Empathy gain

chapter 1

(There is more on the way. Should be a new chap or two each day. And no, I'm serious, it's not another empty claim where I promise more but never deliver lol.)


...Melissa Van Meyer, on a Monday morning, stands in front of the mirror hung on the wall in the small gap between her two extensive bookshelves. She is alone, looking at her reflection, wondering what has happened, and what to do now. Earlier today she'd had an awful realization, and now the time had come to face it in full.

Cringing, she lifts her shirt and examines her body. Recently, it seems, she's become overfed. 'How much is this?' she breathes. 'How much have I put on?' She sees how her hips have become swollen, and when she turns to the side she looks three months pregnant, the curve collecting at the bottom like a teardrop.
But what else could this be? Perhaps she is just bloating, she wonders.

She turns forward again, the step making her belly jump and bounce. 'Yuck. It moves,' she says to herself. So it really is fat, she thinks. Pure, squishy lard.

Staring at her paunch, she sees how it's like jello, how it jiggles when she handles it. Turning to the other side, she sucks in as hard as she can and her stomach vanishes. But nevertheless, a stubborn hint of fat clings to her lower abdomen. Curious, she pushes out instead, but all she ends up doing is looking ten weeks pregnant.
In the bathroom she weighs herself with a fluttering heart. When she steps up onto the scale and looks down, she sees something she's never seen before; the surface of her waist. The scale's needle oscillates, then comes to rest at 145 pounds, or 147 - she can't tell, no matter how she stands, the needle wavers. Here 143, now 148, now 144. Edging into denial for a second time, she lies to herself outright, checks herself, then concedes: 142 pounds. One less pound could save her from despair.

Melissa shakes her head at herself. How did this happen?

But she knows *exactly* how this had happened, and she knows that she knows. Sighing, she stops lying to herself. She admits it; she's been awfully lazy.

Melissa had enrolled into her university's creative writing program a year after graduating from high school. In her first week, she'd friendlessly wandered through campus, preparing herself for this and that before the term would begin. On the second day, her picture was taken for her student card; she, this Dutch beauty, with a sharp grin and stunning facial structure, looking into the camera with eyes that an ex-lover had once called "smug but still pretty". Another had said her chestnut hair looked best thrown over one shoulder, so the asymmetry of her hair warred against the symmetry of her face. She threw it over like for her photo, wanting to look special for probably the only chance at a good ID picture she'd get.

She collected the card from the services desk the following week and nodded to herself, happier with her photo than she expected to be, and more satisfied than most people ever are.
By the fourth week the assignments were already piling in, and she had to find a good spot to study. She tried the main library. But it was too quiet, too sterile, and she felt guilty for sneezing, sometimes even breathing. She tried the lawns, but the grass made her itch.

The central area of the university is a thriving workplace surrounded by indoor stalls; an espresso bar, burger joint and other general stores which you could buy most things from. It was the life of the place, thronging through the entire day, and she found she wrote best encompassed in it. The vibe and energy of everything happening at once infected her into action. This was best.

By the fifth week, it was time to really get writing on her projects. The aim was to pump out a novella in the span of three months, and this is what she did. Everyday after lessons ended, she found herself a spot, opened her laptop and typed for hours. Slowly her imagination leaked from her mind, through her fingers, to words on a screen, words then erased and written again, and then again. When she needed a break to think or meditate on how to go about something, she'd only need to walk ten meters in either direction and there would be something to eat.

And now, as she stands in front of the mirror, she looks at what happened to that food. She shakes her head and wonders, for one, how she hadn't noticed, and when the hell did it start?

When writing and eating, all at once, writing would take up all corners of her inner world, and so her eating turned to accidental ravenous devouring. The movement of hand to mouth was automatic, at times making her forget she'd bought the same thing three times in one day - but she never noticed.

At the same time, the fast progress she'd been making with her story had began to falter, then died out as abrupt as a flat flame one morning when she realized she had no idea what one of the main characters was feeling. Initially she began brainstorming to get the ball going again, but something would not budge, and this aggravated her. She sat in discontent, stuck like something dead would not let go of her heel, and her mind tried to go forward. But peer as she might into the nether of the untold story, she could not draw forth the string of words to tell it. She sat and brooded, for days on end. She brooded and brooded on the bus and at home. At uni, sitting among the food, she brooded as she ate. And still, she never noticed.

Melissa knew she was spending too much on food at this point. She remembers looking at her bank figures every week, seeing her funds swallowed down like gigantic funnels of food, but never did she remember thinking, even just once, that 'this is bad'. Strange ... she would have stopped to think with anything else.
Then out of nowhere, the consequences had shown up, and with it her attention. For a little while, anyway...

One afternoon as she sat down in the uni, and taking her hoodie off, felt an itch on her stomach under her crop top. As soon as she scratched the itch, something felt off. Her skin was too soft.
Initially she panicked at herself and resented her obliviousness, putting the hoodie straight back on to conceal herself. How the hell could she have not known? Well, she supposed that was human nature anyway; know that the bad looms near, ignore the bad, suffer the bad, and then complain when the bad erupts. Her eating had been in mass quantity and entirely automatic. And then she'd started to swell. And, well, this was it then, isn't it? she thought. Then she made the mistake of wondering, just for a tiny moment, what it would be like to just ignore it. Would it all go away? And then something amazing happened.
A sly sprite of willpower went rogue, spurring itself into life on a brief breath of her fancy, then spun her mind in another direction and sets it down that new, dark path.

So the rest of that day, when she'd first noticed, she went about like nothing was new. Her conscience lagged behind her over-forced forward strides, begging her not to deny. But the cry was too pathetic and weak to turn any head, or prick any ear. Through some wondrous feat of self-contradiction, she forced her size 8 jeans up her thighs and clamped down the button whilst managing not to see herself for how she really was. The horizontal black stripes of her shirt make obvious the shape of her waist, the denim jacket framing her paunch, and yet she could still have managed to give you an awful, incredulous glare, had you dared to ask what "that shape" was.

That day went on by seconds, and minutes, and hours, and so too did her new skill develop. In a few days after, she had gotten so good at the mental gymnastics needed for denial that her mind had taken on a sort of reversed-anorexia-perception disorder. Even through those brief moments she caught sight of herself in the most unflattering ways, she seemed to herself "standard", and she'd say that to you face to face. But no one had, yet. The shape of her waist was altered, rounder, further forward in a way. But there are thresholds of shape - stages of size and reaction. For now, she sat just below the first. No one told her.

There's a chance it could have been fine, had she stopped. She didn't.

Now she stands on top of the scale in the bathroom in the space between the bathtub and the sink, alone, and wondering what what to do with the numbers 142, 143, 145, and 146 playing around with each across on the dial. She sighs, deflated.
When she steps off the scale, with one foot then the other, she feels her soft stomach jump; one bounce, another bounce.

'There goes my waistline,' she muses to herself, pressing fingers into her swollen hips. So this is it. She's gained weight.

She stands in front of the mirror, leans over the sink and looks herself in the eyes. Aloud, as if intoning a vow, she says to herself the words of admittance: her change of state, her shame, and that she has to change it.

Her hour of shock and guilt seems to last all morning. But so do all our moments of confession. It is still misty outside by the time she leaves the house.
27 chapters, created StoryListingCard.php 7 years , updated 2 years
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Letters And ... 1 year
What a great conceit for a story! Terrific writing
FatAdvocateFA 1 year
Thank you smiley
Karenjenk 4 years
I think i read this befor and dont know why i dindt leave feed back... i love this.. i wish it could go on and on. i like how you didnt rely too much on number for size and weight reference
FatAdvocateFA 4 years
Thanks for the comment Aquarius64

Didn't notice that. Honestly i'm surprised this story is still being read.
Aquarius64 4 years
VERY well written!
However, I have a few points to make:
1. Somewhere around ch 5 you have several references to the time of day. Unfortunately, you may have got am and pm mixed up as you have Melissa sleeping in and heading off to uni at ten o’clock
FatAdvocateFA 7 years
It'll be the last chapter. I'm finally letting this horse die in peace.
Jazzman 7 years
Chapter 21 is amazing.
Supercode 7 years
Great story so far! I hope Melissa eventually realizes she likes being fat and stops fighting the battle of the bulge, though.
Curiousv 7 years
.. and hating getting fat, converts faster than St. Paul, and becomes a never-doubting, never-fearing mindless eating machine.
Curiousv 7 years
I'm trying to do the same with my story, but yours captures the feelings and internal struggles of the protagonist much better. And I also value that she has a character arc, because almost every other girl in wg fiction who starts off thin and hating get
FatAdvocateFA 7 years
Interesting reaction, jcantrell25263. I wanted to write something more psychological, but I was worried how it would go down. Would it be too touchy? Very glad to know there's someone who likes it.
FatAdvocateFA 7 years
Aww hey, thanks curiousv. That comment means a lot to me smiley
Curiousv 7 years
A welcoming refreshment of a story, with a unique style, one of the few stories here which can really be called literature.
SpecterFA 7 years
This is amazing so far! Thank you :]