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Old 02-02-2018, 01:59 PM   #1
Marlow
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: The Great Lakes
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Default Groundhog Day - by Marlow

~BBW, ~~WG - Reliving the same day over and over, an uptight workaholic can finally live like there's no tomorrow.


(Note: Took a break from the long-form projects to try something a little shorter for once. It was also a good excuse to re-watch a great movie.)




Groundhog Day

by Marlow





Chapter 1

The clock flickered to 7:00.

Renee rolled over, shielding her eyes from the morning sun. Cheap motel sheets slipped off her as she turned, exposing her flesh to a wintry draft that chased away any hope of returning to her dreams.

Voices filtered through the wall. The radio was blaring in the next room, treating her to what had to be the world’s most annoying morning talk show. She tried to ignore their dopey voices as she got up, but couldn’t help catch occasional phrases like “record snowfalls,” “dangerous conditions,” and “widespread road closures.”

“That bad, huh?” Renee asked, pushing brown curls from her face. She hopped off the creaking bed and padded to the window. “It was snowing when I pulled off last night, but it wasn’t that bad, was it?”

“Looks like we’re all stuck here,” concluded the co-host.

It was even chillier by the window—a crack in the glass proved to be the source of the draft—and Renee wrapped a blanket over her shoulders as she approached. The blanket all but smothered her petite, meticulously maintained figure; she clutched it tight over her toned abdomen with one hand and fiddled with the curtains with the other.

Her window overlooked the tiny mountainside town’s commercial center, where a handful of shops and storefronts huddled around a picturesque village square. One road led back downhill to the interstate and another led further uphill to the campus of a tiny liberal arts college.

Renee frowned. The area was covered in snow, enough that the roads were still white, but hardly to the degree the radio show was describing. Sidewalks had been shoveled and a few locals were trudging about as though it were any other Friday morning.

A plump woman was walking her dog up a sidestreet; as Renee watched, the dog caught sight of something and circled around, tying its leash around the woman’s legs. Further up the road, some children were rolling up a ball for the head of a snowman. In front of one of the stores two shoppers collided with one another, spilling groceries across the sidewalk, and hurried to collect each other’s goods.

“Ugh, this place is so quaint it hurts,” Renee groaned, turning away.

She showered and made ready for another long day of driving, pulling on a pair of warm tights and a knit sweater-dress. The tights, on loan from her homebody sister, were a couple sizes too big, but their looseness was well concealed by the sweater. It hung halfway to her knees, tracing the contours of her svelte frame. Neatly folding the rest of her things into a trendy suitcase, she grabbed her coat and gloves and headed for the lobby.

A well-groomed young man waited at the front desk, much more pleasing to the eyes than the old woman who had checked Renee in the night before. He greeted her with a smile, but it fell as she asked to check out.

“You might want to wait on that, actually,” he apologized.

Renee started. “What’s that supposed to mean? I need to get back on the road. I have to be at a conference tomorrow.”

“That’s the thing. Roads are closed…the interstate’s shut down from here to Erie. Police are turning cars around and warning everyone to stay home.”

“You’re kidding.” She craned her head to glance out his window. “It really doesn’t look that bad out there.”

He scratched the back of his head. “Yeah, we got lucky here in town. We’re on the backside of the hill, so the lake-effect stuff usually doesn’t hit us as hard. But, take it from someone who’s lived here his whole life: you go maybe a mile in any direction and you’re gonna find yourself waist-deep in blizzard. It’s just the way things work sometimes in the mountains.”

Renee stared at the ceiling. “So, I’m stuck here.”

“Until things lighten up, probably. They’re hoping it’ll just be twenty-four hours.”

“Holy shit,” she breathed, reaching for her phone. “Well, I suppose I should let the boss know…”

The clerk swallowed. “Yeah, and the cell tower is out.”

Renee’s prim face broke open, aghast. She gaped at her phone, suddenly useless. She was marooned in the Alleghenies, untold miles from civilization.

“We’ve got a landline if you want to try to reach them—”

“There’s no point,” she sighed. “I’m stuck here, apparently.”

“And if you end up having to stay a second night, I’ll ask the owner about discounting your rate, since you obviously wouldn’t have been here otherwise.”

She bristled. “I guess I’ll go figure out how to entertain myself for a day. Is there anything good around here?”

“Well…” He pondered for a moment. “We do a pretty good continental breakfast here, or there’s a nice diner up the street if you like more variety. The place next door was voted best burger in the county…that pasta place up there’s always popular on weekends…and it’s Friday, so the pub on the corner should have drink specials and cheap appetizers tonight and they show all the national games.”

Renee nodded. “And if I don’t just want to eat backwater fast food all day?”

He blushed. “Ah. Right. Um…the midwinter festival starts tonight in the square, or…I think there’s some kind of art installation opening at the college.” He pointed. “It’s just a short walk up to campus if you take this street here.”

She took a deep breath. “What a happening town. Well, it’s just one day.”

“That’s the spirit. Just think: some of us have been stuck here our whole lives.”

After returning her things to the room, Renee sat down in the lobby for a long breakfast. She allowed herself more for the meal than her typical routine, hoping she could at least make the lost day feel like a vacation. Her standard juice and granola was replaced with coffee, cheap pancakes, sausage, and a small pastry. It was probably more, she realized, than she’d eaten the whole previous day.

Her stomach complained at the unfamiliar fullness. Despite a curious voice in her head suggesting she could eat a little more, she dragged herself out of the dining area and set out to explore.

Stepping out of the hotel was like stepping into a snowglobe. Disparate flakes fell over the little town, muffling sound and curtaining off any view of land beyond the city limits. It was warmer than Renee had expected, brisk enough that coats had to be buttoned but not biting enough to chase anyone indoors.

Staring up at the snowfall, Renee nearly walked into a hunched-over old man. She chuffed at him for being in her way; he recoiled in confusion and hobbled off with a dismissive wave.

“Nice attitude,” she spat, heading up the road.

Only about half the town center’s storefronts were open. It was late morning now, but evidently many of the owners were having difficulty on the roads. Renee wandered along until a little dress shop caught her eye.

A young woman looked up from behind the counter. Her remarkably vibrant purple hair was swept over in an asymmetric cut and her remarkably large bust was spilling out of a low-cut top.

“Hey,” she purred, hair falling over one eye. “Looking for anything in particular?”

Renee bounced on her heels and glanced around the store. “Not really. I’m stuck in town for the day and figured I’d see what’s around.”

“Sorry to hear that,” the girl chuckled. “This is one of the region’s least exciting towns. Four more months till I graduate and then I am never coming back. Four months…every day feels like forever.”

“You’re up at the college?” asked Renee, poking through a rack of dresses.

“Yep. And it’s equally boring. It’s a tiny school and most of the students are pretty local, so when we get a long weekend everybody just goes home. If you go up there today, you’ll find a campus that’s pretty much empty…except for a few of us weirdos who end up trapped here.”

“You must have some interesting parties, then.”

“Pff. If only. None of us seem to like any of the same things and no one around here is ever willing to leave their comfort zone…you know, take any risks. Any weekend stuff we try to organize just ends up being a few hours of indecision and passive-aggressive arguing, and then nothing.” She flicked the hair from her face. “You like that one?”

Renee held a green sheath to her chest, grimacing down at it. “I do. This is a fun color…any chance you’ve got it in a smaller size?”

“That’s the smallest size we carry.” The girl nodded to the lettering on the window. “We’re a plus-size shop.”

“Ah. I totally missed that.”

She smirked. “Yeah, sorry for not mentioning it earlier…it was nice to have some company in here. Didn’t mean to waste your time.”

Renee shrugged. “Wasting time is all I can do today, anyway.”

The girl leaned across the counter, showing off far too much of her chest, and snatched the dress from Renee’s hands. “Tell you what: since it’s not like we’re getting much business today, I’ll go ahead and see if I can take this in a little, try and get it to fit a beanpole like yourself.” She looked Renee up and down. “Come back tomorrow and you can…try it on.”

“Oh, wow. I guess if you’re that…bored.”

“Sure, why not? Not promising I’ll be able to make it slim enough…you’re, what, one-thirty?”

“One-twenty-eight,” Renee beamed.

“Okay. Well, no promises, but I’ll give it a shot. And hey, if you’re stuck in town for the night, maybe we—”

“So, I’ll check back in tomorrow,” Renee announced, heading for the door. “See you then.”

She meandered through the town center for a while, ducking into a few of the open shops and watching the locals set up for the festival in the square. She rolled her eyes at their rural enthusiasm and made her way to the diner for lunch.

Nothing on the menu appeared even remotely healthy, so she dropped some change on the table for her coffee and bustled out the door before the pear-shaped server could take her order. The Burger Bunker didn’t offer anything that fit into her diet plan either, but she settled for a value meal in order to quiet the uncharacteristic hunger in her stomach.

She hiked up toward the college afterward, hoping to walk off what had turned into a larger lunch than planned (the incompetent burger-flipper, when Renee had complained about the pickles she’d asked him to omit, had apologized with a complementary upgrade to the large-size value meal.)

A cramp in her abdomen forced her to pause on a park bench. The break was extended by the arrival of a strikingly handsome man, evidently out for his afternoon jog, who stopped to chat her up. She did her best to politely rebuff him, but couldn’t help but glance up as he fidgeted with his long, dark hair.

“Working out’s all about getting into a routine,” he was saying. “You gotta just commit to doing it every day. Over and over.”

Renee opened her phone. There was still no service.

“So, uh,” he asked at length, “what are you doing for dinner?”

“Something else,” she replied, rising and trotting away.

The college’s campus was as quiet as advertised. As she walked between the blocky limestone dorms and crossed the miniscule quad, Renee only encountered a handful of students. They shuffled wearily from one building to another, eyeing the visitor with suspicion.

One small group was clustered in the union, arguing over some trading card game. Outside the library, a pair of sorority sisters were arguing loudly: one berating the other for scheduling their chapter’s party on a weekend when most of the student population was off campus.

Renee eyed them with disdain. She, too, had been in a sorority, back at the massive state school she’d attended, but that sisterhood would never have permitted women like these two. They were sufficiently blonde and bubbly, but each weighed a good deal more than any of Renee’s sisters. One sported a heavy thighs and a derriere that should have precluded a more self-aware woman from wearing tights; her more apple-shaped companion carried a beer gut rounder than the omega on her ill-fitting sweatshirt.

“Come on, Theresa,” one was saying to the other, “we end up doing the same thing every time, over and over…”

The art installation proved to be closed, as the necessary faculty were snowbound on the other side of the hill. Renee threw up her hands in exasperation and marched back to town.

Unwilling to let the day prove a total waste, she located a record store off the square and purchased a few CD’s. The selection wasn’t particularly impressive, but the pop albums would be a welcome change from the back country radio stations she’d been stuck with for the drive.

The spiky-haired cashier attempted to strike up a conversation about Renee’s musical tastes, but she simply tugged the receipt from his hands and hurried from the store.

“I think his songs really capture the idea of someone trapped in a life they didn’t want, doomed to follow the same routines over and over again forever…” The cashier droned, as though failing to notice she’d gone.

“No, really,” she mumbled to herself, once she was outside, “I’m sure your opinions are fascinating and original. You must be so unique.”

Hoping to calm herself, Renee visited the much-lauded Italian restaurant for dinner. It was a cute, family style place built into a century-old brick house. ‘Family-style,’ she discovered, applied also to the serving sizes: the platter of pasta that found its way to her table could have fed her for a week.

She managed over half of it, though, along with a few breadsticks and a large salad. It was by far the largest meal she’d eaten in recent memory and she spent the whole walk home trying to rationalize it: she’d had a stressful day, she hadn’t eaten much on the road yesterday, she’d taken a few thousand more steps than usual, anyway…She reminded herself that one day off the diet wasn’t the end of the world, but the to-go box she carried served as a reminder of just how far off the diet she’d ventured.

“That looks like a doggy bag from Portia’s,” chided the hotel clerk, appearing at the front desk. “How’d you like it?”

Renee stomped the snow from her trendy boots and furtively placed a hand to her gurgling stomach. “It was fine.” She tilted her head at him. “You’re still here?”

He shrugged. “Mrs. Altman—she’s got the night shift—called in and said she’s snowbound. Apparently it’s pretty bad on the west side. So I’m still here, yep.”

“I guess we’re both stuck.”

“It’s not so bad. Extra hours, if nothing else. Sometimes it’s nice to have to stop once in a while…not be on the run all the time.” He gazed out the window at the snowy evening. “And there are worse places to be stuck.”

She shook her head. “Not really my style.”

“Well, they’re saying the roads should be open again by morning, so you’ll be free of us soon enough.”

“Oh, thank heavens. I really can’t afford to waste another day here.”

He turned back to his computer. “Lucky you. Some of us have to wake up here every day.”

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Old 02-02-2018, 04:17 PM   #2
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This seems great!
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Old 02-02-2018, 06:51 PM   #3
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Great start. Excited to see what you've got for us with this one!
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Old 02-03-2018, 01:19 PM   #4
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fat hiker has a ton of rep. Literally. As in over 2000!fat hiker has a ton of rep. Literally. As in over 2000!fat hiker has a ton of rep. Literally. As in over 2000!fat hiker has a ton of rep. Literally. As in over 2000!fat hiker has a ton of rep. Literally. As in over 2000!fat hiker has a ton of rep. Literally. As in over 2000!fat hiker has a ton of rep. Literally. As in over 2000!fat hiker has a ton of rep. Literally. As in over 2000!fat hiker has a ton of rep. Literally. As in over 2000!fat hiker has a ton of rep. Literally. As in over 2000!fat hiker has a ton of rep. Literally. As in over 2000!
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This is an interesting premise - oddly enough, Groundhog Day turned up on a list of suggested movies for a movie evening just this past week! I'd forgotten all about it until that.
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Old 02-03-2018, 02:44 PM   #5
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Very interested in the next installment
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Old 02-03-2018, 05:23 PM   #6
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ALSO extremely intrested. I love time loop/ wg stories. FAVORITE. Also This Movie IS my life.
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Old 02-06-2018, 08:37 AM   #7
Marlow
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by weaverof View Post
ALSO extremely intrested. I love time loop/ wg stories. FAVORITE. Also This Movie IS my life.
Can you recommend some others? I'd be curious to see what other folks have done with the idea.

Thanks for the kind words, everyone!


Chapter 2

The clock flickered to 7:00.

Renee rolled over, shielding her eyes from the morning sun. Cheap motel sheets slipped off her as she turned, exposing her flesh to a wintry draft that chased away any hope of returning to her dreams.

Voices filtered through the wall. The radio was blaring in the next room, treating her to what she quickly remembered to be the world’s most annoying morning talk show. She tried to ignore their dopey voices as she got up, but couldn’t help catch occasional phrases like “record snowfalls,” “dangerous conditions,” and “widespread road closures.”

“Wait, still?” Renee asked aloud, listening closer. She hopped down from the creaking bed and shivered. “The report last night said the storm was…done…”

“Looks like we’re all stuck here,” concluded the co-host, in the same weary drone he’d used the day before.

She wrapped a blanket over her shoulders as she approached the drafty window. The blanket all but smothered her petite figure; she clutched it tight over her abdomen and was surprised to find she was still rather bloated from her large dinner.

The window overlooked the town center, as meager and quaint as it had looked the day before. There was the dress shop she’d visited, there was the village square, the greasy diner and Burger Bunker, and the Italian restaurant where she’d allowed herself to eat a little more than she should have. She regretted the dinner somewhat, but had to admit it had been fun to cheat her diet for once.

Renee frowned. The area was covered in snow, enough that the roads were still white, but hardly to the degree the radio show was continuing to describe and certainly no more than she’d seen yesterday. Sidewalks had been shoveled and a few locals were trudging about as though it were a regular morning.

A plump woman was walking her dog up a sidestreet; as Renee watched, the dog caught sight of something and circled around, tying its leash around the woman’s legs. Further up the road, some children were rolling up a ball for the head of a snowman. In front of the record store two shoppers collided with one another, spilling groceries across the sidewalk, and hurried to collect each other’s goods.

“Déjà vu,” Renee mused, turning away.

She showered and made ready to finally get back on the road, irritated at being late to the conference but grateful for the break from long days of driving. Too impatient to pick out a new outfit, she simply pulled on her sweater-dress again; it smelled like she hadn’t worn it yet, anyway. Complementing herself on being so clean, she packed the rest of her things and ventured out of the room.

She stopped in the hallway, ears pricking at the continued blaring of the radio. Listening for a moment outside Room 238, she gritted her teeth and pounded on the door.

A tubby, middle-aged man opened up. He had just lathered himself up for a shave and over his shoulder Renee caught sight of his obese wife, one foot on a scale and her face flushed with embarrassment.

“Good morning,” Renee managed after a moment. “I just wanted you to know that your radio is really loud.”

“Oh, gosh,” the man stammered. “I’m sorry about that. Hon, can you—”

Renee rolled her eyes. “Well, it’s too late now.” She stomped away, leaving the man and his huge wife to their routine.

The well-groomed young man waited again at the front desk. Renee’s practiced smile faded as he greeted her.

“You’re still here?” she asked.

He started. “Uh, good morning. Still here? My shift only started about an hour and a half ago.”

“But you were here all day yesterday, weren’t you? You said they made you stick around when the old lady couldn’t make the drive in, or something like that. Or was that…was that someone else?”

“Mrs. Altman was in last night. She’s the one who would have checked you in.” He punched at his keyboard. “Speaking of which: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but the roads out of town are all closed. This blizzard has shut down the interstate from—”

“…from here to Erie…” Renee muttered, narrowing her eyes.

“Right. So, if you need to add a second night to your stay, I can ask the manager about discounting your rate, since—”

“You mean a third night, right?”

He cocked his head and checked his computer. “Third? I’m showing that you only checked in last night.”

Renee pushed her hair back. “I checked in Thursday night.”

He nodded. “Yesterday was Thursday.”

“Yesterday was Friday,” she protested, clutching her temples. “Do they use a different calendar up here in the mountains?”

“Um, no. Sorry, but according to the calendar here, today is Friday, February second.” He rotated his computer monitor to show her. “The midwinter festival starts tonight in the town square and, if I remember right, the college is hosting an art installation.”

“If you remember right? Apparently you don’t remember all of yesterday. We’ve already had this conversation. And the art installation was…” She opened her phone. The home screen informed her that it was Friday, February 2. “Oh, there’s no service. It probably hasn’t updated yet.”

“Yeah, the storm must have knocked out the cell tower. But that wouldn’t affect the calendar. I think that’s an internal program.”

“…Friday,” she murmured.

He gave her a pitying look. “Think of it this way: you just got a whole day back. Think what you might have missed!”

After returning her things to her room—again—Renee sat down in the lobby for a long breakfast. She felt guilty, allowing herself such an unhealthy spread for the second day in a row, but she was too wrapped in consternation to care. She pondered her way through coffee, a stack of pancakes, sausage, bacon, some fruit, and a small pastry.

Her stomach complained at the unfamiliar fullness, exasperated that she would force down more on top of the dinner it was still working to digest. Giving into a sudden urge to grab a second pastry, she dragged herself out of the dining area and chewed it as she set out, wincing, to explore.

Stepping out of the hotel was like stepping into a snowglobe. Disparate flakes fell over the quaint little town, muffling sound and curtaining off any view of land beyond the city limits. It was warmer than Renee had expected, brisk enough that coats had to be buttoned but not biting enough to chase anyone indoors.

Mulling over her issue with the calendar, Renee nearly walked into an elderly man. She chuffed at him for being in her way; he recoiled in confusion and hobbled off with a dismissive wave.

“Nice…attitude…” she murmured. Shaking it off, she headed up the road.

Only about half the town center’s storefronts were open. It was late morning now, but evidently many of the owners were still having difficulty on the roads. It was the same set of stores that had remained closed, Renee noticed. She wandered along until coming again to the little dress shop.

The young woman looked up from behind the counter. Her hair was as vibrant and colorful as the day before and her cleavage just as visible, falling out of what looked to be the exact same low-cut top.

“Hey,” she purred, hair falling over one eye. “Looking for anything in particular?”

Renee spread her palms. “Yeah, I was in here yesterday…you were gonna take in that green dress for me.”

The girl looked her up and down. “It’s not ringing a bell. I’m…pretty sure I’d remember you.”

“Oh, come on. It was, uh, about eleven in the morning. We talked about your college. I picked out a green dress…” She turned to the nearby rack and furrowed her brow. “That green dress…right there…”

“I wasn’t here at eleven yesterday. I have class on Thursdays. You would have talked to my manager and she’s…” The girl folded her arms with a smirk, squishing up her bosom. “We’re not easy to mix up.”

Renee bit her lip. “But yesterday was Friday.”

“Uh, today is Friday.”

“But today…” Renee sputtered for a moment, then blustered out of the store.

In the town square, the locals were setting up for the festival. They had made no apparent progress since Renee had watched them yesterday.

“If that was even yesterday,” she breathed. She glanced around in a panic, eyes eventually landing on the façade of the record store. The spiky-haired clerk could be seen through the window, head bobbing to the terrible music within.

Renee marched back to the hotel. Tapping her foot as she waited for the elevator, she shushed her rumbling stomach.

Exploding into her room, she unlatched her suitcase and spilled its contents across the floor. She sifted frantically through the piles of clothes, cursing. She rifled through her work bag, emptying file folders and checking every pocket twice. She yanked open dresser drawers and ripped the sheets from her bed, but eventually could only collapse back in despair.

There was no sign of the CD’s she’d purchased. She checked her purse: not only was the receipt missing, but all the money she’d spent on yesterday’s meals had somehow reappeared. The to-go box from the restaurant was absent from the mini-fridge.

“Did I just dream it all up?” she choked, lowering herself into the desk chair. “Am I losing my mind?”

A notepad sat on the desk, a wooden pencil lying diagonally across it. After a moment’s consideration, Renee grabbed the pencil and scribbled on the notepad. She then snapped the pencil in half, and placed the two splintered halves into a drawer. She stared at the drawer for a few minutes, opening and checking it twice, and then crossed the room to the phone on the nightstand.

She dialed down to the front desk. The clerk answered immediately, in his infuriatingly chipper tone.

“It’s Renee, up in 237,” she grumbled.

“Oh, hi. Did you get out and see the town at all? Have fun?”

She sulked. “I thought I did, but I guess I didn’t. Whatever. Anyway, I think I’m gonna just wait things out here in the hotel. Do you do, um, room service?”



The clock flickered to 7:00.

Renee rolled over, shielding her eyes from the morning sun. Cheap motel sheets slipped off her as she turned, exposing her flesh to a wintry draft that chased away any hope of returning to her dreams.

Voices filtered through the wall. The radio was blaring in the next room, treating her to what she quickly deemed the world’s loudest morning talk show. She tried to ignore their dopey voices as she got up, but her pounding head couldn’t help catch occasional phrases like “record snowfalls,” “dangerous conditions,” and “widespread road closures.”

“Not again,” she said hoarsely, blinking.

Her stomach churned with indigestion. She gradually began to remember why: bored to death in the hotel room, she’d done nothing but eat her needlessly extravagant room service meal and stare at the television, sipping cheap wine until drifting to sleep. Her normally active body was rebelling at the idleness and indulgence. Massaging her abdomen, she discovered with horror that she was still sporting a food-baby.

She shook her head. There was a more important issue at hand. Throwing off the sheets, Renee slid to the edge of the bed and hauled open the desk drawer.

The broken pencil was gone. Looking up, she found it lying diagonally across the notepad, magically healed. The notepad was blank.

There were no plates left from her dinner. Her clothes were neatly folded beside the suitcase. The handsome young clerk at the front desk greeted her with the same lack of recognition and the calendar on Renee’s phone informed her that it was, once again, Friday: February 2nd.

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Old 02-06-2018, 12:28 PM   #8
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Loving this, also love the room 237 reference.
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Old 02-06-2018, 05:58 PM   #9
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Default Plot twists.

Curious to see, as she already realized the food is sticking around, how she determines she would have to gain for the cycle to end... why wouldn't she just maintain her normal diet?
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Old 02-10-2018, 11:31 AM   #10
Marlow
 
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(Quick note about things that don't really matter: I accidentally labeled the room neighboring Renee's as room 238. In most hotels, that would put the rooms on opposite sides of the hall. I wasn't able to edit the post, but going forward I'll have her neighbors in room 239.)





Chapter 3

The clock flickered to 7:00.

Renee rolled over, shielding her eyes from the morning sun. Cheap motel sheets slipped off her as she turned, exposing softened flesh to a wintry draft that chased away any hope of returning to her dreams.

Voices filtered through the wall. The radio was blaring in the next room, treating her to what continued to be the world’s most annoying morning talk show. She imitated their dopey voices as she got up, anticipating their mentions of “record snowfalls,” “dangerous conditions,” and “widespread road closures.”

“Well, Renee,” she groaned to herself, sliding out of bed, “looks like stealing a truck and trying to break through the roadblocks didn’t get you anywhere, either.”

“Looks like we’re all stuck here,” the co-host’s voice confirmed, once again.

She stretched up and scratched her stomach. There was more to scratch, now: her once toned abdomen had begun to soften into a gentle muffin-top. A pudgy little gut pooched out from beneath her short tank top.

“Why don’t you ever reset, like everything else?” she asked, poking it. She’d tried using some of her repeated days to exercise and get back to her old routines, but the more time she spent trapped in town, the more pointless everything seemed. She’d decided to focus on getting out first and made her conscience a vague promise to get back on the diet once she had.

Her bra had grown uncomfortably tight, as well, underwire digging into her more rounded bosom. Frowning, Renee pulled on a bathrobe and slipped into the hallway.

She pounded on the next door down. The fat businessman opened up, halfway through his morning shave.

“Good morning,” she chirruped. “Could you maybe turn your radio down, and can I use your scale?”

He furrowed his brow. “Uh, I suppose...How did you know I have a scale?”

She strode into the room. “Because your wife, who just went downstairs for breakfast, is trying to get herself back under the three hundred pounds mark.” She glanced at the man’s own waistline. “She seems eager to be smaller than you again. But don’t worry—I won’t tell her about the cute young lady who barged into your room while she was out.”

He watched her disappear into the bathroom, wringing his hands.

“146,” Renee sighed, reappearing. “Almost twenty pounds. Hell…I need to get out of here before I start looking like the two of you.”

He looked down, wounded. “Well, they’re saying the roads will be open again by tomorrow.”

“They keep saying that, but tomorrow never seems to come.” She shook her head and opened the door. “And I’ve already lost count of the, uh, todays. Anyway, thanks. Good luck with your meeting this afternoon.”

“How did—”

The elevator opened and Renee sauntered out into the lobby. She’d pulled on her tights and sweater-dress, belly pushing the knit fabric out in a faint bulge.

“Morning, Phil,” she lilted.

The clerk appeared behind the front desk, looking confused. “Good morning, uh, ma’am. If you’re checking out—”

“Roads are closed, I know.” She stood pensively for a moment, smoothing the sweater over her midsection. “I tried to force my way onto the interstate last time and woke up here again, anyway. Didn’t even get to the county line. That was a rough one.”

He eyed her. “I’m sorry?”

“Are there any other ways out of town? Some back roads that might let me bypass the highway?”

“There are some farm roads, I guess, and there’s the old state route that heads over the hill.” He scratched the back of his head. “But they don’t get plowed much; they’d be in worse shape than the highways.”

Renee rolled her eyes. “So, let’s say you absolutely had to get yourself out of here, today. How would you do it?”

“What?”

“If your one goal in life was to wake up tomorrow morning anywhere other than here, what would you do?”

He cocked an eyebrow. “The next town’s about ten miles or so…and it’s not an easy hike in the summer. But I guess you could ski, or snowshoe, or something. I don’t know. I don’t…I don’t leave town very often.”

“I know, Phil. I know.” She forced a smile and pulled on her coat. “You’re always here to meet me, every morning. So, off to find some breakfast…and then some skis, I guess.”

The clerk raised a questioning finger, but dropped it. “We have a continental breakfast spread here, if you need something.”

“You do. And it’s great, definitely. I’ve enjoyed it a little more than I probably should have,” she admitted, looking down at her stomach.

She glanced up: he was looking at it, as well.

“…but this morning,” she coughed, buttoning her coat, “I’m in the mood for waffles.”

She marched out through the sliding doors, pausing to let the old man scuttle past.

The diner made an excellent breakfast, featuring a menu with six pages of options. The pear-shaped waitress was a bit over-friendly for Renee’s taste, always overjoyed to meet an out-of-towner, but it meant attentive service and, if Renee asked her about her children, a free doughnut for the road.

Biting into the doughnut, Renee called for the server to come back over, watching her wide hips wobble behind the apron.

“Something else I can get you, hon?”

Renee swallowed and wiped her lips. “You know anyone around here with, uh, skis, or snowshoes, or whatever?”

“Gosh, hm. My niece’s got some skis, I think. Never uses them, as far as I know. I always just see them hanging in the garage.”

“Uh-huh. Where does she live?” Seeing the woman’s dubious look, she adopted a more earnest expression. “I’ve just always wanted to try, and I figure I should take advantage of the weather while it’s got me here. And this seems like such a beautiful place to do it.”

The woman melted. “Aren’t you the sweetest little thing? I wish you could come in here every day.”

Renee gritted her teeth, but maintained a polite smile.

“She works over at the Burger Bunker, if you want to go ask her. Just tell her that the best cook in town sent you.”

“Best in town? I suppose I can’t argue with that, after such a wonderful breakfast.” She gestured to her plates: cleaned more thoroughly than she remembered.

The waitress cooed. “Such a flatterer. And you haven’t even tried my pie.”

Renee licked her lips, but caught herself. “I think just the doughnut for today. Don’t want to ski on too full a tummy.”

“Well, at least let me get you another one for the road. On the house.”



The clock flickered to 7:00.

Renee rolled over, shielding her eyes from the morning sun. Cheap motel sheets slipped off her as she turned, exposing softened flesh to a wintry draft that chased away any hope of returning to her dreams.

“Fuck,” she groaned, ignoring the voices from the radio next door. She kicked the blankets away, though there was little point to getting out of bed. “All that fighting through the snow for nothing.”

She stared out the window. The dog wrapped its leash around its owner again; the two shoppers collided with one another again.

“There’s just no point in trying, is there?” she asked the snowstorm, shivering. “Well, fuck it.”

After a long breakfast—back to the hotel’s continental buffet, this time—she trudged up the hill toward the college campus. She paused to sit on the park bench and digest awhile, lazily rebuffing the jogger’s attempts at flirtation until she grew bored enough to continue on.

As always, the campus was a ghost town, with only a few lonely students hurrying between buildings. Renee pantomimed the heated debates between the gamers in the union as she passed, throwing up her hands as the fat one with the neckbeard threw up his in defeat and snickering along with the wispy blonde girl who had beaten him.

The sorority sisters emerged from the library, arguing over how to save their ruined Saturday night plans. Renee mouthed the words as the fat-bottomed one lost her patience: “fine, just go drink all the beer by yourself.” She watched from a distance as the fat-bellied one dropped her lanyard in the snowbank and walked off without realizing.

Once they’d gone, Renee sidestepped over and plucked up the lanyard.

The art installation, as always, was closed. The area was deserted, however. Renee checked her watch.

“Dog barks…” she murmured.

In the distance, a dog barked.

“Stiff breeze…”

A wintry gust flared up, fluttering the curls of her hair.

“Campus security drives by,” she continued, watching the white jeep roll past, “and doesn’t patrol this side of the quad for another half hour.”

Glancing around, she tiptoed to the art building’s door. She pulled out the sorority sister’s lanyard, wiping the snow from her keycard, and swiped it in the electronic lock. The monitor beeped and the door was unlocked.

The art building was a curved, deliberately unorthodox building. Its floorpplan resembled a nautilus, spiraling outward from a central gallery. Renee made her way down and forced open the gallery door.

The gallery was a single, open room, lined with monochrome sketches. They comprised, apparently, a single student’s opus, with a simple, singular concept represented in every piece: the portrayal of eating dinner as an erotic experience.

Renee studied each of the sketches, amusing herself with sardonic comments and pretending to be a snooty art critic. The artist was clearly infatuated with their subject matter, a fiery lust evident in every canvas. The pretentiously-worded descriptions said they hoped to evoke a primordial response in the viewer, but all Renee felt was a dull hunger.

At the end of the gallery stood a tall, scrap-metal sculpture, depicting the culmination of the artist’s narrative: an impressionistic female figure clutching a cornucopia in one hand and what looked to be her distended stomach with the other. Behind it, on the wall, hung a profile of the artist herself. Renee squinted at it; the artist was the waifish blonde girl who had won her card game in the union half an hour earlier.

“Sorry, Abby,” muttered Renee, rolling up her sleeves. She took a deep breath and gave the statue a shove.

It teetered, then fell from its pedestal and crashed to the floor. Sheets of aluminum clattered across the hardwood.

An alarm sounded. Lights flashed outside.

“I guess I’ve been looking at this the wrong way,” Renee decided, hands on her hips. “Every morning, my debts are cancelled. My wallet’s full again. Crimes are erased, wounds are healed, offenses are forgotten…a clean slate, every day.”

The door burst open. A pair of fat security guards stumbled into the gallery.

“What the hell are you doing?” huffed one.

“Whatever I want,” Renee realized, lips broadening with a crazed grin. “I can do…whatever I want.”

“That right? You have any idea how much trouble you’re in?” puffed the other.

Renee shook her head. “Doesn’t matter. Everything’ll be fine again by morning.”
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Old 02-17-2018, 07:50 PM   #11
Marlow
 
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Chapter 4

The clock flickered to 7:00.

Renee rolled over, shielding her eyes from the morning sun. Cheap motel sheets slipped off her as she turned, exposing softened flesh to a wintry draft that chased away any hope of returning to her dreams. She felt her bloated stomach grumble and pressed a hand to it with a wince.

Voices filtered through the wall. The radio was blaring in the next room, treating her to what continued to be the world’s most annoying morning talk show. Renee pounded her fist on the wall and shouted for her neighbor to turn it down. He was still shaving, however, and the fan in his bathroom would keep him from hearing her for at least four more minutes.

“You suck,” she groaned, sitting up. Her belly bunched into a pair of thick rolls. Her tank top barely covered any of it, occupied as it was with her plumper chest; overtaxed lace underwear pinched into her plush hips. “Everyone here sucks. Screw all of you, screw your dead-end town, and screw your dumb, repetitive little lives.”

She slid off the creaking bed, shivering in the draft and trying in vain to pull the tank top down over her midsection.

“I had an awesome life ahead of me,” she continued, getting dressed. “That conference I was on my way to? I had an interview scheduled there—with Silver Key. Big damn corporation with lots of fingers in lots of pies…”

She tugged on the sweater-dress. It had shortened considerably, hanging only to her hips, hugging her burgeoning muffin-top and barely covering her backside. The dimple of her deepened navel could be seen in the fabric and the knit pattern made her chest look even larger than it had become.

“I was climbing the ladder. I was a hot commodity. Big-shots wanted me selling their products to young people. I could have gone anywhere I wanted. Happily ever after.”

She managed to shimmy her leggings up around her thickened thighs. They had originally been a few sizes too large for her, but now she’d more than grown into them. She stepped into her boots and threw open the door: the paisley wallpaper of the hotel hallway stared back at her.

“But instead, I don’t get to be anywhere but here.” She took a long, shaky breath. “Forever."

The radio voices continued, grating against her brain. She gritted her teeth.

"That's it. If I have to be miserable...so does everyone else."

She padded over to Room 239 and rapped on its door until the businessman opened up.

“167?” she wailed, kicking the scale away. “I’ve let things get that bad? How long have I been stuck here?”

The businessman stared with his usual, dopey confusion.

Renee pulled up her sweater and bounced her doughy gut in her hands. “I worked so hard on my diet before I got here…before all this…I thought it would level out, now that I’ve gotten used to things—if it’s even possible to get used to something like this—but nope, turns out I’m just getting fat.”

“I, uh, I don’t think you’re fat,” the man ventured, wringing his hands.

“That’s because you and your wife are still twice my size,” she muttered under her breath, turning to the door. She paused, though, rolling her eyes, and spun around. “You really think so, mister?”

He coughed. “You’re…very pretty, if that’s what you’re so…upset about. I mean, I don’t mean to…uh…you just seem…”

“What’s your name?” she asked, flashing her doe-eyes and tiptoeing toward him.

“Uh, it’s—”

“Wait,” she purred. “Don’t tell me. I love the mystery.” She put her hand on his chest and pushed gently, leading him to sit on the edge of his bed. “You really think I’m pretty?”

“Y-yes,” he managed.

“You’re so sweet. I want to thank you.” She leaned over him, sweater-bound bosom in his face, laying a finger on his lips. After a deep breath, she stepped back with a coy smile. “And I will. But…not while your wife is around. If I come back tonight, will you be alone?”

He swallowed, blushing. “I…can be. If that’s…if that’s what you…want.”

“I do.” She pursed her lips. “At eight I will knock on that door, ready to thank you properly.”

“I’ll be here,” he stammered.

“Good. Don’t wear anything. Just be ready for me. I hate wasting time.” She arched her back with a sultry breath, opened the door, and slammed it behind her.

Back in the hallway, she took a moment to pull the sweater back over her stomach and push the hair from her face.

She shook her head and made her way toward the elevator. “I am stuck here,” she sighed, “and stuck here with just the stupidest people…”

Checking her watch, she timed her arrival at the hotel breakfast for the precise moment when a fresh batch of pancakes was brought out. Renee pushed over a pitcher of water; the subsequent commotion of the cook slipping in it distracted the other guests long enough for her to sneak into line first.

She piled pancakes on her plate, tonging up over half the tray. Overhearing a voice across the room mentioning how eagerly someone was looking forward to the hotel’s signature ‘flapjacks’ and how they’d made sure to stop at this hotel for them, Renee shrugged and took the rest of the tray.

Though she’d grown more accustomed to large meals during her time in town, there was no way she could consume the entire tray of pancakes. She forced down as many as she could, though, answering the other guests’ disgusted glares with spiteful, syrup-dripping grins. Phil gaped from behind the front desk, ignoring the courtesy phone’s desperate ringing.

Renee shoved pancakes down her throat until she was too full to sit up properly. Slouching back in her chair, she stifled a long burp and massaged her glutted stomach, rounding out the sweater.

Her eyes bulged and her belly gurgled; it was filled to the brim both with pancakes and vindictiveness. “If I don’t get to be happy,” Renee groaned to herself, belching, “nobody here gets to be happy. You were looking forward to your favorite flapjacks? Yeah, well, I was looking forward to getting on with my damn life. Now neither of us gets what we want. And dammit, Phil, quit—urrp—quit staring at me…creep.”

After a short food coma, she walked gingerly out of the hotel and wandered the parking lot, absently rubbing her gut. She counted the cars, bouncing her finger through the air.

“Three down from the pickup truck…the red coupe? No, it was the station wagon. Aha, hi there.”

The station wagon was unlocked—the couple in Room 169 paid little attention to such things—and Renee nonchalantly opened the back door. A cloth shopping bag was folded on the seat; she opened it up and deftly placed inside it the six-pack of craft beer left in the trunk.

She popped the cap from a bottle, sniffed it, and took a long pull as she walked out toward the town square. The home brew was bitterer than she liked, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.

She’d tested that on many occasions. Once, maybe ten pounds ago—or perhaps fifteen, since it was before she’d switched from her bra to her bralette—she’d gone about the day totally naked. After a frigid walk into town, she’d quickly been arrested, but the captivated stares and dropped jaws had been worth the trouble. She’d woken the next morning back in her room, back in her tank top and underwear, and not a soul remembered Lady Godiva’s procession.

It was all too easy to act outrageously and garner attention anywhere she went. She was an obvious out-of-towner who attracted a lot of eyes to begin with. Once she’d acclimated to the daily patterns and habits, though, it became just as easy to go unnoticed, almost unseen, if she so chose. This invisibility, emboldened by the lack of consequences for being discovered, allowed her to learn many of the town’s secrets.

Renee sipped at her second beer in the parking lot behind the Burger Bunker, watching as two of the fry-cooks snuck away to make out in a car. The guy was short and pimple-faced; the girl was tall and athletic. She was the diner waitress’ niece.

Renee had learned that they’d both elected to stay in town rather than go off to college. She’d learned that they aspired to little more than getting by and getting laid; she’d learned that they were both still in committed relationships with other people.

She’d learned that, while they were snogging in the car, no one was watching the store. This usually wasn’t a problem, since the lunch rush wouldn’t start filtering in for another half hour. Renee wandered inside, slinging her bag over her shoulder and setting her empty beer bottle on the counter. Whistling to herself, she pocketed all the money from the cash register, unplugged several of the appliances, jammed the ice dispenser’s lever, filled up a carton of French fries, and departed.

“That should give you lovebirds something to do,” she mused, popping a fry in her mouth and heading up the street, “since you’re apparently so bored all the time.”

She’d learned that, at midday, the mousy librarian would get a visit from her fiancé that would quickly deteriorate into a loud argument. He didn’t want her going to some party, apparently, due to her propensity for having too much fun and frequently losing her clothes.

Renee had learned, though, that the possessive fiancé could be intercepted on his way into the library with news that his beloved muscle car was being towed. She’d learned how responsive the tow company was to reports that someone had illegally parked in a handicap zone.

She found some small joy in learning the town’s secrets. She’d learned about the barber’s stash of baseball cards and how hilariously he would react to their theft, she’d learned about the police chief’s stash of sex toys and how to ensure his wife discovered them, she’d learned about several extramarital affairs and how to expose them, she’d learned about the weak point in the midwinter festival’s giant ice sculpture and how to bring it crashing down.

She’d learned that, just after noon, the big-bosomed girl in the dress shop would take her lunch break in the back room. The girl seemed unaware that she could be seen through a ground-level window, or perhaps never expected anyone to be in the alley behind the shop at that time.

It allowed Renee to watch, working through another bottle, as the girl peeled off her top in front of a changing mirror and studied her own reflection. She squeezed and massaged her disproportionately large chest, biting her lip and closing her eyes, some unknown fantasy in her head. Despite her otherwise fairly slim figure, she sported beneath her sagging breasts a faint beer gut; she traced her fingers over its supple curve as her hand made its way into her soon unzipped pants.

Renee drained her beer and tossed the bottle behind her. It shattered on the cement, ripping the dress-shop girl from her rapturous reverie. She frantically pulled on her shirt and peered out the window in horror, but Renee had disappeared around the corner.

The town center was growing a little noisy. People were shouting at one another in the street—some confluence of events had triggered several arguments at once—and a pair of police cruisers were stopped in front of the Burger Bunker. Renee giggled and made her way up to the park.

Finishing the six pack, she lounged on her favorite park bench and savored the swirling haze in her head. Her belly burbled and she wished, for a moment, that she’d stolen more fries.

The jogging man interrupted her, as always. She blinked at him as he attempted to flirt, waiting for her eyes to focus and allowing herself a languid smile.

“I mean, I think chubby chicks can still be hot,” he was saying. He was a terrible liar, but his odd desperation to connect with an outsider lent him an air of earnestness.

Renee bristled a little, but only responded by stifling a belch.

“So, uh,” he asked at length, “what are you doing for dinner?”

She got to her feet, keeping an arm on the backrest to steady herself. “I’ve got plans at somebody’s house. But afterward…if you’re still interested…I might be hungry for some dessert.”

“Oh yeah?”

She flashed him a tipsy, mischievous grin. “I’m in room 23…9 at the hotel. Knock on my door at eight and…mm, be ready for something you won’t forget.”

Suave exterior straining to conceal his glee, he repeated the time and address and jogged off. Renee pushed off the bench, nearly slipping in a pile of slush, and weaved her way back toward town.

She’d learned that, despite the diner waitress’ claims, the best cook in town was in fact the mayor’s husband. It was her birthday and her doting spouse would surprise her after a long day of festival preparations with a candlelit dinner for two, set up on a small table in their living room.

As lovely as the meal was and as much as she adored her husband, the festival took precedence in the mayor’s head. When Renee knocked on the door of the rustic manor home and informed her that the ice sculpture in the square had somehow collapsed, the mayor urged her husband to start the car and they rushed off, leaving their celebratory meal untouched.

Renee plopped herself down at the little table. Before her waited an elegantly crafted steak dinner, both plates arranged with the meticulous aesthetic of a five-star restaurant. The long candle flickered as a centerpiece next to an expensive bottle of wine.

“Since we’ll never get to my birthday,” she sighed, cutting into the steak, “happy birthday to me.”

She dispatched the first plate with ease. All the walking had awakened her appetite and the alcohol dulled her sense of fullness. Pouring herself a glass of wine, she loosed a long belch and reached for the other plate.

The second plate took a bit longer, but soon she had wiped it clean. She pushed it away, pressed a hand to her chest, and hiccupped.

A smell wafted to her nostrils: smoke. She twisted around in the chair, wincing as the motion contorted her stuffed gut.

“He left his dessert in the oven,” she remembered, draining her glass. “Shoot. Guess I’ll be getting dessert…somewhere else.”

She rose, swaying momentarily, and massaged the pangs of fullness in her belly. Grabbing the wine bottle, she strutted out of the house, leaving the front door hanging open.

Staggering between parked cars, Renee was nearly to the hotel when the jogging man burst out from an emergency exit, one hand clutching his bundled shirt, the other holding up his unbuckled pants. His bright red face glanced around in paranoid terror and he sprinted away into the night.

Renee hiccupped. “Told you it would be un…unforgettable.”

Draining the last of the wine, she tottered back against the hood of a car. She turned and smashed the bottle on the windshield; the car erupted with a wailing siren.

“Shut up,” Renee slurred. “You can cry all you want, you can—hic!—you can make all that noise and flash all those lights, but you’ll never get out of here…hulp!”

She stumbled across the lot, pausing to pick up a rock and hurl it at another windshield. She missed and lost her footing; her drunken momentum carried her to a snowbank and she collapsed into it.

Guests were filtering out from the hotel, hoping to quiet the blaring car alarm. A second siren wailed in the distance as fire trucks headed toward the mayor’s house.

“Call the—hic!—call the police!” Renee sang, hoisting up her middle finger. “I’m a menace to so…society!” She thrashed uselessly in the snowbank. “I’ll tear this whole place apart. Your only hope is to—hup!—to get me as far away from here as you can!”

The guests murmured, backing away. “Looks like she’s had a rough day,” said one.

“What the hell is all this?” shouted another. “You want to go to jail, lady?”

Renee gazed up at the stars, dancing overhead. She hiccupped. “I’m…already there.”
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Old Today, 02:34 PM   #12
Deoxyribo9
 
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Really like seeing the progression of her outgrowing her clothes.
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