A bookish accountant reconnects with a childhood friend, whose appetite she helps reawaken. (This is my first attempt at writing fiction for this board. I appreciate feedback, and I'm not 100% on all the details of where this story will go so opinions are much appreciated. Thank you for reading!) The Diet by byutane Part 1: I grew up in a small town in Staffordshire. I was out of the loop, kind of unpopular, generally unremarkable, and that was the way I liked it. I felt a little othered most of my life, for a variety of reasons, so it was a relief really not to be under the spotlight. I had some verbal communication problems and chronic shyness, preferring books to people and alone time to socialisation. While this changed once I left home for university and my social skills improved, it influenced my formative years heavily - and in one particular area, this alien feeling followed me for a long time. When I was ten the older boy who lived next door came swimming with me. It was a hot summer that year, for a British one mind you, so I was eager to get into the water. He was nice enough to me and let me tag along with his friends that day. When we all emerged from our respective changing rooms and met next to the pool, I felt a strange tugging in the back of my mind when I caught sight of his rounded tummy sticking out from his body. Weird. I knew it was rude to stare, so I very carefully avoided doing so, then decided that I had to find out why his chubbiness had been so interesting. That evening I had a private viewing of Only The Lonely (you know, that John Candy romcom), which my parents had on VHS. I usually found a reason to leave if it was on. Like my encounter with my neighbour, the film made me feel strange in a way I couldn't name. So, sat there in the gloom with the TV on low, forcing myself to watch John Candy find love, I made a breakthrough. Fat dudes were just - the best. By far. I couldn't quite articulate why this was the case yet, but I knew it deep in my soul to be true. I also knew that this was something I had to keep in the dark. This was obvious at the time. The weird feeling had to be a manifestation of my private guilt at having such a strange thought. The comments my mother made about the weight of her friends or their partners, or even celebrities and people on the street, had to be coming from the same place as the rest of her maternal wisdom. The weight loss adverts, giggling gossip overheard in class or on the playground, the sad gaze of my overweight neighbour when he couldn't get a date for his leavers’ dance. It all told me that I was different. Completely different. And it wouldn't be good to reveal my secret. I can remember, when that neighbour was leaving for uni. I was nervous saying goodbye to him, thinking about when I'd also be leaving the nest in a few years. He'd filled out as we grew up, enough for both of us (I remained an unfortunate beanpole), so his arm pudge wiggled when he waved goodbye to his family as he drove away. I watched, privately hoping that I'd be able to divorce from my preference once he was gone. At the time I theorised that it was born of a crush on that guy specifically, nothing more. It was not. I avoided dating while still at school. I had crushes on some of my rounder classmates, yes, but I felt sure I would be the last person they'd want asking them out. I didn't have the most confidence in my appearance and I was well aware of my dismal social standing. I wouldn't be helpful. I would get rejected. And even if someone said yes to me, I wouldn't be able to hide how I felt about fat - and Christ knew what kind of awful response that little nugget of information would get. So. That's how I became slightly neurotic over my preference for fat guys. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, I grant you - possibly you think I'm overly sensitive, making so many assumptions. Consider, however, how hard the world pounds it into us that fat is bad. How alone I felt in my opinion, without access to a kindred spirit or a nonjudgmental outlet. In a way though, I'm glad I developed a repression complex - it's better than a saviour complex. Unfortunately this particular difficulty didn't get patched up by friendly uni mates and class projects and I remained single throughout my time in education. Okay, we're nearing the end of the exposition. Bear with me. I enjoyed university, but as previously mentioned I didn't see much success in the romance department. It made sense, at the time anyway, to focus on my course and to use my shiny new social skills to make industry contacts, instead of chat up cuddly blokes at the student union. My life was peaceful. I had an apartment to myself. Landed a job straight out of the gate. Had plenty of money with which to buy video games, and a growing nest egg which promised security. It was good. Life was good. So. Back to this neighbour of mine. We met again, purely by coincidence, at a cocktail party (where all the best reunions happen). By this time in my life I was getting ahead in my career, comfortably entrenched in a work-hobby cycle which was working out pretty well for me. Being an accountant comes naturally to me. I like numbers, I like shuffling numbers around, and I like being alone with numbers (especially those prime for shuffling). It's a little strange to my mind that some people consider it a boring job, but then again I'm used to handling people with opinions which differ from mine. As always I was rather plain looking, that never changed. In fact I was at this relatively upscale event in my slate-grey suit from work, with my hair pulled back in its customary bun. It was a good look for giving the impression of a bookish, hardworking demeanour, but I found myself cursing my style choice when I picked him out of the crowd. At first I just thought I'd seen a handsome guy. There was a little tug of familiarity at the back of my mind when I saw that blonde shock of hair, the ski-slope nose peeking through the throng of people… then he smiled, and something about the sight made things click. I remembered - his name was Charlie. Then, by coincidence, the rabble parted between us and I got a clear view of him. This wasn't the guy I remembered. At all.