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Old 12-03-2016, 10:39 PM   #1
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Post The Slowest Champion -Revisited- (~BBW, ~~WG, humiliation, role reversal, realistic)

“A champion high school swimmer’s figure and fortunes are undone when she succumbs to the temptations presented by her own success.”
(~BBW, ~~WG, humiliation, role reversal, realistic)


THE SLOWEST CHAMPION -REVISITED-


by Riptoryx

FORWARD

Back in 2012, FlamingHades published a nifty little story called "The Slowest Champion." A story about weight gain and role-reversal, it is noteworthy for being not a very “nice” story. It casts weight gain in an objectively negatively light. It flirts with themes of punishment, humiliation, degradation, disempowerment, failure, defeat, and shame. It lacks a traditional happy ending. Those are all things I love about it, and they are big part of why it ranks among my recent(ish) favorites in the realm of weight gain fiction.

That said, I have always regarded “The Slowest Champion” to be a bit of a diamond-in-the-rough. While powered by great ideas and a sense of energy that builds towards one of the most elegantly-simple yet crushingly-effective conclusions I’ve ever read in this genre, in other respects some parts of the story seemed to me unpolished, or simply incomplete.
With blessing from FlamingHades, what follows is my attempt to give this underappreciated gem a little TLC, to help bring out its dark inner sparkle.

Starting this weekend, and updating roughly once per week until completion, I will be posting:

A story…
  • Written by me, Riptoryx.
  • Edited by realistic dark weight gain erotica luminary (and one my personal favorite authors in this genre), Maverick.
  • With creative consultation from “Ali.”
  • Based upon the original "The Slowest Champion" by FlamingHades.
Stay tuned...

Note: If you’re keen to get updates on this story as soon as possible, I recommend watching my DeviantArt (http://riptoryx.deviantart.com/) or following my Tumblr (http://riptoryx.tumblr.com/). The latest updates will appear there first, before I get around to migrating the text over to here.
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Old 12-03-2016, 11:05 PM   #2
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Post Part 1


Part 1

Exhaustion was setting in. Through her years of practice, Kara knew the signs well. She tried to ignore them. She focused on the rhythm, hoping somehow to infuse it with will and desire—faster, smoother, harder. There were only two more lengths of the pool to go, but every stroke seemed like energy-sapping torture. “Come on!” Kara thought.

It was no use. That final straight was the worst. There was just no gas left in the tank. “This isn’t even swimming anymore,” Kara thought. It was hell. Pure hell.

Kara sighed. She couldn’t bear to watch it any longer. She stared at her knees instead, and hugged her folded-in legs tighter. This was the finals of the state sectional swimming meet. A team championship was on the line, and she was stuck in the bleachers, watching it slip away.

After what seemed an eternity, Jessie finally tapped the wall. Arms trembling, she hauled herself out the pool with difficulty, to the sound of a few tepid cheers. All the other swimmers were not only out of the water, but already heading back to sit with their teams.

“Good effort, good effort!” yelled Sarah, clapping her hands. Kara raised her head and fixed a meaningful look on the blonde girl seated next to her, eyebrow arched. “Really?” that eyebrow said.

Catching Kara’s gaze, Sarah bit her lip and stopped clapping. She gave Kara a half-hearted shrug.

Kara watched Jessie hobble back over to her team’s section of the bleachers on unsteady legs, clutching at her right side. She looked miserable.

Jessie was the weakest swimmer on the team. She really shouldn’t even have been promoted up from junior varsity, in Kara’s estimation, but losing one of their better members to a sudden family relocation out of state had left the team shorthanded midseason. She did try hard, Kara had to acknowledge, but “effort” only counted for so much. This was the varsity team, after all, and the sectional finals. To be so close to taking home a team first place and then just fall apart like that…

Jessie grabbed a towel and wrapped it around her bulky form. In addition to being the team’s weakest swimmer, Jessie was also far and away its heaviest. Jessie had full, ponderous breasts, easily twice the size of Kara’s own pert boobs. But with twice the size there came extra size everywhere else, too. Jessie had thick, jiggly thighs, a bulbous rump, and a hefty belly which rivaled her boobs for status as dominant feature. The relative incongruity of her tubby figure amongst the fit ranks of the varsity team left many of the other girls feeling empathetically uncomfortable, particularly when they were all lined up in their swimsuits. Jessie’s face was soft and cherubic, but not ugly. She might actually be kind of cute, Kara supposed—with her freckles, long red hair, and striking blue eyes—if only she weren’t so fat. It did seem like she had managed to shed a bit of that blubber since getting bumped up to varsity, though.

Just then, a collective groan went up from the team. Jessie raised her goggles and turned to look back at the scoreboard, where her time had appeared. Reluctantly, Kara followed Jessie’s gaze. It was bad. In addition to being by far the slowest split from anyone at the meet in any event, let alone in that specific heat, it was also easily the worst time Jessie had posted all season. And that was saying something. Kara squeezed her eyes shut and gently banged her forehead against her folded hands.

Shoulders slumped, Jessie started up the steps towards her seat, through a gantlet of somber teammates. She paused when she stood in front of her team captain.

“I got a cramp,” Jessie mumbled. “I’m… I’m sorry.”

Kara looked up at Jessie without expression, then returned her gaze to the scoreboard. “Yeah. Obviously.”

A buzzer sounded, calling swimmers to take positions for the next heat. Kara unfolded her legs and rose to her feet in one fluid motion. With a shrug of her shoulders she shucked off the letterman jacket she had draped around herself for warmth.

“Let’s see if this is still salvageable,” Kara said to no one in particular, her tone stern. Jessie hurriedly stepped aside to clear Kara’s path to the stairs.

“Light ‘em up, Kara-sene!”

“You can do it!”

“Come on, Kara!”

“Kara-mel!”

"Go Kare-aaaaaah!”

The cheers washed over her as she made her way down through the team’s ranks. Despite her best efforts, Kara’s lips curled into small, satisfied smile.

***

“I just wish she didn’t have to be so mean about it,” Jessie sulked.

“She’s not trying to be mean. She’s just…” Sarah scratched the back of her neck, searching for words. “Kara just really wants us to win.”

Jessie watched Kara weave her way through the traffic on the narrow bleacher stairs. Her trim hips swayed with effortless seductiveness. Long, shapely thighs flexed and relaxed, flexed and relaxed. Ascending to a tantalizing gap at her crotch, the slightest of reverberations coursed through them with each step, culminating in the feminine shimmy of Kara’s remarkably fulsome and toned bubble butt.

“I know, I know.” Jessie shivered under her towel. “Jeez, I really screwed up.”

Prior to Jessie’s last heat, the team had been nursing a narrow lead for first place in total points, just ahead of arch rival Woosler High. Emphasis on ‘had been.’ Jessie’s sloppy performance had single-handedly dropped them into second, almost third.

“Yep,” Sarah agreed. Her characteristic lack of tact caused Jessie to cringe.

Sarah was, to put it charitably, a very ‘honest’ person. In the same way that sledgehammers tended to be honest. Nonetheless, of all the girls on the varsity team, Jessie had found her to be the most welcoming. Like Jessie, she was a sophomore. Unlike Jessie, she had been on the varsity team since her freshman year. Wiry and petite, Sarah’s small frame made an odd vessel for her bold personality.

“But hey, we’ve still got a shot,” Sarah continued. “Three more events left, and one of them’s Kara’s. And Kara is awesome.”

Kara had taken her position behind the starting block and was warming up. She reached her arms overhead. The supple definition of her biceps, triceps, and deltoids coiled beneath her skin as she as stretched them to one side, then the other. Kara’s breasts, strikingly prominent on her physique, if somewhat compacted by the form-fitting swimsuit, pressed forward proudly beneath her well-defined collarbones.

Kara bent over and grabbed her ankles, effortlessly. She held the pose for a few moments, then stood upright again. Kara reached both hands behind her back and, with a practiced flick of her fingers, adjusted the fit of her suit across her bottom. Seen in profile from Jessie’s current vantage point, the pert, sculpted roundness of Kara’s ass was even more impressive, particularly in contrast to her tapered waist and the sleek flatness of her abdomen.

“She really is,” Jessie sighed.

It was fair to say that Jessie regarded Kara with a touch of awe. Two years older than her, and captain of the varsity girls swim team, Kara had been winning events all season. She made it look easy. Not only that, she made it look good.

Her warmups complete, Kara pulled her goggles into place. Hazel eyes and long chestnut hair—the latter presently tucked carefully under her swim cap—combined with the light olive tan still holding on to her complexion from the summer to afford Kara a hint of Mediterranean exotique. With her high, smooth cheekbones, pointed, slightly upturned nose, and sharply-defined jaw, Kara’s countenance possessed a vulpine charm. Facially, some likened her to a young Neve Campbell.

A whistle alerted the swimmers to mount the starting blocks and make ready. Moments later, at the buzzer’s signal, Kara and her row of competition sliced into the water with uniformly deft precision.

“Hey, look,” Sarah said, shifting to better face Jessie. “I’ve known Kara since back when we rode the same bus to grade school. I’m probably her best friend. Trust me—she doesn’t hate you, OK? She’s just super competitive, and she’s gotten really used to winning. That’s all. I know you try hard. She’ll come around. OK?”

Jessie nodded glumly.

“Ohh-kayyyy?” Sarah persisted, smirking and slugging Jessie in the shoulder.

“OK,” Jessie conceded, finally allowing herself a slight smile.

***

Almost,” Kara thought. “Almost there.”

This was it. The final straight. Of the event. Of all her events for the meet. Of her high school career. She gave it everything.

Kara could hear the crowd, bursts of cheers punctuated by the muffling rush of water between every stroke. “Raaaaa-“ bloooosh “-aaaaaa-“ bloooosh.

With a last surge of power, Kara closed the gap and slapped the wall. Spent, she held onto the lane rope and tried to catch her breath. As the last of the swimmers reached the finish, the crowd hushed. All eyes looked to the scoreboard.

After what felt like an interminable pause, the swimmers’ names flashed onto the screen. Kara’s was at the top. Behind it was an asterisk, signifying that she had just broken the ancient sectional record. The crowd erupted. A girl from Woosler in the adjacent lane flashed Kara a thumbs up. Her teammates poured from the bleachers and all but hoisted her out of the water before she could manage it herself. They smothered her in hugs and excited congratulations.

Returning to the bleachers, Kara snuggled back into her oversized letterman jacket, her world suffused in a warm glow. All around her, the other girls chattered, cheered, and squealed with giddy excitement. Kara merely sat quietly, resting her chin on her laced fingers, elbows on knees, and beamed. For the moment, she was numb.

At the awards ceremony, team results were announced first. With Kara’s victory and two more strong performances after it, their team edged out Woosler to take home the first place trophy. Then came the individual awards for each event. When the MC called Kara to the podium to receive her first place medal and shake the state official’s hand, she was grinning so wide it hurt. Kara’s teammates cheered for her again, and none with more enthusiasm than Jessie. The long bus ride home was glorious.

***

It was Saturday afternoon in March, three days after the sectional meet. Kara was in her room, tinkering with her Facebook profile and trying to resist the urge to check her inbox one more time for any news on her application to Stanford University.

A prestigious institution by any measure, Stanford also just happened to have one of the best NCAA Division 1 swimming programs. In recent years, it had been among the nation’s most fertile feeder schools for Olympic contenders in both swimming and diving. Kara had also submitted an application to rival Bay Area swimming powerhouse, Cal. Indeed, Cal had already extended her an offer of admission along with a sizable athletic scholarship. But Kara considered that a backup plan. Her heart longed to wear Cardinal.

In the days since the sectional meet, Kara had already uploaded to her Facebook a new studio-quality photograph of herself with the championship medal—in her swimsuit, of course, flashing a winning smile, not to mention a calculated bit of cleavage and booty, thanks to her forward-leaning, half-twist pose. She had also already forwarded a copy of the photo to the yearbook committee, as well as the student newspaper. She had a copy on her phone, too.

As if on cue, Kara’s phone chirped. She grabbed it from her desk and swiped through to view her inbox. There was a new email from Steve. Kara opened it immediately.
Kara,

The athletic committee is having a big scholarship meeting on Monday. I just talked with the head coach and wanted to let you know things are definitely looking good.
Kara kicked her feet back and forth under the desk and squealed quietly.

Steve was an assistant coach with Stanford’s women’s swimming program. Last year, Kara’s high school coach introduced her to him as promising prospective. She and Steve had been exchanging emails periodically ever since. After the sectional meet, Kara had passed along word of her triumph to Steve ASAP—even before she told her parents.

At the front of the house, the doorbell chimed. Kara ignored it. She was too engrossed. She kept reading.
Obviously I can’t speak for the committee but…informally? You should probably expect to hear some very good news from us in the near future.

P.S. Nice photo! Glad to see things are definitely looking good on your end, too. ; )
Kara allowed herself a smug chuckle at that last bit. Naturally, she’d rushed to forward a copy of her new studio portrait to Steve. Apparently it had been well-received. Kara felt her cheeks coloring slightly in spite of herself. “He is pretty cute,” she mused.

The doorbell chimed again.

“Kara!” called her mother from across the house. “Sweetie? Will you see who that is? I’m still getting ready.”

“’Kay!” she yelled back, and hopped to her feet.

Kara’s parents, Joyce and Michael, had separated when she was six years old. Kara grew up living with her mother, but the split was mostly amicable and visits with Dad had always been frequent. He lived less than an hour drive away.

Michael had remarried years ago, to a woman named Marie. Kara never liked her, but together they had a son, Sean, whom Kara absolutely loved to bits since the day she met him. He was just so cute.

Joyce hadn’t remarried. She did date occasionally, however, and her social life had picked up considerably in recent years as Kara became older and more independent. Joyce was busy primping for a date at that very moment. Kara sometimes wondered who had really been the most excited when she received her driver’s license at age 16—her, or her mom.

Kara skipped up to the front door and squinted into the peep hole. With a tickled giggle, Kara unlatched the deadbolt and threw open the door.

“Sean!” Kara exclaimed.

“Kara!” echoed her half-brother. He dashed forward to wrap her waist in a tight hug. Sean was seven years old, with blue eyes and an unruly mop of blonde hair. He was tall for his age, but at 5’7”, Kara still towered over him.

“How did you do?” Sean asked, his head pressed against Kara’s stomach, staring up past her breasts with innocent eagerness. Sean idolized his teenage sister, in the way that little brothers sometimes do. He was particularly enamored of her swimming prowess.

“You didn’t tell him yet?” Kara smirked at her father.

“I thought you should have the honor,” Michael replied. “He hasn’t stopped pumping me for info all week, though.”

Kara led them into the house.

“Well, Sean, our team won the sectional,” Kara explained, deliberately omitting her own role just to goad him on.

“Oh, man! That’s so cool, Kara!” Sean said. “But what about you?”

“Hmmm,” Kara mused, coyly tilting her head and pressing a finger to her lips. “Welllll…” Kara took out her phone, tapped it a few times, and handed it to Sean.

Sean peered at the screen, then deftly tapped and dragged the image to enlarge it. His eyes went wide.

“First place?!!” Sean bellowed, bouncing with excitement. “That’s awesome!”

“Mm hm,” Kara agreed. “I even set a new sectional record, by almost a half second.”

“Wow!! That’s so amazing! You really are the best, Kara!” He plowed into her with another hug.

“Your brother baked you a cake, you know,” Michael interjected, holding up the plastic bag he was carrying.

“He dii-iiid?” Kara asked, feigning excitement.

“I did!” Sean concurred. He grabbed the bag from his father, then proudly presented Kara with the Tupperware tub it held.

Kara popped open the lid. Inside was an awkward lump slathered in frosting and sprinkles. “Great Job Kara” was scrawled across its surface in uneven lettering. Kara laughed, delighted.

“Sean, this is wonderful. Thank you.”

“Are you gonna eat it?” he pestered, brimming with hopeful anticipation.

“Erm…OK,” Kara said, sticking out her tongue and making a goofy cross-eyed expression at Sean. They both laughed and the trio walked into the kitchen.

Kara let Sean cut her a thick slice. It was sugary sweet, almost to the point of being sickening, but Kara dutifully munched her way through it with a smile.

“So why are you guys here, anyway?” Kara asked.

“I was just picking Sean up from his Junior Sharks meet. We were in the area.”

“That’s right!” Kara remarked. “How’d your first meet go?”

“I won all five events I swam in,” Sean proclaimed, puffing out his chest.

“Holy cow!” Kara said, swallowing another bite of cake. “Sean, that’s incredible!” She bent down and gave him a peck on the cheek. Sean blushed and shuffled his feet.

“He really was quite spectacular,” Michael chimed in.

“I wanna race you some day, Kara!”

“Someday,” Kara echoed, noncommittally. “Someday.”

“Kara, who—oh!” Joyce rounded the corner into the kitchen, fussing with the fit of an earring. “Michael…Sean. Why are you here?”

“Nice to see you, too, Joyce,” Michael replied.

“I made Kara a cake!” Sean announced.

“He sure did,” Kara agreed.

Michael eyed his ex-wife’s attire. “Got a hot date?” he asked.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” Joyce answered, rolling her eyes. “Not that it’s any of your business, thank you very much. And you two boys need to scoot before he gets here.”

“Hey Sean,” Kara said, “I’ve got the medal in my room. Wanna see it real quick? I’ll even let you wear it.”

“Really?!” Sean tore off down the hallway towards Kara’s room. Kara giggled and trotted after him.

***
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Old 12-03-2016, 11:09 PM   #3
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Default Part 1 (continued)

That evening, after Michael and Sean had gone home, and Joyce had left with her eHarmony paramour in his late-model BMW, Kara headed over to Sarah’s house. Sarah’s older brother, Tom, was back from college for fall break and hosting a big party. Or, at least “a big party” was what it had become once Sarah got involved. ‘All my friends get to come, too, or else I’ll tell Mom and Dad what actually goes on in the basement—with photos!’ Sarah had threatened. Tom accepted this sort of thing as the cost of doing business around his tenacious little sister. Notwithstanding Sarah’s threats, as far as Kara could tell, Tom and Sarah’s parents actually seemed remarkably OK with the whole arrangement. This was not the first time they had left for a “weekend excursion” and entrusted the family abode to their children with little more than well-wishes and a knowing, try-not-to-burn-the-place-down wink.

Kara left her door at fifteen minutes past eight—just late enough that she shouldn’t be among the first to arrive. Her attire was simple yet appealing, thrown together with the careless youthful confidence that comes from having a figure complimented by everything. Her feet were shod in a pair of saucy mid-calf boots, which produced a satisfying clop-crunch sound on the pavement with every step. Tucked into the boots, she had on a pair of deep indigo slim fit low-rise designer jeans. They were tight enough that extricating her phone or keys from their respective front pocket locations would be a chore. More importantly, they kept few secrets about the eye-catching, rounded contours of firm buns and sleek thighs packed snugly within. Up top, Kara wore a form-fitting white camisole, cut short, so that it exposed a thin sliver of her toned midriff—or more, if she stretched. The contrast of the wide leather belt cinched across her hips drew extra attention there. She also had on a chocolate brown suede jacket, cropped to mid-torso length, and zipped halfway. Her hair was loose; its dark waves and gently conditioned curls bounced against her back.

The walk to Sarah’s house was brief—just a few blocks from her own, tucked into a cul-de-sac. She had made the same stroll countless times over the years they’d grown up together, if a bit less often recently. Kara felt a little guilty about that. She could tell Sarah was getting frustrated by her increasing remoteness. But she was just so busy—admission applications, scholarship competition, alumni interviews. Being a senior was tough. She had to start focusing on her opportunities for the future. Sarah was just a sophomore, and not even really on track to compete for the same sort of scholarship opportunities anyway, so she probably couldn’t understand. Still, despite such rationalizations, that little kernel of guilt wouldn’t go away. Kara hoped that tonight would help.

Well before she got close enough to read the address, the herd of sloppily-parked cars surrounding Sarah’s house marked it as the scene. She rang the doorbell twice, but got no answer. The rhythmic bass thwumping coming from within was loud enough that she doubted anyone had heard. Kara tried pounding on the door instead.

A moment later, two blonde girls opened the door. “Kara! Hi!” they exclaimed, nearly in unison. They were friends with Sarah. Or maybe friends of Sarah’s friends? Kara wasn’t sure.

“Heyyyyyy!” Kara responded automatically. She vaguely recognized them as people she’d seen around school, but beyond that: nothing. This sort of thing tended to happen a lot. Despite—or perhaps because of—her good looks and accomplishments, since puberty Kara’s social life had evolved into the empty popularity of celebrity. Many knew of her and professed to like her, but few could actually be considered friends. Kara returned their grins and nodded at whatever it was they said as she waded past them into the crowded, blaring interior.

The living room seemed to be the hub of the action. All the furniture had been shoved aside to clear the center, where a throng of high schoolers—mostly girls—were dancing. Others were clustered in groups around the haphazardly relocated sofas and chairs, leaning in close to hear one another over the music. Kara surveyed the scene, hoping to find something better than a casual acquaintance.

“Kara!” a familiar voice shouted. She turned and saw Sarah scurrying out from the hallway, three large bowls of snacks balanced precariously in her grasp. “I was wondering when the hell you’d show up!”

“Sorry,” Kara smirked, once Sarah had drawn within earshot. “I got a little lost. There were so few people here; I thought must’ve gone to the wrong place.”

“Ohhh, har har.”

“Why’d you invite so many?”

“I didn’t!” Kara followed alongside Sarah as she circumnavigated the living room, depositing the full bowls and collecting empty ones. “But apparently, if you mention ‘college boys’ and ‘alcohol,’ half the school’s female population will find out and decide they need to be there.”

“That’d do it,” Kara agreed.

“We’re trying to at least keep the freshmen clean, so all the booze is going down to the basement. The last thing we need—“

A heavy crash from somewhere in the adjacent room cut Sarah off mid-sentence, along with momentarily silencing all other conversation. Kara winced.

“Jesus Christ!” Sarah howled, throwing back her head. “Here,” she said, shoving her collection of empty bowls into Kara’s arms, “take these back to the kitchen, wouldya? I’ve gotta try to stop this place from blowing up.”

“…’Kay.” Kara sighed. Sarah was already on her way to investigate, plowing through pockets of dancers.

Although the kitchen opened onto the living room, rather than fight the crowd, Kara opted to loop around the back through the hall, the way Sarah had come.

Rounding the corner into the kitchen, Kara saw a lone figure standing at the center island. The broad backside and red hair left no doubt it was Jessie. She was wearing a baggy hoodie and slack jeans that draped over her sneakers. By Kara’s estimation, the outfit gave her an even frumpier appearance than her tubby shape necessitated.

Jessie had parked herself in front several snack trays. Oblivious to Kara’s entrance, she gazed out into the living room and mechanically chomped her way through the dwindling contents of a veggie platter, looking bored.

Kara laid the bowls on the counter and sidled up next her, unnoticed. “Good carrots?” Kara asked.

Jessie flinched, startled. “Ohmygod! I—Kara, I didn’t see you!” she laughed, nervously.

Kara rested her elbows on the island and leaned her head onto one hand. Glancing over the selection, she plucked a ruffled potato chip from one of the trays. She raised her eyebrows to give Jessie an inquisitive look, then bit the chip in half.

“Um, yeah,” Jessie continued, trying to fill the silence. “They’re real good. The peanut butter celery is my favorite, though. I’ve had that a lot lately. I’ve been trying to diet…”

“That’s great,” Kara said, without enthusiasm. Despite her lean physique, Kara herself had never put any special thought into what she ate. Between her swimming and a naturally vigorous youthful metabolism, it just wasn’t an issue. The whole subject of diets was boring. Diets were something other people did—mostly fat people.

“Yeah, and I’m trying to get the pool every day, too. Almost, anyway.”

Kara nodded.

“Um…oh, and great job at the sectional, again. That was really amazing.”

“Haha, thanks,” Kara chuckled. “It wasn’t that big of a deal, though. The old record was actually pretty slow, I think.”

“Right…” Jessie glanced away, blushing. “Hey, how’s—“

Jessie was interrupted as a tall, sandy-haired guy in his early twenties barged into the kitchen. “Move it, Kara,” he ordered, a spare second before giving Kara a playful smack on the ass. Kara squealed in predictable fashion and jumped aside.

“Asshole,” Kara snapped, with mock indignation.

“Yup,” replied the guy as he opened the walk-in pantry.

“Jessie,” Kara scowled, “this is Tom, Sarah’s charming older brother.”

“Yo,” Tom grunted, without so much as a glance in Jessie’s direction. A moment later he emerged from the pantry carrying a large cooler.

Kara sidestepped to block Tom’s exit. “Ah-ah,” she chided, waggling a finger. Kara popped open the cooler and drew out two dripping cans of beer. “Toll,” she stated.

“Uh huh, sure” said Tom. “Why don’t you come downstairs with me and my buddies? I’ll get you the real hook up.”

“Mayyyyybe,” Kara answered, rolling her eyes. She let him pass.

“Wow,” Jessie gasped after Tom left. “Do you always have guys hit on you like that?”

“Eh,” Kara shrugged. “Tom is more of a jerk about it because he’s Sarah’s brother.”

“Still…he is pretty hot.”

“Well, personally I’m not such a big fan…buuuuut, he did get me drunk once, and we kinda hooked up.”

“Really?” Jessie gaped. “Gosh…I wish I could get guys like that.”

“I’m sure your Prince Charming will come along sooner or later,” Kara offered, trying to sound encouraging.

“Pff. I doubt it.” Jessie frowned, crossing her arms beneath her hefty breasts. “I mean, I’d probably need to lose at least thirty pounds before most guys would even look at me.”

“Don’t worry about it. I bet you can do it. And hey, if you ever need some help, just ask me or Sarah.”

“Really? You’d…work out with me?”

“Sure, why not?” Kara held out one of the beers to Jessie.

“Oh, uh, no thanks.” Jessie waved her hand. “I have to drive home.”

“Hm,” Kara shrugged, then cracked open one of the cans with a devilish grin. “I don’t!” Taking a long swig, she sauntered off in the direction Tom had gone, a can in each hand.

Jessie sighed, and then crunched into another peeled carrot. “Bye,” she mumbled to herself.

Several minutes later, Sarah stalked into the kitchen, carrying a huge, sopping wad of paper towels.

“The fish tank. They knocked over the fucking fish tank! Who does that?!” Sarah tossed the towels into the trash and slammed the lid. “God, my parents are gonna abort me.”

Jessie nodded sympathetically.

“Hey, have you seen Kara anywhere?”

“I, uh, think she might’ve gone downstairs,” Jessie answered. “With Tom.”

“Already?!” Sarah threw her hands up in exasperation. “Fuck.”

Sarah grabbed a broom and dustpan from the closet. “Hey.” She turned to Jessie. “Will you help me clean up the gravel?”

“Sure,” Jessie replied, with a smile.

***

True to her word, Jessie helped Sarah clean up the worst of the disaster, then drove home at a sober and responsible 10 PM. Around that same time—no less true to his own word—Tom was introducing Kara to “the real hook up”: her first taste of marijuana. That night, Kara proceeded to finish off the remainder of a six pack, half of a pizza, and table dance for “the buddies”—first clothed, then later without her top—before finally giddily wriggling out of her pants and into Tom’s bed.

It was nearing 4:30 AM by the time Kara staggered back up the walkway to her house, blissfully drunk, stoned, sexed, and stuffed. She’d managed to get dressed before leaving, but only just. Her mascara was smudged, her shirt was crooked, and her hair was a mess. Buckling her belt had proven just too much of hassle. Both ends of it flopped loosely against her thighs. Her bra was…somewhere. Maybe on Tom’s dresser. Maybe behind his bed.

Fumbling with the door lock, Kara dropped her keys. “Shit,” Kara lamented. She stared at the keys for a moment, dumbfound, before kneeling down to retrieve them. Kara let out a discomforted grunt at the pressure this placed on her full stomach. No sooner did Kara snag the keys than she lost her balance on those treacherous heeled boots. More of a roll than a fall, Kara plopped clumsily onto her rear. She blinked twice, then burst into a fit of giggles.

Hauling herself upright with the aid of the doorknob, Kara’s second run at the lock proved much more successful. She tossed her keys onto the kitchen counter and was angling towards her bedroom when her eyes happened to spy Sean’s cake. It was sitting on the counter, near where her keys had landed.

“Mmmm,” Kara purred. Although she was still uncomfortably stuffed from the evening’s indulgence, her happily foggy mind could hardly have cared less. With a dopey grin, Kara grabbed the Tupperware tub and shuffled down the hall.

“Mmmmff. Ohh gawd,” Kara slurred through the final, huge, sloppy mouthful of confection. She was sprawled spread-eagle on top of her bed, in quiet ecstasy. Pants unbuttoned, shirt hitched up, her bare stomach swelled in an aching bulge under her ribs. The Tupperware tub, empty save for a few crumbs, lay discarded on the floor. What earlier seemed sickeningly sweet had now somehow become utter perfection. She hadn’t even bothered with a fork, just shoving the cake into her face one greedy chomp after another.

Left at last with nothing but a sticky residue on her hands and a scattering of crumbs across her chest, Kara let out a contented sigh. Rapidly drifting towards a deep sleep, Kara idly traced a finger across the taut arch of her glutted stomach. “Life,” she thought,” is good.”

***
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Old 12-04-2016, 03:10 PM   #4
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Intelligently written, I especially admire the dialogue and the proficient amount of detail you put into the piece.

Looking forward to the next chapter.
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Old 12-04-2016, 04:29 PM   #5
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Intelligently written, I especially admire the dialogue and the proficient amount of detail you put into the piece.

Looking forward to the next chapter.
Thanks! There will be lots more to come.
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Old 12-09-2016, 11:24 PM   #6
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PART 2

The following week, Steve delivered on his promise of “very good news”—an invitation for an “official visit” to the check out the Stanford facilities. More important than the name would suggest, an “official visit” meant an all-expenses-paid two-day sales pitch, focused entirely on wooing a competitively-sought athlete. Costly for the offering program and strictly regulated by the NCAA, an official visit invitation was the clearest indicator of strong interest for a scholarship candidate that could be made at this stage in the recruitment dance. Kara knew all of this. She wasted no time in replying.

That Thursday evening, a slick, black town car pulled up in front of Kara’s house. It was less than a two-hour drive to the university, but the swimming program had arranged for chauffeured transit all the same. Steve was waiting to meet her curbside when she arrived, along with her student host for the visit—a tall, robust blonde girl who Steve introduced as Alissa. She was a junior on the Stanford swimming team.

With a busy schedule planned for the next few days, at Steve’s instruction, Alissa led Kara back to her dorm to get settled in. For the rest of the night, Kara peppered Alissa with a giddy barrage of questions about campus life, the swimming program, classes, the party scene—anything and everything that was buzzing through her mind.

The next morning, Kara joined Alissa for breakfast in the bustling commons dining hall. Before heading off to attend class, she led Kara over to the aquatic center, where the entire women’s coaching staff was assembled and waiting to give her a personal tour. Kara was astounded. The facilities were breathtakingly grand: two competition pools, a pair of multi-featured training pools, all of them beautifully finished, enormous audience seating areas, sparkling locker rooms, a world-class gym—it just went on and on. Everything seemed so big and new.

No less amazing was how the coaches seemed to be familiar with every detail of her accomplishments over the past year. They had nothing but the highest praise for her leadership and determination. She was, they assured her, a perfect fit for what the university seeks to nurture in its student athletes. By the time Steve walked her back to meet up with Alissa for lunch—the touch of his guiding hand at the small of her back sending a tingle up her spine—Kara was feeling like an absolute rock star.

Kara spent the remainder of the afternoon sitting in on classes, none of which held her attention. Later that evening, Alissa took her over to frat row to check out the Friday night festivities. Even at first glance, the scene quickly put to shame all the high school parties she had ever attended.

Alissa’s intent had been just to do a pass-through tour of the various happenings. However, once a stubbly, obnoxiously effusive young scholar in a Kappa Sigma shirt loudly identified Kara as, in his own words, “Alissa’s hot prospect,” that plan quickly fell apart. Professing a “solemn duty” to show prospies the best possible time, a trio of frat boys soon pressed a Solo cup into Kara’s hands and, over the futile protestations of her host, ushered the grinning high school senior into the heart of a rollicking house party.

Despite her best efforts, somewhere over the course of the evening’s party-hopping whirlwind of beer-soaked introductions and exuberant, rhythm-synched grinding, Alissa lost track of her charge. An initial voice mail urging Kara to appear for an 11 PM rendezvous mushroomed into several more, along with a series of increasingly urgent, equally unheeded texts, as the appointed hour drew near, came, and passed. Irritation morphing into genuine worry, Alissa spent what turned into half the night tromping back and forth along the row from one slowly-calming house party to the next, trying to catch scent of Kara’s trail. Finally, nearing 4 AM, when a distraught Alissa was sitting on the curb, getting ready to dial campus security to help her search, she got a reply.

Down the block, in a darkened third floor bedroom, cozily wrapped in rumpled sheets next to a lightly snoring, well-muscled sophomore lacrosse player by the name of Kenneth, a blissfully buzzed Kara squinted into the glare of her phone’s display.

“Duuuuuude,” Kara quietly snickered to herself as she scrolled through the pile of frantic text messages from Alissa. “Chill.” She tapped out a quick response.
Relax. I’m ok. Found a friend. Don’t wait up. Call me when breakfast is ready. Kthx!
Kara tossed the phone back onto the pile of her clothes beside the bed. She flopped over and snuggled up to Kenneth, her pert breasts pressing warmly against his back. He stirred, and reached around to give Kara’s naked ass an affectionate squeeze. Purring her approval, Kara sinuously twined a silky, toned leg between his.

On the floor, Kara’s phone chirped to announce a new text.
Fine
The screen briefly displayed Alissa’s terse retort to an audience of none, then faded to black.

***

Saturday morning’s schedule included sitting in on a team meeting and an off-season practice. Bleary-eyed, Kara spent two hours watching the Stanford girls churn through water, wincing at the throbbing in her head that accompanied every ring of the buzzer.

Alissa had been stand-offish when she met Kara for breakfast. Sensing some ruffled feathers, Kara had tried to defuse the situation with nonchalance, but that only seemed to make things worse. Kara really didn’t see what the big deal was. It’s not like anything bad happened. Plus, Kara thought, cringing at yet another buzzer, Alissa had clearly weathered the previous night better than she had herself; she’d done fine in all her timed sets. Regardless, Alissa had hardly spoken a word to her since.

After the practice, a panel of coaches summoned Kara for a closing interview. Despite feeling like a groggy, cotton-mouthed mess, Kara put on her game face and soldiered through. They rehashed the highlights yesterday’s tour, touted the merits of Stanford’s nationally-acclaimed program, and reiterated their praise for Kara’s abilities. Kara maintained eye-contact, smiling, nodding, and offering positive murmurs at the appropriate intervals.

Then they asked her if she had any questions for them—about the program, about the practice, or anything else that came up during the visit. For an awful, throat-clenching moment, Kara drew a complete blank. Her heart raced. Her palms felt slick and clammy against the textured armrests of her chair. Her whole life had been building to this, and she was going to blow it now?! She had to say something. After an eternity that probably amounted to all of a few seconds, Kara opened her mouth, unsure of what was going to come out.

To her relief, Kara found herself reciting a cogent—if generic—question about class selection options for student athletes. It was one of a half dozen or so that she’d been rehearsing since she got the invitation. She was pretty sure Alissa had already answered this along with all of her other questions Friday night. It didn’t matter. She needed to fill the space somehow. It’d do.

Kara coasted through the rest of the interview on auto-pilot. She rattled off a few more canned questions—holiday practice schedules, student athlete resources, travel accommodations—and let the answers wash over her with negligible attention to what was actually said. Finally, it was time to wrap things up. The coaches exchanged a few looks, shared a meaningful nod, and then had one last question for her: if the program offered her a full-tuition scholarship, would she be ready to commit to Stanford today? This time, there was no hesitation. Kara said yes.

***

Things were moving fast for Kara. The week after her official visit, Steve called to confirm the approval of Kara’s athletic scholarship and walk her through the administrative details. A formal letter of admission from Stanford University followed a few days later.

In mid-April, Kara’s high school organized a National Letter of Intent Signing Day ceremony. Kara and two boys from the varsity football team were the stars. The mandatory, all-grades student assembly had the indoor basketball court bleachers packed to capacity. Every contingent was represented, from wide-eyed first-semester freshman to the most bored and disinterested senior slackers.

In the center of the court, the three honorees sat behind a long table, a banner displaying their respective future university emblems laid out before each of them. The principal treated the students to a lengthy introductory oration about the merits of amateur athletics before handing the microphone over to the coaches for even more prolix adulation of each athlete’s individual achievements—sprinkled with generous nuggets of self-congratulation for the high school programs and coaching staff themselves. It went on for nearly an hour, but Kara could have listened to it all day.

After the speeches, the actual meat of the ceremony was comparatively brief. Each of the scholarship recipients signed a document affirming his or her commitment to a particular institution, thereby foreclosing any and all further recruitment under NCAA rules. Kara’s turn to sign came last. Struggling to quell a slight tremor of giddy excitement in her hands, she put pen to paper and inked her name with a flourish. Her reward: applause from the entire school. Maybe it was all in her head, but in that moment it seemed so loud—far more than even the max-capacity reverberant acoustics of the basketball court could explain. Before the signature had time to dry, her coach slipped a Stanford cap onto her head. To Kara, it felt like a coronation.

The next week, Steve encouraged Kara to come back for a less-structured “unofficial” visit, to attend another practice and start getting acquainted with her future teammates. As Steve reminded her, aside from the absence of a formal schedule, the other big difference that distinguished the “unofficial” visit from its “official” counterpart was that the school would not be providing her with accommodations—she would be on her own to arrange all of that. Kara assured him that would be no problem. Moments after sending her reply to Steve, Kara fired off another quick text.
Hey Kenneth. Got any plans this weekend?
***

Despite Kenneth’s efforts, this time Kara made it to the morning practice without the need for a wake-up call. She was also pleased to discover that sitting through the team’s drills proved much less of a drag when not hungover.

Once practice ended, Kara hurried from the bleachers to make her introductions. She was moderately surprised to learn everyone already knew her by reputation: Stanford’s “big get” for next season. After a flurry of greetings and glad-handing, Kara wound up in the aquatic center’s parking lot, chatting with team captain Mallory and several of her friends.

“You really think our chances are that good next year?” Kara asked.

Malloy leaned against the side of her car and folded her arms beneath her breasts. “Oughta be. At least if these schlubs can remember half of what I taught ‘em after I’m gone.”

The small gaggle of young women groaned and raspberried in retort to Mallory’s gibe.

“And if not,” Mallory continued, giving Kara a wink, “well, that’s what Stanford’s paying you for, right?”

“Uh, if you say so, Mallory,” Kara chuckled.

“Pff. Listen to this girl,” Mallory scoffed. “’Mallory.’ That’s my dryland name. You’re one of us now. Time to learn our wet names.”

“Wet names?” Kara asked.

Mallory jabbed a thumb towards her own chest. “I’m Flutterby.”

Kara stifled a laugh.

Ignoring Kara’s amusement, Mallory pointed towards Alissa. “That’s Bama.” Alissa—or Bama—nodded curtly in acknowledgment.

“That’s Swoops, Twinkle, and Laces,” Mallory continued, pointing out each girl in turn.

“And, seeing as how you‘re now one of us,” Mallory said, turning to Kara, “you’re gonna need a wet name, too.”

Kara blinked as Mallory stroked her own chin and put on an exaggerated show of giving Kara a scrutinizing inspection. Laces and Twinkle tittered at the scene.

“Hmmm,” Mallory mused. “Yes, yes. “ She waved a hand in front of Kara’s face, tracing small circles in the air. “I hereby dub thee…Full Ride!”

“Full Ride!” the other girls exclaimed in unison—except for Alissa. Kara’s former student host rolled her eyes and muttered something under her breath.

“Furthermore,” Mallory said, raising a single finger into the air and waggling it, self-importantly, “furthermore, I propose that we celebrate this momentous occasion of Full Ride’s naming day with a feast at ye olde Pampas steakhouse! What say you?”

Swoops, Twinkle, and Laces cheered their hearty approval. Alissa declined, offering a terse excuse of having ‘stuff to do.’ The girls all headed toward their vehicles, and Mallory wrapped an arm around Kara’s shoulder. “You’re with me.”

***

“I think Alissa might not like me very much,” Kara confided as they pulled onto the main road.

“Bama,” Mallory corrected.

“…Bama,” Kara agreed.

“You mean because of how you ran off to get drunk and chase dick at a party while she spent the whole night hunting for you in an apoplectic panic?”

“Uh….” Kara swallowed, her eyes widening, “Well…”

“Yeah, she’s already whined about that to pretty much everybody who’ll listen.” Mallory shot Kara a sidelong glance. “Don’t worry.”

Kara frowned and gazed out the passenger side window.

“Bama’s Bama,” Mallory continued. “I like your spunk. You don’t have to be a stick in the mud to be good.”

“Yeah,” Kara said, and favored Mallory with a smile.

“Yeah,” Mallory repeated. “Look at it this way, Full Ride. Haters gon’ hate, you know? There are always gonna be people jealous of you and your scholarship. The funding situation is all over the place; some years the program has lots of money to dole out, some years it doesn’t. Some years there are tons of top recruits, some years hardly any. Of course some folks are gonna wind up feeling cheated by fate and resent what you got and they didn’t. But you know what?”

Mallory paused, and waited until Kara responded with a shrug and inquisitively raised brow.

“Fuck ‘em.”

Kara laughed.

“We’re all playing dice in this game of life, Full Ride. You rolled a Yahtzee this time and they didn’t. But that’s just how the rules work. You earned that scholarship, fair and square. So folks can quit whining and get ready to roll again, or go home. Sorry I’m not sorry, you know?”

“Hell yeah!” Kara agreed.

“Hell yeah!” Mallory nodded.

***

With Stanford’s admission securely under her belt, in her waning days as a high school student Kara found it increasingly difficult to focus on class work. School hours now just seemed better spent socializing—in the way that her demanding schedules had never previously permitted. She also made time for several more “unofficial visits” to Stanford, so as to better acquaint herself with all the opportunities the university offered—particularly its frats.

Kara coasted into graduation on cruise control. She even opted out of one of her AP exams in favor of having another stress-free weekend to spend at Stanford. And why not? She’d earned it. Wasn’t that the whole point?

***
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Old 12-10-2016, 04:54 AM   #7
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Including Pampas is a nice local touch!
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Old 12-10-2016, 04:58 AM   #8
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Including Pampas is a nice local touch!
Uh-oh, I've got a local reader! Here's hoping my research pays off. I did actually put in some effort to make the various locales, academic calendars, and competition schedules more or less square up with reality. It's pretty cool to know that kind of detail work might actually be noticed!
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Old 12-13-2016, 12:36 AM   #9
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That's quite entertaining.
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Old 12-13-2016, 08:25 PM   #10
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That's quite entertaining.
Thanks! Stay tuned for more, coming this weekend!
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Old 12-16-2016, 09:35 PM   #11
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PART 3

“C’mon! You’re the one who volunteered me for this Jillian Michaels crap. The least you could do is keep me company.”


“I dunno, we’ll see. I’m pretty busy with family stuff.”

“That’s what you said last week.”

“Well—thanks, Mom!---“ Kara said, titling the phone away from her face momentarily as she accepted a tall, frosty glass tumbler of chocolate milkshake from Joyce. “…it was true then, too.”

It was summer break. Despite her offer at the party back in March, Kara had yet to accompany Jessie for a workout. Sarah, left to pick up the slack in Kara’s absence, was taking her to task for it—and not for the first time.

“You can’t even get a break for a couple hours? Seriously? Just a couple hours?”

“I dunno,” Kara repeated. “We’ll see.”

Jessie had invited Kara to hit the gym with her the Monday after the party. Kara had begged off. She followed up with similar requests almost every day. After a couple weeks of consistent rejection, Jessie finally stopped asking. Shortly thereafter, Sarah began pestering Kara instead.

It wasn’t like she had been trying to avoid them. It’s just that there always seemed to be something else more pressing going on. Her official visit, the unofficial visits, keeping up contacts with all her budding Stanford relationships, then cramming for exams—and, yes, lately, also trying to squeeze in all the family stuff.

News of Kara’s admission to Stanford and huge athletic scholarship had brought seemingly all the extended family relatives out of the woodwork, even those she hadn’t seen or heard from in years. Every last one was just oh-so-proud of her, and full of sage advice for a young collegiate. Quite a few were eager to visit in person before Kara departed on her next great academic adventure, leading to a whirlwind tour of congratulatory reunions after graduation. Last week she went with her dad and Sean to visit Gram-Gram. Now she was back with her mom, hosting guests from the other side of the family tree.

The obvious merit of these excuses did little to deter Sarah, however—or to dampen her growing irritation, week after week.

“Come onnnnnnnnnn! I’m so tired of just hanging out with Jessie. I wanna spin with someone who can almost keep up for a change!”

“Mmf!” Kara sputtered a chuckle after downing a sip of the thick beverage. “’Almost?’ More like you could almost keep up with me, Short Stuff.”

“So put your money-maker where your mouth is and prove it!”

“Pfff. Hello? I already have.”

“Ugh! Come. ONNNNNNNNN!” Kara winced and held phone away from her ear to lessen the volume of Sarah’s howl.

“OK, OK, OK. Maybe, alright?”

“No. Definitely. Thursday. 10 AM. Gold’s. Be there.”

The Stanford coaches had mailed Kara a summer training program. Charting a rigorous course of dryland and pool exercises for every week, the program staged in progressive intensity towards the September start date of Stanford’s autumn quarter. On paper, it looked pretty daunting. But it was only June. She had all summer to work on that. Kara was in no rush to hit the gym right this minute.

Kara sighed and took another sip. “How about 11?”

“Oh. My god. Fine! Whatever it takes to get a freaking moment of your time these days, Princess!”

“Hey now, I didn’t say I would be there. I said ‘maybe’.”

“Kara…” Sarah growled, menacingly. “Promise me right now: you’re gonna be there.”

“I dunno,” Kara pantomimed in a sing-song voice, “we’ll s—“

Sarah’s feigned scream of rage cut her off mid-word, leaving Kara in a peal of satisfied giggles.

* * *

The local Gold’s Gym was a large, stylish establishment with an Olympic-size pool and excellent equipment. Its other perks included a big membership discount for students, and—at least in Sarah and Kara’s estimation—a selection of consistently high quality eye-candy in the form of its male clientele. Over the years, it had become one of their preferred hang-outs during semester breaks when school facilities were unavailable.

Near 11:15, Kara strolled into the gym lobby to meet up with Jessie and a glowering, impatient Sarah. After getting a few snarky barbs out of her system, however, Sarah’s façade of irritation buckled under the strain of pent up enthusiasm for finally having Kara around again. Within minutes, the two were grinning and trading inside jokes in the way that only old friends can.

Jessie trailed behind as the three made their way to the locker room. She was happy to see her two teammates so chipper, but already she had begun to feel like a third wheel. Despite dozens hours working out together over the past few months, her relationship with Sarah was nothing like what these two clearly shared. Jessie silently swallowed a pang of envy and resolved to make the best of it that she could—as always.

While they were changing, Kara noticed that Sarah’s efforts to goad Jessie into a more respectable shape appeared to be paying some actual dividends. The redhead seemed a bit trimmer than Kara recalled. Her thighs and upper arms looked firmer, and that troublesome belly in particular seemed less glaringly puffy. Yet all but the last of these improvements were effectively concealed once Jessie donned her baggy t-shirt and knee-length grey sweatshorts.

Equally evident to both Sarah and Jessie was the fact that Kara had put on some weight. Scooching out of her jeans, Kara’s fulsome, pert behind wobbled with a softness not present when her rear had last been similarly on display at the sectional championships. The sleek tone of her thighs and abs had also faded. Though still smooth and shapely, they appeared to have lost much of their former definition. While surely only a modest weight fluctuation in the larger sense—indeed, none of this had even been noticeable until Kara began to disrobe—set against the backdrop of a figure that until recently had manifested such visible athleticism, changes which might otherwise be subtle instead seemed anything but.

More startling still was how Kara herself seemed either unaware of or entirely unconcerned by these developments. Her choice of gym attire certainly did nothing to downplay the situation. A matched Lycra halter top and shorts combo, patterned in flashy black-and-electric-blue, its low-set waistband pinched around her hips and middle, creating the suggestion of nascent love handles and forcing a hint of newly plush tummy to peep slightly over its hem. Sarah and Jessie exchanged a look when Kara trotted out of the locker room so clad, but neither elected to say anything about it.

As the girls wended their way across the gym to the stationary bikes, Kara’s sashaying strut caught the leering gaze of a muscley, buzzed-cut twenty-something in a “No Fear” tank top grunting his way through reps on the dipping bars. Conveniently finishing his set as the girls drew near, with remarkable bravado he stepped into Kara’s path and brought all three to a stop.

He extended a hand, and uttered a simple “Hi.”

Eyebrow arched, Kara allowed herself a moment of to appraise the masculine roadblock before responding. Jessie smiled sheepishly and looked at the floor. Sarah rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh.

“Hel-lo,” Kara drawled, satisfied with her survey. She accepted his hand with a dainty shake.

For a few minutes Sarah and Jessie loomed awkwardly while Mr. No Fear engaged Kara in a shamelessly exclusive conversation. A conversation that Kara seemed entirely too willing to indulge, in Sarah’s opinion.

“OK,” Sarah eventually interjected, before her mounting ire could get out of hand, “you know what? We’ll be over there. When you’re ready. Kara.”

Kara acknowledged the statement with a cursory nod. Mr. No Fear did not offer even that. Shaking her head, Sarah stomped off towards the bikes, and Jessie followed.

* * *

“She’s not gonna join us, is she?” Jessie panted.


“I dunno,” Sarah admitted. To which she added, a few seconds later, “She ought to.”

Across the room, Kara was still chatting with the guy in the No Fear tank top. Even at this distance, and despite (or perhaps somewhat in consequence of) her recent minor weight gain, Kara radiated sensuality. Leaning casually against a lat pulldown machine, she was a vision of ripe feminine curves and clingy fabric.

Jessie sighed sourly. “I wish I had her body.”

“Pff,” Sarah scoffed. “Not for long you won’t.”

Jessie tilted her head towards Sarah with an inquisitive expression, brow wrinkled.

“What?” Sarah chuckled, her tone equal parts smugness and consternation. “It looks like she got the Freshman Fifteen early along with her admission offer. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice.”

“Well…”

“I mean, hell, at this rate, before long she might even wind up as fat as you.”

Jessie blushed and looked away. Her pedaling slowed, and then stopped. She pushed the pause button on the cycle timer.

Sarah glanced over at her partner. After a moment of genuine confusion, the pieces finally snapped together. Sarah smacked a palm against her own forehead.

“Aww, shit. Jessie, I’m sorry, you’re not fat—I mean, I didn’t mean it like that, just…you know…oh come on, you know what I mean…right?”

“No,” Jessie whispered, staring at the floor. “You’re right.”

“Jessie, c’mon, I’m sorry, re—“

“Do you know,” Jessie interrupted, “what the difference is between me and Kara?”

Sarah bit her lip and said nothing. Now she, too, stopped pedaling.

Jessie nodded towards where Kara remained engaged with Mr. No Fear, giggling obsequiously at some comment he’d made. The flirtatious signals broadcast by her exaggerated hipshot posture and extreme proximity to the guy’s personal space were obvious.

“Kara enjoys being a winner,” Jessie explained.

“But me?” she continued, turning to make eye contact with Sarah. “I actually want to win. I’m getting tired of being treated like a loser.”

“You’re not a los—“

“So when you call me fat…” Jessie pushed on. Sarah averted her eyes from Jessie’s level gaze, cheeks flushing. “…yeah, it hurts. But you know what else? It’s just gonna make me work even harder.”

Jessie jabbed the button to resume the timer and began pedaling again. She focused straight ahead, her face a stoic mask. After a few pensive moments, Sarah resumed her routine as well.

The two girls continued in silence. About ten minutes later, they both watched Kara saunter off toward the lockers alongside Mr. No Fear, his hand on her hip.

Awhile after that, Sarah cleared her throat. “Hey, Jessie,” she asked, chipper as ever, “wanna crank this up a notch?”

Jessie looked over at Sarah, her sweaty face cracking into a sharp grin. “Yes.”

* * *

By late June, Kara felt sufficiently decompressed to begin thinking about her pre-season training. Although a couple weeks behind schedule, she harbored no worries. The summer stretched out before her like an endless sea of Saturdays. Rather than toil away at the same old Gold’s Gym, however, Kara figured it would be much more productive to hone her abilities in the crucible of their testing: Stanford’s aquatic center.

The idea had much to recommend it. Stanford’s facilities were peerless, and she already had clearance to use them for free at any time. Also, it was an obvious fact that no other preparation could possibly replicate the authenticity of practice in the very same pools where she would soon compete. True, the university was a long drive from home, but Kara had several new acquaintances boarding on or near the campus throughout the summer quarter. She was sure any number of them would happily let her bed down for a night or two to avoid the commute. Plus, it would be good experience, being away from home and on her own at Stanford for extended periods. It’d give her a chance to spread her wings a bit. After all, that’s how things would be every day starting in September, right? Why not take this opportunity to ease into it—avoid culture shock by getting acclimated at a comfortable pace?

All these rationalizations and more Kara rattled off to her mother, making her case. Joyce was an easy sell. Kara had become a young adult, she figured, and had gotten herself this far. It would be broody-hennish, trying to keep her pinned in the nest for a few more months.

Within hours of getting Joyce’s blessing, Kara was packed and on the road. As expected, locking down accommodations had been a cinch. A few texts and she had a place to crash on campus for the rest of the week. And if she hadn’t mentioned to her mother that most of her acquaintances for summer accommodations were guys she met at parties, well…that was only because Joyce hadn’t asked.

* * *
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Old 12-19-2016, 11:02 PM   #12
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Smoothly written and quite enjoyable.
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Old 12-19-2016, 11:16 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Matt L. View Post
Smoothly written and quite enjoyable.
Thanks, Matt!
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Old 12-20-2016, 02:12 AM   #14
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I have always been a fan of FlamingHades (with or without the "14"): he wrote/writes good fiction, with realistic plots, stuffing and weight gain. He is also somewhat obsessed with big breast, reminding me of a modern time Russ Meyer.
My only complaint is that a few of his works were never finished and some other felt "rushed", if you know what I mean. What you are doing here is a fine work, cutting a rough diamond.
Thanks!
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Old 12-20-2016, 08:37 PM   #15
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I have always been a fan of FlamingHades (with or without the "14"): he wrote/writes good fiction, with realistic plots, stuffing and weight gain. He is also somewhat obsessed with big breast, reminding me of a modern time Russ Meyer.
My only complaint is that a few of his works were never finished and some other felt "rushed", if you know what I mean. What you are doing here is a fine work, cutting a rough diamond.
Thanks!
Thanks, Borghen! I do know what you mean. A similar feeling is what motivated me to write this adaptation of and homage to FlamingHades' original. For any folks who might be following along with my Revisited version but still unfamiliar with its inspiration, I encourage giving it a read. (Follow the link in the first post of this thread.)
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Old 12-24-2016, 02:57 AM   #16
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PART 4

“Sink!”

“Sink!”

“Sink!”

The small crowd gathered around the beer pong table chanted in rhythmic cadence as the current match-up neared conclusion. On one side of the table stood Kara. Opposite her, and currently lining up his next shot, was H. Victor Stewart. Two cups remained on Kara’s side of the table, versus five on H. Victor’s.

H. Victor was a running back for the Stanford Cardinal, and yes, Kara had learned last week during a boozy, half-remembered impromptu make-out, he did actually insist on being referred to as “H. Victor.” Unfortunately, despite having learned that fascinating bit of trivia, Kara had passed out before managing to seal the deal. Given the biceps straining against his short sleeves, it was an error Kara intended to correct.

It was late August, and just another typical night for Kara. Since June, she had been spending most of her time on campus. After kicking things off with a few extremely vigorous several-hour days, Kara’s self-structured training regimen quickly eased into a more sedate two-hour daily routine. That daily routine then steadily became less routine and more occasional, as a rapidly growing list of new acquaintances inundated Stanford’s star swimming recruit with an even more rapidly growing list of invitations to socialize. Before long, Kara’s time spent exercising dwindled from “a couple hours a day” to something more like “a couple hours a week.” Truth be told, this week she hadn’t even set foot in the aquatic center at all.

“Sink! Sink! Sink!”

With a coy grin, Kara eased the zipper of her fitted fleece jacket down several inches and leaned over the table, squeezing her shoulders together to maximize the cleavage welling up from under her top.

“Ooooo!” the onlookers howled, in recognition of her tactics.

H. Victor shook his head and chuckled, then let the ball fly. It sailed in a smooth, well-controlled trajectory, across the table and straight into a perplexed Kara’s forehead. Kara managed a clumsy swipe at the ball as it bounced away, but her moment of flat-footed surprise ensured she caught only air. Unimpeded, the ball splashed into the nearest cup, to resounding cheers.

“Mother-Fucker!” Kara yelled, and stomped her foot.

The cadence started up again. “Drink! Drink! Drink!”

With a grimace, Kara picked up the first cup and fished out the ball. She hurled it, still dripping, at the back of her fist-bumping opponent. He didn’t seem to notice. She was so over H. Victor Stewart.

“Drink! Drink! Drink!”

Obligingly, Kara tilted her head backwards, arched her back, and tipped the contents of the cup down her throat in one long, steady guzzle. The shift in posture caused her jacket to ride up, exposing a couple inches of bare midriff cinched into a thick muffintop above a pair of furiously tight jeans.

Kara finished the last swallow with an exaggerated gasp and slammed the cup down. Casually tugging the hem of her fleece back into place, Kara took up her final cup and polished it off in identical fashion. A few appreciative hoots rewarded her effort.

Others soon began clearing the table, to reset it for the next matchup. Kara left them to their work and wandered onto the front porch. It was hot and stuffy inside, the crowded rooms pungent with the aroma of cheap beer and weed. She needed some air.

Outside, the night was refreshingly cool. Up in the treetops, a crisp little breeze rattled the branches of the big old sycamore in the front yard. She leaned against the railing, and for a time watched clusters of collegiate revelers mill up and down the sidewalks between frat venues.

In the relative calm, Kara heard a muffled chirp emanating from her front pocket. She wedged a hand in to retrieve her phone, but found there was not enough space within the tightly packed denim for her fingers to gain purchase on its sleek exterior. After a few unproductive shimmies and wiggles, Kara resorted to reaching across her middle and tugging against the pocket’s hem with her other hand. A couple quick jerks in this awkward position finally secured enough breathing room to escape with the device.
Well it’s over. You missed it. Again. Thanks Kara.
It was from Sarah—just the latest in pile of unread texts from her this evening. There were three missed calls and two new voicemails from her, as well. The phone chirped in Kara’s hands yet again.
Hope it was worth it.
Kara rolled her eyes, and then plopped onto the front porch’s dilapidated sofa with a long-suffering groan. The sharp pinch of the waistband around her beer-and-pizza-distended middle left her immediately regretting the maneuver.

It was a common refrain these days. Sarah had been nagging her for months. Although she’d finally stopped pestering Kara about the gym, there always seemed to be something. Come watch a matinee with me! I need to go shoe-shopping: help me decide what to get! Go bowling with me on Saturday! Let’s cheer on Jessie’s JV volleyball team at the home game! Just to get Sarah off her back, Kara had sometimes tentatively agreed to tag along for one event or another. However, over the course of the summer, she had yet to actually show up at any of them.

This week, Sarah’s plea had once again been for that final option. High school classes had resumed, and the girls JV volleyball team was playing their second home game of the season. Even though it sounded like just about the least fun way to spend a Friday night, a couple days ago Kara had mumbled some vague promise to attend. But stuff came up. How could she have known that Kappa Sigma would be throwing an ‘80s-themed party tonight?

Kara deleted the voice mails without listening—she could well enough imagine what she’d hear—and instead typed out a response.
Sorry. Something came up at the last minute.
A moment later, Sarah replied.
Yeah, some frat boy’s dick. You’re at Stanford again aren’t you?
Kara allowed herself a smug little chuckle at the quip. She slid a hand beneath her fleece top and dug her thumb under the waistband of her jeans, near her hip, trying to scooch it lower for a more comfortable fit.
Maybe, Kara texted back with her free hand.
WTF Kara.
The waistband wouldn’t budge. She slid her fingers over to the button and fidgeted with it for a few seconds, but found it far too tight to undo one-handed in this position. Half-buried between the pudge welling up against her fly from below and the roll folding over the waistband above, she could barely even pry a fingernail under its metal rim.

Kara laid the phone down on the armrest. Using both hands, she took hold of the material to either side of the button and set about twisting it loose. The backs of her thumbs prodded uncomfortably into the warm, squishy flesh around her navel. With an irritated growl, Kara slid her hips forward on the sofa cushion and leaned back until she was almost lying prone. Biting her lip and sucking in to the greatest extent allowed by the sloshing consequences of her beer pong defeat, she at last managed to pop the button through its hole.

Kara’s zippered fly shot halfway open as her released belly pushed aside the loosened flaps of her jeans. She sighed with relief. Gingerly, she traced two fingers back and forth along the tender denim-patterned welt still creased into her abdomen. On the armrest, her phone chirped again. Kara frowned at it, then grudgingly hauled herself to sit upright on the sofa and tugged the fleece top lower to conceal her undone pants.
This was the last home game til October. Jessie was playing. You promised you’d be here.
Kara groaned. She was way too buzzed for this. Why were they even still having this conversation?
It’s JV. They suck.
Sarah’s reply came back quickly.
OMG That’s not even the point! This was OUR last chance to see a home game together before you leave. Do you get it???
“Oh my fucking gawd…” Kara muttered to herself. Her thumbs tapped away for an extended period before she hit send.
Look I already graduated. I’m admitted at Stanford. I don’t have time to waste on stupid little high school stuff anymore. I need to focus on my future. Sorry that offends you. Maybe you’ll get it when you’re older.
Kara set the phone down on her thigh, where it sat idle long enough for the screen to go black. Eventually, it lit up again.
OMG! I can’t even… Fuck you, Kara, you arrogant shit!!!
Her brows rose, then furrowed in defiant consternation. She whipped back a response.
Fuck you too.
She tried to shove the phone back into her pocket and out of sight—she really wanted to—but, even with her pants unbuttoned, there was just no way to cram it in without standing up.

Hauling herself upright, a wave of tipsy dizziness sent Kara staggering into the porch railing. She steadied herself against the wooden beam until it passed. Before wedging the phone into her jeans she caught a glimpse of one last text message from Sarah.
Oh, and FYI, not that you fucking care, but Jessie’s team WON.
***
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Old 12-24-2016, 02:58 AM   #17
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The following Monday, twin prongs of reality rudely burst Kara’s summertime bubble.

First, while laboriously stuffing herself into a favorite pair of jeans, she unexpectedly discovered threadbare holes worn through the fabric of the upper, inner thighs. Hurrying to the mirror for a better look, Kara’s mood segued from astonished to appalled as she realized small portions of the frayed patches were plainly visible from the rear.

Kara wasn’t clueless. She had felt the growing snugness in some of her clothes over the past month or two. She knew what that meant. She had picked up a few party-pounds. Of course she had. But this

Peering over her shoulder at her reflection, Kara shifted her weight from one leg to the other. Her eyes widened. Face scrunched into a dissatisfied grimace, she repeated the motion, more slowly. With each shift, the ripped material on the backs of her thighs gaped sufficiently to expose glimpses of the bare flesh beneath. Kara clucked her tongue and let out an indignant groan.

She wore these jeans all the time. How long had they been like this? How had she not noticed earlier? For that matter, how had anyone else not noticed earlier? Or maybe they had…

Kara was still standing before the mirror, caught in an emotional stew of vexed self-assessment, reluctantly exploring the soft roll pooched over her waistband, when a chirp from her phone jammed home the second prong.

It was an email from the Stanford coaches. Just two weeks until the first team practice, it reminded everyone. Be ready to work hard and hit the proverbial ground running.

On the one hand, this was not news. Much like with the issue of her weight, it was not as though Kara had been blind to the passage of time. She knew the current date. She’d had the start of classes and swim practice marked on her calendar since spring. Yet even so, only in the wake of such external prodding did Kara fully comprehend her situation.

That afternoon, Kara launched a frenzied effort to cram three months of training into two weeks. Partying came to a crashing, cold-turkey halt. Each day she struggled to squeeze in six or more grueling hours at the pool and gym. She worked on every drill, every routine—everything she had said she would start in June, everything she had truly meant to start in July, everything she had studiously ignored in August. Even on move-in day at the dorms, after an exhausting morning unloading boxes and greeting her new roommate, Kara still managed a few laps at the pool. During the final few days Kara resorted to desperate fasting, restricting herself to a piteous diet of cereal and juice.

It was too little, too late.

***

The season’s opening practice always made for an anxious occasion. Time trial qualifiers were the first order of business, and the stakes were high. Doubly so for freshmen. In addition to being a critical first impression with fellow teammates, coaches used the qualifers to make initial determinations about when, where, and how to assign each swimmer in competitions. A good performance might open up new opportunities, while a poor performance likely meant being relegated to a lesser role. Either way, qualifers could set the tone for the whole season.

On the morning of the first practice, Kara made her way over to the aquatic center half an hour early, but still found herself among the last to arrive. Heading out to the pool, she kept her team jacket on over her swimsuit. It wasn’t odd. A bit of nighttime chill still hung in the air, and a most of the other girls were similarly bundled. Ill at ease, she scanned the crowd, looking for the friendliest faces with which she could mingle until the practice began.

Of course, Mallory was nowhere to be found. She had graduated at the end of the spring quarter. Kara did see Alissa, huddled up with Steve and another coach. Alissa had been elected the new team captain sometime before the summer. Or so Kara was informed. That wouldn’t have been Kara’s choice, but incoming freshman weren’t given a vote. In fact, she only learned of it months later, when she happened to notice a telltale asterisk beside Alissa’s name on the updated team roster. At the moment, it was just another reason for Kara to steer well clear of her. Not that she needed another reason.

Eventually, Kara spotted what she was looking for: Swoops, Twinkle, and Laces, clustered together and chatting loudly. Kara breathed a sigh of relief and headed over.

“Hey, ladies!” Kara waved as she drew near.

“Full Ride!” yelled Swoops, and threw her arms into the air with exaggerated enthusiasm. “What is up?”

Kara melded into the conversation easily enough. The main topic of discussion was what everyone had been doing over the summer. When attentions turned her way, the tale Kara shared was shrewdly abridged. Before long, the coach’s whistle summoned everyone over to the team bench.

After some introductory lectures, the coaches called each team member poolside for time trials, one by one, while the rest observed from the sidelines. Kara’s name came up early on the list.
With some reluctance, Kara stood and shucked off her jacket. Mindful to keep her abdominal muscles very firmly tensed, Kara pretended not to notice the sudden ripple of whispers back on the bench as she made her way to the starting block, where Steve stood with stopwatch and clipboard in hand.

Steve looked her over as she drew near, surprise obvious in his widening eyes.

Despite all the frantic last-minute efforts, once stripped of her jacket’s baggy concealment, the fruits of Kara’s summer indulgence were evident. She was easily twenty-five or maybe even thirty pounds heavier than when any of these people had seen her last. Packed into a Stanford team uniform she’d ordered months ago, with her plump little spare tire and newly-soft thighs now subjected to the full scrutiny of her teammates and coaches, those thirty pounds suddenly felt more like a hundred.

Kara blushed under Steve’s inspection, but stood her ground. She cleared her throat. “Ready,” she declared.

“Uh…’kay,” Steve grimaced, and scratched the back of his neck. “Get on mark, then.”

Taking up position on the starting block, an odd sort of calm settled over Kara. She was nervous, but not unprepared. While she still regretted frittering away so much of the summer, the past two weeks of solid practice had at the least served to bolster her confidence. Yes, there surely remained more rust—and weight—than a mere dozen-plus days of hard work could knock off. But just going through the motions and settling back into a routine had been reassuring. Even if she wasn’t at her best right now, it seemed only a bump in the road. She hadn’t gotten this far by accident, and the path forward remained clear enough.

Kara took a slow, measured breath. She cleared her mind. At the signal, she dove in and trusted long years of experience to handle the rest.

By the time she tapped the wall on the final lap, Kara’s shoulders radiated with the familiar burn of a vigorous push. She climbed out of the water, feeling reasonably satisfied with her performance, as Steve scribbled down the digits from his watch. Then he read them aloud, his tone a mix of shock and disgust. Kara flinched as though he had just snapped a wet towel across her rear.

“What??” Kara thought

The splits were several seconds behind what she had averaged her senior year. She knew she was a little out of shape but… During her frantic two-week catch-up, she had been entirely focused on completing the sets, not timing them. It had seemed like such an unnecessary distraction that she hadn’t even considered doing so. Could she really have regressed that much without even realizing it?

Steve glanced up from the clipboard and fixed her with a pointed gaze. “Miller,” he inquired, his affect flat, “did you follow the summer training program?”

Kara blushed again, and stammered an assurance that she absolutely had, of course.

Steve pursed his lips, then shook his head and sighed. “Alright. Take a seat.” He winced and pinched the bridge of nose before moving on. “Kramer! You’re up.”

As she returned to her spot on the bench, Laces welcomed her with a smugly lopsided grin. “Woah-ho-ho,” she chucked, “lookin’ a bit, uh…full, there, Full Ride.” She patted her own stomach for emphasis.

“Seriously,” Twinkle echoed, laughing.

“What the heck happened?” queried Swoops.

Blanching, Kara sat down, then forced herself to choke out a laugh. She spent the next several minutes enduring additional ribbing while carefully deflecting a few far-too-curious questions about exactly what had she been doing all summer. Kara zipped herself back into her team jacket as fast as she could.

Kara watched the rest of the time trials from the sidelines, frustrated and embarrassed. Her humiliation only deepened as swimmer after swimmer posted better marks than she had—even the other freshman. By the end, it was official: Kara was the slowest.

Once the practice wrapped up, Kara hurried to change and head back to the dorms. She could already tell from the hushed chatter, subtle gestures, and sidelong looks that a number of the other girls were gossiping about her. She tried to tune it out, but her traitorous ears couldn’t help overhearing a few stray barbs. “That’s our big new star?” “I thought she was supposed to be, like, good…” “Why on Earth did they give her a scholarship?” “What the hell happened to her?”

Kara slammed her locker shut and stuffed her swimsuit into her backpack. She tromped to the exit at a racewalk pace, eager to leave this horrible experience behind. As she neared the door, she saw Alissa, casually leaning against the jamb, arms folded, blocking her path. Kara slowed, then finally stopped when she stood mere inches from the team captain.

Alissa straightened. For a brief moment the two looked at one another, each silently sizing up the other. Kara sighed in exasperated irritation, tilting her head and raising her brows.

Alissa scoffed.

“Listen up,” the robust blonde said. “This is my team now. So you better get your shit together, Full Ride.” She spat the nickname with amplified derision, and prodded a finger into the slight curve of Kara’s belly, causing Kara to fall back a step, gaping with indignant shock. “Or you can get the hell out.”

Alissa then stepped aside, and gave a terse nod towards the door. Kara stormed past her without another word.

***
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Old 12-31-2016, 08:43 PM   #18
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PART 5

“Come on, just a couple hours. You need a break!”

“No, Delilah,” Kara droned for the third time, not bothering to glance up from her laptop screen.

It was late October. Determined to redeem herself following her dismal performance at the time trials, Kara had met Alissa’s challenge head-on. Beyond just working hard at every team practice, she was also putting in extra time at the gym and pool whenever she could. Dedicated or not, however, there were only so many hours in the day, and after almost two months of hard work Kara was still struggling to make any headway.

All her life, Kara had excelled at swimming. It came to her naturally. Since grade school, she had always ranked among the best of her peers, and season after season her abilities were always improving. It was a progression she had taken for granted, a basic fact of life, an eventuality as predictable as the sun rising in the east. Except now it wasn’t.

While most of her teammates had further polished their skills over the ensuing weeks of regular practice, Kara’s times still lagged frustratingly behind what she had accomplished in her senior year. If anything, the gap between her abilities and the rest of the team had only grown wider. Nowhere was this more apparent that during Stanford’s first two meets of the quarter. “Underwhelming” would have been a charitable characterization of her competition performance. She had yet to win a single heat, and had flat out lost three. Nonetheless, the Stanford women’s team had dominated both meets overall, and was off to a great start for the season.

But this success only further cemented Kara’s emerging reputation as dead weight. At practices, Alissa berated her incessantly, calling her out in front of her teammates, criticizing her strokes, her breathing, her stance, her turns, everything. It was harsh, and in Kara’s opinion almost entirely unfair, but always stopped just shy of the line that might prompt intervention from the coaches.

As much as she loathed being the focal point for Alissa’s “tough love,” she found the more subtle condescension of her other teammates even worse. After finishing last in an event at the recent meet versus Utah, Laces had begun referring to her as “Slow Ride.” The label proved alarmingly catchy. Soon, even rivals on competing teams began addressing her that way, as the tag somehow spread across university lines in the small world of Division 1 swimming. Kara hated it. Until she could boast some serious improvement, however, she knew any rebuttal on her part would only seem like whining.

Equally disappointing, even with months of effort she had managed to shed only a couple pounds. Most of her old clothes still didn’t fit well enough that she could feel comfortable wearing them.

Meanwhile, Kara had also been introduced to the sobering reality of Stanford’s curriculum. Accustomed to coasting through high school, Kara quickly discovered that she could no longer skate by without doing the reading. Plus, everyone else seemed so sharp and well-prepared.

Kara couldn’t understand what was going on. She was working as hard as she ever had, but suddenly nothing she did seemed to be good enough. It was like she had somehow lost all her mojo, and she had no clue what to do about it other than keep pounding against the same unyielding wall. It was maddening.

“But it’s Thirsty Thursday!” Delilah persisted. “That only comes around once a week!”

“It comes around every week,” Kara replied.

Delilah was Kara’s roommate. A tall, breezy, heavyset girl from Medford, Oregon, she wore her dishwater hair clumped into loose dreads and never seemed to tire of cajoling Kara to attend the latest campus festivity—whatever it might be.

“But—“

No, Delilah.” Kara leveled a meaningful stare the other girl, broadcasting her determination that this conversation had reached an end.

Delilah frowned, and planted her hands on her ample hips. “You know, you really are squandering the best years of your life.”

“Delilah…”

“OK, OK, I know,” Delilah threw her hands up in mock surrender, then turned back to the closet to continue her own preparations. Given that Delilah’s fashion seemed to consist almost entirely of leggings, ironic t-shirts, and Keds, accessorized with an assortment of hemp necklaces and bracelets, the preparations likely would be brief.

Kara shook her head and reluctantly returned her attention to her assigned reading: Malthus’ “An Essay on the Principle of Population.” The “dismal science” indeed…

“’I’m Kara Miller. I have a big deal scholarship,’” Delilah grumbled from within the closet, puffing her tone into an aristocratic parody. “’I have to work twice as hard as everyone else and am contractually obligated to be a complete stick-in-the-mud and never, ever do anything fun with my oh-so-patient and wonderful roommate Delilah…’”

Kara tuned her out. Delilah was sweet, and surely meant well, but she really just didn’t get it. How could she? Delilah wasn’t an athlete, let alone a collegiate one. It was easy for her blithely dismiss all the demands on Kara’s time while she herself plowed through homework and then headed out for this or that party night after night.

Part of Kara envied that comfortable simplicity. Maybe more than just a part—particularly on early Saturday mornings, trudging to the aquatic center while Delilah remained a cozy lump beneath the covers. Nonetheless, with commendable self-restraint, Kara had resisted Delilah’s constant temptations to slide back into the party scene. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to. If anything, Kara worried that she might actually enjoy herself too much. Still reaping the rewards from her summer “training,” Kara now harbored some silent insecurity about her own sense for moderation. The fact that she still couldn’t button half of her pants without sucking in didn’t exactly help her confidence, either.

Kara did not explain any of that to Delilah, of course. Instead, her excuse was always just that she “didn’t have the time.” It was a truthful answer, and for most people would have been sufficient. But Delilah wasn’t most people, and so the two went through the same paces again and again.

Kara started as a crinkly sleeve of vacuum-sealed Oreos smacked onto the keyboard of her laptop.

“Study food,” Delilah grinned. “What? Even sticks-in-the-mud need to eat, don’t they?”

Kara sighed and brushed the packaged cookies aside.

In addition to being a party animal, Delilah was also a shameless junk food fiend. A full shelf of her bookcase had been converted into a veritable cornucopia of sweet and salty treats. The mini fridge likewise boasted a well-stocked supply of soda, Starbucks bottled frappuccino, and—on any given day—perhaps one or more softening pints of Ben & Jerry’s. Outside of the dorm, Delilah mapped her campus commute to incorporate regular visits to the local food trucks, and her wallet included a well-used Mrs. Fields rewards card. Where the girl put it all, Kara couldn’t begin to explain. It seemed a miracle she was merely “heavyset” and not as big as a house.

As diligently as Kara had resisted Delilah’s entreaties to socialize, she had exercised less diligence resisting the snacks. Kara rationalized this as a reasonable trade-off of convenience; having food readily at hand meant she had more time to spend studying or training. And for her part, Delilah professed herself more than happy to share. Whatever dent Kara’s munching made in the stash, Delilah invariably soon resupplied sans complaint.

“Last chance!” Delilah warned, as she lingered in the entryway.

Kara shook her head.

“Tsk. ‘Kay.” Delilah winked. “Don’t wait up!”

***

Well after 3 AM, Delilah quietly eased open the door and crept into the darkened dorm room. She spied Kara, zonked out on her bed, bathed in the glow of her laptop, an empty Oreo sleeve crumpled beneath her hip.

“Aw,” Delilah murmured and clucked her tongue. She tip-toed over and carefully pulled the cookie package free. Surprised to find a single broken confection still inside, she popped it into her mouth, then carefully closed Kara’s laptop and set it on the bedside table. Kara shifted slightly in her sleep, but did not wake.

Delilah smiled and shrugged. “Silly little worker bee,” she mumbled to herself around a mouthful of Oreo.

***

Over Thanksgiving break, Kara accompanied Joyce to spend the holiday with her grandparents. For the visit, she donned a roomy Stanford-branded hoodie, recently acquired from the campus bookstore, hoping its generous fit might unsuspiciously forestall any well-meant familial advice about the “Freshman Fifteen” or other weight-related discussion.

“Joyce, Kara, oh!” beamed Kara’s grandmother, wiping her hands on her apron as she trundled out onto the front stoop to greet them. She wrapped Kara in a warm hug. “It’s so good to see you again, darling!”

“You, too, Grandma,” Kara said.

As they released their embrace, Kara’s grandmother maintained an arm’s length hold on her waist. Surveying Kara’s appearance, her hands gently squeezed Kara’s sides.

“My, my,” her grandmother appraised, “someone has certainly found college life agrees with her!”

Kara quickly stepped back out of reach and bared her teeth in something that might superficially have approximated a polite grin.

“Mom!” Joyce chided, and swatted her mother’s shoulder. “Shush!” It did not strike Kara as a particularly strong or reassuring defense.

Around the dinner table, conversation inevitably turned towards Kara’s time at Stanford. How did she like her classes? What did she think of the university swimming team? Was she making lots of new friends?

After her grandmother’s rude welcome, Kara was on her guard. She kept her answers circumspect. Classes were awesome. The Stanford team was awesome. Tons of awesome new friends. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Everything was awesome. She punctuated each response with a fresh forkful off turkey or mashed potatoes, so as to politely excuse further explanation. “And please just stop asking already!” she thought.

***

The first practice after the break was brutal. Kara’s performance at the Arizona State meet just before Thanksgiving had been her worst yet, and now Alissa was on her case even more than usual. It didn’t help that she had overeaten during the week off, either. Why did her mom have to agree to take all those leftover pies home with them? Why the hell did her grandmother even bake so many damn pies in the first place?

As practice wrapped up, the head coach pulled Kara aside and asked her to come speak with him after she got changed. In the locker room, Kara went through her routine methodically, consciously trying not to worry even while she subconsciously tried to delay the conversation.

It turned out to be worse than she anticipated. She was being sidelined for the Ohio State invitational meet next week. “It’s only provisional,” the coach assured her. “We have to consider what’s best for the team.” Apparently, in this case “what’s best for the team” meant keeping Kara out of the pool and keeping her times off of the scorecards. In fact, the coach didn’t even want her to travel to the meet with the rest of the team. Instead, he told her to stay at Stanford and spend the time practicing.
Kara was flabbergasted. She had already arranged to get lecture notes taken for her while she would be away. That should have been the least of her concerns, but somehow in that instant it was the only thing she could think of.

“It’s just what’s best for everybody right now,” he reiterated.

Unable to formulate a coherent response, Kara merely nodded and mumbled a compliant “OK.”

On her way back to the dorms, Kara had time to better digest the situation and the wheels in her mind began to turn. This wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. And it wasn’t just bad luck, either. No, this was Alissa’s doing. It had to be. That girl had been out to get her since day one, and somehow she’d finally turned the coach against her. Who knows what half-truths and outright lies she’d been peddling?

The more she thought about it, the more convinced Kara became, and the angrier she grew. Rather than return to her room, Kara beat a speedy bee-line to Steve’s office.

Kara arrived just as Steve was packing up for another high school scouting trip. He seemed eager to be on his way, but when Kara insisted it was urgent and closed his door behind her, Steve relented. He listened patiently as Kara pled her case. He nodded in the right places, and dutifully raised his brows while Kara breathlessly rattled off a catalog of all the things Alissa had said and done to her since the season began, all the insidious toxicity deliberately undermining her role on the team.

Once she had finished, she looked to him, eyes wide and imploring. But Steve shook his head.

“Sorry, Miller. She’s not wrong. You do really need to work on your form.”

***

Kara hadn’t spent most of her young life dominating her chosen athletic field without developing a measure of stubborn pride. Once she had recovered from the trauma of being so curtly rebuffed, Kara set about doing exactly what her coaches suggested—and then some.

While the rest of the team jetted off to Columbus for the last meet of the year, Kara headed straight for the pool. Having already arranged to be absent for most of the week, she took full advantage by putting all her time into single-minded training. Up at dawn, she cycled through laps and dry land exercises all morning, afternoon, and into the evening, allowing herself only short breaks to recover and refuel. By the time she collapsed into bed at well past 10 PM, her whole body felt like a numbly-trembling mass of ground beef. The next day was more of the same, now seasoned with the addition of a deep-set ache in her legs and shoulders. So too went the third day, and the day after that.

When the team returned, Kara resumed group practice with fresh determination. She let every criticism wash over her. She left every unfounded boast and cheeky comment pass unacknowledged. In fact, she now rarely spoke at all during group gatherings. Outside of practice, through sheer brute force, she continued to make time for even more solo training: hours in the pool and at the gym, every single day. She was working harder than she ever had in her life—harder even than during those two frantic weeks before the end of summer break, if with a more sober pacing. But it wasn’t without cost.

Soon after the Ohio State meet, classes wound down for the quarter. All across campus, students cloistered themselves, cramming for the upcoming exams. Kara had been struggling to keep up with her coursework before. Under the strain of her recently amplified training schedule, maintaining balance teetered from difficult to outright impossible.

Despite being two weeks behind on most of her reading, Kara refused to let her athletic focus be compromised again. Instead, she cut corners where she could and charged recklessly ahead where she could not. Pleading with the professor bought her an extension on the term paper for Sustainability and Collapse. A cunning bit of pouty flirting scored her some Intro Psych notes from a thirsty-looking classmate. For everything else…well, she tried her best. The run-up to exams found Kara hunkered under her task lamp, stiff and sore from the day’s workout, shrugging off Delilah’s chidings of motherly concern as she slurped Red Bulls and pored over her outlines well into the wee hours, night after night.

She was burning the candle at both ends. By the time she finished her last test, Kara was a frazzled, punchy wreck. But she had finished. It was worth it.

***

The splash of Kara’s butterfly stroke echoed emptily across the deserted pool complex. Overhead, leaden winter clouds hung in a featureless expanse from horizon to horizon.

Shortly before her exams, Kara had phoned her parents to deliver some unexpected news: she wouldn’t be coming home for the holidays. She was going to stay at Stanford over winter break, training.

Naturally, at first Michael and Joyce were shocked. But once Kara relayed a heavily edited explanation of how she had gotten sidelined from the last meet, and how desperately she had been laboring to remedy that, both her mother and father proved supportive and sympathetic. She ran through a list of reasons why it made sense to stay: freedom from distraction, access to the facilities, etc., etc. For better or worse, it all sounded very similar to her rationales for spending so much time on campus during the summer. But it was an unnecessary persuasive effort. They believed her. They trusted her. They loved her. They said all the right things about missing her for Christmas and New Year’s, and promised to send her presents in a care package soon. Sean promised to make her a special card all by himself.

And so it was settled. Kara contacted her Resident Assistant and made the arrangements for temporary accommodations in the Stanford Guest House over the break.

With a practiced kick, Kara pivoted off the wall and surfaced into a smooth backstroke.

Once the dorms closed, the campus became a ghost town. Kara made the most of it. She zoned out in the gym with her iTunes, uninterrupted for hours at a time. Alone in the rec center pool day after day, aware that everyone else was home relaxing with friends and family, she discovered in her routines a meditative peace. There were no deadlines, no demands, no pressure, no drama. For the first time since enrollment, she felt a measure of control over her situation. She felt calm. She felt productive.

Kara rebounded off the opposing wall and started back down the lane in a breaststroke. From the clouds above, a few drops began to plip quietly into the pool.

The gifts her family sent were nice: a Sephora gift card; several outfits (a few of which were a bit too snug to wear); and a heaping basket of Ferrero Rocher chocolates (which she had been unable to resist gobbling steadily, notwithstanding the disappointing fit of certain other presents). Sean’s “special card,” however, never materialized. Apparently he had gotten distracted by the hubbub of the season and just forgotten all about it.

Joyce also mentioned that said Sarah had dropped by the house, looking for her. “Oh,” was Kara’s inscrutable response to that information. “OK.” That was all she had to say about that.

Kara turned again and flipped into a strong front crawl.

And here she was, on December 30th: a lone figure methodically slicing lines back and forth through the chilly blue water.

Reaching the wall, Kara swooped to a halt and tapped her wristwatch. The rain was falling harder now. She raised her goggles and cleared a fat bead of fluid from the digital display with her thumb, then cycled through its latest tally. A small smile slid across her lips.

Kara tarried there for a time, arms hooked around the lane line, looking up at the overcast sky. She closed her eyes, listened to the rain, and let it pelt gently against her face.

Eventually, the moment passed.

Kara lowered her goggles, reset her watch, and started across the pool yet again.

***

Kara’s holiday seclusion proved beneficial. Right from the first practice of winter quarter, her times reflected a marked improvement over those of autumn. Whether it was all the physical labor or maybe just the mental detox that ultimately jarred her out of her slump even Kara herself could only guess. Regardless, her coaches took notice. By week two, Kara was back on the competition list for late January’s away meet against Cal.

She was quick to share the good news.

“Glad you finally decided to show up, Full Ride!” Swoops said, giving Kara a slap on the back.

“For real,” Twinkle agreed, with a sly wink. “I can’t see Stanford paying all that money just to have your buns warming a bench.”

“Don’t screw it up this time,” Alissa cautioned, direct as ever.

Delilah squealed and flailed her boisterous if only vaguely-understanding congratulations…then immediately asked if this meant Kara would actually go out dancing with her tonight.

Kara’s parents better appreciated the achievement; despite her gentle discouragement, both vowed to come cheer Kara on at the meet in person—Michael with Sean in tow.

A couple weeks into the quarter, Kara received a card in the mail. It was a belated New Year’s greeting from Sarah. Inside, Kara found a note, jotted in Sarah’s almost illegibly tiny cursive lettering. True to form, Sarah’s note launched right into the message without any salutation.
I came looking for you over winter break. Your mom told me you were staying at Stanford for training. It’s cool that you’re so dedicated, but… Come on!!! Seriously?!! It’s called “winter break,” you dumb bitch! As in: it’s when you take a break! And do you realize I had to pester your mom to get this address? Do you have any idea how embarrassing that was? Anyway, one of these days when you haven’t been eating bitchcakes for breakfast, call me, OK? I miss you…

~S
Basking in the smug satisfaction of a self-appointed “victory” in their little silent treatment standoff, Kara elected to send a quick “thank you” text by way of response. Sarah texted back almost immediately. Before long, the two were chatting on the phone.

Sarah was still eager to arrange some sort of get-together. Unfazed by Kara’s excuses about why she couldn’t just drive back for a visit this weekend or the next, Sarah eventually suggested meeting up over spring break. The high school and Stanford break schedules didn’t quite line up, but there would be an overlapping weekend between them. Plus, Sarah confided a conspiratorial whisper, Tom was going to be home on break then. She had already started the groundwork for how to bully him into buying the beer for another big party. And who knows, maybe he would even bring along some other college boys, too? Kara couldn’t help but chuckle at Sarah’s blatant pandering. Her magnanimity buoyed by recent events, with comparatively little nagging from Sarah and only moderate reluctance, Kara agreed to make it a date.

In the final days leading up to the meet, the familiar edgy tingle of competitive spirit began to kindle in Kara’s chest. She hadn’t felt this confident since high school. It felt good.

Day by day, her times had continued getting just a bit better. True, she was still a long way from reclaiming her senior year peak. But these latest practice runs were the best she had managed at Stanford yet. Most importantly, they were headed in the right direction. A good showing against Cal, she knew, would be the perfect catalyst to kick that momentum into overdrive.

***
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Old 01-07-2017, 03:15 PM   #19
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PART 6



Kara hunkered on the bench in her team alcove, absently gnawing her fingernails. She remained largely oblivious to the bustle around her as swimmers rotated out from one event to the next. Her left leg jittered in a nervous rhythm. This isn’t how it was supposed to go.

The coaches had placed her exclusively in freestyle events. It was a move calculated to lend her an advantage. She was always at her best when allowed to exploit her front crawl.

Initially, things had gone great. She tore through her first event, the 50-yard freestyle, winning her heat and placing a close second overall. The performance earned her several high fives back on the team bench. Even Alissa had favored her with an approving nod and what might have been the hint of a smile. She was pretty sure she could hear Sean cheering for her out in the audience, too.

Her fire lit, by the time her turn came for the 200-yard freestyle, Kara’s confidence had swollen near to bursting. A bit too near, it turned out. Hungry for speed, she took to the water at full force. But holding back next to nothing at the outset left her precious little to draw upon in reserves. It was a simple mistake, but a costly one at this level of competition. After sprinting to an early lead on the first few laps, Kara’s overeagerness soon caught up with her—as did the rest of the swimmers. She finished dead last. No high fives awaited her at the bench that time.

And now here she was, trying to settle her shaken nerves before her final event: swimming first leg in the 400-yard freestyle relay. So far, it wasn’t working.

Kara glanced up at the scoreboard. It was tight. Stanford held the lead, but only by a few points. No room for more errors. They couldn’t afford it. She couldn’t afford it.

Swoops reached over and clamped a hand on Kara’s knee, quelling its repetitive bounce.

“Take it easy,” she whispered. “You can do it. We got this.”

Kara swallowed and nodded.

***

Kara’s parents had taken seats towards the back of the bleachers to observe the competition. The former couple sat together, with Sean bouncing excitedly beside his father. Innocently awed by the formal gravitas of the setting, he marveled at all the sights and sounds in the U.C. Berkeley facility..

Down at the pool, another event had concluded. Over the loudspeakers, the announcer proclaimed the results. It was another first place finish for Cal, and a new school record to boot. One of their freshman was really shreding the water this meet. Stanford and Cal split the remaining points fairly evenly.

As swimmers exited the pool, the announcer began introductions for the next event. Joyce trained her smartphone’s camera on the pool to record the occasion.

“AND IN LANE THREE, FOR STANFORD UNIVERSITY, WE HAVE FRESHMAN KARA MILLER IN THE FIRST LEG POSITION, FOLLOWED BY JUNIOR ESPERANZA AYALA, SOPHOMORE LIA NOJIMA, AND IN ANCHOR SENIOR ALISSA LYNN,” boomed the announcer.

“Woo!” Sean cheered.

Michael clapped for his daughter.

Joyce tapped her phone and zoomed in.

***

Kara stood beside the starting block, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. Up in the bleachers, the audience looked on, waiting for the event to begin. It seemed to her an uncommonly large draw for a mid-season meet, but she didn’t want to think about that right now. She shook her arms loosely at her sides, trying to work out some of the tension, and took a moment to glance back at her relay team.

Swoops, immediately behind Kara, nodded and flipped Kara an encouraging thumbs-up even as she continued to fiddle with the fit of her swim cap. Lia, next in line, appeared deep in thought, eyes closed, no doubt summoning her inner peace. Kara wished she could do the same. And at the rear was Alissa. She caught Kara’s gaze in her own, then with pointed slowness drew her eyes over to the scoreboard.

She needn’t have. Kara knew full well what it showed. After the previous event, Cal had closed the gap. They were tied.

At the starter’s whistle, Kara lowered her goggles and climbed up onto the block. In the adjacent lanes, her Cal competition did the same. Her hands were trembling. She bent down and gripped the block hard to make it stop.

“What the hell is wrong with me?” she wondered. She had always been so good under pressure. Even at the state sectionals. Everyone had said so. Sure, she had privately wrestled with a little performance anxiety from time to time. Who didn’t? It’s natural. But not like this. This wasn’t just some healthy nervous energy. Why couldn’t she get it together? She was better than this! And yet she couldn’t stop thinking about how much was on the line, riding on her, right here, right now.

Kara pursed her lips and exhaled.

“Take your marks,” ordered the starter.

The crowd hushed. This was it.

Kara cocked back slightly into ready position. Time slowed to a crawl. Her heart pounded. She could hear the pulse of her own blood in her ears. She waited for the buzzer. She waited. Waited.

She leapt.

The world vanished in a surge of chlorinated blue. For an instant, there was calm. Yet even then Kara could sense something was amiss.

“Stand, please.”

She surfaced just in time to hear the starter’s command. A mix of groans and chuckles oozed from audience.

Kara spun herself around and looked to one side, then the other. Panic—viscous and cloying—began welling up within her. She was alone in the pool.

“False start, lane three.”

“No,” Kara thought. “No, no, no, no, no…” She had heard the buzzer. Hadn’t she? She must’ve!

Feverishly, Kara cast a pleading gaze back to her teammates, back to Swoops. Behind the starting block, buckled at the knees like she had just been kicked, Swoops stood with her hands clapped over her mouth. Kara searched for some glimmer of reassurance, but the look of stunned betrayal and despair evident in those eyes made Kara’s throat clench in shame.

The referee motioned her to exit the pool. Her short paddle to the edge felt like miles. By the time Kara climbed out of the water, Swoops was already on her way to the team bench, one arm draped consolingly around the shoulders of a visibly distraught Lia. They hadn’t even bothered waiting for the official ruling. Or waiting for her.

Nearby, Steve and the head coach were clustered around Alissa. She could see the muscles in the team captain’s jaw reflexively clenching and flexing. Despite the whispered tones, Alissa’s snarled lips and stabbing gestures in Kara’s direction left no doubts about the subject of discussion.

Up in the audience, someone began a sing-song cadence.

“Full Ride!” clap-clap “Slow Ride!” clap-clap “So Wide!” clap-clap “No Pride!”

“THAT’S CONFIRMATION OF THE FALSE START ON KARA MILLER. THIS WILL BE A DISQUALIFICATION FOR THE STANFORD TEAM IN LANE THREE.”

The referee said something to her. Whatever it was, Kara failed to comprehend it. She couldn’t comprehend anything right now. She could barely breathe.

The jeer continued, with a few others joining in.

“Full Ride!” clap-clap “Slow Ride!” clap-clap “So Wide!” clap-clap “No Pride!”

The referee spoke again and touched her arm. Kara blinked up at him, dazed. He pointed towards the team bench.

Paralyzed, Kara continued to linger by the starting block. Eventually, the referee took Kara by the elbow and gently led her back to the bench himself.

***

Up in the bleachers, Joyce and Michael’s initial shocked horror had already decayed into hushed but heated bickering. Sean looked on with slack-jawed fascination, his attention bouncing back and forth between the public spectacle around the pool and the private intrigue unfolding next to him.

“You need to set some firmer boundaries, Joyce,” said Michael.

“Don’t use that tone with me.”

“I’m not using a ‘tone’,” Michael responded.

“Yes you are,” Joyce snapped. “And stop trying to tell me how to raise my daughter.”

Our daughter,” Michael corrected.

Joyce folded her arms and glowered at her ex-husband.

Around them, the jeer continued as Kara finally took her seat on the bench, placing herself well apart from the other three disqualified Stanford team members.

“Look,” Michael said, exasperated, “I’m just saying, maybe if you had been around a little bit more, been a little bit more involved and attentive—“

“If I had—excuse me, if I had been a little bit more involved?!” Joyce sputtered.

“I didn’t—“

“No. No,” Joyce stabbed an accusatory finger towards Michael. “You do not get to play that card, Mister. I wasn’t ‘around?’ Where were you?”

“I have a son of my own to raise, in case you hadn’t noticed,” Michael grumbled.

“Don’t you drag Sean into this.”

“All I’m saying is, it just all seems pretty obviously connected to around the same time you started trying to go on all those little dates of yours…”

“Oh, how dare you?!” Joyce hissed.

As the chant started up yet again, Sean let out a laugh, then clapped his hands and gleefully joined the chorus.

…clap-clap “Slow Ride!” clap-clap “So Wide!” clap-clap “No Pride!”

Joyce and Michael shared a long, meaningful look.

“Sean,” Michael elbowed his son while maintaining eye-lock with Joyce, “cut that out. It’s rude.”

***

Hunched over the desk in her dorm room, Kara glumly contemplated the blinking cursor on a blank Word document.

Stanford wound up narrowly losing the meet versus Cal. The immediate fallout was predictable: Kara got punted to the sidelines yet again.

There were also other repercussions, less proximate but no less important. In the wake of the loss to the Cal, Kara’s already dysfunctional relationship with her teammates sunk to new depths. Hardly shy about teasing her throughout the season, Twinkle and Laces promptly incorporated the Cal-crowd’s nicknames into their repertoire of torments for Kara. During her routines, Kara frequently saw them sniggering amongst themselves and with other teammates. Indeed, rather than rallying around the wounded Kara, if anything, it seemed like more of her teammates were joining in on the “fun” now than before. Whether the coaches noticed or cared was anyone’s guess, but they did nothing to intervene.

Even peppy Swoops—the nearest Kara had to a friend and ally on the team—seemed to have abandoned her. Whereas previously Swoops had been a fount of encouragement, always rooting for Kara to boost her times back up to par, ever since that horrendous false start gaffe she mostly avoided eye contact with Kara, and went out of her way to keep a distance between them at practice. Only after it had been so suddenly taken away did Kara begin to appreciate how much she had come to rely upon Swoop’s support.

And then there was Alissa. If the other girls were quietly mocking her more often, with Alissa it was the exact opposite. Following the Cal meet, her constant criticism of Kara’s performance at practice came to an abrupt halt. Fast or slow, smooth or awkward, good or bad—it didn’t matter. Regardless of how she swam, Alissa no longer showed much interest in anything Kara did. That utter indifference stung worse than had any lash of her “tough love” leadership.

Last week, without much hope, Kara had asked the head coach when she might expect to get back on the competition roster. His depressingly noncommittal answer: “When you’re ready.” She had already been forced to sit out the last two meets of the season. The PAC-12 championships were right around the corner. She supposed they had a nice bench-warming spot waiting for her there, too.

Out of the pool, things weren’t much better. First quarter grades were in, and hers were not pretty. After struggling throughout the fall term to balance coursework with her sport, she had made a strategic decision to focus on swimming in the weeks leading up to final exams. It showed. Kara had been a straight-A student in high school. If you wanted an admission to Stanford, you pretty much had to be. She wasn’t accustomed to getting Bs, let alone Cs. She had drifted into uncharted waters here.

Now several weeks into the winter quarter, her exhausting efforts prepping for the Cal meet had already left her entire modules and chapters behind in all her new classes, too. But how could she hope to catch up when she still—still!—had a backlog of work from the last quarter hanging over her head? The term paper for Sustainability and Collapse, for example—which presently sat in front of her, blank as ever.

Kara snagged a Red Vine from the half-empty tub beside her desk and tore off a big chunk with her teeth. She let out a frustrated sigh through her nose as she chewed.

Over the past three hours she must have written, deleted, rewritten, and re-deleted the same introductory paragraph two dozen times. It just never seemed to come out right. It wasn’t getting any easier, either. During the most recent hour she hadn’t written a single word, and though she certainly would not admit it, she knew she had probably spent at least as much time distracting herself with Instagram as she had staring fruitlessly at the empty document.

“When you’re ready,” he’d said. Kara felt ready, alright. Ready to chuck her computer through the damn window and cry. College was supposed to be the best time of your life. Everybody said so. So why the hell did she have to be so miserable? It wasn’t fair. It seemed like she hadn’t done anything fun in ages. Hell, she hadn’t even been to a proper party since the summer.

Joylessly, she chomped another bite of Red Vine.

When the door banged open moments later, Kara looked up but did not flinch. She had long since grown accustomed to her roommate’s sudden entrances.

“Avast ye!” declared Delilah. She wore black-and-white striped leggings and a black t-shirt with the words “One Hot Piece of Eight” Bedazzled across on the front in red and white rhinestones. On her head was a cheap novelty pirate hat and in each hand she wielded an equally cheap-looking plastic cutlass. Several heavily-laden grocery bags hung from her arms.

“You did not seriously go out shopping like that…” Kara queried.

“Yarr!” Delilah answered as she kicked the door closed behind her.

“I know I shouldn’t even ask, but wh—“

“Because!” Delilah leveled a cutlass at Kara, then telegraphed her intent to chuck it.

Kara raised her arms in defense and swatted away the inbound projectile.

“It’s the Pirate Booty Night Party, Kara,” Delilah explained. “And I,” she pointed her remaining sword at the sacks looped around arms and grinned mischievously, “am making golden Jell-O rum shooters!”

Kara shook her head and rolled her eyes. Delilah’s exploitation of her fake ID grew more brazen with every passing month.

“Arrr, don’t you roll your eyes at me, you barnacled bint!” Delilah scoffed, then hucked the remaining sword at Kara.

“I’m telling you, it’s gonna be mad fun,” Delilah continued as she began offloading her haul of booze and other groceries onto the shelf. “There’s gonna be a Johnny Depp lookalike contest, a planking contest, a scavenger hunt, and, of course, no cover for saucy wenches like yours truly.”

“You should totally go,” she added, probably just out of habit.

“Uh huh,” Kara said. She retrieved one of the swords from where it had landed on her keyboard. Its impact had skittered a short string of gibberish letters across her otherwise blank document. Kara bobbled the plastic cutlass between her fingers, frowning. Across the room, Delilah merrily hummed the tune of “Drunken Sailor” to herself as she unpacked.

“Well…” Kara interjected after a long pause, “can I borrow one of these swords?”

“Yeah, sure—wait, what?!”

Delilah peered over her shoulder, an astonished look on her face. “You mean you’re actually gonna go? For real?”

Kara cracked a half-smile and waggled the sword. “Yarr.”

“Ohmigod!” Delilah squealed. She bounded across the room and glomped Kara with an exuberant, bouncing hug. “Yes! Finally! Roomie love! There isn’t much time, but we can totally throw together some kind of costume from what I’ve got lying around. Oh man, just wait, just wait—this is gonna be so awesome, you don’t even know!”

“OK, OK,” Kara laughed as she attempted to wriggle free of Delilah’s embrace. “But only on one condition, though…”

Delilah reluctantly loosened her hold and fixed Kara with a dubious sideways squint.

Kara stood and folded her arms. “First dibs on the rum shooters. I hear that shit is ‘always gone.’”

Delilah sputtered into laughter and hugged Kara again, even harder.

***

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Old 01-14-2017, 01:55 PM   #20
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PART 7

Sliding back into the party scene proved remarkably easy. While perhaps no longer able to so casually command the spotlight in quite the way she had over the summer, with application of a little extra effort Kara found all her favorite delights still readily attainable. Supported by Delilah’s eager encouragement, within a few weeks Kara was indulging like she had back in August.

And why the hell not? The PAC-12 championships came and went, predictably lacking any participatory role for Kara. With swimming season almost over, slogging through yet more hopeless hours in the pool alongside her increasingly disconnected team came to seem like the epitome of pointless masochism. She started skipping practices. Gym time spent honing her endurance evolved into nap time spent recovering from last evening’s debauchery. The absence of any strong complaint from her coaches or teammates only egged her on. While the rest of her team was closing out the season with a third-place finish at the NCAA championships, Kara was squeezed onto a crowed frat house sofa, stuffing herself with pizza and drunkenly lambasting Stanford basketball’s uninspiring March Madness performance. No one talked about swimming. No one talked about grades. And that suited Kara just fine.

***

Kara awoke with a start, to the piercing shriek of a fire alarm. Groaning, she grabbed a pillow and clamped it over her head.

Kara was holed up in the dorm room of her latest beau, Dwight Seward. A skinny, whitebread sophomore from the suburbs of Grand Rapids, Dwight was a gangsta rap aficionado and fancied himself a young Eminem. Dwight DJ’d a borderline-entertaining weekend show for the campus radio station, and dealt a more-than-borderline-entertaining supply of weed to the local campus community.

Under the sheets, Kara’s form writhed in slow agony as the pulsing shriek went on. It was those stupid freshman down the hall again, she’d be willing to bet, screwing around in the kitchenette. In fact, she was pretty sure she could already smell the burnt popcorn. What would that make it—the third time this month? And that was just counting when she was around to hear it. She clenched the pillow in her fists and pulled it tighter around her ears.

Delilah first introduced her to Dwight several weeks ago at a Jammix dance. Right from the start he had been very enthusiastic about Kara’s “ghetto booty.” It was an ambiguous compliment that left Kara feeling uncharacteristically self-conscious. Even now, every time he made that sort of remark she still felt uncertain quite how to take it. Rather than wrestle with the ambiguity, however, Kara generally found it more expedient to drown any doubts in the less equivocal pleasures of his physical attentions and his merchandise—both of which Dwight shared generously.

“Fuck it,” Kara grumbled, surrendering at last to the incessant alarm. She threw the pillow aside and started to get up, kicking petulantly at the sheets tangled around her feet. No sooner had she hoisted herself upright in bed than the shrieking overhead suddenly stopped.

“Ugh!” Kara whimpered. She flopped heavily back onto the mattress, sending a wobbling tremor through her naked breasts, and an only slightly lesser one across the soft curve of her abdomen.

For a long while, Kara lay on the bed, eyes closed, waiting for sleep to reclaim her. It proved to be slow going. Groggy yet restless, Kara’s impatience eventually overcame her exhaustion.

With a sigh, Kara cracked open her eyes, squinting at the late morning light leaking through the blinds. “Actually,” Kara observed, “make that ‘early afternoon light.’” Or at least so claimed the alarm clock atop the empty packing box that served as Dwight’s bedside table.

1:57 PM. Dwight would be in class for a few hours yet.

Taking a more deliberate approach this time, Kara successfully extricated her feet from the tangled sheets. She then tossed back the bedding and, languorously, rolled upright on the edge of the bed. As Kara rose, the plump belly that had taken up residence around her middle pooched onto her lap, its lower curve gently kissing her upper thighs. Her thighs themselves in turn spread perceptibly wider under her weight than they had last quarter—or, to the careful observer, even just weeks prior.

Kara poked a bare foot exploratorily at the nearest pile of clothes on the floor. After nudging aside a few articles, she spied one of Dwight’s oversized t-shirts. She snagged the shirt with her toes and half-carried, half-kicked it up to her hands.

Kara stood, and slipped the rumpled garment over her nude body. It hung like a loose tunic, falling just short enough to leave a tantalizing glimpse of booty peeping out from beneath the hem. Gathering her hair, Kara drew it free from the collar, then scooped up her phone from the makeshift table-box.

No missed calls. A few uninteresting tweets. A couple texts about upcoming weekend parties—probably worth checking out, but nothing urgent. Swiping over to her calendar alerts, Kara paused, her brow furrowing.

Back in January, before the Cal meet, Kara had half-heartedly agreed to attend Sarah’s “blg” spring break party. Shortly after they hung up, Sarah forwarded a calendar invite. Kara had clicked “accept,” and then promptly forgotten all about it.

That party would be happening today, her phone now reminded her. In less than three hours.

Kara ruffled a hand through her hair and bit her lip, pensively. She felt conflicted.

On the one hand, she had promised Sarah she would be there. On the other hand, this was basically just another lame high school party. More likely than not, she would be stuck milling around with a bunch of Sarah’s junior-class cohorts that she neither knew nor had any interest in getting to know. It was not at all how she would prefer to spend a Friday evening. Even so, disappointing her old friend again so soon didn’t feel right.

She recalled how Sarah had boasted having Tom around meant there would be booze, clearly hoping that might appeal to Kara. Really, though, Kara felt that merely showed how naïve and far behind her Sarah was. As if a few cases of cheap beer could impress her now. The Friday night festivities at Stanford that she would be passing up were doubtlessly far superior.

But, Kara mused, having Tom there—and perhaps a few of his college friends, as well, though Sarah hadn’t been clear on that detail—meant that there might be at least the potential for real entertainment, and a hook up. In some ways, after being exposed to the Stanford social scene, Kara couldn’t help but feel that Tom and his friends were a bit…beneath her. He only went to a second-tier state college, after all. Plus, whatever mystique Tom’s age afforded him in the eyes of high-school-era Kara had long since sloughed off. Still, he was reasonably cute, and good with his hands…

She set her phone back down on the bedside box. Ultimately, Kara concluded she did owe Sarah at least this one token appearance—for old times’ sake, if nothing else. Perhaps it was even more a matter of atonement than camaraderie.

With a resigned sigh, she navigated through the clothes, papers, books, and general detritus strewn about the floor, over to the corner where Dwight had hung his mirror. As she moved, a toneless quiver jostled her bottom with every shift of her weight. Unsubtle hints of cellulite had already settled in amid the fleshy contours where her naked buns folded into her upper thighs, just beneath the shirt’s hem.

“Three-ish hours—plenty enough time to grab some breakfast, drive down, and hit the party,” Kara figured.

She blinked at her reflection in the mirror. Bloodshot, dark-ringed eyes gazed back her, set in a face left flushed and puffy from too much alcohol and too little sleep. A zit marred her forehead, and the ominous reddening on her chin suggested it had already invited a friend. Frowning, Kara leaned close to the mirror. She pinched the tender welt on her forehead between the nails of her index fingers, and squeezed. After a brief, wincing moment, it popped, splurting waxy goo onto her fingers and launching a few stray flecks into the mirror.

“Eghh,” Kara grimaced, and wiped her hands on Dwight’s shirt.

“Better make that drive home, get cleaned up, and then hit the party,” Kara amended.

***

After a long, hot shower, some Visine, 1000 milligrams of Tylenol, and twenty patient minutes applying an assortment of cosmetics, Kara felt she had rectified the worst of the issues. Rifling through the wardrobe options she’d left at home when heading off to college, Kara eventually settled on a slinky, strappy black dress and matching heels. It occurred to her the outfit was probably overkill for one of Sarah’s little low-rent parties. However, given the circumstances, that struck her as a perk, not a flaw. Deep-necked, tight, and cut well above the knee, she liked how the dress flaunted her cleavage and hugged her curves—perhaps with bit more “hugging” than she would have preferred around her admittedly softer tummy, but whatever. Underneath, she was poured into a strapless bra and one of her skimpiest thongs. By the time she made her fashionably-late entrance, Kara was ready to rock this charity event.

Winding between clusters of guests, she soon spied Sarah through a brief gap in the crowd, hovering protectively near the fish tank. As Kara drew closer, she saw Sarah nod and gesture animatedly, thoroughly engrossed in a conversation with—Kara stopped short.

“Jessie? Oh—oh my god!” she exclaimed, mouth agape. “You’ve lost so much weight!”

Sarah and Jessie turned to face Kara, their own eyebrows raised nearly as high as Kara’s. An awkward moment lapsed as the trio silently surveyed one another.

“Uhh…” Jessie finally uttered, clearing her throat and blushing. “Thanks.”

“No, I mean it. You look…fabulous,” Kara continued, her tone equal parts praise and alarm.

It was true. Over the many months since Kara had last laid eyes on her, Jessie had shed a remarkable amount of bulk, particularly around the middle. Equally stunning, Jessie’s choice of attire seemed calculated to highlight that fact: a black dress, similar to Kara’s if a bit more modest in cut, accented with a narrow, white leather belt cinched around the waist.

Holy shit,” Kara realized, dumbfounded, “Jessie actually has a waist!

Indeed, the hefty belly that had once defined Jessie’s shape had all but vanished, revealing a waistline that appeared surprisingly well-defined in proportion to her hips. Up top, her breasts, though clearly reduced, still prominently filled out the front of her dress, and with pertness they had never shown before. Once merely “rotund,” Jessie’s re-sculpted contours now afforded her an only-slightly-husky hourglass silhouette.

Jessie’s formerly cherubic face had also thinned considerably, revealing a strong jaw and the suggestion of elegant cheekbones. This sharpening of her facial features made her ice-blue eyes appear subtly larger, and thus that much more striking. Her legs, arms, shoulders, neck—all had slimmed, their flabby texture replaced with a firmness that, if not exactly “lean,” was certainly nearing it.

Soaking in all the changes, Kara began to think Jessie somehow even looked taller than before, until she noticed that Jessie was wearing heels. This was yet another new development. She had never seen Jessie in anything but flats, and usually sneakers. At the moment, the footwear made Jessie stand an inch or so above her, Kara noted. For some reason, that made her uncomfortable. She wasn’t sure why she felt uncomfortable, and that uncertainty only made it even worse.

“Damn right, she does!” Sarah agreed, and jabbed a playful elbow into Jessie’s ribs.

“You know, Sis, for once, I think you might actually be right,” Tom interjected, coming up from behind Sarah and ruffling her hair.

“Ack!” Sarah screeched, swatting at his hand. “Fucker! Get the fuck off!” She slugged him hard, aiming for a kidney.

Tom winced, but otherwise laughed away his sibling’s reprisal.

Kara folded her arms and cocked her hips. “Hey there, Tom,” she cooed.

“Uh…” Tom fumbled, “hey…Kara…” Brow raised, he scanned her up and down, appraising her looks as if seeing her for the first time.

Shaking it off, Tom held up a six-pack of beer. “So, who wants a brew?”

“Goddammit, I told you to keep that shit downstairs!” Sarah snarled, and made a grab for the cans. Tom shoved Sarah aside and lifted the beers higher, out of her reach.

Kara peered at the cans, then wrinkled her nose. “Oh my god,” she laughed, “Coors? That is so slummy.”

“Wow, listen to the big connoisseur here,” Tom quipped. Kara’s smile faltered just a bit.

“How about you?” Tom asked, looking over at Jessie. “Are you too good for my suds, too, Ms.…?”

Jessie cleared her throat. “Oh, no, no thanks,” she held up her hands and waved away the offer. “I have to drive. And, uh, it’s Jessie.”

“Hey,” Kara interjected, “I said your stuff sucks, not that I don’t want some.”

“Jessie, huh?” Tom repeated, ignoring entirely Kara’s coquettish attempt at double entendre. Kara’s nostrils flared.

“You’ve met her before, Idiot.” Sarah grumbled.

Just then, the music changed. Over the living room speakers, the jangling intro to “Footloose” filled the house.

Seizing the moment, Kara pressed herself up against Tom’s chest. “Ooo,” she purred, “Tom, wanna dance?”

Tom looked down at her with a grimace, then gently prized free of Kara’s embrace.

“Actually, I think I do,” Tom answered. He extended a hand to Jessie. “Would you care to join me?”

Jessie flinched, wide-eyed. “Uh—ummmmm…”

Kara’s eyes had gone just as wide.

He’s asking her to dance?” Kara thought, her mind reeling. “Instead of me? That…that frumpy up-jumped JV transplant cow…!? “ Even in her own head, those words rang hollow.

Jessie’s hesitation lasted only a moment. She took Tom’s hand in her own. “As a matter of fact,” she said, “I would.”

“Here,” Tom said, and unceremoniously dumped the six-pack into Kara’s arms before heading off with Jessie. In silence, Kara watched them go, flummoxed.

Sidling up next to her still-stunned friend, Sarah tore free one of the cans in Kara’s arms and cracked it open. She took a long sip, then rolled her eyes and blew a puff of air through her mussed bangs.

“Well,” Sarah said, eventually, shrugging her shoulders, “want some Cheetos?”

***
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Old 01-14-2017, 01:55 PM   #21
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Default Part 7 (continued)

After Jessie and Tom went their own way, Sarah attempted to engage Kara in conversation. Unfortunately, the chasm that grown between them over the past year proved difficult to bridge.

Sarah gushed about how well swimming was going this season, about how much Jessie had improved, about how they would probably have a shot at winning the sectionals again if only Karice hadn’t gotten injured. Despite what were probably well-intended attempts, Sarah quickly realized none of this held any interest for Kara. Seeking common ground, she tried to get Kara talking about swimming at Stanford, about her training, about her teammates and coaches, about how it felt to compete on such a big stage. But Kara hedged at every turn, offering little more than a conclusory: “It’s good.” Drinking and boys seemed to be the only subjects on which Kara had much to say. And although Sarah still managed to do most of the talking—as usual—she, too, could not deny a similar struggle to feign enthusiasm for Kara’s aloof summaries of her own recent social escapades. In the absence of assumed knowledge, inside jokes fell flat, juicy gossip became irrelevant, and personal anecdotes lacked context. Neither said it, but the reality was plain: a dearth of recent shared experiences had eroded the once effortless familiarity of their friendship.

It was an unexpectedly awkward experience for both of them. After perhaps fifteen minutes of good faith effort, Sarah excused herself to resume her hostly duties.

For Sarah, this was a relief. It had taken a Herculean effort for the normally unfiltered teen to avoid immediately bringing up Kara’s now obviously substantial weight gain. Much of that newfound circumspection could be attributed to Jessie’s influence. Over the past year, her thoughtful explanations had inculcated in Sarah a more nuanced appreciation for the difference between “honest” and “honestly quite insulting.” Even so, face to face for the first time in so long, Sarah hadn’t been able to resist sneaking glances at Kara’s body as they spoke, cataloging the changes with perverse fascination.

All fashion lore about “slimming” colors notwithstanding, Kara’s black dress did little to downplay the damage. Ill-fitting despite its stretchy material, the dress strained against the cargo of a rounded, pudgy belly and softened hips straddled by plump love handles. Remarkably, the latter appeared to be the primary feature preserving a vestige of feminine contour to Kara’s shape. Sometime over the past many months, the concave slopes of her formerly tapered waist had almost completely filled in, leaving in their wake the hint of a developing roll on either side. Indeed, Sarah noted, Kara now had less waist definition than Jessie—and decidedly more belly.

The situation in back fared little better, as the clingy material outlined in unflattering detail the form of Kara’s no-longer-perfect but frankly rather chunky ass. The sculpted buns that had been among Kara’s most alluring features appeared not merely larger, but less shapely, as well—their former exquisite roundness melting beneath the heat of overindulgent indolence.

Pulled taut, the fabric puckered as it stretched across the gaps of Kara’s rounded shape—between her love handles and lower belly, between her thighs at the crotch, beneath her breasts, at the small of her back, and even ever so slightly around the indentation of her navel.

As unflattering as Kara’s dress was, what she had on beneath it managed to be even worse.

Kara was wearing a G-string thong. While Sarah could have reached this conclusion by reasoned inference—it would be the natural choice to avoid visible panty lines across her behind in the slinky outfit—in this case, such inferences were entirely unnecessary. Sausage-like bulges, dug deep into her hips by the narrow waist cords, made readily apparent the exact position and style of Kara’s panties—as well as they fact they were far too tight. Hugged by the dress’ snug fabric, in better lighting Sarah supposed these unsubtle details would have been visible not just from her vantage, but probably from across a room.

The fit of Kara’s bra was hardly any better. Although it did squeeze her breasts into an eye-catchingly ripe surge of cleavage, its single strap also dug a scarcely less eye-catching ridge across the soft flesh of her back. Clearly, Sarah deduced, Kara was still cramming into the same underwear that she had worn last year.

This was clearly more than just wardrobe issue, though. Where they were free from the dress, Kara’s thighs and upper arms appeared distinctly soft. Sarah could scarcely detect any trace of the athletic conditioning they had sported throughout high school.

Kara’s face had not been spared, either. Despite being caked in makeup, she looked tired, puffy, and bloated. Even her neck and shoulders seemed a bit swollen. The hue of her foundation, layered particularly thickly across her cheeks and forehead, contrasted against a complexion that had paled several shades since last summer. It was stunning, really. She’d always regarded as Kara so effortlessly polished. Never had Sarah seen her such a hot mess.

Sarah circled back later and tried a different approach, asking Kara to dance with her. A disinterested stare framed by sarcastically cocked eyebrows were her only rewards. After a few more disappointingly abortive attempts at conversation, Sarah resigned herself to leave Kara in peace. At the least, it spared Sarah from the continued struggle of holding her tongue.

Still, while meandering from group to group amongst her other guests, Sarah continued to check up on Kara from afar. She seemed so bored and isolated. Sarah could only shake her head and wonder why she had even bothered to come at all. Kara eventually parked herself on a chair in a corner of the living room, where she spent most of the evening texting on her phone and pounding down beer and snacks like they were only things making the experience tolerable.

As the night wore on, Kara became quite drunk. Inhibitions and better judgment yielding to inebriated impatience, she finally emerged from her corner and began stalking the house in search of Tom. The search eventually led her upstairs to Tom’s room. His door was closed, but as she approached she could hear the sound of his stereo coming from within.

“Tom!” Kara barked, and shoved open the door. “Get the hell—“

“Woah!” Tom yelped, followed by a feminine squeak. There was a brief flurry of motion in the darkened room before everyone froze like deer in headlights.

“Wh-what the fuck!” Tom protested, raising a hand to shield his eyes against the sudden brightness. Tom lay stretched out on the bed, naked. A curvy feminine shape still straddled him. Twisted away from the door to hide her face, arms folded protectively over her breasts, in the moment Kara could make out little more than the sensuous contours of her back and a spill of red hair over one shoulder.

“Tom!” Kara snapped, again.

“Kara?” Tom asked, squinting at the zaftig silhouette darkening his door.

At the mention of the name, the woman perched atop Tom’s hips whipped her head around.

“...Jessie?!” Kara squawked.

“What the fuck, Kara?” Tom reiterated. “What are you doing?!”

No one was listening to Tom. Kara and Jessie had locked gazes, their expressions mirror images of goggle-eyed, slack-jawed shock. Then, slowly, like sun breaking through clouds, Jessie’s lips curled into a wicked little smirk.

“Hello!” Tom yelled, pointing at the door. “What the hell is wrong with you? Get out, already!”

“Arggh!” Kara choked back a sob of frustration. “Oh my god, fuck you!” she hissed. Fists balled, arms ramrod straight at her sides, she punctuated each explicative with a stomp of her foot. “Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!”

With a final howl, Kara snatched the knob and slammed the door shut. Wiping away a stray tear and smudging her mascara, she marched down the stairs. A few curious onlookers—Sarah among them—watched as Kara barged her way through the living room in a huff. She paid them no mind. Without another word, Kara grabbed her keys and left the party.

***

Upstairs, Tom and Jessie were in each other’s arms, giggling.

“Oh my God,” Tom laughed. “Did you see her face?”

“Mmm hm,” Jessie nodded. “Hee!”

“Man,” Tom cringed. “I’m never gonna live that down. Sarah is gonna kill me.”

“Meh,” Jessie shrugged, and stuck out her tongue.

“Thanks,” Tom said, and rolled his eyes. “Oh, shit—the door…”

Jessie looked over her shoulder. It was slightly ajar, a half-inch gap of light pouring in from the hall. Kara slammed it so hard during her tantrum that it must have shuddered back open.

Tom shifted under Jessie, and started to raise himself up on one elbow. Jessie laid her palm on his chest and pressed him back against the mattress. Tom cocked an eyebrow. Jessie shook her head. He started to speak, but Jessie silenced him with a light touch of her index finger to his lips.

“Shhhh,” she whispered, and ground her hips against his. Her eyes twinkled mischievously. “Leave it.”

***
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Old 01-21-2017, 11:10 PM   #22
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Default Part 8

PART 8

For many, the events at Sarah’s party would have been a wake-up call. But not for Kara. That would mean conceding. Instead, she seemed to view the experience as a challenge, as something to be rebutted.

Back at Stanford and hungry for validation, rather than practice some corrective restraint, Kara doubled down on letting loose. She partied harder, stayed out later, drank too much, slept too little, smoked up, went down, missed more classes than meals, and never got near a pool. Cheering her on every step of the way was Delilah.

Mere trains passing in the night during the autumn quarter, going into the spring quarter the two roommates became constant companions, thick as thieves. Even when the occasional hook-up parted their ways, it was never for long. On many a morning-after, the pair shared a dining pavilion table, swapping scandalous details about their latest conquests in between gobbled bites of greasy breakfast burritos. The two even converged on fashion, as Kara acceded to the comfortable perks of Delilah’s leggings-and-hoodie chic.

This relative homogenization of appearance went beyond the merely sartorial, however. Earlier in the year, and despite the stubborn consequences of her summer excess, Kara had still cut the obviously-much-trimmer silhouette whenever paired alongside her roommate. Lately, however, that distinction had blurred considerably. Indeed, by the latter half of the spring quarter, if asked to compare, most likely would have judged Kara to be the chunkier of the two—particularly when viewed in profile. While Kara had once privately marveled at the mystery of how Delilah remained “merely heavyset” and not “as big as house” eating as she did, clearly it was not an ability Kara shared.

Yet when it came to negativity, Delilah gave no quarter. If ever she caught Kara in a dour mood, she always had some ready ploy to distract and assuage. Booze, bongs, boy-talk, and burgers—all did the trick from time to time. Yet not least among Delilah’s tools were her cheeky compliments, with which she basted Kara heavily and often.

“Oh. Em. Jeepers! You look so hot!”

“Watch out, world! The Karasaurus Sex is on the loose and gonna eat some meat tonight!”

“Uh, Babe City’s census just came in. Population: you.”

For months, Delilah’s enabling combination of relentless encouragement and infectious complacency kept Kara’s confidence inflated just enough to avoid being overtaken by her now recklessly-expanding girth. Indeed, the siren song was so entrancing that Kara could almost completely tune out the quietly panicked desperation lurking in the corners of her mind. She could almost completely overlook the way snagging some male’s self-affirming attention grew just a bit more challenging from one overindulgent week to the next. She could almost completely ignore the constant gnawing at her increasingly fragile self-delusion. Almost. Until the day she couldn’t.

***

Colorful strands of beads rattled beneath the interior handle from which they draped, as Delilah jostled open the door to her shared dorm room and shuffled inside.

“Fuckin’ chem lab helllllllllllll!” Delilah groaned. She slammed the door closed with a kick of her heel.

Lying atop her bed, wrapped around a body pillow and clad in her pajama set of drawstring flannel pants and oversized t-shirt, Kara stirred slightly but otherwise gave no reaction to the blustery entrance.

Derek. I kid you not: Worst. Lab partner. Ever.” Delilah continued, as she shook loose the droplets still clinging to her umbrella. “He can’t count. That’s my only explanation. He cannot count.” She leaned the umbrella beside the doorframe, then started toeing free from her muddy shoes. “I mean, is he from Thermopylae? ‘Where numbers count for nothing?’” Delilah flashed air quotes with her fingers. “Like, seriously, I dunno how, but he cannot read a burette.”

“’Meniscus?’” Delilah parodied, in a deeper, goofy tone. “’Dafuq is dat?’”

Shoelessness achieved, Delilah closed her eyes, raised one hand, and placed the other on her chest. “I swear to zombie Jesus—hallowed be thy name—if I had to repeat just one more stupid titration tonight I was gonna gnaw off his useless head and dump the waste solution down his neck.”

Delilah cleared her throat. “Annnnnd are you just gonna keep lying there like laundry or are you gonna get on board and tell me how right I am?”

“…Laundry,” Kara murmured.

“…What?” Delilah turned, fists planted on her hips. Only then did she notice the way her roommate was huddled, the tissues on her nightstand, the damp marks on her pillow, the gaze fixed vacantly on the opposite wall.

“Kara, are— Have you been crying?” Delilah dropped her bookbag on the floor and hurried to her side. “Oh my god, what’s wrong, Care Bear?”

Kara burrowed her face into the pillow. “I dunno,” she mumbled. “Everything? My fucking life?”

“Awww,” Delilah cooed, and crouched down to Kara’s level. “C’mon, you can tell me.”

Kara shrugged her shoulders and sniffled amidst the pillow’s fluffiness.

“Tsk. Kara, Babe…” Delilah persisted.

Dolefully, Kara pointed towards her nightstand.

Following the direction of Kara’s gesture, Delilah spied an opened envelope, half hidden behind wadded tissues and a nearly-empty bag of M&Ms. She stood up and fished it out.

Within, she found a letter. The stationary marked it as coming from the head coach of the Stanford Women’s Swimming and Diving program. In a hushed tone, Delilah read the document aloud.
Dear Ms. Miller:

It is the mission of Stanford Athletics to provide each student-athlete with the tools necessary to achieve the highest levels of academic and athletic performance of which he or she is capable. By maximizing personal and collective effort in every setting where skill, determination, and hard work combine, Stanford Swimming and Diving embodies uncompromising commitment to victory and promotes a university-wide culture of health and fitness.

As you know, Division 1 swimming is a highly competitive sport. As head coach, it is my responsibility to build the University’s program in a way that promotes not only individual growth but also team success.

Unfortunately, I am not able to offer a renewal of your athletic scholarship for the coming academic year. This was a difficult decision. If you have any questions, please call my office to make an appointment and we can discuss the—
“Wait,” Delilah interrupted herself, “I don’t understand. Does this mean--?”

“It means they’re taking away my scholarship,” Kara huffed, and rolled onto her side. Her voice choked into a sob. “It means they think I was a mistake. It means I’m not good enough. It means they don’t want me anymore. Nobody does!”

Delilah opened her mouth to make some retort, but then closed it without saying anything. She lingered beside Kara’s bed, thoughtfully tapping her foot. After a few moments, she carefully folded the letter back into its envelope and returned it to the nightstand.

“OK. Stay right there,” Delilah ordered. “I know what to do.”

Before Kara could ask what that meant, Delilah had grabbed her wallet and marched back out of the dorm.

Some while later, Delilah returned, lugging a large pizza box and grocery bags. Kara raised a brow and leaned forward to peer down from her bed as Delilah began unpacking the load in the middle of the floor.

“What’d you—“

“Extra-large deluxe pizza…cheesy bread…Nutella…Ben & Jerry’s S’mores, times two…” Delilah began a roll-call of the assembled goodies. As she ran down the list, Delilah briefly modeled each item for Kara’s viewing admiration, like a QVC showcase. “…and last but certainly not least, Malibu rum.”

“Ugh.” Kara shook her head. “But…”

“This is pizza therapy, Kara. You need it. Stat. Trust me.”

Kara buried her face in her hands. “Fucking hell, Delilah” she mumbled, then sighed. “…Fine.”

“That’s the spirit!” Delilah beamed, and gently lobbed a plastic tumbler into Kara’s lap. “I’ll pour.”

***

“I mean, what’d they even expect you to do?” Delilah asked, as she tipped the last drops of the rum into Kara’s waiting tumbler.

“I don’t even know.” Kara tossed back a swift swig. “I just—“ she coughed, then continued. “I did everything right, you know?”

The two girls lounged side by side on the floor, leaning against Kara’s bed. Between them rested a grease-stained box with nothing but gnawed pizza crusts remaining. Delilah squinted into the up-ended bottle of rum, then, with a shrug, carelessly tossed it near the two empty, toppled ice cream cartons slowly leaking their soupy dregs onto the linoleum. The bottle rolled in a loop, then finally came to a halt beside the vacant cheesy bread box.

“It’s so unfair!” Delilah commiserated, nibbling on a pizza crust.

“So unfair,” Kara agreed. She fished a crust from the pizza box and dunked it into the dwindling supply of Nutella.

“You know what that is? This whole thing? It’s…it’s a logical fallacy, that’s what it is. That means it’s bullshit. It’s bullshit, Kara.”

“Mmm hmm,” Kara droned around a cheek-swelling mouthful.

Delilah rolled her head to the side and looked at her roommate. Kara’s shirt bore battle damage from their recent feast; grease stains and a dribble of drying ice cream littered its front. Eyes foggy and half-lidded, Kara stared blankly ahead as she mechanically chewed through the latest bite. A thick smear of Nutella lay caught at the corner of her mouth.

“Hey,” Delilah chuckled, “hang on, you got a little something right there…” She reached across and gently swiped the chocolatey goop from Kara’s face with her index finger. “See?” she held her finger up for inspection. Kara squinted at it suspiciously. With a playful “boop,” Delilah tapped a little dollop onto Kara’s nose, and giggled.

Kara uttered a grunt of vague disapproval. Then—to Delilah’s surprise—she grabbed Delilah’s wrist and sucked her finger clean with an audible “pop.”

“Hah,” Kara declared, in bland satisfaction, and released Delilah’s wrist.

Suddenly pensive, Delilah bit her lip and looked at her hand. She swallowed.

Moving carefully, Delilah shifted onto her hands and knees. “You, uh, still got a bit on you…” Delilah murmured.

Kara’s eyes widened as Delilah leaned over her and sensuously licked the dollop of hazelnut frosting off the tip of her nose. Kara held her breath while Delilah hovered, wordlessly, their faces mere inches apart.

“Did you get it all?” Kara finally asked, her voice hushed.

Delilah shook her head. “Not yet.”

Propping herself up on one arm, Delilah slipped her free hand behind Kara’s head, laced her fingers into Kara’s hair, and then pressed lips to Kara’s in a passionate kiss.

Kara flinched. For a moment, she was frozen. Then, like heated butter, she melted into Delilah’s embrace. Closing her eyes, she reciprocated, teasing Delilah’s eager lips with her tongue.

Propelled by the clumsy urgency of youthful lust, Delilah scooched herself on top of Kara, straddling

Kara between her thighs. Breaking free of their kiss with a mutual gasp, Delilah repositioned her weight onto her legs, then slipped her other arm beneath Kara’s t-shirt and slid her hand up to cup one of Kara’s breasts. She clamped her palm around its fleshy warmth. Kara arched her back and let out a little moan. Her moan segued into a whimper of dazed pleasure as Delilah nuzzled against the soft underside of Kara’s jaw and neck, pecking a long, winding trail of sharp, toothy little nibbles across her sensitive throat.

Delilah paused her attentions and sat up to catch her breath. Panting, she looked down at her roommate, pinned between her legs and wedged awkwardly against the bedframe. The face looking back up at her—rounded, flushed, and moist with perspiration—bore a desperate expression equal parts uncertainty and yearning. Below that, Delilah’s eyes were drawn to the pale slab of Kara’s belly—soft, heavy, swollen with plumpness, and egregiously stuffed, it pooched inelegantly out from under her ridden-up t-shirt.

Adopting a sultry smirk, Delilah grabbed the jar of Nutella. She swabbed a gooey glop of the rich confection onto two fingers, then held them in front of Kara’s mouth. Obligingly, Kara wrapped her lips around Delilah’s proffered digits. Delicately, slowly, eyes closed, she began to suck, lick, and swallow the sweetness.

As she did, Delilah laid her other hand against Kara’s middle, lightly tracing the contour of its curve, back and forth, back and forth. Then, she dipped her thumb into the depth of Kara’s navel, hooked her fingers around the chubby bulge of Kara’s lower belly, and squeezed.

Kara yelped an indignant, heaving squeak, and her eyes flew open. Withdrawing her sticky fingers from Kara’s mouth, Delilah met Kara’s conflicted, flustered gaze and growled assertively. Then she leaned down and kissed her again. Releasing Kara’s belly, Delilah slid her hand beneath Kara’s waistband in search of a lower target.

Kara dug her nails into Delilah’s hips and shuddered in ecstasy.

***

When Kara awoke early the following afternoon, it took a moment before she got her bearings. She wasn’t accustomed to seeing the room the vantage point of Delilah’s bed. Even less so while nude and snugly little-spooned against its still lightly snoring usual occupant. With each slow and steady breath, Delilah’s stomach and chest pressed softly against Kara’s back. One of Delilah’s arms wove under her own and loosely cradled Kara’s breasts. A mangled patchwork of memories from the night before paraded through Kara’s aching mind as she struggled to take stock of the situation. Brow wrinkling into a troubled furrow, Kara’s heart began to beat faster.

While she continued to ruminate, Delilah stirred.

“Mm. Good morning, Lover,” Delilah whispered, and gently pinched Kara’s nipple between thumb and forefinger.

Kara squeezed her eyes shut and silently counted to three. Then, she took Delilah’s hand in her own and slowly but firmly removed it from her breast.

“Hm?” Delilah queried, raising her head.

Kara did not answer. Instead, she lifted the sheet and, in brief flurry of pale, bouncing flesh, darted up from Delilah’s bed, across the room, and into her own.

“…Kara?” Delilah asked, worry creeping into her tone.

Kara burrowed under the covers and bundled herself into a tight little ball, her back to Delilah.

“Kara, what’s—“

“I’m sorry,” Kara stated, her voice raw and husky. The words came without affect, almost monotone.

“Sorry?” Delilah sat up, drawing the sheets around herself. “Why? For what? What are you—“

“I don’t know what happened last night,” Kara lied, “but I can’t. I’m sorry.”

“…Kara…” Delilah pleaded.

“Please,” mumbled the lump beneath the covers of Kara’s bed, “just…leave me alone.”

***
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Old 01-30-2017, 09:54 PM   #23
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Default Part 9

PART 9

After the abrupt end of their drunken tryst, Kara distanced herself from Delilah. Their relationship never recovered. Delilah’s attempts to clear the air or at least get closure fell on deaf ears. Rather than deal with the situation, Kara preferred to avoid it—and Delilah—whenever possible. Disappointed and frustrated, ultimately, Delilah gave up and let Kara have it her way.

Eventually, Kara reluctantly shared the scholarship news with her parents. The conversation proved every bit as painful as Kara had feared. Without the financial aid, her parents agreed, tuition was simply too expensive. Besides, they tried to console her, Stanford clearly just…wasn’t turning out to be a good fit. So it was settled. At the end of the quarter, she would have to withdraw from the university. Over the summer they could take time to reassess, make a new plan, get back on track.

And Kara told them she was fine with that, mostly.

In her final weeks at Stanford, Kara sank into a sullen, listless funk. She stopped going to classes, stopped going to parties, hardly even left her room. Her days collapsed into a sad routine of loafing in bed well past noon, and then, sometime before Delilah’s return, trundling herself over to a quiet corner of the cafeteria for a few hours to seek solace in Stanford’s generous meal plan. If anyone much noted her sudden absence from the social scene, no one bothered to seek her out. All of the “friends” she had made while getting drunk, baked, and laid over the past year showed themselves to be no more constant than her waistline.

So, really, yeah, it was fine.

Why, Kara barely even cried on that last drive home with her dad, a U-Haul trailer full of dorm accessories, outgrown clothes, and burst college dreams hitched behind them.

She never did finish that stupid term paper for Sustainability and Collapse.

***

Once back at home with Joyce, Kara’s mood only worsened. Cut off from the college scene, too out of touch and self-conscious to seek out any old high school associates, Kara spent most of her time alone, aimlessly sulking around the house while her mother was at work. She felt isolated. She missed the crowds. She missed the nightly parties. She missed getting drunk on the attention of new admirers. Hell, she missed just plain old getting drunk. She missed getting high. Eating was the one guilty pleasure still readily available to her, and Kara leaned on it more than ever.

As the summer rolled on and Kara remained mired in slothful malaise, Joyce’s patience for her petulant moping wore thin.

“So, what are your plans for today?”

“Look at that weather—maybe you should call up some friends and enjoy it.”

“Tell me about the schools you’ve been checking out—do you have list?”

“Have you thought about a summer job? Remember we talked about what a good gap-bridger some work experience can be…”

“You can’t just leave dirty dishes lying around for me to clean up. I’m not your maid.”

“Look at this mess! You still haven’t even finished unpacking from Stanford?! How is that possible? No more excuses, young lady: I expect to see these boxes unpacked, gone, and the floor vacuumed by the time I get home.”

“Kara, listen to me, you cannot just sit around stuffing your face all day. Get dressed. You are going to go outside and get some exercise.”

To escape her mother’s increasingly stern and judgmental nagging, Kara would hole up in her room for days at a time, never changing out of her pajamas, subsisting almost exclusively on a steady infusion of Grey’s Anatomy DVDs and microwaved Kraft Mac & Cheese. Lonely and browbeaten, eventually Kara worked up the nerve to do something she had been putting off for months.

She held the phone to her ear. It rang, then rang again, and again. Part of her hoped the call would just roll over to voice mail. But it didn’t.

Kara cleared her throat. “Hey, Sarah.”

***

Kara steered her car into the far-right lane. As the sign drew near, she slowed, and then signaled her intent to turn.

To be sure, this venue had not been Kara’s idea. Her initial plan had been just to drop by Sarah’s house for a casual visit. Sarah said that sounded great, but, unfortunately, now just wasn’t a good time. She was busy. She had other commitments, you see. Lots of them, in fact. Summer swim camp. College applications. A family vacation. A road trip with Jessie and a couple other girls from the varsity team. It was always something.

Only after several weeks of repeated calls and rejections did Sarah finally allow an opening to squeeze into her busy schedule. Gold’s Gym, Sarah suggested. Weekday mornings she usually swung by for a light workout. Why not meet there and catch up?

When Kara pulled her vehicle into the gym parking lot, she saw Sarah already standing near the entrance, waiting. And standing beside her was Jessie. Sarah must have invited her along as well. Kara was disappointed but not surprised. Jessie’s potential inclusion was certainly not something Sarah had disclosed during their conversation, and the last thing Kara wanted right now was another set of eyes on her. Lately, though, that pair seemed inseparable.

Kara parked and made her way towards the entrance. Eager to avoid the locker room, Kara had donned a newly-acquired set of roomy, indigo blue sweats before leaving the house. As Kara crossed the lot, Sarah pointed her out, then visibly stifled a laugh that likely still would have been audible had Kara been a bit closer. Jessie waved enthusiastically. Both girls were still wearing their street clothes.

Up close, it was obvious to Kara that Jessie had lost even more weight over the past several months. Tight, low-rise jeans and a snug t-shirt confidently flattered her freshly-sculpted curves. She was even showing a bit of midriff. No longer tubby, or even husky, Jessie looked lean. She looked fit. She looked fantastic. But Kara said none of these things. Instead, she merely mumbled a quiet ‘hello’ before the trio strolled into the building. Although she could feel the weight of their eyes on her body, for better or worse Jessie and Sarah likewise seemed content to keep any comments to themselves.

As they neared the locker rooms, Sarah stopped and turned to face her companions. “Hey,” she said, with a snap of her fingers. “I know. How about let’s start with a swim?”

Kara blinked. “What?” This was not on the agreed agenda.

“I’m game,” Jessie replied.

Both girls were now looking at Kara, expectantly.

She shook her head. “Guys, no, I dunno…”

“Aw, c’mon!” Sarah goaded. “One last swim with our old captain.”

“Really, no, I don’t think—“

“C’mon!” Sarah smirked.

“But,” Kara protested, “I didn’t even bring a swimsuit.”

“Here,” Jessie said. She pulled a garment out of her tote bag and tossed it to Kara. “You can use one of my old ones.”

Kara stared dumbly at the swatch of stretchy, two-tone nylon in her hands.

No,” Kara thought. “No way. This cannot possibly fit me.” She was so flustered by the situation, she completely overlooked whatever suspicious coincidence led Jessie to have had her old suit conveniently ready at hand.

Reluctantly, Kara trailed behind her former teammates into the changing room. Sarah and Jessie snagged the nearest available lockers and began stripping down, without the slightest bit of reservation. Kara hesitated, then slunk away to a secluded corner several rows over. Mercifully, Sarah and Jessie allowed her to get changed in unmolested solitude.

Kara’s pessimistic assessment regarding the fit of Jessie’s old swimsuit proved to be well-founded. However, to her horrified chagrin, she soon discovered the problem was not quite what she had anticipated. For several minutes after she heard Sarah and Jessie exit the room, Kara continued to wrestle with the uncooperative outfit, fruitlessly attempting to find a more comfortable adjustment. Unsatisfied, yet keenly aware of how long she was taking, eventually Kara tossed her shed clothes into the locker and grudgingly made her way to the pool.

The astringent tang of chlorine permeated the pool access hallway. Its scent stirred within Kara a peculiar mix of competitiveness and stomach-churning anxiety. So familiar from her countless hours in the water, but now also so surprisingly distant—like unexpectedly bumping into an old flame for the first time in years.

How long had it been since she last rinsed that odor from her hair? Six months? “So long…” Kara thought.

To her mind, it seemed impossible that so much time had passed. Yet the flutter in her chest and the jittery tremble in her knees contended it felt more like an eternity. Unbidden, her thoughts spun back through memories of the past year—all the procrastination, all the excuses, all the disappointment, all the denial.

The end of the hall drew near. Kara sucked in her stomach as best she could, and carefully modulated her gait to mask as much as possible the jiggle every footfall jolted through her thighs. She tried equally hard to quell the hot flush of color rising in her cheeks. When she rounded the corner into view of the two girls waiting poolside, the gawking stares that greeted her instantly demonstrated the futility of these efforts. Kara’s blush deepened to a burning crimson as Sarah unabashedly dragged her eyes across the once-enviable figure of her old friend and mouthed a slow, silent “oh my god.”

Loose in the chest and too tight everywhere else, the suit fitted Kara terribly. Its straps burrowed into her rounded shoulders, and the cutout in back dug into her spongy flesh there, as well.

Around her middle, the strained fabric compressed Kara’s belly into a large and bulbous mound. Arching out just beneath the rise of her breasts, its bottom-heavy zenith protruded quite a bit beyond them. Near its center, the deep well of Kara’s navel created an obvious, puckered span in the taut material.

From under the lower hem her hips burst forth with chunky vigor, while at her crotch the suit’s narrow cut pinched the swollen prominence of her pubic area, forcing little bulges of naked plumpness to pooch out on either side.

Kara’s ass, once flawless, had become a doughy, squarish lump. Grown wider and fatter, her rear nonetheless appeared remarkably less round. Where left exposed by her suit, cellulite pocked the lower fold of each bun. Farther down, her thighs had bloated into thick, flabby drumsticks which tapered dramatically towards her still comparatively slender calves.

Kara’s face, too, had grown chubbier over the summer. Full cheeks blurred into the beginnings of a double chin, and her collar bones seemed to have vanished. Even her arms appeared meaty, soft, and toneless.

Her contrast with the other two girls was profound. While Sarah remained as petite and wiry as ever, Jessie—stripped out of her jeans and t-shirt—looked even more amazing than earlier. Long, powerful limbs and a solid, shapely core; Kara could hardly believe this statuesque beauty was the same porky redhead that almost cost her team a sectional championship. Standing beside her, Kara felt squat and dumpy like never before. Worst of all, though, was the condescending sneer Jessie wore as she eyed Kara up and down. Somehow, that one look hurt worse than any of Sarah’s barely-restrained snark.

Eventually, Sarah broke the awkward hush with a feigned cough. “So, uh, let’s get this started, huh? You guys ready?”

Kara sighed. “I guess.”

“Are you sure?” Jessie asked, her tone laced with unprecedentedly open contempt.

Kara blinked, taken aback by Jessie’s out of character insubordinate attitude. The redhead returned an exaggerated blink in response, then cocked derisive eyebrow.

Perhaps it was the source of the barb, or the familiar surroundings, or some combination of the two in conjunction with everything else. For whatever reasons, pinned under Jessie’s brazenly unapologetic gaze, the digs at last cut deep enough to strike backbone.

Kara’s eyes narrowed into daggers. There was only so much provocation she could take. She let the moment drag out, then hissed her venom-drenched response. “Yes. I. Am.”

“Finally,” Jessie replied, in an unflinching deadpan.

“Great!” Sarah interjected, trying to smother the sudden tension with her usual tide of enthusiasm. “Let’s start with a four lap sprint. That’s a good warm up!”

“Fine,” Kara growled.

Jessie shrugged, unimpressed. “’Kay.”

As the three girls lined up on the starting blocks, Kara noticed Sarah and Jessie fiddling with their wristwatches.

“Seriously?” Kara asked. “You’re timing this?”

“Duh.” Sarah answered. “Everything counts.”

“…in large amounts!” Jessie and Sarah cooed in unison, then broke into a peal of giggles as they made little groping gestures in the air.

Kara shook her head and gritted her teeth. Some stupid new inside joke of theirs, no doubt. Its meaning—assuming it even had one—was lost on her.

“OK,” Sarah called, “on your marks…”

Kara lowered her borrowed goggles and leaned over to assume the starting position. Or, rather, she tried to. The thick roll of lard around her middle created an uncomfortable impediment to her customary posture.

“…get set…”

She tried to adjust for it, widening her stance, repositioning her hips, spreading her knees— Too late. No time.

“…go!”

Kara lunged, and crashed into the water with an ungainly tumble. Immediately, she found her dive resisted by unfamiliar buoyancy. Surfacing, Kara exploded into her best stroke—the front crawl.

For a brief moment, she was the Kara of old once more. Her insecurities vanished—submerged beneath the rush of competition. She might have lost her scholarship, but that didn’t mean she had forgotten how to swim. Her forms, her breathing, her pacing—she knew it all by instinct. This is what she did. This is who she was. Like hell was she going to let anyone take that from her. The pool’s pulsing aquatic echo filled her ears, her lane became her world, and nothing else mattered.

She reached the wall and pivoted off it, executing though brute force a flip made cumbersome by her excess girth. After completing the first turn, Kara allowed herself a brief peek at the neighboring lanes. Her heart sank. Sarah and Jessie were already nearing the far side. And Jessie was pulling ahead.

In furious spite of it all, Kara plowed on. She pushed herself to the limit. She clawed at the water. She gave it everything.

Soon, however, the first hints of exhaustion began to creep in. Through her years of practice, Kara knew the signs well. She tried to ignore it. Kara tried to focus on the rhythm, to infuse it with will and desire—faster, smoother, harder. “Come on!” Kara thought.

It was no use. Despite Kara’s determination, her form was failing. With every down sweep she felt the drag of her added bulk. Every turn reminded her how large and uncooperatively round her belly had become. Every kick proved how heavy and sluggish her thighs had grown.

Eventually, Kara struggled through the final turn. Her arms were dead. Her legs ached. Every breath sounded like a last gasp. That final straight was the worst. There was just no gas left in the tank. “This isn’t even swimming anymore,” Kara thought. It was hell. Pure hell.

After what seemed an eternity, Kara finally tapped the wall. Panting and hanging onto the lane line, she raised her goggles. Multiple laps of splashing had scoured away her concealer, revealing the rash of pimples across her ruddy face.

Sarah and Jessie were already out of the water and seated on the lip of the pool. Both studied their wristwatches intently. Sarah turned to Kara. With an expression of genuine pity, she held out her watch for Kara see.

Kara’s labored breathing caught in her throat. “No.

It was far worse than she had ever done at Stanford. Worse than anything she had posted in her high school career. She shook her head, her lips twisting into an agonized pout. Hell, her junior high times had been way better than that! “There’s just no way!” Unbelievably, she had actually swum slower than Jessie’s botched performance at the sectional meet. By a lot.

Quietly, the reigning state sectional record-holder for the 200-yard high school women’s freestyle hauled herself out of the pool and waddled towards the exit. The rear of the suit had ridden up deep into the crack of Kara’s ass, leaving her flabby bottom almost completely exposed. She made no effort to tug it back into place.

As she was about leave, Jessie yelled after her.

“Hey! Kara!”

Kara looked back. Jessie smiled, a frosty gleam in her eyes.

“You’re fat.”
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Old 02-04-2017, 10:29 PM   #24
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Default Epilogue

EPILOGUE

“You’re going to be late,” chided a female voice from within the house.

“I know! I’m going!” Kara replied as she shuffled down the entry path, toward her car.

“And Kara?” Joyce leaned out of the open front door. “No pizza at your father’s.”

“I heard you the first time!” Kara yelled, tossing her duffle bag into the passenger seat of her hatchback.

“I mean it, young lady,” Joyce persisted, adopting the reproachful lowered tone unique to mothers.

“Oh-KAY!” Kara huffed. She plopped heavily into the driver’s seat. The suspension lurched in response.

Kara slammed the door and groped in search of the seatbelt, eager to be on her way. Snagging it, she tugged at the belt a few times before realizing it was caught in the door. With a grumble, she popped the door open just enough to free the polyester strap, then, reflexively, sucked in her belly and hefted it with one arm while she yanked the belt across her lap beneath it with the other. As she cranked the ignition and rolled out of the driveway, Kara glanced in the rearview mirror. Her mother lingered in the doorway, still watching, arms folded.

“Ugh!” Kara groaned.

***

It had been three years since Kara withdrew from Stanford. She hadn’t seen Sarah or Jessie since that last encounter at the pool. Even so, Kara couldn’t resist occasionally checking up on them via Facebook and Twitter.

The spring after Kara withdrew, Sarah took over as varsity team captain. She led the team through a successful season and onward to another victory at the state sectional. During that season, Jessie developed into the team’s star performer. At the sectional meet, Jessie even managed to set a new record—besting Kara’s 200-yard freestyle time by a convincing half-second. In a local sports news article Kara found linked on Sarah’s Facebook wall, a reporter asked Jessie how she felt about setting the new mark. Jessie answered with all-too-familiar nonchalance: “Well, the old record was pretty slow, in my opinion, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal.”

The following year, both Sarah and Jessie enrolled at Stanford. Sarah had opted to hang up her swim goggles after high school and focus on academics. Jessie, on the other hand, managed to snag a sizable swimming scholarship. The university, it seemed, just happened to have one of the coveted, funding-capped awards available. Even though they weren’t swimming together anymore, Sarah and Jessie remained close friends, as evidenced by their mutually referential, boisterous, often ribald postings.

Or at least that’s how it was the last time Kara had checked. Kara deactivated her Facebook account nearly a year ago, finally fed up with the sporadic messages from old acquaintances inquiring about the total absence of updates on her own page. She had also gotten better about resisting the urge to Google Sarah and Jessie—or anyone else she knew from back in the day. If not exactly bliss, Kara concluded, ignorance was at least…preferable.

Kara was 22 now, still living with her mom, still in the same room she’d had since she was a child. She had enrolled at the local community college, but her heart just wasn’t in it. With a few semesters under her belt, she was still just dabbling in the odd courses here and there, no closer to a degree, and lacking any clear goal other than keeping her parents off her back. If she were being honest, she’d have admitted that the whole scene just felt somehow…unworthy. Not that you would know it from her lackluster grades.

***

Easing into the driveway of her father’s sizeable suburban home, Kara killed the engine. She cranked the parking brake, and then unbuckled her seatbelt with an audible sigh of relief. Kara lingered for a moment, silently contemplating the well-maintained front yard.

Her father and his second wife—Kara could never think of the woman as anything else—were going away for a weekend vacation. Kara’s father had asked her to babysit Sean and mind the house while they were away. Knowing Kara could use the money, he’d offered her $100 for her trouble, as well—a big bonus relative to the meagre allowance she received from her mother. Kara appreciated that. What Kara appreciated less was how he had presented the proposal as though he had also known—or at least correctly assumed—that she would have no weekend plans of her own. He certainly had made it seem there wasn’t any question that she might decline. She suspected her parents must have been “talking” about her again.

With a disdainful sniff, Kara tried to push that thought from her mind. She flipped down the sun visor and opened the mirror. The bloated, pimpled moon of a face that stared back at her bore only a faint resemblance to the clear-skinned, sharp-featured vixen captured in her driver’s license photo. So stark was the contrast that Kara had thus far been too self-conscious about presenting her ID to buy any alcohol, despite having reached that much-celebrated milestone of adulthood over a year ago. All trace of her cheekbones had been supplanted by a doughy, chipmunk-esque swelling that slightly squeezed at her eyes and the corners of her mouth. The result added a perpetually pinched aspect to Kara’s neutral expression. Her once-proud chin now lay deeply swaddled in its substantial, tubby double, which of late had itself begun taking on a jowly quality and merging with her thickened neck as the pounds kept coming. The messy pony tail into which Kara currently had her hair pulled back only further emphasized these developments.

Frowning, Kara reached into her glove box and pulled out a compact. With a few hasty dabs, she attempted to freshen up her application of concealer. Having skated through puberty nearly untouched by acne, what once had seemed a free pass from the capricious zit gods turned out to be merely a deferred sentence. In the years since, the breakouts that had started showing up during her brief tenure at Stanford had only gotten worse. The oily, Braille-textured blemish fields of Kara’s forehead, plumped cheeks, and submerging chin bore harsh testimony to that. At least on her nose she usually only got blackheads. Those were fairly easy to hide. The rest…

Kara dabbed again at a particularly large and angry-looking welt just starting to erupt on her upper lip. Pausing to inspect her handiwork, Kara wrinkled her nose in disgust. She grabbed a tissue and quickly wiped off a thick smear of makeup, then—with far more force than necessary—blindly tossed the used toiletry towards the trash bag hanging on the back of the passenger seat. She missed.

Kara popped the door and slipped the belt out from under her middle. Sliding her legs out of the car, she rocked back against her seat for momentum, then, with a lunge, grabbed the window frame and hauled herself upright.

She wore baggy grey sweatpants and an oversized plain pink t-shirt. The latter draped across the swell of belly that had become Kara’s most prominent feature, but hung tent-like elsewhere. Over this she had on her old letterman jacket. The fit was poor, bordering on ridiculous. Splayed wide through the chest and wider still across her middle, Kara clearly would never be able to button it. Even so, she was still able to stuff her pillowy arms into the generous sleeves, and she wore it often. As one of the last trappings of her high school success still available to her—this past fall she had finally outgrown even her class ring—Kara clung to it desperately.

Kara turned around and leaned back into the car to drag out her duffle bag full of clothes, bathroom supplies, and the weekend’s homework. Bent over, Kara’s ass hung out of the open door, a quivering monument of obesity wrapped in grey cotton. The firmly sculpted, fulsome bubble butt that had once arguably been Kara’s best asset was gone. Now more than double its former width, Kara’s shapely bottom had flattened as it broadened. Twin rounded handfuls of lean muscle had given way to a thick, boxy shelf that jutted several inches out from the spongy folds of her back before drooping into two shapeless, flabby pancakes that slumped gracelessly into her corpulent thighs.

With a muffled grunt of exertion, Kara hefted the modest parcel and looped the straps over her shoulder. “Jesus, I’m out of shape!” Kara mumbled to herself in consternation, not for the first the time.

Shifting on her feet, Kara awkwardly plucked loose the wedgie that ridden up on her while gathering the bag. With a final, quick tug to hitch up the waistband of her sagging pants, Kara bumped the car door closed with a hip and trudged up to her father’s house.

She found a handwritten note taped to the front door.
Kara,

Sorry we couldn’t be here to greet you. Marie and I had to dash to catch our flight. Sean has a few friends sleeping over tonight. I’m sure you can handle it. Dinner is already prepared and in the fridge. Your mother wanted me to remind you not to order--
Kara crumpled the note without reading the rest. They had definitely been talking again.

“Seaaa-aaaan! I’m here!” Kara called as she let herself in. She did her best to sound upbeat.

Two boys seated on the living room sofa glanced briefly in her direction before returning their attention to the Xbox game on the TV.

A quick series of thumping footfalls rattled through the kitchen. Kara turned just in time to see Sean dart up beside her.

“Hey, Loser!” he replied, flashing a rakish grin.

Sean was 12, and growing fast. Always big for his age, Sean’s gelled shock of blonde hair now clocked in just a bare couple inches shorter than Kara. Several years of competitive swimming and the first hints of oncoming puberty had transformed his child’s body into the lean, lanky build of a young man.

Bobbing left and right, Sean popped several rapid, playful jabs into Kara’s yielding belly.

“S-Sean!” Kara gasped, cradling her vulnerable gut with her free arm while trying to block further abuse with the other. Sean easily dodged her timid defenses, tagging her several more times before punctuating his barrage with a solid uppercut into the ponderous overhang of Kara’s lower belly. Kara yelped with shock. The duffle bag slipped loose from her shoulder just then, tugging her arm down. Off balance, she took a step back, then stumbled clumsily into the closed door, nearly falling over.

“Smooth moves, Sis,” Sean laughed, then walked around her to join his giggling friends on the sofa.

Kara remained leaning against the door, glaring at the oblivious boys while she tried to catch her breath. After a few moments, she picked up her bag and carried it upstairs to the guest bedroom.

On her return, Kara examined the photographs hanging along the stairway. There were several photos of Sean’s victories with the Junior Sharks, as well a few more recent ones with the Otters, his new middle school team. As she neared the bottom, Kara realized with dismay that all the photos were of Sean. Kara had gotten so used to seeing her own high school athletic triumphs proudly displayed on Dad’s wall that she hadn’t even noticed they were missing.

“Hey, Sean,” Kara asked, standing at the bottom of the stairway, “what happened to all my photos?”

“…Huh?” Sean replied from the living room, yelling to make himself heard over the racket of the video game.

“My old swimming photos. They’re not on the wall anymore.”

“Oh. Yeah, I dunno,” Sean answered. “Dad said it was getting too crowded or something so he took them down to make more room for mine.”

***

Late that evening, Kara sent the boys to bed so she could finally get some work done. Or at least she banished them to the general vicinity of bed. She harbored no illusions that they would actually be sleeping anytime soon. Occasional thumps and muffled laughter from upstairs confirmed the situation.

Kara tossed her American history textbook onto the coffee table with a satisfied sigh. “Done with that, at least,” she thought. Hefting herself up from the couch, Kara started upstairs to retrieve her biology homework. And…something else.

Coming back down the hall with her biology textbook under one arm and the little tin containing her marijuana stash in the other, Kara passed Sean’s room. The door was open just a crack, leaking a sliver of light into the hallway.

“—used to be hella hot! I totally would have boned that ass back then!” Kara overheard one of the boys—James, she thought—say.

“…Damn!” agreed the other, Mark, with a laugh.

Curiosity getting the better of her, Kara stopped and quietly peeked in. The boys were sitting on the floor, poring over what looked like…one of her old yearbooks.

“Your sister used to be, like, pure sex, dude! What the hell happened?” he added.

“I dunno. She just got fat and dumpy. And she’s not really my sister,” Sean objected. “Just a half-sister.”

Kara clamped a hand over her mouth, stunned and stung—by her sibling’s casual disowning most of all.

“Yeah, well,” James remarked, “now she’s twice as big and not even half as hot.”

Blinking back tears, Kara retreated from the door as the boys laughed. She crept down the stairs in silence.
***

“…get your body back and get into the best shape of your life! Thirty minutes a day, three times a week. That’s all it takes!”

Kara blearily opened her eyes, squinting into the bright overhead lights of the living room. She rolled her head to the side. An infomercial blared obnoxiously from the TV. It was 3:40 AM

“God damn cellular structure,” Kara grumbled. That stuff always made her so tired. She’d only meant to take a little nap, though.

Kara reached for the remote and discovered her hand was sopping wet. “…Th’ hell..?” Kara murmured, staring dumbly at her pruned, dripping digits. She leaned over and saw that someone had placed a bowl of water on the carpet next to the sofa. Her hand must have been resting in it for some time.

“Ughhhhh” Kara moaned. She rolled into a sitting position and let out an involuntary belch. The sofa creaked in protest. “Urf,” she agreed.

Kara switched off the TV and tossed the remote onto the coffee table, where it landed atop an empty Domino’s Pizza box, beside her still-open textbook.

Kara leaned on the armrest and lurched stiffly to her feet. She’d changed into a white nightgown after settling in for the night. Underneath it she was naked, save for a pair of socks. Not one of her more recent purchases, the gown exposed a swath of pasty, sagging cleavage and gently hugged the contours of her stomach, hips, and ass.

Kara shut off the lights and plodded up the stairs. Nearing the top, she could hear noise coming from Sean’s room. The sounds grew more distinct as she continued down the hallway, and she could see light under his door.

“Her tits must be huuuuuuuuge!” howled one boy.

“Oh dude, dude—holy shit—dude, look at how many Xs there are on these things!” cackled another.

Incensed, Kara stomped the final few feet in a hurry and threw open Sean’s door.

“What the hell are you little shits doing!?” Kara demanded.

James was holding up one her bras, as though trying to figure out how to put it on. Mark squatted next to him, a pair of her panties in his hands, tag raised for inspection. On the floor beside them was Kara’s duffle bag, disgorging a rifled-through mess of rumpled clothes. Across the room, Sean sat on his bed, one of her bras tied onto his head like a helmet.

The four stared at each other in slack-jawed silence, until at last James broke the spell.

“Crap, the manatee’s up! Get her!!”

On cue, the three boys each grabbed super soakers waiting close at hand and began spraying Kara. Shrieking and trying to block the streams with her hands, Kara stumbled back through the doorway.

Hooting with laughter, the three darted past her into the hall and split up, continuing to blast her from either side. Mark waggled the stolen panties at her mockingly.

Regaining some composure, Kara growled. “Give it back!” She stormed towards where Sean and Mark had taken up position, her breasts jiggling wildly. The boys fled down the stairs and scattered. No sooner did she start after them then James doused her butt with an icy blast of water from behind. When she shot him a furious glare over her shoulder, he scampered offer towards the master bedroom.

For fifteen minutes Kara chased the boys back and forth throughout the house, into the backyard, then the garage, up the stairs and back down. It was hopeless. Kara was fat, slow, and uncoordinated. The boys outmaneuvered her easily. They stalked her like a pack of wolves. They flaunted her stolen underwear like a cape before a bull, and answered her indignant shouts with more splurts of water.

Soon, Kara was totally winded and completely soaked. Her flimsy nightgown, rendered largely transparent, clung like a second skin.

Sean backpedaled swiftly into the kitchen, a predatory grin on his face. Kara lumbered after him, her pace dwindled to little more than a slow waddle. Her round face was flushed a splotchy red and bore an agonized expression. Heavy tits hung sloppily to either side of her stomach, chill-hardened nipples and stretched areolae angled steeply towards the ground. Unrestrained, they swayed pendulously with her every stomping step.

Kara’s enormous gut wobbled in a lazy counter-beat. Though a spectacle of swollen girth, the inevitable surrender to gravity had begun to mar its protuberance. Cresting into the hint of a roll just above the cavernous indentation of her navel, her belly then continued outward to its greatest protrusion, where it perched in a steep but slumping outcropping above her fattened pubic mound. Stretch marks—in hues of faded beige and fresher pink—could be seen on its surface through the drenched fabric, radiating out from her navel like debris around an impact crater.

Kara’s sides were a trio of rolls, erupting from beneath her fleshy armpits and steadily expanding into massive love handles that merged both with her belly and her shelf of an ass, the broadest upper contours of which could be seen even from the front. Kara’s trunk-like thighs were a pocked landscape of cellulite and saddlebags. They swished together audibly as she shuffled forward, making contact from her crotch all the way to her knees. Wedged between them, with nowhere left to go, Kara’s pubic area bulged in an obscenely plump, rounded triangle beneath the shadow of her belly.

Across this entire physique was a smattering of body acne, sharply visible against her curd-white complexion. The harsh glow of the kitchen fluorescents rendered yet more unflattering the cling of Kara’s soaked nightgown, spotlighting every imperfection.

“Sean…” Kara panted. Her right hand was clamped against her side, where a painful stitch burned somewhere deep under the chub. “Sean, please…” Kara whimpered, weakly extending her pudgy left arm towards him, elbow forming a deep dimple.

Sean stuck out his tongue, then sprayed her in the face. Kara turned her cheek, and attempted to lunge forward, but her waterlogged socks slipped on the tile. She tried to grab onto the counter, but it was too late. Kara’s gelatinous ass plopped onto the kitchen floor with a moist clap and a house-shuddering thud.

Sean crowed with glee.

Cold, naked, exhausted, and humiliated, Kara went limp. Shoulders slumped, head hanging, she began to sob. Kara’s tears merged with the drippings from her soggy, disheveled hair as they trickled down her chubby cheeks.

“Hah! I win!” Sean proclaimed.

He was right. It was over. Kara had lost. Everything.

###
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Old 02-27-2017, 10:22 AM   #25
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One of the best stories I've read on here in a long time. Love the ending. Great job!
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