EAT TO LIVE AND LIVE TO EAT
Tanya is so fat that she might die. After a near miss she vows to lose weight. She does everything the nurses tell her to do, eats right and gets exercise. Even her husband is trying to help her. But nothing seems to work. Can she work out why she keeps gaining weight? And will she be able to accept the truth when she sees it? If she can’t then she will end up eating herself to death… or worse.
Tanya perched on the edge of the bed and looked at her reflection in the mirror. There was no getting away from it, she was a big girl. Her legs looked like fleshy tree trunks and her belly like a leather bean bag. When she laughed the flesh on her arms and face would ripple and shake until long after she’d fallen silent. She brushed a strand of long, matted, dark hair out of her face and forced a smile.
Rob always said, a smiles the best way to start the day. Especially when you’re down in the dumps.
After a few moments of watching herself, smiling at herself, she actually thought she felt a little better and it was time to consider the next stage of her morning ritual. On the table beside her there was a large glass of chocolate brown milkshake. Rob called it a health shake but it was really a bulking agent designed for professional bodybuilders. Her mouth was sticky and dry with anticipation. She closed her eyes and picked up the glass, it was cold in her hands, and even colder in her mouth, but she gulped and gulped until all that was left was the gritty after taste.
She turned to see Rob pushing open her bedroom door with his back. He turned around and revealed a tray piled high with all her favourite breakfast foods, bacon, sausage, eggs, beans, mushrooms, toast and chocolate Pop Tarts. Despite the horrid tasting milkshake her mouth was watering as she smelt it all.
‘What are you doing out of bed?’ he asked.
‘I just needed a stretch,’ she replied and turned to get back under the covers.
Rob was a small, stocky man with balding grey hair which he always kept shaved. He was ten years older than Tanya, which made him forty-five, yet he still hadn’t given up wearing shorts. In fact, she could hardly remember a time when she’d seen him in anything else.
Maybe on our wedding day, she thought with a smile.
‘There you go, you get that down you,’ he said as he placed the tray on her lap. ‘Coffee okay?’
‘Yes please,’ she replied, nodding, already half-way through a sausage and holding a slice of toast in her hand ready to follow it down.
Rob was back with her coffee in double-quick time, he placed it on the table beside her and sat at the end of the bed to watch her eat. She used to find it strange that he got so much pleasure out of watching her stuff her face but she’d never questioned him about it. After being married to someone for nearly six years you got used to their little quirks. Than and, a few years ago, when she’d still been able to do housework, she’d found the videos and magazines that he kept hidden in his office. Shortly after that he’d suggested the daily health shakes.
She was half-way through her third egg when she tried to lift her left arm and scratch an itch on her chest. But her arm didn’t move, it felt heavy and numb. Her head started feel light and for a second she thought she might float away. Rob would later tell her that egg had fallen out of her mouth and that her plate had slid off her lap onto the floor. She wasn’t aware of either of these things. All she knew was that her heart felt like it was going to burst out of her chest and her ears were ringing. Then there was only darkness.
Tanya was woken by an electronic beeping at the side of her head. When she opened her eyes fluorescent light stung her pupils and made her head ache. Wherever she was it smelt like disinfectant and piss. Beyond the plastic, shower curtain wall, the rest of the world sounded like a distant murmur. For a moment she didn’t wonder where she was, only why Rob wasn’t there with her.
She tried to sit up but there were metal bars digging into her hips and the movement made her feel nauseous.
Looking towards her feet she saw suction cups on her chest and needles jutting out of her arms. She’d seen enough episodes of Casualty and E.R. to know that she was in a hospital, but for the life of her she couldn’t remember why. She started to feel dizzy and felt sweat pooling in the crevices between her breasts and her arm pits. Why wasn’t Rob there to explain it to her?
The walls were starting to spin and the voices outside her plastic tent grew ever more indistinct. The edge of her vision started to blur and she wondered if there was a panic button anywhere.
She swallowed and her mouth was dry.
There were a million tiny, pinprick holes, in the ceiling and as she stared at them they seemed to grow. They grew bigger and bigger until she started to think they might consume her. Somewhere, in the deep recess of her mind, she understood that she’d been drugged but that didn’t matter now. The world continued its erratic spin and the ceiling engulfed her. She fell asleep.
Rob smiled at her as he stepped into the cubicle and slid the curtain closed behind him. She’d just finished eating the tasteless boiled chicken that passed for dinner and was still famished. Without taking his jacket off, he sat on the seat beside her and pulled out a KFC family feast. She licked her lips and tasted the salty beads of sweat that had already started to form there. So far that week he’d managed to sneak in: two double-whoppers, a fully loaded stuffed crust pizza, Krispy Kreme’s and a large tub of Hagaan Daaz. He pulled back the bucket lid, the heavenly smell of fried chicken floated towards her. She felt like she might cry.
‘What’s wrong hon?’ he asked when she didn’t reach for the chicken.
She wanted to stick her head in the tub and gorge herself like a pig. Instead, she shook her head and, with great reluctance, turned away. ‘I can’t.’
His forehead crinkled and he paused for a moment before saying: ‘what do you mean, you can’t?’
She still couldn’t bring herself to look at the chicken so spoke facing away from him. ‘The doctor said I need to lose some weight.’
‘Oh that’s ridiculous Tanya. There’s nothing wrong with how you look.’
‘It’s not about how I look,’ she waited for him to say something but he didn’t.
‘How much weight do they want you to lose?’ he asked eventually. He sounded bruised and distant.
She swallowed and could taste the wonderful aroma of fried chicken. ‘A hundred pounds?’
She closed her eyes and waited for him to answer. When, after a few moments, he hadn’t said anything, she opened her eyes and saw him standing. Her mouth fell open like a fish. He took a step towards the curtain and then, as if remembering she was still there, turned back to look at her.
‘I’ve got to go.’ His tone was flat and unreadable.
He pulled the curtain closed behind him and she heard the sound of his shoes, squeaking on the floor, growing distant and then vanishing all together. Twenty minutes later her cheeks were streaked with grease and the bucket of chicken was empty. Her diet would have to wait until tomorrow.
Eat right and take lots of exercise, according to Nurse Carly these were the things that would help Tanya lose the hundred pounds that would save her life. According to Nurse Carly, a chirpy, bleached blond, thirty-something, sex was excellent exercise. If, you’re doing it right.
When the Nurse had arrived that morning Tanya had felt like biting her perky little head off. She’d been awake all night wondering if she would ever see Rob again; at about four in the morning she’d even snuck out of bed and stumbled across the ward to a pay phone. He hadn’t answered and she’d spent the rest of the night wondering if it was because of the time or because he knew it was her calling.
Carly forced her to get up, get changed and, oh the humiliation, get in a wheel chair so she could be taken to the gym. All the while Carly had nattered on, seeming to vocalise whatever random thought happened to pop into her head.
And now they were in the gym, only it wasn’t really a gym. Oh it had all the same equipment as a gym – treadmills, bikes and a weight bench – but the people using it were stroke and car crashes victims; people learning to walk again not commuters putting in a quick half-hour before work. Tanya wanted to melt into the ground.
‘Okay Tanya, are you ready to get started?’ she asked, almost bouncing on the spot.
Tanya grimaced. ‘You want me to exercise?’
‘You bet I do. Now come on, up you get, lets see what you can do.’
Her enthusiasm was not infectious.
‘Couldn’t I just get my stomach stapled?’ she asked and immediately wondered, who would pay for that now Rob’s gone!
‘Doesn’t work I’m afraid. The only thing for it is good, honest exercise, and lots of it.’ Carly held out her hands and Tanya looked at them with suspicion. ‘Promise I won’t bite,’ she said with a smile that showed off her dazzling white teeth.
Reluctantly Tanya took the offered hands but had to do most of the hard work – getting out of the chair – herself as there was no-way the tiny Nurse could possibly support her.
‘Well done.’ It didn’t sound patronising but Tanya looked away all the same. ‘Right, lets get started. We’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re going to get you down to a size fourteen.’
Tanya shocked herself when she snorted, ‘yeah right.’
‘Seriously,’ replied the Nurse sincerely, ‘if you put in the effort then there’s no reason why you couldn’t be down to that by Christmas.’
Tanya wasn’t sure if she believed Carly but she followed her around the gym while the Nurse patiently explained the various pieces of equipment and then into her office where she explained the diet plan. The whole thing made Tanya’s head spin and, although she hadn’t actually done any exercise, by the time she got back to her cubicle, she was exhausted.
After dinner she lay on her bed watching the television, too tired to move or even wonder if Rob might call or visit. He didn’t. When she fell asleep she dreamed of their first date, when he’d taken her to an all you can eat Chinese buffet.
The next day she couldn’t face the idea of going back to the gym, so, when Carly arrived to collect her, she said she wasn’t feeling well. Carly nodded and said she hoped she’d feel better soon, but there was none of the pep she’d displayed yesterday. Tanya was convinced that the Nurse knew she was faking but she didn’t care.
She spent the whole day in bed thinking about Rob. Every footstep she heard, every phone that was answered, was him. When an orderly pulled back the curtain to deliver her lunch she almost fell out of bed. But he didn’t come, he didn’t call, he didn’t even send a card. By the time the orderly arrived with her dinner she’d accepted that she’d probably never see him again. She was going to have to get used to being alone. Thin but alone. She wondered if it was worth it.
She did receive one visitor that evening, to her surprise Nurse Carly arrived at quarter to seven with a big bunch of flowers. Despite the rotten mood she was in Tanya felt touched by the generosity of the nurse who was willing to go the extra mile and visit on her own time. She didn’t stay for long and they kept things reasonably formal but it left Tanya feeling better. Once Carly had gone she lay on her bed wondering what she was going to do if Rob really didn’t come back. Were there such things as half-way houses for fatties? She fell asleep with a smile on her face.
When Carly arrived the following morning she was sitting in the chair by her bed, fully dressed and ready to go. She was a bundle of nerves as they walked into the gym, she hadn’t done any real exercise since school – before she’d learned to forge her mothers handwriting.
First she was on the treadmill, which was relatively straight forward, and then the cross-trainer which she almost fell off twice. They broke for lunch at twelve and ate together, sitting outside the hospital, looking onto the main road and talking. Tanya had never really had a friend before and wondered if that was what they were becoming. Then at one o-clock Carly announced she had another appointment and Tanya was cruelly reminded that she was just another patient.
She made her way back to her cubicle and lay on her bed, exhausted but happy. She didn’t manage to stay awake long enough to turn on the television and wasn’t woken again until the porter arrived with her dinner at six.
A week later Tanya still hadn’t heard from Rob and she was facing her first weigh in. If it all went well, Carly told her, then she could go home. What Carly didn’t tell her was where home was now. She didn’t have any money of her own, so, if Rob really wasn’t coming back, she either had to swallow her pride and phone her mother or find a nice big shop doorway and a few dozen cardboard boxes.
She stopped outside Carly’s office and knocked on the door. There was no answer.
As she stood there she began to notice that the gym was quieter than usual and when she turned to see why she realised that it was empty. Her heart lurched in her chest and for a moment her legs felt numb. She wondered where everyone had gone and started to panic as she considered the possibilities.
She spun around as she heard the familiar voice and saw him standing by the door.
‘Rob,’ she gasped, her voice was weak and crackled. She wanted to ask him where he’d been for the last week, why he hadn’t called or visited. She wanted to be angry, to shout and to punish him for letting her to go through it all alone. Instead she fell silent.
After a few moments he took a tentative step forward, not taking his eyes off her, wondering if she would tell him to stop. She didn’t. He walked to the middle of the room and then, finally, she held up a hand and he froze.
‘What are you doing here Rob?’ she asked. Sounding, if not feeling, a little more confident.
She wanted him to drop his head in shame but he just kept looking at her and asked: ‘Tanya, can you forgive me?’
Later on she might remember that he didn’t actually say, I’m sorry, but right then, right there in the hospital gymnasium, all she could do was nod dumbly.
She could feel tears building behind her eyes and, rather than say anything, she crossed the room and took him in her arms. Pulling him into her and feeling his hands find her. Crying silent tears into his shoulder and willing herself to believe that everything was going to be alright.
Two hours later Tanya was sitting in the back of Rob’s car, waving to Carly, as they drove away from the hospital.
Tanya opened her eyes. The curtains glowed orange with the light from outside but the room itself was still dark. She smiled, closed her eyes and arched her back. The muscles in her body clicked and groaned as the stiffness of sleep left them. She opened her eyes and switched on the bedside light, hoping to see a glass of water. Instead she found a large glass of chocolate brown milkshake. Her mind reeled, for a moment, she was convinced that the last two-weeks had been nothing more than a twenty minute dream. All the hard work had been imagined and she was still eating her way to an early grave.
She realised that she was panting and forced herself to calm down. In her head she repeated, it’s only slim fast, it’s only slim fast, over and over again, until the panic was gone and she could pick up the glass. It had all been Rob’s idea:
Since returning from the hospital he’d still insisted on cooking for her and wouldn’t let her go within a metre of the kitchen. She would laugh and tell him he was being silly but inside it made her feel warm and cared for. On the outside she wore a beaming smile that said, my husband loves me. However, having eaten salad for the fifth meal in a row, she was beginning to suspect it was the only healthy food he knew. She hadn’t wanted to hurt his feelings so, rather than ask if he could make something else, she suggested instead that he let her cook for them.
‘But I love cooking for you Tan,’ he’d said as they sat in the living room, eating in front of the television.
‘I know you do Rob it’s just…’ she trailed off, not really sure how to say what needed to be said.
‘What? It’s just what?’
She forced down a piece of hard carrot that had become stuck in her, suddenly dry, throat and said: ‘well, do you think we could, maybe, have something without salad?’
His face was motionless.
‘Maybe some boiled veg?’ she suggested hopefully.
His shoulders dropped and he bowed his head as he sighed. ‘I’m sorry love. I guess I’m just having trouble getting used to all this.’ He looked up at her with a joking smile on his face. ‘Guess I’m not quite the cook I thought, hey?’
‘Oh no, don’t be silly Rob. You’re a wonderful cook. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything.’
‘Now whose being silly, of course you should have said something.’ He took a bite of his own salad. ‘I’m going shopping tomorrow, I’ll see what I can find.’
They went back to watching television and she’d almost forgotten the conversation, but then, the following day, he’d come back from the shops with cans of powdered slim fast.
‘I just got the milkshakes for now,’ he said and held a box of chocolate flavour powder, ‘but they’ve got soups as well so I can pick some of those up tomorrow.’
She hadn’t know what to say but was so overcome with happiness that she felt like crying. She’d taken him in her arms and held tight.
Back in her bed, Tanya shook away the memory. She picked up the glass and drank the brown shake as quickly as she could. She’d been surprised to find that it shared the gritty texture of the bulking powder but there was an obvious explanation. They were both milkshakes made from powder after all. With the glass empty she realised she was still thirsty, she pushed back the covers and heaved herself out of bed.
Once she got downstairs she could hear banging and clanking in the basement so she knew Rob was home. Since her return he’d been spending more and more time down there and she had no idea what he was up to. The noises reminded her of a building site but she couldn’t go down to see because he’d changed the locks. When she asked him what he was building he told her she was being silly; he wasn’t building anything, just doing some refurbishment.
She knocked on the door and waited but two minutes later he hadn’t answered and the noise continued. She knocked again. ‘Rob?’
Still no reply, he probably couldn’t hear her over the noise.
‘Rob!’ she called, louder this time. Again though there was no reply and she decided that enough was enough. Whatever he was doing was obviously important and she would see him at lunch time when he brought her a bowl of delicious – but oh so gritty – weight watchers soup. She turned to walk into the living room but paused when the noise downstairs abruptly stopped. She heard the clomping of his boots up the steps and then, behind the newly refurbished door, she heard him opening locks. Finally the door opened and his shiny head appeared.
‘Is that the front door?’ he asked, still wearing safety goggles.
She turned around, ‘no, I just wanted to say good morning.’
‘Oh. Okay, well morning.’
She leaned down for a kiss but he’d already turned away and didn’t notice.
‘If you hear the door can you let me know?’
‘Sure,’ she said straightening herself up. He closed the door behind him and started turning locks. Tanya turned back towards the sitting room and went inside to watch television.
Two weeks later Tanya was sat in an uncomfortable chair, in a noisy reception room, waiting to see Carly for her first weigh in. She was feeling cautiously optimistic about it; she’d stuck religiously to the slim fast plan – Rob had helped a lot with that – and even taken a brisk stroll most evenings after dinner. She was expecting a good result but she had too much on her mind to be happy. She only saw Rob at meal times now – he was always punctual; breakfast at nine, lunch at one and dinner at 6, then a light snack before bed. She was convinced he was up to something in the basement; he spent all his time down there, strange packages kept arriving in the post and then there was the noise! He hadn’t even come out to say goodbye or wish her luck when the taxi had arrived.
‘Mrs Chambers?’ asked a small voice from across the room.
She turned and saw a young girl, plump and plain, standing at the reception desk. ‘I’m here,’ she said.
‘The nurse is ready for you now,’ said the girl who then turned away and left Tanya alone to struggle out of the chair.
Tanya stood, stripped to her off-white cotton underclothes, on the weighing scales, while Carly moved the weights and jotted down notes on her clipboard.
‘How have you been finding it?’ she asked without looking up.
‘Oh its been great,’ Tanya beamed, ‘really it has. I started the slim fast plan.’ Carly looked up and Tanya felt herself blush. ‘I know, I know you said I shouldn’t but I think it really helped. I have two a day and a proper dinner, I don’t even feel hungry.’
Carly shook her head and returned to her notes, ‘and exercise?’
‘I’ve been out walking every night after dinner,’ she said, smiling like a school girl.
‘Really?’ asked Carly and Tanya could hear the disbelief in her voice.
‘Well, almost every night.’
‘And no takeaways or microwave meals?’
‘You’re sure?’ she asked. Tanya didn’t like the tone.
‘Is something wrong?’ she asked.
Carly glared at her notes as if she was afraid to meet Tanya’s gaze, her brow creased and her mouth puckered thoughtfully before she finally looked up. ‘Tanya, you’ve gained nearly fifty-pounds.’
The room fell silent. Fifty pounds. She couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t find a place for the information in her mind, it just didn’t fit in with all the work she knew she’d been doing.
‘Tanya?’ asked Carly after a moment and she realised she hadn’t said anything yet. ‘Are you okay Tanya?’
‘I don’t…’ she trailed off, it just didn’t make sense. ‘I don’t understand. I’ve been so… I’ve tried so hard.’ Even to herself she sounded hollow and distant.
She felt Carly take her hand but was barely aware of the nurse guiding her off the scales and helping her onto the couch in the corner. ‘It’s okay Tanya,’ she said and Tanya could feel a hand on her arm. ‘We can work on it.’
Tanya shook her head and the tears in her eyes obscured her vision so the room seemed to be under water. ‘What’s the point? I tried as hard as I could. I did everything you told me and I failed.’
‘We can still do it Tanya.’
She sniffed back more tears. ‘There’s nothing else I can do. Unless you want me to starve myself?’ she suggested and surprised herself with a snort of laughter.
‘Of course I don’t want you to starve yourself.’
They sat for a moment in silence, Carly continued to stroke her arm and hold her hand.
‘Has Rob been helping?’ asked Carly, almost absently.
‘I suppose,’ she replied, nodding. ‘He’s got some project he’s working on so I hardly ever see him but he still makes all my meals. Even the slim…’ she trailed off as a horrifying thought began to reveal itself to her and her whole body tensed up.
Tanya looked at her. ‘I have to go.’ She stood up and Carly’s hands fell from her arm. She walked towards the door and had her hand on the handle when she heard Carly’s voice saying something. She turned and saw the nurse holding her clothes up. Realising that she was still in her underwear she quickly let go of the handle and went to get dressed.
When she eventually got home she was feeling somewhat dazed, she’d been running on auto-pilot for the best part of an hour. As she got out of the taxi she noticed that Rob’s car had gone but she didn’t notice that the front door was unlocked. She pushed the door closed behind her and took the plastic bag into the kitchen.
She opened the bag and took out a single can of banana slim fast milkshake. She placed it on the work surface and looked at it for a moment. After a deep, calming, breath she picked up the can and slipped the nail of her index finger under the ring pull. She closed her eyes and lifted, it gave way with a hollow metallic crack, the hiss she usually associated with opening a can was entirely absent. She lifted the can to her nose and smelt the familiar fake banana flavour. She licked her dry lips and tilted the bottom of the can upwards. The thin yellow liquid seeped around her teeth, pooled under her tongue and washed across her taste buds.
Without knowing when she’d started, she realised that she was crying again.
She held the milkshake in her mouth, a yellow pool that just sat there while she summoned the courage to swallow. In three violent gulps the milkshake slid down her throat and into her stomach. Gingerly she began to explore her mouth with her tongue. She inspected the gaps and crevices, searching for the merest sign but finding none. The milkshake was all gone and there was no gritty after taste.
She knew then that Rob was doing something to her slim fast.
She started flinging open cupboard doors – tears streaming down her face – searching for the evidence. She almost hoped she wouldn’t find it, almost prayed there was some other answer, but eventually she did. Hidden under the sink, amongst the bleach and cleaning products, there, were four giant cans of the weight gain formula designed for professional body builders. Given to her in slim fast of all things.
She slumped to the floor, the irony of it all was enough to dry her tears and she found herself cradling a can of the powder in her arms. Laughing and snorting. Rocking backwards and forwards. Wondering what the hell was going on.
She felt herself drifting towards sleep. Half-formed images floated through her mind and she seemed to be on the verge of some awesome revelation. Then, suddenly, her whole body jerked and for a moment she seemed to be falling. When she opened her eyes she realised that if she was going to do anything she should do it now, before Rob came home.
She dropped the tin on the floor; it rolled across the Lino and didn’t stop until it ran into a cupboard on the other side of the room. She reached up and took hold of the work surface. With a mighty heave she pushed with her feet and pulled with her arms; slowly she rose to stand. Feeling light headed but determined she left the kitchen and went to his room.
She’d never liked his study and especially hated to be in there on her own, it always felt like she was being watched. She crossed the thick, cream coloured, carpet, not noticing or caring if her shoes left a stain. His desk was beneath the back window and he had a good view of their small, neat, garden. She pulled open the top drawer and found the spare key – labelled for his convenience – in the left hand pocket of his desk tidy. She picked it up and left the room as quickly as possible.
She stopped outside the basement door and forced herself to calm down, she was rushing around like a woman half her size and she had a weak heart too. The last thing she wanted was another heart attack and would Rob even bother to call an ambulance if he discovered she’d been snooping? She shook her head, of course he would. A part of her mind was already trying to convince her that she’d blown the slim fast/weight gain powder out of proportion. She unlocked the door.
It smelt of paint and hospitals. The carpet they’d had put in was gone, replaced with paper white Lino. She switched on the light and a dozen halogen bulbs flickered into life to illuminate her route down the stairs. She wondered, momentarily, if he would have installed an alarm, but even if he had she wouldn’t know what to look for nor how to deactivate it if she found it. She began her descent.
After only three steps her whole body went rigid and she froze on the spot; there was something in the wall and it was humming. Suddenly she was convinced that Rob was still home and he was going to catch her. He’d already shown himself prepared to risk her life by force feeding, she didn’t like to think what he was capable of doing when angry. It wasn’t until a cool breeze struck her face that she realised the hum was air conditioning, another new feature. Relieved but more cautious, she continued on her not so merry way.
The stairs opened into a large room with – for a basement – unusually high ceilings. The smell of disinfectant was even stronger here. There was a stack of paint cans to her left but she didn’t notice them, her attention was too fixed on the giant glass tank that dominated the room. She walked around the cube and touched a hand to one of the sides. With enough water it would make a spectacular aquarium. She wondered if that was what Rob was building but she didn’t think so. Through the tank she saw the paint cans by the stairs, there were shelf brackets on the walls, but no shelves, and in the ceiling above the tank there were two holes, other than these things the basement was empty.
Something about the place was oppressive but she walked around the tank once more before accepting that there were no answers here; just more questions. Feeling deflated she walked back up the stairs and locked the basement behind her. After putting the keys back in Rob’s drawer she returned to the kitchen and, without really thinking, started to tidy up the mess she’d made.
Rob didn’t arrive home until nearly seven o-clock and was an hour late with her dinner. She was sat in the living room, watching the television, when he arrived with her tray.
‘How’d it go?’ he asked, placing the tray on her lap.
She looked at the boiled fish with veg and wondered if he’d laced it with weight gain formula. ‘Really well thanks,’ she said, not really sure why she was lying. She’d spent the last hour convincing herself of his innocence, ‘I lost another fifty-pounds.’
If he was surprised he didn’t show it. ‘Wow, that’s really great.’
‘She said if I keep it up I could be a size twelve by Christmas.’ She couldn’t help herself, the lie was out now. A part of her, the part that wondered if he really was capable of forcing her to gain weight, wanted to see how far she could push him. ‘I’ll need a whole new wardrobe.’
‘Fantastic,’ he replied as he sat down with his own tray. ‘You know, we should celebrate.’
‘Celebrate?’ she asked. Now she was confused, was he really pleased or was it all an act? Had she really been wrong? Maybe the weight gain formula really was just a left over from before her pre heart attack days. Maybe the mix it yourself slim fast formula really did leave grit in your mouth.
‘Yes, celebrate. Maybe take a bottle of wine and go upstairs?’
He watched for her reaction and she nodded. How easily she’d been won back over. How quickly she was able to forget that she was mysteriously gaining weight and, if Rob wasn’t responsible, then who, or what, was?
The next morning Tanya woke up in bed with Rob for the first time since she’d come back from the hospital. She smiled down at him as he opened his eyes and blinked. He was wrapped in her arms like a baby, his naked body totally encompassed by hers.
‘I should get up,’ he said groggily.
‘Do you have to?’ she asked, trying to sound coy and suggestive.
‘And what if I don’t let you?’ she asked rubbing the back of his leg and feeling the bristles of hair.
He sighed. ‘There’s stuff I need to do.’
Her smile disappeared and she looked away from him. ‘In the basement?’
There was a pause and then: ‘yes.’
She rolled onto her back and felt him slide out from under her arms. She could feel her bottom lip start to tremble and by the time she’d got it under control he was dressed and standing by the door.
‘Thanks,’ he said and left the room.
She lay on her back, crying to herself and trying to forget about everything, but it all kept coming back. She was so fat she might die, her husband was – probably – feeding her weight gain formula and building god knew what in the basement. She loved him though, which probably made it harder; she couldn’t just believe the worst, if she could she would have left yesterday and never looked back. But she loved him so she had to hope there was some other explanation.
What she really needed was someone to talk to. She picked up her purse from the floor and rummaged around until she found Carly’s card. It was discoloured and crumpled but the number was still legible. With a heave, she stretched across the bed and picked up the phone from Rob’s side. It had been so long since she’d needed to use a phone that she had to stop for a moment and think before remembering how to use it. She spoke each number under her breath as she dialled and then put the handset to her ear but nothing happened.
Confused, she repeated the process but again, nothing happened.
Her first thought was that she’d forgotten how to use the fancy cordless phone so she dragged herself out of bed, took her robe from the back of the door and went down stairs to try the old fashioned phone in the living room. She was confident she knew how to use the ancient, red, rotary device but she dialled the number as carefully as before.
She replaced the receiver and glared at the number on the card thinking she might have misread one of the numbers. She hadn’t. She tried again but –
– dead line.
There was a flutter in her chest which she ignored and tried again, but still –
– dead line.
Prickly beads of sweat formed on backs of her hands but she wasn’t ready to give up yet. Surely there was a problem with Carly’s number, the nurse wasn’t exactly the brightest spark, probably she’d had the cards printed wrong. She picked up the phone again and this time tried a different number. 9 9 9.
She could hear the microphone picking up her shallow breathing and playing it back through the ear piece. It seemed to take forever, she prayed for a connection but then –
– dead line.
She replaced the receiver carefully – for some reason not wanting Rob to know she was trying to make a phone call – and crept into the next room. The phone in there was another cordless one and when she tried it she got another –
– dead line.
The phone line was gone and with it all the self-delusions she’d built up to excuse Rob. The only explanation now was him. Rob, who wouldn’t let her have a mobile because she had no-one to call. Rob, who was building something – probably horrible – in the basement. Rob, who was feeding her up despite the fact it would probably kill her. Rob. All Rob.
Her legs felt weak and for a moment she thought she might be having another heart attack. In the end she managed to stay on her feet. There was nothing else for it, she decided, once she’d regained her balance, the man was crazy and she had to get out. She forced her swollen feet into her shoes and went directly to the front door.
It was locked. ‘Fuck!’ she cursed under her breath. Moving as quickly as she could, and sweating profusely because of it, she went up stairs to get her purse and returned with the key. It was slippery in her sweat soaked hand but she forced herself to stay calm as she put it in the lock.
It didn’t fit.
‘come on, come on.’
She pushed and turned but the little piece of metal just wouldn’t go in.
‘And why won’t it go in?’ she asked herself. ‘Because he’s changed the bloody locks, that’s why!’
She tried every door and window in the house but they were all the same, he’d been a busy bee, building her prison. She stopped on the landing and tried to think but her breathing had become wheezy and her chest was tight. When the edge of her vision become cloudy she started to get really scared and hobbled into her bedroom to sit down.
That evening they were sat together, eating dinner in the living room. She hadn’t said anything to him about the phone or the locks, she’d come up with a plan and now she was just biding her time until she could put it into action. It seemed like hours later when, finally, he stretched his arms in the air – revealing a hairy belly as his shirt rode up – and yawned.
‘Well that’s me done. Do you fancy coming up?’ he asked.
No doubt hoping for a repeat of last nights performance, she thought.
She shook her head, ‘I think I’ll stay and finish watching this.’ She nodded towards the television although she had no idea what was on.
‘Suit yourself.’ He stood up and left the room without another word.
And now it was just a matter of waiting until she could be sure he was asleep and could feel comfortable going into his room. She’d already filled a bag with all the things she might need; food and drink mostly but also as much money as she’d dare take from his hiding place in the kitchen.
At quarter to one he’d been gone for more than an hour and she was starting to have second thoughts. She picked up the remote control and switched off the television, it was now or never. She stood and squeezed out of the room.
She went to the cupboard under the stairs and did her best too keep quiet as she leaned down to take out her bag. She placed it by the door beside her shoes and jacket. Then she was ready for the difficult part.
The house was completely silent, except for her strained breathing and the blood pumping in her ears. She stopped at the bottom of the stairs and took a succession of deep, calming, breaths, before beginning her ascent. The stairs had never creaked but her shoulders tensed every time she set a foot down, expecting to hear the wood shift and groan. It took her nearly ten minutes to reach the top.
She stopped outside the door to his bedroom, a part of her expected, maybe even hoped, to find it locked but it wasn’t even fully closed. She held her breath and gently pushed, again she expected it to squeak but all she heard was the wisp of wood rubbing across a thick carpet.
Inside the room was cloaked in inky-blue darkness, only shadows and shapes visible. She could, however, see the mountain of his body under the covers and she could certainly hear him snoring. Trying her best to remain composed she squeezed through the door frame and crossed the room.
She knew Rob to be a man of habit and didn’t need to be able to see particularly well to know that his jeans would be neatly folded on the chair beside his bed. She felt around for a moment before locating the belt buckle and held onto it while she lifted the jeans. She checked all of the pockets but the keys weren’t there. Her heart sunk as she considered the possibility that they might be hidden somewhere else. In the dark she might never find them.
She closed her eyes and tried to calm down which, being behind enemy lines, was not easy to do. When the panic eventually faded she opened her eyes and found that the darkness was less crippling. She still couldn’t see details but at least everything was three-dimensional again. Once more she checked the trouser pockets but they were still empty. Carefully she replaced the jeans on his chair and cast her eyes around the room.
If the keys weren’t in his trousers then where else could they be?
She doubted he would have gone to the effort of putting them in a drawer or cabinet so, logically, they would be on a surface somewhere. Besides the bedside tables – which she had already checked – the only surface was his chest of drawers. As she set off across the vast expanse of carpet she tried not to think about what she would do if they weren’t there.
She stopped at the cabinet and for a moment did nothing except listen to him breathing; in and out, in and out, he had always been a heavy sleeper, something she’d never been more glad of than now. She looked down at the cabinet top and for a moment saw nothing. Then, as her eyes adjusted, she began to make out a shape, a tiny bundle of something that could, yes, could just about be, a set of keys.
She glanced back at the shape on the bed, she wondered how he would react tomorrow morning when he realised she was gone. Would he get angry and storm around the house, cursing and breaking things? Would he call her family and see if she’d gone there? The hospital? Maybe even the local hotels when he found out she’d taken his money? She pushed an errant strand of hair out of her eyes and turned back to the cabinet. Cautiously she reached towards the shape of – could be – keys. Tentatively she touched them and felt cold metal, she could actually feel the central ring that joined them together.
In her mind she was practically there now, almost out the door.
She placed her left hand over the keys and, with her right hand, took hold of the centre ring. Ever so carefully she picked them up and there was only the barest hint of metal scraping wood.
This time, with the precious keys in her hand, she didn’t look around. Her head was swimming with joy. She crossed to the door – almost there now – and snuck a glimpse at his body as she pulled it closed, quietly, behind her. She hobbled down the stairs in less than a minute and tried to remain calm as she sat on the bottom step putting on her shoes. Despite her eagerness to get away she made sure to carefully tie the laces, the last thing she wanted was to get half-way down the street and trip over. Where would she be then? Back in hospital with a broken arm, and who would they phone to come and get her? No thank you. There was no need to rush anyway, he was sound asleep, all she had to do was keep her head and everything would be okay.
With her shoes on she stood, picked up her bag and looked at the keys. There were about a dozen, most of them were probably for the stupid basement but there was also one for the new front door. These ones weren’t labelled so she would have to go through them, one-by-one, until she found the one which matched the lock.
The first key didn’t fit so she tried the next one, she quickly became so engrossed in the task that –
– she didn’t even scream.
His hand was on her mouth –
– her eyes bulged with shock.
A needle pressed against her neck –
– her skin bending
White fluid was pumping into her neck –
– filling her veins.
The empty needle was withdrawn –
– a droplet of blood –
– at the tiny gaping hole in her neck.
His hand left her mouth –
– it opened
– she tried to scream
– no sound.
She tried to move –
– too heavy
– she crumbled to the floor.
Rob sat at his desk in the basement and looked into the tank. It contained everything he’d ever wanted; suspended before him like a giant, wonderful sculpture. He smiled.
It had been two months since she’d tried to escape; she’d packed a bag, waited until he was asleep and then, in the early hours of the morning, she’d snuck into his room and stolen his keys. She’d done her best to keep quiet but had stumbled around his room, breathing heavily and knocking things over. He’d had a tough job listening to that and still managing to feign sleep. He’d actually been awake since the moment she’d stepped into the room; she’d tripped an infra-red sensor which set of a vibrating alarm under his pillow. He’d waited until she left the room so he could take her by surprise, she was a big girl after all and he didn’t like to think what she was capable of if he backed her into a corner.
So he’d caught her at the bottom of the stairs and injected her with the anaesthetic. It was only after he’d moved her to another room and gone back into the hall that he realised how close she’d come to escaping; the key hung in the lock and the handle was down, a few seconds later and he would have lost her.
For her own good, he’d kept her heavily sedated since that night. He looked after her – feeding, cleaning and changing – whilst still managing to continue work in the basement. He didn’t resent her for the extra work, he loved her, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for her.
He stood up from his desk and walked to the tank. It was filled with water now and, suspended below the surface was Tanya. His mermaid.
She was completely naked and larger than ever but she still floated. Tenderly he pressed a hand to the glass.
She was supported by a minimalist sling that cradled her body without concealing it. It also measured her weight and through the glass he could read it on the large red L.E.D. screen. There were two tubes that came out of the ceiling, into the tank and into her mouth. One brought oxygen directly to her lungs while the other provided a constant supply of all the supplements she needed to live and grow.
He’d moved her in two days ago but had, so far, kept her unconscious. Even when he did decide to let her wake up, her massive size, the water and the sling would make movement impossible. He smiled at her, she looked so beautiful, his giant angel, his water baby. He could look at her all day.
Across the room something started to beep and he glanced over to see what it was. When he saw the flashing light the smile on his face grew broader and he hurried back to his desk. He picked up his video camera and clipped it onto the tripod. He switched it on and moved around until Tanya, himself and the weight display were all visible. Then he grabbed the microphone and pressed record.
William sat alone at the computer in his room. The lights were off but the glow from the monitor was enough to see him by. Although, unless you wanted to see him with his pants around his ankles, there wasn’t a lot too see. He absently scratched his dark haired thigh and cycled through the program windows on his computer. There was still nothing of interest, nothing updated, nothing new.
He pulled a cigarette out of the packet on his desk and leaned back in his chair. He closed his eyes and tried to relax but he couldn’t settle, he had to get the job done.
Smoke this and then find something… he thought but before half the cigarette was gone something started to beep. He opened his eyes and saw a window pop up and flash;
‘TANYA: LIVE FEED! TANYA: LIVE FEED! TANYA: LIVE FEED!’
He almost fell off his chair as he leaned forward to grab the mouse and hit ‘ENTER.’ He filled in his username and password and then the screen went black while it loaded. He maximised the window and leaned back in his chair while he waited.
Eventually the picture appeared, it showed the man who called himself FATLUV4EVA, the L.E.D. screen – which read one, nine, nine and nine – and, suspended in the glass tank was the woman. FATLUV4EVA claimed that she was his wife and that she was the largest woman in the world. William wasn’t sure if he believed it but the idea certainly appealed to him.
On the screen FATLUV4EVA began to speak, ‘ladies and gentlemen, today is a historic occasion.’ William started to stroke his soft dick with his left hand. ‘As you can see,’ Rob pointed at the L.E.D., ‘we are about to witness something amazing.’ The camera moved away from Rob and now only the woman and her weight were visible.
William put down the cigarette and began using his right hand on his now hard dick.
The L.E.D. reading began to skip between digits; two then back to one, zero then back to nine.
Then the numbers vanished and for a moment Tanya was weightless.
When the numbers returned they read two, zero, zero, zero. William bit his lip, closed his eyes and came all over his left thigh.
Tanya opened her eyes, the ceiling above her was distorted and out of focus. She tried to scream but there was a mask over her mouth and tubes down her throat. She tried to move but she was paralysed. She felt like she was crying but in the water she couldn’t tell.