After being given a half-hour to cool off, both girls were escorted to the principal's office. They assured Mr. Knightley they could peacefully cohabitate before he left them alone with the secretary to wait for Principal Gray. Caitlin, in the meantime, worked her way through the remains of a sub sandwich left on the office table from a faculty meeting. Though Mr. Knightley had already offered her most of his own lunch, she could only pretend to be satisfied. She was still starving and, following Mr. Knightley's departure, asked the secretary if there was any food, claiming she had run late and had no time to eat or pack a lunch.
Nicole alternated icing her ear and the bruise around her eye but was distracted by her companion who had polished off a good foot-and-a-half of a six-foot sandwich. Seemingly in shock from the whole ordeal, Caitlin stared forward silently, eating relentlessly as if in a trance. Nicole was not afraid of Principal Gray, and, if anything, found their occasional encounters an annoyance. She waited a few more moments before speaking.
"Hey, Landry." Caitlin did not reply. Nicole shut her eyes tightly and sighed before continuing. "I'm sorry."
Surprised, Caitlin stopped chewing. "Huh?" she replied, nearly letting her full mouth drop open.
Nicole grudgingly repeated her apology. "I said 'I'm sorry.' I'll say it now before Rusty orders me to say it. It probably won't mean much then."
Caitlin assumed "Rusty" was Nicole's nickname for Principal Gray, whose red hair was his only remotely interesting characteristic. She had encountered him a few times when he commented on her 'attire unbecoming for a young woman in a learning environment.' She swallowed the last of the sandwich. "Thanks," she said. "Sorry about your eye."
Nicole chuckled. "Don't apologize for that. That was the most bitchin' thing I've ever seen you do. Didn't think you had it in you."
Caitlin half grinned. "Neither did I." She eyed the sandwich on the table, pondering whether she should grab another segment. As the awkward silence returned, she grabbed another piece and dug in. Caitlin's gluttony was not lost on Nicole, who decided against commenting. This, however, left her with nothing to say. So the two quietly waited while Caitlin worked her way through the remains of the sandwich. After a bit, Nicole spoke up again.
"Is it me, or are you, like..."
"I grew six inches in the last three weeks," Caitlin said, figuring the truth would be stranger than fiction at this point.
"Okay, that explains it," Nicole said, unfazed by Caitlin's admission.
"You don't think that's weird?" Caitlin asked.
Nicole shrugged. "I used to have green eyes. I had a bad mushroom trip one night and the next morning they were gold."
"That didn't freak you out?"
"Not really. I always wanted bright amber eyes. I saw them on TV when I was younger and I thought they were the coolest thing ever. I guess chemical abuse was the kick my mind needed to get over the hump. Mind over matter, ya' know? I told my mom they were contacts, and she eventually forgot about it."
"So you're saying I want to grow taller?" Caitlin asked.
"No. I can honestly say it's not a fantasy of mine."
Nicole shrugged. "Anyone cast a spell on you?"
"Not that I know of." Caitlin finished the last bite of the sandwich. She abruptly stopped chewing and turned to Nicole. "Unless it was you."
"Excuse me?" Nicole replied, miffed by the accusation. "Even if I could, why the hell would I waste my magic power on you?"
"I dunno," Caitlin rolled her eyes. "Maybe because you hate my guts."
"I don't hate your guts."
"Yes, you do!" Caitlin replied, stopping short of yelling and dropping to a whisper. "You attacked me, like, half an hour ago!"
"If I recall, you started it."
"You were going wreck my project!"
"I was offering to help! I hadn't seen you ever do anything abstract before, and I figured you could use some help." Nicole narrowed her eyes. "Are you sweating?"
"You aren't hot? It's boiling in here." Caitlin wiped beads of sweat away from her forehead.
"It's probably sixty-five degrees at most. You running a fever or something? Maybe you're sick. You just ate, like, three feet of a sandwich."
Caitlin froze, recalling the last two times she ate that quantity of food and the events that immediately followed. Oh no. Not again. Please, God, not again. Both times she had been unconscious (for one reason or another) and woken up taller. This time, however, she didn't feel tired. If anything, she felt like she'd drank a quintuple espresso with extra sugar. For all she knew she was about to go into cardiac arrest.
"I need to get out of here," Caitlin said aloud.
"Uh, I don't think that's gonna happen," Nicole said. "We're, kind of, in trouble."
"I can't stay here. I need to go."
Nicole was about to protest when she noticed a familiar silhouette outside the office door. She darted over to the faculty room table and grabbed one of the remaining pieces of sub sandwich, ignoring the accusatory glance of the secretary. She got back to her seat as Principal Gray entered the office, and she shoved the sandwich toward Caitlin.
"Eat this. If he asks you anything, play stupid. Follow my lead. I'll have us, or at least you, out of here in three minutes tops." Caitlin wanted to reply, but before she could Mr. Gray entered and she obediently set to work on the sandwich.
Mr. Gray examined the cuts, bruises, and scratches on both girls before shaking his head in disbelief and ushering them into his office. Contrary to the stereotype, Principal Gray was not the prototypical hard-nosed disciplinarian. A young man in his early thirties he had taken the high school principal job after teaching political science at a state college. While generally a kind, empathetic man, he had little success socially in college, focusing mainly on his academic pursuits. His years of postgraduate experience had done wonders for the school's academic reputation in the past two years, but dealing with discipline problems of this magnitude was completely foreign to him.
Mr. Gray was a bit surprised by the two young women who both, for entirely different reasons, seemed more apt to be found on a college campus than a high school one. The heavily pierced girl, whom he had encountered before, had poise and outspokenness more typically found in campus protests than high school classrooms. The second girl's demeanor characterized her as a run-of-the-mill indignant teenager with more attitude than self-confidence. Her long, lithe body, however, was definitely not the norm for most high school students. Her clothes, which appeared to be slightly undersized, further exaggerated her curves. The scene was made all the more surreal by her wolfing down the remains of a sub sandwich in a rather unladylike manner.
Mr. Gray cleared his throat, doing his best to hide his unease. "Ladies, I must say I'm shocked by the report I received from Mr. Knightley."
"I'm curious," Nicole interjected. "What exactly transpired in his art class according to your 'report'?"
"Ms. Ryder, I was hoping you could tell me, from your perspective, how this whole ordeal happened."
Nicole was unfazed by his supposed position of authority. "No, no, sir. I'm curious what your 'report' of the 'ordeal' says." Nicole punctuated mockingly with air quotes, which annoyed Mr. Gray.
"Nicole, I am asking you politely to tell me what happened in Mr. Knightley's art class."
"He sat behind his desk while we painted, periodically offering his aid to each of us on our final projects. When appropriate, he also addressed the class as a whole regarding information pertinent to our art education."
Mr. Gray was doing his best to hide his frustration but had some difficulty. "Nicole, I would like you to describe the circumstances of your altercation with Ms. Landry."
"Sir, are you implying that if there were some altercation between Caitlin and I, we are incapable of resolving it ourselves?"
"Ms. Landry?" He turned to Caitlin, anxious to escape the escalating showdown with Nicole. "Now that you're done eating perhaps you can shed some light on this whole ordeal."
Caitlin seemed equally unwilling to offer her input and had zoned out the entire conversation to this point. She was clearly distracted by something which Mr. Gray was having a hard time putting his finger on. While he wanted to press his questioning of her further, he was becoming slightly distracted by the difficulty Caitlin was having folding her arms adequately around her breasts.
"What?" Caitlin said, with a mix of shock and annoyance. For a moment, they stared at one another before Mr. Gray was struck by an odd realization: he could have sworn only moments ago she had a scratch on her left cheek, but now there appeared to be nothing more than a slightly reddened area below her cheekbone. If it wasn't for the tousled hair, he would have a hard time believing the fight was nearly as physical as he had initially assessed.
"Could you please provide your side of the story regarding your altercation with Ms. Ryder," he asked, politely, trying to gain some control over the situation.
"Um." Caitlin began. As opposed to Nicole, she genuinely seemed to be having difficulty recalling anything. Nicole sighed exasperatedly, making a show of looking as bored as possible. Caitlin shifted in her chair and rubbed her head. "I'm sorry. Give me a sec." Nicole rolled her eyes as Caitlin wiped a thin layer of perspiration from her forehead.
"Take your time Caitlin. I want to—"
"Mr. Gray, honestly, why the fuck are we here?" Nicole chimed in. "We've been having this little conversation for a few minutes now and I'm curious why our valuable finals week time is being spent in your office."
Principal Gray intended to address Nicole's inappropriate language for an educational environment, but he was still distracted by Caitlin, whose apparent discomfort was growing more and more obvious. She had discarded her sandals and gripped the arms of the chair so tightly her knuckles were white. She grunted softly, arched her back, and dropped her her mouth open in an expression of either shock or pain, though he couldn't quite tell which. He wanted to say something, but his eyes were drawn to her breasts which jutted forward due to her posture and the tightness of her shirt. Nicole, in the meantime, continued her rant.
"—and for some reason, there's this presumption on the part of teachers around here that young women aren't capable of working out their own personal matters without the interference of supposed 'authority figures' who, in all honesty, have little to no comprehension of the concerns of today's youth."
Nicole ranted in the background as Principal Gray remained transfixed on Caitlin, who had yet to make a sound but was clearly having some kind of problem. He tried to recall any uniquely female problems she could be having at the moment and considered possibly calling the nurse. He had nearly resolved reach for the phone when something completely unusual happened.
Caitlin's eyes opened wide and she shuddered as if a powerful chill were running through her body. The sounds of straining fabric became audible (even over the sound of Nicole's unabated sermon) as Mr. Gray noticed the "Abercrombie" text on her shirt shift subtly, albeit visibly, as if—he couldn't believe what he was thinking—she were outgrowing her clothes right in front of his eyes. He couldn't tell if she was in pain or not since her hair obscured his full view of her face. The small wrinkles disappeared as her thighs seemed to be filling in any remaining space in her jeans and, with every heaving breath, her clothes shifted around her tense body. With one final convulsive exhale, the button of her pants softly sprang loose. Principal Gray 's eyes boggled with shock and disbelief.
"Indeed!" Nicole was shouting now, wild-eyed and nearly standing. "Yes! I am accusing you of sexism, sir! Don't look so surprised. I know your type!"
The feeling having seemingly passed, Caitlin abruptly sat back in her chair, her labored breathing setting her now more substantial chest into motion. Principal Gray felt as if she were visibly bigger, no, taller than she was even a minute ago. He searched for signs it was all in his head but as she sat up, he saw her pants—formerly a bit loose around the hips—now tautly gripped her thighs. The bottom hem of her shirt had crept up slightly and, combined with the apparent enlargement of her breasts, now rose away from her skin with every rapid intake of breath. Her shirt, which had been slightly undersized before, now constricted her torso so tightly fabric bunched under her arms and the outline of her now too-small bra could be seen through her shirt. Principal Gray was mesmerized and Nicole chose to capitalize on this moment.
"Mr. Gray? With all due respect, I'm over here not on Caitlin's chest."
Shocked back into reality, he looked up at both girls, embarrassed, perplexed, and a bit frightened. His mouth hung open, but he couldn't form a coherent thought, let alone sentence, if he tried. Nicole grew impatient with his silence, and Caitlin appeared to be momentarily confused, as if still completely oblivious to all that had happened. Mr. Gray had gone pale, and he rose from his seat to excuse himself.
"Thank you, ladies," he said, standing but not making eye contact either of them. "I have need...to...bathroom. Then home. Class tomorrow." His leg collided with the corner of his desk but he didn't seem to notice.
"What?" both girls replied.
"You're excused," he said, not looking back as he shuffled like a zombie out of his office. They could hear the secretary try to get his attention.
"Mr. Gray. You have a message from...Mr. Gray? Sir?
"Tomorrow Stacy," he said to her abruptly, as he left the office, heading home uncharacteristically early.
The secretary watched the office door shut, then turned to Principal Gray's office where both girls still sat opposite his desk. There was a pause before Nicole spoke up.
"Can we go now?"
The secretary informed both girls that, at Mr. Knightley's suggestion, both of their remaining final exams would be rescheduled to be completed later that week in detention. She studied Caitlin, who started to fidget at the attention before Nicole thanked the secretary and shoved Caitlin out the door.
"I said 'play stupid and follow my lead' you weirdo," Nicole said. "Not 'fake an orgasm and give the principal blue balls.' But hey, we're out of there, so I guess I can't complain."
Caitlin was a bit irritated by Nicole's taking the day's events in stride. Caitlin had made a scene in the hallway, turned advanced painting into foxy boxing, and played out some kind of B-movie sci-fi porno scene in the principal's office, all in under three hours. The two girls made an unusual pair walking alongside each other, though Caitlin noticed that she was getting the majority of the stares—a combination of lust, curiosity, and wonder. Then again, she knew if she were in anyone else's shoes, she'd be staring too.
Caitlin hobbled along barefoot, carrying her sandals in one hand. She estimated she was slightly taller than she had been with the two-inch sandals, but couldn't really gauge for sure. Her jeans, the cuffs of which only reached the top of her ankles, gripped her legs so tightly they showed no wrinkles and more closely resembled body paint than denim. She wore her splattered paint shirt since her Abercrombie shirt would have put the entirety of her midriff on display. She self-consciously hugged her backpack to her chest, hiding the fact that she had discarded her bra which was beyond undersized at this point.
"So," Nicole began. "I guess you'll be blaming this on me."
"Why would I blame this on you?" Caitlin stared straight forward, walking briskly and forcing Nicole to nearly run to keep up.
Nicole chuckled. "What? Are you telling me you haven't figured it out yet?"
"Figured what out?"
"Your, um, unique predicament."
"What about it?"
Nicole looked expectantly at her towering companion. "Come on. It's almost poetic."
Caitlin, who had been staring straight forward at the exit she was nearly running toward, glanced down, unnerved by how far below her Nicole currently stood. She tossed her backpack behind her, feeling a bit awkward clutching it to her chest.
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Nicole waited a bit, then laughed. "Nothing. Nothing at all. You always did suck at critical analysis, after all."
Caitlin was not in the mood for guessing games. "Whatever," she growled, quickening her pace to the car. She could feel her the raucous motion of her unbound breasts underneath her t-shirt, and she attempted to step a little smoother. It changed the motion of her bouncing, but didn't minimize it. She was so involved with her body's extraneous movement, that she had all but forgotten her companion who was now at least a few strides behind her.
"Hey Landry," Nicole shouted, having given up trying to keep up. Caitlin didn't answer.
"Call me sometime."
The request caught Caitlin by surprise, and she was torn between turning and replying or ignoring her. This indecision, coupled with her unfamiliarity with her height, caused her to stumble slightly, which hurt her bare feet. Nicole snickered loudly, and Caitlin, much to her own surprise, actually smiled.
"Get your shit together first," Nicole shouted. "Ain't nothing funnier than a tall girl falling on her ass." Caitlin did her best to salvage her pride before flipping Nicole the bird and continuing to the student parking lot.
While she had formerly been preoccupied with self-consciousness and the whole morning ordeal, for the first time Caitlin found herself taking in the new view at "five-foot twelve" (as she had heard a teammate on the JV girls basketball team put it). She hadn't realized how much of a difference a few extra inches would make. As she exited the building and approached her car, she hadn't seen a single female student or teacher who matched her height. She had even found herself looking down at more male and female classmates than ever before. Equally remarkable was the fact that various male figures who always seemed so towering in the past were now at eye level or only slightly higher. Even J.J. Jackson, the school 6'3" star wide-receiver seemed only slightly tall, rather than the imposing giant he had always seemed like in the past. Hell, she thought, with a good pair of heels...
In addition to her higher perspective, Caitlin also made note of a number of male students who stopped to ogle her striking height, lithe body, and prominent breasts which visibly swayed and bobbed with her long strides. Caitlin caught the stares out of the corner of her eyes, which, considering her attire, kind of surprised her. With her paint-splattered t-shirt, tousled hair, lack of a bra, and bare feet, she more resembled a derelict hippie then her normal fashion-conscious self. As she approached her mother's car, she caught her reflection in the side glass. The reflection was unquestionably still hers, though she had little in common with who she had been only a few weeks ago.
Her reflection captivated her. Her dark bangs hung into her eyes, and the striking contrast between her blue eyes and dark hair highlighed the prominent features of her face. Her reflection stopped just under her breasts, which certainly explained the stares she was getting. If her hair initially turned heads, the small shirt hugging the contours of her body certainly kept people staring. While not able to see them in the reflection of the car window (or, notably, beyond the prominent forward protrusion of her chest) the recent lengthening of her legs and uncomfortable constriction of her pants made the visual appeal of everything between her waist and ankles pretty obvious.
Caitlin was getting sick of thinking. The day's events had left her drained. While she wanted to get off of campus, she didn't want to go home. The Uncomfortable compression of her thighs and the uninhibited swaying of her chest brought her clothing issue to the front of her mind. She ran through her options again, and realized, once again, if she intended to go somewhere no one would know her, it would mean another trip to the Northshore strip mall. Caitlin unlocked her door and slid into the driver's seat. She fidgeted for a bit before grudgingly letting the seat back a bit to accommodate her extra new inches. As she left campus behind and headed toward Northshore, she figured, with the day she had, she was due for a little caffeinated consolation.
As the bell for class ended yet another final exam period, a gaggle of girls congregated to share the latest gossip. Alexis and Maureen listened intently as word of the art class ordeal spread like wildfire around the campus.
"So apparently Caitlin and Nicole Ryder got in some crazy fight in their art final, and Caitlin totally decked the punker bitch. Then they apparently went crazy and Mr. Knightley and, like, six other guys had to break them up."
"I heard she showed her tits!" A male voice added, in passing, receiving icy glares from the gathered girls. He headed on his way, before being joined by a number of other guys interested in his version story.
"Anyways," the girl continued. "They both totally got busted, but apparently they did something to Principal Gray too, because he went home early. Kelly Orstead says he looked seriously messed up leaving campus an hour ago."
"Nicole probably bit him!" Another girl chimed in, joined by a chorus of agreement.
"Shit," Maureen said aloud. "I can't believe Caitlin would do that."
"I know, right?" Another girl replied. "Then again, didn't she get in a fight last year during a volleyball game?"
" No, you're thinking of Candice Mitchell."
"Wait, then I don't know who you're talking about. Is Caitlin a cheerleader?"
Another girl shook her head. "No, no, no. You're thinking of Katie. I think Caitlin is the redhead who's dating Richard Towle."
"You're thinking of Kevin Lowry. Richard Towle is gay remember?"
"NO!" Maureen suddenly blurted, drawing all eyes to her. "What do you mean, 'who is she!?!' Caitlin! Have you seen her lately?"
"Yeah, I did her hair over the weekend." Alexis chimed in happily. "Doesn't she have great boobs?" The girls rolled their eyes, except for Maureen of course.
"Yes! And she didn't a month ago. The girl grew half a foot in the last month. She's, like, almost six feet tall." Maureen was exasperated, the other girls weren't sure what to make of it.
"I think I'd know if there was another six-foot girl around," A tall girl in the group huffed. "There's only so many girls on the basketball team."
"She's not on the basketball team! A month ago she was 5'4," A week ago she was 5'9", and this morning she was almost six feet tall in heels. She has blonde hair—"
"Black hair," Alex corrected.
"Black hair," Maureen continued, "blue eyes, takes art classes, and has huge boobs!" Maureen was nearly shouting, and Alexis nodded gleefully at the mention of boobs. "Do none of you know who Caitlin Landry is?"
"Almost six feet tall in heels?" A new voice spoke up from behind Maureen. "My ass."
Maureen whirled around to face a bruised, paint-splattered but smiling Nicole Ryder. "Yes," Maureen maintained. "I saw her this morning."
"Bullshit," Nicole chuckled. "I saw her two minutes ago. Ain't nothing almost about her. And she sure as hell doesn't need the heels." Nicole then waltzed off, leaving behind a confused group of girls and a gaping Maureen. After a few seconds, Alexis chimed in.
"I wonder if her boo—"
"Oh, shut up." Maureen cut her off, grabbing her arm and tugging her toward the student parking lot.
"Hey Cait, it's Tegan. Mom told me about your accident. I wanted to see if you were okay and how thing have been going. I'm not sure when I'll be home next since the internship's got me in Chicago for most of the summer, but I'd really like to get home if I can. I guess you're busy, or shopping, or something. Anyways, give me a call sometime, and be sure to let me know if anything big happens. Later!"
The message ended, and after a moment's consideration, Caitlin deleted it. Having so little in common, she and her sister had never been particularly close. With Tegan away in college, however, they'd grown closer in the last couple years and Caitlin typically enjoyed their catching up time. Like their father, Tegan Landry was even tempered and studious. Plain, stout, and barely over five feet tall Tegan, shared minimal physical characteristics with Caitlin, and Caitlin had been taller than her sister for a few years. Caitlin could only imagine her sister's face when they meet for the first time in months, with Caitlin towering over her by more than a foot. She looked down at her enlarged breasts and lengthened legs. I guess this would qualify as "something big."
Caitlin took the freeway out of town toward the Northshore Mall. Over the course of the drive, she pondered her recent changes. On one hand, she knew something highly unusual was happening to her. At the same time, the mild reactions to her changes from those around her—particularly Alexis, her mother, and even Nicole—put her at ease. At what point do I start worrying? Caitlin thought to herself. How big could I possibly get?
Caitlin recalled the couple of hours she spent online researching her problem over the weekend. She'd turned up a few articles on hormonal imbalances and pituitary disorders, but each case exhibited physical deformities as well as a list of ailments which she didn't have. While abnormally tall, most of the individuals, even in the most extreme cases, grew a quarter-inch per month. Following her Chinese buffet ordeal, Caitlin had grown three inches overnight.
Aside from medical journals, she also came across a number of fetish sites, chat rooms, and message boards covering everything from tall women and large breasts, to impossibly gigantic women, big feet, growing breasts, and even swallowing fantasies. While she was generally turned off by these sites, she had to admit that if she had less shame, she could probably make bank with her own website as some of these people's wildest fantasies come true. Crazy what some people are into. She thought.
Caitlin pulled into the Northshore Wal-Mart parking lot, and her phone chimed with a text message from Maureen which read "Call me." If their encounter in the hallway served as any indication, things were undoubtedly getting a bit weird between them. Caitlin had avoided Maureen (and most others, save Alexis) for a few days, and she couldn't recall the last time the two had gone longer than a couple days without speaking. She pulled into a parking space and texted her back "I will. gtg," and prayed that would postpone their inevitable encounter for at least another day.
In the meantime, Caitlin whimsically headed a coffee shop, "Bean Town," for a late-afternoon perk. The cafe was empty save for a couple community college students absorbed in their laptops, and both gave Caitlin a brief, but deliberate, second look. Caitlin had spent a great deal of time fielding stares all day, and she prayed for a female barista. If she felt the heat of any more lecherous eyes on her, she was certain she'd burst into flames.
Upon reaching the counter, a petite, bright-eyed blonde girl with a ponytail and a myriad of bracelets popped out from behind the espresso machine. Caitlin tried to discern her age, but the girl—no more than 90 pounds soaking wet—could pass for either a mature teenager or a pixie-ish young adult. She offered a chipper greeting, and informed Caitlin she would be with her momentarily. Caitlin felt obscenely oversized in the presence of the tiny girl, whose head barely reached past her chest level. After wiping down the milk steamer and tossing a few towels away, the girl turned her attention back to Caitlin. "Sorry about the wait," she chimed. "What can I get for you?"
Caitlin had been so preoccupied with the girl's relative height discrepancy to her own, she had not considered her drink order. She abruptly gathered herself and spouted together an order involving the words "chai," "espresso," an Italian word indicating size.
"Sure thing sweetie," the barista said, grinning widely. Feeling oddly self-conscious, Caitlin avoided eye contact and looked down to the name "IVEY" splayed in all caps on her nametag. "Sorry if I'm running a little behind. We lost somebody recently, and are totally short-handed."
"Did he skip out on work or something?"
"No. He died. Hit by a delivery truck," Ivey replied matter-of-factly between measuring espresso shots. Caitlin's eyes went wide, and she recalled the off-beat kid she had ordered from only two weeks prior.
"He didn't have black hair and plugs in his ears did he?"
"No, it wasn't Tristan. Though he's been working OT the past couple days to cover for the kid. Caleb was his name." Ivey stopped suddenly, her brow heavy with concern. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize you knew Tristan. You didn't know Caleb did you?"
"No, just Tristan."
Ivey looked relieved. "Okay, good. Not to speak ill of the departed," she continued, "but he was a total burnout. He got run over when he fell asleep wasted on the loading dock. It's sad, but he kinda' had it coming. Weird world we live in."
"Tell me about it," Caitlin said. "You have any other employees to call in?"
"We would normally, but the other girl is on vacation out-of-state, the boss is up to her neck in paperwork, and Tristan's past his OT limit." Ivey paused, before grinning again. "Why, you lookin' for a job?"
Caitlin was taken aback. "Oh, no way. I don't know the first thing about coffee."
Ivey slid Caitlin's drink to her. "No, I could see you working here. Not to be too forward, but this place gets pretty busy and you've got the goods to get good tips." Ivey let her eyes travel over Caitlin's frame.
"Excuse me?" Caitlin said, in a combination of surprise and offense. "I'm not some floozy bartender."
"Of course not. You aren't old enough."
"What are you implying then?" Caitlin persisted. "What do I look like?"
Ivey tilted her head thoughtfully. "Someone who's ready for a change." There was a brief moment between them before the door opened and two older women entered. Caitlin stepped back and Ivey extended an application toward her, which Caitlin took before she thought to argue further. "I've got customers. This drink's on me, sweetie."
Caitlin opened her mouth to protest, but, to her surprise, said "Ok."
"By the way, if you're shopping for clothes. There's an outlet store on the east side of this plaza."
"How did you—?" Caitlin began, before looking down at her partially buttoned jeans, undersized shirt, and sandals. "Thanks. I'll check it out."
As opposed to Wal-Mart, Caitlin found herself overwhelmed by the abundance of marginally-fashionable and modestly-priced merchandise outlet store offered. Given the ever-increasing length of her inseam, however, she wasn't sure she would find anything to fit her outside a big & tall shop. She turned up a few long skirts (which only reached her calves) that could keep her covered, as her old skirts—already short at her previous height—pushed the boundaries of modesty. Caitlin also found herself picking out garments atypical of her normal fashion sense, including non-designer t-shirts with striking designs, a hoodie with a sports logo, and a couple pairs of loose cargo pants which were long enough for her inseam though a bit wide in the waist.
She also turned up some foundation garments, namely a few bras, as at her current size, walking around without a bra was basically an open invitation to gawkers. Caitlin was relieved to find a 38DD/40D bra that fit adequately, though only as a substitute for a 36E she actually needed, but the store didn't carry. She also picked up some underwear and pants she badly needed, since her hips, while not as dramatically expanded as the rest of her, had grown out a bit.
After nearly an hour browsing, Caitlin felt she had all she needed to keep herself decent, provided she had seen the last of her unexpected growth spurts. She hadn't considered the possibility she could grow again, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized there was really no way to know. She then thought of her earlier exchange with Nicole.
"So, I guess you'll be blaming this on me."
"Why would I blame this on you?"
"What? Are you telling me you haven't figured it out yet?"
"Figured what out?"
"Your, um, unique predicament."
"What about it?"
"Come on. It's almost poetic."
"What the hell was she talking about?" Caitlin wondered aloud to herself as she dumped her purchases into the back of her car. She checked her phone again, and she had missed three calls. One from her mother, likely wondering where the hell she was, and two from Maureen. Her phone indicated one message and she debated whether or not she wanted to check it. She felt another pang of guilt at having avoided her best friend for so long but, at the same time, she felt anxious at the thought of presenting herself to Maureen. Maureen, the girl with everything. Great grades, great personality, great looks, great body—
"Great God, what are you still doing here?"
Caitlin yelped as she snapped to attention. She glanced over her shoulder but was confused when she didn't see anyone.
"Down here sweetie."
Caitlin turned completely around to see Ivey sipping a large iced tea which looked ridiculously large in her small hands. Ivey glanced between Caitlin's still undersized ensemble and the piles of bags loaded in the trunk.
"So, did someone steal your clothes or something?"
"Unexpected late growth spurt," Caitlin replied, shrugging.
Ivey chuckled. "Quite a doozy apparently. How old are you?"
"I turned eighteen three weeks ago."
"Yeah? You go to high school around here?"
"St. John's Academy."
Ivey whistled. Caitlin expected a snide comment about her prep school, which Ivey seemed to consider but decided against. Instead, she extended her hand. "I don't think I've asked your name."
Caitlin gave her name and accepted the girl's hand. For the first time since the conversation started, Caitlin realized again how small the girl was. Ivey's assertive and confident demeanor had nearly made Caitlin forget their relative size difference. The assortment of bracelets Ivey wore rattled as they shook hands, and Caitlin found herself a bit on the defensive. Ivey smiled and introduced herself as Ivelene DeMonterey.
"It's a mouthful, I know." She admitted. "My middle name is Chanelle. I feel like you could split my name into three different perfume fragrance brands, or gourmet cheeses." Ivey seemed to wait for a reply, but Caitlin said nothing, but smiled and laughed softly. "Anyways Caitlin," Ivey continued, "I imagine you've got places to go and people to see. I hope to hear from you soon about the job, or otherwise."
"Yeah," Caitlin muttered, though nodding in reply.
"Later!" Ivey shouted, heading off toward her yellow VW bug parked at the far end of the parking lot. Caitlin still stood there with her trunk open and her phone screaming Maureen's all-too-familiar ring tone. She looked in her hand at the piece of paper slipped to her during their handshake. On the paper was Ivey's name and phone number written elegantly on a ripped off piece of newspaper with only a brief message.
"Call me, sweetie."
The voice mail chime broke the silence, and Caitlin shut her trunk, got into her car, and headed home.
"...just call me. Okay, Cait? I feel like I'm going crazy. I want to talk."
Maureen waited a few moments before ending the call. She stared at the screen as the saved cellphone picture of Caitlin looking her characteristically bitter self at her own birthday party changed back to her cell phone wallpaper, a picture of herself, Alexis, and Caitlin posing together at homecoming game: Maureen wearing her royalty sash, Alexis still in a cheer uniform, and Caitlin rolling her eyes and cracking a smile barely perceptible on the tiny, lo-res cell phone screen.
"Alex, am I going crazy?"
"Huh?" As per her normal routine, Alexis was immersing herself in the most recent issue of Cosmo.
"Am I losing it? Seriously, I feel like I am."
"Caitlin was the one who got in a fight in art class. Not you."
Maureen sighed frustratedly. "Alex. Did Caitlin grow, like, half a foot in the last few weeks?"
"I dunno, but her boobs look—"
"Alex!" Maureen blurted, snapping Alexis to attention. "Did she get taller or not?"
"Yes!" Alexis finally resigned. "She got taller! What's your problem?"
"That's it, Alex!" Maureen began pacing about her room. "She's the medical phenomenon and I'm the one going nuts. Doesn't anyone else find the fact that she's done practically three years of adolescent growth in three weeks in her late teens at all unusual?" Alexis furrowed, alerting Maureen she had used a word Alexis wasn't familiar with. "Alex. People don't grow six inches taller and three cup sizes bigger in three weeks."
"I know! But nobody is saying anything!"
"Should they be?"
"Alex, I called Caitlin's mom to ask how Caitlin was doing. She said she was completely fine! Better than ever!"
"No! She's not! She's, well..."
"Really tall?" Alexis finished.
"Yes!" Maureen exclaimed, before suddenly deflating. "And she hasn't talked to me about it. She talked to you. Hell, she even probably confided in crazy Nicole Ryder."
"Now you've really gone crazy," Alexis said, scoffing at the idea. "Why would Caitlin ever go to Nicole Ryder for advice?"
"Okay, let me get this straight. You want to rub carpet with some chick from the coffee shop and you come to me for advice? Yeah, I'm hanging up on you."
"Nicole! Wait!" Caitlin pleaded into her phone. "I don't want to rub...whatever you said with her. I've just never—"
"—felt this way before?"
"No! I just—"
"—burn to feel the warm, sensual touch of a woman?"
"Stop it! I've never been hit on by a girl before."
"And I have? FYI, I'm not into girls. I made out with one while tripping my proverbial balls off at a rave, but that's not quite the same thing. And before you ask, no, I won't let you practice playing the field with me."
"Nicole, I need someone to talk to." Caitlin was more accustomed to Maureen's near-involuntary spouting of solutions at almost no prompting. Nicole, on the other hand, seemed otherwise preoccupied and entirely unwilling to offer any insight whatsoever. Lord knows what this girl is doing as we speak, Caitlin thought to herself. "Can't you please hear me out?"
"You want advice? Call one of your loser friends. I've got artistic ground to break and a shoebox full of psychedelics to help me break it. Take your girl problems elsewhere."
Caitlin was surprised to have her unasked question answered so directly, but was preoccupied with Nicole's insinuation. "I don't have girl problems! And anyways, I can't talk to anyone else."
"I'm sure you're quite physically capable of speaking to another human being."
"No, I mean. Alexis would never understand."
"Then call the homecoming princess. I'm sure she'd be receptive to your lesbian issues."
"I can't call Maureen, and I don't have lesbian issues."
Nicole paused and took a breath, before asking slowly and clearly. "Why can't you call your best friend about your personal crisis?"
"I...she...I can't talk to her right now."
"What, did you two sleep together and now it's awkward?"
"You are the worst listener ever."
"And you're the worst explainer ever. You've wasted five valuable minutes of my art-making time telling me, essentially, how you can't do anything or tell anyone anything. Yet you want to tell me all about your problems?
"Shut up." Caitlin seethed. "You're no help at all."
"Caitlin, I'm going hang up this phone and eat some hallucinogenic mushrooms, and perhaps, subsequently and inadvertently, poison myself with acrylic paint. You, however, are going to call your loser homecoming princess friend and explain to her, in small, carefully chosen words, each and every one of your woman-on-woman problems. You will then kiss, make up, and invite her over for a raucous muff-diving party."
Nicole's imagery was making Caitlin queasy. "Can you cool it with the lesbian thing? And as for Maureen, I can't talk to her like—like this."
Nicole sifted through a few bottles of pills. "Like what? Do you need to gussy up or something?"
Caitlin was silently seething. Is this girl always this difficult? "You know," She had no idea how to articulate what she was very obviously referring to. "All, growth spurted and shit."
Nicole shifted her phone from one shoulder to the other. Is this girl always this pathetic? "Oh no, no, no. I'm not going to dissect the subplot of your tweaked-out life." She debated between her Ziploc bag of mushrooms and a tab of LSD Tristan scored her at community college cast party a few weeks back.
Caitlin was running out of patience and cut to the chase. "You know why this is happening! You said so yourself! So tell me! Why is this happening to me? Why do I keep getting bigger? Is it a disease? A disorder? A curse? What?"
Nicole was already behind schedule for her weekly artistic routine and not in the mood to spell things out, so she opted for a more direct method. "You're an idiot," Nicole stated evenly. "You're a brainless, useless, talentless, moron incapable of figuring out even the simplest of your stupid life issues. You and all of your thick-headed friends can kiss my inordinately decorated white ass. Do yourself a favor and tattoo sorority letters on your head and start exercising your gag reflex to prepare for your glorious college years most of which will be spent on your knees with your mouth hanging open, begging for the intramural lacrosse team to feed you your nightly dose of protein."
Caitlin could barely fathom rational thought following Nicole's impeccably worded, yet unsettlingly graphic declaration. "You fucking cunt! What's wrong with you?"
"Am I wrong?"
"You're a psychotic bitch. I should never have called you."
"Thanks, I'm here all week." Nicole chimed, opting to start her night with a tab of grade-A LSD which she placed onto her tongue. "Call me when your head hits the ceiling. Literally, not figuratively."
"I hope you die of lead poisoning and choke on your own—"
"Mmmhmm. Good night. Tristan says hi." She snapped her phone closed, lay back on her bed, cranked her music, and waited for "inspiration" to kick in. Any thoughts or concerns for Caitlin quickly dissipated as she stared at the stucco in the ceiling. "That girl is a bad trip waiting to happen."
"SHIT!!!" Caitlin shrieked aloud. "Shit! Shit! Shit!" She threw her phone across the room and it shattered on the opposite wall, knocking over a myriad of picture frames and candles and chipping a chunk of plaster from the wall. She screamed again, this time at no one in particular. If anything, she screamed at herself and her inability to help herself and fear of going to her friends. She flopped onto her bed and cried, because she couldn't do anything else. Her body convulsed with sobs until she could barely catch her breath.
Then it started again. It began with a numbness in her extremities, which shot through her body like lightning. Right to the pit of her stomach. As the numbness subsided, it seemed to morph into a painful hunger. It came so powerfully, she could no longer cry, and she shot up to a seated position and scanned her room for something, anything to eat. Her survey of the room only reiterated what she already knew. There was nothing there and she would have to go downstairs. Caitlin knew her parents would be downstairs, and going down there and eating like a ravenous beast would probably not be wise if she were trying not to arouse any suspicion about her condition. Another hunger pang bit at her and she found herself out the door halfway down the stairs before she even realized what she was doing.
She made a beeline for the kitchen, searching for items she could take to her room. Immediately she grabbed a few unopened large bags of chips, since she could hold those in one hand. She looked about wildly and discovered a substantial portion of leftover casserole her parents must have left out for her. She grabbed the entire dish under her arm, nearly dropping the serving spoon, and used her thumb and index finger to snatch the remnants of a bottle of cranberry juice from the fridge.
Caitlin whirled around, food in hands, to see her parents seated at the counter in the kitchen. Her mother was completing a Sudoku puzzle and doing her best to maintain an even expression. Her father, in contrast, absorbed in magazine article drafts, paid her no mind. Caitlin froze briefly, painting a surreal picture for her mother, before bounding out of the kitchen and up the stairs and shutting her door with a slam.
Caitlin's mother turned to her husband, whose body language indicated he'd rather not get involved. Compared to Caitlin's vehicular destruction habits, some manic stress eating didn't set off any alarm bells in his head. "I'll check on her in a few minutes." Caitlin's mother sighed.
Back in her room, Caitlin greedily dug into a cold casserole with a serving spoon. She finished in record time and tore open a bag of chips, which sent them flying about her bed. She ate the chips on her bed before dumping the remainder of the bag into her mouth. She tossed back a swig of cranberry juice, spilling a decent amount on herself, before reaching for more food.
She was relieved to feel somewhat satisfied on her way through the second bag of chips, when she heard her mother's footsteps coming up the stairs. Caitlin looked at the food wreckage around her and at her juice-stained shirt. Knowing full well how pathetic she looked, she attempted to minimize the damage by haphazardly pulling up a folded quilt over herself and the wreckage that was her meal. It was then she was met by a familiar numbness in her limbs, coupled with a full-body tingling she knew all too well. I guess I should have seen this coming, she thought.
"Honey?" Her mother knocked on the door. "I realize it may seem silly to ask this, but, is everything okay?" Caitlin ignored her mother, but kept eating her chips which she held in her lap underneath the blanket. She could also feel the fabric of her t-shirt shift about her torso. She clutched the blanket tightly to herself and tried to curl herself into a crouched sitting position. She was thankful she had changed into a long skirt and was spared the painful constriction of her pants around her thighs.
"Dear, Maureen called the house today."
"I know," Caitlin said, her mouth full of chips. She fidgeted with her shirt between bites. I bought this damn thing yesterday.
"She called three times, honey. The poor girls sounds awful. When's the last time you two talked?"
Caitlin's mother paused to crack open the door and survey the wreckage of her daughter's most recent emotional crisis. Caitlin looked up at her mother with an expression akin to a raccoon caught sifting through the garbage cans. Food scraps, broken glass, chipped plaster on the walls, destroyed cell phone. At least the windows are still intact this time, her mother thought with a relieved sigh. She then looked to her daughter sitting on the bed, awkwardly wrapped underneath a blanket and hypnotically devouring a bag of tortilla chips.
"Caitlin, I know you've been changing recently." Hearing this, Caitlin stopped eating, and did her best to minimize the space her slowly lengthening legs were taking up on the bed. Come on, stop. Please stop.
"I'm not blind Caitlin." Caitlin wasn't sure what to say, so she waited and let her mother continue. "Obviously, everyone goes through this, and it seems overwhelming because it's happening to you all at once in a really short time. I didn't notice at first, but your father clued me in. Honestly, I don't know how I missed it."
Caitlin slouched a bit in an attempt to hide her rising perspective. Her mother, however, was not looking directly at her, but around the room in general as if she were talking to someone else.
"...I guess I didn't know how to deal with it. I couldn't believe I didn't notice. It's obvious now. The new clothes, the hair, now the eating."
Caitlin was wincing on the inside, anxious to figure out whether her parents were going to donate her to science, alert the local news, call the exorcist, or all of the above. The bunched shirt under her arms was starting to pinch and she tried her best to fold her legs into a more compact sitting position. Maybe, she's already called the CDC and is stalling until they get here.
"...the makeup, the fight at school, the problems with your friends..."
Caitlin was no longer sure where her mother was going with this, and was partly distracted with the feeling of the underside of her breasts rubbing against her lower rib cage as they expanded.
"...you're finally growing into yourself dear."
Caitlin's ears perked up at this statement. For the first time she gave her mother her full attention.
"You're becoming who you really are meant to be." Her mother continued. "Sure, your friends may not recognize you while you're changing, you may not either. I hope you know your father and I are always here for you, and I'm sure your friends are too."
Caitlin was surprised to find herself actually taking her mother's words to heart. She also was thankful to feel the tingling in her body begin to wane.
"Don't let anyone make you feel small, including yourself." Her mother took another moment before tossing the cordless phone onto the bed. "If I know that sound I heard a few minutes ago, you probably need this. Please call Maureen." She paused to look at the wreckage in the room. "This isn't good for either of you, especially you."
Caitlin's mother smiled and left, closing the door behind her. Caitlin waited a moment, realizing her latest growth spurt had passed. She eyed the phone on the bed next to her.
"And hon?" Came her mother's voice from behind the door.
"Yeah mom?" Caitlin replied.
"You may want to comb the potato chips out of your hair before she comes over."
"Thanks mom," Caitlin responded earnestly, before looking down at herself underneath the blanket. I think the potato chips are the least of my worries though. Grabbing the phone, she dialed Maureen's number, the phone feeling oddly misshapen in her lengthened hands.
"Hey Maureen," Caitlin began. "You think you could come over?" She straightened up and grimaced at the cool breeze ever-so-slightly exposed midriff. "I think we need to get caught up on some things." She patted her hand at her newly expanded breasts which pushed emphatically against the fabric of her shirt. "You think you could convince Alex to sit out this visit though?"