The Main Line
by Ashblonde

July 2001

"Allie Cat, darling, are you there?"

"Yes, Jane," Allie sighed looking at the clock. She usually called her mother by her first name, especially when she was peeved. It was only 6:15 in the morning. "Have you forgotten that it's six hours earlier here?"

"Oh dear, sorry," her mother sighed, "Well, this will get you out on the courts early. What's the weather like there?"

"Hot," Allie rolled her eyes. It was July, what did she think it would be like?

"How were the fireworks?" Jane wanted to know.

"The usual," she didn't feel like having a big conversation about who did what at the country club, and definitely didn’t want to discuss Jimmy Oliver.

With her brother now living in California, Allie had the place to herself for the summer, not including the cleaning crew, grounds service and security watch. Her parents were both in Europe. Her father, Kenneth, was spending a few months commuting between Prague and Zurich to become acquainted with the major international offices of a Fortune 500 corporation in his new role as the CEO. Jane decided to take a sabbatical from her professorship and join him overseas. She was researching her latest work, delving into Marie Curie's impact on nuclear physics, staying in Paris during the week, and traveling to Zurich to be with Kenneth on the weekends.

She was due to reunite with them in Geneva for a few days of sightseeing and a couple of more days with her mother in Paris before heading to Rome for her junior year abroad with her best friend, Maia. It was going to be fabulous, she figured, getting away from the moneyed suburban Philadelphia crowd of her youth and the pretentious Lilly girls she ended up living with at her sorority at Cornell.

She wasn't particularly fond of the Greek life, but her mother and grandmother were Alpha Ph so she was pledged by default. Allie had rejected Jane's wishes that she attend Bryn Mawr nearby so that she could study at one of the finest architectural schools in the world. Going along with the sorority plan was a compromise to ease her mother's disappointment she wouldn’t attend the family alma mater.

"Savor your summer vacation," Jane had urged Allie before leaving in May. "You have your whole life to work, so just enjoy yourself while you can." But Allie now regretted heeding this advice. She had to admit to herself that she was a little bored. Her volunteer work at Children’s Hospital only filled about 20 hours a week, and a girl could only play so much tennis and swim so many laps. It was getting old. But it was July now, too late to get a job or take a summer class.

Aside from her athletic pursuits and work at the hospital, she filled her time sketching building concepts and layout plans for museums and urban green space that harkened back to classic yet ornate styles and still incorporated modern, sustainable building and design principles. Her dream was to work in urban planning, and her passion was historic preservation.

"Your father told me to call and remind you that the contractors start tomorrow," her mother's voice sounded tinny from an obviously poor roaming signal on her mobile. "So don't get upset if you see some strange men walking around the grounds."

Allie's heart sunk. She liked to lounge by the pool in private and not get leered at by some dirty old men. She really should have gotten a full-time job. "Great. Do I have to let them in?" She asked.

"No, they were given a temporary access code so you don't have to worry about managing the gate. They're just doing some stone repair and maintenance around the grounds, so you should be able to sleep in all you want," Jane offered with a hint of sarcasm in her voice. "But it would be nice if you offered them water or lemonade once in a while. I didn't raise you to be a snob."

Oh please, Allie thought to herself, we are total snobs...  just bleeding-heart liberal ones.

Now wide awake, she took her mother's suggestion and rode her bike over to the Cricket Club tennis courts and played a few sets with friends. Well, they weren't really her friends, really, just privileged girls her age who had plenty of free time. After a couple of short matches she joined them for iced tea and listened to them complain about their lives despite the advantages staring all of them in the face.

"Hey Allie," she felt a tap on her shoulder. It was Jimmy Oliver.

"Hi Jimmy," she beamed back at him. He looked especially handsome today with his summer tan in tennis whites; there was no question about it. James Newton Oliver III had always been considered the hottest guy at the club. When they were younger he rarely spoke to her, but once she shed her chunky adolescent awkwardness and transformed into a svelte sorority co-ed, he began to take notice.

When she came home from college after her freshman year, he was already friendlier to her, saying hello and exchanging pleasantries. He spoke more to her in a few weeks’ time than he had in their entire lives growing up in the same social circles. Fast forward to a summer later, at the club's annual Independence Day party, he invited her on a private walk and kissed her behind the pro shop.

His attention and flirtations were exciting yet confusing to Allie. He was the guy that all the girls wanted. It was like an annual competition, every summer; as far back as she could remember. Which girl, or girls, would win the affections of Jimmy Oliver? Not only was he extremely good looking, his family owned a chain of car dealerships, allowing him to zip around the wealthiest neighborhoods in the Philadelphia suburbs in his black Porsche 911.

Allie never imagined she would be on his list. But now, her youthful insecurities seemed like they could be finally put to rest by his newfound interest in her. He was a great catch and she found herself primping and posing for him whenever he came around. But buried in her heart, she felt an underlying annoyance that he only took an interest in her once she became pretty enough for him... however shallow people define pretty. If he was such a great guy, what was his excuse for treating her like chopped liver when they were younger?

"You should really sign up for the Hackers tournament. You were kicking some serious butt out there today," he praised her, ignoring the girls sitting next to her who's butts she just had kicked.

"I don't know, I'm not really competitive like that," her modesty was always close to the surface and she shied away from his suggestion.

"You've gotten really athletic, Allie, you’d dominate." 

She smiled politely but said nothing. Her neck felt hot with embarrassment and irritation that he had alluded to her weight loss like that, as if her modest reduction suddenly made her a good tennis player. She had always been good; he just had never noticed until now that she was a size 4. If anything, she was less fit. She knew that her periodic starvation tactics had reduced her strength and endurance.

"We should catch a movie or something," he was almost asking her out.

"Sure," she smiled nonchalantly. She couldn’t tell if he was serious or just making flirty conversation. She couldn't assume anything with a boy that perfect looking.

"Friday?" he suggested, his perfect teeth now gleaming from the sunlight through the window. "I'll pick you up at seven?" He made his intentions more clear.

"Do you need directions to my house?" She asked him, feeling a little shocked, but triumphant that she hadn't acted too eager.

"No," he laughed at her offer, "Everyone knows where you live, Allie, just be sure the security team knows I'm coming," he joked. "See you Friday," and with that he sauntered away.

Allie felt stupid for acting like she lived in a normal house tucked away in the suburbs. She lived in an American palace with enormous architectural significance. But she often felt ill at ease with her family's status and wealth, which made even the more prosperous in her community seem quite ordinary.

The seven-acre estate had been in her mother's family since its nineteenth century construction. Jane often joked privately that her position in academia didn’t cover the property taxes. It was Kenneth's career as a high-ranking corporate executive that bankrolled their daily lifestyle. And all the while, as sole heir to the family's trust, Jane accumulated thousands of dollars in compounding monthly interest.

Allie's birthright was evidenced daily by a picture that hung in her bedroom. It was a black and white photograph of her great-grandmother, the young maven of her family's railroad fortune, posing with her carefree Bryn Mawr College contemporaries, including a very young and gorgeous Katherine Hepburn. Allie adored the picture, as if she didn’t entirely realize how much pressure it ladled on her. She was the next in a line of Beaumont socialite beauties tasked to carry on the legacy of poised, accomplished young women who do just as they should.

Her mother, in her youth, briefly took exception to those rules. A striking beauty in her own right, Jane had broken from the debutante mold for a few years, having participated in the civil rights Freedom Schools movement while still in college. After graduating from Bryn Mawr during the Summer of Love, she pursued a bohemian lifestyle in Greenwich Village, ensconced in art and intelligentsia culture at New York University. By the mid-seventies she had earned her doctorate in cultural studies with an emphasis on Victorian science.

In 1975, when Allie's great-grandmother passed away, Jane was bequeathed the estate. Upon her return home, she took an academic position at Haverford College and later at Villanova. Within a couple of years, she was married to Kenneth Turner, the Wall Street wizard son of a family friend, and quickly found her way back to Main Line society. The year after her wedding brought the birth of their son, Holden Montgomery, and three years later, Alexandra Catherine was born.

Somewhere along the way, after settling down with marriage and a family, Jane's progressive ideals became watered down by her duties of marriage, motherhood, the tenure track and their increasingly conservative society. So much so, that Jane's presence in Allie's life had become more as a social guidance counselor than a philosophical or feminist mentor. As such, Allie figured Jane would be thrilled to know Jimmy Oliver asked her daughter out on a date, which seemed like a good reason to keep it to herself, at least until the Main Line social grapevine news made its way over the ocean.

"Holy shit, girl, Jimmy just asked you out," Tara whispered loudly as he sauntered away.

"So you're the lucky one this summer," Beth added in a backhanded reminder that he never stuck with any one girl for very long. Allie didn't care though. She loved that they were green with jealousy. Tara and Beth were pleasant to her now, but they hadn't been very kind to her during their teenage years at the Baldwin School.

It never stung more than memories of a horrifying mother-daughter fashion show. Allie was in her peak chunky phase was about two sizes too big for the size 10 dress that her mother had chosen for her. The girls snickered in the changing room as her mother fiddled with the zipper, trying to pull it up over her bulges that were enhanced by the silk blend that couldn't reach around her burgeoning tummy.

She never forgot the humiliation as she walked red-faced along the fabricated stage, feeling her pudge test the seams of the ugly drop waist, sleeveless flower print dress. After the show was over, she overheard them laughing with some other girls about her "flabby rolls." She wasn't that big of a girl, but to their rigid standards she might as well have been morbidly obese.

She spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and obsessing about what she would wear on her date with Jimmy. Perhaps something body hugging and fabulous would extinguish any lingering memories he might have of her from her chubby years.


Allie awoke to a loud humming sound. She peered out of her window and saw a large case of tools on a good-sized workbench. The humming sound continued from what sounded like the other side of the mammoth house, near the front. Annoyed and wanting to know the source of the obnoxious sound, she descended the stairs to the library and peered out the front window. There, just a few feet away from the window, she saw the back of a plump figure pressure washing the stone walkway that trailed around the vast home and into the gardens.

Not wanting to seem creepy but still strangely curious, she quickly tiptoed away from that window and headed over to the alcove window in the great room so she could peek around the corner and see his face. She found herself smiling and her body warmed as he turned, allowing her to see his jet-black hair, great cheekbones and flawless yet slightly freckly tan skin. She couldn't help but think that he was gorgeous, even if he was quite chunky too. But boys could always get away with a few extra pounds... which only reminded her that it was her duty to stay thin. She snuck out through the garden entrance, hopped on her bike and slipped away to the club for her morning workout.

Allie avoided seeing Jimmy at the club that day by confining herself to the fitness room and working on the elliptical and treadmill. She felt more self-conscious now that he had commented on her smaller body. She wished that she could go join a public gym so he would only see her socially when she had her hair, makeup and outfits just right. Not to mention how nice it would be to be able to go somewhere and not be known as, "the Beaumont girl."

Of course she knew that her mother would never agree to buy a membership at a public club. She could hear her now... "Why would we send you to some sweatbox in Ardmore when we already pay for you to use the best money can buy? I'd rather donate an extra gym membership to charity, wouldn't you?" That was Jane; only the best... and give away the rest.

As she pedaled home, she remembered that she probably wouldn't be able to sneak back through grounds and would have to ride right past the cute and chunky pressure washing guy to get her bike back into the garage, which made her feel inexplicably awkward. As she came up the drive, she saw that he was shirtless now with his body displaying a distinct jiggle as he continued his work around the very lengthy circumference of her home.

Her timing was terrible. As she got closer, he was right there in front of her pathway to the garage. Staying on her bike, she set her foot on the ground and paused while he worked. She noticed his long shorts were a little tight around his rear, and did nothing to hide the mild but noticeable thickness of his thighs. When he turned to find her there, just a few feet away from himself, his big, dark eyes bulged from surprise. He immediately stopped spraying.

"Hi, um sorry," she managed to say as she walked her bike over the stones he had been so diligently cleaning. She glanced down his bare body and witnessed beads of sweat trickling down his smooth, blubbery torso. He was clearly a bit fatter than she had initially thought. Allie felt a funny feeling in her lower abdomen that she couldn't explain but she knew she felt attracted to him; after all, he had a lovely face.

But what she was feeling felt more forbidden and it was very unnerving... and embarrassing. Imagine, letting one's fat belly hang out in the open like that? Who would do such a thing? She moved quickly toward the garage, feeling the heat of his eyes on her while she entered the code, waited for the garage door to open and dragged her bike in.


Allie had developed a bad case of restless nerves about her date with Jimmy. She was on the schedule at the hospital, so at least she had something to do the rest of the day besides think about how little they had in common besides the club and living in the same general vicinity. She felt inexperienced and tongue-tied around him, as if the part of her brain that was funny and interesting simply shut down in his presence.

Stepping out of shower, she heard the familiar sound of the pressure washer emanating from below her window. A few days of intricate cleaning had moved the cute, chubby shirtless boy around to the area below her wing of the residence. She wrapped herself in her bathrobe and tiptoed to the window, as if he could possibly hear her approaching from down below, over the whining din of the machine in his hands. He had his shirt back on this morning, but she wondered aloud with amusement, "It’s going to be another hot one, so... when is it going to come off today, Tubby?"

She felt a pang of guilt saying it out loud, despite the fact that no one was around to hear her. It all seemed very improper, taking perverse joy in his plumpness and then mentally teasing him like that. She was not immune to the ache of having been ridiculed for her own formerly chubby figure; it didn't seem right for her to turn it around on someone else, did it? But she couldn't control those kinds of thoughts...

Even so, she forced her brain back to her volunteer work where her humor and wits never failed her. She always looked forward to spending time with the children there; they seemed to bring out her very best. They regularly astounded her with a maturity and insight that seemed so lacking in the entitled, ungrateful complainers she knew from her college and social circles. It was a talent she was happy to find within herself, to help, in some small way, get these kids through their challenges. And more importantly, she was proud she was strong enough to save her tears for the commute home, where they couldn’t see her aching over the unfairness of illnesses that disrupted their beautiful young lives.

After arriving back from the hospital, Allie snuck down to the pool to clear her emotions. She ended up swimming a few extra laps in an attempt to work off the extra dressing she ladled on her strawberry spinach salad at lunch. She hated that she had become consumed with calories in and calories out, but it had become a way of life for her. She had begun to fall down the slippery slope of body obsession after the humiliation that haunted her at that mother-daughter fashion show. It started with a prepackaged food plan and twenty lost pounds. She was down to a size 8 in time for the annual family ski trip to Aspen, where she broke her leg and consequently gained most of it back. Once her leg healed and she resumed regular exercise, she spent another year struggling to get back down to a single digit size.

The sorority pressure to be even thinner was instantaneous and brutal. That's when Allie's eating habits became more obsessive and disordered. She knew in her head that it wasn't healthy to skip meals and over-exercise, but there seemed like so much chatter and scrutiny over any extra pinch of flesh on one’s body. Most of girls in the sorority were neurotic about it. There was a sense of normalcy around diet pills and marathon workouts. Being "couture thin" just seemed to make her life easier. She tried not to think about the price she knew, deep down, she was paying.

Allie pushed herself with a few more laps before she needed to head in and get ready for her date with Jimmy.  As she walked up the steps she saw the adorable shirtless boy, working his way closer to the pool area. The sight of his plump torso made her feel very naked and self-conscious. She threw a towel around her body and made her way toward house. As she passed him, she gave him an embarrassed smile, hurrying along the newly washed walkway.

In the shower, she found herself touching her body and thinking about him. She imagined he would lie along the edge of the pool while she swam. There was a box of rich gooey �clairs he was grabbing from, eating them all, one by one. He would lick his fingers with satisfaction while rubbing his bloated belly, chocolate and cream filling smeared all over his chub. She imagined that she would surprise him by coming out of the pool and climbing on top of him. Kissing his nice lips, she could taste his chocolate-y indulgences, while feeling his flabby rolls and hanging belly. Then he would get into it, and she’d let him put his sticky, messy fingers into her bikini bottoms. Then after teasing his pudge a bit more, she would forcefully have her way with him.

Allie had never had sex before, but scenes like this provided her self-pleasure material more frequently than ever. She knew she had a weird thing about fat, but the way her fantasies were becoming more vivid, it was more obvious to her that this cute, big boy made her feel jittery; the nice kind of jittery that heated up between her legs.


"I've been wanting to see this movie," Jimmy leaned over to her grabbing a handful of popcorn from his bucket and popping it in his mouth. "I used to read the X-Men comics when I was younger." He offered her some popcorn, but Allie put her hand up. "Yeah, I know, your diet," he shrugged his shoulders.

She shuddered. Why can't he just pretend that he never knew me growing up? "I ate a late lunch." She had become an expert at making up excuses for declining food. At least he couldn't say anything about it during the movie. She figured that if they just spent all of their time together at the movies, then they wouldn’t ever have to talk. But during the movie he made subtle moves, brushing his hand along her bare leg and glancing over at her while she pretended not to notice.

Of course, she couldn’t help but notice the plump, cute guy in her driveway when Jimmy came to pick her up. He was loading his truck up after a long day of work when she came out to greet Jimmy. As Jimmy pulled her in for a deep hug, rubbing his hands along her body, she glanced over at him, and their eyes connected. It was an odd moment. It might have been in her head, she knew she was sensitive, but she felt a sense of shame over how clich� she must have looked in her tight pink polo shirt and matching plaid miniskirt, hugging a pretty boy with a 911.

During the date, her thoughts kept drifting back to that same boy, his shirt off, tanned and sweaty, looking at her intensely with those big, gorgeous dark eyes. He’d be the one to pull her in for that deep hug, and a deeper kiss. She imagined he’d be the one to lift her up and carry her up to her room while she enjoyed the feeling of his soft skin and intense weight, blanketing her with lust.

After the movie, Jimmy drove her back to her place and walked her up to her house. He put his hands around her waist and pulled her close, "I had a great time with you, Allie," and leaned in to kiss her. It was surreal to her that Jimmy Oliver was standing in front of her, looking her in the eyes like he really wanted her.

"I did too," Allie didn't know what else to say, though. She was confused. She liked the feeling of his wanting eyes, but those feelings scared her as well.

"Are you going to ask me in?" He had a mischievous look in his eye.

"Um, I better not tonight, security cameras," she pointed toward the house. It was partly true, but they weren't that intrusive. Still, she felt uncomfortable, like she'd screw up kissing him, or he would want more than she was ready to deal with. Or he would realize she wasn't that pretty, or thin, or cool, or whatever a girl needed to be to be with Jimmy Oliver. Or, perhaps she was just too preoccupied with someone else.

"Can I see you again?" He persisted.

"Yeah, sure," she smiled, not knowing how to say no to another date.

"Sunday?" he demanded, surprising her with his intense interest.

"Okay," she agreed, feeling incredibly flattered. But she couldn't shake the feeling she was being flattered into submission.


Another morning came with the sounds of clanking tools. Allie peered out of the window, and the shirtless boy was back, but he was shirted again, much to her disappointment. She went about her morning routine, slipping out of the house, biking to the club, playing some tennis and biking home. After showering, she went down to the kitchen to make lunch: crust-less cucumber sandwiches on low carb bread with non-fat cream cheese. She glanced out of the kitchen cove window and saw the chubby guy eating what looked like a large hoagie sandwich, seated on a large bucket he fashioned into a chair by turning it upside down. She found herself enjoying watching him eat, thinking that a meal that big could be adding to his lovely fat. And, perhaps he might even break the bucket with his weight. Why do I think these things? I must be so weird.

Allie decided the only way to deal with her awkward feelings was to be a gracious hostess, one becoming her Beaumont lineage. She made a batch of lemonade, just as her mother suggested. She added a little extra sugar and a dollop of honey, figuring that with his physique he might have a sweet tooth too. Her heart pounding, she loaded a tray with a pitcher and a glass of ice, and walked toward the door.

Just then she looked down, remembering the white Lacoste tennis dress she was wearing and knew it wasn’t right. She ran clear across the mansion and up to her room, digging out worn pair of short denim shorts and a cotton-lycra ice blue tee shirt. Simple, minimalist clothes, that still showed off her legs, her favorite part of her body. This seems like something a guy like him would like, right? She had a lot of practice trying to seem like a “normal” person and not an heiress. She learned early that people were sometimes uncomfortable around an heiress. It was no wonder she never quite felt like she belonged. Some people relished that feeling of social separateness in their advantage, but she was not one of them.

As Allie walked out the side terrace toward where he was sitting, she realized that no amount of dressing down would remove the feeling that she was very different from a boy who was doing hard labor around her home. Time seemed to stand still as she walked through the French garden and approached him, feeling positively foolish. But she couldn’t turn back when he looked in her direction and saw her coming.

"Hi," she found herself standing in front of him, feeling nauseous when she saw the surprised look on his face.

He adjusted himself on the bucket, and then spoke guardedly with a puzzled look on his face, "Hi.”

"It's really hot today, I thought you might like some lemonade," she offered, trying desperately to keep her eyes on his face and not drift down farther.

He picked up his bottle of orange soda, showing her he already had something to drink, "Thanks, anyway."

"This will quench your thirst more," she persisted, forcing herself to smile brightly, summoning her will to look confident.

He shrugged his shoulders stood up and accepted the glass, "Thanks."

"No problem," she replied, feeling the hot sun on her neck. "You're welcome to use the veranda for your breaks," she pointed her thumb behind her to the loggia below the upper terrace.

"It's okay, I'm used to it out here," he didn’t seem too accepting of her hospitality.

"I can see that, your tan is pretty intense," she blurted, now allowing her eyes to glance along his body. He glanced at hers in return and smirked a little.

She then realized that her clothing choice also showed off her milky white skin. With her auburn hair, she had always hated the freckles that came along with her Anglo-Saxon line, going out of her way to cover her exposed skin. "I'm eternally pale," she rubbed her arms self-consciously, "I buy sun block in bulk."

"That's probably wise," he nodded politely.

"I'm Allie, by the way," she held out her hand and Sean shook it while she explained, "Well, Alexandra, but no one calls me that; just Allie."

"Sean," he told her his name with a nod.

"Nice to meet you Sean," she liked that name. She could really detect his North Philly accent and found it utterly endearing.

"Well, my break is over, I better get back to work," he cut the conversation short.

"Sure, okay, let me know if you need anything," she offered, realizing too late how stupid that was to say. She was kicking herself; let me know if you need anything? I just sounded like his waitress! She had totally embarrassed herself in front of Sean, but at least she knew his name now.

She began to analyze and over-analyze how she must have come off so awkwardly to him. But he was calm and cool. Despite his sweaty, flabby appearance, he acted very comfortable with himself, and it didn't quite seem fair. He was so handsome though, he probably had no problem getting all the girls in his neighborhood, save those phony, superficial type of girls who would never be seen with a chubby guy.

Then again, she was superficial too, she figured, worrying so much about her own body. Would I be seen with a chubby guy? She asked herself. Yes, she smiled inside, I know I would.


Allie had been trying to avoid Jimmy at the club, but it was no use. He found her in the smaller fitness room using the weight machines.

"So this is where you hide," he joked.

She just smiled and shrugged her shoulders.

"You are a serious these days, aren't you?" He crossed his arms grinning.

She wanted to die from embarrassment. "I've always liked working out," she finally defended her formerly chubby self.

"Well, something changed in your favor," he wouldn't let it go.

"You want to know what it was?" she crossed her arms too, feeling angry and wanting to scream at him that she was on the verge of a clinical eating disorder just to shut him up about it.

"What?" he maintained his cool smile.

In that moment, she realized he was totally clueless and wouldn't understand anyway, so she just said, "I switched to diet soda and started drinking more water, that's about it." But she knew better... as if that alone could make her drop three sizes in less than a year.

"Hmmm," he said, shrugging his shoulders, "that makes sense." Then he walked over to her and sat facing her on the exercise bench. "So, when do I get to take you out again?" He rubbed his hands along her outer thighs and gave her a kiss on the lips, angling for a third date.

On their second date, he had taken her to dinner at Savona, a romantic Mediterranean restaurant. It was a nice enough time, but she felt self-conscious about eating anything really delicious in front of him, choosing the boring Dover sole and skipping dessert. Jimmy actually ate quite a bit, which irked her more. He was probably one of those naturally thin people who couldn't possibly understand how easily other people could gain weight and ‘let themselves go.’

But his hands on her thighs made her feel desirable, something she had craved her whole life. And when Tara and Beth walked in and saw him kissing her, she enjoyed that guilty pleasure even more.

"Didn't mean to interrupt anything," Beth rolled her eyes.

Jimmy glanced back at Beth with annoyance on his face but didn't verbally acknowledge her. He turned back to Allie flashing his winning smile, "I'll call you."


"More lemonade?"  Allie wanted to try to break the ice with cool Sean. This time he was sporting the shirtless look, and once she saw him and his soft belly pooch through the window, she couldn’t resist the opportunity to get close to him again.

"Uh, sure," he took the glass and took a big gulp.

"You want to sit down?" She pointed toward the veranda, feeling more confident around him, now that he seemed a bit vulnerable with his soft chest mounds and plump middle out in the open.

"Um, okay, I guess, it's time for a break anyway," he submitted more readily than the first time she had introduced herself to him. He grabbed his shirt and draped it across his shoulders, like he was vainly attempting to cover up.

"This is a lot of work to do it all by yourself," she sat down, noticing the glint of sun reflecting off if his dark hair.

"I'll have help here next week, once I finish the pressure washing and calculate out how much stone I'll need," he informed her, taking another drink from his lemonade.

"You're bringing in new stone?" She didn't realize he was replacing the fractured pieces. Her interest in architectural preservation always made her protective when it came to any restoration work done to the estate, even down to the stone walkway.

"Special flagstone; I have to keep close track of what will need replacing and record it. We can't just bring in anything here.  It's Trumbauer's vision, so even the exterior stonework has to be just right."

"You know the history of this place?" She was happily reassured he knew what he was doing.

"This is Philly. Masons here have to know about more than just slapping concrete down. There's history, rules, preservation."

"Yes, of course," she smiled, slightly surprised by his ardent tone.

"It's a stunning structure," he looked over the expansive wings of the Chateau-like mansion from one side to the other.

She nodded in agreement with a meek smile.

"You don't even realize it, do you?" He crossed his arms in front of his yielding, delectably smooth, bare chest.

"Yes, I appreciate what my family has, believe me," she countered defensively, surprised by his forceful tone.

"No," he continued with more force in his voice, "I mean, how architecturally important this place is, and how singular the stonework is. There's not many left like this, I'm just glad your family is treating her well," he took another gulp of lemonade.

"By hiring you, no doubt," she smirked playfully. Allie loved that he seemed to harbor a passion for building preservation; but she kept her academic training to herself. It was more interesting to let him talk about what he knew than to put an end to his side of the conversation with her boring book knowledge.

"Of course," he smiled openly. It was the first time she saw how much more adorable he was when a big smile spread widely across his face. "I grew up in a row house in Mayfair, so this..." he waved his hand over the massive home, "is a different perspective."

Allie looked down now, feeling that old discomfort of her privilege. She had been all over the world: France, Sweden, Japan...  even Tahiti, but she had never been to Northeast Philly; not that she could remember anyway. It made her feel very bourgeois. Before the conversation could go any further down that road, she made an excuse to leave. She found mental sanctuary from the world in developing her senior thesis design project. She had been delving into it deeper in recent weeks to prepare for her next meeting with Dr. Porter, before leaving for Europe next month. 

David Porter was with her advising professor at Cornell. She had harboring a girlish crush on him... well, an academic crush, nothing overly sexual, like the way she had been feeling about Sean. She simply loved conversations with him about building conservation, from architectural elitism to the philosophies behind stylistic movements. When she learned he had grown up on the North Shore of Long Island, in one of the “lesser” mansions in that region, she opened up to him about her background. She trusted him with information about her home and family that she rarely shared with anyone, and certainly no one at school, save her most trusted friend, Maia. She hated that a few of the sorority sisters had learned of her family situation through the society grapevine, needling her on occasion about it.

Allie was many months away from declaring her thesis, but it was an idea she’d had swirling around in her head since high school. Her father had given her a book about Philadelphia’s architectural history, which delved into the amazing historical structures that had been lost to the whims of progress and politics. She dug deeper in her research, learning of many aged estates, threatened by an economic aggressiveness that often rendered preservation a losing battle. It was the unfortunate side effect of modernization that Allie lamented.

Her idea was that igniting a Beaux-Arts revival in new developments could encourage feelings of sentiment and public protection for the old structures. She wanted to design something that took the splendor and elegance of the Gilded Age with the practical infrastructure and available materials to meet the requirements of a postmodern society. Surely there was a place for both classic beauty and structural longevity among the sea of mirrored glass geometric beasts that had crept into the landscape of constantly evolving cities. She hoped that Professor Porter would be proud of her progress, since she valued his opinion higher than just about anyone she knew, except perhaps, her father’s.


"I made cookies," she brought out a plate full of freshly baked oatmeal butterscotch chip cookies.

Sean's eyes grew a little and then he shrugged his shoulders, “Sure.” He still seemed nonchalant about her daily gestures of generosity, but hadn’t rebuffed her either. "Thanks," he grabbed one from the plate as she set it down on the wrought iron table.

"Are you going to have one?" he asked her.

"No, I already had a couple," she lied. One of those cookies was the calorie equivalent of about 10 more laps in the pool, which would only make her hungrier.

"I can't eat all of these myself," he quipped, flooding her brain with images of him polishing off the entire plate and licking his fingers in satisfaction while his belly expanded before her eyes.

Then she felt guilty about encouraging his gluttony and tried to cover it up, "I baked like, ten dozen for work."

"You work?" He asked bluntly. She was slightly annoyed by his shocked tone but she liked him too much to care.

"Well, I don't get paid, so I guess it's not a real job," she teased him for his presumptuousness. "I volunteer at Children's Hospital."

"That's cool," his face brightened up. "What do you do?"

"Some days I do family services, you know, just helping parents find their way to what they need; and other days… well, my favorite thing, is reading to the kids. And some days I spend in the neonatal unit and I get to hold newborns. It's an amazing job."

"So is it a full time job for you?" he asked.

"No, unfortunately, because I'm going back to school in the fall they can't commit me to longer hours, but I spend a little extra time there anyways."

"Where do you go to school?" he was more inquisitive today.

"Cornell," she answered.

"That's far enough away from here," he noted, considering how many highbrow institutions there were much closer to home.

"My mother wasn't thrilled with me turning down her ivory tower down the street," she pointed over her shoulder towards Villanova, "but Cornell's architecture program drew me in."

Sean's face brightened up, "So then maybe you do know how amazing your place is," smiling smugly, alluding to their conversation the previous day.

"My emphasis is architectural conservation, so you know I do," she beamed.

He launched into conversation about their favorite downtown Philly buildings. When she shared her sadness about the deterioration and demise of Memorial Hall, he commiserated. “I always loved that place. When I was a kid, my parents would take me to Fairmount, different parts each time, and I’d spend hours just walking around, looking at the sculptures and studying stonework. I still ride my bike through there all the time. There was talk of renovating. My dad was going to bid it, but I guess the money dried up or something," he shrugged his shoulders.

"So you work for your father?" She turned the questioning toward him, happy he was opening up more.

"Just in the summer," Sean answered. "He taught me the trade, but I'm in school the rest of the year."

"Where?" Allie demanded, intrigued by every word that came out of him. Before today he had been so tight-lipped.

"Temple," he smiled. "I stayed closer to home than you did."

"What year are you?" She asked with interest, hungry for more information about him.

"Well, I just finished my third year, but I'm in an accelerated program so I segue into medical school next year."

Allie was shocked he was pre-med and tried to hide her surprise. But apparently she didn't do a very good job, because Sean furrowed his brows and mocked her, "I know, laborers are just supposed to be laborers, right?"

"No!" she tried to cover her embarrassing faux pas with flattery, "I was just thinking that it's pretty amazing, to be so academically smart and also really talented with your craft," she pointed to the sample stone he had been working down to just the right shape. "Besides," she laughed, "tell me you didn't think I was just a rich bitch when you first saw me?"

"The rich part was pretty obvious, I'll admit to that," he laughed back. He was so cute when he laughed, with his gorgeous face and jiggling little belly. His tubbiness redirected her thoughts back to the cookies on the table and her job at the hospital.

"Well, I better get going to work while these are still fresh," she hopped up with the plate. "Here, take a few more," she set a handful down on a napkin for him and started back inside, "See you tomorrow," she waved at him, feeling elated over the connection she had made with her big crush.


"Why don’t you ever return my calls?" Jimmy slid behind her putting his hand on her waist and whispering in her ear. He found her again, this time as she was leaving the club after a morning of tennis. She had thought she escaped…

She flinched from his touch. Her waist was a sensitive spot, especially with a boy who always seemed to have such high standards for physical beauty. "Oh, my cell is being weird, I need a new one," she lied keeping her eyes on the ground. Allie wasn't getting any more comfortable with his aggressive pursuit, even if it was somehow gratifying. She had been avoiding him for days, but it was a matter of time before he found her again.

"What are you doing tonight?" He asked, unfazed by her stall tactics.

"Hospital fundraiser event," she was glad she had an answer.

"Do you need a date?" He pressed.

"I'm working there, not a guest," she explained, a little perturbed by his presumption she wouldn't have responsibilities there.

"So when do I get to take you out again?" He wasn't daunted, pressing the date issue harder. Allie could almost physically feel the pressure he was putting on her. She imagined this is what he would be like about sex too, which made her feel queasy to even think about.

"What did you have in mind?" She didn't know how to find a way around the question.

"How about something fun? There’s a new club downtown...  I know the owner,” he started. Allie had dabbled in nightlife with trips she made to downtown Philly with sorority sisters the summer before. It was eye-opening enough to know she wanted nothing to do with the drunken douchebag and coked up Manhattan-wannabe crowd. She must have made a pretty disgusted face, because Jimmy changed his tune quickly, “Or, how about mini golf?" he offered.

"Yeah sure," she agreed, relieved. Mini golf was neutral, harmless fun.

"Monday night?" He suggested.

"I work at the hospital until 4, how about you pick me up at 6?" She found herself setting the time.

"Awesome," he smiled, squeezing her waist and kissing her softly on her lips.


"Maia!" Allie cried happily, lounging in her bed on a quiet Sunday morning.

"What are you doing?" She heard Maia's excitement on the other end of the phone. Allie met Maia in her Design Studio class during freshman year and was captivated by her French Canadian accent and exotic beauty. They were put together to work on a collaborative project, quickly bonding over their mutual love of chimera and ornamental figures in gothic architecture.

"Trying to get motivated to go play in a racquetball tournament today with girls I loathe," she told Maia honestly.

"You seem to spend your life stuck with people you do not care for, quel dommage," Maia joked, alluding to Allie's contempt for many of the girls in her sorority.

"And then I don't get to spend my summer with the friends I love," Allie flattered her best friend. "Speaking of, how is Montreal?" Maia was spending the summer in Canada with her father, working for his architectural firm as an intern.

"It's been miserable," she pouted right through the phone. "It's hot, humid, and my father is a tyrant to work for."

"You knew that going in," Allie teased her. The two girls also shared the experience of having successful and demanding fathers. "How's your grandmother doing?"

"I talked to her yesterday, and she’s still not doing so well." Maia's mother was in Brazil taking care of her parents, who were both quite ill.

"I'm so sorry, Maia," Allie tried to soothe her best friend.

"I feel like a selfish brat because I want her here with me," Maia sounded even sadder. "She protects me from him."

"Is it that bad?" Allie knew what Maia was talking about.

"He signed me up for Nutrisystem and a gym the day I came home," she sighed.

The first time Allie saw Maia she didn't even notice that Maia was plump; just that she was exceptionally beautiful. A product of her French Canadian father and Brazilian mother, her enormous eyes and gorgeous, long black hair were striking. She was only somewhat plus-sized, with a great hourglass shape to her curves, but Maia still had a lot of issues with her weight, especially considering her father's severe criticisms.

"Can I come visit you?" Allie suggested, hearing the despair in her friend's voice and wanting to be there for her.

"Allie, we're spending a year in Rome together. I can wait one more month to see you if I have to," she joked in the guilty knowledge that Allie had the means to travel anywhere on short notice.

"Just for a long weekend? It's a quick flight," she insisted.

"Really? You think you can come?" Maia sounded hopeful.

"Definitely. Besides, it will get me away from someone I need to get away from," she alluded to her flirtation with Jimmy. "I'll tell you all about it when I get there."

After sorting out the details with Maia, Allie called her father in Europe.

"Daddy?" Allie pulled her 'sweetest daughter in the world' routine out of storage.

"Yes Al," her father responded in a knowing tone.

"I don't suppose you have a few thousand frequent flyer miles just lying around waiting to be used," she tried to make light of her pending request. "Can I get your blessing to go up to Montreal and see Maia for a few days?"

"What about your commitments at the hospital?" He countered skeptically.

"I'll have no problem trading schedules; people are always looking for nights and weekends off," she argued. "Besides, they're loaded with volunteers this summer. I wanted to get more hours and I couldn't."

"I suppose," he sighed, "it's too late for you to have done anything else this summer."

Allie winced, feeling caught between her mother’s and father's advice. "Dad, Mom arranged the hospital job for me, and I actually really love it. And I still have time to go to the club-"

"Al," her father interrupted her, "I know your heart is in the right place,” he paused and continued, “But between the sorority, the volunteer work and the club, you're putting all your stock into your future as some guy's rich wife. I think you can do better than that."

She was used to her father's lectures about seeking more professional opportunities instead of social ones, but she had never heard him criticize her all in one breath for what amounted to following her mother's wishes. She burst into tears, "It's been made clear to me my entire life that nothing would be better than being another Beaumont girl. Mom wanted me in the sorority, even though I don't really care for it. Mom wanted me to do volunteer work. I actually enjoy that and I think I'm making a difference there, which is better than pushing around paper in an office."

"Al-," he tried to stop her.

She was too upset to stop herself from purging her resentment at being caught between her parents' conflicting demands. "And don't even bring the club into this, because it's always been made abundantly clear that I need to be in perfect shape."

"Damn it Allie, would you stop?" her father interjected. "You know we love you more than anything in the world."

"This isn't about how much you love me, it's about how disappointed you are in me," she spat back coldly.

"I have never been disappointed in you," he spoke solemnly, "I just want more for you. With your fortunate situation, you'll be a target, Al. You're too damn bright and talented to get sucked into socialite society."

"I can't win with you two, can I?" she sighed, tears welling up again.

"I don't agree with everything your mother says or does. But honey, we're not the same people. You are an adult; you are your own person to heed the counsel of your parents as you see fit. My management team doesn't always agree with each other but I take the best of their opinions to make informed decisions."

"I'm your daughter, not a corporation," she chided him.

"You'd be surprised at how sentimental stockholders are about their money," he joked.

"Dad," she half-laughed in protest, but knew that deep down he had a point.

"I'll have Diane help you with your flights," her father relented and offered up his assistant. "Just let her know when you want to go."

"Thanks Dad," Allie was grateful but still a bit raw that her father couldn't just say yes or no without making her pay an emotional price.


"I'm going to Montreal for the weekend," Allie nonchalantly shared her plans with Sean, taking a drink from her iced tea, "so you won’t have me bugging you for a few days." It was only 7:30 in the morning, but Allie had already brought out an iced jug of lemonade in a cooler for Sean to drink throughout the day while she was gone to work at the Hospital.

She had cut her date short with Jimmy the night before. She felt annoyed the entire time with his physical advances and feigned a sick stomach so she could get home without more sexual pressure. Except she found herself in bed that night, pleasuring herself to the thought of sweaty Sean, tearing off an outgrown t-shirt, pressing her against one of the library windows under the terrace vestibule. It was quiet and fragrant with flowers from the garden, a perfect place to experience his soft flesh against hers, her fingers lifting his belly to help his pants off…

"Why Montreal?" he raised an eyebrow, snapping her out of the latest Sean-related fantasy that had been playing over and over in her head.

"My best friend lives there," she explained.

"Is she from your Sorority?" he smirked.

"Actually no," Allie answered sourly, sensing his weakly veiled contempt for sorority girls. "She's in my architecture program. We're going to Rome next month for our year abroad."

"Oh," Sean answered curtly.

Allie was smiling to herself, thinking about how much she was enjoying building this odd friendship with Sean when two lanky young guys walked around the side pavilion hauling what must have been heavy flagstone slabs on a large dolly. When they saw Sean they set the dolly down and ran up the steps of the veranda to greet him.

"Seannie, how ya doin there?" The taller boy smiled widely at him, shaking his hand with his other hand on his shoulder. "Haven't seen you since the Volksfest."

Then the other boy greeted Sean with a light slap on the belly, "Looks like you've still been enjoying the college life."

Allie felt her face flush over that belly slap when the two boys noticed her. The taller one asked Sean, "So, is this your new girlfriend?"

"No more Janine?" The other chimed in, making Allie incredibly curious about who the heck Janine was.

"Allie lives here," Sean corrected them. "Allie, this is Mike," he pointed to the taller boy, "and Charlie. They're helping with laying the replacement stone."

Allie stood up and shook their hands, "Nice to meet you."

"Verrry nice to meet you," Charlie blatantly checked out her body, scanning down her legs.

Allie grew uncomfortable with his leering looks and excused herself, "I've got to get to work, it was nice to have met you both," she nodded politely, turned and walked away, as quickly as she could, back to the house. Still, her ears couldn't avoid hearing Charlie say, "You got no shot, McTubbs," with his laughter ringing in her ears.

Overhearing Charlie's unkind words made her skin crawl. She may have enjoyed her own bizarre inner thoughts about making fun of Sean's chubbiness, but she was disgusted hearing some stranger try to knock him down a notch over it. And then using her as a yardstick made her feel even worse. The last thing she wanted was someone to discourage Sean from thinking of her romantically. She so wished he would.

Allie couldn’t stop herself from listening to more of their conversation from around the other side of the garden where she couldn’t be seen. She heard Sean send Charlie back to the truck for some equipment and then she heard Mike’s deeper voice. “So this chick is hanging out with you while you work on her family's museum?" Mike asked Sean.

"She's just bored, I guess," Sean shrugged and took a drink of lemonade. Allies heart sank over how flippant he was about their new friendship.

"She's incredibly hot," Mike responded, "and loaded. If a girl like that doesn't go for you, it has nothing to do with your gut. Main Line chicks have no need for Northeast Philly guys like us." Allie felt like a jerk for thinking she could be more than friends with Sean, after hearing Mike remind Sean how different they really were. And that his adorable gut had anything to do with anything other than turning her on.

"Who said anything about me wanting her anyway," Sean shot back. Allie felt her throat closing and tears forming hearing Sean move on to football. "So what do you think Mikey, is McNabb gonna take us to the Promised Land this year?"

"He's fun to watch; should've been MVP," Mike shook his head. "Gonna be a big year for the Birds."

With that, Allie forced herself to forget about Sean and focus on getting to work without the evidence of a tear streaked face and puffy eyes.


"Al!" Maia hugged Allie tight as she came off the jet way at Dorval. "I am so glad to see you!"

Allie hugged her very tightly. She had come to view her as the sister she never had. Sure, Allie was close with her brother Holden, but he was living across the country. And it wasn't like having female kinship. "I’m so glad I'm here," she exclaimed. "I've missed you so much."

"Mon Dieu, you look even skinnier," Maia brushed her hand down Allie's arm, seeming partly concerned, partly jealous, and partly joking.

Allie knew she couldn't deny it, so she did her usual dance around the issue, "Some days are so busy, at the hospital... I've missed a few meals."

"Allie," she frowned. Maia knew Allie's issues.

Allie deflected more by praising Maia, "You look awesome!"

"I've only lost a little," she shrugged her shoulders.

"No, not that, I mean just in general, you have that summer radiance," she rubbed Maia's arm. Being around Maia made Allie feel instantly safe. She never had a solid, trusting female friendship until she met Maia.

"So who's the guy this summer?" Maia asked, prodding further into Allie's admission that she's been dating.

"You mean Jimmy?" Allie pursed her lips and smiled with guilt.

"Tell me, tell me!" Maia adored talking about men, something Allie had always felt slightly awkward about.

"This guy from the Cricket Club," she began to reluctantly explain.

"Is he hot?" Maia demanded.

"He's very good looking, and nice. But it's nothing serious," she tried to play it down.

"Why not?" Maia was clearly thirsty for juicy details and wasn't going to relent until Allie explained herself.

"Jimmy is the guy at the club that dates a different girl every summer, and this is my summer. I feel like a contestant winner, not his girlfriend."

"Uh," Maia seemed disappointed, "Sounds like more of the same for you."

"What does that mean?" Allie felt defensive.

"I mean that you always seem to surround yourself with people you don't particularly care for," Maia lectured Allie. "Why are you even seeing him?"

"I guess at first it felt good," she sheepishly shrugged. "He was who I was always supposed to wish for and it was nice to be on the ‘hot girl’ list for once."

"I get that, I wish I was on that list for once too."

"Oh gosh, Maia, just stop it. You are literally the most beautiful woman I know."

"If I'd only lose a huge amount of weight," she made a bitter face.

"No way Maia, not even close. I mean just the way you are, you turn heads. I see it all the time."  Allie had often thought about encouraging her best friend to get into plus-size modeling, but knew that would ignite another weight discussion, so she kept it to herself.

"Whatever, Allie," she waved her hand and pressed her straw into the ice at the bottom of her glass.

Allie was desperate to elevate Maia's mood, so she rekindled the 'boys' topic. "There's another guy this summer..."

Maia took the bait, a smile redrawn across her face, "Really? Who is he?"

"My parents are having this masonry work done on the house and this guy is refurbishing the stonework," Allie started to explain her friendship with Sean.

"Oh yum," Maia became dreamy, "Like topless and muscles, right? Oh you are so bad! What have you done with him?"

"Nothing," Allie stopped her, laughing, "We just talk. He's actually pre-med at Temple," she decided not to contradict Maia's assumptions about his physical description, especially since he was all shirtless and muscles. Did she really need to share that his muscles were covered by a nice amount of chub?

"Oh and he's intelligent too," she swooned. "So are you going to be able to fit in a quick summer fling with him before we leave for Rome?"

"I’m pretty sure he doesn’t think much of me," she confessed. "I think he thinks I'm just a shallow, entitled bore."

"No way Allie, all you have to do is open your mouth and people realize you're a total sweetheart,” she smiled, and then frowned. “So you’re juggling two amazing guys this summer? Ugh, so unfair,” she smiled devilishly. “I know you don't want to hear this, but I am going to really try hard on my diet the rest of the summer. I want to meet a hot man in Europe!"

Maia took Allie sightseeing and shopping, although Allie was careful to stay away from skinny stores. She felt horrible when Maia couldn't find anything in her size. Mostly because she knew it bothered Maia, but it also brought up painful memories of her own shopping experiences with so-called friends in high school. They would always seem to rub it in to Allie that the racks were 'too full of fat sizes' like junior 9s and 11s, when Allie was struggling to fit into her women’s 12s and 14s.

Meeting Maia's father was another uncomfortable experience. He seemed pleasant enough toward Allie, but was obviously cool and distant with Maia. It gave her a whole new appreciation for her own father. No matter how tough Kenneth could be about Allie's goals or work ethic, he was usually affectionate and supportive too. Allie respected Maia all the more for her strength in the face of such cold parenting; that she could be as kind and compassionate as she was after being raised by a father with almost no warmth or sensitivity.

Allie dragged Maia out to eat for every meal because she couldn't stand the critical looks he would give Maia with every bite of food she ate. Allie finally admitted to Maia how upsetting it was to witness. "How can you stand it?" Allie let it burst out her mouth as Maia was explaining the mundane tasks he gave her to do at work.

"I have to start somewhere, Allie," Maia referred to her difficult working environment.

"No, I mean, how can you stand the way he watches every single bite of food you eat?" Allie couldn't contain her anger.

Maia's eyes grew wide in shock, "He's my father, Allie," she whispered, even though they were alone in the middle of Mont Royal Park eating a picnic lunch.

"That doesn't give him the right to humiliate you like that," Allie responded, feeling tears well up in her eyes. She had so much anger bubbling under her skin for the way in which people seemed to make someone else's body their business, from perfectionist boys, to catty girls and demanding parents. Allie felt it like a constant cloud over her head, and hated to watch Maia was suffering the same pressures.

"Hey," she gently touched Allie's arm. "Is this about me? Or about you?"

Allie's shocked look made Maia continue, "I know you want to protect me Allie, but the whole world can see that I'm a fat girl. And I'd like to not always be la grosse amie, I know you can relate to that, so please stop telling me I should be happy with myself, because it makes you a hypocrite."

"But," Allie started to interject, feeling horrible that Maia was now on the offensive.

"Wait, Al," she continued, "I just keep getting the feeling that you're really struggling with your issues too. You've never been skinnier, you eat like a bird, and you work out all the time... you know you need to eat more to fuel yourself!"

"I'm fine," Allie cut her off, growing defensive.

"I just want you healthy. I know, I should mind my own business, but I love you like a sister. Or what I think a sister would be," she corrected herself with a smile.

"I feel the same way about you," Allie softened. "Let's just drop the weight stuff, I hate talking about it."

"Fine," Maia waved her hand, but then smiled and hugged Allie.


"Did you have a good time?" Sean asked Allie, as she watched him smooth some finely crushed limestone over the soil where he would be laying down the replacement stone.

"Yeah, it was nice to get away and see Maia," she smiled, relieved Sean was being nice to her, even if he wasn’t into her. "I got to practice my French, so it was good preparation."

"I thought you were going to Rome?" Sean quizzed her.

"I'm going to meet my parents in Geneva first, and then my mom and I are going to take a train to Paris and spend a few days there before I fly from there to meet Maia in Rome."

"Sounds pretty amazing," he kept working, his eyes on the ground. She felt stupid for explaining all of that. It was just a family plan to her, but it must have sounded tre pr�tentieux to anyone else.

"I was actually kind of dreading spending that much time with my parents, but after meeting Maia's dad, I have a whole new appreciation for them."

 "Why wouldn't you want to spend time with your parents? You haven't seen them for a while, right?" he asked pointedly.

Allie shrugged, "I don't know. It's like everything can be fine and then something critical comes out of one of their mouths and makes me feel like crap, and then they argue about it. It gets old..."

"My parents can be the same way, but can't we all be critical of our families? I mean, they probably just want the best for you,” he stated with a maturity that made her feel like a jerk for complaining.

"I suppose," she was surprisingly accepting of his interpretation, "Especially when I compare it to what Maia has to live with. My mom makes occasional weight comments or diet suggestions that annoy the hell out of me, but Maia's father is downright cruel about it."

"You mean your mom wants to get you to eat more?" he confused her with that question.

"More? God no, not my mother. 'Eating light is ladylike,' was all I ever heard growing up."

"She wants you to lose weight?" He questioned incredulously.

"Not anymore," Allie looked down, crossing her arms in front of her, growing uncomfortable.

"My mother always piled my plate with food," Sean joked, "I guess it shows," he patted his belly. Allie's face and neck turned red and while she tried desperately not to gawk at his middle.

"I've never seen anything like it though, the way her father hounded her about dressing on her salad and sauce on her food. It was sickening," she was back to talking about Maia, venting feelings that came from more than just her weekend getaway.

"That's pretty rough," he agreed with her. "I get crap sometimes too, from friends, or my dad, but it's not that extreme."

"She's not even that big," Allie accented the words 'that big," and immediately regretted it.

"You mean as big as me?" Sean laughed, catching Allie in her words.

"No," she felt pained that he could be offended by the implication. "I meant she's not that big compared to... I just mean she's really, really beautiful. She's so striking; you don't even notice she's heavier. I wish I were as beautiful as her. She's just... I don't know," Allie was struggling to find the right words,

"What do they call it? Like pleasingly plump? Nothing wrong with that." Sean showed a flash of confidence about his plump body that Allie found herself very excited by. "I'm going to start to use that to describe myself."

Allie laughed nervously, feeling the large pit in her stomach turn into floating flutters as she heard Sean utter words that she had said to herself, watching him through the window of her room upstairs or the kitchen bay. Standing alone, no one else to hear, the whispers had come tumbling out of her mouth, imagining sneaking up behind him with a heaping plate of fattening chocolate goodness, slipping her hand around to support his belly... Sean, you're so pleasingly plump, why don't you try a few more of my homemade brownies?

Sean snapped her out of her fantasy, "So you're working today?"

"Yeah, but not until 10, so I guess I'm just hanging around here bugging you while you work," she grinned through her guilt.

"You don't bug me," he responded without looking up.

Allie felt hopeful, "Good, I like talking to you. It's nice to talk to a normal person."

He looked up with curiosity, "Normal?"

"You're easy to talk to," she realized too late that the word 'normal' could be misconstrued so she overcompensated, "In a good way." And then she felt stupid; it sounded like such a dumb line.

But Sean paused, his eyes bearing into hers, "Like us 'normal' common folk?"

"No," she looked away, feeling her heart pound.

"Do you talk to me because I'm one of the simple people who take such good care of the ground you walk on?"

"Hey, that's not what I meant," Allie's heart pounded harder.

"Really?" Sean glared at her with obvious anger.

Allie reacted the only way she knew, with honesty, "No! I meant that you're comfortable in your own skin. You don’t care what people think, and I admire that," she looked away, feeling horribly embarrassed. She couldn't look him in the eye again, shivering from his anger and mumbled, "I gotta go to work," and hurried away.

Allie felt sick to her stomach every time she played the angry exchange with Sean through her head. She was building up such a crush on him and yet he obviously couldn't stand her. All the groundwork she had done developing a friendship with him seemed pointless. It had been hard, actually, pushing herself to socialize with him, overcome her shyness at every turn, and now a few poorly chosen words and she was back to being an annoying snob. She decided that she would probably die a virgin. The boys that liked her, she didn't like. And finally, there was one she really, really liked, and she wasn't ever going to have him.

Allie avoided Sean for a few days, but found herself in front of the house about to leave on her bike when she overheard a conversation Sean was having with Mike and Charlie.

"So what's the deal with Janeane?" Mike asked Sean. There was talk of this Janeane girl again, and Allie was paralyzed by curiosity.

"Nothing," Sean responded.

"I know she comes 'round your place once in a while, she told my sister," Mike admitted.

"We still see each other, nothing official." Allie had suspected this Janeane person was Sean’s girlfriend, or ex, or something in between, apparently.

"I know she's my sister's best friend, and you probably still care for her, but she's trouble, man. I'm serious; you're not the only guy she's seeing."  Allie wanted to slug this Janeane girl now.

Charlie spoke up, in his usually vulgar way, "If you're only in it for the goods, go for it man, just stock up on jit bags," he laughed. She didn’t hear Sean’s voice respond.

"Big storms coming through tomorrow Buddy, you should take tomorrow off," Mike warned Sean.

Allie heard their voices coming closer and took off on her bike before they could see she had been eavesdropping.

So maybe Sean was just hung up on this Janeane person and Allie would never have a shot no matter how much she broke down the other barriers. She decided that if she kept avoiding him, she wouldn’t see his cute face and round body, and maybe forget all about him altogether. That seemed like the best solution. And yet, she still kept thinking about him, more than ever. When she lay in her bed at night, feeling most alone, wishing his warm body was next to hers, his hot breath on her neck, his chubbiness enveloping her...  how could she ever put those fantasies out of her head?


It was a week into August and a heavy summer rain was coming down in full force. Allie raced home from the club on her bike, having been drenched from the moment she left. The feeling of the rain now pelting her face was more than uncomfortable. Relieved to have made it home in one piece, she headed up her driveway, hopped off her bike and quickly moved it into the garage. She felt like a drowned rat, looking down at her soaked tennis whites, sighing at her muddy legs and ruined tennis shoes.

From the garage, she went into the mudroom to grab a towel and wipe herself off. She glanced out the window and spotted a dripping wet Sean under the veranda, kneeling down over his toolbox, drying each of his tools off with an old towel. In another week, Allie was going to leave for Europe and hopefully forget all about him, but scenes like this made it very difficult. She forgot all about her own soaked condition, admiring the way his wet t-shirt clung to his body, showing off his bulges and rolls in a way that made a wave of pleasure completely overcome her.  She instinctively pressed her legs closely together to fend off the flush desire that was quickly heating her up, but it wasn’t working.

Her eyes lingered over his side roll, folded over into his belly droop, which seemed to struggle for room in his lap. He was obliviously, yet completely destroying any hopes of ridding herself of the fluttered feelings mounting in her stomach that migrated further south between her legs. It didn’t help any that he looked so handsome too. His black hair was wet, dripping down his soft, smooth, beautiful face and cute double chin. Allie surprised herself in realizing the intense affection she felt for him, beyond the peculiarly gratifying sensations that the sight of his fat had been stirring inside of her all summer.

Then, it was as if he knew she was watching him with lust. She was bound to be caught; that kind of heated energy doesn’t stay hidden for very long. He looked up exactly where she was behind the window and found her gazing admiringly at him. He smiled and waved, making her feel hopeful again. Seeing him helplessly trying to avoid the downpour, a surge of protectiveness came over her, making her forget all about the cool distance she had been dancing around for weeks. Within seconds, she was doing a slow jog through the rain, along the garden path towards him under the veranda.

"Come on," she grabbed his hand and ran, dragging him into the pool house. She opened a linen closet and pulled out a white terry robe and handed it to him, "You can get out of those wet clothes in the changing room," she pointed toward another room that had deep blue carpet and paintings of ships on the walls.

"I can't," he protested.

"You can't just stand out there in wet clothes, it's going to pour for a while," she countered, surprising herself at how bossy she was being with him.

"I should just pack up and call it a day," he reasoned.

"No, you can't drive all the way home like this; you'll get sick,” she insisted on his compliance. “It will only take a few minutes to dry. Just go change out of those clothes. There's a washer and dryer over there," she pointed to another side room.

"This… is a pool house?" Sean questioned her with an eyebrow raised high.

"It used to be a servant's cottage. My mother converted it to a pool house when the servant thing became politically incorrect for a family of four living in a mansion," Allie answered honestly.

"Oh," his eyes scanned across the other rooms from the main living area they were standing in.

"Go, change. I will too. My brother's old PlayStation stash is in there if you want to kill some time and wait the rain out," she offered.

Sean's eyes brightened, "Really?"

"Wet clothes off," Allie commanded playfully, pointing to the blue changing room.

After a couple of minutes, Sean walked out of the with the robe cinched tight just underneath his belly and wet clothes in his hand at the same time that Allie emerged from the other room in her pink robe with a silver "A" monogrammed on the front. She grabbed his clothes and threw them in the dryer, "they should be dry in a little bit."

"Nice robe," he complimented her as she walked back over towards him.

"Thanks," she shrugged her shoulders, “It was an 18th birthday gift from my brother," she stretched out her arms showing off the plush material draping over her hands.

"Looks a little big on you," he blurted. She turned a brighter shade of pink than the robe, her eyes darting away from noticing how tightly packed into his robe he looked.

 "I suppose you don't get too many fat guys here," he patted his belly, acknowledging the tight fit of his robe with self-deprecating humor.

She had been trying not to stare at his plump body, which was barely contained by the belt of the robe, and his commenting on it made her aware that she was visibly trembling. She quickly changed the subject, "You want to get the PlayStation out?" She pointed at the cabinet under the TV, noticing that even her hand was shaking a little.

"Totally," he smiled casually, seemingly oblivious to her nerves. She was relieved to find something to distract him and pull him out of his shell too. He knelt down on the floor and dug out the equipment and games. "Wow, this is a great collection."

"Yeah, my brother used to come out here and play when he wanted to get away from my parents' nagging," she shared, without mentioning that she was guilty of the same nag avoidance scheme.

"Tomb Raider, Jet Moto, Doom..." his fingers sorted through the game discs, "Oh, the original Grand Theft Auto! Sweet," he smiled. "Wanna play?"

"You think you can beat me?" Allie teased him, knowing she wasn't very good at Grand Theft Auto and preferred SimCity. She'd play alone for hours when her brother started getting into his band and was spending less and less time at home. She bristled inside, remembering her hours in front of this very TV were a contributing factor to her highest weight; a sedentary habit she indulged in while snacking on convenience store contraband she hid from her mother.

"No way, I played this all the time at my buddy's house in high school," he smiled, his eyes fixed on the TV. "My parents wouldn't buy me video games when I was a kid. They wanted me studying," he smirked.

"Sounds smart," she laughed, "Look at how successful you are."

He rolled his eyes, "They bought me a computer thinking I'd use it for school work, but I snuck in some games too. I was rebellious like that," he winked at her.

She gazed at his adorable profile as he looked back at the TV, setting up the game, "Vice City?" he suggested.

"Sure," she smiled, still admiring his perfectly shaped nose, his soft, flawless cheeks and his wavy black hair. He was so perfect looking, she wanted to kiss him in the worst way.

He glanced back at her and she looked down at her controller, pretending to reacquaint herself with the buttons.

"I'm always Bubba," Sean selected his player.

"Aw, Bubba is cute," she joked, "I'll be Kivlov," she offered her preference.

"Eastern European badass," Sean deadpanned.

"That’s me," Allie shrugged sweetly.

As they began to play, she couldn’t help but continue to glance at him, her eyes drifting down on the strained belt around his belly that made her feel distracted and lustful. She tried to refocus on the game but didn’t do very well.

"This is so wrong," Allie giggled about the hooker she had just run over, "I can't believe little kids play this."

"It's not so bad," Sean laughed, "Just another day in North Philly."

"Shut up," she smiled, knowing he was exaggerating.

"Closer to it than here," he countered. "Can you imagine? Beating up dudes at the country club with your tennis racket? Jacking up a BMW from your polo pony?"

Allie rolled over laughing, allowing Kivlov to crash into a building. "I suck at this," she laughed more, turning to her side and looking up at him with a huge grin.

He smiled, but quickly turned away and looked back at the screen, trying to get the game back on track.

Allie sat back up. Sean was obviously annoyed that she wasn't being serious about the game, "Alright, I'll try harder."

"It's okay, we don't have to play this anymore if you don't want to," he tossed his controller to the side.

"No, you're clothes aren't dry yet," she reasoned, and pointed toward the window at the rain that continued to pour down outside, "We have more time to kill, I really will try now."

"You wanna play something else?" He offered, his voice revealing a lingering frustration that he was stuck inside with her rather than getting his work done.

She crawled over to the stack of games in the media cabinet, just inches from him. Glimpsing sideways, she caught his eyes on her with a bit of his own lustful look; something she hadn’t seen in him before. From somewhere within herself she found the courage to move into him and kiss his lips.

To her astonishment, he kissed back. It was like drinking warm, creamy cocoa after skiing on a mild winter day. Allie felt bliss ooze through her body and out through her lips. It never felt this thrilling with the handful of college boys she had kissed before. She kept her eyes closed, fearing that if she opened them, he would be gone.

"Allie?" He spoke.

She opened her eyes, and his lovely face was there, right in front of hers, with a surprised but content look on it. "Sorry?" she half-smiled, her nerves kicking back in.

"Don't be," he smiled back. "Unless you regret doing that..."

"No!" she interrupted him, not wanting him to pull away, and feeling elated that he was receptive to her overtures. "It was nice. Does that mean we can do this instead of Playstation?" she asked playfully.

"Uh, yeah," he agreed with a guilty grin.

She moved her hands carefully at first, across his shoulders, her fingers running down his arms and knelt over him. And then, more boldly, her hand moved across his love handle and gently squeezed in, something her hands had wanted to experience since the first time she saw his plump body from her window.

"Do you do this with all the help?" He blurted with a smile, shifting slightly from her touch.

She withdrew her hands from him, stunned. He was just making a joke, but the underlying tension of their different social strata that had bubbling under the entire time of their acquaintance and just hit her with full force, especially given the intimacy they had finally shared. “Is that what you think this is? The bored, rich girl getting her kicks?" She felt her heart clench up.

"I don't know what to think, honestly. You have to give me a little credit for wondering what a girl like you, who could have any guy she wanted, is doing making the moves on a fat guy from Mayfair."

A tear rolled down her cheek as she sat there, motionless, studying the beige, plaid carpet to keep from sobbing. It struck her so clearly in that moment that this was her life; this would always be her life. She didn't choose to be born into wealth yet it seemed to confine her as much as provide for her. She had never felt comfortable in her attempts to connect with most people, much less the boys she felt attracted to.

It had all come to a head, staring her in the face in the form of a cute, sweet guy like Sean that she just wanted to be with. She had somehow summoned the strength to show him that she was interested, and now he was questioning her motives, relegating her actions to something phony or meaningless.  "Is that what you think of me?" She asked him, her eyes still fixed on the intersecting lines of the dated Berber pattern on the floor.

"I didn't mean to insult you, Allie," he apologized.

"That doesn't answer my question," she countered, now feeling sorrier for herself than angry with him.

"Well, I mean, it's hard to understand why you're going out on dates with that Porsche-guy and then coming on to me here with me in the pool house."

Sean's reminder of Jimmy’s presence this summer forced her to step outside of herself for a moment and realize that he had a point, as painful as it was. He didn't know her heart, her desires, and her lifelong feelings of not belonging to this superficial world. He could only see her wealth, a summer of leisure, and dates with buff guys who drive hyper-expensive imports.

She acknowledged his unease with a nod, "I get it... I can only imagine what my life looks like to you. All I can say is that I really like you, and ... I'm so not interested in Jimmy, he's not my type," she admitted and then regretted sounding trite. "But I'm kind of afraid that you'll get mad at me again if I tell you that I admire you."

"Why would I be mad?" Sean’s mouth was still drawn open in bewilderment.

"You kind of chewed me out for calling you 'normal’ that one day,” she reminded him.

"My head was somewhere else," he explained, prompting Allie to remember his Janeane problem, wondering if that was an underlying issue. She had been thinking too much about Janeane, a girl she had never met, but who made her feel inferior anyway.

"I shouldn't be so sensitive, I know," she countered. "But I can't do anything about all of this, Sean," she gestured to her family's massive estate. "I see you as a really interesting and intelligent guy. And you're cute," she smiled and looked away, stopping short of too much praise of his good looks; and heaven forbid, her attraction to his plumpness. She didn't know how he'd react to it after his 'fat kid from Mayfair' comment. "And I can't help that I want to kiss you," she whispered looking back in his eyes, feeling her emotions well up to her throat again.

Without explanation, Sean moved back into her space for another long kiss. Her hands jumped right back on his body, moving down to his chubby sides her fingers pressed back into his flesh, delivering a mixed sense of pleasure and unease about what she might or might not touch.

But what she did touch felt like she had always hoped it would: velvet soft, comforting yet exhilarating. Those hints of pleasure she had previously felt flow through her body when she looked at him were now coursing through every vein in a frenzy when she grazed her hand along his fat belly that was now pouring through the robe and over his belt.

She didn't mind anymore that he questioned her motives; she didn't care that her own robe was falling open and revealing her modest chest. She didn't stop him when his hand ran inside and over her right breast. She didn't stop him when his hand pushed her robe down off her shoulder and landed on the ground revealing her bare middle. And she didn’t stop him when his hand slipped down between her legs, grazing lightly over her stark nudeness.

She had always stopped other boys, but she had no control to stop Sean. It was what she wanted, so desperately, for the first time in her life, she truly desired sex. Would her first time be in the pool house? Better than drunk at a frat house... or with someone she wasn't attracted to, much less in love with. Was she in love with Sean? Is this what it was?

As their bodies moved to a horizontal position on the floor, she felt his trepidation by the way he tried to keep himself beside her rather than on top of her. "This is a little uncomfortable on the floor, isn’t it?" She paused from the kissing, cracking a demure smile.

He rubbed his hand along the carpet, "Berber is not great for making out," he joked.

Allie stood up, now only her panties, dampened from the rain, to cover her. She didn't even notice. She could only feel the craving to be next to him and feel everything there was to feel with him. She motioned for him to follow behind her into the same room that Sean had changed into the robe. He followed her...

The humidity from the storm made the air warm and heavy. She sat on the bed, smiling in admiration of the way his robe was totally open now, standing and facing her. She got more excited by the way his tummy jiggled a little as he moved toward the bed. He looked her in the eye, sat down next to her and eagerly leaned in for more kissing.

Even though he seemed to have let go of his inhibitions, he was still hesitant to move on top of her. He ran his hand down her side. Her body language was unmistakable that she wanted him, but he still asked, "Allie, do you really want this?"

"Mmmm hmmmm, yes Sean," she murmured, feeling out of control in her desire for him.

He tested the waters further with his hand, running down her abdomen and reaching between her legs. His fingers lightly stroked her, slowly sliding in, playfully hinting at what may lie ahead. She felt her face flush and she smiled and kissed him deeper, "that feels so nice, Sean," she whispered.

He very worked cautiously but decidedly more into her, finding her sweet spot and making her moan loudly. She was relieved he knew exactly what he was doing, because she didn’t have the experience to take charge. "You really know how to do that," she murmured in his ear as he made the lower half of her body tingle. Her hands kneaded into his love handles again, making her feel the rush of desire coming. She unlaced the belt of his robe that barely contained itself anymore, opening up her view of his round belly resting on the bed sideways. But he wasn't so fat that she couldn't see what hung underneath it.

She took her hand and stroked him, amazed by how hard he was. "Do you want this?" She asked him, trying hard not to stare at the jiggle of his flab, even though it added to her stimulation. He moved over her, but carefully not letting his weight collapse on her.

It hurt a bit, when he first went inside of her, but he had gotten her so excited that once he was in, the feeling was smooth and natural. Now she could see why people were obsessed with sex. It felt so good! The pressure built up in her, watching his belly rub against her body, and she couldn't stop from releasing and letting it wash over her.  The pent-up desire she had been experiencing all summer, prompted by Sean's sexiness, exploded throughout her body, sending shockwaves to her toes.

Allie was astonished by how she had come, so naturally, in spite of feeling inexperienced, fumbling around before he took over and guided himself inside of her. And yet was surprised at how boldly she took a hold of his fattest, blubbery parts, coming at the moment her hand was cupped under his belly. It was a rite of passage in her self-knowledge that she was a woman who needed a fat guy to feel sexually complete. It wasn’t just in her head as a weird fantasy anymore; she had finally lived it out and it was perfect.

"I never imagined that this day would end up like this," he stroked her hair while she lay beside him, lightly exploring his sparse chest hairs.

"Me neither," she looked up at him and smiled, kissing his soft chest mounds.

"The rain stopped," he pointed to the window.

"Who cares?" She grabbed around him and held tightly.

"I'm on the clock, you know," he reminded her.

"I'll have them take it out of my allowance," she joked, snuggling into him.

"I don't think I can put gigolo on my medical residency application," he joked back.

"Why did it take all summer for this to happen?" she wondered out loud.

"Had you been plotting to seduce me, just waiting for the perfect storm?" He laughed.

"I guess I did, kind of seduce you," she laughed back. "Strange..."

"Strange that it wasn't the other way around?" His tone changed.

"No, no," she didn't want him to misunderstand her meaning, "Strange because I'm not usually like this. I'm pretty shy with this… stuff..."

He looked at her in disbelief, "Yeah, right."

"No, honestly," she stopped him, "I'm sort of," she paused, "inexperienced," she whispered.

"So what made you jump me?" he grinned.

"Honestly?" She wasn't sure she could say it out loud.

"Yeah," he nodded, "Considering what we just did, you should be able to be honest. I can take it."

She turned red and looked away, and took a deep breath.

"Come on, Allie," he tickled her tummy, making her almost jump out of her skin, "out with it."

"Okay, okay, just don't tickle me," she pushed his hands away from her middle. "I already told you I thought you're very attractive," she avoided being more blunt honesty about the appeal of his tubbiness encased in that robe.

"Cute doesn't make girls come," he laughed.

She turned deeper red, knowing she should just tell him what made her get so horny for him, but she couldn't find words that didn't make her freeze up in fear. Fat? Blubber? Flab? Chub? They couldn't come out of her mouth, it was just so forbidden. So she tried to do it with her hands rubbing along his flabbiest parts, "You just feel so good, like pleasingly plump,” she joked, referencing their conversation a week earlier.

"You like a teddy bear," he ran his hands though her hair.

She grinned, so relieved that it seemed he would understand, at least a little. Let him think it's a teddy bear thing. He doesn't need to know that his growing porkiness makes me wet between my legs, does he?

"Do you go on dates?" she asked him, hoping that wasn't lame to ask, hoping she could get more time with him before she would be far away from him.

"Yeah," he smiled, "We sometimes date in North Philly."

"Would you be willing to go on a date with a spoiled Main Line brat?" She smiled back.

"What would we do?" He asked.

"How about a walk in the park and some ice cream?" She offered, thinking it was romantic without the date pressure of dinner and a movie.

He looked at her strangely, but then agreed, "Sure."

"Tomorrow's Saturday, are you free?" Allie asked with a large smile across her face.

The Sun had come back out as afternoon rays shot through the window, “Yeah, Fairmont, right?”

Allie smiled and nodded. Fairmont Park was perfect.


Sitting on a bench near the Japanese gardens at Fairmount, Allie watched Sean lick around his ice cream cone, mesmerized by the contour of the chub that rested on his lap, moving up and down with each breath. Long before their rainstorm encounter, Allie had begun the process of acknowledging her sexy feelings about Sean's weight. Yet she still struggled with why imagining him indulge and gain weight made her feel so excited. And she couldn’t stop herself from wondering when she'd be able to feel him inside of her again, his bloated belly pressing into her body and making her come.

The easy way they had come to ecstasy together took her thoughts in another direction... would this be fleeting? Would they ever be an item, or just a fling? Could they carry on with an ocean between them? What would happen if they dated?

"What would your friends say about us?" Allie continued her speculation out loud, thinking of Mike and Charlie, and those caustic words she had overheard about her status and his weight.

"Depends," he shrugged his shoulders. "Mostly they'd all be jealous; you're damn fine," he smiled and winked at her. He hadn’t flattered her much in the time they’d known each other, so hearing his smooth praise made her feel even more gooey inside. She had never felt comfortable with compliments, especially from boys, but loved that Sean was finally saying nice things to her.

"What about Mike and Charlie?" she asked.

"They're not really my friends, Allie," he cleared that up, "just Micks from the neighborhood." But then he went ahead and answered her question anyway, "Mike would be cool; Charlie would be ticked that you picked the fat one," he smiled. "He'd be offended it wasn't him in the pool house with you."

Allie made a disgusted face, liking Charlie even less.

"Would be funnier to imagine your friends' reaction," Sean countered.

"Maia would be excited and happy for me," Allie blurted, realizing she didn't want to imply something suddenly serious between them, as much as she wanted it. "I mean, she's boy crazy, she'd be excited to hear I met a great guy this summer."

"What about the sorority girls? Or your Main Line friends?" He pushed a bit.

"They're not my friends, at all. I couldn't care less what they think," she felt triumphant in dismissing them. She didn't have to deal with any of them… for a while anyway. She was days away from her year in Europe. And then her heart dropped again, reminded that she wouldn't see Sean for a long time, even if he were willing to wait for her to come back.

“You still have a few days left at the house, right?” She asked him hopefully.

“I was supposed to finish up most of it on Friday, but then the rain,” he smiled, acknowledging in his sneaky grin what they had done during that wonderful downpour. “And I still have a couple of days of clean up left too.”

Allie felt a surge of bliss that he alluded to their encounter with a sexy grin, not needing any more words than that.

“So you’ll come over Tuesday?” She continued her hopeful line of questioning. “I have to take the train to New York on Monday to meet with my thesis advisor... and then I’m leaving Wednesday,” she babbled.

“To work, on Tuesday, yes,” he smirked, reminding her that he was there for work and not dating.

“What about after work?” she hid her annoyance at his ‘all work and no play’ approach. She was more concerned with getting one more shot at feeling his body next to hers.

“What are you trying to ask me, Allie?” Sean’s grin widened.

“Can I make you dinner?” She blurted, wondering if that sounded weird. She felt weird already about leading him through the large oak doors, seeing the marbled floors, mantled fireplaces, elaborate crown moldings and most embarrassingly, the massive imperial staircase. But she wanted to be with him again, even if it meant facing the awkwardness of her ostentatious home.

“Uh, yeah, you mean at your...” Sean paused, “Your, estate?” He laughed.

She punched his arm lightly in jest, “I already feel stupid asking, but it seems like a nice way to say goodbye,” she explained.

He smiled and nodded casually, in his consistently nonchalant way.

They walked a little longer, and then parted ways with a sweet, gentle kiss that contrasted sharply with the intensity of the rainy afternoon they had shared the day before.


“You’ve done a lot of work this summer, Allie,” Professor Porter raised his eye above her papers with an approving smile.

“Thanks,” she blushed, consuming his praise. He had been good to her, taking her under his wing in a way that no teacher or professor had ever really done before. She was always an excellent student, but her shyness and lack of confidence had usually kept her from being at ease enough to forge comfortable teacher-student relationships. She moved in and out of classes without much more than “nice work” and “well done” comments on her “A” papers and tests.

Dr. Porter was different though. He showed an interest in her that was respectful and dignified.  It was almost odd, especially given his handsome and youthful looks. He could have easily been one of those professors that used his position and charms to woo her, but he never made her feel like his interest was anything more than that of a considerate mentor.

He was married, something she noted the first time she visited his office. He kept a wedding picture displayed prominently on his desk. It revealed a slightly younger version of himself, happily smiling next to his lovely bride, who was rather plump looking. She was definitely beautiful; a young blonde with cherubic cheeks, bit of double chin and a deep d�colletage in fru tulle. He was a lean, fit man, and an avid triathlete.  The physical mismatch had surprised her, but also intrigued her.

One day in his office last winter, he caught her gazing at the picture. “I have to wonder why so many of my female students take such an interest in a simple wedding photo,” he smirked.

“Um, sorry,” she stuttered, feeling ashamed of her thoughts. With her own sexual interests beginning to bubble under at that time, she couldn’t help but wonder if his were something like hers.

“It’s okay, Allie,” he smiled, “I have the picture in my office, so it’s not a secret that I’m a married man,” he laughed. “I think they’re curious about the fact that I married a big beautiful woman,” he stated bluntly.

Allie remembered how red her face had become, almost feeling nauseous that he seemed to have seen right into her thoughts. Her shock forced the only honest response she could muster, “She is very beautiful.”

“She still is,” his gentle and smitten response reassured her.

Her comfort in his presence increased tenfold after that conversation, especially in the knowledge that he was happy in his marriage and probably had no designs on Allie other than that he respected her work.

“Subletting in Gramercy has been amazing this summer,” Dr. Porter snapped her back to the present. “It was really hot, though,” he acknowledged.

“Yeah,” Allie agreed, “In Philly too.”

“My wife hated it,” he added, “She kept herself in the library all summer, with her research. She’d only come out with me at night when the sun was long gone,” he laughed. Allie imagined him and his wife, after a big meal at Tavern on the Green, embraced under the Manhattan moonlight, his lean body pressed into his wife’s big, soft breasts and hanging belly, grabbing her round behind. Or at least it was how she imagined his wife to be after a few years of marriage.

He snapped her from her thoughts again, “So besides this work, what did you do all summer?” He asked, instantly reminding her of Sean.

“I had the volunteer job at Children’s,” she reminded him, “and I played some tennis too,” she felt herself bursting inside, but holding back information about her new love interest.

“You seem glowing,” he smiled intuitively, “and not a tennis glow, more like a love glow.”

She felt herself turning several shades of pink, “I’m seeing someone.” She bashfully admitted.

“Obviously, tell me about him,” he prompted her.

“He goes to Temple, pre-med,” she started.

“Is he a jerk or is he good to you?” he became almost fatherly in his concern.

“He’s a good guy, hardworking,” she started, not sure whether he had a chance to be good to her, other than in bed.

“He’s not one of those country club jerks, is he? All style, no substance?” He continued to be skeptical, knowing her social environment.

“He’s the opposite of that,” she laughed. “I think you’d like him.”  She wanted to tell him that Sean was on the tubby side, just to see what her Professor’s reaction would be, but she didn’t know how to throw that information around easily without feeling all the more self-conscious about her fat fixation.

“I hope I do... of course, you’ll be in Europe for a while, you may forget all about him once you fall in love with Rome.”

Allie shrugged her shoulders. She just couldn’t imagine that happening.


Sean was over early the next morning, her last full day in the United States, for a while. He was already hard at work with the final clean up touches on the stone statues around the pool area. Allie quickly showered, got dressed and raced down to the patio steps. She slowed down when she reached Sean’s field of vision and sauntered casually to the pool area. He glanced up and his face widened to a big smile.

“Good morning,” he offered happily, and more openly than previous mornings.

“Morning,” she responded, noticing his eyes on her legs. “I love how well you’re taking care of these,” she praised him, eyeing the intricate work he had done on her beloved collection of Greek gods standing gracefully to the west  of the perimeter of the pool area. “Apollo and Daphne have always been my favorite.”

“This Aphrodite with Eros is the best piece,” Sean lightly touched little Eros’ head, charming Allie with his knowledge of neoclassical sculpture, “at least it’s in the best shape. The climate is too crappy here for these beauties,” he frowned. “These probably came from a more temperate climate. It looks like years of ice and cold have done some permanent damage.”

“Really?” Allie was distraught.

“I’ll have my dad send your folks a letter advising them how to better protect these in the winter,” he offered.

“Oh, please do. My dad travels too much to think about that stuff, and my Mom’s too scattered. They need reinforcement from the professionals,” she winked.

He continued his work while she eyed the way his flab filled his plain white T-shirt, noticing how well his deep belly button was showing through the white cotton material. She had known him for less than two months, but he had definitely put on at least a few pounds, she thought.

 “I’m heading over to the hospital for my last shift,” she informed him, trying to keep her eyes and thoughts off of his roundness.

“Okay,” he continued to work.

“Hardest thing will be saying goodbye to some of the kids,” Allie was dreading it, “I’m afraid I will cry in front of them.”

“That’s the last thing they need,” Sean looked up and in her eyes intently. “Think like a statue,” he rubbed his hand along Artemis while Allie looked at her stone-still, steely, huntress eyes, “it’s more important that they feel safe.”

Allie knew Sean was right. Crying adults can really upset kids; she would be strong. But Sean’s advice made her wonder, was that his technique for often remaining aloof? Does Sean think like a statue?

“I’ll be back here around three, do you plan on being around, still?” She asked, hoping he’d have his shirt off by then.

Sean glanced at his watch, “Yeah, I’ll still be working this afternoon.”

Allie nodded with a smile and tuned back toward the house. She felt the heat of the sun on her back, wondering if Sean was eyeing her from behind. But she was too uneasy turn her head and look over her shoulder back at him. She knew she’d be more disappointed if he wasn’t looking at her at all.


“So, did you date anyone this summer?" Allie's mother asked knowingly as they rode the train, admiring the pastoral landscapes and vineyards of the Burgundy region, heading toward their short holiday in Paris.

"A little," she smiled, knowing that she'd have to mention Jimmy, but felt more bursting with both excitement and ache over her brief romance with Sean. 

Her thoughts drafted back to their last night together. She had made him Teriyaki beef skewers, coconut noodles and cucumber peanut salad. It wasn’t a heavy meal, but he ate nearly everything she cooked. After he devoured her homemade honey cinnamon graham ice cream, she couldn’t stop herself from grabbing his hands and leading him up the Imperial staircase, down the east wing to her suite of rooms. She noticed his eyes along the walls, observing the artwork first, then watching him eye the oak paneling and high ceilings, but he didn’t say a word, just followed along, right to her bed.

Sean gave Allie one more amazing evening that she hadn’t been able to stop thinking about since. They spent the very late hours on her sleeping porch, feeling the breeze while stealing caresses along his soft paunch and plump love handles. She walked him out at 4am, carefully avoiding the security cameras and kissing him goodbye. It was incredibly bittersweet, to know she was leaving him for so many months, and yet she would take the most fantastic, wonderful memories of heaven with her.

“So?” her mother demanded, bringing Allie back to the earth.

"Well, I went on a few dates with Jimmy Oliver," she offered nonchalantly, feeling guilty about the erotic images of Sean that had been clouding her brain ever since they parted.

"I heard…" her mother smiled like the Cheshire cat. She hadn't stayed too far away from the gossip line.

"Yeah, but it didn't work out, really," she attempted to downplay what she knew her mother would dissect anyway.

"Why not? He seems like a nice boy," Jane seemed distraught.

"He was nice, just no chemistry," Allie tried to explain.

"Really?" Jane seemed incredulous.

"Yeah, really, Mom. Just because a guy is good looking it doesn't mean he's fun to be around or interesting to talk to," she retorted.

"Okay," she seemed disappointed. "Anything else of interest to report?"

"I started seeing this other guy," Allie's frustration over the Jimmy topic turned quickly into joy at the mere thought of Sean.

"From the club?" She asked.

Allie realized she had better not talk about how she met Sean. She didn't want to get him into trouble for fraternizing on the job; her mother could always assume the worst.

"No, the hospital," she lied. "Medical student," seemed like an easy transition back to the truth.

"Really," Jane seemed to brighten up again.

"His name is Sean," she offered more, wishing she could be totally honest with her mother about how she felt about him, but realized she had better save the intimate details for Maia's less judgmental nature.

"Is he from Philadelphia?"

"Yeah," she told her, "He goes to Temple."

"So will he wait for you while you're over here?" Her mother sounded skeptical.

"I don’t know, Jane," Allie became terse, "I guess it depends on whether he thinks I'm worth it."

Jane cocked her head knowingly, "Of course you are, dear; but men can be men. I was surprised that your father waited for me while I spent so much time on my thesis here in Paris before coming home when Grandma passed."

"Daddy would have waited forever for you," Allie acknowledged how much her father adored her mother, even when he was completely frustrated with her. "Anyway, it's not like I've known him that long, it's not super serious or anything," she downplayed her infatuation.

"Well, enjoy your time while you're here, but be careful not to break too many hearts. Italian men love pretty American girls like you," Jane winked.

"Mom, enough with the stereotypes," Allie cringed. "And I'm here for school, remember? That thing you do for a living?"

"I expect you'll be brilliant as usual. It's in your DNA," Jane responded confidently with a wink. At least Allie could always count on her mother to praise her daughter’s academic acumen, if nothing else.  “So, your father talked to Holden. I understand Monica is doing well with the pregnancy,” there was some wistfulness is Jane’s voice, having been gradually estranged, especially after he married Monica. Allie talked to Holden regularly, but didn’t talk to Jane about it. She knew all about the baby girl that was due in October.

“Good,” Allie just smiled, “Maybe a baby will soften everyone up a little,” Allie spoke softly, hoping her words were true, and her family would find their way back to common ground with the help of a new member. Allie was thrilled to share the Beaumont lineage with another girl; it would be nice to share the job with someone else, she mused to herself.

Jane nodded and looked out the window. Allie knew nothing more was to be said on the subject, for now.


As Allie stepped out of her cab in the Centro Storico, she looked down the narrow Via dei Barbieri, enthralled with the old world she had just come into. She had been to Italy with her parents when she was younger, but never on her own, and never through such appreciative eyes. She was due to meet Maia at the Palazzo Lazzaroni in an hour, so she decided to survey the place she would call her home for the next several months.

She walked at a brisk pace down the narrow, stone-covered walkways and busy streets. She knew what she was looking for, following the map she had memorized on her flight across the Atlantic. She was singularly focused, barely noticing the heads she turned with her copper hair and flawless fair skin. Goosebumps covered her arms as she turned the corner and found Trevi Fountain, marveling at the throngs of people and neoclassic beauty they surrounded.

She worked her way up to the water, took two coins from her purse and hidden in the palm of her hand she rubbed them for good luck. One was a state quarter featuring her beloved state of Pennsylvania, and the other was a newly acquired, bimetallic 500 lira coin. In a sea of strangers, she turned her back to the fountain, tossed the quarter over her shoulder, and wished that Sean would think of her while she was away, and maybe even keep himself so busy that he wouldn't have time to think of anyone else. With her lira, she tossed it backwards as well, wishing for her return someday to Rome, holding Sean's hand, sharing a beautiful sight with the only man who could appreciate it as much as she did.

Checking her watch, she made her way back to the Palazzo Lazzaroni to find Maia waiting for her on the street where they were to share an apartment.

"I'm so glad to see you," Maia cried, giving Allie an emotionally big hug.

"You are glowing, girl, I love your hair!" Allie brushed over Maia's new shorter shoulder length hair. Allie felt a twinge of jealousy over how gorgeous Maia looked in her royal blue peasant flyaway shirt and denim shorts. When Allie was at her biggest, which was not much smaller than Maia, she felt that she looked swollen and pale. But on Maia, her curves looked so appealing and healthy.

"I'm finally fitting back into shorts I haven't worn since high school," Maia ran her hands along her behind. Allie glanced down ever so briefly to notice how the curve of her belly was packed in tightly, forcing a roll of chubbiness to bulge over her waist.

"You better not obsess about your diet while we're here," Allie nudged her. "This is the land of the most exquisite carbohydrates in the world," she giggled.

"You're one to talk, Al," she pursed her lips.

"I promise I won't obsess if you don't," Allie agreed with a smile. Feeling free from the severe restrictions of the country club and sorority worlds, she meant it. She was going to try to balance her life better with sensible eating and a lot of walking rather than the rigid diet and excessive exercise she had been beating herself up with.

"So, how did your summer finish?" Maia asked, immediately turning her interests to Allie's love life.

"Good," Allie slyly smiled, understating that she was obviously giddy in love, leading Maia to squeal.

"Did you get with the hot guy from Temple?" she asked loud enough to embarrass Allie.

Her smile widened as she looked away coyly.

"You did! Hello? I want all the details!"

Allie told her bits and pieces but held back the sexier particulars. That was between her and Sean. And she avoided talking about his body all together. She knew she wasn't embarrassed about being with him, she just didn't know how to verbally express her carnal desire for his tubbiness.

After a couple of weeks in an intensive Italian language immersion course and non-stop sightseeing, Allie settled into a busy routine. Every night her fingertips danced on her keyboard, trying to come up with words to send to Sean. She would begin to write things to him, but then read them back and find them too corny, or reveal her feelings too much. The last thing she wanted to do was seem desperate, or a head case. She procrastinated, obsessing daily about what she would write to him if she would write at all. After all, he hadn’t written to her either, had he?

And then she found a devastatingly compelling reason to write. Terrorists had attacked New York and DC. She had been eating a late lunch with Maia when they overheard some locals talking about it. There were rumors that other cities were threatened, including Philadelphia. The girls ran back to their apartment, trying to get through to their homes, but getting nothing but busy signals.

Allie felt sick inside, remembering the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Her father was working in the North Tower at the time.  When she had gotten home from school that afternoon, she found her mother crying. She informed Allie that something terrible had happened at her father’s office that day, but didn’t know what was happening. She remembered feeling horribly cold and numb, not knowing what to do or say. Holden was frantic, wanting to hop in the car and drive straight to New York, and Jane trying to calm him down.

As the evening wore on, their voices raised louder and louder at each other, when Kenneth made a call to them. He had finally gotten out but had suffered some smoke inhalation while waiting in the stairwell and was being treated at St. Vincent’s. He was on some Oxygen but going to be okay. Looking back, Allie felt that incident was the dividing line between an idyllic, naive life to a more mature, yet more uncertain and confusing world.

As Allie and Maia sat in silence, trying to get news reports online, the phone finally rang. Her mother had gotten through. Allie’s family was okay. Kenneth was in Zurich, Jane was safe at home, and Holden's family was all fine in California.  “They shut everything down, Allie,” her mother sobbed, “I was at school, frantically trying to call your father, trying to get a hold of you. Holden even called.”

“Mom... I hate not being there with you,” Allie started.

“I hate that you’re not here at home,” Jane was more emotional than Allie had seen her in a long time. Probably not since the 1993 bombing.  “But Daddy is the logical one, of course, he thinks you’re very safe right where you are.”

“And Monica?” Allie was concerned for Holden’s newly forming family.

“Still pregnant, but close to the end. I had a good conversation with Holden,” a reassured tone entered the conversation, to Allie’s relief. She had been hoping they would finally talk again.

“That’s wonderful,” she felt choked up. The tiny silver lining of any tragedy was that it offered people the opportunity to appreciate and love each other a little more.

She had heard from Doctor Porter, he had been safely back at Cornell for the fall semester, but was mourning the destruction that occurred in his beloved lower Manhattan. Everyone she knew was accounted for and at least physically okay.

But what about Sean? She needed to hear from him more than ever now.

"Sean," she sat down at her computer and began to type. "Please shoot me back a note to let me know you’re fine and your family, friends, anyone else you know is okay. I'm feeling so removed from what's going on at home." She longed to tell him how much she missed him and sign off with “Love.” But instead, she just simply typed her name, "Allie"

Three long days passed before she received a return email. “Allie,” he wrote, “I’ve been volunteering at a call center at Mount Sinai,” he wrote. “They were reaching out to medical students in the region as volunteers. With everything shut down and going nowhere, I needed to do something. But it’s been hard, harder than I thought it would be.”

Allie’s eyes were welled up in tears, imagining the families calling him, finding out their loved ones had been victims of an unimaginable terrorist attack that had claimed thousands of lives.

He continued, “I was really glad to hear from you. I needed something good to think about in the midst of all of this,” he admitted, clearly moved by what was happening.

She wrote back again, and then he wrote back in return. Their email correspondence over a common tragedy, hitting so close to home, allowed them to get to know each other more, without the weirdness of a mansion and social divide looming over their relationship. They were just two people sharing their minds and hearts from more than 4000 miles away from each other.

Their emails continued over the months, very regularly. They covered every topic, including favorite music, movies, museums, philosophers, comedians... and in these emails they developed an intimacy of hopes for the future. And between the lines in this back and forth growing familiarity, was the occasional sexual innuendo that got Allie through so many months of not feeling Sean wrapped around her body. Their regular online contact reassured her that they may have a future, which made her feel safe and even content, but she was never quite satisfied. She knew she wouldn’t be until she was back home, and somehow back in his arms.

July 2002

"Good morning, beautiful," Sean kissed Allie on the forehead and cheeks.

"Hi," she smiled sweetly, enjoying the way his hands felt running over the curve of her hip, feeling the warm sun shine over her face though the bedroom window of her apartment. She had a great view of the Schuylkill River and a nice location in the city. Her father had a business colleague in need of a summer sub letter so it was a blissful destiny that put them together in the city they both identified as home, even if what home meant to each of them was two very different things.

"Did you enjoy last night?" his hands now roaming up the inside seam of her legs to more sensitive areas. The way Sean made her feel, in those moments together in bed...  the feelings of isolation and uneasiness thawed away into something far more satisfying and comfortable.

She grabbed around his love handles and smiled sheepishly, "Do I need a reminder?" And with that invitation, Sean made love to her again like they had the night before, although perhaps a little more gently this time. They were still waking up, after all.

Curling up together, her hand brushed along his velvety soft tummy. She knew she adored the new blubber that had built up around his body while she was away. The fact of enjoying his gain embarrassed her a little, yet she had at least come to the point of acknowledging to herself that she had a thing for fat... especially Sean's fat.

Allie had moved into her new apartment a couple of days after returning from Europe. When she was settled in, she invited Sean over. She nearly burst waiting for the moment she would finally again see the man she had come to think of as her long, lost love. Through the peep hole she could already see he had put on a lot of weight over the months she was away. When she opened the door and saw him in full view, her fingers trembled with excitement to get themselves onto all of those new, fresh pounds. 

He had never mentioned it during their correspondence. She was kind of surprised he didn’t “warn” her that he had grown even more round. Then again, she hadn’t warned him that she had put on a few pounds as well herself; just not as many as he had.  But none of that mattered in the moments of reconnecting. They exchanged a few forgotten words before they darted to her bedroom, rapidly stripped off their clothes, and found lustful joy in rediscovering each other’s bodies.

"Can I ask you something?" Sean put his hands on hers, jolting her thoughts back to the present.

"Sure," she answered tentatively.

"Does my," he paused, "weight bother you? Because you know I'm trying to lose some," he explained.

She turned red and looked away, "Um, no."

"Come on, Allie, you avoid the topic whenever I bring it up," he pressed her while she felt her heart pound.

"Well, I always thought it was rude to talk about things like that," she was instinctively evasive.

"Sure, when you’re talking about other people. But I'm asking you, as the guy who’s lying naked next to you. You can't very well avoid my gut. Its right in the middle of things when we… you know...." he trailed off.

"Sean," she sighed and felt her cheeks get even more red, thinking about how his bigger belly did have to be managed during sex, how much that turned her on. And now she felt keenly aware of his delicious fat that lay between them in bed at that moment; she wished he’d just stop talking about it because it was making her crazy. But what words described those thoughts? She didn’t have any. "I think you are fine the way you are."

"Wouldn't you like to see me lose weight though?" He pressed her more.

She had no idea how to answer that question. How could she tell him she wanted him to stay big or worse yet, get bigger? When she knew that she would be sickened if he told her to lose weight to be sexier. "Is this about my weight too?" she brought up, falling into her pattern of self-consciousness over her own curves rather than deal with her attraction to his.

"What? You’re perfect," he ran his hand along her side.

"Sean, I gained 15 pounds in Europe, you can't tell?" she demanded he comment now.

"Honestly? It looks amazing on you. You were so thin when you left..." he started to say, and seemed to catch himself and think through his words, "You just had plenty of room to gain a few pounds... what I mean is that you look incredible, thin or a little curvy. Me? I went from already too fat to even fatter."

Fatter... her body relished the way he said the word; the way it felt when he alluded to how much tubbier he had gotten during the time she was away. But as usual, she avoided dealing with her fetish and instead bristled over his tacit acknowledgement that she had gained her own share, even if he meant it as a compliment. "That's how I feel," she surprised herself by saying anything out loud like that about her weight, a topic she always avoided. "My mother's face dropped when she picked me up at the airport."

"She was probably just happy to see you," Sean tried to reassure.

"Yeah, except she said," emulating her mother's voice, "'I see you enjoyed yourself since Christmas,' and then something like, 'being back to your regular routine at the club will take care of that.' I hate when she does that," Allie muttered.

"Seriously, Allie," he touched her face, "You're just about every guy's dream, you're not fat at all, you look really healthy and sexy, trust me. My question is so not about you at all. I did my BMI calculation, I'm officially obese. If I keep going this way, I'll be a morbidly obese doctor," he frowned, showing more hints of insecurity than she had ever seen in him before.

Allie didn't know how big morbidly obese was, but she knew that Sean's bigger body made her feel excited. She just wasn't sure how to tell him that without it sounding like a pervert, so she joked, "If you're obese, then obese isn't that big."

Sean kissed her forehead and whispered, "You're good with tact, aren’t you?"

Allie wanted him to understand that she really did like him bigger, but she didn't know what the right words were, so she smiled and let it be. "Let's spend the fourth in the city," she stroked his strong, yet soft arm. She was falling in love with living in the city, just as she had fallen in love with Sean. She couldn't imagine going back to the dull Cricket Club and their snooty party.

"Are you embarrassed to take me to your fancy club soiree?" He tickled her along her bare back.

She squirmed at his touch, and a bit over his accusation as well, however jokingly he delivered it. "Not at all," she held onto his arm, "It's just so boring there."

"And Porsche guy will be there," he looked at her intently.

Allie rolled her eyes, bristling at the thought of seeing Jimmy, especially now that she was a little bit heavier, "Probably," she admitted.

"And your parents," he continued.

"I told you, anytime you want to meet them, I can arrange it. Dad travels a lot, but I can call his assistant and find out when he'll be in town..."

"Call his assistant? If you want to meet my parents, we can meet them tonight."

"I do want to meet them. Can I take you up on that offer?" She called his bluff, wanting to get to know the people who Sean loved most.

Sean rolled over and picked up his phone while Allie nestled in the soft crook of his arm and traced her fingers along the center of his chest in between the mounds of flesh that had grown noticeably since the summer before.

"Dad?" The loud din of a stone splitting machine hummed in the background.

"What's going on, son?” Allie could hear Ray yell through the phone.

"You and mom wanna go out tonight? Meet Allie and me for dinner?" He yelled back, used to the noise.

"Yeah, we can do that," Ray sounded thrilled. “Where at?"

"How 'bout Gallos," Allie noticed Sean lapsing into his North Philly cadence as he talked to his father.

"Your mother loves Gallos. Meet you there at six?"

After Sean hung up, Allie questioned the time, "Six? That’s really early.”

"My parents eat early," Sean explained. “Most people from my neighborhood eat earlier than you Main Liners,” he rolled his eyes. Allie felt stupid for having questioned it. "I have to be at the Hospital by eight; I better shower and get out of here."

"Can I join you?" She offered, wanting to him to leave on a good note, and enjoy one more go around with his bigger body. Allie couldn’t have ever imagined showering with a boy until Sean came along. Despite her usual insecurities about her own body, which were fueled up by her recent weight gain, Sean was so complimentary about her curves that she could be able to let go of her inhibitions with him, especially if it meant enjoying his body too. Once she experienced the thrill of massaging a soapy lather around his wide torso, her fingers gently slipping into his deepening side rolls and making their way along the cusp of his drooping belly and then onto his hardness underneath it. She couldn't resist letting him having his way with her under the warm stream of water.

When Sean dressed and left, she lounged in her robe for 15 minutes, lost in thought about how happy she felt. In fact, she had never been happier on her life. She finally felt like a real adult: on her own, building a relationship with a wonderful man, without the opinions of others constraining her. Except this extra weight, she thought, feeling half guilty for having gained a few, and half guilty for agonizing over it.

Allie hopped out of bed and started the day like she did every day, on the scale. Oh well, she thought, at least I'm a down five from when I got back a few weeks ago. It would be nice to get back down to normal before summer is over, she thought. Ugh, I hate that word, ‘Normal.’  She put on her running gear and headed out for a long slow, fat burning jog through downtown, and along the river parkway, calculating how many miles she would have to run to offset the loaded deep dish pizza and turtle sundae she shared with Sean the night before.

It was a Friday, her day off from the summer internship she had going at a mid-sized engineering firm downtown. She was hired as a project manager's assistant on a civil job for the city. It was mostly administrative work, but she was just relieved to be living and working in the city, away from the Main Line social ladder. And, it allowed her to spend most nights in Sean's arms, just as she had dreamed of during those long winter months in Europe.


Allie leaned into Sean's soft body as they watched fireworks from Benjamin Franklin Parkway. "This is amazing!" she sighed.

"Never seen 'em down here before?" He asked her.

"Nope," she smiled and kissed him.


"My mother always insisted on the club," she shrugged her shoulders. "Except when we spent a couple of holidays down on the shore with my Dad's family."

"It's weird that you've been so many places," he started.

"And yet I'm so sheltered," she finished his thought, "I know, I get it."

"Allie, it doesn't matter," he softened before she could get a chance to get angry, "None of that matters," he smiled.

"It doesn't?" she smirked, thinking of the occasional comments he would make about her privilege. Usually it was in fun, but she was very sensitive. Probably a little too sensitive, she thought.

"No, it doesn't, because I just love you, and that's all," he blurted.

Allie's smirk dropped and turned to a large grin. He loved her. She had for so long wondered if she would ever hear a boy say those words to her. A boy she cherished and so wanted to be with, loved her. And better than that, she felt strongly that he loved her in spite of her wealth, and in spite of her flaws.

"I love you too," she responded honestly. She was elated to return the words.

He caressed her waist, a sensation she had begun to really enjoy, and responded in kind by slipping her hand under his shirt and around his chubby love handle, happily noticing he had stopped flinching in response to the way she massaged his flab.

"All of me?" he joked.

"Mmmm definitely," she brushed along his symmetrically perfect belly hang.

He stepped back behind her, enveloping her body from behind, and kissing her neck, "I'm always surprised by the way you touch me," he whispered in her ear as his hands ran down her hips.

"Is it okay?" She moved her thumb over his deep belly button as the rest of her fingers ever so slightly sunk into his growing belly.

"If you're not repulsed," he made a concerned face.

"Just the opposite, Sean... you know I can't keep my hands off of you, even when you try to shoo them away."

He kissed her deeply, took her hand and they walked slowly down the parkway, back to her place.


The following week she finally found an opening in her parents schedule and arranged for them to meet Sean. The dinner with his parents had gone surprisingly easy. Ray and Pam were genuine, practical, hard-working people. They carried on an easy discussion and it felt natural. They didn’t make her feel different for a moment.

Her parents might be another story. Her father was used to dealing with all kinds of people in his business life, and was generally at ease with almost anyone. But her mother was more of a worry going into these kinds of situations. Allie figured Jane would instantly notice his weight, and probably make some snide comment to Allie about it later. But more so, she was worried her mother would say something related to their different backgrounds, and raise that nagging sensitivity over how different their worlds were.

Allie had chosen a trendy yet casual al fresco place on the river so everyone could relax and just talk about the weather. But she was in for the shock of her life when they walked into the restaurant. Jane seemed genuinely happy to meet Sean, and was completely cordial and downright warm with him. Neither of her parents said a thing remotely close to bringing up his blue collar family or acknowledging his generous size. She had expected her mother to say at least something, even if behind his back. But she didn't. Allie was too afraid to ruin anything by asking why. Maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal, she thought. Maybe the fat stuff was just her weird obsession?

Having the parent meetings taken care of, Allie was ready for her best friend to know the love of her life. She invited Maia down from another summer in Montreal, to visit Philly. Allie felt it was kind of like another milestone toward showing the world that she was madly in love with a boy who was more than a little chubby. Sean's weight, despite his best intentions to cut back, was not decreasing, to Allie's secret delight. She knew Maia would be more direct about it than her parents had been. It’s not that Maia would have a problem with it, but Allie was a little bit nervous about how to answer her inevitably probing questions.

"He's completely adorable! But you didn't tell me that he was fat," Maia grinned and winked at her over the shopping racks at Anthropologie.  They had just walked Sean back to the hospital after their lunch meeting and decided to spend the afternoon shopping at Rittenhouse Row.

"Does it matter?" Allie shot back, picking out a small, form fitting plaid t-shirt that she'd feel comfortable wearing after a couple of more weeks of long morning runs.

"Not to me, does it matter to you?" Maia had a way of handling Allie's defensiveness.

"No," she started, and lost further words.

"That's cool," Maia smiled. "I'd like for a guy to not care about my weight."

“What about Julien?” Allie reminded Maia of her romance with a cute boy from Belgium who had been studying nearby at Sapienza when they met at a cafe near Villa Borghese a few weeks into their studies.

“Oh, Cherie, I miss Julien,” Maia smiled dreamily. Allie suspected he had a strong admiration for Maia’s curves, often bringing her pastries and taking her out for gelato, encouraging her to enjoy Italy’s best delicacies. Allie never said anything, but she couldn’t help but notice how the good looking, blond, fair Belgian would brush his hand along her belly, squeeze her plump waist and caress her soft, latte-colored arms.

“He pretty much worshipped you, Maia,” Allie giggled.

“He emailed me this morning, and told me he dreamed we opened up a gelateria right in the middle of Villa Borghese,” she laughed and shook her head, “He’s crazy.”  Maia glowed when she talked about him.

“He’s still in love with you, Maia,” Allie smiled.

“He’s over there, and I’m over here,” Maia lamented, with a hint of tear welling up in her eyes. She sighed deeply and changed the subject, “I’m just glad you’re happy... with a guy. And I love that he’s fat and you don’t care,” she laughed, rubbing Allie’s back in a way that let her know it was all okay.

At that moment, Allie decided she wasn't going to try to avoid it anymore. Maia was her best friend. She needed to be able to tell her that the guys Maia got excited for did not turn her on. She hated pretending to agree with Maia about six pack abs and tight butts. She wanted to be able to gawk at big cute guys and not be ashamed of it.

"No Maia, I actually do care that he’s fat... I mean, I do, in a good way."

"Hmm?" Maia looked totally confused.
"I love his size," she looked her in the eyes. "I like that he's big. It's... it makes things... sexier," she fell to a whisper.

"Good for you," Maia stunned her with a huge smile of acceptance, "C'est magnifique!" Allie had expected her to be cool with her love for Sean, but she wasn't sure how she would react to her preferring Sean fat. "I hope that rubs off on you and you stop worrying about your weight so much."

"His size has nothing to do with mine," Allie reasoned. She was happy that Maia didn't get too freaked out over her fat loving revelation, but she didn't like the way she made it about Allie's own body battle.

"Is that why you're obsessing about exercise again?" Maia was always so direct about what made Allie squeamish to discuss.

"There's nothing wrong with distance running, Maia. I really like it in the city," Allie immediately fell back to her defense lines when accused of overdoing diet and exercise.

"Just don't get shin splints again," Maia warned her. Changing the subject, she picked a pair of madras wedges off the shelf, "Do you love?"

"Love," Allie smiled back at her, relieved that her “coming out” to Maia was over. From now on she could stare longingly at whom she wanted to. Well, she'd still probably hold back on sharing her weird feelings about much fatter boys, and those gluttonous gaining fantasies. That was a secret had buried much deeper inside.

May 2003

"How could you?" Sean demanded so angrily at her that it pained her to the core.

"I wanted to help," Allie started.

Sean cut her off. "Do you have so little confidence in me that you think I can't do anything without your connections?"

"No, I just wanted you to get it, I know how much it means to you," she reasoned.

"I don't know why I thought this could work," he shot back. "You think you can go around like a Princess, granting wishes, or something? Who do you think you are?"

"Sean, stop," tears ran down her cheeks as she pleaded with him. "I just knew those kids need someone like you to help them."

"No, you stop, Allie," Sean shouted over her, "Save the spin. You stuck your nose into something that was so not your business, and now it's embarrassed me. Do you know that it's all over school that I only got it because my rich girlfriend's mother is on the board at Children's?"

Allie closed her eyes, wishing she could disappear, go back in time and erase the conversation she had with her mother about helping Sean get rotations in the cardiac care unit of the hospital. 

"I'm a joke, Allie, now I can't take the offer," he yelled louder. "You've destroyed that for me. Now I’ll never know if I could have gotten it on my own merits.”

“You know you would have, Sean. It's not that big of a deal, really," she pleaded with him to calm his reaction.

"Oh," he rolled his eyes, "Of course it isn’t; not to someone like you who's been given everything. Doesn’t it bother you that you’ve never been tested? That you don’t know what you are capable of without Daddy and Mommy paving your path?"

Allie turned pale. She could feel her chest aching. "You've never loved me for me, Sean, if you think that little of me."

"I don’t know anymore, Allie. I thought you were different, but this is unforgiveable."

"Don't do this Sean, please," she sobbed.

She sensed that his issues with her affluence had been becoming more of an issue, especially the second half of the last semester. Throughout the school year, things seemed mostly fine; Allie traveling down to the city, or Sean taking long bus rides up to Ithaca some weekends. After winter break though, his program seemed to become more demanding and he couldn’t get away as much, and they drifted a little bit.

The cost of travel back and forth became an issue for Sean as well. He was living pretty sparsely to get by. He would always bristle at her offers to buy his bus ticket. Then, there was the awful fight they’d had in the spring where she offered to pay for them both to go somewhere for spring break, so they could be together for more than a day or two at a time. Allie just wanted to be with him as much as she could, but he didn’t react well. He hung up on her and didn’t return her calls for a week. She was devastated and apologized many times over to get things back to where they had once been.

The tension ripped open again on her graduation day. Allie had always avoided talking about her trust so it wouldn’t accentuate the awkwardness between them over her money. Her trust had stipulations: one was that she would come into a small portion of her inheritance when she graduated from college; “small portion” being a relative term. She would have access to $300,000, which her father had directed her to use toward her graduate program, tuition, travel and living expenses. She wasn’t going to buy a private island or do anything extravagant with it. It wasn’t millions of dollars, at least at the moment; and wouldn’t be for years, so why make it another issue in their relationship?

But not talking about it came back to haunt her. After her graduation ceremony, Sean joined Allie and her parents for a celebratory brunch. During a toast, her Dad made a joke alluding to the trust money she had now earned. Sean later asked her about it, and when she explained the situation to him, he ripped into her for keeping it a secret. She tried to explain that it wasn’t a big deal, and that it was all earmarked so that she could further her education, but he felt it was deceitful not to share something that significant.

She was kicking herself for not thinking about all of these troubles piling up between them when she mentioned to her mother that Sean was trying to get an internship. Why did she let her mother intervene to help him? But how clear it was to her now that it was too late to take it back.

"I'm taking Dr. Rawson up on the Haiti offer," he stated coldly, snapping her back into this latest battle. And it was a battle she was losing badly.

Allie's throat was clenched so tightly that she couldn't protest, shout or even speak. Sean grabbed his backpack, turned around and walked out of her apartment. She had been in such denial during those months of tension that built up around them, that it felt very sudden and totally shocking.  It had taken so long for them to get together, how could it now be over? Just like that?

In the following days, her best efforts at reaching him to talk were in vain. After a week, she broke down, called his parents’ house and talked to his mother.

"He's gone, Allie, he left yesterday," Pam Casey sounded resigned.

"Mrs. Casey, why did he do this? Was I so wrong to try to help him? I mean I know I was wrong, but I just love him so much," Allie didn’t care anymore how much she was revealing to his mother about her feelings for Sean, she could only be honest in her desperation.

"Allie, you know we love you," she slowly started, "But Sean is very proud... probably too proud for his own good. I'm not happy he's leaving us either, but its good experience for him. He'll be a better man for having done it."

"I don't know Mrs. Casey," she choked up. She couldn’t believe this was how it was going to end.

"Allie, people like us learn to look at the bright side of things,” Pam seemed to twist the knife of socio-economic difference between them, reminding Allie of what helped to destroy her relationship with Sean. “I suggest you do the same. If it's meant to be, it will be, dear, but you need to live your life without him right now," Pam was blunt. She never minced words and Allie knew in the face of her brutal honesty, she had to stop trying.

Allie sunk into despondency and couldn't bear the thought of the looming heat of a lonely Philadelphia summer; a summer that would remind her every day of the blissful time she had spent with Sean the previous year. Despondency quickly became depression, unsure what to do with her days without Sean.

She should have been thrilled with what lay ahead for her. She had earned top grades, glowing recommendations from Professor Porter and had been admitted for the fall term to Columbia's masters program in urban architecture. It had always been her dream to enjoy transatlantic studies among the architecture of New York, London and Paris. The dream seemed tarnished now, but it was all she had left.

Adding insult to injury, she had been waiting for those three months of bliss with Sean before they would once again manage the distance between their studies, and now that was gone. Desperate to get through the miserable summer, she sublet her apartment and fled to her brother's place on the west coast to find refuge, helping his wife care for their 18 month old daughter, Ella. At least she wouldn’t be alone, reminded every day of what she lost when Sean left her.


"It was time we met," Allie kissed Ella's cheek and Ella nuzzled her neck.

"She likes you," smiled Monica, Holden's wife of three years. Allie's brother had met Monica at a Bay Area Skeptics meetup while he was a chemistry undergrad at UC-Berkeley. Monica had been pursuing her degree in nursing at San Jose State at the same time. His girlfriends had always been the preppy and pretentious Main Line girls they grew up with, so Allie was a bit surprised when she met Monica and found a mildly plump Latina beauty who was direct, down-to-earth and irreverently funny.

"You think?" Allie beamed as Ella played with the Roman glass pendant necklace around Allie's neck. Her father had given it to her during the Christmas break she spent with them up in Zurich, during the year she had studied in Rome.

"You're a natural," Monica assured her. "And she's such a Daddy's girl. You look so much like Holden, she just knows you are family."  Allie kissed little Ella on top of her head, feeling reassured by her sweet smile and the gentle, faint smell of baby shampoo.

"What do you think, Allie?" Holden entered the room, looking like the same scruffy college kid she last saw at his wedding.  He was still handsome too; tall, athletic and confident.  He always had a ton of girls after him, all the way back to grade school. Life came easy for Holden, Allie thought; he was comfortable in his own skin. Allie had always felt like she had drawn the short straw, yearning to know what that kind of comfort must feel like. But he was so damn likable, she couldn’t be resentful toward him about it.

"Do you want to quit school all together and be our full-time Nanny for free?" He laughed. Holden was a professional student now, earning enough to get by as a teaching assistant while he pursued his doctorate in polymer electronics at Cal Poly. His post-college trust fund payout had been chewed up quickly by his lengthy graduate studies and the high cost of living near Morro Bay. Monica’s work as an RN was probably keeping them afloat at this point. He had always gladly accepted his parents' financial support, but when Jane became vocal in her opposition to his marriage to Monica, he cut off most communications with the family and stayed in touch only with Allie. The time after 9/11 was the only tepid contact he’d had with her mother.  He spoke with his father slightly more frequently, but the warmth expected between a son and his parents was rarely seen these days.

Allie tended to side with Holden on the whole. She had her own issues with Jane's controlling behavior and naturally gravitated to defending her brother in that regard. She also had the chance to get to know Monica during the week she was there prior to the wedding and immediately loved her fun personality and bold fashion. In some ways, his wife reminded her of Maia, perpetuating her affinity for women who were rather opposite of her own reserved, introverted personality.

But Allie still understood why Jane had been so against a wedding. His announcement that he was marrying a girl he had known only for a few months was a bit shocking. It was Jane's expressed concern that, "We don't even know her family, her background," when Holden went ballistic, calling Jane an elitist and a hypocrite. Nonetheless, Jane attended the wedding, barely able to stifle her dismay over the secular ceremony, barefoot wedding party, hay bale seating and vegan buffet spread.

"How's Jane these days," Holden leaned back, taking a sip from a dark beer. Holden brewed his own beer with organic, locally grown barley and hops. For an east coast trust fund kid, he was totally blending in with his west coast home.

"The usual," Allie instinctively wanted to revert to criticizing her mother whenever she was around her brother; it was a natural place for them to go, they had been doing that since childhood. But she knew that wouldn't help mend things for Ella's future, and she was tired of being the go between.

"I see she's making sure you stay skinny," Holden chided her, gulping more from his beer.

Allie's body froze. Holden knew that Allie wrestled emotionally with her mother's weight related commentary. And she knew she was probably too thin now, having eaten horribly little since Sean left her. She was reminded of the emptiness she had been living with for the past month, with no end in sight. She couldn't stop the sadness coming up through her throat, while she felt the heat of a large tear trickle down her cheek, promptly wiping it away, trying to hide her pain from her brother.

"I'm an asshole, Al, I'm sorry," Holden set down his glass and took Ella from her arms so she could wipe her tears. "She's a shit for what she does to you. You're perfect, no matter what, you have to know that. Don't let her screw you up like this."

"It's not the weight thing I'm upset about," she burst out. Her emotions wouldn't let her control her volume.

"What's going on with you, Allie," he prodded her.

The tears began to cascade as she tried to find words that didn't make her sound like a dumb girl, jilted by puppy love. "Sean broke up with me," she whispered.

"Oh, Al, that sucks. What kind of idiot is this guy? His loss," Holden tried to make her feel better.

"I'm in love with him and I can't get over it," she cried more. "It sucks."

"Like Heidi Metcalf," he sighed. "She destroyed me, remember?" Holden smiled sadly.

"Ugh, she was so mean to me too. I hated her," Allie wiped tears away, trying to smile and pull back from her pain a little.

"I was so blindly in love with her, I had no idea what a bitch she was," He shook his head. "You see, sometimes it's good that people dump us, we eventually end up the better for it."

"Easy for you to say," Allie muttered.

"It will get better, Al, I promise," he rubbed her shoulder. "Just hang out with Ella, she has natural toddler healing powers."

Allie brightened up, reminded of what a cuddly sweetheart Ella was, "You are really blessed. She's an awesome little girl."

"She makes me feel better about everything," he confirmed.

"Maybe Ella will help you mend things with Jane," Allie suggested, "I think it would be nice for her to know her grandmother."

"It's up to Jane," Holden shrugged.

"No, it's up to you. She can't very well invite herself," Allie reminded Holden of her mother's strict socially correct manners.

"I'll talk to Monica," he sighed. "If she comes, she should do it while you're here; so you can be the referee."

"Thanks a lot," Allie laughed, knowing it was true. She had always played the mediator role... somebody had to.

Through Allie's gentle encouragement, working both sides of the conflict, within a few days, Jane freed her schedule and came to visit for a weekend; with the benefit of her daughter’s presence, of course. Allie was relieved to feel useful to her family. In the weeks following Sean's harsh rejection, she had felt an utter lack of self-worth and direction. Spending time with Ella and mending a family rift gave her back at least some sense of purpose.

One evening during her visit, Jane, Allie and Holden shared a bottle of wine out on the deck when the subject of Sean came up.

"He seemed like a nice boy," Jane gave Allie a sympathetic shrug.

"He was... he is," Allie grew pained in the way Jane sounded like she was giving up on him as a good person.

"Allie, you don't want to hear this from me, I know, but I can tell you with experience that some people just can't handle our...  standing," she tried to be diplomatic.

"What are you trying to say about Sean?" Allie raised her voice.

"I'm not saying anything specifically about Sean, I'm just saying that people become unpredictable when faced with the kind of opportunity we enjoy. It's not always a comfortable place to have so much more than others. I would sometimes get the sense that Sean didn't like it."

Deep down, Allie knew Jane was right, but she couldn't bear to admit it, "Mom, not everyone cares about our money."

"Jane’s right, Al," Holden entered the conversation in Jane's defense, much to the surprise of both women. "Girls were always weird about our money. Monica was the first girl I dated who didn't care. Probably because she didn't see any evidence of it," he glanced at Jane in expectation that she would be provoked.

"Monica is a lovely woman," Jane submitted, "and a wonderful mother. It was just that you had only known her for a short time," Jane started.

“You could have been less condescending about the whole thing...” He shot back, re-escalating the deep freeze that had been thawing during her visit.

"Hey, this is about my problems," Allie inserted to lighten the conversation, still amazed by the somewhat adult conversation they were engaging in.

"What's so great about this Sean guy anyway?" Holden questioned Allie. "I mean he must not be that smart, really, to dump an heiress," he winked at Allie. "Is he like, a dumb Superman or something?"

Allie glanced at Jane to see what her reaction would be. Sean was not a man of steel in the strictest definition.

"I can see what she saw in him," Jane's complimentary words shocked Allie. "He's bright, has a great future, and very nice looking," she shared with Holden and turned to Allie, "And he looked at you with love in his eyes, Allie, I can say that."

It was bittersweet to hear those words from Jane, but her curiosity over Jane's "very nice looking" description got the best of her. "It’s weird that you never said a word about his weight," she challenged her mother.

"Why would I?" Jane answered dubiously.

"How many comments have you made to me about mine?" Allie felt her blood pressure rising.

"Allie, give it a rest," Jane sighed and pursed her lips, "I only said anything when you seemed unhappy about it. I was just trying to help you."

"A lot of help it did," Holden jumped in, "She's borderline anorexic again."

Allie shot Holden a nasty look, "My body is none of your businesses," her skin was crawling now. "And yours either," she glared at Jane.

"I didn't even bring It up," Jane shrugged her shoulders as she often did when confronted about her passively judgmental style.

An angry silence hung in the air for a few moments until Holden broke it, "So just how fat is this guy?"

Allie smiled and then laughed, finding an odd humor in his question.

"He wasn’t that big," Jane cocked her head.

"He was pushing 300, Mom," Allie responded, surprising herself that she would say something so privately arousing out loud. She just couldn't believe her ears that Jane felt he was not that big. He had gotten quite fat while they were together, after all. There was no doubt that his gain made Allie very satisfied, but she also knew that her standards were different than others. That's what made Jane's words so perplexing.

"No he wasn’t," Jane shook her head.

Allie nodded, "I guess he carried it well," feeling embarrassed as the words came out.

"Men do," Jane nodded. "They’re lucky that way." While hating the double standard, Allie recognized she shared a common frustration with her mother.

"Dad used to be fat, didn't he?" Holden jumped back in.

"Dad's a triathlete, Holden," Allie rolled her eyes.

"Dad was actually rather plump when we met," Jane smiled, with almost a reminiscing gleam in her eye.

"He told me he got pretty fat in college," Holden reinforced the information.

"Really?" Allie didn't know this. She only saw their wedding pictures with fit, trim and perfect looking 1970s preppies in love.

"He slimmed down for the wedding and stuck with it," Jane explained. "He felt like it was helping his career, I suppose."

Allie sensed a wistfulness in Jane’s words, as if she almost wished Kenneth were chubbier again. It was disconcerting and bizarre to share this moment of almost an affinity with her mother over such a deeply buried piece of her identity. So much so that Allie got up, grabbed the empty bottle of wine they had shared and announced, "I'm calling it a night."

Jane’s visit to California was healing for her family, but Allie wasn’t even close to healed when she returned back to the east coast after spending the summer in the mist of beautiful ocean views and mountainous landscapes. She got a place in New York, commenced her graduate program, trying to get through each day, as they all blended together in a haze into the cold months of winter. She had reverted inside herself, uninterested in meeting or knowing anyone. It wasn’t that she couldn’t be social on the surface, she did attend a few parties, spent time with other students on projects; but her connections stayed on the surface, mostly keeping to herself.

March 2004

Her spring semester in London was cheered by Maia’s company. The summer before, while Allie had been convalescing in California, Maia had begun to take extended stays with Julien in Brussels that were becoming rather permanent.  She had missed her friend so much, but she was now just a train ride away. Allie relied on seeing Maia regularly throughout those months to keep sane. She had missed the regular intimacies of friendship with her best friend being overseas; and her lover long gone. Allie had never been one to manage a large circle of friends; being able to confide in Maia gave her a chance to do more healing.

“It’s been nearly a year, Allie,” Maia tilted her head with empathy and yet a tinge of reproach in her tone. The two girls sat on a comfortable white plush sectional sofa in Julien’s living room.

Allie sensed Maia’s disapproval with her continued melancholy and understood in her head it was pointless, but her heart wouldn’t budge. “I know Maia. My misery is only partly because I miss Sean. But it’s that I can’t seem to move on that makes it hurt even more. Sometimes I feel worse about the fact that I’m stuck in neutral, than I feel about not being with him.”

“Oh honey,” Maia rubbed Allie’s arm with empathy. “You are moving on, even if you don’t realize it. You’re still making your future, working on your career. Love will come again when you’re ready,” she reassured her depressed friend. “Stop feeling like you have to be completely happy, and just focus on learning, growing, you know? Just work on being fine in your own skin.”

Allie drew her eyes up to Maia’s with a knowing smile, “How many times did I say something like that to you?”

“Yeah, well, it paid off, you were right,” her friend smiled at her, and then pointed to Julien, who was sitting alone on the little terrace balcony of their apartment, reading a newspaper and drinking a glass of wine.

“He’s a great guy, Maia,” Allie smiled, “He’s so into you.” Allie had noticed Julien’s hands were always all over Maia’s body.  His nonchalant brushes and caresses back when they were dating in Rome had become overt; it was more obvious to her than ever that he was an all-out fat admirer. His hands regularly roamed her softest features; upper arms, hips and rear end. When cooking in the kitchen, he would come up behind her and blatantly caress her belly, and grab her side rolls. Maia would sometimes swat him away, but she didn’t seem upset or offended by his touch.

“He’s definitely into my body,” she giggled. “It was weird at first, I felt kind of self-conscious… and even more when I kept gaining weight. But he likes the curves, I guess,” she showed tones of red coming through her beautiful, olive skin.

“He’s got great taste,” Allie laughed. “Julien and I have a lot in common, I think,” Allie’s heart picked up speed as she felt herself losing more of her secret to the reality of their friendship.

“He said the same thing,” Maia’s eyes grew bigger than her smile.

“What?” Allie didn’t know Julien that well.

“I told him all about your relationship with Sean,” she admitted.

Allie frowned, “That’s a sad story to tell.”

“I know, it’s a little personal, but when he was talking about how turned on he is by my body, I remembered how you told me you liked that Sean was fat. Julien’s preference seemed more believable and normal because you had the same feelings for your man,” Maia tried to explain.

“So Julien knows about me then,” Allie said softly, feeling a little embarrassed. Julien’s extra kindness to Allie and his overt handling of Maia’s body in front of her made more sense now. He was probably feeling free in the company of a fellow FA.

“It’s great Allie, really,” Maia smiled and rubbed Allie’s shoulder. “Don’t feel weird about it, we love who you are,” Maia spoke for both her and Julien.  “When I first came here, I felt like I was this big, fat, dark girl that stuck out like a sore thumb among all of these tall, thin, blonde European women. But knowing that there are actually people who find chubbiness attractive made it so much easier to adjust.”

“But I don’t want you to adjust, I want you to come back and be with me to New York,” Allie teased her with a dramatic sigh.

“I will visit you there soon, I promise, Cheri.”

August 2004

It was surreal to be looking into his eyes from across the table at a restaurant they used to visit as a happy couple, already two summers ago. She had to remind herself that she was actually looking at Sean and not some stranger. She knew he had been sick, but never expected to see him looking so thin.

The waitress came over to them, "Can I take your order?"

"Chicken soup," he handed the waitress back his menu.

Allie was shocked. A Reuben with extra dressing and thick-cut fries was all she had ever heard him order at the South Street Diner. "Caesar salad, dressing on the side," she self-consciously ordered. Spending another summer with her brother and his family in San Luis Obispo had been healing, but she was feeling every bit of the ten pounds she gained while there.

"You look happy," he offered an olive branch, "and healthy."  He meant that as a compliment, but it stung. She knew that “healthy” was code for ‘you’re not as skinny these days.’  And she knew she couldn’t possibly look happy; she hadn’t been that for more than a year.

"It was nice to be with my brother and his family for a while," she offered in defense, trying hard not to be rattled by her diminishing confidence in his presence. Allie tried to focus her thoughts on her time bonding with Ella all summer long and how much that made her feel useful and needed, because being back in front of Sean only reminded her of how useless and unneeded he made her feel when they broke up.

“I never met them,” Sean noted.

“You didn’t stick around long enough,” Allie shot back, still bitter about his abrupt departure from their relationship.

"You're not going to say anything about the way I look?" He ignored her dig, obviously impatient for her to make a comment about his drastic weight loss.

"I don't know what to say, Sean. I mean, what am I supposed to say?" Of course she hated that he was thin. He was amazingly handsome, more grown up, and almost, kind of distinguished, she thought. But his drastic physical changes made him look a lot less like the boy she fell in love with.

"Everyone freaks out, and you act like nothing is different?" He seemed annoyed.

"Everything is different, obviously" she flatly acknowledged, finally glaring back at Sean. "I heard you were pretty sick," she admitted.

"How did you know?" He cocked his head.

"Your mom called my mom while I was in London… so I guess it had to have been pretty bad,” Allie looked down, remembering how the news made her crazy with worry. And angry that she still cared so deeply for him, and then massive relief in the news that he was already on the mend.

"It was pretty bad,” he acknowledged how ill he had been, “they had a Priest visit when I was at my worst. I mean, I'm still recovering. My whole system is not the same," he shook his head and patted his nearly flat middle. 

“Jane told me when I got back from London, when you were getting better,” she continued to explain, as if she had to justify why she hadn’t gotten on a plane down to Haiti to personally nurse him back to health. “I guess Pam and Jane kept in touch a little,” Allie reminded him.

"My mom misses you," he acknowledged, admitting out loud how much his mother had liked Allie in Sean’s life. 

"Glad someone does," she uttered bitterly.

"Allie, time has passed," he started.

"Water under the bridge?" Her bitter tone strengthened.

"It's been over a year," he reasoned.

"So I should get over it," she wanted so badly to make him squirm. It was the only reason she agreed to meet with him; to get closure. And that meant getting as many digs in as she could. Closure, yes, definitely. She didn’t want to entertain the possibility that she harbored some deep seated wish that he still loved her. She couldn’t let that creep into her thoughts and lose the anger that kept her protected from more heartache.

"I just want to let you know I'm sorry I was so hard on you," he tried to smooth things over.

"Sean, save me the apologies, I know what you think of me."  The many months of depression had cemented into an unrequited bitterness. She had found happiness with him; true happiness. And then one mistake and he quit. It was a feeling of defeat that she hadn’t been able to shake.

"No, you don't, Allie, I still love you, you’re an amazing person, I always thought so," he began. Her heart jumped in her throat. Was he trying to work it out? The possibility was creeping into her conscious thoughts now. When he contacted her the week before to meet, she knew she felt all the old hopes come welling back up inside of her, filling the void of nothingness that had been in charge of her heart ever since he left her.

 "I just need to tell you something," he continued, "And I want you to hear it from me."

"What?" Her heart was back on the floor, hopeful feelings emptying her body in a gush.

"I'm engaged..." the words came out in slow motion, like she didn’t hear them right away.

After that, she couldn't focus on another word that came out of his mouth. She could only feel the cracks in her heart that had been trying so hard to mend, break back open into even more pieces.

And then she heard him say a name she hadn’t thought about in a long time: Janeane. Then some words about the weight he lost while he was seriously ill in Haiti... Coming home, running into an old friend... one thing leading to another…

What she could bear to absorb sounded like some lame soap opera where high school sweethearts reunite and get married; but Janeane? The girl that Mike and Charlie made sound like the town tramp? How did she deserve to win? Allie was a good person, wasn’t she? She loved Sean, and was faithful and committed to him. She would have done anything for him and now this awful Janeane girl was back. And that was that, game over.

Allie couldn't take it anymore. Her brain involuntarily stopped working. Feeling like walls were closing in, she stood up as her salad was being delivered to the table and walked out of the restaurant on autopilot, certain that she would never set eyes on Sean again.


It was only a couple of days after her ill-fated lunch with Sean that she took the train back to New York to meet with Professor Porter, or David, as she called him now. They shared lattes and biscotti al fresco with an excellent view of the Flatiron Building. She felt a hint of unusually crisp air in the late August breeze, reminding her of the imminent frosty weather she would once again face alone. Alone in Paris, no less, it seemed like such a cruel joke to be living in the City of Love for the next four months.

He must have sensed something in Allie that was distracting their conversation, when he changed the conversation, “Allie, you seem… distressed, about something, what’s going on with you?”
“I saw Sean on Friday,” she whispered without hesitation. She wanted so much to be strong and confident around David, but at this point she was also desperate to share her misery with someone, anyone. She hadn’t been able to get a hold of Maia for days. Now that she was in Europe living with Julien, she seemed harder to track down than ever.

“The ex?” David sighed.

Allie nodded, “He’s engaged to his high school girlfriend now,” Allie said it out loud. As much as she tried to tune it out, she had heard his words and knew it was real.

“Aw, Al,” he sighed deeper, “that sucks.”

“He was skinny too, he got deathly ill while he was in Haiti and lost a ton of weight,” she looked up at David to measure his reaction, having suspected him to be a fat admirer.

“He had been pretty heavy, hadn’t he?” Her former professor admitted that he noticed. She had introduced Sean to David when he visited Cornell during her senior year, and they had met again at her graduation. She always wondered if David had noticed that her boyfriend was overweight and growing.

“Yeah, he apparently got a really horrible bug, some kind of parasitic infection,” she explained. “He came back about 100 pounds lighter.”

“So, what bothers you more? That he’s engaged or that he’s thin?” David asked the question very bluntly.

Allie’s eyes opened wide. It was a big question. “I’m more bothered that he’s engaged, obviously,” she knew that was the truth. She could have loved him at any size. Still, his change was symbolic; she had literally lost the man she once had loved more than anything.

“But you seem very disappointed he’s no longer fat,” he pressed her.

“I am,” she half smiled, feeling her cheeks flush.  “I preferred his bigger size.”

“Yep,” David grinned and nodded knowingly. “I always thought you might have a thing for that.”

“I always thought you might too,” Allie grinned back.

“I do,” he acknowledged without hesitation.

“I’ve never really talked to anyone I know, like in person, about this,” she admitted to him. “Maia kind of knows, but doesn’t quite get it, you know?”

“It’s okay Allie,” he looked at her warmly, “but are you fine with it? I mean, you dated a big guy, out in the open, introduced him to your family, friends... you don’t seem ashamed of your preference.”

“I’m not ashamed to date fat guys,” she said, out loud, surprising herself and looking away. Saying the word fat was odd to her, she always avoided it.  “It’s just weird to talk about what’s... well... beneath it.”

“What’s beneath it?” he asked.

“Like more than the preference; you know, the fetish part of it,” she whispered apprehensively.

David nodded, “Allie, you’re totally normal. Everyone has preferences, and if we’re lucky, those preferences will manifest themselves in who we choose to be with. But people don’t usually go around talking about their sexuality and what turns them on in bed, so it’s okay if that part is not out there in the open too, right?”

“Sure,” she shrugged her shoulders, never having really thought about it that way. The fetish side of her preference felt like such a horrible secret, but most people kept their private sexual thoughts to themselves, whatever they were. This realization made her feel at least a little more normal.

“So you can be okay with it if you’re into weight gain, or encouraging a partner to get fatter,” he stated matter-of-factly, causing Allie’s cheeks to flare up red again. “It’s just thoughts and ideas, and everyone gets to have those. As long as you’re not holding someone captive and force-feeding them against their will, you’re not wrong to have your own feelings,” he shared.

Allie was surprised he just started talking out loud about it like that, but she was relieved too. “What about you? Are you into those things?” She felt flutters in her stomach asking such a personal question of her former professor.

“To some extent,” he shared openly. “My wife has gained a fair amount of weight during our marriage and it’s kept me a happy man,” he winked. Allie was elated to hear another human being say something like that out loud. “She’s more content in her skin than she was when I first met her, but she still feels pressure to lose weight too, which isn’t easy for me to deal with when I just want her happy.”

“And fat,” Allie laughed.

“And fat,” he admitted with a big smile.

“I can relate to the pressure she feels though,” Allie admitted. “It’s weird, how much I’m open to fat acceptance for others, and how much I enjoy fat on other bodies, but cannot keep myself from falling into the ‘must be skinny’ mentality.”

“I’ve been concerned about you... you get... so thin, sometimes,” he admitted. “You look healthy now, but I’ve been worried before. I know I shouldn’t say anything, it’s your body, but I just care about you...” he trailed off uncomfortably.

Allie smiled and nodded. It was nice to have him care about her as a fellow human and not have it be about judgment or looks.

“Sean told me I looked healthy too but it just made me feel fat. I have issues... I know that. But it’s hard to know what’s normal, anymore, or what’s healthy, and what’s too thin. It’s like I’m skewed to always think I need to be thinner, and all the while I don’t think a 300 pound man is really all that fat.”

“They’re calling that body image dysmorphia these days,” David chuckled.

“Maia has always been on my case about it,” Allie was reminded by the admonishing from her best friend while Maia herself was always dieting.

“How is Maia, anyway?” David’s face brightened.

“Oh, she’s fabulous,” Allie grinned, glad for the topic change. “I saw her a lot while I was in London. She’s living in Belgium now with her very own FA,” Allie laughed anxiously.

“I’m happy for both of them then,” he winked.

“Is it hard, as a professor, to see all of those big beautiful girls in class? Girls like Maia? And not be distracted?” Allie blurted, realizing it was a little inappropriate to ask.

“Maia is very beautiful,” he smiled, “having her in class made me wish for my undergrad life back,” he admitted.

“How do you mean?” Allie probed further, now that he had opened up.

“Oh, not that I would ever cross that line,” he was quick to clarify his ethics, “I just didn’t make the most of it when I was younger. I was closeted...” he shared with a frown. “I dated the cute little sorority girls like I was supposed to. I would worry that I was gay because I didn’t really want to get them all in bed, like my friends all did. But then I’d see a gorgeous big girl and I’d realize, more and more over time, that I wasn’t gay, it was just another kind of girl that I wanted.”

He continued, “So one time, after a party, I ended up sleeping with a girl that I had a crush on for months. She was so pretty, and very heavy. Neither one of us were drunk, or anything like that. It was so intimate and comfortable, it finally felt right.”

Allie knew exactly what he was talking about, just like her first time with Sean, in the pool house. “So what happened with her?”

“One of my buddies was dating her roommate and found out. He told all the guys I had gone whale riding and they teased me for weeks about it, constantly making fat jokes. It was painful. I didn’t have the confidence to deal with it, and stand up to them. I was so ashamed, and I couldn’t get past it. I had always thought of myself as a leader, but in this case I was a coward. I still hate myself for what I did to her.”

“What did you do?” Allie was riveted.

“I pretended I didn’t know her; just flat out ignored her,” he said quietly.

Allie nodded, feeling badly for him as well as the girl. He was still paying penance, all these years later.

“So even though you were hurt by Sean,” he looked into her eyes, “you have nothing to be ashamed of, and that’s a gift, Allie, it really is. I’m just glad I met my wife after that part of my life was over. I learned my lesson and was grown up enough to not care what anyone thought about dating a girl her size. Of course, we met in grad school, so it was easier. Fat jokes are less acceptable in among academics; everyone is so damn politically correct,” he laughed.

Allie did take some comfort in those wise words. It didn’t make her any happier, but at least she was true to her heart.

January 2005

The weeks and months in her graduate semester Paris had passed in a blur, as Allie went through the motions of life, studying and writing her dissertation. She was not eating enough, as she seemed accustomed to during times of stress and sadness. The coldest month of winter brought her back to New York to start the Spring semester at Columbia. Encouraged by her mentor-friendship with David, she continued to develop intellectual and professional contacts, but her social and personal life was shut off like a dry faucet. She refused to let anyone into her life, learning to turn down dates with optimal skill and grace. She didn’t talk nearly enough with Maia anymore either, as Maia was making her life in Belgium with Julien.

During a very frozen mid-January weekend, she took the train to Philly to have lunch with Jane.  Allie was getting very slight again. Being in France among the effortlessly thin and beautiful Parisian women was pressure enough, but her sadness in knowing Sean was planning his North Philly wedding with his trampy bride-to-be made her feel a nagging nausea that further removed the desire to eat.

"Allie, I'm worried about you," Jane took her hand as they walked into the tea shop where Jane always took Allie after they hadn’t seen each other in a while.

"Mom, I'm fine," Allie stopped her.

"Okay... maybe you just need to take a vacation, go somewhere warm," Jane smiled. “You seem so... pallid.”

"Mom, I have school starting, and ongoing projects. I can't just go off to Grand Cayman on a whim."

"I didn't go on a whim," Jane frowned.

"What are you talking about?" Allie was a little annoyed her mother had suddenly taken off by herself to the Caribbean for a couple of weeks after Christmas.

"Allie, I need to tell you something," she started.

"What?" Allie demanded. The last time she heard those words, Sean had stomped on her heart with news of his pending marriage to Janeane.

"I've been diagnosed with ovarian cancer," she spoke calmly. "So, since I was going to be forced on a sabbatical for surgery and chemo anyway,  I decided to spend a little time somewhere nice... and Grand Cayman is really beautiful this time of year," Jane smiled confidently with a wink. “Daddy flew down for a few days too. We hadn’t done that in years,” she was really glowing in spite of her diagnosis.

Allie was startled, feeling horrible for begrudging her mother some time in the sun. But she remained composed, taking her cues from her mother’s unruffled demeanor, "You have a surgery planned? You'll be okay, right?"

"I'm going to be fine dear," her mother reassured her. Allie knew her mother was made of steel. She was a fighter, it was nothing to worry about. Jane would tell her if it couldn’t be treated, she was sure of it. Her mother was always brutally honest, if nothing else.

"I'll take you to all the treatments, or whatever you need, Mom," Allie took Jane's hand.

Her mother chuckled, "You didn’t call me Jane," she softened. "It took cancer for you to call me Mom?" she laughed more.

"Whatever, Jane," Allie smiled, squeezing her mother's hand back.

It was strange, but the horrible news did make Allie feel more connected to her mother. Being only a week into the spring semester, it was an easy decision to take some time off to care for her mother. Kenneth was constantly traveling, Holden was busy with his family and studies in California, and they didn't have much more family than that.

Allie threw herself into the caregiver role. Jane kept Allie busy with handling the business of the estate, running errands, and filling in at meetings for her numerous charities and causes.  The weeks of spring passed like a blur and Allie hardly had a chance to think about the gravity of her mother’s illness while in plain sight of it. Jane had given her daughter the gift of purpose in the face of an unthinkable outcome.

June 2005

Jimmy's eyes looked helplessly into her own. They now shared something that had absolutely nothing to do with their short string of dates four years earlier.

"Allie," he hugged her tightly as tears began to fall all over again and she collapsed into his body. He held her strongly and firmly, not letting go until she regained her composure.

"Sorry," she croaked out.

"You can't be," he smiled, tears welling up in his own eyes as he wiped hers off of her cheeks.

"I'm glad you're here," she smiled back at him, never thinking she’d feel such relief to be in Jimmy Oliver’s arms.

"You need to go for a walk? Get some air?" He offered.

"Sure," she exhaled, realizing that she had been receiving guests for almost two hours and was about to collapse.

They walked quietly along a path though the campus, when he spoke, "That's a mob scene back there."

"My mom was pretty popular, I guess," she joked through her pain.

"It shows that she made a difference to a lot of people. That's what matters. Not how long you live, but the people you change for the better; the people you mean something to," he showed a side of himself that Allie had never imagined he had back when they were dating four years before. She had barely looked at him until that moment. She paused and realized he wasn't Jimmy the player she had dated, but a thicker, broader, and more grown up man.  He was still gorgeous, but now those eyes were filled with honestly too.

"That kind of makes it hurt more," Allie sighed. "All those people are sad, but they will all go home and move on. I'll still be stuck with this horrible, numb feeling that won't go away," she felt tears rising up through her body again.

"I know," he hugged her again. She had become so delicately thin that his strong embraces made her feel like she momentarily disappeared. It was a feeling that gave her an unexpected comfort.

"I was surprised to get a card from you," he changed the subject to his own father's death a few months before.

"My mom found out about your dad while I was with her at the hospital during one of her chemo sessions," Allie explained. "Seeing her so changed, so reduced by her illness, it happened so fast. It kind of gave me get a sense of what you were going through... and I wanted to let you know... that you weren't alone in your pain, I guess, if that makes sense."

"It does," he half-smiled with understanding. "I didn’t open it for a couple of weeks after I received it. It was getting too hard to fight the urge to cry. My father never wanted me to cry," Jimmy self-consciously brushed an errant tear from his face, took a deep breath and sat down on a bench outside St. Thomas church. "When I finally read your words, I cried... really hard, Allie. It just all finally came out."

"I'm sorry," she started. She remembered what she wrote to him, about remembering the best things that have happened in your life; and the best things your parents did for you, even when sometimes they disappointed you. And then making room for more good things to come by letting go of the anger you had once felt, and more importantly, the guilt you feel over that anger. She wrote to him after having tea with her mother in the hospital, which had become a distracting ritual for them in the midst of her excruciating treatments. She had definitely felt her share of anger at her mother over the years, and had also felt a lot of guilt over it in the weeks before she died.

"No, it was what I finally needed to hear, and I want to thank you for it," he whispered. "It was just so unexpected from you. You really blew me off when we dated, I didn’t think you even remembered who I was."

She winced, regretting how immature she was in dealing with his interest in her. They hadn't been serious, but once she got caught up in her romance with Sean, Jimmy just faded away. "I was young and stupid," she tried to explain.

"I really liked you, you know," Jimmy smiled softly. "Was I too aggressive? You really shied away when I tried to get closer."

"Maybe?" she knew that was part of her discomfort at the time. "You had a reputation, you know, for dating a different girl each summer."

He nodded, acknowledging his past. "Yeah, I know it must have seemed that way."

"It wasn't? I mean, I know you didn't know I existed before that summer, but I remember you, summer after summer, always with a different gorgeous girl."

"Is that what you thought? That I didn't know you existed? Allie, we've known each other since we were kids."

"I was a chubby dork, Jimmy; you never gave me the time of day."

He shook his head in disbelief, "I always thought you were cute, Allie, but you were smart, and so cerebral, even as kids, it seemed like you didn't want anything to do with the rest of us. It wasn't until you started hanging around with Beth and Tara that I was able to approach you."

"So it was just a coincidence that I got skinny and that's when you asked me out?" She felt her lingering anger over the way he was nice to her after she lost weight.

"I got the impression that it just made you feel more outgoing and available," he told her frankly. "Either way you were pretty."

"Right," she rolled her eyes and shook her head. She had gotten a little better about her self-image issues, but she still didn't believe Jimmy Oliver, of all people, telling her that she was pretty before she lost weight.

"Allie, it's like this... Marilyn Monroe was a beautiful woman, and Audrey Hepburn was a beautiful woman too. There are all kinds of pretty."

"Jane would not have agreed with you," she laughed, recognizing the emotional dissonance she felt in resenting her mother's slenderlust, even on the day of her funeral.

"People like what they like, Allie," he shrugged his shoulders. "Anyway, it wasn't that I was trying to get every girl, I just kept finding out they were not bright, or not funny, or not interesting. I saw that in you. It was kind of a blow when I finally dated someone of substance, and she wasn't impressed."

"It wasn't you, Jimmy, you were a total catch, really. I was just not ready for anything serious at the time," she fibbed. There was no way she could even think about Sean right now, let alone talk about him with Jimmy.

"So what about now?" He asked, "Are you in a relationship?"

"No," she admitted.

"Yeah, you've had your hands full," he put his arm around her in sympathy.

"I better get back," Allie stood up, hitching up her size 4 skirt that had become too big, along with the rest of her clothes. She knew she had to start making time to eat again, now that she wouldn't be spending all her time at the hospital and running errands to care for her mother, while helping her father with the business of managing a maintenance-intense estate. This thought of being there now, without her mother made her break down and sob again.

Jimmy stood up and held her for a few minutes, letting her cry. She stopped and looked up at him with her tear streaked face. "Allie, it's okay, you need to cry," revealing some wisdom in his eyes that she hadn’t ever seen there before.

He kissed her cheek, took her arm and silently walked her back to the reception.

The following day, friends and family gathered at their home to be together. Maia had flown over from Europe as quickly as should could after Allie called her with the news.

 “So that’s ‘The’ Jimmy,” Maia took her hand and walked her out towards the gardens to get some air.

“Yep,” Allie managed a smile while Jimmy looked over at her with concern in his eyes.

“You didn’t tell me he was that gorgeous,” she whispered with a giggle, obviously trying to distract Allie from the horribleness of the day with her favorite topic, men.

“I told you he was good looking,” Allie whispered. She thought back to that summer, and the way she had harbored so much hope for a future with Sean instead. She glanced over at the pool house, remembering that there was a time she felt really optimistic about love. Then her eyes scanned to the pool... her beloved Apollo, Daphne, Aphrodite and Eros... and the fountain. Then she remembered those damn coins she threw at the Trevi...  superstitions always seemed to backfire, didn’t they?

Sean’s mom had come to the funeral, which was comforting and disconcerting at the same time. She told Allie that Sean wanted to give his condolences but did not want his presence to upset her, and decided it was best if he wasn’t there. Allie nodded in agreement; he was right about that. In parting, Pam hugged Allie and whispered in her ear, “I’ll always wish it had been you.” The words should have stung, but oddly, they emboldened Allie. She was done hurting for Sean, she didn’t have room for it anymore.

“Allie, he looks like a Calvin Klein model, seriously,” Maia’s pulled her best friend back to the topic of Jimmy. Her eyes were wide looking at him. “And you dumped him? He clearly still likes you,” Maia observed.  Allie looked over at him, catching his eyes on her.

“I want to hear about how things are going with you... and Julien,” Allie changed the subject, wishing to escape into Maia’s tales of life in Belgium. Julien was working in investor relations for a major shipping company in Bruges. Not long after Allie’s visited from London the spring before, Maia had gotten a position as a teaching assistant in architectural history at the University of Ghent. Allie couldn’t help but feel a bit jealous of Maia’s success and happiness, since Allie had put her own life on hold over the last several months. Still, she couldn’t be happier for her good friend; it was hard to feel anything but joy for someone so wonderful and considerate.

“We’re just having fun, Allie,” Maia shrugged her shoulders with a happy smile, holding back a little of her obvious bliss. Allie had observed that Maia had put on even more weight over the year since they had last seen each other. Normally Maia would have agonized about it right away, mentioning it several times during their reunion conversation, especially after spending so much time away from each other. But she now seemed okay with it, which gave Allie some comfort that her best friend was truly happy. She had always wanted that for Maia, almost more than she ever wanted it for herself. Or maybe it was that she didn’t think happiness was in the cards for her? True love was an obvious destiny for an outgoing, bright light of a person like Maia, but maybe it wasn’t meant for everyone.

Allie looked over by the garden, noticing her father walking with little Ella on his feet, showing her the various types of flora that grew on the estate. The scene momentarily made her happy, and pleased that her mother got to know Ella before she died. But these comforting thoughts quickly turned to a deep sadness when she realized that her mother would never know her own children, if she had any. She turned into Maia’s shoulder and sobbed. Maia rubbed her back, whispering, “Oh Cherie, I wish I could take it all away for you,” almost identical words that Jimmy had whispered in her ear the day before.


Over the next weeks, Jimmy had become a friend; a refuge from the emotional pain she had been feeling for the last two years. Allie would have moments of feeling fine, and then remember things, like she wouldn't ever have a mother's day with her mother again; or be able to celebrate their birthdays with tea at the Rittenhouse. The never-really-ending ache of rejection and emptiness that Sean had left behind hadn't helped her ability to cope with this loss either. She had been at a minimal functioning level, going through the motions of dealing with family business and going back to grad school. Sometimes she slept a lot, and sometimes not at all.

But Jimmy's calm, patient presence in her life gave her some peace back. He took things slow, built trust with her and eventually they became an item. It was nice to be held in someone's arms, and be needed. At first it was awkward to be intimate with someone who wasn't Sean. He certainly didn't feel anything like Sean. But she grew to appreciate Jimmy’s comfortable presence with his slightly broad yet firm frame.

Jimmy was also good for her health. She began to eat normally again and regained enough weight to end all of the "you're too thin" comments she had been bombarded with in the days surrounding the funeral. She also took tennis back up with a vengeance, feeling the force of anger she had been sequestering in her body surge through her racket as she hit balls, match after match. She found joy in doing well in club tournaments again. She even learned to appreciate it when club members commented to her about how much she looked like her mother on the courts, and how proud Jane would be of her talented daughter.

At the annual Club Independence Party, Allie's father opened up in a way he hadn't been able to since the funeral. They had rarely seen each other in those weeks, much less talked about anything more than the weather. Both of them were obviously avoiding the pain of being around each other without Jane as their mutual foil.

"Your mother would be thrilled you're dating him," he smiled. "But is that what you're doing? Trying to make her happy?"

"Why do you say that?" She felt defensive.

"Don't get upset, Allie,” Kenneth knew he was on the defense with his fragile daughter. “You're doing what you need to do move on; I'm honestly glad you're doing better these days. I was really worried; your mother and I were both worried. I just don't know if this is you now," he glanced over at Jimmy who was talking to some old friends Allie didn’t like.

"What do you mean?" Her defensiveness grew.

"You're not a country club girl, Allie. This just seems like what you think your mother wanted for you."

"It is what she wanted," she rolled her eyes. "But what's wrong with me wanting it to?"

"I can't tell if it is what you really want," Kenneth pressed her in an unusually delicate conversation. He had rarely commented on her personal life, especially as it related to men. "I could see how happy you were when you were around Sean. You don't seem to have that same joy with Jimmy."

"Sean is not an option, Dad," Allie grew cold. "And, you're right, I'm not the same person, none of us are," she whispered while a tear ran down her cheek. "Since Mom died," she choked up.

"I'm sorry Al, I know, believe me. No one feels her loss more than me,” he choked up, making Allie feel instantly guilty for her own self-pity in the context of what her father lost, his soul mate. “I just hope you do realize that you have more than two options. There's a whole world out there. Jimmy is a good kid... I just want to see you with someone who brings out your best."

Allie hugged and smiled at her Dad. She wasn't going to convince him that she was happy. She knew that deep down he was right about one thing. She had felt a passion with Sean that Jimmy would probably never give her. But she was done with passion and wanted normalcy and stability so much more. It was certainly better to be safe and contented than continue feeling the revolving door of pain and numbness she had been enduring for more than two wretched years.

That autumn, she started back in her program in New York to finish her masters, traveling back to Philly on the weekends to see Jimmy, who had now been given a Vice-President title while he learned the ropes of the family’s dealership business, as the heir apparent.  It was during a weekend visit to New York, in Central Park, Jimmy took Allie on a picnic. With autumn leaves falling around her, he brought out a ring box and asked her to marry him. She felt it must be right; such a beautiful setting and an even more beautiful ring. She agreed to Mrs. James Naughton Oliver III.

March 2006

Allie needed Jimmy's opinion quickly to finalize the wording on their wedding invitations so she could get them printed and mailed out in just the right time before their wedding in June. With only three months left, there was so much to do. She couldn't bear the thought of making a single faux pas. Her wedding planner was a lot like her mother; every single detail could not be left to chance.

She ran up to his office, but his assistant, Becky, was gone again. She rarely seemed at her post. Allie had also been surprised that Jimmy had hired such a butterball of a girl; most of the women working in luxury car sales were lean and mean city girls.  Becky was pretty, though, Allie could see that. Not gorgeous like Maia, but still lovely. She was always well made up and dressed in trendy plus-sized clothing, reminding her of those audacious big girls at the websites Allie visited when privately escaping into her fat fetish.

She grabbed a pen and post-it note from Becky’s desk and began to write a note, but stopped when she heard noise coming from inside of Jimmy’s office. It sounded like his voice, but muffled. Maybe he was in a meeting or on a conference call? She figured he could pause for a moment; she was in such a hurry, and it would only take a second.

She lightly turned the knob, but it was locked. Her ear now pressed to the door, she could hear a higher voice, giggling. There was definitely a woman inside. Angry and determined to know what was going on, Allie started looking though Becky’s office drawers and found a set of keys. She recognized the one for his office, same as on Jimmy’s set of keys. She quietly inserted the key, turning the knob to unlock and slowly opened the door.

What she saw shocked, surprised and gravely embarrassed her. There was Jimmy, shirtless, with his hands roaming around Becky’s soft belly, with her pants unbuttoned, exposing hanging flesh packed in lacy underwear, stretched thin by the round bulges of her love handles.

Allie’s mortification turned into a jealous rage. Here was Jimmy, fondling this chubbette, while she had been agonizing over diet and exercise to fit into her custom designed Peter Langner bridal gown. It was a beautiful but unforgiving cascade of silk and satin that would reveal every a single curve of flesh, should any exist at all on the blushing bride. Jimmy had praised her for her dedicated fitness, and now she was witnessing him fondling another woman’s fat rolls. Her brain was ready to explode.

Jimmy and Becky both looked back into Allie’s eyes like two deer in headlights. Becky quickly grabbed her button down shirt and put it on, fumbling over the buttons, struggling to cover up. Allie felt a horrible surge of wickedness rise up in her, and before she could think, the words came tumbling out of her mouth, “You should choose clothing that easier to button up around you if you’re going to get caught in the act,” Allie spat out.

“Allie,” Jimmy implored her to hold her tongue.

“Save it,” she put her hand up to Jimmy, barely glancing at him while glaring at Becky in an attempt to make her more uncomfortable. Allie hadn’t ever felt so much vindictiveness, coursing through her veins like ice water, but it now overwhelmed her. She watched Becky’s reddened face fill with tears as she got her pants buttoned around her generous waist, zippered over her ample lower belly. The mortified girl tried to leave on the other side of the room, but Allie moved to stop her. Becky tried to maneuver around her, but Allie was too quick and stopped her again.

More awful words fell out of Allie’s mouth as she assessed her prey up and down, “You are a pretty girl, Becky, you should find a man who likes you out in the open, not one who will only screw the fat girl in private.”  A tear fell out of Becky’s eye. Seeing that tear, Allie regained her humanity and suddenly felt very guilty for her cruel words. She stood aside to let Becky leave.

Allie then turned to Jimmy, “Really? Becky?” she was still angry and redirected her anger squarely at Jimmy. He was the real culprit. Most girls would have a hard time saying no to Jimmy, much less a naive, young girl like Becky. “I don’t know what’s worse, that you cheated on me, or that you did it with someone you knew would get hurt.”

“Me hurt her? You’re the one who just called her fat,” Jimmy started.

“She is fat,” Allie retorted, “But I had no idea you liked ‘em that way.”

“I didn’t either,” he honestly stated. Allie was at a loss for words. Was Jimmy coming out as an FA? The irony struck her to the core.

“So you decided all of a sudden you want that?” Allie couldn’t even say the word ‘fat’ anymore, she knew this was sailing too close to her own issues.

“I know you do, Allie. I see you looking at big guys, all the time; you don’t hide it well,” Jimmy retorted, making Allie feel a wash of anxiety rush over her. “I started to wonder about it, and then I checked your browser history,” he admitted.

Allie felt sick. Her private, secret fat world had been pricked and the air was flying out of it. She visited fat and gaining sites all the time.  It was her only outlet within this artificial world she had built with Jimmy, after Sean broke her heart and her mother passed away.

Jimmy continued, “I was relieved, actually. You never enjoyed sex with me. I used to agonize over it, until I figured out it was because I wasn’t fat enough for your real tastes.”

Allie closed her eyes and began to cry. He was right. She had been lying to herself for convenience and security. For a long time it seemed like she could get away with it, but it didn’t work.

Jimmy continued, letting all honesty prevail. “You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I thought maybe there was something to the whole fat thing that I had been missing. I mean, if you liked it, maybe I would too, or something...” he trailed off, his hand brushing though his hair in frustration to explain. “Becky made herself available, and it,” he paused, “happened,” he admitted sheepishly.

Allie was blown away by his openness in the midst of being caught as a cheater. Yet she realized she had to take a lot of the blame for this state of affairs. Jimmy was a jerk for cheating on her, but she hadn’t been exactly honest with him either. She had never cheated on him by having actual sex with someone else, but she had thought about it a lot. Not to mention all of the flirting she did with big guys whenever she got the chance. And the countless times she pleasured herself with fantasies of obese men making love to her, while being sexually cold to Jimmy.

“I’m sorry, Jimmy,” Allie began to sob, “For everything. I’ve never really been fair to you. Ever. Not even when we first dated.”

Jimmy stood in front of her, rubbing her arms to comfort her. “Here you are apologizing when I was the one cheating.” She looked up at him with a surprising amount of empathy. He really wasn’t a bad guy; he was just confused and misled by perceptions, just like Allie had been deceived by her own judgment.

They talked through things civilly and parted as friends. Allie was relieved it was as amicable as it could be. But although they agreed to keep in touch, those were vain words meant to soothe each other at the end of a broken relationship. What was to be the Main Line wedding of the year became hushed society gossip that died off with Allie’s move back to New York.

November 2006

Allie straddled his thick leg, her body pressed firmly into his belly that spread across his lap while he reclined in his oversized office chair.  Her eyes glazed over the white veneer walls of his office before she closed them and fully felt the way his fingers glazed between her legs, causing her to feel a magnificent excitement build up in her body.

“You can’t get enough, can you,” he whispered in her ear.

“Not really,” she murmured back, stroking her fingers along his paunch, and reaching underneath it to excite him more.  She leaned over to get into his top desk drawer, fished out a Godiva bonbon, and traced his lips with it.

“Ugh, Allie, you already fed me such a huge lunch,” he grinned, playfully trying to feign some limitations.

“It’s just one more little treat,” she continued to brush it along his lips, her other hand gently jiggling his love handles.

He opened his mouth and moaned lightly, expressing a sort of pleasured acquiescence. Once he finished the chocolate and licked his lips in satisfaction, she reached for the drawer again.

He grabbed her hand and held it behind her back. “Oh no you don’t, my turn to tease you now.” He got up, holding her tight, and pushed her against his desk, lifting her on top of it. She watched with excitement as he worked his belt open, struggled with his pants button and quickly worked his way inside of her. With the rhythmic bounce of his flab onto her body, it didn’t take long for either of them to come.  The tension had been building all morning, as it seemed to each day since this affair began a couple of months before.

It wasn’t ideal. Van was her boss; well, her boss’s boss. He was a named partner and firm co-founder. It was a daunting predicament. Having sex with a married man was questionable enough, even if he was separated; but it jeopardized her career if anyone found out. It just felt so good. She was finally carefree and sexually satisfied; something she hadn’t felt in a very long time. They had found a rare connection in each other: he was into being fat, helping her find the words for what she had kept locked away inside her mind for so long; and she was incredibly turned on by encouraging a man into well-rounded corpulence.

She had wondered why he took her under his wing in the first place. A new associate was hardly ready to work closely with a partner. “Dr. Porter told me you have a passion for preservation,” he had told her in their first meeting, a few days into her hiring at a small but up and coming architectural firm in SoHo.

“I do,” she smiled nervously. A handsome, successful man with a broad belly and deep rich voice intimidated her like nothing else.

“He gave you a glowing reference,” he smiled, cupping his hands beneath his belly.  She tore her eyes away from it and back into his. He seemed almost amused.

“I’m glad to hear that,” she didn’t know what else to say.

“That’s why I’m asking you to be part of a special project I’ve been given by the Landmarks Conservancy; a French Gothic near Central Park. It’s been renovated too many times in too many different ways and now it needs real work to bring it back to the original beauty.”

Her eyes lit up, “It sounds like a fantastic opportunity!”

“Bill is the project manager,” Van was sure to place her manager between them, “He’s a nuts and bolts engineer. But I want you to do the research and be his visual and historical resource.”

Allie thankfully accepted his challenge and got to work quickly. Within a week of working day and night, she had amassed a thick binder full of research on the original architectural firm and the building ownership history.  Van set a meeting for them to go to visit the site and discuss her notes.

As they traveled by cab up Sixth Avenue, Allie could feel her chest pounding. She wanted to impress Van with some semblance of grace and wits but simply felt speechless in his presence. He seemed comfortable, though, allowing himself to spread across a good part of the back seat.

When they reached the penthouse space, she could almost feel the years of history that the space had seen. Now showing slightly dilapidated post-modern style, she felt the walls screaming out to her to be restored to their gilded elegance.

She turned to study Van from the side, his masculine features gave way to softened cheeks and a thick neck. And the perfect shape of his belly, wide, soft and well fed. Her body felt a throbbing ache. It had been so long since she felt sexually satisfied. 

Well, there was that one weekend back in June, while visiting her brother in California. She had driven down to Los Angeles to attend the AIA National Convention. On her return drive, she decided to stop over in Santa Barbara to check out a couple of wineries.  It was the weekend she was supposed to have gotten married to Jimmy. It wasn’t that she was still heartbroken about it, but being somewhere else, where no one knew her, was a perfect way to get through it.

She found herself lingering at a tasting event close to her hotel. She was drawn to the very cute and very tubby operations manager, chatting him up until the evening ended. Plenty tipsy and feeling reckless, she boldly invited him to her hotel room for a night cap. After a night of pure, raw sex and not much sleep, she slipped away the next morning leaving a simple note of appreciation, never having exchanged phone numbers or even last names. It was her chance to be someone else for just a few hours. She wasn’t proud of it, but it was what her body needed. And it certainly reminded her of why she liked what she liked.

Still, she was never comfortable with casual relations, and her sex life went back into dormancy while pursuing a budding career.  But Van’s daily presence and confident charms had quickly torn down her resolve to wait for Mr. Right, when Mr. Right-Now was constantly lingering in her thoughts with his audacious display of fatness.

It wasn’t long into their affair that they understood each other’s predilections.  Van had grown up as an athlete, surfing competitively, but dreamed of fatness. Allie fought childhood chubbiness, pushing herself hard to stay thin. They found a sexual bond that needed to be consummated, despite the utterly irresponsible nature of it.

Van had also shared with Allie the extent of his complicated marriage. He had met his wife in England while working on his masters at University College. She was very different from the girls he had dated before: thin, wealthy, and detached. He told Allie that he was intrigued by Claire’s British indifference and reserve, despite the fact that she was devoid of curves and didn’t have any inclination to enjoy fatness.

When she turned 27, Claire had come into a large inheritance. Wanting to see her husband’s career flourish, they moved to New York and started the architectural firm with a big bankroll from her to set up a slick looking office and hire well-known talent that brought a consistent client base.

The turning point in their marriage came when Van, away from the beaches of California and the long walks of London, began to put on a few pounds. He told Allie that he hadn’t initially tried to get fat, but as he softened up, his wife noticed. At first she was playful, teasing him sternly about getting his fat ass to a gym. But those teasing insults spurned him to put on more intentional weight. He would secretly gorge in between meals, relishing the feeling of his straining shirts and tightening belt. Not finding it funny anymore, Claire insisted that Van go to a nutritionist or get on an eating plan. He told Allie that he had tried, but pretending to try was more exciting, hoping that his wife would continue to notice but come around to enjoying his new, thickening body.

She didn’t though. After finding candy wrappers in his jacket pockets, she told him she was leaving for London and wouldn’t return to him until he had lost weight. Van admitted to Allie he actually did try to diet, but once Allie walked into his office, eyeing his fat body, he stopped his efforts altogether. Claire had now been back in London for more than a year, only communicating with Van through business managers. They each had their reasons to stay married; Van needed her to keep her investment money in his firm, and Claire needed to keep her marriage intact to keep her father happy.

When Van told Allie all of this, she was shocked. How much, and yet how little she had in common with Claire. Part of Allie felt sorry for Claire, the poor little rich girl that Allie understood. And yet a woman who could not appreciate her gorgeously rotund husband was incomprehensible to Allie, who was living out an erotic fantasy with him.

"Have you always been into this?" Van nestled his chub into her body, as she fondled his belly after another late night tryst at her place. 

"I don't know," she murmured. "There was enough anti-fat prejudice in my world growing up that I didn't even consider the idea. I really didn't even think about sex at all until I was in college."

"A late bloomer?" he tickled her along her arm.

"Something like that," she smiled through her words, realizing it.

"So what caused you to embrace the idea?" He probed more.

"I met a guy, who was on the chubby side," she admitted softly. "I knew I was into his size and when he gained weight I came to terms with the fact that I loved it."

"Did you feel ashamed?" He dug deeper.

"I did," she admitted, "I mean, I felt ashamed that I wanted him fat and to keep getting fatter, but I never felt ashamed of being with him. I fell in love with him, and then he managed to break my heart," she was honest.

"How on earth could someone do that to you?" He brushed her hair from her eyes.

"Long story," she offered. It was easier to talk to Van about fat lust than broken hearts.

"What about you?" It was Allie's turn, "How did you come to the realization that you wanted to be fat?"

"Always," he smiled. "I always wanted it, but I grew up in SoCal, you know. I was pretty serious about surfing, so anytime I'd deliberately gain a few pounds, it didn't stick. Either it would drag me down competitively, or I couldn't keep it on anyway."

"Did you ever admit to girls you wanted this?" She tapped his belly.

"No, not back then. I did decide for a while that I was an FA and went after fat girls," he smiled.

"Really?" Allie was now surprised since he had seemed to appreciate her thin physique. And Claire was runway model thin also, judging by the wedding picture she had seen of them at his office. She remembered the first time she saw it on his credenza, noticing how athletic and trim Van looked in the picture, and how much it turned her on to see how fat he had gotten since.

"Yep, I still am an FA. All of my girlfriends in college were bigger. I loved being with fat girls, especially when I was thinner. But now that I'm fat, I can really appreciate how this works when the tables are turned," he grinned, caressing Allie’s little waist.

"So how did it work for you with your wife? There wasn't any fat involved there," Allie giggled.

"Probably like you and your ex-fianc�," he teased back. Allie had told him about Jimmy and walking in on his affair with his chubby Secretary. It was easy to talk about that, since she wasn't hurt nearly as badly as she had been by Sean. Van loved those details about her finding Becky with Jimmy in his office, practically getting off on the spiteful words that Allie shot at her tubby rival, even if Allie still felt a little guilty about it.

"Yeah, sex with a thin guy is like eating Wonder Bread. It holds the sandwich together, but doesn't taste like a damn thing," she laughed more, needing to see the humor in her tumultuous past.  "Speaking of tasting..." Allie leaned over to her night stand where she kept the good Belgian chocolate she picked up during her last visit with Maia, grabbing a few pieces out to indulge her lover.

"You're a nasty little feeder," he mumbled jokingly as she shoved the treats in his mouth.

"You're a fat and greedy glutton" she teased him back, shaking his flabby gut and rubbing his hardened cock.

"You are not even real, are you?" he sighed, smiling, almost implying that what was happening existed in an alternate universe. Somehow that didn’t bother her at all; alternative universes were so much easier than real life.  She gave him a sexy look and he heaved himself up on top of her for another round of lovemaking.

May 2007

Allie nestled into the wide wicker chair that gave her a perch to watch Manhattan awaken on a beautiful spring Saturday morning. She sipped her espresso, relishing the livening sounds of a new day. The sliding door opened and there was Van’s belly, robe opened to display his growing girth.

She smiled fondly as he stretched, watching his belly rise and fall in a jiggle. Nine months had passed since they began their affair and no one seemed the wiser. They had been able to hide it well at work, only sneaking in the occasional lovemaking session on his desk, and usually after hours. But these days they kept their trysts to his place or hers. They had certainly grown closer, sharing an enormously fat secret together, but had not exchanged the ‘I love yous’ and commitments that came along as relationships developed. It was understood that he wasn’t divorcing his wife anytime soon, and Allie had no interest in marriage either.

"You’re phone rang a few times while I was in the shower, " he handed her the cell.

“You didn’t invite me in?” She pouted. “You know I love to get you clean,” she stood up and rubbed her hands around his body, slipping her fingers into the back rolls on either side of his blubbery body, as she did when soaping him off after a sweaty sex session.

“I have a lunch meeting,” he sighed.

“You work too many Saturdays,” she pouted more.

“Sorry, babe, that harder I work, the faster I can pay off Claire,” he had begun to talk seriously about releasing the agency from the debt he owed his wife.

“At least let me help you get dressed,” she pleaded with a grin. Allie loved to pull his shirt around his big belly and button him up, stuff his shirt into his large-waisted trousers, and help him tie his tie around his chubby neck. “Getting a fat boy dressed is almost as fun as stripping him down,” she winked.

After Van had left, she remembered her phone and looked at the missed calls. All of them were from her brother, which was odd, since she hadn’t talked to him in months. She sat down on Van’s bed and called him back.

“Allie, we need you,” he whispered softly.


“I’ll be there in a few hours,” Allie whispered into her phone, waiting for her cross-country flight to take off. Waves of fear, guilt and shock had been washing over her in the hours since she talked to her brother. She had been holed up in a make-believe world with her lover, living only for herself and her own pleasure. Now her brother and his wife were facing a challenge that no parents should ever have to face.

“Thanks, Allie,” Holden’s voice was breaking.

“I have to go through Phoenix,” she continued.

“Call me when you land,” he became clearer.

“I got a car, so you don’t have to worry about picking me up,” she assured him.

“We’ll keep some dinner warm for you,” Holden offered.

“No, the last thing you and Monica need is to worry about feeding me,” Allie knew her appetite was going to be gone again anyway.

“Just be safe,” his voice was weak again.

“I have to go, I love you guys,” Allie was in tears as the flight attendant tapped her on the shoulder to end her call.

She leaned back and closed her eyes, recounting the days turn of events. As soon as she talked to her brother that morning, she was online booking the one-way flight and packing a bag. When she got into the cab to the airport, she realized that she needed to call Van and let him know things were going to change.

“Hey babe,” she started, trying to find the words to let Van know she was leaving town indefinitely, and why.

“What’s wrong?” He knew something wasn’t good.

“I’m flying out to my brother’s today,” she started, “I’m going to have to take a leave of absence, I guess you’d call it, if I can…” she started to tear up again.

“What’s going on?” Van asked with deep concern in his voice.

“It’s my niece, Ella, she’s got a brain tumor,” Allie cried.

“Oh my god, Allie, how horrible,” he whispered.

“She’s only 5,” Allie was sobbing, “and she’s the most amazing little girl,” she couldn’t go on.

“Oh, Al,” was all he could muster.

“I need to be with them right now” she explained.

“Of course you do,” Van understood. “I’ll worry about handling your absence, don’t even think about work. We’ll figure it out.”

“Thank you,” she sighed,” wiping her face off. “I’ll let you know what’s going on in a few days.”

“Be well, Allie,” Van told her, “Everything will be okay,” he tried to comfort her. But it felt very tenuous. How could she ever return to New York and get re-wrapped up in that fantasy world when it became so painfully clear that real problems in the real world will always have their revenge.


She couldn’t hide her pain. The moment she saw her brother’s face, she fell into his arms and sobbed, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t here with you sooner.”

“We only learned two days ago,” he smiled weakly, pushing her hair out of her wet face. “But it’s been weeks of wondering what’s wrong with her. It was like she had the flu, and then headaches, and bad balance… I feel like we took too long to get her in and tested,” he teared up.

“Holden, no one ever thinks this will happen, so you cannot let guilt make you feel any worse than you already do,” Allie told him, not really realizing she should have taken her own advice for the guilt-ridden. “I feel badly I haven’t been out here to meet little Claudia either.” 

Allie had been in the throes of her new, fat-filled love affair the previous winter when Holden and Monica welcomed a second baby girl into their family. Her own father had visited with his grandchildren back in March, while on a business trip to San Francisco, but she hadn’t yet made the time herself.

“We know you’ve been busy with getting your career going in New York,” he assured her, “there’s a lot of pressure, with a new job...” he trailed off.

That made Allie feel even worse. When you’re screwing the founding partner, the only career pressure is how to keep it a secret from your co-workers. But Allie couldn’t think any more about that. She had one thing on her mind: a plan for Ella.

“We need to get her to Children’s in Philly,” Allie affirmed, having already made all the arrangements in her head while waiting to board the plane back at LaGuardia.

“The doctors talked about Packard at Stanford,” he started.

“Holden, it’s like three hours up to Palo Alto. That’s too much daily commute for you guys – and expensive to stay up there for any length of time. You might as well fly those hours instead,” Allie urged him. “Children’s is the best in the country. From my volunteer work there, I know some of the doctors… and the nurses, you wouldn’t believe how wonderful they are. Let’s talk to Dad, we’ll get something set up with Doctor Brewer. I’m sure she’ll see us right away.”

“I was going to call Dad after you got here, tomorrow morning,” Holden was reminded of the painful conversation he still needed to have with Ella’s grandfather.

“I’ll talk to Dad first thing,” Allie offered. “He knows everyone there, Ella will get the best care.”

“Allie, are you sure we need to pull strings for something like this?” Holden attempted to protest her use of their family connections.

“Yes, it’s absolutely the right thing to do,” Allie got angry, “I know you have issues with our privilege, but I don’t give a shit about any of that when it comes to Ella. This is the best possible reason to use our influence.”

“Hey, don’t think I wouldn’t give anything for this not to be happening,” he became short. “But Monica’s here and her family is mostly in the Bay area, so she may not agree.”

“Monica’s got a baby to keep close, and needs her job to keep your family going,” Allie was blunt. “Dad will get us a place to stay near the hospital, and you’ll probably rack up a lot of frequent flyer miles. I’ve already taken a leave of absence from my job so I will be there for Ella. And all of you. As long as it takes for her to get better.”

“Classes finished last week for me,” Holden discussed his obligations at the University, “Just some grading and paperwork to finish up. With Ella being sick all the time, I had opted out of teaching any summer classes.”

“We’ll talk to Monica in the morning,” Allie rubbed her brother’s shoulder. “I think she’ll see this is the best way.”

Holden smiled and softened, “You are an amazing sister, Allie. Mom would be so proud of the woman you have become.”

“Mom would be proud of the father you have become too,” Allie gave him a last hug before heading to the guest room she had spent many a sleepless night in during the dark days after Sean left. And then two years later after losing her mom. Not to mention that terrible episode with Jimmy another year after.  She knew the ocean air and cross country distance had been healing when her heart was broken, but she was certain that the best children’s Oncology team in the country was in Philly, and they would make Ella better.

Her east coast body clock woke Allie up at 5:00am, so she was able to catch her father in Zurich waiting to catch a flight back to Newark. He was distraught by the news, but glad to be coming home to help his family through this crisis. “Call me, Allie, as soon as you talk to Monica. If she agrees, I’ll make some calls.”

A few minutes later, Allie was never so happy to hear a baby cry. She tiptoed and peeked into Claudia’s nursery. There was Monica, now diapering her younger daughter as the little girl squirmed and cried. Motherhood was such a beautiful mess of work, Allie thought, touched by the way Monica managed the baby, noticing tears welling up in her eyes. “Oh Allie,” she smiled through them, when she turned to see her sister-in-law the doorway, “Let me introduce you to Claudia,” as she wiped away the errant tear on her cheek.

The little girl screamed in Allie’s face. “She wants her breakfast first,” Monica laughed, settling down to nurse the baby. Allie marveled at what a pro Monica was, wondering if she could ever be nearly as good at being a mother.

“I talked to Holden last night,” Allie explained to Monica, wanting to have the difficult conversation while Holden and Ella still slept. “Have you thought about Children’s in Philly?”

“Holden mentioned it as soon as we got the news,” Monica said softly. “I’m just trying to figure out how we manage our family across 3,000 miles.”

“I know the distance is a burden, but I also know Ella will get the best care in the world,” Allie assured Monica. “I will be there 100% for Ella. I just think it will be harder for you, as her mother, to keep a brave face with her. With me there with her, I’m more like a friend; I’ll have fun with her. Caring for your baby, trying to be a good nurse AND trying to split time at the hospital up at Stanford is too much for you. If she’s in Philly, you can focus here and then fly out on your rotation days off for totally dedicated time with her. “

Monica was fighting back sobs. “It would break my heart to be away from my sweet girl while she’s going through this, but I want the best for her,” Monica wiped more tear away before it landed on Claudia. “I want to hold my baby through every moment of her treatment… but I know, as a nurse, I have to give her what she needs most, not what I need most.”

“I was just thinking what a strong mother you are,” Allie choked up, “And how it’s got to be the hardest job in the world. I can’t imagine I’d ever do it as well as you.”

“You will be amazing, Allie. It will bring out the absolute best in you, wait and see.”


Kenneth had made all the arrangements at the hospital, and real-estate accommodations at two loft style apartments overlooking the Schuylkill River, a 10 minute walk away from the hospital.  Allie looked forward to getting back to her stress-relieving runs along the river she had enjoyed during those “happy summers,” as she referred to the time she was with Sean. She hadn’t had many good summers since, and this upcoming summer was proving to be as difficult as any she had ever known. At least the city she loved would offer her some good vibes to keep her strong for Ella and her family.

Despite her condition, Ella was developing into an incredibly brilliant, thoughtful and witty girl. It was hard to believe she was only five and a half. Being raised by extremely intelligent parents probably helped, but she certainly had the same spunk she had seen in the little toddler with whom she had first fell in love. Still, time had passed and so much had changed. Allie found solace in knowing that she could now reconnect with her precious niece.

Ella’s initial surgery went well, but there were some long weeks of chemotherapy ahead for her. Allie bought many books, toys and crafts to keep her entertained, a portable DVD player and some handheld electronic games. She even hired a tutor to come by a few times a week to keep Ella going with learning to read and write her alphabet.

Holden and Allie took turns most days so that Ella had company during her waking hours. Monica came every 4 or 5 days, putting in long hours juggling time between her daughters. Kenneth stayed in Philly as much as possible, postponing business trips so he could come by some nights and nearly every Sunday. They were working together as a family to help little Ella through the roughest days of her treatment.

It was during her treatment that the family was delivered discouraging news, Ella had developed anemia and would be hospitalized longer. Allie remembered feeling the same way during the worst of her mother’s illness and after the funeral. Lacking appetite, no energy, growing thin enough for people to make comments. But she didn’t care about any of that. Little Ella was fighting for her life and nothing else mattered, not even Allie’s own health.

August 2007

On a particularly dreary late summer day, rain relentlessly poured against the hospital window. Summer rain always reminded her of Sean, which was actually a day she looked back on as about the best in her life. But the rain held no more of that hopeful love she once had felt. Gloom now took its place, as she held Ella’s hand, watching the hands of the clock slowly move around. 

At least Ella was sleeping. Her cough had grown stronger as she reached the nadir of the current round of treatment. The doctors continued to be optimistic about her long-term prognosis, but always warning the family of the realities of side effects, which were draining Ella of her perk and joyfulness.

At first, after the surgery, Allie was strong and positive in her heart that everything would be okay. But as the war in Ella’s body raged on, Allie grew increasingly angry with a world that would cause such trauma to a little girl and her family, and a course of treatment that would do such damage to her sweet little body. It was one thing to lose the love of her life, and then her own mother, but now this? She put on a happy face with Ella, mustering the only smiles she had left in her for the little girl. But a rage sat in Allie’s stomach like a heavy stone, and there was no room for anything else. She willfully denied herself any pleasures, barely eating and... barely living, for that matter.

As Ella slept through the rain, Allie fought her own eyes closing, letting her head fall to the edge of Ella’s bed.

“Allie,” time seemed to have passed when she heard the soft voice awaken her. She looked up to see the warm smile of her sister-in-law.  “You must have drifted off.”

She glanced up at Monica, and then over at Ella, who was awake and smiling sweetly back at her.

“Oh, sorry,” Allie murmured as she stood up and gave Monica a hug.

“No worries,” she looked at Allie and rubbed her thin arm. “How’s my baby girl?” She sat down next to Ella and brushed her daughter’s cheek.

“I’m good today, Mom,” Ella beamed, thrilled to see her mother. Allie noticed that Ella did look pinker in the cheeks than she had the day before. “But Allie Cat looks sick now,” the little girl observed honestly.

Then, both mother and daughter were looking at Allie with a similar concern in their eyes. “Allie,” Monica started, seeming to be searching for appropriate words, “You really don’t look well.”

“I’m okay,” Allie forced her posture up, “Just a little tired.”

Monica grabbed Allie’s hand, “We’ll be right back, Peanut. I’m just going to talk to Aunt Allie outside for a minute.”

Monica led Allie away from her daughter’s earshot and grew stern, “Allie, honey, you really do look unwell,” noticing the paleness of her skin and dark circles she tried in vain to conceal with makeup.  “Are you eating much at all?” Monica brushed her hand down Allie’s thinning arms.

“I’m fine,” Allie grew indignant, hating that Monica could detect her decreasing weight. She was sure her brother had said something, since Holden had been on her case about it as well.

“Holden’s going to be here in a few minutes,” speaking of her nagging brother. “Let’s have him sit a bit with Ella while we get lunch. I haven’t eaten all day myself.”

“I’m just going to go home and get some rest,” Allie declined Monica’s offer. “A good nap is all I need.”

“Can we take you to dinner tonight?” Monica persisted, determined to get Allie some nourishment.

“I’m just going to stay home and get sleep, that’s all I need,” Allie’s irrational anger was bubbling up under her skin. She could practically feel it prickling through. And then she could hear it, lightly ringing in her ears.  “I have to go,” she turned into Ella’s room, grabbed her purse, gave Ella a quick kiss and walked out quickly.

She stormed down the hospital hallway, feeling angry that her body was under this scrutiny, but also enormous guilt that she took that anger out on a mother who’s suffering more horribly than Allie could imagine. Which only made Allie feel worse. Now her ears were ringing more loudly, as she turned another corner, walking down another long hallway. She couldn’t bear to wait for the elevator, and headed toward the stairwell. She could feel disorientation overcome her, as she walked out into an area she didn’t recognize.  Then, with another long hallway in front of her, she felt herself losing her breath. She just needed to get air. The hallway turned sideways again, and then everything went black.

She awoke from her nap, but it wasn’t her bed. White sheets? Cream walls?  She then noticed the needle in her arm and looked up, focusing on Monica’s face next to her, and Holden on the other side of her, with her hand in his.

“What happened?” Allie asked them.  She had dreamed of Sean again. This time he was wearing a white doctor’s coat, telling her she was going to be okay. It was such a comforting dream, to be taken care of by the only boy she ever loved. He was the wonderful, tender, and gorgeously fat Sean she would still have occasional dreams about. Not the cool, thin Sean that married another woman.

“You really scared us Allie,” Holden said firmly. Monica nodded, lovingly.

“I was leaving, but I guess I never made it out of the building,” she was starting to piece together that she had passed out.

“You’re pretty dehydrated,” Monica said, “They put you on an IV to get more fluids in you.”

“A doctor found you collapsed on the second floor,” Holden continued. “Then one of the nurses recognized you and called Dad.”

“Recognized me?” Just then, Kathy, a nurse who Allie had known from her volunteer days, walked over and grabbed Allie’s hand.

“Hi Sugar,” Kathy squeezed her weakened hand. Kathy had been a no nonsense sweetheart of a nurse and Allie had loved working with her.  “We need to get you over to Penn; we don’t admit old broads like you here,” she winked at Allie.

“Admit? I’m fine, just dehydrated. I’m already feeling a lot better,” Allie protested.

“You need to get checked out, Allie,” Kathy got a tough tone with Allie, “Healthy young women don’t just pass out randomly.”

“I’ll drive you over,” said Holden, “We need you to get better, and so does Ella.”

Allie felt more guilt, realizing this was taking time away from the girl who most needed the family’s attention. She agreed to go over to the urgent care facility Kathy recommended, to reassure everyone she was just fine.


Dr. Williams sat down with her, checking out the bruise in her arm from the IV entry. “Needed an IV, huh?” The doctor smoothed her fingers over the inside of Allie’s arm.

“Yep, I guess I haven’t been drinking enough water,” Allie shrugged. “It’s been hot…”

Nodding, she pressed Allie further, “Are you eating regular meals?”

“Pretty much,” Allie glossed over the query, hoping the doctor would move on.

“Are you getting exercise? Or keeping active?”

“Well, I’ve been pretty busy, caring for my niece,” Allie reminded the doctor of her special situation. She had scaled back on the running as she lacked enough energy to go more than a mile without feeling faint.

“It’s hard for you to care for your niece if you’re not caring for yourself, Allie,” doctor Williams cautioned.

Allie bristled, “I’m fine, Doctor, really. It was a fluke.”

“Your vitals are okay; but blood pressure is a little low, along with your blood sugar. You’re also underweight and slightly anemic. Have you suffered from eating disorders in the past?”

“No,” Allie felt anger. Sure she had weight issues in her past, but she wasn’t anorexic. She tried to be bulimic in college but couldn’t handle the gag factor. She just didn’t eat much when she was stressed, that was all.

“How about depression?”

Allie felt her heart drop, suddenly questioning everything she had assumed about herself.  She saw herself as strong now, toughening through the worst episodes in her life on her own. She wasn’t like other people. Depression didn’t happen to her. It was true that she never felt right in her own skin, but she had always pressed on anyway, getting through life and finding success where she could in her studies and work. She wasn’t suicidal or anything. Depression was for people that couldn’t handle problems, right?  Or was she actually, finally, breaking?

Dr. Williams saw Allie’s discomfort, almost reading her mind, “It’s okay, depression is not a personal weakness,” she continued. “I could refer you to a therapist to do a more thorough evaluation.”

“Evaluation?” Allie panicked.

“Allie, easy, you’re going through a lot. Sometimes perfectly normal, healthy people need a little help when life overwhelms them,” the doctor tried to ease Allie’s defensive posture.

“It just seems like every time something gets going well in my life, or I feel any form of happiness, something terrible happens to remind me that I don’t deserve it,” Allie began to get honest, tears forming in her eyes.

“There are a lot of different ways people deal with difficulties in life Allie. It’s normal to feel anger, sadness and grief when you’re hurting. Some people deal with it using drugs or alcohol?” She questioned Allie indirectly.

“No way,” Allie was firm, relieved that she could honestly deny those issues.

“Or, others feel a lack of control over their lives, so they deny themselves love, pleasure or nourishment to feel in control of something.”

That was a blow to Allie, as she felt herself living and breathing in those words. Was she subconsciously denying herself food in order to feel in control?

Control. That was an elusive concept for her. She always felt her destiny was in someone else’s hands, really. Her mother’s expectations; or her father’s expectations… neither of which she had fulfilled. Her relationship with Sean? He controlled that dynamic the whole way through, all the way to his decision to end it. And her mother’s death… Van’s inconvenient marriage… and, most crushingly unfair now, her niece’s illness. None of it went in her favor, and there was nothing she felt she could have ever done to help any of it. A rush of pain came over her and she began to sob.

The doctor handed her a box of tissues and the name of a therapist. Allie realized she had to give it a try or she would never move beyond resenting the laundry list of pain that rolled through her head.

“Poor little rich girl,” Allie blurted, still hating herself for feeling defeated when so many others suffered so much more.

“Allie, don’t let what you think you need to be keep you from getting help,” Dr. Williams told her, “It’s time to start being as good to yourself as you are to others.”

Allie wasn’t sure she had that in her, but she was willing to give it a try.


By early September, Allie had experienced two therapy sessions and was putting forth effort to schedule regular meals for herself, rather than gloss over them as she had grown accustomed to. Her therapist suggested she eat lunch every day in the cafeteria at the hospital on days she was caring for Ella, so that she could learn more comfort with eating alone in public, something she had always avoided like the plague.

She sat down, feeling awkward, yet determined to give a positive report back in the next therapy session. She took a first bite of a turkey sandwich, just focusing on swallowing and taking the next bite. Her eyes mindlessly gazed around the room, and then intently fell on the back of a wide white coat.

She studied the outline of the big doctor’s body, snugly gripping juicy love handles and a broad backside. Her eyes trailed up his back to his dark, almost black head of hair. When he shifted in his seat, his back fat would adjust accordingly, making her fingers tingle at the thought of how they would feel slipped into those beckoning rolls. She was so entranced by his form that she forgot all about her task to mindfully eat this meal, finishing the sandwich and accompanying celery sticks without thinking.

The moment she was waiting for came when he heaved himself up, and turned around. She almost choked and spit out on the water she was drinking. He was gorgeous, blue-eyed and perfect, with a beautifully shaped belly that dipped below his belt.

But that’s not what made her choke. It was that she recognized his face…It was Sean. Sean Casey!  Doctor Sean Casey, and he was fat. Fatter than when they were together. She panicked in the confusion of his presence at Children’s Hospital, mixed with her lustful bodily reaction to his larger size. She wanted to run away, but didn’t move a muscle. He hadn’t seen her yet, but what would she do if he did? He was married now, after all, she couldn’t even have him if she wanted. But she did want him, she always had.

Allie grabbed her tray and turned away as stealthily as she could, heading the opposite direction. She luckily found a cart outside the kitchen to leave the tray without making a scene. She went out, found a hallway cove and instinctively called Maia. Maia was the only person on earth who would know what to do.

“Mon Cherie, I’ve missed you,” Maia exclaimed. “How is Ella?”

“Ella is awesome, she’s really coming along,” Allie shared, happy that she could say those words.

“Fantastic, Allie,” Maia was thrilled. “You’ve all been dealing with so much.”

“I’m in therapy,” Allie blurted, looking around her to make sure no one heard the words.  Her heart was still racing.

“I’m proud of you,” Allie could picture Maia’s smile in her tone, which slowed her heart a little, but her hands were still a bit shaky, holding the phone to her head.

“No pity, huh?” Allie sighed, trying to breathe normally, and acknowledging that her best friend had encouraged her before to think about counselling of some kind.

“Enfin, Cherie,” Maia sighed back. “How long have I told you that you would benefit from talking more with someone you know less?”

“I guess you’ve been my therapist all too often, Maia,” Allie read into what her best friend was trying to say.

“You know I am always here for you,” Maia took a stronger tone before softening it, “But I’m not, um, how to say, without bias? I know you too well, and love you too much to make you work through these things. I’ll just hug you and stroke your hair,” she made herself laugh.

“That’s true,” Allie had to smile, knowing full well that Maia was too sweet to make her cry like a good therapist would.

“So, does that mean I can no longer ask your opinion about boys?” Allie led Maia to the topic that was still raging in her pounding heart.

“Oh, Cherie, you can always talk to me about boys!” Maia cooed. “Are you going to see the big boss in New York again?”

“We’ve only communicated about work,” Allie was in limbo with Van. “And not very much, it’s been awkward...”

“Did you meet a new one?” Maia would never change. She had been happily settled down with Julien for three years now, and she was still completely adolescent about the topic of men.

“Not exactly, I’m… pretty sure… um , I think I just saw Sean here at the hospital,” Allie stammered, barely letting the words out of her mouth, still in disbelief. After all, she had been dreaming about him, and things had been shaky for her in general. Now that a few minutes had passed, she began to question her own eyes.

“Mon Dieu, Allie, really? Is he back in Philadelphia? Is he married still?”

“I don’t know. It sure looked like him: a doctor in a big white coat... A tall, dark, handsome and fat doctor,” Allie’s voice lowered on the last descriptive word, as she self-consciously glanced around again, reddening as she pictured the scene of him again, adjusting his belt under that belly after a big lunch.

“Fat?” Maia exclaimed. “I thought he had gotten all skinny.”

“It’s been about three years since I last saw him,” Allie reminded Maia of the time that had passed since he broke her heart the second time. “I suppose he could have gained a good amount of weight since then.”

“Yes, and I know how easy it is to gain a lot of weight in an even shorter amount of time,” Maia giggled. “Julien, stop, I’m talking to Allie,” she pulled the phone away. “Julien hasn’t changed, Allie, the second he hears me talking about fat things, he gets so excit�,” she was swatting him away again.

“Tell Julien that he can have you after you talk to me about fat things,” Allie laughed.

“Julien says to tell you there are a million fat boys in America. You can enjoy yourself every night for several lifetimes if you wish,” Maia relayed the message, making Allie giggle more.

“But Maia, I need to get over this one first,” Allie become sober. “Seeing Sean again makes me question everything I’ve done to lock up those memories and put them away.”

“Maybe that’s not the right approach,” Maia turned it around. “Maybe you need to talk to him, tell him how he made you feel, yes? Then you will ask him how his life is, learn about his wife, if he has children, that sort of thing. It will all be real to you. Then you can stop wondering about what if, and just move on.”

“Maybe,” Allie sighed, feeling sick to her stomach about seeing him face to face and having a nonchalant conversation about his wife and kids.

“Yes, Julien agrees, he says you need closure. What Julien?” Maia pulled the phone away again, and laughed, “And then he says you need to go and get yourself a new stable of fat boys to play with.”

“Julien will never change, will he?” Allie smiled, reassured she had wonderful friends, even if they lived an ocean away.

“I hope not!” Maia laughed. Allie always felt a little better sharing in her best friend’s happiness.  “Let me know as soon as something happens with Sean,” she demanded.

“I will,” Allie reassured her, “however it goes, you’re first on my ‘to commiserate with’ list.”

“No commiserations, mon Cherie, only closures,” her best friend resolved for Allie.

Allie was less resolved. Perhaps queasy was a better word. It was going to be hard to eat better with all those butterflies hanging around her insides.

* * *

With Sean plaguing her thoughts all over again, Allie did what every self-respecting woman does with an ex, she googled him. His profile came up in a search of Doctor Sean Casey, at the Johns Hopkins website, as a resident working in pediatric cardiology.  His picture was so handsome, albeit much thinner than the man she saw in the hospital cafeteria a few days earlier. Fat or thin, Sean was incredibly blessed with good looks. She studied the contours of his face, those high cheekbones, Nordic nose, defined jaw; and oh, that deep set of dark eyes and mop of thick, black hair. He is gorgeous, she sighed to herself, remembering his handsome Celtic face staring at her in the morning, touching her body, with his plush, soft belly pressing into her while they made love. She was irritated with herself for dwelling on those memories, but it was hard to block it out too.

She couldn’t find any information about him at Children’s though, making her wonder if he was there just for the day, or a short visit. Or maybe, he was a completely different person who just looked a lot like Sean? Someone new she found attractive that was single, smart, successful, and she could start fresh with?

Either way, it was odd, that she saw him just that one day, a week ago, and not since. At first she was afraid of running into him again, overwhelmed by fear that he would take the opportunity to reject her all over again. If in fact, it was Sean. But as the days passed, she became frustrated by not seeing him, walking more hallways than she normally would, just to increase her chances at finally running into him.

“Allie!” Kathy exclaimed, jarring Allie from the lunch zone she was in. She had been diligently eating meals to re-train herself into a healthier routine. Her former pattern of long distance runs that tortured her joints, in between several days of moping sluggishness, now gave way to daily invigorating walks around the city. “You look more restored than the last time I saw you.”

Allie cringed, reminded of the episode that caused her to completely reassess her approach to health and mental rehabilitation. “I’m feeling better,” she just smiled politely, remembering that Kathy’s words were not meant to hurt her.

Seeming to sense Allie’s discomfort, Kathy sat down but changed the subject, “So, I hear your niece is getting out of here soon!”

Allie’s mood brightened, the news had been good from the doctors this week.  Ella had achieved a solid remission, and her anemia was subsiding, with her overall energy really rebounding in recent days.  “They’re already talking about her outpatient plan back in California.”

“That’s so fantastic, Allie,” Kathy hugged Allie, “I never get tired of the success stories. Its tough work up in Oncology; a real emotional marathon. I was there for a couple of years, but went back to Cardiology...” she trailed off, not wanting to get emotional.

Cardiology, Allie thought, it was worth the question, “Kathy, do you know a Dr. Casey up there?” She felt herself reddening.

“Dr. Casey?” Kathy smiled knowingly. “Sure, he’s a wonderful doctor. How do you know him?”

Allie paused, still in disbelief that it really was Sean she saw, “Dr. Sean Casey?”

“Yes,” Kathy continued, “Dark hair, big guy? A real sweetheart,” she clarified. “He’s a visiting fellow; will be with us for about a year, I think.”

Allie felt a lump in her throat forming and didn’t know how to respond to this news.

“So, come on, how do you know him? He’s doesn’t seem like the country club type - he’s got that North Philly accent,” she chattered on, "At least I think that's where he said he grew up..." While Allie’s head raced about how she would respond without sounding like a creepy ex, Kathy continued, “I wondered, when he found you on the floor, you know, when you passed out? He picked you up to get you to a gurney, but his emotional reaction? Well, it just seemed like he knew you. I could have sworn he whispered your name as I got there to help.”

She felt mortified now. He had seen her at her worst. And, she hadn’t hallucinated. He really had been her hero that day. She actually did register Sean, albeit in semi-consciousness, as her rescuer, in his newly re-fattened up body, just as she thought she had dreamed.

Kathy continued, “I even asked him if he knew you, but he didn’t say anything, he just ordered an IV and told me to watch your vitals. Then he told me he got an emergency call and had to go. It was all very strange; I didn’t think of it again until you just asked about him. And based on your reaction right now, you do know each other,” she smiled, pleased and relieved, that her suspicions had been correct.

Allie wasn’t going to lie, “We used to date,” she let it out, feeling like ‘date’ was a weak word to describe what he had been to her when things were good.

“Really?” Kathy seemed shocked.

“Yes,” Allie nodded, feeling stupid that she was still reacting this way about a man who had moved on and married someone else.

“You seem like very different people,” Allie could see Kathy’s wheels turning.

“We are, I suppose,” Allie sighed, “That’s probably why it didn’t last.”

“Physical opposites too,” she laughed. “When I came around the corner and saw him scoop you up like you were a feather, and he’s this big ox of a man…” she laughed.

Allie saw the humor in Kathy’s description and stifled a giggle too.

“He did say something about gaining a lot of weight recently,” Kathy continued to think out loud, “He probably wasn’t so chubby when you were dating him,” she assumed.

“He was big,” Allie blushed, “But not quite as much as he is now,” she whispered, feeling a bit embarrassed that she was getting turned on by saying it out loud.

“That’s probably why he took off after he got you help from us,” Kathy surmised. “No one wants to see their ex after putting on that much weight.”

Allie found herself nodding, knowing that feeling. Sean was always a much more confident person than she had ever been, but he had ballooned to truly obese proportions.  He was never thrilled with being fat. Coupled with the awkwardness of running into an ex he had a thorny history with, it only made sense that he escaped the situation.

“He’s married anyway,” Allie sighed, trying to put out the fire of desire inside of her.

“He is then? Hmmm. He doesn’t ever talk about his wife, but someone told me he was married. He’s kind of private, so I never asked.”

“He was always hard to get to know,” Allie agreed.

“So, if he wasn’t married, would you date him again, despite his weight? Or would that be a deal-breaker?” Kathy asked, intrigued by their history and obvious differences.

“No, I mean yes I would, I mean,” Allie stammered could feel her cheeks in flames, as the question was meant nonchalantly, but hit her a little close to the heart. She composed herself then clarified, “I would date him again. I like the big ox type,” she admitted to the nurse with a wink.

“Wow, that’s different,” Kathy smiled, “although you know what they say about opposites,” she winked and then changed her tone. “He seems sort of sad sometimes, I don’t know. Or he just doesn’t seem like a super happy person.  Some Docs are more distant that way. He’s a hell of a physician though. Especially for his age, already, he’s really, really good.”

“I’m not surprised, he was always really smart,” Allie knew that.  But sadness? He could be introspective, for sure, but never morose. That’s more my talent, she thought to herself.

“He’s wonderful with kids, which helps,” Kathy added, making Allie feel a greater tinge of jealousy, that not only was he taken, but he would be a wonderful father to another woman’s children.


“Open it up!” Allie shoved the box in front of Ella’s face, excited for discharge day. It had been a long road. For months, Ella had been wearing hospital friendly clothing and slippers. Now that it was time to go, she realized the little girl needed a fresh wardrobe start. She took her daily walk to an adorable children’s clothing store on Chestnut, and found the most amazingly cute yet comfortable light knit dress, polka dot tights and fuzzy boots, all in purple, Ella’s favorite color.

 “Yay!” Ella exclaimed, “I love you Auntie Alley Cat,” giving her the warmest, strongest hug she’d felt in a long time. “I’m going to miss you so much.”

“You don’t have to miss me, Ella Bella,” Allie reassured her, "I’ll be coming out to be near you in California.”

“Will I see you every day still?” she asked sweetly.

“Most days,” Allie reasoned, “Your old Auntie still needs to get a job and a place to live too.”

“You can stay with us as long as you need to,” Holden chimed in from the doorway.

Allie smiled, smirking, “You say that now…”

“It will all be good,” he reassured her with a hand on her shoulder. “It’s the least we can do for all you’ve done for us here,” his eyes welled up a bit.

She hugged her brother, “I was glad to do it,” she whispered, grateful to have family, however small it was, she realized more than ever that she didn’t want to feel alone in the world any longer.

Regaining composure, she felt her phone buzz and glanced at a text from Kathy to meet her at the second floor nurse’s station for their “last lunch” date. “I’ll be back in about an hour to help get things packed up!”

Allie headed down. “Ready?” She waltzed up to Kathy, who was gathering things in her purse.

Kathy nodded, “Yeah, just have to run to the ladies room, wait here.”

Tracing her fingers on the desk, lost in thought about how much she still had to pack up at the apartment over the next few days, her thoughts were squashed by a familiar voice, “Kathy, do you know where the PFT cart went?”

Allie snapped her head around and found herself face to face with Sean, with a frozen panic washing over her.

His eyes showed as much shock as she felt, and he looked as uncomfortable as she knew she was.

“Hi,” was all she could muster.

“Allie, hi,” he took a slight step back.

“It is you,” she blurted in honesty.

“Yep, me,” he withdrew in a protective tone.

“Sean,” she croaked out of her dry throat.

“How are you?” He pulled himself back together faster than she could, which was unsurprising to her.

“I’m good,” she automatically stated without thinking. Was she good? Ella was good, that’s what mattered. “My niece has been here,” she needed to get her alibi straight, so that he didn’t think she was stalking him or trying to creep into his life.

“Yes, I heard,” he nodded.

“How did you know?” She asked before she could take the question back. Of course he knew, from the day he picked her dreadfully skinny, weak body up off the floor, looking her worst.

“Kathy talked about it,” he saved her the reminder.

She nodded, her mind now emptied by this unexpected meeting. Her eyes traveled downward, with a split second glance past the soft looking mass of flab that had accumulated across his torso.  She went from empty to engulfed in flames on the inside, so close to his considerably expanded physique.  From where she stood, her arms and fingers were probably just long enough to reach out and squeeze a bit of that belly... a thought she tried to squirrel back away into her brain, but it wouldn’t leave her.

Since he had delivered his engagement news to her three years earlier, she had been picturing him as the thinner Sean in an athletic cut white coat, triumphantly living his life as the sexy doctor all the women wanted, and the healing hero who Janeane got to sleep with every night. But here, now, he was the ‘morbidly obese doctor’ that he lamented he would become, back when they were together that summer in Philadelphia. She was well aware of the lustful feelings those memories always stirred in her - words that had come from his own lips, ‘morbidly obese doctor.’ At the time she had relished in the deliciousness of the possibility, and yet she’d always felt guilt over finding so much pleasure in it.

“I’m here on a pediatric cardiology fellowship,” Sean explained, breaking the tension. “Visiting, I mean… I’m still officially in residency at Johns Hopkins.”

She appreciated this piece of information. It all sounded very distinguished, and it broke the ice allowing them to speak as friends. “Wow, that’s great, Sean,” she smiled warmly now. “Are you happy to be back here, close to your parents?”

“Yeah, that’s good too. Although you know, Baltimore is pretty quick by train,” he shrugged. “It was Janeane who wanted to come back, so I applied.”

Janeane, damnit, she had to come up eventually. Allie just nodded politely, reaching into her brain to come up with some nice small talk to hide her disappointment.  “What does she do?”

“Real estate,” Sean nodded, without elaborating.

“That’s a hot market right now,” Allie continued with pleasantries, hating stupid, beautiful, successful Janeane even more.

Sean just nodded, changing the conversation toward Allie. “What about you? You’re married now, right?”

Allie was dumbfounded, looking at her hand to be sure she didn’t have a ring on it. Why would he think that?

By her reaction, he explained himself, “A couple of years ago, wasn’t it? My mom showed me the announcement,” he seemed to lapse more into his tough Philly cadence.

“Oh god,” Allie blurted, having almost forgotten the pretentious engagement photoshoot with Jimmy that was featured in the Inquirer, right before they called it off.  “Yeah, I had an overzealous wedding planner for a while there,” she shook her head with a smirk.  “One of the joys of being a Main Line Princess,” she tried to make light of it.

“So you are married?” Sean looked confused.

“No,” Allie sighed relief, imagining how her repressed life with Jimmy would have turned out.  She knew she was periodically miserable, but at least she was still in control of who she would choose to sleep with for the rest of eternity. “It didn’t work out.”

“Dude in the picture reminded me of Porsche guy,” Sean half smiled, teasing her a little bit, seeming more relaxed over the news.

“You have a good memory,” Allie’s eyes and smile widened over the irony of the situation. Here she was explaining to Sean that she was not with the man she had to explain she was not with once before.  “It was Porsche guy,” she admitted.

Now Sean’s eyes widened, “Really?’

“Yeah, we ended up bonding over parental death,” she explained, “In hindsight, I know it sounds ridiculous, but…”

Sean cut her off, “I was really sorry to hear about your mom, I wanted to come...”

“I know,” Allie cut him off. She was trying so hard to seem unflustered, reaching deep inside to talk to him calmly without revealing her bottled-up, unrequited, desire. She really didn’t want to get emotional about other pain and loss too.

He nodded in understanding and took the conversation backward, “I thought you didn’t even like Porsche guy?” He smirked again, teasing her more.

Still, she answered as honestly as she could, “I can’t explain it now, Sean, but at the time we confused what was happening in our lives with love, I guess.”

Sean’s eyes changed from teasing to empathy and just nodded, “Yeah.”

Another break in the conversation, and she found her attention on his cute chubby chin, rounded out arms, and the mounds of flesh on his chest, laying there more prominently than ever before, while his body bloomed out into a lovely blubbery tummy that moved as he shifted his feet. As she was considering sinking more than her fingers into all of it, she snapped out of the thought, remembering that she was supposed to be finding closure here. Time to move on now, Allie, she told herself.

“So you’re niece is leaving soon, that’s good,” He smiled, moving to a more positive topic.

“Yes!” Allie gushed, thrilled with the plans her family was making to fly Ella back home. “She’s starting to get really sassy, too. It’s a great sign she’s bored and wants to start Kindergarten.”

“I’m happy for your family, Allie, and you,” he gazed into her eyes, almost regretfully, causing her heart to jump.

“Hey,” Kathy walked up into the conversation, jolting both Allie and Sean back into the present. “Nice to see you two get reacquainted.”

Just then, his pager went off, he pushed his big coat aside to grab it from his belt, highlighting his growth and softness in a way that made Allie’s knees even weaker.  “I gotta go,” he half smiled, “It was good seeing you again.”
And just like that, as abruptly as the conversation had begun, he turned and walked away, back to his job, his life, and later tonight, she thought, up against his wife in bed.

This was closure, right? Allie thought. She didn’t know what closure was supposed to feel like, she probably hadn’t ever experienced it. Nor had she really followed Maia’s advice very well, talking about her feelings, asking him about his life with Janeane... were all of those things necessary for closure? Maybe not, maybe this short conversation would have to be enough.


Allie peered out the window of the 737 looking down along the Inner Bay. Life was going to go on, and in a new place now.

Holden was completing his doctorate at Cal Poly and had already been recruited by a solar power developer, based in San Jose. He would begin work just after Christmas.  To ease the transition, and give them a chance to re-establish their careers, Allie offered to help with the kids while Monica traveled north for job interviews, and they hunted for a new home.

Ella was going to start kindergarten in a new school near Redwood City, where they found a modest but still pricey bungalow in a family friendly neighborhood where Ella could play, ride a bike and get back to a normal childhood.  And, she could go to Lucile Packard for her regular doctor visits, only 20 minutes down the freeway rather than a long commute they would have dealt with from their old place in San Luis Obispo.  Everything was more expensive in Silicon Valley, but it was a good fit for their new lives.

Allie began to make some plans herself. She had put her career, and her whole life on hold, and it was finally time to get back to making it her own again.  She found an opportunity to work part-time for a foundation dedicated to architectural heritage in the Bay area. It wasn’t the glamour of doing the kind of architectural preservation work like she had done in New York with Van’s firm, but some grant writing, research and advocacy work could keep her brain better occupied and her talents fresh.

The pay was miniscule, but she was more interested in getting re-connected to her career aspirations while allowing time to help Holden and Monica get back into a normal family routine.  She recognized how fortunate she was to have the kind of money that allowed her to live in an expensive place with such a meager job. She eventually found a small, month-to-month apartment close to a Caltrain station in Millbrae so she could get where she needed to go quickly, whether up to San Francisco, or down to Redwood City.  It was crazy to pay any more rent than that to live in the trendier areas. She may have been rich enough, but she had enough sense not to squander it.

Yet she felt that there was very little to attach her to Philadelphia these days. Her father was preoccupied with his latest corporate acquisition in Dublin, and their estate was sitting quietly, like an empty museum, regularly attended to by housekeepers, gardeners and security staff, but serving as a home to no one.  It nagged her conscience, but what could she do? Fill it with a family of her own? She had money, but she didn’t have that luxury. She also knew that staying in Philly would only drag out her Sean issues. The west coast always had offered her a convenient distraction from thoughts of what might have been.


"We’re getting married, Allie!” her best friend screamed loud enough that she thought she could hear her across the Atlantic without the aid of a phone.

“Oh, Lovely!”  Allie was truly happy for Maia’s romantic fortunes.  She had been with Julien for a few years now, but a wedding was going to make it a little more official.  “I thought marriage was gauche though,” Allie laughed, joking about the time they explained to Allie how few young people were getting married in the Benelux culture.

“Yes, well, I wanted to be princess for a day and Julien is humoring me,” she laughed. Allie knew Maia was a traditional, romantic girl at heart, it was only a matter of time.

“So what’s the plan?” Allie demanded to know, excited to have a reason to go back over to Europe.

“I have visions of Villa Borghese,” Maia cooed.

“Rome!” Allie cheered.

“Yes, back to the scene of the crime,” Maia joked in her best American accent.  “But very small, very, very small. I don’t want my father there anyway,” Maia had cut off any relationship with him. The last time she saw him a couple of years before, he was miserable to her about her weight, and the visit ended in a near fist fight between him and Julien. Her parents had already separated mostly due to her father’s generally difficult personality.

“When?” Allie demanded, steering clear of that painful subject.

“We’re thinking in about a year from now, next April or early May, when the weather is nicer but not so hot. I don’t want to be a sweaty bride.  And, I’m going to need enough time to find a dress to fit me,” Maia laughed. “It’s hard to find anything for a fat girl over here.”

“Oh, I want to wedding plan with you,” Allie knew she was the right friend to help Maia with all of the details, including finding a gorgeous fat girl wedding dress. Thank goodness she wasn’t buying time to lose weight like so many brides obsess over, like Allie had been guilty of herself. Julien probably wouldn’t have any of that anyway.  “Come over here!  Anywhere you like, I’ll meet you and we’ll shop!”

“Well, since you mentioned it, Julien has a shipping conference in New York in September…”

 “Perfect! Except I don’t know how I’m going to wait all summer to see you,” Allie moaned.

“Oh Mon Cherie, I miss you too, I’m so lucky to have a good friend like you,” Maia’s voice was full of love.

The news gave Allie something new to look forward to, while she threw herself into her work to keep her busy waiting for her autumn visit east. She also became more involved in an outdoor adventure club through one of her co-workers at the non-profit group.

It started with some hiking in the North Bay area, and an exhilarating ride across the Golden Gate. Then she got more serious, taking on mountain biking in the Point Reyes area and kayaking in Monterey. She even took a weekend trip to Tahoe with the group, to remind herself how to ski. It was all part of her therapy, to learn to enjoy herself and the strength of her body, and forge casual female friendships that may have been outside her comfort zone before.  She could feel herself healing, becoming content with the notion that her life was not complete, but it was a work in progress, and that was okay.

September 2008

Allie took a deep breath, smelling the faint yet familiar scent that drifted in the city, moved slowly through by a southerly breeze. Philly smells were not always pleasant, she giggled to herself, but they were familiar and somehow comforting. She had two weeks in front of her to reconnect with her east coast roots.

Maia wasn’t set to arrive for a few days. Allie had built extra time into her travel plans for family, and reconnect with David, her ex-professor. She hadn’t see him in nearly two years. David had been on a sabbatical in Barcelona during the previous summer that she had stayed in Philly, so the occasional email exchange and catch up was all they had shared for quite some time. But first on her list was a trip out to Villanova, to see her father and reconnect a bit with her childhood home.

“Allie!” Her father was beaming, as she hopped out of the rental car. She hadn’t stepped foot on the grounds for so long, but it all looked the same, perfectly well and attended to.

“Hi Daddy,” she hugged him tightly.

“You are glowing, Allie, the Pacific Coast is doing wonders for you,” her father noticed her healthier look.

It was true, and even though she wanted to be annoyed by any comments over her appearance, for better or for worse, she knew that her frequent outdoor adventures, along with regular hot yoga classes, had given her an amazing amount of core strength that she hadn’t ever quite achieved from just pounding miles of pavement with her running shoes.

She was eating well too, focusing on clean, simple foods and nourishment rather than picking through prepackaged diet foods and obsessing over the immorality of fat grams.  She could see when she looked into the mirror that her skin was clearer, her eyes brighter and her face more at ease. She realized that it was possible, she could be as pretty as people had always told her she was, but had not always believed.

“I like it out there, you should come visit more. I'll take you kayaking at Elkhorn Slough, it's incredible,” Allie gushed.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he assured her. “But right now, we need to talk about this old gal,” he pointed behind at the mansion that hovered over them like a majestic mountain.

“What?” Allie was confused.

“We need a plan,” he reasoned, “Assets like this should never sit unattended.”

“I know,” she was worried about his ominous tone.

“We're not hemorrhaging, or anything like that, Allie, relax,” he assured her. “The trust keeps everything pretty much in equilibrium.”

“Really?” She raised an eyebrow, wondering why he was pushing the issue if everything was fine.

“Yes, we’ve been lucky compared to most. Your mother’s family always had the good sense to reproduce in small numbers,” he joked, “so the pot of money pretty much has stayed in one place.”

“So, then, what?” Allie was still afraid he was going to propose a sale. As much as its opulence embarrassed her growing up, it was a family legacy and a beautiful tribute to an architectural era. Her mother, and grandmother for that matter, had been the epitome of style, grace and beauty, just like the old mansion. It didn’t seem right belonging to any other family.

“I’ve been getting inquiries from the state and local historical societies,” he explained. “They’d like to borrow the place from time to time.”

“Really?” Allie smiled, relieved it was actually good news. To share its history and elegance with people who can appreciate it, and still call it her mother’s home, was a marvelous compromise.  “Like weekend tours or something?”

“Yes, some of that, and perhaps private events, weddings, or fundraisers,” he went on. “We’d work something out, so the estate benefited, reinvesting any profits in the upkeep.” Good old Kenneth, he was a businessman first.

Weddings, yes, I suppose, Allie thought to herself, feeling a little weird about other happy brides getting married in her childhood home while she remained single. But then she quickly recognized that old self-pity and vowed to herself not to let it cloud her judgment. Why couldn’t other girls have a fairy tale wedding too?

“Do you need anything from me to do this?” she asked.

“I want you to be in charge,” he smiled big.

"In charge?” now she was confused.

“Of course. When it comes to this place, you are the professional in the family. You would work with the historical groups, take care of the business end, make sure everything is up to code that needs to be for a public serving facility,” he began to enumerate the duties. "I have a great lawyer you’ll want to meet with first, and from there you'll fly with it."

“So I'd need to move back to Philly then?” She wasn't sure she wanted to leave the peace of mind she was finding out west.

“Oh heavens, no, you don’t have to do that, you can do it all from California if you like. You just have a property manager handle the minor daily issues, showings, arranging contractor meetings, things like that."

“I can?” Her wheels turned.

“Of course, I do business in Budapest from Zurich and in China from Philly,” he laughed. "Technology is a wonderful thing,” he waved his Blackberry in her face. 

“I guess I should get one of those,” she smiled, agreeing to the job. She realized right then that she knew how to do it. She had been developing the initiative in each class and job along the way, piecing together what it takes to make an antique behemoth turn into something sustainable and commercially viable in a modern world.  She began to feel excited as her mind raced through the possibilities.

“There’s something else I want to talk to you about,” he broke the conversation in half, sending nervousness back into her mood.

“I’ve been seeing someone,” he started.

That was not what she expected to hear. Her father had been so busy with work, and it had always just seemed like Jane was his only true love, and that would be that. She didn’t know what to say, wrestling between juvenile emotions connected to her mother's memory, and an adult understanding that he deserved a life, and any happiness he could find in it.

“I met Moira in Dublin,” he continued. “She works for a translation service we hired putting together the CNH Tran deal. She’s a whiz with Slavic and Germanic languages,” he seemed to almost gush about his love interest, which made Allie squirm a little, but she tried to keep an open mind.

“She’s a nice woman, Allie, very down to earth,” her father reassured her.

“Then I’m happy for you, Daddy,” Allie hugged her father, forcing the jealous, conflicted thoughts to the back seat in her mind.

“I’d like you to meet her,” he kept going, pushing for progress.

“Sure,” Allie said, not certain what she was agreeing to.

“Tonight,” he said, “We had planned on dinner together, anyway, right?”

“She’s in town here?” Allie was startled by the suddenness.

He nodded.

“Okay then,” Allie tried to stay chipper for his sake.

They met that evening, and Moira was, as her father had promised, a very nice and down to earth woman. Allie couldn’t deny it, she genuinely liked her. At first sight, Allie was already relieved. She was a small framed woman, like her mother had been, and probably not too much younger than her mother either.  Allie had fears of a young, money-hungry bimbo waltzing into their lives, bent on dividing her family and tarnishing her mother's legacy.

Moira was different from her mother in some ways though. She was certainly more talkative and comedic than her mother had been. Moira seemed almost artistic in her ability to inject humor into the conversation. Allie supposed her Irish culture had something to do with it. Sean often boasted that "his people" were natural storytellers. Sean loved being of Irish blood as much as being a Philadelphian. And then, once again without warning, thoughts of Sean reared their way back into her head.

Although her life had moved on in so many positive ways, and was continuing to change rapidly, she never shook the feeling of those awkward moments with him back at Children’s a year before.  By now he may have left to return to Baltimore. His fellowship was probably over and he’d be back there, with his perfectly lovely wife, and maybe even a baby on the way.

Now, even her father was even moving on from the love of his life. She started to think that this was a sign that she had to truly move on, and be open to someone new. Maybe soon, she would meet a big, fat, hungry, gorgeous and brilliant hottie and have some fun, and who knows, fall in love? Whomever he would be, he had to be the kind of man she always fantasized about when she needed to remind herself that she was a woman with particular needs…


“David,” she hugged her former professor, and kissed his cheek.

“You look fantastic,” he rubbed her arm. She bore the obligatory, ‘California is agreeing with you’ compliments with a smile.

“How’s the baby?” Allie couldn’t wait to ask. David had become a father that spring with the birth of Adelaide, his beautiful new baby girl. He had shared the occasional baby photo via their sporadic emails.

“She’s pretty much perfect,” he smiled, glowing over his paternal status.  “We don’t get any sleep, peace, or sex, but other than that, it’s amazing.”

“No sex?” Allie teased him by ignoring all the other sacrifices.

“Well, we’re making our way back there,” he laughed. “Between the size of her chest and the baby weight, I’m perpetually horny,” he shared.

“Wow,” Allie was taken aback by the granularity of detail.

“Sorry Allie, apparently when you become a parent, you forget your filter. I’m probably sharing too much.”

“It’s okay, I can use just about any fat-loving story there is right now,” she laughed.

David raised an eyebrow, “No California fatties have piqued your interest yet?”

Allie laughed, “Not really, I actually don’t see very many.”

“That’s because you’re hanging out with buff dudes in those biking and hiking groups you run around with,” he joked. “You need to join a cooking club, or cruise the comic book shops or something.”

He was partly right. She had been asked out by several guys involved in her outdoor club; guys that made her feel nothing inside. There were a couple of mildly chubby guys she flirted with, but no one she made any real connection with. She had even tinkered with online relationship websites, but couldn’t get the nerve up to actually go and meet someone she chatted with. It's not like there was a box to check for “gorgeously obese with quick wit and amazing brain power.” Sure they probably existed somewhere, but it seemed like they never crossed her path.

Allie's thoughts of lovely fat men switched her brain to their mutual connection. “Have you talked to Van lately?” she asked with trepidation. She didn't know how much David really knew about their affair.

But the smile that drew across his face made it clear he had some idea. "He's good, in a better place now."

"What do you mean?"  Allie was worried that she had left things with him badly, it was an awkward break.

"Well, you know, better than the alienated situation with his ex-wife," he began, causing Allie to turn a guilty shade of pink.

"Ex?" Allie wanted more details anyway.

"Yep, they're officially over. He landed a huge deal with the City, and when a private investor stepped in, he was able to buy her out."

"Wow," Allie nodded, unsure what to say next.

"He lost a lot of that weight you packed on him too," David added nonchalantly, smirking.  Allie felt herself turning fully red now. "Relax, Allie," he reassured her, putting his hand on hers. "Remember? I get it."

"He was the boss, and married. I'm still pretty ashamed of that," she whispered.

"Don't be," David told her. "That marriage was over before it even started. And so what if he was the boss? It happens all the time... especially in New York," he laughed.

"So was it just a coincidence that you recommended I apply at his firm?" Allie had always wondered, given the common thread of fat interests that connected all of them together.

"You know, at first I don't think I consciously set out to play matchmaker, but I have to admit that my brain put you two together, given your... mutual predilections," he admitted.

Allie couldn't be upset about that, it seemed like a human enough way to think.

"So, he lost weight, huh?" She lamented with a guilty smile.

"Honestly, don't take this the wrong way, but I think he decided that playing gainer was a nice experiment. Now he's gone back to his FA roots."

"His FA roots?" Allie was greedy for more information.

"His new girlfriend is… well, not exactly small like you," he played coy.

"Tell me!" She was more excited than jealous.

"She's a big girl," he admitted, "a web model, actually."

"Really?" Allie was nearly salivating now. "Which one?"

"How would you know who she was if I told you?" He became as intrigued as she was.

"I might," Allie blushed again. She was interested in fat girl pictures too, after all.

"Kylah," he chuckled. “She’s got a pretty big following on the web.”

"Wow," She shook her head. Kylah was young, beautiful and very fat; she constantly changed her hair color, and did very artistic and bold sets of pictures, bragging about her shocking weight gain. Allie felt especially weird now that she knew what her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend looked like spilling out of super-sized lingerie.

"So you know who I'm talking about?" He smiled knowingly.

Allie nodded.

"She has an intense personality, he’s got his hands full,” David explained.

"You've met her then?" Allie secretly wished she could meet Kylah, but it would be incredibly awkward. What she would think of Allie? A tiny little thing who couldn't possibly make an FA like Van happy.

He nodded, "She’s a little young for him. She doesn't challenge his intellect the way you did, I’m sure, but they're both enjoying it."

"Well, I’m happy for him," Allie was not lying. She had never viewed Van as a permanent thing anyhow, and she suspected the same on his side. If anything, their tryst was an exciting time, almost, educational, if not a little shameful in the ethical lines she crossed. She certainly got a lot more ‘fat sex’ experience in living out a bit of fantasy play, that was for sure.

"So dress shopping with Maia later this week?" David changed the subject.

"Yes, I'm meeting her here for a few days, and then we're going to find her the perfect dress in Philly."

David nodded, "My wife hated it," he shared, "she came home sobbing each time she went out. I almost talked her into eloping instead."

"She looked beautiful though," Allie alluded to the wedding photo from his office back at Cornell.

"Yes she did," he said, "And so will Maia."

"At least some places are a little more plus-friendly now. I called up my old wedding planner to find out which shops would carry larger sized designs. I have it all planned and plotted. If we run into any shitty sales girls, I'll rip their eyes out and my planner will black ball them," she laughed.

"I wish my wife would have had you with her back in the day," David chuckled.

"Someday Maia’s going to return the favor for me," Allie winked. But she couldn't help but wonder, deep down, if that was true. Would Allie ever get married, or just end up perpetually single, never landing or keeping a guy she really loves?


"Cherie!" Maia screeched from a block away at Madison Square Park. She was arm in arm with Julien, looking beautiful, plump and radiant. They were a classic picture of two gorgeous lovers, romantically strolling through one of the greatest cities in the world.

Allie wasn't sure she had ever hugged another person tighter than in that moment. Months of built up excitement had lingered in her heart, and she couldn't be happier for her best friend.

"Mon Dieu, Allie, you look marvelous," Maia predictably told her best friend.

"Yes, I know, California has been good to me," Allie smirked, always tiring of the "looks" talk.

Maia seemed oblivious to Allie's sarcasm and enthused more, "You look strong! The counseling helped, yes?"

"Yes, I suppose it did," Allie felt embarrassed and gave Julien a hug too.

"So good to see you, Allie," Julien smiled sweetly and kissed her cheek.

"Julien has been plotting to find a fat boy for you," Maia exclaimed, uncomfortably loud.

"Hush," Allie lightly slapped her friend’s hand.

"Be proud of what you like," she grinned at both her best friend and her fianc�. Allie was amazed at how far Maia had come from her fat-shamed days in college. "Now let's get something to eat!"

"Yes," Julien patted his fianc�’s wide behind with a wink at Allie, "Let's eat."

They spent the afternoon catching up, talking and laughing over tapas and champagne. Allie was reminded what it was like to have good friends. She had her family closer now, of course, but close friends were always hardest to make and keep for Allie.  Maia was her treasure and Julien was now icing on the cake.

The next day, Julien had to go to his conference, so the girls set off on their adventure to Philly by train.

Of course, almost as soon as they got alone, Maia could not resist poking further into Allie's perpetual singlehood.

"So, why no man, yet Allie?" Maia became direct.

"Just haven’t met the right one," Allie shrugged. "Not all of us find prince charming on our first trip to Rome," She poked Maia's soft arm playfully.

"No, this is not about me," Maia giggled, always the master at re-direct. "I think you are still hanging onto something. I see lovely fat men on street after street when I'm here in the States," she half giggled. "You can get any of them, but you don't ever seem to try."

"I'm not good at hitting on boys," Allie whined.

"Oh stop it, you can do it” Maia was playfully annoyed. “I think something else is keeping you from new love, or maybe, someone else?"

"There was closure last year, remember? I've moved on," Allie maintained.

"That's what you say, Allie, but I think you need to think more about that." Maia could read Allie like a book. The more Maia prodded, the more Allie admitted to herself that Sean lingered in her life like a ghost. A memory that was meant to move on, but never quite gone.

Fortunately, dress shopping turned attentions back on Maia, for which Allie was selfishly grateful. Enough about me, Allie thought, this week is about Maia.

It took a few shops, just one rude sales girl, only a few tears, mostly in joy, and Maia had her dress. Size 28 was not easy. Some plus designers still stopped at 24. Fortunately Maia's hourglass shape was accommodated beautifully by a strapless, ivory princess line gown in taffeta, with stunningly detailed embroidered lace and crystal beading.

"Julien's going to have to stop buying me chocolates for a few months," Maia exhaled, smoothing down the dress from her curves, obviously happy with her new dress.

"He'll get over it," Allie laughed.

"For three grand, he’d better get over it!" Maia joked about the price of the dress.

After finding the dress, Allie and Maia enjoyed a couple of more days back in New York, with Julien joining them in between conference activities, before it was time for them to fly home.  After a tearful goodbye, Allie took another few days in Philly to begin some preliminary work on the estate plan and evaluate what needed a closer look to get it ready for its next phase.

She made plans with her father to join her, and get introduced to his real estate lawyer.

"Allie, there's one more piece of business I want to talk about," her father started, while his lawyer took some papers out of his briefcase. "I want to discuss handing over the keys to you."

"What do you mean?" Once again, Allie was confused.

"This should be your place now," He continued, placing some papers in front of Allie.

"This document would transfer title over to you and Holden as joint owners," the lawyer explained.

"What?" Allie was dumfounded.

"Allie, I want to marry Moira," he nearly whispered, uncertain of his daughter’s reaction.

"What?" Allie was louder, again, trying to temper her shock and understand her father had a new life to make.

"I don't want things muddled by a new marriage," Kenneth explained. "Your mother's birthright needs to be clearly passed on to you and Holden."

"Wow," Allie was speechless.

"I know this is a lot to consume," he put his hand on hers, "but it protects you both, and honors your mother's memory."

Allie sat quietly, thoughts racing. Then she spoke, "What will Holden say?"

"I've already spoken with him, and he understands," he answered. "He likes the ideas we’ve talked about, using the estate as a place of historic interest.  He doesn't have any designs on liquidating, Allie, he just wants you to be happy."

"Really?” Allie was surprised he was already in this loop.

"Holden loves you so much, Allie, as I do," he became choked up. "I'm very proud of the people you've become, and your mother would be too," a tear fell from his eye, causing Allie to drop some tears as well. "I didn't want to make you cry," her father chuckled through his own mist, wiping a tear from Allie's cheek.

"So you're marrying Moira?" Allie wiped her own eyes.

"If she accepts,” he sighed with a weak smile. "I know it's sudden to you, Allie, but I've known her for a couple of years, it's not something out of the blue.”

"You have always had good judgment Daddy, you don't have to explain to me,” Allie had been growing more accepting of all the changes. “And I do like her.”

Kenneth smiled softly. “Let’s put this away for now, but we'll get together with Holden and finalize things before the end of the year. I want a clean legal break with this property and the trust before any marriage plans begin. It's important that you and Holden understand how all of this works, especially with the tax implications. I know it seems like a business deal, but it’s the most logical way to keep your future legally secure,” her father assured her.

"Oh Daddy, I love that you can be logical and emotional at the same time," Allie laughed.

"Now let's take a look at the place and run down what we need to do to get her ready for a public debut," he took her hand and led her through the mansion, with their lawyer in tow to help advise and make recommendations.  Most things were obvious, permits, a thorough electrical review, plumbing systems, water and mold testing, insurance factors, tax implications... all of the things she’d looked at in past projects she’d been part of. But for preservation, the authentic beauty of the home was in its foundation: the masonry.


"Hi Pam, this is Allie Turner," she began, her heart pounding. She hadn't seen nor talked to Pam Casey since her mother's funeral more than three years ago.

"Oh, Allie!" Pam sounded elated to hear her son's old girlfriend's voice.  "How wonderful to hear from you!"

"I know, it's been, some time," Allie stumbled through her words, but Pam seemed as open as ever to hearing from her.

"Yes, too long, dear. What's new in your life?" Pam asked.

"Well, since you asked," Allie found her opening, "I'm working on a plan to use our home in Villanova as an event venue and historic site. We're also going through the process to get listed on the National Register of historic places," She added. "We need to have all the stonework reviewed for safety, and of course be true to its history.”

“Oh my, Allie, that is a big deal,” Pam was naturally enthusiastic.

"Of course your husband's work is the best,” Allie flattered a bit.

"We'd love to help you Allie," Pam gushed. "How exciting for your family. Are you still in New York?" She queried the girl.

"No, I'm actually in California, but I have a property manager in Philly to be there and meet with Ray," Allie felt weird referring to Sean's parents by their first names, but she wasn't their son's girlfriend anymore, she was their customer.

"Oh," Pam seemed disappointed by the news that Allie was so far away. "Well Ray is pretty consumed with the Memorial Hall project, but he'll have one of his guys come out."

"When can someone come out?" Allie was concerned by this, she wanted someone really knowledgeable about preservation on it.

"It’s tight right now, but I think we can get someone out there in a couple of weeks," Pam reasoned.

They set the mid-October date and Allie hung up, left feeling conflicted about the plan.

The more Allie thought about the work, and the importance of masonry to preservation, she decided she would fly out and personally oversee the review and work plan. If she knew Ray was personally handling it, she could trust things to happen correctly. But she couldn't imagine leaving it to some apprentice that didn't appreciate how critical the details were to maintaining its historical integrity. As good as her property manager was with logistics, she didn't know limestone from granite.  Allie booked a flight back east, ensuring she'd oversee any critical preservation nuances.

October 2008

Back at home, walking through the hallways, she observed all the little things that reminded her of her childhood... the walnut paneling impressed with gold leaf, the stained glass skylight, and the trove of landscape paintings by Hudson River School and Luminist artists that thrived in New England during the 19th century. They had so beautifully captured the lush hillsides, virgin waterways and rough, exposed Atlantic beaches, yet undeveloped by a modern world.

She let herself glide across the Chenonceau parquet ballroom floor, kneeling down and touching the oak and walnut, blended in a from trees that lived centuries before they were claimed by the barons in her ancestral line. She felt a chill from the floor as she traced the woven geometrical pattern she had traced as a little girl.

The buzz from the gate pulled her back into the 21st century. Opening the sunroom door to the veranda, she felt the cool, autumn air and threw on a new belted tweed jacket she picked up on the way up from the airport. Fall in the bay area was so mild, she hadn't expected the crisp air to hit her like it did. The sun was shining through the trees with red, yellow and brown leaves falling rapidly around her. She missed this time of year at her home, not having spent an autumn in Villanova in several years.

The scent of the leaves continued to take her back to a younger place in her mind.  The wind grabbed her dark auburn hair and blew it hard in her face. She walked around the flagstone path toward the driveway, watching a truck pull up, just like she used to see Sean come to work. Seven years ago now, Allie shocked herself by the thought.

In her daze of thinking of what couldn't possibly have happened that long ago, she stopped cold in her tracks. Time had passed, had the boy had become a man? She watched, not yet seen, as the large figure grabbed a bag from the cab and strolled up to admire the flagstone work that he recognized as his own.

"Sean," Allie whispered, frozen in shock. He hadn't seen her yet. Could she run back into the house and hide? Pretend to have mixed up the meeting time? No, that was the old, foolish Allie thinking. She was not going to run from sight at her own home. This was something she would handle like a woman of the world. Grow up, Allie, she told herself, thrusting her hands in her coat pockets and walking forward.

His face froze as his eyes landed on hers. In those moments walking up to him on the wooded side of the garage, leaves endlessly falling around her, she appraised his long, wide frame, in jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. Not quite his doctor's tie and white coat, but still about as perfectly fat as he had been the year before, when she mindlessly chatted with him at Children's Hospital.

"Hi," she softly spoke with a smile, reaching inside herself to share some brave warmth, and stave off the discomfort that loomed over them in the two meetings they’d had since the awful day he left her for Haiti.

"I didn't expect to see you here," he just blurted honestly, "Pam said a property manager was handling this."

"I didn't expect you either," Allie assured him, "I came because I wasn’t sure I'd get someone who really knew preservation."

Sean raised an offended eyebrow.

"Your mom said it wouldn't be Ray, and you're a doctor now… I never thought in a million years that a man with the talent to heal little hearts would be checking our stone," Allie reasoned, which softened his gaze.

"My mom sometimes asks me to look at old jobs I was part of," he smirked.  "But I wouldn't be surprised if she sent me here purposely."

"What do you mean? Pam thought I wouldn't be here," Allie shook her head.

"Pam told me that she heard from the property manager and that another person would be here," Sean explained.

"Oh," Allie pieced it together. Pam knew they'd see each other and did nothing to stop it. Which was a little weird, since her son was married to another woman.

“Are you still at Children’s?”  Allie wondered.

“Yeah, actually,” his face brightened a bit, “They extended me another year.”

“I always knew you were right for that place,” Allie pushed passive aggressively into a topic that triggered the end of their relationship.

Sean didn’t say anything.

"Well, we might as well do this," Allie was going to make the best of it. At least Sean was the best man she knew in the world to make sure every piece of stone was exactly right. It certainly meant she'd have to grit her teeth the whole time, avoiding too much admiration of his sexy body contours, and not getting sucked into his lovely face and intense, brooding eyes.

He shrugged his shoulders with a half-smile and sauntered along the walkway, studying each piece and taking notes. She observed the shift of his love handles and movement of his wider behind in the moments he was preoccupied with the work. She felt guilty about it too. Shouldn't she have been long past this kind of adolescent leering? Grow up, she allowed the mantra to play in her head, GROW UP ALLIE!

"The flagstone is looking good," he murmured, almost seeming proud of himself. He waltzed up to the path along the library wing, walking up to study the mortar joints, and making notes. She watched him graze his chubby fingers along the granite exterior, reminding her of the way his fingers felt inside her before plunging his girth into her; while the moonlight that cast through the windows at her old apartment in the city, highlighting his plush bulk and burgeoning fat rolls. Stop it, Allie, the voice continued to echo across her head.

Then she followed him to the pool, which was now drained low and covered, but the stonework was left open to be inspected. Sean walked closely around Aphrodite and smiled at little Eros. "They look good too," he commented with a half-smile.

"We've done a better job protecting them," Allie smiled back, remembering his concern for their condition.

He nodded, walking around to Apollo, grazing his hands along Daphne, "Your favorite."

Allie's smile widened, "You remember."

"Of course," he studied the statue, without looking at Allie. Then he paused, took a deep breath, and fixed his eyes toward hers. "You’re a Daphne, Allie, it makes perfect sense."

Allie stood in shocked silence, perplexed. "What do you mean?" She couldn't understand this. Why would he say that?

"Daphne is the evergreen, she stands the test of time. That’s you, Allie, you don't change your colors, you are always who you are," he almost sounded remorseful.

Allie was dumbfounded by these words from Sean, considering her greatest infraction in their relationship was a moral failing on her part. But she couldn't relive that past, she could only see Apollo grabbing Daphne, coveting her as she begins her transformation into a Laurel tree. She grew uncomfortable, knowing how conversations with Sean end up in defeat and desolation. Survival now meant not letting him into her head.

"I could accuse you of some Apollo-ness," she quickly thought of his talents, attempting to lighten the conversation, "God of knowledge and medicine."

He was quiet for a moment, and then thoughtfully responded, "I’m no Apollo, Allie. I gave up on you before Apollo gave up on Daphne."

She stood in still shock. Sean had never been the overly introspective type, generally avoiding regret and emotion. He had always been too tough, too self-protective for that.  Why now? Why put me through this now?

"Sorry," he stopped himself, clearly sensing her discomfort. "That was a weird thing to say, I guess."

"No, it’s okay," Allie felt some resentments lift from weighing down her heart. His words told her she wasn't crazy, he had been foolish. Even though he found happiness with someone else, he had now admitted that at one time in his life, he made the mistake that broke her heart.

“I suppose it’s pretty lame to say sorry this many years later,” he continued, “I was young and dumb, and I overreacted.”

“I don’t know if an apology is necessary at this point,” she couldn’t feel her toes, or fingers anymore. Her mind was in a surreal place. “It wasn’t any one thing. It took me some time to realize I just wasn’t going to be your soul mate, or whatever. You would never see me as someone you could truly connect with or relate to…”

“Was that how you felt?” He raised an eyebrow.

“No, I never felt that way, I never felt attached to where I was from, or the money, or the status,” Allie’s eyes welled up, saying what she had wanted to say before he left her, so many years ago. “I just loved you,” more tears fell. “But you saw our differences, very clearly.  It took me a long time to see us through your eyes.”

Sean looked down and shook his head, “Yeah,” he started, his voice cracking.

Allie felt sick with multiple emotions. Anger, resentment and relief were fighting an epic battle inside of her stomach. 

He kept his eyes down, and they were both silent for several seconds.

Then Sean turned away and walked as quickly as his big body would allow him, lumbering toward his toolbox, not saying anything. He began packing up the truck.

Allie couldn’t stop herself from running after him, catching up to him at the truck. “Sean,” was all she could say though, she had no other words.

He looked into her eyes with pain and sadness, like she had never expected to see. And then he closed his eyes, straightened his posture, and became cool. “I’ll make sure you get an estimate in a few days. I’ll tell Pam to put the best guy on it.”

And before she could say another word, he heaved himself into the truck and drove off, leaving Allie in an absolute puddle of ache. She turned and ran in the house, collapsing on the parquet floor, sobbing uncontrollably, releasing the last grief left in her body. This had to be the end of mourning for what might have been. If not now, Allie realized, she would never be free.  She was determined to make sure it was finished.  She never wanted to feel like that again; like she was stuck. Never again.

She had things to look forward to... a business plan to execute, the new life she was making in California, and an amazing trip back to Rome the next spring to plan for; to see her precious Maia get married. There was so much to do, and so much to think about that didn’t involve Sean. While boarding her flight back to San Jose, she resolved to work harder at finding someone who would be deserving of her love. With those words Sean spoke, his regret was her closure. She could finally be free of the emotional turmoil Sean had left behind, far too many years ago.

April 2009

“Cherie!” Allie hugged her best friend. Maia had bestowed that pet name on her nearly ten years before at Cornell. After a tough mid-term exam, they agreed that happy hour at the Nines on College was a well-deserved indulgence. She remembered how nervous she was, wanting so much to make a good impression on this lovely and amazing French Canadian firecracker who made Allie laugh, and feel valued, not judged.

Allie had rarely known deep friendships in her youth. It always seemed like other girls at her prep school and sorority easily forged them, but opening herself up like that was never easy. With Maia, though, there was such warmth and acceptance, even from the first days they shared jokes about the pleasure and pain of desk crits with Dr. Porter. She felt that powerful, loving connection in their embrace now, perhaps stronger than ever.

“Oh you are stunning,” Allie wiped tears of joy from Maia’s exquisite face, gushing, “Such a beautiful bride to be.”

Maia was radiant. “We’re in Rome, it has that effect on everyone,” Maia laughed, wiping Allie’s tears as well.

“Can you believe we’re back here together?” Allie exclaimed.

“And that I’m getting married?” Maia exclaimed louder.

“I always knew it would happen,” Allie winked at her friend. “When Julien kept showing up at Capanna Caff�, checking you out and finding an excuse to talk to you.” Allie remembered the coffee shop near Palazzo Lazzaroni that the girls spent many afternoons drinking espressos and munching on pizzelles, or sharing a torta caprese.

“It took me so long to figure it out!” Maia laughed more.

“I knew right away,” Allie remembered the look in Julian’s eyes when Maia would enjoy a bite of Italian pastry, or when his gaze roamed across her voluptuous body. But it was more than physical in the way they balanced each other’s personalities. Julien’s reserve and self-possession contrasted Maia’s natural, passionate charisma. “I watched him fall for your joie de vivre,” Allie caressed her friend’s arm in reassurance.

“Maybe, but he fell for my fat ass first,” Maia giggled.

“No, your beauty first,” Julien had come around the corner of the hotel lobby, planting a large kiss on his future wife’s lips, nonchalantly rubbing her behind. “How could I not have?”

“So, my fat ass second,” Maia smiled as widely as Allie had ever seen her smile.

“Your ass is never second,” Julien continued to fawn over Maia. “My apologies, Allie,” Julien stopped his groping and gave Allie a warm hug and kiss on the cheek.

“I’m not sure if I’ve ever been happier for any two people in my whole life,” Allie took both of their hands.

“You are going to meet a tall, dark and handsome man here, I know it,” Maia cooed. She was never one to miss a chance at turning the subject of romance to Allie’s love life, or lack thereof.

“Don’t forget ‘big,’” Julien chimed in, adding to the descriptive list of qualities.

Allie blushed, “Such good friends,” she relented, knowing how lucky she was that she could be herself with Maia and the man her best friend was about to marry.

Allie had been working hard at proving to Maia, and perhaps, to herself, that she was open to new relationships. She had been reporting back to her best friend regularly about her attempts. Through the last winter, she had been on dates with about fifteen different guys, but none had been quite the one. Some were remarkably handsome, some with an entertaining personality or a thriving career, and a couple were even a bit chubby. Yet none had the whole package she needed to fill that retreating hole in her heart.

Maia would encourage Allie to keep trying. Sometimes a second date was needed, she would urge, but Allie couldn’t force her feelings. She had learned a long time ago with Jimmy that she could not compromise to find happiness. She tried relentlessly though, constantly ready for the next date that might pop up, with fresh manicures, pedicures, and leg waxings. She had even gone out and bought a fresh wardrobe of stylish, well-fitting fashion, and got rid of her older, body-hiding boho silhouettes, bland pastels and dated florals. An active dating life was like having another job, but she was determined that she needed to work hard at it so she could exorcise the old ghosts of relationships past.

“You are so picky,” Maia scolded Allie during one of their long distance wedding planning sessions that had become an almost daily ritual since the two girls discovered Skype. “You have been going out with all of these hot, successful Silicon Valley guys, and still nothing?”

“Maia, I’m 28 now,” she would plead her case.

“Yes, a young and fabulous 28,” Maia would tease. “What… do you think you’re running out of time? How do you say? One leg in the grave?”

“It’s one foot,” Allie laughed. “I mean, I know what I want,” she would defend her case. “I know my criteria is pretty specific, but that happens as you get older. You know what you must have in a partner to be happy.”

“Oui, Allie, I know you know yourself all too well,” Maia acquiesced. “You must follow your heart.”

“And my head,” Allie added, making the case for her balanced, reasoned approach.

“Cherie,” Maia would laugh at Allie, “If you know me by now, you’d know I don’t go for logical approaches to love!”

Allie smiled to herself, thinking about that conversation. She was less than two days from witnessing Maia’s wedding to a man who was from a different culture and spoke a different language. He looked her complete opposite as well, with his tall, blonde, Nordic features, lanky body and handsome, angular face. Maia was truly a girl who followed her heart to happiness, and it had worked like a charm.

“We need to get ready for the welcome dinner,” Maia reminded her friend.  “But you have a couple of hours to rest and freshen up. It’s casual, no need to fuss, you are beautiful in this,” she tugged on Allie’s coral midi sundress.

She was exhausted from the travel. As much as she wanted to reconnect with Rome, she was hoping to take a break, eat a light dinner and go to bed early. It was nice to meet Julien’s family and their Benelux friends; and to see Maia’s mom again as well, but she cut the evening short so she would be ready for the next morning’s walking venture across Rome. Her head falling to the pillow, her mind easily drifted into reminiscing about the stress-free days she spent there studying and daydreaming about a boy she loved but barely knew… when life was simpler.


Allie woke up early, found a caf� nearby for a quick espresso and crostata, and then began her journey. Her excursion took her through all of the architectural sites she had missed and yet so adored. She cherished those fine details of classical antiquity that Trumbauer had stolen for his own designs, incorporating them into the mansion that she grew up in. After spending some time meandering the streets near her old lodgings at the Palazzo Lazzaroni, she strolled up through Campidoglio, studying Marcus Aurelius’ beautiful, stern face. With his arm stretched out, he seemed to command the first tourists of the day to yield to his authority. Satisfied with his timeless performance, she wandered down through the Piazza Venezia, getting lost in all of the structural wonders she remembered examining so intently with younger eyes.

She then realized how close she was to the Trevi, but wasn’t sure she wanted to see it just now. She was not a superstitious person, but those damn coins she had thrown in were a sad reminder of her youthful hopes and wishes that had been stomped down by real life. She instinctively cut her path short, redirecting her walk to Palazzo Barberini, where she spent at least an hour in the National Gallery of Ancient Art, fawning over Caravaggio, Titian and Holbein’s plump Henry VIII. Her feet almost burning from the miles and hills, she finally found her way back to the hotel for a much needed shower and nap.

She woke to Maia pounding on her door, “Are you ready, Cherie?”

Allie had succumbed to jetlag and had overslept. She opened the door, bleary eyed, “I just need a few minutes, Maia.”

Maia laughed, “You need to work through your jetlag Allie. No sleeping through my wedding tomorrow!”  Allie loved Maia’s sweet but firm focus. “Take the time you need, just come meet us at the Mirabella as soon you are ready.”

Allie pulled herself together, and slipped into the dress she had splurged on at a swanky couture shop in the Pacific Heights area of San Francisco. It was a tasteful but sexy retro A-line number with pagoda sleeves and a micro short length. The close fitting bodice was embroidered in a delicate black-and-white checkered design, with a sheer neckline from her modest cleavage to her neck. It paired well with her black strappy wedge sandals and onyx and pearl dangle earrings.

The rehearsal dinner was held at Mirabella restaurant, which had huge glass doors that opened out onto a panoramic view of palaces, museums and in the distance, a gorgeous view of Saint Peter's and the Gianicolo. As dinner was winding down, Allie walked out onto the terrace for the last of the sunset. There she overheard Maia standing on the other end, talking on her phone. She could only hear pieces though, “We’re so glad you’re here,” with a reassuring tone and warmness. Then faintly, she heard, “don’t worry.” There was some silence, then Maia started to talk more, but just as Allie eavesdropped on the next words, she was interrupted.

“So, Allie,” one of Julien’s friends walked up to make conversation, “Tell me about what you do in San Francisco.” Allie’s core personality could not be anything but polite, so she carried on a friendly conversation, all while anxious to hear what Maia was talking about, and to whom? Everyone in Maia’s life was here at the restaurant, so why would she bother with a private phone conversation at her own rehearsal dinner? She considered the possibility of Maia’s father coming, but it was never mentioned that they had patched things up.

“Maia,” Allie asked a little while later, catching her on the way out of the restaurant. “Who were you talking to on the phone?”

“Oh,” Maia seemed confused for a moment and then explained, “A friend of ours missed his flight this morning, so he was letting us know he had finally made it here, that’s all.”

“Ah,” Allie felt stupid for being so probing in her tone. “Is he single?” she then joked.

“As a matter of fact, he is,” her face lit up. “And handsome too,” she winked.

Allie laughed, relieved that the news was good. At least she could practice a little flirting while she was in this very romantic city.


The morning of the wedding, Allie went up to Maia’s suite so the girls could get their hair and makeup done together. Maia had chosen a sophisticated chignon updo style, secured by an elegant hairpiece with a crystal and leaf design to accent the gathering of her chestnut curls, and play up the gorgeous beading on her dress.  Allie was in awe of her makeup, which was intense with dark, rich violet tones. If anyone could pull off dramatic color, it was Maia. Her dress fit like a glove, curving around her full silhouette, showing off her sexy decolletage and smooth, soft, mocha arms.

As always, Allie was a bit of a contrast from Maia. She opted for soft makeup with apricot tones, a half-up hair style with loose waves down past her shoulders, and a chiffon, tea length, retro inspired halter dress in cobalt blue, which Allie had to admit to herself, was an eye-catching shade against her auburn hair and alabaster skin.

The girls giggled in the mirror, admiring each other, when Maia’s mother knocked on the door.

“My baby girl,” Maia’s mom cried and hugged her daughter, “And her wonderful Querida,” she hugged Allie. “You two will make even the most beautiful Italian girls jealous today!”

Maia beamed and Allie nodded in thanks. Maia’s mom was a natural beauty like her daughter, albeit smaller, and with a few more wrinkles, but aging very gracefully for a woman who was well into her 50-something years.

“Oh Allie! I just remembered, I need you to do me a big, bridesmaid favor, before the wedding,” Maia pleaded.

Allie checked the time. “Sure, we have a couple of hours before you walk down the aisle, what do you need?”

Maia dug into her purse, pulled out three Euro coins and told Allie, “I need you to take a walk over to the Trevi and throw these in for me.”

“What?” Allie was dumbfounded and shocked, both by the randomness of Maia’s request and the reminder of her failed experiment nearly eight years ago, something she had already tried to avoid the morning before.

“I haven’t been able to get over there, so you have to do it for me. It’s your maid of honor duty,” Maia commanded her.

“Okay,” Allie shrugged. She had to do what she had to do, she certainly wasn’t going to argue with a bride on her wedding day.  “I will see you at the steps of the Valadier,” Allie kissed her best friend’s cheek.

Maia walked Allie to the door, placed her hands on Allie’s shoulders and with very intense eye contact, spoke soberly. "Allie, you deserve nothing less than happiness with a boy you can truly love, don't give up on that dream." Maia was serious and clear in a way that kind of startled Allie. It was rare that she stepped outside of her lighthearted nature and spoke with that kind of gravity. Allie walked out into the streets of Rome feeling strengthened by Maia's affirmation. Patience, not pressure, would bring her the love of her life.

It was only a ten minute walk, so even in her heels, it would be a quick errand. She certainly couldn’t shrug her duty, so off she went down Via Francesco Crispi, turning onto Via del Tritone, and through Via della Stamperia. Trying hard to not think about it, but failing, a lump formed in her throat. Walking closer, feelings of anxiousness bubbled up in the idea of confronting what she wanted to avoid… the reminder of how hopeful she had once been, and how easy life had seemed. There had once been the promise of new love waiting at home; her mother was still in her life, and everything was moving in the right direction; until it wasn’t.

She was about to step over an emotional cliff when her thoughts were interrupted by a college-aged girl walking past her, wearing a Cornell t-shirt and tattered denim shorts. Despite her casual, slack clothes, she had a regal prettiness. But her beauty was diminished by her vacant face and extremely thin body. Allie could see her younger self in that starved sadness. Maybe her life hadn’t been so perfect back then, even while she was with Sean. She had been a borderline anorexic who had harmed herself emotionally with persistent self-doubt, and then physically with chronic hunger and bone-stressing amounts of pounding exercise. It wasn’t until after years of heartbreak, loss and anxiety that she began to find the strength to change how she treated herself.

Allie now realized more than ever what she had been working toward in therapy; that life was not really so much easier back then, and so much harder now. Life was just, well, life. The Trevi, in all its beauty and glory, was simply another lovely thing to enjoy in the world, and should not hold the power to torment her. Her steps became more self-assured as she came upon it amidst congregating tourists. She was now smiling at the theatrical Baroque magnificence in its travertine fa�ade, with centuries-old, muscle-bound marble gods alongside their wild horses, one calm, one wild; and Neptune towering over them in his oceanic kingdom.

Allie was truly relieved to admire it. No baggage will ever keep me from my favorite works of art, or keep me from delivering a promise to my best friend, she thought. Old disappointments melted away from her mind as she turned and tossed the first coin in, Maia’s Canadian quarter. She wished intently for her friend to make yet another trip back to Rome. At least Allie’s first wish on that old Lira had come true. She had returned to Rome herself, with its magnificence intact, all around her.

Then she threw in the second coin, a bright gold 10 cent Euro, for Maia’s love to remain strong. She wished for both the romantic love Maia had with Julien, as well as the lasting friendship she shared with her best friend. Thinking back again, her own Pennsylvania state quarter had been tossed in with hopes that Sean’s affections would remain intact upon her return from Rome. That wish had also come true, at least for a while, anyway.

She held the third, duo-toned Euro coin in her hand, feeling it intently for Maia. Allie had never thrown back a third coin for herself. The idea of marriage was so remote in those days, she couldn’t have even imagined it at the time, much less wished for it as well. Now she was an hour away from witnessing her best friend’s marriage, feeling wistful for what it would be like to be with someone so fully and completely that she would agree to spend the rest of her life with him, and maybe even have children together; someone to see all of her faults and love her anyway.

Allie turned back to the mythical scene, her eyes darting back and forth between those two horses, recalling it’s allegory of the sea. It was indeed so much like life, sometimes easy, and sometimes difficult, even dangerous, but always alive. And, right now, she felt reassured that she was in calm waters, and lucky to have a genuine friendship bring her back to Rome. She turned her back again, wished earnestly for her best friend’s long life together with Julien, closed her eyes and tossed it over her shoulder into the water. She heard the plop, opened her eyes, turned around and watched the ripples fade away from where the coin had landed.

A sudden breeze picked up, and the ends of her hair tickled her open shoulders. She looked down at her dress, remembering that important duties awaited. She turned on her heels and shimmied through the growing tourist crowd milling around behind her.

Trying to find a way through, she slipped through a few bodies but then was stopped by a large body completely blocking her movement. All she saw for a split moment, was a big, soft belly encased in a crisp white shirt, with a blue and black tartan tie draped down over it. Captivated, she scanned her eyes upward while getting back her balance.

The sun shone behind the man, making his face difficult to decipher at first. She squinted more and focused on a pair of familiar blue eyes looking back into her own, set in his thoroughly handsome face, accompanied by a smirky smile.

“Hi Allie,” Sean breathed deeply, with an apprehensive look on his face.

Allie blinked, not able to utter a sound, much less form any words. Was she imagining this? Had all that clarity she had just experienced moments ago, actually turned her crazy?

His awkward expression grew worried, “Are you okay?”

“Um, uh…” she took a step back, checking his face, taking in his marvelously big body, packed nicely in a crisp looking dark suit, accented by that trendy tartan tie. She didn’t know what to say, and the dumbstruck look on her face wouldn’t subside.

“Should I not have…?” His face became paler.

“I’m… I don’t… I can’t believe you’re here,” she finally managed to say. There was a flurry of excitement and chaos welling inside her, but bewilderment wouldn’t be shaken so easily.

“Neither can I,” he managed, looking uneasy, rubbing his hand through his short, silky black hair.

“How did you…?” she tried to match her confusion with her words.

“Airplane?” He offered sheepishly.

She finally smiled, took a deep breath, “I mean, how did you know?”

“Just a crazy coincidence,” he shrugged, still trying some humor to settle her shock.

But her butterflies were now flying wildly and her heart pounded like a bass drum. Still, she knew this was no coincidence.  Was this Maia’s doing? Her wheels turned, but very slowly, like they were stuck in a pool full of mud.

“You don’t want to be late for the wedding,” he pointed in the direction of Villa Borghese.

“Oh, God, yes,” she snapped back to reality. They started to walk quickly in that direction together, as she began to think through what had just happened. “Were you invited to Maia’s wedding?”

“I was,” he answered confidently with a playful smile.

“Funny, I’ve been helping the bride plan for months, and she never mentioned an invitation for you,” Allie nudged him.

“Funny indeed,” he nodded and continued to smile, looking ahead, allowing her a chance to admire him from the side. His soft, sweet face, and the jiggle of his billowing belly were as sexy as ever. She couldn’t tell if he was a bit bigger or still the same weight as when she last saw him last fall… but that didn’t matter, he looked perfect and beautiful, just as always.

But what about his wife? And the vows he took that forced her to accept it was really and truly over. “You didn’t bring Janeane?” Allie blurted, defending herself against rejection… or another embarrassing entanglement with a married man.

“No,” he stopped cold and looked at her with confusion. “You don’t know?”

“Know what?” What?!? She screamed out inside of herself.

“We split up, about a year ago, now,” he stated simply, as if she should have known it.

Allie felt air leave her chest with a massive force. This news hit her like a ton of bricks. All that time lost! Those days, and weeks and months…she had assumed Sean was a happily married man. She could have plead her case to him that they belonged together, instead of trying in vain to find love elsewhere. She covered her mouth to keep any more emotion from escaping.

“Are you okay?” He put his hand on her shoulder. She flinched feeling the sting from his touch, like water pouring down a parched throat.

She saw the hurt in his face from her non-verbal retreat, and reassured him, “I am… just… shocked. I didn’t know.”

“I didn’t broadcast it. I mean I wasn’t proud of it…” he started to explain.

“Proud?” She felt angry. She knew her anger was irrational and tried to quell it, but it was there. Pride only wastes precious time; there’s no purpose for it.

“Yeah, Allie, a failing marriage didn’t exactly make me feel proud,” he explained with some impatience.

“But, I could have,” she started to say, and then stopped.

“Could have what, Allie,” he grew sarcastic in his tone, “Felt sorry for me?”

“Sorry for you?” She raised her voice.

“Look at me, Allie,” he implored her.

“I am,” she looked into his gorgeous, pained eyes, and saw that same charming face she fell in love with way too easily.

“I was a disappointment to my wife,” he lowered his voice.

“What?” Allie didn’t understand.

“She married a fit, decent looking guy, and ended up with a fat whale,” he berated himself.

“Stop it, Sean,” Allie hated hearing him denigrate himself and his magnificent body.

“No, Allie, it’s true. You never wanted to say anything about my weight. You just pretended not to notice. You’ve always looked me up and down and then said nothing,” he pushed her uncomfortably into her fat corner.

“I never needed to...” she tried to diffuse this old line of questioning.

“Janeane ended our marriage over it, and you can’t even say a single word about it,” he was incredulous.

“She what?” Allie was stunned.

Sean sighed, “It was inevitable, Allie. I’d known her a long time, there was a pattern with her.”

“Then she knew you wouldn’t ever be…” Allie tried to find the words.

Sean cut her off, “A hard body?” He sneered. “I tried.”

“But you’re just naturally… thick,” Allie reasoned politely.

“Janeane was the girl in the neighborhood all the guys wanted,” Sean began to explain, but his exculpatory words couldn’t help but make Allie feel jealous. “She never looked at me when we were kids. I was the chubby nerd on the block, and she hung around the cool, tough guys. Then in high school I went out for football, lost some weight, grew a lot taller, and she started to pay attention to me.”

Allie could relate to that feeling all too well, like when Jimmy took notice of her at the club. It was nice to get the attention, even though he wasn’t right for her.

“It didn’t matter that she was kind of selfish and self-centered, and flirted with other guys,” he explained, “it felt good to be good enough for her. I was a dumb kid.”

“You weren’t dumb, you were normal,” Allie sighed in understanding.

“My mom hated her,” he continued. “My grades dropped, I was staying out late with her, trying to prove I was cool and in control of things, but I wasn’t. Then I found out she had cheated on me with a guy I thought was my friend, and that was finally enough for me to end it.”

“You never told me any of this while we were together,” Allie was trying to put together his dysfunctional high school fling with his bad marital choice.

“There was some on-again, off-again stuff, after we had broken up,” he kept going. “She always liked that I was in college, going to med school, and making something of myself. She wanted to get out of the neighborhood, she made no secret of that.”

How very different this woman was from Allie, she realized. She was probably tall, golden and gorgeous, with big boobs and an overconfident conceit. Allie nearly laughed out loud at the image, but then felt a chill over the realization that Sean ended up marrying a girl so utterly the opposite of herself. 

“Were you with her when we were together?” Allie couldn’t stop herself from asking.

“No, Allie, no way,” he stopped her. “With you it wasn’t like that. You were like… a vacation from North Philly,” he smiled sheepishly and then paused, carefully finding his words. “During that time, I was on a different planet. I didn’t really think of her once we got together.”

“Well, that changed,” Allie remained skeptical.

“After I had been sick in Haiti and lost all that weight, she was after me again,” he shrugged. “At the time, I remember feeling like, ‘well, she’s from my neighborhood, we have friends and families in common.’ It seemed like we both wanted the same kind of life. I was back at home, with the people I grew up with, and that was how it was supposed to be, you know?”

Allie looked down, reminded of his rejection of her years earlier because she had very little in common with his home and upbringing.

“I nearly died, Allie, and then she was there,” he explained with almost a pleading tone to his defense. “It felt like a sign and I was supposed to follow in her direction.”

He was actually making sense and Allie nodded in understanding. After her mother died, she remembered that feeling of weakness and confusion about what could make her happy. She herself had almost married Jimmy, a man who was there for her when she was in a very vulnerable place.

“I know now that I wasn’t being honest with myself, deep down, it was never going to last,” he looked away. “I knew medically that if I recovered, I was never going to stay thin. My metabolism was completely destroyed from the illness. Once I began to eat normally, I gained it all back, really fast. Janeane couldn’t stand watching me get fat. I tried with diets and meal plans that she would put me on, and joined her gym, but I was also doing my residency. With the long hours, and no personal time... it was hard to get any of that right.”

“Oh Sean,” Allie touched his arm, wishing she could have been the one he came home to, reassuring him he was okay, and that his body was strong for beating a deadly illness and recovering to full health. She couldn’t help but admit to herself that she would have lustfully enjoyed his re-expansion, feeling a bit guilty over how much hearing him talk about his rapid weight gain turned her on. What a delicious experience each new pound would have given her eyes and body... But she would have also been there to remind him that he was more than the numbers on the scale; that he was a brilliant, lovely man who was learning how to give children their lives back.

Her emotions were still so confused though. Despite these mixed feelings of empathy and arousal, she also couldn’t shake the notion that she was now a consolation prize. He made vows to Janeane; and when that didn’t work out, maybe he was here to take the easy second best. She took a step back and looked away again, afraid to cry and have professional amounts of mascara run down her cheeks.

“What is it Allie?” Sean could see her retreat from him.

She could not hold back her thoughts though, too much was at stake. She had to tell him exactly how she felt. “It’s still hard for me to understand why you were so quick to dump me, over something as superficial as money, influence, or social status or whatever,” Allie still kept her eyes down. “And then go and marry a girl who had a history of hurting you, and cheating on you,” her eyes rose up to his.

He looked at her with regret in his eyes, but didn’t answer.

“Was she so perfect and pretty and exciting? And I was just sad, plain, privileged Allie? A bland, white bread girl from a boring place with a dull future?”

“Wow, no!” Sean stopped her, putting his hand on her arm, “You are anything but plain and boring.”

She looked at him skeptically.

“I shouldn’t have to tell you how stunning you are,” he smiled, now brushing an auburn curl from her face.  “I still think of you in the pool house, you were so charming, and beautiful… and thoughtful, wanting to keep me out of the rain. When you crawled over and kissed me…” he trailed off, with a longing look in his eyes.

Allie blushed. She hadn’t seen that kind of warmth and sparkle in his eyes in a very long time, and it gave her a surge of relief to see it back again.

“I was in awe of you, Allie, always. You’re a classic beauty. I remember when I first saw you… you looked like, nobility, or something,” he shrugged. “But you’re also incredibly bright, and have a kind, gentleness… I only wished you’d have seen all of those things in yourself more,” he stumbled and blushed through his words, making her heart jump a bit more.

Still, the whole thing had haunted her for so long. “Then why did you leave me?” She stayed on point, despite feeling softened by his flattering words.

“I was weak,” he explained. “I was always a little unsure that a girl like you could really last with a guy like me.”

Allie tried to interject, shaking her head, but he continued. “Then my buddies started getting into my head, even while we were still together. I’d run into them and they’d make cracks; that you’d get sick of me, or you were using me to upset your parents; or you’d get tired of being with a fatty; stuff like that.”

“You have horrible friends,” Allie was frustrated, reminded of Charlie and how he would talk to Sean about his weight.

“That’s how things are in my old neighborhood, always busting balls of any guy having success,” he explained, lapsing more into his North Philly accent. “I was dating a beautiful girl from the Main Line, and about to become a doctor. So that’s how it gets equalized among friends.”

“Some friends,” Allie smirked.

“I just believed them a little too much,” he admitted. “I thought you would eventually be done with me, whether it was my background, my weight, or whatever. You couldn’t possibly have had a high society future with a fat Mick like me.”

“You should have just asked me what kind of future I wanted,” she whispered through her cracking voice.

“I know,” he whispered back. “It hit me hard when I found you passed out at Children’s. You were so thin and pale looking... You can’t believe how shocked I was to lift you up and see your face,” he admitted. “And all I could think was how scared I was… the one woman who loved me in a real, authentic way, was lying unconscious in my arms.”

Allie was riveted by his words, her eyes filling with an emotional mist.

“But when you began to regain consciousness, and I knew you were okay, I realized I couldn’t bear to have you see me this way, this heavy.”

“Sean, you don’t understand,” Allie implored him.

He ignored her pleas and kept spilling his feelings, “When we finally saw each other at the hospital, you were sweet and polite, as always; and you didn’t say a damned thing about my hugely obvious weight gain.”

“And you didn’t say a damned thing about your crumbling marriage,” she quickly responded.

“Back to where we started,” he half-smiled.

The light breeze picked up again, as they got closer to Villa Borghese. Allie checked the time on her phone. She needed to meet Maia outside the Casina Valadier in 10 minutes. It was going to be close.

“You still haven’t told me why you are here,” Allie touched his arm as they crossed a busy intersection.

“You still haven’t said whether you want me here,” he responded with a Cheshire grin.

“You ended us, Sean, and you married someone else,” she volleyed back, needing more certainty. “Seems like the ball is in your court to say that you feel differently about me, about us, now.”

“First I need to know, Allie, if you are turned off by my size, because you won’t say anything about it. It’s an obvious liability for me and not an easy thing for me to change.”

“It’s like you have amnesia,” she laughed through her words at the irony of being questioned whether she could bring herself to be attracted to Sean, and at his present size. “I have always been so attracted to you, Sean. I couldn’t ever keep my hands off of you. I never criticized you and only contradicted you when you would complain about it. It’s like you expect me to be cruel to you about it now, but you don’t remember how much I loved you heavier.”

He walked silently, thinking for a moment, and then said quietly with a pained wince, “But I’m much bigger now.”

“This is so unfair, because you’re getting me to say…” she stopped to gather her thoughts. “I mean, Sean, you’re this amazingly smart, talented, self-made man. I’ve admired you ever since we first spoke words to each other.”

Taking a breath, she continued, “But before we ever spoke, I was completely attracted to you. I loved, and still love your body, and yes, definitely bigger,” she gasped for air and continued. “I know your weight is a sore subject, especially considering what Janeane did to you, so it’s not easy for me to tell you how much your size turns me on, but it does. So damn it, stop asking me why I won’t say anything about it. I don’t because, well, it’s… sexual for me and not really ladylike to talk about.”

Sean stopped dead in his tracks on Viale del Belvedere. He looked at her, his eyes wide, but saying nothing.

“So would you tell me why you are here?” She demanded, exasperated.

He paused, took a deep breath. “I’m here because I love you, Allie, with everything I have in me.” He touched her face, brushing his fingers along her cheek, making her melt. Sean had not always been forthcoming, but he was always honest. She could believe his words… words she had waited for so long to hear again.

He continued, “My feelings for you never really went away. Each time I saw you, or thought of you, I just felt worse about my life and how far away from you I had gone. When Maia invited me here, I knew I had to at least take a chance that you might be able to forgive me.”

“Chance?” She scoffed but smiled, “I’m sure Maia told you I’ve never been able to make anything work with anyone else.”

‘’No, she didn’t say that, but she did say that there was a good chance I’d get to kiss a beautiful woman in Rome,” he grinned.

“Maia is so damned clairvoyant,” Allie teased back, inching closer to him, her body grazing against his belly, giving her the kind of goosebumps she hadn’t felt in years. He pulled her waist into his softness, leaned down and brushed her lips with his. She melted further into him.

She was then yanked back to reality by a woman’s cheerful yell in the distance. Peering down the walkway to Casina Valadier, she saw her lovely Maia in white, waving her arms wildly.

“We have to get there fast,” Allie exclaimed, feeling her heart pounding through her chest again.

They moved quickly together, her arm through his, feeling the occasional brush of his soft side against her body, anticipating when she would be able to get alone with him to touch more of his expanded body.

Maia seemed to read her mind as they reached the bride and her mother, “You have plenty of time for fooling around later, but right now this is about me,” she winked at Allie, and hugged Sean.

Maia touched Sean’s arm, “Julien’s friend is at the top of the stairs in a light gray suit, he saved a spot for you close to the front.”

“Thank you, Maia,” Sean smiled, and leaned into Allie to grab a quick kiss on the cheek before heading up the stairs.

Allie admired his width from behind as he made his way up to the balcony. She saw Maia’s mother at the top, waiting for the girls to come up and begin the wedding.

“I see the old spark is back,” Maia laughed, nudging Allie as the two girls ascended the staircase.

“I tossed your coins in for you,” Allie rolled her eyes, alluding to Maia’s ruse.

“Those coins weren’t for me, they were for you, silly,” Maia grinned widely.  “You returned to Rome, and now you found your love again.”

“Can you be sure?” Allie felt exhilarated and terrified at the same time.

“You and Sean are meant to be, you just both needed a push,” Maia reasoned.

“More like a shove,” Allie smiled back winking, as she headed down the aisle to begin the wedding.  As she made her way to the front of the room, she saw Julien’s happy eyes and smiled at him. She then glanced over where Sean was sitting. His face was loving and open, giving her the kind of hope that made her feel almost uneasy; she was so cautious about hope these days. She caught his eyes and smiled. There was now a hint of hunger in them, a look she recognized from the first time she kissed him in the pool house.

They were so young back then, it seemed. She thought back to that summer they met, remembering how naive and rather clueless she was. The world was so black and white. She saw her parents one-dimensionally, and saw Sean as a knight in shining armor. There were only good guys and bad guys. She had changed so much, and could see how much Sean had changed too.

His body had changed drastically, of course, from rather chubby to definitively fat; and then much thinner, to even fatter now; yet all the while he remained so handsome. His core personality was still the same, just as hers was. But he was also a man now, just as she had become a woman. They had both been through life experiences that force some weariness, but also wisdom and understanding. The world was not as simple as it had once seemed. Still, the lust in his eyes, and the desire in her heart gave her hope that they would have the wonderful chemistry that long had remained in her memories like a spoonful of honey that lingers on the tongue.

After the wedding, Allie joined Maia and Julien to give them her biggest hugs and best wishes. “It was beautiful,” She gushed over her best friends, “I don’t have words for how happy I am for you both.”

“I know, Cherie, and now you have to go make your own beautiful,” she looked over at Sean, who was waiting patiently on a bench next to the garden that surrounded the patio where they were hosting their dinner al fresco.

“How did you know?” she implored her friend, “I mean, I thought he was married… how did you know it was even possible?”

“When you told me about his visit to your home, and the sadness you saw in him, I felt like something wasn’t right. I tracked down his mom and talked to her, and she told me everything, you know, about the divorce,” she winced a bit, stopping short of describing what Pam inevitably shared: that Sean had been married to a woman who would not be true through thick and thin, or in Sean’s case, from thin to fat.

Allie just nodded.

“Pam and I just couldn’t imagine how the world could go on with you two wonderful people, who belong together, being miserable apart,” she shrugged.  “Then Julien had the idea to get you two together at the Trevi, and well, now you know the rest.”

Maia then turned and launched into greetings and hugs from more guests piling up behind them. Allie and Julien continued chatting privately.  “I couldn’t imagine you ending up with someone who wasn’t going to give you what you really need,” he told her with a knowing smile.

Allie nodded, with a giggle. “That kind of need doesn’t ever disappear, does it?”

“I could never fight it,” Julien seemed pleased that Allie understood exactly what he was talking about. “As soon as I met Maia, I realized I wouldn’t ever want to change it either.”

“I could see that early on,” Allie grinned. “You’ve given her the love and admiration that she always wished for.”

“I should really thank you Allie, for what you give to Maia,” he smiled.

“What I give to her?” Allie was confused. She had always felt so grateful for Maia’s friendship.

“You are authentic,” he paused, thinking of the right words in English, “Supportive, but more than that. Maia has ups and downs, but after she talks to you, it puts her back to a content place. Your effect on her is amazing,” he smiled, shaking his head. “I can worship her like a goddess, but you know, a good friend is something… more honorable.”

“I never really realized how much I did for her,” she responded in surprise. “I always felt that she was the strong one that kept me positive, reminding me of the important things, like love and hope, you know, when I’d get stuck in self-pity.”

“Maia is right that you are too hard on yourself, but you don’t self-pity any more than any other American I’ve ever known,” he laughed.

“Julien!” she playfully slapped his arm.

“Fun to tease the Americans,” he smiled widely. “But you and I, Allie, we have things in common.” He glanced over at Sean and then back at Maia, “I’ve always liked that we can relate without having to say too much about it.”

Allie smiled and blushed with a silent nod.

“Now go reclaim your fat boy,” he whispered with a wink and sent her on her path to over to Sean.

Allie approached Sean, with his eyes on her again. She felt that familiar warmth spread around her body in seeing his big, exquisite belly spilling out of his open jacket. Despite how well his shirt fit over him when he stood in front of her earlier at the Trevi, and the way it had enough give to allow for some jiggling in a delightful rhythm as they walked the streets of Rome, it was clearly now strained from the force of its mass pushing out onto his lap. You are hopeless, Allie, she laughed inside herself, that tubby belly will mesmerize you every time.

She stretched out her hand to him without word and motioned him to join her for a walk in the gardens, away from the wedding crowd. They strolled along a path silently, then reaching a quiet private area with trees blocking most of the afternoon sunlight, she paused and looked up at him. The tiniest bit of light sparkled in his eyes, and she reached up for a kiss. His big hands grabbed around her back, then down to her waist, and pulled her close.

How she had missed his sweet, hot cocoa kisses. “Mmmmmmm,” she felt the sound escape from her lips as they opened their eyes again to one another.

“That was okay, then?” He smiled sweetly.

“Fantastic,” she murmured back.

“You were evaluating me back there again,” he told her knowingly.

She tiled her head in question.

“Walking over to me, you were scanning the gut,” he patted its hanging softness.

She put her hand over his, pressing into it, then moving her fingers over more of his soft belly, causing a tingle in her spine and shiver in her body. “I know what I like,” she murmured, feeling an ache of desire to unbutton his shirt, slip her fingers inside it, and finally feel the ways in which his body had evolved so wonderfully in the time they had been apart.

After another long kiss, Sean reminded her where she was. “Maia is going to wonder where her maid of honor is.”

She nodded and smiled, taking his hand as he led her back to the reception.

After dinner, as things were winding down, they sat alone and quietly sipped Sambuca con Mosca, studying each other’s faces.

“When are you flying back?” Allie finally asked Sean, having purposely held back from talking about any time they would spend together beyond the wedding itself. Her old instincts were never too far away; joyous bliss always seemed fleeting, like trying to hold sand in her hands. Trust had been a big theme for her to work through in therapy.

“Monday,” he shared.

“So what are you doing tomorrow then?” She apprehensively smiled, pushing her trust issues into an optimistic territory, hoping for one more idyllic day in Rome, with the man who had once tested her emotional well-being so profoundly.

“I was hoping to spend it with you,” he returned a genuinely uncertain smile, “Since you know this city better than I do.”

“That would explain why Maia insisted I stay an extra day,” she brightened.

“And tonight?” He gave her a more serious and anxious look.

Oh damn, she wanted him. She wanted his big, beautiful body against hers, naked and sweaty… and all that weight on her. She never forgot the yummy, musky smell of sex with Sean. Just sitting next to him, it came back to her senses like a wicked wave.

“Wow,” he brought her back from the delicious fantasy.

“What?” she feigned ignorance.

“The look on your face,” he pressed.

“Is it time to go?” She grinned, feeling fluttery.

“I hope so,” he agreed to her implied suggestion.

“Let me check in with Maia,” she remained the dutiful friend.

“Of course,” he leaned back, showing off the breadth of his plush midsection, as if to tempt her more.

Her back felt as hot as her thighs as she walked away from him, knowing he was watching her body move across the party to Maia, where Julien was intermittently feeding Maia some Capezzoli di Venere while she chatted with guests.

Julien caught Allie’s eye just as he plopped another truffle in his bride’s mouth, and shared a sneaky grin.

“For Venus,” he mock-defended himself, alluding to the dessert’s namesake deity, “Yes?”

“Yes, of course, for Venus,” Allie couldn’t help but laugh. Maia wasn’t exactly unhappy being fed rich, chocolate delicacies named after the goddess of love and beauty.

“Allie!” Maia’s eyes became wide when she saw her best friend, “Why are you still here? Shouldn’t you be off having your own fun?” she giggled.

“Actually, I was coming over see if you needed help with anything,” she sat down.

“Heavens no,” Maia waved her hands to dismiss Allie. “This is your time to enjoy.”

As Maia happily released Allie from her maid of honor duties, and continued to chat with her friends from Ghent, Julien noticed Allie’s apprehension. “What’s going on, Allie?”

She paused, and then realized Julien was probably more level-headed than Maia for examining her sanity.

“Don’t worry, he’s not going to crush you,” Julien smiled with a wink.

Allie smiled, “Maybe a little?” She played into his humor.

“Ah, the allure of weight plus gravity,” he nodded.

“Am I letting lust rule my head, Julien?” She cut to the chase, “A few days ago I thought I was finally getting over him and now all of that is out the window.”

“Yes, well, the damage is done now, you might as well enjoy him while you’re here,” he grinned. “Whether it works out or not, at least you would have given your body what it needs.”

He was crass, but kind of right. Her head and heart were already pulled backward, there was no reason to torture herself further.

“Thanks Julien,” she gave him a kiss on the cheek, and interrupted Maia for a big hug, “Goodnight!”


Allie walked with Sean to the Spanish Steps, wanting him to experience the romance of Rome after dark. After partially ascending, she could see he was quite warm and a bit winded. She sat him down on the steps to take in the evening color and admire the Barcaccia fountain. There were just enough tourists milling around that Allie felt they blended in, and she gave Sean a warm, long kiss. She then smiled at him and reminisced, “When I was here the first time, I would sit here and think of you, wishing I could show this to you.”

“It’s amazing Allie, it really is,” he gazed over the spectacularly historic scenery.

“It just took longer than I thought it would to get you here,” she then kissed him again, lightly, sliding her hands and arms inside his suit jacket, feeling the chubby sides of his soft body. Being close with him in the intimate, soft lit ambiance of Rome made her feel magnificent, causing a wave of goosebumps over her body.

“Thank you for your patience,” he teased her gently, rubbing her arms. “You’re getting cool,” he quickly became protective and instinctively took off his jacket, putting it over her shoulders. She loved how big it felt, draped over her, with his masculine, spicy scent filling her nose. Her senses were overloaded looking into his blue eyes, admiring his easy grin; and of course with the way his plush softness teased her fingers. It was utter foreplay taking place between them before they even got behind closed doors.

She stood, reaching out to his hand, “Let’s go.”

The ten minute walk back to her hotel gave Allie the chance to tell Sean about a few more of the sights they passed, while she occasionally noted the way his soft fat moved along with him, with a bit of sway and wobble. She wasn’t sure where her emotional lines crossed between her love for him as a person, her admiration for his lovely face, and her fetishy lust for his flab. But those muddled points of attraction didn’t stop her from feeling quite clearly that she urgently needed to be naked with him.

Allie unlocked her hotel room door, with Sean’s big, warm presence trailing behind her. Turning around, she looked into his eyes and they smiled awkwardly at one another. There was a self-consciousness between them in knowing what they both wanted, and yet mutually acknowledging that they had a complicated history.

She slipped his suit coat off her shoulders, and after a long kiss, she whispered, “You always really knew how to do that.”

He smiled and stroked his hand along her body, pulling her closer into his soft mass and kissing her more. She roamed his body in return, feeling the clothing that remained between her and his naked flesh.

Pausing from the kiss, she looked up at him again, her hands on his chest, smoothing down his tie. She decided that’s where she would start, and began to loosen it, quickly and efficiently sliding it from his neck and throwing it over a chair.

He felt her zipper behind her neck and drew it down her back, her dress falling quickly to the floor. He looked at her with lust, and she instinctively spread her stance as his big hands brushed over her cobalt blue lace bra, down her abdomen, and across the small of her back, over the matching satin panties covering her behind and then between her legs. She closed her eyes, feeling the way his touch teased her whole body.

“It’s your turn now,” her fingers ran down the trail of buttons that beckoned her to release them. Buttons were a sexy weakness for Allie, the way they bravely kept Sean’s shirt fabric together, withstanding the strain of his girth, desperate to be set free. She loved a big man in a dress shirt… that smooth, fine cotton, encasing delicious amounts of fatness, while its poplin sheen highlighted every curve and wobble. She decided to savor that pleasure, kissing him to distraction while her fingers followed the crest of his heaving belly, then along his sides and into his love handles. He whispered in her ear as if to plead for some mercy, “Allie…”

“Mmmmmm,” was her only response, coming back up to his chest and working in the first button, then the next. His hands moved again between her thighs, carefully grazing over her panties with just the right touch. Between the psychological thrill of unbuttoning his shirt and the way he incited her with his meaty hands between her legs, she was nearly at full ecstasy and they weren’t even completely naked yet.

Pulling his shirt out, she used her index fingers to carefully lift up his t-shirt, and gradually revealed his substantial belly and its hanging softness, decorated by several silvery stretch marks. Some of them had been around for some time, as she had remembered from his college weight gain. Some seemed a bit pinker and newer from freshly added poundage. Her fingers trailed up along all of them, as her eyes drifted up to his.

He looked at her with a hint of apprehension, as she realized her hands were exploring his flab in the same way she had become accustomed to with Van. She had forgotten how careful she had been with fat exploration in their younger days. Not because Sean had been overly sensitive about his weight back then, she was just uneasy about showing him how sexually gratifying she found his tubbiness. Sure, there was always a lot of touching and groping all over, but usually his fattest parts were caressed with broad, flat strokes and passive fondling. Now here she was truly exploring his body, lifting his heft and surveying the fine detail of his luscious bulges and valleys of blubber.

Her hands roamed his back, feeling those little folds of fat where his belly diverged from his chest. Slipping her fingers inside them, she burned with the memory of how his flab had settled on his body back in their college days. Regaining all that weight had brought those same contours back with a vengeance. But now they were even thicker and deeper than the last time she was this close to his naked torso; and she was really digging in and enjoying them.

She wanted to get his pants off now, but his belly was a bit in the way of his belt, so she pushed him onto the bed to get better access.

He smiled, “You’re more…” he paused searching for the right word, “direct, these days.”

Allie blushed, but didn’t stop working on his belt, “I’m making up for lost time,” she reasoned.

He shifted to help her with his pants, and the amount of jiggling in response made her more lustfully impatient. Her hands were quickly on his cock, which was extremely hard and tight against his boxers. His waistband was tight as well, more evidence of his rapid growth, as she got her hands inside the elastic to remove them and liberate him.

He rolled to his side and quickly pulled off her bra and panties, alternately kissing her neck and quietly moaning as she handled him the way he had always responded to, with a firm hand and a delicate touch. Teasing him this way, working around his broad belly was too much for her patience. She moved under him and coaxed him into position to enter her.

“I’m so big now, Allie,” he hovered over her, struggling to keep his belly from completely blanketing her body. “I’ll hurt you.”

“Oh no you won’t,” she pulled him down, loving the way his flab collapsed all over her, as he tried in vain to avoid gravity. She knew well that she could handle a fat man on top of her; she had logged enough experience to confirm she would be okay.  Well, better than okay…

His heaviness pressed on her, and she felt him enter inside her. She was momentarily transported back to how Sean felt inside her the first time in the pool house. She closed her eyes in astonishment that so much time had passed and yet it didn’t seem that long ago, did it? Her thoughts drifted through the years, as she found her way to the present. She had never expected this outcome. The surprise of him, back in her world, in her bed, and inside her body was both exciting and surreal.

Allie tried to hold off, but Sean knew exactly how to make her climax. The fact that he was noticeably heavier now made it even easier. As he shifted his weight to enter her more deeply, she was overwhelmed by the convergence of his penetration and how much fatter he had become. His belly had grown enough to force her legs more widely apart, and the friction moved her to euphoria. She felt a wave come over her quaking body, and electric pulses shot straight to her toes. Her response prompted his climax as well, and she loved watching him in the moment of ecstasy, relieved he had not lost any of the passion she knew he was capable of.

Enjoying the denouement, she was nestled into him, feeling his belly press into hers with each exhausted breath. His arms easily enveloped her, and she caressed along his middle, her finger instinctively lingering around his deep belly button. He flinched and brushed her away, “Are you trying to make me feel self-conscious?”

“No, sorry,” she smiled sweetly, “I just love how you feel.”

“Allie,” he was playfully exasperated, shaking his head.

“Don’t be surprised, I told you how I feel about your body,” she grinned, returning her hand to his flabby side rolls.

Sean shifted his weight, “But…”

“But nothing,” Allie interrupted him, feeling bolder now that they had returned to intimacy. “You are completely sexy, every inch.”

But Sean continued, clearly trying to work out the body issues between them. “I guess I never understood how you seemed so worried about a measly pound or two on your body… and all the working out and dieting,” he reasoned. “It confused me. I thought, ‘how could she be okay with all of my fat when she can’t tolerate an ounce of it on her?’”

Allie nodded, “I know, Sean, I’ve never been able to make complete sense of it, but it’s something I’ve been working on a lot these days.”

“I sometimes worried about you,” he continued, “but I was afraid to say anything that might make it worse. I mean, who was I to say anything about fitness or healthy eating habits?”

“People have always commented on my body, telling me all the time that I was getting too thin, and I hated it,” she opened up. “I thought, ‘what did they know about my health?’ And I resented that it was anybody’s business but my own. And still think that’s true, people should mind their own damn bodies,” Allie scolded generally with a smile. “But I also know now that I was using that rationalization to not deal with the fact that I was actually kind of harming myself.”

Sean just nodded and stroked her hair.

“It took some therapy to realize that I wasn’t just randomly lacking any appetite or training hard, I was actually dabbling in the anorexic arts and using it to exert control over my life. I really fooled myself into believing it was not affecting my health.”

“Like when I found you on the floor,” Sean started to say.

“That was my wake up call,” she admitted.

 “I’m glad,” he murmured, kissing her on the forehead and then on the lips. “I love you, Allie, I need you strong. I need you in my life... always.”


“I have something special to show you,” Allie took his hand after they finished their croissants integrale and cappuccinos, al fresco.

He raised his eyebrow in response to a provocative suggestion.

“Not that,” she swatted his arm, “You didn’t get enough ‘special’ last night?” she laughed while he grinned back at her. “There’s something else special that I want you to see on the other side of the gardens,” she pointed toward the Villa Borghese.

“It seems like everything is pretty incredible here,” he took her hand.

“No, but this, you’ll love,” she winked.

As they walked through Villa Borghese gardens, she talked to him about the history of the space, its monuments and museums. She was in her glory extolling architectural virtues and natural significance of the landscaping.

“You can walk in awe through the noise and craziness of Rome,” she smiled, “and then pass into this green space and it’s like you’re on another planet.”

“Like Fairmount,” he smiled at her, reminding her of their favorite park in Philly, where they loved spending time together during that wonderful summer after she came back from Rome.

“Yes, exactly,” she beamed back, locking his arm in hers.

They strolled along the walkways, getting closer to the jewel of the gardens. Through a clearing, she could see Sean studying the structure from a distance.

“What’s that? He asked

“Galleria Borghese,” she smiled knowingly.

“Wow,” he grinned.

“Wait until you see inside,” she grinned back, as they ascended one side of the double staircase. She loved watching him study the stonework, admiring the detail in the piers and arches.

As she walked in with Sean, Allie thought that the interior looked even more stunning than her last visit. The marble accents seemed to gleam brighter, along with the floor mosaics, bas-reliefs and ceiling frescoes all mixed in a swirling feast of Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-classic delights. She took his hand and led him to the room with the piece that she had been wanting him to see for years.

When he saw it, his jaw dropped, “This is it?”

“The original,” she crossed her arms triumphantly as they gazed at Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, “In all of its Baroque marble glory.”

“Wow,” he mustered with eyes wide. “It’s big.”

“Much better than our knock-off back in Villanova, huh?” Allie grinned.

“Beautiful,” he murmured. “I mean, the detail of her body.”

“You can see why Apollo couldn’t keep his hands off of her,” Allie joked.

“You can really see her pain more clearly too,” he remained serious and studied Daphne’s face.

Allie nodded, “The detail of those leaves and twigs on her fingertips have always astounded me. For stone, it’s just so delicate looking. It’s amazing this piece has survived perfectly for almost 400 years.”

“I told you last year,” his eyes fixed on Bernini’s masterpiece. “Daphne’s determined to survive. She’s genuine and enduring.”

“She is,” Allie nodded, feeling warm and a bit embarrassed, remembering their awkward conversation that day last fall.

“Just like you,” he now moved his eyes on her with his directness.

Allie pulled her eyes to his, remembering how hard it was to live without him. “What about you? Will you waver again?”

Sean shook his head and pulled her body into his, “No, no way,” he whispered in her ear. “I’ve only ever been truly happy with you, Allie. I never want to be away from you again.”


Sean and Allie have an autumn wedding at Memorial Hall in their beloved Fairmount Park, settle in a small bungalow the Bay Area, maybe in a little gentrifying neighborhood in the East Bay. Sean gets a post residency assignment at UCSF; Allie works as a building preservation consultant, while remotely managing the Beaumont mansion business from afar. They have beautiful babies (twins?), and regularly spend free time vacationing back in Philly with their families and in Belgium with their best friends.

© 2015 Ashblonde / Ashley B