BBW The Uncontainable - by Marlow

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Feb 5, 2013
~BBW, SSBBW, ~~WG, horror - A woman in search of her inheritance uncovers a big family secret.

The Uncontainable
by Marlow

Chapter 1

The dancer swung around the pole, back arched, and flung her cow-spotted bikini top away with a smirk. The tinny music flared and the few patrons paying her any attention gave a perfunctory whoop.

It was a busy evening at the roadhouse, but the crowd so far seemed more interested and drinking and shouting at one another than in anything happening on stage. The air stunk of stale beer and the sweat of a late summer workday. The crowd had come for the main show; the warm-up act tottering around the stage in cheap cowboy boots was an unwelcome delay to their catharsis.

She released the pole, striking what she hoped was a sultry pose, puffing out the chest that had earned her the job and sucking in the soft beer gut that had earned her plenty of comments from the other dancers.

It wobbled faintly as she strutted across the stage. She looked up, trying not to think about it, and immediately tangled a foot in her discarded top.

With her equilibrium still muddled from all the twirling, her balance betrayed her immediately. She toppled forward, careening off the edge of the stage and landing bodily on a scantily clad waitress, upending a full tray of drinks. Her tiny cowboy hat rolled away.

“Oh my god,” hissed the waitress, “not again, Bridget!”

Bridget scrambled to her feet, apologizing and wiping the spilled cocktails from her chest. She reached to help the waitress but a shove from behind sent her sprawling. Flailing wildly, she knocked a woman from a chair and crashed into a crowded table, landing in a shower of spilled beer.

The rowdy patrons erupted in a riot, pouring drinks on her as she extracted herself from the mess and throwing bottles as she scampered back onto the stage. She slipped through the curtains just before a pitcher shattered on the floor behind her.

A crash sounded from the far side of the room as an unrelated brawl broke out. A pair of bouncers scowled and began walking over; the music changed and the waitstaff set about restoring order.

Backstage, Bridget shivered and hurriedly pulled on a shirt. “Oh my god,” she panted. “I’m so sorry. I’ll pay for the table. And…and all the drinks, obviously, and…”

The manager sighed. “We can work something out. And don’t worry about the crowd…they’re all animals out there.” He closed the stage door. “Bridget, I know you’re doing your best, but something’s got to change. Udders is the state’s finest gentlemen’s club and we have to uphold that reputation.”

She brushed her dark hair from her face. “I know. I’m sorry. I really am trying. I want to be good at this. I really thought I could be really good at this.”

“I thought so, too.” He shook his head. “You’re eager and you’ve got…for the most part, you’ve got the body for it.”

“And I’m working on that, too! I’ve been following this, like, fitness show thing on TV. I’m down to, like, one-sixty…well, almost. I think. The scale’s been iffy ever since—”

He held up a hand. “Easy, cowgirl. I’m not gonna fire you. This town isn’t big enough that there’d be anyone to replace you.”

“Okay. Oh, god. Thank you. And I’m really sorry.”

“I know. But I need you to get it together. You’re spilling more drinks now than you did back when you were a server. Neither of us is gonna make any money that way.”

Her eyes lit up. “I did get some tips, though! One guy tucked a bunch of…hm…” She spun around, plucking at the strings of her bikini bottom. There was no cash. “Maybe I dropped it.”

The manager rubbed his temples. “Look, Bridget, how about you just take a few days off. Try a dance class or something. Get your head on straight…I’m sure this has been stressful.”

“I don’t know what it is,” she wondered, plucking her jeans from the dressing rack. “Sometimes I just feel cursed.”

“You’re just in a rut. We all—”

Bridget turned, preparing to step into her jeans, and collided with a stagehand. The beers he’d been carrying splashed over her.

She straightened up, lips pursed, hair dripping. The stagehand picked up his now empty glasses and backed away. The manager folded his arms.

“Sorry,” Bridget gasped. “So sorry. Oh my god. I’m just gonna go home. Sorry.”

They watched her scurry off.

“You forgot your jeans!” called the stagehand, too late. “Holy cow. Maybe she really is cursed.”

The manager shook his head. “Just a rut. If anything, it’s her roommate’s bad luck rubbing off on her.”



Feb 5, 2013

Bridget’s trailer lay nestled in the furthest recesses of the park, all but hidden from the world at the end of a curling gravel road. It sat back in the trees, its lawn overgrown with weeds, wildflowers, and some recent trash. The siding had once been painted a vibrant yellow, but was now faded and cracked. A rickety porch had been built out front, now propped up on one corner by crumbling cinderblocks. The awning was decorated with colored holiday lights and in each window were several potted plants, mostly wilted.

The interior was a mass of clutter: piles of clothing, towers of beauty magazines, stacks of unopened moving boxes, and abandoned craft projects, all littered with discarded pizza boxes, takeout containers, paper bags, styrofoam cups, and aluminum cans.

A few trails had been cleared through the detritus, allowing passage between the various rooms. The most well-worn trail was that from the refrigerator to the ratty old couch; the disarray had similarly been cleared enough to maintain an unimpeded view of the television.

“Now sit up,” cheered the aerobics program on screen, “sit up and reach…and no slouching! Feel that belly fat melting away! Now breathe out…”

A pudgy hand slapped at the remote, changing the channel. The woman on the couch grunted, slouched back against the flattened cushions, and scratched the side of her belly. A lock of golden hair fell over her face and she blew out a few puffs of air in a vain attempt to move it aside.

The springs beneath her creaked. She took up a good half of the two-seat couch and the cushions on her side were well-molded to her bulk. The waistband of her sweatpants, elasticity long since lost, had fallen partly off her flabby hips and her threadbare tank top covered only the top roll of her rotund midsection.

She reached a greasy hand into her bucket of fried chicken and felt around for another piece. It was empty, though, save for a pile of bones. Crumpled beer cans had collected at her feet; the plastic web that had held the six-pack together lay splayed atop the swell of her belly.

Sighing, she shoved the bucket away. It fell to the floor and rolled until it met a paper box. They were both proudly marked with the ‘Chickin Kitchin’ logo. The pair of wide-eyed cartoon hens stared back at the indulgent woman. Ignoring them, she drained the last of her beer and stifled a long belch.

She drummed her fingers on her bloated stomach. She glanced over toward the refrigerator, just visible through the kitchen entryway. She shook her head and grimaced, but a moment later found herself peering that way again and licking her lips.

The screen door clapped shut and Bridget stumbled into the trailer. She closed the door, paused, and opened it again to retrieve her keys. “Hey, Miranda, I…oh, crap.”

Miranda leaned forward to look over, but didn’t make it very far over her glutted belly. “You okay?”

Bridget sighed. “I left my pants at the club. No wonder everyone in the parking lot was staring.” She dropped her purse in the middle of the floor and moped her way into the living room.

Her bedraggled hair was still wet and her skimpy tee shirt was soaked through with beer. Miranda rolled her eyes as she bent down to remove her boots.

“Bridget, I don’t think this what they meant when they said the job came with free drinks.”

“Right?” Bridget laughed. “I must be the worst exotic dancer in the whole state of Iowa. I spilled, like, a whole table tonight. At least it finally got people to look at me, I guess.” She shook her head. “I should clean up before Colin gets here.”

Miranda glanced up. “Colin’s coming over?”

“He said he’d cheer me up. I just have to make dinner.” She turned toward the kitchen and tapped her chin. “Maybe I could warm up that mac and cheese…”

“Oh, I ate that,” Miranda grunted absently. “Dinner yesterday.”

Bridget furrowed her brow. “Didn’t I leave you the chili for dinner yesterday? I thought you had that?”

Miranda shifted her weight. “Uh, I did. It went really well with the mac and cheese.”

“Ah. Um, then…so, what do we have left?”

“Dunno. I was about to go check, but couldn’t talk myself into getting up.”

Bridget padded into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. “Oh my god. Are we out of everything?”

“We could just order out.”

“I don’t…I can’t afford that. I can’t afford, like, anything. And I’m pretty sure I’m about to get fired.” She wrung her hands. “Can you loan me a little? Do you have enough left?”

Miranda wiped a dribble of sauce from her chin. “I…I’m pretty low. Still waiting for this year’s check.”

Bridget tilted her head. “Weren’t you supposed to get that, like, two months ago?” Her eyes widened. “Did they run out of money?”

“The trust fund’s supposed to last me a lifetime. It’s not the sort of thing that runs out.” She waved a hand. “It’s just…really late, for some reason. Not really all that surprising. I’ve told you how messed up that side of the family is.”

“Could you, like, talk to them?”

Miranda turned up her nose. “I haven’t talked to anyone from the Whately side in years. Kinda prefer it that way. Like I said, they’re messed up.”

“Yeah, but…” Bridget sat herself on the couch. “As long as you’re, you know, not working, that’s, like, your only money for a while, right?”

“True. It just sounds like a lot of work.” She stifled a belch. “The whole point of quitting my job and moving back here was…taking a break from that sort of thing.”

Bridget hung her head. “Right. I know. But, Miranda, we…we need to do something. I really like having my best friend living here with me, but I…I can’t support both of us. I can’t even support myself.” She bit her lip. “You’re the one with the fancy college degrees and business experience and everything. My only life skill is…having big boobs.”

Miranda took a long breath. “Sorry. Yeah. I should…” She tugged her top back down over her navel. It promptly rode back up. “I should do a better job of pulling my weight around here. I’ll…I’ll go to the bank tomorrow. See if I can figure something out.”

“You’re the best. Thank you. Okay. I’m gonna get changed before Colin gets here.”

“One thing after another,” Miranda grumbled, wiping crumbs from her shirt. “Can’t ever just have a nice lazy weekend…it’s like I’m cursed.”


Feb 5, 2013
Chapter 2

Miranda was still on the couch when she woke the next morning. Wincing, she sat up and set aside the plastic bowl perched atop her stomach: the remains of whatever dinner Bridget had talked Colin into bringing.

She tugged her top back down, with little success, and after a few minutes of blinking at the sunlight, she climbed gingerly to her feet.

A crow landed on the porch outside and stared at her through the window, head cocked.

“You…I had another dream about you,” Miranda mumbled to the bird, scratching her belly. “You took me somewhere. There was a big pyramid or something. And a…queen?”

The crow cawed and flapped away. Miranda wagged her finger at it. “Three nights in a row. Maybe it’s the beer or whatever, but that’s…this is getting a little weird, bird.”

She started toward the guestroom, eager to continue her slumber in her own bed, but a loud whine from her stomach stopped her in her tracks. There was no fighting it: she was too hungry to be able to get back to sleep now.

The kitchen was about as empty as Bridget had complained, though. With a murmured “Sorry, Colin,” she put together a quick sandwich from his leftovers and wolfed it down. It wasn’t much, but would quiet the whining for a while.

She washed it down with a shower beer—the last can in the fridge—although keeping it from spilling was almost more of a chore than it was worth.

Miranda wasn’t very tall and much of her weight had accumulated in her lovehandles, hips, and upper arms, widening her frame enough that at several angles she barely fit within the trailer’s tiny shower stall. As she turned, her paunch squeezed up against the steamed plexiglass door, rattling it against its hinges.

It was probably for the best that there hadn’t been much for breakfast: if her belly had been good and stuffed, the way she ended so many of her days, the door might not have closed at all. She had to open it and step halfway out to pick up her shampoo bottle from the floor. The hot water ran out before she finished rinsing.

The mirror was too steamed, when she stepped out, to show her any reflection. She was admittedly grateful not to have to see it. She cast a morose eye at a scale in the corner, but turned away. Seeing 380 a few weeks earlier had been harrowing enough and she’d half convinced herself that if she didn’t look again, she could assume it had just been a nightmare.

Her belly rested on the sink as she dried her hair. As the steam dissipated, she reached a finger up to the mirror and traced a cartoon crown above her head.

She stood idle in her bedroom for several minutes, at a loss for what to wear. Suitcases and moving boxes sat unopened, crammed full of designer clothes. She would fit into the classier outfits of her former life once again, she kept promising herself, as soon as she got back into shape. It wouldn’t even take that long, probably; it was just a matter of finally feeling like it.

380 couldn’t have been the real number, anyway. There was no way she’d gotten that big…that had almost certainly been a dream, like the one with the talking crows, or the one in which she’d accidentally eaten half a box of donuts in one morning at the office and popped a skirt button in front of her former boss. Definitely just a dream.

Digging through one of the “clean laundry” piles she plucked out a pair of sweat pants which looked fairly presentable--as long as she pulled the waistband up over her stomach--and a tank top that fit a little too snugly but at least covered the rest of her midsection.

It was too hot out for anything fancier, but she felt the need to accessorize. She rummaged through what little remained of her jewelry collection and found an old silver bracelet. It featured a stylized sun, with seven rays spiraling out from it. A socket for a gemstone lay empty at its center.

The bracelet wasn’t exactly high fashion, at least according to her former co-workers, but it was one of the few that still fit her pudgy wrists.

“Is that new?” asked Bridget, appearing in the doorway. “Haven’t seen you wear that one before. It’s pretty.”

“Nah. It’s older than I am, I think. Been in the family forever. Mom never let me wear it, but I figure if I’m gonna deal with whatever’s going on with that side of the clan, I should at least…look like part of the family.” She pursed her lips, recalling all the plump bellies she’d seen at the few reunions she’d attended.

Bridget stepped in front of the mirror to apply more lipstick. She was already wearing too much, as always. “So, you’re good to head into town today? Check in with the bank?”

Miranda sat down on the edge of the bed and nodded. “Yeah, I’m about ready. And, hey, I was thinking…”

“Yes, we can get lunch while we’re out.”

Bridget poked at her onion rings. A crow landed on the end of the picnic table and cawed at her.

She turned to shoo it, but paused, and after a moment’s thought offered it a ring. Without hesitation the bird snatched it up and flew off.

“Oh, shit!” gasped a voice. A pair of men were pointing at her table.

“Hello?” she ventured.

“Are you…” one of them snickered. “Are you Busty Bridget? From Udders?”

She straightened up and puffed out her chest. “I am!”

“Man, that’s the chick you were talking about?” asked the other. “Spilled more beer in one night than a bad tailgate party?”

“We’d better get to a safe distance before she tries dancing again.”

Bridget’s face fell. They sauntered off, whispering.

“Sweet tits, though. You were right.”

“I love that she dresses like a slut outside of work, too.”

Deflated, Bridget turned back to her meal and pushed an onion ring into her mouth.

A shadow passed over her as Miranda waddled past. The big woman set down a tray piled with two burgers, a basket of fries, a shake, and a to-go bag she would probably claim to be saving for dinner.

“You know those guys?” she asked, squeezing herself onto the bench.

“Admirers,” Bridget sighed.

“Ha. See, you must be doing better than you thought. You’re a hit.” She began squeezing out an irresponsible amount of ketchup. “You’re a hit with the fry cook here, too. Upsized me for no charge and all I had to given him was your username on some app.”

“App? But I don’t have a smartphone.”

“He doesn’t need to know that.” Miranda bit into her first burger, eyes rolling back with satisfaction.

“Any luck at the bank? Were you able to figure out what’s going on with the check?”

“Mm. Sort of. Well, not really.” She reached for a napkin. “They’re so uptight about this stuff. Apparently if I have questions about the trust, I have to talk to my grandmother’s executor. And that’ll mean a trip into the city…what? Are you okay?”

Bridget’s eyes bulged. “Your grandma was executed?”

Miranda paused mid-chew. “Um. Wha…oh. No, it’s, like, it’s her lawyer, Bridget. Nevermind. The point is I’ll have to go downtown and meet this guy and ask him why the checks have stopped.”

“Oh. You can’t just…call this lawyer guy?”

“I did. He told me to come to his office. Apparently, grandma was pretty paranoid. Left a bunch of rules. She was always generous, but definitely…eccentric.” Miranda wiped her chins. “I remember she donated a bunch of money to Thalia while I was going to school there. Had a private collection named after her in the university library, but only certain faculty could access it.”

“Weird,” Bridget agreed. “So, you have to go downtown…do you feel okay about going back?”


“To the city. You haven’t been there since you, uh, left your job, right? Is that gonna be awkward?”

Miranda set her burger down. “I don’t know. I guess that hadn’t hit me yet. To be fair, I haven’t really gone anywhere but your couch since I left that job.”

Bridget eyed her. “Did you sleep out there last night, by the way?” Her jaw dropped. “Colin and I didn’t keep you up, did we? With the shouting?”

“No, no, I think I just…wait, shouting? What happened?”

Bridget blew out a long breath. “He…dumped me.”



“After all you…” Miranda crumpled her empty wrapper. “Whatever. Forget him. You can do so much better.”

“I don’t know. I’ve…already dated everyone else in town.”

Miranda unwrapped her second burger. “Then it’s time for a new town.” She nodded to herself. “Yeah. Look. I’m gonna go to the city and get the money figured out. Once I get my check, we could use it to just…get out of here. Go somewhere nice.” She took a bite and gestured with the burger. “Somewhere with a bigger shower. And, like, a pool.”

“Pool,” Bridget echoed, staring into the distance.

“It’s not like this check’s gonna be all that much, or whatever, but it could be enough to get away for a while…maybe we both just need a break. Could be the excuse I need to get off the couch and back in shape. I’ve been starting to feel a little chubby.”

Bridget cocked a skeptical eyebrow, but Miranda was too preoccupied with her burger.

“A break does sound good,” Bridget agreed.

“Exactly. We should go somewhere crazy. Find some first-class service. Get pampered.” She struck a regal pose. “Live like…queens.”


Feb 5, 2013
Chapter 3

“It’s…I don’t know, it’s a little weird,” Miranda admitted, gazing out the window. Thirty stories below, the city streets churned with rush-hour activity. She switched the phone to her other ear. “I haven’t been downtown in…a few years, now. Part of me forgot what it was all like…”

She turned away from the window and peered around at the office’s ornately furnished lobby. Paintings of foxhunts adorned the walls.

“…but part of me feels like I never left.” She caught sight of herself in a mirror across the room. Squeezed into her only presentable blouse and an overtaxed skirt, she looked like a distorted vision of the jet-setting businesswoman she’d once been. “Not sure I really fit in anymore. Um, hey…this restaurant tonight…any chance it’s something casual? I, uh, didn’t pack anything fancy.”

She twisted and tried to adjust her blouse. The sides wouldn’t stay tucked into her waistband.

“Oh, erm…no, no. That’s sweet. But there’s no way I’m…no, Esmee, you don’t need to lend me a dress. It’s okay. I’ll…I’ll pick something up.” She opened her purse and peeked into her wallet. There wasn’t much left of the gas money she’d borrowed; a good portion of it had disappeared around lunchtime. “It’ll be an excuse to go shopping, right?”

A secretary waved at her from the doorway. Miranda nodded.

“Esmee, I’ve got a meeting. But I’ll see you tonight.” She sighed. “Yeah, looking forward to it. I know. Yeah, way too long.”

The lawyer’s office was less elaborate than the waiting room outside. Half the bookshelves were empty and paper boxes lined one of the walls. A small, silver-haired man looked up from his desk and squinted at Miranda as she entered.

“Yes?” he coughed.

“Mr. Ward, hi. It’s me…Miranda. I called—”

His eyes widened, darting up from her widened waist. “Yes! Miranda. Oh my, I’m sorry. I almost didn’t recognize you.” Seeing her blush, he hurriedly added, “my eyes aren’t what they were.”

“It has been a while,” she agreed, seating herself in an old chair and wincing as it groaned beneath her weight. “I’m hoping you can help me with my grandmother’s trust. Last year’s check was late…and smaller than it was supposed to be.” She shifted, trying to make her belly comfortable between the armrests. “And this year’s check hasn’t come at all.”

“Ah. Yes, that is concerning. Lavinia would not have been happy to see you left out. I know she and your mother never saw eye to eye, but she certainly considered you part of her family. Unfortunately…” He scratched at his beard. “I’m afraid I’m no longer a trustee. I’m mostly retired, as you can see, and I was required to pass my role to a party appointed by family vote.”

Miranda narrowed her eyes.

“They didn’t tell you?” he asked, leaning in.

“I haven’t really been in contact with anyone.” She looked down, creasing her chins.

“As it stands, I don’t send your checks anymore. But you should still be receiving them on the same schedule. The trust is still active and the payout rules are…quite rigid.” He folded his hands. “You’ll want to contact the new trustees. I’m sure it’s just an oversight.”

“And who are they?”

He stood and moved toward a file cabinet. “Juliana and Diana Whately. Your cousins, if I remember correctly…about your age.”

Miranda brushed a blonde curl from her face. “The twins?”

“They were the closest to your grandmother, as I understand. Grew up in her house.” He tugged out a leather binder and returned to his desk. “Have you seen them lately?”

“No, not since the funeral. And that was…seven years ago, now? Only met them a couple times before that, anyway.” She allowed herself a wry smile. “Mom stopped bringing me to reunions after a while.”

He paged through the binder. “They didn’t leave me much in the way of contact information, unfortunately, but…ah. I do have Juliana’s business card.”

He set it on the desk. Miranda straightened up, but couldn’t lean far enough over her belly to reach for it. The lawyer coughed and slid it further toward her with a polite smile.

Miranda seized it and fell back into the chair with a huff. “Juliana Whately, weight-loss consultant.” Her eyes widened. “That address…oh my god. That’s right across the street from my old apartment.”

“You’re not still there, though?”

She blanched. “No, I…I left that job a couple years ago. Stuff came up. Couldn’t afford to stay uptown, so I moved back home.”

“Ah. What are you doing for work out there?”

She opened and closed her mouth a few times. “Uh, stuff,” was all she could manage. “Wow. Our apartments were that close and I never even knew Juliana was in town.”

The lawyer spread his palms. “Maybe this little accounting error is serendipitous, then. You get to reconnect with family.” He closed the binder. “I’m sure you’ll have a great deal of catching up to do.”

“Right.” Miranda ran her finger over the card. A logo had been embossed in its glossy surface.

She squinted at the emblem. It showed seven curls spiraling out from a small circle, like the rays of a twisted sun. Miranda turned her bracelet over. The design was identical.

“Maybe you’ll have something in common,” the lawyer ventured.

“No, my wife and I live here now,” said the young man, leaning against the doorframe. “Been at least four years.”

Miranda checked the address on the card. “Great.”

“You said ‘Whately’ though, yeah?” He turned and called back into the apartment. “Hon, you remember those sisters who had the place before us? Were those the Whatelys?”

“Yeah, the twins,” replied a voice.

“Juliana and Diana?” Miranda prompted.

The man nodded with a nostalgic grin. “Mm. Yep, that was them. I definitely remember them. Identical. Blonde. Real…fit.”

“He’s being polite,” his wife chimed. “He fantasized about them for weeks.”

“I only met them a few times, but…they always had these smiles, like they were up to something.” He chuckled. “Like they might just let you in on the secret if you treated them right. Hard to get that image out of your head.”

“Well, they definitely weren’t up to cleaning. The place was a mess when we moved in. We ended up paying our movers to help move those girls out.”

“I’m sure it was a tough time for them. One of them mentioned she was having trouble with her business. She was trying to avoid some kind of…investigation, or something. Was that Juliana? I forget which was which.”

“No idea. You talked to them a lot more than I did. They were pretty, but always seemed a little suspicious to me. I remember one asking if I wanted to try a new diet. Me.”

He opened the door further. “Here, come on in. I’m pretty sure they left us a forwarding address, if you’re trying to catch up with them.”

“That’d be great, thanks,” Miranda huffed, waddling in after him.

The apartment was enormous, with an open floorplan and walls covered in modern art. Soft jazz played from an unseen surround-sound system. The man’s wife, who could only have been a model, sat cross-legged on a long white couch, paging through a beauty magazine. She wore a white bathrobe that perfectly matched the sleek furniture.

Miranda gazed around as the husband rifled through the drawers of their black granite kitchen. She took a shaky breath and set about pulling her golden hair into a bun.

“Everything alright?” asked the wife, eyeing her.

“Sure, yeah. It’s…” Miranda forced a smile. “I used to have an apartment just like this.”



Feb 5, 2013
Chapter 4

Esmee crested the stairs and peered around the restaurant lobby, a rose-gold cellphone pressed to her ear.

“I’m just coming up now,” she lilted, checking herself in a mirror.

The Bryonia was, in Esmee’s opinion, the city’s chic-est restaurant, furnished in an elegant, achingly cosmopolitan aesthetic. Dark metallic panels swept overhead and glittering crystal sculptures lined the lobby walls.

Esmee had slid her lithe, meticulously toned body into a golden dress to match, a new offering from her favorite designer. She lingered in the lobby, even after being beckoned by the hostess, enjoying the eyes that had turned to her. She flashed them a coy smirk and sashayed into the restaurant.

“I found some of your things, actually,” she said to her phone. “You’d left a few outfits at my house after a party. Couldn’t believe I still had them, but thought you should have them back.”

“Oh, wow, thanks,” Miranda’s voice replied.

“Since you said you didn’t pack anything fancy, this way you can just change into one of these if we decide to go out dancing after.”

“That’s…I’m sure they’re out of fashion by now. And, um, I really don’t think I’ll have the energy for dancing tonight.”

“Oh, Miranda, come on. You haven’t been to the city in years. We’ve got to hit the clubs.”

“It’s not really my thing anymore.”

“We’ll see. Have you been seated yet? I’m so excited to see you. Everyone at work was asking about you.”

“Yeah, I got us a table at the back.”

“Making my way over. I usually get a booth. They’re really nice here. We can probably switch, if you want.”

“The, uh, the table’s fine.”

“I’m not kidding about everybody asking, by the way. The whole office really misses your energy.” Esmee scanned the restaurant. “Okay, I’m not sure I see you. There’s one table with a double date, one with some kind of boys’ night, and then one with some big fat lady…” She choked.

Miranda turned and waved, her flabby arm jiggling. “Hi, Esmee.”

Esmee tentatively spread her arms for a hug, but Miranda didn’t get up. After a moment’s hesitation, she decided to give the big woman’s shoulder a friendly squeeze and almost recoiled at how her fingers sank into the soft flesh. She smoothed her dress, daintily cleared her throat, and slid into a chair across the table.

“So…how have you been?” Miranda ventured, opening a roll from the bread basket.

Esmee stared. “My god, Miranda, I hardly recognize you.”

“I stopped straightening my hair. You probably never saw it this curly.” She gestured at Esmee with the butter knife. “You grew yours out! Looks nice.”

“Grew…” Esmee fumbled with the menu for a moment, then settled herself with a deep breath. “I’m just going to say it. I’m sorry. I was surprised at how…I mean…how big you are now. Sorry.”

“Wow. Okay. Come on. I’ve always been…thick.”

“Thick? And what are you now?”

“I put on a couple pounds. It happens. Whatever. You’re talking to me like I’m some fat cow. A little chunky, maybe, but…” She reached for the pad of butter. Her belly pushed against the edge of the table, rattling their water glasses.

Esmee lowered her voice. “Miranda, have you seen yourself? Does it not occur to you that you’re the biggest person in this restaurant?”

“Oh, please. That’s…” She sheepishly glanced around at the other patrons in their glitzy attire.

“We used to go out to places like this every weekend. I remember the way everyone would stare at you. You’re getting very different stares this time. Are you that much in denial or are you seriously telling me that putting on, like, two hundred pounds isn’t a big deal?”

“Quit exaggerating. There’s…there’s no way it’s that much,” Miranda muttered, with less certainty than she’d hoped. “Look, I didn’t come to talk about my weight. I thought we were going to catch up. You’re just being—”

“Fine. Tell me about what you’ve been doing for the past few years. You must have found a killer job, to quit Silver Key like you did.”

Miranda swallowed.

Esmee narrowed her eyes.

“I…we all need a break sometimes.”

“I guess you probably had plenty of savings to coast on…plus what you get from that trust fund. I hope you at least bought yourself a nice place. I saw they’ve been building these beautiful rustic-style manors out in that area.”

“I’ve been staying with my friend Bridget, actually. It’s been—”

“Oh, I think I remember her. Did she come to one of your parties once?” Esmee sucked her teeth, remembering. “Not really our group’s type…the waitress, right? Kinda ditzy?”

“She’s moved up from waitressing, actually. She’s…” Miranda winced. She already regretted saying as much as she had.

“I remember the boys getting a real kick out of her. Wait. But ‘Bridget’…wait. She lived…no. You’re living in a trailer?”

Miranda held up a hand. “It’s just temporary. It’s not what you’re probably picturing.” She reached for the basket of bread. “What about you? Are you still over in—”

“No. Uh-uh.” Esmee flattened her hands on the table. “We’re not done with this. Tell me what the fuck is going on with you.”

“Nothing, Esmee. I’m…fine. Everything’s fine. Maybe I’m a little chunkier than you think I should be, or maybe I’m not living in the fancy house you imagined, but, whatever.”

“Don’t ‘whatever’ me. Miranda, I’m just…trying to understand what happened. When you were working here, you had the whole world in front of you. You were on the fast track for upper management, they were making you project lead over consultants with way more seniority, clients were clamoring for you…hell, I remember the CEO asking Carter about you by name. I would have been lucky to get to be your secretary. You had everything to gain.”

Miranda bit her tongue.

“What happened?”

“I just…it wasn’t…I…”

“You gave up all this,” Esmee hissed incredulously, waving her hands at the opulent restaurant. “You gave up the life we all grew up dreaming about…to go back to that dead, go-nowhere town? You should be picking out a private jet right now, not bumming gas money for your roommate’s truck.” She looked away, disgusted. “You were the best of us, Miranda. You were supposed to be a queen.”

Bridget stared up at the stars. They shimmered in the heat of the summer night.

As she strolled into the trailer park, shifting the overloaded shopping bag to her other shoulder, she passed an older couple. They were walking hand in hand, with a small dog in tow. Bridget gave them a wistful smile and a friendly wave. They waved back, but as they moved on she could hear the wife mutter “…falling out of her top like that. Put some real clothes on.”

Bridget paused, lips quivering.

“Doesn’t have the body to dress that way anymore, anyway,” the crone continued. “Starting to sag, poor girl, and that tummy, you see that? The partying’s catching up to her.”

They disappeared around a corner. Bridget cut across a few yards, nearly tripping over a sprinkler, and hurried toward her trailer.

She slammed the door and dropped the shopping bag unceremoniously to the floor. She took a long breath, started off into the living room, and then quickly returned to pull her keys from the latch.

Miranda was in her usual place on the couch, but looked much less content than usual. The bones of a rotisserie chicken littered a plate on the end table.

“Hey,” she said quietly, unfolding something on her lap. “Did you end up trying that dance class?”

Bridget collapsed onto the couch beside her. “No. I went to the studio and looked inside…and everyone in there was so, like, just…perfect. All slim and toned and prim and proper. Me in my strip-club top, my beer gut sticking out…I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere near that place.”

“Sounds familiar,” Miranda breathed.

“No luck downtown?”

“The lawyer was no help. I think…I think maybe my cousins ran off with the trust fund. They were in some kind of trouble.” She grimaced. “The family curse gets us all.”

She shook her head and held the unfolded garment to her chest. It was a trendy black dress, adorned with a sunburst of sequins. It was dwarfed by the enormity of her midsection.

“This used to be my favorite Saturday night outfit,” she explained. “I left it at Esmee’s after a party…she just gave it back. It…I can’t even get it over my shoulders now. Am I really that big, Bridget? Have I really gotten that fat?”

Bridget opened her mouth, but quickly closed it again. She shifted uncomfortably.

Miranda hurled the dress away. “I was everything I could have wanted to be. I was our valedictorian, you remember? I was captain of the track team when we won the state championship. Fuck…I graduated summa cum laude from Thalia…Silver Key wanted me so bad they paid my way through business school and the signing bonus they gave me was enough to buy a new car.”

“That was a nice car.”

“It was a nice life.” She wrung her hands. “I threw it all away. Now I’ve got nothing to show for any of it. I lost everything and put on two hundred pounds instead. The life I had four of five years ago feels like it was someone else’s. How was that me? Did I stop being that person? Was I ever really that person?”

“Boys used to get into fights over me,” Bridget recalled. “They’d do anything for me. I could do…anything.”

“I miss feeling powerful like that. I feel like I don’t even have power over myself anymore. I can't even explain it. In my memory, it's like someone else was making all those awful decisions, like I was hypnotized into ruining everything I'd earned. And now it's gone...just something in an old dream. I fell so far…what can I even do?”

Bridget turned to face her. “We have to find your cousins. Track them down…get the money they owe you. Get a fresh start.”

Miranda sat up with a grunt. “Juliana and Diana abandoned a lifestyle as comfortable as mine used to be. Whatever trouble they were in…something must have really scared them, to give up on all that.”


Feb 5, 2013
Chapter 5

“Yeah, I remember them,” said the young woman, closing her door and stepping into the hall. “They were in the corner apartment for about a year.”

“You get to know them at all?” Miranda asked, sucking on the straw of her extra-large pop.

The woman glanced at the bucket-sized cup and bit her lip. “Uh, yeah. Didn’t see them much at first, but they started to get out more after a while. Everyone was really curious about them…twins, of course, and you could tell they were identical even though one was kinda chunky, compared to the other one.”

Miranda looked up.

“They were actually super friendly…to me, at least. I think when they found out I was alone here they felt bad for me. Invited me over a lot, shared meals…made me feel welcome, even though they were the newcomers.” She pushed her hair from her face. “They were so nice the whole time, and so caring, that I still feel bad about…about calling the police.”

“Police? What happened?”

The woman took a deep breath. “It was…one night, they had me over, like they’d done lots of times. We watched a movie or something, and got pretty tipsy. I was complaining about my job, how it wasn’t paying enough, how I was afraid I’d starve. And they said…they said they could help.”

“Help how?”

“Well…they called me to the kitchen and brought out this huge bowl of…I think it was pudding. Told me to have as much as I wanted. I felt weird and said I’d be okay, but they got really insistent. Said I’d…I’d never worry about starving again. Juliana…Juliana said that, um…” She blew out a shaky breath. “She said something about…said I could meet their queen, if I was good? Diana held me in the chair and Juliana, um, she forced me to eat the pudding until I almost threw up.”

“Queen,” Miranda repeated.

“Something like that. I managed to push them off and I ran out and called the cops. There wasn’t much to really report, though. To them it probably just sounded like drunk people doing drunk things.”

“What happened after that?”

“I…stopped seeing them. I stayed away, and then a few weeks later they moved out.” She reached into her purse. “They left me a note, though, when they left. Said if I changed my mind, I could find them at their new place. Obviously I…didn’t go.”

She handed Miranda a postcard. Miranda turned it over in her hands, squinting at the address.

“That’s outside the city, right on the edge. One of the last suburbs before you hit the cornfields.”

Miranda nodded. “Thanks for your time.”

“Yeah. And, look…if you find them…don’t, uh, please don’t mention me.”

The postcard led Miranda to a cheap townhome, the last in a development of cookie-cutter buildings. There was no answer at the door and peeking through the windows revealed an empty, dust-covered interior.

“They’ve been gone a few years, now,” said the landscaper, pulling off his gloves. “Twins, right? Identical, though it didn’t seem that way at first…”

“Why do you say that?” asked Miranda, reaching into a bag of chips.

“Well, the one was really skinny, and the other…” He smirked. “She was pretty tubby. Uh, no offense. And to be honest, she was tubbier when she left than when she showed up.”

“So you saw a lot of them, then? At least enough to, uh, notice changes like that?”

“Yeah, I suppose. Only ‘cuz they kept calling me to do stuff. They were really interested in their unit’s storage shed…had me do a bunch of work on it.”

“What kind of work?”

“They wanted to make sure it was watertight, so I re-did a lot of the siding and such. Then they wanted a stronger door, with a more secure locking mechanism…and they asked if I could put carpet in there.”

“Carpet in a storage shed?”

He unlocked a door and ushered Miranda into his office. “Told me it was for a pet. Don’t think they ended up getting one, though.”

Finding an oscillating fan in the corner of the office, Miranda lowered her pudgy face into the breeze, her golden hair flapping gratefully. “This humidity is murder…why hide a pet? Are they not allowed here?”

He scoffed. “Small ones are okay. Nothing that’d need what they were setting up.” He looked at Miranda. “They’d rigged this heavy old farm chain to a bolt on the floor…kind of thing that would’ve kept an elephant in place.”


“The landlord thought so. I tore it up when they left. Had to get everything presentable again for new tenants. Not that we got many since.” He opened a filing cabinet and riffled through its folders.

Miranda peered up the street. Most of the windows were dark and there were only a few cars in the development’s driveways. “The area does seem…a little empty.”

He nodded. “A young man went missing a while back…it kinda spooked everybody. I figure that’s why the twins left: neighborhood just didn’t seem safe anymore. Aha.” He extracted a folder from the drawer. “They did leave a forwarding address. Looks like you’re in for a bit of a road trip.”

The address led to a dilapidated duplex on the outskirts of a small factory town, over an hour’s drive down the interstate. Miranda kept a wary eye on the truck’s dwindling fuel as she raced along.

“They left a while back,” said the landlady, turning toward the duplex. “Still paying rent on the place every month, but I haven’t seen hide nor hair of either of them.”

“Did you see much of them while they were staying here?” Miranda asked, following her. It was a slow journey up the steps, for the woman was heavily pregnant. Miranda, who had no love for stairs herself, was happy to wait.

The woman shrugged. “One of ‘em, yeah. Diana. In and out all the time, running errands. Juliana, though, the other one…she was, you know…she was pretty big.” The woman paused. “Really big. No offense to big folks, of course…” She glanced back at Miranda. “Anyway…the only times I saw her outside, she was on one of them mobility scooters.”

While the woman fumbled with her keys, Miranda scrolled through images on her phone, landing on a photograph of Juliana and Diana from the family’s last big reunion. The twins had been the skinniest in the family. “Not so identical anymore,” she murmured.

“No kidding,” the woman agreed, unlocking the door. “Diana was so skinny. Maybe 120, 130…there was such a big difference between ‘em you’d hardly guess they were twins. And Juliana, she’d only gotten bigger by the time they left.”

“You know why they stopped staying here?”

“Not really. I heard ‘em all excited one night. Kept shouting ‘yes, that’s it, that’s it’ and giggling like teenagers. Diana came down the next morning and told my husband they’d be out of town for a little while.” She pushed open the creaking door. “Haven’t seen them since.”

The door opened up to a cluttered mess. Clothes, bags, boxes, and dishware littered the floor, interspersed with impressive, teetering stacks of magazines and old books.

“They just left it like this?” Miranda gasped.

“Yep. The week after they took off, we got a month’s rent in the mail, along with a note begging us not to touch anything. Money’s been steady ever since, so we’ve left it as is…much as we hate living under a mess.”

Miranda stared at the couch. The leftmost cushion appeared caved-in, almost flattened by some immense weight. Shaking her head at the all-too familiar sight, she wandered into the kitchen.

“So they at least know how to send some checks, then,” Miranda murmured. “Oops—”

Her lovehandle had toppled a pile of pizza boxes. They clattered noisily across the tile floor. Glancing around, she found the kitchen covered in empty take-out containers, stacked along the counter like the towers and citadels of an ancient city.

“Yeah,” chuckled the woman. “They ordered out a lot.”

The next room, a makeshift office, was comparatively tidy. A stack of envelopes sat atop the desk, covered in dust.

“Look, I’ll be outside if you need anything,” the woman ventured. “I get kinda creeped out being in here.” She waddled out, hand to her stomach.

Miranda watched her go. Her own stomach gurgled and she put her hand against it.

She scowled at the mess. All that hung on the walls was a collection of scrap paper pinned to a corkboard, scribbled and drawn over in black marker.

The scrawled handwriting was unreadable. Miranda eventually realized it wasn’t in English, nor any script she recognized. Above the desk, a desert landscape had been drawn across several pieces of paper, dominated by a towering ziggurat.

Returning to the office, she sifted through the opened mail. Every letter was addressed from Thalia University. They were all written in the same unreadable code, but one envelope held a photograph of an old, leatherbound book.

The title was embossed into the cover in gold leaf lettering: La Reine en Jaune. There was no author listed, but a large sigil was engraved in the leather.

Miranda glanced at her bracelet. It was the same twisted sun shape, with the same seven rays spiraling outward from an empty circle.

She tucked the photo into her purse. Collecting the professor’s letters, she made her way back to the front door.

“Any chance they left a forwarding address?”

The woman shook her head. “Nah, sorry. But they did say something about a farmhouse.”

Miranda pressed a pudgy hand to her forehead. “The old family homestead. God, that’s way out on the other side of the state.”

“Ooh, I’m sorry. Not a fun drive.” The woman started her slow journey down the steps. “You want something to eat before you go? I’ve got lunch ready.”

“Thanks, that’s…” Miranda caught herself. “That’s okay. I’m…trying to watch my diet.” She’d also finished an overstuffed burrito on the drive over.

The woman gave her a skeptical glance. “Uh-huh. Well, good luck with your trip.”

She muttered on to herself as she plodded downward. Miranda made out little of what she was saying, outside of one last remark at the bottom step: “must run in the family.”



Jul 25, 2007
This is . . . staggeringly good. I don't remember the last time I read a story on here (or on any site like this) where I was heavily invested in the plot like I am with this one. Even if this never goes any deeper into weight gain, I think I'd want to keep reading just to find out what's going on. I'm dying to read the next installment!


Feb 5, 2013
Chapter 6

“Where you ladies headed today?” asked the gas station attendant, ogling Bridget.

“We’re headed to Kade,” she replied cheerily. “Little town west of here. Any chance you know it? We’re a little bit lost and could probably use a little bit of advice.”

Miranda sighed. Bridget leaned further over the counter, nearly falling out of her low-cut top. But the man’s face had suddenly darkened.

“Kade?” he scoffed. “Yeah, go anywhere else. That’s my advice.”

Miranda handed him her money. “Why do you say that?”

He made change and waited for the receipt to print. “Kade is a dying town. Most cars I see on that road are going the other direction.” He sniffed. “From what I hear, there just isn’t much left. Crops have been bad for a couple years now and the local farms’ve sold off all their livestock.”

“That’s so sad,” mewled Bridget.

“Eh, I’d feel sorrier for ‘em, but I hear the degenerates have turned to stealing from the next town over. And there are rumors of worse.”

The sea of cornstalks stretched away on either side of the highway. The old pick-up coughed and accelerated, alone on the road.

Bridget fumbled with a long-outdated Iowa roadmap. “I think we’re on this one. Maybe here.” She jabbed at it with her finger, though nowhere Miranda could see from the driver’s seat. “I thought you said you’d been there before?”

Miranda reached to adjust her seatbelt. “Not exactly. Went by it once in high school, on my way to a track meet.”

“Track…oh, yeah, I forgot you used to run.”

“I was in better shape back then. Anyway, as long as the drive was, mom refused to stop and visit grandma afterward. I wanted to finally see the family estate, but she shut me down so hard I didn’t even try to argue.”

“Oo. Try turning left up here,” Bridget offered, pointing. “Did something happen between your mom and your grandma? You always mention them not getting along.”

Miranda eased the truck around the turn. “I don’t really know. She talked about my grandmother like she was some evil matriarch, trying to corrupt her kid. I guess I always assumed it was just petty adult drama, after the stuff with my dad.” She swallowed. “So yeah, we drove out this way, but never stopped to say hi.”

“And your grandma didn’t come out to watch you compete?”

“Maybe mom never told her I was there.” She flashed Bridget a teasing glance. “I didn’t think about it much. I don’t remember you ever coming out to watch me run, either...”

“Not everything in our school revolved around you, Miss Perfect. My weekend nights were pretty busy.”

Miranda snorted. “Busy with partying.”

“You were the 400-meter champion, I was the beer pong champion…we were both champions.”

“That’s one way to look at it.”

“Had to be good at something,” Bridget giggled. “Were you there the night I drank Arturo’s cousin under the table?”

“I heard about it the next day.” Miranda rolled her eyes. “I had just set the conference record, but all anyone could talk about was the Queen of Beer.”

“They made me a cardboard throne and everything! Oh, uh, left again up here.”

Miranda squinted at the road. “You’re sure you know where we are?”

“I mean, sorta. If you want to look at the map, I can drive.”

“Mm, no. I’ve seen you drive. Hey, whatever happened to that guy? I haven’t seen him around town.”

Bridget bit her lip. “He went to medical school. I heard he and his wife have a big house up in Clear Lake now.”



They rode on in silence for a few more minutes. Eventually, Bridget sat up and pointed. “Left up there, I think.”


“Well, going right would take you into a cornfield…”

“But how can we go left again? That would basically put us back at the gas station. Are we going in a circle?”

Bridget shrugged. Miranda frowned, but made the turn. They followed the road for several miles, far past where Miranda’s mental geography told her the gas station and the road it was on should have been. And then, almost apologetically, Bridget suggested she make another left turn. Several more followed.

“This makes no sense. I’ve been keeping track of the mileage…we’ve basically crossed over our own route, like, three times now.”

“I didn’t recognize any of the roads, though,” Bridget mused.

“Maybe we should have stopped for lunch.” Miranda’s stomach gurgled in agreement.

“Just trust me. These turns are getting us closer. See?”

They raced past a roadsign. It proclaimed, to their relief, that the township of Kade lay a few miles ahead.


Feb 5, 2013
(6, continued)

They’d been on the road all morning and had passed through only a handful of towns. Those had themselves been little more than a half-dozen buildings clustered around a gas station and a couple of fast-food restaurants. Presumably there were people living there, but the only eyes looking back at them for the past hour had belonged to cows.

The route took yet another seemingly impossible left turn. Miranda, trying to picture the map in her head, could only imagine a dwindling road, spiraling out into an oblivion of corn.

But the fields finally parted and before them lay their destination. A weathered sign welcomed them as they drove in.

Kade was a little larger than some of the other towns they’d passed, but only in the sense that it boasted three fast food chains instead of two, along with an all-night diner and a roadside bar advertising drink specials that couldn’t have been legal. A variety of quaint shops and markets sat sleepily alongside and further up the road stretched a strikingly unattractive motel.

Kade’s shops and storefronts were little more than cheaply-built boxes, their huge windows gaping dumbly at the passerby. The houses were mostly small ranch homes, converted farmhouses, or trailers. At the edge of town stood a rotting barn, partially burned, its roof caved in.

The buildings that hadn’t been abandoned weren’t in much better shape. Their paint was peeling, their signs hung askew, their windows were cloudy and unwashed. Several shops had pots out front and planters under their windowsills, but none were growing any flowers.

Many of the houses on the outskirts seemed to have been abandoned, their windows boarded up and their lawns littered with broken furniture. A number of the storefronts were closed, too, and apparently had been for some time. Weeds grew tall around many of the buildings and in the cracks in the sidewalk. Miranda slowed the truck and jerked the steering wheel to avoid a massive pothole; the streets were in total disrepair.

“Lovely place,” Miranda murmured. “Okay, I know I said I was gonna try a diet, but I need to get something to eat. That drive wiped me out.”

Bridget nodded. “Yeah, I’m starving. It hit me right when we crossed the county line.”

Miranda parked the truck in a streetside spot and, with a long sigh of relief, unbuckled her seatbelt. “Well, I see they’ve got the usual chains…Pizza Palace, Burger Bunker, and…ooh, a Chickin Kitchin.” Her mouth watered at the thought.

“It looks like that diner is the place to be.”

“Where?” She dropped down from the truck, hurried to tuck her spare tire back into her waistband, and looked up. “Oh, wow. Must be the lunch rush.”

The diner’s parking lot was full. The raucous din from inside could be heard out to the street.

“I hope they have pie,” Bridget lilted. “I don’t know why it’s on my mind, but I feel like I could eat a whole pie right now.”

“I thought I was the one with the dangerous appetite.”

Bridget’s eyes widened. “I don’t think you’re the only one.” She nodded at a group of locals exiting the diner.

There were half a dozen of them, laughing heartily and waving as they parted ways. They joked about getting back to work, but seemed to be in no hurry. They moved slowly, pausing here and there to adjust their waistbands. Each waistband was considerably outgrown.

The shorter woman heading toward the antique shop was merely pudgy, with a thick, wobbling backside, while the farmer’s wife heaving herself into an old pick-up was genuinely rotund, her pillow-like arms and several chins jiggling with the effort. As she settled into the passenger seat, the truck’s suspension creaked pathetically. Her husband was somewhat slimmer, but only because he was so tall; his barrel-chest required some maneuvering to get behind the wheel.

Nothing anyone wore fit them. The woman from the shop was draped in a long pink dress, its back partially unzipped and a seam beginning to tear along her wide hips. The man in the trucker hat sported a ratty tee shirt that rode up from his hairy pot-belly. The farmer’s wife had tucked her girth into denim shorts, but couldn’t fasten them, and when she reached to climb into the truck the bottom button of her checkered shirt popped off.

It clanged off the rusty door, loud enough for everyone in the parking lot to hear, but she didn’t even flinch.

Miranda looked over at Bridget, who only met her eyes with equal confusion. The woman hefted her mass into the truck, weighing down its passenger side, and leaned over to grab a pop bottle waiting in the cupholder.

A pair of car doors shut nearby. Turning, they saw the white of a police patrol car, cast in round shadow as two obese officers stepped out. They had both outgrown their uniforms; neither’s shirt could quite reach their waistband and their belts were barely holding on.

Bridget and Miranda stared. The officers began their ponderous waddle toward the diner’s entrance, smiling at all the friendly faces in the window: a crowd of fattened faces belonging to fattened bodies.


Feb 5, 2013
Chapter 7

“Hiya, gals,” the waitress muttered, stacking up menus. “We’re a little swamped, but if you don’t mind waiting, I can get you something.”

Miranda winced as a heavyset couple squeezed past her, each as large as she was. “Could we just get something to go?”

“Still gonna be a wait. Kitchen’s all kinds of backed up.” She turned to someone at the counter. “I’ll be right back with more of those pancakes, buddy. Hang in there.”

Bridget watched her flit away. “I don’t miss being a server. Think we should stay?”

Miranda eyed the menu and swallowed. “I don’t know if I want to wait that long. And none of these people look like they’re leaving anytime soon.”

The booths, tables, and counter were entirely packed. The size of each customer only served to make the diner seem even more cramped. They stared at their plates as though entranced, methodically shoving food into their sauce-spattered mouths, only speaking when it was time to give the poor waitress their orders. Bridget had managed to catch one patron’s eye with a friendly wave, but he had quickly turned back to his country-fried steak.

The waitress had been the only one to acknowledge the visitors. She was a loud, foul-mouthed woman, covered in tattoos. Curiously, she was the only person they’d seen so far who wasn’t overweight; her apron hung loosely from her bony frame.

“Is it always this busy?” Miranda called to her as she passed by again.

“Every day. Folks eat hearty around here. I like the tips, but this shift has gotten a lot harder since our manager disappeared.”


“Mm-hmm. Didn’t come into work one morning and nobody’s seen him since. Been a lot of that around here over the last year or so. Police are saying it’s a drug thing.” She wiped her brow. “To be honest, I’m not all that surprised. There’s not much to do in this town these days and with the farms all going bust, folks haven’t had a lot of hope.”

Miranda and Bridget stared as she hefted a tray of pies from the kitchen window.

“I think they need a healthier outlet. That’s why I’m gonna try this dream-seminar they do out at the homestead. Finally got a night off, so I’m gonna see what all the fuss is about.”

“What’s a dream-seminar?” asked Bridget.

“Some kind of meditation class, I guess. People are saying it’s the best experience they’ve ever had, gave them a whole new perspective on life. I’m sure it’s just some new-age scam, but I’m gonna need something fun after a shift like this.”

She disappeared into the crowd, taking the pies with her.

Miranda reached for the door. “Let’s just try somewhere else.”

They wriggled their way back out the door and meandered to the street. They passed more customers waddling to the diner, mumbling hungrily, and ran into several others on their way home from what must all have been thoroughly satisfying lunches. All the locals, whether merely chunky or expansively obese, appeared stuffed to the gills, stepping gingerly, perhaps almost too full to walk.

The waddling populace barely acknowledged the two out-of-towners. Miranda had grown used to being stared at for her size and was doubly self-conscious in the shorts she’d squeezed herself into for the day. Bridget, too, was accustomed to ogling eyes, especially in the crop-tops she loved wearing, and had no shortage of bubbling social energy. But few locals would afford either of them more than a nervous, cursory glance before shuffling on.

They peeked into the Pizza Palace, but were told the wait was over an hour. The line for the tiny Burger Bunker snaked out the door. The scene in each was similar to the diner: fat patrons working their way through impressive servings of greasy food. At length Bridget and Miranda were able to procure a pair of meal-boxes from the Chickin Kitchin, though there was nowhere in the shop to sit. Miranda’s legs burned, as she’d already walked more than she did in a typical day, but there was little option but to wander aimlessly around the town’s main strip.

Up close, it became clearer that many of the buildings were in disrepair. The porch in front of the antique store sagged noticeably in one corner, its unstained boards warped and rotten. One of the insurance salesman’s windows was broken and lazily covered with a tarp. A picket fence had been only halfway whitewashed before the project was apparently abandoned. A screen door, latch missing, flapped in the breeze and banged on its cracking frame.

The police station was a tiny grey building with only one squad car parked out front. A handwritten note on the door advised visitors that the officers on duty were ‘out to lunch.’ A half-eaten box of doughnuts lay on one of the desks.

“Look at that bulletin board,” Bridget whispered, peering through the window.

The wall was plastered with Missing Persons posters, showing smiling photos of almost a dozen locals. Miranda couldn’t make out the names or details, but they all generally looked young and fit.

“That’s a lot of missing people for a town this small,” she remarked, tearing into a drumstick.

The door of the Pizza Palace, squeaking on its rusty hinges, swung open as a trio of diners emerged from their lunch. After a moment in the sun, their trance-like stares relaxed and their chubby faces broke into smiles.

“That was the funniest thing I’ve heard in ages,” one of them announced with a sudden guffaw, though no one had said anything. “The wife’ll love it.”

“We’ll see you tomorrow for bridge?” asked another.

“Make sure you watch him,” chided the third. “He cheats and then pretends he forgot how to count.”

They all laughed heartily and went their separate ways, struggling to move in their ill-fitting clothes. Two dropped into an old station wagon and trundled off.

“Did you see that?” Miranda whispered between bites.

“They seemed friendly,” Bridget replied, sucking on her pop.

“No, the…what that woman did before she got in her car.”

Bridget tilted her head. “She…unlocked it?”

“After that. She grabbed the zipper of her jacket and tried to zip it up, even though she’s, you know, way too big for that jacket to zip.”

“So weird,” Bridget agreed. “It’s way too hot for a jacket.”

Miranda bit her tongue. “No, I mean, she went through the motion of pulling the zipper up anyway, like she didn’t notice that it wasn’t actually zipping…even though the flaps of the jacket couldn’t get within five or six inches of each other.”

“Why would she do that?”

“I…I mean, I’ve got no right to talk about being in denial, but it’s almost like she doesn’t realize how, you know, how fat she is.” She paused to catch her breath. “Can we stop at that bench? I really wasn’t ready to be on my feet for this long.”



Feb 5, 2013
(7, continued--this was a double update due to the forum's character limit, so be sure to read the first part above!)

They paused at the edge of a small park. Miranda plopped herself onto the bench and stretched out with a relieved sigh. Her belly peeked out from her waistband as she leaned back, but she was too tired to care. She tossed her empty takeout box aside with a grunt.

Bridget paced in front of her, staring into her own box. Beneath her crop top, her modest beer gut pooched outward. “You want the rest of mine?”

Miranda wiped her hands. “I…I probably shouldn’t. I need to be smarter about eating. And maybe start getting some actual exercise…all I do is sit on that couch.”

“There’s a little fitness area on the other side of the park,” Bridget noted. “They have those little activity stations and stuff. Although…doesn’t look like it gets much use.”

“Yeah, it doesn’t look like exercise is on anyone’s minds here.” Miranda grimaced at a fat couple sitting together on a nearby porch.

“On your left,” panted a voice. Bridget stepped off the sidewalk and an obese young woman slowly wobbled past, paunch jiggling with each heavy step. She had somehow tucked her bulky frame into the sports bra and running shorts of a much slimmer woman, exposing a shameless amount of flabby surface area to the public. She gasped a “thank you” to Bridget.

“Hey, it’s Tabatha!” called the fat wife up on the porch. “How’s the daily jog, little lady?”

“Feeling fit,” replied Tabatha, who was not little and had very clearly not been jogging.

“How far you going today?” asked the fat husband.

“Got four more miles. And this time I’m not gonna walk any of them.”

He gave her a thumbs up. Tabatha proceeded to walk off, her backfat rippling.

She turned the corner at the end of the park, still moving no faster than a ponderous waddle, and arrived at a walk-up ice cream parlor.

Bridget and Miranda watched as she purchased a bowl piled high with several scoops and slathered in fudge. She then turned and walked back towards them, pausing every so often to catch her breath and spoon up another bite. She passed the bench and the couple’s porch, but they seemed not to notice her and she disappeared into the house next door.

Miranda finished the last of her biscuits. “That four-mile run looked an awful lot like a one-block walk.” Wiping away crumbs, she climbed to her feet and crossed the road toward the couple on the porch.

“Hi there,” she ventured.

They eyed her with obvious suspicion. “Afternoon,” said the husband.

“That, uh, Tabatha sure can run, huh?”

The wife broke into a warm smile. “Mm-hmm. She’s out here almost every day. It’s such an inspiring story: girl used to be pretty plump, growing up. What would you say she was back then, dear? Two hundred pounds?”

“Oh, at least,” agreed the husband. Miranda choked. Tabatha had looked to be at least twice that.

“She started running, though, and corrected her eating habits—stopped eating ice cream, even. And now she’s that lithe little thing you saw go by a few minutes ago. Got engaged to the handsome young man from the fire station. What’s his name?”


“That’s the one. New habits, new diet, new man…she’s a new woman.”

Miranda looked back. “Yeah, wow. A real…transformation.”

“It really is. It’s the dream-seminars…they really just give you all this positive energy. You can see everyone in town making all these positive changes in their lives. My husband here finally got off his butt and started gardening again.”

“Oh, congrats.” Miranda looked down. Their lawn was overgrown with weeds and a few wilted bushes. “These dream-seminars sound really…effective.”

“They’re the best. Changed our lives. You should try it out.” The wife glanced down at Miranda’s midsection. “Especially if you’re thinking of losing some weight.”

“I think there’s one later tonight.” The husband twisted in his chair and pointed up the road. “They do them over at the old Whately homestead.”


Feb 5, 2013
Chapter 8

The family homestead was on the far outskirts of town, where the farms took over. Miranda and Bridget ventured out in the truck, Miranda’s exhausted legs grateful for the break.

After several wrong turns, they found themselves on a narrow dirt road, staring at a rusted mailbox. There were no numbers, only the name painted along the side: “Whately.”

Walls of brown, decaying cornstalks lined the path ahead; it wound around a corner and disappeared. Beyond the corn, though, the field ascended along a low rise. A hill loomed up from the otherwise flattened landscape, a great mound towering over its domain.

Visible halfway up the hill was a sizable farmhouse, one of its windows aglow. Above it, at the hill's peak, Bridget and Miranda could see the shape of an enormous barn silhouetted against the setting sun.

They sat quietly for a moment, staring. After a deep breath, Miranda put the truck in gear and accelerated up the path. They trundled past a wooden sign reading “No trespassing—visitors by appointment only.” A crow alighted atop the signpost as they passed, cocking its head at them.

Rounding the corner, Miranda sucked her teeth and slammed on the brake. She’d caught up to a line of cars, bumper to bumper, winding their way slowly up the path. There were at least two dozen of them, awash in each other’s headlights.

“I guess this seminar thing is pretty popular,” Bridget breathed.

“And secure,” added Miranda, pointing.

Several cars up, a tall chain-link fence reached away in either direction, surrounding the base of the hill. There was a swinging gate where the fence crossed the road, held open by a wiry figure in overalls.

He was bent over, peering into the windows of cars as they passed him, his face obscured by a broad hat. Bridget smiled and waved as their truck rolled up, only to recoil. The man was blindfolded, but continued to glare at her through the window. He stood unmoving and Miranda drove on.

“I’m starting to think mom was right about this place,” she muttered.

“He had a gun,” whispered Bridget.

The road finally crested the hill and the corn parted into a broad clearing around the homestead. The cars filed themselves into makeshift parking spaces on the farmhouse’s front lawn. Once parked, their hefty occupants heaved themselves out and milled about, greeting each other in politely subdued tones.

Miranda dropped down from the truck and glanced around. She recognized several people they’d seen earlier in the day, though they’d changed into nicer clothes. The new outfits, however formal, didn’t fit any better.

The jogger, Tabatha, huffed past. Her blouse flapped open, completely unbuttoned; her pot-belly jutted out so far there was little chance the buttons could ever reach their corresponding holes. A strained white tank top barely served to contain her sagging chest.

Beyond her, the two officers exited their police cruiser. Their uniform tops were completed unbuttoned and the seams of the bottom-heavy officer’s pants had split. Her cellulite could be seen wobbling as she set off with a ponderous gait.

“You okay?” asked Bridget.

Miranda cleared her throat. “Yeah. I guess I just…it’s been a long time since I felt like I, you know, ‘fit in’ somewhere. But this definitely doesn’t feel right.”

“I have a hard time finding stuff that fits, too,” Bridget agreed, reaching a hand to scratch under her bra strap.

They followed the crowd around to the back of the farmhouse and across a freshly-mowed lawn. A makeshift stage was arranged at the end of the lot, complete with a thick curtain. Beyond the stage, the old barn looked down on the audience from atop the hill.



Feb 5, 2013
(8, continued from post above)

A few dozen rows of folding chairs were arranged on the lawn, facing the stage like an agricultural amphitheater. A citronella torch flickered at the end of each row.

The crowd made its slow, waddling way toward the chairs, murmuring but keeping a reverent volume. Chairs creaked as they sat, aluminum legs bending beneath the weight of the larger guests. Miranda noticed a pile of discarded chairs next to the stage, broken or bent beyond repair.

“My goodness, Mrs. Hart!” exclaimed the police officer, squeezing her way down a row, “you’re back in your goal jeans!”

“Isn’t it wonderful?” agreed Mrs. Hart, leaning in her seat to show them off. “I was so worried I would split them right in half when I put them on, but they actually feel kind of loose! It’s incredible.”

Miranda and Bridget stared. The jeans in question were not loose at all; the seam along the backside had in fact split open, displaying her polka-dot underwear.

“Congratulations,” said the officer, giving her a high five.

“Yes, congratulations to you both,” lilted a breezy new voice. “Everyone’s been doing so, so well.”

A tall woman had appeared, touching them both on the shoulder and gazing around the crowd with a smile. Golden hair fell in flowing waves over her pale shoulders. She wore a simple yellow sundress, no shoes, and a silver charm anklet. Her smile seemed genuine, but the bags under her eyes revealed wearying stress.

“So, so much success. I see so much personal growth in each of you. And look at our friend Tabatha…she is ready for the dream of ascension, yes. I truly believe she is ready. And you, officer, are not far behind.”

The policewoman beamed.

“Excuse me,” called Miranda, weaving her rotund frame around the other guests. “Excuse me…Diana?”

The slender woman turned. Her smile widened and she pressed a hand to her flat chest. “A new guest! Welcome.”

Finally reaching her, Miranda reached out a hand to steady herself on the back of a chair. “Diana, it’s me,” she puffed. “Miranda…Whately. Your cousin. We…”

Diana’s eyes bulged. Her smile faltered, but quickly returned. “Of course. Yes! Yes. It’s so good to see you, Miranda. You look fantastic.”

She wrapped Miranda in a hug. “Uh, thanks. Nice to see you again, too.”

“This is such a fantastic surprise! I had no idea you were coming up. You should have a called.” She tapped her thin lips. “No. You shouldn’t have called. We don’t have a phone.”

“Yeah. Hence the, uh, the visit.”

“And you’re very welcome here. Will you be joining us for the seminar?”

Miranda glanced at the assembled crowd. “No, I’m actually here for…” She lowered her voice and leaned in. “I was hoping to talk to you about the trust fund. I haven’t been getting my checks since—”

“The trust,” Diana gasped. “Of course. Yes. You want to talk about the money. Fantastic. Yes. We should do that.”

“Fantastic,” Miranda echoed.

“Yes. But no. Not tonight. I can’t. The seminar is about to begin. I have a role to play. I have to focus on that. Yes. And it goes very late.” She stiffened, as though struck with an incredible idea. “Can we talk tomorrow? I would be more able to talk tomorrow. Yes.”

Miranda sputtered. “Uh, I guess, if that’s better for you. I just really want…need…to get this taken care of.”

“Of course. Yes. I’m sure you do. So, you can come back tomorrow and we will get it taken care of.”

“We have to make that drive again?” Bridget murmured, appearing behind them.

“There’s that,” Miranda agreed. “Diana, I hate to put you out, but we’ve had kind of a long day—”

“Yes. I’m sure you must have.” Diana looked up at the farmhouse. “You could stay the night here. Yes. No. You can’t stay here. I forgot. The house is very messy right now. There’s no space for guests. But! But there is a motel in town. It’s fantastic. Yes. You can stay there. I will reimburse you. Hospitality for family. Yes.”

Miranda eyed her, then turned to Bridget. “You okay with that?”

“I don’t mind staying. Can’t go back to work until I learn how to dance better, anyway.”

Diana clasped her hands. “Fantastic. Yes. So, you will stay at the motel and we will talk more tomorrow. Stay for the seminar if you want. We love guests.” Without waiting for a reply, she spun around and danced away into the crowd.

Stunned, Miranda could only watch her go.

“She seemed really nice,” chirped Bridget.

Footsteps hurried up from behind them. The waitress from the diner had arrived, breathless, untying her apron.

“Has it started?” she panted. “Am I late? My shift went longer than it was supposed to.”

Miranda looked toward the stage, where Diana was waving for the crowd’s attention. “I think you’re right on time.”

The crowd had finally fallen silent. Diana closed her eyes and gave them a warm smile. “It’s so good to see you all again. Let’s begin tonight’s dream-journey.”

Bridget stepped toward the audience. “Should we stay for the show?”

The stage curtains parted, slowly revealing a shelf of books, a table lined with opaque bottles, and a matte painting backdrop.

“As we do every week,” announced Diana, gliding across the stage, “we call to the wisdom of the ancients, who teach us how to…” Her grin pursed. “…how to awaken and call forth the fantastic power of personal growth; unstoppable and…uncontainable.”

The backdrop painting depicted the cityscape of some archaic civilization, centered around an enormous, looming ziggurat. The sky above it was painted a dull gold. A black sun rose over the towering monument, decorated with a now familiar symbol: a sigil with seven spiraling curls.

“No,” Miranda whispered, grabbing Bridget. “No, I don’t think we should stay.”


Feb 5, 2013
Chapter 9

The motel was just outside of the town center, across the road from Kade’s ramshackle bar. Its dingy décor, peeling wallpaper, and decidedly uncomfortable furniture fell short of Diana’s reviews, but after a long and strange day any respite was welcome.

Famished but leery of the overwhelmed fast food restaurants, Bridget and Miranda had located a convenience store and picked out a few microwavable dinners. Miranda had thrown a six-pack of beer into the basket, too, crossing her fingers that Diana would reimburse their meals as well.

She drained the can and tossed it across the room. It landed nowhere near the trashcan.

“Oh my god, I needed that,” she groaned, stifling a belch. “My feet are killing me, after all that walking today.”

“You do look a little more comfortable now,” Bridget agreed.

Miranda was lounging on the motel bed, half-sunk into its weak mattress, shoulders propped up by every available pillow. She’d changed into her sweats and a stained tee, ignoring that it didn’t quite cover her midsection. An empty plastic dinner tray—it had very briefly contained a steaming Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes—lay on the nightstand, next to the remaining beer cans. A second tray—some kind of pasta in a cream sauce—sat half-eaten atop the swell of her belly.

Bridget sat on the windowsill, poking at the tin of her chicken pot-pie.

“Hey, look at that,” Miranda giggled. “You got to eat a pie today after all.”

“Oh my god, right? That was so weird. I can’t remember the last time had a craving like that.”

“I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a craving,” Miranda grunted, grabbing another beer. She held up a can. “Want one?”

Bridget bit her lip. “Mm…not tonight. I’ll want to start, like, doing my party tricks and I’m just too…I probably need to quit doing those.”

“Ah, but everyone loves your tricks. I bet if you did those on stage your shows would be an…” she waved the can vaguely. “…an overnight sensation.”

“I’m already in enough trouble for all the drinks that go to waste during my show.” She smirked and eyed Miranda. “Weren’t you starting a diet?”

Miranda choked. “I am. I got the pasta with the vegetables in it this time. That’s healthier, right? And…” She looked around. “I’m not gonna have all the beers. Just…some.”

“That’s probably a good start, I guess.”

“I feel slimmer already. Eat your heart out, Esmee.” Miranda stifled another burp. “How about that—starting a diet and I didn’t even need some weird seminar to inspire me.”

Bridget watched as she dug into the pasta. “I tried a meditation class once, but it didn’t look anything like that. That looked more like some kind of, like, play. That stage…and that painting was super creepy.”

Miranda sipped at the beer. “That reminds me. Can you hand me my bag?”

The bag sat on the corner of the bed, mere inches from Miranda’s feet. But Bridget rose and crossed the room to slid it closer.

“Thanks.” Setting her dinner aside, Miranda opened the bag and tugged out a photograph. “I found this at the twins’ last apartment. Some book they were trying to get a hold of…La Reine en Jaune. The stage backdrop had this same symbol, right?”

“And your bracelet.” Bridget bent down to move Miranda’s empty can to the trash. “Twins…so that was Diana tonight? Who was the other one?”

“Juliana,” Miranda replied, reaching to plug in her phone. “Yeah. Wonder why we didn’t see her.”

Bridget trotted back toward the window and levered it further open. The evening breeze filtered in, along with the interminable hum of nocturnal insects and the thump of country music from the bar across the street.

Reine…” muttered Miranda, typing on her phone.

The bar’s door swung open and a young couple stumbled out, arm in arm, giggling at one another.

The boyfriend was tall, hairy, and exceedingly wide around the middle, with a spare tire that hung over the waistband of his faded jeans. The girlfriend was a petite young woman, her flashy halter top displaying a taut, toned abdomen. Next to her obese partner she seemed absolutely tiny, her frame barely supporting his weight as he drunkenly leaned against her.

They paused at the corner; he slurred something and she gave him a sharp, skeptical look. Putting her ear to the windowscreen, Bridget could make out a smattering of their conversation.

“You really think it’s helped that much?” the girlfriend asked.

He nodded vehemently. “I’ve lost almost thirty pounds already. It’s been amazing.”

She stared at his stomach. “Lost? Are you—”

“It’s all about…the psyche, really,” he continued as they weaved down the sidewalk. “I’ve learned a lot about how the brain and the body…get along. I just feel so…so free. You should try it, now that you’re finally here with me.”

“You want me to go to your seminar?”

“Look…babe. I think it could be really good for you.”

She extracted herself from his arm and steadied herself on a lamppost. “Why do you say that?”

“Hey. I don’t mean anything by it. It’s just…you know…maybe it’s time to think about getting back in shape.” He patted her flat stomach and gave her a meaningful look. “Come with me next time. Just try it.”

They staggered on, out of Bridget’s view. Bridget turned from the window and self-consciously reached to cover her own gut.

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