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Old 10-11-2013, 07:01 PM   #151
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hooray for another chapter!
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Old 12-30-2013, 11:39 PM   #152
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Default Hello, again.

The subject didn’t come up again until late the next day.

“You know,” Kelly said, “Gail didn’t send me to say that stuff to you yesterday.”

They were retreating from Tommorrowland back to Main Street, where Jenny was set on another waffle cone Sunday at the Ice Cream Parlor for the last day at Disney. For Kelly’s part, she’s had no problem sticking to her plan of relative restraint. Jenny, on the other hand, clearly had no plans for restraint whatsoever. In addition to her well-planned, favorite stops at eateries in each of the Disney villages, there seemingly wasn’t a stand of frozen lemonade, Dippin’ Dots, or popcorn balls she could say no to. She’d have found Jenny’s nonstop gourmandizing no less than superhuman, were she not fully cognizant as she observed her companion that she must have looked much the same to anyone who took the time to watch her this past summer. The more she reflected upon it, the amazing thing wasn’t the sixty pounds she’d put on in a scant twelve weeks. It was the other twenty she’d somehow avoided along the way. It reminded her that in the midst of colossal diet failure, even occasional conscientiousness paid its dividends. It helped her to feel that her efforts still had some meaning, even with the beginning of Rush a mere five days away.

It amazed Kelly how comfortable Jenny was with her size, and by comfortable Kelly meant physically comfortable. Jenny was one of the largest people she’d ever met in real life, so big she couldn’t even hazard a guess how much she weighed. Such heights had never entered into her calculations. And yet not once did Jenny appear to struggle with her size. Granted, they sauntered together pretty lazily together through the park. And, it was clear that Jenny would never set any land speed records. But Kelly noticed none of the fatigue she’d noticed in her mother earlier that summer. No matter how much she may have had to stuff herself into a booth or table or ride, if she ever felt a squeeze or a pinch, she never betrayed it. And despite her weight she never seemed to feel the least bit of pain in her feet, even at the end of a long day of walking.

None of which she could say for herself. She felt constantly annoyed by the just-a-wee-bit-too-tightness of her shorts around her midriff and thighs, enough that earlier in the day she’d exchanged her clothes for Mickey Mouse shirt and shorts in one of the gift shops. (Extra-large again. She’d cringed. Curse the mouse for always running so small! She’d thought it with only a mild sense of the facetious irony.) By the end of each day her feet were sore, and despite having none of the obvious problems with compatibility that Jenny encountered everywhere she went, she never quite felt like she fit wherever she sat down, even in the shadow of Jenny’s enormous form. Had she ever stopped to think about it, she never would have thought Jenny’s life of easy comfort could even be possible.

Jenny had also become much more comfortable around Kelly. Jenny was still awkward. But knowing what she knew about Jenny now, Kelly could now see that Jenny’s initial awkwardness had much to do with her discomfort revealing too much about her own history too fast. It had just as much to do with something else: Jenny wasn’t just geeky. It was shortly after Jenny provided a thoughtful response to one of Kelly’s passing comments (something like, “The Magic Castle feels so small when you get inside it, but it looks so big from far away!” which Jenny then answered with something like, “I know! Their use of forced perspective in its construction was genius!”—to which Kelly pretended she understood what those words meant, even if she didn’t truly know what Jenny was talking about), that Kelly fully realized that Jenny was wicked smart.

But Jenny also clearly engaged in substantial effort not to appear so. As their third day together progressed, Kelly found herself grateful for the effort. The brilliant people she’d been around before—like Caleb—had so often made her feel stupid, or condescended to. With Jenny, she felt neither.

More than anything, though, she found in Jenny someone who could listen. Maybe it was all that time she’d spent shepherding younger kids while in all those foster homes. Or maybe she’d learned that the more she let others talk about themselves, the less she talked about herself. Whatever the reason, Kelly felt as comfortable sharing her story with Jenny as she had with Gail—only this time without any of the intimidation factor.

So between Jenny’s periodic trivia about the history and intricacies of Disneyland (inevitably intertwined with the occasional obtuse reference to Star Wars and Doctor Who) Kelly filled much of their time together talking about her first year in Phi Gamma, her travails with her studies and her weight this summer, her friendship with Gail, and especially her exciting new boyfriend.

All of which Jenny could relate to about as much as Kelly could relate to Jenny’s rudderless years in foster care.

“Yeah she did.”

Jenny meant, of course, that Gail had sent Kelly precisely to say what she’d said the morning before.

Kelly should have prepared for Jenny’s bluntness, but then, it was Kelly. She stood in the back of the Ice Cream Parlor line with her mouth agape. How does SHE know what Gail sent me to do or not do?

“I know, I know,” Jenny finally added as they stepped together quickly through the line. “What you really meant to say is that she didn’t tell you to say those things to me. But don’t think for a second she didn’t send you here knowing you’d say them.”

“No way. She would never do that! Gail’s the sweetest, most giving person I’ve ever met.”

Jenny laughed, an obnoxious sound that caused people to turn their heads. “I guess if I were you, that’s the way I’d feel about her, too.”

“Why do you say that? How could you not like Gail?”

“I didn’t say I don’t like Gail,” Jenny snapped back, a little too loudly. The tall guy in front of them glanced their way before repeating his order.”

“I didn’t say I don’t like Gail,” Jenny repeated, a little quieter this time. “It’s just that—“

“What can I get you?” the chirpy blonde behind the ice cream case called out in the noisy din of the parlor.

“Waffle sundae. Two scoops. Extra fudge and whipped cream.” The girl nodded with Disney energy and bustled about fulfilling Jenny’s order. But Jenny wasn’t quite as hasty.

“It’s just what?” Kelly grumped with furrowed brow, her irritation at Jenny mounting.

“What can I get for you?” interrupted a tall slender guy with a killer smile.

Smiles were like air to Kelly. “I’m not having any,” she waved, almost rudely. “Tell me, Jenny. What is it?”

Jenny was just receiving her ice cream from the Chirpy Blonde and reaching into her cavernous cargo pocket for her money. “Gail and you are the same kind of people. And your kind of people are only good to my kind of people when we fit in with your kind of people.”

At first, Kelly was flooded by a wave of outrage, rage, rejection, disillusionment, humiliation AGAIN—so much at one time, that she never did quite get a handle on it all. That’s because a second wave hit her, which demanded her attention.

She looked around for the Tall Smile, stepped in front of the indecisive elderly lady he was speaking with, and flashed her best smile back. “Is two scoops the biggest sundae you serve?”
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Old 01-04-2014, 09:56 PM   #153
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My first reply. You're absolutely a wonderful writer. I just started reading this story a couple days ago, and looked forward to your latest installment. The twists and turns have kept me coming back, wanting more and more. I do hope that we don't have to wait to long for the next couple chapters. Beautiful writing.
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Old 01-07-2014, 11:46 AM   #154
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Thank you for the kind words. It has been a lot of work putting this story together, and it really makes a difference to hear from people how or why they have enjoyed it. This particular section of the story has been hard to write. (I also had a disk crash and lost the segment I had been having the most trouble completing.) The payoff for that work, though, is just around the corner, so hopefully the pace will pick up.
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Old 01-07-2014, 03:34 PM   #155
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Good news
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Old 01-20-2014, 01:54 AM   #156
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“Gail’s rules for fat fashion are all well and good, but she has no idea how much they’ll never work for me.”

Kelly had quickly resolved not to overreact to Jenny the way she had a couple of nights before. Grace under pressure was an important Phi Gamma value. Besides, however much Jenny might put things bluntly, Kelly now understood that Jenny had experienced an entirely different world than her, and she had a lot to learn about it.

Still, Kelly stabbed a little too smartly at her triple-scoop sundae (with the waffle cone bowl) not to betray the irritation she felt. Two days ago it was “girls like us.” Today it’s "our kind of people" and "your kind of people." Make up your mind, sister.

“It’s one thing when you’re your size, or even Gail’s size,” Jenny was saying. “It’s a whole other thing when you’re as fat as me. Girls at size 16 can find plenty of things that fit right in all the right places. But you try it at size 32.”

Size 32, Kelly thought. She found it incomprehensible. Jenny kept going, becoming more animated, even agitated, with each word.

“People Gail’s size are pretty much like bigger skinny people. When you get my size, all of your parts are different sizes. Hell”—it was the first time Jenny had cussed, and Kelly realized they at least had that in common—“you have whole new parts that skinny people don’t even have!” She crossed her arms over her flat fat chest and pressed her baggy T-shirt to her form, exposing the side boobs under each of her pits. “Buy something that fits your form? OK, which part? Anything you can buy that even fits over your tummy gets all baggy around the chest. Meanwhile the sleeves get all tight around the upper arms, so you might as well have an empty knapsack around your neck. What do I need the right bra for if I have all that going on! Besides, do you have any idea how hard it is to find a bra that fits at my size?”

Kelly just looked up from her sundae and smiled but said nothing.

“Oh. Well, I guess you do." Pause. "Anyway, with all that the only thing about your form that winds up showing is your big, fat belly. I don’t need to get some overpriced flimsy fru-fru thing to get that look. I can just buy a big men’s T-shirt and wind up with the same look with none of the cost.

“Besides do you have any idea the size some frilly ruffle would have to be on a girl like me to hide anything? On you it’s a cute little adornment. On me, it’s the size of one of your shirts. They just don’t make things like that for me! And then there’s buttons: one tight, then one loose, then another tight. You sit down, and the whole equation changes as parts of you ooze here and there. Any time I wear something like that, all I can think about is how I would feel if one of those things popped off.”

“That’s nothing different,” Kelly interjected dispassionately, in contrast to Jenny’s increasing irritation. “You could wear something stretchy.”

Jenny laughed coldly. “Not stretchy enough! And if you do, then you’ve got one of Gail’s no-nos: roll after roll highlighted for everyone to see. No one wants that. No one wants to see it, and no one wants to be seen with it.”

“You’ve thought a lot about this.”

“You bet I have!" Jenny rolled on, with animus. "You wouldn’t believe how much she brings it up. I’ve wanted to say all this stuff to her for you-wouldn’t-believe-how-long.”

Kelly smiled, “But I’m not her.”

Jenny actually blushed, then looked down at her melting sundae and sighed.

“No, you’re not,” she mumbled. “Sorry. I guess it bothers me more than I thought it does.”

“Of course it does. Me, too. I’ve been telling you for two days: my whole summer was about that!”

“You know another thing?” Jenny continued, this time more relaxed. “None of that fru-fru stuff is ever sturdy enough. One time I was 16 and this caseworker of mine used some special program to buy me and one of the other girls in my house each a dress. I was so excited, because it had ruffles and cool patterns. My friend’s did, too. Well, they were pretty cheap, I guess. Mine was from Lane Bryant and hers was from Hot Topic or someplace like that. Mine started falling apart the very first time I wore it. People don’t realize it, but being a fat girl is hard on clothes. And fat girl clothes wear out so easy! They’re always made of the flimsiest material, especially those stretchy things you’re talking about. You know, they wouldn’t show your rolls and folds so bad if they were a little stiffer. I think they do it to save on costs. That’s why I like having cargo shorts. They don’t wear out so easy.”

“The thing I hate most about cargo shorts is how the pockets and buttons are so hard and rub me the wrong way,” Kelly offered. “I don’t even see how you can feel so comfortable in them.”

“Meh,” Jenny shrugged. “No more than being fat. There’s always rubbing here or chafing there. I think after a while you just get used to it.”

Kelly doubted it, but then she’d seen the evidence right before her eyes.

“I’m sorry I said what I said about you and Gail, Kelly,” Jenny demurred. “But it really frustrates me how much she really doesn’t understand. You know what she really doesn’t understand, though?”

“What’s that?”

“All those rules are really all about one thing: MONEY. Money at the hairdresser. The nail salon. Hair products. Shampoos. Skin creams. Perfumes and body spray. Clothes, clothes, clothes! Gail’s never gone without money, and—no offense—I’ll bet you never have either. So she just assumes everyone else can do all these things that she does and then judges people if they don’t. Even if it all would make a difference for me—which I doubt—money is just one thing I’ve never had.”

A little surge of joy shot through Kelly as she realized how she could help. She smiled, reached into the Coach clutch she’d carried around with her at Disney, and placed her stack of new credit cards on the table. “I guess you were right,” she said. “Gail really did have a plan in sending me after all.”
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Old 01-20-2014, 06:26 AM   #157
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Just read this story so far -- really excellent work, love the characters, the development and you are a fantastic writer!
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Old 01-23-2014, 06:18 AM   #158
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Thanks, sam. Right back at ya. My favorite of yours is still the first one chronicling the growth of Debbie into her thirties.
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Old 02-05-2014, 01:09 AM   #159
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The next day an excited Kelly and a nervous Jenny walked in together to the Lane Bryant at the Tustin Marketplace.

“I don’t feel right about this,” Jenny offered.

“I do,” Kelly answered, but inside she wasn’t completely sure. She’d never actually shopped a plus-size specialty store before. She’d wanted to take Jenny to something less bourgeois than a Lane Bryant, but a quick online search had told her that the options for size 32 were more limited than she could have believed.

But if Kelly knew one thing, it was clothes, and whatever the location, Kelly knew she could help.

She spotted the Cacique lingerie section in the back. Underwear was always about trial and error anyway, so they might as well start there.

“Nuht-unh,” Jenny blurted a little too loud once she saw where Kelly was headed. “I did not agree to come here with you to get sexy lingerie.” She turned around and started to walk out. Kelly darted to the door, her breasts bouncing clumsily up and down as she did so (Ow! I have to stop forgetting about that!), and pulled on Jenny’s arm.

“It’s not lingerie,” she said the word with faux French flair. “It’s underwear. Dressing right’s like anything else: it all starts with a good foundation. Don’t worry … I’m not trying to set you up for some sexy encounter!”

But Jenny continued to act as if Kelly was.

Jenny was in the dressing room alone with several of what Kelly hoped were good choices. (Kelly had never shopped a plus size store before, particularly not for underwear, and Kelly’s inquiry about Jenny’s size had yielded the band size “48” and a cup size “Uh, whatever seems to fit cheap.” Not all that helpful as a start.)

“What’s the point of this, Kelly? I mean, no one but me is gonna see this on me.”

“I will,” Kelly called over the door.

“I don’t swing that way.”

“See? You do think about who might be attracted to you!”

Jenny snorted. She must have thought it was funny despite herself. “Not using bras I don’t. This is a waste of time.”

Kelly laughed. “It was never my bra that led to the attraction!”

“That’s exactly my point. I can’t dress like some Phi Gamma sex symbol, and I don’t want to.” Jenny swung open the door. She was still in her baggy t-shirt and the bras were on the seat.

“No you don’t,” Kelly pushed back. “Get back in there.” She’d have walked in with Jenny if there were room. But there wasn’t, even in this plus-sized changing room. She felt dwarfed by Jenny’s huge form looming over her. Jenny could have easily overcome Kelly’s gentle push, but she quickly yielded.

That just confirmed what Kelly knew: inside Jenny was begging for help from the right person. But it had to be the right kind of help.

“Silly girl! The Phi Gamma dress code isn’t about sex.”

Jenny rolled her eyes, a gesture a lot of people used with her that she was recognizing meant, You’re so naïve! “Of course it is. It’s a sorority, Kelly!”

No, it’s Phi Gamma!

In Phi Gamma they say, You have to be Phi Gamma to understand Phi Gamma. People thought sororities were all the same: all about parties and sex and special connections. The more glamorous, the prettier the girls, the better the sorority was. Kelly wasn’t that naïve. She knew what sororities were about, and truthfully there was plenty of that in Phi Gamma. She’d lived it, after all, thinking guiltily again of her several sexual encounters over the last year.

That, of course, just got her hot about Wade.

But what others didn’t understand about Phi Gamma was that, at its essence, Phi Gamma, even at the top of the heap, was the working girl’s sorority. Yes, they had the best parties, but then so did all the best corporations, too.

What Phi Gamma’s code—Gail’s code, Kelly realized—was about extending the influence of the sorority girl beyond the college experience.

Just like every fraternity perceives itself as preparing its members to be leaders in the workforce, so was the Phi Gamma sorority. But where the best fraternities had good ole boy networks to propel their alumni on, sororities had no such advantage. Generations of Southern tradition had geared Phi Gamma girls for domesticity, for hitching a ride with power.

Phi Gamma was about preparing women to seize power on their own, without connections, both in college and beyond.

That was why Phi Gamma pushed a tight, professional, tailored and polished image. It wasn’t devoid of sexiness. Of course not. No ideal of womanhood could be. But the Phi Gamma version of sexy cultivated the image of power, poise, confidence, competence.

All of which Jenny Larsen possessed 100% in actuality (except for confidence), and almost 0% in image. Kelly just knew that was what Gail had sent her to California to fix.

But she couldn’t imagine how she could ever convey all of that to Jenny in this one single moment.

“Yeah, but think about it. It’s Gail’s sorority,” she offered after just a moment's hesitation. If only you knew how much. “You think for one minute in any other sorority a girl Gail Hedges’s size could become its president?”

Jenny just gave Kelly a vacant look. Nailed it. Gail, of course, used to be much thinner, but Jenny didn’t seem to know it. And, Kelly decided, no use in letting her in on that little secret right now, either.

“That did always strike me as odd,” Jenny demurred. “But she sure fit the rest of the picture.” By that, Jenny was clearly referring to the drinking and God-knows-what-else about Gail that Jenny had learned since Gail started dating her older brother. I’ll bet she has some serious stories.

“I guess you can’t deny that,” Kelly conceded. “But take away all that, and Gail’s a professional. All those rules she has? They aren’t about making it as a sorority co-ed. They’re about, as a woman, being taken seriously as a professional. And that doesn’t change whether you’re a CEO or a pharmaceutical sales rep. Or,” she added, “an overweight social services worker.”

Kelly cringed at using the word overweight but she knew she needed it to make the point.

“In this world,” she continued, “no matter how smart she is, no girl can be taken seriously wearing khaki shorts and a baggy t-shirt.” In Phi Gamma, that phrase usually included hoop earrings, leggings, finger paint make-up or low-rise jeans, but, hey, a girl has to adapt to the moment.

“You’re the smartest girl I’ve ever met,” Kelly concluded. “Don’t you want to be taken seriously?”

Jenny was still standing a step inside the dressing room doorway, eyeing Kelly with a curious look, halfway between wanting to believe Kelly and dismissing it all with a sneer. Time ticked forward a few seconds.

“I don’t think you really understand,” she finally said slowly, with diction. “And I think it’s important that you do,” she said slowly. “No matter how you dress or how you make yourself look, the thought people will always have going through their minds when they see someone like me is, ‘Wow. She’s really fat.’ When you’re fat, that’s all people see. And it’s all they’ll ever see.”

And yet, she still turned back into the dressing room and began asking Kelly questions in a hopeful tone about how to tell which of those brassieres she’d chosen truly fit the best.
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Old 02-21-2014, 10:41 PM   #160
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“How was Disney today?”

“Oh, we finished up Disney yesterday. But today was like Disneyland!”

Wade wasn’t allotted much free time while in summer drills, but, as he had each night since they parted in Vegas, he had called for a few moments to talk and wish her good night. By this time it was the cool of the California evening, and Kelly and Jenny had migrated over in a chartered car to The District in Tustin for stage two of their quest at a Catherine’s.

Shopping for Jenny had been harder than she had expected. Jenny had been right about everything. The cheap material. The bunching fabric. The impossibility of finding the right fit everywhere. And, the ultimately unflattering look of just about anything Jenny slipped on.

The early struggle was pulling Jenny away from the discount rack: if this makeover was going to work, options could not be limited.

“Look,” Kelly finally said. “Do you have any idea what I spent in Vegas on clothes?” She whispered the amount in Jenny’s ear.

Jenny’s eyes went wide.

“All of it with my Mommy’s blessing. So what’s a few hundred more on top of that?”

That apparently did it. But Lane Bryant didn’t. Wrap dresses, frilled tanks, loose tops—none of it did more than provide a frame for her round protruding belly. Kelly steered her away from the T’s and capris so much like her favored cargo shorts and men’s shirts. Standard leggings and a strong supply of various tanks was the best they could do.

But Catherine’s had been a different story. Skirts, blouses, even sweaters—all of it provided a professional look that even Jenny was willing to accept. Kelly insisted she try each item with her new Cacique underpinnings below, and the occasional pair of leggings. And at each step Kelly emphasized how each look defined a professional who knew what she was talking about, who could be trusted by kids, parents, and supervisors alike. Jenny even accepted a few bits of jewelry. (Kelly noted a need for revision: Gail’s/Phi Gamma's rule against big jewelry clearly didn’t apply when it came to big girls. The bigger the girl, the bigger the jewelry!)

Kelly tried to explain it all to Wade without boring him. She was pretty sure she wasn’t succeeding. The only response she got from him was a low whistle when she relayed to him the number of bags they’d packed full that day and the amount she’d managed to spend without Jenny realizing.

“Is that really worth it? I mean, if she’s as mafugly as you say she is….”

“Wade Bodie!”

“Just saying.”

“I never said that,” Kelly whispered. She was out in the Promenade watching Jenny from afar as she inhaled chips and queso in the covered patio at the Mexican grill, but she felt like Jenny was standing right next to her.

“Not right out.”

“Wade Bodie,” she scolded again. These two may not have looks in common, but they both have the same tact. “I swear you’re—“

Kelly’s phone had interrupted her with that always annoying alarm to inform her the battery was low.

“Never mind. I’m running out of battery. I can’t wait to see you! When do I get to see you next?”

“How would I know? When do you get back?”

Kelly opened her mouth, then shut it. She had no idea. She’d been so focused on playing What Not To Wear with Jenny today that the thought hadn’t crossed her mind.

“I don’t know!”

“Well how do you know you didn’t miss your flight already?”

“Jenny said we have to check out of the hotel tomorrow. So, I guess I fly back tomorrow.”

“You’re so clueless, Kells. You’re the blondest blonde I ever dated. And that’s saying something.”

Kelly figured there was no point being offended by what was so clearly true. It bothered her more to think about Wade dating other girls, blonde or not. The thought had simply never occurred to her before.

“Whatev. Hey, I gotta go.” I love you! her suddenly jealous heart wanted to say. But she knew better. “I’ll text as soon as I know when I’m coming back. You could meet me at the airport!”

“Sounds exciting.”

“Whatever. You’re the worst! Get lost!”

“Bye, Sweetheart. Sleep good.” Click. Or it would have clicked, if modern phones still clicked.

Boys were so frustrating. Especially the gorgeous ones! Kelly put it out of her mind, turned off her beeping phone and placed it in her purse. She was as annoyed at herself for forgetting about going home as she was now worried about missing her flight. Better ask Jenny what—

“Oh!” Kelly exclaimed as she looked up. Jenny was standing right there. She still had a smudge of queso in the corner of her lip. But for some reason her already red cheeks were redder with embarrassment.

“I hate to bring it up after you bought me all that stuff—“

“My Mommy bought it for you, and it was her pleasure,” Kelly smiled.

“Yeah.” Jenny smiled back, then went back to mumbling. “It’s just that I should have brought it up before.”

“OK.” What is it?

“It’s just that, it’s getting late, and I still need a swimsuit.”

Swimsuit? First Kelly’d heard of the subject. “Sure." She started to look at her phone for the time and realized she'd turned it off. Maybe we can go out again tomorrow and get one.” Kelly was starving, and the thought of missing out on queso and chips made her grumpy.

“Um, you think we’ll have time?”

“You know, I was just about to head over and ask you what time I leave—“
It suddenly hit her.

“Wait,” Kelly said. “Why exactly do you need to buy a swimsuit right now?”
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Old 03-26-2014, 11:25 PM   #161
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Default The Carnival begins.

The last time Kelly had been this excited was when she was last year about this time, when she’d been selected to rush Phi Gamma.

This year she was standing in line with Jennifer Larsen, which was nothing remarkable in itself except that today they were under the multi-faceted terminal dome for Carnival Cruise Lines.

“I’ve wanted to go on one of these my whole life!” she babbled.

“Yes,” said Jenny. “You told my once or seven times already.”

“Only because it’s true.”

“Did I tell you I went once?”

“Only like one or seven times already.”

“Well, now it’s eight.”

Kelly giggled with excitement for no particular reason.

As Kelly’s family had risen in affluence, they’d taken a lot of vacations: Vegas, SoCal, Ireland, Italy—Kelly had even missed a trip to Thailand after her senior year so she could pursue her Phi Gamma exercise goals. But cruising was never on the list: Ben Kingsley’s motion sickness was infamous. And no way Elizabeth Kingsley would have ever let her daughter be trapped for days on a boat piled high with food. All this had for Kelly made cruising something like the forbidden fruit of vacations.

The legendary cruise food! Even now it spoke to her like the serpent must have called out to Eve. In addition to her restraint (well, compared to recent standards) at the theme parks, Kelly had made good on her promises to start each day with a workout at the Grand Californian’s gym. Each day had been as grueling and unrewarding as the first, though with the purchase of an adequate sports bra (facilitated through the hotel concierge—everyone was always so helpful!), she did find she was able to push herself just a little bit longer each morning. She’d been proud of that. Last summer she’d have quit without a trainer there to push her through those first two weeks . But this morning had been tough: today soreness and stiffness rocked her thighs and calves, and she found herself wondering if she shouldn’t take a break tomorrow.

“ID please.”

Kelly and Jenny had reached the front of the security screening line. She handed her ID to the security guard, placed her purse on the conveyor, and stepped through the metal detector with—despite absolute certainty she was absolutely free of anything suspicious—the same anxiety she always had in such situations: sure that something would happen to gum up the works and cause her latest embarrassment. But nothing like that happened for her this time, and the female screener, a handsome older Black lady, handed back her ID.

“Kingsley, eh? Any relation to the actor?”

“Not as far as I know!” was Kelly’s now-practiced line.

“That man’s voice makes my knees turn to butter.”

“Mm-hm,” Kelly smiled, slipping her ID back into her purse.

Kelly’d had much the same conversation at the Californian the night before, just like she had each day at the entrance to the theme parks, when the concierge had greeted them in the lobby. The reason? To inform them that Gail had forwarded Kelly’s luggage to the hotel instead of sending it home (knowing, of course, that Kelly would need it to pack for the cruise--Thank you, Gail!) and that the several pieces of it were sitting for them in their modest suite upstairs. Of course, the concierge had ulterior motives.

“Ms. Kingsley, I’ve been meaning to ask, are you related to Ben Kingsley, the actor?”

“Well, my dad’s name is Ben, but I’m pretty sure he’s not an actor! He’s in real estate.”

Jenny had looked on in both amazement at the bulk (and expense) of Kelly’s luggage and even more amusement at the disappointment that inevitably crossed the other inquisitor’s face at these times.

“Man,” she said as they got on the elevator, “at some point you gotta cash that chip!”

“Hm?”

“Ben Kingsley’s daughter. One day you should say yes.”

“Why?”

“Do you have any idea the things these people would do for you?”

“They already do things for me. Haven’t you noticed?”

Jenny just grumbled. Clearly she had.

All of this had led to quite the busy night—trying on her clothes. With more than a little trepidation, Kelly slipped on her favorites from just ten days before, breathing a sigh of relief as she found her favorite evening dress still fit over her bosom, only a hint of tightness around her hips and lower waist. The same for her clubwear halter tops and expensive sweaters with the lacy sleeves. But the fashion jeans were a different story. Those made her legs feel one step away from two sausages—topped by the tight wrapper of the soft little muffin that pooched slightly over the stiff waistband. It was thoughts of several pairs of $300 jeans not going with her on her cruise that had been her principal motivation in the gym that morning. And for the most minimal of breakfasts. That Kelly was absolutely starving right now wasn’t helping her ward off snake-charmer visions of the Carnival buffet.

Consternation with her wardrobe had also driven her to the internet, where she discovered the plus-size store Kiyonna and a fashionable line of flattering two-piece swimwear, beachwear, wraps and gowns that were just what Kelly had known all along must exist somewhere for her friend Jenny. Another chartered car, this time to the swanky Anaheim Hills, and the two spent their morning filling grocery bags. She managed to muster so much enthusiasm for the effect these pieces had on Jenny that--wink, wink--she insisted she just had to have some for herself. The word need never crossed her lips. Even now she had eschewed the standard chest-heavy fare of a wrap top and tight jeans for the comfort of a tulle skirt and loose-flowing chiffon floral-pattern blouse—just, of course, to set the proper mood for the cruise.

“Welcome to Carnival Cruise Lines,” said the not-too-overly-friendly middling-aged woman in the window. “Just need your paperwork to make sure everything is in order and to answer any questions. Thank you, Ms. Kingsley,” she said when Kelly passed over the paperwork and credit card. With her father’s name at the bottom. “Ben Kingsley! Wow! Are you—I mean, is he your dad?”

Jenny punched her in the ribs hard enough to make her breasts wobble from side to side. More than one guy who had been giving her the usual sideways glances looked just a little bit too long as it happened. As usual, Kelly dismissed it from her mind.

“Well, yes. But not that one,” Kelly answered dutifully.

“I’ll bet you get that a lot.”

“Not really. I guess people out here really know their actors.”

The graying blonde said something or other about his voice and about her favorite of his film roles before blowing through a small stack of paperwork. Kelly nodded yes every now and then as the lady explained various features of the ship but wasn’t really listening. Her stomach was rumbling and so far there hadn’t been a morsel of food in sight. In due time the two girls were cleared for passage and were directed to the base of an escalator, where a young woman with a camera and a tall, White, wiry, young man in uniform stood at a podium across from a tropical-ish setup obviously meant to be the backdrop for a picture. She noticed Jenny arranging her own loose chiffon top (loose in name only: it lay fully supported by her enormous midsection) with some anxiety, and she reached over and quickly eased Jenny’s mind by laying out the ruffles just so. Jenny smiled—a surprisingly pleasant sight today after submitting to a brief makeover by Kelly on the way over from Anaheim Hills. (For all of her faults, Jenny had good teeth.) And not a word of complaint about forcing her to take a picture, either.

With an air of adventure, Kelly all-but skipped to her spot at the camera stand. She instantly realized it to be a mistake. Her bosom heaved up and down heavily as she did so (hadn’t she learned after all this time what not to do because of these things?), and she saw the wiry man’s neck snap her direction and focus. Uh-oh. Admiration was one thing. Focused attention, she had learned, was quite another.

“Hi,” the man said, a little too loudly and a little too cheerfully. “Welcome to the Carnival Inspiration. I’m Douglas Friend, and I’m your cruise director for this voyage.”

Jenny, who had sauntered up beside her, elbowed her in what from most people would have landed on Kelly's side, but fro Jenny landed painfully on Kelly’s upper arm. “This guy pretty much runs the place,” Jenny mumbled in her ear.

As if on cue: “It’s my job to make sure you’re perfectly comfortable and have an incredible time.” He was talking directly to Kelly, as if the colossal Jenny wasn’t even there.

Kelly tried to take Jenny’s admonition to heart, but the truth with she was becoming more and more focused on her empty stomach. “I’m sure I will. I can’t wait.” For the buffet!

As if on cue: Kelly’s stomach growled. She hoped to God Douglas didn’t hear it. He was kind of cute.

“Step over here you two,” Douglas smiled, finally acknowledging Jenny but turning right back to Kelly. “We’ll get a quick picture for you. So are you first time cruisers?” He was making idle chit chat as he positioned them in what he imagined was just the right pose, but his voice had dropped from his cheerful hospitality tone to a deeper tone of authority and importance.

“Yes,” Kelly answered.

“No,” Jenny answered.

“Cruising can be a little overwhelming the first time. If you have any trouble, just find me and I’ll help you with anything you need.” Jenny frogged her again with her elbow, this time on the other arm. “It’s my job to make sure you’re perfectly comfortable and have an incredible time.”

Yeah, you said that. “Thank you! I’ll be sure to do that,” she smiled.

“Annnnd ready? Smile! Both of you!” Flash.

“So let me check your passes to make sure I get everything right. Let’s see,” he said, searching through the packets that had been handed to him as they walked up. “It looks like you’re in an interior cabin. Not bad, not bad for your first time, but the suites really are something. So here you are: Jenny…Larsen? L-a-r-s-e-n? OK. Good. And Kellen Kingsley? K-i-n-g-s-l-e-y? Kingsley?”

Kelly nodded. She saw in his face what was coming next.

“Don’t suppose you’re related to the actor Ben Kingsley, are you?” he laughed. Kelly laughed politely along with him for just a second. He was cute.

“No, no—“

“Stop being modest, Kelly!” Jenny interjected. “Of course she is. Check her paperwork! Ben Kingsley’s her dad!”

Douglas stopped mid-laugh. Kelly blushed. Jenny gave out a nervous laugh herself, an odd little noise that should have grabbed Kelly’s attention.

Douglas did instead. (He was cute.) “Oh, really! How exciting! Carolina, we have something of a celebrity on our cruise today.”

Carolina—obviously the short, thin Latina photographer standing next to him (her nametag indicated she was from Barcelona, Spain)—smiled politely. Of the four people standing there, only Douglas was the one not fully aware what was going on here. “Exciting!” she added, somewhat less than.

“Well, Ms. Kingsley, It’s my job to make sure you’re perfectly comfortable and have an incredible time. So if there’s anything you need--”

Kelly’s stomach grumbled so loud there was no way he couldn’t hear it, his hand touching his arm the way it suddenly was.

“Well, you know, Douglas, now that you mention it…”
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Old 05-22-2014, 11:57 PM   #162
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Default She who laughs last.

Twenty minutes later, Kelly and Jenny were laying on deck chairs next to the main pool in the cool California air under the hot California sun, munching on the newly-delivered tray of cheese, crackers and vegetables that now sat on the tiny table between to them. The deck was fast emptying: people were moving to their emergency stations (a drill called Muster), where they would be learning how to evacuate the ship before the Inspiration left port. “Don’t worry about that,” Doug told them. “Jennifer already knows what to do, but if you find yourself confused in the unlikely event of an emergency, just rendezvous at the service desk with me and I can lead you from there.” It was the first time since pictures that Doug had even acknowledged Jennifer’s presence.

“Thank you,” Kelly mumbled, her face full of the creamy cheese and light buttery cracker that she had just stuffed into her mouth (her third).

“I got it covered,” Jenny mumbled, her face full of the creamy cheese and light buttery cracker that she had just stuffed into her mouth (her fourth).

Doug excused himself but assured them he would check in with them as soon as his opening duties were over. Any needs, in the meantime, could be met by the pool bartender, Luis, who had just arrived to set things up for the evening.

Kelly finished sipping on her water, and looked over at Jenny, who had pulled the tray closer to her and was dipping vegetables into some yummy Ranch-y sauce one after the other, stopping only to slip each one in rhythm past the vertical undulation of her nonstop lips. “Did you notice how he kept talking to me the whole time? I don’t think he turned to look at you one time.”

Jenny talked while crunching her vegetables. Munch. “Yeah. So?”
“Well, it seemed pretty rude to me.”

“Don’t knock it,” Jenny said, scooping some dressing (garnished by a carrot) into her mouth. “It got us out of Muster, didn’t it?”

You got us that,” Kelly countered. “You said I was Ben Kingsley’s daughter.”

Pfft.” Bits of vegetable and yummy Ranch-y dip sprayed from Jenny’s mouth. Gross! “I didn’t hear you speaking up to contradict me. Besides,” munch, munch, “who really knows who Ben Kingsley is?”

“A lot of people do, apparently.”

“Yeah, well, it’s not like me saying a teensy lie about your name made any difference. The only thing that matters is that you’ve got looks and money and an excuse for them to cater to you.”

Good God! That again. Kelly rolled her eyes.

“And massive boobs,” Jenny added.

Kelly knew better than to argue with that one. Nor did she want to because at just that second her mouth was exploding with the rich, creamy flavor of some incredibly yummy soft cheese. This clearly was not just any snack tray.”

It took a few seconds before Kelly could open her mouth. “Yeah, well, now the whole trip I’m gonna have to keep up a lie—“

“Shhh!” Jenny interrupted, gesturing with her head over Kelly’s shoulder, her flat brown eyes wide. Kelly glanced to the side to see the young, handsome, slender, exotic Luis heading their way with his tray and notepad under one armpit.

“Now I’m gonna have to keep up a lie the whole trip!” Kelly whispered.

“Nonsense!” Jenny hissed back. “You could take it all back right now!”

“Miss Kingsley, Miss Larsen, I am Luis,” the swarthy young man said from behind deep brown eyes in his staccato Latin accent. “It is my pleasure to personally serve such special guests! Could I prepare you some drinks from the bar, say, a couple of raspberry Margaritas?”

Kelly looked back at Jenny and paused. Could she really do this? She all but saw the image of her mother shaking her head at her. Lies and secrets, Kelly. They eat away at the soul! she’d always said. But the image melted in the deep eyes of her charming Mexican host and suddenly the sound of a cocktail sounded extremely enticing.

Except. There was Jenny.

“Thank you for your kindness, Luis, but no.” She could feel the pressure of Jenny’s gaze, just waiting for the other shoe to drop. But Kelly left it at that, much to Jenny’s apparent delight.

“Of course, senorita. Miss Larsen?”

“One of each,” she answered pertly, and Kelly’s head snapped around before Luis walked away.

“But I thought—“

“You thought?”

“You don’t drink? I mean, because of your mother and all?”

“Just because my brother gets his panties all in a twist about it doesn’t mean I do!” Jenny quipped. “I barely knew the woman. And I’m certainly not depriving myself on the account of her!” As if to make her point, she scooped up goat cheese with a couple of crackers and savored each one as she placed it whole in her mouth.

“Good thing you ordered one for me, then,” Kelly smiled as she spotted Luis headed back their way.

“No way. Those are for me. Get your own!” But when Luis handed Kelly one, Jenny didn’t protest. Kelly took a long aggressive pull off the lime green straw, the burn of the alcohol washing past her mouth and down her throat, all in an attempt to drown a lingering guilty conscience. She had to admit as she watched Luis’s tight butt shimmy back behind his island bar, this lie seemed to be all upside.

Except.

“Uh, Jenny,” Kelly ventured. “If I ask you a question, do you promise not to laugh?”

“No,” she answered. “But ask me anyway.”

“Who is Ben Kingsley?”

Jenny laughed loud and long.
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Old 05-31-2014, 11:56 PM   #163
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Default Hip and not hip.

When Kelly plopped down and Jenny squeezed in to dinner an hour later, Kelly’s head was spinning from her Margarita. And her pina colada. Jenny said she kept ordering drinks so she could watch Luis walk back and forth at her whim. That’s why she’d also ordered a round of strawberry daiquiris. Jenny’d had two, and she didn’t even seem fazed! As for Kelly, she’d leaned a bit on Doug’s arm when he escorted her past the throng in the hall and directly to their dining table.

Kelly’s mind had also been preoccupied with the subtle listing of the ship, which had pulled off for a night at sea circling Catalina Island shortly after their early smorgasbord had begun. Kelly had never been motion sick, but her father’s malady was enough to grab her attention as she caught her sea legs for the first time. But by the time they were glancing at menu cards, Kelly was all-but-sure it was her head spinning from alcohol and not her tummy spinning from the waves.

Which was good, because the generous snack and delicious frosty drinks she’d already consumed had done little to dull her appetite—or her enthusiastic anticipation of the food.

“Oh, this is always my favorite part—the food!”

That wasn’t Jenny. It was the short, stout middling-aged woman with the recently coifed hair as she slipped into her spot on the booth, her short, stout middling-aged husband with the receding hairline smiling geekily behind her as they slid next to each other.

“And the company at dinner,” the lady continued cheerily. “And with VIPs, no less!”

The man filled in the gap, less cheerily: “We watched as you passed us by out in the hall.”

“Oh, Gerald. Lighten up.”

“Really,” Kelly began, “we aren’t VIPs. We—ow!”

Jenny elbowed her in the side. Sharply. “Her dad is Ben Kingsley.”

The couple paused in unison. “Uh, who?” asked the woman.

Exactly. “Do you remember the movie Gandhi?” Kelly didn’t, but that’s what Jenny had told her to say.

The couple breathed out a long ohhhh together. The lady cocked her head. “That’s so interesting! You know, you don’t look Indian at all!”

Kelly elbowed Jenny. Sharply. “She gets that all the time. I’m Jenny. I’m with her, and I’m not an important person at all.” Nice save. Jenny was apparently the only person who had a few drinks and became more socially skilled.

“Me neither!” laughed the woman. Kelly thought she was sweet, if not sophisticated. “I’m Donna. I sure hope your being VIPs means we’ll get fast service. I’m starving! So have you been on one of these things before? Do you know how it works?”

Whether they had or not, Donna was happy to explain how they could each order as many appetizers, entrees and desserts they liked. “And since we have you here, the waitstaff won’t even get annoyed at us!”

As if on cue, a fortyish gentleman, Raul, from Romania (his nametag proclaimed) stepped up to the table and introduced himself and asked about drinks and appetizers.

“Well I don’t know about these two young ladies,” Donna demurred, “but I like to try all of the appetizers. What do you girls say?”

This was in-your-face gluttony that Kelly wasn’t prepared for. “Well, that seems—“

“Perfect,” Jenny interrupted. Wordlessly Raul backed away from the table just about the time another middle aged couple—this time tanned, fit, and well-coifed in a trendy stud-cuffed shirt, in a word, hip—slipped into the booth next to Kelly. She was surprised and somewhat alarmed to feel his hip resting next to hers without moving away—until she reminded herself that Jenny’s hip to her left was solidly next to hers, taking up its usual uneven share of the room. A slender woman slipped into the booth across from the man.

“Hi, table mates,” said the man enthusiastically, White, gray and balding, but with a prominent masculine jaw and chin. “Dan Carlson. This is my wife Alicia. Here’s hoping you just got us started with some appetizers.”

“I’ve been working out every day for six months just for this moment,” said Alicia—California tan, sun-drenched California skin, expensive California clothes.

“More like 24 years,” Dan noted. Dan and Alicia, from Orange County, had just sent their last of three to college and were celebrating with their first cruise since they were married 25 years before. They were only just finished explaining that they could have taken a more expensive cruise line but had been were eager to see what about Carnival had changed when Raul and two sets of helping hands arrived with six appetizers and a stack of appetizer plates.

“My!” Donna exclaimed, but not without exceeding her mild manner. “Having a VIP does get you faster service!”

“She must mean you,” Dan surmised, turning to Kelly. The comment broke her alcohol-impaired concentration, which just before had been focused on an elegant plate of thinly sliced salmon, acting like sandwich bread for some savory tomatoes in between. “What kind of VIP?”

“Her father was Gandhi,” Donna offered. “Not the real Gandhi, of course, but—“

“I understood you,” Dan waved Donna’s direction before turning back to Kelly. “Sir Ben Kingsley, Oscar winner. Sure. Everyone knows him.” Kelly shot Jenny a quick glance. “So you must be his daughter?”

Kelly just paused and smiled, not one bit of Phi Gamma composure running up to rescue her. “Yes,” she finally said. “I know Sir Ben Kingsley, as you say, as ‘Daddy.’ I’m Kelly.” Not knowing anything more to say or do, she turned to the salmon and began slicing off a piece best she could, praying to the God of Pretty Little Liars that Dan wouldn’t have any more questions.

“Curious,” Dan replied. Uh-oh.

“Good for us, I say,” Donna asserted. “Here…everyone grab a spoon and try some of this soup.” Only her husband followed suit.

“Please don’t take offense at this, Donna,” Dan demurred as Alicia raised her eyebrows, “but I’m not sure I know you quite well enough to dip spoons with you.”

My thoughts exactly. It didn’t strike Kelly as the best dining etiquette.

“Not at least until our second date!” he tagged on, clearly just to ease the conflict.

Donna laughed good-naturedly, oblivious to the underhanded slight. Kelly briefly paused in her struggle with the beautiful but unwieldy salmon dish and briefly wondered if others saw her the same way, until she noticed that all of the appetizers were out of Jenny’s immediate reach. And Jenny wasn’t going after any of them.

That struck Kelly as odd to say the least.

Until she took a closer look. Jenny, she realized, was practically penned between the back of the bench and the lip of the table. Framed above the table, her undersized bosom betrayed nothing. Under the table, her portentous belly was wedged into what suddenly seemed like a painfully small space. Kelly was used to maneuvering around her bulging bosom at the table, a problem she typically solved by sitting up straight the way her mother had taught her. Even now it was affecting her dexterity, as there was really no way to do anything but reach out and try to cut the dish one-handed from a distance without making a scene or even knocking something over. Long aware of the sometimes comically narrow horizontal space in a restaurant booth, Kelly had never considered just how small a vertical space exists—mere inches!—between table and bench.

Suddenly concerned, she snuck a glance at her own thighs, thankful to note that although the spread she had been aware of moments before was more real than she had cared to admit, there was nothing about the height if her thighs that seemed any different than Dan’s. But Jenny’s thigh—relatively small as they were compared to the rest of her, squeezed flat against the table. “Thigh” rather than “thighs” because, Kelly realized, that just to sit in this booth Jenny had one leg poking out over the side of the bench. Too big to sit normally, Jenny had pretty much leaned in half of her fat body into the booth, which she managed to corral only because she was supporting much of the rest with her leg.

And if she made the wrong move, either she or the table could come down in its entirety. Yet Jenny said nothing, though her eyes said volumes.

“Well, Donna,” Kelly ventured a little late, “you feel like an old friend to me.”

Awkwardly, aware of her boobs—and now, the proximity of her thighs to the underside of the table—she reached over and pulled the bowl of beef and barley over for a taste (practically snatching it away from the Ohioans, who had set to it) and, incidentally, within Jenny’s immediate reach. If Jenny noted the gesture, she made no sign, but she snagged her spoon and dipped it in for a sample. Kelly followed suit—all she could think was Ugh! Double dip!—and instantly judged it to be fair-to-middling, though yummy enough.

“Excellent!” she opined anyway. “We’ll have to get a few more cups for everyone.” She made no move to return it to the Ohioans, who were already pulling a bowl of Gazpacho their direction. Thankfully, Raul was still hovering in their vicinity, and Kelly easily flagged his attention.

“Hi, Raul,” she smiled, speaking as sweetly as any Southern girl knew how. “If it’s not too much trouble, could we get two more bowls of each of the soups? And salads for everyone?”

“For you, Ms. Kingsley,” Raul smiled back, “it would never be trouble.” Kelly swooned. What Kelly’s voice possessed in Southern sweetness, Raul’s mysteriously Hispanic/Eastern European accent was twice as charming, and normally Kelly would have been flattered by the constant willingness of Doug, Raul, Luis and a nameless, faceless host of others to help her. Tonight, however, she knew it was all due to a lie, which robbed her of good feeling and installed in its place a pit of guilt in her stomach.

Despite it all—including the lingering rubber elbows installed by Raul’s sexy if obscure accent—Kelly still managed to pull over the currently present iceberg salad wedge and drag the plate of chicken strips, something the menu described as “Panko-breaded,” within Jenny’s reach. Two of the four strips and a large portion of the honey mustard dipping sauce quickly found their way to Jenny’s appetizer plate.

“Gotta move quick at this table,” Dan murmured beside her. Kelly looked back at him and smiled disarmingly before picking up a crispy chicken strip and biting off the end.

Her mouth exploded with a combination of light, crispy, and salty that she had never before experienced. She all-but-moaned with approval. She saw Raul and two other waiters coming with their salads and soups.

“That’s OK,” Kelly said, still feeling guilty, noting the alcoholic buzz in her head finally starting to fade, and unable to resist taking another bite despite the conversation. “Raul will take care of us.”

And of course Kelly was right.
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Old 06-10-2014, 11:54 PM   #164
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Default On-the-spot dinner conversation.

It was all as good as anticipated: the Cured Salmon and Candied Tomato the perfect mix of salty, savory, and sweet. So much that Kelly asked for one more of her own. As well as one of the chicken tenders with the Panko breading. There wasn’t anything, of course, that Kelly ordered that Jenny didn’t get one of, too—if only because Kelly didn’t want to share with her. About the time her Italian Sausage Liguini arrived she began wondering where she would put it: she was starting to feel some tension along the stretch waistband of her tulle skirt.

But then the real tension started, when her tablemates started asking her questions.

“Every time we come to LA,” Donna said, interrupting what had been an awkward absence of conversation since the second round of appetizers had arrived, “I always tell Gerald I’m gonna meet someone famous and it never happens. But this time it did!”

“No,” Gerald stated.

“But her dad is a movie star! That’s close enough.”

Gerald grunted.

“What is that like, Kelly?” Donna continued.

The question caught Kelly just after she pulled a big wrap of linguini off of her fork with her teeth, and she almost choked. Kelly took her time chewing, as if she’d bit off too more than she could (which wasn’t that much of a stretch). Her first words ignored Donna’s question.

“Wow!” she said. “This linguini is so good! So perfect and buttery!” She took another bite, smaller, but she chewed with just as much deliberation as she tried to think of a way out. She looked at Jenny hoping for a way out, but she was clearly too engrossed in her St. Louis spare ribs to notice that they were in trouble.

“I don’t know, really,” she finally ventured. “All I know is how I grew up, so I never really know what to say to that question. I mean, sorry,” she added, as guilt racked her stomach again. She noted to herself that, technically, nothing she was saying was a lie. “I’m not trying to be rude or anything. ” She swooped another knot of pasta, popped it into her mouth quickly, hoping that if she stalled enough while eating her mean that conversation might turn of its own in another direction.

Not to be.

“I guess,” Alicia piled on, “having random people ask you questions all the time must be part of what it’s like.” In contrast to Donna’s excitement, Alicia spoke with an air of practiced indifference. But, clearly she was leaning forward and her engaged expression belied something different.

Kelly swooped more pasta. Popped it into her mouth. Chewed with manners and distinction. After all, all eyes at the table were on her. “Especially at dinner,” she smiled, not quite finished with her bite as if to make the point. “Donna, have you ever tasted linguini quite so good? Really, ya’ll,” she added nervously, “you should have ordered this.”

“Oh, everything is so good it doesn’t matter what you order,” Donna replied.
“My peppercorn steak is perfect!”

“Well I’d at least hope they could get a steak right,” Dan interjected. Kelly buried her head into her pasta, sensing her diversion had worked.

It hadn’t.

“So Kelly,” Dan redirected, “You look about my daughter’s age. I take it you’re in school. What are you studying? Acting, perhaps?”

Swoop. Pop. Chew. Kelly was getting nervous. Her bowl of linguini was disappearing fast.

“No, no,” she said cautiously. “I don’t think that’s really for me. I, uh, haven’t decided what I’m interested in. I’ve just been taking my basics and enjoying being involved in my sorority.”

“Sorority! Really! You don’t seem the type. I never would have thought it.”

That wasn’t Dan. That was Alicia. And for all her obtuseness, Kelly had enough experience the past year with naturally thin, self-obsessed, entitled women to know exactly what that comment meant. Kelly felt the blood rushing to her cheeks. She wasn’t sure if it was more embarrassment or anger. She bit into a piece of bread as she thought it through.

“But why would that surprise me?” Alicia continued. “Of course a sorority would want Ben Kingsley’s daughter. And you’re so sweet, too!” She smiled as she said it, as if the word “sweet” hadn’t glaringly been substituted for “beautiful.” In this context it could only be code for “fat.”

Poise, they said at Phi Gamma. You’ll never be better than a bitch by being one. That was one of her mom’s sayings.

“That’s what they tell me in Phi Gamma,” Kelly answered—after she’d finished chewing her bread, of course. “But being a Kingsley never hurts!” Still technically true, but she felt the guilt all the same. Pasta: swoop, pop.

“That’s not the only thing that helps,” Dan mumbled beside her. He appeared poised to say something else, but instead he looked up quickly to the far end of the table. Kelly’s eyes followed just as quickly, just as she bit into her last bite of bread. Her eyes went wide, and she stopped chewing.

At the head of their table was, as Kelly had expected might happen, cruise director Doug. But standing beside him was someone who was dressed so formally in a decorated white dress uniform that he could only be the Captain. He was effusive and jovial.

“Hallo, how are you, lovely gentlemen and byootiful ladeez!” the rotund Captain said in a thick Italian accent. “I am Giovanni Sinani, your captain for this voyage. Welcome to the Inspiration—although you, dear, are an inspiration to me!”

That canned comment was directed to Donna, who laughed and smiled but had no reply. He then locked his eyes on Kelly, but not on her eyes. Not at first, at least.

“Oh, now this is a bee-yootiful young lay-dee! A lovely young flower just blooming into woman hood! I hope I am not too forward!” He reached between Gerald and Jenny to gently clasp Kelly’s right hand, then raised it to his lips for a slight, well-practiced kiss.

For all its corniness, Kelly was still charmed. “Not at all!” she mumbled through her bread, momentarily forgetting it was there. She blushed, but the Captain paid her poor manners no mind.

“I confess I cannot help myself when I encounter such bee-yooty on this vessel,” he continued. “And bee-yooty surrounds me on every side!” he exclaimed as he turned briefly in Alicia’s direction.

Briefly. Before turning back to Kelly. Doug whispered in his ear, and he nodded his head backwards, as if pleased by something Doug said, then whispered back in Doug’s ear.

“So my boy Douglas tells me you and he have already met, Ms. Kingsley. Very good. Very good.” He turned to move on. “A great pleasure to meet you all, and I hope you have a splendid time! I look forward to seeing you all again.”
Douglas winked at Jenny after the Captain stepped away, before moving off with the Captain, and before Jenny’s elbow connected again with Kelly’s rib cage, for what reason Jenny hadn’t the slightest clue. This time Kelly elbowed her back, only to meet the solid slab that was Jenny’s upper arm.

Meanwhile, to Kelly’s relief, Dan excused himself and followed after Douglas.

Thank God! Kelly felt the knot in her stomach she hadn’t realized she’d had release. Lying just definitely wasn’t her thing. She concentrated on finishing the remainder of her delicious pasta without having to answer more questions.
“So, Kelly,” asked Alicia.

Dear God!

“You said you’re still trying to find something you’re interested in. Did you know, I’m a certified life coach? What are you passionate about?”
Kelly twirled in her last bite of pasta. Right now? This pasta. Yum! But she couldn’t say that to this woman. She politely finished her bite and pressed back into the bench, suddenly aware she was full.

“Really? The thing I’m most passionate about is my sorority.” It suddenly occurred to her that she should feel embarrassed about that, although really she didn’t. “But you can’t be in a sorority for your career, right? Truthfully,” and she was being truthful, “the past year I’ve never been as passionate about anything like I’ve been passionate about exercise.” She anticipated the look Alicia almost gave her, as Dan sat back down at the table. “I’m just getting back into it after taking the summer off. In fact, I was hoping to get in a workout every morning, even if it is just trying to stay in a routine.” She looked knowingly at her empty bowl of pasta, wondering why she was starting to think about dessert even as she was thinking about losing weight.

“Oh, me, too! I’ll be there at 7:30 on the dot in the morning. You should meet me there! I think it’s great that you’re starting to concentrate so much on being more healthy.”

Kelly all-but-growled inwardly at the euphemism. It always irked her that to people like Alicia, a normal-to-plump sized gal was always regarded as some kind of massive cow. And cow was the operative word: Kelly had always attributed it to insecurity these rail-thin girls had about not having breasts. Well, to speak of. Well, real ones, at least.

“But I think once you find the motivation, it’s a lot easier to get into that routine you were talking about.” She pushed her plate out of the way and leaned forward on her elbows. “Where did you find your motivation this last year?”

Kelly shrugged. “I didn’t want anything getting in the way of making it into my sorority.”

“Ah,” Alicia clipped, surmising she wouldn’t find whatever satisfaction she was going for that easily. “Which sorority?”

“Phi Gamma.”

“At UCLA?” Dan pressed, and suddenly Kelly felt that pressure in her stomach again.

“Um, I, uh, no,” Kelly said, suddenly defensive.

“Phi Gamma has a big presence in the Old South, darling,” Alicia noted. Kelly was feeling paranoid now. She couldn’t tell if the emphasis on “big” was from Alicia’s lips or her own ears.

“I was sort of wondering that,” Dan agreed. “I just would have thought that the daughter of a movie star would have stuck around Southern California.”

“Oh, no. No,” Kelly hedged, her mind going cloudy. “I love to come back every once in a while”—true—“but I wanted to get away from home.” Which was far from true. Her first out-out lie. She was starting to long for her Mommy right about now, too.

Instead, she got Raul. He was standing at the head of the table with a silver platter, which had at least three wine bottles and a set of six tiny wine glasses next to a plate of cheese. “I hope you did not think that would be all for you tonight! We have some lovely dessert wines, and some cheese to cleanse your palate!”

Gerald sat up straight as Raul set the tray down between him and Jenny. “No thank you, sir,” he said pointedly, the tone of his voice in some throwback nasal pitch from the 1950s. “Me and the Mrs. have room for dessert, and that’s about it.”

“But sir,” Raul replied patiently, “these come compliments of the Captain.”
Donna let out an ohhhhh! and clapped her hands together. The tension fled from Gerald’s body in relief, although his face retained its sour countenance—an ironic expression given that it was for saving face.

“And rest assured there will be a full complement of desserts along shortly for everyone to try. Sir and madam,” he called to the couple at the end of the table. “I can take your dessert order now, should you prefer.”

Again the two elected for their own desserts, one each. But they also each reached with the tiny tongs to sample the cheese as it was passed around. It was the same fine cheese Kelly and Jenny had tasted before, although to Kelly it seemed even better since now, on a happy stomach, she took the time to savor it. Each sample was met with hearty approval around the table, except for Jenny, who consumed it lustily but made not a sound.

Meanwhile Raul made his rounds around the table, pouring each table mate one of the small glasses. Kelly had enough experience with fine dining, and enough experience to know that her new rivals Dan and (especially) Alicia had as well, to hold off on drinking the port. She placed a hand on Jenny’s to quietly communicate the etiquette, while Gerald and Donna, of course, jumped right in. But it wasn’t long before Dan resumed the barrage.

“So you got away and went to the South,” Dan continued. “Which I’ve been wondering about. I mean, you speak with a Southern accent, but Ben Kingsley is British. I can imagine having ties to LA, and probably London, but the South? I just don’t get it.”

“Good God, man,” said Gerald. “Knock it off. Clearly they know who she is. The girl just got you free wine and cheese. Let the girl be!”

“It’s curious, is all I’m saying,” but clearly he was saying more. “No British accent. I could understand if you were from SoCal, but the South?”

Kelly just sat there. Mommy told me this would happen if I lied! It was her worst nightmare come true. They were gonna tell on her, and then they were gonna throw her off the boat. Or humiliate her some other way. They were all looking at her now. Even Donna. Waiting for a good answer. The blood rushed to Kelly’s hot cheeks, and suddenly, desperately, she wished she had a doughnut. She didn’t. She opened her mouth, not knowing if anything would come out….

“They’re divorced.”

It wasn’t Kelly’s voice. It was Jenny’s, probably the third time she’d even spoken the whole meal. Calm, but angry. And pushy.

“Second marriage. And it was not a good break-up,” Jenny continued. “Kelly hasn’t lived in LA since she was a little kid, and she hardly ever goes to England. So if you’re thinking she should be like some rich Hollywood princess, guess again. Hell, I’m the one who spilled the beans. If it were up to her? She wouldn’t tell anyone.

“So thanks for bringing it up.” With that, Jenny downed her little flute of port and placed it back on the table, then reached for the bottle (which thankfully was in her limited range) and filled her glass again. Meanwhile, everyone else took a sip from their own glasses, except for Dan, who excused himself from the table.

“28 years and I still don’t understand that man sometimes,” Alicia apologized, as if he were all to blame. She raised her glass toward Jenny, the first time she had acknowledged her since they all exchanged names. “I’m glad you spilled the beans anyway, Sweetheart. And here’s a toast: to Kelly! Our benefactor. Screw her dad! To her future and to her health!” She downed her glass and stood up as the others did the same. “Now I’m gonna go find that man and pretend I can talk some sense into him.” And she walked away, just as Raul started delivering desserts.

Kelly’s heart was just starting to slow down, and she hoped the red was starting to fade from her cheeks. She felt like she’d just had a workout, and her stomach growled—how, how?—the second Raul placed a molten chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream on top in front of her. She accepted the proferred spoon and dipped immediately in, greedily sopping up the spreading brown goo with as much cake as she could scoop and slipping it behind her teeth.

She rolled her eyes in fulfillment. She now had a new favorite food.

Donna was finally beginning to chatter about movie stars and divorce and how it didn’t matter to her where Kelly could be from and where she might be going to school or how she talked, it was still all just great fun to her and how never had she ever thought she’d be able to have some wine wither dessert.

Kelly would have smiled in reply but her mouth was already filled with its second bite of the chocolate Gateau that had found its way next to her elbow in Dan’s absence. Actually she smiled anyway, doing all she could to protect her chocolate-y teeth from full view of everyone at the table. She swallowed, then took a fork full of diet orange cake—This is diet?—before searching for the port.

Jenny had it by her elbow. She had just refilled her glass. Quietly Kelly asked for the bottle, then whispered, “That was amazing.”

“Yeah. I know,” Jenny smiled back. She had chocolate cake slathered all over her front teeth, too.

“This is stressful! How am I gonna handle this the whole weekend.”

“Well, I have a suggestion,” Jenny offered.

Kelly was just finishing her chocolate molten cake and noticed Dan’s molten cake melting untouched (of course) next to her. I wonder if he’s gonna come back? She turned back to Jenny.

“Yeah? What’s that?”

“Drink a helluva lot.”

Kelly pulled Dan’s plate her direction, dipped in with her spoon, slipped it into her mouth.

“Okay.”
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Old 08-22-2014, 12:46 AM   #165
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Default

And drink is what she did. That night anyway.

That old man Dan and his catty wife never did return to the table, whether out of contempt or shame, who could be sure. The remaining table mates were all the merrier without them as they, much more quietly and congenially than before, ate their desserts and drank their yummy sweet wine. Kelly’s head was spinning, again, as she eased up from the table, whether from the alcohol she’d already ingested or the massive dinner pushing her tummy to the limit, she couldn’t be sure, either. She put her hand on Jenny’s solid arm for balance as they wove their way between the crowded tables of the dining room and, hopefully back to the atrium the way they had come in.

Kelly was just starting to wonder the next steps up when she saw Douglas stepping away from a conversation with the maitre’d. “Ms. Kingsley! Glad I could catch you! Just wanted to let you know that all your things have been transferred to the balcony stateroom.” He said the room number, which Kelly hoped Jenny caught because she was only catching up to what he was talking about around the time he also said this:

“Make sure you stop by the duty-free shops before you head up. They’re pouring samples of some of our featured spirits out in the hallway.”

“Ohmigod!” breathed Jenny, as girly a gesture she ever made when not expressing her excitement about Disney or video games. “I’d forgotten about THAT!”

“THAT” was called Sheridan’s-- a liqueur famous for its binary nature. ("Alcoholic epoxy," Jenny described it as. Kelly just gave Jenny that practiced I-have-no-idea-what-you're-talking-about-but-OK smile in response.) Sheridan's was dark, sweet coffee liqueur on one side, rich white cream on the other. When poured it mixed into a frothy, creamy coffee-flavored drink something like melted coffee Haagen Daas—but with a subtle kick. And without the nastiness of actually drinking melted ice cream. When that stuff hit Kelly’s tongue she immediately knew she had a new favorite drink. She didn't even think to sample the wines they were also offering.

It hit her hard when she learned the only place in the States she could buy it was pretty much here. So, she ordered five bottles on the spot.

“I guess I need to charge it to my room, but I don’t really know—“

“That’s OK, Ms. Kingsley. We’ll get it all taken care of.”

Oh.

“Come on,” Jenny urged, pulling on Kelly’s skirt. “They won’t let you drink it on the boat anyway. I want to go see this room.”

Their stateroom was on the Verandah deck, which is to say that whereas most passengers climbed downstairs to reach their rooms below deck, Kelly and Jenny had a spacious room above deck. Above deck meaning, climbing stairs. Kelly had recovered her head within the last few minutes, and she was painfully aware of, well, how painful she found climbing the stairs. And not just in her sore legs. She found herself short of breath even after the two short flights she took just to get there.

And that wasn’t the only thing she noticed. Suddenly she was aware with each step a shimmer throughout her body the kind of which she had never experienced. Well, that wasn’t true. It was the same wave she was used to feeling in her breasts on those few occasions they weren’t bound up tight—except this shimmer was in her hips, thighs and bottom. Her mind bounced immediately to the increasing tightness she’d felt in her jeans through the week, yet another warning sign of the work on the treadmill that awaited when she got home. When it hit her.

Jeans! She wasn’t used to the free-flowing island-type wear she’d chosen for herself! The realization was an immediate comfort. Don’t blow this out of proportion, Kelly. So you gained a few pounds instead of losing a few this trip. Hardly a surprise given--

Jenny opened the door to their room (apparently she’d somehow been secreted a key along the way) and whisked their way in. “This is the suite?” Kelly exclaimed. “I’d hate to see the little rooms!”

But Jenny was delighted. “This is awesome! Full bathroom, full closets”—into which, Kelly noted, their bags had been unpacked—“and a balcony!” Jenny slid open the door and walked outside. “And I can even move around!” She extended her arms and rotated in one large, rotund circle. “Aw, man!”

Kelly stepped out cautiously onto the verandah. If ever there was a time she’d get the dreaded Kingsley sea-sickness, this would be it. But aside from the mild spinning she usually felt at heights—or was it the alcohol?—Kelly’s stomach, even stuffed as it still was, didn’t rebel. That’s a relief!

Jenny’s voice, which along with her had somehow slipped back into the room behind Kelly as shey watched the black nighttime wake roil against the sides of the ship, called her back in. Jenny was standing next to the bed when it hit her.

The bed.

“Don’t worry,” Jenny smiled. She was doing that a lot more lately. “I quit my lesbian phase after my fourth foster placement.”

“Very funny.”

“Yeah, well—“

“Well what?” Kelly was afraid what she might hear next. She was used to hearing professions of love, but only a few had been from girls.

“I, uh—“

“You what?” Please no!

“I, uh…I don’t suppose you have some extra pajamas in my size?”

Oh, God. Relief and anxiety all in one fell swoop.

"No. Where’s the bar?"
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Old 10-20-2014, 11:51 PM   #166
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Default The elephant in the room.

The first thing Kelly thought when she woke up was to wonder where she was. Her second thought was to wonder what the noise was (Jenny’s not-a-snore-not-a-wheeze whistling from a few feet over on her bed. She’d been happy to learn that the two beds separated into twins.) Her third thought, after the pain she felt in her head and the turning in her stomach was to wonder where Gail was—and the legendary hair-of-the-dog pick-me-ups that Kelly might not have survived their summer together without.

That’s when she started to eye the Sheridan's, but Kelly's achy stomach helped her resist the urge.

Her fourth thought was to wonder what time it was, and the fifth thought was to wonder where her phone was.

That’s when she remembered that at some point last night she’d looked down at it, surprised that it was already dead.

“Yeah,” Jenny’d said. “You burn up your battery quick because the reception they have on the ship is for crap. Always looking for signal. Put it on airplane mode. That’s what I do.”

Sure. But you don’t have a hot boyfriend to keep. By then Kelly was starting to feel pretty blitzed, and she’d hoped to God she hadn’t said that out loud.

Kelly lay in bed trying not to think about her head and her stomach, hoping to go back to sleep. But she was becoming all too familiar with that tired-wide-awake-early-morning-after feeling and soon gave in. Not to the beckoning toilet, although she thought of that, too. Being awake. Besides, her phone was bugging her just as much or more than her tummy. She stood up and took a step, felt the lightness in her head and the shakiness in her step. I wonder if the boat has anything to do with this? I’ll bet if I get moving a bit I can make that workout happen after all. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time she'd endured a workout while hung over.

Thankfully her phone was on the table and her charger was in its usual spot in the outside pocket of her suitcase. It was 7:30 am. Ugh. “Hey, Babe,” started Wade’s message. “One little trip to California and you forgot me already? Hope it’s because you threw back a few for me. This summer drills thing is kicking my ass! Speaking of ass, keep thinking about that epic morning the day I left. Early curfew ends Sunday night. You be around then?” *Click*

Hardly romantic, not that Kelly cared right then. All she could think about was last Sunday and Wade’s rockin’ hot bod. It was enough to turn her thoughts away from a workout and to a diversion in the shower.

But not before she ordered some room service. Early morning hangovers need protein and vitamins. She flipped open the breakfast menu and picked up the phone. “Hi, Adriano.” Another Italian. “Two eggs, toast and orange juice,” she ordered, her tongue thick as oatmeal. “Is that all? Uh…” She looked over at Jenny, still sleeping heedlessly, her massive bulk made more obvious by the untucked blankets she’d gathered around her to somehow cover herself. “Uh, better make that six eggs. And add some fruit, orange juice, and biscuits and gravy.”

The thought turned her stomach, and she thought she might run to the toilet after all. Maybe a workout was out of the question after all. “Jose! Don’t hang up yet! A bottle of champagne with some cranberry juice.”

“Yes, Ms. Kingsley.” Kelly caught her breath in consternation. “If I can suggest, perhaps you could ease into your more easily if we could mix mimosas for you ourselves? I find adding vanilla bean cushions the blow even better. Wouldn’t want to miss Catalina Island today.”

********

They almost missed Catalina.

Jenny stirred when breakfast arrived, delivered personally by kitchen manager Adriano—an older, certainly-100%-Italian gentleman. (“Good morning, Ms. Kingsley. You certainly look lovely this morning.” That with a towel wrapped around her head and black circles around her eyes so bad she might as well have painted them there.)

“Oh, good! I’m famished,” Jenny mumbled from the bed. She waited under her untucked sheet for Adriano to set them up at their little table and leave, then rolled over the side of her bed in her too tight shorts and even tighter t-shirt, her orange-freckled belly hanging in a massive ball between her comparatively puny legs and her hair tousled as much as hair that thin could touse. Kelly had tossed down her mimosa the first instant Adriano’s back was turned. But for Jenny there was nothing so much as a wince from headache or a complaint about an upset tummy as she piled most of the eggs on a side plate and bit off half a half-slice of toast. It anti-inspired Kelly so much that she had to look away from her small spoonful of egg for a second to settle her stomach before talking about their day.

“I was glancing at the shore leave options for a minute,” she finally managed. Before breakfast had arrived she had pulled out Jenny’s iPad, which thankfully had already been connected to the Inspiration’s onboard intranet, and found the two dozen or so excursions available for the morning and afternoon. “I think we should do the kayaking first thing when we get there, then—“

“Kayaking?” Jenny blurbed, her mouth characteristically full, with pancakes at the moment. “Um, that water’s cold out there. Have fun. There’s no way I’m going kayaking.”

“And there’s no way I’m going alone.” Doesn’t she know? Girls never go anywhere alone! At least not any girls she knew. “Besides. It says right here they give you wetsuits.”

This time Jenny snorted, and thankfully Jenny had already swallowed. “They may give you a wetsuit. There’s no way this”—she slapped her hand against the belly resting on her thighs and protruding up over the edge of the little table—“squeezing into any damp smelly wetsuit! Even if they did, I’d get harpooned the second I stepped into the water!”

Kelly had found the slap to Jenny’s belly crude. The whole point of the elephant in the room is to avoid talking about it, not point your finger saying, “I’m it!”

“Oh, you’re exaggerating!” Kelly exclaimed after a beat. “It wouldn’t be that bad.” But she knew Jenny was right. They don’t exactly sell wetsuits at Lane Bryant.

Jenny just rolled her eyes and stuffed another quarter of a short stack into her mouth.

“They have another one where you can ride up the island in Jeeps to watch wildlife, and then we get to do a zipline. I’ve always wanted to do one of those.”

“I did one of those once at a camp for foster kids. I barely fit into the harness even then, and I hung down so low everyone laughed at me and the counselor took everyone aside and made them apologize to me. Spare me the humiliation.”

Too fat. That was Jenny’s answer for everything.

“Submarine observation at the dock.”

Underwater in a tiny tube? She retorted.

“Helicopter tour.”

A mile high in a tiny box, she noted.

“A walking tour of the island.”

“I didn’t come cruising to go on a walking tour,” Jenny said. She was putting on her customary shorts and baggy men’s t-shirt. “That’s not exactly a fat girl’s favorite activity, you know.”

“You and Gail,” Kelly sputtered. “Why do you have to talk like about it like that?”

“Because it is like that.”

“Well maybe—“ She stopped. Well maybe if you walked more you wouldn’t be so fat. But she knew better than to say it.

“Whatever!” she said instead. She realized the whole thing had her bored. Realized it because even after polishing off her share of breakfast she’d started looking around for food. She put the iPad down on the table and stood up.

“Figure out what you want to do on your own, then. I’m gonna go work out.” And set a good example, she didn’t say.

Jenny’s demeanor completely changed. “Oh, all right!” She lugged herself over to the table, all effort and devoid of her customary easy gait. Maybe she was at least a little hung over after all! “If you’re so set on getting exercise, then I suppose I could endure some walking if it were this.”

With a plastic thump she stabbed a fat index finger at the last entry: the Catalina Food Tour. “Hurry. The first skiff leaves in twenty minutes. And my head hurts , so stop arguing.” With that, Jenny finally tossed down her mimosa.

“Excellent!” Kelly cheered. Sounds absolutely boring.

Growl.
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Old 01-02-2015, 09:00 PM   #167
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Default Squeezing in a bite

It wasn’t kayaking, or a zip line, or a helicopter, but Kelly had to admit it was still some pleasant, yummy fun.

Kelly’d found a latte and a blueberry muffin at the coffee bar to assuage her remaining hunger before heading over to the island on the skiff, but it couldn’t assuage her lingering frustration at Jenny . She couldn’t believe someone could let something like size keep her from doing these once-in-a-lifetime things. She surely hadn’t had any concerns about tight squeezes at Disney! If it really bothers her that much, she should step up and do something about it!

That particular thought came to her as she stepped into the skiff just after she’d shoved a huge last bite of her scrumptious muffin into her mouth, her cheeks puffed out like some kind of chipmunk. She thought how she must have looked. And about her skipped workout this morning. And, oh yeah, all summer.

It was a walking tour without much walking, which Jenny noted several times suited her just fine. Avalon, the one settlement on Catalina Island, is a small place, and the six eateries weren’t more than a block away from each other. She managed to avoid her unsuspectedly fortuitously famous last name during the conversation with the other tourists who, though old (at least as old as her mother, anyway), all seemed pleasant enough. All told, it was really just a progressive lunch from soup (to salad to appetizers to dinner to dessert to coffee) to nuts, enough to leave a wholesome fullness in the tummy that in the warmth of the afternoon California sun that had Kelly thinking nap upon return to their room.

Until she discovered the fancy note on her crisply made bed.

“I’m never going cruising without you again, Ms. Kingsley,” Jenny added.

*********

“You are cordially invited to dine with the captain at tonight’s dinner. Please present this invitation at 7:00 sharp at the Mardi Gras Dining Room!”

Kelly was reading the gold-embossed invitation to Wade over the phone, who either did not share his enthusiasm or, Kelly suspected, couldn’t hear it all over their crappy cell phone connection. It’d already disconnected twice.
“Uh, yeah,” Wade said, “that sounds awesome. So I heard --- -uffets ----- are bomb. Have you go-- -- -inner yet?”

“Whatever. You didn’t hear a word I said.”

“What?”

Ugh! “I’ll call you later! Bye!” She didn’t bother to wait for his answer. She checked her battery. She hadn’t turned her phone on until the island, but it was already two-thirds dead.

“You weren’t kidding!” she called over her shoulder.

“Hunh!?” Jenny was just a few steps away in the shower but apparently couldn’t hear Kelly over the running water.

“The phones! You weren’t kidding about the battery life!”

“Oh! Uh, yeah!” Jenny yelled back. “Hey, when I get out will you help me try some things with your make-up? They expect you to look really good at this thing, you know!” Jenny turned off the water.

Metaphorically, Kelly held onto the edge of the table to keep from falling down. In reality, it took her a minute to find the words, but this was another thing she knew about.

“I’d love to help you!” she exclaimed in wonderment, bouncing to the door, again aware of a shimmer around her hips as she did. “But you know our coloring is so different. We’ll have to use whatever you brought.” She leaned in to talk face to face before she remembered she was stepping out of the shower.

It shocked her. Not how Jenny looked naked. She’d seen that.

The fit.

Jenny had stopped for a second when Kelly’s head popped in and faced the stood still for a second and it looked like her arms would brush the side of the shower walls. She was standing as far back in the shower area as she could. But even with her undersized butt, her massive belly pushed out past the rubber curtain, which was pulled back now but must have been clinging against her (Ewwww! Clammy!) all the way through the shower. Sure enough, there was a puddle of water outside the shower stall (separated from the bathroom floor only by the slope of the floor) that was expanded by the second as a surprising amount of water was running and dripping off her and onto the floor. A full bath towel was in her right hand, since she had apparently been using, but it was all-but soaked. She had another on her head and only one left hanging on the wall.

“I, uh, I’m gonna get more towels,” Kelly blabbered and went back into the cabin to do so, still surprised by what she’d seen. For whatever reason, Jenny’s actual breadth had never really registered with her. No wonder she’s so picky about cramped spaces!

“I didn’t bring any.” She groaned as she said it, like she was struggling with something. She must have been bending over to dry herself at that instant.

“What?” Towels? Kelly asked, having lost her train of thought.

“Make-up. I don’t own any.”

“Well, if you use mine you’ll look like a tramp.”

“I guess that makes sense. If I use your make-up then I’ll look like you.”

There was a knock at the door. That was quick! “Watch it, sister, or I won’t help you with your hair or clothes, either.”

She took the towels from the young, stout, shy, diminutive “Alberto,” who looked overwhelmed and elated to be in her presence, and returned to the bathroom, where Jenny stood still completely naked over three towels that looked like they’d just come out of the wash. It was a big task, Kelly realized. Not just drying off at Jenny’s size, either. Getting her presentable for any kind of fancy anything by 7:00.

7:00! She hadn’t expected such a late dinner, and she needed creative energy! She poked her head out into the hall and saw Alberto just as he was turning down the stairs. She quickly ran down the list of room service selections in her mind. “Say, Alberto, I don’t suppose you could send up a couple of personal pizzas and two light beers, could you?”

“Anything for you, Ms. Kingsley,” he smiled.

Atta boy!
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Old 01-07-2015, 11:36 PM   #168
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Default

The Captain’s table was a round table larger than most in the main dining room. It was somewhat more fancifully decorated and was particularly notable for one thing.

The empty chair. There was no Captain.

“I hear the Captain doesn’t really sit with the guests anymore, but the food’s supposed to be better.” That was said by Donna. Well, it wasn’t Donna. But the woman was so much like the timid, plump old lady from Ohio from their table last night—and everywhere Kelly turned, it seemed—that Kelly had forgotten her real name pretty quickly. “The service, too.”

The service was certainly very good, with three attentive waiters supplying bread and cheese—the same cheese, in fact, she’d eaten on the sun deck the evening before—and a fruity red wine the instant they sat down. But Kelly didn’t really see much difference from the service here than anywhere else on board she’d experienced, so she just nodded and nibbled on some cheese, which was just as yummy as it was last night. And the wine was sweet yet crisp.

Nonetheless she stifled a yawn. Another sitdown meal with another cast of people too old to do anything but condescend during their idle chitchat about her sorority life. She really wasn’t all that hungry, but her hand reached automatically for a piece of flatbread and she realized she was bored.
Jenny looked anything but. Kelly hadn’t seen her excited like this since that first day at Disney. But she looked nothing like the frumpy gamer girl she’d shared a car with just five days ago. She was just as round, no doubt. But some detangler and conditioner had worked magic on her hair. Some minor mascara (applied under great duress) and some smoked brown eyeshadow (both purchased standard from the boat’s gift shop) pushed her eyes to the front of her red-specked prodigious cheeks. The brown-sparkled shadow matched the brown taffeta of her Kiyonna evening gown that covered her flabby upper arms and even provided the illusion of cleavage above her always shockingly large paunch. She smiled like a giddy child, but like an adult giddy child for once. Munching through her flatbread she realized she found pleasure just watching the pleasure Jenny clearly felt just sitting there thinking she was important.

She wondered, as she polished off the last bite of her crunchy flatbread, if this was like the pleasure her mother felt watching her. Or Gail felt helping them both. She reached for her wine to chase the saltiness out of her mouth.

She jumped as a hand touched her shoulder. “Everything to your satisfaction, Ms. Kingsley?”

The hand lingered across her shoulders as Doug’s cheerful face slipped around into view.

“Of course, Douglas,” she smiled nervously, still aware of his hand and thankfully hers hadn’t quite reached her wine glass. But she grabbed it now.

“Why don’t you just call me Kelly?”

“What, and miss the fun of having a celebrity with us?” he grinned. “We work for Carnival, you know, not some private yacht! Hello, Mrs. Kliegle,” he added to the woman beside Kelly.

“Hello, Douglas!” the wrinkly Mrs. Kliegle smiled back. “Did I hear you say celebrity?”

“He’s exaggerating. I—“

“I’m afraid I don’t follow the young stars anymore. But this is so exciting! So your name is Kelly Kingsley? Just how are you famous?”

Doug laughed and Jenny stifled a nerdy giggle while a blushing Kelly went through her explanation once more, cognizant throughout that Doug’s eyes—and hand—were upon her.

“Ah, yes. Ben Kingsley,” Ms. Kliegle smiled, as if remembering someone from a long time past. “You know, everybody remembers him as Gandhi, but I love the more humorous stuff he’s been doing lately. Do you have a favorite?”

God help me! “I, uh, I really just always think about Gandhi. I don’t really watch him. It’s so weird seeing him on the TV.” The lies were starting to come easier. She quickly downed the rest of her wine. She finally felt Doug’s hand move off her shoulder as he reached to refill it.

“Well I just loved him in that Super Bowl Jaguar ad this year. Surely you had a chance to see that.”

Super Bowl, Super Bowl. She vaguely remembered something about that. Those British guys? “Oh, yes. That was funny.”

“But the truth is I really loved him in the last Iron Man.” She twitter-laughed as if she had just revealed a deep secret about a guilty pleasure.

Kelly just stared blankly. This woman watches Iron Man? Guys had taken her to see all the Iron Man’s, but frankly comic book movies didn’t interest her that much and she’s spent most of her time focusing on how to make out but still keeping their hands out from under her shirt. She shifted in her chair uncomfortably and reached again for her wine.

“Surely you saw him in that,” offered Doug in a helpful tone.

But Kelly never had to answer.

“Hallo! Hallo! Gentlemen and bee-yootiful ladeez!”

The Captain’s voice boomed across the table, and mercifully all attention was off of her. He was walking up to the table, flanked by three men who most clearly were his officers. “We have wine and cheese…and flowers!” He had walked behind Mrs. Kliegle, who had clapped her hands together in delight upon sighting him, and now had his hand on her other shoulder. “And here is the brightest young flower of the bunch! Hallo, Ms. Kingsley.”

Kelly didn’t know whether she was more relieved, embarrassed, or concerned about being repeatedly pawed. “Hello, Captain,” she managed as she looked down to make certain her cleavage was covered. “Thank you for inviting us to your table!” She took another gulp of wine.

Jenny’s eyes were glittering as the Captain nodded her direction. “Trooly it is my pleazure to have you young laydeez dine with me tonight.” He walked around the table and began engaging the other guests, but not before dragging his eyes across Kelly’s covered chest. Douglas circled around the other direction, beginning the chore of moving the Captain’s closer together to accommodate what appeared to be an unexpected phalanx of cruise officers and to acquire new place settings. In the commotion, Kelly leaned Jenny’s way and whispered.

“You didn’t tell me that guy was in Iron Man. Which one was he?”

“I’d forgotten. The old guy. The druggie. You know, the terrorist who was really just an actor.”

Recognition dawned across Kelly’s dimpled face. “Ohhhhh! That guy?” she exclaimed, then brought her voice back down. “I remember him! Oh, he’s funny! I loved that guy!”

Douglas looked up at her from setting a few forks with a smile and a glint in his eye but said nothing.

“A toast to my splendid guests!” bellowed their portly Captain as he lifted his glass from across the table. In Kelly’s direction. “Salut!”

“Salut!” they all repeated. Kelly downed the rest of her wine in full and hoped they could steal out soon.
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Old 01-21-2015, 11:47 PM   #169
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Default Wait ... you mean me?

That was not to be.

The apple-gorgonzola salad (comprised completely of thinly sliced apples and sprinkled with cheese) didn’t arrive until 7:45—after the Captain ordered the first round of limoncellos. He followed it with a second round of limoncellos, and by the time the tuna tartare (with wasabi aioli) and a tiny companion potato cake (Jenny described it as a gourmet tater tot) arrived around 8:15, Kelly’s head was swimming and her stomach was growling. She inhaled it all and tried (and failed) to lay off the Grüner Veltliner white wine paired with it. It was 8:30 before the veal osso buco arrived—and eventually rejected. One taste and Kelly knew it wasn’t for her. Just as well … I could stand a light meal, she thought, conscious once more of the feel of the spread of her hips in her seat. She took slow bites of the only asparagus she had ever enjoyed and sat back quietly in her chair, watching with satisfaction as she noticed Jenny and the massive middle-aged man to her left, similarly equipped with a prodigious belly, flirting back and forth.

“You do not enjoy your entrée?” The Captain had talked almost nonstop throughout the meal and interrupted his own story to point Kelly’s direction.
Kelly just shook her head apologetically. “It’s all right. I feel like a light dinner tonight.”

“What is this ‘light dinner’?” he bellowed. “This is nonsense, is what I say it is!”

“You donna want your osso buco?” Jenny interjected. She had imbibed quite a bit more than Kelly and looked a bit sleepy-drunk. “I’ll take it,” she added, pulling Kelly’s plate her direction asparagus and all.

“See? Jenny will take it. All is well,” Kelly smiled. Jenny, who had already finished hers, dove right in.

“’Jenny will take it!’ All is not well!” he bellowed, smiling back. “On my boat when a young byooty does not like what she has she is given something else, not ‘eat light.’ What? Hollywood actresses!” He looked at his junior officers, who were laughing with him, then turned right back to Kelly. “Do you worry about your waistline now? Now is the time to enjoy your life! Georges!” he clapped his hands and one of their waiters stepped over. “Have Martin prepare for her the ravioli and bring our young Hollywood flower some merlot for good measure.” He winked at Kelly, who smiled back at him and finished the last of her white wine. He was so jovial and comical. It made her feel warm and nurtured, and all thought of embarrassment had flown from her mind. And her tastebuds and stomach leaped in thankful repentance at the delectable butternut squash ravioli prepared just for her.

Nuts and port at 9:30. Dessert at 9:45. By 10:00 the second dinner shift had come and gone, along with most of their table and all but one of the Captain’s officers. Kelly felt toasty-drunk and warmly full without feeling uncomfortable, as only these long multi-course meals can make one feel. Jenny had moved her chair next to the wall that separated their table from the rest of the dining area and was huddled against it in a huge ball in oblivious wine-induced slumber, a wide smile still on her face. By this time the Captain had moved beside her and was holding her hand as he talked to her in intent, inebriated tones when he swerved suddenly into a new topic.

“I am sorry I was so insistent with you earlier about your dinner,” he smiled. “I didn’t mean to give you embarrassment.”

“That’s OK.”

“But the laydeez are always worrying too much about their weight, especially young starlet actresses from the Hollywood.”

“I’m not an actress,” Kelly told him patiently, for perhaps the fifth time in a half hour.

“I know, I know,” he objected, although clearly he kept forgetting. “I am juss saying. But these women think their byooty comes from their skinny waists and their strong muscles. This is not byooty. This is not what a woman should be. A byootiful woman is comely and soft, curvy, inviting. They have pretty faces, yes. But these women are hard and cold—they look like skinny men with their tiny butts and their fake boobs.

“But you, you are not like these. You are a true byooty.”

This was turning awkward. “Thank you, Captain Sinani. That is a great compliment.”

“It is no compliment!” he insisted. “It is merely the trooth. You have a byootiful smile and gorgeouz eyez…byootiful cheeks and a stunning full figure. You are not one of these cold, hard laydeez and you should not try to compare yourself to one of them or deny yourself to make yourself like them. You are byootiful without being so small. You are far superior to them. I wish only I were a young man and not so fat.” He smiled wistfully.

Kelly wanted to pull away but felt that she should not. He was after all the most powerful man on this ship, and there was nowhere for her to go. His forwardness with her was uncomfortable enough, but even more his efforts at encouragement had her self-conscious about the feel of her own body. After all, it was hard not to feel like he was calling her fat.

She was wearing a Kiyonna evening gown with split sleeves covering her arms but revealing her soft shoulders. Even in that she could feel the spread of her hips to the edge of her chair and her butt cheeks pushing against the back even as she leaned forward. Her breasts strained uncomfortably against the cups of her bra and pulled heavily on the straps, and whether it was true or not she felt she had a small roll of flesh from her upper belly pushing the other direction when she sat. She could feel her upper arms squeezed against the mass of her breasts and knew, had there not been a slit in the upper sleeves of her Kiyonna evening dress, that she’d feel them filling up those as well. She supposed that next to Jenny it was something she didn’t think about, that kept her feeling just as small as she was to begin the summer. But now under the microscope, every part of her felt heavy and swollen. She imagined the Captain couldn’t know how much at this moment she desired to look just like those hard women he had described, despite or perhaps even because of the Captain’s attentions.

“I am sorry,” he added, filling a pause. “I drink too much wine, which makes me too forward. I would like nothing more than to while the night away in your presence, but I see your companion is not in too good shape after this evening. You two should retire early tonight. You do not want to miss the Blowhole tomorrow. It is but a small thing, but you will enjoy it, I think.”

It was no easy thing getting Jenny back to their stateroom. After several attempts from three staff to support her out of her chair, but she was too heavy and too far gone to give much help. In the end an oversized wheelchair was brought, and after a clumsy but uneventful transfer to the chair, the largest of the three wheeled her along next to Kelly. Kelly herself found it necessary at a couple of points to lean on one of the other two guys, who accompanied them to the suite to complete the transfer to the bed. Jenny was already snoring as Kelly pulled the shoes from her feet—Jenny was so tall that laid out they hung over the edge of the bed—and draped a blanket over her best Jenny’s bulk would allow.

Kelly took a breath and steadied herself for the walk to the bathroom, finding more confidence in her balance as she went through the nightly routine of brushing her teeth and washing her face. Finished she found the tie to her gown and let it drop to the floor, rolled down her underwear over her fleshy thighs and kicked them away, then tottered the few steps out the door over to the closet and opened the door. The light from the bathroom door behind her spilled out onto the full-length mirror hanging on the inside of the door.
Kelly took herself in straight on, as she had so many times before the last three months, as she had just—what? she thought it through—ten days ago? Ten! As always, the size of her boobs was breathtaking. Strapped in as tight and high as they could be in her brand new Frederick’s GG underwire bra, they didn’t so much bunch out the top as they pushed the cups away from her chest and rested in the upper lip. And the bottom of her breasts peaked out underneath with even the slightest movement. She reached behind to unlatch and they spilled over, as if falling to the floor with the bra, stopping only a few inches from her navel before—and this was new—turning slightly outward as they encountered the soft rounded flesh of her midsection. All definition of her ribs and rib cage was gone. Her collar bones were just a hint, her shoulders rounded, her upper arms soft tubes absent all definition, just like the rounded but still-elfin chin above.

But what she really needed to see, what she’d been avoiding all week, meant finally lowering her eyes. The damage was oh-so-obvious. That smooth subtle curve from thigh to waist was gone, the balanced hourglass now clearly bottom-heavy. Her thighs angled out just above the knee, then curved outward again just below the hipbones like a heart, complete with the violent curve inward up top, only to be interrupted at its peak by the soft bulge of re-emerging love-handles before intersecting the still concave curve of her upper body that barely peaked out from under the orbs of her prodigious breasts. But her eye ultimately settled six inches below her navel, right above her darkened muff: two subtle lines like smiles, meeting at each corner in the middle like a kitty smile where her chiseled abs once had been. Her hands crawled out to grasp two small dollops of flesh—the two halves of something she’d never had: a belly.

Her heart quickened, her stomach plummeted, tears snuck into the corners of her eyes. She couldn’t believe it. It had really happened to her.

I got fat.
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Old 02-01-2015, 11:58 PM   #170
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Default Something I had never had before.

Not chubby. Not curvy or voluptuous. Not on the verge of crossing the line.

This was belly. An actual part of her existed that hadn’t before.

The line was crossed. Ten days. Gourmet dinners. Room service breakfasts. Theme park eats. Ice cream treats. The Captain’s table. Alcohol overkill. A buffet of buffets, for Christ’s sake!

This was fat.

And, shockingly, the realization came to Kelly as a relief.

The game was up: she had lost. No illusion of showing up at Rush a few pounds down, and by the first week of school a few pounds more. No chance that some smart fashion and hiding out in the gym with the House Mother for a month could obscure what everyone would know the instant they saw her: here was the sorority girl who got fat. You know the one? The one who partied and partied but got away with it because of her big boobs and seemed not to notice as she absolutely blew up like a balloon.

That was her.

It didn’t change her resolve. She’d lost the weight before and she’d do it again. This time she was already in Phi Gamma, and no amount of summer weight gain was gonna change that. Just this time she wouldn’t be anonymous at home as she lost it. It would all be very public, for everyone to whisper about behind her back at first before finally bringing it all up dozens of lost pounds later. Kelly was OK with that. It just meant being herself, and that’s all she ever did anyway. Who was there to impress? Who besides Sherrie and Lindsey was there to impress? she considered with a touch of worry.

And maybe Wade. But truth, Wade hadn’t really let on that he cared all that much about that. Kelly slept the sleep of the dead that night, not even waking when Jenny moved from the bed to spend a long, hard, noisy night on the floor.
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Old 02-28-2015, 01:00 AM   #171
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Default Shock value.

They didn’t even miss the blowhole.

The personal wake-up call from “Ramon” came at 9am, preparing them for the egg whites and Bloody Mary’s that appeared just five minutes later. By ten a green Jenny and a bright, refreshed Kelly stepped onto the dock and were quickly whisked away to a seaside location a few miles south of the dingy, industrial-looking harbor that was Ensenada. It was a curious piece of nature: guaranteed water spouts regularly crashing through the rocks when the tide was up. Though looking much better, Jenny passed on the local Mexican treats that filled the Mexican market that lined the long walkway back to the bus. A relaxed Kelly stopped at each chance to sample Baja tacos, tamales, pupusas, and pasty-sweet cotton candy.

Jenny looked on in disgust. “You know, maybe if I drank like that every night I’d wind up dropping a few pounds.”

Kelly held her arms wide as Exhibit A, which stretched her tank top to the brink: exposing her soft midriff and her chubby upper arms. “I tried that,” Kelly smiled, her lips, tongue and teeth all stained bright blue. “It didn’t work out so well for me!”

“Says you,” Jenny grumbled, then lumbered up the long ramp to the parking lot.

By mid-afternoon they were lying on chairs on the sundeck, flanked by cucumber sandwiches and strawberry margaritas. Kelly had exchanged her tank and skirt for sunglasses, a wide sunhat she’d bought at the market, and the white bikini she’d bought last week, which still fit surprisingly well up top—which is to say that it tied in the back and covered her aureoles without being obscene. The great mass of her well-oiled boobs extended down most of her torso, squeezed taut by the bikini ties that were strained to their limits. The bottoms were another story: they cut deeply into her ass cheeks, her lower abdomen above the legs and just above her muff, creating a tiny little roll between and highlighting the two tiny mounds on her tummy above that she’d unwittingly managed to deposit there since she last managed to squeeze the briefs on. For decency’s sake she’d brought along a wrap, which she’d fully intended to use. But for now she and Jenny were enjoying so much the reactions of the men as they passed by on the deck that she left it draped across the chair.

“That one over there,” Jenny nodded, slightly to the right at a guy sitting at Luis’s bar. “He’s my favorite.”

“Why is that?”

“He keeps turning around as if to go somewhere, but he keeps looking this direction and sitting down with something like a sigh.”

“Oh, he is not! He’s clearly waiting on someone and looking around for them.”

“He isn’t checking his watch.”

“Who uses a watch anymore?”

“On cruises? Everyone. You can’t count on your phone, remember?”

Kelly did. She’d turned it on today to find “Pending messages” on her phone and no bars to call into her voice mail to get them. Not like she’d have known the PIN anyway. Really. Who nowadays has to call somewhere else to get their messages!? It’d all sort itself out when she got home.

“This is the one that’s cracking me up,” Kelly pushed on, looking over the rim of her massive round shades.

“You mean the tall guy who keeps walking by sucking in his gut and tightening his biceps?”

“Yeah! Him! I think he’s kind of cute. I can’t believe you noticed him tightening his biceps, too!”

Jenny rolled her eyes. “I’m not blind. I notice those kinds of things about men all the time. It’s men that don’t notice things about me. As in, not at all. Six feet tall and 400 pounds and yet I’m frickin’ invisible.”

400 pounds! Like anyone else, Kelly had been dying to find out Jenny’s weight but wasn’t rude enough to ask. Is that what 400 pounds looks like?

“Except when I’m walking down the hall,” she continued. “Then people part like I’m Moses and they’re the Red Sea.”

It was undeniable: Jenny was hard to miss. Her tankini covered about half of her freckled belly, which bulged out a bit like a church bell and laid out across her legs, all-but stuffed between her thighs, the arms of her tamarack, and damn near her chin--kind of like she was a skinny girl laying underneath a bean bag chair. Yet for all that spectacle, all the glances were as usual coming not at Jenny but at Kelly. How paradoxical would it to be for Jenny to become smaller so people would notice her more? And just exactly how much weight at 400 pounds would she have to lose to start getting noticed? For that matter, how much weight would she have to lose for anyone to be able to notice she lost weight at all?

All that not said, it was more than a small comfort to realize that whatever line Kelly had or had not crossed with her weight, it sure didn’t seem to bother all the guys who couldn’t stop looking at her.

Whatever the case, Kelly wasn’t about to spend her days commiserating and complaining with Jenny. Misery loves company, Kelly’s mom always said, but that doesn’t mean you have to invite it for dinner. Best just to ignore the self-degradation and press onward casually.

“So is that the kind of guy you like?”

“Who, Muscle Beach over there?” Jenny poked, reaching for a sandwich square and inhaling it in one bite. The moniker was a joke: despite the subtle flexing, the guy was hardly stacked. She sighed.

“Yeah. I suppose to you he’s no big deal because you get to go out with guys like that all the time,” Jenny added.

Not really. To Kelly he was no big deal because—well, he was just not that big a deal.

“Me? Oh, I’ve been out with all kinds of guys.”

“Oh, I know. That’s what I was saying yesterday about your trashy make-up.”

“Stop it. You know that’s not what I meant.” Although it still made her feel defensive, Kelly was just coming to recognize that mean comments like these were Jenny’s main method of humor. Which is about the only reason she could press on in this conversation without feeling hurt or offended. People might like you a lot more if you stopped talking like that, Jenny!

“Kelly, you have no idea what you meant. Do you have any idea what that sounds like to someone like me? Someone who’s been on, like, three dates her whole life—and two of them sucked! I mean, sucked. So here we are talking about some guy who wouldn’t go out with me in a million years, and you’re like, ‘Yeah, he’s no big deal because I’ve got money and family and connections and I’m pretty and all the sororities and the bellhops and the bartenders and all the cool people want to be around me.’

“So I could get all huffy and say all this—which I guess I just did anyway—or I can make a crack about your make-up. Which isn’t even true anyway, but it’s not like there’s anything else to crack on you for so I just go with that.”

Which was kind of sweet, in a Jenny sort of way.

“You know,” Kelly replied pensively, calmly, “every time I hear someone describe me like that I’m kind of shocked.”
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Old 03-12-2015, 06:17 AM   #172
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Default Story of a sorority princess.

Jenny looked at Kelly with a kind of half-smile, like preparing some kind of witty retort, but Kelly kept going.

“When I was a kid? We didn’t have much money. We’d shop the thrift stores, and every now and then someone would drop off some used toys or clothes on our doorstep. My dad kept moving us around, trying to get businesses started, and then when the business failed we’d have to pick up and move all over again while he gave it another shot. So, I was always the new girl. It was really awkward, always on the outside of everything. I know it wasn’t as bad as you had it”—Kelly nodded deferentially towards Jenny, who cocked her head to one side and lifted her eyebrows in acknowledgement—“but it still wasn’t easy. I didn’t have friends or connections or nice clothes or fancy cars at all. And, yeah, I think I was probably pretty, and I liked how I looked and all, but who’s ever all that certain she’s pretty at that age anyway? Especially since every now and then I kept chubbing up. It’s not like anyone ever gave me a bunch of attention or anything. My Dad was gone a lot and all I had was my Mommy and what she told me, which was to be nice to everyone and one day I’d be accepted and not to worry about all of that.

“Even when Daddy finally made it—I was about 13. He was building our house and we stayed in this tiny apartment close to the school I was gonna go to. And it was nice: we could afford a couple of new cars—nothing real fancy or anything, but something we could be proud of. And some new clothes. Suddenly Mommy and I could go out on shopping trips and pick out new clothes—off the discount rack, but that didn’t matter. And we’d have the greatest time together doing it, and that was what I really liked about it.

“And then, like, overnight, right after we moved out to the house. I got these.” She held her hands out in front of her chest, though in actuality her breasts were laying a bit flatter down toward her navel. “Like, in one semester. And I started getting A LOT of attention. From the guys especially, but the girls got real catty, too. But suddenly I get all this attention and people would say things like I was trashy and stuff even though it wasn’t true at all. So here I was finally in the same school for two years in a row for the first time since like third and fourth grade, and people know me, but not the way I wanted them to!

“But Mommy was right: I just kept doing my best to be friendly to everyone, and after a little while most of that fell away. And, yes, I started dating all kinds of guys—and I mean all kinds: jocks, skaters, rappers, nerds—well, not the druggies, although every now and then I’d get a bad egg. There was this one guy in particular who I dumped pretty early on and he started saying that he dumped me because I wouldn’t put out. So right there people forgot all about this trashy reputation I was supposed to have and decided instead that I was a prude.

“Welllll, no. Not a prude.” Kelly was almost talking to herself now. “But everyone knew that I was a good girl and didn’t do that. Before long I had all kinds of friends, and people were coming to me for advice on boys and clothes. Me! Two years earlier I’d been invisible and bought my clothes in bulk at Goodwill! Just about everyone kept asking me to their parties or into their clubs, and, you know, if I could fit it in I would. Can you imagine me going to the anime club?”

“Really? The anime club?”

“Yup. I was so lost! I had no idea what they were talking about, but they were nice so I went a couple of times.”

“Because of a guy.”

“No,” Kelly retorted, “Because a guy asked me to. He was nice and wanted me to go with him, so I did. But he got bored with me and I couldn’t understand half of what he was saying, so we stopped going out. I told you, I’ve been out with all kinds of guys.”

“Guess so.”

“And I was never trashy.” Until college, anyway.

“Who ever said you were trashy?”

Even Kelly could tell Jenny was joking this time.

“Anyway,” Kelly continued, pushing through the shame that thoughts about her college sleepabouts usually brought. Besides. It felt good talking honestly like this for once. “Pretty soon I started inviting people to come to my house, and pretty soon they started turning into parties at my house. I mean, pool parties and hayrides at Christmas—that kind of thing. It was soooo much fun! Everyone would come over: football players, skaters, cheerleaders, band geeks. My mom did a really good job making them feel welcome. I think they liked her a lot. You should meet her!”

Jenny made a non-committal sound.

“Before I knew it, my sophomore year some people got behind me being a cheerleader, so I tried out. I didn’t think I’d make it in a million years, but I figured, Why not? I was never all that athletic, but Mommy had taught me a little dance, and it sounded like a lot of fun, and some of the cheerleaders helped me out, and Mommy helped me get my weight down and I made the JV squad!

“Things started happening so fast, it was great! School became a ton of fun, and Daddy was making a lot of money, and suddenly anything that came up I could do—you know, the things that the kids with some money at school (which were most of them) were doing, like going to the Gulf and staying in a beach house, or flying to Vegas for a field trip to watch cheerleader competitions or whatever. And we started getting to do all these trips and things as a family, too. And it all just started happening, you know? Happening to me or maybe around me is a better word. Whatever it was I was right in the middle of it.

“But I was actually never part of it.”

Kelly reached for a half-sandwich and took a huge bite. Who knew personal storytelling could make you hungry all of a sudden?

Jenny had half-reached for a sandwich and stopped. “What do you mean by that?” Jenny asked.

Kelly looked up surprised after popping the second (and final) bite from her sandwich into her mouth. “Hm?” she asked, mouth still full (but at least closed!). She couldn’t fathom that the point of her story hadn’t been clear.

“Sounds like you were a big part of it to me.” Jenny sounded a little annoyed, like she had been taking personal affront at Kelly’s personal story or something. Or maybe she was just being Jenny.

Kelly finished chewing her half-sandwich, pondering her explanation.

“Because…uhhhh….” Because what, Kelly? Maybe… “Because it was me.”

“Because it was you.”

“Yeah.”

“That makes no sense.”

She’s right.

“Well,” Kelly tried again, “because,” she began meekly, “I didn’t know anything about beach trips or house boats. I’d never even flown on an airplane before. I was the one who was never exactly sure what was going on, never getting the joke, the one everyone had to explain the punchline to. And a lot of the time, I was the punchline: the bubble-headed blonde from the sticks who was always a step behind everyone else.

“That’s who I am.”

“That’s not true,” Jenny retorted.

“It is true,” Kelly insisted, and a little punch of sadness hit her in the stomach as she said it.

“You couldn’t be that dumb. You made it into college,” Jenny proferred.

“I got into my college because my mom and dad went there,” Kelly answered. She’d never admitted that to herself before.

“I was sure once I got there I was gonna be found out. And when I found out that Phi Gamma, the most sophisticated sorority on campus had accepted me, I couldn’t believe it. I absolutely couldn’t believe it. They accepted me anyway. They were really nice, and they helped me grow up a lot. And I thought, maybe I belong here after all!

“And then I got academic probation. And—well, you know the rest.”

And then they were silent, each of them chewing on sandwich halves one at a time. Meanwhile Kelly reflected on her summer for a while as she realized how hard she’d worked all summer, how she’d proved that she actually belonged! She lay her head back onto her Adirondack and basked for a while in that thought. And the sun.

Meanwhile, Jenny finally broke the lull. “So I guess you do know what you’re talking about.”

Hunh? “What are you talking about?”

“We were talking about how getting any guy you want is no big deal—you know, Muscle Head? I mean, I was. I don’t have a clue what you were talking about.”

“Oh, shut up! You do, too. I wasn’t saying he wasn’t a big deal because I can get anyone. Trust me. I can’t. What I was saying that guys like him are no big deal. I met a thousand guys like him through Phi Gamma. When you get past the gym bodies or the nice clothes or the hair or the money you find out most of them are just regular guys. And a lot of them are a lot less interesting than regular guys, and some of them are real jerks.

“So, yeah. You’re right. I mean, I’m sorry I made you feel all insecure and all, but like you said, to me he’s no bigger a deal than anyone else. The truth is, you really just have to share something in common.”

“Well, you’d think it would be easy being so … common,” Jenny mumbled.

“Jenny, you’re about the most uncommon person I ever met.”

“Gee, thanks,” Jenny huffed. Pause. “Wait. Did you just give me a subtle sarcastic compliment?”

Kelly blinked. “I guess I just did.” Each of them grabbed one of two remaining half-sandwiches and munched for a minute.

“So then tell me, Kelly,” Jenny said. “What is it you and Wade have in common?”

Kelly grinned and could feel the blood rushing to her face. “Welllllllll, we’re in the figuring-out-what-we-have-in-common stage.”

“Unh-hunhhhh. I thought so!” Jenny guffawed. Kelly giggled uncontrollably, sending visible waves up and down, side to side in her all-but-exposed mammaries--and, she noticed, from her thighs to her tummy.

“And I suppose he’s no big deal?”

“Oh, no,” Kelly emphasized with import. “He’s a very big deal.”

And the two girls laughed again.

“You know,” Jenny said. “I’m gonna miss you.”

“Hm?” Kelly had been daydreaming about Wade’s amazing physique.

“This is pretty much our last day,” Jenny explained.

“It is?”

“Yeah. We make port in the morning and then you fly back.”

Wow. “Already?” Suddenly, after thinking ahead to it for almost two weeks, the thought of heading back to school seemed so foreign. “We were just getting started!”

“I just want you to know that I really appreciate you being so nice to me.”

What? What!?

Nice to you? What is that supposed to mean?”

“Including me in all this for free. Buying all those clothes for me. Letting me talk about stuff. Just, you know, being nice. I know I can be a pain in the butt sometimes.”

“Well, I wasn’t gonna say it…”

“You did it again!” Jenny smiled. “I’m proud of you.”

“I’m not,” Kelly retorted, regretting the mean implication. “Sarcasm’s a terrible way to talk to your friends.”

The word was out of her mouth before she even thought about it. Friends. The word kind of hung in the air. A kind of peculiar look that wasn’t quite a smile crossed Jenny’s wide, puffy face, and Kelly realized there was no taking it back. Not, she realized, that she even wanted to.

“Friends? Are you sure?” Jenny asked. “Because I was thinking—well, I mean, people mean lots of things in the moment.” It seemed pretty clear lots of people had said that to Jenny in the past. “And then they go their separate ways and, well, they never see each other again.”

It was surprising just how raw and vulnerable Jenny could be at times. A heart of gold.

“How could I never see you again?” Kelly smiled. “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”

And what was all the more amazing is that it was absolutely true.
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Old 03-12-2015, 11:05 AM   #173
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Oh, YAY for this chapter! It had felt to me that the previous bits on the cruise ship were kind of struggling for direction, but then I read this part and it all came together and made sense and I can see what was going on--it was just waiting for this part that made the other parts throw me off. I think reading it straight through it would all work well.

Now I'm eager to see what happens with Kelly when Summer is over!
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Old 03-16-2015, 11:47 PM   #174
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Originally Posted by Tad View Post
Oh, YAY for this chapter! It had felt to me that the previous bits on the cruise ship were kind of struggling for direction, but then I read this part and it all came together and made sense and I can see what was going on--it was just waiting for this part that made the other parts throw me off. I think reading it straight through it would all work well.

Now I'm eager to see what happens with Kelly when Summer is over!
Thanks, Tad. I had thought I could write a quick jaunt to the west coast to keep Kelly out of the gym until the Fall starts. I should have known I couldn't make it quick, although I find when I reread the posts all together it doesn't take nearly as long as I think it will. Like anything, it could use a full edit or two for unity and for inconsistencies, but hey.

I found all of this very hard to write. Now that she's headed back home, I think even more will come clear and perhaps--PERHAPS--the pace of the narrative will pick up a bit. I've been chomping at the bit to get this next bit going ever since I diverted Kelly to Vegas.
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Old 04-06-2015, 06:39 PM   #175
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The close of the trip went lightning fast. Douglas had intruded upon the mushy moment by ushering in another fancy invitation, this time to the night’s Chef Table in the galley. “Wouldn’t want to neglect our VIPs on their final night with us,” he added with a slight air of humor.

“You have to know by now that I’m not really Ben Kingsley’s daughter,” Kelly noted. It felt so good to get that heavy weight off her heavy chest.

Meanwhile, Jenny all but reached out with her hand to cover Kelly’s mouth.

“Just like you have to know that my last name isn’t really Friend.” Kelly, of course, hadn’t thought of that in the slightest.

“And yet,” he said with a twinkle, “the roles we play make life that much more fun. I hope you’ve enjoyed the cruise.” He turned away. “Oh,” he added turning around, “I almost forgot. I received a wire that your limo will be waiting for you on the bottom floor of the garage at 10 in the morning. How about I stop by at 9:30 and escort you so you don’t get caught in the crowd?”

Jenny and Kelly both made noises to each other about approaching that evening’s fling with moderation, and in one respect they did: this time Jenny didn’t need to be wheeled back to their grand stateroom. Instead, they weaved and bobbed their way to the late night piano bar for laughter, singing, and drinks before finding someone to help them find their way back to their beds. A morning courtesy call followed by a high-protein breakfast and a couple of Bloody Mary’s punctuated their morning, and by 10:00 the two silent girls made their way up the 110 and onto the fading streets of East Torrance. Kelly and Jenny said their muted goodbyes while an enormous Black lady with a cavernous yellow mu-mu hanging from her massive bosom waited on the steps, reaching up to embrace Jenny with a warm hug. Then Jenny disappeared inside and Kelly was whisked up the Sunday 405 and, it seemed, almost directly onto her plane by the crack of noon. She fell asleep almost the instant her head hit the cushion of her first class seat. But for the prompting by her hostess to buckle her seatbelt, she was ushered her way into Memphis in undisturbed comfort.

But that all changed there. She awoke to two things: the bustling in the cabin as people scrambled through the overhead bins, and the empty, painful sensation of her stomach apparently trying to eat itself. A kind flight attendant (one of the last) helped her to her feet and informed her of the time and gate of her connection home. She fumbled for her cell phone only to find that it was dead, and once up the ramp she learned of the mere 35 minutes she had to somehow overcome her senselessness of direction and find the nearest exit over the din of her rumbling tummy and pounding head. Her more able stomach (assisted by her nose) quickly overwhelmed its two weaker counterparts, and by the time she’d navigated the expansive line for her eagerly awaited Memphis pork sandwich and jumbo-sized diet beverage, they were announcing her name and departure gate over the public address system.

Which was all well-and-good, for without that—and the young man in the yellow vest who spotted her from afar and guided her and her overstuffed carry-on bags to the doors just before they closed—Kelly might have found herself stuck in Memphis for as long as it took her to figure out how to get home. Everyone’s always so helpful! Kelly reminded herself yet again. This time, with a greater sense of irony, aided by a brief vision of Jenny rolling her eyes over Kelly’s continuous cluelessness.

It was only when she sat down that Kelly realized she’d forgotten this was a puddle jump home. On the way out she’d been aware she was brushing the edges of each armrest only because Gail had brought it to her attention. This time there was no missing it: square plastic boxes pushing into her new fleshy hips, impeding her ability to shift her body at an angle so she could lean against the bulkhead for space. She also felt her thighs pushing against each other, coaxing her to spread them at the knees just a little bit more, then protesting Kelly’s inability to do so. Searching for an outlet (alas! in vain) to recharge her phone became more of a chore than she had ever imagined it could be. I haven’t gotten all THAT fat, have I? Really?

Kelly didn’t really know just how long that flight would be, but it seemed interminably long compared to what she remembered now as a quick hop in similar seats on the way out. The only consolation was her sandwich, which was immeasurably better than she thought airport food could be, and well worth the hassle it had caused to get it. She almost wished she’d been stuck in Memphis so she could get another. Almost. The thought of being stuck was too sore a subject at the moment. More motivation to hit the House Mother right away...

But like all things the flight ended, and it wasn’t until she stepped off the stairs onto the tarmac that she realized she hadn’t the slightest clue how she was getting home. But, she assumed, like everything else it was taken care of, and the little white wipeboard with her name on it that greeted her from behind the tall, stocky man in the black suit confirmed her suspicion.

Kelly smiled. She’d always wanted one of those to be for her.

It even had what was continuing to bother her: a USB outlet so she could charge her phone. It had occurred to her somewhere over Dixie that she’d spoken with not one person about preparations for Rush on Tuesday—or, for that matter, her triumphant return to her room at the Phi Gamma house. And though it was already nine at night (Already?), she was really hoping she’d be able to see Wade when she got home. She resisted the urge to turn on the phone immediately, knowing it probably would shut down before she could even check her messages. Besides, maybe Wade would even be waiting at the house as a surprise!

He wasn’t.

Nor, for that matter, was anyone else. Maybe Gail was still in San Francisco? She used the garage code to enter the house and plugged in her phone while the driver lugged in her luggage. She cursed USB charging stations in cars for probably the dozenth time in her life. Yeah the trip was short, but she barely had even a 5% charge! She decided a shower would be in order while she waited anyway, took a few steps that direction, and turned right back around for her luggage.

Everything that fit her was in that bag.

And none of it was clean. She stripped down naked on the spot, feeling the relief that unwiring her bra always brought simultaneously with recognition of the fatigue of the day. She dumped it and most of her carry-on into the washer, then turned on her heel and down the short hallway to her bathroom and that truly fresh feeling that only a shower after a long day of travel or a long night of partying can deliver. And this one, of course, was after both.
It was when she stepped out of the shower that she recognized that wherever Gail was now, she clearly had already returned home. Not the neatest of housekeepers even when not spirited out of town last minute, Kelly’s cluttered bathroom had been cleared and wiped clean, and all the towels—none of them, Kelly noticed, were hers—were neatly folded in the closet. Neither was her robe hanging on the door hook. Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry? she thought, repeating in her head one of her father’s favorite phrases. As much as she’d thought about moving out, she hadn’t imagined Gail preparing for that quite so abruptly. Or that she would feel a little sad and hurt over the thought of being kicked out after a summer such as they had shared.

In the short term, though, Kelly really needed her robe. She tied her hair up in a towel in her customary way, then wrapped a towel around her chest (noting with consternation how much closer it was to falling off than when she’d last done that here) before striding off to Gail’s room—every bit of her body from knee to arms quivering with the motion, even her boobs, despite being tied down so tightly and precariously by her towel—for a substitute. Along the way she hurriedly shifted her clothes to the dryer, literally praying to God that all of her beautiful, comfy clothes had been suitable to be washed together and, now, to be fluffed in the dryer.

Mistreating good clothes was a high crime in Kelly’s book.

She slipped into Gail’s room, which was uncharacteristically disregarded: suitcases open and unpacked on the floor, bed unmade, closets open—clearly Gail had been home a while but with her attention on other things. Her various robes were on hooks on the other side of the bathroom door, so Kelly pushed the door open and reached around.

When she saw it. She'd put it out of her mind, but suddenly her thoughts could focus on nothing else: the scale.
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