Authors: W. Soliman
Tags: #reunion, #contemporary fiction romantic fiction weight loss overweight
An Imprint of
Downsizing, Copyright © W. Soliman,
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For every woman who’s ever agonized
over her body shape — Maxine’s story is for you.
The duel roadway that ringed Colebrook hadn’t
existed the last time Maxine was home. The industrial complex that
peppered its perimeter spared no consideration for architectural
coercion, decimating a once tranquil area of countryside with its
intrusive presence. Progress had a lot to answer for.
Maxine eased her foot off the gas as she
approached the center of town, conscious of her heart thumping
against her ribcage and her stomach performing Olympic-standard
somersaults. She took several deep, calming breaths, suppressing
the manic urge to make an illegal U-turn and head back to the
anonymity of London. A latent masochistic tendency, coupled with
the trifling fact that she was currently without gainful
employment, had persuaded her to come home. Now that she was here,
she was determined to see this thing through, even if the sight of
the increasingly familiar streets was already testing that
She drove around the village green, amazed
that everything looked so normal. People went about their daily
business, blissfully unaware of Maxine’s turmoil. Only when she
noticed one or two of them casting admiring glances at her sports
car did she pull herself together and increase her speed. She was
anxious that news of her return shouldn’t break prematurely. Not
that anyone was likely to recognize her. She had nothing in common
with the ungainly creature who’d fled Colebrook in a blaze of agony
ten years ago, vowing never to return.
Her mother was abroad on her latest one-woman
mission to save the planet, providing Maxine with a legitimate
reason to delay telling her that she’d resigned from a lucrative
career for reasons her mother would struggle to understand. Instead
she steeled herself to face a past that had crippled her
emotionally for too long. The mere thought of seeing Noah again
brought on a nervous headache, but she ignored it, resisting the
almost seductive desire to run away, knowing from bitter experience
that hiding wasn’t the answer. She pulled into the driveway of her
mother’s house and stared blankly at flower borders bursting with
color as the memories threatened to overwhelm. Noah had been her
close friend, her confidant, the one person who’d truly understood
what made her tick and had given her the confidence to believe in
herself. He’d seen through her unattractive exterior to the complex
person lurking beneath all those layers of extraneous flesh. He’d
told her about his ambitious plans for the future, hinting that
there would be a place for her in his life after she graduated from
university. Seduced by his unshakable faith in her, she’d
temporarily forgotten the bitter lesson that life had already
Fat girls aren’t supposed to have
Maxine pulled her car into the garage and let
herself into the house. Pausing only to open the French doors in
the lounge, she headed for her old room and threw her bags onto the
sagging bed. The air was musty, and she battled with the warped
window until she managed to force it open. Leaning out of it, she
breathed in the heady scent of roses running riot round its frame.
Just for a moment she felt at peace.
Then the silence in the small house closed in
on her, and she was conscious of memories waiting to ambush her
everywhere she turned. Scrabbling for a distraction, she reached
into the wardrobe, pulled out one of the tent dresses she’d worn as
a teenager, and shuddered. It would go round her twice now. Feeling
more optimistic about her reasons for being here, she vowed that
somehow she would get through this ordeal with her dignity intact.
She unpacked the few clothes she’d brought with her, wondering what
Was there a dress code for confronting the two
people who’d so callously broken her heart?
A heart that proved tenacious in its
determination not to repair itself.
Twelve Years Ago
Noah listened with half an ear as Joey
prattled on about the evening to come. He wouldn’t normally give up
precious time when he could be working just to attend a stupid
party, but Joey was his best mate, it was his eighteenth birthday,
and his girlfriend’s family was pulling out all the stops. Even so,
he resented having to attend the bloody event, and knew it would be
a massive waste of time.
Joey, busy talking with his hands, took a
corner too fast and almost lost control of their dilapidated van.
The tires squealed, and the engine made an ominous knocking sound,
backfiring in protest when Joey crunched through the gears in a
clumsy attempt to rectify his mistake.
Steady, mate,” Noah said,
wincing. “We can’t afford new tires for this death
Sorry, but I promised Rachel we’d
be there before now.”
Seems to me that she’s got you
well and truly where she wants you,” Noah chuckled. “What’s she got
you for your birthday anyway?”
Joey shrugged, concentrating on the road as he
overtook an ancient Volvo being driven by an old man doggedly
hugging the middle of the road. “Dunno do I. It’s supposed to be a
They pulled into Rachel’s parents’ driveway,
and the two of them sauntered across the front lawn. Noah kicked at
a loose stone, trying to appear interested as he listened to Joey
enthusing about the trouble Rachel’s folks had gone to on his
Probably got you down as
son-in-law material,” Noah cautioned.
But this is great. Just look.”
Joey waved an arm to encompass the rear garden. A tent had been
erected and fairy lights were strung across trees. Loud music
already shook the speakers inside the tent, which was rapidly
filling with scantily-clad bodies. “We never had anything like this
when we were growing up.”
Noah merely grunted, refusing to be
As soon as they entered the tent they were
surrounded by a gaggle of females. Noah gave them an absent once
over, not especially impressed by anything he saw. Then Rachel
materialized, closely followed by her inner circle, and made a
beeline for Joey. She threw herself into his arms and whispered
something in his ear. Noah was amused to see Joey’s animated
expression give way to a deep blush. They drifted away, hand in
hand, oblivious to the people crowding round to wish Joey a happy
birthday. Noah suppressed a grin. Unless he was much mistaken, Joey
was about to receive a very special birthday present.
Noah continued to gaze around the tent with
ill-disguised boredom. Then his gaze fell upon Maxine, and his mood
Hello, Max.” He pushed past his
bevy of admirers and kissed her on the cheek. She blushed scarlet,
which amused him, but that amusement was replaced by a surge of
anger when the people around him didn’t bother to hide their
astonishment. Max might be a bit overweight, but she was also
clever, easy to talk to, and ten times the person any of this lot
would ever be.
Hello, Noah,” she said, still
blushing. “You know Cassie and Sally, don’t you?”
Noah nodded at the two girls hovering around
her, totally disinterested in them. Cassie Fenwick wasn’t deterred.
She stepped forward, a predatory gleam in her eye.
Hello, Noah,” she said. “I didn’t
think you’d be here so early.”
Didn’t you?” He didn’t give a
toss what she thought, and was tempted to smile when a look of
absolute confusion passed across her face.
I haven’t seen you for a few
days, Max,” he said, turning back to her. “Have you been all
Oh yes, fine thanks. Just busy
He rolled his eyes. “Tell me about
I like your jacket, Noah.” Cassie
fingered the sleeve of his prized leather jacket. He moved his arm,
shaking her hand off.
Your hair looks nice,
Thanks to me, you mean.” There
was a note of desperation in Cassie’s voice. “I did Max’s hair for
Well, whatever you did can’t have
made much difference. Max’s hair always looks good.” Noah winked at
her. “It don’t need no messing with.”
The music slowed, and Noah asked Maxine to
dance. Cassie threw her a look of deep betrayal and stomped off.
Half the eyes in the tent were trained upon them with incredulity
as Noah took Maxine in his arms, but Noah didn’t give a toss about
that and concentrated upon making Max feel better about herself. He
gave her a reassuring squeeze as they swayed on the spot, and felt
her gradually relax.
You dance well, Max. You’re
really light on your feet.”
For a fat lump, you
You ain’t fat, darling. Don’t put
Noah, I weigh nearly thirteen
You just need to get a bit of
exercise and you’ll look great.”
Please don’t patronize me.” Tears
trickled from behind her glasses and slid down her face.
Christ, is that what you think
I’m doing?” He tugged at her hand. “Come on, let’s get out of here.
I feel like a goldfish in a bowl with all these people gawking at
Noah dragged her out of the tent and didn’t
let go of her hand until they’d reached the bottom of the garden.
He steered her toward a bench and sat down beside her.