BHM The Main Line - by Ashblonde (~BHM, ~FFA, Romance)

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ashblonde

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"Hi Pam, this is Allie Turner," she began, her heart pounding. She hadn't seen nor talked to Pam Casey since her mother's funeral more than three years ago.

"Oh, Allie!" Pam sounded elated to hear her son's old girlfriend's voice. "How wonderful to hear from you!"

"I know, it's been, some time," Allie stumbled through her words, but Pam seemed as open as ever to hearing from her.

"Yes, too long, dear. What's new in your life?" Pam asked.

"Well, since you asked," Allie found her opening, "I'm working on a plan to use our home in Villanova as an event venue and historic site. We're also going through the process to get listed on the National Register of historic places," She added. "We need to have all the stonework reviewed for safety, and of course be true to its history.”

“Oh my, Allie, that is a big deal,” Pam was naturally enthusiastic.

"Of course your husband's work is the best,” Allie flattered a bit.

"We'd love to help you Allie," Pam gushed. "How exciting for your family. Are you still in New York?" She queried the girl.

"No, I'm actually in California, but I have a property manager in Philly to be there and meet with Ray," Allie felt weird referring to Sean's parents by their first names, but she wasn't their son's girlfriend anymore, she was their customer.

"Oh," Pam seemed disappointed by the news that Allie was so far away. "Well Ray is pretty consumed with the Memorial Hall project, but he'll have one of his guys come out."

"When can someone come out?" Allie was concerned by this, she wanted someone really knowledgeable about preservation on it.

"It’s tight right now, but I think we can get someone out there in a couple of weeks," Pam reasoned.

They set the mid-October date and Allie hung up, left feeling conflicted about the plan.

The more Allie thought about the work, and the importance of masonry to preservation, she decided she would fly out and personally oversee the review and work plan. If she knew Ray was personally handling it, she could trust things to happen correctly. But she couldn't imagine leaving it to some apprentice that didn't appreciate how critical the details were to maintaining its historical integrity. As good as her property manager was with logistics, she didn't know limestone from granite. Allie booked a flight back east, ensuring she'd oversee any critical preservation nuances.


October 2008

Back at home, walking through the hallways, she observed all the little things that reminded her of her childhood... the walnut paneling impressed with gold leaf, the stained glass skylight, and the trove of landscape paintings by Hudson River School and Luminist artists that thrived in New England during the 19th century. They had so beautifully captured the lush hillsides, virgin waterways and rough, exposed Atlantic beaches, yet undeveloped by a modern world.

She let herself glide across the Chenonceau parquet ballroom floor, kneeling down and touching the oak and walnut, blended in a from trees that lived centuries before they were claimed by the barons in her ancestral line. She felt a chill from the floor as she traced the woven geometrical pattern she had traced as a little girl.

The buzz from the gate pulled her back into the 21st century. Opening the sunroom door to the veranda, she felt the cool, autumn air and threw on a new belted tweed jacket she picked up on the way up from the airport. Fall in the bay area was so mild, she hadn't expected the crisp air to hit her like it did. The sun was shining through the trees with red, yellow and brown leaves falling rapidly around her. She missed this time of year at her home, not having spent an autumn in Villanova in several years.

The scent of the leaves continued to take her back to a younger place in her mind. The wind grabbed her dark auburn hair and blew it hard in her face. She walked around the flagstone path toward the driveway, watching a truck pull up, just like she used to see Sean come to work. Seven years ago now, Allie shocked herself by the thought.

In her daze of thinking of what couldn't possibly have happened that long ago, she stopped cold in her tracks. Time had passed, had the boy had become a man? She watched, not yet seen, as the large figure grabbed a bag from the cab and strolled up to admire the flagstone work that he recognized as his own.

"Sean," Allie whispered, frozen in shock. He hadn't seen her yet. Could she run back into the house and hide? Pretend to have mixed up the meeting time? No, that was the old, foolish Allie thinking. She was not going to run from sight at her own home. This was something she would handle like a woman of the world. Grow up, Allie, she told herself, thrusting her hands in her coat pockets and walking forward.

His face froze as his eyes landed on hers. In those moments walking up to him on the wooded side of the garage, leaves endlessly falling around her, she appraised his long, wide frame, in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. Not quite his doctor's tie and white coat, but still about as perfectly fat as he had been the year before, when she mindlessly chatted with him at Children's Hospital.

"Hi," she softly spoke with a smile, reaching inside herself to share some brave warmth, and stave off the discomfort that loomed over them in the two meetings they’d had since the awful day he left her for Haiti.

"I didn't expect to see you here," he just blurted honestly, "Pam said a property manager was handling this."

"I didn't expect you either," Allie assured him, "I came because I wasn’t sure I'd get someone who really knew preservation."

Sean raised an offended eyebrow.

"Your mom said it wouldn't be Ray, and you're a doctor now… I never thought in a million years that a man with the talent to heal little hearts would be checking our stone," Allie reasoned, which softened his gaze.

He smiled, "My mom sometimes asks me to look at old jobs I was part of," he smirked. "But I wouldn't be surprised if she sent me here purposely."

"What do you mean? Pam thought I wouldn't be here," Allie shook her head.

"Pam told me that she heard from the property manager and that another person would be here," Sean explained.

"Oh," Allie pieced it together. Pam knew they'd see each other and did nothing to stop it. Which was a little weird, since her son was married to another woman.

“Are you still at Children’s?” Allie wondered.

“Yeah, actually,” his face brightened a bit, “They extended me another year.”

“I always knew you were right for that place,” Allie pushed passive aggressively into a topic that triggered the end of their relationship.

Sean didn’t say anything.

"Well, we might as well do this," Allie was going to make the best of it. At least Sean was the best man she knew in the world to make sure every piece of stone was exactly right. It certainly meant she'd have to grit her teeth the whole time, avoiding too much admiration of his sexy body contours, and not getting sucked into his lovely face and intense, brooding eyes.

He shrugged his shoulders with a half-smile and sauntered along the walkway, studying each piece and taking notes. She observed the shift of his love handles and movement of his wider behind in the moments he was preoccupied with the work. She felt guilty about it too. Shouldn't she have been long past this kind of adolescent leering? Grow up, she allowed the mantra to play in her head, GROW UP ALLIE!

"The flagstone is looking good," he murmured, almost seeming proud of himself. He waltzed up to the path along the library wing, walking up to study the mortar joints, and making notes. She watched him graze his chubby fingers along the granite exterior, reminding her of the way his fingers felt inside her before plunging his girth into her; while the moonlight that cast through the windows at her old apartment in the city, highlighting his plush bulk and burgeoning fat rolls. Stop it, Allie, the voice continued to echo across her head.

Then she followed him to the pool, which was now drained low and covered, but the stonework was left open to be inspected. Sean walked closely around Aphrodite and smiled at little Eros. "They look good too," he commented with a half-smile.

"We've done a better job protecting them," Allie smiled back, remembering his concern for their condition.

He nodded, walking around to Apollo, grazing his hands along Daphne, "Your favorite."

Allie's smile widened, "You remember."

"Of course," he studied the statue, without looking at Allie. Then he paused, took a deep breath, and fixed his eyes toward hers. "You’re a Daphne, Allie, it makes perfect sense."

Allie stood in shocked silence, perplexed. "What do you mean?" She couldn't understand this. Why would he say that?

"Daphne is the evergreen, she stands the test of time. That’s you, Allie, you don't change your colors, you are always who you are," he almost sounded remorseful.

Allie was dumbfounded by these words from Sean, considering her greatest infraction in their relationship was a moral failing on her part. But she couldn't relive that past, she could only see Apollo grabbing Daphne, coveting her as she begins her transformation into a Laurel tree. She grew uncomfortable, knowing how conversations with Sean end up in defeat and desolation. Survival now meant not letting him into her head.

"I could accuse you of some Apollo-ness," she quickly thought of his talents, attempting to lighten the conversation, "God of knowledge and medicine."

He was quiet for a moment, and then thoughtfully responded, "I’m no Apollo, Allie. I gave up on you before Apollo gave up on Daphne."

She stood in still shock. Sean had never been the overly introspective type, generally avoiding regret and emotion. He had always been too tough, too self-protective for that. Why now? Why put me through this now?

"Sorry," he stopped himself, clearly sensing her discomfort. "That was a weird thing to say, I guess."

"No, it’s okay," Allie felt some resentments lift from weighing down her heart. His words told her she wasn't crazy, he had been foolish. Even though he found happiness with someone else, he had now admitted that at one time in his life, he made the mistake that broke her heart.

“I suppose it’s pretty lame to say sorry this many years later,” he continued, “I was young and dumb, and I overreacted.”

“I don’t know if an apology is necessary at this point,” she couldn’t feel her toes, or fingers anymore. Her mind was in a surreal place. “It wasn’t any one thing. It took me some time to realize I just wasn’t going to be your soul mate, or whatever. You would never see me as someone you could truly connect with or relate to…”

“Was that how you felt?” He raised an eyebrow.

“No, I never felt that way, I never felt attached to where I was from, or the money, or the status,” Allie’s eyes welled up, saying what she had wanted to say before he left her, so many years ago. “I just loved you,” more tears fell. “But you saw our differences, very clearly. It took me a long time to see us through your eyes.”

Sean looked down and shook his head, “Yeah,” he started, his voice cracking.

Allie felt sick with multiple emotions. Anger, resentment and relief were fighting an epic battle inside of her stomach.

He kept his eyes down, and they were both silent for several seconds.

Then Sean turned away and walked as quickly as his big body would allow him, lumbering toward his toolbox, not saying anything. He began packing up the truck.

Allie couldn’t stop herself from running after him, catching up to him at the truck. “Sean,” was all she could say though, she had no other words.

He looked into her eyes with pain and sadness, like she had never expected to see. And then he closed his eyes, straightened his posture, and became cool. “I’ll make sure you get an estimate in a few days. I’ll tell Pam to put the best guy on it.”

And before she could say another word, he heaved himself into the truck and drove off, leaving Allie in an absolute puddle of ache. She turned and ran in the house, collapsing on the parquet floor, sobbing uncontrollably, releasing the last grief left in her body. This had to be the end of mourning for what might have been. If not now, Allie realized, she would never be free. She was determined to make sure it was finished. She never wanted to feel like that again; like she was stuck. Never again.

She had things to look forward to... a business plan to execute, the new life she was making in California, and an amazing trip back to Rome the next spring to plan for; to see her precious Maia get married. There was so much to do, and so much to think about that didn’t involve Sean. While boarding her flight back to San Jose, she resolved to work harder at finding someone who would be deserving of her love. With those words Sean spoke, his regret was her closure. She could finally be free of the emotional turmoil Sean had left behind, far many years ago.
 

agouderia

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Yeah - Sunday morning gets even sunnier with this update!

Now this will sound incredibly silly - but I find it extremely pleasing that the historic mansion has it's rightful re-appearance.....
 

wildandfree

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Eeeeeeeee! !!!!!!
I've been so busy that I haven't popped in to the Dims forums in months, and the day I do, THE MAIN LINE IS UPDATED. yay!!!
 

ashblonde

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Thanks to all of you for the sweet comments :wubu:

And Xyantha, no not done yet! The story is much closer to finished than started, that's for sure, but I still have just a wee a bit more left for Allie. She's important to me, I can't leave her hanging there. I really, REALLY, wish/plan to have it updated faster than I had been at it... Keep hope alive!
 

Tad

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Thanks to all of you for the sweet comments :wubu:

And Xyantha, no not done yet! The story is much closer to finished than started, that's for sure, but I still have just a wee a bit more left for Allie. She's important to me, I can't leave her hanging there. I really, REALLY, wish/plan to have it updated faster than I had been at it... Keep hope alive!

Good to hear :) :) :)
 

ashblonde

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April 2009

“Cherie!” Allie hugged her best friend. Maia had bestowed that pet name on her nearly ten years before at Cornell. After a tough mid-term exam, they agreed that happy hour at the Nines on College was a well-deserved indulgence. She remembered how nervous she was, wanting so much to make a good impression on this lovely and amazing French Canadian firecracker who made Allie laugh, and feel valued, not judged.

Allie had rarely known deep friendships in her youth. It always seemed like other girls at her prep school and sorority easily forged them, but opening herself up like that was never easy. With Maia, though, there was such warmth and acceptance, even from the first days they shared jokes about the pleasure and pain of desk crits with Dr. Porter. She felt that powerful, loving connection in their embrace now, perhaps stronger than ever.

“Oh you are stunning,” Allie wiped tears of joy from Maia’s exquisite face, gushing, “Such a beautiful bride to be.”

Maia was radiant. “We’re in Rome, it has that effect on everyone,” Maia laughed, wiping Allie’s tears as well.

“Can you believe we’re back here together?” Allie exclaimed.

“And that I’m getting married?” Maia exclaimed louder.

“I always knew it would happen,” Allie winked at her friend. “When Julien kept showing up at Capanna Caffè, checking you out and finding an excuse to talk to you.” Allie remembered the coffee shop near Palazzo Lazzaroni that the girls spent many afternoons drinking espressos and munching on pizzelles, or sharing a torta caprese.

“It took me so long to figure it out!” Maia laughed more.

“I knew right away,” Allie remembered the look in Julian’s eyes when Maia would enjoy a bite of Italian pastry, or when his gaze roamed across her voluptuous body. But it was more than physical in the way they balanced each other’s personalities. Julien’s reserve and self-possession contrasted Maia’s natural, passionate charisma. “I watched him fall for your joie de vivre,” Allie caressed her friend’s arm in reassurance.

“Maybe, but he fell for my fat ass first,” Maia giggled.

“No, your beauty first,” Julien had come around the corner of the hotel lobby, planting a large kiss on his future wife’s lips, nonchalantly rubbing her behind. “How could I not have?”

“So, my fat ass second,” Maia smiled as widely as Allie had ever seen her smile.

“Your ass is never second,” Julien continued to fawn over Maia. “My apologies, Allie,” Julien stopped his groping and gave Allie a warm hug and kiss on the cheek.

“I’m not sure if I’ve ever been happier for any two people in my whole life,” Allie took both of their hands.

“You are going to meet a tall, dark and handsome man here, I know it,” Maia cooed. She was never one to miss a chance at turning the subject of romance to Allie’s love life, or lack thereof.

“Don’t forget ‘big,’” Julien chimed in, adding to the descriptive list of qualities.

Allie blushed, “Such good friends,” she relented, knowing how lucky she was that she could be herself with Maia and the man her best friend was about to marry.

Allie had been working hard at proving to Maia, and perhaps, to herself, that she was open to new relationships. She had been reporting back to her best friend regularly about her attempts. Through the last winter, she had been on dates with about fifteen different guys, but none had been quite the one. Some were remarkably handsome, some with an entertaining personality or a thriving career, and a couple were even a bit chubby. Yet none had the whole package she needed to fill that retreating hole in her heart.

Maia would encourage Allie to keep trying. Sometimes a second date was needed, she would urge, but Allie couldn’t force her feelings. She had learned a long time ago with Jimmy that she could not compromise to find happiness. She tried relentlessly though, constantly ready for the next date that might pop up, with fresh manicures, pedicures, and leg waxings. She had even gone out and bought a fresh wardrobe of stylish, well-fitting fashion, and got rid of her older, body-hiding boho silhouettes, bland pastels and dated florals. An active dating life was like having another job, but she was determined that she needed to work hard at it so she could exorcise the old ghosts of relationships past.

“You are so picky,” Maia scolded Allie during one of their long distance wedding planning sessions that had become an almost daily ritual since the two girls discovered Skype. “You have been going out with all of these hot, successful Silicon Valley guys, and still nothing?”

“Maia, I’m 28 now,” she would plead her case.

“Yes, a young and fabulous 28,” Maia would tease. “What… do you think you’re running out of time? How do you say? One leg in the grave?”

“It’s one foot,” Allie laughed. “I mean, I know what I want,” she would defend her case. “I know my criteria is pretty specific, but that happens as you get older. You know what you must have in a partner to be happy.”

“Oui, Allie, I know you know yourself all too well,” Maia acquiesced. “You must follow your heart.”

“And my head,” Allie added, making the case for her balanced, reasoned approach.

“Cherie,” Maia would laugh at Allie, “If you know me by now, you’d know I don’t go for logical approaches to love!”

Allie smiled to herself, thinking about that conversation. She was less than two days from witnessing Maia’s wedding to a man who was from a different culture and spoke a different language. He looked her complete opposite as well, with his tall, blonde, Nordic features, lanky body and handsome, angular face. Maia was truly a girl who followed her heart to happiness, and it had worked like a charm.

“We need to get ready for the welcome dinner,” Maia reminded her friend. “But you have a couple of hours to rest and freshen up. It’s casual, no need to fuss, you are beautiful in this,” she tugged on Allie’s coral midi sundress.

She was exhausted from the travel. As much as she wanted to reconnect with Rome, she was hoping to take a break, eat a light dinner and go to bed early. It was nice to meet Julien’s family and their Benelux friends; and to see Maia’s mom again as well, but she cut the evening short so she would be ready for the next morning’s walking venture across Rome. Her head falling to the pillow, her mind easily drifted into reminiscing about the stress-free days she spent there studying and daydreaming about a boy she loved but barely knew… when life was simpler.

****

Allie woke up early, found a café nearby for a quick espresso and crostata, and then began her journey. Her excursion took her through all of the architectural sites she had missed and yet so adored. She cherished those fine details of classical antiquity that Trumbauer had stolen for his own designs, incorporating them into the mansion that she grew up in. After spending some time meandering the streets near her old lodgings at the Palazzo Lazzaroni, she strolled up through Campidoglio, studying Marcus Aurelius’ beautiful, stern face. With his arm stretched out, he seemed to command the first tourists of the day to yield to his authority. Satisfied with his timeless performance, she wandered down through the Piazza Venezia, getting lost in all of the structural wonders she remembered examining so intently with younger eyes.

She then realized how close she was to the Trevi, but wasn’t sure she wanted to see it just now. She was not a superstitious person, but those damn coins she had thrown in were a sad reminder of her youthful hopes and wishes that had been stomped down by real life. She instinctively cut her path short, redirecting her walk to Palazzo Barberini, where she spent at least an hour in the National Gallery of Ancient Art, fawning over Caravaggio, Titian and Holbein’s plump Henry VIII. Her feet almost burning from the miles and hills, she finally found her way back to the hotel for a much needed shower and nap.

She woke to Maia pounding on her door, “Are you ready, Cherie?”

Allie had succumbed to jetlag and had overslept. She opened the door, bleary eyed, “I just need a few minutes, Maia.”

Maia laughed, “You need to work through your jetlag Allie. No sleeping through my wedding tomorrow!” Allie loved Maia’s sweet but firm focus. “Take the time you need, just come meet us at the Mirabella as soon you are ready.”

Allie pulled herself together, and slipped into the dress she had splurged on at a swanky couture shop in the Pacific Heights area of San Francisco. It was a tasteful but sexy retro A-line number with pagoda sleeves and a micro short length. The close fitting bodice was embroidered in a delicate black-and-white checkered design, with a sheer neckline from her modest cleavage to her neck. It paired well with her black strappy wedge sandals and onyx and pearl dangle earrings.

The rehearsal dinner was held at Mirabella restaurant, which had huge glass doors that opened out onto a panoramic view of palaces, museums and in the distance, a gorgeous view of Saint Peter's and the Gianicolo. As dinner was winding down, Allie walked out onto the terrace for the last of the sunset. There she overheard Maia standing on the other end, talking on her phone. She could only hear pieces though, “We’re so glad you’re here,” with a reassuring tone and warmness. Then faintly, she heard, “don’t worry.” There was some silence, then Maia started to talk more, but just as Allie eavesdropped on the next words, she was interrupted.

“So, Allie,” one of Julien’s friends walked up to make conversation, “Tell me about what you do in San Francisco.” Allie’s core personality could not be anything but polite, so she carried on a friendly conversation, all while anxious to hear what Maia was talking about, and to whom? Everyone in Maia’s life was here at the restaurant, so why would she bother with a private phone conversation at her own rehearsal dinner? She considered the possibility of Maia’s father coming, but it was never mentioned that they had patched things up.

“Maia,” Allie asked a little while later, catching her on the way out of the restaurant. “Who were you talking to on the phone?”

“Oh,” Maia seemed confused for a moment and then explained, “A friend of ours missed his flight this morning, so he was letting us know he had finally made it here, that’s all.”

“Ah,” Allie felt stupid for being so probing in her tone. “Is he single?” she then joked.

“As a matter of fact, he is,” her face lit up. “And handsome too,” she winked.

Allie laughed, relieved that the news was good. At least she could practice a little flirting while she was in this very romantic city.
 

ashblonde

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The morning of the wedding, Allie went up to Maia’s suite so the girls could get their hair and makeup done together. Maia had chosen a sophisticated chignon updo style, secured by an elegant hairpiece with a crystal and leaf design to accent the gathering of her chestnut curls, and play up the gorgeous beading on her dress. Allie was in awe of her makeup, which was intense with dark, rich violet tones. If anyone could pull off dramatic color, it was Maia. Her dress fit like a glove, curving around her full silhouette, showing off her sexy décolletage and smooth, soft, mocha arms.

As always, Allie was a bit of a contrast from Maia. She opted for soft makeup with apricot tones, a half-up hair style with loose waves down past her shoulders, and a chiffon, tea length, retro inspired halter dress in cobalt blue, which Allie had to admit to herself, was an eye-catching shade against her auburn hair and alabaster skin.

The girls giggled in the mirror, admiring each other, when Maia’s mother knocked on the door.

“My baby girl,” Maia’s mom cried and hugged her daughter, “And her wonderful Querida,” she hugged Allie. “You two will make even the most beautiful Italian girls jealous today!”

Maia beamed and Allie nodded in thanks. Maia’s mom was a natural beauty like her daughter, albeit smaller, and with a few more wrinkles, but aging very gracefully for a woman who was well into her 50-something years.

“Oh Allie! I just remembered, I need you to do me a big, bridesmaid favor, before the wedding,” Maia pleaded.

Allie checked the time. “Sure, we have a couple of hours before you walk down the aisle, what do you need?”

Maia dug into her purse, pulled out three Euro coins and told Allie, “I need you to take a walk over to the Trevi and throw these in for me.”

“What?” Allie was dumbfounded and shocked, both by the randomness of Maia’s request and the reminder of her failed experiment nearly eight years ago, something she had already tried to avoid the morning before.

“I haven’t been able to get over there, so you have to do it for me. It’s your maid of honor duty,” Maia commanded her.

“Okay,” Allie shrugged. She had to do what she had to do, she certainly wasn’t going to argue with a bride on her wedding day. “I will see you at the steps of the Valadier,” Allie kissed her best friend’s cheek.

Maia walked Allie to the door, placed her hands on Allie’s shoulders and with very intense eye contact, spoke soberly. "Allie, you deserve nothing less than happiness with a boy you can truly love, don't give up on that dream." Maia was serious and clear in a way that kind of startled Allie. It was rare that she stepped outside of her lighthearted nature and spoke with that kind of gravity. Allie walked out into the streets of Rome feeling strengthened by Maia's affirmation. Patience, not pressure, would bring her the love of her life.

It was only a ten minute walk, so even in her heels, it would be a quick errand. She certainly couldn’t shrug her duty, so off she went down Via Francesco Crispi, turning onto Via del Tritone, and through Via della Stamperia. Trying hard to not think about it, but failing, a lump formed in her throat. Walking closer, feelings of anxiousness bubbled up in the idea of confronting what she wanted to avoid… the reminder of how hopeful she had once been, and how easy life had seemed. There had once been the promise of new love waiting at home; her mother was still in her life, and everything was moving in the right direction; until it wasn’t.

She was about to step over an emotional cliff when her thoughts were interrupted by a college-aged girl walking past her, wearing a Cornell t-shirt and tattered denim shorts. Despite her casual, slack clothes, she had a regal prettiness. But her beauty was diminished by her vacant face and extremely thin body. Allie could see her younger self in that starved sadness. Maybe her life hadn’t been so perfect back then, even while she was with Sean. She had been a borderline anorexic who had harmed herself emotionally with persistent self-doubt, and then physically with chronic hunger and bone-stressing amounts of pounding exercise. It wasn’t until after years of heartbreak, loss and anxiety that she began to find the strength to change how she treated herself.

Allie now realized more than ever what she had been working toward in therapy; that life was not really so much easier back then, and so much harder now. Life was just, well, life. The Trevi, in all its beauty and glory, was simply another lovely thing to enjoy in the world, and should not hold the power to torment her. Her steps became more self-assured as she came upon it amidst congregating tourists. She was now smiling at the theatrical Baroque magnificence in its travertine façade, with centuries-old, muscle-bound marble gods alongside their wild horses, one calm, one wild; and Neptune towering over them in his oceanic kingdom.

Allie was truly relieved to admire it. No baggage will ever keep me from my favorite works of art, or keep me from delivering a promise to my best friend, she thought. Old disappointments melted away from her mind as she turned and tossed the first coin in, Maia’s Canadian quarter. She wished intently for her friend to make yet another trip back to Rome. At least Allie’s first wish on that old Lira had come true. She had returned to Rome herself, with its magnificence intact, all around her.

Then she threw in the second coin, a bright gold 10 cent Euro, for Maia’s love to remain strong. She wished for both the romantic love Maia had with Julien, as well as the lasting friendship she shared with her best friend. Thinking back again, her own Pennsylvania state quarter had been tossed in with hopes that Sean’s affections would remain intact upon her return from Rome. That wish had also come true, at least for a while, anyway.

She held the third, duo-toned Euro coin in her hand, feeling it intently for Maia. Allie had never thrown back a third coin for herself. The idea of marriage was so remote in those days, she couldn’t have even imagined it at the time, much less wished for it as well. Now she was an hour away from witnessing her best friend’s marriage, feeling wistful for what it would be like to be with someone so fully and completely that she would agree to spend the rest of her life with him, and maybe even have children together; someone to see all of her faults and love her anyway.

Allie turned back to the mythical scene, her eyes darting back and forth between those two horses, recalling it’s allegory of the sea. It was indeed so much like life, sometimes easy, and sometimes difficult, even dangerous, but always alive. And, right now, she felt reassured that she was in calm waters, and lucky to have a genuine friendship bring her back to Rome. She turned her back again, wished earnestly for her best friend’s long life together with Julien, closed her eyes and tossed it over her shoulder into the water. She heard the plop, opened her eyes, turned around and watched the ripples fade away from where the coin had landed.

A sudden breeze picked up, and the ends of her hair tickled her open shoulders. She looked down at her dress, remembering that important duties awaited. She turned on her heels and shimmied through the growing tourist crowd milling around behind her.

Trying to find a way through, she slipped through a few bodies but then was stopped by a large body completely blocking her movement. All she saw for a split moment, was a big, soft belly encased in a crisp white shirt, with a blue and black tartan tie draped down over it. Captivated, she scanned her eyes upward while getting back her balance.

The sun shone behind the man, making his face difficult to decipher at first. She squinted more and focused on a pair of familiar blue eyes looking back into her own, set in his thoroughly handsome face, accompanied by a smirky smile.

“Hi Allie,” Sean breathed deeply, with an apprehensive look on his face.

Allie blinked, not able to utter a sound, much less form any words. Was she imagining this? Had all that clarity she had just experienced moments ago, actually turned her crazy?

His awkward expression grew worried, “Are you okay?”

“Um, uh…” she took a step back, checking his face, taking in his marvelously big body, packed nicely in a crisp looking dark suit, accented by that trendy tartan tie. She didn’t know what to say, and the dumbstruck look on her face wouldn’t subside.

“Should I not have…?” His face became paler.

“I’m… I don’t… I can’t believe you’re here,” she finally managed to say. There was a flurry of excitement and chaos welling inside her, but bewilderment wouldn’t be shaken so easily.

“Neither can I,” he managed, looking uneasy, rubbing his hand through his short, silky black hair.

“How did you…?” she tried to match her confusion with her words.

“Airplane?” He offered sheepishly.

She finally smiled, took a deep breath, “I mean, how did you know?”

“Just a crazy coincidence,” he shrugged, still trying some humor to settle her shock.

But her butterflies were now flying wildly and her heart pounded like a bass drum. Still, she knew this was no coincidence. Was this Maia’s doing? Her wheels turned, but very slowly, like they were stuck in a pool full of mud.

“You don’t want to be late for the wedding,” he pointed in the direction of Villa Borghese.

“Oh, God, yes,” she snapped back to reality. They started to walk quickly in that direction together, as she began to think through what had just happened. “Were you invited to Maia’s wedding?”

“I was,” he answered confidently with a playful smile.

“Funny, I’ve been helping the bride plan for months, and she never mentioned an invitation for you,” Allie nudged him.

“Funny indeed,” he nodded and continued to smile, looking ahead, allowing her a chance to admire him from the side. His soft, sweet face, and the jiggle of his billowing belly were as sexy as ever. She couldn’t tell if he was a bit bigger or still the same weight as when she last saw him last fall… but that didn’t matter, he looked perfect and beautiful, just as always.

But what about his wife? And the vows he took that forced her to accept it was really and truly over. “You didn’t bring Janeane?” Allie blurted, defending herself against rejection… or another embarrassing entanglement with a married man.

“No,” he stopped cold and looked at her with confusion. “You don’t know?”

“Know what?” What?!? She screamed out inside of herself.
 

ashblonde

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“We split up, about a year ago, now,” he stated simply, as if she should have known it.

Allie felt air leave her chest with a massive force. This news hit her like a ton of bricks. All that time lost! Those days, and weeks and months…she had assumed Sean was a happily married man. She could have plead her case to him that they belonged together, instead of trying in vain to find love elsewhere. She covered her mouth to keep any more emotion from escaping.

“Are you okay?” He put his hand on her shoulder. She flinched feeling the sting from his touch, like water pouring down a parched throat.

She saw the hurt in his face from her non-verbal retreat, and reassured him, “I am… just… shocked. I didn’t know.”

“I didn’t broadcast it. I mean I wasn’t proud of it…” he started to explain.

“Proud?” She felt angry. She knew her anger was irrational and tried to quell it, but it was there. Pride only wastes precious time; there’s no purpose for it.

“Yeah, Allie, a failing marriage didn’t exactly make me feel proud,” he explained with some impatience.

“But, I could have,” she started to say, and then stopped.

“Could have what, Allie,” he grew sarcastic in his tone, “Felt sorry for me?”

“Sorry for you?” She raised her voice.

“Look at me, Allie,” he implored her.

“I am,” she looked into his gorgeous, pained eyes, and saw that same charming face she fell in love with way too easily.

“I was a disappointment to my wife,” he lowered his voice.

“What?” Allie didn’t understand.

“She married a fit, decent looking guy, and ended up with a fat whale,” he berated himself.

“Stop it, Sean,” Allie hated hearing him denigrate himself and his magnificent body.

“No, Allie, it’s true. You never wanted to say anything about my weight. You just pretended not to notice. You’ve always looked me up and down and then said nothing,” he pushed her uncomfortably into her fat corner.

“I never needed to...” she tried to diffuse this old line of questioning.

“Janeane ended our marriage over it, and you can’t even say a single word about it,” he was incredulous.

“She what?” Allie was stunned.

Sean sighed, “It was inevitable, Allie. I’d known her a long time, there was a pattern with her.”

“Then she knew you wouldn’t ever be…” Allie tried to find the words.

Sean cut her off, “A hard body?” He sneered. “I tried.”

“But you’re just naturally… thick,” Allie reasoned politely.

“Janeane was the girl in the neighborhood all the guys wanted,” Sean began to explain, but his exculpatory words couldn’t help but make Allie feel jealous. “She never looked at me when we were kids. I was the chubby nerd on the block, and she hung around the cool, tough guys. Then in high school I went out for football, lost some weight, grew a lot taller, and she started to pay attention to me.”

Allie could relate to that feeling all too well, like when Jimmy took notice of her at the club. It was nice to get the attention, even though he wasn’t right for her.

“It didn’t matter that she was kind of selfish and self-centered, and flirted with other guys,” he explained, “it felt good to be good enough for her. I was a dumb kid.”

“You weren’t dumb, you were normal,” Allie sighed in understanding.

“My mom hated her,” he continued. “My grades dropped, I was staying out late with her, trying to prove I was cool and in control of things, but I wasn’t. Then I found out she had cheated on me with a guy I thought was my friend, and that was finally enough for me to end it.”

“You never told me any of this while we were together,” Allie was trying to put together his dysfunctional high school fling with his bad marital choice.

“There was some on-again, off-again stuff, after we had broken up,” he kept going. “She always liked that I was in college, going to med school, and making something of myself. She wanted to get out of the neighborhood, she made no secret of that.”

How very different this woman was from Allie, she realized. She was probably tall, golden and gorgeous, with big boobs and an overconfident conceit. Allie nearly laughed out loud at the image, but then felt a chill over the realization that Sean ended up marrying a girl so utterly the opposite of herself.

“Were you with her when we were together?” Allie couldn’t stop herself from asking.

“No, Allie, no way,” he stopped her. “With you it wasn’t like that. You were like… a vacation from North Philly,” he smiled sheepishly and then paused, carefully finding his words. “During that time, I was on a different planet. I didn’t really think of her once we got together.”

“Well, that changed,” Allie remained skeptical.

“After I had been sick in Haiti and lost all that weight, she was after me again,” he shrugged. “At the time, I remember feeling like, ‘well, she’s from my neighborhood, we have friends and families in common.’ It seemed like we both wanted the same kind of life. I was back at home, with the people I grew up with, and that was how it was supposed to be, you know?”

Allie looked down, reminded of his rejection of her years earlier because she had very little in common with his home and upbringing.

“I nearly died, Allie, and then she was there,” he explained with almost a pleading tone to his defense. “It felt like a sign and I was supposed to follow in her direction.”

He was actually making sense and Allie nodded in understanding. After her mother died, she remembered that feeling of weakness and confusion about what could make her happy. She herself had almost married Jimmy, a man who was there for her when she was in a very vulnerable place.

“I know now that I wasn’t being honest with myself, deep down, it was never going to last,” he looked away. “I knew medically that if I recovered, I was never going to stay thin. My metabolism was completely destroyed from the illness. Once I began to eat normally, I gained it all back, really fast. Janeane couldn’t stand watching me get fat. I tried with diets and meal plans that she would put me on, and joined her gym, but I was also doing my residency. With the long hours, and no personal time... it was hard to get any of that right.”

“Oh Sean,” Allie touched his arm, wishing she could have been the one he came home to, reassuring him he was okay, and that his body was strong for beating a deadly illness and recovering to full health. She couldn’t help but admit to herself that she would have lustfully enjoyed his re-expansion, feeling a bit guilty over how much hearing him talk about his rapid weight gain turned her on. What a delicious experience each new pound would have given her eyes and body... But she would have also been there to remind him that he was more than the numbers on the scale; that he was a brilliant, lovely man who was learning how to give children their lives back.

Her emotions were still so confused though. Despite these mixed feelings of empathy and arousal, she also couldn’t shake the notion that she was now a consolation prize. He made vows to Janeane; and when that didn’t work out, maybe he was here to take the easy second best. She took a step back and looked away again, afraid to cry and have professional amounts of mascara run down her cheeks.

“What is it Allie?” Sean could see her retreat from him.

She could not hold back her thoughts though, too much was at stake. She had to tell him exactly how she felt. “It’s still hard for me to understand why you were so quick to dump me, over something as superficial as money, influence, or social status or whatever,” Allie still kept her eyes down. “And then go and marry a girl who had a history of hurting you, and cheating on you,” her eyes rose up to his.

He looked at her with regret in his eyes, but didn’t answer.

“Was she so perfect and pretty and exciting? And I was just sad, plain, privileged Allie? A bland, white bread girl from a boring place with a dull future?”

“Wow, no!” Sean stopped her, putting his hand on her arm, “You are anything but plain and boring.”

She looked at him skeptically.

“I shouldn’t have to tell you how stunning you are,” he smiled, now brushing an auburn curl from her face. “I still think of you in the pool house, you were so charming, and beautiful… and thoughtful, wanting to keep me out of the rain. When you crawled over and kissed me…” he trailed off, with a longing look in his eyes.

Allie blushed. She hadn’t seen that kind of warmth and sparkle in his eyes in a very long time, and it gave her a surge of relief to see it back again.

“I was in awe of you, Allie, always. You’re a classic beauty. I remember when I first saw you… you looked like, nobility, or something,” he shrugged. “But you’re also incredibly bright, and have a kind, gentleness… I only wished you’d have seen all of those things in yourself more,” he stumbled and blushed through his words, making her heart jump a bit more.

Still, the whole thing had haunted her for so long. “Then why did you leave me?” She stayed on point, despite feeling softened by his flattering words.

“I was weak,” he explained. “I was always a little unsure that a girl like you could really last with a guy like me.”

Allie tried to interject, shaking her head, but he continued. “Then my buddies started getting into my head, even while we were still together. I’d run into them and they’d make cracks; that you’d get sick of me, or you were using me to upset your parents; or you’d get tired of being with a fatty; stuff like that.”

“You have horrible friends,” Allie was frustrated, reminded of Charlie and how he would talk to Sean about his weight.

“That’s how things are in my old neighborhood, always busting balls of any guy having success,” he explained, lapsing more into his North Philly accent. “I was dating a beautiful girl from the Main Line, and about to become a doctor. So that’s how it gets equalized among friends.”

“Some friends,” Allie smirked.

“I just believed them a little too much,” he admitted. “I thought you would eventually be done with me, whether it was my background, my weight, or whatever. You couldn’t possibly have had a high society future with a fat Mick like me.”

“You should have just asked me what kind of future I wanted,” she whispered through her cracking voice.

“I know,” he whispered back. “It hit me hard when I found you passed out at Children’s. You were so thin and pale looking... You can’t believe how shocked I was to lift you up and see your face,” he admitted. “And all I could think was how scared I was… the one woman who loved me in a real, authentic way, was lying unconscious in my arms.”

Allie was riveted by his words, her eyes filling with an emotional mist.

“But when you began to regain consciousness, and I knew you were okay, I realized I couldn’t bear to have you see me this way, this heavy.”

“Sean, you don’t understand,” Allie implored him.

He ignored her pleas and kept spilling his feelings, “When we finally saw each other at the hospital, you were sweet and polite, as always; and you didn’t say a damned thing about my hugely obvious weight gain.”

“And you didn’t say a damned thing about your crumbling marriage,” she quickly responded.

“Back to where we started,” he half-smiled.
 

ashblonde

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The light breeze picked up again, as they got closer to Villa Borghese. Allie checked the time on her phone. She needed to meet Maia outside the Casina Valadier in 10 minutes. It was going to be close.

“You still haven’t told me why you are here,” Allie touched his arm as they crossed a busy intersection.

“You still haven’t said whether you want me here,” he responded with a Cheshire grin.

“You ended us, Sean, and you married someone else,” she volleyed back, needing more certainty. “Seems like the ball is in your court to say that you feel differently about me, about us, now.”

“First I need to know, Allie, if you are turned off by my size, because you won’t say anything about it. It’s an obvious liability for me and not an easy thing for me to change.”

“It’s like you have amnesia,” she laughed through her words at the irony of being questioned whether she could bring herself to be attracted to Sean, and at his present size. “I have always been so attracted to you, Sean. I couldn’t ever keep my hands off of you. I never criticized you and only contradicted you when you would complain about it. It’s like you expect me to be cruel to you about it now, but you don’t remember how much I loved you heavier.”

He walked silently, thinking for a moment, and then said quietly with a pained wince, “But I’m much bigger now.”

“This is so unfair, because you’re getting me to say…” she stopped to gather her thoughts. “I mean, Sean, you’re this amazingly smart, talented, self-made man. I’ve admired you ever since we first spoke words to each other.”

Taking a breath, she continued, “But before we ever spoke, I was completely attracted to you. I loved, and still love your body, and yes, definitely bigger,” she gasped for air and continued. “I know your weight is a sore subject, especially considering what Janeane did to you, so it’s not easy for me to tell you how much your size turns me on, but it does. So damn it, stop asking me why I won’t say anything about it. I don’t because, well, it’s… sexual for me and not really ladylike to talk about.”

Sean stopped dead in his tracks on Viale del Belvedere. He looked at her, his eyes wide, but saying nothing.

“So would you tell me why you are here?” She demanded, exasperated.

He paused, took a deep breath. “I’m here because I love you, Allie, with everything I have in me.” He touched her face, brushing his fingers along her cheek, making her melt. Sean had not always been forthcoming, but he was always honest. She could believe his words… words she had waited for so long to hear again.

He continued, “My feelings for you never really went away. Each time I saw you, or thought of you, I just felt worse about my life and how far away from you I had gone. When Maia invited me here, I knew I had to at least take a chance that you might be able to forgive me.”

“Chance?” She scoffed but smiled, “I’m sure Maia told you I’ve never been able to make anything work with anyone else.”

‘’No, she didn’t say that, but she did say that there was a good chance I’d get to kiss a beautiful woman in Rome,” he grinned.

“Maia is so damned clairvoyant,” Allie teased back, inching closer to him, her body grazing against his belly, giving her the kind of goosebumps she hadn’t felt in years. He pulled her waist into his softness, leaned down and brushed her lips with his. She melted further into him.

She was then yanked back to reality by a woman’s cheerful yell in the distance. Peering down the walkway to Casina Valadier, she saw her lovely Maia in white, waving her arms wildly.

“We have to get there fast,” Allie exclaimed, feeling her heart pounding through her chest again.

They moved quickly together, her arm through his, feeling the occasional brush of his soft side against her body, anticipating when she would be able to get alone with him to touch more of his expanded body.

Maia seemed to read her mind as they reached the bride and her mother, “You have plenty of time for fooling around later, but right now this is about me,” she winked at Allie, and hugged Sean.

Maia touched Sean’s arm, “Julien’s friend is at the top of the stairs in a light gray suit, he saved a spot for you close to the front.”

“Thank you, Maia,” Sean smiled, and leaned into Allie to grab a quick kiss on the cheek before heading up the stairs.

Allie admired his width from behind as he made his way up to the balcony. She saw Maia’s mother at the top, waiting for the girls to come up and begin the wedding.

“I see the old spark is back,” Maia laughed, nudging Allie as the two girls ascended the staircase.

“I tossed your coins in for you,” Allie rolled her eyes, alluding to Maia’s ruse.

“Those coins weren’t for me, they were for you, silly,” Maia grinned widely. “You returned to Rome, and now you found your love again.”

“Can you be sure?” Allie felt exhilarated and terrified at the same time.

“You and Sean are meant to be, you just both needed a push,” Maia reasoned.

“More like a shove,” Allie smiled back winking, as she headed down the aisle to begin the wedding. As she made her way to the front of the room, she saw Julien’s happy eyes and smiled at him. She then glanced over where Sean was sitting. His face was loving and open, giving her the kind of hope that made her feel almost uneasy; she was so cautious about hope these days. She caught his eyes and smiled. There was now a hint of hunger in them, a look she recognized from the first time she kissed him in the pool house.

They were so young back then, it seemed. She thought back to that summer they met, remembering how naive and rather clueless she was. The world was so black and white. She saw her parents one-dimensionally, and saw Sean as a knight in shining armor. There were only good guys and bad guys. She had changed so much, and could see how much Sean had changed too.

His body had changed drastically, of course, from rather chubby to definitively fat; and then much thinner, to even fatter now; yet all the while he remained so handsome. His core personality was still the same, just as hers was. But he was also a man now, just as she had become a woman. They had both been through life experiences that force some weariness, but also wisdom and understanding. The world was not as simple as it had once seemed. Still, the lust in his eyes, and the desire in her heart gave her hope that they would have the wonderful chemistry that long had remained in her memories like a spoonful of honey that lingers on the tongue.

After the wedding, Allie joined Maia and Julien to give them her biggest hugs and best wishes. “It was beautiful,” She gushed over her best friends, “I don’t have words for how happy I am for you both.”

“I know, Cherie, and now you have to go make your own beautiful,” she looked over at Sean, who was waiting patiently on a bench next to the garden that surrounded the patio where they were hosting their dinner al fresco.

“How did you know?” she implored her friend, “I mean, I thought he was married… how did you know it was even possible?”

“When you told me about his visit to your home, and the sadness you saw in him, I felt like something wasn’t right. I tracked down his mom and talked to her, and she told me everything, you know, about the divorce,” she winced a bit, stopping short of describing what Pam inevitably shared: that Sean had been married to a woman who would not be true through thick and thin, or in Sean’s case, from thin to fat.

Allie just nodded.

“Pam and I just couldn’t imagine how the world could go on with you two wonderful people, who belong together, being miserable apart,” she shrugged. “Then Julien had the idea to get you two together at the Trevi, and well, now you know the rest.”

Maia then turned and launched into greetings and hugs from more guests piling up behind them. Allie and Julien continued chatting privately. “I couldn’t imagine you ending up with someone who wasn’t going to give you what you really need,” he told her with a knowing smile.

Allie nodded, with a giggle. “That kind of need doesn’t ever disappear, does it?”

“I could never fight it,” Julien seemed pleased that Allie understood exactly what he was talking about. “As soon as I met Maia, I realized I wouldn’t ever want to change it either.”

“I could see that early on,” Allie grinned. “You’ve given her the love and admiration that she always wished for.”

“I should really thank you Allie, for what you give to Maia,” he smiled.

“What I give to her?” Allie was confused. She had always felt so grateful for Maia’s friendship.

“You are authentic,” he paused, thinking of the right words in English, “Supportive, but more than that. Maia has ups and downs, but after she talks to you, it puts her back to a content place. Your effect on her is amazing,” he smiled, shaking his head. “I can worship her like a goddess, but you know, a good friend is something… more honorable.”

“I never really realized how much I did for her,” she responded in surprise. “I always felt that she was the strong one that kept me positive, reminding me of the important things, like love and hope, you know, when I’d get stuck in self-pity.”

“Maia is right that you are too hard on yourself, but you don’t self-pity any more than any other American I’ve ever known,” he laughed.

“Julien!” she playfully slapped his arm.

“Fun to tease the Americans,” he smiled widely. “But you and I, Allie, we have things in common.” He glanced over at Sean and then back at Maia, “I’ve always liked that we can relate without having to say too much about it.”

Allie smiled and blushed with a silent nod.

“Now go reclaim your fat boy,” he whispered with a wink and sent her on her path to over to Sean.

Allie approached Sean, with his eyes on her again. She felt that familiar warmth spread around her body in seeing his big, exquisite belly spilling out of his open jacket. Despite how well his shirt fit over him when he stood in front of her earlier at the Trevi, and the way it had enough give to allow for some jiggling in a delightful rhythm as they walked the streets of Rome, it was clearly now strained from the force of its mass pushing out onto his lap. You are hopeless, Allie, she laughed inside herself, that tubby belly will mesmerize you every time.

She stretched out her hand to him without word and motioned him to join her for a walk in the gardens, away from the wedding crowd. They strolled along a path silently, then reaching a quiet private area with trees blocking most of the afternoon sunlight, she paused and looked up at him. The tiniest bit of light sparkled in his eyes, and she reached up for a kiss. His big hands grabbed around her back, then down to her waist, and pulled her close.

How she had missed his sweet, hot cocoa kisses. “Mmmmmmm,” she felt the sound escape from her lips as they opened their eyes again to one another.

“That was okay, then?” He smiled sweetly.

“Fantastic,” she murmured back.

“You were evaluating me back there again,” he told her knowingly.

She tiled her head in question.

“Walking over to me, you were scanning the gut,” he patted its hanging softness.

She put her hand over his, pressing into it, then moving her fingers over more of his soft belly, causing a tingle in her spine and shiver in her body. “I know what I like,” she murmured, feeling an ache of desire to unbutton his shirt, slip her fingers inside it, and finally feel the ways in which his body had evolved so wonderfully in the time they had been apart.

After another long kiss, Sean reminded her where she was. “Maia is going to wonder where her maid of honor is.”

She nodded and smiled, taking his hand as he led her back to the reception.
 

ashblonde

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After dinner, as things were winding down, they sat alone and quietly sipped Sambuca con Mosca, studying each other’s faces.

“When are you flying back?” Allie finally asked Sean, having purposely held back from talking about any time they would spend together beyond the wedding itself. Her old instincts were never too far away; joyous bliss always seemed fleeting, like trying to hold sand in her hands. Trust had been a big theme for her to work through in therapy.

“Monday,” he shared.

“So what are you doing tomorrow then?” She apprehensively smiled, pushing her trust issues into an optimistic territory, hoping for one more idyllic day in Rome, with the man who had once tested her emotional well-being so profoundly.

“I was hoping to spend it with you,” he returned a genuinely uncertain smile, “Since you know this city better than I do.”

“That would explain why Maia insisted I stay an extra day,” she brightened.

“And tonight?” He gave her a more serious and anxious look.

Oh damn, she wanted him. She wanted his big, beautiful body against hers, naked and sweaty… and all that weight on her. She never forgot the yummy, musky smell of sex with Sean. Just sitting next to him, it came back to her senses like a wicked wave.

“Wow,” he brought her back from the delicious fantasy.

“What?” she feigned ignorance.

“The look on your face,” he pressed.

“Is it time to go?” She grinned, feeling fluttery.

“I hope so,” he agreed to her implied suggestion.

“Let me check in with Maia,” she remained the dutiful friend.

“Of course,” he leaned back, showing off the breadth of his plush midsection, as if to tempt her more.

Her back felt as hot as her thighs as she walked away from him, knowing he was watching her body move across the party to Maia, where Julien was intermittently feeding Maia some Capezzoli di Venere while she chatted with guests.

Julien caught Allie’s eye just as he plopped another truffle in his bride’s mouth, and shared a sneaky grin.

“For Venus,” he mock-defended himself, alluding to the dessert’s namesake deity, “Yes?”

“Yes, of course, for Venus,” Allie couldn’t help but laugh. Maia wasn’t exactly unhappy being fed rich, chocolate delicacies named after the goddess of love and beauty.

“Allie!” Maia’s eyes became wide when she saw her best friend, “Why are you still here? Shouldn’t you be off having your own fun?” she giggled.

“Actually, I was coming over see if you needed help with anything,” she sat down.

“Heavens no,” Maia waved her hands to dismiss Allie. “This is your time to enjoy.”

As Maia happily released Allie from her maid of honor duties, and continued to chat with her friends from Ghent, Julien noticed Allie’s apprehension. “What’s going on, Allie?”

She paused, and then realized Julien was probably more level-headed than Maia for examining her sanity.

“Don’t worry, he’s not going to crush you,” Julien smiled with a wink.

Allie smiled, “Maybe a little?” She played into his humor.

“Ah, the allure of weight plus gravity,” he nodded.

“Am I letting lust rule my head, Julien?” She cut to the chase, “A few days ago I thought I was finally getting over him and now all of that is out the window.”

“Yes, well, the damage is done now, you might as well enjoy him while you’re here,” he grinned. “Whether it works out or not, at least you would have given your body what it needs.”

He was crass, but kind of right. Her head and heart were already pulled backward, there was no reason to torture herself further.

“Thanks Julien,” she gave him a kiss on the cheek, and interrupted Maia for a big hug, “Goodnight!”


****

Allie walked with Sean to the Spanish Steps, wanting him to experience the romance of Rome after dark. After partially ascending, she could see he was quite warm and a bit winded. She sat him down on the steps to take in the evening color and admire the Barcaccia fountain. There were just enough tourists milling around that Allie felt they blended in, and she gave Sean a warm, long kiss. She then smiled at him and reminisced, “When I was here the first time, I would sit here and think of you, wishing I could show this to you.”

“It’s amazing Allie, it really is,” he gazed over the spectacularly historic scenery.

“It just took longer than I thought it would to get you here,” she then kissed him again, lightly, sliding her hands and arms inside his suit jacket, feeling the chubby sides of his soft body. Being close with him in the intimate, soft lit ambiance of Rome made her feel magnificent, causing a wave of goosebumps over her body.

“Thank you for your patience,” he teased her gently, rubbing her arms. “You’re getting cool,” he quickly became protective and instinctively took off his jacket, putting it over her shoulders. She loved how big it felt, draped over her, with his masculine, spicy scent filling her nose. Her senses were overloaded looking into his blue eyes, admiring his easy grin; and of course with the way his plush softness teased her fingers. It was utter foreplay taking place between them before they even got behind closed doors.

She stood, reaching out to his hand, “Let’s go.”

The ten minute walk back to her hotel gave Allie the chance to tell Sean about a few more of the sights they passed, while she occasionally noted the way his soft fat moved along with him, with a bit of sway and wobble. She wasn’t sure where her emotional lines crossed between her love for him as a person, her admiration for his lovely face, and her fetishy lust for his flab. But those muddled points of attraction didn’t stop her from feeling quite clearly that she urgently needed to be naked with him.

Allie unlocked her hotel room door, with Sean’s big, warm presence trailing behind her. Turning around, she looked into his eyes and they smiled awkwardly at one another. There was a self-consciousness between them in knowing what they both wanted, and yet mutually acknowledging that they had a complicated history.

She slipped his suit coat off her shoulders, and after a long kiss, she whispered, “You always really knew how to do that.”

He smiled and stroked his hand along her body, pulling her closer into his soft mass and kissing her more. She roamed his body in return, feeling the clothing that remained between her and his naked flesh.

Pausing from the kiss, she looked up at him again, her hands on his chest, smoothing down his tie. She decided that’s where she would start, and began to loosen it, quickly and efficiently sliding it from his neck and throwing it over a chair.

He felt her zipper behind her neck and drew it down her back, her dress falling quickly to the floor. He looked at her with lust, and she instinctively spread her stance as his big hands brushed over her cobalt blue lace bra, down her abdomen, and across the small of her back, over the matching satin panties covering her behind and then between her legs. She closed her eyes, feeling the way his touch teased her whole body.

“It’s your turn now,” her fingers ran down the trail of buttons that beckoned her to release them. Buttons were a sexy weakness for Allie, the way they bravely kept Sean’s shirt fabric together, withstanding the strain of his girth, desperate to be set free. She loved a big man in a dress shirt… that smooth, fine cotton, encasing delicious amounts of fatness, while its poplin sheen highlighted every curve and wobble. She decided to savor that pleasure, kissing him to distraction while her fingers followed the crest of his heaving belly, then along his sides and into his love handles. He whispered in her ear as if to plead for some mercy, “Allie…”

“Mmmmmm,” was her only response, coming back up to his chest and working in the first button, then the next. His hands moved again between her thighs, carefully grazing over her panties with just the right touch. Between the psychological thrill of unbuttoning his shirt and the way he incited her with his meaty hands between her legs, she was nearly at full ecstasy and they weren’t even completely naked yet.

Pulling his shirt out, she used her index fingers to carefully lift up his t-shirt, and gradually revealed his substantial belly and its hanging softness, decorated by several silvery stretch marks. Some of them had been around for some time, as she had remembered from his college weight gain. Some seemed a bit pinker and newer from freshly added poundage. Her fingers trailed up along all of them, as her eyes drifted up to his.

He looked at her with a hint of apprehension, as she realized her hands were exploring his flab in the same way she had become accustomed to with Van. She had forgotten how careful she had been with fat exploration in their younger days. Not because Sean had been overly sensitive about his weight back then, she was just uneasy about showing him how sexually gratifying she found his tubbiness. Sure, there was always a lot of touching and groping all over, but usually his fattest parts were caressed with broad, flat strokes and passive fondling. Now here she was truly exploring his body, lifting his heft and surveying the fine detail of his luscious bulges and valleys of blubber.

Her hands roamed his back, feeling those little folds of fat where his belly diverged from his chest. Slipping her fingers inside them, she burned with the memory of how his flab had settled on his body back in their college days. Regaining all that weight had brought those same contours back with a vengeance. But now they were even thicker and deeper than the last time she was this close to his naked torso; and she was really digging in and enjoying them.

She wanted to get his pants off now, but his belly was a bit in the way of his belt, so she pushed him onto the bed to get better access.

He smiled, “You’re more…” he paused searching for the right word, “direct, these days.”

Allie blushed, but didn’t stop working on his belt, “I’m making up for lost time,” she reasoned.

He shifted to help her with his pants, and the amount of jiggling in response made her more lustfully impatient. Her hands were quickly on his cock, which was extremely hard and tight against his boxers. His waistband was tight as well, more evidence of his rapid growth, as she got her hands inside the elastic to remove them and liberate him.

He rolled to his side and quickly pulled off her bra and panties, alternately kissing her neck and quietly moaning as she handled him the way he had always responded to, with a firm hand and a delicate touch. Teasing him this way, working around his broad belly was too much for her patience. She moved under him and coaxed him into position to enter her.

“I’m so big now, Allie,” he hovered over her, struggling to keep his belly from completely blanketing her body. “I’ll hurt you.”

“Oh no you won’t,” she pulled him down, loving the way his flab collapsed all over her, as he tried in vain to avoid gravity. She knew well that she could handle a fat man on top of her; she had logged enough experience to confirm she would be okay. Well, better than okay…

His heaviness pressed on her, and she felt him enter inside her. She was momentarily transported back to how Sean felt inside her the first time in the pool house. She closed her eyes in astonishment that so much time had passed and yet it didn’t seem that long ago, did it? Her thoughts drifted through the years, as she found her way to the present. She had never expected this outcome. The surprise of him, back in her world, in her bed, and inside her body was both exciting and surreal.

Allie tried to hold off, but Sean knew exactly how to make her climax. The fact that he was noticeably heavier now made it even easier. As he shifted his weight to enter her more deeply, she was overwhelmed by the convergence of his penetration and how much fatter he had become. His belly had grown enough to force her legs more widely apart, and the friction moved her to euphoria. She felt a wave come over her quaking body, and electric pulses shot straight to her toes. Her response prompted his climax as well, and she loved watching him in the moment of ecstasy, relieved he had not lost any of the passion she knew he was capable of.

Enjoying the denouement, she was nestled into him, feeling his belly press into hers with each exhausted breath. His arms easily enveloped her, and she caressed along his middle, her finger instinctively lingering around his deep belly button. He flinched and brushed her away, “Are you trying to make me feel self-conscious?”

“No, sorry,” she smiled sweetly, “I just love how you feel.”

“Allie,” he was playfully exasperated, shaking his head.

“Don’t be surprised, I told you how I feel about your body,” she grinned, returning her hand to his flabby side rolls.

Sean shifted his weight, “But…”

“But nothing,” Allie interrupted him, feeling bolder now that they had returned to intimacy. “You are completely sexy, every inch.”

But Sean continued, clearly trying to work out the body issues between them. “I guess I never understood how you seemed so worried about a measly pound or two on your body… and all the working out and dieting,” he reasoned. “It confused me. I thought, ‘how could she be okay with all of my fat when she can’t tolerate an ounce of it on her?’”

Allie nodded, “I know, Sean, I’ve never been able to make complete sense of it, but it’s something I’ve been working on a lot these days.”

“I sometimes worried about you,” he continued, “but I was afraid to say anything that might make it worse. I mean, who was I to say anything about fitness or healthy eating habits?”

“People have always commented on my body, telling me all the time that I was getting too thin, and I hated it,” she opened up. “I thought, ‘what did they know about my health?’ And I resented that it was anybody’s business but my own. And still think that’s true, people should mind their own damn bodies,” Allie scolded generally with a smile. “But I also know now that I was using that rationalization to not deal with the fact that I was actually kind of harming myself.”

Sean just nodded and stroked her hair.

“It took some therapy to realize that I wasn’t just randomly lacking any appetite or training hard, I was actually dabbling in the anorexic arts and using it to exert control over my life. I really fooled myself into believing it was not affecting my health.”

“Like when I found you on the floor,” Sean started to say.

“That was my wake up call,” she admitted.

“I’m glad,” he murmured, kissing her on the forehead and then on the lips. “I love you, Allie, I need you strong. I need you in my life... always.”


****

“I have something special to show you,” Allie took his hand after they finished their croissants integrale and cappuccinos, al fresco.

He raised his eyebrow in response to a provocative suggestion.

“Not that,” she swatted his arm, “You didn’t get enough ‘special’ last night?” she laughed while he grinned back at her. “There’s something else special that I want you to see on the other side of the gardens,” she pointed toward the Villa Borghese.

“It seems like everything is pretty incredible here,” he took her hand.

“No, but this, you’ll love,” she winked.

As they walked through Villa Borghese gardens, she talked to him about the history of the space, its monuments and museums. She was in her glory extolling architectural virtues and natural significance of the landscaping.

“You can walk in awe through the noise and craziness of Rome,” she smiled, “and then pass into this green space and it’s like you’re on another planet.”

“Like Fairmount,” he smiled at her, reminding her of their favorite park in Philly, where they loved spending time together during that wonderful summer after she came back from Rome.

“Yes, exactly,” she beamed back, locking his arm in hers.

They strolled along the walkways, getting closer to the jewel of the gardens. Through a clearing, she could see Sean studying the structure from a distance.

“What’s that? He asked

“Galleria Borghese,” she smiled knowingly.

“Wow,” he grinned.

“Wait until you see inside,” she grinned back, as they ascended one side of the double staircase. She loved watching him study the stonework, admiring the detail in the piers and arches.

As she walked in with Sean, Allie thought that the interior looked even more stunning than her last visit. The marble accents seemed to gleam brighter, along with the floor mosaics, bas-reliefs and ceiling frescoes all mixed in a swirling feast of Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-classic delights. She took his hand and led him to the room with the piece that she had been wanting him to see for years.

When he saw it, his jaw dropped, “This is it?”

“The original,” she crossed her arms triumphantly as they gazed at Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, “In all of its Baroque marble glory.”

“Wow,” he mustered with eyes wide. “It’s big.”

“Much better than our knock-off back in Villanova, huh?” Allie grinned.

“Beautiful,” he murmured. “I mean, the detail of her body.”

“You can see why Apollo couldn’t keep his hands off of her,” Allie joked.

“You can really see her pain more clearly too,” he remained serious and studied Daphne’s face.

Allie nodded, “The detail of those leaves and twigs on her fingertips have always astounded me. For stone, it’s just so delicate looking. It’s amazing this piece has survived perfectly for almost 400 years.”

“I told you last year,” his eyes fixed on Bernini’s masterpiece. “Daphne’s determined to survive. She’s genuine and enduring.”

“She is,” Allie nodded, feeling warm and a bit embarrassed, remembering their awkward conversation that day last fall.

“Just like you,” he now moved his eyes on her with his directness.

Allie pulled her eyes to his, remembering how hard it was to live without him. “What about you? Will you waver again?”

Sean shook his head and pulled her body into his, “No, no way,” he whispered in her ear. “I’ve only ever been truly happy with you, Allie. I never want to be away from you again.”
 

Undine

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I have no words for how absolutely beautiful this was and how much I appreciate your writing it. I'm literally crying right now. Thank you!
 

Xyantha Reborn

- Actually Very Tame!
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Elegant, beautiful... Just equisite! :smitten::bow:

I adored this from the first and I love it more even now!!
 

agouderia

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Sooo wonderful Ashley!

(I'm going to Italy next week, so it fits into my happy anticipatory mood.)

But does this mean that we have to edit THE END into this lovely story???
 

ashblonde

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Yes, I'm afraid the end of the story for now as far as I've written it, although not the end for Sean and Allie, for sure. I'll post a little epilogue here, as I have had in mind for them, but anyone is welcome to imagine their own 'happily ever after' scenario. Would be fun to hear how others see their future.

p.s. praise is never better than when it comes from writers you love and admire - thank you, ladies :wubu:
 

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