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Old 08-18-2017, 01:20 PM   #26
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A/N: Your wish is my command. Apologies for the delay - working too hard.

Sorry, this bit seems to have more story and less fat.

___

Monday morning, Ben went to his office whistling, cake, squirty cream, and a dozen donuts swinging in the bottom of his Tesco bag. He also went with resolutions, his heart pounding, his head buzzing. He was going to tell her he loved her. Or at least liked her. Or at least that he wanted her to dump Guy.

'Why would I do that?' Imaginary-Tessa asked him as he played out the conversation in his head, weaving through pavement thick with the London commute. 'Give me one good reason why I would dump the man I've been with for years.'

Ben had to think hard. The beard was a good reason, but it had to be something deeper than that. His job - soulless, undoubtedly, but it spun good money and kept Tessa well-fed.

He kept playing the dinner party over and over in his head. Watching Guy take his knife and fork to Tessa's plate, her annoyed requests that he stop treating her like a baby.

That was the crux, surely. The sore point. He just needed to pick at it. Suggest it. Make her think it was her own idea, her fiance's pratishness. Nothing to do with him at all.

His brain wasn't the only thing buzzing as he went into chambers. Reception was, too, a swarm blocking the corridor to his office.

A swarm surrounding Tessa's desk.

'I like that one,' someone was saying--Ginger, one of the juniors. 'Though maybe without sleeves.'

'Too fussy,' Maria said from deep within the crowd. 'Get something to show off your tits.'

'Get off my tits,' Ben heard Tessa say, from somewhere even deeper in the thrall. 'I just need something that will fit me.'

There was a thick silence, and Tessa chirped, 'Diet it is!' and everyone began going back to their desks and offices, and Ben stood there in the doorway, carrier bag hanging limply from his hand.

Only Tessa was left at her desk, sipping from a bottle of water. Her fat belly sat round in her lap, tucked neatly against the jut of her desk, her thighs brushing the keyboard tray. On her plump finger, her ring sparkled more than usual, like it had been newly polished.

She put her bottle down. She didn't smile at him.

'Set a date for the wedding at last,' she said, still not smiling, her lips a bit wobbly around the edges, chin doubling sweetly. 'Nineteenth of August, this year.'

In an instant, everything that happened after she left Saturday night was erased. That text message, that leaning forward into his ear, everything implied with those whispered words. All of the conversations planned in Ben's mind. All of his declarations of love.

'I'm happy for you,' Ben said, donuts pressing, deflated, to his knee.

'Yeah,' Tessa said. She turned the mouth of the bottle around in her palm. 'Funny, isn't it? Spent all this time assuming it would never happen, then Sunday morning he tells me he's booked the parish church.'

'He's a great guy,' Ben said, maybe with a little bit of puke in his mouth.

'He is,' Tessa looked at her computer, then back at him, the plastic bottle squeaking in her fingers. 'Well,' she said, 'better get back to work.'

'Me too,' Ben said.

He shut himself into his office until lunch, Tessa not knocking once. Then he ate two donuts and was sick in the en suite. Maria appeared behind him as he was washing out his mouth, her arms crossed, trim body leaning up against the door frame, head cocked to one side.

'Sorry,' she said.

'Yeah, well,' he said, drying his mouth on the hand towel.

'It's not done yet,' she said.

'Might as well be.'

'The guy's a wanker,' she huffed. She turned to go, hands in her pockets, all trim, casual grace. 'You know that, I know that, she knows that. She'll do the right thing. Just…be there for her, when she figures it out, okay? She needs to do it. Not you.'

Ben threw the towel on the sink and stalked back to his chair.

'I mean it, Ben,' Maria said.

'And you think I'm an idiot.'

'You are,' Maria said. 'But she's not. Just trust her, okay?' He looked up at her, stone-faced, to find a soft expression, and care in her dark eyes. 'She doesn't want to marry him either,' she said.

'Could've fooled me.'

'Not difficult,' Maria said. Her smirk faltered. 'Besides, if she wanted to go through with it, with him, would she be dieting?'

Ben frowned at her, not understanding.

'I'll leave you with that nugget,' she said. Her hand landed on the knob of his office door, turning it gently. 'And in the meantime, we can just fantasise about how fat we'll make her when she stops.'
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Old 08-18-2017, 01:58 PM   #27
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Zero apologies required for that chapter -- fit the story perfectly (and I hope your work slacks up a bit soon, for our sake )
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Old 08-18-2017, 07:15 PM   #28
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These characters feel like real people, and the arc is compelling and the pacing spot on. One of the best stories I've ever read here!
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Old 08-19-2017, 02:20 PM   #29
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When did food last taste of anything? Ben couldn't remember. He'd stopped eating lunch sometime after those donuts, and the contents of his mini-fridge ended up in the compost bin.

'I'm worried about you.' Maria bent over his desk, his face in her hands, fingers framing the plain of each cheek. 'You're not well.'

'I'm fine,' Ben insisted, batting her hands away and trying to get back to his work.

'You look like shit. Your work must be awful.'

'Haven't lost a case in weeks.'

'Mmhm,' Maria replied. 'I've heard you're making witnesses cry.'

'She was sensitive.'

'You're being an asshole to everyone.'

'I'm not doing anything.' Ben slid backwards in his wheeled chair and tossed crumpled notes into the recycling bin.

'You think you're not but you are.' Maria crossed her arms and shivered, thin as she was, even wrapped in a cashmere cardigan. She tapped her fingers against the cuff of her sleeve and was obviously weighing what she was about to say.

'She misses you, you know.'

Ben crumpled up another paper - one he still needed - and threw it so hard into the bin it bounced.

'You're going to start losing clients.'

'She's still sending me work.'

'She's the only one. The other clerks are avoiding you.'

'It's enough.'

'Let's just hope you've set free loads of repeat offenders, then.' Maria sighed and sagged onto the back of his rickety client chair. He'd never got a new one. He supposed he wouldn't, now.

'Look,' she said. 'Guy is an asshole. She's on a diet so he's been sending her food everyday. Delivery and great big bloody gift baskets full of Milk Tray. I've been taking them-'

'Why have you been taking them?'

'None of your business,' Maria sniffed, a bit pink in the cheeks. 'My point is, he's not listening to her. She wants to lose weight for the wedding and he's sabotaging her. All this, and I heard Tess mention that he votes Tory.'

'You vote Tory.'

'Yes, but at least I have the decency to be embarrassed by it.'

Ben sighed. 'You're being ridiculous,' he said, his cheeks suddenly feeling very hollow as he glared up at her with sore eyes.

'Maybe,' she said. She opened her mouth, then calmly licked her lips, ruminating on the next words to say.

'Look,' she said. 'I'm not sure I should say anything, but... someone's been writing anonymous complaints about her to the Ancient Ones.'

That caught Ben's attention.

'What?' Ben said. 'Why?'

'Because I think someone wants to get her fired so she'll stay home and grow too fat to leave the house.'

There. Something, something deep down, responded to that. Something in his chest, and in his stomach, blooming red, like anger. And something entirely different between his legs.

'You are such a perv,' Maria said.

'You're one to talk,' Ben said.

'Only because you're contagious. Ben. Ben, bloody look at me, will you?'

Ben forced his eyes from his folio to her face, only to find her glaring at him, jawline clenched so tight it could cut leather.

'I know she's clever,' Maria said. 'I know she'll figure it out on her own eventually. But eventually's too long.' She reached into her pocket and brought out a Yorkie bar, and flung it onto his desk over the crime scene photographs. 'Eat this. Go to the gym. Wear something pretty. Remember to smile'

'I-'

'Give her something to miss,' Maria said, wide trousers swishing as she turned to go. She added darkly, 'For all our sakes.'
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Old 08-20-2017, 04:19 PM   #30
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This is great! Hopefully the story won't end when Ben (supposedly) gets the girl. I'd love to see her get really big.
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Old 08-23-2017, 12:45 PM   #31
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Came late to the party but am enjoying this!
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Old 08-24-2017, 09:55 AM   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xyantha Reborn View Post
Came late to the party but am enjoying this!
Right? Such good stuff!!
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Old 08-31-2017, 08:22 PM   #33
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Outstanding work....hope that you find time to continue.
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Old 09-03-2017, 07:27 AM   #34
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Everyday, Ben went to work, slipping through crowds like he was someone else, not really feeling, not really caring, just as distant from himself as he was from every other person in a city of millions.

Everyday, Ben lunch in his office by himself, picking at dry sandwiches that Maria kept buying him from the Co-op, ignoring the receipts she slipped beneath his mug, and could only eat half of them before sliding the rest into the bin.

Everyday, Ben went home at 5:05, patted Bill (who tried to eat his hand), and sat down in the front of the television in order to fully disengage what little remained of his brain.

'Stop this,' he muttered to himself. In the mirror over the television, the visible slice of his face looked gaunt and hollow. His brother would clap him about the head if he could see him right now. 'For a woman?' he would say, with a thick slap to the back of the skull. 'This isn't right, Benny Boy. Get your head out of your arse. You don’t need her. Fuck, mate, would you look at yourself?'

But he did need her. Even now, staring into his own hollow eyes, that one memory floated to the front of his mind: he and Tessa, sitting just a few feet away at the kitchen table, so close that he could have slid a hand over onto her plump thigh. But he'd been ill, and in love, and would never touch her. Not unless she touched him first.

'What would I do without you?' Ben had asked her then, trying not to cough up into his soup.

And in his head, clearer still is that voice, the dampened lilt of the slight Geordie accent, choked with suppressed laughter: 'Die, probably.'

He was beginning to think there was a strong possibility she was right.

And Guy? Was he truly trying to get her fired? He couldn’t say; he'd only met him once, and he'd been inoffensive enough then, despite how much Ben hated him. And really, what was the difference between Guy and himself? If Tessa were his fiancé, could he say he wouldn't be coaxing her with treats and heavy meals, helping her get fatter, and fatter, and fatter?

Yes, he could. Because Tessa didn't want to. And unlike Guy, he wasn't a fucking prick.

Ben lifted himself from the sofa as though he weighed a thousand pounds, and took a deep breath that sent some of that heaviness rolling from his shoulders. His chest expanded in the mirror, and light from the lamp reflected in his dark eyes.

Then he went to extract his gym kit from Bill's cat nest under his bed.

The next day, he wobbled into work, fists clenched in resolve, legs sore, but feeling something. Smelling something, too - the toxic tang of polluted city air as it gave way to must and the light, biscuit-y note of Tessa's perfume.
Ben's nails dug into his palms. He steeled himself and gathered his voice.

'Hey,' he said.

Too loud, and a bit too assertive. Tessa started and looked up from her computer screen. It was early on a Friday, a half hour before most everyone got in, and they were the only ones in reception. The other desks were empty, the phones quiet, and Tessa sat in her desk chair, an empty fruit salad container sitting beside her keyboard.

'Hey,' she said. There was an odd tightness to her eyes and smile, something quite plastic and pained.

'How are you?' Ben asked. His own voice sounded just as strange. His skin cracked over his knuckles.

'I'm fine,' Tessa replied. 'How are you, sir?'

Ben winced at that, that title instead of his name. It'd never bothered him before, especially not when shut up in his office, food spread out between them, her backside wedged into his client chair.

She was looking quite a bit smaller, now, and a bit deflated in the same blue jersey dress she'd worn to his dinner party. There was excess fabric around her belly, which looked sad and empty, sitting gently on her lap, an easy gap between navel and desk. Her breasts were smaller, her cheeks less round, her arms no longer straining at the sleeve seams. Her knee-high boots gaped around her calves.

She knocked the empty salad bowl with her finger, looking rather hungry, too.

'Fine,' he replied. 'You're here early.'

She had been lately. Staying later than him, too. He'd started leaving with the five o'clock rush just so he could sneak by her desk without her noticing, swallowed in the flurry of activity.

'Easier to stick to my diet,' she said. 'Out of the temptations at home.'

'Diet?' Ben said dryly. He licked his lips. He knew she was dieting. Maria had said as much, and the evidence was clear: like everything she set her mind to, she was good as losing weight…nearly as good as she was at gaining it.

'I'm down over two stone,' she said. 'Hoping to be down at least another by the wedding.'

WHY? Ben wanted to cry out, but he wasn't Guy, he wasn't a shit, and he wasn't going to say that.

Besides, her voice sounded so strange, like she hated that word as much as he did. You don't need to lose a pound, Ben wanted to tell her. You're beautiful no matter your weight. I wish you'd let me show you. I wish I could prove it.

'As long as you're happy,' Ben said, though it came out a bit bitter, not at all as he intended.

'It's not that,' Tessa replied hurriedly, her cheeks flushed. 'I mean…not really. It's my mum's wedding dress.'

She bent down and began to dig through her handbag, then pulled out her mobile phone. She handed it to Ben.

'My mum,' she explained, as though he wouldn’t be able to see the resemblance.

It was a photograph of a photograph, and of someone who was obviously closely related to the woman in front of him: dark haired, high-cheekboned, but different around the chin - more pointed. She was slimmer, too, but only a little. Tessa's mother was much plumper than he thought she would be from how Tessa had described her, wasting away in her final days. She looked exuberant here, curvy and full and mirthful, radiant on her wedding day.

'She had the sense not to go full Diana,' Tessa said. 'It's simple, but I like it. I never thought I'd fit into it, but I started losing weight and got it in my head-' She plucked her mobile from Ben's open hand with a sigh. 'My heart's set on it now.'

Ben stood there awkwardly for a moment, feeling like had something else he had to say, the warmth of her mobile still sitting in his palm.

His tongue twisted and formed words that he wanted to say but wouldn't come. So many things, so many truths and lies and requests, all about making her dump Guy, her want Ben, her help him get rid of this disgusting, shrivelling feeling inside of him.

'You'll look beautiful,' he said at last, 'no matter what you wear.'

A smile edged across her face, that shallow dimple appearing, a calm warmth pooling in her dark eyes.

Then she bit her lip and slid her mobile away.

'I think Jen has a new case for you,' she said. The words were business, but the tone was something else. Her eyes didn’t leave his; she hardly seemed to blink. 'I'll have her pass it on when she gets in.'

'Thanks you,' Ben said. He didn't dare look away. 'I appreciate it.'

'That's my job,' she said, and at last turned back to her computer screen, the moment over.

He watched her type for a few seconds, wondering if there was something else he should say, then he turned to go, only to be stopped by one small word, so quiet he could hardly hear it:

'Ben?'

He turned to see her watching him, spun toward him in her desk chair, still-plump thighs pressed against the armrests, curling over the sides.

'Thank you,' Tessa said.

Something suddenly shuddered to a start in Ben's chest. A little flutter of purpose, or hope.

'For what?' he said.

Tessa shrugged, breasts jiggling minutely beneath the thin jersey.

'Sometimes I forget,' she said.

'Forget what?' Ben asked, hands hanging uselessly at his sides.

'What I'm missing," she said. "Who I'm missing.'

Then she blushed furiously, turned back to her computer screen, and reached into a little pot beside her computer.

Ben went to back to his office, cellophane rustling in his ears, followed by the sound of a boiled sweet sucked onto Tessa's sweet tongue.
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Old 09-04-2017, 01:50 PM   #35
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Thank you for this installment! Bated breath!
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Old 09-04-2017, 08:41 PM   #36
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It's getting good! I just know something is about to happen!
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Old 09-17-2017, 09:06 AM   #37
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Tessa is an awesome character. I'm looking forward to more . . .
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Old 09-24-2017, 10:36 AM   #38
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He wasn't sure what had done it - the words he said, that boiled sweet, or just something invisible in Tessa's own mind - but something had changed in those brief moments that Friday morning. He found Tessa smiling at him as he cruised into work, whistling. More cases appeared on his desk, and he was busier than ever.

And the contents of his mini-fridge were starting to vanish, like magic.

It was just a few things here and there: the remaining hunks of Diary Milk, the small bottle of Coke, the last Gu pudding from the pack. Then the pint of Ben and Jerry's. Then the pint he replaced it with. Then another.

Mysteriously, they appeared - empty and sweating - in the recycling bin down the hall.

And more appeared on Tessa, too.

He felt guilty at first, knowing he was deliberately sabotaging her efforts to slim into her mother's wedding dress. But something about it - something about those smiles, and those stealthy movements so early in the morning - told a different story. Perhaps, he thought, Tessa might be attempting to sabotage herself.

It was starting to show.

The pounds were reappearing….slowly, at first, filling back in that lower belly that had deflated in her smart pencil skirts, breasts straining at the buttons of her tops. She was still smaller than she'd been that fateful night at Ben's flat, but in some ways, she seemed rounder, plumper, sweeter. Maybe because it was done in secret, and caught in secret glances whenever he walked by her desk. Maybe it was because he wasn't allowed to look.

Maybe it was because she kept catching him looking.

It was torture, but the sweetest kind. They were talking again, little by little - snatched conversation in his office and the corridor and outside before they went opposite directions home. Tessa gave him an invitation to the wedding. Ben gave it to Bill to shred to pieces - a short streak of bitterness of which he would never tell Tessa.

Those moments grew, multiplied. They spent time together, electively, at lunch, with his office door open. He sat on her desk as they went through client correspondence and crown court judgements. He crouched beside her as she flicked through obscure parliamentary laws on Hansard.

It was something, at least. This friendship. This thing they had. Maybe nothing would come from it. Maybe it was okay.

He certainly enjoyed her company, and she certainly enjoyed his. They went out for lunch together with Maria and a hurried, flustered Christine, who bolted her meals in seconds before plastering a kiss to Maria's sharp cheek and flying away with her wig, her trousers looking a bit snug around her backside. Ben and Tessa both gave Maria puzzled glances, which Maria studiously ignored as she mopped up black pepper with her courgetti Bolognese. The glances were instead exchanged between them, and Tessa stifled a giggle into her full-fat Coke.

That night, Ben nearly broke his hand on the punching bag at the gym.

Leave him, Ben wanted to tell her every day. Every day as she came in looking that little bit fuller, a little happier to see him. Ben's wishes were winning for her body, but fuck, they were Guy's wishes too. And they weren't Tessa's - Tessa, who'd been so eager to squeeze into her mother's wedding dress for their wedding - something she hadn't brought up in conversation since she showed Ben the photograph on her phone.

What did Tessa want? What did he want? She'd wanted to marry in her mother's dress a man who wanted her too fat to walk down the aisle. Ben wanted her plump and happy and his. No one was winning, and Tessa was not a woman to be won.

Leave him, Ben thought - mentally chanted - one evening as he waited for her at Charring Cross Station. It was the one time of year that Ben didn't feel like he worked in criminal law, and he hated it. It had become annual tradition ever since Everton had that near-death experience on the M25 with the black cab driver and the heart attack, and in a fit of odd generosity had booked out rooms at the National Gallery for all barristers, employees, and important associates of Everton and Sligh. The generosity didn't extend to plus ones, so it usually involved drinking too much with Maria and whispering about what bald winged babies in the paintings looked most like which crown court judges. But tonight Maria had managed to secure a ticket for Christine, and Ben had been planning to spend the night in with Bill and Chinese takeaway until Tessa had shown up in his office, hands clasped, tight engagement ring glimmering, and asked him, 'Are you going to the big do? Because I'll go if you go.'

Only as friends, of course. It didn't need to be said.

But it also didn't matter. So Ben went. And he stood. And he waited at the Underground station for her with his hands in his pockets, wondering if tonight would be the night that something, anything, would happen.

He jumped at the sound of his name - Tessa's voice calling from the other side of the ticket barriers, waving. She pushed through slightly sideways and every word in Ben's mind that he had planned for this evening simply vanished into the thick, hot air.

Tessa was wearing a silk black dress that he hadn't seen before. It slid and tugged over every lush curve of shoulder, breast, waist, and hip, cut short above soft plump arms and low to show off an inch or two of the creamiest, lushest cleavage he'd ever seen. She wore her hair up in an artfully untidy chignon, and long silver drop earrings swung wildly with each undulation of her full body, brushing the line of her neck as she moved. There was something so smooth about her walk, so sensual, and her red lips parted in a smile as she approached him and pressed her mouth lightly to his cheek.

'You look amazing!' she said before he could, pulling back to admire his smart dinner suit that fit much better in the shoulders than it used to. She was pink-faced and panting slightly, balancing a silver clutch and a black cardigan on one arm. 'Who knew you'd tidy up so well? Saving the best for last, were you?'

Ben grinned stupidly, not able to form the words to repay the compliment.
Tessa glanced at her watch as people jostled by them, muttering.

'Best get on,' Tessa said, frowning minutely. 'Don't want to make too grand an entrance. Sligh won't be happy if I show up both fat and late.'

'Fuck Sligh,' Ben managed to say at last - not the first words he'd planned on. 'You are stunning.'

She graced him with a beaming smile, then took his hand.

Only to promptly drop it as though he'd burned her.

'Off we pop then,' she said with a tug of his sleeve. 'And all charm canons loaded and ready to fire.'

'I'll save mine for later,' Ben replied. 'Some of us have limited reserves.'

She laughed. Ben's heart jolted at the sound of it.

They earned only a few glances as they entered, Tessa a bit more out of breath for the effort of climbing the stairs, Ben a bit out of breath for the view, having climbed them behind her. There was perhaps some puzzlement from the other attendants, and a few furrowed brows at Tessa's generous bulk wrapped up so lovingly in her daring black dress, but few dared look for long. Even better, no one approached them, and Tessa was free to pick a healthy portion off the nibbles tray before the waitress made it fully out onto the floor.

Ben sipped his prosecco. Tessa looked up at a giant painting of a lactating Madonna with child, a posh sausage roll poised halfway to her mouth.

'Christ,' she said.

'I think that's the idea,' Ben said.

She laughed again. God, how Ben loved that sound.

'I always forget that the old masters were such perverts,' Tessa said.

Ben raised an eyebrow. This conversation was doing something to him. Not the topic, of course - just…Tessa. Her voice. Her smile. Her laugh. Her being here with him. It was making him flush, making his head fill up with a strange sound almost like the happy, lazy summertime buzz of flies. It was joy, he thought. Pure, unadulterated joy at her presence. This is what he had missed those months they'd stopped talking. This is what he wasn't sure he could live without. Who could blame him?

And here she was, wanting to be with him too.

'Were they,' he said with his own laugh, feeling - oddly - like he might start to cry.

'I realised when I came here with Guy. There are so many of Mary squirting milk at someone's face - at Jesus, at some poor by-passer, at the viewer….'

'I just thought that was a Christian thing,' Ben said.

'Not in any church I've ever been to. I think it might be a 400-years-before-internet thing.' A second sausage roll disappeared between her red lips. She cast a glance through the gallery door. 'How far do you reckon they'll let us wander?'

'They're pretty lax, last I remember,' Ben said, trying not to think of the one time he'd caught Everton pissing up a wall in the Bologna room.

'Excellent. Let's go look for fat women,' Tessa said.

She lifted a plate from another passing tray then took off through the nearest gallery door. Ben followed, intrigued, confused, and perhaps a little turned on.

She walked with the china plate in one hand, a champagne flute in the other, and quite quickly, like she knew where she was going. It was only another corner before they could no longer hear the music, voices, and clatter of dishes from the party, only the click of her heels and his shoes on the marble floor, and the soft swish of her dress and rub of her thighs beneath it.

'I think I remember them being this way,' Tessa wondered to herself. 'What do you think?'

'Where you lead,' Ben said, 'I'll follow.' His throat felt rather dry. He took another sip of his prosecco.

She took a hold of his sleeve again, and held on a bit longer this time. 'Let's go, then.'

Finally, they arrived in the Rubens room, and Tessa stood in the centre, a relatively small, stark black-and-white form against the grand pink walls. She looked up, throat angled, and took a few steps toward a painting.

'Have you seen this one before?' Tessa asked.

Ben was still standing in the doorway, watching her, unsure what to think or say or feel or act.

'I've never seen any of them,' she said. Her head was tilted sideways as she looked, earrings swinging. 'I always thought they'd be bigger in person.'

Ben went to stand beside her, still a healthy distance away.

It was The Judgement of Paris, according to the plaque at its side. Two men - one of them Paris, presumably - anchored themselves to a tree, while in the foreground stood three female nudes in various lengths of cloth and in various provocative poses. All three women were solid-looking, maybe a bit plumpish. Two faced the men, but one had eyes set on the viewer…in challenge or in invitation, Ben couldn’t tell.

'The painting?' Ben said. It was already a large one, nearly two metres across. His arm was tired just looking at it.

'The women,' Tessa clarified. 'Rubens has always been so famous for his fat women, but they're not really fat, are they? Just normal. Healthy. Unless I have body dysmorphia.' She gave a short, sharp laugh. 'Which might be possible.'

'No, I think so,' Ben says. 'They just look average to me.'

'Nice arses, though.'

Ben grinned. 'Not bad.'

'There are so few truly fat women in classic art.'

'Not many black men, either,' Ben said.

'No,' Tessa agreed, frowning.

Ben's face was flushing hot, and he said it before he could rethink: 'Maybe I could paint you someday.'

Tessa gave a jolt of surprise. 'You paint?'

'I took art at A level,' Ben admitted sheepishly.

'I had no idea!'

'Not many people do.'

'I'd love to see,' Tessa said. She added wistfully, 'Someday.'

They stood in silence for a moment, staring at the Rubenesque backsides. This is it, Ben thought. This is the moment. Do something. Say something. This is your chance.

'Let's go back,' Tessa said when he let the moment stretch long enough to break. 'I've suddenly come over all hungry again.'

He hesitated. But, 'Okay,' he said.

He held out an arm for her. She took it. They walked back to the party in silence, the heat of Tessa's hand burning in the crook of his elbow.

'Be right back,' Tessa said. 'Going to go sweet talk the caterers into giving me fourths.'

As soon as she was gone, a much thinner form appeared at Ben's side.

'Well?' Maria whispered, clutching so hard to her wine glass it looked as though the stem might break. 'Did it happen?'

'Did what happen?'

Maria studied his face, perhaps trying to gauge whether or not he was joking.

'You are so useless!' she cried, raising the interest of a few nearby solicitors. 'How much more time do you need? How much more time do you think you have? Do you have the faintest idea-?'

Ben took a formidable sip of his now-warm prosecco. Maria sighed.

'I can't deal with Downward Spiral Ben again,' she said.

'Neither can I,' Ben said.

'Just stick your fucking tongue down her fucking throat already.'

Ben said nothing. Maria threw her hands up in frustration and stalked back to a waiting Christine, who was standing a bit away, plucking self-consciously at her clingy twin set.

'You two all right?' Tessa said when she reappeared with a full serving tray, picking off canapes with delicately-tipped nails.

Ben tried to stymie his growing flush. 'Fine,' he said. He watched as she popped caviar-topped crispbread between her lips.

'So this-' Ben nodded toward the tray in Tessa's arm. 'The Rubens. Does that mean the diet's over?'

Now it was Tessa's turn to blush. It was an odd sort of expression. She didn't look embarrassed, or shamed, or at all erotically piqued by the implication of those words. Instead, she looked vaguely unhappy before taking a bite of smoked salmon sandwich.

'Sorry,' Ben said.

'No, it's fine,' Tessa answered. 'It's just…I don't even know what I want anymore.'

'Your Mum's dress…'

She sighed. 'Guy got his wish, I suppose.'

Ben frowned and picked a sandwich off the tray, congratulating himself for not hurling it across the room in anger.

'It's not right, though,' she said, hurriedly now, as though if it didn't come out now, it wouldn't come out at all. 'I'm not getting fat for him. I don't want to get fat for him. I want to gain weight for myself, because I like how it looks and feels. And I want to get fat for-' She stopped and finished the corner of her sandwich, then took another. She didn't finish that thought.

'He's done so much for me,' she said quietly instead. 'Everything with my mum, and us moving down here, and letting me get this job. It's only right that I'm giving things up for him now.'

'Sorry?' Ben said.

She didn't answer him. 'He's more in love with me than ever,' she carried on. 'We're closer than ever. We're moving soon, did I tell you that? To a three bedroom, near a good school. For the kids.' She let out a little sob. 'If I don't get too fat to have them first.'

Ben didn't know what to say. He couldn't even process the heavy barrage of information she'd just laid out in front of him like a concrete wall. Love, kids, fat. Three things he wanted. Three things Tessa would have with someone else.

'Ben,' Tessa said, voice choked, still tearful. 'I need to tell you something.'

The clinking of a glass echoed through the room, and everyone stopped, turned. Everton was bellowing something, standing up on a bench, a glass in his hand. Ready to make his speeches.

Ben swore at the distraction, and turned back toward Tessa, her name on his lips.

But she wasn't there. The cardigan, handbag, space for her were gone. The happy buzz in his head was gone.

Tessa was gone.

The only thing left of her was the tray, sat completely empty on a table nearby, and the last waning warmth of her hand.
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Old 09-24-2017, 09:24 PM   #39
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Yes! Nooo!!!
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Old 10-01-2017, 11:31 AM   #40
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Enjoyed it so far! Wonder how it continues...
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Old 10-10-2017, 04:26 PM   #41
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Lurkymcduck, I just want to let you know that I check back every day for updates. This is a great story. Hope to see more soon!
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Old 10-24-2017, 04:09 AM   #42
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Default 19

Hey, sorry for the delay. Been writing but haven't had the chance to post. Few chapters coming up (not really the most cheerful stuff, but hang in there):

19

Ben spent the weekend in a haze of confusion and indecision, alternately picking up and putting down his mobile, picking up and putting down the television remote, leaving the flat, then turning right back inside to collapse back onto his bed.

He should ring her.

Shouldn't he?

I'll see her Monday, he told himself. It was the only thing that kept him calm, that end point to the two days that were stretching infinitely and painfully long. Then, [I]I'll see her tomorrow. Sunday night: Twelve hours. Only twelve hours. Then I'll tell her.

He took extra care with his suit on Monday morning, and nearly burned himself ironing out the creases in his shirt. The collar was bleached and stiff with starch, and he didn't need his wig, but that, too, had its stray hairs tidied and bald patch combed over at the side.

Finally, he buttoned his jacket, threw his bag over his shoulder, and stepped out the door.

The world was egging him on. Optimistic marketing messages hit him every few steps: from the adverts on the back of bus stops, to signs in shop windows, to the graffiti sprawled on the platform at the Underground station: Be You, You Can Do It, Be Amazing, something indecipherable that to him looked like Get In, Bruh.

He whistled. He earned strange, begrudging looks from other passengers on the Tube. An elderly woman with green hair stared at him until he stopped.

The steps to ground level, then to the main floor of chambers, were numerous and high. His heart was humming as he burst through the door, his hands sweating, clenched at his sides.

'Hi,' Ben said.

To no one.

The office was empty. Chairs sat vacant at their desks, the printer was cold and dark; the strip lights were still a fire-safe half-glow. It was a typical scene at 8:45 on a Monday morning.

But it wasn't typical for Tessa.

'Hello?' Ben called.

His bag sagged to the floor. He tugged off his jacket, hot and sweating, and threw it on top of his bag. 'Tess?'

She wasn't in; that much was clear. Ben sighed, sucked on his teeth, and went to his office to toss his things on his desk. Then he rolled up his sleeves and went back to reception, where he threw himself into her sacked chair and leaned back, staring at the ceiling.

The wheels squeaked beneath him as the chair swivelled back and forth, back and forth. The strip light hummed and blinked. He blinked; little dots appeared on an already-mottled ceiling.

The phone rang. Ben let it ring out.

'Ben?'

Ben turned, the chair squealing.

It wasn't Tessa. It was Maria. Jacket hanging from her hand, expensive boots hugging her tight to her knees, the same milky tea colour as her skin. She unwound the scarf from her neck and tossed it on the desk, then said:

'You know.'

Ben looked up from the coil of her scarf to the guarded expression on her face, the shadowed eyes.

'Know what?' he said.

Maria flung her jacket on top of her scarf, and Ben suddenly realised there had been nothing on the surface to knock off. The scarred wood was perfectly clear, clean, freshly polished. All traces of icing sugar and syrup and melted chocolate gone.

'Fuck,' Maria said.

'What's happened?' Ben asked. His heart was no longer humming, but hammering. It wanted to burst through his chest like that poor bloke in Alien. He wiped his hands on his perfectly pleated trousers.

'She's quit,' Maria said. 'She quit weeks ago. Friday was her last day.'

Ben didn't say anything. He only watched Maria's scarf uncoil itself and slip to the floor.

'She asked me not to tell. I thought she--'

The scarf was deep red, the colour of blood.

'She didn't,' Ben said.

'She said she would.'

Ben thought of Friday night at the gallery, what she'd said before vanishing, like she'd been caught out too long. Those odd things she'd said before that point, about Ben saving the best for last. About Guy getting his wish. He'd thought it slightly titillating at the time, the thought that Tessa was going to let herself go, even if it was going to be for her nob of a fiancé. Now, though, thinking back on what Maria had said before…

'She wanted to be a barrister,' Ben said, looking back up at Maria, who was frowning down at him with a rare shadow of sympathy in her eyes.

'Well, now she'll be a fat blob who never leaves the house and fulfils none of her lifelong dreams, married to a controlling arse because the man who really loved her no matter what couldn't grow the balls and tell her she had another option.' All sympathy was gone. New anger flushed her face, pinking her cheeks. 'Congratulations, you massive bellend. You've lost her now. For good.'

Ben stared at her. Maria stared back, a stiff set to her jaw.

'She had to do it on her own,' Ben said, slowly, just as stiffly. 'She had to figure it out herself.'

'Well, she didn't, did she.'

Maria yanked her scarf from the floor and it floated in the air for a moment, its wisps of silk like blood in water.

'What now?' Ben asked. His voice was cracked, his innards shrivelled and dry.

'Go back to work, Ben,' Maria said.

In another rare streak of sympathy, she left him with the faint, cool impression of a hand on his shoulder and a whiff of Christine's vanilla perfume.

Ben stared at Tessa's empty desk and pressed himself back into the wide hollow of her empty chair.

It was over. He had lost.

And so had Tessa.
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Old 10-24-2017, 04:29 AM   #43
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Even the adverts were taking the piss.

'The colour for the season? It's grey,' the women on the television said as Ben flipped between channels. Adverts for carpets and blinds in cool dove tones flooded muted window displays, and the wall at the Underground station was scrubbed and painted over in its standard concrete shade--even the graffiti artists that took to it after seemed to have bought out the grey scale section of the local B&Q.

Summer was cold and wet and not a summer at all. London was a sea of black jackets and black trousers and pewter piercings. The Ancient Ones had both come down with something hacking and wet and taken on a pallor the colour of dust. Christine was stopping by more and more often, and even she had done something ridiculous and dyed her hair a dull silver. Maria, who had a penchant and a trust fund for the latest fashions, spent so much time in black that Ben wouldn't have been surprised if she picked up a hood and scythe on her next shopping spree.

Ben bought the cat a flash new bowtie, bright red with golden bells. It lasted three minutes before Bill killed it and vomited up red threads onto his pillowcase.

'You need out of that hellhole,' his sister-in-law Shawna said on the phone, sounding just a bit desperate herself. Ben could hear the wail of his newest niece in the background and his nephew chanting 'mum' with increasing urgency. 'Come back to Swansea. Just for a while. When's the last time you had a holiday? Christmas?'

Ben couldn't remember. Ben didn't particularly want a holiday. He was doing perfectly fine at work. The new clerk was the old-fashioned old-chap sort that knew how to entertain solicitors with ribald stories that would turn Ben's stomach, but was professional enough and made sure that cases found their way onto Ben's desk. It wasn't the amount of work he was used to getting from Tessa, but it was enough. He wasn't sure he could deal with more at the moment anyway.

'Maybe not for a while,' Shawna said. 'Maybe forever. We have barristers in Swansea, you know. Or go for something less high stress. Retrain for property sales or whatever. Your flat's probably worth a fortune. You've paid it off, haven't you? You could sell it and buy somewhere nice on the Gower, then sell bloody ice creams for all we care. That city isn't good for you.'

Ben entertained the brief image of doing exactly that--manning a Cornetto trolley on the beach like he had when he was a boy, shaded by an umbrella, passing slow moments by watching families amble past, sometimes, when it was warm enough, the odd, dry-mouth-inducing fat woman in a clingy bikini. Sometimes he'd scribble a quick sketch in the back of the unused receipts book, trying to capture the curves of a body, the bulges, the swells. He was never good at faces, though. They'd always looked plastic, indistinct. Back then, he had trouble reconciling the soul of a person, what was in the eyes, with the rest of the body. It was lust. Nothing more.

It hadn't been lust with Tessa. Not just. He would never draw her, either. Never see if he'd beaten what eluded him, if he could duplicate the rush of affection in her dark eyes.

Finally, in August, he gave in. He bought his train ticket, drugged his cat, stuffed him a pet carrier, and set off on a two week holiday to South Wales, to promised sunshine and an attic room away from the nursery. He'd be back on the 19th of August, late afternoon, when in some city church he'd forgotten the name of, Tessa would be married and out of his life for good.

'Benny boy,' his brother Roger said at the train station, hugging him with ham-sized arms as Bill mewled plaintively in his cat carrier. 'You look like shit.'

'I know,' Ben said.

'Welcome home,' his brother said with a clap on the shoulder. 'Shawna's made roast.'

'I'm not hungry.'

'Sorry, what was that, shit face?'

'I'm starving.'

'That's more like it.'

++

The house was chaos, though a cheerful sort that gently jack-hammered away at the heavy grey concrete weighing down Ben's heart. His nephews treated him to sloppy blackcurrant kisses and his sister-in-law piled roast potatoes onto his plate until he'd pop. Upstairs, Bill slept off the rest of the sedatives in Ben's attic room. Downstairs, his brother fed the kids while Shawna leaned across the table, new-mother-boobs spilling out of her top, and asked him, 'So is it a girl, then?'

'Is Uncle Ben getting married?' his niece asked, cutting a tube of macaroni in half with her plastic fork.

'No,' Ben said. 'Never.'

Her reply was tearful. 'Why not?'

'For fuck's sake,' Ben said under his breath.

'You shouldn't swear,' his (ever-pious) nephew said.

'Finish your dinner,' Roger snapped, looking from daughter to son to wife. 'And mind your own bloody business. All of you.'

Of course Rog was just as big of a gossip as his wife and children, though he was much better at hiding it. He corralled Ben into the office with a bottle of whiskey after dinner, and they sat there with a pack of cards as Roger dealt a game that he knew very well that Ben would lose.

'Go on then,' Rog said. 'What's her name?'

'Tessa,' Ben mumbled.

'Tessa,' Roger said. He took a deep breath and laid down his cards. Ben had won the first hand.

He pushed his coins across to Ben. 'That's the last time we're going to hear that name in this house.'

'Sorry?' Ben said.

'Don't "sorry?" me with your posh twatery, Ben. I know what you're like. You want to talk about things. And obsess over them. And pick every bloody fucking thing apart until you can't move from your bed. What was the last one's name?'

'That was in school.'

'Over twenty years ago.' Roger threw out his hands to the cramped surrounding, the His and Hers matching desks scattered with blueprints and receipts. 'And yet here you are again.'

He was right. Here he was again. Always at conflict within himself, never coming to terms with what he was, what he liked, who he liked. Always embarrassed or insecure or unsure, always a wimp, always too scared to do something unless it literally fell into his lap. Tessa would have winded him if she'd tried, and he'd still have waited on her to take his face between her hands and kiss him. Where had the man gone that had sat Tessa across from him and told her to take more? Where had that exhilarating rush of power disappeared to?

Gone, probably, as soon as he set eyes on Guy, and had the faintest clue of what went on at home when Ben wasn't there to see.

'Just deal the next hand, please,' Ben grumbled.

Roger took his cards and slid them aside. 'You know what they say.' Roger twisted his lips into a little smile, the bald pate of his head gleaming in the office light. 'Best way to get over a woman?'

'No, Rog,' Ben said.

'Serious, mate. It's happening.'

'No.'

'Just Shawna's ex-colleague. Biggest tits I've ever seen, this one. Arse to match. Think you'd like her.'

'Rog, shut the fuck up.'

++

To be fair, she did have quite sizeable breasts, and not a bad backside, either. Leighann was even pleasant enough to talk to, and while she bored easily of his bloodiest work anecdotes (not something Ben was used to) they shared a former school and a few former teachers, and happily exchanged stories of mutual acquaintances in an evening in which Ben only thought of Tessa twice.

The first time was when she pushed her burger and chips away half-finished and said, 'Eyes bigger than my stomach, I have.'

In which Ben could perfectly picture Tessa in her place, pulling that plate closer with a raised eyebrow, daring him tell her she wasn't done.

The second time was in Ben's car outside her flat, when Leighann went in for the kiss and slid his hand directly onto her belly.

'Rog told me you liked this sort of thing,' she whispered, gripping his fingers, which in turn gripped the slight roll of tum. 'I looked it up. Read what you might like. You do like it, don't you?'

'I, uh.' Ben squeezed. His fingers felt raw and cracking at the knuckles.

"My ex-husband was always on me to lose weight. I thought it was kind of odd at first, the whole chubby-chaser thing, but has to be better than him, yeah?' She patted his hand. 'Would you like to come in for a drink before you go home?'

'I…erm…'

Tessa. Tessa Tessa Tessa. Something about the mention of the ex-husband was what did it. The sudden unbidden image that flung itself into his head: Tessa in a too-small dressing gown, satiated by pizza...three pizzas. Tessa, red-faced and angry and tearful, trying to get her wants across to a man who refused to listen to her past the haze of his own lust. Ben wasn't that guy.

'I had a nice evening,' Ben said, unhanding her belly and shifting back to the driver's side. 'I'm just not…ready.'

'Bad break up?'

'Something like that,' Ben replied, face reddening.

She gave him a sympathetic smile, then kissed him on the cheek.

'Night, Ben,' she said.

'Night, Leighann,' he replied, and he didn't miss her when she shut the car door with a slam.

++

The beach was full of thin university students playing Frisbee in bikinis. The bars were full of well-dressed men and mini-dressed women with long legs and no interest either in or to Ben. His brother's house continued in its ordered chaos; Bill continued his life of countryside luxury in the attic and the overgrown garden; Ben cuddled his nieces and nephews, drew haphazard still lifes of fruit and portraits of sleeping babies, and wished he had this life with Tessa.

He texted her. Once. Just a slip when he'd had too much wine with Shawna. A simple Hope you're okay. He didn't hear back. He didn't need to. It wouldn't have helped.

She was still so clear in his head. Her eyes still so exactly drawn on his memory, dark and vivid. At the beginning, when she slipped by his office, little belly wobbling beneath the tight waistband of her shirt. The not-yet-plump fingers held up in a just-a-minute pose. When she sat across from him at his desk with a bag of donuts in her lap, unwrapping them like a gift as her breasts and belly pushed out against the ever-tighter buttons of her blouse.

It was a gift she'd given him, really. Her friendship. Even if just for a while. He had to be happy with it.

He didn't have a choice.

Her wedding day came. Ben hugged his nieces and nephews and his brother drove him to the train station, and Roger patted him too hard on the shoulder and told him to ring when he got home so they knew he was okay. They'd keep his room for him, just in case he changed his mind.

Ben was starting to think Roger and Shawna were right. London was dull but it had been home. Now, after weeks in Wales, it seemed both sullen and foreign, the roadworks turning the walk from the train to the flat into an unfamiliar maze. It was cool and drizzly. It seemed a dismal day for a wedding.

It was nearly dark by the time he pushed in to his flat. She'll be married by now, Ben thought, turning on the lights to the familiarly sparse lounge. Sitting at the head table too fat for her mother's dress, while her twatgibbon of a husband tries to hand-feed her an entire cake in front of her guests. I should have RSVP'd at least. Let her know I wouldn't be there. I should have been there to ask her to rethink. Preferably beforehand. Before she got married. A long time before.

Bill scratched at the carrier, wanting out. Ben sat him on the kitchen floor and eased open the door.

'There you go, buddy,' he said.

Bill stepped out hesitantly, then waddled off down the corridor.

The doorbell rang. The neighbour, probably, who was always paid strict attention to Ben's comings and goings so she knew when to complain that his telly was on too loud.

Ben sighed, stood upright, stretched his aching back. Walked the few steps to the door and tugged it open.

Only to find Tessa on the other side: silent, pink-faced, and looking very much like she would like to come in.
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Old 10-24-2017, 06:00 AM   #44
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*gibbers for a few moments while trying to put thoughts into words*

*deep breath*

So .... you have nothing to apologize for. That was very, very, nicely handled, great shifting around to have different views of the mood. And that ending, oh man, I was wondering how you were going to transition into what is next, and that was just delicious.

Although I'm somewhat agreeing with Maria lately ...
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Old 10-24-2017, 12:07 PM   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tad View Post
*gibbers for a few moments while trying to put thoughts into words*

*deep breath*

So .... you have nothing to apologize for. That was very, very, nicely handled, great shifting around to have different views of the mood. And that ending, oh man, I was wondering how you were going to transition into what is next, and that was just delicious.

Although I'm somewhat agreeing with Maria lately ...
Thanks, Tad. Glad someone's still reading!
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Old 10-24-2017, 12:20 PM   #46
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One more chapter after this. Hang in there.

Ben gaped at her for a full ten seconds before wordlessly standing back from the door and gesturing inside. He still didn't say anything as she dropped her carrier bags, shucked off her coat and sat on his sofa, her hands folded in her lap. Still nothing as he went to the kitchen to put on the kettle, then came back with two cups of tea - milk for his, two sugars for her.

She took it with a smile of thanks, though it faded rapidly.

Ben dragged a chair from the kitchen table to sit across from her. He sat down so fast he nearly scalded himself with his tea.

'I…' He stopped and licked his dry lips, his dry mouth. 'I thought you'd be leaving for your honeymoon.'

She frowned and slid her tea onto the coffee table, then reached into one of the carrier bags and brought out a bag of familiar jam-filled donuts, then set them next to her tea, flicking the sticker open with a finger.

'Do I look married?'

She reached into the bag and brought out the first donut with carefully spaced fingers, the tip of each nail pristine with a fresh French manicure.

And Ben realised--there was no ring on her finger, wedding or engagement. There was only a pinched-in circle where one had once sat, slightly paler than the rest of her hand.

Did they have to cut it off?

In those weak moments Ben had thought of Tessa, particularly Tessa as she might have been, all but a shut-in in her own home, he'd imagined her huge, massive, pinned by her own weight to the floor. It had stopped being erotic at this point, especially because even in his head Guy was still lurking in the background, rubbing his hands and laughing maniacally. Not to mention that it would have made Tessa absolutely miserable.

So no, she wasn't that big. But was she bigger?

He wasn't sure. He hadn't expected this. Her: here, in his flat, the night of her wedding. Plump and rolling and like a dream, just as stunning as ever. He also hadn't expected her to be this…well…thin. Not that she was. Certainly not. But had she gained a pound since she quit her job and submitted to her fiance's desires? It didn't look like it. On the contrary, it looked like she had lost weight. Not a lot. Just a little. A few rebellious pounds lost for...what? To show Guy that he couldn't control her? To prove something? To show that she could?

The sight of it - the sight of her - filled Ben with simultaneous feelings of triumph and disappointment.

She finished her donut in three neat bites, then reached into the bag for another.

She's not married, Ben thought, the fact not quite sinking in. He still didn't understand.

'So?' Ben asked.

She slid her empty left hand to her deflated belly as she licked sugar from the corner of her lips.

'What happened?' she asked. She smiled, just a ghost of one. 'I didn't get married.'

'Why?' Ben asked. His throat was dry. He tried to clear it but it only made it worse. He took a sip of his tea, which tasted suddenly bitter.

'Do you want one reason?' she asked, dark eyes set directly on him, not blinking. 'Or all of them?'

Ben scooted forward in his chair. He took another sip of tea.

'Let's start with one,' he said.

He couldn’t take his eyes from her lovely face: her clever eyes, her lips, her sweet, soft chin, the sugar once more on her lips as she finished off her second donut like it was nothing, like she was starving. Ben braved a look into her gaping carrier bag and spotted several more packs of cakes, biscuits, various bakery goods and fried treats.

He sat up a bit straighter, a bit stiffer…confused, wonderfully confused.

'We wanted different things,' Tessa said.

'A career,' Ben said.

'Or immobility,' Tessa responded with a nod. 'In fantasy? Sure. In real life? No, thank you.'

Ben nodded his agreement.

'Second,' Tessa said, counting off Guy's transgressions on sugar-dusted fingers. 'I didn't want to feel like I'd owe him for the rest of my life. He was sweet when my mother died. He's not a hero.'

Ben nodded again, trying not to agree too fervently unless she took that for a sign that he thought she was an idiot for sticking with Guy for so long. Besides, he was getting a bit light headed, and still couldn't quite believe she was hear, with him, on his sofa, on her wedding day. With him.

She was proverbially falling into his lap, surely. His decision was made for him. It took heartache and despair, but here she was. And he hadn't had to do anything.

Suck on that, Maria.

'And before the last thing,' Tessa said, grimacing in a way that made the light headedness evaporate and Ben's stomach drop. 'I need to tell you something.'

Ben wiped his hand on his trousers. 'Yeah?'

'I'm leaving,' she said.

Ben blinked. 'Oh,' he said. 'But you already-'

'I'm leaving London,' she said. She sat on her hands, though her eyes momentarily found the four remaining donuts. 'I'm going back to Durham. They're letting me finish my course.'

'Tess…' Ben struggled for words. 'That's…that's amazing.'

'That's not what Guy said.'

'Fuck Guy.'

Tessa allowed him a little sideways smile, then took another donut.

'You really think so?' she said. 'You don't think I'm an idiot for trying again, after everything?'

'I was hoping you would,' Ben said. He meant it, he really did. He was aching, his brain simultaneously trying to measure the distance between Durham and London in miles, hours, and train fare, but he didn't care. Truly. The smile said it all.

'Tess,' Ben said. 'I'm so proud of you.'

She blushed and finished off her third donut, then pulled a box of Jaffa cakes from her bag.

She slid it onto the table by her mug, then looked up at Ben, sliding her fingers back beneath her plump thighs.

'Ben,' she said. 'That last thing…the reason I didn't marry him.'

Ben's heart was beating in his ears. His tongue was sticking to the roof of his mouth. Somewhere in the depths of the flat, Bill was coughing up a hairball onto a rug. He didn't care. It was happening. Something so much better than those secret hours, than the eroticism of their feedings. Connection. Potential. What he'd always, always wanted.

'I love you,' he said at last, and it was like every grey concrete bit of him had broken apart. He'd wanted to say it before she did, and he had. For the first time in his life, he'd pulled up his trousers and did what he was always too afraid to do. Said it forthright: 'I love you, Tessa.'

Tessa, for her part, only blushed harder, and busied herself with the flap of the box.

'I love you, too,' she said quietly to her tea. Only then did she look up at him and say it again, so he could hear her properly: 'I love you, too.'

Ben was grinning like an idiot. And suddenly Tessa was, too. And there was a coffee table between them, and two mugs of cooling tea.

Neither of them made a move. Maybe they didn't have to. Maybe there didn't need to be a heated embrace - not now, not with everything that had happened, not with Tessa's separation from her fiancé so fresh. Ben sat where he was, quite sure that, for once, his inaction was not cowardice, but the right thing to do.

'It's a long way, Durham,' Tessa said. 'I'm not going to be back often.'

'I know,' Ben said.

'And I've heard from someone that you used up your holiday for the year.'

Maria, Ben thought, with a sudden rush of affection for his friend. He suddenly wondered whether she'd played therapist to both of them, and whether or not they'd both be here right now without her, however delayed it was.

'It might be a while before we see each other, when I leave,' Tessa added.

'We'll have to make the most of it now, then,' Ben said.

She bent forward, belly bunching, breasts swelling, pink face the happiest Ben had ever seen it, and pulled open the wrapping around the tube of Jaffa cakes.

Then she turned to the bag and brought out fairy cakes, eclairs, Swiss roll and chocolates; ginger cake, roulade, Dairy Milk and midget gems. Finally, a bag of Doritos, and a two litre of full fat Coke. They sat on the table like a banquet, and Tessa sat there plump with potential, vibrant with energy, and finally, in her own way, his.

'I'm starving,' she said, sitting back on the sofa, folding her hands neatly in her bulging lap.

Ben slid so far forward he almost fell from his chair. He picked up the tube of Jaffa cakes, the cellophane feeling almost unreal in his hand.

He unstuck his tongue and bolstered his courage:

'May I feed you?' he said.

She grinned, chin doubling. 'I thought you'd never ask.'

Last edited by lurkymcduck; 10-24-2017 at 06:07 PM. Reason: Spelling
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Old 10-24-2017, 02:08 PM   #47
Buck Lee
 
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This is not only one of the best things I've read on this forum, it's one of the best things I've read, ever. Seriously. Thank you for sharing it with us. I would love it to continue even though it has clearly reached a natural end point!
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Old 10-24-2017, 06:02 PM   #48
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Buck Lee View Post
This is not only one of the best things I've read on this forum, it's one of the best things I've read, ever. Seriously. Thank you for sharing it with us. I would love it to continue even though it has clearly reached a natural end point!
High praise indeed. Thanks very much.

There will be an epilogue... Just need to write it. Might be a few weeks, but hopefully sooner.
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Old 10-25-2017, 11:58 AM   #49
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That was amazing. Well balanced, well paced. Cute but not cutesy. Sexy but not trashy. So well written. Thank you!
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Old 10-29-2017, 01:01 AM   #50
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Reallllly love this story and your writing style!
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