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Acid Lunch

“Over there, sweetie. There’s a booth by the wall,” Elizabeth said as she floated across the empty restaurant.

“Wait. Why don’t we take one of these tables?”

“Oh, you don’t want to sit here, right out where everybody can see you. C’mon.”

Kellie followed reluctantly. She didn’t particularly care for this restaurant to begin with, but the booths were the worst of their kind, designed for anorexic models. Even normally built people were uncomfortable in them; extra large people like herself had to squeeze themselves into the narrow space. She stopped beside the booth and tried again.

“There’s nobody else here, Elizabeth. Let’s sit at a table.”

“Just sit down so we can order, Kel.”

“Kel-lie,” she corrected automatically, but aware of the waiter hovering at her shoulder, she blew out her breath and forced her torso between the table and the back of the bench.

“We’ll have salads,” Elizabeth ordered breezily.

“I don’t want a salad,” Kellie interrupted. “I want …” she scanned the menu. Cheeseburger and fries, she thought hungrily. Club sandwich and potato salad.

“The cottage cheese and fruit plate would be good for you,” suggested Elizabeth.

“I don’t like cottage cheese,” Kellie countered. This wasn’t actually true, but restaurant cottage cheese never measured up to her standards.

“Well, there’s vegetable soup …”

“No, I’ll have the turkey sandwich. Easy on the mayo, sourdough bread, toasted.” Yeah, that sounds good. And reasonably healthful. “And some of your seasoned potato wedges. Ranch dressing instead of sour cream. On the side.”

“Well, in that case,” Elizabeth declared, “I believe I’ll splurge, too. Cheeseburger with French fries. No, no, double cheeseburger. With bacon.”

Lovely, Kellie thought resentfully. Now I have to sit and smell what I really want. Her stomach began to seethe.

“And to drink?” asked the waiter.

“Iced tea for both,” Elizabeth ordered. Kellie would have preferred root beer, but knew Elizabeth would only scold.

As the waiter left, Elizabeth reached out to pat Kellie’s hand. “You know, sweetie, you really shouldn’t eat the bread. And ranch dressing isn’t much better than sour cream.”

“Thanks, Liz,” Kellie said dryly.

“Oh, don’t call me ‘Liz’, sweetie.” Their tea arrived and Elizabeth swept the sugar bowl over to her side of the table. She picked out a couple of pink packets out of the bowl and offered them to Kellie. “How much sweetener do you want?”

“None. I like my tea as it is,” Kellie lied.

“Okay.” Elizabeth dropped the pink packets back into the bowl, scooped out a dozen sugar packets, tore them open, and dumped them into her tea.

Kellie sipped at her bitter, bland tea and stared at the table. “Was there a particular reason you asked me to have lunch today? You sounded … urgent.”

“Oh, don’t worry, Kel. I’m fine. It’s just been awhile since we had lunch. And I thought, since it’s your day off, we should get together, have lunch, see a movie. I know you don’t have many friends, so I hate to neglect you.”

“Um, all right. But while I’m downtown, there’s some shopping I need to do.”

“Oh?”

“There’s this store near here that’s got some great lingerie for big women …”

“Oh no!” Elizabeth spluttered. “You can get your white undies anywhere, Kel.”

“Well, they’re not just white …”

“I think we should go see that new movie they’re showing at the cineplex.”

“But that’s clear across …”

“It’s a wonderful little romance with … let’s see, who is it? Oh, lunch!” Elizabeth grabbed for the ketchup even as the waiter set their plates down. She shook it vigorously and upended it over Kellie’s plate, leaving a huge blob on the potato wedges.

“Elizabeth! I don’t like …”

“Ketchup has almost no calories, sweetie.” Elizabeth snagged Kellie’s little bowl of ranch dressing and dunked the edge of her burger before taking a huge bite. “Umm nnrrr rrrh mmm,” she mumbled around her mouthful.

Kellie gingerly picked up a ketchuped potato wedge and scraped at the mess while trying to get the waiter’s attention. She finally gave up and nibbled at her sandwich, though the spicy-tomato smell on her plate was ruining her appetite.

Elizabeth paused between bites and said, “You’d better hurry up, Kel. The movie starts pretty soon,” then dove right back into her burger.

Kellie swallowed her bite of tasteless sandwich. “Any time,” she said, not caring if she finished her meal.

“Good,” Elizabeth said, then burped. She tittered, covering her mouth as the waiter laid their ticket on the edge of the table. She took a big gulp of her iced tea, made a face and added more sugar, then sat alternately stirring it vigorously and tapping her long nails on the side of the glass.

“You know, sweetie,” she said, “you shouldn’t wear those big clunky necklaces and earrings. They just draw attention to your face.”

And you, Kellie thought uncharitably, shouldn’t wear so much makeup. It draws attention to your sluttiness. She took another bite of her sandwich and shoved the rest of her meal away. Her stomach was too turbulent to accept any more food.

“Done, sweetie?” Elizabeth asked and took another big gulp of iced tea. “Whoop!” she exclaimed as she slid out of the booth, “I gotta go pee! Would you get that, Kel, while I’m gone?” She flicked the ticket toward Kellie as she sped back to the restroom.

“But you invited me …” Kellie found herself protesting to thin air. She sighed and wriggled her way out of the booth under the watchful eye of the waiter. She laid her credit card and the ticket down on the counter by the door. She could feel the heartburn building.

“I’ll get us a cab to the movie theater,” Elizabeth called as she sailed by.

“But I want …” Kellie tried to say to the closing door. She sighed, accepted the charge slip and her card from the waiter, and followed her nemesis out the door and into the taxi..

Elizabeth continued to give her advice all the way to the theater. “You shouldn’t wear bright colors, sweetie. You don’t want to draw attention to herself. Do you ever exercise? We could go walking together. I know! I’ll stop by tomorrow on your lunch break and we can walk around the mall. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?”

It sounds … Kellie broke off the uncharitable thought as they reached the cineplex. She immediately spotted the movie Elizabeth wanted to see: it was the only romance in a collection of adventure, sci-fi, and shoot-em-up movies.

“Elizabeth, I’ve read the reviews for this movie. They’re terrible — the plot’s insipid, the dialog’s trite, the acting’s wooden! I don’t want to see this.”

“Oh, but, sweetie, it’s a romance. Maybe you’ll pick up some tips on getting a man.”

Yeah, right. Maybe if I was a gorgeous young starlet looking for a fat and stupid man. How come they never pair a fat but intelligent woman with a gorgeous man?

Elizabeth had been digging through her purse, but now turned her head to Kellie as she opened the door and stepped out. “Whoops, Kel, I seem to have left my cash at home. You’ll get the cab, huh?”

“Kel-lie,” she corrected again as Elizabeth disappeared into the theater, but pulled out her wallet and began selecting bills to match the fare. She sat motionless, holding the money half-extended toward the driver, her stomach churning fiercely.

“You goin’ in, miss?” the driver asked politely.

“No, actually,” she said, making a sudden decision. “Back near where you picked us up, there’s a shop called Significant Lingerie. Do you know it?”

“Yes, miss,” he replied as he put the cab back in gear. He smiled at her in the mirror. “My wife goes there.”

Kellie folded her money back into her wallet and leaned back in the seat, heartburn already beginning to let up.

 

© 2011  BJ Hill

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