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Old 07-20-2015, 03:56 AM   #1
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Default As You Were - by Big Beautiful Dreamer (~BHM, ~BBW, ~~WG)

~BHM, ~BBW, ~~WG Once off the campus of his boys' boarding school, a historian meets a woman who defies convention.

As You Were
By Big Beautiful Dreamer

In truth, I’d never given my stomach a moment’s thought, any more than I would have given a moment’s thought to, say, my pancreas or tailbone. It was there. It functioned. End of story. And when Thanksgiving rolled around, I did as most everyone does: got together with family and friends, ate way too much for a couple of days, and then forgot about the whole thing.

That’s certainly what I expected this year. I’d driven to my parents’ house in the college town in Pennsylvania where they’d lived for decades and waded through the throng of greetings. Mom, Dad, assorted aunts and uncles and the odd cousin, my brother (Trey) and sister-in-law (Alison) and their two little daughters, Kinsey and Rachel, my sister (Erica), her girlfriend (Felicity), their son, Gunther, and “Stacey, my colleague,” Erica said. I shook hands with Stacey absently, then as always pretended to inspect the wheels of Felicity’s chair.

“Got a flat here, ma’am,” I said in a bad Southern drawl. “Put you up on the lift?”

“Anytime, sailor,” Felicity shot back, her usual response, and everyone chuckled. Felicity always called me sailor, a reference to my four years in the Navy. Now I piloted several history courses at a boys’ boarding school, a place distinguished for its lack of females. The dozen or so on the faculty were either married, gay, or off limits due to lack of interest. Believe me, after three years I’d scoped them all out and been scoped out in turn. It crossed my mind to assume that Stacey had been brought along to chat up the solo diner. I found myself sneaking a second (okay, first) glance.

Stacey was of medium height and curvature. At a guess, five foot five and “broad where a broad should be broad,” as the song went, but not remarkably so. She had an oval face, blue eyes, and brownish-blond hair in a bob or wedge or shag or whatever that short haircut is called these days. I ruffled my nephew’s hair and went off to chase and tickle my nieces, who at 4 and 7 were prime candidates for that sort of thing.

As the afternoon progressed, though, something about Stacey held my attention. I let it simmer on a mental back burner until I teased it out shortly before dinner. I will frankly admit that I notice women a lot, partly because there are so few of them around me most of the time. Any time I’ve ventured out into The World, my girldar is operating full out. And I’ve formulated a couple of observations. (Yeah, yeah, I’m a historian. I talk funny.)

One: Contrary to what pop culture would have us believe, 90% of the population does not have “perfect” bodies, “perfect” meaning stick-slender and curve-free. Most of us are at least a little misshapen compared with, say, Taylor Swift or Robert Pattinson. Two: Even though those of us with somewhat lumpy bods far outnumber the world’s pop deities, we still act as though we’re failures because we don’t conform to an all-but-impossible standard. Women more than men. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve noticed who hide their bodies behind swags of cloth, layers, drapes, camouflage; and whose posture, presence, and way of moving shout: Don’t look at me, I’m flawed.

Stacey, as I had already observed, did not have one of those little size 0 mannequin figures. Neither did she drape, conceal, or withdraw into herself. She wasn’t doing a catwalk strut through the living room; she simply held herself straight, moved with confidence, sat comfortably without twitches or self-conscious adjustments, and wore a periwinkle-blue shirt and dark gabardine slacks that fit and that showed that she had a chest, waist, and hips, like most of the rest of the female population. She radiated serenity and comfort in her own skin, and that was so unexpected in my worldview that it caught my attention.

Over dinner, Felicity and Erica subtly nudged me into conversation with Stacey. She worked at the reference desk of a branch library and was an amateur historian, having read all of David McCullough’s books as well as several by Joseph Ellis and Doris Kearns Goodwin, most recently Team of Rivals, although she confessed that at the moment her attention was being claimed by Jon Meacham’s biography of Andrew Jackson, American Lion.

“I actually keep seeing parallels between Jackson and a fictional figure who would have been his contemporary, Horatio Hornblower,” she confessed, glancing away as if embarrassed.

“Oh, really,” I said interestedly. “Like what?”

“His determination to serve his country, even if it made his wife unhappy sometimes,” she said slowly. “His pride, the way he led, the way he was in authority.”

“You know, you might be on to something,” I said, absent-mindedly heaping large second helpings of everything onto my mysteriously empty plate. “Especially his pride. Hornblower’s pride was both his master and his servant, and I think that could be said of Jackson as well.”

Her eyes lit up. “You know the Hornblower books?”

Erica snorted. “Gavin’s got them virtually memorized. Discovered them when he was 12 or 13. I think he’s read them all about forty times each.”

“Oh, thank you, Erica,” I said dryly. I held the dish of creamed cauliflower up to see if anyone else wanted any. Stacey reached out her hand, and as I gave her the bowl, our fingers brushed and I felt a tingle, an actual surge. I think she did too, because she blushed, rose on cream, and asked Felicity about the staying power of whatever boy band is on the label of the record company she works for. I forget the band. Some anonymous, androgynous quintet that makes 12-year-olds squeal. I turned to Trey and joined in his and Dad’s analysis of the Steelers’ chances.

A glass or two of wine, a warm room, good company, enjoyable conversation, and favorite foods that nonetheless appeared on the table only once or twice a year. I ate and drank in dreamy contentment, almost subconsciously feeling my belly begin to fill and then stretch, heavy with food, and it crossed my mind that I’d eaten enough. But then the stuffing went by again, and I really wanted another taste, and the cranberries, and the sweet potatoes, and the squash, and the cauliflower, and oh yes, gravy, and the last crescent roll.

Enough. I was full, I was achingly stuffed, I was about to pop. Seemingly as one, we all had reached the same conclusion, for chairs were being shoved back and all concerned were waddling, staggering, or rolling away from the table to the recovery areas. Stacey ended up with Alison, Erica, Felicity, and the nieces in the front room, while Dad, Trey, Gunther, and I claimed the den. Mom and a couple of aunts were in the kitchen, I think, Uncle Max and Uncle Steve were sacked out somewhere, and Aunt Anne and Uncle Ted had to leave right after dinner.

With an entirely inadvertent grunt I sank into a chair and stretched out my sock feet. “Oof. Hic. That’s it. No more room at the inn.” I hiccupped again and, wincing, gently rubbed my belly. It was normally thoroughly unremarkable, but at the moment it had most of my attention. I had stuffed it to the brim, and it was stretched and tender. My jeans appeared to have shrunk. I fumbled open the button and zipper and quite by accident groaned in relief. A tentative poke revealed that my midsection was swollen tight as a drum and incidentally produced a much-needed belch.

“Ooh, good one,” Trey said through a yawn. A huge hiccup. “Ow. Damn, man.” He patted his own belly, which like mine was visibly rounder, gorged with a disgraceful amount of dinner. Dad was patting his own stomach; from the look of things, he had partaken more modestly, but he contributed a few belches to the conversation. He switched on the football, and we all half-watched, dopily criticizing the officiating, and dozed in a food-induced slumber.

An hour or so later, Erica stuck her head in. “Trivial Pursuit, males vs. females, in the dining room, now, Mom says.” We blinked back to life and grunted and groaned ourselves upright. This was a Thanksgiving family tradition, and the teams were well matched. Alison had settled Kinsey and Rachel and Gunther with a DVD in the master bedroom.

As before, I was aware of Stacey. She had eaten her share of Thanksgiving dinner, and her slacks tugged at her visibly bloated tummy, but she still sat comfortably, and she made no move to hide the body she had. Beautiful. I was entranced by the curve and swoop of her lines. The game proceeded amid much laughter, though I was rather distracted by trying to catch discreet glances of Stacey, whose every move excited my notice. Finally the women won, though it was close, and Mom and Alison went into the kitchen to dish up pie and ice cream and coffee.

We all groaned and complained, then we all laid waste – er, waist – to the dessert. Afterward, Erica, Felicity, Gunther, and Stacey departed to their hotel and I surprised myself by minding her absence quite a lot.

Eventually I departed to the basement and the bagged-out fold-out sofa, Seventies vintage, of the sort that flops open once to create a single bed, and if you ask me, sturdier and more comfortable than those trifold deals that supposedly make a double bed and always skewer you with the bar right in the middle.

I’d eaten much too much, and my swollen and groaning stomach kept me awake for a spell. I occupied my time thinking about Stacey. It was so rare for me to see a woman whose body was like that of thousands of women but who carried herself with serenity and quiet assurance. Not defensive, not embarrassed, but calmly confident. If her chin doubled when she ducked her head, if her belly folded over her waistband when she sat, if there was some give to her biceps, so be it: she neither blushed nor was antagonistic about it. She simply was, and I found it both extraordinarily refreshing and extraordinarily pretty.

Grunting, shifting, and coaxing up an occasional belch, I finally drifted off into a fitful sleep with dreams that fled the moment I woke up. I took family privilege and appeared at the breakfast table uncombed, unshaven, and in pajamas, grunting drowsily over a cup of coffee. Only then did I shower, shave, and dress before departing to meet Erica and Felicity for breakfast at their hotel, another family tradition. By sleeping in, it seemed, I’d missed Trey and Alison, who with the girls had been up and away by 7:00.

As soon as I walked into the lobby, I felt my face break into a thoroughly goofy grin. Stacey was there with Erica and Felicity (Gunther, apparently, still sacked out) and my God she looked fabulous. She wore the same slacks with a scoop-neck lavender shirt that fitted snugly, showing that she had the curves that nature had intended. My heartbeat stuttered and my breath caught in my throat for a moment, so that my “Good morning” was croaked rather than spoken. Oh, suave, Gavin, very smooth.

Erica winked at me but said nothing as I gave her a kiss on the cheek and bent to give Felicity one as well. To my pleased surprise, Stacey tilted her face, and she got a familial peck, but this one shot a surge through me that jolted me awake more thoroughly than any coffee.

“I’m starving,” she said as we began to fill our plates. “Like I didn’t eat enough yesterday.”

I groaned at the memory. “Oof. I ate so much I thought I was going to bust right there.”

“Pig,” Erica said affectionately, reaching over me for the sausage links.

“No, that’s pig,” I replied, and she rolled her eyes.

We lingered, nursing coffee, doing far too much damage to the buffet. By the time we finally ambled out of there, it was a quarter to 11 and the staff were trying to set up for lunch.

“Well….” I stretched and groaned, providing my once-more-aching belly a moment of relief. Primarily to prolong my time with Stacey, I’d eaten a lot more than I’d wanted to and my gut was heavy and churning, working at breaking down an indecent assortment of sausage, pancake, syrup, egg, fruit, and pastry. Still half-stretching, I rubbed it cautiously, as if that would help.

“I need a nap,” Stacey admitted, smothering a yawn. She too stretched, tugging up the hem of her shirt and exposing, much too briefly, a stretch of palely rounded tummy pooching over the waistband of her slacks.

We said our goodbyes, and as I gave Stacey a properly brotherly embrace, I pressed my card into her hand. That fast, I wound up with hers in my other hand, both were tucked away without a hint of their existence, and they were gone.

I plodded away to my Prius, grunted my way into the driver’s seat, belched, and pointed the car toward home, on-campus housing once inhabited by my wife and me, and now inhabited by only me, as Suzanne simply couldn’t resist developing friendships that began in her real-estate office and ended in bed. Well, that’s not the nicest way to put it, but after the fourth one I’m afraid I lost patience with her loose definition of fidelity. To her mind, if she was home for dinner and spent the evening and night and next morning with me, she was faithful. Anything done during daylight hours simply didn’t count. Eighteen months, no children, and she’d taken her yappy dust mop of a dog when she’d left.

I brooded, contentedly, all the way back, and wheeled my suitcase into my on-campus living quarters in midafternoon. The day was sullen and overcast, clouds pressing low, snow threatening, and my stomach was still warmly full of that huge breakfast. Perfect conditions for a nap.

I woke, stiff and grouchy, around four-thirty. I heated up some soup and addressed myself to grading papers. Periodically getting up to stretch, pee, walk around, clear my head, make a cup of tea, I pegged away at the grading until nearly eight. By then, of course, I was starving. I made some more soup and two grilled-cheese sandwiches and finished with a bowl of ice cream. Put on some music and found myself picking up American Lion to re-read. Thanks to Stacey’s suggestion, I found Hornblower similarities everywhere.

I made myself wait until Monday evening and sent her a polite e-mail. It was nice to meet her, I’d given American Lion another look and she was spot on, natter natter about the weather and the students, antsy and distracted in the three weeks of filler between Thanksgiving and end of term. Finally, I mentioned casually that I would probably pop in on Erica and Felicity for my first few days of winter break – by any chance would she be around?

Cool and collected, Miss Stacey did not reply until Tuesday afternoon. Sure, she wasn’t going anywhere, call her when I got to town. Everyone was playing it easy – Erica hadn’t said a word beyond “Sure, if you want to,” when I invited myself for a visit at the start of winter break, something I’d never done before.

New York was far more exciting than South Kent, Connecticut (or Swarthmore, where Mom and Pop lived, for that matter). Erica and Felicity dutifully took me to a Broadway show and I dutifully took Gunther with me to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum at the corner of Orchard and Broome streets. He was 12 and had a particular interest in New York City history to the point where he had a Google alert on his e-mail for Caleb Carr. Afterward, I took him to lunch at Lindy’s, where we had a fine time trading lines from Guys and Dolls. I’d intended to have a light lunch, because I had an actual date with Stacey that night, but you know New York delis. By the time I slowly, slowly scraped up the last bite of cheesecake I was waddling. Gunther, being a growing boy, had downed his meal easily, but I had to ask him to slow down on the way to the subway. My belly was achingly full of pastrami, sauerkraut, rye bread, pickle, and the famous cheesecake, and I was puffing trying to keep up.

I hadn’t really planned to take a nap – it sort of took me – but I woke refreshed and found myself whistling “I’ll Know” in the shower. I’ll know … then and there. I’ll know … at the sight of her face … how I care, how I care, how I care. And I’ll stop … and I’ll stare….*

I did stop. And stare. I was standing by the maître d’s lectern and she walked in and I really think my mouth fell open. I quickly closed it and rearranged my features into a smile that I didn’t have to fake.

Stacey was wearing a v-neck deep blue dress that fitted a trifle snugly, and she strolled toward me smiling, doing that woman-sway thing in high heels, leaned in, and gave me a hello-how-are-you embrace and a peck on the cheek. Under the watchful eye of the maître d’, I didn’t do anything else, but I certainly enjoyed her rear view as I followed her following him to the table for two.

I’m normally a lazy and underskilled cook and get most of my meals at the school’s faculty dining room, where the food is ... well ... functional, so good food prepared by someone else was a treat. The pound or three I was sure I’d picked up over Thanksgiving had retreated somewhat, but I seemed destined to be adding it back on. In truth, I wanted this dinner to last as long as possible, so yes to appetizers, yes to salad, yes to dessert, yes to coffee, yes to brandy, those wonderful date-prolongers and digestifs.

As a teacher, I was reasonably skilled at letting a silence sit to encourage the other person or people to say something, so it was easy to let Stacey do most of the talking.

Stacey was a bibliophile from way back, and also curious, traits that led her to reference librarianship. BA in English, MLS, a brother in California, to which her parents had retired last year. I listened, and looked, as she chattered happily about history, California, weird reference-desk requests. We laughed companionably about students, prepared and un-, and I absently stuffed myself with calamari and spring rolls, a huge salad, too many rolls, trout amandine, baked apples, wild rice, broccoli au gratin, poached pears with chocolate sauce, espresso, and Remy Martin VS Grand Cru.

Damn and damn. I’d meant to stay alert enough for a carriage ride, but I could tell even before I stood up that I was sodden with food and drink. I’d probably doze off and drool on her shoulder. I couldn’t conceal a grunt of effort as I stood, and my achingly stuffed belly pressed painfully against the waistband of my trousers. I could feel its taut distention against the fabric of my shirt, and I didn’t even try to button my jacket.

Then Stacey stood up. I know nothing about women’s fashions, but the seams of her dress were visibly taking some strain. Her tummy ballooned, round and full, under the blue fabric, and the dress stuff clung to hip and thigh more than it had before our dinner. Evidently, while talking, Stacey had also enjoyed her dinner as much as I had mine. I took her arm, stifled a belch with some difficulty, and helped her on with her coat. I struggled into mine, and she said “Yes please” to that carriage ride.

Sitting down was a little scary – I was afraid for the rear seam of my trousers – but I was able to sink back against the leather seat, easing the pressure on my gorged belly just a little. I put my arm around Stacey and she snuggled against me. I thanked heaven for the cold air, which was helping keep me conscious.

Into the quiet, I said, “You’re beautiful.”

“Thank you,” Stacey said simply. Zing! No demurrals, no downplaying, no self-deprecation. Who was this woman! I wasn’t sure, but her soft shoulder was tucked into me and her hand rested easily on my bloated gut, and I felt her warm cushiony self curved into me and I was utterly contented.

* “I’ll Know.” From Guys and Dolls. Music and lyrics © 1950 by Frank Loesser. Licensing agent, Music Theater International.
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Old 07-20-2015, 04:00 AM   #2
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I wanted to prolong the evening, and so did she, but of course I was staying with Erica and Felicity, and Stacey lived “in a bed-sit with not even enough room for me,” she said regretfully. “MMMmmm.” Absently she slid her hand along her tautly full tummy. “Oh, Gavin, that was a heavenly dinner. I ate much too much.” She smothered a yawn. “Thank you. The evening’s been fantastic.” She swallowed a hiccup – how do women do that? – and tilted her face a little so that one soft cheek, made rosy in the crisp winter air, was presented to me. I kissed it, and then my lips were on hers, her mouth soft and warm and with a little tang of brandy still clinging. We both moaned at the same time, and our hands found each other’s backs and shoulders, undaunted by layers of wool coats, scarves, gloves.

“How long … mmm … how long will you be here?” she managed, unconsciously licking her lips. My God, those lips.

“Two more days,” I mumbled, my own lips suddenly bereft at the absence of her kisses. Not nearly enough time.

“Then what?”

“Then I have to go to Swarthmore … then I could come back to the city … I don’t have to be back on campus until the third …. Hey. Does this closet of yours have a bed?”

“That’s about all it has,” she giggled, burrowing against my chest. “A bed … a microwave … a chair …”

“Me,” I said, taking the plunge.

“You,” she echoed. “Mmmmm.” In the space of about three minutes, her bedsit had gone from too small for a visit – tonight, anyway – to big enough for a week’s stay after Christmas. The whirlpool of love into which I’d fallen suddenly added an eddy of respect. Stacey felt it too: Things were moving quickly, and we both liked it, but we both thought it wise to pace ourselves. And in the meantime, I still had two more days in the Big Apple.

Erica and Felicity were discreet enough not to say anything when during those two more days they didn’t see much of me. During the day, I prowled museums; evening, after an obligatory chat over a glass of wine, I raced out to meet Stacey, still in her work outfits, and we squeezed as much as we could into five hours or so. I took her to a Chinese buffet, where for $30 each we ate ourselves under the table; afterward, puffing and groaning, we strolled around Times Square, as close against each other as we could manage, snuggling and digesting. The next night, she took me to the Carnegie Deli, where the sandwiches were taller than my ex-wife’s dog. I had a Carnegie Haul, she had a Broadway Danny Rose, and we both had pickles, chips, and the famous cheesecake. We lingered, not only because the cheesecake was so rich but also because we were both slowly digesting a couple of pounds of sliced deli meats at the same time.

At length we both hauled ourselves up. Stacey immediately got the giggles.

“Oh … hic ow … oh,” she gasped, wincing at the sensation of her stuffed and swollen belly being indelicately shaken by her laughter. I found myself stifling a contagious fit of laughs myself.

“What’s so funny,” I grunted as we struggled into our coats and waddled stupidly toward the door.

We were halfway to Carnegie Hall before she got herself under enough control to speak.

“Jeans,” she gasped. “Hic.” She leaned into me, weak with laughter, achingly full, seemingly content to be nowhere except in my arms.

I still didn’t get the joke.

“Look …” she managed. “My jeans … and your jeans …” she gave me a poke that landed bang on my navel. I hiccupped. “The deli … wins,” she finished. “Hic.”

By this time we were nearly to the edge of Central Park, headed toward Woollman Rink. I stopped along Central Park South, glanced at the lights of Columbus Circle, and met her gaze, her blue eyes sparkling with tears from the giggling.

“Both of us,” she said, subsiding at last, “had to undo our jeans. The deli-hic-wins!” She swung around and fell against my chest happily. My arms went around her, and hers around me, and there just inside the park, oblivious to the human and vehicular traffic and the stiff wind off Woollman Pond, we held each other. Now that we had stopped moving, I was starting to really feel the effects of that huge supper – my belly gorged and aching, turtleneck stretched snugly across a taut distention of midriff, my jeans, as noted, unbuttoned and unzipped in sheer self-defense – and then all I felt was Stacey against me, her bloated tummy pressed to mine, her jeans likewise unfastened, and the cold and the gathering dark and the skating rink and the traffic all fell away and we couldn’t get a taxi fast enough.

Then we were in Stacey’s bed, naked as a couple of cherubs, full stomachs churning and gurgling, but all we heard was the roaring in our ears and the thudding in our chests.

Afterward the fragilely contented silence was broken by a large and impressive belch.

“'Cuse me,” Stacey said, blushing. “Wow, that was … um …”

“Delicious,” I finished, and we both got the giggles this time.

Finally, reluctantly, I peeled myself up from the bed and we clung as though I were being shipped out.

“I’ll call you as soon as I’m back in the city limits,” I promised.

“Miss you,” she murmured, her lips muffled against my chest.

I kissed the top of her head. “Miss you back.”

And then I returned to Erica and Felicity’s, shared a cup of decaf, and said only, “Carnegie Deli. Then we walked over to the skating rink for a while.” They exchanged a glance. Neither pointed out that I looked too obviously warm and satisfied to have spent the last several hours outdoors in Central Park.

In the morning, we settled ourselves into Erica’s SUV for the drive south. I watched the skyline grow smaller and swallowed hard.

We arrived in Swarthmore at 11:30 on the morning of Christmas Eve, just in time for lunch: hearty turkey-and-rice soup, peanut butter crackers, sliced pears.

“A light lunch,” Mom said, opening the door to baste the turkey and releasing a mouth-watering aroma. “Big dinner at 4:30.”

I kept conversation light. Mom and Pop didn’t ask about Stacey, and Erica and Felicity, bless them, didn’t tell. Trey and Alison got in about 3 and the house got a lot noisier. By the time we sat down to dinner, Uncle Max, Uncle Steve, Uncle Ted, Aunt Anne, Aunt Nell, Aunt Gwynne, and Aunt Mary had joined us and the space around the table was almost as crowded as the table itself.

What can I say? I missed Stacey fiercely, but Mom did love to make her holiday dinners, and we all loved to eat them up. Elbows banged, gravy-hogging was loudly called out, the sweet potato casserole vanished too quickly, and we all heaped our plates with mounds of stuffing, potatoes au gratin, Brussels sprouts, tomato pie, turkey and gravy, white meat, dark meat, rolls, cranberry-orange bread, relish, pickled beets, creamed peas. I plowed through a couple of platefuls before pausing even for a moment, then caught my second wind.

I was stuffed already and my jeans were creaking dangerously, but I wanted the taste in my mouth one more time of just about everything. And another bite, and another. I was hazily aware of my belly swelling steadily, pressing heavily against my waistband. I unbuttoned my jeans and hiccupped. No one noticed. I slowly finished off the pickled beets, then mopped up with one last slice of bread. I’m not sure how long I sat at the table in an overfed stupor until I became aware of chairs scraping and everyone else slowly getting up. I noted dopily that mine was not the only swollen and aching belly by a long shot. Or the only unbuttoned jeans. I was smugly pleased for thinking ahead and donning an oversize sweater. Although it had been more oversize a couple of hours ago.

Before sinking onto the sofa in the den I unzipped my jeans, making sure the sweater covered the alarmingly large gap of stretched and gorged belly the move revealed. My eyelids were heavy, I was glutted and stoned on dinner, but I was also far too full to doze off just yet. I eased back and cautiously rubbed my gut.

Trey ambled in and flopped into a corner, his head tucked back into the edge of the sofa and his sock feet stretched out. “God. Urrp.” He patted his belly, bloated like mine, bulging and distended against the fabric of his Penn State sweatshirt. “Did you finish off the beets?” He tried to glare at me, but we were both too stuffed to care.

“Yup. Hic. And the bread, I think. Hic.” I rested my other hand on top of the first and stifled what I was sure would have been a very painful hiccup. I was so full I felt ready to pop with every shallow breath. My stomach, packed to the brim, jostled my diaphragm and wouldn’t let me breathe quite deeply enough for anything approaching comfort.

“Yeah, well, I think I killed the relish,” Trey boasted. He stifled a belch. Gunther was fast asleep on the floor on his back, his Henley shirt rucked up to display a swell to his preadolescent belly. Dad wasn’t far behind, sunk into his favorite easy chair with his ancient brown sweater tugged across a gentle bowing of full stomach. A couple of uncles were snoring here and there, and first Trey corked off and then I guess I did. I was aware of my swollen belly churning loudly, then Mom was shaking my shoulder.

“Gavin. Ready for pie, sweetie?”

I struggled upright, blinking. “Time’s it?”

“Almost seven,” Mom said. “We’re having pie in the dining room. You want ice cream on yours?”

I closed my eyes and tasted Stacey’s lips on mine. “Yes please.” December 26 couldn’t come fast enough.
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Old 07-20-2015, 04:05 AM   #3
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“I was never a stick figure,” Stacey said softly, out of the blue. It was December 26, evening, and I was sitting up in her double bed, while she snuggled up onto my chest. My left arm stroked her hair, shoulder, arm, while my right held a mug of coffee laced with brandy.

“Mmm?” I replied. Keep going.

“I had the little-boy look until puberty hit. Then, like overnight, it seemed, I sprouted a front and back and hips and the whole package.” Stacey snorted. “I was safety-pinning my blouses by the time I was thirteen.”

“Safety…?” She’d lost me.

Stacey sat up. “If you’re big-busted, sometimes you have to put a little safety pin – here –” between her breasts – “to keep your shirt from gapping right there.” She resumed her snuggle position.

“Anyway. One look around the locker room and I could tell I was never going to be competing with the slender girls. So I didn’t worry. Still don’t.” She shrugged. “Females devote an insane amount of time and energy to feeling guilty about every bite they eat and every amount of exercise they take or don’t take. If you don’t let that take up any space in your head, it’s amazing how much you can enjoy yourself.”

“Is anyone ever … um … mean to you?” I asked slowly.

“Oh sure.” Dismissive. “Sometimes a guy will have agreed to a blind date and it’ll go badly, but they’re not usually crude enough to say to my face that they think I’m a water buffalo, they’ll just suffer it out and then say goodnight. Women are cattier. Usually behind my back. Occasional digs to my face.” She lifted the mug from my hand, took a swallow, and gave it back.

“Hey,” I said mildly. I felt her smirk.

“My dad used to give me crap about it. I finally got my mom to say something to him. His comments were always couched as though he had information that was news to me. Like I wasn’t vividly aware of every cubic inch of my own body. He’s given up now, though. I guess we’ve reached a sort of détente about it.”

“I love that you love yourself,” I said. I paused stroking and gave her shoulder a squeeze. “First thing I noticed. After I noticed how pretty you were.”

“I love that you love that I love myself,” she said mischievously.

“And I love that you love …” I got lost, gave it up as a bad job, slugged down the last of the coffee, and slid down in the bed so that we could get on with things.

Afterward, as we systematically demolished a carton of Ben & Jerry’s, I said, “I can’t wait for you to come visit me. But be warned, a boarding school campus is a small town. Some of them will talk about you behind your back, some will talk about you to me, and some will talk about you to your face.”

Even in the dim light, I could feel her grin. “Let ’em.”

I slowly fed her a heaping spoonful and rested my free hand on her belly, soft and with a hint of a fold to it.

The rest of that week was magic, and flew by too fast. We trawled museums and book stores, watched the ice skaters, took delight in sampling some of the city’s never-ending parade of cuisine. By the time I departed reluctantly for South Kent, the pound or four I’d put on over Christmas had become more like ten-plus, and we’d had to kit me out with some new clothes. (Luckily, since Suzanne’s earnings easily outstripped mine, she paid me alimony.)

“Life outside the diamond is a wrench.”* I always enjoyed the start of term, a fresh page for everyone, students and teachers, and this one was no exception, except that I felt as though I were minus a third of my skull or something. I managed to stay focused and cheerful, teach classes, grade papers, coach the chess team, and oversee the Honor Court, all while missing Stacey so much it hurt.

Finally, finally, after five endlessly long weeks punctuated by the poor substitute of e-mail, she came to Connecticut in early February. She’d taken a couple of vacation days and the welcome knock on my door sounded on Wednesday evening about 8:45.

Without a word, I let her in and grabbed her in a deep-rooted embrace as I shucked her coat and hat at the same time. After a couple of years, we came up for air.

“I missed you too,” she said, a beautiful grin lighting her beautiful face. She twirled, showing off her outfit. A burgundy cowl-neck sweater, wide black crushed leather belt, charcoal mid-calf skirt cut full, black boots. The sweater clung enticingly to her bosom and displayed a tantalizing peek of creamy throat and softening chin. The belt cinched the softly comfortable waist and the skirt hugged her heart-stopping, traffic-halting hips. I had trouble breathing for a minute.

Finally I spoke. “Are you hungry?” I croaked. “I, um, um, made a reservation for 9 o’clock at an Italian place.”

“God, yes,” she murmured, covering my neck with smooches. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” She was already retrieving her coat. “Lead on.”

The Italian place was one of my favorites not only for the good food and cozy atmosphere but also because the owner had the sense to realize that in winter, most people were warmly dressed, and didn’t overheat the place. It’s no fun to be sweating your way through dinner.

We drank Pinot Grigio and demolished a huge platter of antipasti, then enjoyed chicken scarpariello with hints of lemon and garlic, sea bream alla griglia con scalogni, nearly a full loaf of warm, crusty Italian bread with almond butter, settled our achingly full bellies with espresso, then lazily, glowing with repletion, finished with zabaglione, figs, and glasses of Felsina.

Grigorio’s closed at midnight, and they were starting to put the chairs up on the other tables by the time we staggered, brimful and tipsy, out the door. One of South Kent’s lovelier aspects is the proximity of the town to the campus: We’d walked the four or five blocks to the restaurant so there would be no concerns about driving.

Now, though, we sank onto a bench a few doors down with twin groans. With an embarrassing amount of relief, I unfastened my new belt and let it out a notch, then unhooked my new trousers. Stacey had already let her belt out a couple of notches and had her hand under her sweater, gently massaging her visibly rounded and swollen tummy.

“That … was … so … hic … good,” I said, puffing. I was way too full to get a proper breath. Little garlic-scented clouds wafted out on each word.

“Delicious,” Stacey agreed. “Hic. Ooh. Hic.”

Tenderly I patted her tummy, grunting with effort at even the slight leaning across that was required. I was so gorged and stuffed that my bloated stomach felt as though it were anchoring me in place. My belly was satisfyingly warm and heavy with just enough ache and pull that I knew I was near to bursting. The taut distention of my abdomen, the solid sensation of being packed to capacity, was a good feeling, engendering a mix of dopey stupefaction and holiday-like pleasure. Stacey evidently felt the same way. She leaned against me, slowly and rhythmically massaging the round tight swell of her midriff and occasionally stifling a belch.

For a time, we just sat, quietly digesting, savoring each other’s company and the replete pleasure of satiation, and then we hauled ourselves up and slowly made our way back to campus before the beat cop could wonder what was going on.

My clock showed 12:30 as we let ourselves in, and I had an 8 o’clock class, and Stacey had put in a full day’s work and a long drive. And, honestly, we were both so achingly stuffed and thoroughly pooped that we just sort of fell, half-undressed, into bed.

I was awakened at 7 o’clock with the tantalizing scent of coffee close by.

“Good morning, darling,” Stacey sang softly. I grunted myself drowsily upright, and she pressed a mug into my hand.

“An angel, that’s what you are,” I mumbled, my eyes still sleep-crusted and my vision bleary. But through the fog I could see Stacey, hair tumbled, complexion pale, looking breathtakingly gorgeous the way some women do just out of bed. She wore a battered T shirt of mine and looked sexy as hell.

I gulped the coffee and feasted my eyes. There really wasn’t time even for a morning quickie, but Stacey promised not to go anywhere. She tucked a fried-egg sandwich, wrapped in a paper towel, in my hand and lifted away the coffee cup, sealing the trade with a long kiss and squealing as I swatted at her appealingly cushy bottom.

Luckily, my modern European history students were giving oral reports that morning. I had only to take subconscious note of their demeanor, confidence, and delivery, and would get their manuscripts to help me anchor their grades on the stuff.

After that came my Early American survey course (“early” still meaning post-Columbian, natch), two sections back to back. Lunch in the faculty dining room.

Conversation was about the just-ended winter break. Who’d gone skiing, who’d witnessed spectacular family arguments, who had received unexpectedly thoughtful or expensive gifts, who’d put on a few Santa pounds (everyone). No one had yet noticed that I had a visitor. I would bring her to Friday lunch and let the hounds loose; then we’d be free to poke in the shops, stroll by the river, and attend Sunday chapel together.

Afterward, I left the dining room along with a chemistry teacher and another history teacher, Evans and Meyer. I decided to say something before Meyer, who had a quick tongue, did.

“I think I might have porked up a little more than last year,” I said sheepishly, patting my gut. The modest lunch I’d just consumed had barely made a dent, but the accumulated poundage of the last six weeks or so clearly showed in spite of the new clothes. I had developed a visible spare tire, and my midriff was now a little convex where it had once been reasonably flat. I knew that my chin was softening, and I suspected my backside was too. At a guess, I’d socked on ten or twelve pounds, quite a bit more than my usual Christmas haul.

“Hey, Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s … it adds up,” Evans said cheerfully.

“Have to pick up the workouts,” I grunted, and we went our separate ways. In the coinage of the school’s gossip, I’d deflated a potential subject by having brought it up first. Besides, there were about to be juicier subjects. Well, one juicier subject.

“I was never a fat kid – or a skinny kid,” I informed Stacey over her homemade lasagna. My contribution had been garlic bread via the freezer case and salad via the bag, plus a decent Cabernet.

Just as she had brought her figure up out of nowhere, it was, I thought, my turf and my turn.

“Never thought about it much.” I shrugged and helped myself to another slab of the stuff. Beef, pork, ricotta, tomato sauce, freshly ground parmesan … mmmmm.

I stifled a belch. “Guess I’ve put on some weight over the holidays.” I paused, my heart suddenly thudding. “Does it … um … bother you at all?” I took a huge mouthful of lasagna to cover my anxiety.

Stacey laughed like a kid enjoying a silly joke. “Duh, no,” she said. She got up, came around behind me, and embraced me, sliding her hands down to my belly, which was steadily swelling to accommodate the rather large dinner I was currently enjoying. She pressed gently, and there was no stifling that belch.

Urp. Oh. Um, scuse me.” I stifled the next one. “Sorry.”

Stacey kissed the top of my head, then refilled her own plate before she sat back down. “Just so you know, I also made brownies and there’s a pint of butter pecan softening in the fridge.”

Oh. That, it seemed, settled that. And the discussion of weight, and gaining thereof, was officially off the table and we were free to concentrate on enjoying each other’s company. Stacey would later inform me that I had a huge goofy grin plastered across my face the entire time we were together on that first visit. Maybe I did. I was conscious only of the transcendent, deeply comfortable pleasure I found in her company, as though we’d always been right for each other and it had just taken us a few years to find our way home.

Between us, we effectively and efficiently polished off the entire lasagna (it was kind of a small pan, okay), all the garlic bread, and all the salad. We made a stab at starting the cleanup and plodded with dopey anticipation to the bedroom, where I rediscovered the mind-bending enjoyment to be had in intimacy while stuffed to the brim.

My belly pressed to hers, the pressure on our stuffed and aching tummies felt wonderful, the sweet painful weight heightening our intimacy. Her lovely ripe breasts pressed onto my shoulders and I frankly fondled her increasingly bounteous backside, reveling in the sensation of creamy handfuls of woman, a decided improvement over Suzanne’s determined boniness. Her thighs wrapped softly around mine and our coupling felt as though the universe were celebrating our having found each other.

At length, perspiring and happily exhausted, we padded naked to the kitchen and divided the brownies, topping them with the softened ice cream. Then we returned to the warmth of the bed and fed each other into sleep-wrapped oblivion.

* “Piazza, New York Catcher.” From the album Dear Catastrophe Waitress. © 2003 by Belle and Sebastian.
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Old 07-20-2015, 04:12 AM   #4
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As expected, taking Stacey out in public turned loose the hounds of campus gossip. For much of the next couple of weeks, students made crude suggestions when they thought I wasn’t in earshot and faculty members were politely curious. Then Schuyler Edmunds Harrison was caught with a cache of 4 Loco, those liquor-caffeine drinks the FDA had just outlawed, and the spotlight moved.

Stacey and I saw each other about every other weekend, taking turns between South Kent and New York City. It helped, but it wasn’t enough. I became moody and distracted when she wasn’t around. I had it bad, no question. So, it seemed, did she. I had been printing out and saving our e-mails. They weren’t vellum to be tied up with a ribbon, but they were love letters … our love letters … and as a wordsmith she had lovely turns of phrase. It was clear we each felt incomplete without the other.

One Thursday afternoon in early March – blustery, rainy, overcast, penetratingly chilly, the works – I stuck my key in the lock. A button had come off my coat, I was coming down with what promised to be a nasty cold, my attaché case was laden with thirty-four essays on the Puritans, and I was wearing my most roomy pair of khakis, still so tight in the waist that I’d had them unbuttoned that day, hoping the belt would conceal my maneuver.

The door was already unlocked. Mentally cursing the maintenance guy, I pushed open the door, shuffled across the threshold, and dropped my case with a wet thud. The kitchen light was on and I heard hints of habitation. Maybe the maintenance guy was still here, although I wasn’t sure what needed attention and I really didn’t think anything was wrong with the kitchen.

I sneezed, hugely and wetly.

“Bless you, darling,” came a blessedly familiar voice. What in the world?

Stacey stood at the minute kitchen counter cutting butter into a bowl of flour. Next to her was a bowl of dark sauce and beyond that frozen chicken breasts in a dish and coated with … cinnamon?

“What … what … S … St … St …” I stuttered.

“My name is Stacey,” Stacey said, grinning at the success of her coup. She pulled a tissue from the box on the bar and handed it to me just in time.

Ahcghcxkeww. *Snrff.* Thanks,” I said hoarsely. I blew her a kiss, not wanting to spread my contagion. “How … chooo! … how … what …”

“Poor love,” Stacey crooned. She wiped her hands and steered me to the sofa. “Wait here.” She returned to the kitchen. “And take off those wet shoes and socks this instant.”

“Yes ma’am.” I obeyed.

She returned with a mug of hot tea that, I discovered, was laced with … something.

“Rum,” Stacey said. “I’d planned to use it in the dessert, but my poor sick sweetie is a much better cause.”

“Mmmmmmm.” There was also honey and lemon in there. Stacey, bless her, had made me a hot toddy.

“Dow.” I stifled a sneeze. “It’s dhot a Friday … is it? Add addway …” I sniffled ineffectually … “I was supposed to drive up toborrow.” I blew my nose, this time making a little progress.

“I took a vacation day,” Stacey said mildly. “Thought I’d surprise you.”

I’m not usually much on surprises, but instead of feeling mulish and ambushed, at the moment I found myself suffused with warm tenderness. Stacey had laid all these plans, just to please me. And she was in my kitchen making dinner, and tending to my cold, and now she was bustling out and wrapping my chilled bare feet in a towel she’d warmed in the dryer, and topping up my tea, and … damn … my eyes started leaking.

“Oh … honey …” Stacey, disregarding the cloud of contagion enveloping my head, snuggled up against me. “My poor sweetie. You just take yourself off to bed and I’ll bring you supper once it’s ready. You get settled and I’ll bring in your stuff.”

It wasn’t quite the romantic conquest that Stacey probably had envisioned, but I was beside myself with pleased amazement at her presence on a Thursday. A whole extra day together and I wouldn’t have to drive up under the fog of this cold, which promised to be a doozey.

It was. I vaguely remembered being served something Stacey called “apple pie chicken,” redolent of cinnamon and maple flavors, and Stacey laying a cool damp cloth across my forehead. I had a dim recollection of phoning the head of the department and croaking out to him my lamentable state. could only assume that he stepped in to teach my classes the next day. I floated in a haze of misery until early Saturday afternoon, when I woke lightheaded but suddenly much better.

“I’m not sure that wasn’t flu,” Nurse Stacey informed me, settling a bowl of homemade chicken soup in my lap. “You sweated it out last night and this morning. Are you up for a nice lukewarm shower?”

“For two?” I managed, a little thickly, and that’s what we had. Followed by an unforgettable session in bed, which required another shower, followed by a visit to Grigorio’s, since Stacey had made a reservation and all. After having eaten hardly anything for a couple of days, I was suddenly ravenous. A large platter of antipasti and a big bowl of zuppa di scarola. A good, slightly rough, red wine. Roast leg of lamb with artichokes, with a side of marinated mushrooms. A crisp salad of endive and arugula. Espresso, pignoli pie, and finally almond biscuits, which we dipped in glasses of vin santo. Those we crunched in a sort of slow and dreamy haze of satiety, stuffed to the rafters, our tummies stretched and tender, warmly gorged with the rich flavorful offerings. It was with real reluctance that we gained our feet and stumbled out the door.

Oof. Maybe eating quite so heartily was a little bit of a mistake on my recovering bod. I felt warm and a little queasy as we made our way to our favorite recovery bench. The storm had blown through, leaving us with a teasingly balmy night studded with stars.

I sank down and undid my khakis, which were now unquestionably too snug. With visible effort I stifled a gargantuan belch, wincing at the attendant surge.

“A little-hic-too rich?” Stacey suggested, gently rubbing my gorged and aching belly. She winced herself, and momentarily abandoned my swollen gut to tend to her own, which with taut distention threatened the fabric of her sweater.

I stifled another surge, feeling perspiration spring out on the back of my neck. “Urp. Maybe. Urp.” As cold as the night was, I was sweating and my aching stomach, swollen with dinner, was churning unmercifully. Stacey stood up decisively and tugged me to my feet, then steered me down a couple of doors to Gregor Samsa’s, a bar paneled in light polished maple and furnished with comfortable chairs with cushions in primary colors. Very un-Hungarian.

“Here.” Stacey shoved me, none too gently, in the direction of the men’s room. “I’ll be at a table when you get back.”

I tottered off, clutching my bulging and hostile stomach. I made it into a stall and tugged down my khakis and boxers, then sank onto the seat. Already that felt better. I leaned my head against the cool tile of the wall and breathed slowly, shallowly, for a minute or two. Gradually the anxiety in my belly subsided until I was no longer verging on ill but just stuffed, replete, warmly overfull, those now-familiar and even comfortable sensations.

I splashed cold water on my face and made my way back out into the bar, where Stacey sat at a table with a glass of wine in front of her and one of brandy.

“To settle your stomach. My poor sweet love,” Stacey said. “That was a bit much on your old tummy.”

Normally it drove me up the wall to be talked to like that, but far from minding this time, I found myself glowing with happiness that Stacey cared so much.

I downed the brandy in measured, cautious swallows and felt a good deal better, and we slowly wended back to the campus and sank into bed, where we snuggled naked beneath the quilts, Stacey’s head on my chest, and talked about everything and nothing.

By now we were an established fixture on campus. Gradually, Gavin had become Gavin and Stacey, as familiar and unremarkable as Meyer’s collection of blue neckties or Evans’ habit of juggling fetal pigs from his biology colleague’s storage room.

We had been going to stroll along the river, so Stacey was a little surprised that Saturday afternoon in early April when I tugged her instead in the direction of town. I sat us down on our favorite bench, which happened to be three doors away from the store in which I was interested.

“Stacey, I love you. More than that, I can’t live without you. I love your beauty, your humor, your curiosity, your poise, your serenity, your unflappable acceptance. I love that you love who you are, and I love that you love who I am, even if who I am seems to be getting bigger by the week.”

Stacey started to shush me, but I continued. “The thought of even another day without you is breaking my heart. Marry me, please, my darling, marry me and we’ll live happily ever after.”

“Yes,” Stacey said, clear as a bell, her blue eyes meeting my gaze.

I led her into a jewelry store and persuaded her to a 1½-carat ring. Then I all but sprinted with her back to campus and buttonholed the chaplain, managing to get us onto the chapel calendar for the Saturday before the end of term in June.

By Monday lunch, with Stacey (dammit) safely back in New York, the news was all over campus and I had never been prouder.

Not even Meyer’s famously quick tongue could shoot me down.

“You gonna … uh … um, slim down for the big day?” Meyer glanced uncomfortably at my paunch. I had gone up three pants sizes since Thanksgiving and needed to go up at least another right that minute. My belly sat, comfortably protruding, between soft pecs and an overworked belt on its last notch. My chin was now a pair of chins and I hadn’t buttoned a blazer in months.

“Nope,” I said, half enjoying his discomfiture. “Stacey loves me as I am.”

Meyer wisely refrained from making a comment on my fiancée’s size, which was just as well, because I would have had no qualms about clocking him right in the middle of campus. Stacey’s generous figure was noticeably more so these days, her own chin now temptingly doubled, her waist comfortably squashy in my hands, her breasts and hips warm handfuls-plus that I fondled with indecent pleasure.

“As I am,” I repeated, and patted Meyer on the back before striding off again.

Five years and two months later, we marked our fifth anniversary with a trip to the West Coast. We made the obligatory visit to her parents and brother, who luckily were distracted by the sheer adorableness of their 2-year-old grandson/nephew to make any cracks about sheer volume, and then enjoyed ourselves at Sea World, Knott’s Berry Farm, and a day at Disneyland.

We were plus size, no doubt about it. I carried some 300 pounds on my five feet ten inches, and Stacey, at five five, clocked in around 220 most days. Did Stephen care? Are you kidding? He loved Mommy, Daddy was the cool man who swooped him into the air for improbable airline rides, and he had the treat of growing up on a school campus, where everyone knew him, indulged him within reason, and also kept an eye out for his boundaries. There’s a lot to be said for it taking a village.

Stacey waited until we were on a bench watching Stephen on the merry-go-round before she told me.

“I didn’t weigh 220 this morning.” The hotel bathroom had a scale in it, typically Californian, I had thought.

“Mmm?” I was only half listening.

“In fact, it’s going to be a while before I weigh 220 again.”

“Mmm?” Now I was three-quarters listening.

Stacey tugged at my ear, then murmured in it.

I know my mouth fell open.


Oh, my.

The End

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