BHM Served (eventual BHM, civilian turned feeder, slow burn, economic satire)

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stevita

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Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
169
Location
Texas
Estrella lived in a modest two-bedroom, one bathroom house on 31st-and-a-half, along with her twin sister, Isabela, who preferred Bella. Bella was fat and jovial and Christyn liked her immediately when she came calling to check on Estrella, bottle of vodka and box of homemade lemon cookies in hand--Rosa and Maria had raised her never to come to somebody’s house empty handed, and it was a rule that had stuck with her.

“Your nails are so pretty, who does them?” asked Bella as she led Christyn into the kitchen and let her set down her things on the counter.

“I do them myself. I buy the packs of 100 for five bucks and paint them.” She didn’t consider herself very good, but her hands were much steadier nowadays. Right now she had on red nails, but she usually did rose gold, with some glitter as a top coat if she felt like it.

Bella took Christyn’s hand in hers over the counter. “You did these yourself? Impressive! If you ever want designs though, I work at a nail shop on Hammerly. First time customer discount, twenty dollars!” She waved her nails in front of Christyn’s face; they were beautiful, purple ombre with a gradient coat of gold glitter and swirls done in black.

“Those are lovely! But I can’t wear anything so elaborate, they’d just get messed up at work. I’m sure you understand.”

That’s when Estrella hobbled into the room on crutches. “Christyn, you’re here! And you’ve brought drinks!”

“And refreshments!” She popped open the box of cookies while Bella took a trio of plates from a cabinet.

“Oh, not for me. Maybe this one, though. You know, we were identical at birth? But of course, she can’t put the fork down…”

“The little stick bug loves to tell me how to live, for someone who was kicked out of Westpoint.”

“¡Ay! Leave me alone!”

“You started it.”

“You did start it,” Christyn agreed. “And I made these especially for you; they are Keto and you’ll hurt my feelings if you don’t at least try one!”

Estrella reluctantly took a cookie, conceded that it was pretty good, and fixed herself a stiff vodka soda. “Don’t you have any juice?” asked Christyn. She was still unsure what this ‘Keto’ diet really was; she’d looked up the cookie recipe online but that was the extent of her research.

“Topo Chico?” Estrella offered.

“It’ll have to do,” said Christyn as she fixed herself a vodka soda, quarter strength. The girls took their drinks into Estrella’s room, a darkly decorated space with blackout curtains on the windows, a camo bedspread, and a flag on the wall bearing the words COME AND TAKE IT and the silhouette of some sort of rifle. Estrella collapsed into her computer chair, pouting.

“I hate being out of work! Even more, though, I hate not being able to work out.”

Christyn winced. She had a lingering suspicion that Estrella had been with Damian when she got injured, but she didn’t want to bring it up. She didn’t know whether Estrella would be as worried about him as she was, or upset with him for putting her life on standby. Either reaction would have been understandable, but just in case Estrella did begrudge him, Christyn didn’t want to hear about it. Her heart was hurting too much for him to hear a bad word about him, even if he was an idiot for driving drunk.

“I actually wanted to talk to you about work,” said Christyn, settling onto the corner of the bed. “You were absolutely right about that restaurant. Libby McCarthy is up to no good.” With that, she spilled every detail of what she’d discovered in Estrella’s absence from the re-used food to the exploding wine bottle. “I wanted to tell you at work on our next shift together, but then you got your knee broke and Libby put me in the ice box.”

“She re-uses sent-back food? That’s disgusting!” squeaked Estrella. “We need to call the health department! Or, better yet...threaten to call the health department, and use it as a bargaining chip for better conditions!”

“I thought about that, I really did,” said Christyn. “But then I remembered something Libby said to me. She has the TABC bought off; I’m sure she has the health inspector in her pocket, too.”

“So what are we gonna do?”

“Make what money we can and be on the lookout for better jobs, I guess.”

“What money, for me? I’m off my feet for six weeks, at least.”

“I know, and I was thinking about that. The Cannon Distillery is holding a bartending contest in November. Now that I’m a bartender, I was going to enter...but then I thought, you could use the prize money more than I can, seeing as how this injury is putting a dent in your finances. And, since I’m friends with the owner, I’m poised to sweet talk my way onto the panel of judges.”

“You’d really do that for me?”

“Of course! You’ve always had my back at the restaurant. Be a dick move of me not to get yours.”
 

stevita

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
169
Location
Texas
“You have a fifteen-top at eleven thirty in the cocktail section; I hope you’re ready!” said Libby with a mean smirk as Christyn dusted off the bottles in the well for the fourth time this morning. Business had been slowing down since she had become a bartender; once in a while she ‘forgot’ to overpour the drinks and the customers, not being wasted enough to ignore how terrible the food was, sent it back, never to return.

In addition to this, she was neglecting to ring up sodas and teas. She was redefining the meaning of ‘extra lemons’ when a customer ordered them. She gouged Libby any way she could. For Christyn, it was an act of retaliation for every insult and belittlement the woman put her through on the clock.

For different motivations, Felipe began to adopt the same techniques. Christyn had shared with him and everyone else all of Libby’s terrible business practices, and he blamed her, rightly so, for Shane’s grievous injury. He wanted to cut her like she had cut Shane.

With the resulting decline and business, staff had to be cut, and the AM bartender was now responsible for the cocktail tables as well as the bar. As Marcos and Alvaro, the barbacks, put the tables together, Christyn thought to herself that it was nothing she couldn’t handle.

Soon, the fifteen-top trickled in. They were all very well-mannered and well-dressed, politely ordering glasses of wine alongside waters with ice or no ice or lemons or no lemons and there, at seat 8…

Christyn struggled to put a name to the face, but with some effort, she dug it up out of her memory banks. “Paul?”

“Chris?”

Christyn smiled in delight.

Paul Slater was the youngest in the group by a fair margin. He had been her high school crush, before being forced out of her home drove her to drop out of high school and look for work. At home, Chester had drawn her into his orbit, but at school, Paul had been her comfort. He was her favorite member of their study group, always ready with a joke to lighten the mood, and he was calculated enough to beat her about half the time at chess, even after she stopped letting him win. He still wore his hair the same way--parted to the side and gelled--but he had halved his weight in the years since she had known him, making her fail to recognize him at first.

(Was Damian right? Did she have a preference for heavyset gentlemen? Either way, Paul was a bad example. Christyn had admired him for his wit and his humor back in the day, and never taken his weight into account. Could she have fallen for a thin guy? Sure. But she had wanted Paul, though they were only ever friends.)

“What brings you and your fourteen friends out this morning?”

“We’re with the environmental lobby. We’ve just won a major victory in the city, and we wanted to come out and celebrate!”

“That’s wonderful news!” said Christyn, clapping her hands together with a hop-in-place of glee.

“So, what appetizers do you recommend?”

“Well, before anything else, I’m going to recommend a couple of happy hour bottles of wine for the table, in light of the occasion. Who drinks red, and who drinks white?”

“Is it happy hour already?” asked the lady at the head of the table.

“Not technically, but for you guys, I’ll pour ‘em. It’s for the environment!” She didn’t want to get them hammered on the technically illegal martinis, but she did want them buzzed enough to actually enjoy the awful food, now that they were here. Could she have used them as an opportunity to expose the restaurant for what it was? Sure, but she would rather Paul and his colleagues have a good time.

Wine flowed, lunch was ordered, and before the end of the meal, Christyn dropped off a whole round of brownies that came complimentary to guests celebrating a birthday.

“Did you want a plastic sack for your box?” asked Christyn as she brought one of the gentlemen his change and his leftovers in a brown paper box.

“Oh, that won’t be necessary.”

“Thank goodness! You know, I asked someone that last week, and he had the nerve to deride me for it! Said I should have brought him one automatically, and that I was being ‘too sensitive,’ and that back in his day people used to throw plastic sacks in the bayou all the time, like it was acceptable! Now I know most pollution of the waterways is oil and gas and commercial fishing, but can you believe some people?”

“I didn’t know you were also passionate about the environment, Miss…?”

“Oh, Christyn’s always been passionate! She even runs a blog about climate change,” said Paul.

Christyn blushed. “I haven’t posted to it in a while. But it’s still up, if anyone wants the link I guess I can write it on the back of your receipt.”

The environmental lobbyists finished paying their tabs and left one by one. Paul was the last to leave. Lingering in the entryway while Christyn stood with her back to the door to hold it open, he said, “I’m glad I got a chance to see you again, Christyn. To tell you the truth, I was head over heels for you back when we were in school.”

“No kidding? I was enamored with you! Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

“Are you serious? You were so far out of my league! You were so attractive--still are attractive. Jesus, other than the dye job, you haven’t changed a bit, and me? I was always the fat guy.”

“That’s crazy. I always thought you were out of my league.”

“Why on Earth would you think that?”

“Well, for one thing, you finished our sophomore year as valedictorian,” said Christyn. “Everyone knew you were going to do great things.”

“But the extra weight--”

“Never bothered me,” she cut him off. “You were soft. You gave the best hugs.” His nose wrinkled at that and she added, “Not that I’m trying to invalidate your efforts. If this is what makes you happy, then of course, I’m happy for you! But you’ll always be the same Paul inside, whether the scale says 150 or 300.”

“Thanks, Christyn,” said Paul. “You might change your mind about that, though, if you experienced what I could do to you, now that I don’t get out of breath so easily.”

She flushed crimson at the implication. He leaned closer, close enough for her to smell the wine on his breath...but before he could make a move, or she could stammer that she was spoken for, one of the women in his group called from the parking lot, “Slater, what are you waiting for? We carpooled!”

“Call me,” he said, and tucked his business card into the breast pocket of her oxford shirt.
 

stevita

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
169
Location
Texas
Shane returned to work with twenty stitches from the center of his palm to the junction between his forefinger and thumb. Though he insisted he was fine to work, she did all of his wine service all shift, not wanting his stitches to open up tableside.

“I’m surprised you came back,” she said as they were printing their checkout reports. “I don’t plan on sticking around for much longer. Not with Libby running the place like she does.”

“I don’t like it either,” said Shane. “I can’t even file worker's comp, because she threatened to fire me if I did. But who else is going to hire me, with a charge pending?”

“You’d be surprised! Just the other day I was at the Houston Symphony with the agency...as we’re breaking down, one of the cashiers screams at this busser to get out of her way, and he was like, ‘I ain’t tryna be in nobody’s way, I got warrants!’” She chuckled at the memory. “That guy’s a pretty cool cat, too. Name’s L’vonte, I worked with him again yesterday at the convention center. He snatched a few potatoes from the kitchen and invited me to his apartment to try his potato soup. We’re supposed to do shrimp Alfredo at my place next week. Anyway, you’d like it at the agency. There’s a few problematic personalities, but otherwise, most everyone is chill, and it’s easy money. Free food sometimes, too. They always feed us at the Symphony. You can use me as a reference, if you want.”

“Thanks, Christyn, but it was stressful enough to learn the bus route here. Having to take the bus to multiple venues sounds like a nightmare, and I couldn’t ask Felipe to drop me off all the way downtown. I even feel bad having him pick me up to take me here, even if we are kind of seeing each other.” With a sigh, he added, “I’m gonna miss you when you do leave. I’ll still have Felipe, but you’re just about the only other good thing about this place.”

***

Christyn had seventeen missed calls over the course of the month from a number she didn’t recognize. They had all come when she was at work, until finally, whoever calling managed to catch her on her day off, while she was eating ramen noodles with a homemade spinach and avocado pesto in bed and flipping through the latest issue of Food and Wine, which she had received a subscription to after filling out an online survey. She picked it up, hoping it would be one of the jobs she had recently applied to, although she didn’t hold out much hope. Nobody would be that persistent at trying to hire a server or bartender; they would simply move on to the next candidate.

The automated message on the line told her that someone in the Harris County Penal System was trying to reach her, and would she please enter a valid credit card number to accept the collect call.

She scrambled for her credit card and punched in the number. “Christyn! Thank God, finally!” said Damian once the call was connected.

“Damian, what took you so long?”

“I don’t know your number by heart. I had to call my boy Weezy and get him to get someone at my job to get it from someone at your job...shit took forever.”

“At least you got through!” said Christyn. “Listen, now that you’ve got me, how much money do you need, and what do I have to do to bail you out?”

“I was actually gonna stay in here,” said Damian. “I just called to see...how you were doing.”

“What? Why?”

“Stella was in the car with me...I don’t remember anything from the drive except the sound of ambulances, and they told me I blew 0.15. 0.15! Just thinking about what I might have done...I think I have to sit here and pay for it. Stella’s kind of bitchy, but I never wanted to hurt her, or God forbid, kill her.”

“She’s fine!” said Christyn. “Her kneecap is fractured, but she’ll be back to work in a few weeks. Now stop being a self-appointed martyr and tell. Me. How. Much.”

“I can’t take any more of your money, Christyn. Not after all you’ve already done for me. But you never answered my question.”

“Question?”

“Are you doing okay?”

Christyn hesitated. In truth, she was miserable...but she didn’t want to give him her own problems to stress about; she was sure he was under enough stress already. “I’m fine...I made some friends at work and even ran into one of my old high school buddies. I’d be better if I had my best friend back, though. Won’t you please reconsider letting me bail you out?”

After a long pause, he offered a compromise. “How about I call my sister? It’ll take a while to get a hold of her, I already know. But she has the money, or at least her third husband does.”

“Atta boy.” Christyn smiled. “Let me know as soon as you’re back on the outside!”
 

stevita

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Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
169
Location
Texas
THIRTEEN

Between two jobs, October flew by in a daze for Christyn, ending in a wild Halloween party that Felipe threw at his apartment as a ploy to divert attendance from Libby’s staff party at the restaurant that she held on the same day.

Defiantly, Christyn showed up at the restaurant, snickering at the party’s pathetic attendance as she strode through the door in a black A-line halter dress that used to be Auralee’s back when she had hovered around 180, which had been a good weight for her towering height, but that mother of hers was impossible to please. On her head, she wore a black spherical hat. The costume was meant to be a visual pun: she was a pawn. That’s what they all were at this restaurant.

“Christyn, I didn’t think you’d come!”

“Oh, I can’t stay. I’m headed to Felipe’s; I just needed my check.”

The scowl on Libby’s face was priceless.

Soon, it was time for the Cannon Distillery’s cocktail competition. Christyn and Estrella got their shifts covered before the event and headed to the distillery in different cars so as not to appear as co-conspirators.

The competition took place in the bar area of the distillery, the eight judges seated at the barstools while 30 bartenders from all over the greater Houston area got behind the bar, one after the other, and put together a cocktail featuring Cannon’s 30-year bourbon, with a plethora of mixers, garnishes, and liqueurs at their disposal.

It hadn’t taken much effort to convince Roger to put Christyn on the judges’ panel, and as a late applicant, Estrella was close to the end of the lineup. In the days before the competition, the two women had hashed out a game plan.

Christyn was slightly buzzed from sampling upwards of 20 drinks by the time Estrella took the bar and created a cocktail featuring the bourbon shaken with Irish cream, cranberry juice, grenadine, and a dash of creme de violette, which she strained into a coupe glass and topped with champagne before fishing it with a brown-sugared egg-white froth that threatened opulently to spill over the sides of the glass, but precariously held its shape. The drink was beautiful, and the other judges were all but hammered by this point, having finished each of their samples while Christyn had taken only a small sip every time. Estrella made the drink again and poured it into 8 shot glasses for the judges, spooning the froth on top before distributing the shots.

The drink tasted horrible, reminiscent of antacid syrup, but the other judges were too drunk to realize it. Christyn had predicted this, and had advised Estrella to make the prettiest, most impressive-looking drink she could manage and wow the panel while their minds were softened by alcohol and easily dazzled by visuals. Christyn wrote Estrella’s name at the top of a fresh score card and gave her perfect marks for flavor, texture, creativity and presentation, all while saying things to the others like, “How brave of her, to combine fruit and cream in a bourbon-based drink. It sure beats doing the same with boring old vodka!” and, “The brown sugar really brings this cocktail into the decade, and the combination with the cranberry and the sweetness of the grenadine make it a perfect one for the fall season!”

Estrella left the distillery with a smirk, a plaque for her wall, and a check for $5000.
 

stevita

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Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
169
Location
Texas
In the wake of the success of their scheme, Christyn and Estrella decided to celebrate with a party to rival all others. When Christyn made mention of her plan to Jesse, he suggested they hold the party at his house in Spring, so that he might keep an eye on her and make sure she didn’t get too intoxicated.

This all worked out for Christyn, as Jesse’s house was spacious, lovely, well-lit with natural light from the windows, had a huge backyard, and would be perfect to accommodate all of her and Estrella’s friends.

She was at the house, getting ready in one of the many spare bedrooms for the guests’ arrival, when the call came in from Damian. “Yo, whaddup? Sis finally came through, what you doing?” He sounded slurred. Intoxicated? She supposed she would get intoxicated, too, if she had just gotten out of jail.

“I’m getting ready for a party. I’d love for you to come! I can text you the address, wire you some money for a ride…”

“I got you on the ride. Car might be totaled, but I still have a few bucks left over from the cafe. Yeah, text it to me, I want to see you!”

She did, before returning to her makeup and hair. She had it up in a loose, off-center updo low by the nape of her neck, letting a few stray curls hang loose along with the fringe in the front. Her lips were painted a deep burgundy and her eyes were lined in a way that made them look “Chinesey,” according to a few white coworkers, but she liked the elongated look of them. Her curvy body was sheathed with a long, lacy black dress she’d bought at the thrift store for seventeen dollars, which probably clung to her tummy more than Jesse would have preferred, but there was little that could be done about that. Back in the day, he had wanted her to wear a corset to “shrink her waist and make her an even more perfect dolly for Master,” but she had hard-limited that, worried about the corset impeding her at work, and now that she had spinal issues, it was no longer an option.

The dress also hugged her rounded derriere and put her generous cleavage on display. Satisfied that she looked good, she pinned a black silk flower to the side of her bun and made her way downstairs.

The guests were already starting to come in. There was Shane and Felipe, and L’vonte from ABC, and a bunch of Estrella’s friends, Jesse’s friends, too, and then, finally, Damian.

“You invited him?” asked Estrella, looking exquisite in a little green sequined off-the-shoulder number.

“Yeah, why not?”

“I was just worried he’d be mad at me, seeing as I landed him in jail.”

“Well, it’s not like you did it on purpose.”

Estrella was already a few drinks in, and a flush of shame rose in her cheeks to betray her.

“What? Why?”

“He had gotten involved in an embezzlement scheme at work and had a sudden attack of conscience! He started talking all crazy, saying he was going to go off and join the French Foreign Legion...I had to think on my feet! You understand, right? I thought if I got him drunk and made him take me home, they’d pull him over and only hold him for a few days, and then he wouldn’t be allowed to leave the county, at least until court...it would give him a chance to calm down...I didn’t think it would be weeks and weeks--”

“Yeah, well, I guess you didn’t count on it being his second offense,” Christyn spat.

“You’re not going to tell him, are you?”

“No...you are.”
 

stevita

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
169
Location
Texas
Naturally, the first thing Damian did when he got home was score some weed. The second thing he did was slip a neighbor $20 to buy him some vodka. He didn’t even like vodka, but there were things he wanted to forget for the moment, hard edges of his experience that he wanted to sand down to dullness. The third thing he did was phone Christyn, and how happy was he to hear that she was having a party, and he was invited! That meant more booze, and probably something decent to eat, too. It had been too long since he’d eaten anything that didn’t make him want to throw up.

The driver from the rideshare app dropped him off in front of an enormous house in Spring, and as he stumbled through the door, Christyn spotted him instantly and made a beeline.

She. Looked. Amazing.

Her flowing black dress accentuated every curve of her beautiful silhouette and made her skin seem to glow. He wondered what the occasion might be, but then he looked around at the house, at all the flowers in the decor and the servers holding trays of champagne, at all the people dressed nice, and back at Christyn and thought to himself that of course she would get married in black.

“Damian, Estrella has something to tell you.”

What, that she had caught the bouquet?

“Well damn, don’t a man get to eat first?” he slurred.

“...On second thought, that is a good idea. You’ve been drinking, haven’t you?”

“Maaaaaybe.”

She led him outside, practically having to support him, he was so unsteady on his feet. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

“It’s no trouble, you--Jesus--you barely weigh anything.” Her voice trembled as she spoke. She sat him down at one of the tables in the huge backyard under twinkling string lights and was gone for a minute before she returned to set before him a plate piled high with toothpicked little meatballs and sausages, pastries of every kind, and mini cupcakes. “You don’t have to finish it all, I probably got carried away. I just assumed...well, you must be famished!”

He was, but he was such a drunk mess that he had to eat slowly, as much trouble as he was having actually getting each bite into his mouth. “How much did you drink?” asked Christyn as she watched him struggle. “Don’t tell me I’m going to have to feed you…”

As much alcohol as he had coursing through his bloodstream, popping a boner was out of the question, luckily for him, because now was not the appropriate time. “I wish you had told me sooner,” he said.

“So, you figured it out.”

“It’s pretty obvious,” he said. “I’m happy for you.” Even if he didn’t approve of her choice of a husband.

“Wait...are we talking about the same thing?”

Just then, Jesse strode up behind Christyn, wrapping his arm possessively around her waist. “How are you enjoying the festivities, kitten?”

In a sudden moment of clarity, Damian absolutely fucking lost it.

He sprung out of his seat, clutching the back of the chair for support. “Well, if it ain’t the man of the hour! The luckiest man on Earth!” he slurred.

He’d had a lot of time to think in jail about all of the suspicious little things he ever noticed about Christyn’s relationship, and now that he was out, he had to call Jesse on it once and for all. It was just a tragedy that he was too late.

“And way luckier than you deserve! It was good of Christyn to still marry you after you left her alone for months! And the lock pick she found in her house? We really breaking and entering now?”

“Damian, what are you talking about?” asked Christyn, but he was on a roll.

“What about the bruises and the cuts? She tried to make excuses for you, but she ain’t got no cats. And the slipped discs in her back?”

“I’d strongly suggest you shut up about things you know nothing about, boy,” said Jesse, his eyes narrowing, one fist balling at his side, but Damian wasn’t intimidated. There was a reason they called it liquid courage.

“You say you’re into BSDM or whatever it’s called, but you’re nothing but an abusive creep! Probably addicted to anime porn. Every time we talk about the day you guys met, she has a different story. What’s up with that? I just hope you haven’t brainwashed her into this marriage, because she's smarter than you give her credit for, and the day she figures you out, that’s the day you’ll be fucking sorry.” He took a champagne glass off a passing waiter’s tray. “It’s too bad. Christyn Markham kind of got a ring to it,” he said, raised the glass, and downed it.

He should not have done that.

Maybe the champagne hit him wrong, or maybe he had drank far too much already. Whatever the case, over the course of the next few seconds, he dropped the empty glass, which hit the grass with a dull, disappointing thud, bent double, and vomited all over Christyn’s shoes.

He hadn’t even caught his breath before Jesse punched him, hard and square in the face.

The blow knocked him to his back on the ground. In an instant, Christyn was at his side, helping him sit up. “Hold still. You’re bleeding profusely from the nose and mouth,” she said, dabbing at the blood with a linen napkin from one of the tables. She didn’t need to tell him; he was all too familiar with the metallic taste of his own blood. “My god, Jesse. Look what you’ve done.”

“Kitten, you understand, right?” said Jesse in this slow, sweet tone that sounded almost hypnotic. “Your friend is obviously confused; I needed to knock some sense into him.”

But for the first time, Christyn was having none of it. Whatever spell Jesse had her under seemed to have worn off. That sense of a worshipping air she always seemed to hold around him was gone, giving way to a slow boil of rage. Still on her knees at Damian’s side, she turned to fix Jesse with a glare. “You can do what you want to me...you can even convince me to like it...but the moment you lay hands on my best friend, you’ve blown it. My lease is up at the end of the month. When I leave, do not look for me.”

“Kitten, let’s be reasonable. It’s because of me you’re even functional today; surely you don’t want to--”

“Dump you in your own home in front of everybody? I believe I just did.” She took Damian’s hand and stood. “C’mon, buddy, you need to get up.”

He staggered to his feet with her help, following her back through the house and to her car in the driveway. Inside, it was even more of a mess than her apartment, with empty cans of lemon soda and scraps of paper all over the floor. “Sick whip,” he said sarcastically as she keyed the ignition.

“Yeah, the AC doesn’t work and the doors don’t lock, but at least she starts.”

“So what are you gonna do, get it annulled?”

Christyn laughed. “I wasn’t getting married. Estrella won a bartending contest.”

“Oh. So that’s what the party was about,” he said. “Hey, sorry about your shoes.”

“Don’t sweat it. I bought them at Goodwill for a dollar,” she replied. “You got health insurance?”

“What do you think?”

“Guess the hospital’s out, then.” She made her way to the end of the street and turned left, heading for the service road. “It’s no problem, I can just fix you up at my place. I happen to know liquor is a great general anaesthetic. How does a bottle of water and another two to three shots sound, along with a nice warm meal to hold them down?”

“Perfect. Just perfect.”
 

stevita

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Joined
Dec 7, 2019
Messages
169
Location
Texas
Restaurant owners loved to staff up in the months leading up to Christmas, and despite dwindling business, Libby McCarthy was no exception. The first half of November saw her hire no less than twelve new servers and three new barbacks.

She had kept Christyn in the ice box even after Estrella returned to work, which was nice, because it meant they never worked shifts together. Christyn was spending most of her downtime wishing she could tear Estrella’s face off for what she had done to Damian. The image of him drunk to dull the pain and so worryingly, achingly thin was burned into the back of her mind. She wished she could be with him 24/7, to care for him, to wait on him hand and foot until there was no doubt in her mind that both his body and his soul had recovered from his latest stint in county jail.

But there was always more work to be done. The temp agency was sending her more and more assignments, which she accepted whenever she could. She needed to find a new apartment soon, and wanted to pad her account with every possible dollar she could grab so the security deposit wouldn’t put a dent in her emergency fund.

Towards the middle of the month, Abigail called her into the central office for a meeting in person.

“Am I in trouble?” asked Christyn as she tiptoed into the office.

“Absolutely not! On the contrary, I have a lucrative offer for you!” said Abigail. “Our agency has been contracted for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo next Spring, to staff bartenders to the club level of the stadium! Now, seeing as they only have 40 spots for us, I wanted to reserve the assignment for our best of the best, and honey, that’s you.”

“Me? Really?”

“Christyn, listen to what some of our clients have to say about you.” She pulled something up on her laptop screen and read aloud: “‘Christyn is the epitome of a hard worker and has no objection to staying late to ensure the job is done.’ That’s from the convention center. ‘Christyn is always eager to help her team. It’s a delight to have her in the building. Please send her back as frequently as possible.’ That’s from Jones Hall. ‘Christyn Brandywine is a delight to work with; she is quick to take direction but also excels independently. I hope that you’ll forward me her contact information, as I would love to hire her on a more permanent basis.’ That’s from Sarah, from BBVA Compass Plaza. I hope you’ll forgive me for withholding your info; I’m a little selfish, you see. I’d like to keep you.”

“I have no qualms there, if it means you can get me into the Rodeo. I hear there’s beaucoup money to me made.” She didn’t like it much at BBVA anyway. Sarah was nice, but the food was terrible.

“Thank you so much! Oh, there is just one thing: we need you to commit to working all twenty-one days.”

“Abby, please, I think I’d be offended if you tried to force me off for a day during the biggest annual event in the city!”

***

Christyn wasn’t at the restaurant much, but she did manage to catch the rumors circulating about a new server who the others were dying to cut down to size. According to the talk, he had told Libby during his interview that he could sell ice to eskimos. He had also said, ‘I know you’re on a hiring spree, but you might as well stop now; I’m pretty much five servers rolled into one.’

She walked into one of the private dining rooms on a Sunday morning to find an unfamiliar face muttering over his menu test. “Fresh mozz...tomato...olive oil...balsamic...fuck, what else goes in a caprese salad…”

“Didn’t study?” she teased.

“Figured I’ve been in the restaurant game enough years. I’d know it off the top of my head if I wasn’t missing so much sleep.”

“Basil.”

He penciled in the answer and, finishing his test, stood to approach her, regarding her with his head tilted. He was maybe 5’6” to her 5’2”, lean and hard-muscled and sturdy, with brown hair, a pointed, intelligent face, and something familiar in his sharp blue eyes. “Thanks, Blondie.” (She had dyed her hair again; it was an intermediate blonde darker than the platinum she used to wear, but several shades up from her natural brown. She had also chopped most of it off; it fell to shoulder length now when it was down, but for work, she had it secured in a low, off-center ponytail with a ribbon. After she ended things with Jesse, she needed a change.) “So, if I may ask, what’s it like to work here?”

“Well, the food sucks, the owner’s a massive C-word, and the bottles of wine are liable to explode.”

“So, it’s a restaurant,” he shrugged.

She gaped, his blase response throwing her off.

“Look, honey, I’ve been in the restaurant business long enough to know how to work with food that sucks. Honestly, it sucks most places you go. Just salt, fat, and carbs; that’s all it is. But with the right buzz-words at the table, you can sell any kind of slop to idiots with deep pockets, and I happen to be the master of bullshit.”

“You must be the guy who said he could sell ice to eskimos.”

“Ah, so my reputation precedes me.”

While the rest of the staff had come to see the mysterious new guy as a rival, Christyn quite liked him. When he saw her struggling with a heavy case of wine, he took it off her hands and set it on the back bar for her. “Starting to lose steam after too many doubles in a row?”

“I wish. We rarely even get consecutive singles here,” said Christyn. “Libby is as stingy with scheduling as she is with everything else around here. I just have trouble with some of the heavier objects because of my spinal issues.” True, she could haul whole kegs on most days, but not without some difficulty, depending on whether it was a ‘good spine day’ or a ‘bad spine day’.

The rest of the shift passed in a similar fashion, with the new guy helping Christyn out with the toughest of her physical labor while she leaked inside information on Libby and secrets about the unsavory kitchen practices in the restaurant. They exchanged personal tidbits, too. For example, she learned that he used to be a personal trainer, for about a year, but couldn’t afford to renew his certifications, so he made an unhappy return to foodservice. For a while he worked at a popular Italian chain, but lost his place on the schedule after becoming grievously ill with pneumonia. That was how he came to apply at McCarthy’s. He was turning twenty-eight the following March, and secretly lamented that it was getting late for him to fulfill his lifelong dream of being a rock guitarist.

“What about you, Blondie, what are your dreams?” he asked as they finished the last of their sidework and walked out together.

“Get a better job after the Christmas season, for sure.”

“That’s not a dream, that’s a short term goal.”

“I’m just not feeling like much of a dreamer lately. I just got out of a bad relationship.” She lit up a cigarette.

“Well, what are you passionate about?”

She shrugged. “Helping people...the environment…”

“Well, what if you get your degree in environmental science?”

“I just can’t see myself outside the restaurant industry,” she sighed. “It’s a circus for sure, but it’s my circus.”

As they came upon the stairwell in the parking garage, the new guy lingered a few paces behind. “Aren’t you coming up?”

“I took the bus. I just wanted to make sure you made it across the parking lot safe.”

“How debonair of you. It really isn’t necessary, though. I may look soft, but I can hold my own.” She took the first few steps up before turning back around. “Say, I didn’t catch your name.”

“Makes sense, seeing as I didn’t drop it.” With a smirk, he disappeared around the corner of the building.
 

stevita

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169
Location
Texas
Christyn and New Guy’s brief touch on the environment during their conversation may not have inspired her to go back to school, but it did cause her to think of contacting Paul. Actually, a lot of things prompted her to fish for his business card in her laundry and dial his number.

There was the shock and loneliness, but also the potential, of being rid of Jesse. She was aching for the touch of a man, but also resenting Jesse for his utter lack of a willingness to fulfill her. He only ever took her from behind, and that was rarely. Usually, he preferred to tie her up, or hypnotize her into a tizzy, or make use of her mouth. How she had ever let him control her the way that he did was now beyond her. He was like a vampire; as soon as she let him in he just kept draining and draining.

She needed to cleanse her palate, and she wanted a good dicking down. And the way Paul had regarded her with lust in his eyes after a few glasses of wine…

Would he stay the night with her? Would he hold her in his arms and keep her warm as they lay breathing heavy and spent from climax?

It had been so long since she had experienced real intimacy. With Roger, it had been nothing but a drunk quickie; JD and her had been together for a while but he always rolled over in bed and became distant after they finished. Zeke...Zeke had been amazing, but it seemed every woman in Houston knew it and he was probably booked for the next three weeks solid between all his paramours.

Christyn lay on her stomach in bed, twirling the end of her hair with her headphones in while the phone rang three times. Then…

“Hello?”

“Paul, hey! It’s Christyn, I waited on you at McCarthy’s.”

“Chris, hey! To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“You said to me that once upon a time, you were head over heels for me. If that’s still the case, I still have pretty strong feelings about you, and wondered if you maybe wanted to get dinner sometime?”

They met the following week at Pasture, an organic health food restaurant that featured wine and cocktail service that Paul had picked out. She had been waiting for him on a bench outside the front door smoking cigarettes for ten minutes by the time he arrived. “Are you crazy? It’s freezing out here, you don’t even have a coat!”

Now that she thought about it, she felt rather silly: it was Jesse who insisted on her waiting outside for him before a date, and no humane man would make her do that in the 40 degree chill of November. Not that she was too cold, even in the sleeveless dress she had worn on Halloween (though, for dinner, she had left off the spherical hat). She supposed it would feel cold to Paul, though. He had gotten quite thin in the years they had been apart. “I wanted to smoke a cigarette before we went inside. But I’m just about done; let’s go in and eat!”

The hostess showed them to a booth in the front of the restaurant, and once Paul had the chance to remove his coat, revealing an expensive-looking tailored gray suit underneath, the waiter came to take their order. “I already know what I’m getting, but do you need a minute?” Paul asked Christyn.

She turned to the waiter. “What do you recommend for vegetarians?”

“What kind of vegetarian are you? Lacto, ovo, vegan…?”

“Dairy is fine, eggs are fine, and once in a while, I do shellfish.”

“Oh, the blackened shrimp here are amazing.”

“In that case…” She skimmed the menu for a moment. The shrimp tacos sounded good. She really wanted the pasta, but what if Paul made her eat it with her hands? It took her a second to remember she wasn’t out with Jesse and that normal men didn’t make demands like that. “I’ll have the blackened shrimp Cajun linguine.” Pasta in a spicy cream sauce with bell peppers, caramelized onions, and basil would be a delicious way to warm up on a chilly day. “And if you have a small dinner salad, I’ll start with one of those.”

“For your dressing, would you like ranch, balsamic, thousand island, or jalapeno honey mustard?” asked the waiter.

“Jalapeno honey for sure!”

“And for the gentleman?”

“Just my usual, Steve.”

“Gotcha. Hanger steak salad, mid-rare, no dressing, olive oil and lemons on the side?”

“Perfect, and I think I’ll start with a cup of vegetable and lentil soup and a glass of house cab. Christyn, did you know that drinking one glass of red wine has a similar effect on the body as an hour of exercise?”

“Really? That’s so interesting,” she said, even if she didn’t find diet-talk interesting at all, convinced the whole weight loss industry was a scheme to profit on the mass misery of the public. “Well, if you’re having wine, I’ll get a glass of house sauvie-B; that’ll go great with shrimp and cream sauce, won’t it?”

“Would the lady like some complimentary bread and herbed oil?” asked the waiter. “I already know Mr. Slater won’t eat it, but he’s never brought a guest before, so I thought I might offer.”

“Yes, please!”

Over bread, wine, and starters, Paul talked a lot about his work with the environmental lobby, until Christyn was halfway through her salad and he thought to check himself. “Chris, I apologize. I’ve been completely hogging the conversation, and being an absolute braggart at that.”

“It’s fine,” she said. “Work’s been a drag for me; I wouldn’t want to bring it up and dampen the conversation. Besides, it’s okay to brag. You’re working towards a great cause! But if you wanted to steer the conversation to something more entertaining, have you got any new jokes?” she asked. “I still tell that one all the time that you told me back in school, the one about an arrogant fraud artist going down a flight of stairs.”

A condescending con, descending. Classic!

Paul winced. “The corny ‘dad humor’ was never genuinely a part of me,” he admitted. “I just always felt like I had to alter my personality to make up for my looks. So I became the funny guy, the nice guy, the smart guy, in the hopes that it would make people overlook the fact that I was the fat guy.”

It was hard for Christyn to hear that all the things she had admired about him had, in fact, been a farce. Did she, then, really even know Paul Slater at all?

“Hey, folks, how is everything so far?” asked the waiter as he swung by their table.

“Great! This salad dressing is seriously delicious; would you mind bringing me some more on the side?”

“Not at all, ma’am. Sir, is the soup not to your liking?” he asked Paul, who had hardly touched his soup.

“It’s fine, I’m just saving my appetite,” said Paul. “If I’m being honest, I only ordered it because I didn’t want to make my companion eat her salad alone.”

“If you don’t care to eat any more of it, I can send it back and have it taken off the bill,” the waiter offered. Christyn wrinkled her nose, hating the idea of food waste when the streets were full of starving people.

“Do you know if it uses beef stock or vegetable stock?” she asked the waiter.

“Vegetable.”

“Then I’ll eat it, while I’m waiting on that dressing,” she said, and reached across the table. She’d probably end up taking the majority of her pasta to go, but that was alright. She could just eat it tomorrow.

“You shouldn’t stuff yourself on my account,” said Paul. “I wouldn’t want your figure to take a hit from finishing whatever I can’t.”

“Oh, come on, I’m hardly ‘stuffing myself’ with a small cup of soup.”

“And a salad...and most of a basket of bread...I wasn’t even going to say anything, but we still have entrees coming, and...well…”

“So just because you’ve lost weight, now you think I should, too?” asked Christyn. “That’s really funny--glad to see you’ve held onto some of your humor--because when you were wine drunk at my job, you said you were attracted to me. So which is it, am I attractive, or am I too fat for you, because I can’t be both, can I?”

“You’re very attractive! I just don’t understand your resistance to the idea of doing something to make yourself even more attractive.”

“Hmm...maybe I don’t need the extra salad dressing,” she said calmly, before standing up, dumping what remained of her salad directly in his lap, and striding out of the restaurant.
 

stevita

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Messages
169
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She had just gotten off working a shift for the agency and McCarthy’s was on her way home, so she swung by to pick up her check, and on her way out, she saw Eskimo (for she still didn’t know his name; it had become a game for them, each of them stubbornly holding out, so he was Eskimo and she was Blondie) waiting at the bus stop.

“When’s your bus arriving?” she shouted through the open window of her Fiat.

“Thirty minutes.”

“I can’t let you wait that long out here, it’s fixing to rain! Hop in.”

“Man, I really need to get one of these myself. It’s just a matter of funds,” he said, sliding into the passenger’s seat. “You’re a bold little thing, aren’t you, inviting a stranger into your car. One might say reckless. Go up to the light and turn right onto the service road.”

“I’d hardly call you a stranger,” said Christyn. “I might not have your name, but I have the strangest sense that I already know you.”

“True, there are only so many archetypes of people. You, yourself, happen to remind me of a woman I’ve seen only in pictures. You see, my cousin is an arrogant bastard and likes to get drunk at family functions and wave around pictures on his phone of whatever woman he’s got subjugated at the moment. He calls them his submissives, or slaves, and I guess he feels the need to show them off all tied up with his seed dripping down their faces to quell some deep burning inadequacy within himself. I don’t really know how S and M is supposed to work, but I’m certain he’s doing it wrong; violating these women’s privacy comes across to me as borderline abusive.”

Christyn swallowed.

“This last one, though, gave that brute just what was coming to him. Her name is Christy or something like that, and she left him dumped and humiliated in the middle of a house party. He hasn’t been the same since. He barely even eats, all his time is devoted to plotting revenge. Fucker’s got to have lost at least twenty pounds in a matter of weeks.” He regarded her knowingly from the passenger’s seat, as if waiting for a reaction.

“I’m surprised to learn Jesse drinks,” she said. “Christyn, by the way, my name is Christyn.”

“Alexander Markham, and what a relief it is to be known. Turn left on Bingle at the light.”

When they reached Alexander’s apartment, he invited her up for a spot of coffee. “Why?” she asked, scanning his face for traces of motivation. She didn’t think he was sexually attracted to her. Though they bantered at the restaurant, he had always kept a respectful distance. There were no eyes on her ass when he thought she wasn't looking, no hand a little too low on her back to signal ‘right behind’. But the self-proclaimed Master of Bullshit wanted something; she knew him well enough by now that he wouldn’t have tipped her off about Jesse for free. And now he was offering coffee…

“Well, to be honest, I had a proposition for you,” he said.

“I knew it.”

“See, ever since my last roommate got busted for possession and distribution, I’ve had trouble holding down the rent on my own. You mentioned at work that your lease is expiring. What I’m offering you is a spare room and a spare bed somewhere Jesse doesn’t know where you are, and physical protection if he ever catches wind. What I need from you is $300 a month.”

“Easy,” said Christyn, and extended a hand to shake. Alex took it firmly.

“Now, come up and let me make you that coffee!”

The inside of Alex’s apartment was strewn with workout equipment; Christyn could see why he was in a financial rut. He must be spending so much on all of this vanity. “My old roommate,” he said, “left this bag of instant behind, but I haven’t used any of it yet. I wanted to have somebody to share it with.” He led the way into the kitchen and retrieved the bag of instant coffee from a cabinet. Only, when he opened it, his face contorted with puzzlement. “Huh? I’ve never seen coffee like this before.”

Christyn got behind him and stood on her tiptoes to peer into the bag over his shoulder. Inside were white, rectangular blocks. “Um, what was your roommate dealing?” she asked. “And did he dip into his own supply? Because that’s not coffee, that’s soap. Those are bars of soap.”

“Goddammit!” he swore. He chucked the bag against the wall so hard Christyn was afraid he was going to dent the plaster. “I hate people who do meth!”

It took him a minute to steady his breathing. Christyn wondered if she was making the right decision to move in with him; clearly, tendencies toward anger ran in the Markham family. But in a seemingly conscious decision, Alexander had projected his anger in the opposite direction from Christyn, which was a good sign. And after the moment passed, he said, “Well, if you want, I can make you a chocolate vitamin shake.”

It was nice of him to offer, though the thought of diet food didn’t exactly appeal to her. Her expression must have given her away, because he said, “No? Okay...what about a chocolate vitamin shake with a little bit of vodka mixed in?”

Now, that was more like it!

“I guess I can be done driving for today. I’ll go get my stuff tomorrow.”
 

stevita

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Messages
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FOURTEEN

Damian got a job within walking distance of his apartment working graveyards as a cashier at the 24-hour fast-food drive-thru at the end of his street. He worked four nights a week for 10 hours straight and had the rest of his days off. The uniform called for black slacks, a white polo, and non-slip shoes, which he thankfully had. He didn’t even know the name of the place; the sign was broken out front.

The pay wasn’t great, but he got a free shift meal each shift, and one of the other cashiers, Brenda, gave him half of hers whenever they worked together, insisting she couldn’t finish because if she did, she would gain too much weight.

On top of the work food, he was stress eating junk at home. Whole sleeves of cookies or family sized bags of chips disappeared in single sittings; his sister had told him he would owe her big time for bonding him out, and he was dodging her calls, stuffing himself silly to pull his mind away from the dread of what she would want from him.

Back at The Capital, Christyn had made sure he was always able to eat well, but the work got so physically intense that he never gained much more weight than what he’d lost in jail, but now, he had a job that was so easy it was boring, barely requiring him to leave the register. He very quickly put every pound he’d lost back on, and he hadn’t intended to put on twenty more pounds on top of it in a little under five weeks, but he found himself enjoying it. He liked that there was more of him. Alone in his apartment, he would sometimes run a hand down the bit of squishiness that had settled around his stomach and give it a little squeeze, taking comfort that it was there. He liked feeling heavier, sturdier, and harder to push around. And, having grown up broke and usually hungry, the feeling of being full, even too full, gave him an intense rush of pleasure that almost always triggered the beginnings of an erection.

The fantasies about Christyn were getting more frequent. He was dreaming of her now at least twice a week, dream-Christyn feeding and fattening him up by another fifty pounds, rubbing his stuffed belly and lovingly caressing his body everywhere she’d made him soft.

She was single now, so he knew he had to shoot his shot soon before another guy beat him to the punch...but how was he supposed to explain all these thoughts to her?

One Monday off, he woke up at around 7 PM and noticed Auralee’s business card lying face-up on the nightstand. She had said some stuff when she came into the restaurant...she called herself a ‘feeder.’ The last time they spoke, she had come across as a little unsettling, but she was the only one he could think of who might know anything about what he was going through.

So, he called her up. “Auralee speaking,” she answered.

“Hey, Auralee, it’s, uh, it’s Damian, we met at the Capital.”

“Well, hello there! I was hoping I would hear from you. Calling to take me up on that job offer? If so, I have a part time position available.”

“I wish I could do that, but I don’t really have a car right now. I was actually calling because I wanted to talk to you about something. Remember when you mentioned you were a feeder?”

“Oh, Damian, I barely remember last Tuesday, but that does sound like something I would mention. Tell me, how detailed did I get?”

“Pretty, uh, pretty detailed.”

“And do I detect a hint of curiosity in your voice, hmm?” she asked.

“I...maybe?”

“Tell you what, Damian, I’d like to continue this conversation in person, perhaps over drinks, if you’ll consent.”

“Sure.”

“Great! What’s your address?”

He gave it to her, and immediately after getting off the phone, swept the floor of his small apartment and straightened up a few things, expecting her to come over. Instead, she sent her valet to pick him up.
 

stevita

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Auralee lived on the top floor of a towering apartment complex between downtown and Memorial City. Damian took the elevator up and knocked, a little self-conscious about how poorly he fit in with the picture of luxury he saw all around him, but Auralee welcomed him in with a smile.

“You look well,” she said. He flushed.

“I know I’ve picked up some pounds.”

“‘Picked up’? From where, the side of the road?” she laughed. “You young folks and your funny sayings. Come, sit down!”

Her apartment was full of fancy rugs and shelves lined with little knick-knacks, with velvet curtains and two couches in the living room that overflowed with cushions that were all very soft; he was unprepared for how quickly he’d sink into them when he sat down. “Sorry,” said Auralee, “I like soft things. Now, how about a glass of wine?”

“Sure, I guess, since I’m not driving.”

She went into the kitchen and returned with a bottle of wine and two glasses. The wine was dark yellow in color and deliciously sweet. “What is this?”

“Moscato. It’s a good wine for beginners. But let me just see here…” She walked towards him on the couch, and for a moment, he was afraid of what she might do. Thankfully, she didn’t try and molest him or anything, just placed her hand on his upper arm and gave it a light squeeze. “My, my, you are starting to fill out!” Her voice dripped with enthusiasm. Even if he wasn’t into Auralee, it excited him to hear that as a compliment. “How does it feel?”

He knew he must have been beet red as he admitted, “Good! Really, really good, almost too good, and I want more and I don’t understand it.”

She fixed him with a knowing, penetrating gaze. “I suspected this when we met. You might be a feedee.”

“A...what?”

“Someone who likes to overeat or gain weight. There are many different kinds of pleasure. So, if you’ll indulge my curiosity, how much more do you think you want to gain?”

“I don’t know. And the thing is, I wouldn’t want to do it alone.”

“Oh, so you want a feeder,” said Auralee, nodding slowly and still smiling. “It isn’t enough for you to simply get fat; what you want is to get fattened. Why, Damian...are you propositioning me?”

At that, he flushed deeper than ever. “N-no offense, Auralee...you’re an attractive lady, I’ve just always been into thicker women.”

“Relax. I was just messing with you, I didn’t mean to put you on the spot.” She had a musical laugh, despite a somewhat off-putting demeanor upon first impression. “Would you like a little piece of cake?”

He was going to tell her no thanks, unsure of how he’d feel about eating in front of her, but at the mention of food, a pang of hunger that almost hurt lurched his stomach and he realized he hadn’t eaten anything all day. “What kind of cake?”

“Strawberry.”

His eyes must have lit up or something, because she scuttled to the kitchen as fast as she could and came back with a piece of cake on a plate that was not what he would call ‘little’. Nevertheless, it was delicious, fluffy and coated in a sweet, creamy frosting that delighted his tongue and felt like heaven all the way down his throat, and he had over half of it put away in no time at all, pausing once in a while to drink more wine or look up at Auralee and see what she was up to over on the other couch.

“You eat like a little starved animal, has anyone ever told you that?” she said.

“It’s good cake.”

“I could give you the name of the bakery, if you like.”

“It’s probably out of my budget.”

“Have you always been on a tight budget?”

He told her a little about his past, how he’d grown up broke after the last of his mother’s modeling fortune had gone straight up her nose.

“That explains your easy progress so far. Most of the time with you younger guys, it’s a challenge to overcome your metabolism, but I imagine yours has already been damaged by having to go hungry.”

As he scraped the last of the cake crumbs and icing off the plate with his fork, he said, “I haven’t told this to anyone I know nowadays...but back when I was growing up, my sister didn’t like me to have my fill, and she never kept sweets in the apartment. I guess she thought if I kept a lean figure, I could take Mom’s place in the modeling industry when I got old enough.”

“And why couldn’t she take Mom’s place?”

“She loved the crack pipe too much to function. Anyway, in first grade, this kid in my class had her mom bake cupcakes for her birthday, and the first time I had one, it blew my fuckin’ mind. It was so tasty, even with the paper still on there, because I’d never even seen one before so I didn’t know I was supposed to take it off. For the rest of elementary school, I was the freak that ate the cupcake paper; that was just my reputation.”

Auralee burst out laughing, then shook her head and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to laugh! It’s just that sometimes I laugh when I’m sad.”

“It’s okay to laugh, it’s funny to me now.”

He glanced around the room, taking inventory. There was a grandfather clock in the corner that read 3:15 and a digital clock on a shelf that read 11:30. By the clock on his phone, it was 8:07. “Why the clocks don’t work?” he asked. If she was rich, why hadn’t she bothered to get them fixed?

“The same reason I keep the curtains drawn,” said Auralee. “Without his sense of time, a man might lose track of how long he’s been here, and how much he’s eaten, if I keep plates coming. Try your hand at getting out of that seat.” He managed to get to his feet, but it was a struggle; as soft as the couch was, it was easy to feel swallowed up by the cushions.

“That was hard. Woulda been really hard if I was drunker.”

“Or heavier,” said Auralee.

“You got quite a setup here. I bet you can put some serious weight on a motherfucker.”

“Thank you.”

“Hey, where you from?”

“You hear the accent, don’t you? I was born here, but my parents are from New York,” she said. “You know, there used to be a New York fat men’s club?”

“Really?”

“Back in the day President Taft was invited to join, but he never did, fearing the implications on his political career.”

“Ain’t that the bathtub guy?”

“And a stark opponent to prohibition, as well. Without that man, I might not have a job.”

After some time, she asked him, “Is there anything else you want to know?”

“Yeah, actually. How can you tell if someone’s a feeder or feedee?”

“Well, it’s simple, really. You have to ask!” said Auralee. “Now, if that’s all,” she went on, taking the empty plate out of his hands, “Wadsworth can take you home. I hate to cut this visit short, but I wanted to get properly shitfaced tonight, and at this early stage in our friendship--if I may call you my friend--that’s nothing you need to see.”

***

Damian was, of course, horrified by the prospect of asking Christyn to be his feeder. What if she was too weirded out? What if she wasn’t interested in him? Then again, thinking of all the interactions they’d had in the past...when he went to jail the first time, she had fought for his job and promoted him when he came back. When her boyfriend punched him in the face, she had taken his side and left the fucker in front of dozens of their friends. Christyn had always unconditionally accepted him, and the worst thing he could imagine happening was that she rejected him, but they remained friends.

His next day off, he paced his living room for a few minutes before pulling out his phone. He had a missed call from Stella, but he was avoiding her for now. After all, the last time he’d spent any time with her, he’d been arrested. He called up Christyn, and when she answered, he couldn’t think of what to say, so he settled on, “Sup?”

“Not much. I’m driving home from work. I was bartending at this law firm downtown for the agency,” she said. “What’s up with you?”

“I just, uh…” Come on, out with it, he thought to himself. “I was just thinking about you, and wondering if you were still single.”

“I am...although, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this guy I met at work back in March.”

“You have?” he said, instantly disheartened as he wondered who it was who had won her affection.

“Yeah, he’s always been really obvious about being into me, and now that I’ve given Jesse the boot, I’ve been thinking...he’s really cute, and really sweet, and I’d like to give him a chance.”

“Oh.”

“What do you think I should do?”

“I guess go get him, if you like him.”

“Great! Hey, when’s your next day off?”

“I’m off tonight--”

“Sweet, I’m off tomorrow! Want to have a drink? I can pick up some beer and come over.”

“That would be nice,” he said. A beer would definitely help ease the heartbreak right now.
 

stevita

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Damian must have been waiting up, because when Christyn arrived, he opened the door before she could knock. He looked...different. Good different, she thought to herself. She had expected to find him still wasting away, but instead, he had actually put on some weight. A noticeable amount, in fact. His cheeks, which she had seen heartbreakingly hollow in the past, were rounded back out like when she first met him, if not a little fuller. He was wearing her sweater, open, over a shirt that pulled snug around his softened middle. His thighs were thicker, too, crowding together ever so slightly. She supposed she shouldn’t be shocked; he’d been on the outside for several weeks now, and he had mentioned he had gotten a job at a fast food place. It brought a smile to her face and comfort to her heart seeing him like this, knowing he wouldn’t likely starve to death if she left him alone for too long. Or freeze. Every winter it seemed like it was getting colder.

“I missed you!” he said, and pulled her in for a hug.

“I missed you too, bud.” She ruffled his hair, then wrapped her arms around him. It was so nice not to feel his bones through his skin. His soft little belly pressed against hers and she let out a tiny squeak of delight.

His apartment was sparsely furnished, but very clean. There was a couch, a table, and an air mattress in her plain view, plus a microwave on the kitchen counter, a modest television set, and a trash can in the corner. He led her to the table in the kitchen, where they cracked open a couple of the beers she’d brought over. “So, did you talk to that guy you were telling me about?” he asked.

After downing half of her beer in one pull, she laughed. “That guy...the one I met at work? Back in March?” she said. “I was hoping you’d take the hint. I was talking about you.”

“You...you like me?”

“Yeah, I really do.”

“Even now?” he asked. “I know I’ve put on a bit of a gut...actually, it’s a little over 20 pounds since we met.”

20 pounds...somehow, it looked more dramatic than that, but then, she had seen him fresh out of jail twice now, a good 20 pounds under the weight she was used to seeing him at, and now that he was that same amount over, the contrast was stark. “You checked?” she asked. “You actually own a scale?”

“You don’t?”

“Dude, you’ve been in my house. No, I don’t own a scale. Honestly, having a whole appliance just to spit a number at you that represents your relationship with gravity comes across as a waste of money to me.” She finished her beer and cracked open another before he was done with his first. “But yes, I like the extra weight on you. If anything, I’m not afraid to break you now. Anyway, you met my last boyfriend, he even punched you in the face. You can’t tell me you actually think I discriminate in the bedroom based on weight?”

He reddened a couple shades. “To be honest, a few extra pounds isn’t the part I’m worried about.”

“Well then, what is?”

“Would...would it freak you out if I said I liked it too?” he asked.

“What, gaining weight?”

He nodded, looking embarrassed and guilty. “So what, who doesn’t like food?”

“It’s more than just that, I…”

“Oh, you like it sexually,” she said, and he turned bright red, alerting her that she was right. “Ha! I should have guessed that was why you always wanted me to have a fat fetish.”

“I asked if it would freak you out, though.”

She slammed her second beer down in one and threw the empty bottle past his shoulder and into the trash with perfect aim. “Buddy, I don’t know if you’ve internalized this, but I. Have. Literally. Seen. It. ALL,” she said. “I’ve seen a wine bottle explode in someone’s hands five feet away from me.”

“When was this?”

“August.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I didn’t want to trouble you,” she said. “You already know I’ve been drowned, beat, and homeless. I’ve worked through Hurricane Harvey. And that’s just my personal experiences. Around us, the world has been going insane for quite some time. Global climate change might bring about Armageddon before the end of our lifetimes. Not too long ago we impeached a president. When I was in first grade, I had this really mean teacher who despised cartoons, so she’d put the news on for us to watch, and that’s how me and every other kid in my class got to watch the Twin Towers fall. The fact that you get off on getting fat does not phase or deter me in the slightest. And I really hope you aren’t trying to scare me off, because if so, you’re going to have to work a lot harder.”

He blinked. Sipped on his beer. “Wow. That took a dark turn real fast.”

“So are we gonna smash, or what?”
 

stevita

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It was an overwhelming relief that Christyn had been so accepting of Damian’s secret desires, although a little concerning that she had cited 9/11 as part of her logic behind it. It was also pretty mind-boggling to be reminded that she was already reading and doing basic math at the moment he was being born. Their age difference wasn’t so drastic, but she seemed to have much more life experience than he had.

Much more sexual experience, too.

Now that he had her alone in his apartment, and ready to ‘smash,’ at that, he didn’t know exactly what to do with her. For months, he had pined for her. Now, he was terrified of disappointing her.

Maybe a little more liquid courage would help ease his performance anxiety. He led the way to the couch, moving what remained of the six-pack to the table in front of it, and turned on the TV. “Is there anything you want to watch?”

“Anything is fine.”

He finished the rest of his beer and experimentally placed an arm around her. She leaned into his touch while they both had another beer and watched about fifteen minutes of an action movie neither one of them could follow. She left for a minute to smoke a cigarette on the back patio, and when she came back, she put her arms around him this time, giving him a light squeeze around the waist before she relaxed. By then he was starting to feel a little buzzed, and he found the confidence to press a gentle kiss to her lips.

She took the lead from there. She pressed her body into his and deepened their kiss, parting his lips with her tongue. She pushed him onto his back on the couch. Her hands slipped under his shirt and ran up and down his waist, her manicured nails digging in as she gave his hips a squeeze. Her touch was a wonderful sensation; he’d never felt so desired as when she grabbed handfuls of his sides like that. She tugged the sweater off of him and then the shirt, and proceeded to trail kisses down the side of his neck, then his chest, and finally down to the little gut he’d put on. She began to alternate her kisses with little licks and nips and finally bit down on the small roll of softness right below his navel. The feeling was electric, even if he gave a bit of a jolt at the twinge of pain.

“Too much?” she asked, pulling away.

“No, it feels good.”

She smiled and went back to lavishing his belly with attention, sucking on the same spot until he was sure she’d leave a hickey. The thought turned him on immensely; he imagined the thrill he would get over the next few days getting dressed in the mirror and seeing the mark as a reminder of what they had done, and his erection grew harder and harder against her chest. He undid her ribbon and tossed it over the side of the couch so he could run his fingers through her hair.

“God, who taught you how to do that?” He expected her to say Jesse or maybe Roger, but her answer took him by surprise:

“Auralee.”

His excitement had not gone unnoticed to her. Her eyes flitted to the bulge in his pants and she began to rub his crotch through the fabric. “Please, Christyn, please,” he begged, afraid he might bust in his pants soon if she kept teasing him.

She worked his pants down to his knees, then his boxers, and for a moment, just stared.

“What?” he asked.

“It’s...really big,” she said, looking a little worried. “I don’t know if I can fit it all in my mouth.”

Nevertheless, she tried. She teased him just a little bit more, spreading his legs apart to bite and suck at the soft parts of his inner thighs. He’d have marks there too in the morning, and he couldn’t wait to see the evidence of all she had done to him. Finally, she took him into her mouth, working his shaft with her hand while she sucked on him. He tried to hold back, but she made him feel so good, slobbering all over his cock like she did. Sometimes she would use her free hand to grope his sides or his belly or his thighs, or else reach between his legs and play with his balls. Then, at one point, she held the tip of him in her throat, and he tried to push her off, “Please, Chrissy, I’m just too close--”

But he couldn't stop himself from busting.

“I’m sorry,” he said as he watched her walk off and spit into the kitchen sink.

“Hey, it’s okay.”

But he didn’t think it was okay to leave her unsatisfied.

So when she returned to the couch, he started to undo her belt, slowly at first, asking permission with his eyes. She helped him take off her pants, and he pulled her panties to the side and started licking and fingering her. He could tell she was enjoying it by the way she moaned and sighed and played with his hair, though she did give him a few pointers along the way (“A little slower,” and “Less fingers, more tongue.”) Downstairs he wasn’t ready to go again just yet, but it was turning him on all over again learning how to please her.

He took out his fingers and worked her harder with his mouth, wrapping his arms around her thighs and caressing them. She had such pretty, round thighs; powerful, too, and when she clenched them around his head he enjoyed it so much that he let her asphyxiate him like that for probably over a minute before giving her a little tap to signal that he needed air.

“Did you get it?” he asked her. She nodded, looking flushed and dazed.

Later on, when they were cuddling on the couch, he remarked, “You’re a really hands-on kind of person, aren’t you?”

“I can’t help it,” she said. “I can barely keep my hands off you. You know, I don’t usually pay attention to the nuances of the human body, mine or anybody else’s. I see it less as a sexual object and more as a tool for getting work done.”

“How blue-collar of you.”

“But it feels really nice cuddling up with you now that you’ve filled out a little.”

“Will you still say that if I hit 180?”

“Well, I can’t predict the future, but I’m sure I will.”

“What about 230?”

“Is that what you’re aiming for?”

“I’ve...I’ve thought about it.” Before he knew what he was saying, he blurted out, “Would you do it to me?”

“Would I...what?”

He shifted a bit in her arms so he was facing the back rest of the couch. God, this was so embarrassing to admit...but also hot, and anyway, it was about time he told her. Just not while looking her in the eyes. “While I was in jail I kind of had this dream that you were, uh...sitting in my lap, you had me like, pinned down and you were wearing this black lace thing and feeding me ice cream out of one of those gallon thingies with a spoon. And you kept on saying all this stuff like I’m getting so nice and fat for you and I look so much better that way but I’m still not fat enough yet, and you can’t get enough of me and you’ll be mortally offended if I don’t finish the whole thing.” He buried his face in the cushions now, awaiting her reaction.

She just pressed her forehead to the space between his shoulderblades and laughed. “Mortally offended? Why does my food-porn dominatrix voice sound like it went to Rice Fucking University?”

He was really glad that was the only part of this she seemed to find weird.

“Y’know what, we can finish this conversation when you’re a little more sober.”

“I’m not drunk.”

“But you’re not sober, and you say and do the craziest things sometimes when you’ve been drinking. Hell, apparently once you told Estrella you had plans to run off to France and join the army there, and remember how she freaked out so bad she got you arrested on purpose just to keep you in the county?”

That warm feeling suddenly turned into a jagged shard of ice shoved right up his ass. “She what?”

“Shit...I thought you already figured it out?”

He had no response.

“Look, I’m sorry,” she said, but there was nothing either of them could do about it now. He thought about asking if Christyn had anything else onhand to drink, but in the end decided, screw that. He wanted to remember this little tidbit of information. That, and he didn’t want to move from his current position, with Christyn holding him like she was afraid he’d fall apart if she let go.
 

stevita

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When Damian awoke, Christyn was already up. She had pulled him halfway onto his back in his sleep so he lay partially on top of her, and with one hand, she was sleepily grabbing and squeezing the small but noticeable bit of pudge around his lower belly. When he had asked her last night if she would be down to fatten him up, she hadn’t given him a clear yes or no, but to wake up with her playing with the little bit of fat he had put on certainly gave him hope.

Suddenly, she pushed his belly up and let it drop, and he felt his newly added pudge jiggle only for a second before it settled back into place, but that second was all it took for him to spring a stiff erection. And when she kissed his neck and asked him, “What do you want for breakfast?” he was done for.

He flipped over on the couch and took off her pants, but only managed to get her shirt halfway off before he couldn’t resist her any longer. It was a miracle he had the willpower to let her fish a condom out of her bag by the foot of the couch.

Somehow, she was even sexier with her arms still in her shirt than she would have been plain naked--something about the urgency of the situation did it for him. She was so wet, and though she held him off with a hand on his shoulder for a minute complaining that it was ‘almost too big,’ eventually he had her breathing hard and pulling him as deep as he could go, legs wrapped around his waist hard like she was an octopus hell-bent on squeezing him to death.

When he went to the bathroom he took his phone with him, and saw he had three missed calls from Stella. He ignored them.

And as for breakfast…

“How about waffles?”

Christyn had quit her job at McCarthy’s a while back without a notice, not wanting to run into Jesse in case he came in looking for her, but she hadn’t had time to look for a new one besides the temping agency, they were keeping her so busy lately. She had been booked solid through the Christmas season, and this cold late January day was her only day off before she had to work a bunch of back-to-back assignments at a variety of different venues downtown and then finally go to the Rodeo, and she decided she wanted them to ‘go somewhere nice.’ Damian felt guilty for not having the funds to take her out, until she said, “Don’t worry, we won’t be paying.” Now, his interest was piqued.

He got dressed (button-up and khakis in case whatever place Christyn had in mind was nice-nice; hoodie thrown on at the last minute because it was cold) and let Christyn lead the way.

The heat didn’t work in Christyn’s car, but luckily, the seat warmers did. The drive was scenic and woodsy, but Damian didn’t pay much attention to the scenery, nor did he ask where they were going. “So, you and Auralee, huh?”

“Yeah, she wanted to make love one more time in her ‘real’ body before she went through with the surgery. I was conveniently there, and conveniently bisexual, so she poured me a couple shots, took me in the back, and we fucked on top of the meat freezer.”

“At work?”

“Yep, at the bowling alley.”

Now that was a mental image that did things to him. He liked thick women, that much he could never deny, but he had never given much thought to the idea of being with a very fat woman until he saw the old photograph of Auralee before her operation. She had looked striking in the picture, like an almighty redheaded goddess, and picturing her minus her clothes with Christyn, all curvy but sturdy, naked too, in the dark, in the workplace, was making the blood flow south. He’d definitely be saving that in the spank bank for later.

They pulled up at the gated entry of a country club. “Membership?” the boy in the guardhouse asked her.

“Devereaux, you should find me on the list.”

“Ah, yes! I remember your face now, Mrs. Devereaux. And your guest…?”

“This is my cousin; if you would be so kind as to set him up with a visitor’s pass?”

“Of course, Mrs. Devereaux. Right away. Tell me, how is your husband these days?”

“He’s overseas, of course, but we talk on the phone daily. He says he can’t wait to see you again.”

“Tell him we miss him equally! And why is it, Mrs. Devereaux, that you never wear your ring?”

“You ask me that every time, Tommy, and every time I have the same answer!”

“That you came here to go swimming.”

The guard handed Christyn a card with a bar code, and she handed it to Damian, and she parked and they got out of the car, and as she led him into the main building, his brain exploded with questions that soon spilled out his mouth.

“Devereaux? As in Jacques Devereaux? Auralee’s brother? You guys were married? Are you still married? Is he gonna come try and pick a fight if he finds out you dropped his name to take me to the country club?”

“Relax, would you? JD and I were never married,” said Christyn, chuckling a bit as she led the way in. The country club was lavish inside, all high ceilings and chandeliers. As he followed her deeper inside, he glimpsed full size indoor tennis and basketball courts through the wide floor to ceiling windows. This was a place for rich-rich people, that much was evident. There was a golf course and an outdoor pool, but both were dead at the moment due to the weather. “He used to pass me off as his wife to his family’s friends, so that they would stop pestering him to settle down with a woman. He had no interest in marriage and talked endlessly with me about leaving the city, but I was fine with acting as his cover especially once he put me on his membership here. Will you wait for me while I go to the restroom?”

She wasn’t gone for long, but he still found himself counting the minutes until she returned. Everyone here was better-dressed than he was, and it made him entirely too self-conscious. Even Christyn was dressed well enough to blend in. She was only wearing the black slacks and button-up she had come to his apartment in the previous night, with the addition of a scarf she’d dug out of the mess of stuff in her backseat at a stoplight, but she looked nice. If he didn’t already know she shopped at Goodwill, he wouldn’t have guessed.

When she came back out, she had a devious grin on her face. “Do you remember our conversation last night?” she asked. “The thing you asked me to do to you? Is that still what you want?”

“Oh, God, yes,” he choked out, anticipation building in his core as he wondered just what she had in store for him.

“In that case, consider me on board. Come follow me, I just thought of a game I want to play.”
 

stevita

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She led him to another area of the club, which had an indoor pool with an attached restaurant and bar area. After claiming a four-top table, she walked up to the bartender and talked to him for a minute before returning. She took her seat, across from him, and soon someone came to clear the extra settings.

After a few minutes, the waiter came with a tray of food, positioned slightly behind Damian’s seat so he had trouble seeing exactly what was on it without turning uncomfortably in his stiff, armed wooden chair. “That’s for him, and that’s for me,” Christyn began to instruct the waiter, who set a croissant sandwich with scrambled eggs, cheese, and some kind of sauce in front of her and a salad with two thingies of dressing on the side in front of Damian. For a moment he wondered if this was some sort of joke, or if Christyn was missing the point. He thought she had just agreed to fatten him up. Maybe she just wasn’t very instinctually good at it?

“Oh, don’t turn your nose up. There's nothing sexy about vitamin deficiency. If we’re going to do this, I intend on my part to do what I can to keep you in optimum health,” said Christyn. Then, to the waiter, she said, “And that’s for him, and that’s also for him.”

On Damian’s side of the table, the waiter set down a plate of eggs, bacon, sausage, and biscuits, and a separate plate of waffles with butter and maple syrup already starting to melt.

“You said you wanted waffles, right?”

“That’s more like it,” he said, almost breathless. “Do I have to finish all of this?” He hoped the answer was yes, but that she’d bend and show a little mercy if he couldn’t.

“No,” said Christyn. She thanked the waiter and sent him away with a thick wad of cash shoved in his apron pocket. “But, for every plate you finish, I’ll reward you by taking off part of my clothes.”

He liked this game already. “Right here?”

“No, not right here, we live in a society for Christ’s sake! Just...y’know, have at it, and once you’re done, we’ll go over by the pool behind the fake trees and I’ll give you the show.”

He decided to start with the salad, drenching it in the dressing before he dug in, since it looked like the easiest plate to conquer, and he really wanted to see Christyn strip off either her pants or shirt. He wasn’t used to eating salad, thinking of it as a mostly overpriced meal for bougie-ass people, and given the choice, he usually opted for something more substantial with a lower price tag. But this salad was really good; the dressing was light and homemade over leaves and vegetables that were all fresh and crisp, balanced with the crunch of pecans and the sweetness of blueberries and thankfully no onions. He took down the first course easily, pushing the plate to the side of the table with a triumphant grin while Christyn made it through the first quarter of her sandwich, which she had cut into perfect fourths for easier handling.

It was a late breakfast, and his hunger hadn’t even been slightly dented after the salad, as delicious as it was, but he knew he was onto the difficult part of his meal now. Thinking strategically, he put the bacon, eggs, and sausage on top of the waffle and folded it in half like a sandwich, which he proceeded to tear into voraciously. Once he got through that, all he’d have left was was the biscuit, and after that, a lovely show of Christyn stripteasing down to her essentials by the pool.

As he ate, he decided to make small talk, both as a way to pass the time and to get further into Christyn’s brain. “How did you and JD break up?” he asked. “Y’all still friends? I mean, he lets you use his club membership, so it sounds like y’all still friends. Has he met Jesse? What does he think of him? Is he gonna mess him up when he comes back? When is he coming back? Do you think he would like me? He looked like a really fit guy in the one picture I saw, but I also met Jesse, so I guess you’ve been with guys from really fit to really heavy, huh. So which is your type? If you have one.” He hadn’t meant to bombard her with so many questions all at once; he simply wished to know all there was to know about the woman he was falling for, who was now finally within his reach.

“Eh, JD wasn’t exactly skinny by the time we were an item. He’d gotten on these mood stabilizers that made him gain a bunch of weight--”

“And how did you feel about that?”

“Honestly, I was just glad he was, well, stable. Before he got on the meds, he was an unpredictable wild card, plus a compulsive liar, and for the longest time I didn’t believe he’d ever been in the French Foreign Legion, or, indeed, whether it even existed.”

Christyn had met JD before she met Auralee. At the time, she had been homeless, living in her car, having just flunked an interview at a bank in inner-city Houston. She had parked in a vacant lot and intended to get some sleep, when a man in a wheelchair and an unfamiliar military uniform caught her eye. For hours, she watched him and his DISABLED VET ANYTHING HELPS sign, but she had nothing to spare except a can of tuna and a pack of instant ramen, and even then she was considering halving that with him, but then, once the traffic stopped, he stood up.

“He walked right up to my window and asked what such a pretty girl was doing sleeping in a parking lot. So I told him what happened with my living arrangements, and we got to talking. He said his sister was a manager at the family business, and that he’d take me there, and before the day was out I was hired as a barback at the bowling alley.

“He worked there part time, but he didn’t need to. His family had plenty of money. He didn’t need to pretend to be a paraplegic to panhandle for change, but I think that just gave him a sick thrill.

“He made it really obvious that he liked me, and I was always fond of him as a friend, and grateful to him for getting me a job, but I was also a little afraid of getting too close to someone so...well, balls-to-the-wall insane, really. He was the one, by the way, who taught me how to make a bird explode. It took him saving my life before I even gave him a chance--you see, Auralee and I had had a little disagreement, and she--”

“Handcuffed you to the beer kegs,” he finished for her. She looked up at him with surprise and he explained, “She already told me that part of the story.”

Without really realizing it, he’d mindlessly eaten through the bacon-waffle monstrosity of a sandwich he’d put together while he’d been listening to her talk. He’d probably passed the point of being full a few bites ago, but even if he’d registered it at the time, he wouldn’t have wanted to stop. That was definitely the best waffle he’d ever had in his short life, perfectly fluffy and sweet with just enough of a crunch to stand up to the syrup. He bet the chefs here made huge bank. “Two down,” he said with a smirk, dropping his empty plate on top of the first. Actually, it was closer to three down; all he had left was the biscuit, and he put that away before too long. It pushed him almost right over the fine line between pleasant fullness and discomfort, but the slow dull ache in his stomach brought with it a certain satisfaction, too. It was all well worth it for the beaming smile on Christyn’s face.

“Impressive,” she said with a slow nod, and he could tell she wasn’t just saying it to please him. She looked so proud of him for completing her challenge, and it gave him a warm sensation of comfort. “Well, let’s go then, so I can give you your prize!”

Getting up from the table was difficult, but with a little shuddering exhale he managed to follow her to the other side of the pool area, where he collapsed onto a pool chair, dazed and drowsy and food-drunk. “Hey, don’t pass out on me now, or you’ll miss everything!” said Christyn, slipping her shoes off.

“Shoes don’t count,” he insisted.

“Okay, but I still gotta take ‘em off to take off my pants. Socks, however, completely count, and you can’t negotiate with me on that one.” She took those off and began to unzip her pants, as if stripping in the country club was simply a thing people did, even in the back corner of the pool area where it was deserted. He couldn’t believe she was actually doing it. But she did, and after she stepped out of the pants, she tossed them playfully at him before pulling off her shirt.

Wait, was she--was she wearing another shirt under her shirt? He blinked for a minute as she tossed her shirt at him too, wondering why she was still clothed underneath, before realizing she had on a sleek black one-piece swimsuit under her clothes. “When did you put that on?”

“In the bathroom. It was in the backseat of my car; I threw it in my bag when we parked. I’m surprised you didn’t notice.”

“Why don’t I turn my whole self into a violin, since you wanna play me?”

“I wish I owned a skimpier one, but I need something that’s not gonna fall off me while I try to swim.”

“Don’t get me wrong, it is a great view.”

“Oh, just you wait.” She jumped in the pool with an epic splash and swam around a little before coming to a rest with her hands on the ledge. “You wanna come in? There’s a shop in the main entrance of the club, I can spot you a couple bucks for a suit.”

“Oh, that’s funny. She got jokes.” Even if he could comfortably get up right now, it was freezing outside. He was surprised she wasn’t worried about walking out there with wet hair and catching pneumonia.

She swam a few laps while he watched and rested off his huge meal. She was a strong swimmer, besting even some of the athletic-looking men in the pool with her speed, but he supposed he would make a point of becoming a good swimmer too if he’d almost drowned to death at an early stage of his life.
 

stevita

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[A/n: This next segment contains a brief aside about gun violence. If that is a possible trigger for you, go ahead and skip. Summary: Christyn completes her story about her relationship with JD which ended with him coming off his medication at his parents' insistence and instigating a massacre. Stella then reenters the picture by confronting Christyn over the phone about the time she's been spending with Damian.]

They stayed for a few more minutes after Christyn got out of the pool, but by then the crowd was starting to turn up for a mid-day rush, so they decided to move while they could still navigate the place without bumping into people. On the car ride back, he remembered that Christyn had never finished her story, and asked, “So whatever happened to you and JD?”

Her smile fell. “We were in Chicago...JD was taking a couple of the new pinsetter mechanics to get certified up at the Brunswick School, and he’d brought me along for company. Earlier that month, he’d come off his mood stabilizers, at his parents’ insistence, but he wasn’t acting funny or anything. He bought me some nice lingerie and a very expensive bottle of champagne, and left in the middle of the day to take the guys to their exams, saying he’d only be gone for a couple hours tops…

“So I waited for him in our beautiful, white-walled, eighteenth-story hotel room.

“And I waited.

“And I waited.

“Finally, I figured he must have just ditched me to get drunk with the guys, so I drank all the champagne by myself, turned on the TV, and he was all over the news. He’d snapped and started firing a semi-automatic into a crowd at the school, shot eighteen people, killed six of them, then shot himself in the head.

“His club membership is on his family’s account, and the club is notorious for being negligent in the record-keeping department, so it’s not surprising they don’t know he’s dead.

“Anyway, I had a few dreams about you, too,” she changed the subject abruptly. “In this one, they reopened the Capital, and I swung by for lunch, and you had taken my old job, but you were badly in the weeds, and for some reason I thought it was a great idea to take you out behind the dumpster and blow your brains out.”

He shuddered. “You shot me?”

“What? No, I sucked your dick, you fool!” she exclaimed. “Although I can see where you got that, given what we were just talking about.”

Though the conversation on the first half of the drive had been dark, the mood lifted around the intersection of Westheimer and Beltway 8. Christyn had turned up the radio and alternated between singing along, smoking cigarettes, and pointing out various restaurants to mention, “I know a guy that works there.” Damian was leaning back in his seat with the seat warmer on, contentedly rubbing his belly and taking in the sights of the city. Every once in a while at a stoplight, Christyn would help him out. It felt so good when she slipped her hand under his sweater and shirt.

“You can push a little harder if you want; it helps with the pressure,” he told her. She pressed carefully on his belly, causing him to let out a whine of pleasure as he let his stomach muscles stretch and relax against her open hand.

“Damn, you’re packed tight...are you sure you’re okay? I didn’t mean to push you too hard,” she said at the red light at Bellaire.

“It’s fine. It feels good,” he said.

He still couldn’t believe she was as excited about his gain as he was, much less that she had signed on to help him carry on with it even further.

Just as they pulled up in the parking lot of his apartment, her phone vibrated. She put in her earbuds and answered curtly, “What have you got for me?” There was a pause, and then she went on. “Yeah, we spoke last week...no, on the phone. No, I’m not with him now, what am I, his keeper?” Another pause. “Fine.” Pause. “No, I meant ‘fine’ as in, in one piece, and as far as I know, mentally sound.” Pause. Something in Spanish, spoken into the receiver in a hushed tone. Pause. More Spanish, this time firmer on Christyn’s part, and finally, with no preceding pause, an entire screaming match in Spanish, followed by Christyn hanging up and throwing her phone into her bag.

“What was that all about?” asked Damian.

“That was Estrella. She has a lot of questions, concerns, and demands. Mostly, she wants to know why you haven’t been taking her calls.”

***

For some reason, Christyn had been operating under the assumption that Damian and Estrella were over, if they had ever been together. Still behind the wheel, with Carolaine parked and her ignition cut, she said, “What exactly is going on between you and Estrella?”

“Nothing!” said Damian. “I haven’t seen her in weeks! She’s called me a bunch, but I didn’t answer, and I’m not interested.”

“So you’re not her boyfriend?”

“No, fuck no! Did she say I was?”

“She used the B word. Well, actually, she used the N word.”

“What?”

“Novio, it’s the Spanish word for ‘boyfriend,’ but I can see why I made you a little confused just then.”

“Maybe we kissed like, once, but we’re definitely not dating. She’s nuts, you have to believe me!” said Damian.

“I believe you...and look...I don’t really know what’s going on between you and me...but I don’t want it to stop.” She reached across the center console and squeezed his hand. “Just please, do something about Estrella, okay?”
 

stevita

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169
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FIFTEEN

Soon, the Rodeo started, and Christyn found herself busier than she had ever been in her life. The agency had her bartending up on the third level of the stadium, from which she had a view of the carnival down below which became a lovely display of colorful lights when the sun went down. That sight, along with text correspondence from Damian, was her only reprieve on her long shifts.

The work itself was monotonous; call drinks and draft beers all day long while the same cattle-roping competitions played on a screen day after day before the concerts, and the commute was Hell. She left her apartment two hours early to contend with traffic on the way to the stadium, and waited the same amount of time in traffic jams on her way out, even when she tried to detour through the backroads.

Still, she found time for Damian. On his court date, she got up early to drive him to the courthouse, and stopped at the donut shop on the way to his place to get him a sack of kolaches for the ride. By the time they arrived, he’d demolished them, not so much for the sexual thrill, but to calm his nerves. Along the ride, she told him about her shitty date with Paul Slater and what she had done to him.

“Christyn...that’s assault!” he said, but he sounded more excited than concerned. “I like that you’re kind of street.”

“Yeah? I like that you’re kind of punk rock.” Getting fat on purpose in the face of a society that held weight discrimination as the last politically acceptable prejudice? Very punk rock.

Before he got out of the car, she slipped a hand up his shirt.

“Christyn! I can’t have a boner in the courtroom,” he whined.

“I just want to make sure you’re nice and full for your long day ahead of you.”

“Aww, baby, that’s so sweet.”

“Yeah?”

“You’re making my heart feel as full as my gut is right now.”

A few days later, he texted her with an emergency: his boss was threatening him with a write-up if he showed up to work again in sweatpants, but he couldn’t get his slacks to close. He asked her if he could borrow $30 to replace them, but she had a better idea.

After her shift, she drove over to his place and arrived at midnight with a small sewing kit. He greeted her with a kiss at the door, and she pulled him in by the waist, giving his sides a squeeze. “What are we up to this week?” she asked.

“162.”

“That’s another two pounds just this week, you’re pretty good at this!” She still hadn’t let him go; days apart had made her ache with missing him. “That would explain why your work pants don’t fit, though. Let’s go inside, I’ll see what I can do.” She finally released him and followed him inside, pulling her sewing kit out of her bag.

“Oh, that’s right, you sew.”

“Yeah, my aunt’s maid taught me. And you...draw, apparently,” she said, a stack of sketches on the kitchen table drawing her eye. They were quite good...most of them were of the city skyline, but there was one of the view from what she suspected was the courthouse, one of the Rodeo carnival (she’d sent him a few pictures she had taken on her phone), and one of herself, sitting on a beach, naked and rendered in loving detail.

“These are beautiful,” she said. “But...why am I coming out of a seal?”

“You’re a selkie…”

She saw his face flush with embarrassment, so she kissed one of his round cheeks and said, “I love it. I’d buy it off of you and hang it on my wall, but I’m sharing my apartment with someone right now and I don’t think I want him looking at me naked. Now let’s see this pair of pants, eh?”

She took his measurements and got to work. “It’s no wonder you can’t squeeze into these; they’re 30s and you’re a 34 now.”

“34,” he breathed. “I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but this is the biggest I’ve ever been.” He sounded proud of himself, and she loved the excited note in his voice.

“Maybe we should take a picture,” she said, pausing over her sewing to whip out her phone and snap a quick one. She showed it to him and said, “There, now we have something to look back on, since this is the last time you’re ever going to be this thin.”

“Holy shit, keep talking like that.”

“Just wait,” she said, returning to the needle and thread. “After the Rodeo, I won’t be so busy. I’ll probably get a job close to here, with a predictable schedule, and on my off days I can come and cook for you, leave enough in the fridge to tide you over until the next time I come...you’ll forget what real hunger even feels like.”

“Christyn, you wicked witch! Tryna make me bust a nut over here.”

Looking around at the small apartment and the few trappings of his relatively Spartan lifestyle, she could see why he wanted what he did. Having someone to indulge him to the point of adding pounds to his frame sounded like some sort of perfect Proletarian dream.

“Here, try them on,” she said as she finished up. He started to head for the next room, but she said, “Hang on, do it here so I can see. Nothing I haven’t already seen, anyway.”

“Guess you’re right.” He took off his sweatpants, treating her to a view of just how snug his boxers were getting around his rounding middle and softer thighs. She felt herself begin to salivate.

He put the slacks on and thumbed the waistband. “There’s actually some room in these now. I don’t know how you did it.”

“Good,” said Christyn, “then you should have some incentive to make them fit.” She had the pants back off him in under a minute.
 

stevita

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The next day Christyn had a full-blown existential crisis behind the bar. Last night’s sex session on Damian’s couch had been mind-blowing, but several hours later had her mind racing in circles, wondering, did she prefer him heavier because that was what she genuinely wanted, or because she liked to see him happy, or because 280-pound Jesse Markham had brainwashed her to think he was the sexiest man alive? He’d warped her brain; how much of his conditioning was still in there? She had at least four distinct versions of a memory of how they had met, all of them incongruent and probably planted by him to confuse her further into a state of helpless submission.

Eventually, she managed to take a few deep breaths and calm herself down, realizing that the nuances of her relationship with Damian couldn’t have anything to do with Jesse, because when she thought of Jesse now, she didn’t find anything sexy about him. He was the most horrible person she could imagine for using her as an object, brutalizing her whenever it suited him, and most of all, for hurting her best friend.

This train of thought had distracted her so much that she ended up absently pouring drinks well into the Pledge of Allegiance and got chastised by a supervisor.

She’d never really thought about it before, but having been thoroughly brainwashed and come out the other end, it now disturbed her to be living in a nation where everyone was brainwashed enough to ‘pledge allegiance’ to its flag, as often as once a day if they were in school, when its poorest citizens were so broke that for some, such a basic need as food was becoming a forbidden sexual pleasure, and nobody was doing a goddamn thing about it. She thought of all the cozy condos in trendy new buildings that sat vacant while homeless people shivered in the torrential east Texas rain. She thought of all the rich folks who woke up hungover and called a service to deliver an infusion treatment to their house so they could go right back to drinking while the working class died on waiting lists for liver transplants, placed her right hand upon her heart, and held her left behind her back, fingers crossed.

She didn’t see much of Alex at all, despite sleeping at his apartment most nights out of the week, which was a welcome reprieve. He had an annoying habit of practicing the electric guitar with his amp turned all the way up while she was trying to sleep. Additionally, he was a total restroom hog. She suspected his poor diet had something to do with why he was always stuck on the pot for so long. As obsessed as he was with working out, he ate only grilled chicken, plain rice, and mashed potatoes, occasionally opting for fried chicken and macaroni and cheese if he was having a cheat day, and refused to so much as look at a vegetable. He kept the pantry stocked with vitamins, and his shakes were full of micros as well, but all that was no substitute for the fiber in real food.

Since none of her Rodeo shifts began before noon, she slept in most days, and he was usually up and on the bus to McCarthy’s by the time she awoke. He’d be asleep by the time she returned from the stadium, or from Damian’s if she’d made a stop there. She had to leave her part of the rent under a magnet on the fridge for him to pick up, since they so rarely crossed paths, and while she did miss their playful mutual ribbing of one another, she didn’t miss the irritating parts of him.

She had a surprise encounter with Auralee at work one day with a slightly pudgy, twenty-something guy on her arm who was stumbling and leaning on her for support. “Chrissy, I didn’t know you were working the Rodeo!” she chirped. “Oh, I’ve told you about Sebastian, right?”

“I don’t know, Aura, you always text me at like three in the morning, and lately I haven’t had time to read them.”

“Some best friend! Anyway, I’ll have a hurricane and he’ll have a milk punch.”

“Will he?” asked Christyn, looking the drunk young man over with concern.

“You’re right, you’re right,” Auralee pulled a $100 bill out of her purse and handed it to her date. “Go get yourself a pizza, alright? You need some food in your tummy to hold down all that liquor.”

“Thanks, Aura, y’wan’ anything?” he slurred.

“Don’t worry about me, we just need to get you fed! And Chrissy, make it strong!”

As he walked away, Auralee dropped her voice and said, “Would you believe I found him on the Internet? It was one of those feedist meet-and-greet sites. I saw that he was local, so I offered him a position barbacking at the bowling alley. He’s put on 30 pounds since he started working for me, and he’s crazy about it.”

“Is that how you’re recruiting these days?”

She made Auralee’s drink at normal strength, but Auralee wasn’t paying attention and tipped her $100 anyway.

“Well, we found you in the street, and you still made a great barback,” Auralee retorted. “You’re not going to believe me when I tell you this, but Sebastian can drink almost 200 cc’s of melted butter, straight.”

“That sounds like it would taste horrible,” said Christyn. “I mean, you guys do what makes you happy, but I don’t think I could bring myself to serve my feedee anything like that.”

Auralee’s eyes lit up. “You have a feedee?”

“I mean, if I had one,” said Christyn, her cheeks going red.

Auralee wasn’t buying it. “Wait, is his name Damian?”

“You and Damian talk?”

“We text. He made a house call once. He had a lot of questions about feedism. Recently he mentioned he’d landed himself a feeder...I thought you might be the lucky girl! Say, you should take him here on one of your days off! Let him see the carnival, give him free range on deep-fried everything. He’ll love it!”

“Only one problem there, Auralee: I don’t have any days off.”
 

stevita

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Messages
169
Location
Texas
Damian’s hand was white-knuckled around the phone when he finally took one of Stella’s calls. “About time! I was beginning to think you were dead!” she said over the line.

“Nope, still kicking. But hey, Stella--”

“Anyway, how’s it been? You have to catch me up. I miss you so much!”

“Not much is new...I got a job at the all-night drive through.”

“Yuck. I hope it hasn’t made you put on any weight.”

That gave him a brilliant idea, or at least, he thought it was brilliant.

He’d been so worried about the sort of raging fit she’d throw if he outright rejected her. So why not just let her reject him?

“A little, but it’s probably nothing I can’t drop in a week at the gym. Hey, what are you doing next Sunday?”

He was sitting at 165 now, and with a little determination he was sure he could clear 170 before too long.

Next Sunday came around, and he had completely forgotten about that phone call. He was off work, and had planned on sleeping all morning, but was awakened by his phone ringing. It was Auralee. “Damian, cancel your plans for the day.”

“I didn’t have any plans besides sleep, but what’s up?”

“We’re going to the Rodeo!”

“Wait, really?”

“Listen, Chrissy told me about you two, and she wishes she could take you herself, but she’s working, so we’re gonna go visit her. Be ready in an hour; Wadsworth will be there to pick you up.”

He quickly showered and dressed, and got into the car when it came. Wadsworth had the radio tuned to the hard rap station, which Damian found odd for an old white dude, but he was digging it. “So how long have you worked for Auralee?” he asked to pass the time.

“The Kingston family has employed me for generations. I remember when young Miss Kingston was in diapers,” said Wadsworth.

Young Miss Kingston...that was a funny way of putting it, Damian thought. He wasn’t used to thinking of Auralee as ‘young,’ but he supposed she was young to Wadsworth, and she had mentioned to him over text that she was the baby sister in her family.

“These days young Miss Kingston calls upon me often and tips generously. She appreciates a speed of service and my discretion about certain matters, although, if I’m to understand it from her, you’re already privy to the matters of which I speak. By the way, do tell Miss Brandywine I said hello.”

Wadsworth dropped him off at the stadium, where Auralee met him at the gate. “Damian! Great, you’re here! Here’s your pass. Hope you like country music!”

“Love it,” he said.

“Really?” She wrinkled her nose in distaste. “Okay, ‘my woman left me and now I’m off to drink myself to death’ country, or like, truck fucker country? There’s a difference.”

“Hey, don’t sleep on trucks. I want me a truck. I’ll call her Sweetheart and drive around in her at 100 miles an hour on the freeway, and when I’m leaving the bars I’ll be telling the guys that I’m finna take her home and fuck her right in her tailpipe, and no one will know if I’m serious or not. And I’ll have a window sticker that says ‘Cops Suck Dick,’ and when the cops pull me over and ask if I know why they pulled me over I’ll be like, to suck my dick?” He laughed. “In this perfect vision of my own future, I’m not afraid of cops no more. And if I do get that successful, I think I’ll get me a nice Rolex, too. That’ll be the second thing.”

“You are something else,” Auralee chuckled. “You don’t have any metal or sharp objects on you, do you? Any drugs?”

“I’m not stupid,” he said as she patted down the pockets of his clothing on the pretense of checking for weapons. “I figured there’d be security at this thing. Besides, I’m banned from possessing a firearm by order of the court.”

They made it through security just fine, although Damian was a little apprehensive about walking past the armed guards. Even though he knew they weren’t cops, he’d developed an occasional paranoia that he had warrants he didn’t know about that flared up whenever someone was armed and on the clock.

“We should probably save lunch for after the carnival rides,” said Auralee. “The last thing I need is for you to throw up on my dress.” She dropped the designer’s name, but he had never heard of them.

Damian wasn’t all too impressed by carnival rides--it was hard to find a thrill in something so artificial when he’d already been in a high-speed car chase against Houston’s finest by the time he had turned sixteen. But Auralee wanted to go on just about every one of them, so he joined her just to make sure they wouldn’t be separated. She had obviously been here before, but he could easily get lost.

At last satisfied, Auralee stumbled off one of the rides and said, “I love carnivals. Carnivals and circuses, but more the idea of those old-timey circuses. I always imagined I’d feel most at home among the freaks.” She dug a crisp $100 out of her wallet. “Go get yourself something to eat, kid. Whatever you want. And get a soda. And be sure and finish it.” He was sure that last bit was an attempt to get as many calories into him as possible, until she added, “And save me the can!”

What could she be up to?
 

stevita

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He found a little food tent nearby with some tables and chairs set up in front and bought himself a plate of BBQ loaded up with sausage, brisket, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole with mushrooms and bacon, and two extra pieces of cornbread. Auralee bought herself a drink from one of the bars and found him at the tent, where she claimed a table and patted the seat next to her. “No reason to eat standing up. Come here.”

As he sat down, he handed her her change and felt both bad that he’d thought about pocketing five or ten bucks out of it, and cheated out of the opportunity. She had been so nice to him...but she obviously didn’t need an extra couple bucks as much as he did. “Aren’t you going to have anything?”

“Obviously,” she said, raising her glass.

He had a lot of food on his plate, but he was pretty hungry after being dragged out here by Auralee without any breakfast. By the time she was through with her liquid lunch, he’d finished everything in front of him. He handed her the soda can, curious to see what she had planned.

“Come on, follow me. I’m about to teach you one of my tricks.”

She got up and made her way through the crowd, thankfully slowly enough that he could relax and digest while still keeping pace. She went from bar to bar, each time buying a shot of vodka, then, when she was far enough away, she poured each shot into the can. “What are you doing?” asked Damian.

“The TABC says you can’t serve intoxicated people, right? Well, this way, I can buy all the shots I want while I’m still relatively sober, and once I fill up the whole can, I can get as intoxicated as I want and nobody can stop me.” Several bars later, she slammed back a big gulp of vodka from the can and offered it out to him.

It tasted the way he imagined nail polish remover to taste, but it brought him a nice buzz, once he stopped coughing. “Auralee, do you think you could buy me another soda?”

She bought one from a nearby vendor before checking her watch. “The show’s about to start! Come on, she’ll be on the third floor of the stadium.”

Christyn was stationed at one of the small liquor bars right outside one of the entrances to the seating area. There were prominent bags under her eyes and she looked to have lost a little weight; her face was thinner and her vest had room where it used to be snug. It wasn’t that he found her less attractive; he was just worried about her the way he imagined she was worried about him after seeing him fresh out of jail, and he knew he’d breathe a sigh of relief once the Rodeo was over and she could relax again.

A smile stretched across her tired features as he walked up to her bar. “Damian! What are you doing here?”

“Auralee took me. I think she went to find her seat already.”

As the concert started and the crowd in the bar area began to thin, Damian decided to stick around Christyn’s bar and watch it on the TV. “How’s work been?” he asked her.

“I’m a mess, Damian,” she confessed. “I’ve probably had ten panic attacks this week, worrying that Jesse’s going to show up here. Thank God it’s the last day, I don’t know that I could make it any longer.”

“He can’t hurt you anymore,” he said, reaching across the bar to take her hand.

“I know, but a part of me still feels like he’s in my head, and it terrifies me. Can I stay over at your place tonight? I don’t want to sleep alone.”

As much as his heart broke to hear that she was still hurting, he was thrilled at the prospect of getting to hold her in his arms all night. “My door is always open to you,” he said. “I hope one day you’ll be able to forget about that asshole...but I’m glad I’m the one you chose to make you feel safe.”

Halfway through the concert, Auralee stumbled back to the bar, bracing herself against the counter with her hands. “Fuck my life, Sid McGowan is here.”

“Who?” asked Damian.

“My ex-boyfriend. Met him in high school, dated him for a few years after that,” explained Auralee.

“That guy who liked big girls, who used to come around the bowling alley and bring you donuts?” said Christyn.

“The one who dumped me, stone cold, after I got the operation, yep,” said Auralee. “He’s here with my high school rival, too. I just hope they don’t come over here.”

She must have jinxed it with her words, because less than a minute later, a man walked up smirking with a woman on his arm. He was tall, blond, and clearly athletic, and she had a lovely, robust figure probably pushing the lower 250s. She wore a red flower in her dark hair and a flattering flowy top and skirt.

“Auralee! What a surprise to see you here. I barely recognize you.”

“Well, you found me in the crowd,” said Auralee, still holding onto the bar for support.

“It’s no easy feat; you’re a much smaller target these days.”

“Rub it in, why don’t you, Sid?”

“My apologies; I haven’t introduced my beautiful wife. But you must of course remember Linda?”

“We’ve met,” said Auralee tensely. She finally turned around to face her tormentor, but she swayed on her feet. Pushing her hair back out of her face, she tried to say something, but it came out gibberish.

“You’ve certainly changed since our days in school,” said Linda.

“You were so beautiful back then,” said Sid. “So, what brings you to the Rodeo, drunk and alone?”

At that, she laughed, but Damian knew that sometimes she laughed when she was sad.

As he watched all this happen, an anger rose up inside him on Auralee’s behalf. “I have to help her,” he told Christyn. “Please don’t be jealous.”

“Do what you have to do.”

He stepped up and put an arm around Auralee’s waist. “Who said she was alone? Hi, Damian, pleasure to meet.” He extended a handshake to Sid, who met him halfway limply. “Anyway, Aura, baby, I don’t want to take you away from conversating, but didn’t you promise to buy me dessert?”

As he led her away from the other two, Auralee said, “Thanks for that.”

“No problem. And forget about that guy! He’s a dick. He shouldn’t think he can treat you like shit in public just because he doesn’t want to nut in you anymore. And besides, this stadium is probably full of men that would die to have you.”

“It’s about more than just a guy, but thanks.” She leaned on him for support, but even still, she drawled, “I’m about ready for another drink. There’s more vodka in my car...and if we leave now we can beat traffic!”

He began to panic. “We’re not riding with Wadsworth?”

“I can’t call him at this time of night, are you crazy?”

“Seems crazier for you to drive!”

“Relax, I’m fine.”

He turned to Christyn and whispered, “Help me!”

“Stall her,” she replied. “I’m still on for at least twenty minutes, but after that I’ll shut down the bar as fast as I can and you guys can hitch a ride with me.”

Auralee insisted it would be faster to take the stairs down rather than wait for the elevator, but it wasn’t that fast, with her being unsteady on her feet as she was. It was a miracle Damian was able to keep her from falling. As they got to the bottom and she started dragging him in the direction of the parking lot, he tried to remember what Christyn had taught him about...what had she called it? Neurolinguistic programming?

Rule number two: ask nicely.

Rule number three: if you can’t get someone to do the thing they don’t want to do--in this case, pass up an opportunity to get even more shitfaced--start with something smaller they might agree to.

“Hey, Auralee,” he said, tugging on her hand, “I wasn’t kidding about dessert earlier.”

“Oh?”

“Lunch was hours ago, and I’m so hungry,” he said, looking up at her with pleading eyes.

“How bad is it?” He could see her starting to crack, but he thought he might exaggerate a little to drive the point home.

“My stomach is really hurting, Auralee. I think I can feel the acid eating at my insides. I need some food so badly. Do you think you can buy me one of them funnel cakes? Please?”

That was all it took to make her melt. “Well, you are a growing boy,” she said, and fell into line in front of one of the vending stands. This was great--the line alone would take at least twenty minutes to get through, and by that point, Christyn would be on her way down.
 
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