Hi guys, I've done some writing.com stuff before, but this is my first attempt at a longer piece. August 6, 2009 Kelly nervously tried to figure out where to focus her eye contact while the older gentleman just stared at her and back at the paper on his desk. Feeling this unsure about herself was somewhat foreign to her, at least in recent memory. High school, college, law school; she had always carried herself with a certain confidence that served her well...but in this moment, she felt rather exposed, knowing that the person ahead of her controlled a lot of her future. “Well,” he said with a pause, “it probably would have been nicer to let you know this before you came in, but the firm was wowed by your class rank and recommendations, how would you like to come join us at Jensen Taggart?” “Really?!” Kelly said, losing her composure for a brief moment, “I’d love to!” The shock momentarily stunned her. She found herself in this office after another long interview, the culmination of an extensive process that had taken weeks, and multiple rounds. When she came in today, she assumed she would be interviewing in front of another large group, but instead had been greeted by just one senior partner, something she originally assumed was bad news. Kelly’s instincts, fortunately, had been wrong. “I didn’t think you’d be so surprised, given your credentials,” he said with a chuckle. “I just brought you in for an interview to make sure you’d be a good social fit.” “Well thank you Mr. Warner, I don’t know what to say.” “Please-- we’re going to be coworkers. Call me George.” He proceeded to get up and extend his hand with a friendly handshake while showing his new hire out. “Take the weekend and get rested, I’ve talked with the partners, we’re excited to have you.” “I’m very excited to get started.” With that, Kelly Daniels had just completed another feat in what her boyfriend joked was history’s longest winning streak. In the depths of the recession, she found herself at a top law firm, specializing in the field she wanted, compliance, and received this offer weeks after taking the bar. When she got to the bottom floor of the elevator, she walked outside of the granite covered lobby onto the streets of downtown Chicago and pulled out her phone to text the one person she wanted to know about this. “Brad! I got the job!” “Wow! That’s great!!” “I knowwwwwww. I start Monday! I can’t wait.” “Well, let’s celebrate when I get home .I can’t wait to see you! This is great!” Chapter 2 -- Kelly came of age As she rode the train back to Rogers Park and their studio, Kelly couldn’t help but think about how far she had come since she was an unnoticed, overweight 7th grader whose parents had just divorced after a nasty split. Feeling inadequate after seeing how meaningless she was to each of them during that time, she had funneled her efforts into the one thing that had made her happy at the time, basketball. The passion for basketball started slightly before the final divorce, but was not separated from it. Every time she heard her parents fighting, Kelly went outside and started shooting baskets to get out of the house. Soon, she developed a good shot. If the constant fighting was a precursor to the divorce, it was also the reason that their daughter that always struggled with her weight found a new motivation to start eating better and working out. As their marriage deteriorated, her skills were built. After joining Winnekta’s team, she also grew a solid work ethic, and the coaches quickly noticed this chubby teen who nearly killed herself every practice, lacked speed, and had a half-decent shot. The effort didn’t go unrewarded. As 7th grade turned into 8th, Kelly shed her weight, and grew into a lean, and athletic body. Shedding the weight made her a great athlete, and now a starter, but it also gained her the attention of her peers, and the formerly shy-girl climbed the social ladder. Yes, her parents had sold their house by this time, and she was only seeing her Dad every few months, but who needed to know that? As long as people thought she was happy, she may as well have been. What would have caused stress for some built a confidence in Kelly that had lasted to this day. If basketball had built her physical figure in middle school and molded her confidence in high school, it served to create a work ethic that helped her breeze through college. On the social side of things, Kelly’s 5’6, 130 lbs figure and brunette hair didn’t hurt her, and she enjoyed the typical life of a sorority girl, but with a more rigorous study habit Sunday Morning through Friday afternoon. Graduating in three and a half years from Loyola and getting a full-ride to Northwestern Law surprised even her favorite professors. Now, after three years of grinding through statutes and legal philosophy, Kelly found herself on top of the world. Chapter 3 -- Getting started August 12, 2009 Over the weekend, Kelly rewarded herself with some new clothes for her job. Her selections were generally conservative, but nonetheless still flattered her slim frame. While she kept an exceptionally professional demeanour at work, a look onto her Facebook page would show years of fun weekends out; parties, tailgating, festivals, in most of which she was wearing short shorts and a thin tank, more than enough to show off her nearly flawless figure. Kelly's job at the firm was in international business compliance. Besides the healthy salary, the main appeal of this particular position over the others that she could have pursued was the amount of travel she would be doing. Her job involved going to different businesses that contracted with Jensen Tagart and make sure that these companies were in line with various regulations. While some would find it boring, Kelly found it to be the most intriguing part of law school-- much more fun than the idea representing less than stellar people at a criminal defense firm. On her first day of work, Kelly went up to the 26th floor of the glass office building and one of the HR people at the firm took her to the area that was to be her workspace. It was an extremely small office, but she knew that she would not be in there much, given the travel component. On the plus side, it did have a great view. After a few minutes of getting adjusted to her new space, George walked by with a folder. They had some small talk for a few minutes, but he quickly segwayed to her first assignment, "Your first job is in Dallas, TX. Here's a briefing on the company, nothing huge, just general insurance regulation stuff. I've included the company manual on reimbursement procedure, and other travel guidelines. Have a good flight!" "Wait, what?" Kelly said, caught off-guard. "Yeah, I think your flight takes off at 8:00 AM tomorrow. You'll be back on Friday afternoon. It's a pretty set schedule most weeks." While Kelly knew there would be many weeks away from home, she didn't expect to be thrown into the deep end so quickly. George sensed her hesitation, and reassured her, "You'll be fine, given some of your law school grades, you could probably lecture me on how to do this!" That evening Kelly packed her suitcase with two of the 2 pantsuits she had, some dress shirts, and her workout gear. After basketball ended in college, Kelly had been a faithful runner, often going for around 4-5 miles and nearly every day. It kept any of her old weight off, and helped her clear her mind. After an unexceptional flight, Kelly landed in Dallas, and quickly made it to the company that she would be auditing for the week. As she pulled her rental car to the suburban office park, she felt oddly confident about the job. "I'm hot. I'm smart, and I know these regulations better than the people who work here. This will be a breeze," she thought to herself. And she was largely right. At the company, she was greeted by a friendly in-house counsel, who gave her two stacks of large binders, and basically left her on her own while she poured through pages of company operations. The work was time consuming, and besides a quick sandwich ordered for lunch, Kelly was shocked how quickly she looked up and it was already 7 PM. Figuring it was probably time to leave, Kelly left the office park, got in her rental car, and drove to the hotel she was staying at. Although she had planned to work out when she got back, she found herself exhausted from the day of work, and ended up ordering chinese food. Her week in Dallas was similar to Groundhog's Day. Wake up, go to the office park, get to the hotel exhausted and fall asleep to HGTV in the background. By the time Friday rolled around, Kelly hadn't jogged once. She had thought about it, but didn't even make it down to the workout room at the hotel before reconsidering it. She wasn't crazy about treadmills, and the hotel, located near the airport, was surrounded by miles and miles of commercial and industrial buildings-- not really prime running spots. Kelly felt a bit bloated, which she chalked up to the constant take out food. "How is everyone in Texas not fat?" She wondered, given that even when she tried to eat healthy, there was nothing near her hotel that would be great for her. Thus, she ended up eating a lot of marginally decent food, lots of club sandwiches or larger than preferred servings of grilled chicken. While not a calorie bomb that a large burger would be, it also wasn't similar to the salads and healthy snacks she was used to at home. Walking back to the airport and getting ready to fly back to Chicago, Kelly hadn't gained any weight, but she knew she would have to eat better on next week's trip. Chapter 3 Throwing down roots October 29, 2009 Kelly sat in the airport exhausted, snacking on a pretzel that was too expensive, too bland, and too fatty, but she didn't care. It was the rare trip gone awry, after a storm in Atlanta knocked down part of the operations in their hub, the ripples caused the connecting flight that Kelly was taking back to Chicago to get cancelled, leaving her stuck in Denver after an engaging, but busy week of work in Cheyenne. This was Kelly's first nightmare travel situation, up until that point, she had been enjoying her weeks on the road. She was quickly racking up airline miles, something that she had previously been a bit oblivious to, but now counted down until her airline status would get triggered. Additionally, the mundaneness of this existence was addicting to her. She liked knowing the airport hotel in Louisville was going to be the same as Boston and the same as Fargo. If you looked at her instagram, you would see years of almost hipster-ish existence crossed with American Apparel style. A life of youthful casual enjoyment. However, this existence was now being morphed into her current life-- line by line review of company operations, rigid flight times and having her schedule at the whim of the airlines. Kelly's flight got back to Chicago at 2:35 am. Seeing O'Hare this empty was a rarity, but Brad was nice enough to pick her up from the airport, given that her landing time coincided with horrific surge prices on Lyft. When she got to his car, she threw her bag in the trunk, and then plopped down in the passenger seat, and let out a "fuckkkkkkkk that." "Ouch, that bad?" he asked. "Yes." Kelly, not complaining as much as venting went on, "My iPad died at 5:00 and every outlet in the terminal was packed with other people stranded. I've read every magazine you can think of this month, and I was surrounded by people who thought they were the only fucking people stranded by our flight. I just want to go to bed." "Fair enough, want me to cancel the showing tomorrow?" Brad was referring to their condo showing. They were still living in their apartment that they moved into when Kelly was in law school and Brad was in grad school. Now, with her doing legal work, and Brad settled in at one of the large banks in Chicago, their apartment was no longer quirky, it was becoming annoying. Things they put up with in college about their apartment, the iffy heating system, no closet space, a kitchen of mismatched cabinets that looked like it hadn't been touched since the 1920s, were no longer fun first-apartment things, they were suddenly drags on them. The time where they would get home from class on a Friday and drink cheap beer with friends in their living room at 3:00 PM had passed. These young professionals now wanted to flex their spending power, and the first thing that had to go was the cramped living space. "No...." Kelly kind of trailed off with a sigh, "I was looking forward to it all week. Let's still do it." The next day when she got up, Kelly slept in, cruising right through her usual Saturday morning jog. When she eventually woke up around 10, she made some coffee, and started checking Facebook, which had just let non-college students on. As she casually browsed what her friends were doing, she couldn't help but feel that her midsection was a bit bloated. This kind of alarmed her, since Kelly had assumed that the feeling was just the strain of the airport food she had eaten last night. However, this felt a bit different. She walked into the bathroom, and went to their digital scale. -- 134.3 -- "Huh" Kelly thought, not really freaking out, but slightly surprised. She knew she wasn't treating her body as well as she could be. The take-out in hotel rooms, the sandwhiches ordered in at lunch, the drinks on the plane. But she had basically trashed it some weekends in college where her drinking was comically over the top at times, and it had persevered. She looked at the mirror and saw her stomach. She could still see the outline of her hard abs, but maybe they looked a bit softer? If someone who was obese saw this scene, they would laugh at the site of this still knockout 20something looking at her body with a bit of dread, but Kelly was concerned. "I guess I'll have to actually start jogging every day again," she thought to herself. Her and Brad spent the afternoon looking at condos inside of the loop. Each of them had wanted to live downtown after being up by Loyola and Northwestern for so many years. Fall in Chicago was on full display, with leaves turning orange and Northface jackets being whipped out around the city. The condos that Brad and Kelly were looking at blew them away. They were not looking for a ton of space, but they did want something centrally located with a great view. What was bad for the country was great for them. With the massive recession, prices were depressed. Kelly knew how bad it was, with the amount of termination related work she was auditing. By the end of the day, they decided to settle on a 900 square foot one bedroom with a new kitchen, rooftop pool in the heart of the city. It also had a workout facility-- something that Kelly was now suddenly focused on again. February 15, 2010 "Why in the world does she live all the way out here?" Kelly thought as she navigated her BMW 328xi to the offramp in the far out exurb that her Mom now called home. The previous months had gone by in a blur for Kelly. Mostly because of her flying schedule, Kelly's weeks completely merged together, and her previous commitment to the increased workout regimen took a toll. As, "I'll start tomorrow" turned into next week, then next month, Kelly found herself getting deep into the new year with her habits relatively unchanged from before. Some jogging, but not the commitment she had told herself she would see. As such, Kelly had gradually floated up to 138 on the scale. This increased weight was met with some cognitive dissonance from Kelly. She would often tell herself that she was never going to stay in her college shape forever, and being 140 on her frame wasn't a huge deal. However, as she tried to find her Mom's new townhome, the larger-picture issues of herself were not pressing...she was instead trying to figure out the bombshell that she received mid-flight about her Mom's new fiance. Kelly's relationship with her parents was complicated, to say the least. She felt much more support from her mother, who had been her primary guardian after her parents split. While she would never mention it with anyone, even Brad, she felt genuinely harmed that she had only spoken with her Dad five or six times since college. Sure, she would see some money in her bank account to help with rent during college, and she knew he still took pride in her accomplishments, but that was just her Dad, aloof and somewhat distant. Kelly's Mom, on the other hand, was warm to her and a more present figure in her life. Because of this closeness, Kelly was thrown off completely when her Mom shot her an email about her new fiance, Carl. This surprised Kelly for more than a few reasons, the main one being that she didn't even know her Mom was seeing anyone. The other being that her Mom was, well, kind of boring, a fairly typical late 50s Chicagoan. When her Mom opened the door to let her in, Kelly was greeted with the same presence that she was used to. At 58, Kelly's Mom, Cathy, still looked pretty good. Thin and medium height, her Mom had aged in a way that made Kelly hopeful for her future. After a hug, she invited Kelly in, and they got to talking, "Thanks for getting off the road to see me!" her Mom joked. "Well with the news you've dropped on me, it seemed necessary!" "Yes! I've been dying to introduce you to Carl, he's in the kitchen," her Mom replied, escorting Kelly through their unit into the open concept kitchen, where Carl was getting the salmon he made out of the oven. Kelly was surprised with how great this person looked. Obviously also in his 50s, Carl gave off the appearance of a fit gym freak. Kelly's Dad was more bookish, and small, so this departure from her Mom's previous tastes was noticeable. Furthermore, once they started talking, he was loud and gregarious, quite different than her more cerebral father. Why am I making these comparisons? Kelly wondered throughout the dinner. It had been nearly 10 years since their divorce, and her Mom was entitled to enter back into the dating world. But still, something seemed off to her. When she got back to her condo that evening, she recounted the entire night with Brad while getting ready for bed. "Am I a freak for feeling uneasy about seeing my Mom and Carl so happy?" she asked. "I don't know, my parents are still together, but yeah, I would probably find it kind of weird to see either one of them with someone else," he responded while not so subtly checking Kelly out, who was in the process of undressing. He assumed that she had a healthy dinner, since her stomach looked a bit more paunchy than usual. Brad gave it no concern, however, since he knew Kelly would work it off. March 29, 2010 Kelly squirmed uncomfortably in the conference room chair. It was Monday morning, and Kelly was dealing with the aftereffects of a rowdy weekend in Vegas, where she had celebrated her one of her former sorority sisters' bachelorette party. Having arrived in Vegas on Wednesday and gotten back into Chicago late Sunday evening, Kelly still felt somewhat hungover from the weekend of overindulgence, and almost wanted to call in sick. However, her department had a meeting on Monday morning, and she had a flight to catch that afternoon-- so she would persevere. For the 10 girls who had made the trip, Vegas went like one would expect. They got into every club with no wait, and had no shortage of people wanting to buy them drinks. Despite this, Kelly wasn't feeling quite as up to it as one would have expected. Her previous attempts to get back to 130 lbs had been unsuccessful over the past month, and before the trip she weighed herself and came in 142. Sure, her 'slut clothes' as she sarcastically called them, still looked okay, but she didn't feel like herself. Each night she went out and thought her skin crept out a bit, and she had the outline of a fleshy belly. For the guys that they ran into, this was immaterial. Maybe she had fallen from a 10 to a 9, maybe. But at the same time, most girls would kill to be a 9 and nearly all guys considered her to be a knockout. But, as Kelly sat in this conference room trying to stay composed, she felt like she had paid a price. Beyond the hangover that she wasn't really able to shake, her skirt felt the most restrictive it had ever been. Despite arriving at work in less than stellar condition, Kelly was still a model employee. The partners at the firm had been getting great reviews back from the clients, and in their interactions with her, they left impressed with their young employee's mastery and attention to detail. Sure, maybe some of it was that she was easy to look at for older partners from an era that had thankfully passed, but most of it was her work performance. As the meeting got underway, George introduced everyone to their newest hire to those in the room. Most of the 9 or so people, Kelly had eventually got to know, despite her time spent on the road. "Everyone, I hope that you can all be friendly to Jeffrey, he's fresh from Yale, and, well, you all know how exclusive we are in hiring, so you can guess where his class rank was," which led to a slight chuckle from everyone in the room. While George continued go on a bit about what George would be doing at the firm, Kelly stared at the newest member of their department. He was surprisingly small, maybe 5'5 or 5'6, and very wirey. Kelly wasn't the kind of person who would be a jerk to someone solely because of their physical appearance, but he wasn't exactly the type of guy she would have been dating in high school or college. That being said, she was kind of excited to have someone her age working at the firm, which was kind of a geriatric club, with most of the staff closer to retirement than they were to her age. The rest of the meeting was a mundane overview of the new reimbursement policy, which Kelly told herself she would go over again while on a flight. All she could think about at the moment was getting something to eat or drink to help with this hangover--and getting out of the skirt that she was in. As the meeting wrapped up, she walked out and happened to be exiting next to Jeffrey, "So the travel go to you as well?" she asked while walking back to her office. He looked somewhat surprised that Kelly was talking to him, knowing she was so far out of his league and perhaps not used to the collegial atmosphere of coworkers, "umm, yeah haha, it seemed kind of fun." "When do you go to your first compliance assignment?" Kelly asked. "Tonight, actually, I'm flying out for Phoenix at 5:45" "No way! I'm going to San Francisco at 6:15-- want to share a cab?" Kelly asked. Even though all the employees got a reimbursement for their cab or train fares, she figured the new guy may want a friend. "Sure!" Jeffrey replied, "Are you going straight to O'Hare from here?" "Yep!" Kelly replied, "Bag is packed and in my office, let's meet out here at 3:30." "Sounds good," her new coworker replied. Jeffrey could not be more excited. He had no idea that this gorgeous, seemingly nice coworker was being this friendly. Never the most popular person in school, he had outworked everyone from his rural Iowa farmtown to get into Yale, yet even surrounded by other intellectuals, he always felt awkwardly out of place. Now, for some reason or another, this extremely hot coworker was at least being outgoing to him. At the very least, he wanted to learn more about her.