Precipice

PRECIPICE

I didn’t love her then. She was just another girl. It was just another pub. Friday night, a few beers, a laugh, and maybe, if I got lucky, a fit bird.

She was fit alright! Her eyes a blue that beckoned you to drown in them. Her smile, a slow sensuous curve that promised complete annihilation if you did. Her body….that body….. One night turned into two…then a month…and before long we were, to all intents and purposes, a couple.

I was young, ambitious and successful. I drove a Ferrari. Lived in Chelsea. I had money and I was not afraid to flash it. Life had always smiled benignly on me.

She was young and ambitious too. I was her ticket out of slavery at Gatwick Airport. Ticket Desk work. Odd hours. Abuse from passengers. Could one blame her?

Two months in, and our baby growing in her belly, I’d bought the biggest diamond I could afford and gotten down on one knee. Did I love her then? I cannot honestly say that I did. Yet, it seemed the right thing to do. And the right time to do it.

The rays are filtering in through the shutters of this apartment in Marbella. They illuminate the paint peeling in the corners of the room. The colours are somewhat faded, adding to the general air of neglect and abandonment. I look at my face in the chipped mirror. The broken capillaries on my nose stand out in stark contrast to the pallor of my skin. I run my hands over my unshaven chin, wondering whether to bother or not. Then, with a shrug, I walk away.

The wedding was a grand affair. Business was booming and I could afford to be lavish. Her friends oohed and aahed over the arrangements. Her mother all but swooned. My mother stood by with suppressed fury. It was all very satisfying.

She looked lovely. Virginal white did become her. She looked pure…somehow….other worldly. Could I have loved her just a little bit then? Possibly. Very possibly.

In their room, the twins are beginning to stir. They sleep together, as closely knit at night, as they are in the day. One, so very blonde and sunny natured like his mother. The other, dark and tempestuous like me. I see their little faces in repose, their cheeks still plump in toddlerhood, their eyelashes, so thick, so lush as they flutter with unspoken dreams. I turn away, the lump in my throat so big that it threatens to engulf me.

Coffee. I need coffee. I shuffle towards the kitchen. There is no milk. Of course! I give myself a mental head slap. I drink the coffee black. It burns a hole in my stomach.

I was there for their birth. I held her hand as she writhed and screamed. I mopped her brow as she bit down on her lip. Never was her beauty more savage than then.Never was her rage at me more potent. Yet at the end of that long painful tunnel were these two exquisite, perfect creatures.Their tiny fingers curling around mine. Their personalities already beginning to shine through. One bawling for her feed. The other, patiently waiting his turn.

Mesmerised I had held them in my arms. So tiny and helpless that I’d vowed to protect them with every breath in my body. I’d vowed to be the father that my old man had never been.

The birth and subsequent child rearing had exhausted her. She was constantly tired. Tired and depressed. Her mother had stayed with us. Helped with the babies. Helped with the chores. When she’d had enough, I’d taken over. I’d cut back on work, and spent more time with her and the twins. I’d even shooed away my mother. I wanted to be there. It was our little family after all. Her, me, Joe and Amy. It had a special ring to it.

Life had been good then.(Or was hindsight lending it a golden glow?) Business was on a roll. Recession hadn’t hit yet. I was a devoted father. She was a ….well, when she’d finally risen out of her apathy, an adequate mother. I had been happy. The twins had thrived. All that while she had fretted about her body. About losing her looks, No amount of reassurance would work. Her preoccupation with something so transient, so unimportant, had confused me. Was having two healthy beautiful babies not enough?

Not for her. And so it had begun. Endless calorie counting. Membership at the new gym. Prohibitively expensive shoes and gear designed to make her fit in. Little by little, she had shrunk back to her pre pregnancy figure, diminishing, but not just in size for me. I tried to love her then. Tried to love the mother of my children.

It’s been a half hour since she left to buy milk and other sundry groceries. I do a little mental maths, as has become habit in the last year or so.Fifteen minutes to the store. A half hour there. Another fifteen back.  She will be back around 9:40.

Amy stands in the doorway,sucking her thumb,staring at me. Joe stumbles in, never far behind. I scoop them up. I sing to them as I make sure they go on the potty and brush their teeth. Breakfast is a biscuit each, till mum gets home. They draw silly sketches on the sheets of paper I give them. Fat crayons scribbling furiously away, their curls glinting in the sunshine, heads bowed in deep concentration.

I open the shutters and step out onto the balcony. It is a beautiful day, and the shabbiness of the apartment doesn’t spoil it in the least. In the horizon, I can see the sea front, throbbing and pulsating with a life of its own. I will some of that cool breeze our way. It is warm. Set to get hotter.

Can one ever pinpoint the exact moment that the rot sets in? Was it my failing business? Or my one too many beers? Was it the one and only time that I hit her? Who knows. Life became a strange stage set with us cast as actors who no longer knew their lines. Indignity piled upon yet more indignity. Debt mounted and confidence plummeted. Our rows grew louder,more strident. Friends, such as they were, melted away.Her family recoiled from the hopelessness of our situation. Mother smiled triumphantly and took a holiday abroad. I lashed out at everyone. Her mostly. At her extravagant ways. At her frivolous habits. At her.

She was angry at first. Then she withdrew. Grew distant. The more she stepped away, the more I wanted her back. I loved her now with a desperate desperate hunger.I clung to her with a juvenile delusion: My wife – for better or for worse. It’s only been worse with you, she’d sneered. And I could not dispute it. It was a demonic dance of desperation…with each of us alternately attacking or retreating. Still, we carried on pretending.  Pretence, the only glue holding us together.

How soon that was to end.

The clock watching started quite accidentally. A mate noticed how long she’d been gone to the gym. We’d gotten through the whole pack and the game was nearly over. I couldn’t face the pity in his eyes, and laughed it off. But the first stirrings of suspicion had coiled themselves around my mind.

Joe stubs his toe against a chair. His eyes, so like his mother’s, fill with tears and he comes running to me. I cuddle and soothe him, Amy cries in sympathy and tries to stroke his hair.

We huddle together, like battered souls. Something inside me breaks, and I start to weep as well. These great heaving sobs of their father momentarily stun the twins into silence.

Then, in fright, they join in once more. Our curious chorus reaching a cacophonous crescendo.

The signs were all there. The post coital glow.  The phone never out of her sight. The hastily erased texts.The long lunches. The moody silences. I just watched and hoped that she would get over this foolishness. That she would look at the innocent faces of her children and break it off. But there is none more selfish than a woman in lust.  I never confronted her.

There was no need to.She grew complacent, and I grew weary.Gradually, it dawned on her that I knew. Her contempt for me only increased.

This was our last ditch effort to make it work. This parody of a family vacation. This disengagement from our normal environs. This setting aside of our mutual disgust. Our willing hostages were our children. Pawns in a losing game.

We had been at it for a week. Trying to make this shambolic arrangement work. We’d tried to talk….sporadically emptying our thoughts but never quite baring our souls. We’d eaten meals by the sea front ,to all appearances a happy united family. We’d nursed glasses of wine by candlelight on the balcony, trying to recreate the infancy of our romance . We’d even made frantic, furious love, trying to rekindle the embers of a long forgotten intimacy. But, each could feel the other slipping away.

Why she even tried was beyond me. Hadn’t she mentioned divorce already? Divorce, with all its attendants, parading through our brief history together. Shredding all happy memories till they were nothing but scraps in the wastelands of our minds. Ripping apart the one good thing that came out it….our children….ripping them from my custody and placing them with a mother who cared….but only just. And never enough.

Why did she try? Perhaps she understood some of this. Perhaps she dreaded some of it too. Perhaps there was an iota of compassion in her. Perhaps.

Yet, last night, even that facade had come crumbling down. Her hurried whispered conversation on the balcony. Her closing with, ” I love you too ” had hammered in the final nail in the coffin of this union.

She’d met my eyes as she came in, and I had known. Could she have sensed the desolation in me?

Had there ever been love? This morning as I viewed her through the red haze of my hatred, I didn’t think so.

Another ten minutes or so, and she’ll be here. I tidy the little apartment as best as I can. Rinse my coffee cup and put it by the sink. The twins have calmed down and sit together, playing a little game surrounded by their toys. Heads close….all hurt forgotten. Joe helps his sister dress the doll and they place her in her little carry cot alternately cooing and giggling. The doll’s  vacant eyes stares at their cherubic faces, so full of life as she is bereft of it.

“Dada!!” Amy commands me to my knees to help prop her other toys in a circle. In some phantasmic toy kingdom, the doll reigns with utter supremacy. In a parallel world, Amy rules her men with equal authority.

I am dry eyed as I tear myself away from their play . The sun is rising in the sky, and the yearned for breeze is yet to reach us. I look over the parapet of the balcony. It is a long way down. Some distance away, I see a tiny figure dressed in blue, carrying home a bag loaded with groceries.

I pick up the twins. They come gladly, nestling in the familiar comfort of my arms.

I didn’t love her then. I don’t love her now. But I love them so much that I feel my heart will explode.

It is a long way down.

THE  END

This story (written some years ago) was inspired by news items on the spate of suicides by fathers who were losing custody battles. It made me wonder how desperate one had to be to take one’s children’s lives.

I read it now, and find it quite an awkward and unwieldy piece, but hopefully, the emotion and the desperation comes through.

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The Fault in Our Stars, John Green

A wonderful review! Cannot wait to read this book.

Books, j'adore

This is the conversation that took place about ten minutes after I finished The Fault in Our Stars, when one of my closest friends came over for our weekly dinner:

Me: So I just finished this book, and I’m still having a lot of feelings. If I just randomly start crying…

Her: I love that book! I’ve read it twice. I’ve never cried harder for a book than I did for that one.

Me: So if I just freak out about it for the next hour…?

Her: That’s totally fine.

Thank God for friends who understand what it’s like to get uncomfortably over-invested in books.

Although, to be honest, if you read this book and didn’t cry, I’m not sure I could be friends with you. I mean, it’s a book about kids with cancer. And it’s a good book about kids with cancer, which means that John Green…

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Sweet Dreams

My daughters have watched me write, seen me stare into space searching for the right word, seen me struggle with writer’s block, but have never actually read anything I have written. This is because, all my stories have had themes or language that is a little too “adult” for their consumption.

Well, I remedied that with this particular story. The theme was chocolate, and knowing how fond they are of chocolate and baking, I combined the two and came up with this. Not my best effort, but they were fantastically happy to read one of “Mummy’s stories”! 😉

SWEET DREAMS

“Ah…this boy will be the death of me! How many times do I have to show you how to temper chocolate?”

Wolfgang grabbed the bowl from Lukas and started to stir the heated chocolate with a reverence he rarely showed anything else.

Lukas barely suppressed a yawn. He had been coerced into another apprenticeship by his overbearing father, when all he wanted to do was join the military and travel around Europe.

“Now, make sure this cools at exactly the right temperature. I want the gloss on it preserved, do you understand?”

“Yes master”, he replied hastily. It wouldn’t do to lose this position as well.

With a last glower, Wolfgang walked out to serve his customers at the front.

Lukas set about cooling the chocolate with minimal concentration. His mind was on the stories Thomas had regaled him with the last time he’d been home. Stories of the wine and the women and the beautiful landscapes of Provence. He’d felt so envious, so useless, so tied down, it made him angry even to think of it.

“Working hard again Lukas?”, Lena giggled behind him.

He blushed furiously in response.  Lena made most men nervous, but on him her effect was even more exaggerated. He knew she enjoyed teasing him in that flirtatious slant eyed way of hers. Her bosom seemed to spill out of her corseted top as she leaned over to look at his handiwork. He felt a sudden stirring as her hand brushed his as she gently took the bowl out of his hands.

“Not like this, you silly boy! Treat the chocolate as you would a lover. Pamper it, cajole it, make it do your bidding.”

He watched her in mild surprise. He had no idea she knew so much about chocolate. Her father certainly hadn’t taught her.  In fact, if Wolfgang saw her here, he would have a fit.

“Lena, I think you should leave. Your father won’t approve.”

She looked at him and scowled. “When has he ever approved of anything I do? No matter. You carry on ruining good chocolate.”

With a flounce of her skirts, she was gone. Just in time as well. Wolfgang returned with barely suppressed excitement emanating off his normally grouchy person.

“I have news. Big news! The Prince has several important guests visiting next fortnight. All the chefs in town have been assigned the task of creating the most delectable dessert. The winner will not just pocket a 1000 gulden, but might also oust the head chef off his lofty perch. Can you imagine, boy? The glory…the wealth…”, he sighed in happiness.

Then he looked at Lukas, and immediately frowned.

“No more fooling around, do you hear? This is serious business. We need to get started straight away. I must create a Torte so exquisite, so divinely delicious that it will leave all competitors trailing. Lukas, I could be famous, and rich, if I win. No, no, wipe that look off your face. If you help me create this cake, I will reward you handsomely. I may even give you your freedom…”

At this, Lukas’ ears perked up. He peered at Wolfgang uncertainly.

“Yes, you heard me. A nice little sum of money, and you can go on your travels. I will intercede with your father. But only,” he raised his hand, “if you work hard, and put your heart and soul into this.”

Lukas nodded vigorously, too overcome to say anything.

The next few days went by in a flurry of activity. Wolfgang was forever weighing or measuring or putting down notes in his little black book. Business carried on as usual, but both Lukas and Wolfgang toiled well above their normal hours of work.

A week away from the event though, Wolfgang did not appear in the kitchen. Lukas found him sitting by the fireplace shivering violently.

” I am sick, boy”, he announced despondently. The blanket slipped off his shoulders and he doubled up in pain. Lena came in with a hot broth, and spooned it into her father’s mouth.

“Lukas, shut the Konditorei today. Father is in no condition.”

“No”, he shouted, between spasms. “No…..you must carry on as normal. No one must know I am sick. We have to compete…I cannot fail now…”, he fell back into the chair exhausted.

Lukas and Lena exchanged looks.

“Yes, father. You rest. Lukas can work on the recipe, and I can assist him.”

At this Wolfgang scowled with such an intensity, he seemed almost well.

“I will not have my daughter parading around the kitchen, and flaunting herself before the customers….You….you stay out of his way….The boy will do it….he has my notes….”

Lukas backed out slowly, wondering what on earth he was going to do. Wolfgang was patently too unwell, and Lukas had neither the expertise nor the experience to create this decadent dessert.

The answer came soon enough. Lena entered the kitchen with her apron on, a determined look on her face.

“Before you say anything Lukas, you and I both know that you are incapable of realising my father’s ambition. Whereas I am.” She smiled slowly, “He need never know. You can take all the credit. I don’t mind.”

“Why do it then Lena? Your father will be livid if he finds out.”

“I’m doing it for love”, she quipped enigmatically. “Right then, where are father’s notes?”

She perused them quickly. Lukas couldn’t help but note how lovely she looked. She looked up at him, and laughed, ” No funny business Lukas. I am the boss’ daughter after all.”

Wolfgang had nothing on Lena though. She was a slave driver. Lukas had never felt quite as wrung out as he did at the end of the day. They had sifted the flour, they had melted the chocolate, they had separated the egg whites from the yolks, they had stirred, they had mixed, they had ground. On and on and on they’d gone. All this while he dealt with the customers at the shop front too.

At last they were ready to bake the torte.

“Can I ask you something Lena?”

” Hmmm?”

“There were no ground almonds in your father’s recipe?”

“I know”, she said quietly, turning her back on him, ” Come in early tomorrow to help me ice the torte”.

Finally it was done and it was exquisite. A three tiered torte beyond compare. The ganache glistened on the surfaces like polished mirror. Chocolate curlicues formed an arabesque pattern, swirling gently around the torte, seeming almost to embrace this otherworldly confection.

Lukas stood back, awed at what he’d helped create. Never in his life had he seen something quite so seductively tantalising.

“You are a genius!”, he exclaimed.

“No, you are the genius. Don’t forget. I have done nothing to help you.”

Wolfgang had been improving steadily, and starting to notice Lena’s absences.  On the day before the public unveiling of the competitors’ creations, he hobbled into the kitchen.

“Well? Where is it? What are you putting out in front of the Prince, in my name? I tell you now boy, if it is not good enough, we are not entering the competition. I do not want to lose the few loyal customers I have.”

Lukas led him to the torte. It stood in a cool corner of the kitchen, serenely magnificent. Wolfgang stopped in his tracks. He seemed to be lost for words. He circled the creation, leaned forward to sniff it, and then stood back quickly almost hitting his head on the low ceiling.

You did this….from my recipe?”

Lukas nodded.

“I see”, Wolfgang looked at him. “Well then, it seems I have underestimated your talents. I will be happy for this to be entered in my name.”

The square was buzzing with excitement the next day. The Prince was due to arrive any moment. Fanciful creations jostled with plainer counterparts while the chefs stood by, eying each other’s handiwork with envy or disdain. Wolfgang and Lukas stood quietly by their own torte. It didn’t scream or shout out in garish colours. It reached out in a muted whisper: to entice, to beguile.

The Prince stood quite enchanted. “May I?”, he asked, reaching for a fork. A look of pure ecstasy passed over his face as he tasted the first mouthful. A murmur ran through the crowd. Quite clearly, a winner had declared itself.

Lena lingered by the window, and as she saw a lone familiar figure making its way home, she rushed downstairs.

“Father?”, Lena ran up to Wolfgang concerned.”Where is Lukas? What happened? Why are you alone?”

“Lukas is gone”, he sat down heavily.

“Why? What…what happened?”

“Well, we won, of course.”

A bemused look came over his face and he beckoned her over. He held her hands in his own, turning them over, examining her long delicate fingers.

“Well, my beautiful talented girl. Are you ready to do it all over again?”

Lena smiled with pure happiness, and buried her face in her father’s chest.

THE END

“Write what you know” – Nathan Englander on Misunderstood Advice

Ahh! Some good advice here. 🙂

Ledia Runnels' "Writing Tips"

Nathan Englander (born 1970) is an American author. He wrote the short story collectionFor the Relief of Unbearable Urges, published by Alfred A. Knopf, in 1999.

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Gatsby-love thwarted (Spoilers)

Saw the movie ‘The Great Gatsby’ today. Baz Luhrmann kept it quite true to the book, while adding his unique flair to it.
But it got me thinking about who or what Gatsby stands for. Here is a man who has a vision of himself. He has come up the hard way and through dubious means acquired immense wealth. His driving force is his love for Daisy Buchanan.
In his vision, he gets the girl, and they live happily ever after in his enormous mansion. That this vision comes to naught is a moot point.
Had the vision come true, would he have been happy? Probably not. Even as he holds Daisy in his arms, he starts to realise that the green light on Daisy’s dock is starting to lose its significance.

That green light symbolises hope & ambition. Is there not something that each of us aspires to? What happens when we fulfil that ambition? Do we not find that the goal post has moved again?
Gatsby never fulfils his dream, and therefore he becomes a tragic character. Yet the true tragedy of life is,that sometimes holding your dream in your arms is also not enough.
Are human beings by our very nature condemned to certain unhappiness? Is there a little bit of Gatsby in all of us?

Short stories: Yay or Nay?

The Short story seems to be having a revival of sorts. I, for one, have always leaned towards this genre, simply because I am most comfortable with it. There is a certain beauty in brevity. I like the fact that something has gone on before this story unfolded, and something else will happen, after I have concluded it. Whatever that maybe is left to the reader’s imagination.

Despite, my love for it, I often wonder, if the short story is regarded as a poor second cousin to its grander rival, the novel? Invariably I get asked, “Are you working on a novel?” as though I need to move on, to graduate in a sense, to better things. The long and the short of it is: No. I love what I do, and intend to carry on for a while yet.

My question to you however is: What do you prefer?

Huge

A while ago I wrote a story that was a complete departure from my usual style. I have been accused, quite rightly too, of writing very sad and depressing stuff. Ironically, this story started out that way as well. I had hoped to display the underbelly of the celebrity culture that has seeped into our consciousness. However, like I mentioned before, my protagonist had other ideas. Sad turned into silly, and serious into sarcastic. Consequently, “Huge” was born. It was shortlisted in the Ink tears annual short story competition. Here it is:

HUGE

It’s sitting there innocuously- that delicious piece of confectionery. Dark, molten chocolate encased in a crackling shell of praline loveliness.

It’s sitting there tantalising me with its smoothness, its roundness, its sheer perfection. All it would take would be a little stretch of the arm- and within no time, it would be in my mouth, melting all its lusciousness within.

Yet, I’m sitting here, glaring at it. Knowing that this piece and all its brothers and sisters sitting in that box that arrived anonymously….is pure sabotage.No sugar has crossed these lips in three months. All it would take is one bite….just a teensy weensy one….and it is a slippery slope,my friend.

It wasn’t always this way.There was a time when it was effortless. When my boobs bounced as I walked, emphasising my tiny waist. A time when the men whistled at my ass. Hell! I was one hot chick before I even knew that I was one.

I was spotted at the Mall, when I was all of fourteen.There we were, just hanging. The three of us, doughnuts in hand,checking out the boys. This man came up to us, torn jeans, a T shirt that had a flaming guitar on it.

“How old are you?”, he asked, looking me up and down.

“What’s it to you?”, I shot back, checking him out. Not half bad I thought. I was in the market for a boyfriend.

He laughed, and handed me a card. “Call me”, he winked and walked away, whistling.

I clutched at the card, gawping at his retreating back. When I finally looked at it, it had the name of an agency written in a discreet black script.

Modelling! My friends teased me mercilessly (and a little jealously).Pa didn’t want to know. Ma just spitefully spat out, “What’s so special about you??” If it hadn’t been for Nanna, I would still be in Hicksville. Nanna, who packed my little case, who paid my bus fare to the city, who kissed me goodbye, and wished me luck.

Modelling was a hard world. It was the time of the Supers. Super long legs, super toned bodies….and there was little ole me. All T & A (Tits and Ass). Needless to say, not a lot of catwalk work came my way. Dreams of Milan and Paris stayed just that- Dreams. I got good catalogue work though. There was a lot of standing around, looking very happy in dreary clothes for dull housewives. Decent money but I was bored,bored,bored.

Then I met Nina. She was as fair as I was dark. As experienced as I was fresh.Her blue eyes had a mischievous twinkle that only hinted at the crazy chick that lived within.We were paired in a catalogue shoot, and I couldn’t stay immune to her gregarious nature for too long.

“Hey Hun! Whatcha doin’ after the shoot tonight?”

“Cuppa Noodles?”

” B-O-R-I-N-G!! Why don’t you come out with me? I could show you some sights.”

Boy, did she show me some sights!

So I started to party. We went out every night, my gal, Nina, and I. We hit all the hot spots. We were young, gorgeous and life was one big carnival. I did all that there was to do. Drugs- check. Booze-check. Men- oooh! Double check!! It was a mad,bad and exciting world…and I was luvvvving it!

Soon after, I met Barry. Older,successful,married. It was a potent combination and I fell hard. He told me to quit partying and I did. He told me to stop modelling, and I did. Had he told me to take up crocheting, I probably would’ve.

I was a kept woman, and I revelled in it. Barry loved me. He lavished me with jewellery from Tiffany’s, scarves from Hermes, bags from Chanel. My every wish was his command. I was nineteen, and I was living a life that my friends would’ve given their left arms for. Nina warned me though.

“Hun, you’re just his plaything. Have fun with it, but don’t give up the day job.”

I dismissed it as jealousy. What did she know? He was going to leave his wife and kids. Of course he was. She couldn’t give him what he wanted. I could and did….and often. The fact that the sex was funny and he had me do….Oh! I won’t go there. Small price to pay.

Then I fell pregnant. “Who’s the father?”, he demanded viciously, before turning me out into the street. (Didn’t even get to keep a measly scarf!).

Homeless and jobless, I turned to Nina. She turned the other way. There were only so many couches I could sleep on before all the favours had been called in.

It was an easy slide into the world of “Glamour Modelling”. Not a lot of glamour, but a lotta lotta skin.I wasn’t showing yet, but I figured, might as well make the moolah uncovering the assets that I’d previously made money covering up. Also, there was a charitable element to it. Wasn’t I bringing a bit of joy into the lives of sad, lonely men?

I would lie there, in those crummy studios, with all my bits on display. I would zone out. Beam myself right onto a beach with a margarita in my hand. I wouldn’t even feel the hands groping me, “adjusting” me, propping me up, so that the camera could get an eyeful.

These days, I could’ve launched a career off the back of it. Look at Hef’s girls…Celebrities in their own right. But that was back then… Glamour modelling was seedy; something girls from “nice” families didn’t do. Although nice isn’t what I would’ve called my lot.

I lost the baby at a shoot. I still remember the look of horror on the photographer’s face.

“What the fucking hell,man?! Get her off the bed! SHIT!! The sheets are ruined…”

I was a 100 pounds when I started to comfort eat. Pa would chew his tobacco and watch me silently. Ma would surreptitiously replace the empty tubs of ice creams with new ones. Nanna would weep silently and pluck at my hair saying, ” Oh Child, oh my pore child…”

My food orgy lasted a year, and at the end of it I was 224 lbs and officially huge. I lived in Pa’s XXL T shirts watching daytime TV till my eyes hurt. My thighs chafed when I walked. My tummy wobbled and I could no longer see my feet in the shower. I was twenty two.

At first my friends came to visit.

“Well, I always told ya it wasn’t a good idea to run off to the city!”, smirked Cindy, bouncing her two year old on her knee, while Liz and Kay nodded in agreement. ” You coulda been married, and happy….”

I looked at her too tight dress, the dribbly baby, and the shiner she was hiding under acres of concealor, and turned away.

They soon stopped coming over.

Nanna would urge me to eat less.

“Go exercise child! Go for a walk. I’ll come with ya”

I tried a few times, Nanna hobbling painfully behind me. Nanna fell ill, and TV took over again.

I started my first diet the day after Nanna died. I ate nothing.

New York City didn’t frighten me as much the second time round. The castings did. I felt a hundred years old next to the sixteen year olds with their fresh faces and pliable bodies. I was way past my sell by date, and boy, they weren’t shy about telling me.

Television was slightly more forgiving. A bit part here, a walk on there. The big break came to me not because of how I looked, but how I laughed! My loud mid western guffaw caught their attention. A dirty laugh and a sinful body. I got my first major role.

Our sitcom was a slow burn. The lead actor had great comic timing. I was his perfect foil. Our chemistry fizzed and bubbled, and once it had captured the public imagination; there was no looking back.

Those were great days.Halcyon days. I was young, I was hot again, and famous to boot. A fuck was just a fuck now. I didn’t care for a “relationship” anymore.

Doug, my co star and I, became great buddies. So much so that the tabloids had us eloping,marrying,splitting up every second day. Course, the fact that he was as queer as a three dollar bill, seemed to have escaped everyone’s notice.

The film offers started pouring in. I was wary but Doug convinced me to give it a go.Sifting through them, I was left with two viable options – Action thriller with young, upcoming actor or a comedy with a has been trying to make a comeback. It was a no brainer.

Contrary to subsequently embellished stories, shooting the movie was no picnic. We never really hit it off. He was too full of his importance. As I was of mine. After all I was giving his career a fillip! Those months were fraught with all sorts of petty indignities he would try and heap on me. From speaking over my lines, to eating garlic just before he kissed me. From ignoring all my cues, to conveniently forgetting rehearsals, he was a fleabag to work with.

He had nothing on my Ma though. Rolled right off my back.

The film’s runaway success caught everyone by surprise. It made Mr Has Been the biggest name in town once more, and me his new best friend. We went on to do two more films together, but never managed to make celluloid magic again. Pity! Never received a Christmas card from him after that.

I was thirty. I was huge and happening. I was also battling the bulge secretly. But Ma and Pa and that wretched existence seemed so far removed from my glittering life. My sitcom was going great. Films were aplenty and I was ready to make the leap from Television star to full fledged Hollywood star.

When the headlines screamed, “K…. gets her nipples out”, I was genuinely confounded. All that had been so long ago, that I had obliterated it from my memory. But someone else hadn’t. Now they were doing a bloody good job of cashing in on it.

It took three months for the furore to die down. I had to stay holed up in my apartment while the “suits” did damage control.I turned to my old friend – the refrigerator.

When I finally emerged, the shocked script writers had to hastily incorporate a pregnancy story line into the sitcom. 20 pounds are difficult to disguise on camera. Add to it the 10 it puts on anyway, I looked like I was ready to deliver in the next episode.

Atkins was all the rage in Hollywood. I was banned from eating carbohydrates.(And a “minder” would come and clean out my refrigerator of any offending items on a daily basis). But I could stuff my face with steaks,eggs,cheese and butter. I smelled foul, and Doug refused to kiss me onscreen. Regardless, the fat melted away like butter sliding off a cob of corn.

Slim again, I took up exercise. An action movie was next, and I martial trained my way into serious abs and biceps. I was the tabloid’s darling again. My little blip was soon overtaken in public memory by the shenanigans of poor little heiresses and junkie rock stars.

It was at a film premiere that I met Rob.The attraction was instant. We didn’t leave the hotel room for five days. By the fifth, he’d convinced me to marry him.

I had the biggest,glitziest,craziest wedding in town.From ice sculptures in the garden to champagne fountains, from toddlers dressed as cherubs to near naked angels serving the drinks, it was as OTT as it could get. So fucking Hollywood.

It lasted 33 days.Then the bastard sued me for half of everything and won.So fucking Hollywood.

My career nosedived shortly after. Who wanted an ageing,overweight (did I mention my proclivity to doughnuts?) diva anymore? There were younger,prettier, more willing-to-spread-their-legs models around.

The weight gain was insidious. A pound here, a pound there, and one day you wake up 60 pounds heavier. How the hell did that happen?

Consuela, my housekeeper, made the most amazing tacos. I rediscovered Mexican food in all its greasy glory. Refried beans!! Mmmm….just the thought of them makes my mouth water….Nutty bunuelos, tres leches cake….naughty naughty desserts that settled comfortably around my already ample waist.

We were a good partnership – Consuela and I. Much like Doug had been till our chemistry fizzled out after that unfortunate episode in the public toilets.

Really, I thought Doug would’ve had classier stomping grounds. Never mind. Our sitcom stuttered to a premature halt, with Doug going into rehab to cure himself of his lamentable affliction.

But Consuela and I. Now that was a partnership built to last. She cooked and I ate. It was Fabulous! Till I discovered that while I lay corpulently supine by the pool, she also robbed.

Out went Consuela. In came Jorge, whose pool cleaning capability and six pack abs I much admired. Cooking ability? Not so much.

Funds were running low, and I was thrashing about looking for work. When the offer came to advertise a weight loss plan, I grabbed it with both hands.Lose weight and earn money doing it? Seemed too good to be true.

Well, guess what? It was.

Oh, how I suffered those eight months. The portions were tiny. I mean tiny! The food tasted like cardboard. And I had another bloody “minder” living with me. Watching me hawk eyed so I wouldn’t stray off the plan. Living torture.

Of course, all the while I had to appear on Television and in magazines,smiling broadly endorsing these awful awful meals. Ah! The things we do for money.

(Jingle:

Have your cake and eat it too,

Have a slice or have two!

We deliver to your pad,

and it doesn’t cost a wad!

Slimmer and slimmer you will get

Weight loss woes you’ll forget)

Poetry it was not. But it brought in the bacon (or not as the case maybe). Sigh.

I was never going to regain my pre pubescent figure. I was facing forty and didn’t mind carrying an extra 10 pounds on my derriere, if it made the frontier look better. (Thanks Ms Deneuve!).

Around this time, I had an offer to guest star as mother to one of six very famous “friends”. I was mortified. I knew for a fact that one of them was just a few years younger than me. By the time, better sense kicked in, the part was L O N G gone.

Now that food could no longer be my “fix”, I found a replacement. It had a funny old name: Google.

Yeah! You bet. That’s what I would do. I’d google myself – over and over. At first, there was no dearth of information. There were photos of me at nineteen, grinning vacuously into the camera. My bare assed ones surfaced too. There were movie stills, catalogue shoots, tabloid snippets….it was all there…and it was all so fascinating to read.

Slowly,however, it dawned on me that there was nothing new. No one seemed interested in me anymore. It was like circa 2005, I had died. Most annoying.

I did the next best thing. I decided to adopt. It had created a lot of good press for some gals I knew. I looked through my options. The obvious countries had been done to death. Where could I go? As far flung a country as possible?? India!! That’s it. I could always say I was embarking on a spiritual journey – and come back with a baby. Why, they could probably film me doing it!! I could put on henna tattoos, bathe with elephants….do all that, y’know – stuff!!

My agent shot it down straight away. “Logistically not possible to adopt easily”,he told me grim faced. And the adoption fever was waning anyway. “Look for another angle”,he said dourly. “Look for another job”, I replied sullenly.

Ah, well! I was never the maternal sort anyway.

Retirement is a particularly difficult job in Hollywood. Fame is addictive. Once you’ve had it, you want more. And you’ll do anything to get more. I was nipped and tucked and Botoxed to within an inch of my life, but there was still no work coming my way.

So, I did what any self respecting starlet in Hollywood would do. I crashed my car while over the limit. My mug shot was the nicest photo I’d had taken in a while. My hair was nicely coiffed, my lipstick and mascara in place. It only got a photograph on page 39. To add insult to injury, I was given Community Service by the disapproving judge. No prison sentence? No ankle bracelet?? What was this world coming to?

I had almost given up on it all when the call came. Would I participate in the Reality Dance Show? Would I?? Would I Hell!!!

That was three months ago. I’m on the show now. Tauter, fitter and my two left feet have miraculously transformed me into some semblance of a dancer.

The rehearsals are a bitch, the judges are harsh, but the audiences love me. I play to the gallery and they love my bawdy routines. They love my booty jiggling, they love my raucous laugh….

< “Well really, don’t you think she deserved more than 21? Yes, technically she’s not perfect, but there is a je ne sais quoi about her. I predict she’s gonna stay on. This one’s gonna last the distance…..” >

Yep! The judges consistently score me lower than my competitors. My dancing partner tells me of conspiracies and back stage gossip. But I don’t care. I am in it to win it. If that means treading on a few toes, so be it!

Oh, and I’ve been soooo good! Given up all the naughties. No chocolates, no booze, no doughnuts, no tacos…. I’m looking and feeling fabulous. And it’s within my grasp….victory… I can smell success…I can almost taste it…..

Damn! That’s not success….that’s the bloody chocolate!! How did it find its way into my mouth?? I should spit it out. I could spit it out. But maybe I’ll just chew…..mmmm….and swallow….oh…and there’s more where this one came from. Another one can’t hurt, can it?

THE END