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Parisian Epiphany (~BBW, ~~WG, Romance)

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Big Beautiful Dreamer

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~BBW, ~~WG, Romance - After a tragic accident, a young woman wonders if she will ever love again.



Parisian Epiphany
By: Big Beautiful Dreamer



“Mam’selle?”

The near-miss I had just seen through the bookshop window had brought back painful memories.

A tiny Renault had swerved, braked, and only just missed hitting a young man who had skipped across the Paris street with nary a thought for traffic.

Would I never get that memory out of my mind? Paul drawing me to him for a final kiss. His baritone murmur: “I love you.” Me heading up Ninth Avenue, him stepping into the crosswalk. The sickening crunch-thump that had made me turn around instinctively. Paul, lovely Paul, horribly crumpled in the street. The year since then had begun at last to dull some of the pain, but only some.

“Mam’selle?”

I had sold off our possessions, listed the apartment, taken the money from the sale and landed in Paris with two suitcases, one for clothing and other essentials, one for art supplies. Marcel and Jeanne had met me at Charles de Gaulle airport, sympathetic and tactful, shown me to their flat on the Rue des Bourdonnais in the second arrondissement: easy walks to the Louvre, the Picasso and the Pompidou museums, near Les Halles, the Tuilleries, a shamelessly lovely and obscenely expensive part of the city.

“Our home is yours for as long as you wish,” Jeanne had insisted. Marcel had finally retired and they planned to settle in their house in Pontoise, away from traffic and tourists.

I hadn’t known how long I would stay. I only knew that I couldn’t bear New York anymore.

“Mam’selle?”

The voice finally penetrated my fog. I turned around.

“Oh ... pardon,” I said. I smiled, knowing that it must be a pained smile.

The bookshop owner bowed. “How may I interest you?” he asked in French. I was flattered to think that I did not look like a tourist, or perhaps he knew no English. The bookshop was a small and obscure one that I had stumbled on while wandering around the streets from the Basilica Sacre Couer, sketchbook in hand. This was the ninth arrondissement, in a section whose only attraction outside the basilica was the Hospital St-Lazare, and the shop was tucked between a secondhand clothing store and a chemist’s on the Rue Poissoniere – Fishmongers’ Street.

I paused to collect myself and blew out my breath, which I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.

“Have you anything by Paul Verlaine?”

His lips twitched. “Je fais souvent ce reve etrange et penetrant d’une femme inconnue et que j’aime et qui m’aime...” he said softly.

I blushed, the warmth spreading up from my throat to the tips of my ears.

“Pardon, mam’selle,” he continued in French, “that was most improper.”

“So was Verlaine,” I replied in French, without thinking, and he laughed, his head thrown back, shaggy dark hair shaking and his cheeks reddening in turn.

“For such wit you must allow me this forwardness,” he said. He led me by the hand down a row of books and plucked out a volume of Verlaine.

“With my compliments.”

“Only if you will allow me to buy you dinner.” Who was this person speaking through my mouth? I’d never been this forward.

So it was that I found myself in a small, dimly lit restaurant acquainting myself with one Jean-Luc Verrier, who lived above the bookshop and whose parents had made peace with the knowledge that their only son had no more grandiose ambitions.

Jean-Luc listened gravely, with soft eyes and sympathetic noises, to my tale of Paul’s death. “A wounded bird,” he pronounced, “a lovely mourning dove.” He clucked critically over the shame of careless drivers and gently inquired about my stay in Paris.

“Marcel arranged a student visa for me,” I explained. “I was his student when he taught in New York for a year. His daughter is the administrator of L’Ecole Boulevardier,” an art school on the Left Bank. “I’m enrolled as a ‘student,’ but all I have to do is show my portfolio to Marcel’s sympathetic colleague twice a year. I’ve been here eight or nine months now.”

Jean-Luc murmured his admiration and directed my attention to the food. I hadn’t been paying much attention but he was right, it was superb. By the time supper was over, I’d had several glasses of wine and barely protested when I found that Jean-Luc had quietly seen to the bill.

“My sister’s husband, his brother is the chef,” Jean-Luc explained. “A family matter.”

I rose to my feet, staggering a little: light-headed from the French wines, and my tummy was unaccountably warm and heavy, solid-feeling. I’d lost twenty pounds after Paul had died, not by trying but from lack of interest, and the dress I was wearing now tugged uncomfortably at the waist. I hadn’t eaten my fill, let alone too much, since that day last July, but Jean-Luc quite naturally put his arm around my waist, despite the distention of my full belly, and I put my arm around his, discovering in turn that he’d consumed his share. The shop had been dimly lit that gray afternoon, and my mind had been on Verlaine, and I honestly hadn’t noticed much about Jean-Luc but his eyes and his mop of dark hair. We paused under the street lamp for Jean-Luc to light his pipe and I surreptitiously took stock. Tall, wearing a turtleneck, blazer, and denims, he had long, strong-looking arms and a soft middle, that is, a middle that would normally be a little soft but that was now firmly full, like mine.

Pipe achieved, Jean-Luc again put his arm around my waist, and I around his, and it felt as natural as breathing. We strolled, slowly, to a sidewalk cafe where Jean-Luc solicitously sat me down and ordered Armagnac for us both.

“A digestif,” he said gravely. “It is most important.”

I inhaled, dizzy again from the scent of the brandy and the rich, smoky scent of the pipe. We talked as naturally as if we’d known each other for years. We talked of Verlaine and digressed naturally enough from there to Rimbaud and on from poetry to novels, and Jean-Luc raised his eyebrows when I professed admiration for Janine Boissard.

“But she is my parents’ neighbor,” he said, delighted in the coincidence. “One day soon you will come with me to Pontoise and we will all dine together.”

It was not until that night, as I sank into a tub of warm water laced with almond oil that it occurred to me that my chest and shoulders felt lighter; loosed for the first time from the weight of Paul’s death. I laid my head back on the little terry-cloth bath bolster and rested my hands on my belly, still firm and stuffed. That night, in Jean-Luc’s company, I had laughed, really laughed, for the first time. I’d said Paul’s name without a catch in my voice. I’d felt lighthearted as we had ambled along, arm in arm. I hadn’t forgotten Paul, I never would, but Jean-Luc had brought a healing balm to my heart.

My sketches became lighter, freer, and I returned to the pastels, putting color on paper for the first time since Paul’s death, just in time for the famous Parisian spring. I sketched the budding chestnuts; I took the train to Giverny and sketched in Monet’s garden; I sat on the bank of the Seine and made pastels of tourist scenes. By the terms of my student visa, I wasn’t allowed to earn money, but Paul’s insurance and the sale of the apartment – do you know how much an apartment on Ninth Avenue costs? – had left me provided for.

Once or twice a week, careful not to show myself too much at first, I would amble into Jean-Luc’s shop along about closing time. He and I would dine, Jean-Luc clucking over me as if I were an invalid. “My little wounded dove,” he called me, and fed me lamb, foie gras, shrimp, homemade gnocchi, breads, pastries, cheeses and pates, regional wines. The bookshop was his business, and like any true bibliophile he had a passion for it, but his avocation was cuisine, and the French, he insisted, had the finest in the world. Far from arguing, I was his eager pupil, and under his attention I blossomed.

Perhaps too much. My clothes went from falling off me to fitting to pinching, and I voiced my concerns to Jean-Luc as we sat in the Tuilleries one Sunday watching the sun go down.

“Your wounded dove will soon be too fat to fly,” I complained, rubbing my belly, which was full of shrimp, salade composee, pate and crackers, grilled eggplant, warm farmer’s bread, slices of Camembert and pears and a large bottle of Perrier.

Jean-Luc smiled and teasingly pulled back the tiny eclair he had been guiding toward my mouth.

“As for the gander, also for the goose, yes?” He patted his own stomach, which had grown visibly softer as well. His arms and legs were still strong – you’d be surprised how heavy a carton of books can be – but he’d grown sleek and satisfied-looking that spring, his sharp cheekbones now playing hide and seek, his chin doubling when he looked down on me. The turtlenecks he favored pulled snugly across his thickening belly and he’d stopped buttoning his blazers.

“When one is in love, one becomes satisfied,” he pronounced, and dangled the eclair just above my mouth.

“Oh, oh, no, oh, yes,” I conceded. The eclairs were from a patisserie around the corner from his shop and were meltingly divine. The dozen he had brought along vanished like a birdsong on the breeze.

Afterward, instead of escorting me to my flat he led me back to the bookshop. He unlocked it, led me in, locked it behind him. He led me up a flight of stairs to his own flat.

“It is shabby, a peasant’s hut,” he said apologetically. “I have never cared, but now ...”

He produced Champagne and, asking permission with raised eyebrows and a soft kiss, undressed me. He unbuttoned the tiny buttons of my sweater with care and dedication; he unhooked my bra and took my breasts tenderly into his hands like plucking ripe pears from the branch. His long fingers delicately traced my softening sides and cradled my growing belly.

“Delicious,” he murmured, and scooped me up. He laid me on the bed and eased off my skirt and panties. His own clothing he discarded with quick, graceful efficiency, and then we were naked under the soft, ragged quilt, with lamps lit and Champagne chilling, and he pressed his long, strong body to mine and I felt with a shock of pleasure the sensation of his warmly full stomach pressed to mine. The weight we both had gained was suddenly not a detraction but a sensuous addition. Paul and I had both been slender and my memories of lovemaking included bony elbows and the sensation of ribcage to ribcage, shoulder blade to shoulder blade, sharp hipbones gliding rhythmically below flat bellies.

Here, Jean-Luc gently lowered himself onto me, his chest warm against my fuller breasts, and as his roundly full belly pressed against my own stuffed tummy, I felt alive for the first time in months, electrified with the softness and the unexpected arousal of gently intimate pressure on my tautly firm middle.

As we coupled, the rhythm felt as natural as ocean waves, and I was undistracted by the feel of hipbone to hipbone, for now ours were more padded. Instead I was drawn to the feel of full bellies smushed against each other, the gentle, steady movement both arousing me and serendipitously providing a much-needed massage, not adding pressure but relieving it.

Finally sated, in all ways, we lay in each other’s arms, our fingertips discovering each other, saying little. Eventually Jean-Luc got up, put on a dressing gown, padded to the kitchen and returned with the Champagne and two flutes.

“To my dove,” he said, lifting his flute in a toast. I was still naked and had drawn the sheet to my collarbone. After we drank he gently plucked the sheet from my hand and pushed it back down. With his free hand he cradled a breast, lowered it with care, ran a finger down my torso and came to rest in my navel, now burrowed into a little cushion of padding.

“When one is in love,” he said again, “one becomes satisfied.” He nuzzled my neck as he spoke, his liquid French warm against my shoulder. “Too many women are ... skeletal ... fragile sparrows ... bah!” He drew back, his face clouded with indignation, then rose and began to pace.

“The women in art whose faces are alight, who look alive and ready to walk off the canvas, they have the curves of a woman. Consider Rubens ... look at ‘The Bathers’ ...” He paused to pour us refills and drew out his hand. “Come, my dove, let me look at you.”

I stood, half expecting him to draw me to him, but he laid his free hand on my shoulder, keeping me at arm’s length.

“There,” he pronounced. “A lovely shape, a true hourglass, all softness and curves. Sharp edges are for walls and corners, not women.”

Then he guided me back to bed and resumed his explorations of the region around my belly button, mapping my new tummy cushioning, exploring my newly padded hips, sneaking north to cradle my breasts and then south again.

Spring ripened to summer.

 

Rainy

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... et qui n'est, chaque fois, ni tout à fait la même ni tout à fait une autre, et m'aime et me comprend. I've always liked that.

Magnifique et très bien écrit! To say that you are a machine for turning out the sheer volume of your pieces would be an injustice; each are researched, well-crafted, and leave me with a little food for thought (as it were).

Might you mean Renoir's The Bathers - not Rubens? Looking again, perhaps I misinterpreted the sentence and Rubens was intentional. Of course it would not distract from the story, regardless!
 

Big Beautiful Dreamer

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Thanks, Rainy. I'm afraid I did make that remark unclear. Jean-Luc was referring to, first, the ouevre of Rubens and, second, the painting called "The Bathers," which, as you note, is a Renoir and not a Rubens. But I see how it could be read: "Look at Rubens ... look at [Rubens'] 'The Bathers' ..."

Any interest in seeing this story continue, or does it seem complete as is?

Anyone? Anyone?
 

rabbitislove

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I could go either way but I LOVED this story!!! :) Jean Luc sounded like something out a romance novel Id actually read :)
 

Mac5689

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I was going to say something to the effect that i would like to see more of this story yesterday, but from the way you ended that part you all ready written, i didn't know if you had already made up your mind.

but since you don't seam to, put me in the column that would like to see more of this story.
 

captaincane99

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This may be one of your better stories (which is saying quite a bit). While the glutton in me always wants more of a good thing, I think you ended this chapter quite nicely and I do not think you'd be doing
this story a disservice if you decided to end it here and focus on the next one.
 

Big Beautiful Dreamer

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You know, that's why I asked -- truly, not because I was fishing, but because, having gotten to that point, I could go either way, as you noted, captaincane. Since I've posted it, the muse hasn't particularly struck again with Jean-Luc and his mademoiselle. I think I'll just keep them on the back burner and wait to see if and when something crops up.

I'm not teasing readers, honestly. I'm sort of waiting to see if the characters do anything. I can't tell you how many times I've had characters go in a direction I completely did not see coming. So for the moment, I'm waiting on them to see if they're going to make the next move.

<adjusts binoculars>
 

billedmeup

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I loved it as usual. You can stop there but if you write chapter 2, their honeymoon year, I will definitely read it eagerly.
 

Big Beautiful Dreamer

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Part 2

I continued to fret about my weight gain, which was showing up not just on my tummy but everywhere: my face was becoming noticeably fuller and I could see suggestions of a double chin in the mirror. I went up a bra size and an underwear size, as the bottom of my panties had begun slicing into my butt cheeks and were no longer able to come anywhere close to covering them. When every skirt and pair of pants gave me not just a muffin top but actual pain, I gave in and tracked down some inexpensive secondhand goods at the flea market, including a really cute leather jacket, made even cheaper because it was July at the time.

The fuller my figure became, the more eloquent Jean-Luc became. “Magnifique,” he would declare; “tres jolie.” I was bountiful; I was every inch a truly beautiful woman; I was luscious like the best chocolates; my breasts were sweet ripe pears falling gently into his waiting hands. Was it my imagination, or was Jean-Luc leaning on the food metaphors?

Maybe it was because in nourishing his wounded dove, he’d been nourishing himself as well. I started seeing new shirts and new pairs of trousers, and they were larger. His waistline was no longer trim but thickening, his belly soft and spilling over his belts. His face, too, became fuller, cheekbones elusive, chin cushioned. Contrasted with his broad, well-muscled arms and legs from toting books, his belly after a good meal – and they were all very good meals – was firm and swollen, fascinatingly tempting in the lamplight. And when afterward he would walk me home, our arms around each other’s burgeoning waists, I would cuddle his love handles, enjoying the snuggly softness, and he would teasingly pinch at the pad of flesh at my side.

I had learned, after much trial and error, weeping, collapsed soufflés scraped into the bin, the elements of French cooking. I had read and reread crucial portions of Mastering the Art of French Cooking until I could recite them by heart. And our meals were now taken, in roughly equal proportion, in my kitchen, his kitchen, or in a restaurant.

It was on one of the former occasions, a Saturday in August, that Jean-Luc seemed sober and distracted. I’d made a simple coq au vin, but paired it with pommes dauphinoise, poached pears, pate, a chocolate soufflé that had not collapsed, and a cheese tray. We were lingering over the last, sipping brandy, and I finally asked him bluntly, as an American would.

“Jean-Luc, what’s troubling you?”

He gave me a watery half-smile. “My dove, it is ... nothing.” He cleared his throat. “Tomorrow, you will permit me to show you something?”

“Of course.” I hiccupped. “Oh–hic! Is there any more of the Camembert?”

He smiled more broadly as he popped a piece into my mouth. “My little dove’s favorite.”

“Not little anymore,” I said morosely and automatically. Jean-Luc sobered and stood up, patting his belly, which was full of chicken, potatoes, and pears and was tautly distended. He pulled me to my feet and embraced me from behind.

“Cherie. How often must I tell you? I find you astonishingly attractive. Women are women, not bundles of kindling, all knots and bones and sharp edges – bah! Do you think those walking skeletons of high-fashion madams appeal to even their husbands? No, I tell you, Renoir, Rubens, Seurat, they all knew what they were about. These great artists, their women looked as a woman should look.” Playfully he patted his hands on my own tummy, which like his was swollen and tender. “A woman is most appealing when she shows that there is something to her.” With that, he turned and began the washing up.

“Remember,” he said, kissing me at the door as he left, much later that evening, “Tomorrow I show you something.”

He might have slept the sleep of the just in his little flat above the bookshop, but I laid awake all night, and it wasn’t the pears and cheese keeping me up. I was curious as I could be. What in the world did Jean-Luc want to show me that was so important that he had to make an announcement? We always spent Sundays together, the one day a week the shop was closed, and I couldn’t imagine what he had in mind that would be so momentous.

The next day, infuriatingly, he acted as though nothing was going on. He showed up with the newspaper, a box of freshly made croissants from our favorite patisserie, and made café au lait for us both. I sliced the leftover pears and added some cantaloupe, and fried sausages and tomatoes.

We ate leisurely, hugely; idling our way through the paper, and afterward Jean-Luc was satisfied and logy and began casting longing glances in the direction of the sofa.

Surely he hadn’t forgotten.

“You ... said you had something to show me,” I finally blurted. His eyes opened wide.

“But yes,” he exclaimed, and got to his feet to begin the washing up. “Go and put on a pretty dress for me, my dove. The blue and white one I bought you.”

The blue and white one that was among the few dresses left that actually fitted over my growing breasts and bottom and my thickening waist. It clung a little more than I might have wished to the new folds of my tummy, but I still had pretty calves, and the dress showed them off.

Jean-Luc exclaimed over me and led me up toward, I thought, the ninth arrondissement, his arm protectively around me and nuzzling my love handles. He headed not to his shop, however, but into the third arrondissement and finally to the Rue Perree.

“Voila,” he said triumphantly, and gestured to an apartment building.

I looked at him quizzically, but he was already tugging me up the steps. “Come, come,” he insisted. I let him drag me along to one of the flats. To my surprise, he fished out a key and let us in. The flat was clean and empty – except for Jean-Luc’s favorite low wing chair by the windows.

“Come, sit,” he urged. Still baffled, I did as he asked. He knelt in front of me. Gathered my hands into his.

“La reine de mon vie, mon couer, mon chateau,” he said. His eyes were misting over. Those gorgeous eyes! La reine de le defunt Sainte-PaulMy Paul, he meant. “Vouloir vois faites-moi l’honneur de seyant mon mariee?”

Now I was crying, and laughing, all at once, and so was Jean-Luc. He pulled me to my feet, we dabbed at each other’s faces, and then, wetly, he drew a box from his pocket. A beautiful ring, a square-cut diamond framed by topaz stones.

Last April, as the chestnuts began to blossom, I had laid aside my charcoals and returned to pastels, allowing color into my life once more.

This April, I floated down the steps of City Hall in a white Empire-waist dress, tea length, layers and layers of sheer swirling around me, a gorgeous bouquet of tulips, an explosion of color, in my hand. The layers concealed my unmistakably plump tummy – since landing in Paris I had put sixty pounds on myself – but from the cap sleeves flowed softly rounded arms, and the dress hugged my newly enhanced curves.

The hand under my arm, as my husband helped me down the steps, was also undeniably more padded, as Jean-Luc had added fifty pounds, his once-lean frame now sleek and satisfied, his face full and ruddy, his temptingly plump belly supported by strongly muscled arms and legs.

At the foot of the steps he scooped me, shrieking, into his arms with only a small grunt, earning a round of applause from the passers-by.

“My dove,” he pronounced, settling me back on my feet and cupping my softening chin(s) in his hands. “My dove. Fly always, and nest with me every night.”

I nuzzled against his cozy chest, wondering how outrageous would be the cost of the truffles I would feed him in celebration. Who cared?

I murmured into his ear: “J'ai encore une fois établir la joie de vivre
 

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