I helped serve the evening meal and then, when it was time, I helped myself to the overlarge portions I liked and went through to the staff room.
Maxine was in there with her gaggle of cronies but when I went over to sit with them she crowed, “Look who it is! It’s Big Piggy! The only woman I know who seems to want to get fatter!”
The women with her burst out laughing; all of them. They weren’t the only ones. Maxine’s outburst had been loud enough to attract the attention of the other hotel staff taking a break. There were smirks and chuckles from all round. My cheeks blossomed red and I faltered, unsure whether to proceed.
“She’s so obese now, I bet the bench will collapse if she sits down,” sneered Maxine. “Watch out. Dive for cover if she comes this way.”
They all laughed again and though I took another step closer, I didn’t join them.
There had been a time when her manner had suggested a certain amount of camaraderie and inclusion but that seemed absent now. Her derision was open and overtly hostile. It was juvenile but that didn’t stop it happening.
I continued to waver, unsure whether to go on and sit with them as I had been doing. It seemed clear that the gloves were off again now, as they had been when we first met, and no doubt I would continue to be targeted throughout my meal.
Still that didn’t deter me. It was part of my dark fantasy after all. This was what I wanted. I wanted to be ostracised; made to feel ugly and unclean. It was part of the dream I was living.
Except this didn’t feel like a dream. It felt like I was wide awake and that this was really happening to me. This wasn’t a fantasy. It wasn’t happening to somebody else. I wasn’t safe from it as I normally would be when I started to fantasise. She wasn’t making fun of a character I’d invented. She was making fun of me. Me; Melissa Chapman; and for good reason. I was enormously obese. I was an quite justly an object of ridicule. I considered sitting down and letting her continue to deride me; to live out the continuation of my fantasy; but the greater part of me wasn’t Dahlia Western anymore: a rich eccentric playing with masochistic fantasies of supplication. The greater part of me now really was just a bulging fat woman with thick specs with no real friends, low self-esteem and an addiction to overeating, cigarettes and alcohol. That part of me didn’t want to be made fun of because that part of me was real. She was the person they were really taking the piss out of and she didn’t like it because it made her feel just as pathetic as she knew deep down that she was.
So instead I turned and took a seat away from them near the wall.
“Ooo, she’s scared off us now,” laughed Maxine. “I’m not surprised. Look at her. She’s an abomination. If I was that fat I’d be too ashamed to leave my room.”
Again there were giggles all round and I slumped down into my chair, head hung, shovelling the food in. At least that made me feel better, but though I ears burned and my cheeks sizzled, I didn’t feel turned on by any of this. I just felt wretched and persecuted. I wished, for a change actually, that I had the confidence to stand up to her. But the very idea of that filled me with panic. I knew I would fumble my words and that she wouldn’t She would rip me apart, pointing out all my faults and in the end I would only be able to stand and take it; pr else I would flee in tears with them laughing at my enormous rear waddling away.
I did nothing of the sort. I sat there and took it. I went on eating. And eating. And eating. I went back for seconds and thirds, even though that gave Maxine fresh ammunition to use against me and a reminder, on seeing me re-enter the room, to have at me again.
By the end of the meal I felt awful; not just for being made to feel as fat and plain as I was; but because I realised now just how lonely it could feel to really be someone like this. And I really was this person. This was really happening. I couldn’t pretend it wasn’t. I could go and tell Melissa I wanted to swap back but there would be no instantaneous transformation. I really was a morbidly obese woman. I would maybe never get back to how I was. I deserved all the derision I got.
When I finished eating I got up. Maxine and the other cleaners were playing cards.
“You off for your fourth helping Big Piggy?” called Maxine as I reached the door. “Or are you just planning to go and drink yourself to death?”
I stopped in the doorway, feeling despondent, then went out without even having the strength to look at her.
Outside, the corridor was empty but I went to the door into the courtyard on the off chance that the cook, Vasilis, might be there.
He was, smoking one of his long, thin cigarettes, looking as wan and unwell as ever he did. When he saw me shamble into the doorway he groaned. “What do you want?”
I shrank a little further inside myself. “I just... I wondered if you were out here. I...”
I don’t know what I’d been planning to say. I knew how he felt about spending time with me outside of the bed.
“I was lonely,” I said, my voice sounding timid and mouselike in my ears.
He looked at me with a slight sneer on his face for the better part of a minute, pained if anything that he was having to put up with this shit.
I knew what the answer was. I felt bad that I was putting him in this uncomfortable position. A former model and I was guilty that this ugly, nasty little man was having to waste his time on a heifer like me when he’d already told me he was embarrassed being seen with me.
“Do you... uh... Do you want to maybe have... have sex later on I said. I could come up and...”
I trailed off. His expression had taken on an even greater cast of revulsion and disapproval. I cringed even more inside, my spirit curling up in the centre of my chest. Tears rimmed the lower edge of my eyes. I faint gurgle came unbidden from my throat. Vasilis flinched as though he’d sensed I might cry and hated the very idea of it. But I was desperate to please him; to have some kind of affection and validation in this awful situation.
“If you... If you want... I could do that thing that you like,” I said. “With my mouth. That thing that you really like.”
The sneer on his face became less subtle and more overt. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I’m busy.”
“Well maybe tomorrow,” I said quickly. Or later tonight. Whenever you want.”
He shook his head. “I’m not really interested. I’ve got better things to do with my time.”
“I don’t want to fuck you. Do you get that?”
I gaped at him, stepping back, the tears forming properly now in my eyes.
“You’re too fat and too ugly,” he snapped. “You disgust me! I’m embarrassed that I ever slept with you. Get lost.”
“But I just wanted to say—”
He turned his back on me but I went on standing there, staring.
I thought about the laughter in the dining room and then I thought about Melissa’s offer, not to escape from this life as I had planned, but to embrace it indefinitely; actually ruin what was left of my face and become this fat loser derided by all on an ongoing basis.; maybe even forever.
It was so clear to me in this moment what I had to do. So clear. There was only one option that I could possibly choose. That was blindingly obvious to me.
I backed out of the courtyard and the swinging door shut in my face.
I stood there for a long time, unable to combat the inertia holding me in place.
Eventually the door opened and Vasilis stepped into the doorway. He saw me there and curled his lip. I stepped back in shame and surprise.
“What are you hanging around for?” he said. “I told you it’s over. I don’t want to see you. I don’t want to talk to you. I definitely don’t want to fuck you. Get out of here you fat cow.”
He pushed past me and marched irritably off down the corridor. I didn’t watch him go. I felt nothing but shame and self-hate.
After a while I walked silently up to my room and shut myself in. I went to the drawer top where I had left my whisky bottle and I half filled the class I’d left there, unwashed, that morning.
I took a sip, then I took another. Then I gulped down the rest and winced as it hit my stomach.