion.

The losing season also brought Kelly and the team (and their dates) more freedom when they went out. Fans weren’t nearly as eager to talk the ins and outs of the game with the players beyond acknowledgement of their celebrity and a comment or two about this bad break or hope for next year. And the inevitable, “So you think Coach Feely will be back next year?” But the team never loses its cache with the business community. A table and stools for the night was about as coveted as 50-yard-line season tickets around here, yet here it was that the team somehow had two to themselves right next to the dance floor. And though no one saw a hint of cash or credit cards cross the table, pitchers of beer, cheese sticks, baskets of wings, garlic fries—all of them crossed it in steady fashion. Such an arrangement could mean big trouble for the university at the hands of college sports’ governing authorities. But Why Not?™ give in? With Coach Feely leaving, if anyone even wound up caring, the onus would follow him and the Program of the Past anyway.

Kellen Elizabeth Kingsley>>>The Hall of Fame is amazing!!!

Kelly drunk-texted her mother from Wade’s truck late that night. Or rather, early the next morning. Kelly’s hard and fast rule was always to batten down the phone after a night out, but that night she figured Why Not? She’d been keeping Elizabeth updated all week, just like she used to. It took more than a few edits for her to get it out without typos.

Kellen Elizabeth Kingsley>>>I can’t believe I never went before!

Mommy>>>The Hall of Shame? That place still around? Fun times!!! Be careful. Stay safe!

Kellen Elizabeth Kingsley>>>Come home soon!

Home.

Her next text was to Jenn, who woke up to meet them at the Waffle House and suffer through their drunk munchies before wearily shuttling Al and Wade to their dorm and Kelly back to the Phi Gamma house. Because Why Not?™ Anyone else stumbling around the house at 3am could hardly throw the first stone—or at least walk well enough to. Jenn kept her focused enough to get up the stairs. For her reward, Jenn got the bed, and she and Crystal joined Gail and Kelly the next day for lunch—still sans Elizabeth.

Kelly’s wardrobe steadily found its way over to Gail’s house on Kelly’s body—as dirty laundry. Trying to figure out how and whether to mesh Wade into Thursday mixers was done. Now she viewed Sunday night chapter now as something anyone in her right mind always should have viewed it: a chore, and one she was happy to skip. The only thing that consistently took her into the house each day without fail was the House Mother. So, yeah, finding the willpower with expulsion hanging over her head took all the urgency out of losing weight, but Why Not?™ She loved it. Just Kelly and her iPod and the elliptical (or the treadmill) and the weight bench. She did all she could to avoid looking at the minutes on the cardio machines (in precisely the way she’d been avoiding looking at herself from the neck down in mirrors since Halloween), letting fatigue telling her when it was time to quit. But whether it was leg lifts or butt lifts or lats, the pins on those weight stacks kept inching slowly but steadily lower, and that gave her a sense of power and accomplishment. It was only her number on the squat bar that had seemed to plateau at all.

Phase three inputs meant just granola and candy bars. With the end of phase two the fruit and the rabbit food all cleared out of the lab for her and her roommates, who seemed to accept it and her other snacks willingly as payback for almost a semester’s worth of Kelly’s pilfering. Subjects were at half the level they were first half of the semester, but Kelly didn’t care. Why Not?™ She kept buying at the levels she always had. No one was actually tracking what the subjects were eating. The extra always found its way into her backpack for snacking through language lab and digital basketweaving.

Increasingly on the edge of her mind was her upcoming review, her Kelly-come-to-Jesus moment for half-a-year now of failure to keep the Code. And looming behind that, the shadow of her meeting with her father, which as much as she longed to see him, hear him, hug him—and slap him—had all the signs of being its own sort of formal disciplinary review with all sorts of unknown possible negative outcomes. Her coursework for American History at Buford was complete. Same for French. Her social media project for Basketweaving was done, the only thing left a mastery course of Google Docs and Sheets and the other basic business tools she’d been using routinely since her junior year in high school.

And so she was bored. So what did she do? Of course. She shopped the internet, filled her shopping cart with all the things she probably couldn’t fit and knew she couldn’t buy, fantasized about paying for them, and munched. As long as none of the female subjects were in the lab to munch in front of. And as long as Caleb wasn’t there to point the finger, which was almost never, of late.

It was in a rare moment of dietary restraint, after ten minutes of drumming her fingers, looking at the clock, trying not to go through in her mind for the 100th time one of a dozen defenses for a dozen accusations in a fantasized meeting with Lindsey that would never ever occur the way she was imagining it, that she flipped over to her Instagram page and mused through the analytics before flipping back over to the photos and videos she’d meticulously screened, posted, edited and re-edited for her basketweaving project (documenting all of her changes to demonstrate her proficiency for her class).

She liked what she saw. Meticulously chosen, even the photos she’d chosen from events this fall she didn’t look nearly as overweight as she was in her mind—and certainly not as true to life chubby as anything that had made it onto those fake facebook pages, for instance. It was a good public image. That was something she needed. She went to her settings and opened up her page to the public.

Why not?
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Old 03-11-2018, 08:44 PM   #344
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Default Lushess.

Saturday November 23

“Do you think I’m turning into an alcoholic?”

Kelly was sitting with Wade and a beer in her usual family and friends section at the lip of the second deck for the Saturday football game. It was the start of the fourth quarter, and it was senior day, which meant that the Mastiffs were playing lowly Alabama State, low even in the Football Championship subdivision (what everyone considered Division 1-AA, despite what the NCAA thought might become of renaming it). That let every senior who’d stuck with the program, scholarship or walk-on, even from the practice team, whether he’d ever played in front of the fans or not, would have his chance to play in front of his friends and family for the school he’d devoted so much in time, talent and tears.

That also made for an extra-crowded home team sideline, and, highly encouraged (by Kelly), Wade had exercised his highly-encouraged (by the coaches) option for red shirts to stay off the field for this game. Kelly was elated to have him there with her, both to spend time with him and to validate her presence there in the eyes of those around them.

That meant a little more to her this week because with all the seniors seeing playing time, the friends and family section was filled with a lot of people Kelly had never seen before, as a reward to some of those less-talented players for their thankless years of service on the practice field. But one couple that weren’t strangers was Anthony Robertson’s parents, faithfully behind their son as ever, who might as well have been a senior since he was surely playing is last college football game before heading off to the pros. Perhaps by Anthony’s request, or more likely Coach Feely driving up the score to protect his job, Anthony wasn’t pulled until mid-way through the third quarter, after accruing 180 receiving yards and three touchdowns, (one of them on a 60-yard punt return)—despite the Mastiffs’ clear deficiencies at quarterback.

One missing face was the girlfriend of fallen quarterback Jeff Ellison, despite the fact that Jeff stood loyal on the sideline on crutches the entirety of the game. Kelly hadn’t seen the girl at the last home game either, which didn’t surprise Kelly. Kelly figured once Jeff’s train might be headed some direction other than the NFL, she’d be finding someone else to hitch onto.

But after Anthony was pulled from the game and Kelly’s rooting interest ended, Kelly’s mind kept coming back to that girl. The reason was the beer.
As judgmental as Kelly had felt about that girl, by the time Kelly asked Wade her question, she was working on her fifth—four of them since halftime, when Kelly had exchanged tearful goodbyes with the Robertsons, who were leaving the stands to have their last hobnob at the field house with other families of players of primary importance.

Kelly had figured she might as well indulge (Why Not?™), since the beer (and the hotdogs, and the nachos) was all for free.

“I’m sorry, sir,” the concessioner had said to them before the game, waving off Wade when he presented his twenty-dollar bill. “Cards only. The cash drawers”—there were three of them—“are all jammed and I can’t get in to give you change. Just take them, please.”

It had happened at the buffet this week, too, so Kelly was coming to expect it.

“Do you ever have to pay for anything yourself?” Kelly had asked.

“I wouldn’t if I didn’t insist,” he shrugged. “Doesn’t much matter now, though.”

Kelly wasn’t so sure. She had the paranoid feeling these things always had a way of coming back to bite you. But she took the beer anyway and sent Wade back for more. It’d been a while since she’d felt spoiled, and she’d missed the feeling. And the blush of fresh alcohol kept her warm against the chill of the November wind, which seemed to be growing colder by the minute and had chased (along with the lopsided score) more than half the afternoon’s fans away. And together with the two hot dogs and plate of nachos she’d scarfed down by herself, they gave her a warm, content feeling in her tummy, which otherwise almost always felt more than a little antsy. When she asked her question, she’d just dropped her fifth cup to the floor and snuggled herself under the warm crook of Wade’s great arm. It all combined to make her feel safe, safe to be vulnerable for a moment and open up to him.

“I’m serious,” Kelly repeated. “Do you think I’m turning into an alcoholic?”

“I wouldn’t say an alcoholic. I’d say, I don’t know, more of a lush.”

Excuse me!?

“Excuze me!?” she vocalized, slapping Wade’s chest as she lifted her head and looked at his face. He didn’t seem to be just giving her a hard time.

“Hey! You asked!” he retorted. “You toss ‘em back more than most girls—a lot more than any girl I ever dated. But I wouldn’t say you’re an alcoholic. I think it just means you’re a lush.”

This was something Wade didn’t seem to get. The proper answer is “No,” Wade. Say “No.” I can decide for myself if I’m a lush or not.

“Well Jeez, Wade, whazza difference?”

“I don’t know! How am I supposed to know? I guess, uh, I’d say you’re too young to be an alcoholic. Right now you’re just a party girl.”

Party girl. That hurt. Kelly loved parties, but she’d never thought of them as something that defined her. She’d always thought of party girls as girls who had to have them, either to score free alcohol or make up for poor self-esteem or because they were cheap and easy and had to give it away just to get sex. Was that really how people saw her? The same way she saw Jeff’s presumed-ex-girlfriend?

“Now your moth—”

Wade stopped himself.

“I mean, look at Gail. She--”

“Iss OK,” Kelly interrupted. “You can say it. I know.” After all he’d already bludgeoned her with his true opinions. No reason to stop now.

“OK. Sure. Your mom and Gail, now those chicks are alcoholics. I mean, I’m sorry to say it, but they have a real problem. Those ladies are fish. I don’t think those ladies can go even a day without it. That’s not you. If you drank like that, then maybe I’d say you’re an alcoholic.”

That struck a nerve. Kelly’s mom had returned from her trip home Wednesday evening. She’d gotten blitzed around them every night since.

“So, yeah, just a lush. And a cute one at that.”

Wade bent down and pecked Kelly on the lips, and Kelly closed her eyes and buried herself into his arm once again with a smile. She felt drunk and toasty and warm, and that was all right by Kelly. Wade was always saying she was hot, but he’d never called her cute before.

“I love you, Wade,” she murmured. She instantly hoped it was low enough so he wouldn’t hear. “Do you think,” she said louder, after Wade didn’t respond, “you could spend Thanksgiving with my family? You could even meet my dad.”

************

Sunday November 24

“What’d he say?”

Everyone but Wade was gathered around the Sunday table. Everyone close to Kelly: Marla, Monet, Jenn and Crystal, Elektra, Jennifer, even Caleb for a little bit before he claimed, “I feel my Y melting the more you chicks talk” and left. And of course Gail and Elizabeth, who had pulled together the whole thing. No one had openly declared it such, but it was a show of support before Kelly’s fateful sorority review on Wednesday.

Kelly had sat in Elizabeth’s spot, the place she was least likely to (for once) be the focus of conversation and attention. So whether it was something about the spot, or just the place Kelly was in her life, she’d been free to fill her own silence with her enjoyment of her food, and even more of her wine, until she found that same toasty overfilled sense of warmth and well-being she’d felt the day before at the football game with Wade. Maybe that was what led her to share abruptly how she felt about Wade, which immediately piqued the interest of everyone.

Why did I do that?

“He said he couldn’.” Damn, her lips were thick with wine. She’d been planning to keep the drinking in check today. I am an alcoholic! “He said heez already sp-“—she was tripping over the word—“sp-spen-ding it with Anthony Robertson.”

“I always knew he went both ways!”

Everyone at the table laughed. It was Elektra, of course. Kelly didn’t find it funny at all.

Elektra must have picked up on it. “A man that cut and fine,” she explained sheepishly, “he’d have to be gay, right?”

“Well did you think of asking him whether it would be OK if you went to Anthony’s with him?” Elizabeth asked, innocently.

“That’d be a pretty bad idea, Mommy.” To Kelly’s left, Gail was smiling and gently nodding her head. Elizabeth didn’t know about Kelly’s brief period dating Anthony. “Besidez, he said heez leaving Tuesday night, so I couldn’ go any-way.”

Everyone knew what Kelly meant by that: her review on Wednesday. That line of conversation died with a few remarks along the line of “That’s a shame.” The conversation ended, but the line of thought towards Wednesday continued as the only clear thing in her head—that and the recurring mantra, “Ohmigod, I’m gonna lose Phi Gamma!” Hot, jittery anxiety oozed through her buzz and rendered it powerless her buzz. Her hand reached out for her wine glass like it was on automatic. One sip didn’t do it. Nor two. A gulp finishing off the bowl sent a rush to her head, then that burning warmth to her throat and tummy, and soon an intensity to her buzz that overwhelmed her thoughts and pushed the fear back behind the alcohol wall. She nibbled on a dinner roll to cleanse her palate and maybe settle down her stomach a bit. It wasn’t long before she finished it, when she again felt the uncomfortable pleasure of too much food in her belly, that she turned her attention again to what was going on around her at the table.

Lunch was breaking up. Elektra and Jennifer, who had come together, were making their way around the table to meet Gail, who had stood up to meet them with a hug as they all went through the genuflections of parting before moving on to the rest of their day. Marla and then Monet were making their way behind them around the table. Monet was complaining how once again at Gail’s she had managed despite her intentions to eat too much. Kelly could see it: in her movements, slow and stiff from the discomfort of a distended stomach; to her profile, framed in the luminescent glow of chill afternoon light in November, a wool sweater pulled tight around a thick waist once thin, and jeans stretched tight across a fulsome behind capable of bringing the kind of attention Monet had certainly never attracted before, the kind of attention that for a Black girl would have barred her a second look from Phi Gamma.

Kelly’s head nodded forward of its own volition, and she just let it hang for a moment. Against the lip of table, beyond the crest of her boobs, her legginged thighs bulged up against the table and pressed into the dowels of the arms of her chair at the end of the seat.

I’m getting really fat.

She lifted her head again Monet’s direction, where Marla was exclaiming something about an American Thanksgiving feast, perhaps that she would miss one on Thursday or that she wouldn’t since she’d just had one, or something that Kelly hadn’t paid enough attention to to discern. Her flat angular face had grown little cheeks these past few months. Marla was standing behind a chair so Kelly couldn’t really see the rest of her, but she imagined she was probably wider and bulkier than the Asian-thin girl she’d been jealous of that summer. It seemed to Kelly Marla’s shoulders were rounder and wider, and she actually had upper arms to speak of. Is this why Chip had dumped her?

It’s contagious. And Gail’s house was ground zero, words she might have thought herself if she actually understood what ground zero was.

She must have dozed because next thing she knew someone was shaking her shoulder. She tracked her eyes upward and saw Gail standing next to her.

“Hey, Gail.”

“Ohhh, you are a mess tonight, aren’t you!” It’s tonight already? “Come on, Rise-N-Shine, your guests are waiting to say goodbye to you.”

“Okay.”

Gail reached for both of Kelly’s hands. She gave them to her.

“Come on. Scoot.”

She unwedged the near leg off the chair by turning it and letting it slip off the corner, pushing the dowel of that chair arm, then using Gail’s arms for leverage to scoot the chair back around so she could get out.

“OK. Upsy-daisy!”

Gail pulled on her hands, and after letting go and pushing up with one arm, Kelly made it to unstably to her feet and allowed herself to lean right into Gail, leaning her face into her soft shoulder and wrapping her arms around the top of Gail’s large belly, which has always felt to Kelly hard and invasive to her face. Kelly closed her eyes and held on, feeling both of them sway together with Kelly’s instability.

“I’m sooo drunnk!”

“Yes,” Gail soothed, rubbing Kelly’s back. “Yes, you are. Thanks for announcing it. But I’m not going to sleep with you.”

Kelly snorted and laughed into Gail’s shoulder. I’m soooo drunk! The mating call of drunk girls everywhere!

“Okay. I’m so drunk. I’m sorry I got so drunk.”

“It’s OK, it’s OK. Nothing to see here. We’ve all seen drunk girls here before.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I know you are. I know you are. I guess I’d better say it while I can. Good luck on Wednesday. I won’t be here.”

“You won’?” Kelly stood to her feet of her own power in anxious surprise. Kelly knew before now and then she was gonna need her. “Why?”

“Just a road trip, Sweetheart. A short one. I was gonna I’ll be back that night and you can tell me all about it. It’ll be fine. And we can celebrate together all Thanksgiving. We’ll stuff ourselves silly and drink all we want!”

“OK,” she replied and pushed back in for another hug. She wanted to tell Gail she couldn’t go, but of course it wouldn’t make a difference.

“Come on.” Gail led her out around the table and to the foyer. Where the girls all in turn gave Kelly a hug and told her everything would be fine. Kelly gave each of them a long soft too-long hug, swaying back and forth as they did and telling each girl how she loved her so much. Before long the girls were gone and Kelly lingered in her last hug. The best hug, with her mother.

“It’ll all turn out all right, Baby.”

“Okay, Mommy.”

They walked over together to the couch, where Elizabeth helped her ease down into the spot usually reserved for her after these Sunday get-togethers. Kelly lay there with her arms crossed on the arm of the couch, her head in the crook of her elbows, respiring heavily. Before she knew she was gone, Elizabeth was back with a pillow and a blanket. She coaxed Kelly to stretch out on the couch and arranged the pillow under her head, then began laying the blanket out on top of her.

“Mommy?” Kelly didn’t even open her eyes. “It made me sad when Wade said he wouldn’ come to Thanksgiving with us.”

“I know, Baby.”

“And that he didn’ wanna meet Daddy.”

Elizabeth didn’t say anything at first, stuffing the blanket around Kelly’s feet and tucking it in over her arms and under her chin. “Well maybe he can spend the holiday with us at Christmas—or maybe you could go visit him.”

“Mmmm, in Texas? Are we gonna hab the money for that by then?”

“I don’t know, Baby. I don’t know what else to tell you. I just don’t know.”

“Do you think Daddyz gonna gib it to me?”

“I don’t know what he’s gonna do, Baby. Your father, he’s—oh, never mind. Knowing him—or at least I thought I knew him—he’ll think it’s important for you to meet his family, too.”

“I love him, Mommy.”

“I know you do, Baby.”

“He never tellz me about hiz family, though.”

“I see, Baby. Sleep well. Everything will work out the way it should.”

“Mommy?” Kelly asked, opening her eyes, not ready for her to leave her alone. Elizabeth still stood above her, blocking the light from the fixture overhead, from Kelly’s point of view beneath Elizabeth’s portentous belly not much more than a black round silhouette framed by a halo of bright light.

“Yes, Baby?”

“Do you think I’man alcoholic?”

Elizabeth snorted (the same snort Kelly let out every now and then) and chuckled—interrupted by a gasp and a groan as she lowered herself to her knees and began to stroke Kelly’s hair behind her ear, and Kelly closed her eyes again.

“You’re asking me?

“Wade said I’ma lussh.”

“I’m sure he must have been teasing, Baby,” Elizabeth reassured her. “If anyone around here’s a lush, it’s probably me. Or Gail. Yeah, probably Gail.”

“Wade said you guyz’re more like alcoholics. But you guzs aren’ eben drunk. Iss me.”

“Yeah, well I figured maybe it was time I backed off a little bit.”

“Me, too, but I couldn’ do it.”

“Oh, Baby, it’s just a stressful time is all. Soon it’ll all be over and you’ll be my perfect little girl again.”

Kelly smiled. Mommy knew just what to say.
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Old 03-21-2018, 10:40 AM   #345
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Old 03-21-2018, 01:17 PM   #346
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“If you want to take Wednesday off,” Caleb had told Kelly, “I completely understand.”

Kelly had pretty much begged him not to, explaining how waiting around all day for her review with nothing to do but fret was the last thing she thought she could stand. So Caleb had accommodated, even pushing a few subjects off of Monday and Tuesday to Wednesday to help her out. But there was only so much distraction Lierman’s lab could provide, and by the time she locked up the lab at 1:00 just about every nerve she had was wracked anyway.

It was an eerie feeling walking across campus the day before Thanksgiving. Campus was almost completely deserted, students and employees alike already abandoning school, on the road for the holiday with their families. Last year Kelly had been one of them. In fact, she’d left right after a test she had to take Monday morning. She clutched herself as she walked: her cheap jacket wasn’t cutting it against the forty-degree temperatures and whipping wind. She wanted to slow down, take her time. But the chill countermanded that. Of all the things she dreaded today, walking into the Phi Gamma house was one of the worst.

But she took the plunge boldly, striding up the stairs and through the front door confidently, no effort to keep down the noise or snoop around the corners to see who might be watching.

The lobby was baking, thanks to Phi Gamma’s century-old heating system. Two pairs of girls were standing in the wings of each hallway as if they just happened to be making conversation. Kelly knew better. They knew better. It was why the heat was cranked so high to start with. No one hung out in the foyer when it was cold. The typical chill of the house’s winter hallways hit her as she passed. She smiled wanly each direction, not making eye contact, returned their too-casual greetings, and headed up the stairs. Maybe she was paranoid, but she could have sworn she saw the whiff of someone’s blond hair pulling back from over the banister. She felt like speeding up the stairs after she hit the first landing, but really, what would that accomplish?

She reached the second floor and nodded to two more sets of girls who again were feigning casual conversation, "conveniently" right next to the office where at 1:30 she would learn the details of Lindsey’s case against her. Five minutes, maybe more. An eternity, and she wasn’t planning on spending it standing outside that door, for sure. She smiled that same smile again and turned the corner for the last flights of stairs.

It was as bad as she feared. Thank God the Attic was in the middle of the third floor. How many girls would there have been peeking out of their doors she would have had to acknowledge?

Inevitably the sound of voices found their way up the stairwell from behind her.

“Hey, was that her? Did I miss it?”

“Yup, you missed it.”

“Damn! Why didn’t I—never mind. How’d she look?”

“I don’t know, she looked like Kelly.”

“You know what … mean! Did … look like … … to...”

The voices faded as she made it to the landing. Behind her she heard nothing but the sound of footsteps across the thick padded carpet hallways below her. Not even a sound dock playing music from someone’s room. The situation was the same on the third floor: Christine Simpson, Catherine (Kate) Colson, and Melissa (Missy) Tolliver standing in a gaggle not ten feet from the Attic. These girls acted like they were so deep in conversation they didn’t notice her before turning down the hallway and walking away as slowly as they could--without actually walking away. Kelly imagined they’d creep back close to the Attic door just as soon as it closed behind her.

That was ten, eleven, maybe more girls—out of 60 who lived in the house—who otherwise would have been on the road to a Thanksgiving dinner. Kelly knew just about everyone in Phi Gamma, and none of those girls were Executive Council-types. All of them were sticking around to see for themselves what drama might happen around Kelly Kegs today.

She climbed her way into the Attic to find Marla and Monet waiting for her. Tears came to Kelly’s eyes.

“Awwwww! You two should be on your way to your Thanksgiving dinners!”

“Thanksgiving diet, you mean,” Marla answered. “And I am not looking forward to that!”

“Only a Filipino would consider a diet on Thanksgiving,” Monet teased. “There’s no way we were going to let you face the wolves alone.”

“Thanks.”

“We were just about to share a little Southern Comfort,” she continued. Sure enough, behind her on the tiny French provincial dresser there were three plastic rocks glasses with sizable shots already poured. She reached behind her and grouped them all in her hand and offered them. “A little liquid courage.”

“Uh, thanks. But no thanks.”

Monet looked at Kelly like she’d just sprouted gills.

See? Even they think I’m an alcoholic.

She laughed. “Can you imagine me going in there with alcohol on my breath?”

Monet and Marla laughed with her.

“Well, I’m not going in there!” Marla took one of the plastic cups from Marla and tossed it off with a grimace and a shake of her head. Why do we put ourselves through that? She took the other cup from Monet. “A toast!”

Marla and Monet raised their glasses. Kelly pretended.

“Here’s to you—”

It was a common toast in Greek circles, and Kelly and Monet joined right in.
“—here’s to me—”

“No, wait!” Marla interrupted. “Let me do it:

“Here’s to you, here’s to me
Phi Gammas we shall always be
If we should ever disagree
To Hell with Lindsey, and here’s to Kell-eee!
Fuck Lindsey!”

“Fuck Lindsey!” Monet answered. “Down the hatch!”

The Southern Comfort disappeared, and the girls took a moment to choke down the burn and endure the backlash of the body’s revulsion to the poison. The clock behind them now said 1:30.

“Thanks, girls,” Kelly smiled. “You’re the best.”

“We know,” Monet answered, stepping in for a hug, a full-on squeeze in which they both lingered.

“You give the best hugs,” Monet observed as they stepped away from each other and the diminutive Marla stepped in.

Marla stepped in and wrapped her arms around Kelly’s waist. Kelly noticed how Marla pushed in a bit, like she had expected her hands to touch in the back. Kelly could feel the difference, too, how Marla’s hands cupped the chub on each side of her back instead, turning her elbows to allow her hands to go up her back instead of around her waist.

It didn’t surprise Kelly in the least. This morning for the first time since the summer she’d noticed the two little mounds on her tummy were back.

**********

Brittney Shore met Kelly at the door of the second floor office.

“Hey, Kells. For the record, I think this is all bullshit. I’ll take you to your folder. I pretty much have to sit and watch you while you look it over.”

Kelly gave her that wan smile and followed her into the office. As much as she liked Brittney (didn’t everybody?), it was hard being around her anymore ever since Kelly had learned her role in her birthday Molly debacle. It’s hard to be around someone who you know saw you naked, unconscious and covered in your own piss. And it was hard shaking the suspicion that Lindsey and the Council likely knew all about it, probably because Brittney had told them.

Brittney could have been, in fact, the ultimate reason Kelly was facing review at all.

The office was cleaner than when she’d snuck in this August to steal her expulsion letter. Spotless, in fact. A single folder was set up on a folding table, fitted with a lamp, a blank white legal pad, and an ominous red pen. Kelly took her seat while Brittney sat on one crossed leg in the window seat directly behind her. It was a classic gray plastic chair, elementary school style, though adult-sized. Not adult-sized enough, it turned out: despite the vice grip her newly-purchased, increasingly snug Seven jeans had her hips in, Kelly could tell they spread well beyond the edges of the chair.

And why wouldn’t she feel self-conscious about that? After all the smoke and mirrors, the laundry list of trumped-up charges, her fat ass was why she was really here. Right?

She pushed her mix of self-pity and self-blame aside as her curiosity got the better hand. A month she’d wanted to know the case set up against her, and finally, here it was. After weeks of anxiety, her mind felt clear, relaxed, focused. She dove right in.

There was a lot of material. Some of it was irrelevant: a few forms certifying for the national office her completion of initiation and acceptance into Phi Gamma, copies of her freshman-year grades, notification of academic probation, payment records for her dues, etc. A thick packet of the relevant material was clipped together in a purple binder clip: page after page of printed photos; copies of e-mails from council members, some with each other, some with University personnel, some with the Panhellenic Council, and apparently a few with Phi Gammas, whose names were blacked out with a Sharpie; minutes from the meeting discussing the need for review; photocopies of post-its and other handwritten notes; and, most interestingly, a few original documents, including a copy of the “COMPORTMENT” standards and something Kelly had never before laid eyes on—the color photo of a pink copy of a ticket she’d received from the city police. The ticket, with the charge “public intoxication with the inability to care for self or others,” was stapled to a memo from the city police to the campus police, which had been forwarded to the Dean of Student Affairs office and cc’d to the Panhellenic Council and of course Phi Gamma.

So that’s how they found out! Kelly’d had no idea the amount of bureaucratic connection across campus attached to incidents like hers.

She glanced over her shoulder at Brittney, who was leaning against the window sill propped up by some pillows, head buried in her Samsung Note. It felt good knowing that Brittney was still just Brittney after all and not the snitch Kelly had suspected her of being.

The pictures were pretty much the ones that Kelly would expect them to be. Kelly on the ground at beer pong. Unmanaged cleavage at The Speakeasy. Even pictures of her in her Daisy Dukes from early in the summer—before all the weight gain. Kelly imagined that was thrown in there just to help the case. But she didn’t forget what she knew: they were there to document Code violations. They wouldn’t be called that, of course. As far as Kelly could tell, none of them seemed like the exact same pictures from the fake facebook accounts, but there was no sure way to know. Nothing she found in the documentation even hinted about those, which meant Kelly had made enough of a spectacle that everyone had noticed and spread those pictures far and wide.

Gathered all together like that, so many incidents so close in time, Kelly appreciated the magnitude of her drunken exhibitionism after all. Her cheeks flushed red, and she wondered anew about alcoholism. She couldn’t think of a single other Phi Gamma who had done anything to that degree in her time at Phi Gamma. How could I let myself go that far?

It was a hard thing to defend. She wasn’t sure she would be able to.

Then again, the picture that really chapped Kelly was from Lindsey’s phone itself: American Wet T-shirt Beer Pong, cc’d out to all Lindsey’s Greek contacts.

Backstabbing bitch!

The backstabbing bitchiness was everywhere. Typed-up notes described Kelly’s multiple contacts with Lierman after her math class, including observing her entering Lierman’s office on several occasions—not the least of which was immediately after her final exam. The notes hinted at a rumored dinner out (How did she find out about that?) and a possible connection between that and being hired—not enrolled in a class, it specified, but hired—as a lab assistant. You would have had to be in those classes to catch most of that stuff, and that meant it all had to come from Lindsey. Who had seemingly not even remembered who Lierman even was! Every bit of it was innuendo, nothing substantiated. (And how could it be? There was nothing there!) Yet, there it was, “the appearance of inappropriate fraternization.” And it was Lindsey herself who when had seen her connection to Lierman as an advantage, who had specifically told her, “Don’t fuck it up!”

What did I ever do to Lindsey anyway?

At least Gail seemed to be right about one thing: they’d never dug enough to put together the truth of her expulsion. That was certainly something.

For the rest Kelly had to scour over the charges in her notification letter at the front of the packet, even though by now she really knew them by heart. Affiliation with other groups on campus? What, the football team? Maybe she was thinking The Bone—there were several comments ranging from distressed to snarky about that—or the time she spent with the football team in general. Maybe they disapproved of Wade? A few of the pictures were just of him, back when he danced on the table back at The Speakeasy. Anthony Robertson, maybe? Because she dated him? Because he’s Black?

Ohmigod, could this be some kind of racist thing!?

She knew she was reaching well beyond what she knew. But honestly despite all her diplomatic reluctance in the past to ascribe the worst motives to Lindsey, in reality Kelly didn’t feel like she could put anything past Lindsey. But then none of these “charges” were really all spelled out for her, either. And there were a few things that didn’t seem to relate to them at all. Most notably, a couple of pages of pictures that made her cringe.

It was clearly a series of stills from a video of her standing outside the house steps, stuffing her face with PinkBox doughnuts.

Somebody had been watching, probably right out of the window seat right behind Kelly, the self-same window seat Brittney was sitting on now. And whoever it was that took that video, kept it, and now was using it as a smear against her. She got that same squirmy feeling she did when she saw the facebook profiles. It was even more clear: someone in the house was deliberately taking pictures of her.

A wave of nausea hit Kelly for a moment, and she was thankful for the nervous stomach that had kept it empty all day. She looked up from the file and focused on one spot in the middle of Lindsey’s blank cork board until the sickness passed, then breathed out a few times until the feeling of sweating receded. Above the cork board was a clock.

1:50. Ten minutes left to build a defense.

Kelly flipped back through the packet, focusing mostly on the e-mails and looking for information that might help her understand the rest of Lindsey’s complaints against her.

Most of the rest of the e-mails were procedural communications about moving her out of the house, moving her in, moving her to the Attic, replacing her on the social committee—bluh-blah, bluh-blah, bluh-blah, bluh-blah. There was a good bit of exchange about Rush, with the occasional reference to “those girls” or “Kelly’s Littles” with vaguely masked disapproval for Jenn and Crystal and wonder that somehow they’d been approved as pledges. There was also a good bit of exchange about the hors d’oeuvres, mostly positive, with Kerry (of the European last name, now strangely disappeared) labeling it a “budget miracle.” Lindsey, though, was upset enough that one of the other girls told her to “get your panties out of a wad” and see how this was a good thing. Another girl told her to stop taking it so personally.

Ah. Insubordination. Well, that was hardly a surprise.

That was the realization that finally made sense of what Kelly found to be the single most odd thing in the packet, which was the inclusion of the COMPORTMENT Rules and Regs lesson in the folder. Kelly’d really put that night behind her, but it didn’t take much to jog her memory. Clearly someone had told her about how that meeting went, and there was no doubt who that had to be. Elaine. Elaine Robertson—no. What’s her name? Um, Miss America.

Elaine and Lindsey would be close enough that e-mails wouldn’t be exchanged. Yes, Lindsey would see that as insubordination. Wouldn’t there be notes in the file, though?

Kelly leaned back in her chair and held the COMPORTMENT packet in front of her. Even now it struck her wrong. Tackiness codified in black-and-white. She flipped through it back-to-front, checking the back in case there were notes there. Nope. She looked at the front again. Tackiness in black-and-white.

Which was when she saw it.

A Sharpie-written 11 was in the corner, faded because, as Kelly now recalled, the original had been written in red. This was a copy. A copy of a numbered original, numbered as if to keep track of it, like it was supposed to be gathered back up and filed away. Why a copy? Where was the original?

Ohmigod! Did I ever collect those things back up!?

She wracked her memory. She couldn’t tell one way or the other. Maybe so, maybe not. Who could know? It was pretty chaotic at the end of that meeting. She knew she wasn’t even thinking about it at the time. That was the problem: she hadn’t been thinking about it at all. So, what? Copies had made it out of the room? And Elaine snitched to Lindsey about it?

Kelly’s heart froze as she realized it could be worse. Much, much worse.

Somebody took a copy out of the room. And maybe out of the house. And someone had found it circulating out there, somewhere outside of the house, and sent along a scan of it to Phi Gamma.

Phi Gamma secrets out in the open. In fact, its most unflattering secrets. And Kelly had been the one in charge.

I’m so screwed.
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Old 03-25-2018, 06:54 PM   #347
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Oh, I feel a blast of suspensful music is required at this point (Seriously, I'm enjoying seeing this point get reached. I'd read the last few chapters without signing in, but had to come back and sign in to say how much I've been enjoying.)
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Old 03-27-2018, 08:48 PM   #348
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tad View Post
Oh, I feel a blast of suspensful music is required at this point (Seriously, I'm enjoying seeing this point get reached. I'd read the last few chapters without signing in, but had to come back and sign in to say how much I've been enjoying.)
The name I've had on my draft from the beginning has been "Suspended." Been looking forward to this myself.

Any guesses what's gonna happen? Anyone care to take a shot?
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Old 03-28-2018, 01:10 PM   #349
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I have all sorts of guesses, but I'm not saying them in black and white. Bad luck or something?

But they fall into three main categories that I'll call Right Turn, Blinkers, and Barrel Roll. Well, there is also u-turn that I don't think you'd do to us, and Minute 21 which I don't think is your style.

Also when I saw you had posted I was all excited. Tease!
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Old 03-28-2018, 02:52 PM   #350
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Talk about a u-turn! Very cryptic. Now I'm having to read between the lines to figure out what you might be thinking.

It'd be pretty unusual to have two significant pieces edited in time to get posted so soon together.
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