It was a relief as always when my evening shift was over and I could settle down to eat myself. Serving the hotel’s guests was trying at the best of times – they could be very rude – but standing over all that food when my stomach ached to be filled was a painful experience.
My appetite was bigger now than it had ever been in my life. I was voracious. I needed to consume massive amounts at mealtimes and between meals I craved snack after snack: items I had to secrete in my apron, in the pockets of my uniform’s skirt or on my cleaning trolley. And the snacks weren’t healthy – of course they weren’t; nothing was in this absurd venture of mine – they were greasy pastries or crisps of sweets, cake or chocolate. My obsession with Coca-Cola had been nascent in England. Now I couldn’t help myself. I always had a bottle on the go unless I was on the hard stuff. I couldn’t openly drink alcohol while I was working (though more than half of the other cleaners did it on the sly) but I did sometimes tuck a little bottle into one of the toilet rolls.
I carried two mounded up platefuls of food through to the break room and tucked in. I’d found it was far easier to have two plates initially to save time on having to go back through to fetch more. The hotel guests were only allowed smallish plates for their buffet to restrict how much they could get in one go. As a member of staff I had access to some of the larger plates in the kitchen. I had two of these fully stacked with meat and carbohydrates and generously topped off with a variety of succulent sauces.
The other cleaners were in there eating and Maxine beckoned me over. “Come sit with us Little Piggy.”
There were giggles all round but I went over anyway, blushing, feeling they were making fun of me but wanting to be included more than I cared about that. With my increasing weight and the transformative effect it had had on my self-image and confidence, I was getting used to feeling as though people looked down on me now.
“We’ll be playing poker after we’ve eaten,” said Maxine. She chuckled. “Though by the look of it, you might still be eating. You’ll have to join us when you’ve finished.”
The girls all laughed and my face coloured more deeply. I smiled politely.
“You know when you started here, I got the impression you were right stuck up,” she said. “Like you was better than us – or thought you were.”
I shook my head.
“Don’t panic Piggy.” She smirked. “I don’t think that now. Now I reckon you’ve accepted that you ain’t nothing special here. You’re one of us. I mean look at you.” She gestured. “You must be two stone heavier than when you arrived, at least! You ain’t in a position to think you’re better.”
“No,” I said, but my voice was tiny. I cleared my throat. “No,” I said again.
She was right. She was right about everything. It made me feel glad, that I was following Mellissa’s instructions well; that I wouldn’t let her down. It made me shiver with arousal at the capitulation to this crass woman; to accept that she was on my level or even better than me. In my old life she would have been beneath notice. It also made me feel scared and alone; to long for Melissa’s company. When I was with her then this was just a game we were playing; two friends on a crazy adventure. Here, treated like the fat woman I looked, it felt too real.
“Where are you from anyway?” asked Maxine. “What part of the UK?”
“Uh, Nockton,” I said. I thought about Melissa’s life; the recordings I was listening to. “Well... Barton,” I corrected. “I live there... with my husband Robert.”
It felt oddly nice to say that, though the idea of living in the squalor of Barton for real was dreadful and was never going to happen.
“What are you doing here?”
“Just a working holiday,” I said. “I, uh, wanted a change of scene for a while.”
“What do you do back in England?”
I’m a retired model planning a comeback.
“I’m just a cleaner there too,” I said. “I do various houses and a school as well. No different from here really.”
“You see girls,” said Maxine, turning to the other cleaners. “I told you she’s alright now that she’s stopped being snooty.”
I closed my eyes and smiled, relieved.
“Ere,” said Maxine, offering me an open pack of cigarettes. “Want one?”
I faltered. “Uh...”
I didn’t smoke. I had no desire to. Melissa didn’t smoke so it wasn’t even something I should aspire to to complete my disguise. But Maxine was offering and I had the feeling it was another test; to see whether I was really willing to play the game the same way they all played it.
I looked down at my food and vacillated further. “Maybe when I’ve finished eating,” I said.
Maxine smirked. “Sure thing Little Piggy. I’ll hold you to it.”