Bigger (The Nicky Beets series) (9 page)

BOOK: Bigger (The Nicky Beets series)
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“Heading for a workout?” he raised one eyebrow dubiously.

“Yeah… Trying to get healthy,” I explained and then grimaced internally.
Why was I trying to explain myself to this guy? A simple “yes” would have
sufficed. He’d surely never had a weight problem. I mean-spiritedly imagined
that he probably dated girls with eating disorders.

Carl nodded and returned his attention to his phone’s screen as I chewed
on the insides of my cheeks and stared at the floor numbers above the elevator.
Eventually our car arrived and we rode in complete silence to the first floor.
As we both exited the main lobby’s double doors, Carl turned to walk in the
opposite direction I was going. I said, “Good night.” He looked over his
shoulder with a raised eyebrow and snickered, “Good luck.”

A heat rose from my chest, up my neck and settled in my cheeks.
What a condescending prick
, I swore to
myself.

I pressed my lips together tightly and walked as fast as I could to the
parking garage. The days of pity and contempt from strangers, friends, family
and co-workers were numbered, I promised myself, as I flung my backpack onto
the passenger seat of my car and slammed the door shut.

 

Thus began Day One of the exercise program that vowed it would take me
only eight weeks to be able to run three miles, without stopping. Right now I
couldn’t even climb three flights of stairs in the parking garage without panting
deeply.

I pulled into the parking lot at the middle school near our townhouse.
There was a well-lit running track a fair number of people from the
neighborhood seemed to already know about, judging by the few dozen walkers and
runners already peppered around the track. I stood a few yards from the track
and did some soft stretches, working up the nerve to join the rest of the
people out doing their evening exercise. I was, by far, the largest person
who’d made it out to burn off a few calories that evening.

The first day of the running program sounded simple. The instructions
were to warm up with a five-minute walk, then alternate sixty seconds of
jogging and ninety seconds of walking for twenty minutes. Only twenty minutes!
Hell, if I could make it through a grueling hour and a half of yoga, albeit
half-assed, I thought I could certainly walk and jog for twenty minutes with
little problem.

After my brisk five-minute warm-up walk, I’d already broken a sweat and
there was a dull ache in my right side. I hoped none of the other walkers and
runners on the track were noticing how hard I was breathing. I hoped I didn’t
smell.

I picked up the pace and jogged along for sixty seconds. Not bad. I
caught my breath and ninety seconds later, jogged for another sixty seconds. I
repeated this until, toward the end of the twenty minutes, I was gasping for
breath and limping slightly from a new blister on the arch of my left foot. My
shins ached and I was pretty sure there was a crunching sound coming from my
knees. Each breath of cold air I sucked in burned on the back of my throat.

I limped back to my car and sat for a moment in the driver’s seat,
panting. I glimpsed myself in the rear-view mirror: A big girl with beads of
sweat on her forehead and cheeks pinked with cold and effort. It was a
healthier visage than what I normally saw there – a stressed-out,
frizz-haired, yellow-pallored woman with dark circles under her eyes. I started
the engine and slowly drove the half-mile home to our townhouse.

This was definitely a different kind of workout than yoga; more
cardiovascular, and more potential for injury due to a heavier impact. And as I
would discover the next evening, this sort of cross-training made for an
interesting yoga session. I would have been sore from the previous yoga
session, anyway, but now my muscles were really screaming. I simply could not
hold the poses for the length of time I was supposed to. A few times, Phil
walked past me and peered down scornfully, his mustache bristling out over his
top lip, which was pursed in what looked like disapproval. I could only huddle
on my mat in child’s pose, prone in a pool of sweat.

These scenes repeated themselves a couple more times until the end of the
week. I was exhausted – hauling myself from work to the track or yoga and
tapping into whatever reserve of energy I had left in order to complete my
workouts. I ran into Carl Pelter in the elevator lobby one more time and rather
than endure another humiliating moment in his company, I pretended I’d
forgotten something at my desk and walked back into the office, returning when
I was sure he was gone.

Friday night, I stumbled out of yoga behind Roxanne, feeling a deep ache
in every muscle in my body. Despite the fatigue I was experiencing from
strenuous exercise and two weeks with nary a carbohydrate, I felt giddy with
accomplishment. I’d bargained with myself for two days off from exercise and a
slight break in the diet – there was sure to be loads of free alcohol and
tempting food at the company party on Saturday. Come Monday, I’d be back on the
wagon, sweaty and stumbling out of yoga with Roxanne again.

We parted ways, with promises to see each other at the Four Seasons the
next evening. I got home and flipped on all the lights – Chuck was
working late and I hated being alone in a dark house.

Shutting the bathroom door behind me, I was already peeling off my yoga
clothes that were damp from sweat and starting to make me shiver from cold. I
ran the shower until steam poured out of the stall, then climbed in and groaned
out loud from the sheer rapture of hot water on my cold, aching muscles. I
squeezed a dollop of shampoo into my hand and slowly lathered my hair, feeling
each throbbing muscle in my arm as they turned and twisted to do my bidding.
After I rinsed the suds out of my hair, I continued my shower ritual, squeezing
a circle of body wash on a washcloth and scrubbing every inch, starting behind
my ears and working my way down to my toes. Bending down to tend to my legs, I
saw muscles flex in my thighs. I felt a firmness in my calves where a
squishiness used to be and smiled with satisfaction.

As I toweled off my skin that was pink from the hot shower, I heard Chuck
open the front door and then lock it behind him. He walked up the hallway
inquiring, “Babe? Where are you?”

“In here!” I answered. Normally this is the point when I would lock the
bathroom door, preventing him from seeing more of me than I was comfortable
with, given the bright fluorescent lights. He’d done this since we first moved
in together – opening the bathroom door while I was showering, or
optimally for him, after I’d just stepped out and was dripping wet. I didn’t
bother locking it this time. Chuck walked into our bedroom and up to the
bathroom door, and stood there. “Are you showering?” he asked.

“Just got finished.”

The doorknob turned and the door opened. Chuck’s eyes widened and he
grinned with glee as he saw me standing there with only a towel draped around
me. I wasn’t in the mood for playing hard to get, so I dropped the towel to the
floor and walked into his arms with my lips raised toward his for a kiss. He
obliged and ran his hands down my back, over my still-generous rear end.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” he said.

 
 

My readers were still sticking with me, amazingly. It seemed that foodies
also tended to be dieters; go figure. I imagined it was a vicious circle for
many people, the overeating and the subsequent dieting. I sat down to respond
to comments after a dinner of Chinese chicken salad (without the delicious
crunchy, fried noodles, sadly), and to write a new post.

 

Running, or the lack thereof

This week I started “running.” I
use quotation marks because to say that what I’ve been doing is more than a
swift walk or a maimed jog would be an exaggeration.
 

I guess I thought after a week of
yoga, I’d be stronger and more prepared for a few laps around the track, but I
shouldn’t have been surprised to find that wasn’t the case. I’ve started on a
regimen that’s supposed to get me running three miles at a time. This week
should have been simple. The regimen has me alternating walking and jogging,
but let me tell you: By the end of that workout, I was wiped. Everything hurt.
My body is still heavy, and my legs don’t necessarily want to move swiftly.
They protested, and I feel it now. But, if anything, I’m more encouraged to
keep it up
because
it’s so hard. That must means it’s going to work,
right?

FIVE

 
 

I’d slept in until almost noon and awoke alone in our bed, the sun
streaming through the window and resting on the quilt. Chuck was an early riser
and had surely been up for some time, probably reading the newspaper and
polishing off a pot of coffee.

I lazily pushed the covers off my body and walked to the restroom. After
I peed, I stripped off my night-shirt and underwear and stepped onto the scale
for a weigh-in. The scale seemed to be wrong, so I stepped off, waited a
moment, then stepped back on. The scale wasn’t wrong; it just had really good
news for me. Apparently I’d lost another six pounds that week. Which meant I’d
lost eighteen pounds in only two weeks.

I let loose a primal “Yeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!” and did a couple
fist pumps. I pulled my shirt and panties back on and skipped out to the living
room, where Chuck was clicking away on his laptop. He looked up inquisitively,
eyeing my naked thighs.

“I lost six pounds this week!” I exclaimed.

“Dude,” he answered. “That’s awesome!”

“I know!” I skipped back to the bathroom for a shower. I spent an
inordinate amount of time exfoliating and shaving, then exited the shower and
spent another hour lotioning my entire body, plucking all errant hairs, and
whitening my teeth.

I took a break from primping to throw together chicken salads for me and
Chuck, and ate mine while grinning stupidly at my man. He looked a little
forlorn about the fare, but I noted with satisfaction that his stomach was
deflating like a balloon. Weight loss is so simple for men, I thought
jealously.

Later, I smoothed on foundation, concealer, powder, three eye-shadows,
eye-liner, mascara, eyebrow liner, blush, and a sexy, shiny mauve lip gloss
Roxanne had given me after she bought it for herself and realized it wasn’t her
color.

I spent another forty-five minutes dragging a straightening iron through
my hair and said a little prayer to the hair gods, asking that it not frizz up.
One drop of rain and all would be lost.

When the time came to dress for the party, I pulled on my undergarments;
new black thong underwear and matching lace bra, black nylons, and my
figure-hugging body shaper. I was sufficiently encased, sausage-like. I slipped
the new black dress over my head and fastened the wide belt at the smallest
area of my torso. I clasped the new chunky necklace behind my neck and arranged
it above the cleavage that was front and center, thanks to the dress’ deep
neckline.

Now, the finishing touch – the shoes. Individually, each shoe cost
more than the entire rest of the ensemble. I quietly slipped my stockinged feet
into them and stood in front of the mirrored closet doors in our bedroom to
assess the look.

I didn’t look like any version of myself I’d ever seen before. At this
weight, I’d never dressed up. I hadn’t worn this much makeup in at least a
year. I hadn’t shown this much cleavage in longer. My thick hair hung long,
straight and shiny. Light gleamed off the necklace. The shoes were the stunning
pièce de résistance
.

Chuck walked in the bedroom, fiddling with his tuxedo’s bowtie and
looking mildly irritated, as he often did when forced to dress up for events.
He glanced up at me and did a double take with a look of impressed surprise.
For a moment he didn’t speak.

“Babe. You look hot.”

I blushed under his gaze and brushed at the skirt of my dress
self-consciously.

“Where have you been hiding this?” he asked, wrapping his arms around me
and bending slowly for a kiss. I didn’t know if he meant the clothes, or me,
but I answered, “I just bought this stuff.”

“Well, it’s bad-ass,” Chuck replied, pressing his lips to my mouth and
brushing his tongue against mine tantalizingly. Roxanne’s lip-gloss would need
another application.

I pulled away before he could convince me to engage in pre-party
hanky-panky – I’d gone to too much effort and would surely end up
disheveled.

“We should go,” I smiled at him and took the ends of his bowtie in my
hands, looping them together quickly into a presentable tie. This was a talent
I possessed thanks to my stepdad and the plentiful black-tie events he and Mom
were always breezing off to when I was a kid.
 

Chuck smacked my butt appreciatively and plucked our overnight bag from
the bed. He drove us the half-hour into the city while I stared out the windows
at the crisp San Franciscan evening. During the Christmas season, fairy lights
adorned store windows and trees, making the city more charming and magical than
it seemed in the harsh light of day.

We let the valet take Chuck’s truck and a bellboy whisked our bag toward
the front desk. We held hands and gaped at the enormous Christmas tree in the
lobby, adorned with thousands of white lights and bows.

“Miss Beets, welcome to the Four Seasons,” a bespectacled man behind the
front desk greeted me. I hadn’t told him my name or given him my ID yet, so was
amazed that somehow he knew who I was. The hotel chain is well-known for its
excellent service, and I was finding out why. The clerk handed us our key cards
with a smile and asked us to let him know if there was any other service the
hotel could provide during our stay. We promised we would and headed off to our
room to drop off our bag before finding the Carnes, Rickles, Alexander &
Payne Christmas party.

Festive signs pointed us toward the ballroom where the firm’s employees
were milling about with drinks in their hands from the complimentary, fully
stocked bar. The lights were dimmed and pop music was playing on low volume,
just barely discernible over the sound of well-dressed lawyers and their
underlings chatting amiably. Large round tables were spread throughout the room
and covered with linens and shining silver. Huge sprays of flowers shot out
from expensive arrangements in the center of each table. Having assisted in the
event planning for this party, I knew how expensive the arrangements were. I stifled
a shudder -- the extravagant flower arrangements had cost upwards of
three-hundred dollars apiece.

“Oh. My. God. Nicole?” I heard Robin behind me and turned around. She was
standing open-mouthed and her jaw dropped incrementally lower as she took in
the cleavage I’d never shown at work. “You look so fantastic. Those shoes are
to die for.”

“Thank you! You’re looking pretty good yourself.” I waggled my eyebrows
meaningfully at Robin’s own ensemble. She’d squeezed herself into a strapless red
sequined mini dress that made me a little nervous. As long as she didn’t bend
over, hopefully her new butt cheeks would manage to stay encased in the
scandalously short fabric. Her yellow hair had been sprayed into an impressive
halo around her head and she’d opted for a deep red lip shade that complemented
the dress well..

“Chuck, you remember Robin,” I introduced. I saw Robin’s eyebrows raise
just slightly as she took in my handsome boyfriend. I always felt
self-conscious parading Chuck in front of co-workers, sure they were whispering
to each other about how fat I was and how handsome Chuck was.

“Of course,” Chuck smiled charmingly and shook Robin’s hand.

“Did you bring a date?” I asked Robin, knowing she’d been seeing a couple
guys outside of the office casually.

“Nope! Flying solo tonight,” she answered. She took a sip from her
champagne glass and glanced around the room. “Have you seen Brad?”

“Oh, Lord, no,” I rolled my eyes. I should have realized Robin would have
her eye on Brad tonight, and that her revealing dress had probably been
selected specifically to reel him in. “We just got here, though.”

“OK!” she winked craftily. “Pardon me – I’m going to mingle.”

Robin sashayed away, her plump rear swaying side to side. Chuck turned to
me with an amused look.

“You weren’t kidding,” he commented. Chuck had met Robin before but this
was his first time seeing her new butt.

“It’s something else, isn’t it?” I agreed. “And on that note, I think
we’d better find the bar.”

 

Later, with our second drinks of the evening in hand, I was feeling
relaxed and loose. Chuck and I chatted with one of my fellow secretaries about
the daily grind, which mainly revolved around the associates: Who was a slave
driver, who was just plain nuts, who had chronic bad breath. Suddenly, Roxanne
was at my left elbow, surveying the room with a bored expression.

Rox has a talent for being minimalistic in her clothing and yet appearing
gorgeous and put-together. That night she wore a sleeveless black satin sheath
that stopped mid-thigh and a pair of her signature black four-inch pointed-toe
Stuart Weitzman pumps. Her long hair looked professionally blown out and fell
around her shoulders in effortless grace, framing her small diamond teardrop
earrings. A small clutch was tucked under her arm and she was holding a glass
of champagne.

“Hey!” I touched Roxanne’s shoulder lightly. “Did you just get here?”

She looked at me and smiled, “Yep. Fashionably late. I didn’t want to get
stuck standing around talking with a bunch of assholes I already see way too
much of during the week.”

She gave me an appraising once-over and nodded her approval with a smile.
“It’s been a
long
time since I saw
you this dressed up. You look beautiful!”

“Thanks, Rox,” I answered. “You look stunning, as usual.”

Roxanne gave an “Oh, this old thing,” toss of her hair. In doing so she
turned her head and noticed Carl Pelter making a bee-line toward us from across
the room. From what I could tell, Carl’s eyes were pointed directly at Rox’s cleavage.
She flipped her head back around toward us and groaned.

“Speaking of assholes, have you met Carl Pelter?” she asked me.

“Unfortunately,” I said, my cheeks pinkening in embarrassment from the
memory. “Had a fun elevator ride with him the other day while I was in my gym
clothes.”

“I can only imagine. He’s been all up in my business since he started at
CRAP,” Roxanne complained, using Carnes, Rickles, Alexander & Payne’s
unfortunate acronym, which we never tired of.

She rolled her eyes and swigged the rest of her champagne, placing her
empty glass on a nearby table. Carl appeared at her side, and I could tell from
his glassy look and the way his gin and tonic was cocked at a dangerous angle
in his hand that he was already more than a few drinks in.

“ROX-anne!” he sang. “You don’t have to put on the red light!”

“Carl, are you calling me a prostitute?” Rox asked, deadpan.

Carl threw his head back and laughed as though Roxanne had just said the
funniest thing he’d ever heard. He wrapped her suddenly in a bear hug, his
drink sloshing hazardously.

“Good to see you, Roxanne,” Carl said, releasing his victim from his
clutches, as Rox brushed wrinkles from the front of her dress. “You are looking
hella fine.”

“Thank you, Carl,” she said. “Your subtlety knows no bounds. Had a few
drinks, have we?”

“Well, you know, open bar!” Carl answered. “Plus Brad’s got the guys
involved in some kind of drinking game where you have to take a shot every time
a chick with big … you-know-whats walks in.”

This caused an uncomfortable pause in the conversation that seemed to go
unnoticed by Carl, who tossed back the rest of his drink. Rox and I gave each
other do-you-believe-this-shit looks and Chuck clenched his jaw in irritation.

“Big feet?” Roxanne asked sarcastically. “You guys are a classy bunch. Speaking
of well-endowed women, I believe you’ve met Nicole Beets?”

Carl seemed to just then notice me and Chuck, although we’d been standing
right next to Roxanne the whole time. Chuck gave Carl a stern look as Carl
nodded his head at us.

“Nicole?” Carl asked. He wiped his gin-and-tonic hand on his pants and
offered it to me to shake. “No, I don’t believe we have met. Do you work for
the firm?”

He glanced down at my chest as we shook hands.

“I do,” I answered, not entirely surprised that Carl didn’t recognize me,
given that the last time I’d seen him I was wearing baggy gym clothes and no
makeup. “For Robin?”

“Oh, sure, sure,” he nodded. I knew he had no recollection of meeting me,
and I wasn’t about to remind him. Carl exchanged a polite handshake with Chuck
and them turned his attention back to Rox.

“Well, little lady!” he announced. “I think someone needs a drink!”

With that, he looped his arm into the crook of her elbow and dragged her
off toward the bar. She cast a pained look back toward us.

“That guy is a jackass,” Chuck declared.

“I know,” I said. “He was a little insulting to me the other day ...”

Chuck’s lips tightened. “If he ever gives you a hard time again, tell me.
I’ll kick his ass and enjoy every second of it.”

“Darling,” I answered. “That douchebag is the least of our worries. Come,
I think
you
need another drink.”

Dinner was almost ready to be served, but we still had about five minutes
to grab another glass of wine before we needed to sit down at our assigned
table. While in line at the bar, I heard a piercing laugh cut through the sound
of the crowd and music. Some drunken, cackling floozy was hanging off of Brad,
instigator of inappropriate drinking games and love-interest of my boss.
Telltale red sequins flashed off the woman’s dress. I should have known –
the floozy was none other than Robin, and from the looks of it, she and Brad
were getting along swimmingly. It appeared he’d opted not to bring his wife to
the event. From the way Robin was cozied up to him and the hungry way Brad was
staring at Robin’s red-painted mouth, those two were headed swiftly toward an
evening full of bad decisions.

Roxanne eventually escaped Carl’s clutches and met us at our table, where
we gawked at the strange display of Robin and Brad, who seemed to be groping
each other under a table not too far from our own. A few minutes passed before
Brad rose and left the room. Robin followed by what was probably supposed to be
a discreet moment later. Rox and I exchanged knowing looks, and she rolled her
eyes while sipping her vodka-cranberry drink through a straw.

BOOK: Bigger (The Nicky Beets series)
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