BBW Natasha Visits a 'Wizarding School' (lesbian, stuffing, sex, MWG)

Dimensions Magazine

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Jul 24, 2008
[Author's Note: This is a fantasy story about two consenting adults who rekindle a friend relationship. It involves weight gain between two amazing women. Natasha is visiting her childhood friend, who has taken up a teaching post at wizarding institution. Arriving by train, Natasha cannot wait to see her friend whom she has only been able to correspond with. As she journeys closer and closer, Natasha remembers an event from their past that she cannot seem to forget. Will this visit rekindle those memories in both women?
Disclaimer: This story borrows tangential elements from several popular wizarding book series, but as per the guidelines of this website, will not be explicitly named to keep the legal people happy. Enjoy :)]

Natasha Visits a "Wizarding School"
by runningsoft

Chapter 1

They say that when you are travelling by train, that the window seats are always the best. You always find your trip passes a little more quickly and there’s nearly never a dull view. Natasha had never quite been on a train quite like this before and even though she didn’t have the seat nearer the window, she found there was plenty to look at from where she was sitting.

“Anything off the trolley, dear?” came a voice from Natasha’s left, taking her out of her reverie.


“Would you like anything to eat, dear?” said the woman.

Natasha put her finger in a page, turned her head and looked up. A woman of advanced age but surprisingly spry gesticulated with pride to the cart she was pushing. It was now directly at eye-level and it donned on Natasha that the woman was offering travel snacks to the passengers.

“Oh, not at the moment, no. But thanks.” She said to the woman who nodded with kind eyes.

“Don’t worry, dear. I’ll be back later on should you change your mind.” With a wink, she tottered down the corridor of the train and entered in conversation with the next seat.

This time, a little girl and boy of about ten poked their parents from their magazine reading and Natasha watched with interest as the children first pointed, then cheered when the woman handed them various sweets and treats that she had never seen before. Money exchanged hands between the woman and the children’s parents and she proceeded down the corridor and finally out of sight.

Watching the children tuck into their food, the volume of the train car now dropping by several decibels, Natasha returned to her work. She had her finger tucked between pages of a manuscript, red pen in her hand.

She clicked the nib of her pen back out, flipped to the page she was currently reading and flicked her wrist to look at her watch. It’s nearly lunchtime, she thought as her stomach gave a lazy grumble.

Natasha was a newly promoted editor of a well-known publishing company. She had been in publishing since college, having scrapped her way up the ladder but loved every minute of it. Since she was a little girl, she always wanted to be a writer as she had an inventive imagination. Five years on, she had gone from entry level ‘coffee gopher’ to the position she now held. It was good pay, but the hours were insane.

She tucked a lock of brown hair back behind her ear and poured over the manuscript she now held. It was a second-draft and she and it’s author were making great progress. This novel, a detective noir, was the third in an already successful series and Natasha had every intention of making this one even more of a page-turner than its’ predecessor.

As she read deeper into the pages, her red pen making the odd note here, a scribble there; a low grumble echoed through her body.

“Hey you, knock it off,” she whispered to her stomach as well as stifled a yawn. Hungry and tired.

Almost as if by summons, the woman pushing the trolley was working her way back up the train, her face beaming towards each previous customer with a look that read, ‘enjoying your purchases?

Natasha raised a finger and made eye contact with the woman who stopped just opposite her now.

“Anything off the trolley, dear?” she repeated, the question almost lyrical, inviting.

“Yes, but erm—there’s so much to choose from?” she said it as a question and less of a statement.

“Oh yes, the Chogward’s Express offers its travelers many choices as our passengers tend to come from all over the world, these days.

“I can certainly see that,” said Natasha smiling.

Her eyes peered at the cart, recognizing nothing and noting many brands that did not exist in the United States. There were purple boxes of what looked like chocolates in the shape of toads, tall licorice-looking sticks that might be made to resemble magic wands; boxes of jelly beans that represented many flavors and other packages, parcels and bags of goodies that all seemed to look quite inviting.

“Might you have anything a little more filling than candy? I’ve really not eaten since breakfast,” said Natasha whose eyes could not stop taking in the items on the cart.

The woman nodded in understanding, “Oh, don’t I know the feeling,” she said pressing hand to her abdomen with a gentle pat. She looked down and selected a blue button next to the side of the cart, which Natasha hadn’t noticed before and the cart did something quite unexpected.

The items of candy and sugary sweets were vanishing only to be replaced by more adult selections. Wrapped sandwiches, boxed salads, smoothies on ice and what smelled like freshly brewed coffee now greeted Natasha’s eyes.

“More like it?” said the woman, knowingly.


Natasha paused for a moment, her stomach making slightly louder grumbling sounds now. She selected two sandwiches and the salad, “Oh, what flavor is the coffee?” she asked, reaching for her wallet.

“Pumpkin, of course.”

“Sounds lovely.”

Natasha nodded and woman poured her the coffee as she made room and lowered the dining tray off the back of the train seat in front of her, her manuscript and pen now temporarily forgotten.

Items laid on the tray, Natasha gave the woman British pounds, money she had exchanged before she left for this trip and the woman smiled as she took the money and offered returned change.

“This coffee smells amazing, thank you,” said Natasha taking a first sip. Not scalding and flavored just right.

Her stomach gave a loud protest and the woman smiled and as she was pushing past Natasha to serve the next occupant, she laid down on the table already laden with food a wrapped package that looked like a dessert.

“On the house. Pumpkin Pasties,” said the woman with a wink as Natasha’s stomach gave a second “Urrp!” and she trod off.

A little reddened in the face, her stomach betraying her hunger, Natasha unwrapped the first sandwich and took a bite. It was amazing and tasted just like home. She smiled at the memory and leaned back in her chair and almost stared out the window. The occupant, a stranger, who had the window seat had been sleeping their entire trip and thankfully was not a snorer; had his face pressed up against the glass and partially obscured the view.

Natasha continued munching on her food as she thought back on the catalyst that started her on this trip, a mini-break from work, to visit a friend she hadn’t seen since her early days at elementary school.

She and her best friend, Kristen has been next door neighbors since they were both in diapers. Their families got along and they essentially grew up as official sisters. They did everything together: family trips, birthday’s, meals and neighborhood explorations.

Then, when Kristen turned 11, her parent’s had informed her that she was going off to a ‘boarding school’ abroad. Natasha was crestfallen then and didn’t quite understand why. Kristen said she would be back every summer and promised to write (which she did) every other week. Natasha made new friends during her teenage years, but Kristen always remained her best friend.

After her ‘boarding school’, Kristen returned, as if she had never left, and the girls went to college together. It was like no time had ever passed and they had a very happy four years together. Natasha studying writing and Kristen taking education classes to become a teacher.

Graduation happened and Kristen and Natasha moved out of their old neighborhoods to pursue careers. Which is where Natasha was heading now: she had received an email from Kristen a month ago asking her what she was doing one long weekend in the Fall.

Natasha was so happy to hear from her friend, she replied back instantly.

“Heyyy, you!

It’s been so long, how have you been? How’s school, teach? Me, I’ve been working like a mule but the bonus pay is amazing. I got that promotion finally – it was about a year in the making, but hey—who’s counting, right?

Of course I’d love to come visit. The fall is when we get hammered with work, so as long as it’s okay that I bring a little work along, I can stay for upwards of a week if you’ll have me. Oh, it’s going to be so good to catch up. Seeing anyone? Cannot wait to give you a great big hug!

Love from mom and dad also,



Kristen had replied not shortly thereafter with similar sentiments and arrangements were made. Natasha smiled at the memory of their exchange. Particularly in one of the final emails where Kristen had told her the train, called the Chogward’s Express would be an interesting experience and that she should ‘just go what whatever happens, I’ll explain later.

If the deal with the trolley car was any indication, she would certainly have questions for Kristen when she saw her.

Natasha was really looking forward to seeing her friend. She had been in and out of a few relationships, having just ended one that went rather badly just a few months prior. The stress of working had seen to that. Men couldn’t understand that she didn’t want to just watch them play video games all evening while she worked all hours to get manuscripts edited, scanned and sent on to the authors; or taking zoom calls with the editors and publishing houses to see where in the processes the books were.

Sure, the sex was great and Natasha was a natural performer, but the men didn’t seem to last.

Kristen on the other hand was a little mysterious when it came to her relationships. She gave Natasha enough details through email to make her cackle with laughter at the misfortune of a bad date or two, but it seemed that she too put work before home life.

She thought back to Kristen and their years at university. They studied hard but they also found time for fun. There was one memory Natasha had locked away in her heart and the email from Kristen had bubbled it back to the surface.

Natasha closed her eyes and reminisced…
Last edited by a moderator:
Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 2

During one particularly hard exam week in their first year, both girls had been stressed to absolute breaking point.

“Oh my fucking god!” shouted Kristen to the dormitory room they shared.

“What’s up?” said Natasha, who was equally perturbed by her own studies.

Kristen was on the floor next to her bed. Papers strewn all around her with scribbles and sticky notes. A highlighter in one hand and a subtle quill in the other (a habit she had acquired from that boarding school she attended). She sat, legs folded in pajama shorts and loose-fitting top and looked morose.

“Why do they insist on making these exam prep questions so damn hard to interpret!?” she looked up at Natasha, a strand of ash blonde hair falling onto her face, adding to the look of an exasperated student.

Natasha tucked a lock of her own hair behind her ear and put down her pen and sets of notes she as pouring over. She consulted the clock that hung on their wall.

“Hey, its nearly midnight. I don’t think we are going to absorb anymore tonight, err today.”

Kristen threw her quill and highlighter on the floor and made to stand up, her knees creaking from the position she forced them in for several hours. She shook out her legs and stretched her arms above her head revealing a lithe abdomen.

Natasha hadn’t meant to stare but she was tired and a little punch-drunk from her hours of studying.

Kristen didn’t seem to notice and Natasha quickly closed what she was sure was her gaping mouth. Walking over to the fridge, Kristen went to the freezer and Natasha knew what that meant.

She got off her study chair, adjusted her clothes and grabbed two spoons.

This was a nearly nightly ritual for the girls. Doubly, when it came to exams or study papers. They would work until they nearly cried, one would console the other and they would commiserate over whatever cheap ice cream they could afford on a student’s budget.

“Thanks,” said Kristen as she thumbed off the lid of the container—mint chocolate—and took the offered spoon.

“My bed’s cleaner,” said Natasha as they needed a space to sit and share the ice cream. Kristen eyed here own bed – a mess of notes, tangled sheets and a pair of underwear that hadn’t made it to the hamper.

The girls sat like two peas in a pod, backs against the wall on Natasha’s bed. They pulled the sheets over their outstretched legs, Kristen holding the ice cream while Natasha reached for her laptop to que up a television comedy they would play to help decompress.

The months of study this particular semester had been daunting on Natasha. Normally, she enjoyed exercise to siphon off the stress of academics, but she had been negligent on that front. She had spent one too many a night stress-eating, often with Kristen, but without the advantage of a fast metabolism.

She had acquired the freshmen fifteen and if she was honest, probably a few more than that. At 5’7’’ she was a fairly tall girl, but even twenty pounds of gained weight were sure to be visible to the public even though she carefully hid it under baggy clothing.

So, as Natasha reached, outstretched, for her laptop, she felt her shirt pull away from her body and the cool air of the room touch her belly like an ice cube.

She jerked back a little too quickly and nearly knocked her laptop off the nightstand where it served as both placement for her reading glasses and television stand during their shared ice cream evenings.

“Mhm, You okay?” said Kristen, between mouthfuls of ice cream.

“Y-yeah, I’m fine,” said Natasha adjusting her shirt to cover her belly and taking a smaller than normal bite of ice cream.

“This one’s a great episode,” said Kristen, eyes glued to the television.

One episode became two and two became three as the girls laughed at the show, shared in the goings-on of their class schedules, commiserated about who had a harder degree and finally giving over to the exam gods that whatever will be on those pages are already written and whatever is in their heads will have to be good enough.

“Oh man,” yawned Kristen, arms over her head, empty spoon of ice cream in one hand, “I am read for sleep. You?”

Natasha, who held the ice cream tub now (it’s content emptied by the pair of them) was rendered speechless at the site of Kristen’s middle. Was it her imagination, drugged with exam stress and near-sleep exhaustion that her friend’s middle was no longer lithe?

“T-totally,” said Natasha, who was sure she was staring.

Kristen, this time noticing followed Natasha’s eyes to her own abdomen and slowly lowered her arms, her shirt falling back over her belly like a curtain call. “Oh this old thing?” she said, raising up her shirt again and cupping a small belly, “It’ll be gone by morning.”

Her eyes flicked towards Natasha’s and then down at her belly. Kristen reached out and poked her friend, then looked up again. “No doubt yours will too, after the exams. I know you haven’t been running like usually these last few weeks…”

Natasha felt happy and understood and knew no judgement was coming.

“Thanks, it’s just—” she trailed off, making to close down the laptop and toss away the empty ice cream tub.

“Just what?” said Kristen, still sitting on Natasha’s bed.

“I dunno. I just fell. Like, I dunno. I guess my metabolism sucks,” she said, returning to her bed and suddenly dreaming of sleep so she wouldn’t have to continue this discussion. The exam was tomorrow morning.

“Hey, mine sucks too. But we will survive. Hey, hate to be a nudge, but do you mind if I sleep here tonight with you? My bed is seriously a warzone of papers, clothes and who knows what else.”

This wasn’t a strange request and Natasha nodded in affirmation. They had spent their younger years doing this and it was also a source of comfort during the exam season. They had simply fallen back into an old, familiar pattern.

Kristen made room and Natasha slid under the covers, set her alarm for an early wake up and with the fullness of ice cream and a warmer bed, shut off the lights.

The girls wriggled until each found comfort. They lay like two sardines, feet and thighs touching; each with hands across their chest.

Natasha let out a sigh, still obviously perturbed by her sluggish metabolism and Kristen took the bait.

Kristen laughed, “Hey, c’mon, we’re young. A few running miles and you’ll be back to that flat stomach with the three moles in no time.” She rolled over and raked a hand, friendly, across her Natasha’s belly.

Natasha felt the blood rush to her face and was relieved they were in darkness. The triad of moles of which Kristen had referred to were mere inches about her sex, not her stomach. She thought back to how would have seen that.

She usually changed in her room closet and was doing it more so these days, conscious of her expanded body. Might there have been a day when Kristen had seen her? Kristen had classes in the morning and Natasha sometimes changed in their shared room as she always got up earlier. She was a quiet dresser and always felt reassured by Kristen’s loud snores, that her privacy was upheld…

Sometime later, she never knew when, Natasha was awoken by the sound of soft moaning that sounded in her ear.

Her eyes popped open and she recognized the sounds coming from Kristen’s side of the bed. The faint moonlight that their cheap dormitory curtains could not blot out cast a faint blue light over the room.

Kristen was on her back, bed sheets clutched on one hand up to her chest. Her hair had come undone out of her bun and lay diagonally across her face. Her legs were slowly, rhythmically rubbing together and Natasha could feel Kristen’s shoulder worrying and reaching for the place where she was sure was between her legs. Was—she masturbating?

The moaning remained soft, nearly undetectable as she felt her friend exploring her own body during sleep. Natasha had certainly heard of ‘wet dreams’ and had certainly experienced many herself –but never experienced someone else’s.

Kristen’s eyes remained closed, she was not biting her lower lip and her breathing became a little shallower. Small beads of sweat began to pool around her forehead and as she adjusted her body under the covers, a warm animal smell greeted the air and Natasha breathed in deeply.

The air seemed to rush out from her body and she took a quick breath. Natasha had held her breath. She had not wanted to let that aroma go, but she needn’t have worried. She could hear the sounds of working, lubricated fingers and the scent reached her nostrils once more.

Natasha closed her own eyes and bit down on her lip trying to process so many thoughts. Exams. Kristen. Exams…Kristen…she didn’t know how it happened, but both of her hands slid down the sides of her body. Subtly, she lifted her ups and pulled down her pajamas and wriggled them down past her needs. With the room she had on her side of the mattress, she let her leg furthest from Kristen fall away and discovered she was already wet.

Reaching with a trembling hand, she let her fingers migrate down past her belly and down through the forest of manicured body hair she kept; past the three moles who greeted her like and old friend and entered her sex.

Pleasure like she had not felt before flooded through her as she repeatedly explored herself. Keeping quiet, she bit down hard on her lip and tried to ignore the lightning that shot through her brain.

As she was bringing herself to climax, she felt a hand that was not her own. It was a friendly hand, of that she knew. A warm hand, a wet hand. Kristen’s hand.

“I couldn’t sleep…’Tasha,” same the voice from miles away. Were they words, or had she merely imagined them?

She felt Kristen’s body stir and roll over to spoon her. Natasha became aware that her friend was rubbing her sex against her leg. Natasha let out an audible moan and spread her legs and pulled Kristen’s hand inside her. Her insides went taught as a hand far more expert than her own began to flip switches and breakers of desire that she didn’t know were possible.

Eyes still closed, Natasha climaxed and felt a warm, wet hand guide her own back to her sex while she could hear Kristen brings hers to her mouth to taste her! The aromatics of the two women caused Natasha to moan and climax again and she could feel wetness spread from between her legs. Kristen’s leg held her firm as the rictus of ecstasy slowly died down over many minutes.

“Kristen…Krissy?” Natasha breathed, finally opening her eyes.

She turned to see a sleeping Kristen, lightly snoring, mouth slightly agape in exactly the same position they were when they fell asleep. Bewildered, Natasha hoisted her bottoms back up, aware of the warm reward they carried and was instantly asleep.
Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 3

It was the jostle of the train slowing down that brought Natasha out of her reverie.

Eyes snapping open, she was suddenly felt aware as if all eyes of the train passengers were on her, though they weren’t. She could feel her heart thumping loudly against her chest, which was now beginning its decrescendo to normal rhythm. Her skin felt warm and she could feel the beginnings of sweat accumulate at her chest and armpits. Looking down, she saw one hand was nestled low on her lap, had it been inching towards her sex?

She brought her knees together and squeezed, feeling the moistness and now aware of that low hum of electricity that stirred deep in her core. She closed her eyes again and bit her lip softly trying to will the sensation away, though a soft moan escaped her lips, betraying her.

“You going to eat that?” said a voice next to her, nearly making her jump in fright.

“Ah-what!?” said Natasha, startled.

“I was asking whether you were going to finish that.”

It was the man from the window seat whom she had shared this entirely silent train ride. He’d been asleep when she boarded the train all those hours ago. He was now pointing to the remainder of her lunch: one unopened sandwich packet. His expression was hopeful.

“Sure. It’s roast beef.”

“Cheers,” he said as Natasha offered the man the sandwich. He’d offered to pay her some money, but she politely declined.

Natasha sat up a little straighter in her seat and gathered up some of her things in hopes of further distracting her now less-wondering mind. She was ahead in the editing process of her most recent manuscript and chose to review her last few pages of what she had written down. This welcome distraction allowed her to melt back into reality. She began to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the train as if she had just gotten on it for the first time.

Taking a sip of her coffee, which was now cool, she packed up the remnants of her salad and sandwich wrapper. The pair of Pumpkin Pasties sat in their unopened wrapper and she looked down upon them. Natasha had a sudden urge to offer them to the man who was obviously hungry. He was pushing the last corner of the sandwich into his mouth and was chewing like a man who would have liked another, if one was made available.

Natasha felt a little tingle in her body when she touched the wrapper and a small voice in her head said that she should keep them for herself. She swept them into her purse and continued to look at the newly developing countryside.

Fields and mountains were being replaced with the cultivated farmlands and farmhouses. The solitary houses that were distantly sparse became small clusters, then taller ones, then buildings.

Natasha saw easy country living that reminded her of the Amish. She saw some cars and trucks that looked very dated as well as horse drawn carriages laden with what looked like produce and small livestock.

The train was beginning to slow down still further and a ping on the overhead speaker informed the travelers that they were arriving early and to safely check all storage bins for shifting luggage.

Natasha traveled light, one small hold all for her clothes (she was a notoriously efficient packer), her purse and a sturdy tote with all her work was all she brought with her. In one of the final emails she’d exchanged with Kristen, she had been told her not to worry about packing for extreme weather changes at this time of year.

The train chugged onto a platform and there was small gathering of people. Natasha took in their eager faces, no doubt collecting families or friends who, like her, were here vacationing or returning home.

She stood up, dusting a few crumbs off her clothes and adjusted her travel jacket which hung slightly snug across her middle. She gathered her belongings and joined the cue in the aisles who were making ready to depart the train.

Natasha’s life primarily consisted of her work, light exercise and more work. And the occasional boyfriend. Her dedication to her writers, editing team and employers meant steady hours in front of a computer screen, hunched over until literally a bathroom break or hunger pangs washed over her.

During her first few years in the company, she was more active, not to mention younger. She could take advantage of her peppy metabolism by making relaxed food choices and dismissing physical activity entirely for weeks at a time.

Then, about six months ago, she got a shocking realization that she needed to change her ways.

One evening, the company was hosting a publishing gala of a new well-known author who was being added to their team as well as some mid-level promotions. To the rest of the staff it meant free booze, a chance to dress up and rub shoulders with some other notables who always seemed to find their way into these parties. City life just seemed to run like that.

Natasha had a plus-one, a man she’d met online and had met a few times and felt comfortable bringing with her to the event.

That morning, she’d laid out the green dress that she always wore, a strapless number with a tasteful bodice and detailed stitch work that, new, would have cost her a months’ apartment rent. Thank you, Thrifty Consignment App! She’d found the dress being sold on an app and paid a fraction of the price.

Natasha had been busy on that day and felt a glass of wine was in order. She poured herself a glass from the boxed wine she kept in her fridge and continued wrapping up the afternoon’s workday of phone calls, scattered emails, skipped spin class session, a second glass of wine and turning in a second draft of an edited manuscript. Satisfied with her work, she dragged herself to the bathroom for a shower, wine glass in hand.

Peeling off her overly large shirt and male boxer shorts left from a past boyfriend, Natasha turned on the showerhead, pulled out the hair tie of her top-knot, waited the prerequisite 30 seconds for the water to go from ice cold to volcano hot, back to a normal temperature (thanks terrible building plumbing!) and stepped inside the shower.

She had found that if she didn’t exercise and wasn’t overly active at work or home, that she could skip a day between showering. Not her favorite thing, but she was one of those fortunate people who didn’t smell badly if a shower was missed; and this habit was a definite timesaver. Thinking back to her evening ahead, she stepped under the water and felt the last two days of city life washing away. She lathered and scrubbed and raised an arm overhead, tipping her face out of the water to see more clearly.

Confirming her armpits needed gentle attention, she grabbed her fashionably amazing razor and set to work on underarms, legs and bikini area.

Refreshed, she put her hair up and grabbed a second towel, draping it across her body. A freshly laundered towel was simply the best. She was dry in seconds.

Tip-toing across her bedroom, she opened the drawer and selected her nicest strapless bra and matching bottoms. Nothing that showed lines. She slid them on like a second skin and set to work on her makeup and flicked on her favorite playlist from her iPhone.

Checking she still had time, she did her hair, made a light snack and answered a few texts from co-workers who would be attending the party as well as her male plus-one.

going to be a bitching party, whose ready to get *hit-faced?” came one of the many group texts.

hope we get rooftop access like last time!” came another.

Smiling, she thumbed through a few more lines, commenting here and there; always careful to acknowledge, but never commit to any documented wrong-doing. Promotions came scarcely at this job, after all.

She had about 30 minutes before having to catch a cab to meet her date. Natasha grabbed the dress which was hanging of the back of her closet door. Taking it out of it’s drycleaning bag, she smoothed it out feeling the coolness of the silky-smooth fabric.

Natasha slid the zip down and slid herself inside. She hitched it up and reached around to the clasp just below her armpit to secure the two ends and was about a half-inch short. She tried again, and again.

She let out a light huff and felt her bangs flutter. She decided on swapping bras, this time selecting a slimmer, though less comfortable one. After it’s failure, she tried no bra at all.

F**k, f***ck,” she said to the room at large, searching for her spanks. She looked high and low through drawers and under folded clothes, the top of her dress falling down making Natasha resemble a half-peeled banana. Spanks, those magical bodice-hugging underclothes that packs a woman into the tightest of spaces. But she’d loaned them out to another friend just the other day and had no back up.

Natasha thought that if she forwent the clasp, she could at least get the zipper to hold. It was one of those expensive dresses where the zipper held fast like an industrial magnet. The upper clasp was mostly for show, anyway.

Looking at her phone, she was running short on time. Refusing to panic, she took a deep breath in, let out as much air as she could and tugged at the zip. She got a third of the way up. Trying again, half-way. The final time she pulled, she felt she heard ripping and stopped. The dress was too small.

What the hell, man!” she cried out to the room.

The empty room sneered back, silent but she felt, judgingly.

She stepped out the of the dress, wanting to throw it, but deciding it was an expensive risk if she did any more damage to it.

She stood in her full-length mirror searching for answers.

A beautiful, though flustered set of rich brown eyes stared back. A perky nose complimented a now- slight frown that tapered to a feminine chin and a slender neck rounded out the remainder of her facial features. Her eyes scanned beyond the face and next took in athletic, though not broad shoulders followed by a small, but healthy bust. The coolness of the room had pin-pricked each nipple which was surrounded by a set of areolae that every man she’d ever been with found incredibly desirable. Her eyes moved laterally to the slightly fluffier sides of her torso and she felt her mouth frown. She pressed her arms to her sides and felt herself go soft where normally the inner portions of her arms felt muscle and rib. Eyes still travelling down, she saw wider hips which were digging into her underwear and at her middle, not a pooch, but a veritable ‘pot belly’.

Natasha had never been ‘abdominals ripped’, but she always had those two contour lines that you see in modelling magazines. How long had they been absent on her? Her eyes flicked towards her Peloton which was taking up current residence as her spare clothes rack. She felt it mock her beneath the green dress that now lay over it.

She turned side profile and saw the problem: she was carrying a food baby, several months along. She gave a gentle hop on the balls of her feet and her lower belly gave a little jiggle, confirming that it was truly a part of her and not some part of her imagination.

Turning front-profile again, she brought both hands to her sides and pinched and squeezed, feeling doughy love handles above her hips and squashing her middle together as if hoping her efforts would smooth everything back into place.

To confirm her suspicions, she kid-stomped to the bathroom to step on the scale. It was always a few pounds off and so she picked the part of her bathroom floor that was always kindest to her.

The scale rolled past the typical 127 and rested on a defeating 139.4.

Searching for something to blame, her eyes fell to the wine glass on the edge of the bathroom shelf.

“Well, I hope your happy,” she shouted.

The glass of wine replied by letting a droplet of condensation cascade down its side as if to say, ‘well, no one told you to drink me.

Natasha went to her closet and found another dress, a purple one which was not as shimmery, not as silk-smooth, but definitely roomier; and threw it over her head. It fit, but barely. She stood in the mirror and twirled to see how she looked in different angles of light. The dress without any defining tailoring hung flat across her torso, making her swollen abdomen the focal point.

“Damn,” she huffed, searching—and finding— a broad, shimmering belt that shared the spotlight.

Natasha looked at herself in the mirror, smirked sideways in triumph and walked back into the bathroom. She grabbed the wine, slid the scale back into place with a toe and drained the glass.

She toasted herself in the mirror, applied her favorite crimson lipstick, blotted herself with a tissue and gathered her purse and shoes, determined that, even though she was looking her second-best; that she was going to have a first-class evening.
Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 4

A chime from the overhead speaker informed the passengers of their arrival and Natasha felt the familiar jostle of too-eager people wanting to enjoy fresh air and more open spaces.

After a few ‘excuse me’s,’ and ‘pardon’s’, Natasha excused herself from the train and stepped onto the platform. Exiting the train, she felt like she passed through a thick wall of air, which shimmered and then returned to normal. She shook her head and walked a few paces from the hustle and bustle and laid down her things and surveyed.

She shielded her eyes from all the reflective surfaces of the platform and surrounding buildings.

“Hey there, stranger,” came a familiar voice from in front of her.

Her childhood friend and best friend stepped in view, cutting through the sunlit glare and was beaming. Natasha felt her face crack into a wide smile to match and the two women embraced, rocking each other from foot to foot.

“You look refreshed for a woman whose just been on a train for 10 hours,” said Kristen with a smirk.

Natasha rolled her eyes. “Well, you did tell me to expect the unexpected on this trip and so far, I have not been disappointed. Gosh, it’s so great to see you!”

The two embraced again then Natasha held her friend at arm’s length, admiring.

“Same old Krissy, ever the ageless wonder.”

Kristen struck a pose, legs akimbo and hands on hips, drinking in the compliment and tossed her ash brown hair back as if it had been blown back by wind. She was sporting a light jacket, white camisole, tan pants and black riding boots.

Natasha took note that her friend literally looked the same as she had in college. Tall at 5’10’’, lithe and fit. A healthy bust, strong arms and legs and just the hint of laugh lines at the corners of her eyes. She had cute freckles on her cheeks that happened when she caught just the right amount of summer sun and she had warm, inviting honey-brown eyes.

“Take a photo, it will last longer,” said Kristen, helping Natasha with her bags and the two women departed the platform.

“I’m sorry—it’s just so great seeing you and you look like you’ve stepped out of a time machine. You’ll have to tell me your secret.” Natasha elbowed her friend in the side and noted toned muscle.

“Just water, some veggies and some good old-fashioned Pilates,” she said with a wink. Gesturing, Kristen pointed to the departing area and Natasha followed, rolling her eyes mockingly and bringing out a joyful laugh out of Kristen.

Natasha stopped for a second and then had a sudden urge to hop on one foot while patting her ear, like a swimmer whose come out of the pool with water lodged in their ear, “Ugh, how long does the spell take to lift again?”

“You’ll not have to wait more than a few minutes.” Kristen replied, as if this was normal conversation.

Natasha felt an invisible weight drop out of her ear and everything became clear. She was now looking at the platform through different eyes, a witch’s eyes.

She saw all sorts of peculiar travelers dressed in what she imagined were witch and wizard robes, pets with additional appendages or heads and all sorts of magical wonderment from floating luggage to platforms that were self-cleaning.

“Tell me what you see now,” said Kristen, point a few feet away from them.

Natasha’s eyes were drawn to a severe-looking woman with a weathered witches’ hat caring after a pet that had extra-large features, an extra tail and exaggerated body proportions. She blatantly saw a woman pull out what could only be a magic wand and point it at her defecating pet’s mess and said, ‘disappearus fecus materis’. The animal’s mess vanished into thin air restoring the ground to it’s previous un-besmirched state.

“Umm, a strange dog taking a crap which disappeared?” said Natasha.

“Well, now we know that the statue of magical secrecy has been temporarily lifted for you on your trip. Do you remember standing on the platform as you left the train? The air felt thick for a second? That’s the magical charm.”

“I do, I even said good-bye to the man who sat next to me who ate one of my sandwiches. Turns out he looked part lobster.” Said Natasha, remembering that as she passed off the train that the world she knew began to bend towards the wizarding one she was only limitedly familiar with.

“The statute of magical secrecy acts like a portal between out worlds. It’s an advanced charm spell that keeps the No-Wa-Kah’s from discovering that magic even exists.

Natasha frowned for a second, “No-Wa-Kah’s…non-wizarding carriers!” she said as if in class answering a question. Kristen gave a smile.

“So…does that mean I get to do all sorts of wizardy and wandry like you do?” said Natasha already knowing the answer, but nudging her friend conspiratorially in the ribs.

“Oh, you know it doesn’t work like that, ‘Tasha.”


Back home, one summer after they had graduated from college, Kristen took Natasha to a field they had played in frequently as youths.

“I have something I want to share with you,” Kristen had prompted. “Remember when I went to boarding school all those years ago?”

“Yeah?” said Natasha.

“Well, Ah—****. I’m a witch.”

“Wait, what!?” said Natasha, laughing a little at the blunt absurdity of the statement.

“Ah, I’m no good at explaining—Explainso!.” Kristen had procured from the back pocket of her jeans a stick of wood that was ornate in every way and very old-looking. She waved it across the space between them and tapped it right between Natasha’s eyes.

Natasha felt her body go rigid and then felt her eyes close. Everything went temporarily dark and then, in the distance she saw a pinpoint of light that drew closer like a train exiting a tunnel.

She heard a voice she did not recognize begin to narrate:

“Dear Non-Wand-Carrier, or ‘no-wah-kah’, you are receiving this message in the presence of a qualified witch or wizard who has placed their utmost trust in your ability to keep strictest secret that magic is real. We, the magical brethren do not interfere with our magical prowess in the ways of the world. Your world. We exist in a parallel world in harmony…”

Natasha could feel thousands of years of magical understanding and terminology enter her brain at warp speed.

“You have now received all of our history, though you do not have the ability to practice the noble craft of magic. In the presence of a qualified witch or wizard, or by passing into our world though appointed portals, these memories will return as if you’ve never forgotten them, like recalling a second though less-practiced foreign language.”

Kristen, through the usage of this spell was conveying everything she knew about her acceptance to ‘Wizard School’ when she was young, the fact that she was now a qualitied witch living among the no-wa-kah’s and that her time at college was helping her further magic and non-magic relations.

The spell lifted and Natasha felt to her knees softly, her head spinning.

“Ugh, I think I’m going to hurl.”

Kristen bent low and patted her friend soothingly on the back, muttering something non-English and making small circles that rapidly subsided the dizziness.

“Hey, that was a soothing spell, wasn’t it?” said Natasha.

Kristen nodded with a weak smile. She proceeded to explain to Natasha who had complete understanding that whenever she was in the presence of another witch or wizard that she would fully comprehend speech. Further, whenever she was in their magical presence, anything that would normally be unexplainable to the mind of a no-wa-kah would make complete and utter sense to her.

“Cool,” said Natasha with a grin, “My best friend is a witch!” She knew she wanted Kristen to demonstrate all sorts of cool witchcraft that instant but knew from that magical voice that the magical world only used magic when applicable, else they behaved like normal non-magical people.

Natasha sidled up to Kristen and made a little sad puppy dog face, gesturing with her eyes from Kristen to the wand.

“Oh…I know you’ll never let it go. Here:” Kristen raised her hand, wand at the ready and muttered, “igneous levitator…”

A small rock wiggled, then rose into the air as if this was the most normal thing in the world. Natasha did not scream or run. She was simply in awe of magic


Back on the platform, the two women collected Natasha’s things and made to head towards the local village. Natasha’s luggage became surprisingly light and she turned to Kristen who was just stowing her want beneath her clothes.

“Hey, did you…?”

“I haven’t the faintiest idea what you’re referring to.” Chided Kristen.

Natasha smiled and nudged her friend again.

“It’s noon, have you eaten yet?” said Kristen.

“I had a little something on the train, but I’ll get a tea.” Natasha’s stomach growled.

“Liar. You’re still peckish. Don’t worry, I have a place I know you’ll like,” said Kristen.

Kristen linked arms with Natasha and the pair strode away into the town, luggage considerably lighter and hearts full of a week’s worth of adventure.
Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 5

The two women entered the village adjacent to the train station, Hogsbottom.

Kristen looked over at Natasha, who sniggered and pointed unnecessarily at the village sign.

“…really?” Kristen said, eyebrows raised.

“Hey, c’mon. Pig’s a** is what they call themselves?”, said Natasha who wiped her eyes from laughter.

“It’s an old name. This town is—” began Kristen.

“Yes, yes, I know. Hogsbottom was founded nearly 400 years ago around the same time as your school, Chogwards. My magic brain just kicked in and told me so.” Said Natasha, tapping the side of her temple.

“It’s going to be so weird—yet refreshing—getting used to you knowing all our magic terminology and customs.” Kristen said as she led them through some main and then side streets of the little village.

“No kidding. Imaging thinking you are going to have to play interpreter for me while I am on vacation, only to learn that I know the ‘language’ just as good as you do.”

The two women passed many shops and Natasha would stop every few stores and make a comment.

“Ooh, a store that sells books! Any magic erotica in there?” she said, elbowing Kristen in the ribs.

Kristen blushed slightly and said that there might be, and the pair moved lazily on, luggage hovering behind them.

They turned a corner and on either side of the street they observed a shop that sold antique looking tea sets and another one that sold gardening supplies.

“Ooh, I must get you a welcoming plant,” said Kristen, who steered the pair of them across the street and into the shop. Natasha’s luggage hovered obediently outside the store and she heard Kristen mutter the spell, “secureo!” so that the luggage would be safe as houses while the perused the shop. Natasha held open the door and the pair dashed inside.

Like she expected, Natasha knew that the tiny shop window was a front and that inside, the building was expansive. A not-unpleasant smell of earth and sunshine hit her nostrils. Her eyes scanned and she saw rows and rows of greenery that were laid out before her. She took in every color of the rainbow that came from beautiful plants and flowers – many she’d never seen before.

“Wow, the dragon-delias are coming in beautifully,” said Natasha as she walked past a potted plan whose red-orange petals emitted faint smoke.

She and Kristen separated and took in everything from enchanted peonies, whose blooms were 4 times larger than those Natasha had seen back home, to rare Zebra orchids.

“I wonder what you use this for?” said Natasha, who held a gardening tool.

“Hmm?” said Kristen, who was now looking at purple-tined cactus.

“Is this to show plants a good time?” Natasha said again holding the tool. It looked like a medieval dildo with abnormally round head that emitted a faint humming sound. Natasha emphasized the point by stroking the shaft suggestively and pulled a face of feigned ecstasy that made Kristen blush a little.

“Shh, put that back. You know its not for things like that. Let’s keep exploring.” She said, although not fully able to keep the humor out of her voice.

The women separated aisles, agreeing to cover more searching this way. After a few minutes, Natasha heard her name being called from what sounded like the far back of the shop. She walked passed vined plants, spikey ones, ones that reached out for you and ones that smelled like fresh baked cookies.

“Ooh, ‘Tasha, look at this one.” Kristen was bent low and was pointing to a shelf.

Here, Natasha bent low, too and observed the most beautiful flower she had ever seen. The singular plant in the pot was striking. The plant itself shimmered white-gold but also emitted a faint yellow glow, like an aura. Just looking at it make her feel immensely happy and calm. Searching her magical brain, she could not come up with a name for this exquisite plant.

“I see that you ladies have fine taste,” came a voice from behind them.

A woman who looked like the proprietor of the shop came into view, pushing her glasses back up her nose, her fingernails caked in dirt.

“I was walking past and these literally caught my eye and I had to look more closely,” said Kristen, slightly breathless.

“That’s the charm of these flowers, they’re Everblooms and this one in particular is a crossbreed of an Italian Cassanovis Amouris and a French Je T’aime a la foile. We call it Amore Infinito follemente. They are a new breed of flower, we’ve just grown the first batch this season.” Said the shopkeeper.

“I love you, infinitely, madly…” said Natasha more to the plant than she meant to say aloud.

“That’s it,” said the shopkeeper, now eyeing Natasha with more praise. “It’s not too often we see a No-Wa-Kah like yourself who knows more about magic and nomenclature than we lot do.”

Kristen rolled her eyes, “Oh, this one doesn’t need any more of an ego-inflation. She’s got plenty for the two of us.”

They all laughed and Kristen made to pick one up, “It’s lovely, I’ll just get the one.” But the potted flower did not move. It felt like it was magically charmed to the spot.

The shopkeeper smiled and put her hands on her soil-covered hips. “You cannot take one without its twin. These are amorous plants. They are sold in pairs.”

Natasha put a hand on Kristen’s confused shoulder, “These plants are Harmony Flowers. They are sold in pairs and the strength of bond between the Giver and the Receiver of these plants determines the fullness and robustness of the plant. Do I have that right? God, I love this magical memory thing!

“She’s got the measure of it, this one. You sure you don’t have any magical ancestry?” Added the shopkeeper.

Natasha shook her head and shrugged, “None I am aware of. I just have a keen mind, I guess.”

“See to it that it stays sharp, young one.” The shopkeeper said.

“So, how do we choose?” said Kristen, feeling a little left out of the conversation.

“It’s easy. You just go along the row of flowers and the one that nods to you, is the one for you. Then your friend here does the same. After that, we will see if the plants dance.” The shopkeeper said this matter of factly.

Kristen inhaled and then sighed, “Okay, here goes…”

She bent over the plants, her hands outstretched. Comically, the plants that seemed disinterested seemed to fold their leaves across their stems like a person crossing their arms. Natasha could have sworn she heard some of them make noises of denial, ‘hmmph!

Finally, one plant opened her leaves like one does to embrace a loved one, and the plant seemed to nod in agreement. Kristen gently picked up the plant and it came off the shelf easily. It shone a little extra brightly when she brought it close to her.

“I think this one is mine, I can feel it.” She said.

Natasha did the same, ushered on by the shopkeeper and immediately the first plant she came to seemed to lean forward in earnestness, its roots looking like they were parting company with the soil.

“Woah, this one seems to dig my vibe. Easy there, little fella.” She said, picking up the plant before it literally leapt out of its nutrient-rich home.

“That’s the first bit. Now for the dance. Here, you two, like this,” said the shopkeeper nudging the women in place so that each faced the other. She then motioned for them to hold their arms outstretched so that each planted flower was nearly touching, pot-to-pot.

They stood there for a full minute. Nothing happened.

“Erm,” said Kristen searching the wizened face of the shopkeeper.

“Give it a moment,” she said kindly.

Natasha felt the pot in her hands suddenly get a little heavy and then warm like she’d stepped into a warm bath. She felt heat radiate from the plant up her arms, into her face, down her legs and into her core. She felt like she was being held by a lover. Gentle but assured. She gently squeezed her legs together and tipped her head to side and gently bit her lower lip. Had a silent moan escaped her lips? In the same instant the warmth entered her, it was siphoned away and she was left with only the happy memory of it.

Looking down at her plant, she saw that it was shining vibrantly and was unmistakably dancing with the air between it and Kristen’s potted flower. She leaned forward and could see that Kristen had experienced that similar feeling of warmth and assuredness. Her own plant dancing to a similar rhythm.

She stepped still closer now so that the rims of the pots now touched. Each plant stretched out and everyone watched, transfixed as the plants jostled and swayed moving in rhythm to a beat none of them could hear. The dance moves looked familiar to Natasha, and she suddenly recognized that her plant was dancing just like she used to back in college. She was also aware that Kristen’s plant, although trying its best, was jittering a little out of time and rhythm—just like Kristen used to.

“Woah, de ja vu,” said Natasha with a smile.

“Ditto! They look like us boogying on the dance floor from our college days.” Said Kristen, still watching.

The flowers did their final choreography and then parted and stood still once more like a flower should, albeit the fact that they were now glowing like 1,000 watt lightbulbs.

“Dang,” said Natasha, “my plant looked good!” she mimed a waggle of her hips, and her plant mimicked her.

“We are going to have fun with these.” She said and Kristen beamed.

“That’s the most robust pair I have ever sold!” said the shopkeeper who walked them to the front of the store, ready to make payment.

“I’ve got these,” said Kristen who reached into her purse and paid with the customary wizarding money.

The shopkeeper continued muttering appraisal of their plants as she packed them up in travel-worthy containers and bid them a very good day.

Back out in the fresh air, they uncharmed Natasha’s luggage and carried their plants a few more blocks as they headed their way to the luncheon spot Kristen had selected for them.

“Hey, back in there, did you feel anything…peculiar?” asked Kristen, still looking ahead.

“Peculiar, how?” replied Natasha.

Kristen worried her lip and frowned slightly, “I dunno. When I held my plant, I felt my body go all warm and tingly…” she looked sidelong at Natasha for a reaction.

“Well, I felt the warmth and the tingles all the way down to my lady-bits, if that’s what you’re asking.” She said with a comical eyebrow raised.

Kristen snorted with laughter, “Tasha! We’re in the street!”

Natasha expanded her arms as if to embrace the road and beamed, “Well, I did! What do you want from me?”

Kristen laughed again and made hushing noises. Natasha was now making small gyrating motions with her hip that looked as if she was bumping and grinding to the latest RnB song. A few witches and wizards took note, curious of the commotion.

“Hey. Hey, we are here.” Said Kristen.

Natasha, who was still dancing, did an impressive Electric Slide, complete with hand flare and 1-2-step (packaged flower still in hand) before she looked up to see where Kristen had led them.

It read: The Three Cauldrons

Kristen did the security charm on Natasha’s luggage once again as well as carefully stowed their packaged flowers. She was amused to notice that both her and Natasha’s flowers were doing rooted versions of bumping and grinding as well as electric slides.

“I hope the food is good in there. All this walking and fabulous dancing has made me a little hungry,” said Natasha patting what felt like a now-hollow stomach.

“You’ll find something you like,” said Kristen with a wink.

Natasha felt her stomach gurgle, almost uncoiling itself and she suddenly felt unconsciously very, very hungry.
Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 6: The Three Cauldrons

Kristen pushed open the door, a chime tinkled from the overhead bell as the pair entered.

The pub was floor-to-ceiling wood with high ceilings and felt very inviting. Paintings hung at intervals on the walls, displaying different cauldrons from historical ages gone by. Each painting emitted a different shimmery glow from the contents within, the plumes of smoke furling and unfurling as if they were freshly brewed. Naturally, the paintings moved, thought Natasha.

“Hiya, welcome to the Three Cauldrons. Table for two?” said a perky waitress, eyes bright and welcoming.

Kristen had given her surname and the witch consulted the register to confirm the reservation. “Right, that’s you then. Follow me.”

As they followed, Natasha took in her fellow diners and observed what they were eating. Nothing looked out of place from any other pub she’d dined at other than the fact that you don’t always see warlocks and goblins breaking bread together.

“Here you are,” said the waitress, “Would you care to hear today’s specials?”

Natasha and Kristen nodded as they took their seats at the booth-shaped table, sliding in easily.

Their waitress spoke and recited from memory; her hands clasped lightly behind her back. “Today’s appetizers feature spicy Atlantic Deep-Sea shrimp over a bed of Peruvian seaweed salad. We also have the Deviled lobster fang bisque. Entrees include Elk flank stake with roasted potatoes and vegetables. We also have the double-rainbow trout with same vegetables. Dessert for today includes our famous Three Cauldron lava cake. We also have our four-layer fountain cheesecake.”

Natasha’s mouth was already watering as she undid her jacket, “Dang, that sounds amazing. No need to see the menu for me. I’ll have the bisque, elk and four-layer fountain cheesecake.”

Kristen, equally smitten with the daily special ordered similar, swapping out the bisque for the shrimp and decided on the lava cake.

“Excellent choices, you won’t be disappointed. Anything to drink?”

“Let’s have two glasses of house red, thanks.” Said Kristen, who had also removed her outer jacket and was in the process of folding it.

“Back in a ‘mo,” said the waitress who smiled brightly at them both and walked away to put in their order.

"What a fun place this is. Do you come here often?” asked Natasha, who leaned forward on the wood-scrubbed table that reminded her of the one they sat around in her childhood home.

“I’d say at least once a week. It’s a break from school and their house red is locally made, just you wait.” Said Kristen.

As if on cue, their waitress returned, tray laden with two cartoonishly large glasses of the blood-red liquid, a pitcher of water and two tall glasses.

“So, what shall we toast to?” said Natasha picking up her own glass. She inhaled to take in the aromatics. It smelled divine.

“How about to friendship, friendship and more friendship.” Said Kristen.

They clinked glasses and each took a sip. The wine was light and fruity, yet full-bodied. Natasha could detect something smoky on the aftertaste that she found inviting. It was literally the best wine she had ever tasted. She would have to pace herself.

“See, I told you.” Said Kristen over the rim of her glass, her cheeks a little flushed reading Natasha’s expression.

While they waited, they began sharing what they had been up to since they last saw each other.

“Well, Mom and Dad are good. He’s thinking about retirement.” Said Natasha after another mouthful of wine. “Mom thinks he’s ready to give up plumbing. At least full time, anyway. She thinks my brother should be the one doing more of the physical work, but Dad still thinks he’s not quite ready yet.”

“Oh, Trevor. Always eager, but never the leader,” said Kristen, then after a moment added, “Is he still with that girlfriend of his?”

Natasha nodded, taking time to pour herself and Kristen some water. “Engaged last year. She’s a homebody and sells things on Ebay and Etsy. Who knew you could make a decent living doing that stuff.” She added with a shrug of the shoulders.

“I’m glad he’s finally settling down. I think he had a thing for me, you know.” Said Kristen.

Natasha rolled her eyes, “He had a thing for any woman with a pulse and breasts.”

Kristen laughed, “It must have been a shock for him as we grew up as I was essentially a second sister—God, we hung out literally every day.”

“That boy never missed a chance to be in the same room as us under whatever pretense he could come up with,” said Natasha.

Kristen looked up at the ceiling and then at Natasha, “Oh, I still remember those side-long glances he’d steal, especially during those hot summer days when we would sunbathe.”

“And remember how he’d try to hide his awkward boners by hunching over and reaching for anything to cover himself? Cheers to that.” They clinked glasses.

The waitress returned, her tray laden with their appetizers. The Atlantic Deep-Sea shrimp were plump and far larger than any shrimp Natasha had ever seen. The seaweed that they sat atop looked and smelled fresh and was coated in a light oil dressing. The soup looked rich and creamy, the aromatics making both women’s mouths water. Natasha’s could see Kristen eyeing their respective appetizers, her wide and smile even wider.

“Wanna share like old times?” offered Natasha.

“Yeah,” said Kristen with that same excited grin Natasha remembered from childhood.

Kristen slid her food and glass across the long table and sat down in the deep booth next to Natasha. She waggled herself so that hey were almost hip to hip. Natasha took in her friend’s lithe frame once again. Even though she wore a loose-fitting camisole, she knew behind it was a toned stomach and her tanned pants showed defined lines of muscle.

“Figured this would be easier than reaching across this large table,” said Kristen matter-of-factly.

“Not to mention running the risk of spilling our wine,” offered Natasha. The two women tucked in.

“It’s really great to see you. It’s been so long and I’m glad you can work remote so we can catch up. I’ll still be teaching during the days, but I’ll have periods of downtime and evenings are always open.” Said Kristen.

Natasha cracked fresh pepper over her bisque and began to stir the contents. She recognized that bisque bowls were traditionally small because the contents were usually very rich. This bowl was far larger than any she’d had before. She would have to pace herself if this became a trend of large portion sizes. Maybe the wizarding community enjoyed comically large portions? She thought.

Kristen took her fork and stabbed its tines into the shrimp. She raised it to her lips and took a bite. It was the size of a medium-sized banana. “Mmmm, wow. Okay. You have to try this.”

Natasha leaned over and took a bite. “Dang.”

Kristen nodded, “I know, right!?”

They tucked into their respective appetizers. Natasha was methodically ladling spoonfuls into her mouth. The soup was definitely rich in flavor. She could feel her stomach filling.

“Hey there, hollow legs,” chided Kristen as the two women swapped foods, “how’s the bisque?”

“It’s very good and super-filling. Enjoying your Jumbo-Jumbo-Jumbo shrimp?”

Kristen smiled, “I’d forgotten the daily specials here can be a tad overly large. But if we eat big now, we can skimp on dinner.” She eyed the wine and raised her eyebrows.

When they were younger, they would often have wine-dinners with some cheese and crackers. Today could be one of those dinners.

Natasha finished off the final shrimp and Kristen ladled the final spoonful into her mouth. Their wine glasses each were about half empty. Both women complimented on the sharing of appetizers idea.

“So, how do you love being a magical teacher,” said Natasha, pushing her dish away from her and looking at Kristen. She eased herself coyly into the backrest to give her abdomen a little more breathing room from her indulgent appetizers.

“It’s really good. I’m split between teaching No-Wa-kah Studies—teaching kids who come from non-magical families or those who are fully magical that will be entering the non-magical work force and I co-teach with Potions. Right now, I am working with a research team to adapt different magical potions to integrate with current non-magical pharmaceuticals to help with opiate problems and drugs with harsh side effects. It’s really brainy stuff. I just help with the potion side of things.” She took a sip of wine.

“Kristen, wow! That’s really amazing stuff!”

Kristen smiled, “It’s more the team.” She said, lightly deflecting the praise.

Their entrée’s arrived and looked about double the portion a normal person should be eating. The sight of the roasted vegetables and grilled meat made each of their mouths water a second time. Natasha couldn’t fathom finishing her plate, let alone eat dessert. She'd have to take her dessert to go.

“Happy Dining. Would you ladies like a top up?” offered their waitress.

Natasha nodded as did Kristen.

Picking up her knife and fork, Natasha sliced into the elk and took a bite. It sent a pang of pleasure right to her brain. It was buttery smooth and melted in her mouth and tasted nearly light as air. Next, she tried a bite of roasted potato, its shiny surface was seasoned with buttered, savory spices. It too was heavenly. Lastly, the vegetables: shaved Brussel’s sprouts, medallions of carrots and cubes of zucchini were without equal. Despite the perceived heaviness of her meal, she began to rethink her ability to finish the plate and her dessert. Her mind began drifting towards dessert.

Kristen, had a little harder time hiding her liking for her meal. She let a low moan of pleasure escape her lips. Natasha looked up to see Kristen close her eyes and worry at her lower lip as chewed and swallowed some vegetables. ‘Gotta love how these wizards cook,’ thought Natasha who was feeling similarly towards her own meal.

Natasha, between mouthfuls, recounted her life to Kristen, up to the moment of the party at work. She mindfully left out the parts about not fitting into her clothing.

“And so how was the event? Did you take any suave publishers home that night?” asked Kristen who had eaten steadily and finished nearly two-thirds of her plate while Natasha was bringing her up to speed.

“Being single does have it’s advantages,” she winked as she finished off her glass of wine.
Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 7: Natasha’s Memory

Natasha closed her eyes as she finished off the final mouthful of wine and reminisced.

She had been enjoying herself at the publishing party. She’d partied with her friends and was discreet about her drinking – always wanting to make a good impression to her superiors. Her date, as she could tell 5 beers later, had been a mistake. He’d ‘interviewed well’ on that dating app, but it appeared that alcohol was his weakness. He was a little crass on her profession as a whole during the mingling portion of the party, “I mean, who pays people to read this ****, anyway.” He had said a little loudly on more than one occasion.

She had promised him a luxurious hand job if he could keep himself civil for the remainder of the evening and that seemed to do the trick. Whenever he was beginning to become vocal, she’d calmly and discreetly run her hand down the side of his leg, which seemed stifle his comments.

As the evening wore on, Natasha felt it went more or less as streamlined as she’d hoped. After the main processions had ended, toasts were made and awards of recognition were handed out. Being that this was a drinks social event, there was no promise of dinner and Natasha had happily snacked her fill during the earlier cocktail hour. Now, Natasha was ready to leave. She’d bid her farewells to her superiors and friends, carefully keeping her ‘date’ out of earshot.

“H-hey, are we leaving?” he said a little drunkenly, his eyes slow to find her face. Instead, they lingered lecherously over her breasts. Normally, this would have bothered her, but she was a few glasses of wine into the evening herself, and she was, despite herself, a little horny.

“We are, but you’ve just earned your treat,” she said, groping his inner thigh again and feeling a little movement. He giggled and took her offered hand.

She led him into the office building proper and to a floor of the building that would not arouse suspicion. He giggled again, this time a little nervously and Natasha led him further from the party. In the dim evening lights, the glow of the computer monitors and exit signs were their only guides.

“Here, lean back,” she in the semi-darkness. Natasha had steered them into a seldom-used copy room and gently pushed him against a wall. He made to kiss her. She let him, until he groped hard, and clumsily for her chest.

“S-sorry, I’ma bit fuu-cked up,” he said slightly apologetically after she’d accosted him. She was liking him less and less, horny or not.

After a few brief moments of kissing and Natasha guiding his hands over her breasts, he seemed to get the measure of the fondling while she undid his pants.

At least he tidied up,’ thought Natasha as she hooked down his boxers and reached for him. The shaved balls and managed tuft of pubic hair made him feel bigger in her hands.

She worked him while moaned slurred plans of intercourse into her ear and cheek. When he was approaching full mast, she kissed him on the lips and whispered, “got a rubber?”

She felt him searching for words and felt him soften slightly in her hands. His evening plans dashing, his promise of more than a hand job collapsing faster than his penis.

“N-no, bu-but wait,” he mumbled.

Amateur,” she thought. She looked down at the ground for her clutch and flicked it open, grabbing safety in a wrapper and tore it open.

“You’re full of surprised, babe,” he said, and she could feel him drunkenly grin as he tried to kiss her lips. He missed and got her ear.

She worked him again, feeling a little more enthusiastic now and slid the condom on. He was bigger than she had initially thought. No doubt, his enlarged eagerness was spurned on by the notion that the hand job had just been promoted to the now-possibility of sex.

“Can I take you from behind? I’ve always w-wanted to do that.” He said as he made to turn her towards the wall.

She consented and hitched her skirt up. Not wanting him to ruin her panties by tearing them, she fluffed up her skirt and slid them down to her knees. She felt him bump behind her and struggle to find her sex. Huffing, she guided his bewildered cock between her legs. She rubbed herself for a few moments while she tolerated him groping for her breasts, which were out of reach owing to their sexual position.

His hands grabbed her roughly by the hips and he made to enter her. She angled herself and guided him into her now-moistened sex.

“Easy, big stallion. This isn’t high school.” She hissed, but he wasn’t listening.

“Oh my god, you’re s-so fuckin’ wet. I’m gonna make you come, babe.” He said, a little labored.

Again with the ‘babe’,’ she thought as she co-led their procession.

Natasha had had to brace against him to develop a sensible rhythm. It seemed he was only too eager to jack hammer her like one saw in a low budget porno. His experience was sorely lacking. Once, he had tried to (none-to-expertly) attempt anal which she viciously blocked. Another time, he changed his angle so that the front of her sex felt like it was going to bruise. Natasha, feeling her sex drive lower with every passing few seconds, decided to abandon ship.

She did what all women tired of a bad lay would have done and she falsified an orgasm. She clinched her pubic area and began to moan with an enthusiasm she did not feel. She could feel him get closer to her, grab her by the hips a little more securely and pump arrhythmically until he whimpered with pleasure and came.

Natasha could feel the sweat of his hands on her hips as his penis pumped, his seed collecting in the condom. He was quickly becoming flaccid. She pulled him out, hitched up her panties and lowered her dress.

Transaction over, she felt like she got the short end of the stick, despite the stick’s size. He stood there, wiping his hair out of his eyes like he’d never had sex before. He probably didn’t.

“Woah, wow! That was am-amazing, I was great. You came. I made you come r-right?”

“You sure did,” she said, kissing him on the cheek. She bent low to retrieve her clutch purse, the condom wrapper and watched him dress himself, making sure any remanence of their encounter did not leave obvious clues. A few boxes needed tidying up and straightening. She watched him proudly deposit the condom into the adjacent waste basket with what she thought was a rather low amount of semen in its wasted tip.

She led him to the elevator where guests and staff were made to be entering and exiting the party. As if sensing her deflated evening, the elevator door chimed open after the first jab of the down button and they rode it alone all the way to the lobby. They met no other people along their way to the street outside.

He was being a little clingy, asking her for validation about their temporary union. She muttered noncommittal musing about how good he was, but deflected a night cap at his place. No doubt he lived with ten other boozy roommates, eager to see a real-live girl.

“Can I call you tomorrow? Text?” he said through the window of a cab that she threw him into.

“I’ll be busy, but sure.” She said, firmly ready to block him the second she was free.

He muttered into the night as the cab pulled away. It began to rain as she ducked into another cab right behind. She gave her address and in minutes was back in her apartment, slightly soaked, slightly tipsy and despite herself, once again, very horny.

Darn these bumpy city streets,’ she mused as each jostle stirred something within her.

Her date was a bust, but her pilot light would refuse to go out. She wriggled out of her slightly rain-soaked clothing and took a quick shower, rinsing the evening of him away.

Cleansed, she toweled off and walked across her apartment, naked, to the counter. She poured herself a great big glass of wine, strode to her bedroom and set it down on her nightstand. She sat at the edge and reached for her sacred drawer and opened it. A girthy purple vibrator with clitoral tip greeted her like an old friend.

“No time for foreplay tonight,” she mouthed to her inanimate lover. She took a mouthful of wine and then inserted the device in her mouth. With her free hand she lay back on her bed, the warm sheets embracing her. She spread her legs which were already wet with desire and slowly traced a line down her body. Between her breasts, around her navel and into her sex.

“Don’t be gentle.” she said to the room aloud as she turned the dial up and up and faded into oblivion.


“Tasha? Tasha?”

“Hmm?” said Natasha through the fugue.

“Earth to Natasha, where’d you go?” said Kristen, waving a hand across her face.

“Er, nothing. Sorry, dazed out for a second,” said Natasha, wiping the sex daydream out of her mind’s eye.

“Still doing that, are we?” said Kristen with what Natasha thought was a knowing stare.

Back in high school and during college, Natasha would infrequently have these bouts of drifting off into her memory. Sometime they were about nothing at all. Sometimes they were about sex, scattered fragments of dreams she’d had, whether real or imagined.

“Must have been a good one, your face is making that face.” Said Kristen, who forked a potato into her mouth and followed up with a sip of replenished wine.

“What face. I don’t know what you’re talking about,” chided Natasha, covering her now reddening face by talking a long, slow sip of wine.

Kristen pulled a crude, but accurate expression of someone in love with a bemused smile and thousand yard stare. She also mimed playing with a strand of hair next to her ear. ‘****, I do do that.’ Thought Natasha.

“The last thing you said was, ‘being single does have its advantages’, and then you drifted off. It was cute. Like old times.” Said Kristen, bumping one knee under the table against Natasha’s.

Natasha felt a light prickle of sweat at the back of her neck and subconsciously squeezed her knees together. She smiled and gave Kristen the highlights of her office party and the lousy date disaster but kept the memory of her purple nightstand companion to herself.

“Well, he sounded like a real prize,” said Kristen who was now finishing off her plate. She used the final potato to swirl around the juices of her meal and popped it into her mouth, chewing.

Natasha nodded and picked through the rest of her meal while Kristen recounted her own recent past. Being a schoolteacher with two obligations to teaching and research did not leave her with much free time for companionship. She had had a few lukewarm relationships. They always seemed to stall out in the ‘friend’s zone’ which lacked any permanent intimacy, but she had enough male and female friends to keep her from getting lonely.

“That and not to mention if you date within your teaching pool and it doesn’t work out—talk about awkward-city,” added Natasha.

“I’ve been lucky there,” said Kristen, running a finger around her second glass of wine, cheeks a little flushed.

The waitress had returned, “How are we doing today, ladies? Ready for dessert? Take it to go?” she was ever the proper hostess with her bright smile. Despite the fact that both women had finished completely their appetizers and entrees, it was reasonable for her to consider that they were full to burst.

“I think I’d like to try my lava cake,” said Kristen, declining a third glass of wine, “Tasha?”

“I’m good with my wine too, and I am kind of full…Well, maybe a few nibbles won’t hurt.”

The waitress cleared their table and returned a few moments later. Kristen’s famous Three Cauldron lava cake certainly lived up to its name. It was served in a sizeable cauldron and sat atop a white serving tray so that the lip of the cauldron was level with one’s mouth. The server then upended it so that it slid out onto the serving tray and she eyed Kristen for approval while she took a perforated jar of frosting sugar out. Kristen nodded and the woman dusted the surface of the rich chocolate cake.

Perhaps a bit too much? Thought Natasha.

“This looks amazing,” said Kristen as she took up her spoon and broke the surface. A rich chocolately river lazily oozed out from within the cake and smoked slightly. Natasha could smell the rum that was emanating from the syrupy chocolate.

“And for you,” offered the waitress, politely reaching across to deliver Natasha’s four-layer fountain cheesecake.

It was about eight inches around and four inches high Each layer was a different shade of blue. The cake motif was that of ocean water and atop the cake there was a fountain of syrup that had been drizzled across. The still-wet syrup was running down all sides of the cake the ‘legs’ looked oceanic as they began to pool down at the cake’s base.

Oh my God. Oh my God, this is huge.’ Though Natasha.

“I’ll never be able to finish this.” She said aloud after their waitress was out of ear shot. Natasha furtively moved her napkin across her lap and looked down. Her once baggy shirt was now tight across her middle. Her shirt made and impression around her navel which felt deeper. She reached down and thumbed her finger under her belly which was sizeably larger and lowered the fabric so that her belly pooched more over her waistband, instantly providing relief.

“Well, we don’t have to finish these,” said Kristen, tapping the side of her nose with her finger as she began to enjoy her lava cake. The rich chocolate and rum smells were inviting. Natasha could tell she was enjoying her meal again. Once again, Kristen closed her eyes between mouthfuls, worrying at her lower lip so that little white teeth showed.

Natasha brought her dessert closer and grabbed the edges and gently turned the mountain of cheesecake as if deciding where to begin.

She took her fork and inserted it at the top and scraped it down so that she could sample all four layers. She was surprised (and relieved) to see how light it looked from inside.

Maybe they used ricotta instead of cream cheese?’ she thought.

She took a first bite and then quickly another. The cake was addictively good, scary good. Each flavor with note of vanilla, almond, blueberry and something she couldn’t quite place melded to create that perfect umami flavor.

“How’s your cheesecake?” asked Kristen after a few moments, her lava cake now half gone. She’d reached out to get Natasha’s attention by lightly touching her arm. It sent a warm tingle through her.

“I don’t think I like it,” lied Natasha, who had enjoyed nearly a fourth of it.

Kristen motioned to swap desserts and Natasha nodded. They scooted a little closer together in the process so that they were now thigh-to-thigh. Natasha could feel the heat coming off of Kristen. She stole a sidelong glance as she saw Kristen waggle her hips as if settling in for a marathon of dessert eating. She observed the profile of the face and jaw, now immensely enjoying her cheesecake. Kristen’s eyelashes flickering as she closed them again and uttered a nearly silent moan of pleasure. She took in the taught neck muscles as she chewed and swallowed each bite. She took in the shoulders under the white camisole and took in the bodice of the fabric which, to Natasha’s surprise, showed off a protuberance that had certainly not been there before they sat down. Titillated, she also saw that at some point Kristen had undone the top button of her tan pants, the ends of the fabric parting to accommodate for her increased bulk.

Natasha felt her face flush and covered it up with a large sip of her wine, downing it one go. She coughed mildly.

“You okay?” said Kristen, who reached over and gently patted Natasha on the back.

“F-f-fine,” she said through watery eyes unable to get that image out of her mind.

They ate in silence for the remainder of their desserts and despite the sizing, both women managed to clear their plates. Kristen doing more of the demolition.

“Man, that was a meal and then some,” said Kristen, who leaned back expansively and took the final sip of her wine. Natasha stole another glance that went unnoticed. Kristen was now supporting a defined bump. Her flat stomach was domed and the angle of which she was leaning caused the fabric of her camisole to ride up several inches so that a sliver of pale white skin was now visible. Natasha observed white panties with a laced trim, complete with bow that made a ‘v’ from the parted material of her unbuttoned pants.

As Natasha looked away, Kristen had caught her eye and the direction it was previously looking.

She let out a laugh and gently put a hand on her stomach, calling attention to it. Natasha feigned that she had just noticed.

“Woah, someone’s got a food baby right there,” she said, her voice a little higher than she meant.

“Yeah, I think I was a little bit piggish today. I normally don’t eat this way. I’ll definitely skimp on dinner. Absolutely no room.” She gestured to her visible bump and made to rebutton her pants.

“Same here. I’m spreading out here myself.” Said Natasha, cupping a hand over her stomach and running a hand down it.

Kristen reached over and poked her innocently, “Yeah, I’d say you’re five months along.”

Natasha felt a tingle where her friend had touched her and involuntarily squeezed her knees together.

Laughing nervously, Natasha pulled in her navel, trying to suck her full belly back in.

Kristen wiped her mouth with her napkin and called for the bill. Natasha made to pay but Kristen held up a hand.

“Come back anytime,” said the waitress as she counted out what Natasha felt was a very generous tip.

The two women slid from the booth on slightly unsteady feet, the combination of a full lunch, two large glasses of wine and much sitting had that effect.

Natasha smoothed her shirt and put her jacket back on, the buttons now considerably further apart than before she had sat down. Did she risk trying to button the ends? Not right now.

Similarly, she took in the profile of Kristen who was in a similar state of being. Her once loose camisole was restricted across her abdomen, though the still-toned arms and legs shone with athleticism and were untouched by the meal. Hand unconsciously on her belly, she rubbed it as if coming to an idea.

She reached for her purse and pulled out a little tin box. Inside were small, square shaped blue pills. Natasha could see her working out calculations in her head and she took two and offered the tin to Natasha. She looked from the tin to Kristen.

“Does my breath smell?” she said, uncomprehendingly.

“These are digestive aids. Two should do it.”

“Oh, sure. Thanks,” Natasha scraped two from the tin and watched as Kristen put her own under her tongue.

“Gets into the body quicker, sublingually,” she said.

Natasha did as instructed. The tiny squares began to dissolve under her tongue and they gave off a bubbly effervescence. Deep from behind her navel a not-too-unpleasant churning was occurring, like her stomach was working and not working at the same time. Shortly after, she felt increased relief across her abdomen and looked down as her once-prominent food belly began to deflate like a slowly-leaking balloon. She still felt full; but did not have that buffet-overstuffed feeling that she had been dreading.

Similarly, she noted that Kristen’s abdomen also showed signs of significant flattening. Unnecessarily, she lifted her shirt to reveal cut abs, the veins of athleticism crossing at her waist.

“Woah, what were those?” said Natasha, a slightly sideways grin playing across her face.

“Just some magic ****,” said Kristen with a return smile.

“I’ll have to put in an order before I leave if we keep eating like this,” Natasha said, now feeling immensely better, a spring back in her step.

“Not a problem, Tasha,” said her friend.

The two women made their way to the front of the pub and back out into daylight, full-bellied and light-hearted.
Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 8: Lodgings

The two women exited the pub and walked down the few steps back to street level. After unlocking Natasha’s belonging, the two women began to walk through the town. Kristen was pointing various shops as they passed.

“That one is where students are measured for their school uniforms,” she said, pointing to a cute shop called Stitch and Twills.

“And this one over here is where students go to pick up their wands,” said, pointing past a shop that appeared to be very crowded today.

“Oliverlanders?” said Natasha.

“Yep, best wand maker in the country. It’s a generational shop that is now run by his great, great grandniece.” Said Kristen.

She took out her own wand and after a moment’s hesitation, handed it to Natasha.

“Aren’t you worried I might turn the whole town into marshmallows or something,” she said, careful not to do any magic wand waving.

“Oh, I’m not worried. It won’t respond to anyone who isn’t practiced with it. Besides, even if I taught you some spells with the right words, your ability to spell-cast would be ineffectual. You need to mean them.

Kristen took the wand back from Natasha and noticed that on one of her pieces of luggage, that it had acquired a patch of mud. She muttered, ‘scrubbify,’ while doing what looked like an oblong figure eight and some of the stain vanished.

She offered the wand for Natasha to do the rest, “Here, you try it.”

Natasha took the wand, her hand now feeling a little clammy. Kristen looked on, smiling but unperturbed.

Practicing the shape spell for a few moments, she muttered the words, ‘scrubbify’. And absolutely nothing happened. Kristen smiled knowingly.

“See?” she said and completed the spell again and this time the remainder of the dirt vanished leaving her bag completely clean.

They strode on and finally came to stop at a building that looked to Natasha more like a funky hostel and less like a marquee hotel. It had a red and gold sign that said Boardman’s Lodgings.

Climbing the cement stairs and using the brass handrail, Kristen, Natasha and her luggage entered the building.

The front doors, large and wooden were a little hard to open and Kristen needed to give a great wrench to get one of them open.

They were greeted to mild chaos.

The doors opened to a larger than expected lobby at the far end. To the left was an elegant staircase with rich red carpeting that was currently flooded by running water. The elevators were flickering on and off giving sad little chimes of the ‘open door – close door’ variety.

Men and women in staff uniform were running around, scattered, either talking to guests or waving their wands around to stifle the water that seemed unending.

“Sorry, hi!” said a man in a porters’ cap which was a little askew. He bowed and waved a hand behind him, “Welcome to the Boardman’s Lodgings, currently the wettest hotel in the town.”

Kristen made to smile warmly, not wishing to smirk at the locations’ current misfortune. The man bade them towards the front desk.

“Hold on,” said Kristen, catching Natasha with an outstretched hand.

She reached for her wand and pointed first at her own feet, then that of her companion. “Repelso agua”. Natasha felt her feet tingle for a second then saw nothing.

“Water repelling spell?” said Natasha.

“Try it for yourself.” Said Kristen.

Natasha took at tentative step forward into the main lobby. They had to descend a short set of stairs. When her feet met water, she was expecting a soaked foot up to her knee, but she felt dry as a bone.

“God, I love magic,” she beamed at Kristen who smiled back and stowed her wand. The two women followed the porter to the front desk.

“We have a reservation for one guest for a week,” said Kristen gave her surname.

“Yes, I see it here,” said the man flipping through a large register with white-gloved hands. His brow furrowed.

"Is there a problem?” said Kristen, leaning a little forward over the desk.

“Well, yes and no. The room is still available, but as you can see, we’re in the middle of a magical maelstrom. Apparently one of the guests got drunk last evening and let off an elemental spell which is now flooding most of our hotel. You can see water is flooding everywhere and we cannot locate the source. This is not normally how we run our hotel and treat our guests, I assure you!” he said.

“Elemental spells require special remediation,” said Kristen to Natasha who was slowly putting two and two together. Surely if it were a matter of countering the spell with a drying charm, there would be no current problem, she thought.

“Any idea when the MES, the Magical Elemental Squad, will arrive?” said Kristen.

“You mean, you need a ‘MESS’ to clean up this mess?” Natasha couldn’t help herself and laughed at her own joke.

“They are booked up with other occurrences in the neighboring town. Could be as late as tomorrow. So many of our guests have had to check into other lodgings while we get this sorted out. I’m afraid if you say, you’ll end up having to charm yourself a dinghy to sleep in.” said the porter with a supplicating gesture.

"What does this mean,” said Natasha.

Kristen turned to her friend, “It means you’ll have to stay with me this trip instead of this hotel.”

Natasha put up a hand, “No way, I wouldn’t want to impose. Besides, you have your work duties and I have my office duties. I wouldn’t want to impose.”

Kristen stepped closer to Natasha, taking both hands in hers and looking her full in the face, “Hey, it’s all good. I have a spare room and while the place is a little cramped, I think we can manage to stay out of each other’s hair for a week.”

“Are you quite sure? There’s no other places in the town that can accommodate me?” she said to both Kristen and the porter, who shook his head.

“There you go then,” said Kristen.

She squeezed Natasha’s fingers who squeezed back. The porter seemed relieved to save this guest from a wet week of lodgings; apologized, and informed her that her next stay would be complimentary.

They bade him good luck and turned to exit the soggy hotel.

Back outside, Kristen led them away from the building. Natasha could see trickles of water now escaping from the closed windows. Kristen re-charmed Natasha’s luggage to float alongside them and the two women made to walk to the edge of town.

“How far is the school?” said Natasha, the heat of the day making her skin a little sweaty. She wasn’t used to this kind of cardio.

Kristen pointed up to a signpost that Natasha had not noticed. It forked in three directions, but the unmistakable, Chogwards’s 1 mile was prominently displayed.

Natasha nodded, answering her own question.

They headed off, the roadway gravel and even.

“You’re sure I’m not cramping your style by crashing in your place? You don’t have a sinister cat or jumpy spider or anything supernatural as a pet do you?” chided Natasha.

“Stop asking. And it is fine. Happy to accommodate. It will be just like old times.”

Natasha’s face beamed, unseen by Kristen.

“And besides,” she said and stopped. Natasha stopped too and they faced each other.

“If you’re a lousy roomie, I’ll just transfigure you into a toadstool.” Said Kristen with mock seriousness.

Floating luggage in tow, they strode down the road to Chodwards school of Wizardry.


The walk towards the wizarding school was uneventful. The gravel road was relatively well-worn, though Natasha could have sworn it looked differently to No-Wa-Kah’s.

“I keep seeing this shimmering haze along the road. Is it the heat, or is it just me?” said Natasha, fluffing out her shirt, the shirt collar now damp against her skin.

“It’s a concealing charm that you’re seeing.” Said Kristen, waving her hand. “To non-magical people, they see a road that is poorly maintained with felled trees, potholes, boulders and areas that look like they have been washed away.”

“Dang, I guess you want to keep people out.” Said Natasha.

“We don’t want to give the No-Wa-Kah’s a reason to come snooping about.” Said Kristen lightly.

They continued walking through lowlands, fields and it wasn’t until they entered the edge of a forest that they came upon a gate that was set along a long, high wall made of brick and stone. The gate was wrought iron and looked very old. Two crumbled piles of rock lay along the road at either side of the gate that had once been statutes of some sort. Natasha could not see beyond the gate, as it appeared to have a haze behind it. She didn’t dream of walking to either side of the gate to reconnaissance as her non-magical intuition told her it wouldn’t be a good idea.

Kristen motioned for Natasha to hang back while she paced forward. She extracted her wand and began muttering a series of spell words that even Natasha couldn’t comprehend. All the while, she moved her wand skillfully through the air. It was like watching poetry.

Thin whisps of white-gold shot out from the end of Kristen’s wand as she continued her incantation. Slowly, they attached themselves to the large gate until the entire surface was covered. Suddenly the tarnished looking gate began to slough off its dilapidated exterior. The worn and rusted pieces filled out and became smooth brass that shined and shimmered in the remaining daylight.

As Natasha watched, the crumbled rock reassembled themselves into carvings of two formidable knights. Once corporis, each took up a position on either side of the gate. Their stone shields and swords filled out so that there were no longer any visible cracks. They didn’t look menacing, but they did not exude warmth, either.

“Hello Frances. Hello Alton.” Said Kristen, addressing the pair of them.

“Hello Luv,” said one of the knights.

“O’oo do we have wiv us today? Haven’t seen her before.” Replied the other knight.

“Oh, Frances. Always so curious.” Said Kristen smiling and stowing her wand.

“Not my fault I’m nosey. We’ve got nothing but time at this gate and we’ve run out of things to talk about, ain’t we, Frank?” said the knight Alton.

“Is true, Luv. Alt and I have only each other to keep company. Well, us and the animals. Remember that bird from this morning, Alt?” said Frances who turned his stony head towards his fellow steward.

“E’e was a right knob, he was. Came in all squawking about this an’ that. Oi, he even shat on your boots when he thought you wasn’t listening.” Laughed Alton.

Frances made to lift a stony foot and flick off what looked like dried bird droppings. Natasha brought a hand to her mouth and tried to hide a laugh.

“Oh, don’t worry Luv,” said Frances looking over at Natasha, “Laugh all you like. The rain will get it. I’m alright. Going to take more than bird **** to ruin my day.”

Kristen made a subtle wave of the hand motion to Natasha who took the cue and moved forward. At once, the gate parted in the middle and swung back. Natasha had to shield her eyes slightly as she was greeted with a sunshine that had not existed on their walk towards the school. It was as if the school had their own separate weather pattern behind the gate.

“Magic…” awed Natasha as she and Kristen passed through the gates.

“Welcome to Chogward’s.” said Kristen with a smile as she clapped her hand on Natasha’s back.
Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 9: The Grounds of Chogwards

The stony knights continued their banter long after the two women had walked beyond them.

Kristen had bidden them a fond farewell to which they each replied lengthy and humorous responses.

“Who were those guys? They’re hysterical,” said Natasha.

“Sirs Frances and Alton are the gate guardians of the school. We have pairs like them around all the entrances of the school. We rotate them so they don’t get bored.” Said Kristen.

“Looks like they get along fine to me,” said Natasha as they walked on.

The forest that had been the backdrop of the gate now gave way. It opened up to a wide campus with buildings of various size and stature. The road they were on split and forked according to where you needed to go.

“Ahead is the school’s main entrance,” said Kristen unnecessarily pointing to the largest and most elegant brick building, replete with wooden doors and lavish windows. Above the large oak front doors was a large ornate clock and to left and right were large towers. It was fully lit and looked like a large high school.

“To the left of the main school are staff quarters,” said Kristen and Natasha observed several rows of small cottages. Many had their lights on, and some had little puffs of smoke coming out of their chimneys.

“How you ensure that students don’t sneak out at night and try to spy a peak through your windows?” said Natasha raising one eyebrow and making intercourse gestures with her fingers.

“C’mon, seriously?” Said Kristen with a laugh.

“The school had sensory charms on all the doors and we have additional charms around our staff quarters. Trust me, no one’s getting a peak at these goods.” She added, bringing her shoulders together to amplify her cleavage making Natasha laugh.

“And what’s over there?” said Natasha, pointing over to the road that forked towards the right.

“Those are the school greenhouses, gamekeeper’s lodgings and storage buildings for this and that.”

Natasha nodded and could see what looked like several large greenhouses with their glass windows. Next to them was a large barn with its doors open. A very large, bearded man in a moleskin overcoat was carrying what looked like a toolbox over towards what to Natasha thought looked like a piece of farm equipment. The man also had a large black dog with him that danced around his legs while he crouched down to examine the vehicles underside.

“Back! Back, ye dozy dog.” Boomed the large voice from across the way. The dog circled his master once, twice, then dove off under the vehicle and lay still. Natasha could see it’s happy face with its tongue protruding, tail whapping on the earth and enjoying the day.

“That’s the biggest man I’ve ever seen!” said Natasha, her eyes transfixed.

“He’s our longstanding gamekeeper, Julius Gamgee.

Kristen raised a hand in greeting to which the giant man, now noticing them, greeted with an emphatic wave of his own.

“Afternoon, professor!” came the voice from a cross the way.

Kristen walked with Natasha along the way towards the staff cottages. There were cute little lanes that were lined with cottages. Each of which bore little personal traits. Some had gardens, others had potted plants. Some had large porches build at their fronts. A few had their window’s open, and Natasha could hear the faint sounds of music and smells of cooking coming from within.

“We each have our own lodgings,” said Kristen as they turned a corner. “There are 20 cottages in all.”

“I think I know which one is yours.” Said Natasha who walked a little faster towards one of the cottages at the end of the little lane.

Out front was a lovely little garden with pink and white flowers on other side. The door had a large starfish ornately hung, it’s five prongs proudly extended. Natasha bounded up to the front door. “I remember when you got that starfish! It’s from that vacation we took one summer during middle school. Wow, I can’t believe you still have it.”

“That was that family trip where you guys took me to the beach for the first time. One of my happiest memories,” said Kristen, who reached into her clothing and took out her wand. She gave the doorknob a light tap. It turned and the door swung gently open.

“Welcome home,” said Kristen and they entered.


“Wow,” said Natasha as she helped Kristen with her luggage. The hovering charm now worn off.

What appeared to be a modest rectangular cottage from outside, folded out into a spacious little abode. It reminded Natasha of her own studio apartment.

To the left of the front door was a quaint little kitchen and dining area. To the right was a living room (two chairs, a coffee table and a fireplace) and study complete with desk, drawer and papers. Behind these to the back of the cottage was a small hallway that led to a “T”. Down there, presumed Natasha, were the bedrooms.

“The left is mine; the right will be yours. In the middle is our bathroom.” Kristen made to walk to the living room area. She bent low towards the fireplace and lit it with a tap of her wand. The place instantly warmed up several degrees.

Natasha, feeling the warmth took off her jacket and folded it over her arm as she walked through the cottage. She took in the paintings on the walls, the view from the tiny windows and the photos on various shelves. A few bore Kristen’s large family on various summer holidays. The faces beamed and waved in recognition to Natasha as she passed by them. She waved back. Other photos were more recent of Kristen with her other schoolfellows.

Natasha picked one up. It looked like a summer photo with a beach and a gigantic waterfall in behind. Everyone was in beach attire, holding drinks and laughing. Natasha looked at all the bright and shining faces. Several of the men looked sunburned and were clinking bottles. A few looked like they were in the middle of emptying their bottles, heads tipped back and lips pursed. A few of the girls were posing and winking for the camera. Natasha’s eyes fell instantly on Kristen’s. Her face shone with radiant health. She had a few freckles on her cheeks that sprouted there during the summer and her hair was blowing in the slight breeze. She held a beer bottle at her hip and had her arms around two of her fellow teachers, one male and one female.

Natasha took in the athletic profile: the slender yet powerful arms, the lean torso cut with muscle and the strong, capable legs and calves. The bathing suit she wore was a once-piece but seemed to emphasize even more of her athleticism.

“Oh, that’s a field trip we took two summers ago, the staff got super drunk that summer. Actually, I think that summer I was nearly always hungover and by the end I didn’t fit into that bathing suit.” Laughed Kristen as she came up to Natasha who held out the frame for Kristen.

“Oh, I very much doubt that, skinny.” Said Natasha poking her friend in the side and finding mostly muscle.

“No, it’s true!”

Kristen ran into her bedroom and came back with another photo. It too looked like it was from that summer trip with many of the same faces just in different standing positions. Sure enough, Natasha could see many of the staff with fuller faces. The women fuller-breasted and Buddha bellied, while several of the men supported sizable paunches.

Natasha felt her heart flutter as she came across Kristen’s profile. This time, the face was fuller and the figure softer. She wore a two-piece bikini with a sarong tied around her wider hips. It was light blue and transparent. Beneath it was a bikini bottom that appeared far too small that concealed legs that nearly touched at the tops. Her belly had lost its six-pack tone and was replaced with a teardrop of belly fat and a pair of love handles. She looked incredibly happy, perhaps even more happy than her previous photo.

“Well, that’s what summers are for, right? Work hard, play harder.” Said Natasha, who could feel her neck and face redden with heat.

Kristen took the photos back and placed them on the shelf and reminisced a little more as she made her way to the kitchen.

“Hey, why don’t I make us some tea and you can unpack?”

“Sounds like a great idea,” said Natasha who took her things and walked down the hallway to her room.

The room reminded her of the layout they had in college. The rectangular room greeted her as she opened the door. At one end was a rectangular window and a bed lay length-wise under it. Next to the bed was small nightstand complete with lamp.

Kitty corner to the bed was a bureau desk that looked far more spacious than its surface offered and across the room was a sitting chair, dresser and closet built into the wall.

Natasha began to unpack and refold her things that had been jostled throughout her trip. Day clothes, evening clothes, athletic clothes (she’d planned to run while she was here). As she was unpacking shoes and putting them in a neat little row, she became aware of a sweet smell in the air and heard a soft knock at the door.

“How are you coming along? Need anything?” Said Kristen, holding two mugs of tea. Faint purple mist emanated from each cup. Kristen had changed her clothes. She wore relaxed form-fitting jeans with a hole in one knee and an overlarge white-grey knit sweater that showed one bare shoulder. She wore no bra, her feet bare.

“Not a thing, your house is so cute!” said Natasha making to get up, her knees clicking. She took the offered mug of tea and looked down at her work bag, ‘it can wait until tomorrow,’ she thought as she followed Kristen back to the living room.

Kristen curled up in a chair and Natasha did the same, both of them sitting in front of the warm fireplace. Natasha looked into it for a moment seeing nothing and everything at the same time. She took a sip of the tea which was surprisingly refreshing.

“Wow, what flavor is this and where can I get some,” said Natasha looking up at Kristen who was eyeing her over her own mug hiding a smile.

“It’s called Evening Comfort.”

“That sounds like an alcohol,” said Natasha who took another sip.

“You’re thinking of Southern Comfort.” Kristen said, making them both laugh.

“Well, whatever you call it, it’s heavenly. I feel like my insides are getting a massage with every sip.” Natasha noted the tension that had developed into her legs and lower back from all the walking was also melting away.

Kristen tapped the side of her nose knowingly, “That’s why I have a mug every evening.”

They enjoyed their mugs of tea in comfortable silence for a while and Natasha’s gaze returned to the fire. She saw the flames lick and leap almost like a ballet dance. Once, she could have sworn what looked like two near-human shapes of flame dance across a log, one catching the other mid-leap before setting her down gently again.

“This is better than television,” said Natasha, who stifled a yawn.

“It’s how I spend most of my evenings,” said Kristen, “Finishing off academic work, light dinner, play some music on the record player and sit in my chair and watch the flames until I am ready to turn in.”

Natasha spied a vintage record player in the corner. Its battered lid and single speaker looked well-worn but well-loved.

“What albums do you have?” Said Natasha who put her mug down on the table and bent low to look at the crate of stacked albums.

“Oh, this and that. Pick one while I fix a little entrée for us.” Said Kristen who stretched out one leg like a cat and stood up and headed to the kitchen area.

Natasha busied herself, flicking through different albums. Each one taking her to a happy memory from her childhood. Music she heard her parents and Kristen’s parents listen to as well as some newer stuff from bands who stamped their music on newly minted records.

Natasha spied a Big Band record, instrumental and brassy, and set the record and needle. It began to play crisp and clear; she could hear Kristen begin to hum along.

“Oh, good choice. Love Benny Goodman.”

Natasha smiled and looked over at her friend who was now side profile with a cutting board and knife. She was gently swaying her hips while shaving off little cutlets of pickle, cheese and smoked meats.

“Nearly done,” said Kristen as she arranged the charcuterie and reached into a cupboard for some crackers, “The wine is over in that cabinet. Pick us something fun.”

Natasha walked through the tiny kitchen and the two women grazed hips. It made Natasha feel warm to be so close to her friend. She turned around and hugged Kristen around the middle who accepted the hug and backed into Natasha’s warmth.

“What’s that for? There’s no booze in that tea.” She laughed, holding the knife high out harm’s way.

“Nothing. Just miss your face.” Said Natasha releasing the friendly gesture and making to open the wine cabinet.

It took her no time at all to select a nice Portuguese red wine that would pair well with the charcuterie board. She brought over two short-stem trendy glasses and found a drawer with cloth napkins and helped Kristen set the table.

There were several cuts of meat and cheese as well as pickles and olives as Kristen set down the board and two plates.

Natasha made to put the wine on the table an uncork it but could find not bottle opener. She looked at Kristen who gave a look. Bemused, Natasha set down the bottle and glasses and stood back a step, hand on hip. Kristen picked up her wand which was sitting on the kitchen countertop and pointed it at the bottle of wine. The cork flew out and the wine bottle was lifted into the air, the cups also raised in the air and twirled around the bottle which began to tip to one side and empty itself into each glass, not a drop spilt.

Natasha could not hide her excitement and a childish smile played across her face as she reached out with an outstretched hand and caught the two glasses. The wine bottle resting gently back on the table.

“Don’t’ say it,” said Kristen.

“I fucking love magic!” said Natasha, making them both smile.

Natasha brought two candles that Kristen had made ready and placed them on the table. Chunky white-blue ones that Kristen lit with the tip of her wand. “Enflamare” she said.
Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 9b: The Grounds of Chogwards

Natasha sat down at the table and Kristen bent low off to one side and returned with the boxes of their potted plants that they had bought at the gardening supply store.

“I think these Everblooms need to join us for dinner,” said Kristen, who unboxed first one than the other of the Amore Infinito follemente.

Natasha remembered that they were Harmony Flowers, crossbreeds of the Italian Cassanovis Amouris and a French Je T’aime a la foile.

I love you, infinitely, madly…’ Natasha remembered, as she watched the plants begin to come to life within their pots and began to dance and sway to the big band music that was coming from the record player.

Kristen selected a piece of cheese and popped it into her mouth as she nudged the edge of her plant closer to Natasha’s. The plants seemed grateful for this assistance and began to synchronize their movements, their leaves outstretched like arms, gently straining at their roots to make contact.

“That’s so sweet,” said Natasha as she took a cracker and slice of meat and put them between her teeth.

They silently clinked glasses and ate slowly and poured more wine as the record played on, all the while watching the two plants perform their choreography.

Faintly, Kristen began to hum along with the record and took infrequent sips from her glass, face smiling, eyes kind and warm. Occasionally, she and Natasha would look up at each other and smile, holding each other’s gaze for a moment before returning to watch the plants dance and sway.

Natasha could feel that similar warm feeling she had experienced earlier in the plant shop. She reached out a finger to touch the base of her potted plant and felt a radiant heat that had nothing to do with the fire Kristen had lit earlier, flow through her and into her. She felt it creep up her hand, wrist and shoulder, circle her heart and come up her neck and then drop slowly, gracefully down into her core. She squeezed her legs together and held the moment to her and covertly took a piece of cheese and slowly let it dissolve in her mouth to stop herself from letting out a silent moan.

Kristen, too, had reached out to touch her potted plant and Natasha observed her friend having a similar experience. Kristen’s eyes were hooded, opening and closing slowly as if time had slowed down for her. Natasha observed her subtly bite her lower lip and exhale deeply. The plants between them continued to dance and as they did so, they began to glow as they had done in the plant shop.

“I could watch these all day…” said Kristen who had been playing with the hem of her sweater, tracing her fingers along its edge back and forth.

“Y-yeah…” said Natasha, who sighed heavily and took a large mouthful of wine, draining it in one; her eyes flicking over to take in Kristen’s contented expression.

Natasha suddenly became aware of the needle skipping silently on the record player, the album had come to an end.

“Oh my god, we listened to the whole thing.” Said Kristen, stifling a yawn and raising suddenly tired arms. She got up and slowly, as if in a light trance, walked over to the record player and lifted the needle and replaced the album in it’s cover.

The plants had separated now and appeared contented in their respective pots, holding still as statues, but still glowing radiantly.

They had consumed most of the charcuterie board as well as enjoyed several wine bottles. Kristen and Natasha began to clean up. Natasha stood up slowly and felt her legs heavy. Was it the wine? She stood for a moment with her hands on the back of the chair and looked up at Kristen who made to take the empty bottles away.

“I do believe I am a little tipsy,” Natasha said, brushing back a lock of hair that had fallen over her eyes.

“Nice, right? Like old times.” said Kristen, smiling back.

Natasha nodded and reached forward for the charcuterie board at the same time Kristen had. Their hands bumped, fumbled for a moment.

After a few “Oh, no you.” And “No, you’s.” Natasha made to pick up the board, “I’m the guest, you shouldn’t really have to clean up at all.

“Force of habit,” said Kristen who made to blow out the candles instead. As she did so, she bent low and blew a little harder than she needed to, causing the overlarge sweater that draped her body to come away at the neck, exposing a deep line of cleavage and the swell of the tops of her breasts. Natasha couldn’t help but look.

She could feel her insides heat up and broke the gaze before Kristen looked up. She had taken the emptied wine glasses to the sink and ran water over them. Natasha came up to her side and put the charcuterie board and cutlery in the sink next to her. Their hips bumped, but neither woman adjusted their stance.

“You wash, I’ll dry?” Offered a slightly red-faced Natasha.

“Deal, although magic could do it for us.” Said Kristen, who picked up her wand and twirled it between her fingers like a conductor.

“Oh, go on then.” Said Natasha. Who was holding a dry dish cloth but felt she wouldn’t have a need for it.

Kristen rolled up the sleeves of her large sweater and incanted, “scurgio maxima,” followed by “finite tempeste”. Water flowed from the tap and suds appeared on the contents in the sink. The items jiggled in the sink and were now cleansed. They then soared over to the drying rack and inserted themselves. Natasha felt a concentrated warmth like a bathroom blow dryer but without the sound and the droplets of water were instantly evaporated from every surface.

Kristen beamed and tilted her head to one side and stowed her wand in the back pocket of her jeans.

“Oh, careful. You wouldn’t want to ignite your trousers,” said Natasha, her eyes raking across Kristen’s backside.

“That only happens in storybooks,” she said, turning around and resting her lower back against the sink, her hands to either side of the counter surface.

They looked at each other for a moment, politely taking in one another’s profile. A few more moments passed.

“It’s so darn great to see you. I can hardly believe we have a whole week to catch up,” said Kristen, adjusting her top so that her other shoulder now became bare.

“Me too,” said Natasha, whose eyes followed the transition, taking in the new contours of the exposed skin.

Kristen shifted her weight off the counter and took a step towards Natasha, who still held the dry dish cloth limply in her hand. Kristen took another little step and Natasha could feel the heat between them that had nothing to do with the wine or the fireplace.

“I’ll put that with the others,” said Kristen, who reached out a hand and gently took the limply held dish cloth from Natasha and refolded it; eyes still looking at each other.

“Sure,” said Natasha in nearly a whisper. She had leaned forward too, tilting her head up towards Kristen, unaware that she had also up righted her posture so that her chest came forward, shoulders back.

A little chime came from a far wall that made both women turn their heads, which were closer now to each other.

“Dang, midnight.” Said Kristen.

Almost as if a little air had been let out of the room, the two women relaxed their tense postures and Kristen gave a little laugh, “Look at us, keeping college hours,” she raised a hand and slapped her thigh gently, held tilted with that same inviting smile.

“Well, I’m up for a nightcap?” said Natasha, her voice raising an octave so that she sounded like she was asking a question.

“Not tonight, school night.” Said Kristen who took Natasha’s hands in hers and held them.

Natasha smiled and nodded a little awkwardly, “Oh, okay then.”

They embraced for one final evening hug; and one followed the other down the hall. Natasha took one final look at the quaint little cottage and smiled inwardly to herself.
Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 10: Natasha’s Dream

Kristen led the way down the hall and stopped at the “T” where their bedrooms retreated to both right and left, the bathroom being the central room.

“Hey, you go first, house rules.” Kristen said to Natasha.

Natasha nodded and dashed to her bedroom as Kristen walked towards her own. She opened but did not close her door.

Natasha flicked on the nightstand light which gave the bedroom a quiet glow. She rummaged around in her luggage for her ultra-comfy t-shirt she usually took with her on vacations as well as a pair of men’s boxers that she had a particular fondness for. Next, she found her toothbrush and paste and some makeup remover and headed for the bathroom.

A faint glow was coming from Kristen’s room that Natasha supposed was a reading light. She could hear a faint humming. Singing? Natasha went into the bathroom, turned on the light and closed the door.

The bathroom was spacious, yet quaint just like the rest of the cottage. A tub complete with shower was at the far wall. Next to it was a little table and chair for changing or applying makeup as well as a very spacious sink and Mirror with surrounding Mirror light. A scale was tucked away in the corner.

Natasha was tempted but pushed it out of her mind’s eye.

She leant forward at the sink and began to wipe away the wonderful day she’d had with her oldest and dearest friend. She stared into the Mirror as she applied her night cream and observed tired but content eyes and a wan smile.

Natasha put up her hair in a loose bun and began to undress.

She removed her top and bra, pants, socks and underwear; lightly folded them, bent low and placed them on the table to the far side of the bathroom.

“You look gorgeous, dear.” Came a soft and grandmotherly voice from somewhere behind the Mirror making Natasha jump.

“Oh!” she cried, raising arms across the top and bottom of her body.

“Sorry, dear. Couldn’t help myself,” said the Mirror, giving itself a little shimmer of introduction.

“That’s okay?” said Natasha, her heart racing, but coming down several beats. She stared around, her eyes resting on the bathroom Mirror.

“I’m a Charmed Mirror, thought you knew. Didn’t mean to startle you, though I see that I have.” Said the Mirror casually with much warmth in the voice.

Natasha felt the goosepimples on her skin and the tiny hairs on her arms stand on end. Natasha was still slightly suspicious but lowered her arms to her sides. She was still partially out of full view if the Mirror, just in case.

“You can’t see me, see me, can you? She asked the Mirror, creeping a little closer so that she could see some of her profile at the edge of the Mirror.

“Oh yes,” said the Mirror brightly, “but I don’t judge and I’ve no one to tell. Don’t be shy, dear.”

Mollified, Natasha stepped back in front of the Mirror and reached for her bed clothes.

She first balanced on one leg then the other as she hitched up the boxer bottoms. She slid them up her smooth thighs and thumbed them around her waist. She noted a slight protuberance which she chalked up to her day of travel and dining.

Next, she raised her arms over her head and slid on the overly large sleep shirt.

“That’s more like it,” said the Mirror, “comfy as a bug in a rug.”

Natasha smiled and nodded to the Mirror.

“You’ve got a beautiful figure,” said the Mirror which made Natasha blush slightly.

“Erm, thanks?” she said with one eyebrow raised as she reached for her toothbrush and paste and began to clean her teeth.

“Oh yes, you should see the other woman. Comes in here some evenings, big as houses. Don’t know what she gets up to, that one…always so polite though.”

Natasha gulped a little toothpaste down her throat and coughed slightly.


But the Mirror remained silent and shimmered.

Natasha spat into the sink, gargled with a sharp mouthwash and used the toilet. After washing her hands, she eyed the scale.

“Oh, I wouldn’t if I were you. He’s a right prick, that one.” Said the Mirror in a slightly wan voice.

“Thanks for the tip,” said Natasha as she gathered her things and headed out of the bathroom.

Her naked feet padded down the short and dimly lit hallway towards Kristen’s room. Natasha knocked on the door but did not enter and called out.

“Hey Krissy, all done. Bathroom’s all yours. No need to plug your nose, I was a good girl,” she said brightly sharing a joke between them from childhood.

She heard no reply and repeated the phrase, knocking a little more loudly. The door swung inward slightly, and Natasha’s eyes fell on Kristen who was bent over the far side of her room, mid-way between changing herself.

“Oh! Sorry, sorry!” said Natasha closing her eyes and backing out nearly catching her heel on the hallway rug.

“No, no. That’s me. Darn door sticks sometimes. I had music playing and didn’t hear you.” Said Kristen coming into view through the doorway. She was finishing pulling down a faded t-shirt of her own, a vintage Blink 182 logo displayed across her chest.

“S-alright. Just saying the bathroom is free. Night!” her eyes didn’t meet Kristen’s as she turned and headed to her own bathroom.

She felt a hand catch her shoulder and softly she turned around. “Hey, you okay? You look a little startled.”

“N-no,” said Natasha, now meeting Kristen’s eyes. They were warm and understanding and searching, looking between Natasha’s own eyes.

“I just—I was startled by the—the Mirror was all.” Said Natasha, inventing wildly.

“Oh, her. I totally forgot. Was she nice to you? She’s always nice.” Said Kristen, speaking fast.

“She was, but she told me to step on the scale only if I wanted telling off,” said Natasha, raising her clothes a little higher across her chest.

Kristen smiled, “She’s right. The numbers don’t lie and he’s as honest as they come. Sure you’re okay?”

“Fine now,” lied Natasha.

“Well, night again.” Said Kristen warmly. She touched Natasha on the shoulder once more and headed to the bathroom and shut the door with a soft click.

Natasha held her breath until she got to her room. She closed the door and leaned against it and lowered her belongings that were recently covering her chest. Natasha looked down and saw that her nipples were erect and hard as antennae underneath her shirt.

They had risen to attention when she’d rested her eyes on Kristen in her room. Her eyes had taken in her best friend’s near-nakedness. Burned into her mind’s eye was the prostrate form of Kristen, bent over mid-dressing. Her athletic frame and taught muscles mid-way pulling up her pajamas bottoms so that her sex was visible as were the breasts that hung low and pendulous, ripe with vitality.

Natasha closed her eyes and tilted her head back so that it met the closed door of her room and let out a long, slow exhale.

Such a beautiful body!’ her mind was saying over and over.

Natasha was conflicted. Both because she understood that she appreciated both male as well as female nakedness; and she was attracted to men. But deep down, being with Kristen and seeing her like that, vulnerable, made her feel things she’d only felt in and under the company of men.

‘She’s my friend. I can’t think of her like that.’ Natasha thought, still leaning against the door.

‘She’s your best friend,’ said another voice from within her consciousness. Natasha stared down at her chest, the two buds of desire had not relented.

Through her door, Natasha heard the sounds of the bathroom door opening; then padded feet slap down the hallway followed by the sounds of another nightly farewell and the sounds of a door being closed once, twice, three times before a distinct click.

Natasha shook her head and put her day clothes and toiletries down on the dresser and headed for bed. She turned down the bed and crept under the covers and pulled them up to her chest. The bedding was luxuriously soft and the bed just the right temperature. Staring at the ceiling she put one arm underneath her head and exhaled again mulling over her thoughts.

She needed a distraction. Natasha sat up and walked over to her day bag and extracted a novel that she’d brought with her. One of those summer beach-reads that everyone raves about but that actually aren’t that satisfying. She also picked up her phone and checked the time, 1:10am.

Not quite tired, she hoped the book would lull her into a restful sleep. Natasha thumbed through the pages, learning the lead characters names and occupations. She passed the part in the novel of the ‘meet-cute’ and was now entering the part of the novel where the two main characters dislike each other about some triste that would likely resolve itself in a few chapters.

As she read, she could not get Kristen out her head. Her voice, her smile, her eyes…her body. She was also conflicted about what the Mirror had said.

Something about ‘you should see the other woman…comes in here sometimes…big as houses…

But what had the Mirror meant? Natasha had not asked and, looking back, wouldn’t even know where to begin asking. Still…

Natasha put the book down and shut off the light. Moonlight shone through the bedroom window bathing the room in a pale blue-white. She tried some of her meditative tricks and even thumbed open her phone for one of her trusted sleep apps. The time now read 2:43 am.

Natasha was desperate and knew what she had to do. She rearranged herself under the sheets of the wickedly comfortable bed and closed her eyes and began to slowly and rhythmically breathe. She splayed one leg to its side and ran a hand across her chest and abdomen and began to explore her body.

Masturbation was the act of self-love and Natasha, finding herself between partners knew all too well that post-coitus always meant deep sleep for her. Even if she had to administer it herself. She went deep into her mental rolodex of men she’d been with, trying to remember words they’d said to make her feel comforted and wanted. She remembered flashes of their bodies. Eyebrows, lips, muscles, the shapes between their legs, both soft and hard…

Natasha had her left hand under the waistband of her boxers and was worrying towards her sex, her other hand cupping her right breast, teasing the nipple to a desired peak when her brain suddenly switched to flashes of the female form. A body that she had never seen before, yet one that her mind was projecting more and more clearly.

At first Natasha tried to resist, letting her hands go slack and trying to swipe the memory away. Instead, it lingered and became clearer, stronger, like blurred edges suddenly becoming HD.

The body that had crossed through Natasha’s mind had creamy-smooth skin. Flash. The contours and folds mesmerizing. Flash. The top of one breast had a cute mole and nipples that ached for contact. Flash. The sweep of the lower abdomen trailed down into a maintained strip of ash brown pubic hair that terminated into a mound of desire. Flash. Another mole on the inner left thigh as the legs gaped apart, parting to present her cave of desire.

Flash. Flash. FLASH.

Natasha’s mind yielded at the same time her hands found her body. At once they continued to ravish her body with these memories. Her mind raced and her hands ached as she pinched, kneaded, caressed and stroked herself. She began to writhe under the covers of the bed, generating heat. She could smell traces of a warm animal scent that sent her further into a sexual frenzy.

Panting slightly, her eyes snapped open. She had to force her hands to relax. Natasha emerged from a sea of longing and desire that she forgot temporarily where she was; and she was suddenly very thirsty. She reached up and wiped her forehead the back of one hand, removing the droplets of sweat that had perspired there.

****,’ she breathed aloud to the vacant room.

She sat up and the novel that she had been reading previously tumbled limply to the floor. She let it lay there as she swung her legs out and allowed them to take her weight. Slightly weak-legged, she opened the door to her bedroom and silently tip-toed down the hallway into the kitchen to get a glass of water. Guided by the moonlight that shone through the windows, she found her way with ease. She grabbed a glass and filled it with water from the tap and drained it down in one, then refilled it.

As her heartrate began to lower, she felt the gentle heat of the room still coming from the fireplace. It’s embers now a faint glow. Natasha departed the kitchen and with glass refilled and passed by the living room. As she did so, the light of the moon caught on one of the photos on the shelf. It shone and caught Natasha’s eye. She walked over and winced as the floor made to creak, betraying the silence of the room albeit for the faint pop and crackle coming from the fireplace.

She reached out and took the photo. It was Kristen’s vacation photo. The ‘after’ one where everyone was displaying their summer physiques. Natasha scanned the photo and everyone was now snoozing within the frame. Many of the men and women laid down on the beachy surface, bottles scattered around them as they snored gently within the frame. Kristen, she noticed, was absent from the frame. Natasha scanned it quickly then more thoroughly.

Then from behind a tree, Kristen emerged, sleepily and walked with languid steps to a destination unknown. She looked up and saw Natasha looking at her through the frame. She smiled back and let out a hiccup. Natasha felt a deep pang as she watched her friend walk through the frame, belly wobbling with thighs that touched. She looked a little tipsy, though happy as she appeared to be looking for a place to spend the rest of the night.

Natasha had a thought and brought the photo with her back to her bedroom. Shutting the door with a soft click, she put down the cup of water and framed photo on the nightstand and crawled back into bed. Photo Kristen watched with polite interest now, she moved closer into focus blocking out some of the background of the photo, her transparent sarong catching in the breeze. She found a rock and leaned against it, chin resting on her elbow.

Transfixed with the images from her dream and tired though she knew she now was, Natasha focused on returning to that happy memory. She needed to find sleep.

Reaching out, she tilted the photo so that she could see Photo Kristen clearly as she edged herself into a comfortable position in the bed and returned to exploring her body.

She had the covers pulled up and her eyes were furtive as she as she flicked them between her bed and the photo. She had Photo Kristen’s complete attention now.

Natasha observed the fuller face, now eager to see what Natasha was doing. She craned her neck and was on tip toe, leaning against the rock. Once she determined what Natasha was doing, she bit her lower lip and tilted her head to once side, the ash brown hair falling to one side. She raised herself up off the rock, off her elbow and clutched at her own breast through the bikini top. The orb of larger flesh now pathetically small in the bikini.

Natasha began to pant as she began to explore her sex, first through her boxers, which had become wet, then under them. Her fingers slid in easily and she began to gyrate her hips. The covers of the bedding had come down several inches and she began to feel too hot. Suddenly, she wrenched them back and pulled off her top and bottoms.

Wide-eyed, Photo Kristen let out a silent moan and ran a hand down her throat and untied her bikini top. She raised it and threw it aside and began to play with her voluptuous breasts, each nipple hard with want. She ran her hands down the sides of her Buddha belly and softer sides and found the knotted sarong. She undid it and the wind carried it away. Natasha observed a wet patch at the center of the bikini bottoms and with placating eyes, motioned for Photo Kristen to remove them. Consenting, Photo Kristen reached for the tie of one of the bikini straps. With a twist of her wrist, the knot undid and she slithered out of them, her thicker thighs making this a little hard. Photo Kristen leant back on the rock, back arched, legs splayed and began to run her fingers down her pubis, tracing a trail of beautiful hair towards her sex.

Natasha mimicked Photo Kristen, running a hand down her own throat, gently scratching at it and pulling at her breasts. Simultaneously, she and Photo Kristen inserted fingers and plumbed the depths of their very essence. Natasha moaned loudly and a paroxysm of euphoria swept through her body. Every nerve on fire, every neuron in her brain exploding. She felt a rush of warmth from between her legs and squeezed her wetness together and shuddered.

She looked up with hooded eyes and swept away a lock of hair. Photo Kristen was looking back, equally spent and was caressing herself, one hand low and massaging. The other going between throat and breast.

Unspoken words of lust were coming from the photo that Natasha could not hear, but the message was plainly clear. She had just had sex with her best friend and it had given her the greatest and most intense orgasm in her life.

Chest heaving, body glistening, Natasha raised a moist hand in appreciative farewell and immediately, blissfully, passed out. Her head rolled to one side and with eyes closed, she had the greatest smile on her face and began to snore softly.
Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 11: A Morning at the Cottage

Natasha was swimming in the throes of a very nice dream. It was one of those experiences where you know you are dreaming but don’t want to wake up.

She sighed and rolled over, feeling through her eyelids that daylight was pouring into the room. The bed felt comfy and warm; she had no intention of moving.

Faintly, she heard an energetic tune coming through her door and presumed that Kristen, ever the early riser, was up already and in the throes of her Monday morning routine.

Natasha rolled onto her back and stretched her arms overhead and let out a lioness of a yawn. She scratched an itch on the side of her head and slowly the previous evening came back to her.

Flash. Her and Photo Kristen. Flash.

She glanced down the length of her bed and pulled up the sheets. Her beautiful naked torso greeted her like an old friend, a faint warm animal scent filled the room and made Natasha’s mind relax. She turned her head towards the nightstand, reaching for her phone. It was face down where she had left it, the alarm not going off due to the fact that she had forgotten to charge it.

Fingers fumbling, she reached for it, “Damn. 3%. And barely a signal.”

She turned to put her phone back, making sure not to knock over Kristen’s summer school photo, but it was not there. Perhaps it was caught in the folds of her sheets? Or maybe it slid between the nightstand and the bedframe?

Natasha folded the cover of the bedding back and stood up, stretching again. Her back arched and she heard some popping in her spine, making her feel even more relaxed. Shaking off a shiver, she looked around for her clothing and found her shirt and boxers in places she didn’t remember tossing them during the wiles of her evening experience.

She shrugged them on and they felt cool from where they had lain on the floor all evening. She picked up her book which was also on the floor, now with one corner of the front cover slightly bent and put it on the nightstand. Next, she went back to her day bag and reached inside for her phone charger. Finding an outlet near the nightstand, she bent and made to plug her cellphone charger into the wall and connected it to her phone.

Natasha looked both high and low for the absent photo but couldn’t seem to locate it.

Maybe I put it back during the night?’ she thought to herself, now giving up the search.

She reached for the glass of water on the nightstand and drained the remaining half and made to refill it as she opened the door to her bedroom. Hand on doorknob, she was about to open it, when she stepped on something white and crunchy. Bending low, she discovered that it was a folded sheet of paper. It was a note from Kristen that read:


Hope you slept like a beach baby last night. I know I did!

Today’s Monday (duh! You knew that already) and I have an early timetable with the students so if you’re reading this – somebody must be a sleepy-head! That also means I didn’t wake you up getting ready. I can be such an elephant in the mornings.

(Natasha laughed at this)

The letter continued: But no worries, I will be back just after twelve-noon and we can have lunch at the staff cafeteria. Don’t worry, its actually good food!

I’ve put a bewitching charm on the kitchen, so check the Fridge first and just tell it what you want to eat and prepare to ‘love fucking magic’ once again :)

Love, Krissy


Natasha’s eyes crinkled with warmth and turned the note over for the post-script.

P.S. The internet is **** here – magical interference – so, think 90’s dial-up internet. So, no porn! Just kidding. If you need anything, head to the Admin Cottage down the lane (you can’t miss it) and ask for me.

Xoxo, K

Natasha smiled at the little note, refolded it and put it in her day bag. As she folded it, she could smell the essence of Kristen’s hand cream. It was pleasant. She’d spotted the jar on the little dressing table in the bathroom the evening prior. It was the same one she’d used when they were in college.

Natasha opened the bedroom door and padded down the hallway. Light was now streaming through all the windows and she took in the vibrance of the room. Everything was as it had been the night before, just all the colors looked richer and more inviting.

The fireplace was lit but emitted a gentle heat. Natasha made to stand near it to warm her legs and noticed that the photo of Kristen and her fellow teachers was back on the mantlepiece with the others.

Natasha nodded to the photo and raised her water glass, the mystery of the missing photo solved, as the scene within the staff photo continued to play out jauntily. ‘I knew I’d put it back’, she thought.

The record player was playing an energetic instrumental tune that Natasha put between fun restaurant and elevator music. She liked it.

Shaking her hips slightly to the musical notes, she sauntered into the kitchen and could smell the remnants of a wonderful breakfast that Kristen must have enjoyed.

“Erm, hello? Kitchen?” she said as she stepped onto the tiled floor.

“Good morning, Madam,” came a slightly aged voice in the tone of a grandfatherly butler.

“Ah, Hi. So, ah. How does this work?” said Natasha scanning the room looking for something to talk to, or at least to talk near.

“Over here, Dear.” Said the voice, a Fridge, that was off to one side and tottered on silvery stubby mounts.

It looked like one of those vintage 50’s units with the textured fronts and chromed accents. Natasha watched with astonishment as some of the metal work and accessory magnets rearranged themselves to resemble a wizened and mustachioed face.

“Is that better?” said the Fridge brightly.

“Much,” said Natasha.

“Are you feeling peckish this morning? Or are you in the mood for a proper breakfast? Or, perhaps a spot of tea to start, hmm?” Offered the Fridge.

“Do you have coffee by chance?” Asked Natasha making to get a mug out of the cupboard.

“Surely,” said the Fridge.

The mug Natasha had been reaching for wiggled and then lifted into the air and hovered in front of a kettle that moments before laid dormant. Instantly, it whistled steam and from another pantry cupboard, grounds of coffee were shoveling themselves into a French Press that had walked its way from the back of the kitchen counter towards the front. Natasha eyed the volume of the container and watched as scoop after scoop was poured in.

“Perhaps just a few more? I love my coffee strong.” She said, watching the black powder and getting that classic smell of freshly ground coffee beans into her nose. Two more heaping scoops and she was satisfied. Next, Natasha stood back as the cup and kettle made to join the French Press. A steam of hot water arched, defying normal gravity and made contact with the coffee grounds, not a splash spilt.

A long silver spoon zoomed out of a drawer and began to stir the contents. The lid came next and plunged itself down and another moment later, a black-gold stream of coffee hit the empty mug just like you’d see in a fancy television commercial. The cup raised itself and hovered a few inches from Natasha’s hand.

She smiled dumbly and took the cup.

“Cream? Sugar?” said the Fridge.

“Black only, thanks. And I love magic!” she said, unable to help herself. The Fridge chuckled. She took a tentative sip and then another. It was the perfect temperature, concentration and color, neither too hot nor cold. It was literally a perfect cup.

“Dang, Fridge!” said Natasha who took a seat at the scrubbed dining table she shared with Kristen the evening prior.

She looked at the room from this angle. Everything seemed so organized and purposeful. Nothing was extra or cluttered. Everything just belonged. Just like Kristen. And just like Kristen had made her feel.

Natasha’s stomach gave a little hollow gurgle, though she was not particularly hungry yet.

“Ah, hey Fridge. Does your magic wear off or anything if I am not hungry right now?” asked Natasha.

“Not at all. I am at your beck and call as per the limits of my charm.” It said as it bowed (well, as a stiff Fridge could bow, anyway).

Natasha laughed at the gesture and drained her cup. At once the French Press floated over and nudged her shoulder, mid-air. The offering of a refill was too tempting, Natasha consented and thanked the carafe.

Sitting there with her hands wrapped around the mug, Natasha consulted the time on the wall.

“Only 7:45. I can get in a quick run and then do some heavy editing before lunch.” She said aloud to the room.

“Hey Fridge, can you have something ready for me for when I get back. I usually run for about an hour.”

“Oh, I think I can manage that. Just don’t ask me to do the jogging for you.” It said politely and rocked on its side to reveal short, stubby silver mounts and making Natasha laugh.

“What would you like to have?” it said, righting itself.

“Well, whatever you made for Kristen this morning smelt amazing, so I guess I’ll have that? I don’t have any allergies or anything if that helps you out.”

The Fridge nodded.

Natasha drained her second cup and put it in the sink and walked back to her bedroom to change into her exercise clothes. She spied her work bag and noted the pile of manuscripts she’d packed into it. She was a fast reader and these were author’s she had worked with before. It was going to be lighter work. And besides, the stuff she had to edit on her computer was already in late-stage editing, so she had plenty of time to enjoy her week away from all things publishing.

Natasha consulted her phone now that a good charge had built up. She opened a Weather App, but was unable to get temperature reading due to the weak signaling, so she went back to the kitchen.

“Hey kitchen, I don’t know if you’re able to do this, but do you know the weather outside?”

The Fridge called out, “I’ll check.”

The window behind the kitchen sink opened and a small blue bird fluttered in, twittering.

“The bird says it’s 65 and breezy,” said the Fridge.

“Cheers, thanks.” Said Natasha as she made to dress. Back in her bedroom, she made her bed and took out her running clothes. Running watch, capris, sports top and athletic underwear, a lightweight long sleeve with half-zip and a headband. She changed into her gear and bent over to tie her shoes. As she did so, a little ribbon of soft belly pooched out over the athletic waistband of her capri pants.

After tying her shoes, Natasha stood up and noticed that little bit of fluff was still present. Granted, athletic gear is designed to be form-fitting, but this roll looked new.

“Running is going to be the death of you,” she said aloud, squeezing her soft roll and adjusting her clothing.

She walked to the front door and called back, “Um, do you lock up or anything? Is there a key or…?”

“Don’t worry dear, I’ll remind the door who you are. Enjoy your jog.” Called the Fridge.

Natasha smiled and waved, ‘why did I wave, he’s a Fridge?’ and stepped out into the dappled sunlight of the morning.

Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 12a: Trail Runner

Natasha closed the door with a firm snap and skipped down the few steps and examined the other cottages as she stood, legs shoulder-width apart and began to stretch her thigh muscles. She twisted and rotated. Then she brought her arms over and across her body to thaw out any remaining stiffness.

She was ready to run.

Beginning at a slow jog as she always did, Natasha made her way to the Admin Cottage.

It was a building that was about three times as large as the cottage she was staying in and it had a second floor. A chimney puffed rhythmically, giving the place more charm than most administration buildings.

Natasha went up the walk and opened the large oaken front door, its handle the shape of a serpent. A chime went off from somewhere overhead as she stepped into the main foyer. There were six chairs, all of them empty. Natasha scanned the little room taking in the various posters about this or that upcoming event, Lost and Found and the like.

“Ahem, can I help you?” Came a cool but efficient voice from the reception desk that Natasha had not immediately spotted.

“I’m Natasha. Staying at number 12?” she said with an uptick of an inflection. The women at the front desk surveyed her like a watchful librarian, her eyes black and beady lacking any warmth or charm.

The woman made to shift in her chair and pulled a clipboard from somewhere behind a stack of papers and consulted it, flipping pages as she went.

“Hmm, yes. There you are. No-Wa-Kah. One week stay. Partial access to magical privileges,” she said, reading aloud the apparent dossier she had on Natasha.

She turned the page over, staring over the top of the page and continued, “…and full ban on magical wand usage.”

“Yikes, so official sounding.” She said, letting out a small laugh to cut the tension. The woman did not speak nor did she laugh along with Natasha. Instead, her expression read get to the point.

“So…I wanted to go for a few runs while I am here and thought it would be smart to see where I can and cannot go. Don’t want to violate any magical statues of this-ory or that-ory, ha.”

The woman sighed and got up out of her chair and reached for her wand. She walked around her desk and motioned for Natasha to follow her to a blank section of the wall. Raising her wand, she waived it and an arial map of the campus appeared. Unnecessarily, a little black pair of shoes labeled, “you are here” in the Administration Cottage.

“You see where we are? Here. And the cottages, there?” said the woman pointing with her wand.

“Yes, I do.” Said Natasha, leaning in.

“The main academic building for Hogwards is for all intents and purposes North. We are West. The Gamekeepers lodgings and Greenhouses are East. The school’s main entrance is South. That’s how you came in here. Are you following?”

“Yes, I think so,” said Natasha.

She pointed to a section of the map that bared North-West to a forested area with roads that looked like trails. A little mountain icon showed supposed elevation.

“These are the Karpathian Trails. They have several areas of elevation and difficulty. Perfect for an easy trail run or walk as well as more technical, elevated trails for the more experienced athlete.”

She looked Natasha up and down, who tried to pose like the athlete she really wasn’t.

“Hmm, I suggest you take the Blue Trail, the easier of the lot. Think you’ve got it?”

“All set, yes.” Said Natasha who watched the woman wave her wand again, making the map disappear.

As she was turning to go, the woman called back.

“You’ll need to take this with you as you are a non-wand carrier.” She handed Natasha a red-stringed necklace that had a blood-red diamond at its center.

“What is this for, wilderness fashion?”

“It is for protection. Even the most adventurous and capable can run into misfortune. Tap this twice and help will come. It’s not a toy, so treat it professionally.”

“Erm, thanks?” said Natasha, who put it on all the same.

The woman merely nodded and waived Natasha off with a lazy hand and returned to her desk and busied herself. Natasha shook her head emitting a reserved laugh and headed back out.

The sun had risen higher in the sky, and she consulted her watch. With the time lost, she would really have to pick up her pacing if she wanted to be back before lunch with Kristen. She couldn’t wait to tell her about the Fridge and this crazy woman.

Natasha back tracked past the rows of cottages and found where the trailhead picked up. The road was veering in a general North-West direction, and she relied on her fairly-accurate navigational sense that she was where she was supposed to be.

As she ran, she saw little animals dart in and out of holes. Some looked like rabbits with forked tails. Others looked like grumpy green badgers. She observed some birds she’d never seen before loop and swoop and flitter and flutter from tree branch to tree branch. The trail widened out so that it could hold a span of people four abreast. As she was the only one on it, she ran directly in the middle. She passed a few areas that were gently flooded out and carefully kept to the edges when she needed to and used fallen logs to keep her shoes dry.

The occasional dragonfly the size of a hummingbird passed by her, and she now heard the cry of larger birds she’d never heard before as she ran along the trails, which expanded into thicker woods with its beautiful canopy overhead. She continued until she ran into the first fork in the road. There was an illustrated sign that bore colored markings: Blue, Red and Black had arrows pointing right. Yellow pointing left and showed an icon of a little mountain.

“Definitely not adventurous enough for Yellow today. Or Red or Black for that matter. Blue it is.” Said Natasha, slightly out of breath. She had already had to stop once to stretch out a stitch in her side.

She took this mini break to consult her watch. She had plenty of time. She bent low to tie her shoe which had already come undone once so far. She felt that same lip of fat roll over her waistband as she did a double knot in her shoelace and told herself that she’d double the distance and intensity if she had to during this trip to lean out.

“No vacation pooch for me,” she said determinedly, though she did roll the waistband down to accommodate her middle that had felt restricted throughout the run. Pressure relieved, she verified the double knot and proceeded down the left path.

The trail she was on proceeded to get a little more technical and darker as the woods crept in around her, making the day appear later than it was. After about ten minutes of running Natasha had realized her mistake. She had taken the wrong path. Yellow with the mountain. The most difficult path.

“Shoot, I think I took the left path and not the right path. Time to turn around.” She said and surreptitiously touched the red necklace around her throat.

She’d taken a few doglegs, turning down this trail or that trail over the last mile.

Come on Girl Scout training, kick in.’ she thought huffing a puffing as she made to take the return trails back.

Trees and trails certainly look different in the reverse direction,’ she thought again as she continued to backtrack, first down one than another trail. Natasha was relying heavily now on the trail markers. Many of them were aged and faded while others looked like giant claws had torn them to pieces, leaving scattered splinters of wood on the forest floor.

Natasha came at last to a clearing she remembered. It was the one just before the signpost where she had tied her shoe. She came to rest again at this fork in the road and leaned against a tree to catch her breath. ‘Maybe magical air is less oxygenated than regular air? I don’t’ remember running ever feeling this draining.’ She thought, adjusting her balance against the tree.

The tree moved.

Slithering under her hand was a giant tree snake. It’s torso thick as a man’s waist. It coiled and writhed. Natasha had apparently woken it up.

“Fuuuuuck!” she cried, leaping back and nearly tripping over a tree root. The necklace around her neck went flying into the bush behind her but she kept her eyes locked on the snake, now lowering itself to the forest floor. With a THUMP its body landed and began to raise itself. Its head was now level with Natasha’s chest.


Not wanting to stick around to find out if this was a magic serpent, Natasha checked her balance and turned to run and narrowly missed the snake’s tail which whipped fast as lightning. She felt air against her ribs from the near miss.

Working quickly, she spied a red glint in the bushes just off the trail where her necklace landed. Plunging her hand in she felt the string and pulled, a tangle of sticky cobweb came away and, clutching the necklace ran pell-mell as fast as she could, arms pumping and legs sprinting.

She turned her neck, hair whipping across her face as she saw what seemed to be a spider the size of a pony emerge from the place where her necklace had landed—and her hand had just been. The spider, missing out on Natasha as a meal spied the snake. The snake reared and now it and the spider were locked in an apparent battle of which Natasha had no interest in the victor. “****, fuckity **** this ****!” she screamed.

Natasha did not stop until she had reached the clearing near the cottages and found a large rock to lean against. She hunched over it and breathed heavily, sucking deep mouthfuls of air deep into her lungs.

Still clutching the emergency necklace, she shivered as she picked off of it a strand of wispy spider’s web. ‘So much for an easy run today.’ She wheezed.

Slightly recovered, she began to walk the remaining distance back to the cottage. ‘Oh, I’m going to have shin splints tomorrow,’ Natasha thought as she walked and limped slightly up the front steps of Kristen’s cottage abode.

“Greetings, young miss!” beamed the Fridge as she walked in, “I trust you enjoyed the great outdoors?”

“You could say that.” Breathed Natasha as she clumsily kicked off her shoes, not bothering with undoing the laces.

“You’ve got enough time to pop into the shower before the food is ready,” said the Fridge warmly.

“Thanks,” she said, spying the table that was laid out. Natasha poured herself a glass of orange juice from the carafe and downed it. She poured a second one and that seemed to take the shock out of her nerves.

Natasha entered the bathroom and stripped.

“You’ve missed a spot there, dear,” said the Mirror as Natasha examined her face.

“Back of your head. A couple of twigs.” The Mirror offered.

Natasha reached back and pulled out three twigs and a leaf from her slightly tangled hair. She thanked the Mirror and hopped into the shower and turned it on. The water was blissfully warm and she stood under it for as long as she could before turning down the heat. She lathered, scrubbed and rinsed the harrowing run off her body and when she was satisfied, she turned off the water and patted herself dry.

(Continued in Chapter 12b)
Jul 24, 2008

Chapter 12b: Trail Runner

“Need help with the hair?” offered the Mirror.

“Um, sure?” said Natasha, wondering where this was going. The Mirror didn’t have hands and Natasha didn’t see a vent anywhere for her to stand under.

“How will we be wearing our hair for the rest of the day?” asked the Mirror, a floating cordless hair dryer now bobbing behind her head, as if in answer to Natasha’s previous thoughts.

“Oh, just in a ponytail for this afternoon. Nothing fancy.”

The hair dryer, controlled by the Mirror went to work and in moments her hair was perfectly dry.

She shivered slightly, feeling the rest of her body a little less warm, now that her head was warm and toasty.

“Ah, could you run that dryer over my body to warm me up? It’s something I used to do as a kid to myself.” asked Natasha to the Mirror.

“Certainly dear, tell us when to stop,” said the Mirror.

She took the wrapped towel from her body and unfolded it. Her body looked like the letter “T”. The hair dryer proceeded down her neck and gently blew warming air across her chest, and to either arm. It returned down her chest and down her torso, then lowered itself to either leg. Natasha could feel the chill leaving her body.

“Um, can you come back here? Just a little more. Not there, there.” Said Natasha and the dryer hovered over her sex. The manicured strip of pubic hair was dry in moments, but Natasha didn’t mind as the dryer hovered over and around. Natasha felt her mind slipping a little into the previous evening she’d had in her bedroom with the photo.

“Ooh, Mhmm. That’s good now.” She breathed to the Mirror. The dryer took its cue and replaced itself on the bathroom shelf and lay still.

“Thanks for the quick dry.” Said Natasha with little circles of pink on her cheeks. The Mirror shimmered in acknowledgement.

Natasha padded down the hall to her room and quickly changed into designer jeans and a light blue t-shirt. She put on an undershirt but chose to go without a bra. She returned to the bathroom to apply the basics of makeup with some assistance from the Mirror and returned to the kitchen.

As she had been changing, wonderful smells from the kitchen invaded her nose. They smelt like a diner that she and Kristen used to frequent in college. One of those greasy spoons that made filling, cheap dishes that were affordable by student standards.

“How many people are coming over for breakfast, three?” asked Natasha with astonishment as she entered the kitchen. The table was laden with food for at least two hungry people.

“You’d asked to have what Kristen had this morning. So, we made the same amount, naturally.” Said the Fridge proudly.

It was a Full English Breakfast consisting of several rashers of bacon, four fried eggs, three large sausage links, mushrooms, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, a heaping pile of pan-fried potatoes and black pudding.

Natasha sat down and her stomach gurgled as if on cue. She rested a hand there, her palm warming the area over her stomach. True, she was hungry. The excitement of the morning run had sent her adrenals skyrocketing. Her stomach gurgled again, and she decided to just eat as much as her body felt. Not to be hoggish, but to eat until she was full.

“You’re right Fridge, I did say that. Thank you for making such a wonderful breakfast.”

She walked over to the record player and put the needle back on the LP. The music picked up energetically where it had during the earlier part of the morning, and she skipped back to the table and sat down. Picking up her knife and fork Natasha cut into a link of sausage and tipped it into the beans and took a bite. It was delicious and spiced to perfection.

“Mmm, wow! Okay. Amazing.” She said to the room aloud.

Next, she took a slice of thick buttered cross-cut bread and with its corner, broke the yolk of one of the eggs and plunged it in. The golden syrup of the egg coated the bread, and she brought it to her lips and again, she was overly impressed with the flavor, texture and composition of the meal.

For the next thirty minutes Natasha was absorbed wholly with her breakfast. Everything was so amazingly tasty! The bacon was perfectly cooked, slightly black and crispy but not too salty. The mushrooms, grilled tomatoes and pan-fried potatoes were perfectly-seasoned and the beans were a perfect compliment to the dish and Natasha didn’t even normally like beans. She tried the black pudding and thought, ‘hey, not bad.’

All the while Natasha was enjoying her breakfast, she could feel her energy levels topping back up. Her legs which had felt a little wobbly in the shower now felt less shaky. Her knee bounced to the tune of the music throughout breakfast, and she was wiggling in her seat with the rhythm.

‘…You’re so fine, I’ll make you mine…nah-nah-nah…’ She sang aloud to her breakfast toast to the tune of the song, as she used it to mop up the juices of her plate and ate it. Her body continued absorbing the food, nourishing her completely. As it did so, her stomach naturally filled out. A little bulge had formed which grew larger and still larger. She didn’t remember thumbing the catch of her jeans to give herself more room as she was too preoccupied with the amazing flavors of her meal.

Natasha reached out for some orange juice and felt her stomach gently graze the edge of the table. Looking down, she saw a little baby bump that had not been present before she sat down. Cheeks slightly flushed, she put a hand over her stomach and pressed it, feeling the pressure from within. Not painful, slightly pleasurable?

Oof, you overdid it, girl.’ She thought, rubbing her stomach in circles, hopefully helping the food digest faster. She took a sip of the orange juice and leaned back in her chair and tried to button the fastener of her denims, but with the volume of breakfast she had consumed, it would be several hours before that was even a remote possibility.

Natasha looked up at the clock and it read 11:45. Where had the morning gone! ‘I must have been in La La Land eating breakfast longer than I’d thought.’ Her inner voice called out.

She made to stand up and put a hand on her lower back. She felt first-trimester pregnant and adjusted her shirt. It was pressed firmly against her flesh, the bump very noticeable. Not wanting Kristen to see her in such a state, she went back to her bedroom to get a cardigan which she threw on and buttoned up loosely over her middle. The flaps of her jeans swung pathetically apart, refusing to meet in the center and her zipper was stuck halfway up, displaying Natasha’s lacy purple underwear. Not wanting to show the world her under-wardrobe, she remembered an old trick she’d learned in college from her fluffier days. You take an elastic hair tie and loop it through the eyelet of the jeans. Next, you take the button-side of the jeans and with the elastic’s other looped end, wrap it around; thus connecting the two halves while the pants are still technically undone – ingenious!

Thumbing through her makeup bag, she found one and expertly synched herself. To test it, she sat down on the edge of her bed and…it snapped.

‘Dang,’ she said, undoing the broken elastic and tried a second time. This time she sat a little more gingerly. Snap.

‘I’ll bet Kristen has some in the bathroom. Maybe they build better products here in the magical world.’ She thought as she entered the bathroom and cursed herself for wearing her tight jeans today.

Thumbing through a few drawers, she found an assortment of hair holding products. She selected a color that closely resembled her jeans and repeated the trick. She pulled out the bathroom chair from the dressing table and sat down. She wiggled back and forth, jiggled herself and twisted, repeating any motion she might do during the day and it seemed to hold firm.

Exhaling in relief, her belly expanded forward pressing into the elastic. It flexed and just held firm.

Phew.’ She said, wiping her brow.

“Overdid it again at breakfast, I see?” said the voice from the Mirror.

“Oh, what?” called Natasha from the chair, making to stand up.

“Sorry dear, I thought you were the other one.” The Mirror said.

“You mean Kristen?” asked Natasha looking into the Mirror, her interest piqued. The Mirror remained silent.

“Anything you can do about this fiasco?” she said into the Mirror, turning side profile for emphasis. She eyeballed the scale, but remembered he was a little judge-y.

“Ooh, you’ve have done a number on yourself this morning. That’s a proper breakfast paunch.” said the Mirror with surprised intrigue. “Fridge does love to cook, as I’m sure you’ve learned.”

“Well, I didn’t feel full at all while I was eating. I would have licked the plate if it was socially acceptable. But now, I’m paying for it…” said Natasha, rubbing the side of her belly.

The Mirror shimmered as if in thought. “Hmm, I think two ought to do it.” She said after a moment.

“Two what?” asked Natasha.

The Mirror swung forward and a medicine cabinet revealed itself. Natasha saw many things that looked like basic first aid care, some feminine products and some pain relievers. She also spied a little tin that looked similar to the one Kristen had offered her after their luxurious and filling luncheon in the pub the day prior. The tin was wiggling and looked like someone was nudging it from behind.

“Take two of these, love.” Said the Mirror’s voice and Natasha made to catch the tin before it fell off the shelf. Opening it, she found the same little blue squares she’d taken with Kristen and took two. Crunching them between her teeth, she swallowed and put the tin box back and shut the door.

Examining herself in the Mirror, she noticed nothing at first. ‘Maybe these were old pills?’ thought Natasha. But then she felt a similar feeling behind her navel, like the food was being flushed down a giant sink. She began to feel her stomach deflate slightly. Not as much as it had done the evening prior, but enough to feel that she no longer needed the elastic to hold her jeans together. She undid the elastic, but pocketed it, just in case. With a grunt, she got the ends to meet, but her belly protested slightly as it dug into the band of her denims. “Ooh, that’s going to leave a little red marked line when I take these off…” she huffed.

She twisted and turned in the Mirror taking in her physique. She looked more-or-less the same way she did before the breakfast. Perhaps a little fuller in the face and neck, but with the help of her cardigan you would have just thought she was wearing old clothing that had perhaps been shrunk a little in the wash.

“Thanks, Mirror.” Said Natasha brightly to the Mirror, who shimmered in reply.

Natasha made to head back to the kitchen to clean up, glancing up at the clock. It was just past noon and she didn’t want to feel like a complete freeloader and leave dishes for Kristen to wash up when she came home for lunch.

To Natasha’s surprise, the table was cleaned completely. The dishes were dancing in the sink amongst the water and suds, pots and pans now hanging to dry. A whisk was putting some crumbs in the dustbin and tucked itself away in a low cabinet. On the stove, the kettle was on and at the breakfast table sat two mugs of tea, bags already in.

The kettle whistled proudly and hovered over to the cups and poured in the hot water. The water danced with the teabags and the kettle replaced itself. Natasha watched the whole process, again admiring the efficiency of a magic house.

She went over to the table and picked up a mug and inhaled deeply.

As she did so, the front door opened and Kristen entered, face beaming with a few book bags in her hands, “Honey, I’m home!” she said aloud making herself laugh.

She spied Natasha and the two mugs on the tabletop.

“One of those for me? You shouldn’t have.”

“You should thank your magic house. I’ve been a lazy sod all morning.”

Kristen wiggled out of her overcoat and took the mug and sipped at it.

Natasha shrugged her shoulders, noting that her work bags full of their unread and unedited manuscripts, lay right where she had laid them the evening prior.

“How was your morning then, boring?” she asked, looking at Natasha.

She laughed, “Far from!” and she began to retell the tales of the morning. Kristen ‘Ooh’d and Aahh’d’ at all the right parts.

“And then I ran back as fast as I could and walked into an amazing breakfast and here I am.” Finished Natasha.

“Well, I do hope you’re hungry, we’re going to the school cafeteria for lunch. They have an amazing spread and I know you’ll find something you’ll like.”

“Erm, well,” began Natasha, but Kristen was looking at her with longing. Clearly, she had been looking forward to this all morning.

“Sounds grand,” said Natasha, not wanting to burst the bubble of good hope.

Kristen set down her tea, clapped her hands together and beamed once more, “Okay, I’ve got a good break between lunch and my next teaching period, so we can go for a little walk up the Black trail after lunch?”

Natasha’s eyes went wide for a moment, only to see Kristen’s crinkle with a smile. “Only joking—JOKING! C’mon let’s go.”

Natasha wrinkled her nose at Kristen and elbowed her in the slightly softer side and they both broke out into laughter. Kristen grabbed her overcoat and day bag and they departed, heading down the cottage lanes towards the school and it’s awaiting cafeteria. As they walked, Natasha’s stomach gurgled hollowly again…

Jul 24, 2008
Chapter 13a: Secrets Told in the Staff Lounge

They left the little cottage and Kristen gave the front door a little tap with her wand, locking it.

“Hey, I know a shortcut we can take to get to the cafeteria, I’m starving.” Said Kristen, stowing her wand in her day bag.

“Umm, would you mind if we took the traditional way, I’d love to see more of the campus.” Replied Natasha.

“Oh, we can tour this silly old place anytime. C’mon. It’s right over here.” Nudged Kristen, pointing to a footpath to her left.

“It’s a staff cafeteria, how crowded can the place get?” offered Natasha.

“Well, that’s true. Okay, fine. Let’s go the longer way. It’s a nice day today, anyway.” Said Kristen brightly.

Natasha sighed inwardly. In truth, she needed the extra time to digest that massive breakfast that she packed away. True, the blue pills had aided in her paunch, but she still felt like she was full to bursting. Her jeans fit, but barely and she wondered how she was going to get through this next meal without properly digesting first.

“Huh?” said Natasha, who received a nudge in the ribs.

“I was asking where you got this cardigan. I love it.” Said Kristen, plucking at one sleeve and feeling the quality fabric.

“Oh, I got it from Nordstrom, end of season sale. A real bargain.” Said Natasha.

“You’ve always had a nose for a sale,” said Kristen tapping the side of her nose, knowingly.

The two women walked through the little lanes of the cottages and past the main administration building. Natasha secretly hoped that the mad old woman working there took lunch at her desk and wouldn’t be joining them at the cafeteria.

Kristen brought them up to a side entrance of the school and pulled open a door.

Instantly, Natasha had to cover her ears with her hands as the noise of what sounded like hundreds of kids bombarded her ears.

“Sorry! Should have warned you. Lunch can get a bit loud. Follow me!” yelled Kristen as she grabbed Natasha by the elbow and steered her down the entrance and through a few corridors. The decibel level dropped with each dogleg.

“Wow, I think my eardrums are bleeding,” said Natasha, sticking a finger in one ear for dramatic effect.

“Even though the school holds 400 kids, you’d think there was a small city in there.” Said Kristen in agreement.

“So where will we be eating? For a diseased moment, I thought we were going to be sharing our lunch with those megaphoned monsters.” Said Natasha.

Kristen laughed, “Normally they are very sweet, but the cafeteria is a bit of a wild card. And with the holiday coming up, you know how kids can get around them. No, we will be eating in the staff lounge. Similar buffet set up, but without the noise. And obviously better-quality food. We are not all about chicken fingers and French fries.”

“B-buffet?” said Natasha, her stomach doing a little summersault that did not feel all that pleasant.

“Yes, we have a 4-Star Michelin Chef that cooks for us, Gustav. He’s a real culinary wizard.”

Natasha smiled towards Kristen but felt apprehensive as the smells of great food got closer.

“Just through here,” said Kristen, holding open a door. The sign overhead said Staff Lounge.

Natasha walked through and saw a modest and subdued dining room with circular tables of ornate design. Nearly all the staff was present and in various states of meal completion. Kristen exchanged pleasantries with many of them and waved to those who were too far away to shout a polite greeting. She introduced Natasha to many of them, who nodded, smiled and shook hands at all the right places.

“We’ll just tuck into a table over here,” said Kristen, pointing to a table off to one side. Natasha couldn’t help herself. They had to pass the buffet table on their way their dining table. As they did so, she spied two rather long rectangular tables laid end to end with rectangular trays lined up in parallel. Behind the table, a slim Chef with a white moustache and salt and pepper hair was in the process of serving two teachers various items. Natasha’s mouth watered despite herself.

Kristen pulled out her chair and took off her overcoat, “Don’t you want to take off your cardigan, Tasha? I’m not going to steal it, you know.”

Natasha smiled, taking the chair opposite, “Nah, I’m actually a little chilly.”

Kristen shrugged and took off her coat and put it on the back of her chair. She was wearing school attire underneath. She had on black trousers, a white buttoned dress shirt and a sweater vest with the school insignia blazed over the left breast. She wore the clothes well, considering they were school issue.

“After you, Teach.” Said Natasha as she followed Kristen towards the buffet table.

Kristen handed her a plate and took one for herself. Natasha consulted the menu which was on a raised sandwich board and written in sparking lettering over a black board. It read as follows:

Soups & Salad Bar
Italian Wedding, Split Pea, Minestrone, Cream of Mushroom
Bountiful Salad Bar of Seasonal Greens and Fresh Toppings with Dressings and a Large Selection of Fresh Fruit
Mongolian Grill
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Golden Potatoes; we add the Beef, Chicken or Shrimp and Sauces while we blend the meal for you
Carving Station
House Smoked Brisket, Rotisserie Chicken, Turkey Breast, Honey Glazed Ham hand carved to order with all the Condiments
Seafood Station
Peel-and-Eat Shrimp Creoles, Jumbo Shellfish and Fresh Fish Cooked in Different Styles
Mexican Station
Favorites to please all: Chicken, Enchiladas, Chili Dishes – add Salsas and Creams to enhance all your Favorite Dish Combinations
Italian Station
Freshly Baked Pizzas to Pasta of your choices of Freshly Made Sauces, we also offer Chicken Italian Sausages with Peppers and our very own Homemade Meatballs with Garlic Bread
Barbeque Station
Smoked or Barbequed Pork Ribs from the Smoker with Comfort Food Favorites like Chicken in the pot, Meatloaf, Beef Stew, Fried Chicken and Freshly Mashed Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables


“Oh boy…” said Natasha under her breath.

“I know right, I feel like I want a bit of everything, myself. I’m famished!” said Kristen, mishearing Natasha’s mercy plea.

“Know what you’re going to get?” asked Kristen, her smile broadening as she turned her plate in her hands, expectantly.

“Umm, I was actually thinking of a salad and maybe a small soup.” Said Natasha, calculating a plate full of food that was calorie light.

“Salads are so boring. Live a little.” Said Kristen with a wink as she poked Natasha in the middle.

Natasha smiled back and sucked in her abdomen a little to deflect the blow.

“Well, what about you?” Natasha asked, curious as to how Kristen could stay so thin. So far, she had seen her best friend consume large quantities of food without any trace of weight gain. Heck, even a large breakfast like the one Natasha also had this morning must have left her still feeling somewhat full, rather than the famished state she said she was in.

“I was going to go for the Barbeque Station with the smoked pork ribs, with a side of chicken in the pot, a leg of the fried chicken and mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.

“Dang girl, do you have a hollow leg I don’t know about?”

Kristen smiled, “better than your rabbit food selection.”

The line moved ahead, and Chef Gustav greeted Kristen and Natasha heartily, “And what can I get for mademoiselle and mademoiselle this afternoon?”

Kristen gave her order.

“Oui, an excellent choice, if I may be so bold.” And he began to prepare her order.

Once finished, Natasha handed him her plate, “Umm, I’d like the salad with mixed greens and your house dressing on the side as well as the minestrone soup and … some house smoked brisket from the carving station?”

“Also, an excellent choice!” said the Chef.

“I knew you couldn’t stick to just a salad and soup.” Said Kristen cheerfully.

Natasha reached out to receive her plate and bowl of soup and the two women retreated to their table. Natasha tucked in and folded her napkin in her lap and began with the soup while Kristen went-full carnivore on her meal.

Natasha adjusted herself so that she didn’t feel overly constricted in her pants and made sure to eat slowly taking half-spoonful’s of her soup and making comments of enjoyment.

“Mmm, this soup is so fresh. I love the combination of flavors. And this brisket smells and tastes amazing.”

Kristen nodded in agreement and swallowed a bite of chicken. “I know, right? We eat like kings and queens in here.”

Natasha nodded and looked around. Everyone seemed to be on the lean side, even the Chef. She remarked so.

“How is it that you’re not all four hundred pounds with this bounty of food, especially if you guys eat like this, daily?” She nodded in the direction of the Chef, “Hell, he’s as thin as a rake, I guess we can’t trust him.”

Kristen laughed aloud at the old joke and wiped a tear from her eye.

“Oh, I don’t eat like this often. I usually pick like a bird.”

Natasha raised a skeptical eyebrow.

“Well, maybe a penguin, then.”

“More like a pelican.” Retorted Natasha, making them both laugh.

“Seriously though, I had the same mega breakfast you did this morning and I feel like I can barely have another bite.” She puffed out her cheeks to mimic how her stomach felt.

Kristen enjoyed some of her chicken in the pot, swallowed, sat thoughtfully for a moment then said, “Well, I supposed it’s all about calorie balance for me? I eat larger meals sometimes when I know I will be busy and unable to eat later in the day. Or else, I may eat more, but then I end up walking in the afternoons between classes or in the evenings.”

Natasha nodded, “That makes sense then. Still…” She said the last word sotto voce, still feeling like there was more that she didn’t understand about Kristen’s eating habits. Everything she’d just said Natasha already knew from every basic nutrition website she’d ever visited. What was her secret?

“Want to try some of my smoked pork ribs? The sauce is to die for.” Said Kristen, waggling a forkful in Natasha’s direction.

“Maybe just this one bite. But then that’s it and back to my soup and salad.”

She took the offered fork and noted how gently Kristen offered it to her. She took the meat off the tines of the fork and chewed. It was melt-in-your-mouth perfect and seasoned very well.

Kristen smiled at Natasha’s reaction and took another forkful and raised an eyebrow, mock-offering it to Natasha before taking it in her own mouth and chewing.

Natasha held up a polite hand, “I can’t keep taking food from you, you know. I’ll end up gaining the official freshman fifteen under your watch. And my clothing doesn’t stretch.”

“You’ve got nothing to worry about,” she said a little furtively. Kristen reached behind her to where she’d hung her day bag along with her coat and fished around until she found what she was looking for.

“Aha. Gotcha.” She produced the familiar little tin that Natasha had seen the other day as well as just that morning in the bathroom cabinet.

She put the tin on the tabletop and slid it towards Natasha with one pointed finger. “These are, ah, more than just digestive aids…”

“So that’s your secret, you sly fox.” Said Natasha, putting a hand on the tin.

“Guilty as charged,” said Kristen, raising her hands in front of her, wrists displayed for the imaginary handcuffs to be placed upon them.

Kristen, surmised Natasha, had been able to eat luxuriously and without any attention how much she was putting into her body, or how often she ate. She simply took a few of these enhanced digestible tablets after a healthy meal and, voila! No more belly, no weight gain. Incredible!

Natasha stared at her friend in awe and smiled. She now understood the Mirror’s earlier meaning about ‘big as houses’ referring to Kristen’s larger size.

(Continued in Chapter 13b)

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