The Great British Baking Contest (~BBW, Romance, ~~WG)

Discussion in 'Recent Additions' started by lurkymcduck, Oct 1, 2018.

  1. Oct 1, 2018 #1

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2014
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Brighton
    A dieting makeup artist regrets her decision to work for the Great British Baking Contest…until she meets one of the contestants.

    [Note: Yeah, I don't know anything about TV production or makeup. Based on a very popular show in the UK but not related, etc. etc.]



    The Great British Baking Contest
    by lurkymcduck


    Week One -Pie Week


    'Oh Lordie,' one of the producers sighed in in her nasal Mancunian drawl. 'Why'd they have to start with Pie Week?'

    Those were Rebecca's thoughts exactly as she sucked in her stomach and called the name of the first contestant--Alan, 32, teacher, happily married to other contestant George (builder, 37)--into her partition of the production tent. Her stomach grumbled. She slipped a hand over her navel and pressed in, telling it off. 'Not now,' she whispered. Not ever, she thought. Those days are over.

    While the producer was worrying about the right lighting for something semi-glossy and golden brown, Rebecca was worrying about her waistline. It didn’t help that the entire tent smelled of pastry - someone was testing the ovens with a morning sausage roll. Her boyfriend had left her during last year's Pie Week. He had come home from work to find her sat on the sofa - in her dressing gown, belt straining around her middle, an empty, sauce-smeared plate on the side table and someone crying over soggy shortcrust on the television - and had grabbed the dog and his rucksack and gone straight out again. At the time, it had been a disaster - a new, lonely existence in a dogless flat shared with twelve strangers. Now, eight months later, she counted herself lucky. She was three stone lighter, and instead of spending Pie Week on her bum at home, she had scored a coveted position on the other side of the camera, getting to smell the fat and flour in person but choosing to ignore it, instead carefully selecting bold lipstick colours for the contestants with the most characterful teeth.

    Alan settled himself into her stool. He was shorter than her, with light bones that barely made an impression in the polyester. He tilted his delicate chin upward, like someone used to putting on makeup.

    'George has been using self-tanner,' he said as she adjusted her lights a few inches down the pole. 'Anyway, make him less orange?'

    Rebecca caught a sideways glance of George hovering outside the door, looking not unlike a large, juicy mandarin in coveralls. He was burly and tattooed, very unlike the bird-like Alan, and very unlike the sort of person Rebecca thought would raid the tanning shelf at Superdrug.

    She smirked. 'I'll see what I can do.'

    George was after, who shooed away her advances with a grumbled, 'If I'm orange, I'm orange.' Next was Odette, a Belgian girl who became irritable when Rebecca refused to erase her freckles, followed by Shana, whose skin soaked in the deep brown foundation until she looked like an oil painting, as flawless as something designed by the masters and far out of the league of an amateur baking competition.

    Then it was teatime (black tea with one rice cake) and Rebecca ducked outside the tent door again, and called, 'Robert?'

    The tall figure of a man Rebecca hadn't seen before shuffled on a flimsy plastic deck chair. He was the only one remaining, the other contestants, judges, and hosts taken care of by Rebecca's senior partner, Eduardo, in the next room

    Robert cut a lonely, unsure figure as he climbed to his feet, stretching to his considerable height, flexing his equally considerable shoulders in a short-sleeved tee shirt as he stuffed his hands into the pockets of his jeans.

    'Right then,' he said. His voice was deep and unapologetically Glaswegian. 'I suppose I have to, don't I?'

    Rebecca began to say, 'I'll be quick,' but barely made it past the first syllable. Instead, she trailed off, staring at him a moment longer than was comfortable. She was used to this, watching people with searching eyes, looking for those little flaws that needed either covering or highlighting, gauging the slopes and thrusts of faces to see which parts would shine under camera lights. But Robert? Robert was…

    Stunning.

    She'd worked with stunning before. It was her job. Gorgeous men and women had passed beneath her brushes and come out looking even more unreal. But looking at Robert, with his spare, strong frame, sweep of lush, dark brown hair, wide, honest eyes that would pop under the blue filter, and the uncertain set of his generous mouth, Rebecca found herself at a sudden and embarrassing loss.

    'Hi,' she attempted. It came out crackly, like boiled sweet wrappers.

    Robert gave an uncertain bow of his head. 'Hi,' he said. Another beat. He gestured toward the open flap of the door. 'So should we-'

    'Oh, yeah,' Rebecca said. 'Come in, please.'

    He followed her into the room, standing, still awkward, while she made herself busy readjusting the lights, wondering why on earth she didn't remember him from her photo reports.

    'I always wondered what it would be like,' he said. He scuffed the carpet. 'TV.'

    'Well…' Rebecca searched lamely for something to say. 'Here you are.'

    'Here I am,' he said, allowing himself a nervous little grin.

    'Have a seat,' Rebecca said, waving him toward the chair. He sat at the same time she pressed the pedal, and he dropped almost to the floor.

    'Sorry,' she said. 'You're so tall. Could you just part your knees a bit so I can get close enough to you? There, thanks.'

    What was usually comfortable and everyday for Rebecca had suddenly become uncomfortable, and not just for her. Robert was nervous. An irregular corona of steam was spreading around his fingers as they clasped the metal armrests of the stool. She bent toward him and swept a brush through matte powder.

    'I'm Rebecca, by the way,' she said. Her Brummie accent was coming out strong. She hoped it didn't make her sound like a thicko. 'I don't remember seeing you in my profiles?'

    'Oh, yeah,' Robert said. He adjusted his stance a bit, parting his legs wider. 'One of the older ladies had got her dog into an important show or something. Schedule clash, apparently. So they brought me in instead.'

    'You weren't front of the queue?' Rebecca said, fully aware she sounded strained and over-eager. She had been powdering his forehead for too long and it looked like he'd just face-planted in plain flour. She took a wet-wipe to it and tried again.

    His face flushed red. 'Not an engaging enough screen presence, apparently.'

    Rebecca laughed. 'Way to make you feel more comfortable before you go on camera.'

    The red spread to his ears as he shrugged. 'They didn't intend on me being here. But here I am. And I do like to bake.'

    Some of his tension left him at that last admission. His hands stilled on the armrests, and his shoulders sank back against the stool. His face relaxed and Rebecca could finally smooth out his creases. For his gorgeousness and olive undertones, he was quite weather-beaten, with sun marks scattered across his hairline.

    'Tell me what you like to bake,' Rebecca said. It was intended as light conversation, but she was starting to sound oddly breathy. She moved onto the back of his neck, distracted by his jawline and wondering if contouring it would bring it to Superman levels of ridiculousness.

    'Everything,' he said. His Adam's apple bobbed as he spoke. 'Biscuits, pies, cake, bread. But I'm especially good at pastry. You should taste my croissants. The best in…well, I'm one of the only people for ten miles where I live, so probably the best in ten miles in a very particular place in Scotland.'

    She cast a glance toward the mirror and found that he was watching her face, a ghost of a smile on his lips. The more time he spent in her chair, the less he was like the Robert she had first seen on the bench outside, the 'not-engaging-enough-screen-presence' Robert, and saw the Robert that the nation would fall in love with as soon he appeared on their television screens.

    'You like pastry, don’t you?' he said. 'Working here?'

    She jerked her gaze from the mirror.

    'Diet,' she chirped, blushing. How could she keep him here longer without making him look like a living, breathing Photoshop? Then, without knowing why, she admitted, 'Boyfriend dumped me for getting fat.'

    Robin gave a single mirthful laugh. 'Tosser!' he exclaimed. His vehemence startled her, but she immediately liked him for it. The word sounded delicious in his accent. 'You're well-rid of him then, at least.'

    'Lost ten stone instantly, then another three,' she agreed.

    (continued in Post 2)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2018
    Ulvrik likes this.
  2. Oct 1, 2018 #2

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2014
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Brighton
    (Chapter 1, continued)

    'Christ, ten stone. What was he, an accountant?'

    She pressed her lips together. Robert laughed. It was lovely, like they were sharing a joke, and not at all cruel.

    'You're very well shot of him, then. Three stone?' Unlike all others who she'd shared her weight loss with (work colleagues, friends, nosy family members) he didn't give her the assessing up-down look that she'd grown used to, but she almost wished he would. 'You cannae afford to raid the contest leftovers a bit, then? No boyfriend anymore to make an ass out of himself at your expense.'

    'Maybe,' Rebecca said, while inside the Rebecca that had sweated on the elliptical and refused cake for eight months was stomping her foot.

    She ignored that inner Rebecca in favour of the Rebecca who noticed that Robert wore no wedding ring and had intimated that he lived alone. Her (usually very accurate) gaydar also rested in complete silence.

    Instead, she felt that 'maybe' linger on her tongue as she finally stepped back, examining her work. She'd done very little. Robert looked in the mirror. He looked pleased.

    'You didn't get rid of my scars,' he said. He pointed to the pearly pucker marks beneath his right ear.

    'No,' Rebecca said. 'I thought they looked dashing.'

    'Fuck, d'you think so?' Robert bent closer to the mirror. 'I always thought it looked like I'd been caught upside the head by a broken bottle.'

    'Don't be silly,' Rebecca protested.

    'Really? It should do,' Robert said. ''Cause that's exactly what happened.'

    Rebecca laughed. Some of her own tension was leaching away. Her brushes dangled from her hand.

    The seat squeaked as Robert climbed to his feet, looming what must have been six-four, over a foot taller than her five-three.

    'I'll see you out there, then?' Robert said, moving toward the door. 'Compact in hand, chasing us around the ovens?'

    Rebecca nodded. Her chestnut ponytail bobbed. Her hands slid easily into the pockets of her skinny-fit jeans. 'I'll be there.'

    'Good,' Robert said. He smiled fully, and just a bit crookedly, and a breeze eased through the tent, bringing with it the buttery, savoury smell of test-baking pie. 'Are you lucky?'

    Rebecca startled. She didn't quite know what to say.

    'I'm here, aren't I?' she settled on at last.

    'Good,' Robert said. His face relaxed into a full, wide smile. 'I could use your luck. Because I'd really like to be back in that chair next week.'

    *
    Rebecca ate a breakfast of plain yoghurt as she sat back and watched proceedings. She was safe on her side, seated far enough out of the way but still able to see - and smell - everything. The first challenge was meat pies. Willow (nursery supervisor) used red lentils instead and was harangued by the judges for adding too much salt. Verona's use of whole cloves rendered her gravy inedible. Robert, perfectly competent, sailed through with a shrug and a, 'Pretty good,' from both judges. They walked away and Robert's eyes found her; he gave her a grin and an enthusiastic thumbs-up. She blushed in return and Will, assistant producer, gave her a sideways glance that she avoided with another spoonful of yoghurt.

    The Treacle Tart challenge was easier on her grumbling stomach. Two contestants burnt it, and the entire tent smelled charred. Only when the doors were propped open and the fans turned on did the smell dissipate, and only then did Robert appear in front of Rebecca with a small plate and a large piece of tart.

    'You are good luck,' he said. 'Thanks for that.'

    He'd come in second. Rebecca had clapped quite hard.

    'I shouldn't,' she said.

    'Go on,' he said. 'There won't be any left soon after those lot have descended.' He thumbed over his shoulder and Rebecca's eyes followed. The camera crew were already circling the benches.

    'Oh,' Rebecca said, wondering why she felt warmth spreading across her cheeks at his insistence that she eat. 'Fine, then.'

    'You won't regret it,' Robert said.

    'Moment on the lips…' she sighed.

    'Nothing wrong with a good sturdy pair of hips, either,' Robert replied.

    The next day was fruit pies. Verona split the meringue for her lemon meringue and was sent home, crying. Robert made a three tier American special of blueberry, apple-cinnamon, and Key Lime. The judges made him Star Baker. Rebecca salivated from a distance, not trusting herself to get close lest she had a repeat of the last time she'd seen Key Lime pie at a buffet in Las Vegas and had nearly demolished an entire tin by herself.

    Rebecca returned to the tent after applying a fresh coat of mascara to Verona's lashes for her exit interview to find a plate on her chair, with one good-sized slice of each flavour.

    Nothing wrong with a good sturdy pair of hips, either, he had said.

    Rebecca pressed her palms against her hip bones through the pocket linings of her jeans. She did feel bony. A bit jagged.

    And hungry.

    And, weirdly, the littlest bit turned on.
     
    blinkman8907 and Ulvrik like this.
  3. Oct 5, 2018 #3

    Benny Mon

    Benny Mon

    Benny Mon

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2011
    Messages:
    93
    Likes Received:
    46
    Location:
    ,
    Fabulous, these are some engaging and fleshed out characters. Looking forward to seeing Rebecca fleshed out in other ways, too!
     
  4. Oct 6, 2018 #4

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2014
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Brighton
    Chapter Two - Biscuit Week, Part 1


    When Rebecca returned to the tent the following weekend, she was proud of herself. She had been a good girl. She was strong and strong-willed and completely under her own control. She hadn't fallen into the temptation of Key Lime nor handsome men. She had boxed the pie and taken it with her, then thrown it in the bin at the services halfway down the motorway. She had completely ignored the pang of regret and buried herself in a salad the moment she got home. She hadn't looked twice at a bakery since.

    'How was it, then?' were the first words he asked her when he flopped into her stool early that Saturday morning. 'The pie?'

    'Oh, you know,' Rebecca said, busying herself with her sterilizer and trying to hide her blush. 'Sublime.'

    'Isn't that what the judges said?' Robert asked.

    'They were right,' Rebecca said sagely, with a little guilty grin.

    She wasn't sure why it mattered so much, that she ate the pie he gave her. Why he seemed so insistent on Rebecca in particular enjoying his baking. She was just a makeup artist. Not a contestant, not a host, not a judge. What she did or thought had no bearing on whether or not he won the trophy. It was his baking, not her taste buds, that mattered.

    He's probably a big weirdo and gets off on feeding people, she thought as she rubbed concealer into a red mark beneath his chin. Thank God he wasn't around when I was fifteen. I would've weighed five hundred pounds.

    'You all right?' Robert asked, startling her. 'You look a wee bit feverish.'

    'Just a bit warm in here,' Rebecca said.

    'A bit,' he said, though he frowned slightly, like he didn't believe her. It did interesting and attractive things to the attractive shape of his mouth. 'Did you have a good week, then?'

    'Yeah, fine,' Rebecca said. 'Nothing too exciting. You?'

    'Aye. Trees, wood, the lot. You know.'

    Rebecca did know. Where she hadn't given into the temptation of the Key Lime pie, she had caved to the lure of the contestant info binder in the production tent, and had pored over Robert's profile with something akin to fervent devotion. Thirty-three, a manager at a lumber mill. No wife, no live-in girlfriend. A dog. Close to - and often bakes for - his sister.

    Single.

    'I'd love to work with wood,' Rebecca said.

    'Would you, now?' Robert said in obvious surprise. 'What is it that appeals to you so much? The saws? The dust? The sexy hi-vis?'

    'I actually have a fetish for those massive ear defenders.'

    Robert laughed. Rebecca warmed through at the sound of it.

    'Besides, I'll have you know I was top of my class in DT,' she sniffed. 'I built this enormous clock which is still on my mantle' (fake mantle, over fake fireplace in her tiny Coventry flat) 'and hand-carved the numbers and everything.'

    'That is impressive,' he said. He added wryly, 'I failed woodwork.'

    Rebecca grinned. 'Aced food tech?'

    He grinned back. 'How'd you know?'

    'Just a hunch.'

    They looked at each other for a brief moment in the mirror: Rebecca rosy-cheeked and milky complexioned; Robert weather-beaten and with a gaze so intense that she pressed her thighs together beneath her skirt.

    She looked away, her round face blushing harder.

    Robert was the first to break the silence. He let out a long breath. 'Biscuit week,' he said. He sounded suddenly nervous. 'Never thought I'd shit myself over wee fucking biscuits.'

    'You'll be fine,' Rebecca said, though it seemed an inadequate platitude. She said it to all the contestants.

    'Maybe,' he said. 'Which one's your favourite?'

    'Sorry?'

    'Y'know. Biscuits. Round things.'

    The heat in her face flared again.

    'Peanut butter cookies.'

    His dark eyebrows shot up in surprise. 'You like all those American flavours, then?'

    'Love them,' she said.

    'Hm,' Robert said, and the hum of it both thrilled and unnerved her.

    (Continued in post 4)
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
  5. Oct 6, 2018 #5

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2014
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Brighton
    (continued from post 3)

    *

    It was raining. The brandy snap variety challenge had contestants in tears. George's had melted off the sheet in the oven. Everyone's moods were darkening as quickly as the sky.

    'Shit,' Rebecca snapped at her mobile. Her sister was ringing. She knew she wasn't supposed to unless something had happened to Mum. The plain blue RACHEL on the screen immediately cracked open a pit of dread in her stomach. 'Excuse me,' she said to no one, hurrying to the production tent.

    'Rachel?' she said, ducking into an empty room. 'What's happened?'

    'Jesus,' Rachel snapped, then softened. 'Nothing. Ouch. Sorry. You don't need to shout.'

    'I wasn't shouting.'

    'You were…never mind. Are you alone?'

    'Ye-es,' Rebecca said. She crossed her arms against herself, chilled. 'What's wrong?'

    'Nothing's wrong,' Rachel said. You're not driving or anything, are you?'

    'Does it sound like I'm driving?'

    'It sounds like you're in a white noise simulator set to rainforest. Oh! You're at work, aren't you? Sorry, completely forgot. How's it going? Is your favourite still there?'

    'Ssh,' Rebecca urged her. 'Just tell me what you want.'

    'You're sure you're okay?' Rachel said.

    'RACH! For fuck's sake. I won't know until you tell me, will I?'

    'Right,' Rachel said, taking a breath to collect her thoughts. 'You remember Jono.'

    'Fuck do I remember Jono?' Rebecca said. 'We lived together for two years.'

    'Right, yeah. So I ran into him at ASDA this morning--'

    It gave Rebecca a sudden pang of glee to hear that her accountant ex was slobbing through ASDA on a Saturday morning instead of M&S, though part of her wondered how the great one had fallen so low.

    '--and, oh, Becs, he was with someone.'

    'Really?' Rebecca wasn't sure how to respond. How did she feel? She didn't know. They'd broken up eight months ago. At the time she had left a drunken message on his answerphone: crooning Adele's Someone Like You and then sobbing, slurring that she hoped his next girlfriend would be thin enough for him. It wasn't a memory she liked to entertain often, and she really hoped that he didn't play it to their ex-mutual friends at parties. 'What was she like?' Rebecca asked her sister.

    'Well…'

    There was a long, strung-out silence.

    'Rach?'

    'Here,' Rach said. 'I'll send you a photo.'

    'Rach, you really shouldn't take photos of people without them knowing--'

    'Oh, fuck off. You'll thank me when you see it. Here.'

    There was the sound of distant tapping and swearing on the other end of the line, followed by the swift vibrating sound of a message received on Whatsapp.

    Rebecca opened it.

    'Oh my God,' she said.

    'I know,' Rachel said.

    'She's…'

    'HUGE.'

    'Not huge,' Rebecca said, though while it was more polite, it was not necessarily truthful. The photo was a bit blurry, obviously taken while Rachel was pretending to check her mobile for her shopping list at roughly waist-height, and as such the proportions were slightly out, but undoubtedly, there was Jono, leaning on a shopping trolley in jeans and a cabled cashmere jumper that Rebecca had bought him for Christmas. By his side was a blond woman with - to take inspiration from Bridget Jones - a bottom the size of Brazil, and the breasts to match.

    'Is she a glamour model or something?' Rebecca said.

    'Fuck if I know. Are you okay? I know with everything that happened--'

    'I'm fine,' Rebecca said. She looked toward the opening of the tent, where it still poured down with rain. 'Look, I got to go.'

    'You sure you're okay?'

    'Bye!'

    Rebecca hung up and stared at the photo for another ten seconds. Studied it. The hair. The bum. The boobs.

    The belly.

    'FUUUUCK!' she screamed, and threw her phone against the side of the tent, where - both frustratingly and thankfully - it refused to shatter.

    She knew how she felt now. Every inch of her burned with it.

    Rage. That was what she felt. Not hurt, not lonely…just pure, unadulterated rage. How DARE he. How DARE he leave her, walking out the door and calmly telling her that she was too fat. She was too fat. At her largest (as an adult, in any regard) she'd been half of the size of the woman at his side in that photograph.

    And it wasn't just that.

    Something else. Something that Rachel might not have noticed, as dim as she could be.

    The woman wasn't just fat.

    She was pregnant.

    About eight months along.

    Rebecca breathed deeply, evenly, her mobile shaking in her hand.

    She deleted the photo.

    And then she stomped back to the baking tent, absolutely ravenous.

    *

    'You all right?' Shana asked when Rebecca bundled in with a tube of lipstick, cross with Odette for having drunk tea and ruined her colour.

    Shana's skin shone warm mahogany, her perfect eyes bright and cat-like, mouth generous and red. She and Robert would have made a handsome couple, Rebecca had thought, if Shana were into men. 'You seem a bit…off.'

    The cameramen had wandered off for a moment, giving them a brief moment of privacy, though the boom mics still loomed above them, capturing every word they said.

    'Don't worry about me,' Rebecca said with a pasted-on grin. 'How are the oat biscuits going?'

    'Hard as rocks.' She gave the oven a little kick with her ankle. 'Hey, we're all going for a curry tonight. Comradely thing. D'you want to join?'

    'Isn't that a contestant thing?'

    'Think we're allowed to invite you?'

    Rebecca sneaked Robert a sideways glance. He had his back to them, staring down at the oven, but the back of his neck looked suspiciously red. She looked back to Shana, who wore a raised eyebrow and a knowing twist of the mouth.

    'Sure,' she said.

    'We'll save you a chair,' Shana said.

    'Becs, out of shot!' Will shouted.

    Rebecca retreated to the treat table and stuffed her fingers into the tin of broken brandy snaps. She watched proceedings, barely thinking of the promise of an evening curry, hardly seeing anything in her mind except the deleted photograph, the woman, and the man she'd been too fat to keep.

    When she looked down, the entire tin was gone.
     
  6. Oct 7, 2018 #6

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2014
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Brighton
    Post no 1 edit: 'last week's pie week' should obviously be year's. Mods, anyway we can retain the ability to edit old posts in the story forum?
     
  7. Oct 7, 2018 #7

    agouderia

    agouderia

    agouderia

    Library Girl Global Moderator

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Messages:
    2,266
    Likes Received:
    315
    Location:
    ,
    Edited it - I hope I chose the correct sentence you wanted edited.

    Regarding the general option of editing older posts - please contact out Mod-in-Chief, loopytheone.
    She is much more knowledgeable about the technical asptects here than I am.
     
    lurkymcduck likes this.
  8. Oct 9, 2018 #8

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2014
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Brighton
    Chapter Three - Biscuit Week, Part 2


    Shana had texted her the address of the curry house, a small place set amongst a labyrinthine jumble of buildings in Flidditch, a market town a half hour from filming and a five minute walk from the contestants' hotel. She hadn't told any of the crew she'd be going. For some reason, though it had never been explicitly said, she had the idea in her head that she wasn't meant to fraternise with the subjects of what Will sometimes called (particularly when drunk) their 'baking documentary'.

    She wore the dress she'd worn that morning because she hadn't brought her date clothes (this wasn't a date) but with tights instead of leggings, and had shoved the one pair of earrings she owned through her earlobes (even though this wasn't a date). Inside, the waiter took her coat and ushered her to the table.

    She was the last one to arrive, which she supposed made sense if everyone else had arrived together. For it being only the second weekend, the contestants all seemed very chummy, chatty, and cheerful, especially considering the tempers Rebecca had seen flare in the tent that morning. Even more touchingly, someone had left two spare seats: one for herself, she supposed, and the other (marked by a placard that someone had made from a hotel room service menu) marked with the name of their fallen comrade: VERONA.

    A chair emerged from the table. 'Hi,' Robert said.

    For a moment the rest of the room ceased to exist. The other diners, their table-mates, the waiters rushing through with hot plates and napkins dangling. The lava-lamp walls and the neon Taj Mahal over the bar. All she saw was Robert sitting sideways on his chair, smiling at her and wearing a shirt that brought out the blue in his eyes and the gold in his skin.

    'Hi,' Rebecca said.

    'Rebecca!' Shana broke through Rebecca's blissful tunnel vision. She was dressed in an immaculate silk blouse, obviously braless, with her tight curls piled high on top of her head. She looked just as stunning as Robert, and Rebecca felt suddenly underdressed. 'So glad you could make it. Have a seat. Champagne?'

    Rebecca sat. Robert was still smiling at her, his intense blue eyes set on hers. At her other side, Shana was pouring her a glass.

    'Oh, sorry,' she said. 'Are you doing alcohol right now? Does that go with your diet?'

    Rebecca frowned at her, breaking away from Robert's silent attention with reluctance. 'Did I blab about that to you, too?'

    Shana pursed her lips and rolled her eyes in the manner of someone either trying to remember something or attempting to lie.

    'Must've,' she said.

    'Oh,' Rebecca said. She took a long pull of her champagne. 'No matter.' The glass clinked as she set it down. 'Diet's over.'

    An unexpected cheer went up from their end of the table.

    Shana laughed. 'Bunch of feeders!' she shouted at them. 'But good on you. Dieters are so boring.'

    Shana's attention soon turned to showing pictures of her two young daughters to Odette, and Rebecca (finally) was able to turn her attention back to Robert, who had been deep in conversation about lamination techniques with George but cut it short once he felt Rebecca lean in closer to him.

    'Well,' he said with a sheepish smile, his ears red in the odd curry-house lighting. He grabbed his water glass and tilted it toward her. 'Here we are, finally on equal footing.'

    'Says the man who's twelve feet tall.'

    He slumped down in his chair. 'You tower over me in your little makeup stool, you know that. I feel above five in that thing.'

    'I like to be able to see whether I need to powder bald spots.'

    His grin was gorgeous. 'Oh, aye, you should see my da. I'll probably be completely hairless by the final, if I make it that far. Ah, poppadums?'

    The chutneys had arrived, followed by a plate piled high with crispy, golden poppadums the size of a platter. Robert nudged the plate toward her. Shana's laughing proclamation that table was full of feeders bumped around in Rebecca's head.

    She took one.

    'There're two each,' Robert said.

    She took another.

    'So what happened to the diet, then?' Robert said, taking a poppadum of his own and breaking it into shards on his side plate.

    'Oh,' Rebecca said. Her mouth twisted at the memory. 'My sister rang earlier.'

    Robert's curious smile widened. Rebecca remembered his purported fondness for his own sister and loved him for it, though she wondered if his was less annoying than hers.

    'Ex was cheating on me,' she said plainly. 'She saw him shopping with some chubby woman who was at least eight months gone, which happens to be about the same time he left me for - what he said at the time - was me getting too fat. So you know?' A wedge of poppadum broke into crumbs. 'Fuck it.'

    'Aye,' Robert said. 'Fuck it indeed. What a wanker.'

    'You have no idea.' Rebecca emptied her champagne glass like it was water. Robert poured her another. The bottle was still nearly full.

    'Is no one else drinking?' she asked, noting the water glasses dotted around the table.

    'Nah,' Robert said. 'No one wants to come in smashed tomorrow. Our necks are on the line.'

    Rebecca coloured, embarrassed for forgetting that while she'd be seeing the show through to the end, one of these lovely people was about to be sent home. She sobered slightly and piled more onion and coriander onto her poppadum.

    'So,' she said, turning on Robert with a full mouth. He was still looking at her in spite of her brief recess into her appetizer, like he existed only to please her. 'You're single, then?'

    His eyebrows shot up. 'Is it that obvious?'

    'I read your file.' God, she was already drunk.

    He laughed. 'Aye, I'm single.'

    'Why?' she said thickly.

    'Lord, you're a lightweight,' he said, dodging the question and instead pouring her a glass of water. 'Why don't you hold off on the champagne until your food gets here?'

    'Oh God, are they taking orders?' Rebecca spotted the waiter at the other end of the table.

    'What are you getting?' Robert asked.

    'Everything,' Rebecca said, shoving another shard of poppadum in her mouth, ravenous. 'I'm getting everything.'

    (continued in post 9)
     
  9. Oct 9, 2018 #9

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2014
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Brighton
    (continued from post 8)

    As it turned out, 'everything' wasn't an order the restaurant could fulfil, so Rebecca settled on a lamb rogan josh, a saag gobi, and a naan - no, two naans, because she couldn't choose between the garlic and the peshwari. Oh, and a mushroom rice. And a lahsi. Just to take the edge off the champagne.

    'Woman after my own heart,' Robert said.

    'Leftovers for tomorrow,' Rebecca said.

    There wouldn't be leftovers for tomorrow, but Rebecca didn't know that, yet.

    Robert took a deep breath once the waiter had moved on. 'So why am I single, then?'

    'The masses will want to know,' Rebecca said, nodding.

    'Honestly?'

    'Honestly.' Rebecca paused, a piece of her second poppadum stalling on its path to her mouth. 'This isn't to do with those scars, is it?'

    Robert's answering laugh was a little uneasy.

    'No,' he said. 'I did have a girlfriend,' he said. 'Broke up around the same time you split with your accountant, matter of fact.'

    'I'm sorry,' Rebecca said. 'Rude of me to bring up.'

    He shrugged. 'It happens.'

    'So?' she urged him, and he laughed again.

    'Relentless!' he called her. 'You should've been a police detective.'

    'Who can only work when drunk,' she said.

    'Might not be best, then,' he agreed. 'So...I suppose it's similar, really, to what happened to you.'

    'She said you were too fat, took the dog, and left you?'

    'Christ, no. If she touched Panda I would've gone Liam Neeson on her ass. No, so you know I like to bake.'

    Rebecca nodded. 'I gathered as much.'

    His teeth were very white when he smiled. 'Too much, apparently. She liked my baking, and, well...'

    'She got fat,' Rebecca guessed.

    His grin widened. 'So to speak.'

    'So...you left her?'

    'Ha! No. She'd never looked better. She didn't have the willpower, so she left me. Better off in the end, I suppose, but at the time it kind of stung that someone might dump you because you make a mean biscuit they can't say no to.'

    'Monster,' Rebecca whispered.

    'So now I'm just looking for someone I can grow fat and old with.'

    'Psh,' Rebecca dismissed him, with a very obvious glance down at his flat abs and strong legs. 'You don't get fat.'

    'No, you're right,' Robert said. 'Just old, then. For my own part, anyway.'

    Rebecca didn't know what he meant by that, but thought it might be better not to ask. Besides, their food had arrived.

    The table went a bit quiet after that, only interrupting bites of curry with, 'Here, try this's and the ceremonial tearing apart of naans to gauge gluten content and proving time.

    The rogan josh was delicious, as was the saag gobi, and the mango lahsi took the edge off the spice. It reminded her of university in the way that most fattening things did, especially when paired with alcohol. It might have been the champagne's fault that when she looked down it was to find her entire meal was gone except for a spoonful of mushroom rice and a half of a naan. But she couldn't blame alcohol for that tin of brandy snaps, either.

    Unbidden, the fat woman in the photograph floated back to the surface of her thoughts. She finished the rice.

    A spoon clanked on glass. Alan was standing, though it was difficult to tell.

    'I just want to thank everyone for coming tonight,' Alan said, his soft Belfast lilt difficult to hear among the conversations of the other diners. He pushed his thick glasses further up his nose. 'It was a difficult day in the tent, but I think I speak for everyone when I say that we all deserve to be here today, and no matter what happens tomorrow...' His delicate hand landed on his husband's shoulder '...we are all Baking Contest family, and we will always remember you. Saying that, we have already lost one member of our family...' He gestured to the empty chair and Verona's name in Sharpie '...and it would be wrong for us to forget that. So I propose a toast: to Verona.'

    They lifted their glasses. 'To Verona.'

    Rebecca clinked glasses with Robert last. They watched each other over the rims as they drank, his eyes smiling, but a little...

    Uncertain?

    Afraid?

    'I don't want you to go home,' Rebecca said to him.

    He leaned forward, his knee pressing against hers. 'I don't either.'

    'Bake well tomorrow, yeah?' she urged him.

    'Like my life depends on it,' he replied.
     
  10. Oct 10, 2018 at 2:54 PM #10

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2014
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Brighton
    Week 4 - Choux Week

    Robert had a blog. It was frustratingly sparse on personal details but full of recipes and a few photos of his life in beautifully remote central Scotland. His last post had been from three months ago. She was disappointed (and perhaps hoping she'd see some hint of something - some I've met someone post dated a week ago - but remembered the non-disclosure agreement and came to the conclusion that if he was interested in her, she'd rather hear from his lips than the internet).

    She tried a few of his recipes. They were good, but not as good as he would have made them. Not that it stopped her from eating the spoils. She did the makeup of a friend's daughter for prom and received payment in the form of a box of Krispy Kremes. 'You shouldn't have,' she told them both. They were all gone by morning.

    On Friday she stepped on the scale. She had gained seven pounds.

    'Well, shit. That was quick,' she whispered, shifting her weight on the platform. It flickered away and back to 1-3-7 again, then blinked its affirmation. Rebecca shrugged. 'Oh well,' she said.

    She went to finish her packing. Traded a pair of slacks for jeggings. Then she threw on her coat, loosened the belt, and grabbed a banana as she went out the door.

    It was baking weekend, and she was going back to work. And so was Robert.

    *

    'Have a good week?' asked Shana as she sat in Rebecca's chair.

    'Yes,' Rebecca answered. She swept her brush across a palette. Shana was very obviously regarding Rebecca's middle in the mirror. 'Why?' Rebecca asked.

    'I'm friendly,' Shana said. She looked away, smiling. 'And my week was fine, thanks.'

    After Shana it was Robert's turn. He settled in the stool without a word.

    Rebecca adjusted the waistband of her leggings and turned to her powders.

    'You look nice,' Robert said.

    Rebecca flushed. 'Thanks,' she said.

    'Not dieting suits you.'

    'Well, you know what they say.' She swept a brush across the powder with a flourish. 'When on Baking Contest...'

    'Eat Baking Contest?'

    She smiled. 'Apparently last year Will gained twenty pounds.'

    'Lucky bastard. Wish I could. It gets cold up north.'

    'You need someone to keep you warm.'

    They were both blushing now. Rebecca didn't breathe as she leant forward and smoothed his errant eyebrow with the back of her fingernail. Robert, too, seemed to be holding his breath.

    'What are you making for the eclairs?' Rebecca asked, forcing the conversation on. She could feel his eyes on her, locked on her middle, probably locating the curry on her hips, the donuts on her breasts, the brandy snaps clinging to her lower belly.

    'Peanut butter,' he said. His lips hung open, dewy, quirked at the side into a slight smirk. He looked up at her through his eyelashes. 'With a chocolate glaze.'

    'Oh God,' Rebecca said. She felt very suddenly warm down below. 'That's not fair.'

    'You said the diet was over,' Robert said.

    'Well now it's never coming back,' Rebecca said.

    'Good,' Robert said. 'It looks...good.'

    Rebecca's face was actual beetroot in the mirror. He noticed. Of course he noticed. Her tunic was clinging to her belly like she was three months pregnant. She hadn't sprouted a baby in the past week, had she?

    She'd never been so mortified. She'd also never been so turned on.

    What is wrong with him? What is wrong with me?

    'It's...' Rebecca said. Hngggh, said her brain. 'I think I like it...too.'

    'Are you going to keep...enjoying it?' Robert said.

    His pupils were as wide as gingersnaps.

    Oh God, Rebecca thought.

    'Yes,' she said. She stepped forward. His hand, resting on the armrest, brushed against her hip as she moved closer. 'As long as you're here, I'm sure I will.'
     
  11. Oct 11, 2018 at 6:53 AM #11

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2014
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Brighton
    Week Four - Cheese Week


    Rebecca had always loved cheese. Cross her heart, hoped to die...preferably face-down in the remains of an entire wheel of brie. Gouda, paneer, halloumi? Brilliant. Red Leicester, smoked cheddar, Blue Stilton, Cornish Yarg? Divine. She campaigned against Brexit with banners protesting anything that disrupted the import of Emmental from Switzerland. She'd kept jars of chutney for Christmas, when she would finally treat herself to that fattening Brie and Cranberry baguette. She'd gained at least twenty of her Jono-pounds on raclette alone.

    Now Rebecca hadn't had cheese in eight months.

    In the beginning she'd told herself it was better this way. Inside, it felt worse than the breakup. She'd grown up around cheese, her mother treating her and Rachel to cheese toasties every day after school. They'd both been fat children, but Rebecca hadn't cared back then. Kids and their parents both hated fat but confidence and a sense of humour could win anyone over. As a teenager, good makeup went some way toward hiding a nascent double chin. Even when she took up swimming in Year 12, it just gave her the excuse to eat more. Life made her hungry; swimming made her ravenous.

    Then came uni, takeaway and beer. A job in the local cheese shop for beer-and-takeaway-money and something to fall back on in case that Makeup in Media degree didn't pan out. Twenty pounds gained on kebab and samples. The big 2-0-0. Stretchy trousers and blouses with ruching beneath the bust.

    Then she had to grow up.

    She'd always heard adults say, laughing, to remain a child if you could. But why would she? Youth was insecurity - mouldy shared rooms, freezer burnt chicken tenders, and the Student Loans Company badgering you to repay loans you hadn't finished borrowing yet. Adulthood was a glorious Emerald City at the end of a long potholed road: a steady job. A flat of her own. A dog, eventually.

    A boyfriend.

    But it turned out that those adults were right. Adulthood had responsibilities and expectations. She exchanged the cheese shop she loved for more time spent on her actual career, though it barely paid her enough to make up the difference. Her fridge-freezer emptied in deference to the broadband and heating. The boys at the kebab shop could no longer remember her name.

    Then she met Jono.

    It was amateur dramatics, back when he still pretended to have a personality. The director had ordered him extra eyeliner because his face tended to disappear on stage - which should have been her first clue, really.

    She was down to just over ten stone at that point - soft but average - and had felt deflated. She wanted pizza and fondue and for this stupid man to stop squirming in her chair.

    'You are very pretty,' he told her, deadpan.

    She nearly drew a line into his eye. 'Do you think so?' she said. No one had ever said that to her, at least not that forthright and when they weren't drunk.

    'Yes,' he said. 'Do you want to go out?'

    They went out. They got on. Six months later they moved in together. Six months after that they adopted a dog.

    Rebecca had performed as expected, ordered her life neatly according to conventions. Graduate. Lose weight. Get a job. Get a man. Get a house and a dog. Stay the same weight, no matter if you fracture your ankle or are working nights or if it's award season with pre-party drinks and three course meals.

    Then came the Great British Baking Contest and the comfort of the sofa and the dressing gown.

    Then back came the cheese.

    And back came the fat.

    And eight months later, here she was, her hand buried in a party bag of cheese puffs, watching her mobile and willing it to ring.

    She'd been texting Robert ever since they left the tent, courtesy of Shana, who had given them both the other's number. It had been Robert who started it with a photo of a happy, panting Panda and an offer: You know I'm happy to go all Taken to find someone else's dog, too.

    Rebecca had smiled at that. It's fine, she'd replied. She was Jono's dog, really. Besides, with the amount of time either spent on a sofa or at work, lately, Mitzie never would have been walked if she'd stayed with Rebecca. Part of her briefly wondered if Mitzie would like having a new baby to play with, but quickly dismissed that thought.

    How's Scotland? she asked.

    Scottish, he replied. How's the South?

    Coventry is not South.

    You're basically Africa to me, mate.

    Rebecca laughed.

    You should come visit, she said. I can show you the great sites of the Midlands.

    Aye, he replied, but only after you've come to see me. I need someone to keep me warm, after all.

    They'd texted off and on Monday and Tuesday, sending photographs and flirtatious messages as both of their work schedules allowed.

    On Tuesday night he rang her.

    'You free?' he asked.

    She rolled over in bed. It was nearly eleven. Her belly was full of Jamaican ginger cake and meal-deal-for-two from Ocado.

    'Yeah,' she said. She felt her face stretch wide in a smile. 'Hi.'

    'Hi,' he said.

    'What can I help you with?' she asked.

    'I've been practicising all evening,' he said, 'and I now have a pile of molten cheese at the bottom of my oven.'

    Rebecca rolled onto her back. Her belly flattened against her ribs, pressing the air out of her lungs.

    'That sounds amazing,' she said in awe.

    He laughed. 'Tempted to have Panda clean it out for me,' he said, 'but God, maybe you'd do the trick.'

    'Save me some for the weekend,' she said.

    'I'll do my best. But Christ, Becs, cheese is not baking. I'm not sure I can do this.'

    'Of course you can. Cheese is better than baking,' she replied in earnest. 'Cheese is life.'

    His frustration was fading. He was smiling on the other end of the line; she could tel.l 'I forgot about your cheese shop thing.'

    ''Thing' does not do it justice,' she said.

    'Right,' he said. 'Fine. So when I open my bakery, we'll open a little cheese shop on the side for you.'

    'Sounds amazing,' she cooed. 'Just to warn you, you won't sell anything from it.'

    'And why's that?'

    'Because I'll eat everything,' she said.

    'Ah,' he said. His voice cracked. 'That would be a shame.'

    (continued in post 12)
     
    Ulvrik likes this.
  12. Oct 11, 2018 at 6:55 AM #12

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    lurkymcduck

    Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2014
    Messages:
    56
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Brighton
    (continued from post 11)

    She had already renewed her love affair with cheese that week, and on Thursday she threw herself into it with new dedication. Cheese straws, cheeseburgers, five-cheese pizza, a paper bag of cannoli from the little overpriced stall in the market square. She stashed a bulk bag of cheese strings in her mini-fridge at the theatre for the one-night-only show and polished it off by final curtain. She sent Robert photos of her backstage, mozzarella strings hanging from her lips, eyes out of focus. He sent her back a photo of a cheesecake the size of a spare tyre, glazed with a crisp layer of dark chocolate.

    Crew went out for drinks after the show that night. She ordered two puddings. She took a photo of those, too.

    By Friday, she looked at the scales but decided against setting foot on them. Instead she threw her trousers to the bottom of the wardrobe and brought forward her stretchy tunics leftover from the last Jono months last year. It doesn't matter, she told herself. I'll lose the weight when I want to. It's mostly just water, anyway. It certainly felt like water, and moved like it, too: fluid, sloshy, jiggly in her outer thighs and lower stomach and beneath her upper arms. Her face felt softer when she rested it against her palm. Her belly puddled just an inch in her lap. Her right hand ring pinched into her finger.

    When she arrived at work for Cheese Week, she was whistling.

    'What are you so happy about?' Eduardo greeted her, sour-faced and bitchier than usual.

    'No reason,' she chirped. This is the point where she would have swept across his face with a retractable brush, just to unnerve him, but she was unarmed. Instead, she settled with a pat on the shoulder.

    'You didn't get the memo?' Eduardo said.

    'What memo?' Rebecca said.

    It was waiting for her on her makeup desk the moment she put her handbag down. A post-it note - very high-tech.

    Note to all staff: no social relationships with subjects to preserve integrity of contest. Both staff and contestants subject to disciplinary measures.

    She found Will by the Welsh dressers, rearranging the cake stands.

    'You can't do this,' she said, throwing the crumpled post-it down onto the chalkboard surface. Her arm jiggled. 'This isn't in the staff handbook. You can't do this.'

    'It, ah, hasn't been a problem before,' Will said, very carefully avoiding her eyes.

    'Why has it now?'

    Will's voice dropped. He leant forward, adjusting his thick glasses, his little belly pooching over his skinny jeans.

    'Ah, someone complained,' he said.

    Rebecca's colour heightened. 'Who?'

    He shrugged. 'Confidential. Point is, someone did suspiciously well on last week's technical, to the point where...their...piece looked like the picture in Judy's cookbook. Coincidence, or did someone leak the info on what they'd been making?'

    Rebecca scowled at him, trying to remember who had won last week's technical. It hadn't been John. He'd barely squeaked out of the bottom two.

    'All I'm saying,' Will said, 'is that you might want to delete Shana's number from your mobile, for both your sakes.'

    Rebecca's mouth hung open. She licked her lips. Cheese dust still clung to the corner of her mouth.

    'I didn't tell Shana,' she said.

    'I've seen you two be friendly,' he said.

    'We are,' Rebecca said, dumbfounded that as much time as Will spent watching everything, he had missed what was very clearly in front of him: Rebecca lingering by Robert's workstation, spending more time than needed perfecting his few flaws, eating almost everything he'd baked. 'But we're not cheating,' she said.

    'You can be friends again when it's all over,' Will assured her.

    Rebecca stalked away. 'Idiot,' she muttered.

    She brought Robert into makeup first, before anyone else could arrive.

    She sat him down in the stool.

    'We can't be friends anymore,' she told him.

    His jaw tightened. His eyes fixed on hers, clear and severe. 'I heard,' he said.

    'It's another six weeks and then we can talk again,' she said, trying to sound light and failing.

    'I don't want to.'

    She swallowed. 'Be friends?'

    He barely blinked. 'Wait six weeks,' he said.

    She bent close to him, hands working, brain elsewhere. Her voice dropped to a whisper. 'I don't, either.'

    She lingered with the sponge. She touched his earlobe lightly with her fingers.

    He reached up and grasped her hand. The sponge fell to the floor. His palm closed over hers, warm and strong.

    'What do we do?' he said, not once moving his eyes from hers.

    'I don't want you to lose,' she said.

    'I don't either,' he said.

    'I don't want you to be penalized.'

    'No,' he agreed.

    'Everything you worked for.' His rough fingers tightened around hers, rubbing little ovals around her knuckles. 'Your bakery,' she continued. 'What will happen if the press gets hold of it? You'd be ruined if they thought you were cheating.'

    He sighed. She opened her palm. He pressed his cheek into her hand. His eyes fluttered closed, like a cat being petted. Warmth spread through her belly like a molten puddle of chocolate.

    'We can wait six weeks,' she said.

    His eyes half-opened. 'You think so?'

    'Yes,' she said. She stroked his stubble with her thumb. He let loose a subtle and shuddering sigh.

    'What if you lose interest in me?' he said, smile small and wry. His deep voice rumbled in her palm.

    'I won't,' she promised.

    'How will I know?' he said.

    'You tell me,' she said, testing him, already, deep down, knowing exactly what he would say.

    'Well,' he said. His face bloomed hotter beneath her hand, twin points on his cheeks reddening. 'There is one thing...'

    She leant forward. Bent down. Her face hovered inches from his. His knees pressed against her thighs, digging into the twin, growing pockets of fat.

    'Tell me,' she whispered.

    His fingers found her waistband. Snapped it.

    'You could get fatter,' he said.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2018 at 7:01 AM
    Ulvrik likes this.

Share This Page