Winners and Losers
By Jerry Thomas
I told Sylvia she was too skinny. Almost as soon as the words left my mouth, I realized I had made a big mistake.
It was a warm spring afternoon and Sylvia and I were sitting on the terrace at Memorial Union, enjoying the refreshing breeze coming off of Lake Mendota. It was Saturday, so we decided to take some time off from our studying to enjoy the sunshine and have a snack together.
We were both in our sophomore years majoring in German. Next fall we planned to study in Germany as part of the university’s Junior Year Abroad exchange program. We were both filled with excitement at the prospect of spending a whole year in Europe away from our nagging families.
I shared several classes with Sylvia and we had gradually become close friends. She had short light brown hair, wore a geeky pair of glasses, and was cute in a conventional sort of way. I would describe her as the nice girl-next-door type. She didn’t have the kind of sensational looks that would stop traffic, but she was pretty enough for the likes of an average joe like me.
The only thing that bothered me about her was the fact that she was so skinny. I have to admit that I like women with a little meat on their bones and Sylvia just didn’t have enough to stimulate my interest. I would lie awake in my dorm room at night thinking about how she would look with shapely legs, curvy hips, a nice round butt, and full plump breasts.
We would always joke around a lot and I thought we had become close enough for me to speak my mind openly. I was still too young to know that giving an honest opinion to a woman was a dangerous thing to do. So as we were relaxing together that afternoon, I made the mistake of opening my big fat dumb mouth.
“You know Sylvia, I think you’re really cool,” I began cautiously. “I mean, I think you’re cute and I really like being with you.” Sylvia smiled and seemed very pleased, though a little bit embarrassed, to hear my confession.
“Well, I like you too, Terry,” she said shyly.
So far so good, I thought. I took a deep breath and continued. “Um, the only thing is, well, I really think you should gain some weight.”
She looked at me over the top of her glasses and frowned. “Gain weight? Just what do you mean by that?”
“Well, you know, I just think you would look better if you weren’t so . . . ”
“Skinny?” she interrupted. “Are you trying to tell me I’m too skinny?”
“Well,” I hesitated, not quite knowing what to say next. I could already feel the noose tightening, but it was too late to retreat.
“I just think it would be nicer if you were more . . . ” I held up both hands and cupped them like I was holding two large, imaginary melons.
Sylvia snorted. “Oh, I get it. It’s pretty obvious what you’re saying. You’re probably wishing I looked more like fat Melissa.”
Melissa was another girl in one of our classes. She was very well-endowed and built like a brick shithouse, and most of the guys drooled at the sight of her big boobs, but the other girls were jealous and called her fat Melissa behind her back.
“Well, no,” I said, desperately trying to find a way out of the trap I had laid for myself. “Not that much, but just a little bit, maybe.”
Sylvia looked at me and shook her head like a mother dealing with a naughty little boy. “You dirty little pig! You guys are all the same. All you want to do is chase after boobs and butts.”
I started to open my mouth to defend myself, but Sylvia cut me off.
“And you’re a fine one to talk about weight. Just look at yourself. Why don’t you think about losing some of that flab instead?” She must have been really angry, as she had never talked to me like that before.
I felt my cheeks growing hot and I must have been turning red. Sylvia was right. I was more than a little overweight, in fact, ever since coming to college, I had steadily gained weight and I was now undeniably fat.
“I never said anything or made a fuss over your weight, did I?” she continued beating me up.
I held up my hands in surrender. “You’re right, Sylvia, I admit it. I really am too heavy. Maybe we should just drop the whole thing.”
“No, we’re not going to drop it,” she refused to let me off the hook. “You brought it up, so now we’re going to finish it.”
I just shrugged helplessly.
Sylvia sat there a few moments without speaking, but she seemed to be deep in thought about something. I wondered what was going on in that little head of hers when suddenly her mood changed and she smiled mischievously.
“I have an idea,” she said playfully. I was just waiting for the axe to drop. “You say I need to gain weight and I think you need to lose weight. So let’s have a contest!”
“Like what?” I was starting to get a really bad feeling.
“Well, let’s say I try to gain ten pounds and at the same time, you have to lose ten pounds. Or no, better yet, since you want me to be a real fatty, I’ll gain twenty pounds and you have to lose the same.”
She sat back, crossed her arms, and gave me a triumphant look that seemed to say, “Got you by the short hairs now, you bastard!”
I sat thinking for a minute, wondering if it was too late to jump in the lake and end it all.
“That’s not fair,” I protested. “It’s easier to gain weight than it is to lose.”
“Well maybe for you it is!” She reached across the table and gave my big belly a slap.
She laughed, but then after a moment she changed her mind.
“Okay, I’ll have mercy on you. Here’s the deal – by the time finals are over, I’ll gain twenty pounds and you have to lose fifteen, so that’s a five pound handicap for you.”
Finals were only six weeks away. I did some calculating in my head. “Sylvia, this is crazy.”
“No, it’s already decided. We’re going to do it. You’ll get your busty Sylvia and I’ll get my slim Terry! Shake on it, we’ll start tomorrow.”
I reluctantly reached over and shook her hand.
“Order a nice big hamburger, Terry, because starting tomorrow your life is going to change.”
* * *
Sylvia came over to my dorm room on Sunday morning. I had been hoping she wasn’t serious and would forget about our discussion yesterday. She knew that unlike most other students, I actually had a scale in my room.
“Okay, it’s weigh-in time, big boy. You go first.”
I hesitated because I wasn’t sure I wanted Sylvia to know how much I really weighed.
“Go on,” she encouraged, “don’t be embarrassed. We’re friends, I won’t laugh at you.”
Gingerly I stepped on the scale and a number came up on the small screen.
Sylvia leaned over and looked. “Okay, so that’s 239.8 pounds for Terry, we’ll just round it off to 240.” She picked up a piece of paper and wrote it down. “Now it’s my turn.”
She slipped off her shoes and stepped on the scale. I was curious to see how much my skinny Sylvia actually weighed. We both looked and she read off the number.
“That’s 112 exactly for me,” Sylvia said. “I’m really not that skinny, at least I’m above 100.” And she punched me in the shoulder, harder than I might have expected from a small person like her.
“So,” she calculated, “that means I have to reach my goal of 132 and you have to slim down to at least 225. Let the games begin!”
She laughed loudly and I couldn’t help making a sarcastic comment. “You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you.”
“Of course, it’ll be fun. But remember, you’re the one who started it. You have only yourself to blame. Now let’s go and have some lunch. I’m absolutely starving!”
* * *
In the days and weeks that followed I tried hard to stick to the diet Sylvia had imposed on me. But usually I cheated – I would eat a salad or low-fat yogurt only when we were having lunch or dinner together. Whenever I was on my own I went back to the burgers, fries, and sugary soft drinks that I craved.
In fact, Sylvia seemed to be avoiding me and as time went on we rarely ate together anymore. I would only see her in class and then, instead of lingering afterwards to chat like she usually did, she would make an excuse and rush off somewhere. I was completely baffled and wondered if she was still mad at me for calling her skinny. I had the feeling she was hiding something.
One day I managed to catch up with her after our class on 17th Century German Literature.
“Sylvia,” I called after running halfway down the hall after her, “is something wrong? Are you still mad at me?”
“No, Terry, I’m not mad at you. It’s just . . . I’m going through a few changes right now.” She smiled mysteriously in a way that made me wonder what the hell she was talking about. But before I could say anything else, she patted my tummy and asked how I was doing on my diet.
“Well, okay, I guess. I’m trying real hard, I really am.”
“Oh, I’m sure you are,” she replied with a hint of sarcasm. “Well, I’ve gotta run, Terry. See you ‘round.”
She flitted away and I watched her go. Was it my imagination, or did I notice a little extra wiggle in her hips?
* * *
The remaining weeks of that semester had a surreal quality about them. I sat in class and Sylvia kept to herself and sat on the other side of the small lecture hall, instead of next to me as she used to do. I had no choice but to watch her from afar and wonder what was going on. Except for her bizarre behavior, she seemed pretty much the same as always. I tried to focus on her from across the room. It was strange, but it seemed like her face was filling out, like it was slightly rounder than usual. And her blouse appeared to be getting tighter, especially around the front. Was I hallucinating or losing my mind?
Another time I was sitting some distance behind her in the student cafeteria. She couldn’t see me and I don’t think she realized I was there. She was positively stuffing food into her face. I sat there watching her for a good 15 minutes and it seemed like she didn’t slow down the whole time. My God, could it be that she really is trying to gain weight? What on earth have I done, I thought to myself, feeling like some evil scientist who had inadvertently created a monster.
Two weeks before finals I came down with a bad case of the flu and missed a whole week of class. When I returned to class the following Monday, Sylvia wasn’t there. I was getting concerned about her, especially since I hadn’t talked to her for over a week. I asked one of Sylvia’s friends if she knew why Sylvia wasn’t in class.
“Oh, didn’t you know? Her mother came down with appendicitis and she wanted to go home to see her. She should be back in time for finals week.“
I was relieved to hear that Sylvia was okay, but I really missed her and wanted badly to talk to her, just to hear the sound of her voice. That week I had to admit to myself that Sylvia was more than just a good friend – I realized how much she meant to me and I knew then that I was in love with her.
* * *
It wasn’t until the last day of finals that I saw Sylvia again. A few of us were standing outside class waiting for our professor to arrive. Sylvia’s attitude seemed to have changed and she came up to me and smiled.
“Well hello stranger,” she said warmly and gave me a poke in the belly. “I’ve missed you.”
“I missed you too, I was so worried about you. How’s your mother?”
“Oh, she’s fine. It turned out not to be that serious after all, I just wanted to be home with her, that’s all. I had to buy all new clothes too.”
I looked at her and there was indeed something very different about Sylvia. She was wearing a new pair of jeans that hugged her hips and rear, which were visibly rounder and fuller than they had ever been before. She had a robust, healthy look about her and her soft cheeks had a cherub-like chubbiness.
“Sylvia, you look . . .” I started to say, but she cut me off and put her finger to my mouth.
“Shhh,” she said, “we’ll talk about it later. Can I come over to your room at about eight tonight?”
* * *
Sylvia came over at 8 o’clock as planned. She had changed into a sexy white tube top that showcased her well-nourished breasts and revealed the bare skin of her midriff.
“Tah dah!” she said as she walked through the door, stopping to pose like a model. “How do you like the new me?”
“Sylvia, you look stunning,” was all I could think to say and I stood there staring at her dumbfounded.
“Well, don’t just stand there gaping like an idiot. Have you forgotten our deal? Finals are over, so now it’s weigh-in time. You’d better be 15 pounds lighter, big boy, or else!”
I pulled my scale out from under the bed while Sylvia put a small jar candle on the desk and lit it.
“Shoes off and on the scale,” she commanded. “This I gotta see!”
I kicked off my sneakers and stepped carefully onto the scale, trying to suck in my gut as if that would help.
I was afraid to look, but Sylvia watched as a number came up in red on the digital display. “Aha!” she announced loudly, “232 pounds! Not bad, but still seven pounds short of your goal. Have you been a bad boy?” she asked, giving me a look that reminded me of my fifth grade teacher.
Before I could offer an excuse for my lack of discipline, Sylvia had taken off her shoes and was eagerly getting on the scale. This time we both watched for the magic number to appear.
“134!” we exclaimed together. “I win, I win,” Sylvia shouted like a little girl who had just won a cheap prize at the state fair.
I was totally amazed. Not only had she reached her “goal,” but she had surpassed it by two pounds.
“Believe me, it wasn’t easy,” she admitted. “I had to eat like a pig. But once I got the hang of it, I sort of enjoyed it. Maybe I won’t stop here.”
I was still too stunned to say anything, but Sylvia put one hand around my back and the other on my round tummy. “I guess we’re both fatties now, aren’t we Terry?”
“Sure, I guess so, but you’re still not fat, just a little bit chubbier,” I replied.
“Yes, Terry, and it’s all for you. I hope you enjoy it.”
She reached over and switched off the overhead light, leaving only the single candle to light up my little dorm room with a mellow, romantic glow.
“And since I’m the winner, now I get to claim my prize.” All of a sudden she grabbed my T-shirt from the bottom and pulled it up and over my head. “And this is what I want!”
Sylvia smiled seductively and started to take off her tube top. She wasn’t wearing a bra and I went crazy seeing her round breasts in the dim light of the flickering candle.
“You like?” she whispered as she gave me a tight hug and pressed her breasts against my bare chest.
I could hardly breathe. “I love it, Sylvia,” I said in a barely audible voice as I started kissing her in the candlelight.
We paused only briefly to finish undressing and then we were facing each other naked.
Suddenly Sylvia blew out the candle and the room went dark. She came close again, put her arms around me, and I could feel her soft warm body as we embraced in the darkness.
“We’re going to have a fun year together in Germany, Terry. Just you wait.”
Then she took me by the hand and we both climbed into bed.
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