The Untouchables (SSBHM, Romance, Karma)

Discussion in 'Recent Additions' started by Unbasher, Dec 24, 2018.

  1. Dec 24, 2018 #1

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Griffin, morbidly obese, jobless and recently homeless is ready to end his life, only to be intercepted by Blanche. Blanche, more existing than living herself, has not been able to touch a living creature for three years due to what she believes to be bad karma. She offers to let Griffin stay with her in her house far removed from society. The exceptional combination of togetherness and isolation unearths more than any of them imagined.


    The Untouchables
    by Unbasher

    Chapter 1 (1/3). Griffin: Growing

    The wind had picked up speed and an arctic rain was pelting down on my thin sweat jacket like a multi-tailed whip. As I bent over the icy metal rail on top of the concrete parapet that came up to my where my waist used to be, the frothy brown water seemed to beckon more and more. With all the seasonal rain typical for the end of January in this part of Germany, the river had probably grown to an at least twenty-five feet deep and ten foot deep torrent of murky water – perfect for swallowing up the disgusting waste of space I had become.



    Only a year ago I'd been on top of the world. Granted, an almost 400 lbs. guy being on top of anything inevitably leads to indents, cracks or breaks, but at 6’4” I carried it pretty well. Plus, a lot of it was muscle and the skinnier guys at the garage were happy to let me do the heavy lifting. And there was a lot of that to be done. It seemed with every year more orders were pouring in: checkups, tuning, tire changes, the works, and our small team of four accumulated overtime fast. Good mechanics were hard to come by in general, a fact made even worse by the younger generation being increasingly unwilling to put down their smartphones and get their hands dirty. Still, thanks to our amazing team as well as our boss Oskar, who worked us hard but paid good money and still believed in the concept of work-life balance, I looked forward to almost every day of work.

    Over the past months, though, my diet had gotten out of whack. This last Christmas I'd taken overindulgence to a whole new level and I hadn't managed to get off the chocolate and other snacks they way I usually did. My increasing workload contributed to that: I’ve never been the breakfast type and during the day there were increasingly fewer opportunities to take a proper lunch break, leaving me no choice but to raid the fridge in the evenings. I’ve always been a big guy because I love food, and I’d grown even more since I met my girlfriend, Silke. I’ll never forget the day we met five years ago: one day she’d driven her Peugeot 206 into our garage for tuning, and her love for cars, her smile and most of all her curves had caught my eye immediately.

    A big girl herself, around 230 pounds on a 5’5” frame, Silke was my first partner that not only accepted but actually appreciated my weight and even encouraged me to eat how much I wanted. She loved to grab and knead my belly or to pat my butt, even in public. Never indecently so but she was unashamedly obvious about the fact that she was into my body. Increasingly less so, though.

    “You know I love that you’re a big guy,” she told me when she saw me raid the fridge after work the other day, “but please watch it, OK?”

    It was the first time I noticed she was eyeing my body with anything but approval and it did not feel good. It was also the first time she’d ever criticized my weight. She never did so with anyone, not after what she had been through with her mom. After years of trying to please her and fighting her own weight, she’d finally embraced it. She’d been in a dark place and wouldn’t ever go back, she always told me with a grin, patting whatever part of me was closest to her at the time. Lately those parts of me got closer and closer, though, creeping onto and taking over her side of the bed. I was gaining fast, mostly on my gut but also thighs and butt. I was becoming soft and doughy, not a sight a woman who preferred a mix of flab and muscle liked waking up to. That she would address my weight openly now told me the matter was serious.

    So far I hadn’t thought so. I guess every big person has to make a decision at some point how much they let other people’s comments and stares get to them. With my dad I’d managed pretty quickly to let both bounce off, and meanwhile I really couldn’t give a damn what anyone else thought either. I’d so far brushed off my colleagues’ ribbing, too. My best friend Lars, who I unfortunately only got to see every few weeks due to his busy job, also seemed a little worried the last time I saw him, but he didn’t get on my case too much either.

    “As long as you’re healthy and happy with yourself,” he told me, “it’s your business. Just be careful, OK?”

    “Hey,” I grinned back at him, “I’d never let myself get as big as those guys they have to lift out of their places with a crane.”

    It seemed I was well on my way, though. I did take Silke’s words to heart but I just couldn’t seem to break out of the pattern I’d fallen into. I kept gaining. I began to waddle. One day I felt a cool breeze on the underside of my belly and discovered with horror that the lowest part was peeking out. No, not just peeking: hanging. I was only 31 and already sagging! Due to my height I already wore extra-long T-shirts and even those couldn’t contain me anymore?

    At work it wasn’t that much of a problem since we wore overalls but even the 4XL ones I wore these days were having more and more trouble keeping all of me contained. My gut kept getting in the way, too, causing me to bump into and knock over things I couldn’t see anymore. We had that little niche where we kept some of the tools and it began to be a pretty tight fit in there, as were the chairs whenever I went out for after-work drinks with the guys. I also had to sit down and rest more and my arms were getting heavy during overhead work.

    I guess it was only a matter of time before Oskar, my boss, would call me into his cramped office, and one day in late spring he did. When I entered, he unfolded his gaunt body from his creaky chair, pushed some documents on the paper-strewn desk aside and sat on the edge as he usually did when he had something to discuss. He’d never been big on formality and we got along as if we were the same age even though he was close to 60. He motioned for me to have a seat on the old but sturdy round table in the corner and I carefully lowered myself onto it, grateful he hadn’t suggested the chairs with the armrests.

    “Griffin,” he began with a frown and a worried look over the reading glasses he had pushed down his long nose, “you’re one of my best men but… your weight is becoming a problem.”

    Instantly I felt the heat in my face. I have that skin type that’s prone to blushing and I’ve never been good at hiding what I’m thinking, which is I usually don’t bother, but right now I wished I had one of those poker faces.

    “I haven’t had any complaints,” Oskar went on in his gravelly voice I suddenly had trouble concentrating on, “but I’ve observed some things and overheard others from the guys: you tire easily. You keep knocking things over or get stuck because you can’t work in confined spaces anymore.” He took off his glasses, twirling them in his long, cracked fingers. “Griffin, I’m worried.”

    I didn’t know when I’d last seen that particular look in his eyes and I wished it would go away. “I know things have been getting out of hand,” I finally managed to answer. I could hardly tell him that was due to stuffing myself at night after not being able to take a proper break during the day. How pathetic would that sound, and it would come across as not being able to handle the work load. If I hoped to get a raise soon, I’d better shut up.

    “Do you need some time off?” Oskar asked when I didn’t continue. “I can’t really spare you at the moment but if it would help, I could move some things around—“

    Instantly I held up my hand, suddenly noticing how chubby it looked, especially in contrast to Oskar’s. “No, it’s fine. I want to be here.”

    “And I’m glad that you do.” Still that worried look. I hated that look. “But if there is anything I can do, let me know, OK? You’ve got to get your weight under control. I would hate to lose you.”

    Lose me? I knew it was serious but ‘lose me’? Suddenly not getting a raise sounded like the least thing I should worry about.

    “You won’t,” I managed to tell him before I heaved myself to my feet again and Oskar clapped me on the shoulder, the sensation startling me for a moment. When had I developed so much back fat that Oskar’s hand would cause ripples? Was it really that bad? I didn’t feel bad. Sure, I got winded and tired more easily these days and I sweated more. Yeah, some tasks were becoming difficult to do but I could still handle my job.

    When I reentered the work area, it felt as everyone was looking at me but nobody except for Olli, our first-year apprentice, came up and asked what our talk had been about, telling me the others had guessed it already. Olli, on the other hand, attended trade school two days a week and hadn’t witnessed all my little incidents and accidents. I managed to make up something believable and went back to work, my mind still snagged on something Oskar had said: he had ‘overheard some things’ from the guys. Had anyone snitched? No, I couldn’t imagine that. We’d always been a great team and nobody had ever seemed to have a problem with my size. Or did they?
     
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  2. Dec 24, 2018 #2

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 1 (2/3). Griffin: Growing

    It was the first time I felt true panic. I had to get my weight under control. For God’s sake, my job was on the line here and possibly my relationship, too. For a while now, Silke had stopped fondling me when we went out and I saw increasingly less action in bed either. She was on her feet a lot in her job and went speed-walking with friends twice a week, so she managed to keep her weight pretty stable. Watching me balloon in front of her eyes was not what she’d signed up for, nor was my possibly getting fired for being too fat.

    I honestly meant to get a healthy dinner that night but somehow I found myself leaning back in my easy chair again, the ruins of a gargantuan dinner on the tray before me. Silke’s work day started and ended later than mine, so she wasn’t home to witness it. I half-wished she would, though, and stop me. Still, no need to panic, I repeated to myself over and over that night and actually managed to pack a big but healthy sandwich and a banana the next day instead of getting a few bratwursts from across the street as usual. Of course the guys gave me crap about it but that was alright. I, for one, felt proud of myself for eating nothing else during the day. Still, once I opened the fridge door that night, it was as if my growling stomach drowned out anything my conscience might have to say. No need to panic, I reminded myself again, one step at a time. First I had to establish the pattern of eating a healthy lunch and then I’d take care of instituting a healthy dinner.

    It didn’t seem to be working, though. My pants kept getting tighter, as did my easy chair and even my beloved BMW 3 coupé. Since with all the extras it was worth a lot more than Silke’s, I got to use the garage that came with the apartment while she parked on the curb. That garage was pretty narrow, though, so maneuvering myself inside was always a mean feat because I couldn’t open the door as far as I would have needed to. Also, my belly kept pushing against the steering wheel so I had to move back the seat more and more. Luckily my legs were long enough that I could still reach the pedals. Even so, it felt as if every few days I had to spread my legs more and more to accommodate my bulk.

    And then it happened. One morning when I deposited my wide ass in the driver’s seat and reached to pull the door shut, there was no bang. The door had bounced off my fat bulging over the driver’s seat. My face felt as if it was going up in flames even though nobody else was around. I really needed to get my eating under control.

    As it turned out, embarrassment wasn’t enough of a motivator. The changes in my body were so gradual that I adjusted quickly and that the extra motion of bending towards the stick shift to keep my fat away from the door came natural. Well, and then came the day when I found myself wedged between the stick shift and the door in a way that I couldn’t move the stick anymore. Even though it had been a tight fit that morning, I had gotten to work OK, but now I was sitting in our company’s parking lot, practically trapped. I had outgrown my car. Nobody who hasn’t been there themselves could ever understand what that feels like. Freaking out would be an understatement. Not being able to walk very far or cycle at all, I depended on a set on wheels.

    Somehow I managed to shove some of my hip fat underneath and behind myself. It was anything but comfortable but at least I could drive now. As carefully as I could I took myself home, heaving a sigh of relief once I had yanked myself out of the car and closed the door behind me. Tomorrow I would have to borrow Silke’s truck. Being an automotive enthusiast herself, one of the things I adored most about her, she loved powerful, comfortable cars. These days she drove a used Chevy S-10 pickup, a big-ass vehicle in the truest sense of the word. From the beginning I’d been fascinated by the size of the twin globes that made up her ass but since she’d both put on weight along with me in the five years we’d been together, she’d upgraded. She still fit into my car but only her pickup’s bench seat was able to accommodate that masterpiece comfortably, so we always took her truck when we went out together.

    Well, and now I would have to ask her if we could swap for a while and hope she wouldn’t suspect anything. I’d never been able to hide much from her. Even though I really needed to get serious about dropping some weight now, right now I just needed to drop enough to fit back into my car. That shouldn’t be too hard, should it? After all, only the day before I had fit, so it shouldn’t take me more than a couple of days to get there again, right?



    Wrong. I really tried this time but it seemed the more I tried, the more I gained. At some point I couldn’t come up with excuses for not driving my own car anymore and I had to come clean to Silke. Her face seemed to freeze over when I spilled the news that night on the couch, and she withdrew her hands when I reached out for them. It was the first time I had seen that face on her, and just like with Oskar, I hoped to never see it again.

    “You can drive my pickup until you fit back into your car. Still,” she folded her arms across her beautiful chest, giving me a not-so-beautiful frown, “this is a wakeup call. You need to do something. I’ll help you, you just need to tell me how. You need to want it yourself.” She got up, her eyes piercing mine through her blue nerd frames. “Please, you have to do something. I… can’t deal with this much longer.”

    And she shut herself in the bathroom. A moment later I heard water rushing into the tub. Did she actually mean to take a bath or was she trying to drown out the sound of her crying? Suddenly goose bumps broke out all over my arms. Of course I had known Silke was unhappy with my weight but it was the first she hinted at a breakup. No, I just couldn’t lose her. She was the best thing that had ever happened to me.



    I tried, I really did this time but I just couldn’t do it, and then the day came when Oskar called me into his office a second time and I knew it was over. The 1500€ angle grinder I had knocked off a workbench with my belly and destroyed the other day had been the final straw. He looked as crushed as I’d never seen him, only it was nothing compared to how I felt.

    “I would give you a desk job but I know how hopeless you are with a computer,” he told me with a sad smile that did nothing to cheer me up. “Try to get healthy and take as long as you need. Your job is waiting for you, I can promise you that.”

    Normally Oskar would have to observe the legal notice period. In my case, the usual four weeks were extended to three months under German law since I had been a part of this company for eight years. When Oskar suggested instead I leave now and he'd pay me my full salary for one and a half months, I didn't argue, though. I had no more energy left to argue. Combined with my considerable overtime, I would leave now and still get paid for three months before the state’s unemployment benefits would kick in. Still, it wouldn’t even come to that. I might be the worst dieter on this planet but I was great at my job and good mechanics were always in demand. It would be tough at my size but maybe there was a garage that had a spot for me. With my excellent references I should be fine.



    I wasn’t. I really tried looking for work and actually got invited to a few interviews. Well, guess how those turned out. With every rejection letter, Netflix seemed like the better alternative to writing applications, as did the fridge, of course. Without a job, I moved less and ate more. As long as I went through ads and kept our place clean, Silke wasn’t on my case too much but the more often she came home to me munching to some movie, with dishes and clothes strewn all over the apartment, the more I ticked her off. She’d always complained about having to clean up after me, but usually with good humor since I took care of everything that needed fixing. Now I wasn’t taking care of anything anymore, though, least of all myself. My belly had surrendered to gravity and flowed over my lap. No T-shirt was large though to cover it, so I had no choice but to tuck it into my ever tightening pants. A salon visit was long overdue, too, but what for? Plus, I wouldn’t fit into their chairs anyway. All in all I couldn’t blame Silke for staying on what remained of her side of the bed. I could see the train wreck ahead but kept my eyes closed as if that could change reality.

    Well, reality caught up with me a few days later: when a 4-week business trip came up for Silke, she gave me an ultimatum: clean up after myself and lose weight. If there was no visible progress, it was over and I was out. It was her place and most of the furniture was hers, too. When I’d moved out of my bachelor pad and into her place, I’d sold, given or thrown away most of my stuff since I hadn’t treated it well anyway. I don’t think I ever cleaned my microwave once in the five years I owned it.

    The look Silke gave me before she left for her trip that morning finally seemed motivation enough. Again, I was wrong. After a promising start with some yogurt and fruit for breakfast, I felt so ravenous by the time noon rolled around that I polished off two pizzas and a jar of ice-cream. I really tried to eat nothing for the rest of the day but when my growling stomach wouldn’t let me sleep that night, I found myself in front of the fridge again. Now there was no one around to look decent for, I just cranked up the heat and spent all day in my oldest, baggiest briefs that didn’t cut into my belly too much. Another benefit: no T-shirt meant no stains and no laundry.
     
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  3. Dec 24, 2018 #3

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 1 (3/3). Griffin: Growing


    You’d be surprised at how unaware you can be of yourself becoming a whale. I didn’t notice until the end of week three when I had a craving for Chinese food and decided to hit the buffet and couldn’t even begin to fasten my jeans. Worried now, I tried my trusty sweatpants next. Silke, always perfectly dressed and groomed, would kill me if she knew I planned to go out in sweats, and semi-clean ones at that, but she wasn’t here. We face-timed but I always kept the phone aimed at my face and that hadn’t changed since she left.

    Like the jeans, my sweats were way tighter than they should have been. A nasty sense of foreboding hit me as I tried to pull my largest T-shirt down over my torso. No matter how much I kept tugging, it crept back up my sagging belly that hung over the rubber band of my briefs, covering a third of my thighs. I almost didn’t dare breathe. Could somebody put on that much weight in such a short time? I needed to assess the full damage but Silke refused to keep a scale at our place, much less a heavy-duty model for up to 500 lbs. since that was close to what I might be looking at. Measuring it was then. Hastily I went through Silke’s closet for her sewing stuff, throwing things left and right until I finally found the 60” tape measure. I sat down on the bed, not letting my belly sag down between my thighs as usual but balancing the full bulk on top of them. I trapped one end of the tape measure between two fat rolls and struggled to wind the rest around my back and belly. Not a chance. There was no way for me to reach around myself, and judging by the remaining length of the tape, the ends wouldn’t even reach!

    This couldn’t be happening. How could I have let things get so out of hand? With no one there to force me out of the apartment for a walk or a trip to the store, I had stayed inside and ordered in, not noticing that I was steadily outgrowing everything. Silke had demanded visible progress, and by God was it visible. I must have gained another twenty pounds in the time she was gone!

    Think, I kept repeating to myself. The first step was clothes. With no exact measurements I had no choice but to order a few shirts, T-shirts and pants in 8XL, two of them with those loser elastic waistbands, just in case. Since I’d checked ‘overnight delivery’, everything arrived the next day. The shirts and T-shirts fit OK width-wise but even their extra length couldn’t cover my sagging belly. The only option I had was to stuff it into my pants, meaning that with this extra girth only the two pairs of jeans with the elastic waistband fit. The result looked terrible and there was no doubt Silke would think so, too.

    I got rip-roaring drunk that night. In the morning, food was the only thing to battle the hangover from hell, and in this manner one day blurred into the next. It was no wonder I forgot which time Silke was supposed to be back from her trip and it didn’t help that the apartment was a mess either. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone scream as loudly and as long as Silke did. I’d heard all those words before: “lazy”, “pig”, “loser”, “no self-respect”, but never from her, and never within a few seconds at that many decibels. I took the verbal beating until the words “Look at yourself. You’re a waste of space, literally. A lot of space.”

    I did look down myself. Actually, wherever I turned I saw myself. It was impossible not to. My gut, competing for space with moobs that probably needed a cup size DD, was always the first thing to enter a room. My arms, flabby and in rolls, stuck out because they rested on the giant fat pads under my upper arms. When I sat, I saw ass cheeks to my left and right that invaded half the couch. I also felt myself all the time. My thighs rubbing together, my upper-arm flab jiggling or my outlying regions wobbling when I walked or turned. There was no movement that didn’t lead to other movements.

    How could I have let this happen? It wasn’t as if I’d woken up fat, I’d been there for every bite, watching myself grow. Except I hadn’t watched. Somehow I’d shut out the unshutoutable. I had turned into a disgusting whale, barely capable of wiping his own ass anymore, let alone get a job. I was a freaking waste of space. Mutely I turned and trudged out, Silke’s words ringing in my ears that she would toss in the trash whatever I didn’t pick up by the end of the week.

    Only the first gust of frigid air told me I was outside of our apartment building. My own panting all but drowned out the sounds of cars and people as I realized how long it had been since I had walked further than from the couch to the kitchen or to the bedroom. Feeling my gut slap against my thighs with every laborious step, I stumbled forward, people’s disgusted or incredulous looks hitting me left and right. Suddenly a bus stopped and opened its doors with its signature hiss, spewing out more gawking people. Blindly I entered and thrust a few coins at the gaping elderly driver before I turned to the left and discovered I wouldn’t fit through the turnstile. My face in flames, I kept my head down as I lumbered back outside and reentered through the rear door, causing the other passengers to either stare or look away in disgust, the nearest of them wrinkling their noses at my drunk and unshowered presence.

    Despite the growing exhaustion in my legs I only dared sit when almost everyone had left the bus. At last it pulled up to the curb at its last stop, a small carpool-and-commute parking lot at the edge of the woods close to the Autobahn. I didn’t know why but I got off and stumbled on, not stopping until I found myself sagging against the sodden parapet of a concrete bridge.



    It couldn't have taken more than a few seconds to reflect on my way from fat but happy to homeless, jobless whale. Well, and that's how long it would take to make that whale disappear. They may say alcohol messed with your senses but I had never seen more clear in my entire life. I braced both hands on the wet, mossy concrete of the parapet and tried to push myself up. And again. Not a chance, not with such a monster of a gut in the way. I tried again, already out of breath. Next, I turned and tried to heave myself up ass first. Not working either. Not only was the rail in the way, the parapet was just too high, impossible to tackle for a guy like me. The simple fact was that I was too fat to live but also too fat to die. When I realized that I couldn’t even finish this job, I felt my knees buckle and slumped onto the frozen ground.
     
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  4. Dec 24, 2018 #4

    ALS Again

    ALS Again

    ALS Again

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    I love this story, and I can't wait to read more!
     
  5. Dec 25, 2018 #5

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 2 (1/4). Blanche: On my watch


    "Would you like to go in front of me?"

    The short, acne-riddled man in his late twenties blushed and dipped his head, only to raise it briefly again in a grateful nod before his slight figure sidled past my overfull cart. Although the few and unhealthy purchases that his small hands placed on the checkout belt at Aldi's bespoke a bachelor, I had learned from extensive people-watching that an ostensibly lonely nerd may leave a grocery store and kiss his awaiting beautiful partner and adorable kid. Or that an old gent bent over his cane would withdraw a smartphone newer than my own, record two fighting sparrows and share the video over WhatsApp. Or that a traditionally dressed Muslim sometimes spoke with the thick regional dialect that still eluded me after three years of living here due to lack of daily exposure. Never assume anything about anyone, I had learned quickly. People assumed things about me, too, and they couldn't be more wrong.

    While I transferred the contents of my carefully packed cart onto the belt, my peripheral vision reported that the shy customer in front of me had half-turned to look at me while two youngsters ahead of him were piecing together the amount for their considerable amount of sugar-laden snacks. Textbook munchies. The shy man’s eyes were still on me, probably wondering why anyone would wear only a thin turtleneck instead of a thick jacket in this weather. Well, when gloves and other sartorial means of shielding oneself are a year-round necessity, it gets rather warm, so I always left my padded coat in the car. Offering the man a fleeting but sufficiently distant smile so he wouldn't feel hurt but not get his hopes up either, I proceeded by loading the supplies onto the belt that would last me for the next month.

    “Are- are you planning a party?” the man ventured at last, his eyes struggling to stay on mine once I had straightened and faced him.

    “No.”

    Again I took care to pair my answer with a token smile so as not to wound him. I had learned the hard way that a failed attempt at flirtation can hurt more than the person on the dispensing end of the rebuff may believe. I continued to empty my cart, the man’s eyes still on me but his mouth quiet now. Hopefully he would turn back around soon. Suddenly a lady in her late thirties with a bulging cotton bag in one and a pre-school-aged girl on the other hand stepped behind me, causing me to edge past my shopping cart as quickly as I could. My change in location might trigger more undue hope in the shy man but protective distance to a child was vital. Children were prone to sudden, uncontrolled movements.

    Indeed the man turned over his shoulder again, offering an endearing smile but I kept my gaze on my booted feet, listening to his brief greet-pay-and-pack process. I only looked up when it was my turn, catching one last hopeful look from the man as he turned to leave. I did offer one in return but the one of the distant stranger I was and would most likely be for the rest of my life.

    3D-puzzling a month’s worth of supplies back into a shopping cart took a while, and by the time I pulled out my debit card, I had worked up a fine sheen of sweat. Thankfully I would be able to remove my thin gloves in the car. It had taken some time to find this pair that were tight, of a pleasant material and that allowed enough tactility. At last the transaction was complete and I smiled at the cashier before I leaned into the cart with my full but inconsequential weight to propel it forward.

    “Uh, excuse me?”

    I registered the child’s voice only dimly and kept on walking. Only a few more steps to the car, several minutes to transfer my cart’s contents into the trailer and then I was off. No accidents this time. A tap on my elbow caused me to whirl around, the remainder of my thoughts scattering like the dry leaves outside. It was the little girl that had stood behind me, with her fine reddish-blond hair and adorable glasses with butterflies on them. Apparently she had worn a wide smile on those chubby cheeks before I’d startled and scared her.

    “I... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you,” the impossibly polite girl mumbled in a sweet voice and sought comfort in her butterfly snow boots for a moment. Then she brightened again. “But this fell out of your cart.”

    Her chubby hand held up a pack of cleaning rags that had apparently fallen out of my overstuffed cart. I knew I shouldn’t but that kid looked so open and sweet that I just had to squat and smile at her, my gloved fingers brushing hers as I accepted the rags from her.

    “I didn't mean to startle you either, sweetheart,” I told her in a low, gentle voice that seemed to restore her to her former sparkling self. “Thank you very much, that was really nice of you.”

    “You're welcome.”

    I couldn’t help it, I remained on the ground. Her cute face was simply irresistible. Now her small hand stretched out again, pointing to my head.

    “I like your spirals.”

    “Thank you.” Most of my hair reached down to the clasp of my bra but the right side of my head was shaven down to a fraction of an inch. From time to time I used a small, special shaver to experiment with new patterns. The girl’s eyes remained riveted to my hair.

    “Did you do them yourself?”

    “Yes, I did.”

    “They are so pretty. May I touch them?” Not waiting for an answer, her chubby fingers zoomed in on their target. Instinctively I pulled back, scrambling back to my feet. I heard a sharp intake of breath and again the little face lowered. “Sorry.”

    I might not know if my scalp would be as harmful to people as the rest of my skin but I was not going to make this adorable kid my guinea pig. What would I have given to feel her small fingers on my scalp, to breathe in her child scent and to perhaps graze her silky skin, but it was impossible. I would most likely never touch a child again, much less have one of my own. I would never have what was required to make children either, nor the special someone to make them with. The only thing that remained in my power was to console the hurt child in front of me before I sought refuge in my solitude again.

    “It’s not your fault,” I gently told the girl, whose eyes remained downcast, “I just don’t like to be touched. Some people are just not as open as you are.” The little head rose and a pair of green eyes a shade lighter than my own made careful contact. “You'll find out over time with whom it’s OK to touch and with whom it isn’t.” I swallowed reflexively as I felt my throat close up. “I... I have to go now. Thank you for this.”

    I lifted the packet of rags and sent one last smile the girl’s way before I bolted, tears already stinging in my eyes. I stored my purchases in the trailer more haphazardly than was my usual fashion and hurriedly secured the tarp, all the while aware of my fellow shoppers’ curious gazes what a single woman in her early thirties might do with this many supplies. As long as they only stared, though, everyone would stay safe. With a grateful sigh I sank into the driver seat at last and pulled the door shut to ward off the icy rain into which the snow had turned a minute ago.

    My breath was forming small clouds and I cranked up the AC as soon as I had turned the key. As always I directed all of my concentration on driving and pulled out of the parking lot carefully. I couldn’t afford accidents. The encounter with the little girl had been a close one already. Usually I moved through the masses like a drop of oil through water but minor accidents invariably happened, and only by feigning utter ignorance had I extricated myself from the situation. How long my condition would last or whether I would at least find an “emulsifier” one day was no longer the first thought I woke up to and the last one I took to bed with me but it was always there, sometimes watching from afar or hovering close by.

    No, it wouldn’t do to dwell on my gloomy prospects, I had to be grateful for the small blessings: I owned a fully paid small house and enjoyed a steady stream of income, unconventional though the source was. Everything I had to handle in person was in driving distance and for anything else I enjoyed a strong and reliable internet connection, courtesy of a nearby radio mast.

    Finding that house had been a stroke of luck. Despite its good condition, a one-story home in a remote location in a sparsely populated area did not attract many buyers and I had snatched it up for a song while my condo in the center of Frankfurt had sold for three times more. Due to the low wage level in this area, the cost for some minor repairs and the replacement of the tub with a walk-in shower had been affordable as well, so all in all I was not only debt-free but had some savings left over. Yes, those were good thoughts. Just a few more of those and perhaps there was a chance the face of that little girl wouldn’t follow me to bed tonight.

    The rain was pelting down harder now. Most people believe Germany to be arctic all year round whereas millions of heat-scorched lawns and miniskirts in many parts of the country beg to differ between June and August. However, certain areas are, in fact, afflicted with more protracted periods of hibernal temperatures, such as this one, which made it perfect for my needs as it necessitated protective clothing. I could have done without the considerable amounts of precipitation but after three years in this area I was used to it, and so was my trusty minivan that tackled each mile towards my isolated house with 4WD confidence.
     
  6. Dec 25, 2018 #6

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 2 (2/4). Blanche: On my watch


    At last I reached the small concrete bridge that ultimately led to an uphill trail from which another narrow, almost invisible path branched off towards my house. Only a few minutes more and I would be home, safe and warm. Unloading the supplies could wait until the rain had abated. Suddenly I caught a movement from corner of eye, something big and gray that seemed to slump, although that was practically impossible to tell when the world was shrouded in liquid gray curtains. Nonetheless I activated my hazard lights and stepped on the brake with caution, grateful for my high-quality tires. What was that big, indistinguishable mass? It didn’t resemble a living creature and yet I had seen it move. Suddenly it shifted again. Oh God, that was definitely a human hand.

    My decision was made within a fraction of a second: as big a threat as I may be to that person, the cold posed the bigger one. A mere ten minutes on the cold ground could render them so weak and immobile they would never be able to get up again. Once I had shrugged into my padded rain coat, scarf, hat and gloves, I carefully made my way to the sodden mass on the ground.

    Lying on his right side in front of me was the biggest man I had ever laid eyes on in real life. The clingy fabric of his drenched gray sweat jacket and jeans outlined flesh shaped like a haphazardly stuffed cushion. His calves looked larger than my thighs and his thighs wider than my torso. His belly lay as though poured out of him like a viscous mass and the hand that peeked out from one of the sleeves was chubby like a toddler’s. The man’s face was obscured by the hood of his sweatshirt. The unexpected presence of this even more unexpected trembling shape caused me to swallow reflexively and my lower belly to… good question, what was my lower belly doing? No, whatever it was, my priority was the man in front of me. I bent.

    “Hello? Hello, can you hear me?”

    A startled twitch interrupted the trembling but there was no reply. I squatted and leaned closer.

    “Can you hear me?”

    Still no verbal reaction. Panic gripped my insides. Since I couldn’t possibly carry a man of his size, I would have to call an ambulance if he didn’t respond. The last thing I needed was to have my contact details in the hands of a medical authority. Now the man’s head slowly lifted, offering visible access to round cheeks, a double chin and what looked too scraggly and haphazard to be an intentional beard. A small mouth in the midst of the scruff opened, his lips trembling like the rest of his massive body, but still no sound emerged.

    “You need to get out of the cold. Do you think you can get up?”

    Still nothing. Perhaps he didn’t understand German? I repeated my words in English, French and was just about to piece together my meager Spanish when his lips opened again.

    “M- maybe I c- can but I w- won’t.”

    The rush of relief I felt at hearing German words, lightly tinged with the local dialect, the ones the man had chosen to utter pierced me to the core. I had been there myself, and although on some days I wished I could have gone through with it, there were still people to whom I still meant something. As wrapped up in oneself as a suicidal person might be, their life – and death – affected others. I could not let him die, and that meant getting him out of the cold fast. Every minute was a risk.

    “Do you want to die?” I challenged the man whose head had turned back to the ground. Now it turned again and his eyes fixed themselves on mine with determination.

    “Yes.”

    “Well, too bad because I’m here now and you’re not going to die on my watch.”

    “And wh- what are you g- going to do, c- carry me?” he scoffed, his grimaced smile revealing straight teeth that, for some reason, didn’t look quite like teeth were supposed to. I pushed the observation aside. At least his sense of humor hadn’t fallen prey to hypothermia yet.

    “No, I was counting on your cooperation.”

    “N-ot going to happen.” His head turned again.

    I straightened, unsheathing my ultimate weapon. “Then you leave me no other choice but to call an ambulance. And the police, just in case.”

    Loath though I was to turn this spot into a would-be crime scene and to become involved with the authorities, I was prepared to do so as a last resort. Within the past three years I had compiled an arsenal of evasion and unobtrusiveness techniques and stood a good chance at extricating myself from the situation undetected. The sight of the man in front of me, however, assured me that we would be spared from any third-party involvement after all. With visible reluctance the hood-covered head lifted and its owner laboriously shifted himself into a sitting position, his copious flesh undulating and resettling. I knew I shouldn’t stare but couldn’t help it, nor could I keep my lower anatomy from commenting on the sight in front of me. No, no, no, no! I had felt the sensation before, and as inappropriate as it had been then, it was nothing compared to this. The man was suicidal and suffering from hypothermia! At last I managed to shake myself out of the bewildering trance.

    “Atta boy.”

    I was treated to another noise of derision before the man began to pull himself to his feet by the aid of the concrete parapet, a spectacle to behold with his bulges shifting and reshifting until finally settling into what must be their accustomed places. I never realized how much flesh the human body could hold, and even with his impressive height of about 6’3” visually balancing out his mass, he had to be at least three times the weight of a normal person. He was panting heavily. With his weight but also his scruff and cheeks caked in dirt he appeared of indeterminable age. A little older than me possibly, late thirties?

    “And wh- what are you g- going to d- do with me now, huh?” he panted, most likely intending to glower down at me. With my height of 6’1”, however, the preposition ‘down’ hardly applied, so I stared right back despite my intensifying discomfort in my lower belly. I’m the biggest threat there is, buddy, so save yourself the wrinkles and stop glaring. The thought actually helped to tune out my unbidden bodily reaction and to let reason take over.

    “Take you to my place.”

    His scowl morphed into a narrow-eyed stare. “Wh- why?”

    “Duh, to get you dry?”

    His stare continued. “You w- want to take a d- dirty, d- drenched, super f- fat stranger to your p- place?”

    “Yes.”

    One of the few perks of my condition was that I never had to fear for my safety. Should the man turn out to be an unsavory character and choose to act on his perversions, he would regret his decision the second his thing touched my skin. On the bright side, it would be the last time he’d unzipped his pants for that purpose. Until he was proven guilty, however, I would do my best to get him back on his feet, meaning that we had no time for Q and A.

    “Did you drive here?”

    He shook his head, a needless waste of energy when hypothermia was taking care of the shaking already. “B- bus.”

    Good, at least I wouldn’t have to worry about moving not only him but also his vehicle. “I w- won’t fit in the passenger seat, y- you know,” the man’s snarl punctured my little bubble of optimism.

    “Then get in the rear,” I snapped at him, fed up with his lack of cooperation. I had hurt enough people and it was time I helped someone. After some more staring, albeit with his eyes at a less hostile aperture, he shifted his impossibly thick thighs at last and slowly made his lumbering way over to my van. A few long strides took me past him easily and I opened the sliding door, climbing inside and rearranging the purchases inside, transferring some onto the passenger seat, before I spread out a blanket I always kept in the car. Was he really too big to sit in front? Instantly I felt the heat in my cheeks.

    Again I shifted my thoughts towards the logistics at hand. My van would be able to handle the extra load, even with the weight of the trailer and supplies. Thank God for strong engines and the lack of rear windows so no one would notice I was transporting a person. There, the space should be sufficient. I climbed back out, only to catch him watching me from where he was holding on to the side panel, trembling and panting.

    “Can you get in?”

    He only scowled and I stepped aside. His face morphed into a grimace as the van dipped to the right but at last he slumped down on the blanket and the weight distribution was even once more. Certain I had schooled my features into submission and wouldn’t add facially to his discomfiture, I turned to face him again.

    “All set?” He only scowled again in response and I slid the door shut.

    A moment later we were rolling, the added weight already discernible as I worked the pedals. Now that the wind, which had been blowing away from the man, had been replaced by an enclosed space, my nostrils cringed under the onslaught of the signature smell of an unwashed person. God Lord, what kind of man had I scraped off the road? One that was best dealt with while breathing through my mouth only, that's for sure. Only a minute could have passed but already the silence was bearing down on me – quite ironic since silence was the default sound of my world. The flesh on the man’s broad back quivered not only from the cold but with every pothole, too.

    “C- could you c- crank up the heat?”

    “Changed your mind about death then?”
     
  7. Dec 25, 2018 #7

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 2 (3/4). Blanche: On my watch


    I just couldn’t stop myself. I needed to prick and poke him to keep him alert and focused on living. If anyone knew, it was me. I cranked up the heat to the max and the silence wore on. All the way up the small incline that led to the deserted road with the patchy pavement, I willed my vehicle to convey us back to my house, even with the considerable extra cargo. At last I turned into the narrow gravel turnoff shrouded by trees. Only the package-deposit box hinted at a human presence but with my having painted them in a dark green, only the mail carriers were aware of their existence.

    My house was a one-story building with a shallow roof and no basement, only 750 square feet, sitting next to a garage of almost two thirds its size. Usually I would unload the trailer, detach it and tuck it safely into the garage along with the car but for now that could wait. Nothing would perish in this cold anyway. After I had opened the door, I hurried through the arctic rain to unlock the front door. By the time I squelched my way back to the car, the man was just transferring his weight to his feet, all the while holding on to the car. The pallor of his face was alarming.

    “Do you think you can make it to the door?”

    “Wh- what’s the a- alternative?”

    He didn’t wait for an answer but started lumbering forward. After closing and locking the car, I easily caught up with him. “The bathroom is the right one of the two doors straight ahead. I’m going to get you some towels,” I threw over my shoulder as I hurried inside, watching him heft his legs up the two concrete steps. In my bedroom where I kept the big towels I hardly used I stacked three of the largest on one arm, already preoccupied in what he would dress himself during the one and a half hours the washing machine and the dryer would require to provide him with dry, clean clothing again.

    A trail of muddy, wet prints were glaring at me more than giant fluorescent arrows would, and only by remembering the current state of their author did I stifle the urge to communicate my outrage vociferously to him. Well, should he commit another hygiene offense when he was warmed up, I wouldn’t spare him, I promised myself when I joined him in the bathroom I had always thought spacious enough but that his presence made look positively cramped. If at all possible, he was shaking more than before, sending his massive flesh wobbling. He was eyeing my capacious walk-in shower with a blend of gratefulness and disbelief, and in that moment I felt grateful myself that his size coincided with my preference for showers over baths. When you’re a tall person, one part of you inevitably sticks out of the tub and turns cold.

    “You can wash your clothes while you shower,” I told him while I filled in detergent and chose the right program. “Just push this button and if your clothes are dryer-safe, put them in here and turn this knob.” He nodded. “You can take as long as you want. This house is connected to the normal water and sewer system, so there is no need to ration. In the meantime I’m going to look for something you can wear.”

    “Y- yeah, g- good luck with that,” I heard over my shoulder before I practically bolted and pushed the door shut behind me, drawing what felt like my first deep breath in the past ten minutes.

    Although the saying goes that Karma is a bitch, I had learned the hard way that she only is if you are, and she certainly thought the opportunity had come for more payback: out of all people she had to throw a morbidly obese man my way. I had certainly ridiculed enough of them to deserve to atone for my sins this way, but did it have to be one in such a precarious frame of mind? He wanted to take his own life and I was responsible for him now – me of all people, who shouldn’t be given responsibility for a tortoise. What would make this man want to commit suicide? His weight possibly but not definitely factored in. Why had he come out here of all places? Was anyone looking for him?

    An intensifying heat alerted me to the fact that I was still wearing my coat, hat and gloves. Quickly I deposited everything but the gloves in their places, cranked up the heat and began to make tea. I needed to keep the man warm even after his shower, and I could stand a mug as well. Then I tackled the impossible task of procuring clothes in his size. The best substitute for a sweater turned out to be a black fringed poncho interwoven with fine golden threads – not exactly manly but he would have to suck it up. My size-twelve woolen socks should fit him but what would I do for pants? Well, he would have no other chance but to safety-pin two woolen blankets together and wrap them around himself. Just as I emerged from my bedroom with the makeshift clothes, I heard the shower stop, a circumstance on which my lower anatomy chose to comment instantly. Clenching my thighs together and squeezing my eyes shut as if that could ward off the inexplicable sensation, I knocked on the door.

    “Uhm,” it suddenly hit me that I didn’t even know his name, “I have a poncho that should fit you but I didn’t have anything for pants beside pinned-together blankets. I’m setting everything outside the bathroom door.”

    No answer. I fled back into the open kitchen/dining/living area to take out the tea bags before I turned towards my small, rectangular wooden table and was presented with another obstacle: there was no way my standard-size chairs could accommodate his heft. The couch would but one of my self-enforced rules of living alone was never to mix locations and functions. A couch was for lounging and a table was for food and drink. Eating meals on the couch in front of the TV is often the first step of letting yourself go as a single, which eventually leads to a greasy-haired, stained-bathrobe-clad existence in front of the TV. Well, for now there was no other option, I sighed inwardly and carried the tray to the couch table at the other end of the rectangular room, after which I placed a big pot with water for a broth on the stove. Suddenly I heard the bathroom lock click and the sound of shuffling. There was no more putting off the confrontation. I quickly slipped my gloves back on that I had stuffed into the back pocket of my jeans and turned to face my guest.

    I was facing a possibly 500-pound man, his skin crimson red from the shower, at least those parts that weren’t covered in my poncho and the blankets around his waist – let’s call it 'waist' for simplicity. A plump and dimpled hand kept the fabric in place. Chubby wouldn’t begin to describe his Michelin-man-like arms protruding from under the poncho. His eyes, reflecting something between mortification and murder, dared me to laugh. His eye color was indistinguishable from my distance but now I could see that his face was round and that he possessed dark hair with a bit of curl in dire need of a trim. His nose was nothing out of the ordinary and his mouth small and soft-looking with a pronounced double chin underneath. All in all I was staring into a likable face despite his scraggly beard and scowl. I mentally corrected my guess from end to mid- thirties.

    Again I squeezed my eyes shut against the onset of tingles and treated myself to another breath before I looked at him again. “Sit. Have some tea. I've prepared a broth, too.”

    The man eyed the couch as if assessing its strength but finally lowered himself on the longer part of the L-shape, carefully holding the blankets together over his spreading bulk. Averting my face in order to conceal my reddening cheeks and to spare him any more embarrassment, I took a seat on my cherished brown sheepskin on the shorter end of the couch. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the man pick up his mug and gradually he seemed to relax a bit.

    Running my fingertips over the fuzziness of the sheepskin brought a smile to my face as always. I might not be able to touch human skin but I always made the most out of the connection with certain inorganic materials. A sharp gasp brought my gaze up to the man, who had just burned his tongue on the hot tea. For a moment he looked as adorable as a child, an impression emphasized by his round cheeks and chubby hands. He deposited the offending item back on the couch table and met my eyes at last.

    “Thanks.”

    More so than the single word it was his face which betrayed the extent of his gratefulness.

    “You’re welcome.”

    “What’s your name?” he asked, never taking his gaze off me.

    “Blanche. And yours?”

    “Griffin.”

    An American name? Now, however, was not the time to discuss personal details. Again we both stared at each other. The longer I was exposed to this man’s presence, the more acutely my mind and body reminded me of how long it had been since I had faced and conversed with a person in such proximity.

    “Are you feeling better?”

    “I’m no longer cold.”

    The omission implied that the mental state he was in had hardly improved. He needed to be kept safe. “Is there anyone you’d like to call?”

    “No.” His mood, rather neutral so far, now seemed to cast its own shadow. “I’ll just wait for my clothes to wash and dry and then I’ll be out of your hair.”

    I cast a skeptical look out the window. “I doubt that. If anything, it’s getting worse. You should stay until it’s over.”

    He followed my gaze out the window. “That could take all night.”

    “Then you may spend the night.” Whoops. As little as I had meant to extend the invitation, in that moment I realized that I meant it.

    His eyes shifted to mine again, now narrowed with suspicion. “Why are you doing this?” His incredulity morphed into a sneer. “Haven’t your parents told you not to speak to strangers, let alone let them shower or spend the night at your place?”

    I couldn’t suppress a wince at the mention of a mother I might never see again but managed to change the wince into a shrug. “I’m a grown-up.”
     
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  8. Dec 25, 2018 #8

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 2 (4/4). Blanche: On my watch


    “I still don’t get it,” the large man named Griffin declared at last, his eyes still on me.

    “That’s OK.”

    When it became evident to him that I wouldn’t elaborate, his gaze dropped to my hands. “Why are you wearing gloves?”

    “Because I can.”

    I had come to find that monosyllabic, information-deprived answers disconcerted people to such an extent that they usually didn’t probe any deeper. We continued to sip our tea in silence until I heard the water in the pot on the stove bubble and I hopped up in relief.

    “Would you like some hot broth?”

    For a moment he looked caged. “That sounds good,” he replied at last. “Uhm, do you have a hairdryer so I can dry my shoes in the meantime?”

    “Sure. In the cabinet under the sink.”

    “Thanks.”

    I didn’t stay to watch him heave himself to his feet. My body couldn’t take much more of this… this vicarious embarrassment, that’s what this tingle had to be. Five minutes later I carried the broth with egg and some alphabet noodles over to the couch table and turned on some music in order to fill the silence that was sure to follow. In that moment I heard the hair dryer stop and Griffin reemerged from the bathroom, the sight of his massive shape causing my insides to twist into knots again, even more so when he antagonized the pins that held the blankets together by gingerly lowering himself once more.

    Averting my face again, I concentrated on the act of placing one of my round wooden plates on my lap to balance the soup bowl on before I handed another one to Griffin. In that moment I realized that it would be impossible for him to follow suit as he had to spread his thighs wide to accommodate his enormous belly. One of the few advantages of my condition was that all this time spent removed from people had sharpened my heretofore nonexistent perception of their needs. With a warm face I withdrew my hand again and held out the tray to him instead, not meeting his eyes. Again we consumed the liquid in front of us without conversation until we were both full and dared to face one another.

    “You don’t have to talk about it, you know, but just in case you do, I’ll listen.”

    He laughed with more surprise than humor. “It’s a long story and nothing you should have to concern yourself with. I’ll be out of here first thing in the morning anyway. I’ll have a cab pick me—”

    The remainder of his utterance drowned in a massive gulp.

    “You don’t have enough money with you, do you?” I probed softly after a moment during which his cheeks had turned pink.

    “No.” He swallowed again. “And in case you were about to offer to drive me, don’t.”

    “To quote you, what’s the alternative?” Silence. “If I drive you home, will there be someone waiting for you?”

    Griffin gritted his funny-looking teeth and said nothing while I felt my own teeth sink into my lower lip, a habit I had thought long broken but that I had evidently just not engaged in lately for lack of opportunity. No, I wouldn’t pry any further. He clearly didn’t want to share and prodding him would come across as pushy if not outright weird. I had done for him what I could. And yet I heard myself blurt before I managed to snatch back the words by their collar:

    “I don’t feel comfortable leaving you by yourself.”

    This time his laugh was devoid of all humor. “Don’t worry, I don’t think I’ll find a beam strong enough to hang myself from and I won’t be able to slit my wrists either since I would never get the razor blade through all this fat.” He lifted his chubby arm, his visible upper arm flab dangling, while his eyes challenged me to comment.

    Although my tongue did not, other parts of my body certainly did, and I clamped my thighs shut again before I got up to both clean up and put my unsuspecting tormentor out of my sight. It was no use. I could feel his eyes on me the entire time I spent carrying the dishes over to the kitchen area. At last I was able to exhale a few loud breaths over the sound of water rushing into the big pot in the sink. Suddenly I felt the back of my neck prickle with Griffin’s presence, realizing that a) I hadn’t heard him get up over the sound of the running water and b) my lower arms and hands were exposed because I had pushed up my sleeves. I whirled around in panic, shielding my hands behind my back.

    “Blanche? I’m sorry, I—“

    I jumped when I saw him step closer. He might not even have meant to touch me but I could never be too careful. Even though Griffin’s round face shuttered at once, I briefly caught the pain in his eyes I now knew to be a blend of blue and green.

    “No, I’m sorry—“

    He held up a plump palm. “Don’t bother, I get it.”

    He retreated back to the bathroom, presumably to check on the progress of his clothes. His wide hips actually brushed the doorway. If my cheeks felt warm before, they positively went up in flames at the sight. Then Griffin returned, his clothes probably in the dryer now, not meeting my eyes. I wished I could explain my reaction to him but there was no way.

    “I assume you'll put me up on the couch tonight, right?” he grumbled, barely looking at me. I only nodded. “Just point me to the closet with the sheets and I’ll take care of it. You’ve done more than enough.”

    It didn’t feel like a compliment. With one frightened jump I had destroyed the bit of trust I thought had blossomed between us, and possibly his will to live, too. He wasn’t my responsibility but I needed to leave a mark on this world that wasn’t a blister or a scar. He needed to stay alive.

    “The bedding is in my bedroom. I’ll get it.”

    Griffin accepted the bedding from me without as much as a thank you, and although I tried to busy myself with the dishes, I couldn’t help but glance over my shoulder occasionally. He'd pulled back the low table in order to unfold the couch, huffing as he bent over the massive rolls that formed his midsection while taking care to hold the blankets in place. Unable to bear the sight of his quivering mass and the sound of his labored breathing any longer, I hastily finished up the dishes and fled to the bathroom.

    A splash and a cold sensation in my thick socks brought me up short: Griffin had positively flooded the bathroom floor, plus left his towel on the floor in a sodden heap. The hair dryer was still sitting on the sink. Instantly the haze of emotional confusion lifted. Although I managed to lay out a toothbrush for the violator of basic human cleanliness, that was where my role as gracious hostess stopped. After I had mopped up the floor, wrung out and hung the towel, I marched back into the living area. Even making allowances for his state of mind and hypothermia, his manners had been nothing but lacking, even after he had recovered from the worst. Although he had only been in my carefully ordered life for two hours, I already felt undone.

    “You know, the least you can do when you’re in somebody else’s house is be neat. You don’t flood other people’s bathrooms or drop their towels on said flooded floor, and you always at least offer to take off your shoes before entering. And that is no way to make a bed either!” I finished my heated tirade with a contemptuous look at the mess on the couch.

    I glared at the astonished-looking man until he moved aside and I could tuck in the corners of the bed sheet neatly and shake the duvet in its case so it didn’t bunch up on one side and remain empty on the other. I garnished my work with another scowl and just when he opened his mouth, I messed everything up again. “Now you do it.”

    My chin stayed up until he complied, looking surprised at himself. Again he struggled with the task of bending over but finished at last.

    “There you go! There’s a fresh toothbrush for you in the bathroom. Good night.”
     
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  9. Dec 27, 2018 #9

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 3. Griffin: Hell


    Most people tossed and turned when they couldn’t sleep. If I did, I would wreck even this high-quality couch, and so I carefully shifted my huge body, feeling my fat slosh around. One would think someone with as much padding would have no trouble finding a comfortable position. Well, they’d be wrong. Lying on my back had been out of the question for years as I couldn’t breathe properly with my own weight pressing down on my lungs, and in all other positions I had to rearrange myself constantly so I wouldn’t lie on my own flesh. If you haven’t been there, you don’t get it. Believe it or not, being fat, even super fat, isn’t so bad as long as you’re healthy, a productive member of society and have a cute partner. Not having/being either, it was hell. I had myself to blame for it but it was hell nonetheless. I’d lied when I’d told Blanche it was a long story how I’d ended up at the bridge. In fact, it was as short as it is pathetic: I ate myself to whale size, got kicked out and wanted to end it all.

    That strange girl with the as strange as fitting name Blanche had gone out of her way to help a blubbery mountain of a stranger who had done nothing but snarl at her and dirty her previously germ-free home. She’d probably saved my life. If I’d lain on the freezing ground for much longer, I wouldn’t have been able to get up even if I’d wanted to. This part of the woods probably saw one car per day, if any. Well, and today it had been hers. She’d taken action and not let my whining put her off nor pestered me with questions. In fact, except for my name and if there was somebody I wanted to call the woman with skin as pale as her name hadn’t asked me anything.

    She looked like a veritable Snow-white with that skin, her jet-black hair and the red lips she kept gnawing whenever she felt uncomfortable. Like the character in the fairy tale she even lived in the woods. What was different from the fairy tale, though, was her impressive height, the slight gap between her front teeth and her buzzed hair on the right side with spirals shaven into it. She was one hot package and yet she had looked at and treated me like a person, an equal. She hadn’t seemed put off by my size the way most skinny people were, at least not until I’d gotten too close to her. Yeah, I was a freak show but I had never made anyone jump like that. I had seen actual fear in her cat-green eyes. What did she think I was going to do? Up until she’d flinched, I hadn’t even planned on touching her. Well, at least not with my hands. These days I was barely able to stand close to someone without my body touching them.

    Why did it feel like I had screwed up when I’d cut her off instead of listening to her explanation? I mean, surely it couldn’t have been anything but my weight that had made her jump, and did I have to listen to that? Hell, no. Still, I should have known better than to snap at my rescuer like that. And now she was lying one room away, probably wondering if the tub of lard would wreck her couch. No, somehow that image of her didn’t fit:

    She had offered the couch to me instead of a chair.

    She had exchanged the wooden plate for a tray that I could balance on my lap.

    That girl had even remembered to give me two duvets instead of one, and with the safety pins that had held my makeshift clothes together earlier I had been able to pin them together and cover myself completely.

    It was as if she could see the world through my eyes. Also, the way she had yelled at me for leaving a mess in the bathroom had told me she was someone who judged people by their actions, not their appearance. Silke had never kicked my ass the way I would have needed it, the way that skinny girl had.

    Who would live out here by themselves in the middle of nowhere? The bus station close to the Autobahn where I had gotten off was two miles outside the city but Blanche had taken us even further into the woods, uphill and onto a smaller, clearly not much frequented road with bumpy pavement. There had been a single broken-down house on the right that seemed to have been a restaurant a decade or so ago, and finally that invisible little turn-off hidden by trees that led to this house.

    I would have expected a cabin but despite its small size it was definitely a house, and it didn't contain rough-hewn log furniture but high-end equipment that would have looked more fitting in some metropolitan condo. The layout was perfect for one person, with a small, open kitchen and a rectangular wooden table on the left side, a desk with a computer tucked into the far left corner and the living area to the very right. The front door faced two other doors, one to the bathroom and the other to the bedroom I hadn’t seen yet.

    And I would never see it either. She and the reason behind her isolation were none of my business and she didn’t seem eager to share. I didn’t feel like talking anyway, and not just because I was staring into the face of some pretty tough questions I had no answer to. Silke would drive me up the wall with her chatter sometimes, although right now I’d give anything for her prattle. Even if I managed to drop enough weight to convince her I had changed, that would take me at least one year and Silke wasn’t the type of girl who stayed on the market for long. And even if she did, there was no guarantee she’d take me back. If I had let myself go this much once, I could backslide anytime.

    Again I pushed myself onto my back until gravity took over and I sagged onto my right, feeling everything settle into place again. Did anything hang out? No. Good. The sight would be sure to give Blanche nightmares. What was I going to say to her in the morning? Probably not much since I’d reassured her she’d be rid of me soon. I’d ask her to drop me off at the bus station where I’d gotten off earlier. Thank God I still had enough change left for that. But where would I go? Silke’s? I had to pick up my stuff but I couldn’t call her and ask for some time to myself until I had packed. My wallet had been in my back pocket when I’d left her place but I hadn’t thought to grab my phone, too, and I didn’t know her cell number by heart since she switched plans so often. Suddenly panic ate at me. Where would I go once I had packed?

    Friends? Those I shared with Silke were out of the question. I had friends of my own but two of them were couples with little kids who had no space for an elephant like me. One of them was single but lived in a tiny two-bedroom apartment. My best and oldest friends, Lars and Evelyn, actually had a spare room but Lars’s words still rang in my ears all too clearly: “Griff, you’re my oldest friend but you’re also the biggest slob on earth. If you ever need a place to crash, I’ll be happy to refer you to someone who deserves it.” He’d given me a playful punch on the arm after that but he’d meant it nonetheless.

    Should I call my parents instead? No, no way. Between my mother babying me and my dad being on my ass all the time about cleaning up my act, I’d never see a moment’s peace, let alone get down to a healthy weight.

    A new place? Not an option either. No landlord would take a fat-ass like me who might very likely wreck the shower or toilet and who didn’t have a job.

    A diet clinic? I’d briefly Googled it a while ago as a favor to Silke but found out that my insurance would only cover parts of it, and without a job there was no way to afford co-pay.

    A cheap motel? Even that would be too expensive in the medium run, and left alone, my eating would spin out of control even more.

    An abandoned house? Even if I found one, without heat I wouldn’t last long in in this weather, and I would be all on my own, too. It would be only a matter of time until I either froze or ate myself to death.

    Suddenly not only panic ate at me. I felt the heat in my cheeks even though nobody was around to hear the soft but high-pitched squeak that would morph into the call of the wild soon. I probably weighed something in the upper 400s, was facing homelessness and all my gut could care about was food. Would that damn thing never stop? Abruptly I noticed that it was the first time I’d felt actual hunger in… how long had it been? Weeks? Months even? I’d been digesting some lasagna when Silke had come in and launched into her yelling fit, and since then all I’d eaten was Blanche’s broth, which was basically just water. Did I dare check her fridge— no, impossible. She might decide to go to the bathroom that very minute. I shouldn’t care since I couldn’t possibly make a worse impression on her but I just couldn’t let her catch me at her fridge.

    At some point even guilt, hunger and despair weren't enough to keep me awake any longer and gradually I drifted off.
     
  10. Dec 27, 2018 #10

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 4 (1/2). Blanche: Responsibility


    Health was vital to my sheltered existence. No doctor or dentist would let me sit through a consultation scarfed and gloved, and even if I asked them to wear rubber gloves, they were bound to brush my skin with their forearms at some point. I knew it was only a matter of time before I had to seek medical attention but until then I took care to delay the inevitable. I treated my body to sufficient exercise, made sure I kept my environment clean and ate a balanced diet, including sufficient hydration. The latter, however, led to regular nocturnal bathroom visits, this time prodding me out of bed around three in the morning.

    As I padded towards the bathroom door, knowing my way around in the dark as well as in broad daylight, my eyes fell over to the hulking figure on the couch. Suddenly yesterday’s events came rushing in, shooting adrenaline into the furthest recesses of my body. Griffin, the morbidly obese suicide candidate I had picked up from the side of the road yesterday. Again I felt the slight tingle but while I relieved myself it was mostly concern I felt: what might have happened to him? Not just for him to end up on a bridge with a death wish, but before that: what would cause a person to blow up like this? Whatever it was, I would never know. In a few hours I would drop him off somewhere, probably at the bus station, and each of us would get on with their lives, which was best for everyone involved. I had done my part but could do no more.



    Normally I woke up around eight but this morning my stomach reminded me an hour earlier that two bowls of broth presented thoroughly insufficient fare. However, given my one-room layout next door, silencing the snarling beast that inhabited my stomach meant facing Griffin. Appealing though putting off the confrontation was, I would have to do it eventually, so I swung my legs over the edge of my twin-size bed and got dressed in jeans as well as a thin burgundy turtleneck and stuffed my thin gloves into my back pocket.

    Although I had severely cut down on the stress-induced caffeine consumption of my former life, one mug of coffee with milk was a requirement, and I always relished the smell and taste of the freshly ground Vietnamese coffee beans. A business trip to Vietnam and Cambodia had caused me to switch to this brand for good but had also made an impact on more than my morning drink. For instance, I had also had one of those spray nozzles installed next to the toilet that were common in Vietnam. Most of all, however, it had acquainted me with the local belief system in this part of Asia, in particular the concept of Karma.

    Hoping with all my heart that what I had done for Griffin would enter favorably into mine, I pushed the power button of my high-end coffee machine, cringing at the noise of the appliance coming to life. A moment later, a rustle of fabric indicated that my guest was awake. Quickly I slipped on the gloves and kept my back to the living area until I heard my poor couch groan and knew Griffin had hefted himself to his feet. At last the shuffling footsteps stopped behind me.

    “Morning.”

    The voice sounded deeper and more gravelly than the night before. Steeling myself for the encounter, I turned, only to find my houseguest at a respectful distance.

    “Morning.”

    Griffin was back in his normal clothes, as far as one could call the tent-like jeans, checkered shirt and blue T-shirt underneath normal. Incredible that clothes existed that fit a man like him, but even this size jeans were struggling to accommodate a belly of that size. There was an imprint on his round face from the duvet, his hair – which I could now see was a light brown with some curl in it – was as unshaven and untrimmed as the night before but he looked rested if a bit insecure. All in all it was a vast improvement over yesterday, although his size felt just as overpowering. I couldn’t help but marvel at how his stature was possible in terms of health and physics. There was also that annoying, inexplicable tingle again but I pushed it away.

    “Coffee?”

    “Please,” he nodded with a grateful expression. “With milk and— uh, just milk if you have it, otherwise black is fine.”

    His eyes flickered away for a moment. Eager to hide my tingling cheeks as well, I turned towards the coffee machine. “Foam?”

    “Uh, sure.”

    I busied myself with the machine until I felt confident enough I could hand him the mug with a composed face. Just like yesterday, we sipped and stared, facing each other at a 90°-angle. My eyes flickered over to the couch, which was a mess again. Well, soon he would be out of here, leaving me to my orderly existence and relieving me of all responsibility for him.

    “Blanche?” His soft, hesitant tone brought my gaze to his again. “I- I’m sorry for being such a jerk yesterday. You weren’t just being nice, you did more than most people would have done for a stranger. Most would have just called the police. So… thank you again. I still don’t get why you did this for me but… I’m grateful.”

    Griffin’s unexpected monolog was productive of a protracted silence. Little did he know that I hadn’t had a choice in the police matter but hearing him thank me for the rest actually brought a small smile to my cheeks.

    “You’re welcome.” We continued sipping in silence but with considerably less tension. “So, have you decided where you’re going after breakfast?”

    Griffin’s eyes widened as if he hadn’t expected me to feed him, but only ignoramuses believe obese people have enough fat stores to never go hungry. I used to be one of those but knew better now. Griffin seriously needed to cut back but starving oneself never worked in the long run. Now he set down his mug on the countertop with a slight tremble in his pudgy hand.

    “Would- would you drop me off at the bus station? The one by the commuter parking lot?”

    “Of course.” I drained my coffee and put down the mug as well. “Where will you go from there?”

    “My ex’s apartment to pick up my stuff, I guess.”

    The answer had come out on a sigh. His wide shoulders slumped, sending ripples through his massive form. His ex? It was the first clue as to how he had ended up on the bridge yesterday.

    “And from there? Do you have any friends where you can stay for a while?”

    I just couldn’t stop myself. Griffin stared at me, his face reddening, causing me to lift my palms in apology and step back. The motion caused his eyes to zoom in on my gloves and I hastily hid them behind my back. “Sorry, none of my business. Uhm, why don’t you remove the bedding and fold the couch again while I make breakfast?”

    I turned before he could answer, sensing his hesitation and confusion even with my back to him but waited it out until I heard him retreat. By the time I carried over the tray to the couch table, everything looked neat again, making me strangely proud of him. Silently he then waddled over to the bathroom without making eye contact and squeezed through the door again. Next I heard the toilet lid clang against the wall tiles. Did he put his full weight on the toilet or sort of hover over it? Or – please no – did he pee standing up? How would he manage that, though, with his gut overhanging—no, don’t go there.

    When he returned, we shared our meal without speaking, the radio the only source of noise. I turned up the volume when news came on. No mention of Griffin.

    “I’m not a fugitive, if that’s what you were keeping an ear out right now.”

    Busted. Instantly my eyes snapped to his, catching the amused glint in his eyes. “That’s good to know.”

    “Do you live here alone?” he asked after a while.

    “Yes.”

    He only nodded. “And what do you do for a living?”

    “I’m an online English tutor.” That Chinese service paid surprisingly well and most students were eager to learn. He didn’t need to know about my other source of income, my YouTube channel. “What about you?”

    Difficult though it was to picture a man like Griffin in any occupational environment, it was cruel to assume that morbidly obese people didn’t work. A dark look had gripped his heretofore amiable, animated face at my question. “I’m a car mechanic. Well, or at least I used to be.”

    The reason for the change in tense was obvious. I was staring at it, overflowing the couch cushion and bulging in his tent-like clothes. Was he unemployed then or simply working in a different job now? I had a strong suspicion it was the former. Unemployed, homeless and morbidly obese – what were the chances of him finding an apartment? Zero. If I dropped him off at this bus station and vanished from his life, I was practically sending him out onto the streets.

    Again I shook off the thought. Griffin wasn’t my responsibility and couldn’t possibly stay here until he got back on his feet, and yet the idea was practically yanking at my lapels and screaming me in the face. No, I couldn’t. He wasn’t safe here and therefore neither was I. I had to stay alone. Decidedly I fixed my mind on my next bite. And the next. Bite after bite until I could almost believe I had left my guilt behind. Not much later I scrubbed away at my poor teeth in order to drown out the sound of my increasingly vociferous conscience.

    Griffin was waiting by the door when I returned, his hands in his pockets, a posture which forced the mass of his belly even more outwards. It was like staring at a train wreck. Hastily I assigned my boots, coat and other winter accessories to their proper places before I turned to nod at him that I was ready. The words “Got everything?” refused to pass my lips and my eyes were glued to his hips as they brushed the door frame again. Thankfully another circumstance took over my wayward attention: I couldn’t believe I had forgotten the supplies in the trailer. Thank goodness the cold had kept everything fresh and no creatures had managed to peel away or gnaw through the tight tarp to enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet.
     
  11. Dec 27, 2018 #11

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 4 (2/2). Blanche: Responsibility


    “Uhm, would you like me to help you unload before we leave?”

    A voice that small seemed incongruous with a man of Griffin’s stature but it matched his face. It was the first time he had offered help and he couldn’t have chosen a more welcome time. Storing up for weeks spared me from unnecessary exposure to people and therefore minimized the risk of discovery but it was a monumental chore each time.

    “If you really mean that, I would appreciate it a lot.”

    “Of course I mean it. It’s…. it’s the least I can do.” His eyes flickered to his sneakered feet again. While I loosened the ratchet straps to lift the tarp, I felt his admiring gaze on me like I always did when a guy watched me perform a ‘man’s job’. There was nothing admirable about that, though. In fact, despite having become sufficiently skilled at tasks like tree cutting or changing tires, I was not a handy person. The simple fact was that I had to teach myself everything that needed to be done when living in harsh surroundings by oneself, whether I liked it or not, or was good at it or not.

    I picked up the first item, a cardboard box full of ultra-pasteurized milk. “Just follow me,” I told Griffin over my shoulder. Together we stored everything in a separate part of my spacious, well-insulated garage that the previous owner had partitioned off by dry wall and that I had almost entirely filled with shelves. Even though Griffin had to wonder why a single woman would need enough supplies to feed an army for a month, not a word passed his lips, although that might be due to his lack of breath. With certain success I tried not to stare too much at the way the load he was carrying was enveloped by his body mass and how his bulges shifted as he bent over to pick up the next box. Meanwhile he had removed the sweat jacket, unbuttoned the shirt underneath and rolled up its sleeves as far as they would go up his plump forearms, his flesh wobbling with each bit of motion. Sweat was dripping into his eyes. What may have happened for him to get this big? As self-disgusted as he seemed with himself, it stood to reason that he had brought it on himself and wasn’t afflicted by a disease. Why hadn’t he had surgery then before it had spun out of control and before he lost his job?

    Hearing him so winded caused the thought to resurface that I thought I had successfully drowned: I had only delayed his death by picking him up yesterday. The way he was going, he wouldn't last long without help. Someone had to keep an eye on him. But how could it work? At his size, we would invariably intrude into each other’s space and I couldn’t cover myself up all the time. This was my castle, the one place where I could dance around naked if I chose to, which I did on a regular basis.

    And even if I adapted to his presence, assuming he wanted to stay as well, how would he pull his weight? (No pun intended, Karma, I swear!) I couldn’t afford to cover his expenses like phone or insurance, for instance. Although I enjoyed a steady stream of income, it wasn’t impressive by any means and there was no guarantee how long it would continue to trickle. Did he have any means of his own or was there a way he could find work? He needed to stay busy and get healthy.

    A gust of cold air brought me up short as I stepped outside again. What was I thinking? I was getting way ahead of myself—oof! An enormous and yet strangely comfortable force bumped into me from behind, knocking me off balance. A grunt, two pairs of flailing arms and a painful yell. The next thing I registered was the moisture creeping through the bottom of my jeans and a heap of panting human dangerously next to me. Instantly I pushed myself to my feet and whirled around to the large man sprawled on the ground.

    “Are… are you OK?”

    “I guess so.”

    His eyes downcast, a red-faced Griffin shifted onto his knees and heaved himself to his feet with difficulty. Once I would have openly ridiculed him with the finest selection of cruel taunts in my impressive repertoire of derision but now I only wished I could spare him any further embarrassment.

    “Are you sure? Nothing twisted or scratched?”

    “I don’t think so.”

    Griffin grimaced at his left hand and prodded at the row of fresh blisters with visible astonishment. Oh no. His hand must have slipped between my glove and the sleeve of my turtleneck during the fall.

    “Let’s just finish unloading, OK?” he murmured at last, still not looking at me, and turned towards the trailer again. We finished the chore in tense silence, after which we cleaned and blew-dry our clothes. Despite the mounting tension between us I couldn’t take his eyes off him, milking each second with him for what it was worth. It had been so long since I had exchanged more words with a person than a greeting. His was another human presence in my lonely house in this deserted part of the woods, another pair of eyes beside the ones in the mirror I usually avoided anyway. Still, there was no way he could stay. This had only been the first accident out of many; I should be grateful he had not fallen on top of me. How could I hope to stay away from a doctor’s office with the threat of physical harm always looming? He had to leave.



    Five minutes later I conveyed us both away from the house, Griffin’s massive shape cowered on the floor of my van in silence, his body mass again jiggling with every pothole. From time to time he turned his head with difficulty to check on our progress, his eyes shining with something unreadable as we jolted across the bridge. No, please don’t consider another attempt—but again, it wasn’t my job to take care of him.

    At last we reached the bus station and Griffin climbed out of the van. If at all possible, he looked even more desperate and broken than when I had picked him up at the bridge yesterday. Although he was putting on a brave face, all hope had vanished from his eyes that were struggling to maintain contact with mine.

    “Blanche? I know people say this all the time but… I’m glad I got to meet you. Thanks for everything.”

    It sounded so final, so fatally final. “Y- you’re welcome,” I choked out, watching his shoulders slump as if he had been waiting for some signal from me that he was welcome to stay after all. With one last nod he turned and slowly waddled towards the bus stop. A social outcast, an Untouchable just like me. His condition might not be permanent like mine but if I left him to deal with it himself, he might very likely die. Shouldn’t I try to help, no matter the inconvenience or the risk to myself? The sight of his broad back being the last thing I would see of him before reading a small article about a morbidly obese man found frozen to death in some park did it for me.

    “Griffin, wait.” The massive figure stopped but only turned around slowly. I closed the few feet between us with a quick jog. “Do you have a place to stay or not?”

    I was looking into the face of a man who had no pride left to lose. An almighty exhale gave way to the answer at last: “No.”

    “In that case I want you to stay with me until you’re back on your feet.”

    Griffin stared at me as though searching for the best entrance through which to crawl into my head and make sense of my offer. “Why would you want that?”

    “I have no idea.”

    “Are you sure?” he inquired at last, his voice hoarse.

    My chin rose with a will of its own. “Yes. Not about the reason but about the fact.”

    Another deep breath on his part. “For the record, I do have friends, only none where I could stay for longer.” He broke eye contact, clearly debating with himself. “I wouldn’t take you up on your offer if I saw any other way.”

    “So you’re staying?”

    A little smile broke through, the first real one, revealing his funny teeth again. “Yes, I’m staying.”

    My own face surprised myself by morphing into a large grin, causing Griffin’s to widen as well. Why on earth did I feel so elated when the real work had just begun?
     
  12. Dec 30, 2018 #12

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 5 (1/2). Griffin: Plan


    All the way back to the house I puzzled over the mystery in the driver seat. Blanche wanted me to stay. Before she had blurted that out, she had looked as if guilt was gnawing at her but once I had said yes, she had smiled as if I'd been the doing her a favor. Why did I let her smile make me feel like more than a charity case? There was no way she could see me as anything else. Silke’s words drifted into my mind again: “You need to want to make a change.” It all came down to that. Of course I’d wanted it before, just not badly enough. Did I now? This was my last chance. For whatever reason Blanche had decided to take me in, I had to make her see that I was more than a lump of lard and that I didn’t intend to stay a lump of lard either.

    Ten minutes later we sat on the couch the way we had yesterday, each with a steaming mug of tea again. Just like the day before, I watched her graze her long, thin fingers absent-mindedly over the brown sheep skin she was sitting on.

    “Griffin?” She looked up at me at last, her face unreadable. “I’ll admit I have no idea what I’m doing here. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing, which is new terrain for me. Usually I plan everything. At any rate we need to make a plan right now, and it must start with you telling me what happened to you.”

    That sounded about as much fun as a sprint but she was right. I owed her the truth, at least everything but the too-fat-to-climb-the-parapet part. Whenever I dared to look at her during my pathetic tale, her pale cheeks colored a little but when I was finally done, she only nodded and sipped her tea in silence.

    “OK, here is how we get started,” she began at last, holding up her index finger, “no 1: pick up your things from your ex. No 2: living arrangements. No 3: rules for cohabitation.”

    Who on earth used the word ‘cohabitation’? And how did she switch from embarrassment to taking charge so quickly? But she was already talking again.

    “No 1: the pickup. What are we looking at? Clothes, furniture, car?”

    “Mostly clothes, some binders and a few electronics,” I answered after a moment. “I paid for part of the furniture and kitchen stuff but I’ll have to talk to Silke if she wants to keep them.”

    “What about your car?”

    Just when I thought that focusing on organizational stuff might distract me from the embarrassing situation I was in. “Outgrew it.”

    This time I didn’t dare to look up at Blanche again and I didn’t need to either. Most likely her cheeks would be glowing like a red light. As causal as she’d been so far about my needs as a morbidly obese guy, whenever I addressed my weight directly, she felt uncomfortable as hell. Honestly, who could blame her?

    “A few weeks after I first… didn’t fit anymore, the insurance was due, so I decided to deregister it for a while. Since Silke needed the garage and it’s illegal to leave an unregistered car parked on the curb, a friend helped me move it into his shed. He owns a plot outside of town. He said I could leave it there for a while, so that’s taken care of.”

    At last I heard Blanche clear her throat and decided it was safe to look up again. When I told her next that I didn’t have my phone on me, she suggested contacting Silke on Facebook before she efficiently went over how we would rearrange furniture to accommodate me and my stuff. What struck me, though, was that she didn’t look happy about it even though her smile when I’d agreed to stay had looked real. Well, as particular as she was about her space and orderliness, it was probably harder for her to adapt to my being here than she’d imagined. It was tough accommodating another person in a house of this layout, even a normal-sized one who wasn't a slob like me.

    She had me put a bunch of moving boxes from the garage into the van – that woman seemed prepared for anything – and we began putting together a list of things she would get at the hardware store while I packed up my stuff at Silke’s: curtains for around the couch to have some privacy at night, a sturdy chair, a heavy-duty toilet seat and a shower handle bar for me to grab when I had to bend over. With each item that we added, my face felt as if it was shedding its skin layers. The only bright spot was that I was handy enough to install everything myself, provided she had the tools, which I didn't doubt for a second.

    “Blanche?” She looked up at me from her pad with a business-like face. “I want you to know that I really appreciate what you’re doing, for whatever reason you’re doing it.”

    She ducked her head and nodded before she got up to empty a chest of drawers next to the couch for my clothes. If women came with a manual, hers would be as thick as an encyclopedia.

    Silke finally answered after another ten agonizing minutes. After I had reread her message all of six times, I put Blanche’s laptop back on the couch table and cradled my head in my now slick palms. That was it then: the past five years of my life reduced to a Facebook message.

    “Has Silke answered?”

    I didn’t raise my head to look at Blanche. “Yeah. She wants to keep the furniture and will wire me what I paid for it. I can come over today between 11 and 12 o’ clock.” After that I was supposed to leave my key in the mailbox.

    “She sounds like a good person.”

    As tactful and intuitive as Blanche had shown herself to be, that was pretty insensitive. Who would say that to a guy who had just been dumped? She was right, though. Silke was not only ‘good’, she was the best thing that had ever happened to me. I had just screwed up royally with her. In that moment I almost wished Blanche would place her hand on my shoulder and tell me something trite like ‘You’ll be fine.’ Since I didn’t hear her move a muscle, though, my own hand would have to do. As I rubbed my neck and cheek, I felt the scruff under my fingertips, suddenly panicking at the thought of having to face Silke later after all. What if packing up would take longer than I thought and we ran into each other? I looked like hell. I mean, at my current size I couldn’t help that but I hadn’t gotten a trim or proper shave in months. Again, whenever I thought I couldn’t sink any lower in Blanche’s opinion, reality caught up with me.

    “Uhm, Blanche?” Her face might not look judgmental but it was torture to look at it anyway. “Do you have a shaver I could borrow?”

    “Yes. I also have a hair trimmer if you like.”

    So she agreed I looked like a bum. “Uh, that would be great news if I knew how to cut my own hair.”

    A small smile tickled those impossibly red lips. “It’s not hard.”

    “You do it yourself?”

    “Yes.”

    Of course she did. It seemed there was nothing she couldn’t do. “I- I hate to ask you for yet another favor but… couldn’t you trim my hair?”

    Abruptly the smile was replaced by naked panic. “I- I have no experience with men’s hairstyles.”

    “I think you can hardly make it worse,” I chuckled at her, gesturing around myself, which promptly caused Blanche to blush again. As tough to read as she was, my size reliably pulled off her mask. Automatically I tried to reach for her hands for reassurance but again she jumped as if I had intended to burn her.

    “You don’t have to do it, of course,” I mumbled, shoving away my wounded pride. I couldn’t afford pride right now. “But if you’d like to try your hand on your first male hairdo, I’m all yours.”

    At last Blanche nodded, telling me to shave while she would manufacture a cape out of plastic bags and tape. Soon I sat on her thankfully sturdy ottoman under the makeshift cape while she worked the hair trimmer with calm, even movements. Even though she wore her thin black gloves again, her fingers in my hair and occasionally on my cheeks, temples and neck felt amazing. It had been so long since anyone had touched me so gently.

    “Why do always wear gloves?” I just couldn’t hold back anymore at some point.

    The trimmer stilled for a moment. “Again, because I can.”

    “Do you want to?”

    “What I want is not to talk about it.”

    Alright, so she insisted on clamping up about the topic. I decided to close my eyes and to concentrate on Blanche’s hands on me. At last she pronounced her work finished and handed me a medium-sized mirror. Wow. It looked pretty good actually, not quite symmetrical but an infinite improvement.
     
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  13. Dec 30, 2018 #13

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Chapter 5 (2/2). Griffin: Plan


    “Wow, great job, Blanche,” I smiled at her in the mirror, running my other hand through my trimmed curls on top and the even shorter hair on the side of my head. I looked human again – human with elephantine qualities. Again I met Blanche’s eyes in the mirror, discovering she had been staring at me the entire time, her tense features now relaxing into a smile of her own.

    “Thank you. Uhm, why don’t you wet your hair again to get it into shape? I’ll clean up in the meantime, and then I’d say we’re good to go.”

    Once I’d done that, I felt even better about myself. We were running late due to Blanche’s unexpected beauty treatment but I should still get my packing done in time, and if I didn’t, at least Silke would see me showered and groomed. The thought of having to face her suddenly turned my stomach, and I carefully lowered myself onto the toilet. Phew, that had been a close one. Just as I was about to reach for the paper, I suddenly noticed the little nozzle next to the toilet I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed before: a butt shower? A rush of relief flooded through me. First a big walk-in shower and now this handy accessory.

    There were plenty of skinny people who believed that big ones didn’t take care of themselves, but we do, it’s just a lot harder with so much of yourself in the way. I’m not proud to admit I’ve buried more than one pair of underwear with skid marks at the bottom of our laundry hamper. Silke, who took care of the laundry, never said anything but there was no way she could have missed them. Blanche would have given me hell about it but with this little nozzle she would never have to. It was almost as if fate had brought us together—yuck, how corny was that? Besides, fate was for people who couldn’t own up to their mistakes.

    I quickly finished up and half an hour later Blanche pulled up in front of my former home where my pathetic climb out of the cargo area was witnessed by a handful of gawking passers-by. Well, when I came back to this area in a few months, I would hopefully do so at the wheel of my own car and in my old clothes. And come back I would. Even if Silke found someone else while I worked on getting my life back on track, I just had to win her back. There was only one like her.

    Once I had pulled the boxes out of the trailer and Blanche had driven off, I lugged them up to the third floor, pausing every now and then to catch my breath. By the time I let myself into the place I had once called home, my shirt was clinging to me. I really was in terrible shape. Taking in the space Silke had transformed into a tidy home again made me feel… nothing. It was as if this part of my life had been over for more than twenty hours. Only the faint smell of Silke’s perfume in our bedroom caused me to gulp and flee from the room instantly. My phone was still charging next to the TV and judging by the few WhatsApp messages, none of my friends knew about our breakup yet. Breaking the news was yet another chore I had to take care of but for now I had to pack up what remained of my life.

    My car keys – useless now – were the second thing I pocketed before I opened the boxes and began dumping my stuff inside, thankfully remembering to pack a few big towels and a huge quilt. I even packed my outgrown clothes. I just had to believe I was capable of turning everything around and losing weight, so the clothes would come with. I couldn’t afford to throw out anything that I would have to buy later again. Silke’s money, plus my employment benefits and a few savings would tide me over for some time but from now on I had to spend my money wisely.



    Packing up my life took longer than I thought. I’d forgotten that some of my stuff was down in the basement, and other things just came with so many memories that I had to hold them for a while before I buried them in a box. This really was goodbye. The sight of Blanche’s van suddenly pulling up in front of the apartment building brought me up short. She was done already? Had I really taken over an hour? I had to get out of here. Hurriedly I shot off a text to Blanche that I would be down in a few minutes and she didn’t have to bother helping.

    Well, it turned out that it was more than a few minutes and that I could have used her help after all. By the time all the boxes were stacked in the entry and the key in the mailbox, I was drenched and panting again. Thankfully I hadn’t met any of my former co-tenants. The building was small and if they didn’t know about our breakup already, they would soon. Most likely they would congratulate Silke on finally ridding herself of such a useless sack of lard. Suddenly I heard a key in the lock of the front door. God, please don’t let it be nosy Mrs. Ackerman—I never knew how reassuring the sight of Mrs. Ackerman could be until I caught sight of the person who entered instead: Silke.

    Automatically I straightened, running my hand through my freshly trimmed hair as I faced my favorite person with her perfect blonde hair complimenting her beautiful round face with its flawless skin. Her hourglass figure – that admittedly held a lot more sand at the bottom – looked utterly grabbable in those tight black jeans and low-cut sweatshirt and I would have loved to cover her cute nerd glasses in grease spots while I kissed her senseless.

    None of that happened, of course, but at least Silke didn’t look repulsed. In fact, she seemed pleasantly surprised as her eyes flickered over my face and hair. Maybe she saw I was capable of change after all. Maybe there was still hope.

    “Hey.”

    “Hey.”

    God, how much I had missed her gentle voice. Yesterday it had been anything but gentle.

    “I… I meant to give you the space you asked for,” the love of my life began to explain, her cute chubby fingers fidgeting. “I just thought you’d be done by now.”

    “It took longer than I thought.”

    “But you’re all packed now?”

    “Yeah. Your key is in the mailbox.”

    “Thanks.”

    Please, my love, I pleaded with her silently, please tell me to keep it after all. But Silke’s full lips stayed shut even though her eyes were glued to me.

    “Uhm, you can throw out the easy chair,” I managed to get out at last, “I don’t think it will live to celebrate another birthday anyway.”

    “Probably not.” The staring continued. “Who are you staying with?”

    I hesitated for a moment. “A friend.”

    Silke only nodded, looking relieved and sad at the same time. “I’m glad. I- I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”

    “Me too.” I was still convinced, though, that it would eventually. As corny as it sounded, she was my dream girl. I loved her too much to give up. “May I… may I call you when I’ve figured things out and… cleaned up my act?”

    Something flickered over Silke’s face, something that was gone again quickly but that I knew I didn’t like. “I- I don’t know. I think you should concentrate on yourself and on getting better, and then take it from there.”

    “Yeah, you’re right.” But only if that wasn’t code for ‘Not a chance, you blew it with me.’ My gaze dropped to my shoes, then back up at her. “Thanks for… handling this the way you are.”

    When she answered with another sad smile and glistening eyes, I suddenly understood she had let me go a long time ago. I knew she had loved me once but it was over.

    “I wish you good luck.” It sounded as sincere as final.

    “You too.”

    Then she rushed past me up the stairs with her head bowed, her familiar heavy footsteps fading away until I heard what used to be our apartment door click shut for the last time, maybe forever. I don’t know how much time had passed until I felt composed enough call Blanche.

    “I’m coming out now. You can stay in the car, I’ll take care of the trailer.” If I still had a shred of a chance to prove to Silke that I was worth waiting for, I couldn’t let her see that the ‘friend’ I stayed with was a hot skinny girl.

    When the last box was stored, I covered the trailer with a net and slid open the van door. Although I didn’t check, I knew there was a good chance Silke would be watching her ex-boyfriend who was too fat to fit into a normal car seat. If I hoped to convince her that I was still worth it, I’d better start working out like a fiend.
     
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  14. Dec 30, 2018 #14

    loopytheone

    loopytheone

    loopytheone

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    Very interesting story glad to see more of it.
     
  15. Dec 31, 2018 #15

    Xyantha Reborn

    Xyantha Reborn

    Xyantha Reborn

    - Actually Very Tame!

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    Yes; me too. It causes a struggle in me because of the negativity about his weight, but looking forward to more of this well written story!
     
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  16. Dec 31, 2018 #16

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    The negativity, although it hurt while I was writing about it, is intentional. However, bear with me, it will all turn out well. I'm glad to have your support.
     
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  17. Dec 31, 2018 #17

    RVGleason

    RVGleason

    RVGleason

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    Enjoying the story so far! :)
     
  18. Dec 31, 2018 #18

    Xyantha Reborn

    Xyantha Reborn

    Xyantha Reborn

    - Actually Very Tame!

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    I can tell; it's a good kind of hurt! Conflict = more emotional dedication to the characters for the reader! :)
     
  19. Jan 1, 2019 #19

    agouderia

    agouderia

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    Imo the negativity is psychologically credible - which makes it a good story-line.

    Given that I am not a fanstasy person, I was a bit wary of starting to read the story - but it definitely grew on me and I am now looking forward to the next installments.

    Also - we have never had a story scene set in an Aldi - a funny first. And I feel for Griffin, knowing the narrow sides of BMW 3 series seats from own experience - always an incentive to keep hip width within limits.
     
  20. Jan 1, 2019 #20

    Unbasher

    Unbasher

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    Thank you, both Agouderia and Xyantha, your feedback means a lot, in particular since I've read quite a few of YOUR stories and am in awe of your work.
     
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