Upon awakening, Caitlin immediately noticed she was having difficulty breathing. She tried taking deeper breaths, but an unusually constricting shirt prevented her from doing so. She rolled onto her back and immediately gasped at the sight of her open polo shirt collar displaying an explosion of cleavage bound tightly in her shirt and bra.
Panic set in as Caitlin knew she had not been this size when she went to bed; she would never have gotten to sleep in the first place. In desperation, she grasped the bottom of her shirt and peeled it upwards until it cleared her bosom. As her breasts sprang free, she took a few deep breaths before extracting herself from the undersized garment. Having freed herself from the confines of her shirt, Caitlin's attention now went to the unusual amount of herself protruding from her chest. Formerly what she would call "perky," her boobs were now undoubtedly "big." While still not quite Alexis-huge, the orbs mounted on her chest exceeded handfuls.
After a few moments, Caitlin pulled herself up from the bed. Getting to her feet, she looked around the room. She'd grown taller, but could not gauge how much. The possibility existed that she'd blown the whole thing out of proportion; she hadn't moved around much yesterday, and perhaps the difference was minimal. She approached her closet where she had marked off her height the previous day and scratched a new mark. Checking the mark, she measured a smidgen over 5'9", putting her two inches taller than yesterday and five inches taller than two weeks ago.
Medical impossibility notwithstanding, wardrobe-wise this would be difficult to hide. Her measurements made her a near-carbon copy of Alexis, slightly slimmer and with smaller boobs. Maureen would take notice, as she had worn heels for the past week to maintain her comparatively taller stature. Caitlin figured she could downplay her lengthened appearance with shorts or capris, along with a properly fitted top which she would have to buy. Physically standing five inches taller, however, posed a problem. She needed a distraction from her extra inches, and while she had some ideas, she needed help. She considered calling Maureen—an idea quickly dismissed—before sighing and calling Alexis.
"I was wondering if you were going to tell me how you made your boobs bigger," Alexis remarked, unaffected by the improbability of the situation.
"There's no secret," Caitlin replied, slipping into a pair of Alexis' jeans, which, despite Caitlin's comparatively slim figure, still fit snugly. Alexis owned roughly sixty pairs of jeans of various types and fashions, and this particular pair fit Caitlin's tastes well enough. While thankful to be fitting into something properly, Caitlin had a hard time accepting that Alexis' clothes fit her at all. Until a couple of weeks ago, Alexis always seemed fairly tall. Now Caitlin looked her in the eyes. "Anyways, did you bring me a shirt?"
"Did I?" Alexis replied, beaming. She dug into one of several bags and produced a blue stretch top that looked like it was meant for a nine-year-old. "You've got to try this top out. You'll love it!"
"What the hell is this?" Caitlin asked, accepting the shirt akin to how she would a used tissue.
"It's a mini-tee. It'll look great with your new boobs!"
"Alex, I'm not trying to show off, I'm trying to dress them down! Don't you have anything conservative?"
Alexis looked puzzled. "You mean, like, saving trees?"
Caitlin rolled her eyes. "No, no, no, I mean something that will make my boobs look less big!"
"Why would you want that?" Alexis replied, aghast.
"Because I'm not trying to get attention. I don't even know why this is happening."
"So? What does that have to do with looking good?"
Caitlin groaned. "It's not about looking good. It's about not having my tits hanging out like a—" Caitlin stopped, noting the generous amount of skin Alexis happened to be showing off. "Like a girl that grew new tits overnight!"
"But isn't that what you are?"
"Argh!" Caitlin snatched the blue top from Alexis and slipped into it. The stretchy material clung to her body more snugly than anything she dared wear before, and the neckline provided plenty of ventilation. Caitlin had prepared to protest Alexis' dressing her up like a skank when she noticed herself in the mirror and had to do a double-take. While her face remained mostly the same, it appeared to sit upon someone else's body entirely. The shirt and stretch jeans emphasized the long contours of her body, and she never imagined herself capable of looking so elegant.
"You need your finishing touch!" Alexis said impatiently, sliding a pair of 3.5-inch platform wedge sandals towards Caitlin. "It'll be nice to have someone finally wear these. My mom got 'em for me but, well, you know me. It's like she's trying to kill me! Anyways, it'll be wild to look up at you for a change!" Caitlin did not like how the last part made her feel. She also felt a twinge of anxiety in her stomach at the idea of being so different from her self from four weeks ago that she would be able to look down at her tall friend.
"Quit stalling!" Alexis persisted, nearly throwing a hissy-fit at being denied her fashion suggestion. "Come on! Let's see 'em!"
Caitlin took a breath and stepped into the shoes. While she only rose three inches, the knotting in her stomach worsened as Alexis seemingly shrunk in front of her. Caitlin's mouth dropped open at the bizarre sight, and Alexis' grin widened with excitement. Caitlin struggled to accept in her head that four weeks ago these heels would have made her shorter than she currently stood without them. Now, with their help, she stood six feet tall. She began to tremble with uneasiness and put her hand on Alexis' shoulder to steady herself. Alexis continued beaming at her handiwork.
"Look at us in the mirror!" Alexis demanded, gesturing wildly. "You're so tall! I can't believe I'm shorter than you! Wait til' everyone sees you! They'll be soooooooooo blown away!"
The thought of someone seeing her in her current condition horrified Caitlin. Her reflection now looked grotesque; a stretched out and swollen version of her proper self. Her trembling increased its intensity, lightheadedness set in, and her thoughts seemed to crashed around inside her head. Alexis, oblivious to her friend's discomfort, stepped back to present Caitlin to an imaginary audience.
"Caitlin Landry: supermodel!"
Still too stunned to move, Caitlin panicked at Alex stepping out of arm's reach, and her body took the path of least resistance. The world dimmed around her and she collapsed to the floor in a heap of limbs and hair.
As the world slowly drifted back into focus, Caitlin found herself wedged into a painfully cramped space. For a brief moment, she feared she'd grown so large that the room itself constricted her, and was relieved to find that the walls were the narrow walls of her closet. She then worried she had perhaps grown even larger while unconscious as had happened following her previous growth episodes. Looking down at herself, she tried her best to evaluate her appearance, but only felt the same bigger-than-normal than she had felt before she passed out. Nausea began to set in.
"If you're going to puke," Alexis said from behind the pages of a Cosmopolitan, "I'll help you to the bathroom, so you don't get it all over my clothes."
While perturbed by her friend's casual dismissal of her predicament, Caitlin also felt relieved that only one of them was panicking. "I think I'll be okay. Remind me to stay away from high-heels," she said, kicking off the shoes as if they were contaminated. She didn't want to stand up again, so she stayed seated on the floor, curling her knees up in her arms. This created the unusual and unfamiliar sight of her compressed breasts rising out of her top like bread dough.
Alexis peered over her magazine at Caitlin, entertained by her friend's discovery. "Aren't big boobs awesome?"
Caitlin grinned half-heartedly. "I guess. I'd probably like them more if they had shown up over the course of a few years, or even a few months. It's a little weird when they expand suddenly and without warning."
"I think it's awesome," Alexis said, closing her magazine. "It's like you've got a brand new fashion accessory overnight. Wait 'til Maureen sees them. She's gonna' totally flip. You're, like, way hotter than her now."
"Oh yeah. You're totally sporting the whole package now. Boobs, butt, legs. We do need to do something about that hair, though." Alexis clearly enjoyed Caitlin's changes much more than Caitlin did. The excitement was not contagious.
"Alex!" Caitlin almost shouted, cutting Alexis off. "I don't—I can't do this," she resigned.
"Can't do what?"
"This! Those! These!" she said, gesturing at her clothes, shoes, and breasts respectively. "This whole thing is too weird. I need to find some way not to stand out until I either can get back to normal or at least know what's going on."
"Why are you such a downer about this?" Alexis pouted. "You look awesome, and all you're saying is how much you don't want anyone to see you. Everyone is going to think you look great."
"No, they won't! They'll point and say 'What the fuck happened to Caitlin? What is she trying to pull off?' Then someone will call the CDC and have me sent to Area 51, and they'll put me in a glass tube."
"What are you talking about? You don't have a disease, I don't know what Area 51 is, and it's not like anyone pays attention to you anyw—" Alexis' eyes went wide, and she slapped her hands over her mouth. "I mean, no one listens when you ta—oh shit."
Caitlin's mouth dropped open, but nothing came out. They both sat, staring at each other, both wearing similar expressions shock on their faces. Alexis tried to fix her mistake.
"Get out. Get out of my house you bitch."
Silence hung in the air for a moment before a tear appeared on Alexis' face. Both stood up, Alexis to leave, and Caitlin to push her for not moving quickly enough. She grabbed Alexis's arm to remove her forcibly, but standing reminded Caitlin again of her new stature. She formerly stared at Alexis' nose when they stood face to face, but now they nearly stood eye to eye. Nearly, eye to eye, but not anymore.
She stood at least an inch taller than Alex, putting her at 5'10".
Shocked and drained, Caitlin looked down slightly at Alex, at the pile of clothes, down at herself, and then burst into tears.
"I'm a nobody," she sobbed, sitting on the bed. "Now I'm an overgrown bimbo nobody!" she wailed.
Relieved that her visit hadn't yet ended on bad terms, Alexis rubbed Caitlin's shoulder, trying her best to console her. "You aren't a nobody. You need to be more, um, expressed." Words weren't Alex's strong suit.
"But you said it yourself!" Caitlin bawled. "No one even knows who I am!"
Alexis thought this over, and brightened up. "Maybe they didn't before, but they totally will soon! I'm going to give you the makeover of a lifetime."
Caitlin smiled and sniffled again, hugging her friend tighter. She couldn't help but be distracted again by her own body. While she still felt oversized, she also could not imagine herself six inches shorter. It seemed small when she thought of it. She then thought of Alexis, whom she still had locked in tight embrace. Alexis had always seemed bigger than life in every way, but the girl next to her now felt surprisingly average.
But if 5'9" 36E Alexis was average, what did that make her? Caitlin's current measurements now exceeded Alexis in more than a few ways. While a couple more inches here and a few less there were all that separated them, to most that would not make much difference.
Meanwhile, Alexis, while happy not to have been abruptly sent home, grew impatient with the long embrace. "Caitlin?" she asked.
"Uh, you're not going to want to kiss, or anything are you?"
"No, I'm just thinking."
"You sure? I know a few girls on the softball team that, well, you know…"
Caitlin laughed and shoved Alexis to the bed. "Way to ruin a Kodak moment you ditz."
Alexis giggled as she hit the bed, and Caitlin's laughter only brightened her mood. Alexis couldn't recall the last time she'd heard her friend genuinely laugh, or even smile for that matter. She'd save those thoughts for another time as she had an unfinished project standing in front of her. "So, shall we start your makeover?"
Caitlin looked over her shoulder at her closet mirror, and oddly enough, she didn't freak out. While she looked different than before, it felt as if she were seeing herself for the first time in a long time. Perhaps it was time for a change. She motioned down at her body.
"Have at it."
The bell signaled the end of the first final, setting off a chorus of sighs and groans throughout the classroom. Maureen had completed her in-class Old Man and the Sea essay twenty minutes prior and spent the remainder of the time checking her writing for errors. "I hope college is harder than this," she mumbled under her breath, slinging her bag onto her shoulder.
Leaving her essay on the teacher's desk, she headed out the door, checking her phone for messages. She hadn't heard from either Alex or Caitlin since Saturday evening when Caitlin had her psycho outburst and apparently found solace in a Chinese buffet. She had not known Caitlin to be a stress eater in the past, but the way she'd waddled out of the restaurant indicated she had found some comfort there. Maureen shuddered, unable to even contemplate the idea of gorging herself on food and what that would do to her figure. That said, Caitlin had been looking a bit fuller lately.
"Fuller" indeed! While Maureen didn't want to think she was going crazy, she could swear that Caitlin was having some kind of growth spurt. While such things weren't impossible, she knew for a fact that she had been two inches taller than Caitlin since the eighth grade, when a late growth spurt popped her up a couple inches to 5'6". Ever since the car accident, however, Caitlin seemed more statuesque than normal. Maureen tried questioning Caitlin about it, but Caitlin either didn't notice, didn't care, or both. Asking other girls on the soccer team also proved unhelpful since most had no idea how tall Caitlin was, and a few barely remembered her at all.
Where Maureen had initially attributed Caitlin's changes to Alexis' over-active imagination, Caitlin had grown out as well as up. She recalled Alexis' constant chirping about Caitlin's boobs ever since the post-accident visit. Maureen gave Caitlin full marks for her ability to hide it, but Caitlin she sure as hell wasn't a 34B anymore. She was at least a C or possibly small D cup—a very well disguised C or D, but a C or D nonetheless. Caitlin downplayed her changes, but somebody was bound to notice soon.
Then again, seemingly no one had, and Maureen considered she may be getting bent out of shape over nothing. I need to relax. Maureen thought. I have been working pretty hard lately. She gave one last passing thought to the matter as she glanced down at her heels, which aided her denial of Caitlin's sudden lengthening. As if on cue, Jason Kline met her at her locker. There's what I need, a little stroking of my ego. Jason smiled as he saw her approaching, and Maureen played coy.
"Hey, gorgeous. English final giving you some trouble?"
"Yeah, it was a real nail biter," Maureen replied, rolling her eyes. "I'm surprised to see you. I figured you'd be studying for Chem."
Jason smirked, "You kidding me? I got that in the bag. With what I have on the line for that one, you better be ready for a night to remember."
Maureen smiled, pleased with herself that she could act as the academic muse to the varsity quarterback. He rambled on about his confidence, and she gave him a half smile. "You'd better hope so. I don't do dinner dates with idiot jocks."
Jason seemed undeterred by the comment. "We'll probably hit up that downtown restaurant. You know? The Japanese one. Not the one with the sushi or whatever. Like hell I'm eating raw shit. That one with the barbecue. That place sounds good cause they have wings and I—holy shit..."
Maureen sensed a disturbance in the natural order: Jason had trailed off mid-sentence while talking about food. Something certainly wasn't right. The nervous, finals week energy dispersed as conversations all around them trailed off at the same time. "What?" Maureen said loudly, though she had not meant to speak out loud. Oddly enough, no one took notice of either her outburst or even her. All eyes faced the opposite direction.
A girl she certainly did not recognize entered through the side door and headed away from them toward the opposite end of the hall. Miffed that this mystery girl had torn Jason attention away, Maureen struggled to get a better look. The girl was quite tall, with rich black hair that fell to the middle of her back. She wore a black t-shirt which showed some midriff, and form-fitting jeans which she recognized immediately as belonging to Alexis. In fact, she could almost mistake her shape for Alexis, though rather than emanating Alexis' unbridled energy, this girl walked with a familiar cantankerous swagger. The girl also wore two inch clog sandals which accentuated her already substantial height, and eliminated any chance that it was Alex. Height aside, the body shape more closely resembled…
"No," Maureen muttered to herself. "It can't be. It couldn't possibly be—"
Maureen wanted to say the name out loud, but she feared that if it weren't Caitlin, she'd be acknowledging an irrational fear, and if it were Caitlin, her life would have turned into a funhouse. No matter. This girl had captured the attention of every student in the hallway and appeared not to care at all. If anything, she looked slightly uneasy. She quickened her pace and headed towards the lockers, with one of her spectators peeking around to continue to continue watching her.
"Who the hell was that?" The voices in the hall vocalized Maureen's thoughts while Jason, also in a daze, stammered while trying to pick up where he had left off. Letting her curiosity get the better of her, Maureen whirled around and headed in the other direction, hoping to meet the mystery girl at the other end of the hallway. She figured she could at least put her mind at ease and head to Caitlin's locker, located–a chill went down Maureen's back–at the far end of the other hallway: exactly where the mystery girl headed.
Maureen shoved her way down the hall and was relieved to find the girl standing not at Caitlin's locker. The girl faced away from her, talking to someone at a locker not her own. Maureen craned her neck to try to get a better view and realized it was Steve Rubins' locker. What is she doing at that sleazeball Steve Rubins' locker?
As Maureen moved closer, she saw Steve holding a soccer ball under his arm and grinning like an idiot. He shamelessly ogled the girl's chest which, she could now see, was the primary cause of the generous midriff on display. The girl's wedge sandals propped up her already impressive height, allowing her to look down substantially at Steve. Maureen recalled that when she herself wore 2" heels, she was about as tall as the 5'8" Steve. The top of Steve's head came up to the girl's nose, though he didn't seem to mind being closer to her chest. Marueen did not catch most of the conversation, but it ended abruptly with the girl offering the words "slimeball" and "go fuck yourself," as she shoved him, rather roughly, into his locker.
The inflection of those words sounded familiar.
The girl abruptly whirled around to storm off, but Maureen, having drawn close to the conversation, was unable to get out of the way in time. The two girls collided, sending Maureen crashing ungracefully to the floor. Dazed, Maureen, reached around to gather her items which had been strewn about while the mystery girl remained relatively unfazed by the collision.
"Sorry about that, I was dealing with some unfinished—" her tone suddenly changed, "Maureen?"
Maureen froze. This isn't happening. She silently assured herself. I'm not on the floor in the hallway, my stuff is not scattered all over the place, and there is no way I am going to recognize the face when I look up, so I may as well not even look.
"I didn't even see you there," the familiar voice continued. "I must be in my own world." Manicured burgundy nails attached to long fingers assisted Maureen in retrieving her belongings, and another arm reaching under her hers to lift her to her feet.
"Jeez, you should have made a noise back there or something. You okay?"
Still dazed, Maureen looked up to reply. "Yeah, I think I'm…" she could barely breathe as she made eye contact, "fine?"
It's not Caitlin.
"Good. I'd hate to sideline the women's soccer team captain."
It's not Caitlin.
Maureen's mouth hung open and her eyes glazed. The girl in front of her shifted uncomfortably, pushing a lock of dark hair out of her face. "Yeah, new look. I had help, obviously." She tugged down at her mini-tee, causing the Abercrombie logo on her shirt to swell in response. Smiling slightly, her rich violet lipstick contrasted stood out against her teeth. She widened her shadowed eyes and peered expectantly at Maureen, restless for some sign of telepathy.
"Hey, bitch! Throw me a fucking bone here!"
It is Caitlin, and she looks stunning.
Her hair, previously a light brown, was now a rich raven black. Bright blue eyes, formerly Caitlin's only prominent feature, now shone in piercing contrast with her dark hair and subtle makeup, which darkened her facial features as opposed to her usual pale china-doll look. The t-shirt, which Maureen had actually given Caitlin as a gift last year, flattered her new curves. Caitlin's smaller B's had fit her body well when she was 5'4", and now, six inches later, her larger D's brought a kind of proportional balance to her height. At the same time, the shirt, being undersized for her frame, emphasized the length of her body and complimented her lean shape. Though Caitlin still didn't have the bombastic curves that Alexis had, the stretch jeans flattered her legs, which lacked the gangly look of most girls she knew following a growth spurt. Finally, the sandals added at least two inches, putting her around six foot, and leaving Maureen, who wore flats that day, staring at Caitlin's neck.
A pause hung in the air as Maureen wasn't sure how to react and Caitlin wasn't sure what more she could say. The five-minute bell sounded, and Caitlin saw her opportunity to end the encounter before it got more excruciatingly awkward. She did, however, have a whimsical thought before turning to walk away. She stepped toward Maureen and crouched slightly to embrace her in a one-armed hug, pressing her larger body against Maureen's comparatively smaller one. Maureen, still frozen in place, had barely the cognizance to return the embrace with anything more than a pat on the side.
"There's the bell. I've got a trig final. I'll see ya' later." Caitlin straightened up and strode away to her next class, tossing her backpack over one shoulder. Maureen couldn't remember whether or not she had another final, and if she did, what or where it was. She didn't even try. A sea of bodies shifted around her, but Maureen stayed still, watching a bobbing head of black hair–a head above many others–move away from her before rounding the corner and disappearing out of sight. Maureen stood in the hallway, overhearing someone say something about a U.S. History final, but she couldn't move if she wanted to. She remained planted in her spot until the bustle cleared, leaving her alone as the class bell echoed again through the empty hallway.
Upon rounding the corner, Caitlin broke into a frantic run. Her breaths came shallow and quick, so much so that she began to feel light-headed. Fortunately, her first scheduled final exam was her open period, and she had opted to arrive at school late rather than sit through the optional study hall period. She definitely needed it, but with the amount of stress she carried today, she couldn't imagine studying for three hours in a room full of her peers. She had wanted to postpone her public unveiling as much as possible.
She was so flustered and nervous during her encounter with Maureen that it was a wonder Maureen hadn't seen right through her bravado. Why the hell didn't she say anything? Caitlin wondered. Maureen seemed distracted during their brief encounter, which Caitlin attributed to Maureen's busy schedule. Maureen didn't even seem to notice Caitlin's blabbing about a trig final when they both knew that she had Advanced Painting. Whatever it was, Caitlin was grateful that the discomfort of the encounter was (to her, at least) one-sided.
Though ten minutes late, Caitlin was grateful to enter her refuge of the day: the art studio. While she wanted to forget the carnival sideshow her life had become, she couldn't help but notice she had to stoop a little to reach her locker comfortably, and where she had grown used to operating the lock with one hand, her longer fingers threw off her muscle memory, and it took her three tries to open the lock. Upon opening her locker, she reached for her normal paint-splattered, oversized t-shirt, hoping to downplay her makeover by slumming it. To her chagrin, however, she found that where the shirt had previously been "grossly oversized," her lengthwise and outward growth made only look "a little big."
"This is getting ridiculous," she muttered to herself, reaching for an apron. The apron still sized for a person nearly half a foot shorter than she currently stood, rode high and noticeably snug around her chest and she had to adjust the straps to make it fit properly. She also swapped Alexis' heels for a pair of old flip-flops, grateful for both the comfort and the slight lowering of altitude. After tying her hair back in a ponytail, she found that she had successfully downplayed her makeover by making herself look like yet another person she hardly recognized.
Her entrance into the studio went largely unnoticed by the students, partly because she was a tad late and everyone was already working, and partly because the few students that glanced at her didn't remotely recognize her. She headed toward her normal spot in the far corner of the room, where she could distance herself from the cluster of her fellow art students. She mounted her canvas, only to find, unsurprisingly, that it was too low and she grudgingly adjusted it to compensate.
With her canvas finally mounted, she took a moment to remember where she left off. She had changed the color of the sky above her landscape, though, despite the rich maroon sky, the painting was pretty much the same thing it was before. She thought of Mr. Knightley's criticism, and Nicole Ryder's rather violent artistic process, and opted to let her subconscious mind do the painting. Still, she could not help but replay that morning's unusual encounter with her mother.
* * * *
Caitlin awoke to her mother tapping on the door of her room.
"Honey? Isn't it finals week?" Her mother's muffled voice inquired from behind the door. "We wouldn't want you to miss an important exam."
Caitlin grumbled a reply about her open period being first on Monday and had rolled over to fall back asleep when two (technically three) things dropped into her field of vision. The first two were her still unfamiliar new breasts, which Alexis had informed her were a proud 34E, that plopped onto her arm. The third was the locks of dyed raven-black hair which nearly blocked her vision entirely. She sat up suddenly, scanning her room for a tape measure, silently praying that she had not grown any since the previous night.
The sounds of her breathing and frantic movements caught her mother's attention. "Caitlin? Dear? Are you okay in there? Is something wrong?"
"Nothing mom, just a dream, or something," Caitlin replied, now on her feet and clumsily wrapping a tape measure around herself. It then occurred to her that she didn't remember the exact measurements Alexis had taken, so new ones would be of little use. She dropped the measuring tape and tried a tactile measuring method, which also proved fruitless since she had not had her new proportions long enough to gauge her size and her hands had probably grown with her. She then caught her reflection in her mirror—a dark-haired, frantic, large-breasted girl groping herself—and resolved to get ready for school and do her best to forget everything that had happened.
Unfortunately, every motion Caitlin went through served to remind her how much her body changed in the last couple of days. Her bath towel felt noticeably smaller, the shower head lower, and Caitlin even noticed the closer proximity of top of the doorframes, which she could now touch comfortably in her bare feet. She tried a number of outfit possibilities aimed at minimizing her changes, each one about as effective as a neon sign pointing to her breasts. Alexis owned absolutely no conservative clothing options, and even the bras pushed her breasts up and out for maximum viewership.
A half dozen tops, bottoms, and dresses brought her no closer to a decision. Caitlin looked at the clock and cursed, sensing the narrowing window of opportunity to make it to the studio before class started. "Fuck it all," she said aloud, turning away from the mirror. "I'll wear whatever, and people can say whatever."
Caitlin slid into a pair of borrowed jeans, grateful for Alexis' generous curves. The jeans were loose on her hips, which allowed them to hang a little to compensate for her longer inseam. She reached into her drawer and grabbed the first shirt she laid her hands on, a dark gray form-fitting Abercrombie tee. Alexis had left few options for flat-soled shoes, and Caitlin settled on the clog sandals with the 3-inch heel. Slipping them on, she did her best to ignore the fact that she no longer merely flirted with six feet tall at this point, and hurried out of her room and toward the front door.
"Byemomgottagofinals!" she blurted loudly, making a beeline to the door, only to have her mother suddenly emerge from the kitchen and block her path.
"But don't you want breakf—oh my!" Her mother's eyes went wide as she gasped. Caitlin, panicked by her mother's reaction, fumbled for a response.
"It's the shoes mom. I need to—"
Caitlin's mother shook her head and patted her daughter on the shoulder. "I'm sorry honey. I didn't mean to startle you. I'm still getting used to the hair and seeing you with, well, more tasteful makeup, I barely recognized you. You have such nice skin, it's definitely a more mature look for you." Caitlin waited for the other shoe to drop. Two weeks ago her mother stood two inches taller than her, and now she towered over the woman. Also, with Caitlin standing on the second to last step and her chest nearly at her mother's eye level, her breasts weren't exactly inconspicuous.
"That's it?" Caitlin asked carefully.
"Well, dear. I'm not exactly thrilled about that midriff you're showing, but, I know, baby steps. Maybe this weekend we'll go shopping for some more appropriate clothing. That Alex is a nice girl, but I never did approve of her fashion choices. I think it's her mother's fault..."
As her mother started off on a rant about Alexis' parentage, Caitlin stood on the steps, not sure whether to be thrilled or insulted at her mother's obliviousness to her drastic physical changes.
"Oh, but I'm making you late!" her mother suddenly wrapped up. "Here are the car keys and a granola bar. You should get going!" Her mother dropped the items into Caitlin's purse and headed back to the kitchen. Caitlin blinked a few times, before deciding not to press the issue and headed out the door.
* * * *
"Caitlin? Oh my. . ."
Caitlin snapped out of her reverie by the astonished voice of Mr. Knightley. The tall man must have noticed that his formerly petite art student was no longer at chin level to him. Just play dumb, act like its nothing. With any luck, he'll think it's all in his head.
"I can't believe what I'm seeing."
Caitlin let her brush hover over the canvas, waiting on a reaction from her teacher.
"I know I made a suggestion for you to explore your environment, but I never would have expected this choice."
She wanted to be surprised that yet another person somehow overlooked her substantial growth spurt, but what he was actually reacting to surprised her more. Caitlin had let her mind wander, something she normally tried to avoid while painting. Nonetheless, it happened, and the result was: an igloo. She had painted an igloo on the surface of the grass, in the middle of her landscape, opposite the tree. It sat there, as perplexed at its existence as Caitlin was. She opened her mouth to reply, though she couldn't fathom what she would possibly say.
"Don't say anything!" Mr. Knightley waved his hands dramatically. "Don't let me sway you. Let it be. I can see you're truly developing as an artist."
Caitlin raised an eyebrow at his last comment, feeling it hit close to home, given her situation, but he had already turned away from her toward the other students.
"What the hell is wrong with people?" Caitlin mused out loud, letting herself return to her work. Almost immediately, another distraction appeared, accompanied by the unmistakable smell of cigarettes.
"Whatcha' got there Landry?" Nicole sneered. Nicole Ryder had stepped outside for a smoke break, and, upon re-entry, noticed Mr. Knightley admiring Caitlin's work. Alongside dyed hair and abundant piercings, Nicole had large, bright amber eyes that had a subtly, hollowed look from moderate drug use and poor sleep habits. At about 5'2", her thin frame and haggard look often reminded Caitlin of a gremlin. Caitlin's higher perspective only aided in inviting the comparison.
"What the hell is that?" Nicole asked, gesturing at the igloo with a paintbrush.
Caitlin hoped to avoid an encounter with Nicole and attempted to resolve it quickly the only way she knew how. "Get lost, freak," she replied, without looking away from her canvas.
Nicole snorted, slightly amused, and persisted. "No, no. Enlighten me. Did the hair dye seep to your brain? I'm curious what prompted the queen of conservative to become the seductress of the surreal."
Caitlin took a deep breath and attempted to maintain control while growing irritated at Nicole's persistence.
"Look, I don't know. It's there. Please go away."
"It's a damn igloo! What are you? Cold?"
Their exchange drew unwanted attention from the other students, and Caitlin scrunched down in a futile attempt to hide behind her canvas. She felt tears begin to well up in her eyes. Oh God, Caitlin, she told herself. You aren't going to cry, are you?
"You know what your project needs is a little of my magic touch."
Out of the corner of her eyes, Caitlin saw Nicole approach her canvas. That bitch is going to ruin my project! Caitlin whirled around to physically stop her. Nicole, not expecting such a reaction, shoved her away, inadvertently grabbing a handful of Caitlin's breast in the process. Nicole's eyes went wide and she chuckled. "Wow, someone's been putting on weight. Didn't notice you had so much in there. Didja' get 'em done or something?"
The combination of Nicole's comments about her body and intentions to deface her work sent Caitlin from embarrassed to livid in record time. She lunged at Nicole, grabbing for her hair, but instead catching her ear and the edge of a piercing.
"OW!" Nicole shouted. "Let go, you ox!" She responded by slapping Caitlin across the face.
Silence momentarily hung in the air as Caitlin, Nicole, and a number of spectators were unsure of what would happen next. Caitlin rubbed her cheek which stung from the impact, as she grew increasingly self-conscious about the spectacle. Nicole rubbed her ear, all the while spewing a streak of unbecoming comments about Caitlin under her breath. It didn't take long for Caitlin to pick up "bimbo," "slut," "brainless," and a particular c-word that even she herself had never directed at anyone before.
"Excuse me?" Caitlin asked.
Nicole met her stare head-on, though about a foot lower. "I called you a talentless, brainless, tits-for-brains, fake, slutty, bimbo, cu—"
Caitlin cut her off with a punch square in the face.
All spectators gasped at this latest development, though none had yet intervened. On the ground, Nicole spouted a whole new level of colorful profanity. The whole scenario had gotten well out of hand. Though over an hour remained in the class, Caitlin figured this a good time to leave. Ignoring the gaping spectators, Caitlin abandoned her canvas, grabbed her open box of art supplies, and headed for the door. She barely had time to notice the sudden increasing volume of Nicole's voice, and the crescendo of angry footsteps before she was pulled to the ground from behind by her hair and collar.
In twenty-plus years teaching art classes, Mr. Knightley had never broken up a fight, and in his forty-plus years, he had never witnessed such an intense scuffle. While advising another student on the opposite end of the room, a series of yelps caught his attention, followed by a loud crashing and the unmistakable sound of art supplies spilling on the ground. By the time he reached the source of the ruckus, he found his two prize pupils in the midst of an ugly and frighteningly physical brawl.
"Whoa! Whoa! Stop!" he yelled, in his best serious-teacher voice. The girls, however, showed no regard for his interference. Unsure exactly how to intervene, he looked around at the students who remained transfixed at the sight before them. He set his sights on Dean, a varsity linebacker (who also had a gift for watercolor) and motioned for him to help separate the girls. Dean took a moment to assess which girl stood the least chance of making him look bad: the feral-looking wiry one or the tall girl who nearly matched him in height.
"DEAN!" Mr. Knightley yelled in his direction again. "Help me here!" Hoping his choice would not somehow affect his grade, Dean wrapped his arms around a fiercely clawing Nicole to pry her away from Caitlin. Nicole reacted to her captor by kicking and writhing wildly and Caitlin took advantage of Nicole's being bound from behind by slapping her before she was out of reach. Nicole reacted like a cat trapped in a paper bag, catching Dean off guard with a flurry of kicks to his shins, and the girls resumed their scuffle.
By this time, more students stepped in to intervene but had difficulty due to the girls' refusal to let go of each others' hair. In a last-ditch effort, Nicole abandoned the hair tactic and yanked Caitlin's shirt and bra up into her face, exposing a good deal of skin. Caitlin immediately let go of Nicole's hair, only to have each of her arms grabbed by intervening students who were too preoccupied with attempts to restrain the girls to notice this recent development.
From his vantage point, Mr. Knightley could see the girls had been separated and assumed the situation had been brought under control until he noticed a flurry of gestures from students at Caitlin. Assuming her injured, he rushed forward only to see that Caitlin writhing furiously with her arms restrained, her shirt and bra stuck over her face, and bare torso on display. He instinctively turned away, but realized that he would have to be the responsible one, and motioned for the students to let go of her as he did his best to maneuver her shirt back down to provide her some degree of modesty.
Two students dragged an enraged, kicking and screaming Nicole out of the room. Another student volunteered to retrieve ice and band-aids for both girls, while others returned to their work. Mr. Knightley led a sobbing, bleeding, and humiliated Caitlin into an empty classroom across the hall. He knew he'd eventually have to see that both girls made it to the principal, but for now, he did his best to console her.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
Caitlin shook her head no. Tears streamed down her face as she did her best to compose herself.
"Do you need something? Can I get you anything?"
She looked up at him pitifully. Through broken sobs, she managed to choke out an unexpected reply.
"I'm really hungry."