BBW Something's Gotta Give - by StrugglingWriter (~BBW, ~XWG)

Discussion in 'Recent Additions' started by StrugglingWriter, Feb 19, 2011.

  1. Feb 11, 2018 #341

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

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    “I’m not sure what his plans are, Baby. If I’d have known your father the way I thought I did, things wouldn’t have turned out like they have.”

    And that was all the assistance Kelly got from her mother on the matter.

    Despite her best efforts, Kelly had accomplished nearly nothing that afternoon. She’d certainly wanted to, but her emotions swung wildly with preoccupation about finally meeting with her father—from anger (with full on visions of punching her father while shouting “How dare you, you bastard!”), to excitement, to relief that the next solution for her litany of problems (namely, money) had presented itself, to, finally, sadness over the whole situation. Which somehow was what she kept coming back to.

    The emotional instability drove her back to her old familiar recourse against the forces of distraction and inattention—in this instance, three Snickers, two packages of granola bars, and an apple. It still didn’t work. She’d be trying to set-up simultaneous video and picture links between her facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds together with her fictional business’s online cart and it would start.

    “Finally! Dinner with Daddy!” her mind would surge.

    “Oh, no,” her mind would respond. “Dinner with Daddy!”

    And off she’d go planning for a million conversations or circumstances that would probably never happen, before finally asking herself, “Wait. What was I doing again?”

    By 4:00 she gave up and texted Wade, hoping he’d respond for an impromptu visit to see her in the lab, where she was hoping they could test the comfort and resilience of the round table in the corner.

    Of course, he didn’t respond in time. Caleb was due over at the house to help her pick her classes at 5:30, and Kelly was still hungry, and she was out of Snickers, and she had wanted her Mommy before she and Caleb got down to business, anyway.

    It felt good to see her, but the guidance underwhelmed.

    Mother and Gail did spring for pizza, though—three pizzas, to be exact. Kelly bounded (and bounced and jiggled) her way to the doorbell and swung the door wide (despite the draft of cold November evening air that washed over her) to see her favorite Dominos delivery boy Billy on the stoop.

    That always made Kelly smile. And that always made Billy smile.

    “Hey, Kelly! Long time no.”

    “You remember me? I’m not even the one who ordered!”

    “Of course I remember. I always remember hot—” He cleared his throat. “A beautiful woman like yourself. And it always boosts your chances with one if you actually know her name.”

    Kelly laughed. “Thanks, Billy.” Billy was tall and nervous and wiry, the hint of an unfortunate past of acne on his face, along with the patchy shadow of not quite a beard. All-in-all, pretty cute. And, all-in-all, not her type. “Remembering names is definitely a plus. And you know what? If I don’t get a text from someone here pretty soon I’ll definitely consider giving you a chance.”

    Billy smiled and stood there waiting.

    Is he really waiting for a text? Is he really that into—

    Oh!


    Duh.

    “Um, Gail?” Yes, Kelly was too broke even to tip.

    By the time Caleb arrived Kelly had two beers and a half a pepperoni pizza in her, as well as plans to meet up with Wade one-on-one in the psychology lab a couple of hours. They made quick but painful work of a schedule that fit both Caleb’s designs for the lab schedule in the spring, Lennox’s demands, and the university’s general degree requirements. Quick work, because there just weren’t that any options to wade through.

    Painful, because there was no way to avoid putting business math on the schedule.

    “Look, Kelly. You can’t avoid this forever.”

    “Sure I can.”

    “Not if I you want to stay in Phi Gamma and, oh, I don’t know, actually graduate.”

    “I’m considering the alternatives.”

    “Well, consider this: I’m not gonna be around to help you with this forever.”
    Kelly’s heart actually flooded fear and sadness. She hadn’t even considered he wouldn’t be around to help her out, but then of course he would. After all, he had his own future to think about! She tried to focus on the positive and found it.

    “So you’re in? You’ll help me out again?”

    “Of course. Surely Daddy will be helping you out again by then.” Ah, yes. With Caleb there was always the angle. And money was always high on the list. “And if not, well, you won’t be in Phi Gamma then anyway, right?”

    “I do have a mother, you know.”

    “Yeah. Renting a room here. In Gail’s boarding house for hard luck cases. I’m sure for her tutoring comes before sorority.”

    I wouldn’t be so sure. “You and Gail hooked up. Doesn’t that make you a hard luck case, too?”

    Caleb didn’t say a thing. He couldn’t. He was trying not to laugh, and he was pointing at her as if to say, “Good one!” That and her two-and-a-half beers had her feeling pretty self-satisfied.

    “Maybe…” he managed, lifting a hand to ask for time for his laughter to subside, “maybe I’m not the hard luck case in that equation.”

    It was a clever retort. Match to Caleb again. But she didn’t like him talking about Gail that way. It shut down all her happy.

    “By the way, speaking of hard luck cases, what did Lennox’s text say?”
    Kelly reached for her phone.

    Whatever came of that?

    ***********

    Lennox’s text didn’t show up until Wednesday. Not to worry, though by then Kelly was a nervous wreck.

    With the stress, she didn’t have it in her to even try self-restraint. She awoke early Tuesday morning to stock the lab with granola bars, apples, bananas—and Snickers. A 12-pack. Those were off the list, and she cringed as they beeped their way across the scanner. She’d bought more than she should before. She’d been told—encouraged really, begged even, it seemed—she could do that. But until now she’d at least stuck to the list. Until today, when she rationalized it as within the spirit of the rules: It was, after all, Lierman who kept that thing stocked. And, after blowing through his stash uninvited the last week or so, she really needed to put them back.

    She wished she could put them back from where they’d ended up: her thighs.

    It turned out that the lab table wasn’t so bad, actually. It was long enough that Kelly fit from head to knees, especially if she opened herself wide and rested the back of her knees along the edge. And, it was one of those older particle board jobs that gave a good bit in the middle—so much that at first she was certain the thing was gonna snap in half, since the support bar between the table legs was a Kelly-hand-span below the flat top. It didn’t. It was actually kind of springy, adding a comforting mattress-like bounce.

    That wasn’t the only bounce it added.

    “You know if I push on the board either side of you it kind of sends a wave from your knees to your tits and back.” He pushed twice just to illustrate the point. “Like a wave pool of Kelly with a couple of giant wobbly tits, like islands jiggling on top of the current.”

    Wade. Ever the wordsmith. Now he gets poetic! Should I tell him islands don’t float?

    “And then you also kind of look like a snowman, ‘cause your back and ass squish out so far when you’re laying down like this, you split into like two squishy round balls—underneath two other round squishy balls.”

    If she hadn’t felt so good in the afterglow of what they’d just done on the table, that comment would have destroyed her feelings.

    Instead of just really hurting them.

    “Really, Wade!?” Kelly exclaimed, trying to prop herself up on one elbow without picking up any corky splinters. It wasn’t easy with the table bending around her on each side. “Do you think after you fuck me that maybe you could call me beautiful instead of coming up with new and unique ways to call me fat?”

    “Oo. ‘Fuck.’ I’ve never heard you say that before!”

    “Yeah, well, I get that way when people call me ‘fat.’”

    “Well, I didn’t call you fat. And you’re not. Let’s just call you … a whole lotta woman.” He was grinning.

    “That’s not funny, Wade.” Kelly was doing everything she could to hide that she was trying not to cry, and there he was pulling on his pants with that big grin still on his face. An infectious grin. Could anyone ever stay mad at him?

    Not me!

    “I thought you liked a ‘whole lotta woman’ anyway.”

    “When did I say that?”

    He said it when ... when .... Hold on a minute.

    “I don’t know. It’s not like I wrote it down or anything.” But she did know. The first night they went to the lake when he complimented her ‘chub’ thighs. A girl doesn’t forget it when the man she’s enthralled with convinces her he’s really OK with her flaws.

    Kelly pushed herself up to a sitting position. She couldn’t help but notice that those same thighs—two months later, and probably plumped right back up to the size they were that night at the lake—spread out against the table in just the manner that Wade had just pointed out. She couldn’t see them, but she could feel how her hips and ass spread out even farther, like a halo of flesh that ringed the comparatively skinny tube of her torso. “We were at the lake. I was complaining about my ... my chubby thighs and you said you liked them.”

    Wade furrowed his brow in the manner he always did when he paused to think, or in this case to remember. Clearly, he came up with nothing.

    “I do like your chubby thighs,” he said. Carefully Kelly figured that was about as complimentary and diplomatic as Wade was ever likely to get. “Because they’re yours, and you’re hot. But that doesn’t mean I’m one of those guys who gets off on fat chicks.”

    Of course. There it was. This was the second time she’d heard someone use the word “fat” in something like a reference to her. Both times right after she’d used it for herself. Both times it felt like a punch to the gut.

    Or maybe she felt that way because Wade had just shattered her illusion that Wade actually preferred her this heavy.

    Of course he doesn’t. Why would a guy like him have to settle for a fat chick?

    “Anyway,” Wade added, talking about himself with the same teasing grin he’d used talking about Kelly just a few seconds ago. “I’m one to talk.”
    He pushed his naked belly out and rubbed his stomach in a circle like he had some kind of big buddha belly, which of course he didn’t. It was fat in comparison only to the chiseled washboard abs he’d had however many added pounds ago when they’d first met. Only the slightest definition around the top edge of his no-longer-six-pack was left. The rest of his abdomen was smooth, and it merged seamlessly into slight bumps of accumulation on his sides: the barest evidence of new love handles. There was nothing about his appearance that warranted Wade’s silly gesture.

    As usual, it worked. Wade’s boyishness melted Kelly’s peevishness and completely slopped up her little pool of sadness.

    “Stop it! You’re such a doofus.” But she was smiling, and she reached out with her chubby arms and pulled Wade’s smooth hard torso into her soft mountainous chest. God she loved that so much about herself! She noticed the bulge of Wade’s flaccid but enormous package, completely spent just a few moments ago, smartly firm up and push against the soft ridge of her fleshy seated midriff.

    Wade’s words said one thing about her body. But is body was saying something very, very different.

    Yeah, you love me this way, you clueless lump!

    She pressed her lips against his stomach, then pulled him back down on top of her, where two young, heavy, desirable bodies tested just how much more enthusiasm that table could take.

    It was an experiment so successful that Kelly made sure they found themselves in the lab together every night that week—including late Thursday after language lab at the community college, when Kelly didn’t think twice about devoting a significant chunk of her check at the Silver Saddle buffet, and where for once Wade didn’t have the opportunity to say a word about her wasting time on a salad.

    There were only so many things Kelly could worry about at one time. Like how she could possibly handle brunch with Lennox on Sunday.
     
  2. Feb 19, 2018 #342

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

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    Sunday November 10

    She needn’t have worried.

    When Kelly and Wade let themselves in an hour late Sunday, Gail and Lennox were seated at the kitchen dinette, laughing over glasses of wine, an empty bottle on the table, and an almost-empty plate of crescent roll kielbasas between them.

    “Hey, Kells, Wade,” Gail smiled. “Good thing you guys got here when you did. We tried to hold off for you, but we broke down after, oh, about five minutes.”

    “Hi, Kelly.” Lennox was smiling and relaxed. Her still-firm chubby cheeks were flushed from the wine. It was as life had been breathed into her. If Kelly hadn’t known who it was, she never would have recognized her.

    “It’s a long way from the Phi Gamma Slamma,” Gail said. “Right, Jenny?”

    Half the dining room table to their left was filled with delights: homemade bread and jam, fresh berries and yogurt, a heaping stack of what had to be pancakes covered with a dishtowel to keep them warm, ramekins with three varieties of compote. The smell of crescent rolls just approaching being done wafted up from the oven to Kelly’s right, and the makings for omelets sat next to the stovetop and a steaming hot griddle. Egg nog, juice and the makings for Gail’s blood orange Bloody Marys were sitting next to the blender.

    “It’s all marvelous. Marvelous,” she repeated. “I never knew you had so much talent.”

    Gail laughed. “Talent, shmalent! I learned it all from you.”

    And whether that was true or not, Lennox ate it up. Quite literally, so that by the time they were done, Lennox was holding the sides of her tummy in gourmandized pain and had to call for an Uber to get herself home. She was clearly not an experienced drunk, giggling and hiccupping and repeating herself throughout lunch, saying goodbye with a series of teary hugs. “I can’t believe I ever resented you, Gail!” crossed her lips at least a half-dozen times before she weaved her way down the front path, calling goodbye from the car with a floppy wave and a silly grin.

    “And that’s how it’s done,” Gail shrugged. “I’m going out for a while—you two can have the house to yourselves for a while.” She winked and grabbed her keys off the rack and was gone just like that.

    They had the house to themselves because without advance warning to anyone, Elizabeth had packed a bag and informed Gail she would be gone “to take care of a few things” over the next few days. And as mysterious as it was and as hopeful or foreboding as it could have been, Kelly was mostly pleased that she was going anywhere at all—and to share with Wade, in good spirits after the Houndz home win yesterday, the couch, and the bed, and all the beer and food she’d been too freaked out to indulge in all through brunch.

    ************

    Monday November 11

    Kelly was in the shower the next morning when she heard a couple of her floormates come in to together. Kelly was up a little later than usual this Monday morning. Instead of coming back to the house for Sunday night chapter and leftovers dinner with her roommates, she and Wade had gone over to Al and Mullet’s apartment with a few other football players and their hangers on for beer and pizza. And though she’d wound up in far better shape than Wade, she’d known she wasn’t near as sober as she should have been to drive his truck (with its stick shift) first to his dorm, and then to the house. She’d woken up blearily a half-hour later than usual and lingered too long enjoying the heat of her steamy shower in the cold stone bathroom of the draughty, poorly-insulated third floor now more than a week into a cold November. Earlier in the semester she could still have counted on having that bathroom alone this early in the morning, but it’s a universal story: college students, a mere four weeks away from finals, start buckling down on their studies to make up for the past two months of procrastination and partying.

    Kelly’d been avoiding moments like these all semester. But this morning she breathed a sigh of relief, because it gave her just the excuse she needed not to follow through with her weekly Monday weigh-in.

    A snowball had a better chance surviving in Hell than the odds that Kelly would ever weigh in in front of her Phi Gamma sisters.

    The two girls were Anna Lewis and Allison Ailes. Anna was a middle-height, middle weight (in Phi Gamma terms, anyway, which was to say she was somewhere between slender and normal build) blonde from old money in Greenville. Allison was a tall thin athletic salutatorian blonde (a real blonde) pageant girl from somewhere in Texas, or maybe Oklahoma, perhaps Arkansas or Missouri, who had been a member of Kelly’s pledge class. Neither of them had become particularly invested in Phi Gamma in their time here, which made both of them perfect for living on the third floor—in Anna’s case, for an unusual second year. Both were well enough liked, but mostly they liked each other, and it was generally expected that unless Allison moved in with her boyfriend, they’d both ditch the third floor (or even the chance to move down to the second, should it arise) for a south-side apartment together.

    There were four curtained shower stalls in the bathroom. Kelly was in the back corner, and the girls took the two front stalls across from each other. They kept up their chatterboxing as they started their showers, and looking up at the shower bar for the stall next to her, Kelly could see that they probably had the curtains peeled back, all the better to communicate.

    Despite the increasing time pressure, Kelly lingered. Neither knew it was her back there, and though she certainly (if only out of habit the last few months) was sensitive to interaction with other Phi Gammas at this weight (especially in the shower), and particularly under recent circumstances, truthfully she’d always been a bit modest when sharing a shower room with other girls. It was one of the reasons (other than the almost total absence of athletic coordination) she’d avoided much involvement in team sports. So, yeah, she hoped there was some way not to be seen. But more importantly, she’d gotten so used to overhearing her name in other people’s conversations that she thought she should stick around a little while to see what they might say about her. So, she did.

    But Kelly’s name was never mentioned, and Kelly was late, and she was starting to feel more than a little silly—or maybe just like she was acting a little too full of herself. She shut off the water and reached for her first towel—to swirl up her hair to dry, forgetting she couldn’t really do that anymore with her now shoulder-length hair. She toweled it dry nonetheless while she dripped in the shower, finishing right about the time she was starting to feel cold. That’s when she reached for her second towel and went through the routine of drying herself off, chin to toe. That meant a little extra time lifting and drying under each breast, knowing from experience a little extra time drying off there would save a lot of pain later. She spread her legs wide and pulled aside the chub of her thighs to give careful attention to the creases where the legs met the hips, then again around the back to service the fold of her cheeks against the back of her thighs, then down to the back where her thick thighs tapered down to soft pillows of flesh above the hollow of the knee—all places she’d come to understand that her new body now required a little extra attention. Her little towel—that’s how she thought of it now, though it was a standard bath size—was completely wet by the time she was finished. She wrapped it up in the other towel before she reached for her robe. Gail’s robe, actually, the old one she’d borrowed once and since appropriated for herself. Kelly’s old one was too tight around the armpits and constricted movement around the bosom in exactly the way a comfy bathrobe shouldn’t.

    Thus comported she stepped out of the steamy shower stall and past Anna and Allison.

    “Kelly Kingsley!” Allison smiled, turning in all her thin naked glory to face Kelly, soapy and shameless. “As I live and breathe. A Kelly Kingsley sighting, Anna!”

    “Mark it down, Allison. In case I’m not here to back you up later. How are you, Kelly?”

    They were being sweet and friendly. Kelly didn’t know either of them very well, but she knew cattiness wasn’t in their repertoire.

    “Very well, thank you. Busy! Busy, busy.”

    “Tell me about it!”

    “I would,” Kelly smiled, “but I’m too busy!”

    Allison and Anna both laughed.

    “No joke, though. I actually am. But maybe we can catch up later! I want to hear what you wore for your last pageant!”

    “Ohhhh, no. No, no! I don’t even want to talk about that. They had their hearts set on some Indian chi—'Native American’ chick.” She put the Native American in air quotes. “If she was more than 1/16 Indian then I’m Creole. Looked exotic, though. I swear, if you don’t have some kind of social justice warrior or ethnic angle anymore they look at you like you’re some kind of interloper.”

    Whatever that is! Allison was really, really smart, and every now and then despite her efforts a word would slip out that reminded you she was really, really smart and you were just tagging along for the ride.

    Kelly let it slip past.

    “I don’t know how you do it! That kind of thing is why I decided not to get involved with pageants!” she empathized. It was a lie: Kelly’d always wanted to be in pageants, all the more because her mom, a former Miss Sugar Bowl, had been a successful one. But by the time Kelly’s family had the money, she didn’t have the right body, whether she was going through a chubby phase or not. “But I want all the updates about your gowns! Is it a date?”

    “You bet it is!”

    The date with no date set would never happen, of course, and they both knew it. But they were at least sincere in the idea that if they did actually do what it took to get together, they’d somehow push through how they were almost total strangers and have a great time.

    Kelly threw a cheerful “See ya, Anna!” over her shoulder and pushed the exit to the bathroom wide in her haste, her mind already focused on her short getting-ready routine so she could make it to the lab on time. So focused that she had left her toiletry bag on the sink. She turned on her heel as the door shut closed with a two-phase, first slow, then fast hydraulically-managed wummpfhhh! Then she reached in her little bag to apply her roll-on to her underarms and inner thighs before it slipped her mind.

    That’s when she heard the conversation turn to her.

    “That Kelly Kingsley, she’s so sweet!” Allison opined, right before her voice was enveloped by the high-pitched whish of shower water rinsing out her hair.

    “I know!” Anna answered. “Hey, maybe we should ask her to come in with us on the house!”

    So it was true. Or at least it was true they talked about it. Those rumors had been around quite a long time.

    “Who? Kegs?”

    Kegs! That’s what they were calling her now? She hadn’t heard herself called that since high school! The more things change...

    “Don’t see it,” Allison continued. “She’s a total Code Warrior.” A Phi Gamma true believer. True enough. “She’d never move out of this house.”

    “She did last summer.”

    “Yeah, well I heard that wasn’t her choice.”

    “Really?” Anna exclaimed. She may not have been catty, but if there was a girl alive who didn’t gravitate to a little juicy gossip, Kelly certainly had never met her. “What happened?”

    “I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows. Apparently she and Sherry Wilson had it out on the steps last summer, and now Lindsey Huntington and Kelly have been at each other’s throats ever since.”

    No, Lindsey Huntington’s been at my throat! She resisted the urge to correct the record. They, of course, didn’t know she was here, and what these girls perceived from this whole thing was fascinating. It was just good to know that whatever Lindsey’s problem with her, she wasn’t spilling Kelly’s secrets. The ones she knew, that was.

    “Love triangle gone bad, eh?”

    What!?

    “Yeah, probably,” Allison laughed. “Who knows? Whatever it was it was enough to get her kicked up here with us Two-Percenters.” Two-percenters: Members who did the minimum to get by and still remain in the sorority. Allison turned off the water. “You know Lindsey’s kicking her out, right?”

    “How could I not? You can cut the air with a knife when they’re in the same room. That’s why I thought of her. She’s gonna need a place to stay.” Anna turned off her water as well.

    Anxiety gripped Kelly as she realized her eavesdropping might be discovered. She slipped her unzipped toiletry bag under her armpit as quietly as she could and creeped toward the door. She cracked open the door and hoped to God it wouldn’t creak. It didn’t, so she pushed it open wide enough for her to slip through quickly if she had to. But she wanted to stay until she was sure she heard everything they had to say about her.

    “Well I hear it’s pretty much a done deal.” Allison’s voice was shaking as if she were toweling her hair while she was speaking. “Two-Percenter or not, the last thing we need is to get on Lindsey’s shit list.”

    “Code Warriors!” Anna exclaimed. “Who can figure?”

    “Code Warriors,” Allison replied. “Speaking of warriors, I couldn’t figure out which episode of Game of Thrones you were talking about. I went back and looked and….”

    With that, Kelly zipped out the door and into the hall, not caring about the wummmpfhh! that the bathroom door made behind her.
     
  3. Feb 26, 2018 #343

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

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    “Pretty much a done deal, they said?”

    Caleb and Kelly were sitting together in the dining hall Monday afternoon after closing the lab. With Thursday’s check her money crunch was over, and she’d thought to even her ledger of solids with Caleb by buying him lunch for once. But Caleb had his lunch covered under the meal plan, and even if he hadn’t, paying cash at the dining hall turned out to be more expensive of an endeavor than she’d realized. Enough that she’d decided today she was getting her money’s worth.

    Kelly’d mulled over what she’d heard all morning, realizing at one point that if Allison and Anna knew about her situation, then everyone did.

    “Yeah,” she answered. “Done deal.”

    “Well, you know what I think. If you ask me, you’re totally better off.”

    “You know, Caleb, not everyone’s like Lindsey. Most of the girls are totally sweet, like Anna and Allison."

    “Like who?”

    “Like whom.”

    “Who?”

    “Anna and Allison,” Kelly repeated. Caleb hadn’t parroted the whom, but at least the Who? was grammatically correct. “The girls from this morning I was just telling you about. Can’t you at least pretend you care about people enough to remember their names?”

    “I’m sorry,” Caleb retorted. “You just painted for me the picture of three hot naked chicks in a sorority house bathroom and you think I’m supposed to remember their names?”

    Kelly rolled her eyes. “Caleb!”

    “I mean, pretty much you just described in reality every teen boy’s ultimate fantasy, Kelly. And now I’m probably gonna have to go straight home and take my own shower.”

    “Ewwwwwwww!!!”

    Kelly knew Caleb was just playing her for the reaction—which bothered her even more that she couldn’t control her reaction.

    Caleb chuckled in self-satisfaction and pushed around a few leftover peas on his plate until Kelly’s disgust unscrewed its way off of Kelly’s face.

    “Yeah, well in my experience sorority girls deserve their reputation as selfish, catty bitches. I could have said far worse, mind you. As far as I’m concerned, I was being generous. And you haven’t told me anything that does anything but confirm that for me, OK? I mean, that Lindsey pretty much sounds evil.”

    “I don’t think I would say that she’s evil.” Lindsey? She’s a sweetheart, Scott had said. She’s just a little stressed out right now. “I think she’s just...committed. Like out of principle or something.”

    “You mean she’s a Code Warrior.”

    “Yeah, a Code Warrior,” Kelly admitted grudgingly. Grudgingly, because Allison had lumped Lindsey and her into the same category. She’d been mulling that one over all morning, too.

    “Well speaking of warriors of principle, now that you’ve pacified Lennox does that mean I can pretty much count on you to cover the lab next semester? Because I really do need you.”

    “Aw, Caleb. Thanks! I love you, too.” Kelly blew him an exaggerated smooch.

    “You know what I mean.”

    She did. But as life post Phi Gamma began looking more and more real, Kelly could picture in her mind what next semester was going to look like. And it was hard for her to imagine that walking around campus after being expelled from Phi Gamma would feel anything other than humiliating—especially if, like this semester, she still wasn’t able to get her weight back under control. The Bone Girl, the Fakebook page, her celebrity through the lab—all of them suggested there was no way she could just blend into the background and duck her shame. Escaping to another college—and not just Buford, but another university, maybe one closer to home (or farther, now that she thought about what she would have to tell her high school friends)—was starting to look more attractive. Somewhere she could start over in anonymity.

    But she wasn’t gonna tell Caleb her doubts right now, and she surely wasn’t gonna burn any bridges.

    “Kelly??”

    “Sure,” Kelly sighed, snapping back to the moment. “Why, not?”

    **************

    “Why, not?” all-but became Kelly’s new motto.

    Why Not?™ presented itself that very night, when an unproductive Goodwill run ballooned into a clearance of the plus-size clearance rack at Macy’s, including: a size 16 pair of Seven jeans (just $29!); four 1X tank top tees; two pair of winter leggings, one black, one brown; two light turtlenecks, and an XL pink button-up sweater for the increasingly frigid lab. Over at Dillard’s it was the rare, expensive (even at 60% off), desperately needed HH underwire bra and, in the coup of the evening, a light faux-leather jacket for less than $50. (It was, after all, lime green, but Kelly knew she could make it work.)

    It was an epic score for under $150 and would go a long way to easing Kelly’s winter wardrobe anxiety for the rest of the semester. But it left her pretty much broke again. She’d shopped late into the evening without dinner, so when she passed the AppleTree grocery store she barely thought twice about pulling into the parking lot to take advantage of Lierman’s credit card. Why Not?™ Heck, Lierman and Caleb both had practically begged her to use it for personal munchies, and in the unlikely event they suddenly changed their minds and she actually did get in trouble for it, all it would do is make her decision about moving away from campus for her. So in addition to replenishing phase two inputs she made sure to stock up on bagels, cup-o-noodles, oyster crackers, even Lunchables and a couple of bags of still-leftover Halloween candy—everything a girl needed in her dorm room with finals around the corner. She even sat down at the deli for some fried chicken and potato salad before she left. Because Why Not?™

    Although Kelly stocked her dorm room, she found herself avoiding the house as much as possible. If her encounter in the bathroom had confirmed anything, it was that if of all people Anna and Allison were aware of most of the details of her situation, there couldn’t be a soul in the house not aware of her situation. She’d been uncomfortable for months passing people in the hall or on the stairs. That was nothing compared to what she felt now, knowing as she now did what had to be going through their minds.

    With her mother’s bed (which of course recently had been Kelly’s bed) open, Kelly started spending most nights over at Gail’s. That kept her out of contact with the girls. Which was a problem for Gail’s strategy of winning over the girls on the Executive Council in advance of Kelly’s review.
    Gail asked about it one night when she was cooking the two of them a late dinner. Gail was standing by the stove in ministrations over a pasta primavera sauce while Kelly sat quietly at the kitchen dinette.

    “So have you been able to get to any of the Council girls yet?”

    “A few,” Kelly lied. She hadn’t told Gail about the bathroom incident, and after a long night making up hours in the language lab she felt too wiped out to talk about it. “Brittney. A couple of the other girls. I think there’s a good chance they might see it my way.”

    Kelly knew what the lie was saying, that she’d given up fighting against her fate.

    “I see,” Gail said, lips pursed. She had one pudgy hand on her sizable hip while the other still held a wooden spoon mid-air, steaming with a dab of primavera sauce. It felt like Gail was looking right through her. She never could lie to Gail. “It must be difficult even bringing something like that up with them.”

    She brought the wooden spoon to her lips, moaned a little bit and rolled her eyes.

    “Here,” she said. “Try a little bit of this.”

    Gail put the spoon in front of Kelly’s face. She leaned forward, clutching to her bosom out of modest habit the neckline of her T, and took a dutiful slurp from the spoon. The sauce had already cooled in the drafty air of the kitchen. Still, her mouth exploded in tangy flavor, radiating savory would-be warmth down into her tummy.

    “It’s so...delicious! Soooooo delicious.”

    “I know!” Gail smiled. “I say we bury our stress in mounds of pasta and drown our sorrows in primavera sauce and wine.”

    Truth was, Kelly was still full from an impulsive run through the drive thru for value menu Taco Bell. That on top of three hours of successful surreptitious snacking while making up lost library time at Buford last night. But she already knew how yummy it was gonna be, and Why Not?™ She was long past where dropping a few pounds would help her keep Phi Gamma anymore.

    It wasn’t just Kelly. There was a lot of Why Not?™ around her. The Houndz were hammered that weekend at home, sealing their fate for an ignominious fourth place in their division, in a year when more than one pundit had picked them to win the conference. The writing was on the wall (and in the papers) for Coach Feely’s job. That brought all kinds of motivation for the team to skip the extra workouts in the gym and to slide on their devotion to their training table regimens, not until the new guy stepped onto campus next Spring, bringing with him a new wave of excitement and expectations, and with them renewed motivation for the players to again impress.

    If Wade was disappointed about the loss, he certainly didn’t show it. Instead he snagged Kelly after the game and went with Mullet and their friends to legendary local honkytonk the Hall of Fame, better known around Phi Gamma as the Hall of Shame. The Hall was anything but Phi Gamma: it was a haven for chubby and full-on fat girls, all with rolls of jiggly fat spilling over the top of tight Lee jeans and peeking out below plaid half-shirts and too-tight tanks stretched to half cover just-so-arranged cleavage, boasting big hair, thick foundation and even thicker color without compunction as they boot-scooted their way around the dance floor. It was a place where Kelly never would have risked being spotted before, but tonight? Why Not?™ She didn’t have to worry about what Phi Gamma thought anymore.

    And though she hadn’t come dressed for the part, in her Mary Janes and her leggings and high-waisted skirted blouse, with her shoulder-length layered almost-back-to-dirty-blonde straight-ironed hair, she fit right in with all the other jiggling chubby girls. Or stood out, was the better word. Or maybe above. And it wasn’t her attractiveness or her massive bouncing boobs that made the difference: it was Wade on the dance floor, tall and handsome and as powerful and graceful a country dancer as there ever was. In his strong and steady hands, she spun and stepped like a prima donna (if the word really applied to country dancing) though she’d never stepped onto a country dance floor in her life. It was exhausting and exhilarating and exciting and sensual in a way she never knew she could feel. It pushed her to exhaustion, but she refused to let him get away for a dance with another partner all night, lest he find the same connection with some other girl who brought more to the dance floor than she. She knew by now that plowing him with a few beers was the best way to yield him submissively to her will, and she applied the strategy with devotion.

    The losing season also brought Kelly and the team (and their dates) more freedom when they went out. Fans weren’t nearly as eager to talk the ins and outs of the game with the players beyond acknowledgement of their celebrity and a comment or two about this bad break or hope for next year. And the inevitable, “So you think Coach Feely will be back next year?” But the team never loses its cache with the business community. A table and stools for the night was about as coveted as 50-yard-line season tickets around here, yet here it was that the team somehow had two to themselves right next to the dance floor. And though no one saw a hint of cash or credit cards cross the table, pitchers of beer, cheese sticks, baskets of wings, garlic fries—all of them crossed it in steady fashion. Such an arrangement could mean big trouble for the university at the hands of college sports’ governing authorities. But Why Not?™ give in? With Coach Feely leaving, if anyone even wound up caring, the onus would follow him and the Program of the Past anyway.

    Kellen Elizabeth Kingsley>>>The Hall of Fame is amazing!!!

    Kelly drunk-texted her mother from Wade’s truck late that night. Or rather, early the next morning. Kelly’s hard and fast rule was always to batten down the phone after a night out, but that night she figured Why Not? She’d been keeping Elizabeth updated all week, just like she used to. It took more than a few edits for her to get it out without typos.

    Kellen Elizabeth Kingsley>>>I can’t believe I never went before!

    Mommy>>>The Hall of Shame? That place still around? Fun times!!! Be careful. Stay safe!

    Kellen Elizabeth Kingsley>>>Come home soon!

    Home.

    Her next text was to Jenn, who woke up to meet them at the Waffle House and suffer through their drunk munchies before wearily shuttling Al and Wade to their dorm and Kelly back to the Phi Gamma house. Because Why Not?™ Anyone else stumbling around the house at 3am could hardly throw the first stone—or at least walk well enough to. Jenn kept her focused enough to get up the stairs. For her reward, Jenn got the bed, and she and Crystal joined Gail and Kelly the next day for lunch—still sans Elizabeth.

    Kelly’s wardrobe steadily found its way over to Gail’s house on Kelly’s body—as dirty laundry. Trying to figure out how and whether to mesh Wade into Thursday mixers was done. Now she viewed Sunday night chapter now as something anyone in her right mind always should have viewed it: a chore, and one she was happy to skip. The only thing that consistently took her into the house each day without fail was the House Mother. So, yeah, finding the willpower with expulsion hanging over her head took all the urgency out of losing weight, but Why Not?™ She loved it. Just Kelly and her iPod and the elliptical (or the treadmill) and the weight bench. She did all she could to avoid looking at the minutes on the cardio machines (in precisely the way she’d been avoiding looking at herself from the neck down in mirrors since Halloween), letting fatigue telling her when it was time to quit. But whether it was leg lifts or butt lifts or lats, the pins on those weight stacks kept inching slowly but steadily lower, and that gave her a sense of power and accomplishment. It was only her number on the squat bar that had seemed to plateau at all.

    Phase three inputs meant just granola and candy bars. With the end of phase two the fruit and the rabbit food all cleared out of the lab for her and her roommates, who seemed to accept it and her other snacks willingly as payback for almost a semester’s worth of Kelly’s pilfering. Subjects were at half the level they were first half of the semester, but Kelly didn’t care. Why Not?™ She kept buying at the levels she always had. No one was actually tracking what the subjects were eating. The extra always found its way into her backpack for snacking through language lab and digital basketweaving.

    Increasingly on the edge of her mind was her upcoming review, her Kelly-come-to-Jesus moment for half-a-year now of failure to keep the Code. And looming behind that, the shadow of her meeting with her father, which as much as she longed to see him, hear him, hug him—and slap him—had all the signs of being its own sort of formal disciplinary review with all sorts of unknown possible negative outcomes. Her coursework for American History at Buford was complete. Same for French. Her social media project for Basketweaving was done, the only thing left a mastery course of Google Docs and Sheets and the other basic business tools she’d been using routinely since her junior year in high school.

    And so she was bored. So what did she do? Of course. She shopped the internet, filled her shopping cart with all the things she probably couldn’t fit and knew she couldn’t buy, fantasized about paying for them, and munched. As long as none of the female subjects were in the lab to munch in front of. And as long as Caleb wasn’t there to point the finger, which was almost never, of late.

    It was in a rare moment of dietary restraint, after ten minutes of drumming her fingers, looking at the clock, trying not to go through in her mind for the 100th time one of a dozen defenses for a dozen accusations in a fantasized meeting with Lindsey that would never ever occur the way she was imagining it, that she flipped over to her Instagram page and mused through the analytics before flipping back over to the photos and videos she’d meticulously screened, posted, edited and re-edited for her basketweaving project (documenting all of her changes to demonstrate her proficiency for her class).

    She liked what she saw. Meticulously chosen, even the photos she’d chosen from events this fall she didn’t look nearly as overweight as she was in her mind—and certainly not as true to life chubby as anything that had made it onto those fake facebook pages, for instance. It was a good public image. That was something she needed. She went to her settings and opened up her page to the public.

    Why not?
     
  4. Mar 12, 2018 #344

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

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    Saturday November 23

    “Do you think I’m turning into an alcoholic?”

    Kelly was sitting with Wade and a beer in her usual family and friends section at the lip of the second deck for the Saturday football game. It was the start of the fourth quarter, and it was senior day, which meant that the Mastiffs were playing lowly Alabama State, low even in the Football Championship subdivision (what everyone considered Division 1-AA, despite what the NCAA thought might become of renaming it). That let every senior who’d stuck with the program, scholarship or walk-on, even from the practice team, whether he’d ever played in front of the fans or not, would have his chance to play in front of his friends and family for the school he’d devoted so much in time, talent and tears.

    That also made for an extra-crowded home team sideline, and, highly encouraged (by Kelly), Wade had exercised his highly-encouraged (by the coaches) option for red shirts to stay off the field for this game. Kelly was elated to have him there with her, both to spend time with him and to validate her presence there in the eyes of those around them.

    That meant a little more to her this week because with all the seniors seeing playing time, the friends and family section was filled with a lot of people Kelly had never seen before, as a reward to some of those less-talented players for their thankless years of service on the practice field. But one couple that weren’t strangers was Anthony Robertson’s parents, faithfully behind their son as ever, who might as well have been a senior since he was surely playing is last college football game before heading off to the pros. Perhaps by Anthony’s request, or more likely Coach Feely driving up the score to protect his job, Anthony wasn’t pulled until mid-way through the third quarter, after accruing 180 receiving yards and three touchdowns, (one of them on a 60-yard punt return)—despite the Mastiffs’ clear deficiencies at quarterback.

    One missing face was the girlfriend of fallen quarterback Jeff Ellison, despite the fact that Jeff stood loyal on the sideline on crutches the entirety of the game. Kelly hadn’t seen the girl at the last home game either, which didn’t surprise Kelly. Kelly figured once Jeff’s train might be headed some direction other than the NFL, she’d be finding someone else to hitch onto.

    But after Anthony was pulled from the game and Kelly’s rooting interest ended, Kelly’s mind kept coming back to that girl. The reason was the beer.
    As judgmental as Kelly had felt about that girl, by the time Kelly asked Wade her question, she was working on her fifth—four of them since halftime, when Kelly had exchanged tearful goodbyes with the Robertsons, who were leaving the stands to have their last hobnob at the field house with other families of players of primary importance.

    Kelly had figured she might as well indulge (Why Not?™), since the beer (and the hotdogs, and the nachos) was all for free.

    “I’m sorry, sir,” the concessioner had said to them before the game, waving off Wade when he presented his twenty-dollar bill. “Cards only. The cash drawers”—there were three of them—“are all jammed and I can’t get in to give you change. Just take them, please.”

    It had happened at the buffet this week, too, so Kelly was coming to expect it.

    “Do you ever have to pay for anything yourself?” Kelly had asked.

    “I wouldn’t if I didn’t insist,” he shrugged. “Doesn’t much matter now, though.”

    Kelly wasn’t so sure. She had the paranoid feeling these things always had a way of coming back to bite you. But she took the beer anyway and sent Wade back for more. It’d been a while since she’d felt spoiled, and she’d missed the feeling. And the blush of fresh alcohol kept her warm against the chill of the November wind, which seemed to be growing colder by the minute and had chased (along with the lopsided score) more than half the afternoon’s fans away. And together with the two hot dogs and plate of nachos she’d scarfed down by herself, they gave her a warm, content feeling in her tummy, which otherwise almost always felt more than a little antsy. When she asked her question, she’d just dropped her fifth cup to the floor and snuggled herself under the warm crook of Wade’s great arm. It all combined to make her feel safe, safe to be vulnerable for a moment and open up to him.

    “I’m serious,” Kelly repeated. “Do you think I’m turning into an alcoholic?”

    “I wouldn’t say an alcoholic. I’d say, I don’t know, more of a lush.”

    Excuse me!?

    “Excuze me!?” she vocalized, slapping Wade’s chest as she lifted her head and looked at his face. He didn’t seem to be just giving her a hard time.

    “Hey! You asked!” he retorted. “You toss ‘em back more than most girls—a lot more than any girl I ever dated. But I wouldn’t say you’re an alcoholic. I think it just means you’re a lush.”

    This was something Wade didn’t seem to get. The proper answer is “No,” Wade. Say “No.” I can decide for myself if I’m a lush or not.

    “Well Jeez, Wade, whazza difference?”

    “I don’t know! How am I supposed to know? I guess, uh, I’d say you’re too young to be an alcoholic. Right now you’re just a party girl.”

    Party girl. That hurt. Kelly loved parties, but she’d never thought of them as something that defined her. She’d always thought of party girls as girls who had to have them, either to score free alcohol or make up for poor self-esteem or because they were cheap and easy and had to give it away just to get sex. Was that really how people saw her? The same way she saw Jeff’s presumed-ex-girlfriend?

    “Now your moth—”

    Wade stopped himself.

    “I mean, look at Gail. She--”

    “Iss OK,” Kelly interrupted. “You can say it. I know.” After all he’d already bludgeoned her with his true opinions. No reason to stop now.

    “OK. Sure. Your mom and Gail, now those chicks are alcoholics. I mean, I’m sorry to say it, but they have a real problem. Those ladies are fish. I don’t think those ladies can go even a day without it. That’s not you. If you drank like that, then maybe I’d say you’re an alcoholic.”

    That struck a nerve. Kelly’s mom had returned from her trip home Wednesday evening. She’d gotten blitzed around them every night since.

    “So, yeah, just a lush. And a cute one at that.”

    Wade bent down and pecked Kelly on the lips, and Kelly closed her eyes and buried herself into his arm once again with a smile. She felt drunk and toasty and warm, and that was all right by Kelly. Wade was always saying she was hot, but he’d never called her cute before.

    “I love you, Wade,” she murmured. She instantly hoped it was low enough so he wouldn’t hear. “Do you think,” she said louder, after Wade didn’t respond, “you could spend Thanksgiving with my family? You could even meet my dad.”

    ************

    Sunday November 24

    “What’d he say?”

    Everyone but Wade was gathered around the Sunday table. Everyone close to Kelly: Marla, Monet, Jenn and Crystal, Elektra, Jennifer, even Caleb for a little bit before he claimed, “I feel my Y melting the more you chicks talk” and left. And of course Gail and Elizabeth, who had pulled together the whole thing. No one had openly declared it such, but it was a show of support before Kelly’s fateful sorority review on Wednesday.

    Kelly had sat in Elizabeth’s spot, the place she was least likely to (for once) be the focus of conversation and attention. So whether it was something about the spot, or just the place Kelly was in her life, she’d been free to fill her own silence with her enjoyment of her food, and even more of her wine, until she found that same toasty overfilled sense of warmth and well-being she’d felt the day before at the football game with Wade. Maybe that was what led her to share abruptly how she felt about Wade, which immediately piqued the interest of everyone.

    Why did I do that?

    “He said he couldn’.” Damn, her lips were thick with wine. She’d been planning to keep the drinking in check today. I am an alcoholic! “He said heez already sp-“—she was tripping over the word—“sp-spen-ding it with Anthony Robertson.”

    “I always knew he went both ways!”

    Everyone at the table laughed. It was Elektra, of course. Kelly didn’t find it funny at all.

    Elektra must have picked up on it. “A man that cut and fine,” she explained sheepishly, “he’d have to be gay, right?”

    “Well did you think of asking him whether it would be OK if you went to Anthony’s with him?” Elizabeth asked, innocently.

    “That’d be a pretty bad idea, Mommy.” To Kelly’s left, Gail was smiling and gently nodding her head. Elizabeth didn’t know about Kelly’s brief period dating Anthony. “Besidez, he said heez leaving Tuesday night, so I couldn’ go any-way.”

    Everyone knew what Kelly meant by that: her review on Wednesday. That line of conversation died with a few remarks along the line of “That’s a shame.” The conversation ended, but the line of thought towards Wednesday continued as the only clear thing in her head—that and the recurring mantra, “Ohmigod, I’m gonna lose Phi Gamma!” Hot, jittery anxiety oozed through her buzz and rendered it powerless her buzz. Her hand reached out for her wine glass like it was on automatic. One sip didn’t do it. Nor two. A gulp finishing off the bowl sent a rush to her head, then that burning warmth to her throat and tummy, and soon an intensity to her buzz that overwhelmed her thoughts and pushed the fear back behind the alcohol wall. She nibbled on a dinner roll to cleanse her palate and maybe settle down her stomach a bit. It wasn’t long before she finished it, when she again felt the uncomfortable pleasure of too much food in her belly, that she turned her attention again to what was going on around her at the table.

    Lunch was breaking up. Elektra and Jennifer, who had come together, were making their way around the table to meet Gail, who had stood up to meet them with a hug as they all went through the genuflections of parting before moving on to the rest of their day. Marla and then Monet were making their way behind them around the table. Monet was complaining how once again at Gail’s she had managed despite her intentions to eat too much. Kelly could see it: in her movements, slow and stiff from the discomfort of a distended stomach; to her profile, framed in the luminescent glow of chill afternoon light in November, a wool sweater pulled tight around a thick waist once thin, and jeans stretched tight across a fulsome behind capable of bringing the kind of attention Monet had certainly never attracted before, the kind of attention that for a Black girl would have barred her a second look from Phi Gamma.

    Kelly’s head nodded forward of its own volition, and she just let it hang for a moment. Against the lip of table, beyond the crest of her boobs, her legginged thighs bulged up against the table and pressed into the dowels of the arms of her chair at the end of the seat.

    I’m getting really fat.

    She lifted her head again Monet’s direction, where Marla was exclaiming something about an American Thanksgiving feast, perhaps that she would miss one on Thursday or that she wouldn’t since she’d just had one, or something that Kelly hadn’t paid enough attention to to discern. Her flat angular face had grown little cheeks these past few months. Marla was standing behind a chair so Kelly couldn’t really see the rest of her, but she imagined she was probably wider and bulkier than the Asian-thin girl she’d been jealous of that summer. It seemed to Kelly Marla’s shoulders were rounder and wider, and she actually had upper arms to speak of. Is this why Chip had dumped her?

    It’s contagious. And Gail’s house was ground zero, words she might have thought herself if she actually understood what ground zero was.

    She must have dozed because next thing she knew someone was shaking her shoulder. She tracked her eyes upward and saw Gail standing next to her.

    “Hey, Gail.”

    “Ohhh, you are a mess tonight, aren’t you!” It’s tonight already? “Come on, Rise-N-Shine, your guests are waiting to say goodbye to you.”

    “Okay.”

    Gail reached for both of Kelly’s hands. She gave them to her.

    “Come on. Scoot.”

    She unwedged the near leg off the chair by turning it and letting it slip off the corner, pushing the dowel of that chair arm, then using Gail’s arms for leverage to scoot the chair back around so she could get out.

    “OK. Upsy-daisy!”

    Gail pulled on her hands, and after letting go and pushing up with one arm, Kelly made it to unstably to her feet and allowed herself to lean right into Gail, leaning her face into her soft shoulder and wrapping her arms around the top of Gail’s large belly, which has always felt to Kelly hard and invasive to her face. Kelly closed her eyes and held on, feeling both of them sway together with Kelly’s instability.

    “I’m sooo drunnk!”

    “Yes,” Gail soothed, rubbing Kelly’s back. “Yes, you are. Thanks for announcing it. But I’m not going to sleep with you.”

    Kelly snorted and laughed into Gail’s shoulder. I’m soooo drunk! The mating call of drunk girls everywhere!

    “Okay. I’m so drunk. I’m sorry I got so drunk.”

    “It’s OK, it’s OK. Nothing to see here. We’ve all seen drunk girls here before.”

    “I’m sorry.”

    “I know you are. I know you are. I guess I’d better say it while I can. Good luck on Wednesday. I won’t be here.”

    “You won’?” Kelly stood to her feet of her own power in anxious surprise. Kelly knew before now and then she was gonna need her. “Why?”

    “Just a road trip, Sweetheart. A short one. I was gonna I’ll be back that night and you can tell me all about it. It’ll be fine. And we can celebrate together all Thanksgiving. We’ll stuff ourselves silly and drink all we want!”

    “OK,” she replied and pushed back in for another hug. She wanted to tell Gail she couldn’t go, but of course it wouldn’t make a difference.

    “Come on.” Gail led her out around the table and to the foyer. Where the girls all in turn gave Kelly a hug and told her everything would be fine. Kelly gave each of them a long soft too-long hug, swaying back and forth as they did and telling each girl how she loved her so much. Before long the girls were gone and Kelly lingered in her last hug. The best hug, with her mother.

    “It’ll all turn out all right, Baby.”

    “Okay, Mommy.”

    They walked over together to the couch, where Elizabeth helped her ease down into the spot usually reserved for her after these Sunday get-togethers. Kelly lay there with her arms crossed on the arm of the couch, her head in the crook of her elbows, respiring heavily. Before she knew she was gone, Elizabeth was back with a pillow and a blanket. She coaxed Kelly to stretch out on the couch and arranged the pillow under her head, then began laying the blanket out on top of her.

    “Mommy?” Kelly didn’t even open her eyes. “It made me sad when Wade said he wouldn’ come to Thanksgiving with us.”

    “I know, Baby.”

    “And that he didn’ wanna meet Daddy.”

    Elizabeth didn’t say anything at first, stuffing the blanket around Kelly’s feet and tucking it in over her arms and under her chin. “Well maybe he can spend the holiday with us at Christmas—or maybe you could go visit him.”

    “Mmmm, in Texas? Are we gonna hab the money for that by then?”

    “I don’t know, Baby. I don’t know what else to tell you. I just don’t know.”

    “Do you think Daddyz gonna gib it to me?”

    “I don’t know what he’s gonna do, Baby. Your father, he’s—oh, never mind. Knowing him—or at least I thought I knew him—he’ll think it’s important for you to meet his family, too.”

    “I love him, Mommy.”

    “I know you do, Baby.”

    “He never tellz me about hiz family, though.”

    “I see, Baby. Sleep well. Everything will work out the way it should.”

    “Mommy?” Kelly asked, opening her eyes, not ready for her to leave her alone. Elizabeth still stood above her, blocking the light from the fixture overhead, from Kelly’s point of view beneath Elizabeth’s portentous belly not much more than a black round silhouette framed by a halo of bright light.

    “Yes, Baby?”

    “Do you think I’man alcoholic?”

    Elizabeth snorted (the same snort Kelly let out every now and then) and chuckled—interrupted by a gasp and a groan as she lowered herself to her knees and began to stroke Kelly’s hair behind her ear, and Kelly closed her eyes again.

    “You’re asking me?

    “Wade said I’ma lussh.”

    “I’m sure he must have been teasing, Baby,” Elizabeth reassured her. “If anyone around here’s a lush, it’s probably me. Or Gail. Yeah, probably Gail.”

    “Wade said you guyz’re more like alcoholics. But you guzs aren’ eben drunk. Iss me.”

    “Yeah, well I figured maybe it was time I backed off a little bit.”

    “Me, too, but I couldn’ do it.”

    “Oh, Baby, it’s just a stressful time is all. Soon it’ll all be over and you’ll be my perfect little girl again.”

    Kelly smiled. Mommy knew just what to say.
     
  5. Mar 21, 2018 #345

    Imp

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    Posting error.
     
  6. Mar 21, 2018 #346

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

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    “If you want to take Wednesday off,” Caleb had told Kelly, “I completely understand.”

    Kelly had pretty much begged him not to, explaining how waiting around all day for her review with nothing to do but fret was the last thing she thought she could stand. So Caleb had accommodated, even pushing a few subjects off of Monday and Tuesday to Wednesday to help her out. But there was only so much distraction Lierman’s lab could provide, and by the time she locked up the lab at 1:00 just about every nerve she had was wracked anyway.

    It was an eerie feeling walking across campus the day before Thanksgiving. Campus was almost completely deserted, students and employees alike already abandoning school, on the road for the holiday with their families. Last year Kelly had been one of them. In fact, she’d left right after a test she had to take Monday morning. She clutched herself as she walked: her cheap jacket wasn’t cutting it against the forty-degree temperatures and whipping wind. She wanted to slow down, take her time. But the chill countermanded that. Of all the things she dreaded today, walking into the Phi Gamma house was one of the worst.

    But she took the plunge boldly, striding up the stairs and through the front door confidently, no effort to keep down the noise or snoop around the corners to see who might be watching.

    The lobby was baking, thanks to Phi Gamma’s century-old heating system. Two pairs of girls were standing in the wings of each hallway as if they just happened to be making conversation. Kelly knew better. They knew better. It was why the heat was cranked so high to start with. No one hung out in the foyer when it was cold. The typical chill of the house’s winter hallways hit her as she passed. She smiled wanly each direction, not making eye contact, returned their too-casual greetings, and headed up the stairs. Maybe she was paranoid, but she could have sworn she saw the whiff of someone’s blond hair pulling back from over the banister. She felt like speeding up the stairs after she hit the first landing, but really, what would that accomplish?

    She reached the second floor and nodded to two more sets of girls who again were feigning casual conversation, "conveniently" right next to the office where at 1:30 she would learn the details of Lindsey’s case against her. Five minutes, maybe more. An eternity, and she wasn’t planning on spending it standing outside that door, for sure. She smiled that same smile again and turned the corner for the last flights of stairs.

    It was as bad as she feared. Thank God the Attic was in the middle of the third floor. How many girls would there have been peeking out of their doors she would have had to acknowledge?

    Inevitably the sound of voices found their way up the stairwell from behind her.

    “Hey, was that her? Did I miss it?”

    “Yup, you missed it.”

    “Damn! Why didn’t I—never mind. How’d she look?”

    “I don’t know, she looked like Kelly.”

    “You know what … mean! Did … look like … … to...”

    The voices faded as she made it to the landing. Behind her she heard nothing but the sound of footsteps across the thick padded carpet hallways below her. Not even a sound dock playing music from someone’s room. The situation was the same on the third floor: Christine Simpson, Catherine (Kate) Colson, and Melissa (Missy) Tolliver standing in a gaggle not ten feet from the Attic. These girls acted like they were so deep in conversation they didn’t notice her before turning down the hallway and walking away as slowly as they could--without actually walking away. Kelly imagined they’d creep back close to the Attic door just as soon as it closed behind her.

    That was ten, eleven, maybe more girls—out of 60 who lived in the house—who otherwise would have been on the road to a Thanksgiving dinner. Kelly knew just about everyone in Phi Gamma, and none of those girls were Executive Council-types. All of them were sticking around to see for themselves what drama might happen around Kelly Kegs today.

    She climbed her way into the Attic to find Marla and Monet waiting for her. Tears came to Kelly’s eyes.

    “Awwwww! You two should be on your way to your Thanksgiving dinners!”

    “Thanksgiving diet, you mean,” Marla answered. “And I am not looking forward to that!”

    “Only a Filipino would consider a diet on Thanksgiving,” Monet teased. “There’s no way we were going to let you face the wolves alone.”

    “Thanks.”

    “We were just about to share a little Southern Comfort,” she continued. Sure enough, behind her on the tiny French provincial dresser there were three plastic rocks glasses with sizable shots already poured. She reached behind her and grouped them all in her hand and offered them. “A little liquid courage.”

    “Uh, thanks. But no thanks.”

    Monet looked at Kelly like she’d just sprouted gills.

    See? Even they think I’m an alcoholic.

    She laughed. “Can you imagine me going in there with alcohol on my breath?”

    Monet and Marla laughed with her.

    “Well, I’m not going in there!” Marla took one of the plastic cups from Marla and tossed it off with a grimace and a shake of her head. Why do we put ourselves through that? She took the other cup from Monet. “A toast!”

    Marla and Monet raised their glasses. Kelly pretended.

    “Here’s to you—”

    It was a common toast in Greek circles, and Kelly and Monet joined right in.
    “—here’s to me—”

    “No, wait!” Marla interrupted. “Let me do it:

    “Here’s to you, here’s to me
    Phi Gammas we shall always be
    If we should ever disagree
    To Hell with Lindsey, and here’s to Kell-eee!
    Fuck Lindsey!”

    “Fuck Lindsey!” Monet answered. “Down the hatch!”

    The Southern Comfort disappeared, and the girls took a moment to choke down the burn and endure the backlash of the body’s revulsion to the poison. The clock behind them now said 1:30.

    “Thanks, girls,” Kelly smiled. “You’re the best.”

    “We know,” Monet answered, stepping in for a hug, a full-on squeeze in which they both lingered.

    “You give the best hugs,” Monet observed as they stepped away from each other and the diminutive Marla stepped in.

    Marla stepped in and wrapped her arms around Kelly’s waist. Kelly noticed how Marla pushed in a bit, like she had expected her hands to touch in the back. Kelly could feel the difference, too, how Marla’s hands cupped the chub on each side of her back instead, turning her elbows to allow her hands to go up her back instead of around her waist.

    It didn’t surprise Kelly in the least. This morning for the first time since the summer she’d noticed the two little mounds on her tummy were back.

    **********

    Brittney Shore met Kelly at the door of the second floor office.

    “Hey, Kells. For the record, I think this is all bullshit. I’ll take you to your folder. I pretty much have to sit and watch you while you look it over.”

    Kelly gave her that wan smile and followed her into the office. As much as she liked Brittney (didn’t everybody?), it was hard being around her anymore ever since Kelly had learned her role in her birthday Molly debacle. It’s hard to be around someone who you know saw you naked, unconscious and covered in your own piss. And it was hard shaking the suspicion that Lindsey and the Council likely knew all about it, probably because Brittney had told them.

    Brittney could have been, in fact, the ultimate reason Kelly was facing review at all.

    The office was cleaner than when she’d snuck in this August to steal her expulsion letter. Spotless, in fact. A single folder was set up on a folding table, fitted with a lamp, a blank white legal pad, and an ominous red pen. Kelly took her seat while Brittney sat on one crossed leg in the window seat directly behind her. It was a classic gray plastic chair, elementary school style, though adult-sized. Not adult-sized enough, it turned out: despite the vice grip her newly-purchased, increasingly snug Seven jeans had her hips in, Kelly could tell they spread well beyond the edges of the chair.

    And why wouldn’t she feel self-conscious about that? After all the smoke and mirrors, the laundry list of trumped-up charges, her fat ass was why she was really here. Right?

    She pushed her mix of self-pity and self-blame aside as her curiosity got the better hand. A month she’d wanted to know the case set up against her, and finally, here it was. After weeks of anxiety, her mind felt clear, relaxed, focused. She dove right in.

    There was a lot of material. Some of it was irrelevant: a few forms certifying for the national office her completion of initiation and acceptance into Phi Gamma, copies of her freshman-year grades, notification of academic probation, payment records for her dues, etc. A thick packet of the relevant material was clipped together in a purple binder clip: page after page of printed photos; copies of e-mails from council members, some with each other, some with University personnel, some with the Panhellenic Council, and apparently a few with Phi Gammas, whose names were blacked out with a Sharpie; minutes from the meeting discussing the need for review; photocopies of post-its and other handwritten notes; and, most interestingly, a few original documents, including a copy of the “COMPORTMENT” standards and something Kelly had never before laid eyes on—the color photo of a pink copy of a ticket she’d received from the city police. The ticket, with the charge “public intoxication with the inability to care for self or others,” was stapled to a memo from the city police to the campus police, which had been forwarded to the Dean of Student Affairs office and cc’d to the Panhellenic Council and of course Phi Gamma.

    So that’s how they found out! Kelly’d had no idea the amount of bureaucratic connection across campus attached to incidents like hers.

    She glanced over her shoulder at Brittney, who was leaning against the window sill propped up by some pillows, head buried in her Samsung Note. It felt good knowing that Brittney was still just Brittney after all and not the snitch Kelly had suspected her of being.

    The pictures were pretty much the ones that Kelly would expect them to be. Kelly on the ground at beer pong. Unmanaged cleavage at The Speakeasy. Even pictures of her in her Daisy Dukes from early in the summer—before all the weight gain. Kelly imagined that was thrown in there just to help the case. But she didn’t forget what she knew: they were there to document Code violations. They wouldn’t be called that, of course. As far as Kelly could tell, none of them seemed like the exact same pictures from the fake facebook accounts, but there was no sure way to know. Nothing she found in the documentation even hinted about those, which meant Kelly had made enough of a spectacle that everyone had noticed and spread those pictures far and wide.

    Gathered all together like that, so many incidents so close in time, Kelly appreciated the magnitude of her drunken exhibitionism after all. Her cheeks flushed red, and she wondered anew about alcoholism. She couldn’t think of a single other Phi Gamma who had done anything to that degree in her time at Phi Gamma. How could I let myself go that far?

    It was a hard thing to defend. She wasn’t sure she would be able to.

    Then again, the picture that really chapped Kelly was from Lindsey’s phone itself: American Wet T-shirt Beer Pong, cc’d out to all Lindsey’s Greek contacts.

    Backstabbing bitch!

    The backstabbing bitchiness was everywhere. Typed-up notes described Kelly’s multiple contacts with Lierman after her math class, including observing her entering Lierman’s office on several occasions—not the least of which was immediately after her final exam. The notes hinted at a rumored dinner out (How did she find out about that?) and a possible connection between that and being hired—not enrolled in a class, it specified, but hired—as a lab assistant. You would have had to be in those classes to catch most of that stuff, and that meant it all had to come from Lindsey. Who had seemingly not even remembered who Lierman even was! Every bit of it was innuendo, nothing substantiated. (And how could it be? There was nothing there!) Yet, there it was, “the appearance of inappropriate fraternization.” And it was Lindsey herself who when had seen her connection to Lierman as an advantage, who had specifically told her, “Don’t fuck it up!”

    What did I ever do to Lindsey anyway?

    At least Gail seemed to be right about one thing: they’d never dug enough to put together the truth of her expulsion. That was certainly something.

    For the rest Kelly had to scour over the charges in her notification letter at the front of the packet, even though by now she really knew them by heart. Affiliation with other groups on campus? What, the football team? Maybe she was thinking The Bone—there were several comments ranging from distressed to snarky about that—or the time she spent with the football team in general. Maybe they disapproved of Wade? A few of the pictures were just of him, back when he danced on the table back at The Speakeasy. Anthony Robertson, maybe? Because she dated him? Because he’s Black?

    Ohmigod, could this be some kind of racist thing!?

    She knew she was reaching well beyond what she knew. But honestly despite all her diplomatic reluctance in the past to ascribe the worst motives to Lindsey, in reality Kelly didn’t feel like she could put anything past Lindsey. But then none of these “charges” were really all spelled out for her, either. And there were a few things that didn’t seem to relate to them at all. Most notably, a couple of pages of pictures that made her cringe.

    It was clearly a series of stills from a video of her standing outside the house steps, stuffing her face with PinkBox doughnuts.

    Somebody had been watching, probably right out of the window seat right behind Kelly, the self-same window seat Brittney was sitting on now. And whoever it was that took that video, kept it, and now was using it as a smear against her. She got that same squirmy feeling she did when she saw the facebook profiles. It was even more clear: someone in the house was deliberately taking pictures of her.

    A wave of nausea hit Kelly for a moment, and she was thankful for the nervous stomach that had kept it empty all day. She looked up from the file and focused on one spot in the middle of Lindsey’s blank cork board until the sickness passed, then breathed out a few times until the feeling of sweating receded. Above the cork board was a clock.

    1:50. Ten minutes left to build a defense.

    Kelly flipped back through the packet, focusing mostly on the e-mails and looking for information that might help her understand the rest of Lindsey’s complaints against her.

    Most of the rest of the e-mails were procedural communications about moving her out of the house, moving her in, moving her to the Attic, replacing her on the social committee—bluh-blah, bluh-blah, bluh-blah, bluh-blah. There was a good bit of exchange about Rush, with the occasional reference to “those girls” or “Kelly’s Littles” with vaguely masked disapproval for Jenn and Crystal and wonder that somehow they’d been approved as pledges. There was also a good bit of exchange about the hors d’oeuvres, mostly positive, with Kerry (of the European last name, now strangely disappeared) labeling it a “budget miracle.” Lindsey, though, was upset enough that one of the other girls told her to “get your panties out of a wad” and see how this was a good thing. Another girl told her to stop taking it so personally.

    Ah. Insubordination. Well, that was hardly a surprise.

    That was the realization that finally made sense of what Kelly found to be the single most odd thing in the packet, which was the inclusion of the COMPORTMENT Rules and Regs lesson in the folder. Kelly’d really put that night behind her, but it didn’t take much to jog her memory. Clearly someone had told her about how that meeting went, and there was no doubt who that had to be. Elaine. Elaine Robertson—no. What’s her name? Um, Miss America.

    Elaine and Lindsey would be close enough that e-mails wouldn’t be exchanged. Yes, Lindsey would see that as insubordination. Wouldn’t there be notes in the file, though?

    Kelly leaned back in her chair and held the COMPORTMENT packet in front of her. Even now it struck her wrong. Tackiness codified in black-and-white. She flipped through it back-to-front, checking the back in case there were notes there. Nope. She looked at the front again. Tackiness in black-and-white.

    Which was when she saw it.

    A Sharpie-written 11 was in the corner, faded because, as Kelly now recalled, the original had been written in red. This was a copy. A copy of a numbered original, numbered as if to keep track of it, like it was supposed to be gathered back up and filed away. Why a copy? Where was the original?

    Ohmigod! Did I ever collect those things back up!?

    She wracked her memory. She couldn’t tell one way or the other. Maybe so, maybe not. Who could know? It was pretty chaotic at the end of that meeting. She knew she wasn’t even thinking about it at the time. That was the problem: she hadn’t been thinking about it at all. So, what? Copies had made it out of the room? And Elaine snitched to Lindsey about it?

    Kelly’s heart froze as she realized it could be worse. Much, much worse.

    Somebody took a copy out of the room. And maybe out of the house. And someone had found it circulating out there, somewhere outside of the house, and sent along a scan of it to Phi Gamma.

    Phi Gamma secrets out in the open. In fact, its most unflattering secrets. And Kelly had been the one in charge.

    I’m so screwed.
     
  7. Mar 26, 2018 #347

    Tad

    Tad

    Tad

    mostly harmless

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    The great white north, eh?
    Oh, I feel a blast of suspensful music is required at this point :p (Seriously, I'm enjoying seeing this point get reached. I'd read the last few chapters without signing in, but had to come back and sign in to say how much I've been enjoying.)
     
  8. Mar 28, 2018 #348

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

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    The name I've had on my draft from the beginning has been "Suspended." Been looking forward to this myself.

    Any guesses what's gonna happen? Anyone care to take a shot?
     
  9. Mar 28, 2018 #349

    Tad

    Tad

    Tad

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    The great white north, eh?
    I have all sorts of guesses, but I'm not saying them in black and white. Bad luck or something?

    But they fall into three main categories that I'll call Right Turn, Blinkers, and Barrel Roll. Well, there is also u-turn that I don't think you'd do to us, and Minute 21 which I don't think is your style.

    Also when I saw you had posted I was all excited. Tease!
     
  10. Mar 28, 2018 #350

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

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    Talk about a u-turn! Very cryptic. Now I'm having to read between the lines to figure out what you might be thinking.

    It'd be pretty unusual to have two significant pieces edited in time to get posted so soon together.
     
  11. Apr 10, 2018 #351

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

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    Kelly just sat and watched the clock, a cheap old-fashioned hand clock with plain black numbers like ones that sat in government warehouses the world over. She still had five minutes before she had to be down in the convocation room. Not since she was six-years-old (the last time she was in time out) had she ever known a clock to tick so slow.

    But her thoughts pulsed at a mile a minute. This wasn’t some vendetta. Sure, Lindsey didn’t like her, God knew why. And, yes, Lindsey was bureaucratic and fanatical—a Code Warrior—insecure in a position she inherited in an hour of need, because of Sherry’s abrupt departure, maybe even because no one else wanted it. Kelly sure would never do it! And Kelly had no doubt Lindsey was a fat-o-phobe, just like Sherry and apparently a dozen or more of the other lollipop girls who ran the place.

    But Kelly would never be able to deny that she was facing review because she deserved it. And not for all the reasons she knew and they didn’t that she deserved it, either. The expulsion. The lies. The blackmail. The inside connections. The deals.

    She did violate the Code.

    Not because she got fat. Not even because she got so fat, so fast.

    It was because of how she presented herself when she did. Because she got out of control time and time again and never fully appreciated it. And because when she got a chance to make it all right doing Lindsey a favor—maybe, Kelly considered, she was doing me a favor, kind of a chance to prove herself—she lost control there, too, and betrayed Phi Gamma’s secrets “in violation of her solemn and eternal fraternal oath.”

    If Kelly were Lindsey, and someone like herself had forced her into this choice, she’d have made the same call.

    So what now? Why even put up a fight?

    She could hear the memory of Gail’s voice in her head: I thought you were past this giving up thing!

    Well what else can I do?

    She decided she’d at least go through the motions, run back head down through the gauntlet of girls on the stairs, ignoring their shadows in the halls, trying not to imagine them crowded up against the convocation room and kitchen doors to find out what was going on. And then, after the meeting was convened and she had her first chance to answer, the charges she’d try not to cry and just say she had no defense and submit herself to their judgment. Maybe they’d let her stay. Maybe after all that Kelly might even still want to.

    Or maybe Kelly would stick it through to the end, just bareface her way through until she lost all credibility. Or maybe she could explode in outrage, just dramatically blow out the doors and huff past the eavesdropping girls in a final hot blaze of glory while they scrambled toward the dark corners of the house like so many roaches.

    She could go clear out her room straightaway—after such a short meeting, she’d have plenty of time before she had to meet with Daddy. Which with Phi Gamma out of her future, now didn’t seem so scary after all. Lindsey and the other girls would finish up the meeting notes and pack up their notes and their precious audio recording, and the decision would be sent off to the national office, and that would be that. She had so little left of her stuff in the Attic, she’d be out of the house before they finished, and she'd never have to see them ever again. And that didn’t seem so bad.

    It was two minutes to two, and Kelly started shuffling the papers back into the folder because—well, what else was she gonna do with the time? Last thing to go in before she shut the folder closed like it was heavy (it wasn’t) was the COMPORTMENT packet.

    That was it!

    The national office. The national office!

    A happy little warmth wriggled through Kelly’s body and a silly smile stole its way onto her face. Gail’s voice echoed through Kelly’s mind one more time:

    “Chin up, Rise-N-Shine. You’ve got a great chance of beating this.”

    Yes, yes she did.
     
  12. Apr 13, 2018 #352

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

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    OK. So, I'm a little bitter. I posted such a short section specifically as a tease this time and you didn't say anything. Would you call this Right Turn, Blinkers, or Barrel Roll?
     
  13. Apr 14, 2018 #353

    Tad

    Tad

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    The great white north, eh?
    Sorry, I'd read it without logging in, so didn't respond ... and anyway, it was so short that I don't know yet! Looking like barrel role, but there is so much that could change that ...
     
  14. Apr 14, 2018 #354

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

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    “Ready?” Brittney asked.

    Kelly gave her a confident smile.

    “Ready as ever.”

    Everything was just preparation for this.

    She couldn’t believe they hadn’t thought of this.

    She’d have to engage them before the review started. Maybe strike a conciliatory tone from the beginning. But she’d have to start it before they started recording. And before that recorder came on, she’d have to start off with some form of this:

    “Do you really want this memo in the hands of the national office?”

    The negotiations could begin, and conclude, and then the recorder could come on.

    The trip downstairs was just what she expected. This time there was no effort at hiding. Seven girls were waiting outside the office door, smiling. “Good luck, Kelly!” someone murmured, a quiet chorus of affirmations on its heels. At the bottom landing there were several more girls. No words, but smiles. The clump of girls in their way pressed against the walls to let her pass, then closed ranks behind her just as the first of the girls from the second floor reached the bottom of the stairwell. Brittney even opened the door for her before following her inside and closing the door behind her.

    Tables and chairs were set up to their right: two 12-ft tables set to form a “V” with a single chair meant for Kelly almost in the middle. Kelly didn’t even know how many people were on the Executive Council, but it looked like four, maybe five chairs were squashed into the seating space behind each of the tables.

    Just four girls were waiting: little Isla Greene, red hair down, gird in Phi Gamma uniform silk shirt and black pencil skirt, talking to Kerrie Lipscomb, who Kelly had recently learned was now acting Phi Gamma vice president; Kelly Johnson, who’d been bouncing from committee to committee of late; and of course Lindsey, standing in the middle, wringing her hands, looking almost Twiggy thin in her loose gray wool pants and the tiny pink cardigan draped from her shoulders. It was a small gathering in a cavernous room, and Kelly’s heart skipped a beat as she wondered if the proceedings would be opened to the crowd of initiates clumped up on the other side of the door, until she realized if that were the case the rest of the chairs would have been out.

    Kelly walked over directly and promptly sat in her seat while Brittney walked over to half-sit, half-stand against the table to Kelly’s right—something Brittney could do easily with her six feet of length. The other girls didn’t make much move to do anything. Maybe they were waiting for more girls? Kelly didn’t know, but if she was ever gonna have a chance to control this thing before they got started, this was it.

    “So I know the meeting hasn’t really gotten started, but—”

    “Just a moment, Kelly,” Kerrie interrupted, turning out of her quiet conversation with Isla “Give us a moment and we’ll be right with you.”

    Kelly looked at Lindsey, who was pulling something up on an iPad, then at Brittney, who just gave her a shrug.

    That didn’t go well at all. Kelly needed to do something to leverage some control.

    “I was just wondering,” she continued, mostly in Lindsey’s direction, “since I don’t really know how this is supposed to go, whether I would have the chance to make some kind of opening statement for everyone. It may not matter at all, but it does to me, and I would just like the chance to kind of, uh, explain myself and maybe—”

    “Uh, yeah, yeah,” Lindsey answered, looking up briefly from her iPad. Not rudely. Distractedly. She looked right back down at her iPad and started the arduous process of typing something on the screen. “I understand, OK?

    “But none of that really matters.”

    Kelly paused a second. What was going on here? Were they not going to offer her at least the appearance of defending herself? Isla and Kerrie finished their conversation about the time Lindsey put down her iPad and all eyes focused on Kelly. They seemed to be waiting for everyone else to speak.

    “Look, I know this is supposed to be some kind of formal review, but I was thinking that maybe before everything went on the record that we could maybe, you know, just each share where we’re coming from on this thing and maybe—”

    “Kelly,” Kerrie interjected again. For such a slender girl she had a low, powerful voice that made you feel like you were in trouble, even if you weren’t. And Kelly, of course, was in trouble. “We all can appreciate what you’ve been going through, but really, we don’t really care about any of all that.”

    “Yes, but—wait. Say that again?”

    “We’re sorry. Really. It was … a mistake that … uhhh ... caused more trouble than it was worth. For everyone. And we were hoping maybe we could use today to put it all behind us.”

    Put it all behind us? Was this a joke!? Was it somehow April 1 and she didn’t know it? Kelly looked Lindsey’s direction. She looked a little sour-faced, but she made no move to contradict Kerrie.

    “Lindsey?”

    “I’m not sure that’s the way I would put it,” she answered, measuredly. “I wouldn’t say we don’t care. I’d say we definitely care. You put our reputation at risk, and I don’t know about these girls, but I take that really seriously.”

    Isla rolled her eyes. Kerrie grit her teeth. The rest betrayed nothing. Apparently Lindsey was alone in that, unless perhaps the other girls on the Council who didn’t show up were the ones backing her up on the review. And maybe whatever was happening, those girls didn’t approve of letting Kelly off the hook.

    If that’s what they were really doing.

    “I take it seriously, too,” Kelly answered. Carefully. Measuredly. “That’s why I wanted you to know I realize what I did—all the things that I did. I just didn’t realize how—”

    “Sure, Kelly. Really. You don’t have to tell us, OK? We know what you did. But I want you to know that you caused us some real headaches—”

    “I know.”

    “Let me finish. You caused us some real problems. Big ones. Problems that might hurt us for a long time—or maybe even close us down. And we wouldn’t—”

    “Kelly,” Kelly Johnson interrupted, “to put it bluntly, we need your help.”
    Lindsey, pursed lips, unlocked her iPad and passed it over wordlessly to Kelly to read.

    To: The Georgia University Panhellenic Council and its associated chapters of the fraternal orders of the National Panhellenic Council and the National Pan-Hellenic Conference
    From: Assistant Dean for Student Inclusion and Diversity, Division of Student Affairs
    Re: Recent Concerns Regarding Student Inclusiveness in GU Greek Organizations

    November 25, 2017

    I am writing to introduce myself and announce the creation of a new office within the Division of Student Affairs: the Office for Student Inclusion and Diversity at Georgia University, now separate from the Office of Multicultural Identity within the same division. GU has a long tradition of breaking down barriers, from its early leadership in creating a coeducational environment, to its role as the first major university in the South to achieve full racial integration, to its world-renowned prominence in international student exchange, and through its efforts to expand gender acceptance on campus. We are proud of our heritage. But there is still much work to be done, and we are eager to press forward in the effort to create a welcoming campus environment for students of all walks of life.

    Recently some disturbing information regarding the recruiting and retention policies of some Greek organizations has come to our attention, policies that may have the effect of reinforcing harmful and self-limiting stereotypes. We recognize the unique value of Greek life both to our campus and to our alumni, understanding that each organization functions and thrives by creating a unique house culture emphasizing some of the highest values in our society, including the celebration of camaraderie, ethnic identity and vocational excellence. We also recognize that in providing a coveted university experience, selectivity (which unfortunately leads to exclusion) is a necessary component of the Greek system.

    “Preferred” and “selective” do not necessarily translate to superiority and exclusivity. But history tells us that organizations reliant on the former often devolve into the latter. We in the Office of Student Affairs are concerned about the tension between the many unique flavors of Greek life on campus and the need to promote inclusivity and tolerance between and within organizations. It is a problem for which we do not presume to have immediate answers.

    I am announcing the creation of a Greek Student Advisory Panel for Panhellenic Organizations (SAPPHO), composed of representatives from each of the two panhellenic umbrella organizations, one male and one female, as well as a currently undetermined number of representatives from the larger student body, following Spring Rush in January of the new year. The purpose of this body will be to identify components of Greek life, formal and informal, that may work to perpetuate harmful stereotypes that have the potential to foment deep divisions on campus. University President Weller, Dean of Student Affairs Jane Wycoff, and the Board of Regents have invested this panel with the power to make formal recommendations to the Board, which after careful deliberation and allowing for public comment, may be adopted campus-wide. These recommendations could have substantial implications for the nature of Greek life on our campus. I have been selected to chair and moderate SAPPHO and to correspond directly with the President and the Board regarding both its composition and the conduct of its mission.

    You should have every confidence in the value that Georgia University places on Greek life and its commitment to ensure that it endures at least as long as it has already persisted, since the first house opened off campus in 1836. More specific details regarding dates and times of meeting, as well as the general guidelines and by-laws for the panel, will be communicated to your organization as they become available. Your cooperation and assistance with this effort in any manner will be greatly appreciated. And as always, my door is open.

    Dennis Lierman, Ph.D.
    Tenured Professor of Logic and Mathematics
    Assistant Dean of Student Inclusion and Diversity
    Division of Student Affairs
    Georgia University


    Kelly didn’t take the time to read the whole memo. She didn’t need to, especially once she glance down and saw Lierman’s signature at the bottom. She now understood what was happening today. They were after a deal.

    For what?

    “You work for the guy. What do you know about this?” Kelly Johnson continued.

    “I never heard of this before. I work in a lab. He used to be my professor. He’s some kind of dean now. I don’t have anything to do with this.”

    “But you have plenty to do with him,” Lindsey answered.

    “He was my professor. Yours, too. Now I work in his lab. That’s it. I told you, I never heard about this until you showed it to me. Is there something you would like me to do?”

    Lindsey looked Kelly over for a second, trying to discern whether Kelly was telling the truth. Then over the course of the next ten minutes, Lindsey pitched the deal that would allow Kelly to stay in Phi Gamma.

    Kelly listened carefully to all the details and considered her options. But really it was pretty cut and dried. There was only one answer Kelly could give.

    “I’m sorry, y’all, but I’m gonna have to say no.”
     
  15. Apr 16, 2018 #355

    Tad

    Tad

    Tad

    mostly harmless

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    The great white north, eh?
    Oh, veering to the side!
     
  16. Apr 18, 2018 #356

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

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    You're *really* teasing me with these labels now...
     
  17. Apr 19, 2018 #357

    Tad

    Tad

    Tad

    mostly harmless

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    The great white north, eh?
    Well, could be setting up for a right turn, but could still be a barrel roll ... does not look like blinkers. I'll explain later ;-
     
    FreeThinker likes this.
  18. Apr 20, 2018 #358

    FreeThinker

    FreeThinker

    FreeThinker

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    Turnabout is fair play. It's only fitting that you, too, should be kept in suspense.

    (I jest. Please don't rush. We'll wait. The internet is forever)
     
  19. Apr 21, 2018 #359

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

    Well-Known Member

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    That's the irony I was going for.
     
  20. Apr 22, 2018 #360

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

    StrugglingWriter

    Well-Known Member

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    “Hi, Daddy.”

    Kelly’s dad was sitting in the middle of the busy country club restaurant at a round table large enough probably for six people. The room was spacious and clearly recently remodeled. Clear cool bright November light spilled through the wall of windows that ringed one half of the room. Bright white linens covered the tables, and the chairs were all white leather and polished brass. The restaurant was a bit cool from the day’s chill, and steam streamed upward in a misty white column from Ben Kingsley’s newly-arrived T-Bone steak, broccoli florets, and loaded baked potato. Next to his plate was a near-empty rocks glass of what Kelly knew to be a double single-malt Scotch, next to another rocks glass of ice that Kelly knew used to also contain a double of single-malt Scotch. His knife and fork were poised to cut into the steak as Kelly announced herself. He didn’t lift his eyes to Kelly until he had cut off a bite, fatty edge and all.

    “Well, I guess it’s pretty clear what you did with all my money,” he said, then popped the bite of steak into his mouth and chewed it with all the vigorous energy a fatty chunk of meat like that required.

    Kelly kept standing there, hurt. Tuesday night she’d sunk the whole of her check into what she was wearing now: a white, business length Tahari dress from Macy’s, and a wide shiny bright red belt to camouflage her midsection and tie in her red shiny heels and matching purse (which she’d already had). She'd found the inspiration in a bright red bolero, knit with intermittent glimmering gold thread, that she’d need for the winter cold—and to camouflage her exposed chubby arms. The white dress was on clearance after Labor Day, of course, and originally sold for hundreds of dollars more than she’d paid. She knew she looked like a million bucks—with every penny of it sunk into what she was wearing.

    She also knew that wasn’t what he meant. The last dress he saw her in was a size 6. Today she was a size 16.

    “Sit,” he said, still chewing his steak, pointing at the white high-back leather chair with his steak knife.

    Kelly pulled back the chair and did as she was told. When daddy told you to do something, you did it.

    “The hair was a big mistake. Leave it long. You’re young. It’ll never look better. Leave it alone.”

    Ben Kingsley was not a big man, a little shorter than average. He had a squattish, unathletic build, and he didn’t dress particularly nicely: today it was a nondescript short-sleeve off-white shirt with widely-spaced pinstripes so faint you couldn’t tell the color, pocket on the left breast with a pen hitched to it, no tie, neck button open to expose the top of his white t-shirt underneath. Two buttons pooched up at the edge of the table, suggesting the creep of growing middle-age spread since this shirt was purchased as long as two or five or even ten years ago, knowing him. His receding hairline had merged into his male-pattern baldness, so that a solid ring of thick, straight reddish-brown hair circled his shiny pink crown from temple to temple without the slightest hint of gray, despite his 46 years. He was meticulously clean shaven except for the thick brown mustache the exact color and consistency of his hair. And, he had a weak chin resting on top of a small roll of pink skin, now sagging and filling with middle age. Underneath thinning, well-groomed brown eyebrows were small round hazel eyes, which struggled to escape dark circles of that special kind of fatigue brought on by chronic sleepless nights and from constant, relentless effort to monitor the environment for threats and to force circumstance to his will.

    “I told them to bring yours when you got here.” He raised his hand over his head extending two fingers toward a waiter, as if to tell him it was time, then leaned to the side and dug, without looking, in the pocket of the tan corduroy sports jacket hanging on the chair behind him.

    He pulled out a small stack of credit cards and flipped them across the table so that they fanned out across Kelly’s empty place setting.

    “I don’t want to see anything like that little stunt you pulled this summer.” He was talking, of course, about the spending binge on the West Coast she’d conducted last summer, with her mother’s blessing.

    I didn’t know, Daddy. If I’d had any idea what Mommy was doing, I never would have done it!

    “Yes, Daddy.”

    You didn't give daddy excuses, either.

    “You’ll find a lot tighter spending limit on those to insure you don’t.”

    Kelly opened her purse, which she still had over her shoulder and resting on her thighs, leaning against the fluff of her taut little seated belly. She slipped them into her wallet then dropped the purse to the floor by the strap so she wouldn't have to bend. She wondered what exactly those spending limits might be. $1000? $100? With him, there was no telling.

    “Yes, Daddy.”

    Kelly sat with her hands in her lap just looking patiently over at her father, who was chewing another bite of his T-bone, slowly this time, looking her over like he was taking his measure of her.

    “All right, then.”

    Just then Kelly’s plate arrived: T-bone steak, broccoli florets, loaded baked potato, just like her father’s, steam scattering furiously into the cool air of the restaurant.

    “Something to drink, ma’am?”

    Now that her Phi Gamma review was over, she desperately wanted a stiff drink like her father’s. But she’d never drunk alcohol in front of him, and she wasn’t about to start now.

    “Iced tea. Unsweet.” She usually wanted sweet, but as the size she was she wasn’t about to order that in front of her father either.

    Kelly’s father drained his rocks glass and held the empty glass up in a bid for another. Has this family always drunk this much and I just never realized it? The waiter slipped away after an affirmation, and Kelly unrolled her silverware and cut into the strip side of her steak. Her stomach was still in knots, and she didn’t want to, but she knew that not to eat her steak was to invite an inquisition from her father. It was well done, the way her father liked it. Even the strip side was hard to chew. She did her best with it and swallowed it down. It felt like it was flopping around in her stomach like a rock in a tumbler.

    She had so much she wanted to tell him, so many feelings jumbled inside. It wasn’t that she was afraid to tell him. It was that she didn’t know how to get started. She’d never talked that way with him before.

    Meanwhile, the business meeting continued.

    “So you’re gonna ask me about what's been going on with your school bills and your car payment and your car insurance and your sorority. Well, with what your mom’s doing all of that has been in flux.”

    Mom’s doing?

    “Frankly, that car and the insurance on it isn’t even close to worth it. It’s a crap European import, and I don’t care what’s on the faceplate. That was all your mother’s doing. No kid needs to be driving that thing as her first car. And personally I don’t give a crap about your sorority and that crappy house over there, either. Should have torn that thing down years ago. But I know that sorority’s your thing and I’m not gonna get in the way—though as far as I’m concerned all of that oughta be your mother’s responsibility. She was always the one who took care of that crap.”

    The habit of avoiding cursing was a long one in their family. Kelly appreciated it even now.

    “But all that crap’s still tied up in court,” he continued, “and I don’t know how long she’s gonna be pressing me on all that, so for now all of that’s gonna come from me. The car and insurance and the health insurance—all that’s fixed, routine. Easy. But I can’t keep track of all the minutiae of exactly when tuition and dues and all that mess has to get where. I’m done with that. So when you get that info I don’t want it bogging me down. I’ve got too much going on with the expansion of the business and all this court crap your mom’s having us do.”

    Again with the your mom bit. Does this man appreciate for one second what he did?

    The waiter arrived with Kelly’s tea and her father’s Scotch.

    “So what I want you to do is to coordinate all that directly with Justine. That way you won’t have to put up with all those hang-ups and delays on my end.”

    Justine was Ben’s longtime personal assistant in New York, where he’d been living now since last May.

    “Justine,” Kelly deadpanned, while her father attacked his steak again, knife and tooth.

    “Yeah. She manages almost all this stuff since your mom stopped doing it.”

    “Your steak, ma’am,” the waiter interjected. “Is it prepared to your liking?”

    “It’s fine. Thanks.”

    As she cut into it again, Kelly thought more about what it would be like under these circumstances having to call Justine for the things her father should be taking care of.

    It pissed her off.

    “Tell me, Dad,” she said, her bite of steak halfway to her face, “has she been fucking you since Mom stopped doing that, too?”

    That was it! That was exactly how she wanted to talk to him!
     

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