Lalia’s mum was a hairdresser. While I got along with Irene, I also took pleasure in how Lalia made her suffer. Irene was very focused on appearances. Not exactly superficial; she was a woman of substance, with an unused Masters in Public Health and a sound appreciation of how lucky she was—a rarity for a woman of her generation who’d been raised in relative affluence. The home she shared with Lalia was bought by her parents in the early 1980s. A gift to Irene, then 23, for graduating first of her class. Two storeys, twin garages, a large backyard with a pool that was dutifully tended by her boyfriend, Mark. Today, it must be worth three million, at least.
When I knew Irene, she was volunteering fortnightly at the local mission, serving soup to the homeless, or barbecuing – this she did with Mark – for the old eccentrics in elderly care. She was compassionate, and generous with her time. Except when it came to her daughter.
Lalia liked to eat. I mean, a lot. And I liked Lalia eating, too.
When we got together, Lalia was a slender XS. Pinup busty, but there wasn’t an ounce of fat on her taut, tiny waist. That changed quickly. Within months, she’d developed a cute little muffin top. I liked to grab it from behind. Before long, she had a pot belly to match. I liked grabbing that from behind even better.
Irene gave Lalia grief about her gain on a daily basis. She couldn’t stand that her daughter was becoming someone a passer-by might describe as pudgy. Her compassion, so abundant when it came to her local community, was short-supplied in the family home. At least when it came to keeping up appearances.
Lalia twigged pretty early to my admiration of her appetite. Often, a date would simply be her coming around to my flat with, say, four black forest cakes, which she’d quickly scoff as I watched. One time, awed by her seemingly infinite capacity, an exclamation escaped my lips. While I knew she loved to eat, I did not yet know that she found all mention of her eating, her weight, arousing. These dates had developed organically, with very little discussion about the phenomenon ever taking place between us. She noticed that I couldn’t keep my hands off her bulging midsection, and so would guide my hands there whenever we began making out, placing her slender hands over mine and encouraging me to grab deep handfuls of flesh. She noticed I would, as a rule, leave my meal unfinished, the remaining portion (fork already hovering over my plate: ‘Do you mind, babe?’) an invitation for her to overindulge, and soon was ordering twice as much as me, nonchalantly packing it all away before I could finish my own smaller serving, big eyes twinkling mischievously. Like this, food and fat entered our erotic life.
And as it turned out, nothing fired her appetite quite like having attention called to it.
On the night in question – the night of my stray exclamation – Lalia was midway through her third large pizza. By this point, she’d grown quite bold about all of this. So it was not at all unusual that the night found me sitting beside her on my couch, watching, thunderstruck, as she, in what I can only call a fit of ecstasy, jeans unbuttoned and tank top ridden up, was with one hand rubbing and shaking her hugely inflated belly, while the other crammed big, greasy slices into her mouth, one after another after another. She gasped desperately between mouthfuls, little high moans of pleasure issuing from her even as she chewed. I don’t know how she didn’t choke. ‘You outrageous glutton!,’ I marvelled, before even realising that I was going to speak.
Lalia snap-froze, a half-eaten slice hanging suspended in dead air before her. ‘What?’ she asked, eyeballing me. ‘Oh god,’ I stammered. What had I done? Had I broken the incredible, unspoken covenant we’d developed? ‘I’m – I’m so sorry. It just slipped out. And, uh… It wasn’t… Y’know… It was intended, um, appreciatively.’
She shoved the half-slice in her mouth. An instant later, she'd slapped my own hands either side of her belly. She felt tight and enormous. ‘I hope that little outburst hasn’t cleared you out, Shakespeare!’ she said, leaning forward to take a fresh slice in each hand. Then, glancing down at her belly, ‘That jello don’t jiggle itself, you know.’
After that night, Lalia began texting me Irene’s every sniping remark about her weight. I received as many as twenty of these texts every day. Breakfast – made flapjacks, big tall stack, stick of butter, cream, maple syrup. Heaven! Eating. Mom prods me beneath boob & says – you shud b ashamed of all that FAT look it’s pressing thru the slats of that creaking chair! Ur becoming a real hippo! Lol xx
Suffice it to say, Lalia loved it when Irene was at her about her weight. It just made her more determined to get huge, as she put it.
I want to tell you about one day in particular. We’d planned a beach trip with Irene and Mark. Mark had pulled the car out front; I was standing on the porch by the doorway, waiting to help the women out with their beach bags. Irene must have thought that I was out of earshot; she was really laying into Lalia in the kitchen. She never did this when Mark or I were around. She’d make digs (standing to clear the table, eyeballing Lalia’s stomach: ‘I’m sure none of us could manage another bite!’), but I’d never heard her give full vent to her upset and disgust. In fact, I’d started to suspect that Lalia’s texts were wild embellishments—if not outright fiction. Irene always seemed so big-hearted to me; I had to take her blatant shaming of Lalia on faith.
On this morning, Lalia, bulging and quivering in a one-piece swimsuit, had gone to the fridge for a piece of cake—a little pre-beach snack. As I double checked our beach bag (towels, sun lotion, wallets, shades…) I heard Irene hiss, ‘How do you think it makes him feel, to be seen with you, with that big gut bouncing around out in front of you, like a giant water balloon?’
Lalia fumed right by me, all the way to the car. As we buckled up, she shot me a look. Sore as she was, I could tell she was also turned on. It was going to be an afternoon to remember.
When we reached the beach, Lalia announced that she and I would be going for a walk. I had a hunch where we were headed. We arranged to meet Irene and Mark back at the car in an hour. As we made to leave, Irene pulled me aside to tell me to make sure her daughter got in the water. ‘For some exercise. Which I’m sure,’ she said, peering over her sunglasses to look at me meaningfully, ‘is in all of our best interests.’
It was a ten minute walk from the carpark to the fish and chip shop. Inside, Lalia ordered a family serve of chips and two large pieces of beer battered fish. ‘Better give me three of those luscious double-cheeseburgers too, buddy,’ she grinned, bugging her eyes at me as she handed her card to the cashier, a slim, sunkissed brunette who couldn’t hide her bemusement.
We found a table out front. I rubbed sun lotion on Lalia’s shoulders and shooed away seagulls as she ate. ‘Are you watching?’ she asked. When I nodded, she devoured the burgers in under a minute, taking them in six overstuffed mouthfuls. ‘What am I?’ she asked coyly. I smiled. ‘My gluttonous dollop.’ She giggled, and gave her swelling belly a playful slap. I’ve still never heard a more electrifying sound. Those elegant fingers. All that fat.
She had finished the lot in just a few minutes. ‘Garcon?’ she said in a cartoon French accent. ‘Something else for the walk back? Another burger, I think, and a gallon of vanilla shake.’ She winked at me. ‘I can’t afford to let a single calorie get burnt up.’
Lalia made short work of both on the walk back to the car. There was a wind up; we laughed when a sharp gust snatched the paper shake cup from her hand as she drew a final gulp. We went down to the water. She splashed about a little, wetting her long red hair so as to create the impression that she’d been swimming, a ruse carried out entirely for Irene’s benefit. She wrapped her big pink towel around herself, tying it beneath her bust so it covered her down to her shins. It hung loose, way out before them. I pulled a coat from our beach bag. She put it on, then clutched the bag over her swollen belly. Between the bag, the towel and the coat, you couldn’t really tell she was stuffed near to bursting. Not unless you noticed the unusual distance the towel hung out in front of her shins.
Back in the car, with Irene and Mark chatting in the front seats, I stealthily helped Lalia reach the belt around the globe of her belly to fasten the buckle. When she really sucked it in, it just fit.
What I haven’t told you is that the beach visit had been planned as the prelude to a BBQ lunch. When we arrived back at the house, Mark manned the grill while Irene slipped straight into the pool. ‘Come in, you two,’ Irene cajoled, lazily waving a glass of champagne around her. Leaning in the kitchen doorway, Lalia shook her head. ‘Any more time in the water and I’ll turn into a prune.’ When Irene plunged beneath the surface, I awkwardly and at speed helped Lalia lower herself into a seat at the table; the haul at the beach had made her heavy and clumsy. I draped a towel over her lap and across the arms of the chair. Sinking considerably into its canvas seat, the trick concealed her overfilled belly surprisingly well.
Upon arriving home, Lalia, with my help, had changed out of her one-piece and into a pair of board shorts that had looked oversize—that is, until I helped her hitch them up beneath her wobbling belly. She couldn’t hope to fasten them. But, it turned out not to matter: she was so full they held firmly in place. She also changed into a big, stretchy black top that usually fit well, but since she had gotten so big at the beach, it clung only halfway over her belly, digging into the flesh. After only a minute, the flesh around the hem was an irritated pink. She looked at herself in the mirror, turning in profile to admire the fullness of her stomach. She squeezed it between both long-fingered hands and gave it a jiggle. ‘A sunhat would complete the chicness of this picture,’ she said, and I fetched a wide-rimmed number made of black felt from her cupboard. Standing behind her, I placed it on her head. Silently, she took my hands and moved them onto her belly. She gave it a big shake, and a thrill of pleasure shocked between us. ‘What am I?’ she asked, peering up at me. ‘A glorious gorger,’ I said. She pulled me down for a kiss. Then, pointing at her big pink towel, rumpled nearby, she raised her arms above her head. ‘Help?’ I retied the towel around her.
There was no disguising her size.
‘I have an idea,’ I said, and retrieved the other towel from the beach bag.
I took her hand, and slowly, we headed outside.
Irene swam; Mark BBQ’d; Lalia and I drank champagne. Lalia polished off a bottle by herself in a couple of minutes, then we shared a second. She was tipsy.
Before long, Mark came over with the meat. There were salads in the kitchen. Climbing out of the pool, Irene, tight and compact in her sleek black bikini, called out for Lalia to get them. Of course, I went instead. The champagne was clearly affecting Irene too. ‘You lazy blob,’ she spat at her daughter. I diplomatically whistled to myself, and pretended not to hear.
There was a garden salad, a pasta salad, and a potato salad, all preprepared in big frosted pink plastic bowls. Mark had made burgers and sausages and onion on the grill. I fetched a loaf of white bread, too.
‘Bon appétit!’ said Mark. Lalia waited until the three of us had served ourselves before commencing her performance. She was magnificent. Making casual chit-chat with Mark and I, she served herself three burger patties, four sausages, a pile of onion, six slices of white bread, and big heaps of pasta and potato salad. ‘Just goes to show those jerks who said a woman could never carry a superhero movie!’ she said. ‘What do you think, hon,’ she asked me, and pulled her face into a sassy pout, ‘think I could fill out Diana’s bodice for the sequel?’
The happy smalltalk continued as we ate. But Irene barely managed a word. Nor did she eat more than a few halfhearted mouthfuls. She was fixated on Lalia’s plate. There was still food on it when, a few short minutes later, her daughter was already helping herself to thirds.
‘Oof,’ exclaimed Lalia. A belch followed. ‘Oops! Excuse me!’ Her breathing had quickened; she was fuller than I’d known her to be ever before. Irene downed a glass of champagne, then quickly, another. Lalia smiled at Mark. ‘This is all so good, I need to make room for more...’
Irene slammed her glass on the table, shattering the stem. The ensuing silence rung out like a whipcrack. Then: ‘Do you really think that’s necessary?’
‘Now, honey—’ Mark started. Irene shook a palm in his face. ‘Am I the only one who’s noticed that the only thing she hasn’t pigged out on is the garden salad?!’
Lalia ignored her; she was busy loosening the big towel she was wrapped in. Then, beneath it, her hands tugged at something. She shifted awkwardly, heavily in place, grunting and muttering under her breath as she struggled. Finally, she heaved a great theatrical sigh of relief as, down her long slender legs, her board shorts dropped, puddling about her feet.
Irene looked as if someone had blown their nose into one of the salads, right in front of her. Sensing tension, Mark, ever conflict-avoidant, quickly rose and began clearing the plates—except Lalia’s. She waved him away—then served herself twin final mounds of potato and pasta salad, along with a couple more sausages.
Irene snatched my glass and swilled another champagne. A moment later, with a clean plate before her, Lalia poured herself a fresh glass too. She raised it to Irene. ‘To good health, Mom.’
She drained her glass in a single gulp. ‘God,’ Lalia huffed. ‘I’m exhausted. I have to go and lay down.’ She turned, and reached out to trail a hand across the nape of my neck. ‘Help me up, darling?’
I stood, and helped Lalia move her chair back from the table. She needed room to get up. Placing a steadying palm on her back, I took her left hand in the other, and, not without genuine effort, heaved her to her feet.
In this moment, the towels that had been covering her dropped to the ground.
Irene let out gasp of shock so loud and sharp it was almost a yelp.
I couldn’t blame her. Lalia’s already huge stomach was now blown out bigger than I’d ever expected it could be. I gasped too, but unlike Irene, it was out of excitement. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The top, which hadn’t fit to begin with, had ridden right up to barely cover her bust. Now her exposed gut just hung there before her mother’s face, a vast pale moon.
Lalia pressed a hand against the small of her back and leant back a little, like a pregnant woman who feared the great weight of her stomach might topple her forward. Anyone looking at a picture of the scene might have presumed she was overdue, and carrying quintuplets. Her soft underbelly jiggled right at Irene’s eye level as, with my help, she swung slowly around, the Titanic changing its bearings, to head back into the house.
We passed through the kitchen, taking small, deliberate steps; Lalia walked like someone balancing something precious on her head.
As a goggle-eyed Mark made busy with the plates, Lalia moved our overlapping hands onto the side of her belly and gave it a playful shake. Biting her lower lip, big eyes beaming, she leaned over and whispered into my ear, ‘What am I?’
My reply? ‘The greediest girl in the world.’