~BBW, ~BHM, ~~WG, Romance. On the rebound, a young lawyer finds he needs all his oratorical skills for his love life. You Are My Sunshine by Big Beautiful Dreamer Casual observation had shown me that a divorce is often followed by a significant weight loss. That observation had been confirmed in conversation with a few friends who had endured the process. Of course, I wasn’t divorced – not exactly – but we’d been dating for three years and living together for two, so it damn well felt like a divorce. And as had become increasingly common, the Internet was the old homewrecker. Colleen had met someone in one of those online roleplayer games, and next thing I knew, she was setting up housekeeping in Iowa with old “Oneyed Thundercat,” and I was grimly trash-bagging empty tampon boxes, well-worn belts and purses, and the other detritus of what used to be us. And darned if I didn’t bag up my appetite right along with the half-empty cologne bottles. And quickly discovered just why it was that the Divorce Diet is so successful. I was simply not hungry. And when my stomach growled, it seemed like a stupendous amount of effort just to prepare something, and even more effort to lift the fork or hold the sandwich, bite, chew, and swallow. Much, much more trouble than it was worth. A classic symptom of situational depression, of course, but did I know that – and would I have cared? Doubtful. So when my friend Ken hauled me along to a tailgating party and college basketball game one midwinter Saturday, I was down to a buck seventy-five on my five-eleven frame (when I’d been cohabitating happily, I usually packed close to two hundred), and hoping my team sweatshirt over a turtleneck hid my scarecrow appearance. I pasted on a smile, a fake-it-till-you-make-it expression, and occupied myself with snacking on munchies just to have something to do. Found myself in conversation with a tailgater next door, a woman named Erin, of average height and build, pleasant-looking, and extremely fluent in basketball. And when our conversation somehow switched to baseball, she was at least as fluent as I, and I considered myself a serious fan. “I’m not a total jock,” she said, blushing appealingly. “I just have a couple of brothers, that’s all. Rick,” she nodded toward a big handsome guy with prematurely gray hair, “and Joe,” who had Erin’s darker coloring and was busy at the grill. “Hey,” she looked straight into my eyes. “Help us eat some of this stuff. Joe always grills too much, and I’m tired of having to throw away half of it.” Ken, already nicely buzzed, laughingly shooed me over to the SUV one space over after making sure I had my ticket, and so I found myself tailgating with Erin, Rick, Joe, Rick’s wife, Joe’s girlfriend, and some frankly delicious-smelling stuff on the grill. I suppose it didn’t hurt that I’d also had a few. By the time the game started, I was warmly stuffed, my belly comfortably taut and pushing against my khakis, my head a little swimmy from the brews, and delighted to find that my seat was one row in front of Erin’s. One of her brothers kindly swapped seats, so that the enthusiastic Miss Warren was tantalizingly close. She did a lot more jumping around than I did, however; the first time I leaped to my feet to cheer a steal leading to a flamboyant dunk, my head spun and my full belly sloshed; I belched with embarrassing clarity; and I vowed to ease up until I’d digested. Somehow I got swept up in the Warrens’ daylong party, joining them for dinner and more drinks, as though I needed either, and Joe’s girlfriend, the designated driver, kindly decanting me back at my apartment that evening – but not before I’d gotten Erin’s contact information. I staggered up the stairs and reeled toward the bedroom. I was full to bursting, pretty close to drunk to boot, wiped out by the energy I’d expended, and even though it was only 8 o’cock … whoops, 8 o’clock … I was ready to crash. I tugged open my belt, surprised at the physical sensation of relief, a definite easing of pressure, that resulted. Let the khakis drop, followed by the underwear, and stepped out. Peeled off the sweatshirt and turtleneck. Dropped them onto the floor. Threw back the blanket and eased myself down onto the bed. Asleep before my head hit the pillow. When I awoke around 11 the next morning, I was mildly hungover, but I’d had worse. I was also … hungry. Whoa. I wasn’t necessarily hungry enough to mess around in the kitchen and actually prepare food, but the fetching and consuming of the stuff no longer seemed like too much of an ordeal. I threw on yesterday’s clothes (except for the underwear, I’m not quite that uncivilized), raked my hair into shape, and headed for the car, picking up the Sunday paper from the doorstep and rationalizing that plenty of other locals would be looking about as pretty that Sunday morning. The ones who weren’t in church. Which was enough of them that there was a wait at the Waffle House, but a waitress started me a ticket and brought me coffee in one of their thick enamel mugs. After a while, I took a seat at the counter and drained two more cups, a tall glass of ice water, a small glass of tomato juice, and (naturally) took a potty break, returning to find my breakfast waiting: two eggs scrambled with cheese, grits, raisin toast, bacon, and has browns scattered, smothered, and covered. Added hot sauce or butter where indicated and dug in, juggling breakfast and the sports section. I ate every scrap and, after paying, let my belt out a notch before heading out the door, whistling. Something had put me in a mighty fine mood and it wasn’t the home team’s win yesterday. I was also warmly stuffed, full up, and my stomach heavily contented, swollen and stretched with a big old breakfast. I spent the day cleaning house, pausing to make myself a thick sandwich and down it along with a pile of chips from a bag that had sat unopened in my pantry for a couple of months. Midafternoon, my heart pounding, I phoned Miss Warren. I thought I had a good opening line. “Sunday evenings tend to be kind of a letdown, don’t they?... How about you let me repay y’all’s hospitality by taking you to supper?... No, ma’am, my treat, I insist… Outstanding, I’ll meet you there.” And there she was in the tiny lobby of the Golden Corral, looking fresh and appealing in a dark blue sweater and boot-cut jeans. I had showered and shaved for the occasion and was wearing fresh khakis and a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up a turn or two. I expected conversation to be stilted, but she turned out to be a reference librarian and a peach of a conversationalist. We talked as easily as if we’d known each other forever and by the time I had cleared three heaping plates and was eyeing the dessert bar, we’d gotten around to exes. I was able to be casual about saying that Colleen had “met someone online,” and for the first time it didn’t make my throat catch. “Oh, I shouldn’t,” Erin said ritualistically, eyeing the chocolate chess pie. I rolled my eyes. “You should enjoy yourself, is what you should do,” and to my surprise, Erin nodded. “You know what, you’re right,” she said, and took a slice of pie, as well as half a piece of red velvet cake. I did the same and added a bowl of peach cobbler for good measure, even though I was already stuffed to the brim. My belly was tugging heavily at the sides, begging for air; bloated and tight, my stomach pressed urgently against my belt, which wanted letting out in the worst way. Once we’d parted in the parking lot, I watched her get in and drive off before climbing into my car. I had to let my belt out first. Two notches, okay. I belched a couple of times, then got in and drove home, happily drowsy and sated, rubbing my gorged belly as I went. “Hey… someone had a good old weekend,” my office mate drawled. We were both associates in a ten-lawyer firm, content to work hard and advance over time, not at all interested in sharking our way to the top in those cutthroat, eighty-hour-workweek firms described in John Grisham novels. “You look like you invested in canary stock, old cat,” he continued. His given name was John Harris, but he’d been called Duck since high school for his uncanny imitation of Donald … Duck, not Trump. I shrugged. “Fine, take the Fifth,” Duck said mildly. “I’m just glad to see you snapping out of your post-Colleen funk.” “True dat,” I replied. “Think I’ve been in mourning long enough, that’s all. A friend had an extra ticket to the game so I went to that. I had fun.” Duck said nothing, but he’s no dummy, and lawyers are good at inferences and deductions. Erin and I almost immediately began spending weekends together; even if I had to devote some of those hours to my laptop from time to time, it was nice to have someone in the kitchen again. And she had no interest in online anything outside of her work. She was open, not furtive; spontaneously giving, not grudging; spilling over with enjoyment in general; and altogether different. I found myself completely at ease, and neither of us was in any hurry, free of any need to rush anything. “Now I know you’re in love,” Duck announced one day in June as he watched me stand up and tug down my tie. I was finished with my last appointment of the day. “Huh. Evidence, please?” Duck smirked. “Puttin’ on a few pounds, ain’tcha?” His glance went from where I had undone my top collar button to the waistband of my khakis, which unmistakably tugged across a visibly thickening belly. I made a scoffing sound. “So? I dropped a ton of weight after Colleen bailed. Maybe I’m finally over her.” The fact that I only called Colleen her and not something else was prima facie evidence of my over-her-ness. “Right. That’s some kind of over, my friend.” And Duck slapped me on the shoulder and headed down the hall toward the conference room for a meeting with a client. That evening, after my workout, I stripped for my shower and paused long enough to actually look in the mirror. Sure enough. The scarecrow look was long gone and in its place was a little pot, of the kind most men sport by the time they’re 30, which I was. I hauled out the scale and stepped on. One-ninety-four, the digital numbers announced. “Wow, okay,” I said aloud, and turned on the shower. As I bathed, absently, I reflected on the situation. I was about back up to where I’d been pre-dumping. Had I had that little pot then? Colleen had never said a word about it, so it can’t have bothered her. If it had, I would absolutely have heard about it. Trust me. By the time I finished showering, I’d forgotten all about it. Duck made no more mention of it. I spent the weekend of the Fourth at Rick’s vacation home on the lake a couple of hours south, and my now-two hundred and six-pound frame elicited no comment from the assembly. I’d seen Erin unclothed quite a few times by now, enough to know that her own fair figure was a trifle padded, which knowledge was confirmed by the tankini she wore. Colleen had been a bundle of sticks, in keeping with what was supposed to be the fashion, and I’d never cared for it. It seemed all of a piece with her grudging personality and reluctant outlook. Erin was happily generous, spontaneously bountiful, and her appealing plumpness bore that out. Had she pouffed up a trifle since we’d been dating? Maybe, okay, probably. Did I care? Hush. Hell, I liked it. Especially in bed. A body with a little to it feels fabulous, something I had never been aware of before. I reveled in the squash of her hips, the velvety give of her gently cushioned tummy, the plump softness of her bottom, the dovelike feel of her little paws in my hands, the siren call of her rounding chin, the warm plenitude of the spill of her breasts as I cupped them. Heaven. And all of a piece with her outlook, which was naturally and unrestrainedly generous. There was no purpose or structure to the four-day weekend save for socializing, eating, drinking, eating, going out on the boat, eating, telling twice-told-tales from the family repertoire, eating, sunbathing, eating, napping, eating, doing old jigsaw puzzles … oh, and eating a little. I got to meet Erin’s parents, who were really nice. And Mrs. Warren was a terrific cook to boot. I seemed to have food in my hand or on my plate every waking minute. Good stuff, too: potato salad, brownies, coleslaw, hotdogs with grilled onions, chips, burgers, Key lime pie, home-churned ice cream. I grazed the livelong day and stuffed myself to the brim at actual meals, waddling away from the table in a pleasant stupor, cradling my swollen and aching belly and making straight for the bed, where Erin and I would drowsily cuddle, massaging each other’s gorged and bloated guts, savoring the warm tautness and familiar tug of fullness, sometimes dropping into sleep, sometimes taking a delightful detour. I had to admit that I was grunting a little – okay, a lot – as I squeezed my khakis closed the following Tuesday morning, tugged the belt into closing on the first hole, and wondered when my tie had gotten short, retying it so that it hung properly, even if there was hardly any tail behind. Duck was nursing a sunburn, and now that he knew I had a girlfriend, was enough of a gentleman not to tease me, so we eased back into the work week. But as soon as I wrapped up my efforts at the office that day, I hit up the mall and found a department store. The 32-waist khakis that had fit when I was dating Colleen and all but fallen off me in the aftermath were no longer just a little too snug after a big meal, they were entirely too small, and it was time to step up. I was a little dismayed to find that 36’s fit me better than 34’s, but whatever. Stocked up on trousers and belts, bought a couple of ties and shirts for good measure, managed not to wince at the total. And my trusty scale informed me that I was now hauling two-twelve, anyway, so it was about time for clothes that fit better. That Friday, though, I felt compelled to bring it up. I managed to wait until afterward, when we lay sweatily in each other’s arms, and her hand rested on my thickening torso. “I’m … um … putting on a few pounds.” A few? Try thirty or so. “Mmm.” Drowsy acknowledgement from the party to my left. “Gettin’ a pot here.” “Mmm?” “Does it … bother you?” “Mm-mm.” “Was that a no?” “That was – ohh – a no,” she agreed, through a yawn. “I’m adding the ell bee’s too.” I patted her bare rump. “Just right. You are gorgeous, Miss Thing.” She giggled. But what was seemingly all right in bed post-coitus was less all right in the cold light of day. Erin started losing weight, picking at her food, the allover padding melting away, her tummy shrinking visibly. And Erin, my generous, open, bounteous girl, was buttoned up tight on the issue. Didn’t want to talk about it. If I brought it up, I got pursed-lipped, unmistakable Don’t Go There signals. Check. Feeling self-conscious, I stepped up my workouts and cut back on my intake, which was easy to do since Erin was eating so much less. Appetizers and desserts vanished from our dinners out, side orders of fries were ignored, and I slid from 212 back to 200. The contagious good cheer and life-is-a-fun-gift outlook I’d caught from Erin vanished right along with those extra pounds. Did I believe the whole fat-people-are-jolly crock? Let the descriptive demonstrate just how I felt about that. My Erin was naturally open-hearted, warm, giving, and cheerful, and her lovely personality had nothing to do with her jeans size. I don’t know what had put her in a funk and caused her to start vanishing, since I couldn’t pry it out of her, but I knew what was making me down in the dumps. It wasn’t my shrinking waistline, either. I was gloomy because something was making Erin miserable, and I couldn’t make it better. I laid my plans. Checked them twice. Persuaded Erin that since it was now August, we’d been a couple for six months, and that merited a celebration. And off we went to a nice restaurant. I insisted on ordering a full bottle of wine, trusting that it was unlike her to let it go to waste. We toasted ourselves, and she at least smiled, a real smile, eyes included. We drank our wine. I refilled our glasses. And when the appetizer came, she actually ate some. The food was extraordinarily good here, and very well presented, and we both cleaned our plates of the large portions. The bread basket got its share of attention. And we both did our share in polishing off a large apple crumb tart a la mode. It wasn’t until coffee that I brought up the subject at hand. “Erin. My love. Why are you making yourself so sad?” Tears puddled instantly in her eyes. “One of the other librarians,” she snuffled. “She’s catty, that’s all.” I gave her my best Really? look. “And you’re letting a catty coworker tear down your beauty, your happiness, the way you love life, because she’s so small-minded that she can’t sleep nights knowing that somewhere there’s a woman who isn’t fretting over her weight the way she chooses to do?” I stifled a belch. The trap had been a good one, and I’d fallen into it as well, slightly buzzed and achingly stuffed. I’d worn the 32-waist khakis, and a belly full of good food, distended and taut, strained the hook and fought against the snug waist. Erin was silent a long minute, fiddling with her coffee. “Jake. Hic! Ooh. Do you think I’m pretty?” She hiccupped again and again tears pooled in her eyes. “My love,” I said softly, “I beg your forgiveness for not telling you nearly enough what I think of your staggering beauty. I find every inch of you gorgeous. I love your alabaster flesh, your rosy lips, your curves, your bounty, all of a piece with the most open, giving, and uncomplicated happy nature I have ever encountered.” I stifled a belch with some little difficulty. “I’m only sorry I don’t have the eloquence to do justice to how pretty you are.” Sniff. “What if she’s right? Hic.” “Error of law, not an error of fact,” I said promptly. “Urp. Easy enough to disprove. What did Miss Coworker say? To the best of your recollection.” “She said… ‘It’s lucky for you that your young man likes fat girls.’ ” I belched again. “Objection,” I replied. “Speculation. Calls for facts not in evidence.” I asked the hovering waiter to bring me brandy and Erin an Irish Coffee. “Miss Coworker has never met me, and knows about me only by hearsay.” “Hearsay?” Erin looked puzzled. “She knows only what you’ve told her,” I explained. “She has no first-hand evidence for support her statement. Moreover: that I am your ‘young man’ has already been stipulated. That I like ‘fat girls,’ ” here I again made air quotes, “is entirely a matter of opinion, not fact. As it happens, I find you absolutely beautiful and would do so at any size. Since you ask specifically, I will tell you specifically that yes, your young man finds your avoirdupois especially appealing. You are a woman, you look like a woman, and you feel like a woman, and I’m not sure you have any idea just how appealing your womanhood is to this poor man, so can we please please go home right now because if I don’t get you into bed soon I might just die.” Well, it was pretty close to right now. Afterward, without a word, Erin got up and padded naked into the kitchen. She came back with two bowls heaped with ice cream and smothered in chocolate sauce. My favorite weakness. “You’re a very convincing persuader, you know that?” she said through a mouthful of ice cream. Her bowl contained less than mine, but nonetheless, I, at least, was still full to bursting from the huge dinner and she probably was too – and she was going at the ice cream full throttle. She emptied hers, then took the spoon from me to feed me the rest of mine, an old favorite bedtime activity she absurdly enjoyed. I was getting sleepy. I grunted in agreement at her assessment of my verbal skills and let her feed me the rest of the bowl’s worth of sweet sin. Delicious. I licked my lips and felt my eyelids slamming shut. Oh, my stomach ached – warm, full, satisfyingly heavy. There was something inexplicably pleasing in the ache, in the tug and stretch of gut, in having filled and overfilled the stomach, a primal need. Of course it wasn’t as simple as all that – and we had some long and serious talks over the next weeks – but slowly, like the sun from behind the clouds, Erin returned. The woman I loved was back! I felt like shouting from the rooftops. I made more of a point of putting my thoughts into words and making sure she knew how beautiful I found her, and we both stopped miserably salad-ing our way through life. Deprivation is no way to live. The pounds came back and brought friends, and I could give a toss. We were both deeply, solidly in love, and we bloomed in each other’s sunshine. As soon as we got through the door into her brother Rick’s house, where her clan was gathered for Thanksgiving dinner, Erin spilled the news, waving her left hand around, lit up with happiness. Predictably, Wedding Talk dominated the conversation that followed, and I was as awash in pleased anticipation as Erin was. And since Erin’s mom was mostly in charge of the cooking, I was anticipating a heck of a dinner too. Which it was. We all piled our plates, emptying them slowly, savoring every delicious mouthful. White and dark meat, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, squash casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, crescent rolls, plum compote, corn, creamed peas, a little more gravy. Conversation rose and fell as plates rapidly emptied, nearly all of it, of course, centering on the wedding. “Small,” Erin said firmly. “Very, very small. We want to have it at the lake house, just the family.” My family was scattered across the country and kept in touch by occasional email, friendly, but not all that close. They likely wouldn’t be inclined to attend, which was fine with me. Erin’s family was now my family. And I was ready for more. More time with our family, more of Erin's sunshine, more dinner. I let my belt out a notch and took another round of everything, including a big mound of stuffing, which was especially good. More gravy and I dug in, savoring the creamy sweet tangy smooth mouthfuls as sensation followed sensation. I was really getting full. My stomach was stuffed to capacity and my waistband was starting to pinch. I discreetly wiggled a thumb along the waistband, trying to make some more room. As I looked down I could see my belly starting to bulge over the now-too-snug waistband (38, thank you very much), distending my shirt. Everything was so delicious, though, that I wanted another bite, another, another. I knew I was full, but just had to keep eating, it was so good. Potatoes and gravy slid down, another mouthful of the creamed peas, a smooth cold slick of cranberry sauce, the rich flakiness of a buttered crescent roll. By the time everyone had filed his or her token protests about just-family-at-the-lake-house and we had agreed on the first weekend in June, fat wedges of pumpkin pie were being handed around, piled with whipped cream. Ohhh. I was gorged, I was achingly stuffed, I was about to burst, I was too full to breathe, and the pie slid down so smoothly, no trouble at all, even as I stifled a monstrous belch. Finally, hours later, days, weeks later, I hauled myself up from a sitting position and discovered I was much, much too full to stand up. The firm swell of a hugely distended belly, stretched and taut, pinned me down. Without a word, I staggered dopily from the room and followed Erin, whose own tummy was rosy and bloated, protruding roundly outward above her slacks and peeping from beneath the straining hem of her shirt. In slow, cautious moves we dragged ourselves puffing up the stairs and stumbled bearlike into the spare bedroom. Closed the door. Tugged off our clothes. Slowly and carefully sank into the bed and lay there, splayed out like casualties of battle, aching and hugely replete, drowsily satisfied. “I can’t—hic—believe you just proposed. Hic.” “Not just,” I said, still puffing from the climb. “Been an hour or two.” I belched. “Ow. What a feast.” “Good stuff,” Erin agreed. “Hic! Oh…” she yawned hugely. “Speaking of stuffed.” She slowly massaged her bared midriff. I watched in fascination. Her tummy was distended and firm and glowing. Swollen full of good food and wine, it seemed to appeal to all my senses at once. “Promise me,” I grunted, my eyelids fluttering heavily. “Anything,” she mumbled, yawning. “I love all of you … and I love the way you radiate happiness. Don’t ever … ever …. Give in to the cats of the world.” Erin plucked at my wrist and laid my hand atop her distended belly, then laid a hand of her own on mine, firm and taut and warm. “Very well—hic—counselor,” Erin said. “I will so stipulate.” Gently I began to massage her tummy. Erin reciprocated. Half-asleep, needing no words, we tended our own happiness, the betrothal a fragile and lovely intimacy between us, until we went to sleep.