Mellinda Hensley


He can see Debbie’s sleeping body outlined through the satin blanket;
it clings to her waist like a small child and for a moment he wonders
what she feels. Does she feel the satin, her dreams, her own body? He
imagines what she is dreaming, and he imagines it is about food

She’s got a sweet tooth. Pastries, cakes, doughnuts, all slathered in
chocolate or fruit topping. Crispy, buttery, fried chicken drizzled
with honey. Mashed potatoes drenched with thick brown gravy.
Everything must be covered by something. Jam, chocolate, caramel,
fudge, all of it. She is in a garden of trans fats, whole pats of butter
stacked like boulders, streams of marshmallow cream, and she picks
Hostess snacks from trees and devours them all. Swiss Rolls, Devil Cakes.
She’ll destroy everything.

She is so tiny, her body nearly one-third the size of his, each bone pushing
against her white skin meticulously crafted, picked, sculpted. Her black hair
is cropped short at her neck, and it annoys him that she chopped off her long
hair. He can see her back, curved perfectly like the bell of a vase that dips into
her midsection and ends at her bottom that is covered by the white fabric. And
yet, in his appreciation, he feels the taste of regret in his mouth. She is so
small, he thinks again.

She had, at one time, weighed over 200 pounds. Not that he minded,
she was just larger, curvier. She had let him see the dress before the
wedding, a bad omen, he remembered hearing. Her wedding dress was
satin, stuffed and bunchy, too much skin and too little fabric. He was glad
to take it off at the end of the night. She bursted from the corset in the
back and spilled over the front, flaps of skin meeting like dolphin lips,
the criss-crosses of thread making imprints on her like grill marks on
flank steak. Weeks after the wedding, she had gotten the photo prints.
Pudgy, buttercream icing, a real dream. She threw the photos all over
the apartment, watching them scatter to the ground. She had cut herself
out of a few of them. When he got in the door, he saw the littered printer
paper, and her a savage shadow, casting herself over them.

I AM SO FAT, she screeched.

After that, everything was forbidden. No chicken, no pork, no beef, nothing
that smelled good and sure as Hell nothing that tasted good. He was allowed
grilled chicken, naked and sad, dressed in a pinch of salt and herbs he had
never heard of. Dark, leafy greens that looked like they had been plucked
from the lawn. Hell no, he had told himself, no way am I eating that.

She drank water, so much water. He thought she might be all water at one
point, thought he could poke her with something sharp and she would leak
until there was nothing left. He started drinking once that happened, lounging
outside in a lawn chair, dozing between sips of Jameson and listening to the
world; the scuttling of birds through the rattling tree branches, the crunching
of tire against pavement, dogs yapping in he distance, the shouting
of children, the ding of the ice cream truck

When they went out, people would say “Oh, you look so great! You don’t
even look like yourself.” This was what upset her the most, how people
looked at her and still saw the rolls of skin, the pudgy face, how astounded
they were that a real girl had lived inside her for so long, and now her
blubbery casing had melted away, but was still imprinted on her friends.
She was still that fat girl, she had never managed to lose that. Fatty, whale,
piggy, Debbie. He can’t believe it either sometimes. How little of the bed
she possesses, the early morning runs and early evening bedtimes, the lack
of snacks, the lack of sex. He wants to go outside and sit in the sun and nurse
his wounds and Jameson.

He is better than she is, he thinks, he can do what she cannot. He can swill
his drink and sit in the sun, unashamed and exposed. But for today they were
both still inside, her fragile and enveloped in white and him swallowed in guilt
for ever noticing the way the satin clung. He looks away as she stirs, and
in that brief moment he thinks she has found it, that place where her hunger
is satisfied. But, he thinks as he rises to pour another drink, it is only a dream.


Mellinda Hensley is currently a senior writing and communication major at the University of Evansville in Evansville, Ind. She has previously been published in The Ohio River Review and was the 2012 recipient of the Cowgill Award. After graduating this coming May, she plans to move to California with her husband Jonathan and attend graduate school to further her writing education.