Author's Note: This tale was initially conceived-of and submitted to the now-defunct Giantess Magic message board back in 2007, and completed at the Giantess City forums. It was the first story I'd ever submitted, as well as my first 'novella.' If you've read it before, there's nothing new. Just spelling, grammar, and continuity polish.
The ringing bell signaled the end of the class period, and for Caitlin Landry, it sounded like a blessing. Chemistry was her second-to-last class of the day, and she hated every minute of it. Quizzes had just been returned, and she had scored an 81%. She was horrible at Chemistry, and this normally would have been a godsend, but her best friend and lab-partner Maureen had scored a 98%. Though Maureen, out of courtesy, didn't rub it in, Caitlin still felt a fair amount of jealousy. She was used to Maureen outdoing her in just about everything but was still grateful for her friendship. They had been friends since grade school, and Caitlin had no qualms about playing second (or even fourth) fiddle to her. They were in the final weeks of their junior year in high school, and concerns over Chemistry quizzes would soon be a thing of the past.
Jason Kline turned around to swap scores with Maureen. He had a crush on her and wagered with her that if he scored higher on the quiz, she had to go out with him Friday. He wore a smug grin, but Maureen continued to load her school bag, casually pretending not to notice him.
"So I'll be picking you up at 7:00?" Jason said, grinning expectantly.
Maureen gave him a slight smile and continued to pack up her things. "Confident?"
Jason smiled bigger and nodded. "Ninety-seven percent, baby. What do you got?"
Maureen had already slid her quiz into her bag. "Ninety-six. Pick me up at 6:30."
Caitlin shot Maureen a quick look which Maureen did not return as she continued chatting with Jason. "Now that we know what it takes to get you to study, perhaps we'll make a higher stakes wager for the final," she said, tossing her bag over her shoulder. Jason laughed, then his eyes widened at the possibilities. Before the conversation could go on any further, Maureen nudged Caitlin toward the door, leaving Jason still gaping, barely managing a wave as the two girls left.
Maureen seemed to be blessed with everything. She had what most considered to be the best smile in the school, along with dark brown eyes and thick brown hair. She was a standout tennis and soccer player, and naturally had great legs–the highlight of her toned, 5'6" body. To top it off, she was an excellent student, not quite taking AP classes, but sticking to a few honors classes to guarantee her ticket to a quality university. Maureen was well aware of her high spot in the school pecking order and often used it to her advantage while being careful not to come across as bitchy or stuck-up. She was student council secretary, vice-president of honor society, and had been elected to homecoming court every year of high school. While she was friendly enough to everyone, she stuck to her inner group and enjoyed her status, knowing it would eventually take her far in life.
Once they were well out of earshot of Jason, Caitlin whispered to Maureen, "Didn't you get a 98?"
Maureen grinned. "Yeah, but he's cute. Regardless, I figure it couldn't hurt him to put in the extra effort. The guy's been averaging C's all quarter. This way, we both win."
"Ugh, I think he's a scumbag," Caitlin replied, rolling her eyes.
"A cute scumbag," Maureen offered with a smile.
Caitlin shook her head in disgust, but before she could dig up more reasons to hate Jason, they were interrupted by Alexis, who, as always, couldn't contain her excitement. An entirely different case than Maureen, from the outset Alexis' attention deficit disorder and complete disinterest in all things academic made it obvious she wouldn't be moving mountains with her intelligence. By the end of her fifth-grade year, however, she had shed a large amount of baby fat only for it to migrate to a centralized location in her upper torso. By the time she reached high school, she not only sported boobs on the upper end of Double-D, but a derriere dubbed by most of the male student body as "un-fucking-believable." She stood 5'9" with bright blonde hair and green eyes. Her mother, the widowed owner of a real-estate company, provided Alexis with the most expensive exercise equipment and beauty products available, and the only knowledge Alexis accrued was related to maintaining her looks. By age sixteen, Alexis had begun modeling in her spare time, but couldn't spell "moisturize" to save her life. While generally uncoordinated, Alexis' near-limitless energy and spunk (not to mention incredible body) easily earned her a spot on the varsity cheerleading squad. She was generally kind to everyone, too dense to be cruel and lacking the grace to overtake Maureen in popularity, but her wealth and unbelievable looks kept her in the popular crowd.
"You'll never guess who asked me out!" Alexis gushed.
"Ben," Caitlin replied without enthusiasm.
"YES!!!" Alexis gripped Caitlin's shoulders and jumped up and down, setting her tube top in motion and getting the attention of every male within viewing distance.
Caitlin flicked Alexis' hands off of her continued forward. "I'm thrilled, and I'll be shocked if he can navigate his way to your house," Caitlin said dryly.
"When?" Maureen asked, stepping in.
"In the gym. He came over and mumbled something about Friday." Alexis bit her lip and smiled. "It was so cute! He could barely talk!"
"Are you sure he asked you?" Caitlin drawled. "He could have asked your boobs, and you might just be tagging along for the ride."
Caitlin's venom was entirely lost on Alexis. "You know, come to think of it, he did seem awfully interested in my new sports bra. You think I should wear it on Friday?"
Caitlin groaned and hastened to her next class. "I'll see you guys later."
While Maureen and Alexis sincerely saw Caitlin as their friend, Caitlin always felt she got the raw end of the deal. She was neither as pretty or smart as Maureen, nor was she anywhere near as drop-dead gorgeous—or, thankfully, as dumb—as Alexis. She had light auburn hair and stood 5'4" with a respectable figure and an attractive face which she often caked in makeup. She was reasonably athletic, and played on the JV girls basketball team and varsity soccer team, but wasn't a standout in either. Her inferiority complex around Maureen and Alexis only fueled her caustic temperament and she quietly bore the stigma of being the "bitchy popular girl." This didn't bother her much, but many of her teachers resented her languid attitude in class. Maureen was thankful Caitlin provided an outlet for her own occasional bitchiness, and Alexis was simply not bright enough to interpret Caitlin's cynicism as anything but hilarious. In spite of it all, Caitlin valued Alexis and particularly Maureen as close friends
The one class Caitlin didn't particularly despise was her Advanced Painting class. She had always enjoyed drawing and looked forward to her art class at the end of the day. The instructor, Mr. Knightley often praised her work and encouraged her to submit her art to art shows and contests, but Caitlin would have none of it. Though proud of her artistic talent, she was not proud of the company of students in the Advanced Painting class, which consisted of mostly goth kids and bohemian geeks she neither wanted to compete with nor be associated with. Most of the kids who took art resented Mr. Knightley not letting art class be an "easy A," and few students outside the artistically inclined took the second year class. Appearance-wise, she didn't have the look of an art-geek, but she wouldn't let that stop her from enjoying her one tolerable class period.
The students worked on their final design projects for the course, and Mr. Knightley did little beyond coaching and advising. Caitlin had settled on a simple landscape with a few trees, and while the picture itself was not particularly challenging, she had opted to use acrylics which she had little experience with. Next to her, Nicole Ryder, one of the stars of the art department, poured herself into what appeared to be an armless zombie and an inside-out horse acting out some kind of violent hardcore pornography. Ordinarily, students weren't allowed to address such extreme subjects, but several statewide galleries had showcased Nicole's work, and she had earned a bit more freedom. Nicole also had a fashion style to match her alternative works, with short, bright red cropped hair, a tattoo on her forearm, and more piercings than anyone could (or cared to) count.
Mr. Knightley, a tall, bald man wearing cargo pants and an old t-shirt stopped at Caitlin's canvas, studying it carefully.
"You've done an excellent job with the sky, but you might try something different," he pointed out, with his head tilted to the side.
"It's a blue sky," Caitlin said. "To my knowledge, that's not uncommon."
Nicole chimed in. "I think he wants you to paint like you're not some afroed schmo on public television."
"Don't you have a metal detector to set off?" Caitlin shot toward her.
Mr. Knightley cleared his throat, clearing the air and sending Nicole back to her work. He leaned in to Caitlin and asked her to see him after class, before continuing to Nicole's canvas where Caitlin overheard him commenting on the color contrast of the kidney hanging out of the zombie to the blood spraying out of the horse's open throat wound. She shuddered at the imagery and returned to her own work, working quietly and diligently until the end of class.
After class Caitlin tried to sneak out the door, but Mr. Knightley called her out and she grudgingly headed over to his desk in the corner. "This doesn't have anything to do with metalface does it?"
"Not really," Mr. Knightley replied, "But I would like to talk about your work."
"What about it?"
Mr. Knightley clasped hands together and put them to his mouth, a gesture which had become familiar to Caitlin and had grown to hate. "Caitlin, I've been watching your work for the past two years, and I must admit you are quite gifted. The piece you are working on right now, for example, is quite good, but I think you could do more."
"Is this about the sky? I can make it purple or orange or plaid if you want," Caitlin offered curtly.
"It's not about what I want. I don't feel like you are really choosing to express yourself. You have more to say but you aren't letting yourself say it."
"Are you saying I'm not creative?"
"No, I know you're creative. I just think you are curbing your creativity. For example, your final project is a landscape of grass and trees. Granted, you are using acrylics, but an artist of your caliber could handle something much more challenging."
Caitlin had heard enough. "So you're saying my art piece isn't 'A material.' Oh! Ok, well if you want me to draw a bull sodomizing the queen of England like Tank Girl over there, I'm sorry, I'm going to have to decline."
"You know what I mean Caitlin..."
"Sorry, Mr. Knightley. I'm not a Prozac psycho like your little prize students. I'll put a house on the grass if you want, but it's my final project and I'll do what I want." Caitlin headed toward the door, but then turned around quickly, shouting, "And you can give me a fucking F minus for all I care!" She stormed out, slamming the door behind her.
Caitlin rushed out of the studio nearly barreling through another student who happened to be entering at the exact same time. He muttered a few words of apology but Caitlin, livid with rage, had hardly noticed him. Art was one of the few classes where she actually felt half-decent about herself and now she was an underachiever there too? The whole episode had given her a headache. She briefly considered stopping by the convenience store for some aspirin, but decided she would rather head home as quickly as possible. She wanted to vent, but she knew Alexis was at cheer practice and Maureen had an ASB meeting. Often she would stay after school and work in the art studio but this particular day she obviously wasn't in the mood for artistic expression, though she had to admit at this particular time she could almost justify some of the gruesome shit Nicole vented onto her canvas.
Heading back to her locker, Caitlin was doing her absolute best to avoid everyone she possibly could, dumping textbooks and binders into her backpack with little to no regard for what she actually needed. She had barely noticed the approach of Steve Rubins, the Soccer team captain. A prototypical sleazeball jock, he was searching for the soonest possible opportunity to get laid. Having already failed with Maureen and unwilling to compete with the all-state fullback on the football team for Alexis, he saw Caitlin as his best bet. Caitlin naturally knew of her place in the pecking order. Despite the fact that 90% of the female student body (and possibly 3% of the male student body) would have been glad to take him up on his offer, Caitlin hated Steve purely on the basis of her being his third choice.
"Hey sweetie, what's the hurry?"
Not in the mood to talk, Caitlin seethed some semblance of a reply through her teeth.
Steve grinned with mock sympathy. "Rough day?"
Caitlin, still fuming, was fumbling to zip her bag and get as far away from him as possible. It made her miserable enough that she was third on his list, a fact made all the more painful that she had a huge crush on him.
"Hey, hon. How about you and I…" He trailed off as Caitlin shot him a mixture of intense rage and something else he couldn't place. Caitlin, in the meantime, thought she was going to tell him off, but was distracted by her powerful her crush on him. The longer she stood there staring, the more awkward it would get, so she said the first thing that came to her head.
"Go blow yourself."
Her embarrassment from her encounter with Steve compounded with her irritation over Mr. Knightley's comments and sore spot from her comparatively poor score on the exam whirled through her head as she flung her bag into her car. Her mind raced around with rage and self-consciousness as she sped home. Throwing caution to the wind, she let her subconscious do the driving as she cursed her teachers, her classes, and even her friends. Why does Mr. Knightley love Nicole's work so much? How does Alexis get by so well having the IQ of a raccoon? Why does Maureen never EVER have any problems? Why doesn't anything good happen to ME!?!? She punctuated her last thought with a slam on the accelerator which sent her car screeching forward at a speed in violation of local speed laws. But Caitlin could care less about speed laws, and she also didn't have time to really care about the Nissan which pulled into the intersection. Caitlin's small sedan clipped the front of the vehicle, which sent her car spinning off the road. Luckily (?), her car was halted by the passenger side impact with a telephone pole. None of this mattered to Caitlin as her head slammed into the driver's side window, rendering her instantly unconscious.
"Honey, I thought we agreed to restrict reckless driving to highways and vehicular homicide."
Caitlin's mother's deadpan humor ushered her back into consciousness. Her whole body felt numb and her head, understandably, was throbbing. She recognized the surroundings of a hospital room. She could see an IV in her arm, and painkillers cruised through her veins, likely contributing to her grogginess. That was probably the only thing keeping her from freaking out at the moment. Caitlin groaned as her mother, a slight woman with graying brown hair rubbed her hand.
"Don't try to move dear. Just relax. You hit your head pretty hard and you've got a few bruises, but nothing too serious."
"My car?" Caitlin weakly.
"We'll talk about that later. In the meantime, get some rest."
Caitlin laid back as her father entered the room. "Road rage?" He mouthed. His wife nodded in reply. He sighed. "First the garage, then Mrs. Pepper's dog, then a newsstand. I swear, honey, you need to stop venting your frustration on the road. Don't they have Tae Bo classes at that school of yours?"
Caitlin smiled. In odd contrast to her fiery temper, her parents were the most even-tempered people she knew. Her father was lead editor of a nature magazine and her mother taught middle school. Caitlin's older sister Tegan had been away at college for the past two years, following in her father's footsteps as a journalist and taking summer internships. Caitlin, unfortunately, had yet to choose a direction and her parents didn't pester her about it. Mr. & Mrs. Landry had, as of late, been rather concerned about their daughter's growing tendency to vent her frustrations on the road. In the meantime, however, their main concerns were for Caitlin's safety, so an exasperated Mr. Landry kissed his daughter's forehead and slipped out. Caitlin swore she overheard the words "anger management" under his breath.
Caitlin was put out by her father's suggestion but was also distracted by the fact that she was starving. It had probably been hours since her last meal. As if on cue, a nurse entered with a small tray of food. Caitlin didn't bother inspecting her turkey sandwich and soup and just dug in. Before she knew it, Caitlin had emptied her plate and to her surprise was still hungry. When the nurse returned, Caitlin summoned her most pathetic sick voice and politely requested another meal. The nurse smiled and returned with another tray of food. Caitlin ate with a bit more restraint this time but still finished quicker than she planned. The nurse walked by again, noticed the empty tray, and raised her eyebrows.
Flustered, Caitlin muttered a soft affirmative. She still felt a bit hungry but didn't give it much thought. Fatigue set in faster than expected, and she drifted off.
- - -
"What'd you hit this time?"
She recognized Maureen's voice immediately and blinked her way into consciousness. She felt like she'd slept for half a day but the clock indicated it had only been a couple of hours. "Bitch," she said, smiling. "I'm feeling well, thanks."
Maureen set a small pot of flowers on the table next to her bed. "It's pretty plain in here. This'll liven things up a bit, along with those." Maureen gestured across the room at a bouquet of nearly a dozen oddly colored balloons adorned with messages ranging from "Happy Birthday" and "Happy Anniversary" to "Mazeltov!" and "Good luck" which bore Alexis' calling card.
"It's nice to be thought of," Caitlin said.
Maureen sighed. "Yeah, you'd think she'd be able to at least find one with 'get well' on it. She'd be here, but I think she has cheer or something." The very idea of Alexis bounding into the room made Caitlin queasy, a fact not lost on Maureen. "Don't worry, I doubt she'll be in today. Speaking of which. How long are you gonna' be in here?"
Caitlin shrugged. "Dunno. I don't think it's anything serious. I think dad wants me in anger management."
Maureen couldn't help but smirk. "Truth be told Cait…"
"Hey, don't you even start with me now. I've had a rough day."
"Yeah? Well, relax. It's all you can do at this point."
Caitlin grumbled and tried to make herself comfortable. She still felt a bit off-kilter from the accident, but nothing she felt a few ibuprofen couldn't fix. "I actually think I'm going home tomorrow. The doctor's got a few x-rays to review and I'm supposed to get as much rest as possible."
"That'll do you good. Take a couple of days off, finish finals, and it's going to be beaches, bathing suits, and baking in the sun for the next couple of months."
Caitlin half-grinned. "Yeah, well this is the most relaxed I've been in months."
"I'll leave you be, then. Will we see you tomorrow?"
"Probably," Caitlin replied, the sudden onset of hunger pangs nagging at her belly. "I…uh…I've been feeling better."
"You look kinda pale to me. You eaten today?"
"Yeah, just...not much. I guess I should probably eat." Caitlin's stomach growled, and she self-consciously put her hands to her belly. "Can you get the nurse?"
"No prob. Honestly, you'd think they'd be treating you better." Maureen stepped out. After what felt like an eternity, Maureen returned, followed a nurse with a tray of food. Caitlin dug in heartily, not noticing Maureen still hovering in the doorway. "Wow, are they going to bleed you after they starve you?"
She swallowed a large gulp of food in her mouth. She wanted to share Maureen's outrage, but this was her third meal in three hours. While the hospital meals were paltry, she knew she would never typically have eaten that much in such a short amount of time. In less than a few minutes she had cleaned her plate, much to the surprise of her friend. Caitlin blushed a bit at her gluttony but felt great following her meal. In fact, even her headache had eased up a bit, only again to be replaced by overwhelming fatigue. She waved at Maureen, and Maureen smiled and returned the wave. A warm comfort spread over Caitlin's body as she, again, drifted off into a peaceful slumber.
- - -
"I've never seen such a miraculous recovery," the doctor said. "Your injuries were far from serious, but you've recovered from them much faster than I would have expected. All the tests came back negative. If I hadn't known better, I'd say you haven't even been in an accident at all."
Caitlin certainly felt great, but the doctor's rambling bored her. He'd been talking continuously for about ten minutes, enough time for Caitlin to text her mom to come pick her up. She wanted to getting away from the hospital as soon as possible.
"…the bruises, the internal injuries, it's all completely gone. I've simply…"
"…never seen such a miraculous recovery," Caitlin finished. "I'm glad to be the highpoint of your career," she said, digging through her purse for a hairbrush.
The doctor persisted. "You don't understand, this is totally unprecedented, I've never seen anything like it. I really think it'd be in your best interests to stay here longer."
"I'm not staying here any longer than I have to. You said it yourself, I'm fine."
"But we really should…"
"Thanks for the help." Caitlin sped out of the room as fast as possible, not wanting to hear the doctor's voice anymore, though she could hear his audible sigh from down the hallway. She checked her messages and, sure enough, there were at four from Alexis asking if Caitlin had received her balloons. She smiled at her friend's concern, but deleted the messages without listening to anything past "Hey Cait! Guess what Ben said to me today!" She stretched to alleviate the stiffness in her joints from laying down so long, and her body felt awkward with the sudden amount of movement. She rotated her shoulders and arched her back a bit, but the feeling persisted. She couldn't quite place exactly why or even how so, but she definitely felt uncomfortable. Her first impression was to inspect her body, but everything seemed normal enough.
"You're looking better," her mother said, smiling as Caitlin entered the waiting room. "I guess you just needed a car accident to clear your head." Caitlin's mother then launched into a lecture about reducing stress and constructive ways of dealing with anger, whether or not Caitlin wanted to hear it. As they settled into the car, Caitlin let the seat back some so she could either sleep or at least fake it. It was only a couple minutes to her house, but she figured she pass it off as fatigue from the hospital. Regardless, her mother continued.
"Your father is thrilled you're coming home. I was surprised with your speedy recovery, but he chalked it up to his 'good 'ol Landry genes.' I swear the next thing you know he'll be taking credit for your painting. Honestly, that man couldn't draw a stick figure. Do you think it came from your Aunt Becky? She's quite the artist and quite the lesbian…"
Her mother's chipper and talkative mood annoyed Caitlin, who still felt lethargic. Her body felt odd. She couldn't quite describe it, as she had never had this particular feeling before.
Noticing her daughter's unresponsiveness, her mother chimed in. "Need anything honey?"
Caitlin realized she did need something. "I'm hungry," she said.
Caitlin thought about it for a moment. "Pretty hungry."
"Well, there's a Subway right over here. One turkey sub coming up!" Caitlin's mother pulled into the parking lot. Getting out of the car, Caitlin noticed her hunger was a bit stronger than she initially assessed. She fought the urge to run into the Subway, but she kept her cool and tried to stay composed despite her wanting a footlong turkey sub more than anything else in the world at that moment. Fortunately, her mom opted to eat in, as waiting to eat until she got home would have been torture. Eating her usual half sandwich didn't fill her up, and Caitlin proceeded to eat the whole thing. Her mother noticed her daughter's larger than normal appetite but said nothing. "Feeling full?"
"Oh yeah." Caitlin lied. She was still hungry, if not more so than she had been before she ate. She felt odd about asking for more food thoug,h and did her best to hide her hunger. "I'm actually feeling a lot better, mom. I'm thinking about stopping by Alex's on the way home, so I can just walk from here."
"Are you sure dear? Looks like the appointment really took it out of you."
Caitlin critically needed food, and she anxiously urged her mother on her way. "Yeah, mom. I really could use some fresh air. After all, it's the first sunny day of the year." Despite her reservations, Caitlin's mother left, reminding her not to stay out too late. Caitlin smiled and headed to the bathroom, where she paced desperately paced back and forth, waiting for her mother to leave.
After no longer than a minute, she Caitlin exited the bathroom. With a quick scan of the parking lot for her mother, she got back in line. She ordered a footlong steak & cheese sub, knowing she couldn't possibly eat it all and she could always just take some of it home. She again waited impatiently for her sandwich and snapped a quick "no" when asked about toppings. Though she had planned not to stay and let the employees assume the sandwich was for her, she immediately sat down and tore into the sandwich. She couldn't recall the last time a sandwich or even food had tasted this good. Much to her surprise, she completed not only half the sandwich but the whole thing in under five minutes. Even more to her surprise, she was still hungry!
"Oh my god." She said quietly to herself. "What's wrong with me?" She remembered what she had learned in health class about the body taking some time to realize it is full, and she left the Subway waiting for that knowledge to kick in. It didn't happen, and not even two blocks from the Subway she found herself in a Burger King eyeing the value menu. She figured if she ordered enough, the employee would assume she was ordering for her family. She had a twenty-dollar bill in her pocket and she opted to buy more than she needed just to be sure. She ended up ordering four cheeseburgers, two orders of chicken nuggets, two small fry orders, and two apple pies.
Upon receiving the order she immediately reached in the bag and stuffed a handful of fries into her mouth as she exited. She took the long way home so no one she knew would see her, Caitlin Landry, walking down the street pigging out on a large bag of Burger King. In the privacy of the back roads, she stopped and opened up a cheeseburger, digging into it ravenously. Four large bites and a big gulp later she, moved onto her second burger. She quickened her pace in an attempt to get home sooner, but could only move so fast while still scarfing down fast food. In the back of her head, she still wondered: "What the hell is wrong with me?"
Eight minutes, an apple pie, three burgers, and seven chicken nuggets later she was making her way up the back balcony as quietly as she could. The last thing she wanted to have to do was explain the extra-large Burger King bag to her mother. She slipped in the back door and headed up to her room where she shut her door and set to finishing her meal. She finished the rest of the fries and the last burger before her hunger finally abated. She had never felt so grateful to feel full, but at the same time, she wondered how she could have possibly eaten over four pounds of food in a half hour.
A sudden, powerful fatigue washed over her, and she eyed the clock. It was around four in the afternoon, and her need for a nap didn't strike her as unusual, especially considering her recent food binge. She went to recline on her bed, but couldn't get comfortable. Her jeans were constricting her a bit more than normal. She groaned, imagining the damage she'd probably do to her figure. There was no doubt about it, her pants were choking her legs and they'd have to come off. After some effort, she managed to peel off her jeans. She examined her legs for excess cellulite or dimples, but, to her surprise, found her legs to be just as firm as she remembered. "Odd," she thought to herself. While bending over and examining her legs she even felt the fabric bunching a bit under her armpits, but at this point, she was way too tired to think straight. She considered the tautness in her shirt but decided to lie down anyways. Despite her mild discomfort, she was asleep in seconds.
Caitlin slowly drifted back into consciousness. It was bright outside and the clock read 9:17 am. While surprised she'd slept nearly fourteen hours, a glaring feeling of discomfort distracted her more. Her shirt gripped her body with gusto to the point that she had difficulty breathing. Still kind of groggy, she attempted to slide her arms into one of the sleeves but found she could not do so. There simply was not enough room for her to complete such a maneuver. She glanced at her midriff noting more showed than should have, especially in her seated position. She took hold of the bottom hem and peeled the shirt upwards. This maneuver worked much better, and she felt relief at getting the shirt peeled off from around her chest. She slipped the remains of it over her head and guided her arms through the sleeves. She tried to take a deep breath but noticed her bra also gave her some discomfort. She rotated her arms a bit, letting her previously constricted shoulders and arms get some needed circulation, but something felt…different. She didn't feel quite right, and she struggled to find the right words. She almost felt bloated, but it didn't come with the typical nauseous feeling. As she stood up, she felt even more disoriented, but she still couldn't place why. She reached for the lamp and flicked it on.
Immediately one thing was obvious to her: her bra looked ridiculous. Her boobs slightly overfilled the cups and the straps dug into her skin slightly. She was clearly wearing an undersized bra, yet she knew it could not possibly be the case. She knew her bra size like she knew her birthday and would never buy the wrong size. Caitlin then considered the possibility that she put on weight. Heading over to her mirror she inspected herself for evidence of the 6000 calories she consumed before she went to bed. She removed her bra and checked the tag, which read 34B as she expected.
Continuing her inspection, Caitlin noted she definitely didn't look like a B-cup. Perhaps a C, but not much bigger. She put her fingers to her chest to check for anything unusual. No pain which would have indicated swelling, no lumps, nothing. She started to head to her closet to grab a larger shirt when she her reflection caught her eye once more. Something else nagged at her, but she couldn't quite place it. It became more apparent as she attempted to get dressed. She had changed out of her capri pants which she had soiled with mustard and ketchup and had slid into her jeans only to have the cuffs slip up to nearly her ankles.
"Okay, what the fuck?" she muttered under her breath. "Why the hell would my pants be too…"
The answer didn't take long to come up with but took some time to process. She was at least an inch or two taller than when she went to bed. Her perspective in her closet mirror wasn't unfamiliar; it was normal when she wore heels. At the moment, however, she stood barefoot and half-undressed with her pants unbuttoned and her cuffs at her ankles. She could also feel that, in addition to the ill-fitting cups, her bra constricted more than her boobs, but her entire torso and shoulders. Confirming her suspicions, she reached up to grab her towel from the top of the door frame and found it noticeably easier to reach. She broke into a cold sweat and stumbled backward onto her bed, almost dizzy with anxiety.
"What…the…fuck?" She asked no one in particular as her breathing came shallower. She felt on the verge of passing out when her phone started ringing with Maureen's characteristic ring tone. Her mind whirled, and it took three rings for her hand to subconsciously reach out, grab her cell, and flip it open before she even realized what she was doing.
"Hey, stranger," Maureen chirped. "It's like we haven't seen you for days."
Caitlin, taken off guard, searched for words. "Um…yeah, you know. I've been feeling kinda'…odd lately, getting out of the hospital and all." She glanced down at her chest and ill-fitting jeans. "I haven't been feeling myself lately."
Maureen wasn't sure what to make of Caitlin's queer demeanor but shrugged it off. "Feeling a little under the weather huh?"
"Yeah, I'm pretty sick," Caitlin agreed, liking the sound of that excuse. "I've been all bloated and nauseous. I can barely walk." She was being fairly truthful at this point. "I'm definitely in no condition to leave the house," she said, almost chuckling to herself at her honesty.
"Wow, bummer. You know, Alexis is over here, we might just stop on by…"
"No!" Caitlin cut her off suddenly. There was an awkward pause, and Caitlin searched for a way to resolve it. "The doctor says I may be coming down with the flu…from…being so weak and…stuff. I'd really hate to make you guys sick. The flu's a real killer." She was determined to deter Maureen, but she knew it was futile at this point.
"You kidding' me? You think I fear the flu? Dad's obsessive about my flu shots It'd take the elephant flu to get past my immune system at this point, and the flu might do Alexis some good. She could use some slowing down."
"You know I really thi…"
"Don't worry! We'll be over in a sec! We'll bring soup and stuff." Caitlin could hear Alexis' voice in the background.
"Does she need my heating pad? How about my leg weights? I have a Thighmaster."
Maureen sighed. "I gotta' go, Alexis needs the difference between influenza and cellulite explained to her. See you in five!"
Maureen clicked off and Caitlin stared dumbfounded at her phone. Maureen knew Caitlin's body probably better than Caitlin herself knew it. While two inches and a cup size may have seemed trivial, for Maureen and particularly Alexis, it was the rough equivalent of her growing a coat of purple fur and a third eye in the middle of her forehead. She searched around her room. Her need to hide her predicament currently trumped her worry about the predicament itself. She considered wearing shorts which, the way she cut them, never really looked long anyways. This wouldn't hide the problem of her being suddenly two inches taller. Then there were the boobs. Her new boobs would explode out of her bras, and no bra wouldn't fly either. Her new perkiness would be like a neon sign to Maureen's hawk eyes.
The sound of a car pulling into the driveway snapped her to attention. In a sudden flash of panic, she grabbed her two largest sweaters, stuffed herself into them, and yanked a down comforter from the top shelf of the closet. The padding would be her best bet. Nothing like a little padding to hide a little more padding, she thought. The only problem now was looking like she actually was in need of all the insulation. Her anxiety, combined with the layers and the eighty-five-degree heat outside posed a problem. It still beat the alternative, though.
Just as Caitlin settled in, Alexis burst in, all giggles and bright eyes, followed closely after by Maureen carrying a handful of items, including a few DVDs, a thermos, a small bag of ice, a couple of medicine bottles, a teddy bear, magazines, and what appeared to be a Thighmaster.
"Guess who made head cheerleader!" Alexis shouted, clearly unable to hide her joy. She shot one leg in the air and launched into an impromptu cheering session. "ALEXIS! ALEXIS! A-L-E-X – OW!!!" She was stopped short by a sudden shove to the ground by Maureen who was anxious to be rid of her burden of gifts.
"Hey girl," Maureen said, stepping over Alex. "Feeling under the weather?"
Caitlin feigned a groan and let her face voice the discomfort of being way too hot. Maureen placed each of the items on Caitlin's nightstand, including the teddy bear holding a bottle of aspirin.
"I brought you a sniffle kit," Maureen announced. "Everything you'll need to be on your way to feeling better."
"…and having great thighs!" Alexis chimed in, getting to her feet and gesturing toward the Thighmaster.
Caitlin smiled at her friends' effort but continued to make her best show of appearing as miserable as possible. Every time Maureen looked her way, Caitlin felt that despite all the layers Maureen would somehow notice the circumference of her chest was a couple inches greater than before. Caitlin worried less about Alexis, who was more caught up in explaining the proper form for using the Thighmaster and the surprising variety of ways in which it could be used. Maureen rolled her eyes and stacked the magazines and books next to the bed.
"I brought you a few movies too. Figured if you were too sore to move then you could just lie there and let your eyes do the work." Maureen instinctively started picking up clothes and tossing them into the laundry bin, not appearing to suspect anything was out of the ordinary. Caitlin relaxed a bit and enjoyed the company of her friends. She even allowed her attention to go to Alexis' demonstration of how the Thighmaster could tone her triceps.
"What the hell happened to your shirt?" Maureen said suddenly. Caitlin flipped over to see Maureen holding Caitlin's stain-splattered polo shirt.
"I don't know," Caitlin spit out quickly, "I think my mom must have worn it."
"Well, I'd be pissed if my mom got mustard on my shirts. She'd have hell to pay. Anyways, I can see we're obviously not going to entice you to get out of bed and go anywhere. You're a mess. We'll come by tomorrow to check on you." Maureen headed toward the door. Caitlin was relieved her friends hadn't noticed anything out of the ordinary, and actually felt sorry to see them go.
"See you guys," Caitlin choked out in her most miserable sick voice.
"See ya' Caitlin!" Alexis chirped, heading toward the door. As it was about to shut she popped her head back in. "On the plus side, your boobs have gotten bigger!"
Caitlin's eyes went visibly wide and blood rushed to her cheeks. "W…wh…what?"
Maureen rolled her eyes. "Whatever Alex, I'm sure the Thighmaster fix her up," Maureen said, winking at Caitlin. "Don't worry about Alex. She's confusing the flu with cosmetic surgery. Come on, Alex." Unfazed by Maureen's response, Alexis continued with her stream of consciousness. "I wonder if my boobs will grow if I get the flu. Can I stay with Caitlin for a little longer?" Maureen grabbed her arm, gave a slight wave to Caitlin and Alexis out, shutting the door. Caitlin heard Alexis chattering all the way down the stairs and out to the car, clearly picking up the word "boobs" repeatedly.
She lay in bed and waited for the sound of Maureen's Dodge Neon to disappear before checking the window and getting up. She peeled off her sweat-soaked layers and, once again was greeted with the unfamiliar sight of her chest hindering her downward view more than she was accustomed to. I've got to do something. I can't just sit in my room topless all day, she thought to herself. She figured a sojourn to the mall would serve her well, as she needed more comfortable clothes for the time being. She also realized someone she knew would likely see her at the mall and she wasn't quite ready for that. She brainstormed where she could go that no one she knew would see her, and it didn't take long to figure it out. "Wal-Mart, here I come," she sighed to herself.
She stuffed herself into a sports bra and a large t-shirt from her sister's room, which actually made her look normal sized–for her anyways. Pants were trickier, since her sweats fit, albeit slightly undersized. She tried denim shorts, only to discover her growth hadn't been limited to her height and chest but included her hips as well. In the end, she settled for a long purple skirt with the oversized t-shirt, figuring she couldn't be underdressed for Wal-Mart. She slipped on a pair of flip-flop sandals and a large pair of sunglasses to complete her off-beat ensemble and went on her way.
She took a forty-five-minute drive out of town to the next closest Wal-Mart, just to minimize the chances of someone she knew seeing her. The Northshore Wal-Mart was fairly empty at 10:00 in the morning. She stopped by a nearby coffee shop for a pastry and a drink since she had yet to eat anything. The barista, a skinny kid with black dyed hair and plugs in his ears made small talk. She even noticed a couple casual glances at her boobs; nothing too creepy, but the kind that told her she had new attention-getters on display. In the past, she occasionally wore a push-up bra if she wanted to turn heads, but her new size wasn't exactly small so she accepted she should probably get used to it.
She was not yet convinced all of her clothes would not fit her, so she felt she should limit herself to only essential purchases, namely bras. Taking a handful of sizes to the fitting room, she discovered she was now a slightly smaller C-cup compared to the average B she had been since the eighth grade. She was certainly bigger than she used to be, but compared to the school as a whole, she wasn't anything particularly special. It wasn't as if she never wore push-up or padded bras, so if she switched to a normal bra, hardly anyone would notice. She considered buying a larger push-up bra, but after trying it on she realized it would make her too conspicuous and the whole school would be convinced she had implants. She settled on a few C's, as well as a D with a smaller band size.
After being in the sports bra all day, the new bra felt amazingly comfortable. She admired her new figure in properly-fitted clothing. She looked at her t-shirt and remembered her stained and undersized mini-polo at home Maureen had gaped at. The thought of having clothes that fit was appealing in the face of a slightly small wardrobe, and she headed back to the sales floor to find more clothes. With an increased confidence in her new stature and safety in her unfamiliar location, she opted to experiment a little. She grabbed a pink polo and some black form-fitting jeans and was on her way back to the dressing room when she thought of her ill-fitting sandals. She made her way over to the shoe department and perused the rows of shoe boxes. Her size was only a bit larger than she had previously been. Her curiosity led her to a pair of three-inch platform sandals, and she grabbed them as well, taking them back to the dressing room. Inside, she slipped on the pants, shirt, and finally the shoes. When it was done, she stood back and looked at her reflection. She was taken aback.
While her previous height had been a modest 5'4" with the shoes and her two new inches, she stood a statuesque 5'9". Leaving the dressing room, she walked out onto the sales floor, and immediately noted her new perspective. She was awestruck as she looked around and admired the view. "So this is what it feels like to be Alexis," she thought to herself as she moved about. Though Alexis often wore heels for modeling, she rarely wore them otherwise because she lacked the proper grace to walk a full day in them without falling at least once. She couldn't believe how good it felt to be taller. She felt confident, and most notably, sexy. She headed back to the shoes and chose another pair of four-inch heels and a one-inch platform. After choosing a few more outfits, she paid for her purchases, changed into a properly-fitted ensemble, and made her way out.
On her drive home her mind raced a mile a minute. She thought about her sudden changes, and what this really meant for her life. Two inches and a cup size seemed trivial, but it would make her as tall as Maureen and somewhere in the league of (but still below) Alexis' legendary bust. While the thought should be exciting, she also knew even if suddenly sprouted six inches and three cup sizes, she would just be "the hot bitchy supermodel who hangs out with Maureen and Alexis." Suddenly her changes felt like more of a burden keeping her as she always was. She thought of the punk-emo coffee shop employee and how he chatted with her because of her off-beat appearance. It felt kind of nice to have a little genuine conversation as opposed to the gossip and biting sarcasm she normally stuck to. She imagined walking into school the next day with her platforms, black pants, purple tank top and students simply dismissing her as just trying to get attention. When she got home, she had convinced herself the idea of reinvention just wasn't viable to her. She tossed the shoes into the closet and dialed up Maureen to gossip about Jill Stevens' eating disorder and Megan Wollery's ugly red braces.
A few days went by and with each day Caitlin thought less and less of her changes. When her mother made a comment to her about her height, Caitlin played it off, neither acknowledging nor denying her sudden spurt. She got surprisingly few looks or comments regarding her body, which both relieved and depressed her. Maureen said nothing regarding her change, though Caitlin did notice Maureen wearing heels more often than normal, which she found funny. Caitlin considered tormenting her friend by wearing heels as well, but she didn't really want to call attention to her growth. Additionally, most of the guys they hung out with were pretty tall, so no one else really noticed. Alexis took absolutely no notice of Caitlin's upward growth, yet could not stop commenting on Caitlin's rather subtle outward growth. While thankful Alexis saved her questions until the two were alone, Caitlin eventually offered the explanation "they just grew" to which Alexis responded "cool!"
Despite evidence in her wardrobe that she had, indeed, grown a bit, Caitlin found herself not thinking much of it. Perhaps she simply hadn't noticed she'd been growing steadily over the course of a few months and it took a blow to the head and some time off her feet to realize it. This didn't necessarily explain the two days' worth of calories she consumed, but she had all but suppressed the memory to the point that it hadn't even happened.
Caitlin had one week of classes left, finals week, and then she would be free for the summer. As Tuesday rolled around, she found herself back in art class. With all that had happened, she hadn't realized how close she was to actually finishing her landscape project. With another hour left of art class and another session on Thursday, she would need something to do. There was the Advanced Art mural project, but she had no interest in spending too much time with the other art students. She studied her canvas and, actually found the landscape to be a bit empty. Without thinking, she set to work adding a bit of purple to the sky. She wasn't sure why, but her brush just went to the purple and began coloring in some of the bright blue. Purple was soon followed by a bit of red, brown, and eventually a touch of black. By the time she was finished, she was happy with the progress of her project, though, with such a vibrant sky, she would need to re-think the rolling green hills. Looking around, she noticed the only people left in the studio were Mr. Knightley, doing his best to pretend he wasn't shocked to still see her there, and Nicole Ryder throwing handfuls of paint at a canvas in the corner of the room, screaming obscenities the entire time. It was a miracle she had managed to drown her out since normally Nicole could single-handedly ruin art class for her.
Caitlin checked her phone and realized she had missed eleven calls from Alexis and received a rather desperate text from Maureen. "Shit!" she thought to herself, remembering she was planning to meet Maureen, Alexis, and Alexis' new boyfriend Ben at Starbucks at 4:00, and it was now 4:17. She wasn't as much concerned with tardiness, as much as she knew Maureen would desperately need the company as Alexis and Ben probably didn't make for riveting conversation. She quickly put away her art supplies and set her canvas in the corner of the room to dry, narrowly missing a splatter of green paint being hurled at high velocity. She turned to protest, but Nicole was clearly possessed by something other-worldly and cussing her out would do no good. Caitlin headed for the door, silently praying Mr. Knightley wouldn't stop her. Mr. Knightley, grateful Caitlin had taken his suggestions to heart and fearing more input on his part would not be well received, allowed her to pass by his desk without comment. As she exited, he smiled to himself and then turned his attention to Nicole, who had thrown her canvas to the floor and was now jumping on it. He sighed and did his best to return to his reading.
Caitlin was on her way out of the studio and was heading for the back parking lot. Her mother had lent Caitlin her car, as the middle school was already let out for the summer. She had her keys in the door when an unfamiliar voice called her name.
"Hey! Caitlin, right?" a boy shouted from behind her. Caitlin turned to look and barely stopped herself from gasping at his pierced appearance before she recognized him as the weird barista kid from the coffee shop a few weeks ago.
Caitlin tried her best to be courteous. "I didn't realize you went to this school," she said, unlocking the door.
"I don't. My girlfriend Nicole goes here."
Caitlin's eyes went wide. "Are you Nicole Ryder's boyfriend?"
"Tristan," he said, not sure how he should respond given her reaction. "Once a week I attend the Advanced Art class here. I think Mr. Knightley is the best art teacher in the city."
"Oh," Caitlin replied, looking around. She was less interested in the conversation and more nervous about being seen talking to Tristan, given his appearance. "Well, I'm actually in a hurry, so…"
"That's cool," he said. "I just wanted to let you know I really like your pieces. I think your stuff is really good."
Caitlin was taken aback. "Really?"
"Definitely," he said smiling. "I dig the abstract stuff, but there's something to be said for simplicity."
Caitlin was beginning to feel a bit uncomfortable, mainly because she was wary of anyone who would willingly date Nicole Ryder. Tristan seemed like a nice enough guy–tall and skinny, but with defined, almost sharp facial features and a smoky voice that likely came from a regular cigarette habit. She could definitely see him with Nicole. Before then, she couldn't really picture Nicole with anyone. Not anyone human at least.
A silence hung in the air briefly, and Caitlin used the opportunity to open her car door and toss her things in. She still felt a bit weird talking to Tristan and didn't want to invite the possibility of letting Nicole see her with him.
"See ya' around Caitlin!" Tristan called out, but Caitlin had shut the door and was wrapped up in sending Maureen a text message. It was now 4:30 and she was concerned Maureen, left long enough with Alexis and Ben, would either lose her mind or choke herself with a plastic stirring straw.
She arrived at Starbucks to see Maureen doing her best to stay interested in the banter, clutching a double-shot mocha as if it were sustaining her very existence. Maureen's eyes pleaded to Caitlin, who smiled back sympathetically. Caitlin ordered a frappucino and made small talk with Alexis, quickly becoming bored with the outing. Alexis was perched on the lap of her boyfriend, who was mesmerized by the expanse of cleavage on display through Alexis' low cut baby tee. While built like he could withstand a head-on collision with a charging bull, Ben had boyish features and, like Alex, was too dense to be mean. Caitlin had confided to Maureen that Ben was the perfect other half to Alexis since their IQs added together equalled an average person. Alexis chirped away, happier than normal, Maureen went over the top trying to be courteous, and Caitlin grew increasingly bored. Ben caught wind of Caitlin's discomfort and made an attempt to reach out to her.
"Hey, Kathrine, what's up?"
"Excuse me?" Caitlin replied, irked. "What's my name?"
"Karen?" Ben was visibly unnerved.
"Wrong." Caitlin's frustration grew.
Ben looked to Alexis for help, but Alexis, in the midst of a giggle fit, was not going to be much help. Ben looked back and forth between Alexis' mirth and Caitlin's icy glare, unsure of what to make of the situation.
"Sorry, I just…"
"…don't know my fucking name?" Caitlin cut him off. "It's not like we've just met."
"Actually," Ben replied, "I don't think I ever really met y…"
"You've been eating with us at lunch for the whole year!" Caitlin fumed. She suddenly pointed to Maureen. "What's her name?"
"Maureen Jacobs," Ben responded without skipping a beat.
"You know her full name but don't know mine! What the fuck?" Caitlin was boiling at this point. Alexis had busted into a full belly laugh, and Maureen tried unsuccessfully to shush her. She abandoned her tactic and turned to Caitlin.
"Caitlin, chill. I'm sure he…"
Caitlin cut her off. "What? Didn't notice I've been sitting there the whole year?" She was practically shouting. "I mean, Jesus! I…" Caitlin's expression quickly changed. She realized what was happening and what she was freaking out about and went flush.
"It's no big deal, Ben," she spit out. "Really, I don't mind."
With that, Caitlin walked quickly out of the shop, without even taking her drink. Alexis had finally suppressed her giggles when she noticed Caitlin's absence and scanned the shop for her. "Did Caitlin go to the bathroom?" Maureen sighed and took another sip of her mocha. Ben, who finally worked his way back to his senses, blinked a few times before a light clicked on in his head. Smiling, he turned to Maureen. "Caitlin! Oh!" he said, putting his palm to his head, before cocking his head slightly to the side.
"Didn't she used to be shorter?"
Caitlin, meanwhile, rushed toward her car, flustered and embarrassed her inferiority complex had so drastically made itself apparent in public. Her cheeks felt hot and she felt as if she were breaking out in a sweat. She wiped at her forehead with her sleeve when suddenly she felt a new sensation, a powerful pang of hunger which came out of nowhere. All thoughts about her embarrassing episode only minutes earlier were pushed out of her mind as she stopped immediately and looked about trying to find somewhere to eat. The only thing nearby was the Chinese buffet, the coffee shop, and a McDonalds a few blocks down the road. The thought of fast food made her cringe, but the idea of bursting into a Chinese buffet and gorging herself wasn't attractive either. She started to head toward her car when another hunger pang stopped her and she whirled around to the buffet. Quickly glancing side to side, she made a run across the street and silently prayed to herself she wouldn't see anyone she knew.
She got in the door and looked around frantically. To her relief, not only was the restaurant devoid of anyone she remotely recognized, it was fairly empty and contained a lot of booths out of view of the window. A petite, girl greeted her and before she could finish Caitlin interjected "Just one! Buffet!" The girl seemed to take forever leading her to a booth and while the waitress left to retrieve silverware, Caitlin headed for the buffet, grabbing two egg rolls in one hand and eating them both. In the back of her head she told herself she probably shouldn't act too primal in a public place, but as she thought this she scooped food onto her plate until it stacked high with chicken, more egg rolls, a heaping pile of rice, broccoli, beef, and chow mein. She actually reached her seat at the same time as her waitress, nearly knocking her over and also nearly spilling her food. She tore her napkin apart and dug into her food ravenously, hardly noticing the shocked look given to her by the waitress. The food tasted incredible and getting food in her felt amazing.
After what felt like hours, Caitlin finally stopped eating, and she laid back, her senses slowly returning to her. She reached down to touch her distended belly, shocked by the tautness of it. It bulged out from her shirt and skirt, displaying most of her midsection and belly button. She tried to think back to how much she had eaten but had some trouble. She looked around, realizing again that she was at a Chinese buffet and had spent a good amount of time ravenously stuffing her face. The more she thought about it, the more confused she became, feeling like this whole thing shouldn't be happening. Suddenly snapping out of it, her waitress returned with the check. The girl looked unsure of what to say and jumped when Caitlin suddenly spoke up.
"How long have I been here?"
The waitress looked at her watch and replied, almost equally perplexed. "About a half-hour."
Caitlin's mouth gaped, even as her hand still rubbed her exposed belly. She looked up at the waitress who had been staring but averted her eyes at Caitlin's sudden gaze. Caitlin suddenly spoke up without thinking. "How much did I eat?"
The waitress shrugged in disbelief. "It couldn't have been less than six plates. I dunno. Seven? Eight plates?" She said. "I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it. You ate pretty much all of our egg rolls." The waitress looked as shocked as Caitlin. "Do you do this often? You must have a hell of a metabolism."
Caitlin's mouth fell open. This was like a nightmare. "I…I need to go. Now." She tossed a ten and a five at the waitress and waddled to the door, her fullness hindering her full range of movement. As she made her way out the door she began to feel tired. In her haste, she stepped out into traffic, and a car honked, temporarily shaking her out of her haze. She hurried across the street and had reached her car when she heard someone call her name from across the street.
"Caitlin! What're you still doing here?" Alexis' shouted, waving frantically with Ben and Maureen close behind.
Caitlin instinctively reached to her midsection to pull down her shirt which continually rode up over her rounded belly. Fortunately, the car blocked the view of her body from the group, and after a brief moment Caitlin dropped into the car and sped off leaving the group staring bewildered after her. Her heart raced and too many thoughts flashed in her head for her to really make sense of any of them. Her panic was the only thing keeping her awake at this point, as she could feel her whole body growing warm and heavy with fatigue. She put a hand to her belly again, noting while it still bulged larger than she had ever seen it, it had receded a bit from the size she first noticed in the restaurant. The restaurant! She must have eaten twice the amount she ate last week! But that's impossible! she thought to herself. That would be, like, seven or eight pounds of food! She gasped and swerved as she almost drifted onto the sidewalk only a few blocks from her own house. Parking crookedly in her driveway, she dragged herself out of her car and into her house. In the fog of her fatigue, she barely registered her parents voices as she wandered up to her room and collapsed into bed.