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Old 05-21-2012, 03:14 PM   #1
agouderia
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Join Date: Jun 2008
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Default Legally Yours by agouderia (BHM, BBW, MWG)

[Author's note: A BHM and an BBW need each other's support in discovering their true identities and intentions. I needed some fictional company during a particularly tedious project and evenings in barren hotel rooms .... so I tried a new, two-sided perspective on this story.]

Legally Yours


Cognitive Dissonances

„Take a deep breath, suck in and open your eyes! Look into the mirror! You can do it!” Louisa told herself and tentatively squinted towards the mirrored doors of her closet. Okay-now the objective assessment: There stood a fat woman in a nice, well fitting size 16 suit in a fine dull jeans-blue glen check wool with a powder blue blouse that accentuated round D-cups breasts some people might deign to find attractive. If she exhaled, her belly bulged forward in a thick muffin top role over her waistband, making her look even fatter. If she stood straight though, the suit fit her well, as loosely as professionally intended and it objectively brought out the color of her eyes and her creamy skin tone very nicely. Size 16! Once more, she hadn’t had the discipline to starve herself back into her absolute favorite teal suit faced in velvet, an even more becoming color, in a size 14.

Now she felt as if she had ‘size 16’ tattooed to her forehead, inwardly trying to steel herself against any derisive remarks, only to fail miserably. She simply didn’t look the professional part. Nobody who saw this overweight size 16 woman would believe she was starting in one of the three major international law firms of the capitol, to handle international public-private litigation, had a PhD in law and would be making notable six figures a year plus bonuses.

Well, everybody would be right that she wouldn’t get this type of job if she didn’t finally stop moping around, she told her image. The only thing she currently was achieving was feeling more inadequate by the second … after all Ryan was going to be there. They had always worked so well together, he had gotten her this great job… in the firm where he had just recently been made partner, no wonder with his family’s connections. He knew what she looked like, she hadn’t been any thinner during their joint projects at university … but maybe he had overlooked how out of place a size 16 looked next to all those sleek size 4-6 lawyerettes? It might have been better if she had stayed on the academic track – difficult as it was to get to a tenured position these days. At university at least it still was a bigger deal how many papers you had published than which cloths size you wore.

“You’re going to end up in South Dakota, do you honestly want that?” her mother had wailed as she had discussed her job perspectives with her parents. Actually the best offer she had gotten had been from North Dakota as she had vaguely started exploring the academic track. Ryan’s call and offer had then spared her a potentially grueling, confidence crushing interview marathon – along with a salary, that would let her pay off her student loans in two years.

Size 16 or not, if she wanted that to happen, she had to get going. Slipping into her comfortable walking shoes, packing up the high heels, she set out on what was to become her daily walk from the small town house belonging to a college friends family that had moved to Arizona on retiring slightly North of DuPont Circle to almost the corner of 9th and Constitution Ave – a way to clear her head and make sure she got a bit of exercise.

“Oh wow Louisa, just wow! Professional suits bring out the best in you! You look fabulous! I can’t believe you took my offer, I had always feared you wanted to stay independent in academia– but here you are! Ready to become part of the team. We’re so happy to have you, I can’t tell you how happy I am…,” Ryan greeted her with an enthusiastic smile and a big hug, making her tense up, suck in her stomach and go stiff as a broad, so he wouldn’t feel how flabby she was.

“Oh, you’re exaggerating Ryan, as mostly. It’s so good to see you. And thanks a million for this job; I don’t know what I would’ve done without you…”

“Louisa, you would’ve gotten five other job offers, maybe even better ones… I made sure we were fastest, so we stood a chance.” Ryan linked arms, “Let me show you your new working world.”

Walking through the office with Ryan made her feel much more comfortable, it was so familiar. They’d worked together, been to many conferences while she was at university for almost four years- it was a bit like slipping back into that pattern. He was such a good-looking guy, sort of in the mold of Robert Redford, blond but masculine, though with less convincing hair. His handsome appearance was emphasized by stylish, well fitting clothing and impeccable manners, she had never met another man who had such an amount of social graces, the ability to blend into almost any environment and get along with everybody.

“I’m introducing you only to the senior partners today and the people working in your international section – anything else would be too much. I’ll take you around to the meetings of the other sections in the next days so you can meet all your colleagues and our staff.”

“Sounds like a good plan, thanks for all you’re doing for me.”

“It’s my pleasure. Here’s Winston Palmer’s office, you know our senior founder … “

Doing the rounds, being introduced to people was much easier than she had anticipated: It seemed everybody kindly ignored her appearance instead she received many questions about her recently published doctoral thesis, professors she had studied with, the international court where she had clerked … all easy to answer and show her expertise. Ryan’s smiling approval to all she was saying gave her confidence an additional boost.

“Now to your office… I have to sincerely apologize to you about that ..,” Ryan looked at her guiltily. “I know we had promised you your own office. But we have space issues, we’ve just restructured the sections… and the half 4th floor we had intended to rent has not been vacated yet… so … well … umm … you’ll have to share an office.”

“Okaaay…” her heart sank, this was something she had not counted on happening. What if it was some size 4 blondie with killer long legs? How was she supposed to work with a live taunt all day?

“It’s one of our nicest offices though, a lot nicer than mine …,” Ryan put his arm around her shoulder sounding as apologetic as possible. “Don’t be put off by Conrads, he’s a bit like grouchy bear, but kick-ass brilliant at international taxation, what he does … and thus also pretty close to your professional field,” opening the door with a flourish.

“What an amazing view!” she blurted in excitement on entering the office. It had a full, floor deep window front facing east, offering the panorama of Capitol Hill on the left over to Lincoln Memorial with the Potomac behind it on the right. Silhouetted against it was a large guy in a pale blue shirt who did not really enter her focus until he stood right in front of her. “Henry Conrads, meet Louisa Grenburgh our wonderful new asset in the field of international litigation and your charming new office mate.”

“Nice meeting you…,” a deep voice said. Dazed Louisa took the outstretched hand and shook it longer than intended, feeling how strong, thick and smooth it felt, the touch sending warm shudders down her spine. “Pleasure to meet you,” she finally managed to say. “Sorry about my taking up some of your office … it wasn’t … I didn’t know…” unsure of what else she could voice.

“It’s okay, we’ll be fine… it is a very big office.” His smile was brief and very shy, only a small flicker of dimples in chubby cheeks. It was indeed a big office, the 2 desk spaces were separated by an open designer bookshelf and a third of the large room was set up with a meeting table. Apart from the spectacular view the furnishing was much nicer, more stylish and modern than in the other offices, making Louisa smile gleefully as she let her fingers glide over the smooth surface of her new desk.

“It’s a great office, Ryan – again my most sincere thanks. I’m sure I’ll be able to do my best work here,” she beamed at both of them, causing Henry
Conrads to look under himself uncomfortably.
Eyeing him, Louisa was surprised by the pleasant tingles running through her once more. Was it relief that he was so big that she looked comparably slender next to him? He had something of a bear, Ryan had been right. All big and cuddly, with massive shoulders and an impressively heavy looking paunch rolling over his belt, supported by thick tree trunk legs. His face was strong and bit hawkish, filled out with soft flesh though, the softness enhanced by bushy dark brown hair and bright blue eyes half hidden by thick glasses. She couldn’t remember having been interested in a big guy before, but he had something, was very appealing with his abundant physique, making good-looking Ryan look a bit fake, and sort of plastic like next to him.

“So Henry … is it okay if I call you Henry, since we’ll be working here together every day..?”

“Sure … Henry is fine ….Louisa….,” her name came out as a whisper.

“Ryan tells me you do international tax law. That’s a very complicated field – it’s incredible which schemes governments come up with to tax people and companies. It borders on my field, because in public-private partnerships subsidies, tax breaks and such play a big role,” she felt the need to engage him in a conversation. “Which are the major cases you’re currently dealing with?”

“Right now in the aftermath of the financial crisis the distribution of losses versus profits still is the big deal. We’re also working closely with a number of lobby agencies for clients to prevent various governments from broadening the tax base too widely…” within minutes she was engrossed in a discussion with Henry that Ryan winked at her and murmured in retreating: “Good job! All too technical for me – see you at lunch!”


The delighted wonder she had felt on entering her office that first day persisted and grew as her first weeks at ‘Palmer Associates’ flew by. She loved entering the office every morning to enjoy the view, see the sun streaming in and hoping to have Henry smile at her from his desk in one of his nice shirt and tie combinations, draped over his inviting chubbiness.

Apart from the fact that she feared the negative implications a crush on her office mate might have, it disturbed and confused her profoundly, that she was so fond of, so turned on by his fatness. Why did she want nothing more than to bury her face in his big, round jiggly belly when it rested in his lap – while at the same time there were moments of such intensive frustration when she tried to fit into her business cloths in the morning that she almost took a carving knife to her own belly rolls? Why did she think his love-handles looked like seductive puffs, her own ample backside only seemed to beckon to be kicked as hard as possible?

These cognitive dissonances left her jumpy and irritated, adding on to the heavy work load of familiarizing herself with her new field. Ryan also kept her busy, coming in frequently will all sorts of questions, things she should look over, meetings she should come along to and the like. Although she realized that some of the issues Ryan came with where clearly not her work, and he should be doing them on his own as a partner, she played along. Mainly because working for and with Ryan was as comfortable as a pair of worn in shoes: She knew how he wanted his results, understood his deficits and supplemented them, all in all making it a smooth way to ease into the business style of Palmer Associates.

In contrast it was obvious Henry was not overtly fond of Ryan’s visits, often left the room when he entered. She soon preferred it when they had the office to themselves, and they instantly, mutely agreed to try to keep the rest of the firm from using the meeting table in their office as well as possible. From her perception they got along well enough, could synchronize their need for coffee, tea and conversation or sometimes just quietly stared out the window at the sights together.

Still, she was not quite sure how he saw her intrusion in his space, so she asked one Friday: “You’ve had to put up with me occupying your office for three weeks by now. I hope I haven’t done anything to disturb you. Is there anything I should do or change to make things easier for you?”

“Is something wrong? Did I say something … ?” Henry started.

“No, no, not at all. I feel … umm .. really comfortable here. I like my office, our office. I just wanted to make sure everything is okay for you too … the way we’re doing things … and so on…,” Louisa felt her cheeks flame.

Henry exhaled visibly, his belly expanding as he gave her a small smile. “Everything is just fine. I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly beside myself with joy when I heard someone was being put into this office … you’re probably the next best thing to being alone ….. Your predecessors were all incredibly stupid…,” he suddenly looked embarrassed, making her laugh.

“Okay … I’m glad I’m not like my predecessors then.... How about me making us a cappuccino?”

“Yes, wonderful. That’s definitely an advantage you have over your predecessors, that you can work that complicated machine really well…”

Returning with the coffee, they got into an interesting discussion on in which cases to go for a common law versus a civil law system before she finished her work of the day to go home replaying her conversation with Henry in her head, chiding herself after a while that she was interpreting too much into the occasional smile he gave her. He couldn’t be interested in her unattractive self – and from the little he told, he seemed to have a very active and busy private life. It was good they at least shared common professional interests and ideas, as good prerequisite for getting along well in their shared office. Wishing for more was asking for an emotional disaster.

One thing she admired and envied about Henry was how nonchalant and seemingly unaware he was of his weight – but probably that was different for heavy guys. Nobody scorned a man for wearing a certain cloths size. He had a big appetite and was religious about eating his meals, nice big, square portions of them unapologetically. Next to lunch and sometimes if it got late dinner, he’d also have a substantial snack in the afternoon with coffee or tea. She enjoyed watching him eat, his full cheeks chewing, his double-chin wobbling, wishing she had the courage to do justice to her appetite in the same way. Given the long days of sitting on her backside, regular business lunches, she sensed she was putting more weight on again, adding to her tenseness. Eating in front of others was making her increasingly nervous, always fearing some barbed remark, making her limit herself to salad, water and espresso as far as possible.

Henry – in whose eyes she desperately wanted to come across as a competent, disciplined, nice person – in turn had the unfortunate habit of asking her to go to lunch with him rather regularly, mostly to discuss some issue on the side they lacked time for during work hours, then setting loose a whirlwind of conflicting emotions and constant remorse: If she went with him, she berated herself for eating too much and gaining even more weight. If she under a pretext excused herself, she regretted she didn’t have to time to chat nicely with him, show him what a good conversationalist, bright and sometimes even funny person she was, getting him to maybe overlook her size.

A routine event at Palmer Associates every two weeks was the plenary discussion of a major case among all attorneys, even those from other fields of specialty to get different perspectives on a case, maybe more innovative solutions and strategies. One week Henry wasn’t quite sure whether their joint issue of establishing the legal framework for a new merged, US – Luxembourgian company might not come on the table, so they went to the small spaghetti bar around the corner to ventilate it over lunch.

Even though she had vowed she was only going to have an arugula salad on going there, Louisa had caved into appetite and Henry’s suggestion and ordered her favorite spinach pasta bowl, relaxing as the warm creaminess oozed down into her stomach. Henry had not only ordered the meat ball bowl, but also a parmesan salad on the side as well as cassata for dessert, making her feel less self-conscious.

“Big spread, big guy – isn’t it? Don’t you think cutting back occasionally might be a good idea?” It was Clayton Barner, one of the young attorneys from Ryan’s section. “Watch out Louisa, his habits are already rubbing off on you …..”

“Clayton, good nutrition is what fuels the active mind. I keep my brain cells well and regularly supplied – my only 8% appeals and revision rate speaks for this tactic doesn’t it? Maybe you should try it too …. since your triathlon approach hasn’t been so successful lately, ey?”

“Good joke … but yeah, my a&r hasn’t been in top shape this past half year ….,” Clayton reddened but Louisa was much too hurt to notice or care. Henry and Clayton started talking about Clayton’s case, which he presumed would be up in plenary later, but she didn’t participate, nor did she finish her pasta despite Henry’s prompting, instead played with her cutlery. These were the situations she hated so much – when people pointed out the embarrassing obvious: That she was a fat girl with an overeating issue – the undisciplined social leper of modern times.

In the later afternoon it was indeed Clayton’s and not their case that was first discussed in plenary – as he had anticipated and prepared a full blown presentation with a hand-out. He was a good, confident presenter and in the aftermath, only a few superficial questions were asked. Scanning the hand-out, Louisa felt her resentment and combative instincts winning the upper-hand. “Clayton, I see you’ve tried to find some legal safeguards since the new subsidiary you’re constructing for our multi-national client would not be subject to US law, which I gather is your intention. But since this is supposed to be a production plant – have you ever considered or calculated the effects leaving the US PTA zone would have for your client?”

“PTA zone?” Clayton stared at her helplessly.

“Preferential Trade Agreement… the countries that have easier access to the US market.”

“Ummm … this is the legal construction we’ve worked out, with our client and the partners there. It works well in …. no US taxes, or labor laws …. but still quite a guarantee to be able to do necessary law suits in the holding’s subsidiary of the Netherlands, on safe legal grounds….”

“Yes, I understood that. But the market there is much too small – including the regional market. How are you going to get the products back into the US with too high tariffs?”

She knew she had him cornered because it seemed that the foreign trade perspective was so far unknown at ‘Palmer Associates’. With zest she went on to also pick the extremely optimistic ground assumptions as to the possible political and rule of law developments in the target region apart, until Ryan came to Clayton’s mercy: “Louisa, I see your point. You’re right, this is a bit too much standard procedure, we’ll need a few more safeguards and maybe a tri-national construction to balance legal security with optimal corporate framework. Times are tricky; we can no longer take the stability of semi-authoritarian regimes for granted.”

“Excellent analysis, Ms. Grenburgh,” Winston Palmer congratulated her. “You bring a new type of thinking we need to consider more – and this round of discussion showed in exemplary fashion what can make a firm plenary so rewarding.”

Louisa blushed with pleasure: “Thank you Mr. Palmer. I try my best to always think as many options through as possible.” Ryan gave her a half hug in going out, making her tense up, fearing he might feel the thick role around her waist and catching Henry’s critical expression over his shoulder. “Great job for your first real firm plenary Louisa. I’m so glad I brought you here. But you could’ve been a bit softer on poor Clayton, not tear him to pieces in plenary. He can’t think as complicated as you do – he’s more a linear guy. Now we’re going to need your help in re-engineering that contract for it to get Palmer’s blessing… will you do that?”

“Of course … come to me with it any time.”

Yet Ryan didn’t come himself but sent a meek Clayton the next day. “Louisa, I don’t know what I may have done to offend you, but whatever it was, I sincerely apologize. And I would’ve appreciated it if you had told me how critically you saw my contract design over lunch, when we talked about it with Henry – not waited until plenary.”

“Oh, well … umm,” guilty heat crept up her face as she observed Henry raise his eyebrows. She couldn’t possibly tell how he had offended her, it was highly unprofessional and she’d be the laughing stock of the firm. “Did we get that far over lunch? I don’t remember you asking my opinion about that…. Anyway, I’m sorry if I got carried away by my debating fervor. It’s probably still a habit from university; there theoretical debates are fought tooth and nail …. I somehow haven’t gotten into the mode of a more constructive, practical discussion yet.”

“Umm yeah … sure … no hard feelings. Ryan said I could come to you with the new draft?”

“Any time you’re ready.”


Despite numerous aspects of it making her apprehensive, Louisa did not regret taking the job at ‘Palmer Associates’ one minute. The cases and projects were interesting, giving her field of specialty she was allowed to work more independently than could be expected for someone so young and new on the job, the pay was good and she let out a whoop of joy as her first bonus entered her bank account for an real estate rebate she had negotiated for a major investment. There was the comforting familiarity of working for Ryan, most of her female colleagues where thin but so mousy it didn’t matter that much and then there was Henry…. sharing an office with one of the most adorable guys she’d ever met ….. when she could just sit down and observe him, she’d forget how hopeless her crush was….

Like this evening, she’d just finished the final paperwork for the privatization of some regional waterworks turning them into a cooperative, the setting sun was shining onto the facades on the other side of the street, illuminating their office with its warm reddish glow and Henry had taken on her favorite reading posture. He’d lean back in his chair, rest his left forearm over his round belly mound and support his right elbow with it, holding some papers closely in front of his face with his glasses off, so he only could see the print in front of him clearly. This gave her the opportunity to shamelessly ogle him, how his belly rolled over his waistband, how juicy his chin looked as he rested his head or how she would like to grab into one of those doughy love handles….

“What are you staring at?” Louisa jumped, had never heard Henry snarl at her before.

“I’m sorry, I’m just staring into space … I’m pretty tired, can’t get my eyes to focus any more…,” she tried to appease him. “Tell me to finish correcting this page and then get going..”

“Finish your page like a good girl and then get going…., sorry I barked at you, I’m tired too. Good night then, Louisa.”
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Old 05-21-2012, 03:24 PM   #2
agouderia
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Default

Physical Reactions

Smoothing his new lavender and turquoise tie over his silver grey shirt, Henry sighed looking out the window. How many new ties and shirts, even suits had he bought since that fateful morning when Louisa had walked through the door? He’d given up counting, had been relieved that Jill was so accommodating and taken the time to go with him to the mall and several of his regular big guy stores. Most recently he had the hunch that she assumed he needed new cloths because he had outgrown them, which was not true; his weight seemed to be pretty stable of late. She never said anything about his weight, but in a gentle, discreet way regularly and non-invasively made sure he stayed healthy and active by cooking big light, filling dinners, making him great lunch boxes with lots of fruits and vegetables when she wanted to keep him from take-away or sending him out with the dogs or Jasper more frequently. Altogether this had helped keep his weight in check in the past years – and now actually this shirt was a size smaller than his usual one – not that it mattered much.

Looking down at his roundly protruding paunch, feeling its weight as it sagged over his belt – there never had been a time in his life when he hadn’t had that pillow of a mid-section, some squish when he sat on his plump behind. He’d been varying degrees of fat, but he’d never been ‘normal’ or even thin. Somehow that wasn’t in destiny’s plan for him – he’d once been sent to diet camp and it had been the lousiest experience of his life. Not only had his stomach atrophied, but it felt like his brain had too with all the odd, boring exercises they did. They actually put reading time on par with TV time and limited it to one hour a day. The experience only underpinned his conviction that he needed his food for his physical, emotional and intellectual well-being-period. No more thoughts or discussions about the issue.

Being bigger than others, with the additional burden of always being the ‘new kid’ in school – he had attended no less than 13 schools having had a military father who was constantly posted somewhere else – he had early on become very self-reliant, concentrating on his academic work, being happiest when he could leave the house with the dog, a book and a box of cookies to read somewhere in peace and quiet in the woods or meadows. It must have shown, because looking at rare pictures from college, he had strongly resembled a people-shy ogre freshly emerged from the backwoods. With caring persistence, Jill had convinced him that he needed to change his attitude to his appearance if he ever wanted the world to give him the chances his knowledge and intellectual abilities deserved. After first attempts at this strategy had paid off absurdly well – an honors scholarship abroad – he had grudgingly accepted good grooming as his concession to the world’s superficiality, gotten reasonably professional at keeping up a neat, fat appearance.

Otherwise he had mentally divorced his outer self – it wasn’t made for society’s norms and expectations; and he didn’t even want to know where he would end up if he ever started exploring the recesses of his physical self. He’d been fine with this, as a successful lawyer, responsible family man and devoted book-worm, he had started to take it for granted that his was to be a calm, work-centered, a-sexual life – it was for his own and everyone else’s best. And now this.

The news that he was to get a new office mate had been the worst in months. It was after all h i s spacious office with its great view, nobody else had a claim to it. The other young lawyers who had occupied it sporadically had been JD + bar exam cookie cutter output, held together by a thin veneer of arrogance and relying on external attributes of the professional code such as Armani suits, gym body or high heels and blonde extensions in the female case. They had annoyed him in their simplicity – and he had probably done his share of professional intimidation to speed up their exit from his office and/or even the firm. It would only be temporary, he had told himself, as Ryan Hannerston’s assistant – he was too much of a coward to tell him in person – came to announce a new occupant for h i s office.

Hannerston himself though had brought her in to introduce her. He’d never forget that moment, as he turned to look into sparkling blue eyes with a touch of turquoise, set in a sweet face framed by sleek honey colored waves, on top of a classically voluptuous body, like the Goddesses in a Rubens painting. Her dazzling smile lit up everything around her, her abundant breasts in that creamy white of the old masters strained against the pearly embroidery of a pale blue blouse and as he shook her dainty hand, he was horrified to notice he was having the worst erection of his life. He couldn’t remember ever having had a serious physical response to any female – now from one second to the other he felt as horny as a bull. She had then politely engaged him in a professional discussion and he couldn’t remember whether he responded anything meaningful.

The insane reaction of his body had irritated him for the rest of the day, leaving him brooding over dinner until he decided to file it under bizarre fluke of hormones. This classification was tested on a daily basis though, because to his bewildered dismay, lusting after Louisa became his constant companion. It was not just that she was the physical embodiment of what he instinctively must consider attractive in a woman – old-fashioned, abundant sophistication. So far he had never met somebody in real life like her, believed these fair, fleshy yet elegant women had become an extinct species, or had been the fabrication of artist’s imagination of centuries past in the first place. Next he had hoped that he would somehow become disenchanted when getting to know her better – because she could turn out to be stupid, narrow-minded, shallow, whatever. Pleasantly, unfortunately, none of that proved true.

Not only Louisa’s visuals set all sorts of parts of him throbbing, she was wonderful to talk to, have around. Professionally she was well versed and creative, had taken a stint into academia in the field as he had, also read many of the books he’d read, they had three subscriptions in common, she was considerate around the office, not intruding in his space and time, had a sometimes naughty sense of humor and actually made him want to talk more to her, something very few people ever inspired in him. As the weeks progressed it seemed as if one of his favorite female characters from the thick literary classics he loved reading had come alive: Alone her name – Louisa – seemed fit for a heroine of a novel. Nothing silly, materialistic like Brandi, Tiffany or Amber. No mousy business suits or plastered make-up or fake body parts, instead proportions and coloring that begged for a corseted dress with bare shoulders and half exposed breasts, silky curls falling down on them. As sweet, lively and open she was most of the time, part of her allure to him definitely were her small mysteries, times when she would go quiet, or turn intriguingly vicious in a controversy, or simply be unreadable for him.. … affirming her origin from the realm of fictional characters he cherished so much.

Nevertheless, he, Henry Conrads, was totally miscast as a character in a romantic novel except maybe the fat best friend to the hero. Only problem with this plot line was that the hero in this play was the other man, Ryan Hannerston, the man Louisa was promised to. Hannerston maybe deprived of true legal intellect but blessed with the trifecta of good looks, manners and connections which had got him the partnership. Who now came into h i s office several times a day to chat with Louisa, smile at her and hover over her desk to visually eat up her enticing breasts. To whom Louisa was so sweet, friendly and caring, as if they were an old married couple … which probably was only a question of time…

The door opened and Louisa slipped in, “Ooops, you’re already in, I’d hoped I would’ve beat you here,” giving him a sly smile and shaking an umbrella or something. She looked particularly lovely today, with a fresh rose and cream complexion truly worthy of Rubens and very fluffy curls from the rain. She always groused about damp weather, but he had developed true fondness for humidity because it gave her hair an extra lively spring to it. Taking off her coat and rummaging about, she left the room again, making him take his seat with another long sigh.

Minutes later she came in with some office boxes to put them on her table, again moving things around so he concentrated on his new e-mails.

“A very happy birthday to you, Henry!” He was speechless as he looked up to see Louisa place a medium sized cake with a burning candle in front of him.

“What’s that?” his voice was hoarse with shock.

“A birthday cake. From me to you. To wish you a happy birthday. Today is your birthday – isn’t it?”

“Yes….. how did you know? It’s private … I don’t want anybody here in the office to know … or celebrate… you didn’t – did you…?” he looked at her horror struck.

She seemed slightly irritated, her smile turning a bit fixed. “I saw your date of birth on those visa applications you handed in the other day. And no – I didn’t invite anybody else, no surprise parties, don’t be afraid. I … well…. I guess I just wanted to really wish you a happy birthday, since we share an office…. Is that okay? Not too private?”

“Yeah… it’s perfectly okay. Thank you. What about the cake, where did you get it?”

“I made it. It’s my great-grandmother’s recipe of a Russian style chocolate chip cheese cake. Since you like those little cheese cup cakes with chocolate so much….” Her voice trailed off. How incredibly sweet of her – she’d baked a birthday cake just for him and he was interrogating her as if she’d committed a crime. He really was an insensitive ogre….

“Louisa … I don’t know what to say …. It’s so unexpected…. It looks wonderful, so tasty… I can’t eat it alone …. Would you maybe share a piece? Like small office party, just this office…” how silly did that sound? He looked at her expectantly.

“You’re welcome. A mini birthday party just us here in the office is fine. I’ll only have a small piece though; it’s your birthday cake after all.”

“Us” – it meant nothing, just ‘us here, the occupants of this office’ – but he loved nothing more than when she uttered this syllable. “Us’ – like it could really mean something. Looking at the cake, he was all choked up. It must’ve been 20 years since Mimmy last baked him his own birthday cake. Jill was a good enough cook, but no baker – only made brownie mixes for the kid’s birthdays. His own birthday cake… home made just for him …. by Louisa personally ….

Their cozy birthday coffee gazing out at the rain pattering against the window was marred by the fact that Louisa indeed ate only a paper thin slice of her marvelous cake. He ate almost half the cake and took the other half home, but hid it from Jill. This was the one thing that worried, irritated and slightly repulsed him about Louisa, the completely non- novel like aspect of her persona: That she was as food and eating obsessed as what must be 99.8% of the female population. There was their endless talk about diets, carbs, eating disorders, nutrition, cholesterol, calories, gluten, lactose, fat free, fasting, detox …. whatever. All that said while nibbling on a leaf of lettuce or counting calories in a yoghurt.

Louisa did him the favor of not talking about these issues, but she clearly had them. Whenever they went to lunch together, he had a hard time convincing her to eat something sensible to actually quench her hunger. Lately it was getting more and more difficult to get her to come along to eat at all, she seemed to be trying some kind of diet, for she would only have a salad she brought along for lunch. Early on he had sometimes wondered whether she was trying to give him a subtle hint to go on a diet too – but clearly that didn’t fit in with the fact that she regularly brought him goodies, things she’d made for a friends parties, jams from her mother, a new recipe she’d tried out. And even if he went on a diet, he’d be no competition for Ryan Hannerston….

It pained him to see her trying to starve herself – to him her plumpness and curves were perfection. Okay, he was fat, but she was merely wonderfully fluffy, as women were meant to be. He loved to see her visibly relax, smile more readily and her cute tummy bulge over her waistband after he had talked her into a nice lunch. Although that happened seldom enough.

Lately it was getting worse, one day around noon he caught her with one of these diet drinks which she tried to hide from him. The effects of this awful regime showed: She was exceptionally short tempered, even flared at Ryan and got into a heated argument with him over nothing. Complained of a head ache and threw in aspirin like bonbons. He got his fair share of her irritability because this week they had to finish a whole set of contracts for building a new factory of an automotive supplier in Eastern Europe.

On Thursday afternoon, the last evening before the deadline on Friday morning, Louisa was muttering to herself angrily almost non-stop. As he proof read the chapter on public co-financing she had written, he rolled his eyes – she had made the same mistake he had already corrected twice in the previous drafts: “Louisa – what’s wrong? Why do you keep making this mistake, forgetting to do the trade off between co-financing and tax breaks depending on the number of jobs created? We’ve been through this, don’t ask me how often….”

“Sorry Henry, I’ve got a headache, am not feeling well today.”

“You’ve skipped lunch, maybe you should eat something, close your eyes for 10 minutes, then you’ll feel better…”

“I’m okay…. I’ll finish it right away….,” her stomach growled so loud he could hear it and she drank a coffee and took an aspirin.

Three hours later she still hadn’t finished, was holding her head, her stomach letting out an odd grumbling noise again. “Are you finished with the chapter?”

“Give me a sec…” he could see she was just staring down at the paper, not writing nor doing anything. He got up and left the office to go down to the small Lebanese deli around the corner, where he bought her a parsley salad, a pita pizza with turkey and tomato, a yoghurt and some fresh pineapple as well as a large cup of peppermint tea.

Returning to their office, he put the spread on their meeting table, unceremoniously grabbed the back of Louisa’s chaired and wheeled her over, she squealing in protest: “Now you’re going to have a decent early dinner. Nobody can think straight if they’re as hungry as you must be. You haven’t gotten anything done this whole afternoon! Do you think you can bill hours of nursing your headache to clients? Stop this diet nonsense! Eat all this up, then take a twenty minute nap on my couch in the corner – then we’ll start over with revising the contract!”

She looked up at him in wide-eyed shock, opened her mouth ….
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Old 05-21-2012, 10:06 PM   #3
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This is absolutely Marvelous. A Masterpiece from the pen of a Gifted Scribe. I actually thought it was one of my favorite writers like Swordfish or Big Beautiful Dreamer. You are in that same category of writer with details like that of a fine novel and perfect pacing. I will check everyday for updates. thank you for this story!
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Old 05-22-2012, 09:49 AM   #4
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I've only read the first section so far (saving the 2nd to enjoy later!), but it was marvellous! Great to see a new story from you (plus you used cognitive dissonance as a section heading--I've always liked that term and all it implies).

The only thing that I struggled a bit was nothing to do with your story. The only time I've read a story with a tax law expert, prior to this, was the distinctive Julia in Sarah Cauldwell's quirky mysteries (well worth reading, if you can find them, imo). Just.....a really memorable but entirely different character, so this somewhat shy bear is having to fight for mental space in what it means to be an international tax lawyer
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Old 05-22-2012, 11:31 AM   #5
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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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Old 05-24-2012, 02:24 AM   #6
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Thank you stratadvance and fat hiker for the ex ante praise - hope I can deliver!

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Originally Posted by Tad View Post
(plus you used cognitive dissonance as a section heading--I've always liked that term and all it implies).

The only thing that I struggled a bit was nothing to do with your story. The only time I've read a story with a tax law expert, prior to this, was the distinctive Julia in Sarah Cauldwell's quirky mysteries (well worth reading, if you can find them, imo). Just.....a really memorable but entirely different character, so this somewhat shy bear is having to fight for mental space in what it means to be an international tax lawyer
Cognitive dissonance must've been one of the first concepts I was introduced to in my first communication psychology class - and one of the few that withstood serious empiric testing. So I'm definitely a fan too!

Never heard of Sarah Caudwell, but I'll look into it!
Henry by the way isn't necessarily shy, he has other issues .....

Now here's the next installment!
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Old 05-24-2012, 02:48 AM   #7
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Self-Deprecation

And she had trouble forming a sound. She was mortified, but she also knew Henry was right. Her current eating habits were idiotic, unhealthy and irresponsible; in addition they were compromising her ability to do decent work.

Swallowing very hard, she managed a small voice, her eyes fixed on the table: “I’m so sorry. All the work here … and everything else … I’m not eating properly at all, you’re right. Thank you so much for getting this for me, it looks real good. I’ll eat it now…..”

Very slowly she bit into the pita pizza, counting how much she chewed. She was so hungry, if he hadn’t been watching her, she would’ve demolished everything in the blink of an eye. Now she ate deliberately until she was seriously full, but much more relaxed.
“Okay, now nap time, 20 minutes.” Henry led her to his sofa and dimmed the lights.

Afterwards she was energized again and together they finished the revision of the contract. Since it was almost 11 p.m., Henry insisted on calling her a cab to take her home, saying it was way too late to walk.

The next morning in front of the mirror, she sighed, shook her head with tears welling up in her eyes. What was she doing to herself again? Couldn’t she ever stick to a diet? Lifting her heavy breasts, squeezing the smaller role over and bigger tummy role under her navel, stopping her foot to make the insides of her very chubby thighs jiggle; she couldn’t stop shaking her head. Whenever she looked into the mirror, she only saw fat.

This had always been the case- even though in lucid moments she knew that she hadn’t always been this big. But she had never been thin either, only a chunky, healthy girl with a too big appetite which her parents deplored and tried to control. They had been loving and supportive, proud of her academic accomplishments, opened up many opportunities for her – but the nagging doubt that this was never quite good enough, that nothing could compensate for not being the size 6 daughter she was expected to be, haunted her. The fact that her parents only reinforced negative and critical reactions she got from the outside world regarding her size aggravated matters. For her junior prom, she had worn a size 10 dress – and her mother had put up a huge fuss that it wasn’t a single digit dress size “as is proper for a young girl”. Her class mates had all sneered and said they thought her diet should somehow show some results by now …..

On entering college, with less scrutiny from parents and peers, she’d given her appetite a freer rein and quickly gained weight graduating to a size 14-18, fluctuating between them, starting to strictly diet whenever she seriously outgrew size 16 and before she really needed to buy a wardrobe in size 18. To her own intellectual dismay, she’d never been able to overcome the deep rooted insecurity her too large dress size instilled in her, rearing its ugly head whenever she least needed it, undermining her confidence in every respect.

Working for ‘Palmer Associates’ things had changed for the worse again. During her doctoral studies and work, it seemed people weren’t so size and appearance obsessed – even professors sported ill-fitting outfits. Now everybody was expected to dress professionally dressed, present a sleek, dynamic persona, something she didn’t fulfill. She’d learned all the outer contraptions of presenting her figure in the best possible manner – wearing dark colors with bright accessories, stylish shoes showing off her slim ankles, emphasizing her positive assets, making the most of thick hair and creamy skin – but all that lacked inner conviction, never managed to overcome her self-deprecation and the feeling of being a negative stand-out. There were some bigger lawyers, Palmer himself had a senior paunch, there was of course Henry – but for men it must be different. The women in her office were mostly underweight, leaving her as the elephant in the room.

To add on to her stress, she had her difficult to smother crush on Henry and Ryan, who continued to keep her busy with something or other. Every morning she’d make the vow that she’d watch her diet, meaning no breakfast at all or only a small yoghurt or cereal before she walked to work. If things went well, she’d manage to pack a soup or salad for lunch, or maybe a healthy sandwich. Or she’d have a business lunch where she’d try to eat only a small salad – very difficult with Henry around, who encouraged everybody to eat full meals. But her willpower would cave in, letting her appetite take over at the latest on the way home, making her enter one of the supermarkets or delis on the way home on autopilot, buy ingredients for a big, tasty dinner with a comforting dessert.

Since she loved to cook and bake, she’d often use these dinner cooking binges to prepare some goody to take for Henry, sometimes also for Ryan, who had a sweet tooth – admonishing herself this was no way to keep her own weight in check.

As her cloths started to get too tight and only a few of her size 16 outfits were left she could button or zip, she started fasting days, or days when she just had diet shakes. On some lucky days she got through that regime, on others she succumbed to hunger some time or other, the main effect being that her low self-esteem was reduced to shreds and incidents like the one with Henry buying her dinner happened. No matter what, she couldn’t let her work suffer. She needed to get a grip on her eating – even if that meant the amount she ate to keep a clear mind for work and to not go crazy would not make her lose weight as fast as deemed necessary.

Only three days after the incident with Henry, when she was so far on track again that she was having three sufficient low fat meals a day to let her function, Ryan came in with his usual smile: “Louisa, I saw you haven’t signed up for our big annual Partner’s Reception. Where shall I seat you?”

“Partner’s Reception? I understood the invite to be a cc. I’m not a partner or a senior associate.”

“It’s only called Partner’s Reception. It’s for everybody who’s invited most sections of the firm, for clients, organizations we work with… “

“Well but it also said with spouses, I’m not married … so it doesn’t fit,” there was nothing she felt less like than dressing up for some formal event, where she would have to sit alone among the senior partners with their size 6 trophy wives talking of their latest diet and exercise successes.

“Louisa, of course you’re coming. The other non-married associates are coming too. I’d love to ask you officially to come with me – but it wouldn’t look right. I’m a partner – and you’re our newest associate. It’s because Palmer is totally taken by you, wants to give the international section a higher profile that you’re invited at all.”

“Oh… I don’t need an exception. If no other new associates are coming… it’ll be better if I don’t go either…,” her phone rang. “Sorry, this is London; I need to take the call….”

“Okay, but see my assistant and sign in for seating and menu!”

The next day, Ryan reminded her again, but she ignored it. Two days later, Henry put a piece of paper on her desk: “Choose your menu for the Partner’s Reception and the theme table you want to be seated at for coffee.”

“Ummm …. I’m not going …. I told Ryan … since no other new associates are….”

“Yes, you are going … and you’re going with me!” Henry scowled down at her. “It’s not exactly my favorite event of the year either, but we’ll survive.”

“Why do you want me to go with you?”

“Because Hannerston asked me to take you along! He said you for some reason didn’t want to go alone …. and he knew you well enough that you would need somebody to drag you along by your hair to come. So it’s more or less an order!”

“I’m sorry – I don’t want to burden you by putting up a fuss… it’s just, I feel so out of place there,” she sighed and in defeat checked the fish menu and the international framework legislation table. Great-now Henry was angry with her because he had to babysit her at the stupid reception – and hear everyone sneer at her fat self in formal attire. Formal attire – cold dread rose from her intestines: Most of her formal dresses were size 14, she’d never fit into them in two weeks, one of them away on a business trip.

Spending a tearful evening in front of her closet to confirm her premonitions, she knew she’d have to go shop for a new evening dress … something she did not feel up to confidence-wise at all. Being realistic enough to sense she needed objective counseling on the issue, she asked her best friend from college, Amanda, who was coming down from Baltimore for a girl’s day anyway whether she wanted to go shopping, help her choose a dress.

“It’s so good to see you, LouLou. You look a bit tired, they must be working you too hard,” Amanda took her arm as they headed out to Pentagon City for a first attempt at a shopping spree. “Tell me all about your new office, how’s Ryan, how are your new colleagues … I loved the snap shot of the view from your office window, you’re so lucky. If I compare it to the dump I’m working at…”

Looking through the dresses in size 16 in the formal wears and then in the plus size section made her heart sink even further. She was wearing her biggest jeans right now, the waistband cutting into her and a major muffin top spilling over it that even her loose t-shirt couldn’t conceal, so she had draped a scarf over her front. Heavy duty spanx or shapewear was another thing that was going to be asked for, maybe also a good new bra.

“Ta da… see what I found!” Amanda held up a lovely antique gold one shoulder mini-dress so narrow it might fit a broom stick.

“Very funny! How am I supposed to fit into that? It’s way too short for the occasion anyway!”

“Silly, not for you, for me! The color does nothing for you! It’s Marc Jacobs, on rock bottom sale!” Bringing Amanda with her model size 4-6 measurements and giraffe legs along was the worst idea she’d had in ages. Why had she only remembered the fun and successful parts of shopping trips with Amanda – forgotten the humiliation? Alone imaging having to try on a dress next to her made Louisa have to blink back a few tears and hide her face rummaging through the rack. “Look this is for you - on sale too! It’s not what you’re looking for, but your cleavage will look sensational in this!” Holding up a lilac cotton with chiffon overlay dress with a square neck and laced in the waist.

“Yeah – looks nice …. but indeed not what I need.”

“At this price, you have to take it if it fits. It has Louisa screaming all over it. Now to the pressing evening dress question,” Amanda held up a dark silver dress with drop shoulders and a royal blue one festooned under the breasts. “You go try these on and I’ll hunt for more!”

In the fitting room, both the silver and the royal blue dress were too tight; she couldn’t even zip the silver one, while her tummy bulged out obscenely in the blue one. Biting her lips, she tried on the lilac dress – which was a perfect fit, when laced tightly enough. It made her waist look slimmer and with a different bra would turn out the sensation cleavage Amanda had been gushing about. The tag though showed a size 18/20, making her heart sink. She couldn’t have gotten so fat that a size 18/20 fit well – what was she going to do? True nausea welled up as she looked at herself in the mirror.

“Let me see … oh Louisa … you look fantastic in that dress! As if it were tailor made! Which lucky guy gets to fall into that cleavage? ” Amanda in the skimpy golden dress peered into her changing room.

“Haha – beyond funny! I don’t really need it, but it does fit so well … and at this price, I guess I’ll take it. We haven’t solved my actual dress problem yet. What about your Marc Jacobs bargain?”

“What do you think? Despite the price, I’m not 100% convinced…” Amanda turned in front of her. The dress fit perfectly around her waist and hips, but since she was extremely top thin, even the size 4 was too loose around her non-existing chest giving her a starved and the dress a cheap look.

“Don’t know – color is great on you, but it doesn’t really convince me either…”
A saleswoman joined them with some midnight blue dresses over her arm and a purple sequined one on a cloths hanger to address Amanda. “Excuse me, you asked whether we had the blue dress in size 16. Unfortunately we don’t – only in 14 and 18. Knowing you also took the lilac dress – we have this purple one on sale too…”

“Great – here try them on!” Amanda shoved them at Louisa and her back into the changing room.

Giving the dresses one look – she didn’t even need to try size 14. So she took a deep breath and slipped into the blue dress in size 18. Before she had a chance to open her eyes and assess her appearance, Amanda peered in. “Wow … the belle of the ball! It’s perfect – so elegant!”

Scanning her image listlessly, she had to agree it would do for the event. The rather dark satin, with a touch of green in the blue of the drapery around the neckline made her skin glow white and put her boobs on display. In the back, the deep scoop made the most of her rounded shoulders. It created a waistline without emphasizing the tummy as well as tailing a bit showing off her ankles in the front.

“Extremely becoming,” the saleswoman nodded. “For a reception – the perfect look. I gather you’ll wear shapewear underneath that will enhance your silhouette.” Looking down so they wouldn’t see how wet her eyes were, Louisa nodded. “Since this fits so perfectly, you should try the purple one – the waist drape should look exceptional on you.”

The saleswoman was right about the purple dress – and since it was only $40 on sale and she had to be realistic that she might not diet herself back into her other dresses, she bought it too.

Leaving the store, she sighed and bit her lip. “What’s wrong LouLou? Aren’t you feeling well? Are you hungry?” Amanda looked at her in worry.

“Wrong question – I just bought three size 18 dresses!” Louisa kicked her shopping bag in frustration, making Amanda sigh, link arms and take her hand. “You just bought three lovely high-quality designer dresses that make you look like a princess at a price fit for a pauperess! 99 out of 100 women would be beside themselves with joy over such a shopping triumph. Why are you moping around? You have no reason whatsoever!”

“They’re size 18! Have you ever been to a formal event as a size 18 whale! You don’t have a clue what that feels like!” she could hear her voice cracking.

“Louisa, we’ve had this discussion before. Stop obsessing about your cloths size! You’ve got great taste, good proportions, glossy hair, flawless skin that makes you look 10 years younger as well as that to die for neckline…,” Amanda put her finger to Louisa’s lips as she saw she wanted to protest. “See, I tried on 10 dresses and bought 1, because that was the only one that didn’t make me look underfed. You tried on 5 dresses and bought 3 you look smashing in – how’s that for a ratio? There’s more in the world than size 6 …. and nobody by the way looks like an airbrushed, photoshopped magazine model in real life! “

“But people will only think how could a size 18 woman get a job like…”

“I’ll tell you what people will think: Wow – our newest associate got an invitation to the reception – she must be dam brilliant professionally. And what a gorgeous dress she’s wearing, plump and so pretty, … but why does she look so unhappy and frustrated?”

“See – you said so – they’ll think I’m plump… or the less well meaning ones will think fat…”

“Louisa, plump is a descriptive –not an insult, for heaven’s sake! I don’t freak out every time someone calls me flat-chested or with thinning hair. You’re curvier – and that’s totally okay! You need to change your attitude, really fast. You’re ruining your life with your negativity if you don’t watch out! After you landed this great job here in DC, I thought it’d finally sink in that you’re a true success, in every respect. The only person who doesn’t see it that way is you!”

“And my mother….”

“Even that isn’t true! I met your mother up in Boston two months ago – they’re incredibly proud of you, your doctorate and this job. Your mother showed pictures of you, said how great you looked in that silver two piece. Your parents have seen your struggle with your weight for so long – I think they’ve by now accepted they have a big, wonderful daughter. All they want you is to be happy and healthy. Again – you need a change of attitude! Stop seeing only the negative and critical. I hope this is the last time I need to give you this lecture- I’m fed up with it! Now where are we going next?”

Inwardly slightly shaken by her own negative emotions and Amanda’s telling-off she tried to think what to do next, as a child’s voice reached her ear: “Henry, why are you staring at that woman over there like that?”

Turning around, she was shocked to see Henry standing there in jeans with a little boy of maybe 8-9 by his side who given the looks could only be his son. Bright blue eyes, bushy brown hair, chubby cheeks – only Henry looked embarrassed while the little boy seemed lively and intrigued.
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Old 05-24-2012, 02:56 AM   #8
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Default Puerile Analysis

Puerile Analysis

Pain cut through him like a knife as Louisa stared at him obviously horror-struck.

“Hi Louisa…” he muttered.

“Ehh.. hello Henry,” he must have gone beet red, while she was ghostly pale. Jasper looked up at him in questioning and Louisa’s skinny, light blonde companion scrutinized him with interest. Louisa got her bearings back quicker than he did, despite an acidy tinge in her voice: “Amanda, meet my office mate Henry Conrads. My best friend Amanda Sarnecks. Don’t you want to introduce me to your son?”

“Umm … sorry … umm … nice to meet you, Amanda. This isn’t my son, Jasper is my nephew. He’s my sister Jill’s boy.”

“Half-sister.” Jasper piped up. “Do you work with Henry?”

“Yes I do. We share an office. Nice meeting you Jasper, I’m Louisa.” She gave Jasper her most brilliant smile. “So you’re shopping together. What do you want to buy, Jasper?”

“I need a new soccer outfit. But I hate it. I don’t like to try things on,” Jasper sulked. “And Henry won’t buy me the new boots I want or ice cream.”

“Yeah, I know how you feel. I hate trying things on too,” Louisa pulled a face and her friend elbowed her hard into the ribs.

“Why did you try something on then? You’re a grown up, you don’t have to!”

“Well … I needed a new party dress. Your Uncle Henry and I have to go to a party together.”

“Don’t you like going to a party with Henry?”

Louisa blushed, but laughed. “Of course I like going to a party with Henry! It’s only not a very fun party. We have to get all dressed up and sit there listening to long, mostly boring speeches. You know … it’s a bit like … do you have someone in your class who always invites you to his birthday party – and you don’t really want to go? So then you have to invite him to yours too, even though you don’t like him all that much?”

“Oh – yeah... Jaden is like that. I’ve to invite him just because he lives next door.” An awkward silence followed before Louisa asked: “Jasper, what if I get us some ice cream, if Henry says it’s okay?”

“Yeah… great! Henry please – let’s go have ice cream with Louisa!”

Later he wasn’t even sure whether he had said ‘yes’ – before he realized it they were seated at the Italian gelato booth with ice cream cups into from them. Louisa chatted animatedly with Jasper, occasionally drawing him in. Somehow the nightmare passed and as soon as he got home, he took the dogs out for a long walk, coming home for dinner much calmer.

Dinner started smoothly enough, Jill serving, letting him cut Jacqueline’s meat, until he heard Jasper say the fateful half sentence: “… and then we met Henry’s friend Louisa and had ice cream with her.”

“Henry’s friend Louisa? Who’s Henry’s friend Louisa?” Jill looked at him with glittering eyes, her smile turning devilish.

He rolled his eyes but could feel his cheeks start to burn. “She’s a colleague, my new office mate,” hoping she’d be satisfied with that, but no such luck.

“Jasper, tell me more, what’s Louisa like?”

“Ummm …. she’s nice …. she bought me three flavors ice cream…..”

“What does she look like?”

“Dunno…,” Jasper tried to fork some peas in concentration. “She smiles like Ms. Starkley..”

“Aha … smiles like Ms. Starkley,” Jill giggled. “That’s highest praise for your Louisa, Henry. Jasper adores Ms. Starkley, his class room teacher … and she really has a lovely smile.”

“…. And she’s got big boobs,” Jasper stated with childlike conviction.

“What … big boobs! Whoever said such a thing? Henry, how do you talk to my son?”

“I never say anything like that! No idea where he’s got that from! You know I don’t use such language!” he was on the verge of leaving the table in a huff, but knew that set a bad example.

“Touché – you’re one who is more likely to say bosom than boobs!” Jill shook her head. “Jasper – who said such a thing about this Louisa?”

Jasper squirmed uncomfortably sensing he had made a mistake until he finally muttered: “Collins’ dad says that women should have big boobs….”

“Could you please put Jacqui to bed while I talk to my son about not objectifying women?” Jill rolled her eyes with a sigh.

Putting the sleepy little girl to bed, he returned to the kitchen packed up the garbage, took it out and went for another walk with the dog, taking deep breaths to quiet down again.

On returning to the house, Jill was finishing clearing up the kitchen and laid her arm around him with a soft smile, rubbing his cheek: “Now – the adult version – tell me more about this Louisa…”

“There’s nothing more to say…. she’s my new colleague, office mate…”

“Henry come on…. I’ve never seen you look like that when talking about a woman. As if something honestly got to you…,” as he kept staring at the floor, she prodded on: “She must be a nice person, if she could instantly connect to Jasper. You know what a critical kid he is….”

“Jill … I swear … she’s my colleague … there isn’t anything….”

“You’d like there to be something, wouldn’t you?” He closed his eyes and something close to panic rose in his throat, he couldn’t talk about this… he didn’t even want to think about it … only to have Louisa’s image appear before his inner eye in a very low cut t-shirt. Jill hugged him tight. “Henry, we haven’t talked about this in a long while…. My opinion hasn’t changed. I think it’d be honestly very good for you to bring yourself out there, find that special person in your life…”

“Please … let it rest…. I’m fine … things are good just the way they are…”

“You know how grateful I am for everything you’re doing for me and the kids,” Jill soothingly rubbed his back. “But that’s exactly why you deserve someone special, love and happiness of your own. You’ve everything to offer - are professionally successful, also know how to make a home and a family work. You should have your own kids some day to pass all that on. This Louisa is single, is she not? You work together, she easily connects with Jasper, you seem to care very much about her … an excellent starting point to try and see whether you’ve got more in common….”

“She’s a partner’s pet … I don’t want trouble…”

“So she’s not single … is dating one of the partners?”

“No … not really. He’s after her clearly though …. brought her into the firm…” he wanted to get away, but Jill held him tight, snuggled into his belly.

“That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe they’re just friends, have known each other for ages… You should try asking her out … you’re such a good, smart, well read guy…”

“Jill please … no more. I’ve told you time and again – I’m not for this relationship stuff. I have no idea ….. look at our parents, your marriage …. I can’t. And anyway, I’m a big, fat ogre … I’ll stick to my end of the woods….”

“Now Jasper could tell you that there’s a princess out there that will find her way to the ogre down in his backwoods.. and they’ll live happily ever after…,” Jill smiled slyly, lovingly pinched his double chin. “You’re right; we both don’t exactly have many role models for good relationships. It’s so difficult to find the person you trust … can feel emotionally close to. For me it was only my mother and you, Parker never really…. It was a bit of a shock for me too that you turned out to be not only my step – but actually my half-brother…..”

He inhaled sharply and squeezed her against his chest. “What do you mean?”

“Well … if we’d only been step-siblings … meaning not related … after Mimmy’s death and your father’s …. we stayed together … what would’ve been?”

“You could’ve seen a man, a partner in me? You always told me I should dress decently, eat less… like I really was the ogre …”

“I never said or did any such thing!”

“Well yeah… you’re nice about it, but still. You got me to buy better cloths … make sure I eat healthy... “

“That’s because I care for you, Henry. The world out there is superficial, fixated on appearances. I’m more of a conformist than you are. If I ever pushed you about something, it was because I wanted to make sure that people give you the chances your abilities entitle you to; not have you sorted out based on silly appearance issues…”

“Well that won’t help here, this is all about appearances! Partner Hannerston has a dam good looking appearance! So did your Parker – you wouldn’t have picked me instead of him!”

“Henry – now you’re being superficial and conformist! We’re no longer in high school! I chose Parker because you were off limits as my half-brother! And that went way too fast and without thinking, okay!” Jill shook him a bit.
“Sorry – the issue is a bit raw for me too! What I mean … you’re not necessarily physically my type… agreed. In turn – am I your type? If my observant son is right – probably not: My boobs clearly are sub par. I can’t really say whether I have a ‘type’. Like 9 out of 10 women I find George Clooney and Johnny Depp attractive ….that doesn’t predispose me for anything. You’ve got an incredibly strong and comforting physical presence, use that to your advantage.”

“Can we please end this discussion for today?”

“You have to give fate a chance Henry, honestly! For once, dare take an emotional risk! You’ll never get anywhere without that! This Louisa had ice cream with you and Jasper …. she could’ve just said hello in the mall and gone her ways. But she spent time with you, unprompted – what does that tell you? Maybe she even likes big guys – more women than you would expect do …”

“Oh fat chance … literally. Jill let it rest … I’ll deal with this blasted issue in my next life! Now I need some fresh air!”

Tata, his high-strung, opinionated German shepherd was beside herself with joy when he went out with her for the third time in an evening, driving all the way out to Fort Hunt to walk along the waterfront. Gulping in the chilly night air, he walked a long ways before a half-way clear thought emerged in his head.

During her marriage, Jill had tried more often to set him up with someone, none of them remotely interesting, mainly librarians or English lit teachers she thought might have something to share with him. He didn’t know why, maybe it was his father’s chaotic private life that had made him skeptical of love and relationships. Distrust of people’s emotional intentions had turned to his second nature; in combination with him finding many people boring – he rarely ever connected to anybody on a personal level. A handful of school and college friends apart from Jill and her kids.

Puberty coming in combination with a succession of family tragedies, had let him retreat deeper and deeper into the world of printed paper, use his big body as a shield and overtime confirm for himself, that he was not going to risk his emotional sanity or mental integrity by running any risks of exposing himself to anything called ‘love’.

Thinking back, he couldn’t recall anybody ever having shown personal interest in him – Jill argued differently, but lacked hard evidence. On the other hand, he had found few women that piqued anything in him, apart from fictional characters, mainly from books, but also a few cinema heroines – so Louisa and the strong reactions he had to her came as a shock. Could Jill be right that Louisa had invited them for ice cream because she liked him? Or was she simply being a very friendly office mate?

It already tore him half to pieces that he had to observe Ryan Hannerston fawning over Louisa, how she smiled at him or shared some insider jokes about people or occasions they knew. How painful would it be if he seriously tried to get involved with Louisa – only to be rejected? How awful could that feel?
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Old 05-24-2012, 08:32 PM   #9
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Oh, hooray! A new agouderia story!
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Old 05-25-2012, 12:29 PM   #10
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LOVE this so far... His/hers perspective is working so well with thier mutual interest and issues. And in DC too, one of my very favorite places.
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Old 05-25-2012, 04:38 PM   #11
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Lovely!

I always really enjoy your characters, and this piece is no exception.
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Old 05-31-2012, 09:14 AM   #12
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keep going
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Old 05-31-2012, 06:13 PM   #13
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This is an Awesome story, Great character progression and story flow. I'm looking forward to the next installments.
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Old 06-16-2012, 12:54 PM   #14
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Thank you Undine, geekybabe, lily352 and atcAlan for the kind words - I'll do my best to live up to them

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Originally Posted by ashblonde View Post
LOVE this so far... His/hers perspective is working so well with thier mutual interest and issues. And in DC too, one of my very favorite places.
Thank you !
I've always wanted to write a his/her perspective, had trouble finding a convincing framework .... and I hoped to find some patient, willing guinea pigs for this experiment here!

And yes, I love DC too! In general I'm a firm believer in French city planning ... whether in the country itself or exported!
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Old 06-16-2012, 01:02 PM   #15
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Default Self-fulfilling Prophecies

Self-fulfilling Prophecies

“Tell me, how was Jasper’s soccer match yesterday? Did his team win?” she smiled brightly at Henry on Monday morning as he came back from an early meeting. Henry shook himself irritably for a moment before he nodded and smiled back. “No – they tied. 2:2 – but Jasper, he’s the goalkeeper as you know, held a penalty shot and saved the tie for his team.”

“That’s great!”

“Only problem was he pestered me for the rest of the weekend that he now deserved those new boots because he’d held the penalty shot…. like as a reward. I told him no way!”

“In principle that’s not a bad idea – even though I agree with you that new boots for one held penalty are a bit steep. Why don’t you strike a deal – like $5 or $10 into a piggy bank for every penalty shot he blocks in an official match, until he’s earned himself those boots?”

“Brilliant idea! You don’t by chance have children of your own, or lots of younger siblings?”

“No, neither – nor. I grew up in a university town, worked a lot as summer camp counselor in high school and college …. Forced me to come up with all sorts of tricks to get the kids to do what they were supposed to…”

“You’re not the typical camp counselor type at all to me ….” he seemed a bit alarmed.

“Oh no … I did nothing sporty or outdoorsy … that’s not me!” she involuntarily giggled. “I did more the nerdy stuff like courses in American history, English or women’ literature … or activities from good housekeeping like baking, embroidery, knitting and so on….everything that was an un-cool as possible….” she grimaced doubtfully at him.

“You embroider …. how wonderful…,” something like true relief crept over his features, half turning into a dreamy expression. “Yes … I can see you at a summer camp, sitting out in the green, reading and discussing Jane Austen female characters … for a women’s literature course….”

“That’s sort of the image, …. I’d love to do that again right now … instead of work my way through all these investment contracts for my trip to our London office next week …”

She was incredibly pleased that she now had something truly ‘private’ she could talk to Henry about. It was a connection on a much more personal level than shared preferences for certain books. And knowing he was such a good guy that he helped his half-sister raise her kids as a single mom actually increased her crush on him. Her enthusiasm was dampened though as Henry showed her the soccer team’s newsletter the next day, with a picture of Jasper holding the penalty shot and one with his mother Jill. If that was what he went home to every evening, how visually repulsing must sitting across from her all day be? Jill had the same bright blue eyes as Henry and Jasper, combined though with very straight brown hair, and a slim figure with endless shapely legs, shown off perfectly in a jeans mini skirt in the picture. She was the prototype of the pretty, sporty college girl, the type that for her had always had everything she wanted and could not attain. Her super tight waistband digging into her - one of three pairs of pants in size 16 that still could be fastened – reminded her that things were the worst they had ever been.


But currently she did not have the time to dwell much on these thoughts, the preparations for her first business trip abroad were making her work long hours and Ryan was sticking his head into their office more often than ever. Despite the pressure of preparation, she was looking forward to getting to know their London office. Its bureau chief Serena Goulding sounded like a tremendously interesting woman on the phone had indicated she might have a chance of transferring her to London. Although it was too early in the process, after all she had only been a few months at Palmer Associates the prospect of a professional stint in London on the horizon was most appealing.

So she was mildly irritated as she looked through a new file Ryan had laid on her table earlier in the day with a post-it urging her to read it as soon as possible. It was about government contracts for some type of security company – their exact operations remained vague - called HermesShield and she couldn’t quite figure out what the question for her was. “Henry, have you ever had anything to do, like a tax case with a company HermesShield?”

“I don’t do defense and armament, out of principle!” The answer came so blunt and abrupt, she was thunderstruck.

“Umm … I don’t know whether it’s exactly a defense contractor, something about security, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about it?”

“Ask Hannerston if he gave it to you,” Henry stated very curtly.

Before she could think more about it, Ryan came in smiling. “How’s my favorite colleague doing?”

“Fine Ryan thank you, I’m really busy preparing for the London trip. Quick question though, why did you give me the HermesShield file – that’s not down my line?”

“You can help us there, anticipate some future problems. Why don’t we discuss it over dinner? May I treat you?”

“So sorry, Ryan, that’ll have to wait until I’m back. I need to finish everything else up first.”

“Just a nice quick sushi dinner. We haven’t talked in peace and quiet for so long …., come on, if there’s any more reading to be done, you can do that on the plane over.”

“Oh alright, a real quick dinner. Thank you for inviting me,” observing Henry frown.


Status conscious Ryan had bought a Porsche on becoming partner and as she slid into its low narrow seat, she heard the familiar “kzzykzx” noise telling her the zipper of her too tight navy blue dress pants had ripped. The last pair of blue ones that still fit. Moaning inwardly, she draped her broad scarf over her lap, it was the worst idea to start thinking about her weight again right now.

“Isn’t it a true design beauty? Look at this steering wheel…” Ryan said softly. “Interested in driving..?”

“Not necessarily… you went for the lazy boy’s version in automatic…. I prefer the kicks of the 7-gear sports shift box….”

“You’re so cool Louisa,” Ryan laughed. “Nobody would ever suspect that when they see you sitting and participating in meetings like a brainy version of Goody Two-Shoes. I love your hidden naughtiness…”

“Let’s not get into a discussion of just how naughty I can be..,”

Struggling to clamber out of the car at Kotobuki’s, their favorite sushi place in Georgetown, she pulled down her shirt over her gaping trousers and again artfully arranged her scarf over her front. Studying the menu with an appetite that was driving her insane, she countered it with a mantra of ‘only a miso soup and the small sushi platter’, starting to gulp down tea as soon as these words had left the tip of her tongue to avoid ordering more.

“It’s so good to do something with you outside the office for a change,” Ryan slipped his arm around her waist, letting her straighten out her jacket in panic so he would grasp into the cloth and not the thick ring around her waist.

“Ummm… yah... like old times. Only I’m slightly under pressure, you know because of London …”

“Relax, it’s just sushi … and we don’t need to talk too much shop…, Ryan twirled one of her curls around his finger. “I don’t have the words to tell you how happy I am to have you around again..”

Not knowing how to judge his moving in so close, she asked: “What about this HermesShield thing? What do you want me to do? It’s not really my field…”
“Oh … it’s nothing we have to deal with right now. If possible please have a look at it regarding the amount and type of subsidies that would be WTO neutral …”

“I thought it was a security company … what do they produce?” Henry’s reaction came to mind.

“Ehh… it’s a conglomerate. I was told Boeing-EADS would make a good comparison. Please taste this piece of marinated duck, it’s so delicious,” he indicated at his plate.

The appetizing odor of the duck had been tempting her for a while, so she instantly snatched the piece and let it melt in her mouth. “Hmmmh, so good. Yeah … I’ll look into that when I get back.”

“Michelle has finally moved out, by the way, so I have the house back soon. I want to refurnish it though…. do you want to come along and help me select some new furniture?”

“Sure … you know how much I like interior design,” she gave him a devilish grin. “And I can’t wait to see which version of Savannah you come up with next…”

“Very funny. I don’t know why you always say that … nobody else does…”

“Amanda, Andy and the others who’ve known you since college times agree,” she giggled. “Your wives and girlfriends are all variations of Savannah- you have a very well developed predator-prey system. Savannah is the original; Virginia was the Latino model, Michelle the country girl version- I’m looking forward to finding out which modification of the original is on the next wedding invitation …”

“That’s not true, they’re all very different … and .. it … it was only two weddings …”

“Two that actually took place, I got three invitations. Michelle called off the wedding with only 6 days notice … I’d already wrapped your present…,” Louisa was having a hard time not laughing.

“Yeah … was for everybody’s best though,” Ryan muttered darkly. “But maybe you’ll be surprised; maybe I’ll come up with a totally different type.”

“I’ll believe it when I attend you silver wedding anniversary with that different type…”


After ripping her zipper on her blue dress pants, Louisa faced the inevitable and bought herself the nice salt-and-pepper four piece suit in size 18 she’d seen on sale walking to work every day, acknowledging she needed fitting, presentable business cloths. Right now she didn’t have the time to diet meaningfully, all she could do was try to eat healthy, walk enough in an attempt not to gain even more. But she avoided looking at herself in full length mirrors currently; only a fleeting glance to check if not too much fat was bulging out somewhere.

Her first business trip abroad, with a week in London and three days in Bratislava took her mind off her weight and cloths size. Developing the contract structure, negotiating the subsidies, talking to colleagues, visiting the theater in London – altogether it was a perfect mix of challenging, inspiring and plain fun, leaving no time for brooding over her appearance. Her worries also faded because in London she automatically fell into what she from previous experiences called ‘the England diet’: The food was so unappetizing and so expensive, it was impossible to be hungry enough to eat it. Even in her posh hotel: The coffee was awful and every time she was confronted with the sight or smell of overcooked beans on toast, garnished with sausages in artificial food coloring pink she felt her stomach lurch, letting her scamper off to the tube without having breakfast, only to grab a double cappuccino at the Segafreddo booth at the corner.

The outcome of signing the contract with $ 800 million more in public subsidies than she had ever dreamed of for creating 1500 jobs energized her even further. As Serena Goulding asked for a final talk before her flight on Friday, she packed up with a spring in her step. True, Serena in person had been a bit of a disappointment. She was much less personable and engaging than on the phone, and her withered appearance and cutting tone, often dressed à la Vivienne Westwood in business punk added up to her resembling a controversial character from a BBC office sitcom.

Given the results of their negotiations, she entered Goulding’s office with a positive outlook.

“Ms. Grenburgh, your sojourn with us ends today. The contract for MEC-Systems for building their new production facility in Slovakia is a fine piece of work – I’m impressed how you managed to extract so many subsidies in accordance with EU regulations.”

“Thank you Ms. Goulding, I did my best.”

“Nevertheless, after speaking to you by telephone, hearing from Palmer, I regret to say … I am severely disappointed. You are not at all what I had expected.”

“Disappointed? In how far?”

“I had expected a young, talented, professional, aspiring leader, a convincing woman for that role – but instead you’re fat, come across like .. let’s say a representative of the housewives union.”

In the first moment she doubted her hearing, the situation was so surreal, it was like a sequence from one of her worst nightmares. She felt her under lip quiver for a second, then it froze too. Don’t cry now, whatever you do, don’t cry now. So she was surprised as her voice came out rather cold: “Sorry, that must’ve been a misunderstanding then. I had the impression you were looking for an expert in European and international law as addition to your team here – not for a catwalk model.”

“Beside the point. I expect my team to look the part, like tough professional lawyers. Don’t get me wrong, your dress is professional enough, though not fashionable – of course not, impossible as you’re too fat for fashion. You’re not ugly … some of our blokes here even insist you have a certain charm. But it’s … how to say … the charm of a fresh, plump dairy maid. But we do, what’s your expression, hard as nails litigation, not fluffy cream. Have you ever tried a diet? Like not eating…”

Louisa was stunned by a mix of desperate pain and incredulity. Looking at the scrawny woman with the blotched, lined skin testifying to her smoking habit, underlined by the electronic cigarette she was waving in her hand the whole time. She wondered how anybody could be so completely oblivious to own shortcomings while bitching at others. Her only immediate goal was to get out of this situation with as much professional dignity as possible.

“We all have our weaknesses, faults which prove very difficult to remedy in real life,” she pointedly looked at Serena Goulding’s electronic cigarette. “From my experience so far in the DC office of Palmer Associates, there’s tolerance and understanding of individual differences and shortcomings, especially as long as these do not influence the quality of work. Thank you for being so honest, that set a few things straight. Now I need to be going, catch the Heathrow Express unless I want to miss my flight. Good bye.”

On autopilot she left the office, not aware of what Serena called after her, took a taxi to the train station and got on the Heathrow Express by the sheer force of experience. She was like a robot, executing pre-programmed movements without registering anything around her. At the vast airport, she followed the signs to check in, through the tedious security, to her gate where she changed into a comfy sweat dress and ballerinas for the flight. Touching her belly role in unzipping her skirt, she almost vomited out of disgust without success since her stomach was so empty.

On the plane she was lucky to have three seats for herself so she could curl up like a ball, hoping for the awful sensation of icy hurt to go away. But she couldn’t sleep, she couldn’t read, she couldn’t eat, she couldn’t think – Serena Goulding’s sneering remarks kept running in an endless loop through her head. And for once she couldn’t even cry. Normally unkind remarks about her weight easily reduced her to tears; bad enough as that was, it was at least a form of release and in the end always calming.

Serena’s words and their significance had been her worst nightmare come to life: Someone telling her she couldn’t do something she was well capable of because she was too fat. All her life this had been an underlying fear, the abstract issue of ‘size discrimination’ not letting her go the path she wanted to pursue. Not that she needed the job in the London office, it was too early for that anyway, only she would’ve liked to have the option. And what if Serena talked to Winston Palmer got him to reassess her appearance and it’s affect on her professional credibility? Would she lose her job in DC?

Apart from not being able to cry, she realized she had no one to talk to about this problem. Only her family and a few close friends were fully aware how insecure she was about her weight … and she couldn’t talk to her parents because they’d only say: “Darling, we told you so! You really need to go on the xyz diet….” Amanda – her normal to-talk-to friend for girl issues had made it overtly clear that she was not willing to discuss weight with her anymore. Ryan … well Ryan as a partner was way too involved in this one; she didn’t want to get him into a conflict of interest. Also, she’d always steered clear of her weight issues around him as far as possible.

To have something to do, she watched one movie after the other on the in-flight entertainment system. Reaching home after the tedious check at immigration & customs at Dulles, she had some water and a yoghurt she found in the fridge, showered and then hoped she could sleep. Even in the comfort of her own bed she lay there paralyzed by cold fear that she’d find out on Monday that she’d lost her job.

The fear only increased as she remembered that the next day was the Saturday of the Partner’s Reception. She damned her lack of strategic thinking regarding the reception nonstop; after she had made such a fuss of not wanting to come, she couldn’t call in sick credibly unless she truly was on her deathbed. Much smarter would’ve been to sign up with faked enthusiasm to then bail out last minute claiming she had caught some sort of illness traveling. On top, she also needed to make the house presentable since Kirsten, her college friend and daughter of her landlord, was coming for a few days on business.

That meant dressing up, doing hair and makeup, spending half the day in front of the mirror. When she looked at her unhappy face with its rounded cheeks in the mirror that was the only time she could feel the tears starting to flow, when she needed dry eyes most of all. So she called her hair dresser, managed to squeeze in a late appointment to get her hair styled and evening make up applied, leaving only the awful task of squeezing into spanx and dress for herself to do.

Last edited by agouderia; 06-16-2012 at 01:24 PM.
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Old 06-16-2012, 01:23 PM   #16
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Default Tactile Explorations

Tactile explorations

Every of the great literary classics he had read had a pivotal ball scene: Anna Karenina and Wronsky, Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield ball, ‘Il Gattopardo’s’ Don Fabrizio at the ball in Palermo – not unlike how he was standing here between the columns of the National Portrait Gallery, where the Partners Reception was taking place this year, waiting for his heroine who was running late.
Clearly he had nothing in common with the imposing or dashing leading men of these novels, yet something about the parallelism was intriguing.
Especially as Louisa came, her entrance to him would fit into a novel or movie – in her dark blue dress on the red carpet ascending the stairs, stunning white cleavage and shoulders fit to be carved in marble emerging from it, the lamplight making her hair look like honey glazing. It was curled and half done-up, increasing her resemblance to Helene Fourment, Rubens’ second wife. The only thing that did not fit the glamorous scene was the deeply unhappy expression on her sweet features, letting him cringe: Probably she was frustrated that she had to attend the reception with him instead of Hannerston.

Before he could make his way to Louisa, Ryan Hannerston intercepted her, beamed at her with a hug, making her grimace even more frustrated and shake her head as he said something. A small sigh of relief escaped him, so at least her obvious displeasure had less to do with him.

“Good evening Louisa…. Beautiful … I mean your dress is beautiful … for tonight,” his voice was hardly more than a hoarse murmur as he reached her.

“Yeah … the dress is alright, I know that … thanks anyway…,” Louisa sulked, her features falling even further if that was possible.

“What I mean is, it’s a true pleasure to escort a lady to her table who looks like she just stepped out of one of these portraits,” this was the most gallant nonsense he could think of, which might also have the chance of passing as humorous.

“It’s nice of you to wait for me, thanks. Sorry for being late, which one is our table?” she kept staring morosely at her feet.

“Louisa – what’s wrong? I know we both weren’t too keen on coming here tonight, but is it really that bad?” He was half worried, half annoyed.

For the first time she really looked up at him and shook herself a little: “I’m sorry. You don’t deserve being on the receiving end of my grumpiness. It’s just … well … I just got back from London last night …. Didn’t sleep … the trip was, yeah not what I expected, rather disappointing in the end….”

“Disappointing in the end? Word here has it that you managed to strike a deal with the regional government to subsidize a $ 12 billion investment with $ 4 billion in cash and free property. What exactly is disappointing about that?” They had reached their table and he seated her.

“Ummm …. Things could’ve gone better … you know regarding the business atmosphere ….”

“With a deal like that – is business atmosphere an issue?” He had to roll his eyes. “You need to manage your expectations. Your report card probably read something in the line of: ‘Louisa is an outstanding student, relates well with her peers but her quest for perfection often makes her lose the necessary sense of proportion, letting her not get realistic satisfaction out of her work.’”

She froze and closed her eyes for a minute. “Henry, I’m so sorry. I honestly apologize for bitching around. You’re being so kind … and I’m at my worst. Please forgive me.” Looking down at her, his eyes had trouble not falling into that supreme cleavage. “You look fantastic by the way. So imposing in your tux. And I almost didn’t recognize you without your glasses…. You have such intense eyes … but you mostly hide them behind your glasses,” she blushed. “You should wear contacts … they’re contacts, aren’t they?– much more often.”

“Thank you. I don’t bother with contacts day to day … I guess you’ve noticed I don’t see much without them or glasses. Hope you’re better now.”

“Ummhggh. I’ll behave myself from now on. You’re right; everything was fine … except for my farewell talk to Serena Goulding….”

“Shit no! She’s a piece of work! What did she criticize about you?” Then Palmer stood up and rang a bell, indicating that the dinner speeches were about to begin.

Throughout the dinner they both had to make small talk at their table or listen to lengthy speeches half between and half during the courses, depending on when the servers reached them. Louisa barely ate two bites, merely moved her food around on the plate. She drank the champagne but only had a sip of wine. The food though was not worth much. As often with a catered set menu at such a location for so many guests, the kitchen was not up to dressing the food à la minute, keeping it hot until it reached the tables, so it didn’t taste that good. The salad was drowning in dressing while the starter was stale, s o he couldn’t sincerely encourage her to eat with relish.

Sitting so close to her, smelling her perfume, her hair, the scent her soft naked skin radiated was wonderful – but a far call from the romantic images he had had in the past days imagining the event with Louisa. They had more private time to talk and a more personal atmosphere in their office. He could tell she was trying hard to be professional, pull herself together so she sat very tense next to him, occasionally lapsing back into brooding – not her usual lively, charming self.

Yet there was nothing he wanted to do more than touch her, run his fingers over her shapely shoulder to the substantial curve of her breast, feel the texture of the pliable warm skin in contrast to the cool slippery satin of her dress. Her body beside him was an über-turn on, letting him for once be extremely grateful for the size of his gut because it hid any action in his lap quite well. His arousal on the small, wobbly folding chairs made him shift in discomfort frequently, causing him to bump against Louisa’s bare arm, again making his hair stand on end and his arousal heighten, until it was almost unbearable.
Especially as Louisa put her hand on his elbow: “Poor Henry, you’re uncomfortable on these chairs. They’re already too small for my short legs; I can only imagine what it must be like for you. Make sure you move over quickly to your tax law discussion group, they have some leather easy chairs.” It was news to him that Louisa had short legs, okay shorter than his that was true – so far he had been regularly mesmerized by how elegantly her rounded calves merged into her slim ankles, so he only nodded fearing to blurt something totally inappropriate.

For the discussion rounds they were separated and since they took so long, dessert was served during them from carts. As his taxation exchange wound down, he went off in search of Louisa, not only because he felt the official obligation to take care of her this evening, but also because he hoped to have the chance to talk to her a little more in private. It had been highly irritating to notice how sorely he had missed her in the week she had been away; his office had seemed plain empty and dull. With all her predecessors, it had been a cause for celebration when they were away on business, making it h i s office again. With Louisa gone, something was simply missing.

Doing his rounds through the guests, exchanging a few hellos, he finally saw her with Palmer himself and Hannerston: “Ms. Grenburgh – I’m impressed by your negotiation of the subsidies for MEC-Systems, excellent work.”

“Thank you sir, I did my best.”

“You hopefully don’t have any ambitions now to leave us for the London office?”

“No sir, definitely not.” Louisa’s expression turned pained.

“That’s a relief, although a surprising one. With your background and interests I’d thought you’d like to transfer as soon as possible..”

“I can guarantee you that will not be the case.”

“A guarantee? Do you have personal reasons for wanting to stay here in DC?”

After a lengthy pause she said in a slightly strangled voice: “I prefer a different style of working. I highly appreciate the atmosphere of collegial respect and tolerance you’ve created here sir.”

“Why thank you, such unexpected praise, Ms. Grenburgh,” Palmer chuckled. “What did Serena do this time? Force you to attend a hunt? Make fun of your appearance? Poison you with her cigarette smoke?”

Louisa’s already distraught mimics derailed even further, as one of Palmer’s assistants intervened with three guests in tow: “Excuse me Mr. Palmer, the representatives from DSC …”

“If you’ll please excuse me. Thank you for the opportunity to come to this lovely evening…,” with this Louisa turned and almost fled the scene. He couldn’t follow her so fast since DCS were clients of his too and he had to participate in the official farewell. As this was taken care of, he went the direction she had, assuming to the ladies room. Finding it, she was nowhere to be seen, so he waited in front for a while, but only other women came out. Finally he asked one, whether Louisa might be in inside, but she shook her head saying it was empty.

Wondering where to look he wandered along a deserted, half lit corridor, one not opened for the reception to maybe try and find her at the upstairs part of the event. Turning a corner, Louisa was suddenly sitting in front of him on a smaller staircase, leaning against the banister and choking with sobs. “There you are, is everything okay?” he asked quietly.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” after a while with no response.

“Go away!” she sobbed after he didn’t move and cried even harder. Scenes like this were extremely uncomfortable, he always felt out of place and helpless. But from years of experience with Jill, their parent’s early death, her separation, he knew what helped women most – a big comforting hug. Having a reason to take Louisa in his arms was too good to be true – and at the same time one that might spectacularly backfire. What if she accused him of molesting her? Not that he thought this was very likely, but one never knew… Or even worse, if he couldn’t control himself, started kissing and fondling her? He’d always been afraid of giving his physical desires and urges too much room, fearing he couldn’t handle the latent amounts of lust and appetite somewhere within him. Over the past years, he had at least learned to handle closeness from Jill and the kids without panicking instantly- but he didn’t dare venture further into that territory.

Louisa’s sobbing was getting worse, by now she was gasping. For a fleeting instant he thought of calling Hannerston, but his gut instinct told him Louisa would not want him to see her like this. So he sank down heavily on the stairs next to her, and put his arm around her shoulder. At first she tried to shake it off, but as he held her more firmly, started to rub her back, she let herself sink against him, buried her face in his chest.

He wrapped both arms around her, rubbed her back lightly and mumbled: “Shh, everything is okay… shhh…. Whatever it is, it’s going to be alright…shh…” like he did with little Jacqui when she had fallen on the playground and in the shock of pain couldn’t tell him what hurt exactly. But he wasn’t holding innocent little Jacqui trying to make her feel better, wanting only to protect her from harm. This was grown, voluptuous Louisa in his arms, cool bare skin that warmed under his touch, a sensuous curve emerging wherever he let his hands run, making all parts of him stand in attention. His breathing turned shallow in an attempt to control his arousal and he stuck to patting her back to not end up in forbidden territory.

Louisa in turn as he suddenly realized had no such inhibitions: She was still crying, though much softer and now was groping, kneading and rubbing his belly quite energetically. Hiding her face even more into his tux, she let her hands wander up his sides, rolling his flesh between her fingers making him gasp from the electrifying thrills it sent through him. As he tried to pull her hands off him, her sobs renewed alarmingly, so he let her continue pawing his belly, even reach under it to cup and bounce it, causing his erection to start getting painful. Her touch was torture, on the one hand he wanted it to go on forever, whenever she stopped somewhere, he begged her mutely to grab in again to prolong the sensation. On the other hand he willed her to stop so he could try to contain his excitement, he hid his face in her hair and carefully starting kissing her curls one by one, hoping she wouldn’t notice.

Over time she quieted down and her grasp on his excess flesh loosened, only a light pushing and pulling remained, like a kitten on its mothers belly. Taking a closer look, he noticed she had fallen asleep, like a child after a crying fit. Had she had that much to drink? Not while she had been at the table. What was he going to do now? He couldn’t leave her here, nor could he lead her through the crowd in such a state. Thinking what he could do, a waiter with a cart of dirty dishes passed by.

“Sorry, do you know where there’s a back entrance through which we could get out?”

“Follow me. I’ll let you out through the emergency one where our van is parked. Need a cab? I’ll call one,” he spoke into a microphone on his vest with a grin “Your girlfriend had too much champagne?”

“Ummm … no … well I don’t know…” so shocked was he by the assumption Louisa could be his girlfriend, the combination of word and possessive pronoun making him cringe.

“Don’t forget her clutch,” the waiter indicated at one of these rhinestone embellished envelopes women carried with them, laying on the stairs. With the waiter’s help, he steadied Louisa on her feet, held her firmly as she started to whimper again and slowly, half dragging her made his way to the catering entrance.

Thankfully the cab was already there, so he just needed to squeeze in, the waiter pushing Louisa to his side, who started with gulping sobs again: “Home, please home….”

The firm’s internal database contained the addresses of all employees and one of the first things he had fortunately done was memorize Louisa’s address, so he gave it to the cab driver and could start calming her again. Supported by the jouncing of the cab, he cradled her tightly, stroking her hair and as she very intensely started massaging the underside of his belly, quickly making his member throb achingly, he had to bite his tongue several times hard for the pain to distract him.

Fumbling through her little handbag, he found a key, $20 and a lipstick. As they held in front of the little, brick and white town house, he with the help of the cab driver maneuvered Louisa, who had more or less fallen asleep again, to the front door. What was he going to do now? Put her to bed? Use the opportunity for a Marquise O. incident? Fitting the key into the lock, he noticed there was light upstairs, so he also rang the bell.

“Louisa is that you?” a female voice called from inside.

“Yeah …. I’m bringing Louisa home…” as the door was carefully opened by a younger woman with glasses in a pajama.
“Good evening, I’m Henry Conrads, Louisa’s colleague.” He introduced himself formally since the situation was odd. “She isn’t doing well, something at the reception … I don’t know… you’re?” for a panicky instant assuming Louisa might be lesbian, making her even more unattainable.

“Oh dear, poor thing, thanks for bringing her home. Can you help me bring her upstairs somehow?” the young woman let him in, indicating at the narrow wooden stairs. “Come on Louisa, you’re half asleep but you can walk the stairs… you’re not that drunk are you?” She slightly slapped Louisa’s face who half started crying again. “It’s not like her to have to much to drink, especially not at a professional function….”

“I don’t think she’s drunk, it’s something else …,” he started half heaving her up the stairs, which forced him to grab her by the hip, making him lustily shudder as his hand felt the abundant flesh. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name … you’re?”

“Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself. Kirsten Marrows, my parents own this house, Louisa is our house-sitter, tenant. We went to high school and college together. I work in Seattle, am here for a wedding. I actually just got in tonight, didn’t even see Louisa before she left for the reception. Bring her over here.”

“Nice to meet you Kirsten,” the amount of relief he felt was ridiculous. Louisa’s bedroom was sparsely yet cozily furnished, in the center a broad bed with a fluffy spread. How wonderful would it be to sink onto that bed, pull her on top of him and kiss her senseless?

“Ummm … this is a bit tricky… would you mind helping me undress her? It’s not that easy since she’s half passed out, with the long dress… would that be a problem for you?”

“No, no problem… what can I do?” he held his breath. Another dream come true in the wrong version.

“Hold her steady … now let me find the zipper … not in the back … oh here it is, in the side….. It must over her head. So I’ll pull up the skirt to her hips and steady her … could you then slide your arms in a quick move under her dress and hold her upright around the waist?”

“Yeah…” doing as told, he thought he was going crazy, fumbling freely around Louisa’s luscious body yet without being allowed to really make any moves.

“Louisa, honey raise your arms…,” Kirsten coaxed, but Louisa just shrugged her shoulders and barely raised her elbows. “Okay, hold her real tight while I pull this over her head.”

He braced himself, his arms firmly around her waist and steadied her while Kirsten tugged the dress over Louisa’s head, blinding him with fabric swathing his face. “Oh shit … sorry, it’ll take another moment, she had her bra straps fastened with clasps … I need to undo those… Are you okay? Louisa is a sweetheart, but not exactly a feather…”

“I’m fine …no problem… she’s fine …” he grunted. This was the most bizarre heaven meets hell experience; he hadn’t read anything like it in books. The hero gets to innocently undress the heroine; that never made it into the course of the play. Finally he couldn’t resist any longer and let one hand glide over her rounded abdomen to the inside of her thighs, the other up under her full breast and gently squeezed both through the firm stretch material of her underwear, more shock waves coursing through him so he swayed.

“We’ve almost made it. There… carefully put her down on the bed.” The fabric curtain was lifted from his eyes. “I’ll take off her shoes and we’ll let her sleep in her underwear. Oh … undoing those hairpins and wiping off some of her makeup is also asked for… Thank you so much, you were such a help.

“Could I please use the bathroom?” he blurted, breathing heavily.

“Of course … wait; please use the downstairs guest one next to the stairs, so I can clean up Louisa with stuff from hers up here…”

Thumping down the stairs as fast as he could, he collapsed backwards against the restroom door only to pull his angry erection out of his pants and seek a school boy’s relief. Running cold water over his face and hands afterwards to half-way regain his composure, he had to shudder several times. What was happening to him? He hadn’t done anything like this in years! Let alone in someone’s guest bathroom!

Kirsten thanked him profusely again as he left in another cab, which he asked to take him home via The Burger Joint where he bought six different burgers, three onion rings, two fries, four brownies and four chocolate chip cookies. Ice cream would be in the freezer at home. Jill and the kids were already in bed as he arrived, so he quietly got out of his tux into t-shirt and boxers, installed himself in his study with his bounty and a six pack to start munching away, washing it down with beer. As his stomach filled, the aching need he felt slowly started to disappear, leaving the warm comfort of a swollen gut, which he pushed out and patted. Whatever happened, a very full stomach made it more bearable. Finishing the burger and fries, he went to the freezer where he found a pint of Blue Bell’s Caramel Turtle Fudge.

“You’re back… how was it?” A sleepy Jill came in rubbing her eyes. “Oh my … Henry … it was awful, wasn’t it?” she looked at his spread of wrappers and cans.

“Could’ve been better… food was tasteless…” he grumbled, embarrassed that she had caught him like this. Since they lived together, he’d generally been good about eating well at meals and not binging, not eating secretly … but today…

“Are you okay?” Jill stepped behind him, slid her arms around his neck, her cheek against his and gently massaged his bloated gut, easing the flab over the packed hardness of his stomach, making the aching fullness feel even better. “Whatever it is, you can always talk to me, you know that, don’t you? Don’t bottle things up… that’s no good..”
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Old 06-17-2012, 02:18 PM   #17
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Henry was surprising...didn't really see him as the grope-the-unconscious type...
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Old 06-19-2012, 04:59 PM   #18
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This episode got off to a great start by recalling "The Leopard" - one of my favourite reads, and it culminated with the brilliantly visualised predicament of Henry rising to the task of getting the lady safely home and up to bed.
Thank you for an inventive addition.
L
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“When I grow up,” she said, “I want my boobs to be as big as yours, daddy.”
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Old 02-16-2013, 02:16 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Hero View Post
Henry was surprising...didn't really see him as the grope-the-unconscious type...
Henry doesn't see himself that way either, is highly ashamed of himself - and that will lead to some problems between the two ....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lardibutts View Post
This episode got off to a great start by recalling "The Leopard" - one of my favourite reads, and it culminated with the brilliantly visualised predicament of Henry rising to the task of getting the lady safely home and up to bed.
Thank you for an inventive addition.
L
Thank you - since I know less than nothing about computer games and the like, my nerdy protagonist has to be an old-fashioned nerd finding his personal refuge not in the virtual but in the fictional world.

Sorry for the delay, I've been too busy with many projects and haven't had time until now to continue this story .... but here's the next installment.
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Old 02-16-2013, 02:29 PM   #20
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Default Invisible barriers

Invisible Barriers

“How are you this morning?” Kirsten smirked as she entered her kitchen.

“Pretty good actually, I slept really well. Now I need a coffee,” Louisa took one and saw Kirsten continue to look at her with a cocked eyebrow. “I misbehaved last night, didn’t I? I don’t remember very much … only that Henry must’ve brought me home… and I somehow couldn’t open my eyes, I was sooo tired…”

“You weren’t drunk – were you? That’s not like you. Did you take something else? Pardon my curiosity, but as a pharmacologist I’m naturally interested.”

“No, I wasn’t drunk… I had maybe 2 glasses of champagne, which was okay. The wine at the reception was no good.”

“Even if you hadn’t eaten, which you unwisely probably didn’t, 2 glasses of champagne couldn’t have knocked you out that badly. What else?”

“I was jet-lagged, upset, had a crying fit … oh, and because I was so upset, I had taken those valerian-hops pills you had once given me, you know to calm down during exams. They’re only herbal.”

“How many did you take before the reception?”

“Ummm … maybe 3-4 or 5 … why?”

Kirsten threw back her head and laughed. “No wonder you couldn’t keep your eyes open! 1-2 of those pills is the max, there really effective as herbal pills if you’re not used to them! Add on only a little alcohol plus jet-lag … oh and that Henry guy is the type of comfy human pillow one can easily fall asleep on …” making Louisa blush scarlet and rack her brain to remember what had happened. Kirsten must be right, she remembered snuggling against Henry’s warm thick body, it had felt wonderful but all of her actions remained very foggy. She only sincerely hoped she hadn’t done anything completely disgraceful or made Henry disgusted with her.

“More pressing matters now, since you’ll be okay after coffee. Can you help me dress, do hair and makeup for the wedding? You know I’m hopeless with such things…”

“Of course I can. I’d love to.”


Walking to the office on Monday morning, Louisa dragged her feet, fearing to see Henry again and if he might be judgmental about her behavior. Overreacting totally to Serena Goulding’s criticism had been bad - making a complete fool out of herself by passing out in front of him was even worse.
When she arrived at the office, she found it empty with a sigh of relief. Putting her apology walnut-brownies on his desk with a small note “Kirsten told me what a good job you did in bringing me home safely. Here’s a sweet thank you from me – so sorry for causing such an awkward situation for you.”, she set to work on checking what needed to be done first after her week in London. Henry didn’t appear. In the late afternoon Palmer had her called to his office to report on the contract she had signed in Bratislava, only seeing Henry from the elevator go into their office. As she came back from Palmer’s, which had been a very reassuring talk, the office was empty once more.

In the next few days it was not much different. It seemed as if he was consciously avoiding her. They weren’t in their office together until Friday noon, when she came in to see Henry munching burgers out of a paper bag. “Oh bon appétit Henry! Good to see you!”

“Hmmmh”, he nodded.

“How was your week?” It was a stilted question, but she was looking for an easy way to get rid of her personal apology for last Saturday’s state without embarrassing herself further.

“Fine..” his voice muffled by a mouth full of country fries.

“Mine was okay too … lot of work…,” she took a deep breath. “Last Saturday… wasn’t the best situation … you know…,” he looked up at her fully now, his eyes going wide behind his glasses. Oh no, so she had been in a worse state than Kirsten had acknowledged. “Well thank you for bringing me home so well. I apologize for any inconvenience. The brownies hopefully were okay as a small sign of how much I appreciate your help…” this came out very stiffly. Henry continued to look shocked as Ryan swept in after a brief knock on the door.

“Louisa, my favorite associate! Quick question – do you have any plans for the weekend?”

“Ummm … no, not really. Catch up on housework, get some fresh air, sleep in…..”

“Well, my parents are coming this weekend. They’d love to see you again…”

“That’s nice Ryan, but I’m honestly worn out. I haven’t had a free weekend in three weeks now. I do need to do some stay at home stuff….”

“Oh come on, you know how much my father likes you. He’s always telling me you’re his ideal daughter-in-law….”

“Haha … very funny, I’ll never be a version of Savannah in this life!” she groused, shuffling papers.

“And that’s probably a good thing,” Ryan showed his most persuasive smile. “Dad asked so much about you, how you’re doing, how great it’s you’re working here. Can’t you do me and him the favor, come out to eat with us? I’d also like to talk about problems I’ve run into on a dossier with you … we could do that before hand…”

Remembering what a sincerely kind, benevolent man Hannerston senior was, she relented: “Okay, I’d be happy to see your father again too. Know what – I’ll fix the Italian style stuffed turkey roast he likes so much with spinach gnocchi for Sunday dinner, you can come over to my place.”

“You’re wonderful Louisa, dad will be thrilled,” as the door slammed shut after Henry bolted out through it.


The next weeks weren’t any better. Henry avoided her and their office as far as possible, whenever Ryan came in, which frequently was the case, he left. He responded to her trying to talk to him only in gruff monosyllables, often sat there on the phone or wearing ear buds, so she couldn’t address him. She was hurt and frustrated, suspected she must’ve behaved worse than she imagined at the reception, or that Henry had little tolerance with regard to not meeting professional standards. Desperately wanting to get back to the cozy office atmosphere of the times before her ill-fated trip to London, she found no way to go about that.

Since Henry’s already impressive appetite seemed to have picked up even further, she started baking all sorts of goodies and laying them out on the broad office cabinet separating their desk spaces, hoping to engage him his way. He did regularly go for the bait, mumbling a few appreciative remarks – but only until he came in when Ryan was munching down a cherry cup cake one day singing its praises. From then on he by-passed these offerings too.

The only pleasure that remained for her was secretly watching Henry indulge himself. After he had called her out once on staring at him, she made sure to quietly slip back into the office, hoping he wouldn’t notice. Then she had arranged some paper holders in such a manner on her desk that they shielded her from his view, but still let her fully observe him from behind them.
Ignoring all the doubtful voices in the back of her mind suggesting she was turning into a complete freak because she delighted in clandestinely watching Henry eat – she gave into the warm thrill of spying on his indulgences as often as possible. The rhythmic puffing of his cheeks as he chewed, how he flicked his tongue over his lips in trying to catch some sauce that was escaping a burger or he licked his fingers if they were covered in chocolate. Over the course of the day, it was fascinating to watch his stomach swell, pushing out rounder and rounder before him, sometimes even letting a hint of bare belly flesh peak out at the bottom. When he leaned back in his chair to read some papers, he now would often absentmindedly rub his bloated gut or give it small pats setting off waves and jiggles. She also adored watching him stand at the file shelf, looking for something, because that brought his love handles to her eye-level when seated – and it was just so appetizing to watch them, puffed like bagels ready for the oven straining his shirt in tight creases over his juicy round backside.

The opposite of these illicit lusty feelings was true in her dealings with Ryan, who was becoming almost clingingly attached to her. Blessed with a slim, masculine build, Ryan tended to stop eating completely when he was stressed, which he seemed to be increasingly of late. Soon he looked almost drawn, had to hold his pants up with a tightly cinched belt and she found herself regularly coaxing him to eat some of her home-made goodies out of sheer concern he might be malnourished.

The amount of work – much of it clearly his, or his units and not her responsibility – he was pushing her way had her attempting to draw a line again and again, for varying reasons without success. Even though she had always more than re-paid any advantages he had provided her with through the quality and quantity of her work from as far back as college, there remained a sense of owing him that she needed to repay in above gold standard. For this great job with its income, for her full PhD-grant provided by the foundation where his uncle was on the board of trustees, for the well paid international research assistant positions he had regularly chosen her for. Her gratitude was unshaken, in spite of early on realizing that Ryan was more of a show man, good at delegating tasks and getting the best people to work for him, while his own intellectual and academic abilities were more on the sketchy side.

Since working again with him at ‘Palmer Associates’, she was often very uncomfortably struck how simplistic to even ignorant Ryan was of many aspects of their job, given that her knowledge had advanced significantly through her studies. The contrast – while they still were on talking terms – to Henry’s sharp, schooled intellect had been particularly marked. Occasionally it even had her wondering how Ryan had passed his exams – but then there were people like Clayton, who also got through legal life with pretty linear thinking. Yet when a tart remark or a complaint to Ryan was on the tip of her tongue, he’d praise her, show her a particularly promising new project – and she’d forget all about it again till the next gaffe.

“Louisa, your hair looks beautiful in the lamplight, so sleek and shiny..,” Ryan put a folder on the corner of her desk.

“Thanks, today it probably does. I had it professionally straightened for a court session today…,”

“Your hair always looks lovely, so healthy and abundant. Sometimes it’s straight and sometimes curly – just like your mood.”

“Hair is the only thing on a female where abundance is at least half-way accepted,” she muttered under her breath. “I was actually trying to finish this quickly and then go home. Is there anything we need to take care of today?”

“I’d appreciate it if you could look over these papers here – if the settlement for including public funding is okay… I need to sign it by Monday….”

“That’s a bit short notice…,” opening the folder. ‘MercuryScutum’ – what’s that all about….?”

“Some kind of border security system,” she looked at Ryan wondering why he would sign something he had only a vague idea of what it actually was all about. Seeing how deep the shadows under his eyes were, furrows running to the corner of his mouth and his stomach rumble, she felt sorry for him again. It really was demanding for him to lead his unit, he didn’t grasp some of these legal technicalities as easily as she did, was more stressed out by managing his work.

“Have you had dinner yet?”

“No… I’m not hungry.”

“Are you sure? You stomach is grumbling…”

“I’m really not hungry, don’t feel like eating, have a bit of a stomach ache…”

“You need something decent to eat. How about me reading this file at home, where I can make you your favorite cream of mushroom soup? And a baked apple with rum sabayon for dessert?”

He draped his arm around her giving her a small squeeze, letting her go rigid. “You’re the perfect woman – do you know that?” he tried to look her deep in the eye, making her lower her gaze, she hated this type of praising her strengths, assumed some catch to exploit her tendency to be helpful and supportive.

“Oh – you’re just saying that from lack of comparative experience. That’s the one amenity no version of the Savannah model comes with –cooking skills! Now let me pack up so we can get going,” as she tried to squirm out of his arm.

“You don’t get it, do you?” he sighed.

“Get what?”

He smiled and patted her hip, making her realize he right now was able to gauge how broad and fleshy her body really was, in a flash letting her step to the other side of the desk, stacking papers. “But your sincere innocence is probably a key part of your charm Louisa, don’t lose it…”

“Ryan, you sound like your blood-sugar is indeed dangerously low – let me take care of that.”

One of the up-sides of working long days with stressed Ryan and his minimal intake was that she too went without eating anything, often too under pressure to fully notice. In consequence, she seemed to have lost a little weight, was able to squeeze back into over half of her size 16 wardrobe. Some pieces – like the suit she had worn on her first day at Palmer’s – were still extremely tight with a very thick muffin top bulging over the waistband, but if she kept this up, maybe she would get half-way back to normal.

Returning to the office on Monday in another pinching pants suit, she gloomily pondered how the weekend had once more confronted her with how inadequate her ‘normal’ still was by comparison.

Most recently, Ryan had tried to get her to go to more social events together with him, but she had argued her way out of that, claiming she had other obligations. This weekend he had ambushed her into one of these particularly uncomfortable social outings, since it turned into a fake foursome.
Their social circles since back at university only overlapped with the people from their department who worked on common projects. Otherwise it was a different world – her friends were brainy or foreigners, his circle were the sleek, wealthy, stylish crowd. The very first party she ever went to at Ryan’s had left a traumatic imprint on her memory: Having misinterpreted Ryan’s casual invitation, she had come as the fat freshman in her first size 16 maternity jeans dress to hide her what must’ve been Freshman30 – to confront size 4 senior Savannah in a little black cocktail dress with her crew of equally slim, leggy, elaborately coiffed friends and Ryan’s lawyer friends who wore Italian shirts with designer jeans. After that, she had only attended his weddings as the inevitable social events for professional networking, each time turned out meticulously after a week of fasting.

Having spent some of her weekend reading and researching Ryan’s ‘MercuryScutum’, he told her to come by for dinner on Sunday evening, which she grudgingly did, stuffing herself into her skin-tight favorite 36” dark-washed jeans. Getting to his penthouse, Ryan once more had her wrong-footed socially, having invited Anne and Brian Neverman, to go to a trendy new seafood place down on the Potomac. Her evening was ruined the minute Anne embraced her on greeting at arm’s length: “As round and rosy as ever – Louisa how do you manage not to age a day since college? It’s so good to see you again, all fresh and sporty looking!” eying Louisa’s jeans, while she herself was dressed in pencil-skirt with cashmere twin-set and pearls.

Dealing with Anne always left her conflicted – on one hand she was sharp-witted and interesting to talk to, on the other hand, her critical thinking included her direct environment, making Louisa overtly aware of her own deficiencies. Now was such a situation: Next to preppy married Anne, she felt like a fat single country cow. Objectively she knew this was nonsense – Anne might have the advantage of a size 6 – flat, lanky rectangular as it may be - compared to her size 16, but that was her only visual advantage. Louisa knew she had better hair, clearer skin, bigger and more vivid blue eyes, more proportionate features, superior color sense given how becoming her smock like, low cut pale jeans blue blouse was next to Anne’s unflattering beige twin-set with the poorly matched pearls. And she was angry at herself that she let the silly size and dress style question dictate her to feel miserable and inferior, couldn’t get her cognitive awareness of her own appearance strengths overrule that sinking gut feeling that nobody would ever care for her and her looks.

Feeling only the bulging role of fat over her tight waistband, she couldn’t do justice to the good food, only slowly picked up on the conversation and was grateful when the evening was over. What added to her unease was that Ryan waved off her attempts at talking to her in private about the ‘MercuryScutum’ settlement, which she found literally unsettling and instead concentrated on being a gracious host. Brian, Anne’s kindhearted, quiet, not-too-bright husband and side-kick gave her a warm hug in parting: “It was wonderful to see you again Louisa! You’re so smart and caring, I’m truly relieved you’re in Ryan’s life again – I’d say he needs you as much as I need Anne…” reinforcing this unease.

Knowing she needed to talk to him as quickly as possible, she went to Ryan’s office first thing in the morning. “Sorry Louisa,” his assistant Kay said. “He’s out for meetings; don’t know when he’ll be in.”

“Can you give me an envelope, please?” she quickly put the folder in sticking a note to it “Do not sign this!!! Lot of information for risk assessment missing! Talk to me first! L” before handing it to Kay. “Make sure he reads this before he does anything else when he comes!”

It came almost as a relief that she didn’t hear from Ryan all day, or on Tuesday – and since Henry also was more out of the office than in, she finally got some serious work done in peace and felt good about it. On Tuesday evening Ryan called, and as she immediately tried to talk to him about the ‘MercuryScutum’ settlement, he waved it off: “It’s okay, don’t worry about it, I’ve taken care of that.”

“What do you mean, taken care of that? You didn’t sign did you?”

“No, don’t worry about it. It’s taken care of…. How about Chinese for dinner today, I have a little…”

“Sorry Ryan, I can’t. I’m meeting up with an old friend in 20 minutes.”


On Wednesday after lunch she went to Palmer Associates bi-weekly office plenary, to be surprised by Palmer putting ‘HermesShield’ on the agenda: “As many of you have heard, we have a new client, ‘HermesShield’ whose many corporate branches affect several of our departments and units. I’d like to hear your assessment of the dossier so far.”

Having heard the name from Ryan, she started to take notes on the different reports in case she would ever have to deal with it. Henry was one of the last to speak on their tax status: “Sir, you know my principle reservations against defense contracting. In this case we have a very old school model of tax minimizing with a lot of off-shore finance and highly opaque structures. I would advise the client to restructure, develop a more accountable and convincing – and possibly in the long-term more advantageous – tax management. Related there’s the open question of how to incorporate their naturally significant revenue from subsidies and government grants – but I haven’t received anything on this from Ms. Grenburgh yet.”

Her name made her start. “Ms Grenburgh – maybe you can fill us in directly,” Palmer addressed her.

“Sir – I’m sorry, I have not yet received the dossier…”

“Ms. Grenburgh, you should’ve received it from Ryan Hannerston – are you sure you haven’t overlooked it? Or just aren’t finished yet with the work?”

“Sir, I can assure you – I have not had anything in writing on my desk from ‘HermesShield’ for evaluation, be it in paper or electronically,” with a small flash of guilt becoming aware that Ryan had once briefly shown her something at a dinner, but had not asked her to work on it . “Mr. Hannerston has mentioned the company to me, but no more.”

“Well, I’ll need to talk to Ryan about the priorities in his department…”

“Sir, Mr. Palmer – if I way intervene,” Henry had leaned far back in his chair, his lunch-filled belly looming imposingly over the table from her perspective, radiating a certain sloppy authority. “Ms. Grenburgh is probably too inexperienced for this kind of client. Mr. Hannerston … well …. he has other priorities in his work – is not, probably will not give her the necessary guidance. I would like to suggest you let my tax team check on the public spending part …., maybe we can also get one of the agency specialists to look at it. With a type of business like ‘HermesShield’ we can never be circumspect enough, it invites all sorts of shady….”

Louisa doubted her hearing, was unable to utter a sound.

“Mr. Conrads – I’m more than aware of your reservations. I will let you know how we will proceed.” Palmer called the next point on the agenda, but she was unable to follow the further debate, shell-shocked by how Henry had just portrayed her as a stupid little intern, hurt and anger boiling in her.

“Ms. Grenburgh – I’d like to see you in my office!”

“Yes Sir,” she followed Palmer to his office, having to clench her teeth to suppress budding tears.

“Can you look at the ‘HermesShield’ file until Friday, give me your assessment of how they’ve been doing so far with their operations for which they receive public funding, which further potential there is, but also possible legal conflicts?”

“If I receive the full dossier, with the necessary documentation, I absolutely can do that,” her voice was only a little pressed. “I know how tricky defense contracting is – I did a fellowship in the legal department of a NATO contractor once, so I’m more than familiar with the issue.”

“I know that, Ms. Grenburgh. I’ve seen your work – and I also know Ryan is not always the most reliable in managing his case oversight.” Palmer eyed her over his spectacles, maybe noticing she was having trouble controlling her emotions. “Don’t take Conrads too seriously. As far as defense contracting goes, he’s something like the pacifist moral majority. Also - you’re the first person in this firm who has a clue about some of the international transaction cases he deals with – he’s like a dog trying to defend his bone, isn’t used to handling the competition. Actually I thought you were getting along rather well; you’re the first office mate where he didn’t come here after three days to ask you to be moved out again.”

“Thank you sir, I’ll keep that in mind.”

“One more thing before you go Ms. Grenburgh. I also know that Ryan brought you into this firm, that you’re long-term acquaintances and friends. Still – you’re not here to do his work.” Once more he paused and eyed her critically as she felt her cheeks start to burn. “We have a file tracking system in our firm …. I’ve lately seen how many of his documents originated on your computer. You have enough work carved out for you here as it is – and rather than sweep up the mess one of the partner’s leaves behind – you should expand more into new fields, find new clients for yourself. Do you understand?”
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Old 02-16-2013, 02:37 PM   #21
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Default Invisible barriers

At home in the evening, she cried herself to sleep with three pints of ice-cream, wondering what she had done so wrong to have Henry start hating her, put her down in front of the entire firm. Even if she didn’t have the makings of a sleek, presentable girl-friend, she’d always thought she had those of a likable friend and competent colleague, had mostly received positive feed-back for filling the role of the good, fat friend and academically bright member of the team well. Starting out at Palmer Associates, in her opinion they had hit it off well; Henry seemed to be at ease with her as his office mate. Whatever she had done wrong, she wanted to set it right, apologize – and even if they couldn’t be nice office buddies anymore, she hoped they could at least get back on polite speaking terms.

Then that Palmer had noticed how much work she had been doing for Ryan – although she felt he hadn’t been really angry at her, she did understand the warning, wondering how she would convincingly explain this to Ryan. But she could think of that next week when they were in Miami .

Working all day on the ‘HermesShield’ file, she bought ingredients on her way home and pulled out her Italian ‘colomba’ pan, for making the traditional Easter dove in a fruit & nut version, the dried fruit soaked in sherry, literally as a peace offering to put it on Henry’s desk, with an apology note in its baked beak the next morning. Only to wait nervously for Henry to come in, making her fidgety.

By mid-afternoon, Henry still had not appeared, instead there was a very hesitant knock on the door. “Come in.” Looking up she was nonplussed to see Jasper standing in front of her desk.

“Errrr … hi Louisa. Where’s Uncle Henry?”

“Hi Jasper, how nice to see you here. I don’t know where Henry is. Does he know you were coming?”

“Of course. Harper’s mom dropped me off here from our choir rehearsal. Henry’ll take me home.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t know where he is, I’ll check with Melissa, who does their schedules ….”

“Why don’t you know where Henry is, Louisa? Don’t you talk, tell where you’re going?” Jasper’s puzzled look mirrored her own confused and hurt feelings regarding Henry’s behavior quite well.

“We haven’t seen much of each other here in the office lately. Henry is … umm … well… not like he used to be … different … somehow strange …. like he doesn’t want to talk….” blushing she stopped guiltily; she couldn’t talk to the little boy like this, Henry was his uncle and probably role model.

“Yeah … he’s been strange at home too. Mom complains he’s going nuts. Last week he forgot to pick me up from soccer – I waited all alone on the field till it was dark. Or he went out with Tata and Squeaks, our dogs, you know … and came home with only Tata, hadn’t noticed that Squeaks hadn’t jumped in the car! We looked for over an hour to find him again!”

“Poor Jasper, poor Squeaks! Being forgotten alone out in the dark!” A bright smile crept over Louisa’s features, as if Jasper’s words had lifted a dark cloud from her mind. Whatever it was Henry was mad about, it seemed to have nothing to do with her, or the office – if he was just as grumpy and absentminded at home. “Well – even if Henry forgot you were coming – you’re at least not alone here in the office. Nor is it cold or dark. Let’s make the best of it. Do you have any homework to do?”

“Only one reading assignment.”

“Well – why don’t you do that, settle at Henry’s desk? Ouuh – do you like hot chocolate?”

“Yumm! Can I have some?”

“I’ll go make it for you. Our coffee machine makes the best milk foam – so it’s great for hot chocolate too.” There was almost a skip in her step as she headed towards the kitchenette, giddy with relief that whatever was wrong with Henry, it wasn’t her fault. She was so happy; she made herself only a tea, her previous sweet craving wiped away by the news that Henry was not angry at her specifically.

“Thank you for the hot chocolate Louisa,” Jasper stated politely as she set it in front of him. “Could I maybe have a piece of this cake here on Uncle Henry’s desk?”

“Ummm…,” she was undecided, given that she did want Henry to see the complete cake, the symbolism behind it. “I’m not sure Jasper. It’s got some liquor in it, I don’t know if you’re allowed to have that…. Let’s wait till Henry comes….”

“Okay…,” Jasper pulled a disappointed face, but went to sipping his hot chocolate and reading. After maybe half an hour he came back up to her desk. “Homework is finished. What can I do now?”

“Hmmm … well this is an office. So of course we have paper in all colors, pens, pencils markers, glue … in case you want to draw, make cards, or so. Then we have the TV over at the conference table … so you can watch something.”

“But if it’s an office … you’re supposed to work in an office. Don’t you have real office work for me Louisa?” he looked at her eagerly.

“I’m sorry, I don’t think so. We only have work here for people who’ve been to law school….”

“Please Louisa! I want to know what it’s like to really work here, like Henry. I’ll try really hard … I’m good in school…. I’ll pay attention, not make mistakes…”

His eagerness was irresistible, so she racked her mind what kind of things she sometimes gave their interns to do. “Hmmh … I might have something, “ she went to the top of her file cupboard, pulled out some binders. “I need to find out how often a certain grant number – you know, that’s money you get for a special project – has been used by one of our clients.” Quickly writing down 4 numbers of bits of colored paper, placing little stacks of same color index strips on them, she spread 5 binders on the conference table. “So- can you look through the documents in these binders – and every time you see one of the numbers in the spare column on the right, just stick an index strip here on the side of the page, like this. Can you do that?”

“Of course I can!” Jasper sat on his knees, leaning over the table, scanning the pages with a chubby finger, his brow furrowed in concentration. She went back to her desk, every once in a while looking up to see him working away diligently, the binder’s sides becoming colorful.
“I’ve finished the first binder. Shall I start on the next one?”

“Let me see…,” she leafed through the pages and saw he had worked thoroughly. “Perfect job… I’d be delighted if you could do the other ones for me too, Jasper. You’re a great help!”

“Ummmh … Louisa …. Hmmmh … when you do good work, you get paid money, don’t you?”

It proved difficult to turn her bubbling laugh into a grin, but she managed, finding his shrewdness adorable. “Yes, you get paid here for a good job. Since, you’re working for me, I’ll pay you then. How about $ 2 per finished binder? And the money goes into your piggy bank for the new soccer boots?”

“Great! I’ll work real hard!”
Jasper showed patience in his work as she occasionally looked over to continue seeing him scan the pages in concentration. It was already dark when the door opened and Henry walked in.

“Henry look – I’m working for Louisa!” Jasper’s proud statement let Henry go pale and cough, not saying anything. “I’m already on the fourth of five binders…and Louisa is really paying me! And she baked you a cake! Can I have a piece?” as he walked over to Henry’s desk to get the cake on its tray to show it to Henry.

Peeking out from under lowered lashes she could tell Henry was completely overwhelmed by this onslaught of information, just stood there, stuffing his hands in his pants pockets.

“Why don’t you sit down with Jasper at the meeting table while I get him another hot chocolate and you a double espresso latte, the way you like it?”

In passing, she gave his shoulder a light shove and he indeed obediently started moving towards the conference corner. As she came back, Jasper was explaining her cake to Henry: “May I read the note in the bird’s beak?”

“No, that’s a note only for Henry!” her voice went a bit shrill, letting Henry take the slip of paper from Jasper.

“I wasn’t sure Henry; may Jasper have a piece of cake? The fruit are soaked in sherry. It’s baked though, so the alcohol has evaporated…” instantly trying to distract Jasper’s attention.

“ Huh … what … cake?” Henry shook himself, then nodded. “Yeah, let him have a small piece…” letting her cut him a very big piece and Jasper a small one, who grimaced, but didn’t say anything. Henry sat staring at her note and munching down the cake, automatically cutting himself a second piece. “Fabulous cake, thank you so much Louisa,” not looking at her, making her heart sink a bit again. “Uggh … now … well… I guess I need to take Jasper home…”

“No … please … no, not yet Henry! I want to finish my work for Louisa … otherwise I won’t get paid! Can’t we stay until I’m finished? You must have work to do!”

Henry met her eye over Jasper’s head with a real smile for the first time in weeks. “Okay, I’ll catch up on my e-mails while you finish your work for Louisa.”

As they left, she thanked Jasper with a hug and gave him a $10 bill. Jasper had exited the door as Henry turned to her, clasped her hand between his thick, paw like ones and bowed over it, muttering: “I can’t tell you how sorry I am. You did absolutely nothing wrong. I’ve been an idiot…. a total idiot. Please forgive me. You’re so … very kind … that you still want to be office friends with me. I promise I’ll be back to normal on Monday.. . “

“It’s okay. I’m relieved to hear I’m not doing something wrong. We’ll start our normal mode then again week after next when I’m back from Miami,” she laid her other hand on his; with a light shock tingles starting to run through her. Immediately she regretted she had to go on that business trip with Ryan next week- alone preparing the dossier of the real estate buy out by a major European bank of fore-closure properties with him over the weekend left her less than motivated. It wasn’t her field of expertise –and Ryan seemed less and less able to think straight. “Take good care of our office while I’m away!”
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Old 02-16-2013, 08:53 PM   #22
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So absolutely fabulous to have another wonderful chapter in this story!!
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Old 02-18-2013, 08:39 AM   #23
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Great to see a promising story being continued- abandoning them is so cruel!
Thanks for the update & hopefully more soon.... can't wait to see what's in store for Henry next.
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Old 02-19-2013, 09:12 AM   #24
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Happy Dance!

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Old 02-25-2013, 09:03 AM   #25
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[Thank you everybody for welcoming H&L back... here's what's in store next for them!]

Smouldering haptics

“What are you doing here?”

“Palmer sent me. Hannerston has been detained because of some problems with that HermesShield-case, can’t leave the office now. So you’re stuck a week in Fort Lauderdale with me….,” the tail end of the sentence went gruff, since he was not able to completely mask how hurt and disappointed he was at her displeased exclamation.

Louisa shook herself irritably for a moment, closed her eyes and took a deep breath: “No, it’s fine. Sorry for my reaction – I haven’t had my second coffee yet. Actually … regarding the negotiations…”

“Mr. Conrads …. Ma’am … I infer you’re travelling together for business…?” the check-in lady interrupted them. “Well then … it’ll certainly be more convenient if I seat you together. Please hand me your boarding pass again Mr. Conrads…” before he fully realized what was happening, with a lot of brisk computer tapping, he had a new boarding pass, Louisa’s check-in was taken care of and they were sent to the gate. “It’s gate B17, you have a nice row in the plane to yourselves, Ms. Grenburgh has the window seat. Have a nice flight.”

They looked at each other uncertainly, walking slowly in the indicated direction, before Louisa said: “Would you please excuse me for a minute? I need to get that second coffee so I’ll be bearable company..” and as he nodded, she quickly went off towards the ladies, his gaze following the enticing swaying of her ample buttocks until the door closed behind her.

The crowd at security and the disorganized line at boarding kept them separated until he reached his seat, where Louisa was already settled by the window, giving him a faint nod, gulping coffee and looking positively beatific. The morning sun through the small window made her hair glow around her face like a halo and brought out the most delicate shades of the creamy skin of her bosom, which was trying to escape the confines of bra and t-shirt.

Squeezing into his seat was more of a struggle than he remembered; he must have put on some serious pounds lately again. Trying to smother all his confused feelings regarding Louisa – shame, lust, jealousy, hurt, and a wagon-load of others he had trouble identifying clearly- with excessive quantities of food had not been the best idea. Jill was right in gently cutting his portions, carefully suggesting he should stick to meals only, not snack so much.

Although he had made some attempts at doing so, got through the weekends under Jill’s all day meal regime, when he didn’t see Louisa, Hannerston or the office, better than through weekdays, he just needed to look down at the heavy dome of flesh in his lap to realize how much bigger he was than during his last flight. Now he was paying the price for his gluttony: His fat ass was wedged between the arm rests, but roles of flab bunching on the side of his gut were overflowing and he had problems retrieving the ends of the seat belt from under them. Louisa wordlessly reached over and handed him the one on her side. Then he sucked in as far as he could, tugged and tugged to get the ends to meet, quickly fighting for breath and pinching his fingers with the clasp; the last thing he was willing to do was ask for a seat-belt extension in her presence. Ostentatiously Louisa kept staring out the window, probably embarrassed by his ill-fitting bulk until he finally managed to squeeze the ends together, breathless and red in the face. Only for two straining buttons at the widest point of his middle to pop open as he exhaled, a loose one tearing itself off the fabric and falling to the floor, causing more flesh to bulge out daringly.
Paralyzed in mortification, he closed his eyes, as if that could make the awful situation disappear. Something was slipped into his hand, a small button. “If you want, I can sew it back on when we arrive….,” Louisa whispered.

“Thank you …. I’m so sorry …. I’m being impossible …. how embarrassing for you… I have some shirts that fit better, for our business meetings … I’ll change,” he babbled, searching for something more meaningful to say.

“It’s ok, don’t worry, such things happen in these cramped planes,” she buckled herself back up, murmuring. “I know what it’s like …. though my issue are zippers, not buttons….”

Zippers? He didn’t quite understand what she meant; only saw that she looked at him with understanding, no longer seemed as shocked and angry as she had at check-in. “Louisa, I can’t say how sorry I am. Please accept my sincere apologies,” he wanted to try and make amends, ensure they could work well together the coming days. “I’ve been an idiot these past weeks, somehow too much work … I’m sorry you have to go to Miami with me and not…”

“Henry, it’s okay. You don’t need to apologize again, you already did last week,” Louisa interrupted him. “I just wasn’t prepared to see you here instead of Ryan. As I tried to explain at check-in, I’m actually a bit relieved you’re coming with me.”

“Relieved? Honestly? How come?”

“You’re much better at the tax and financing side than I am or Ryan is. I trust your professional expertise and know I can fully rely on you – that makes everything much easier for me. It’s actually good we’re doing these contract negotiations together – we’ll get the best results…” her smile deepened as her cheeks went pink and dimples appeared.

“Are you serious?”

“Absolutely.”

Weak with relief he leaned back; Louisa was as kind and considerate as ever – she even had a realistic assessment of Hannerston’s legal abilities, didn’t seem blinded by romantic love. Maybe he had been over-reacting, attributing things to her behavior that didn’t exist. Having worked through the entire dossier all weekend, he was drained and felt himself nodding off as soon as the plane was air-born.

“Use this, you’ll be more comfortable…,” Louisa slipped an inflatable pillow around his neck. “Palmer made you read all the paperwork this weekend, didn’t he, so you could come along, right?” letting him nod in exhaustion. “Okay, then have a good nap during our flight…”

But he only half dozed fitfully, couldn’t turn his mind off completely. The past weeks of his idiotic behavior towards Louisa, the family and god knows who else kept circling through his mind. It had started with that fateful evening when he took somnambular Louisa home from the Partner’s Reception. He had been so ashamed of himself, of taking advantage of her, feeling her all up, it had been mortifying to lose control in such a manner – he had no idea how he could face her again. Although she had left him ‘thank-you’ brownies on his desk with a guarded note next Monday, it didn’t convince his inner doubt and took him almost the entire week before he could really face Louisa again, talk to her, pray she honestly was oblivious to his transgression. Since confession was out of the question, the only way he could half-way redeem himself was by being particularly nice.

But Hannerston had barged in on their first attempt at talking again – to from then on positively besiege Louisa. Always coming in as if the office belonged to him, discussing things with her, flirting with her, eating the baked goodies she made for him, inviting her to do things together – it was physically painful to hear and watch. Had his office once been his castle, of late wonderfully embellished by Louisa’s presence, now it was more like the torture dungeon, letting him avoid it as much as possible when he knew she was going to be there. Imagining what Louisa and Hannerston were doing together started to become obsessive, as tormenting as the thoughts were. These daylight nightmares often ended with the vision of his having to attend their wedding with the entire firm, a Louisa looking like a Jordaens angel in bridal gear kissing Hannerston.

In the attempt to clear his head and half run away from these mental antics, while at the same time being able to nurse them privately, he went on more and longer solitary walks than ever. The best remedy he could find though was a very full, warm stomach – being stuffed and sated was what calmed him best, let him relax and be able to do his work in the office and at home. Home life suffered too from his preoccupancy – like the day he had forgotten Jasper on the soccer field in the dark, Jill had actually yelled at him, something which had never happened before. He had tried to apologize, made amends, but he could tell his heart and mind were somewhere way off.

The full extent of his self-obsessive idiocy hit him when he came to the office last Thursday to find Jasper there, Louisa caring for him in the best manner possible and handing him a literal peace offering in the guise of a delicious dove shaped cake. Looking into her hurt and puzzled eyes as he read her note, it hit him like a ton of bricks that his jealousy of Hannerston had fabricated a highly distorted version of reality that had nothing to do with the endearing office-mate the genuine Louisa still was. The fact that she had come to apologize to him, for his paranoid misconceptions had left him stricken, knowing how much he had wronged her in every respect.

So he swore to himself to make it up to her, get a grip on himself and be a good, friendly colleague once more. Palmer calling him late Friday evening with the order to accompany Louisa to Miami for the foreclosures deal was an omen, the chance he hardly deserved to fully get back on normal amiable terms with her. And he vowed to use this chance.


Working together over the next few days did let him get back to the most pleasing ‘normal’ he could imagine. It was sunny and warm, so his day started with breakfast by the pool-side with Louisa, who seemed to enjoy assembling the most tempting plates for him from the buffet. Aspiring to show himself on his best behavior, he tried to reduce his eating in front of her, to not come across as a glutton – unfortunately with little success. Over the past weeks he had over-indulged himself, so reining in his hunger and appetite proved difficult. If he held back at breakfast, his stomach would be growling by mid-morning, letting Louisa push all the meeting snacks his way to demolish. She was very polite about it, acting as if his food consumption was nothing out of the ordinary, considerately getting him big plates full or reserving last pieces of favorites for him. As all women, she ate notably less than he did, went for all the ‘healthy’ choices like a big bowl of fruit&yoghurt for breakfast and the like. Yet from what he could observe, she did eat more than for instance slim Jill, and never could resist their afternoon ice-cream at the lovely little shop around the corner from the meeting room.

To make the most of this unexpectedly wonderful business trip, he decided not to agonize over dieting; he’d ask Jill to help him get back to normal eating and weight at home. Right now it was all about maximizing the pleasure of having Louisa almost all to himself for 16 hours a day, working with her, having meals with her, joking with her when watching silly local TV shows, strolling with her in the sun – no office, no Hannerston or other disturbances in sight. Doing all this with a happily full gut in his lap somehow reinforced the pleasure, especially when he accidentally brushed her arm or foot at the narrowly arranged meeting table and that explosion of lusty tingles went off.

Even the actual negotiating and drawing up of the contract was fun – playing ‘legal ping-pong’ with Louisa, who was a great at it, coming up with continuously improving solutions for their clients. They also seemed very pleased, for after three days Palmer forwarded him and Louisa an e-mail in which they thanked him explicitly for sending such a fantastic team, making them grin at each other in glee and have champagne with dinner. Louisa had a different style in working and negotiating than he did – she was far better at convincing the clients of the practical implications of legal measures, combining them with a common-sense, solution oriented approach he knew from and admired in Jill.

Despite the contract being on the uncomfortable issue of a investor buy-out of fore-closed properties or semi-defaulted mortgages, she steered their clients to implementing the change in ownership cautiously, not evicting owners unless absolutely necessary, letting them downsize within the selection of houses to be able to meet obligations, all in all keeping the communities livable while safeguarding their own investment by ensuring good maintenance of the property. News of this also limited scheduled protests of owners and their neighbors as well as actually getting them favorable responses from the city councils and the local media.

The only downside of this good work and success was that their stay in Fort Lauderdale might be cut short – as far as he was concerned, it should go on forever. On the 4th day they had finished all chapters by early afternoon and had to wait for some registration of property deeds with the local notary public – leaving nothing really to do.

“Henry, why don’t we take the afternoon off? Get outside into the sun, relax a bit? We still have all the time in the world to do the triple check of the next chapters to be negotiated regarding the transfer of ownership either this evening or early tomorrow morning.”

“You’re right. I could use some real outside time, go for a long walk, too,” hoping she would suggest going together. For once, she did no such thing, just smiled, packed her things and left: “Okay, I’ll text you when I’m ready to continue…”

Changing into casual clothes, he was relieved he had picked up a real big, loose football jersey at the airport, because his short cargo pants from last summer were so tight he couldn’t button them but needed to hold then together with a shoe-string under his belly and even then they strained over his bulging ass-cheeks and much thicker thighs. This meant either reduce food or go shopping – neither being particularly appealing. In the hope of maybe meeting Louisa there, he first went to the ice-cream shop – but no luck, he had to console himself with a triple fudge sundae.

The long sandy beach beckoned, so he set out on a long hike, thoroughly enjoying the smell of fresh sea air and walking in solitude, letting his thoughts wander; replaying some of his favorite literary scenes in his head with Louisa as heroine. The sun was considerably lower as he turned to go back to the hotel, surprised at the stretch he needed to cover.

About a quarter of the way back he suddenly became aware of a figure getting up and walking down to the water edge a little ahead of him, realizing in surprise it was Louisa. “Hey Louisa…!” instantly asking himself whether this was a good idea, maybe she didn’t want to see him here on the beach.

She turned and smiled on identifying him: “Hi Henry, walking back to the hotel too?”

“Yeah… you too? Did you go for a walk?” Looking at her, he once more knew why he was so smitten by her. In the setting sunlight she was a vision like a cloud in a William Turner painting: Wearing something pale blue and white softly billowing in the breeze, her skin and hair was rose-gold tinted set off by artful rumple of her wet hair and a lot of very shapely cleavage on display.

“No – I went for a swim in the ocean.”

“Right here? Not in the hotel pool? Or the hotel beach? Why didn’t I see you then on my way out?”

“Is this an interrogation on the minutes of my free afternoon?”

“No – just checking my eyesight, whether I need new glasses..” giving himself a mental slap for badgering her with stupid questions. Maybe they weren’t that dumb a way for masking his confusion, for she laughed: “I hate pools if I have the ocean as an alternative…. and I prefer being alone with myself and the ocean, it feels better.” Her voice faded a bit before she winked at him. “You can save a trip to your optometrist – I was in the water for a long time, probably also while you came by.”

Slowly they walked back to the hotel. “Sorry for my stupid questions, know what you mean. Going out alone with the dogs, listening to the ocean or the wind or the woods, letting my thoughts go where they want to…, that’s simply the best.” her words had given him a sense of kinship. They walked on quietly, exchanging only occasional observations – but it seemed the perfect thing to do. He had never cared for taking any human company on his walks, not even Jill or her kids. Here with Louisa, it was as if a warm heavy stone had settled on his chest, slowly diffusing a cocoon-like bond around him, including Louisa in its fine web creating a form of closeness without words that was new to him.

“Look – that pelican over there is hauling his dinner home in his throat pouch…,” Louisa lightly touched his arm making him jump.

“Big dinner,” he smiled down at her dopily, struggling to get back into the reality of where they actually were. “We’re right near our ice-cream shop – have you had your serving for today?”

“No- I’ve been a good girl so far.”

“May I treat you then?”

“Oh no, it’s okay …. I don’t need one…. you can get yourself one though…”

“If you’ve been a good girl today, worked hard, swam hard – you definitely deserve and need your ice cream. I’ve been a bad boy, already had my ice cream, but I’d like a second helping … so let’s go over and I’ll get us some…,” fumbling for his wallet in the tight back pocket of his pants.

“Okay, if you say so. You know that good girls always make the mistake of listening to bad boys…” Louisa grinned at him before blushing so furiously he could even see it in the reddish evening glow, in turn making hot prickles run through his cheeks. “Let me brush the sand off my feet and put on my sandals.” In an odd flamingo-like position on one leg Louisa tried to clean her foot and put on her shoe; with the first foot it worked, with the second, standing on a flimsy sandal, she lost her balance. Her groping arm to steady herself landed on his belly, her hand clinging into the soft fat on its side, making his hair stand on end and the throb in his loins rear.

“Oh I’m so sorry…,”

“Never mind. Get that second foot down, I’ll hold you…” he grasped her by her upper arm, shocked at how firmly pliable it was, cool on top with warm undercurrents, the skin so smooth he could feel the crystals of sea salt on it, letting him hold his breath to suppress further strong sensations.

For the rest of their walk back to the hotel with ice cream there was even more, now tense quiet between them. In the lobby the concierge intercepted them: “This package was delivered for you.”

Louisa scanned it, sighing: “These are the detailed plans for the property transfer. They’ve been checked by the client and the local banks – to be 100% on the safe side we should double-check the deed numbers ourselves. I don’t feel like it – but why don’t we do that tonight in case something comes up tomorrow morning?”

“Yeah … you’re probably right…,” mild disappointment set in, since he had hoped to talk Louisa into a sea-food dinner on the waterfront with champagne again. But any evening with Louisa was fine. “Shall I reserve a meeting room?”

“Hmmmh…” she turned up her nose. “I’m sick of those stuffy meeting rooms. I’ve got a bit crazy idea… Well … I have this great balcony with real spacious lounge furniture, also a big low table. Why don’t we do it on my balcony, order some food?” she said this very quickly in a low voice.

Dinner on Louisa’s balcony … wasn’t that as good as seafront? “Sounds like a plan…, thanks for offering…,” he tried to conceal his eagerness. “Shall I maybe order us some pizza? There’s a place not far from here that makes real Italian stone oven ones.”

“Your many fields of expertise are always a true pleasure to discover,” Louisa teased, making him go scarlet remembering his late night pizza run on their first evening when he had been starving after only sandwiches for lunch and dinner. “I’ll get us some wine from that liquor store we got the champagne in, they had decent Spanish red. Come up at 8:00.”

Whistling while shaving and showering, he was thanking his lucky stars for an extra-load of work from their clients, for a mild evening, for Hannerston’s professional incompetency keeping him in DC, that all let him have a working dinner à deux with Louisa, all to himself. Getting dressed he panicked for an instant, that he had nothing to wear, but then was thankful that Jill had insisted he get new jeans and polo shirts to take along, since his old ones had clearly gotten too tight. New jeans and a dark blue new polo shirt, untucked to camouflage his belly a bit would have do.
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