Nobody could love somebody like her, Amy-Louise thought as she awkwardly squeezed herself into a booth. Daddy had always made that very clear to her, so the taunts of the good ol’ boys in the parking lot outside the diner came as no surprise – but, they still hurt.
No man wants a woman as wide as a bus, Daddy told her every time she reached for a Hershey bar. The words only made her reach for another one to eat away her blues.
Just as she would order an extra slice of apple pie to smother the bad feelings churning in her tummy now.
She settled herself, glad the booths came with benches and wishing there was a wider gap between bench and table.
“Good morning,” said a bright voice from beside her.
She looked up. It was a young man in a crisp white shirt, black trousers and a red vest, a notepad and pencil ready in his hands. A badge on his lapel said ‘Simon’. She vaguely recalled him from previous visits. He was probably ten years younger than her, but his ready smile stirred feelings that she long ago had dismissed as having no place in her life.
“Are you ready to order?” he asked and she shook her head to banish the silly thoughts from her mind, causing him to look confused when she told him, “Yes, please.”
Amy-Louise blinked, then said, “”Yes, I’m ready to order. I’d like a cola, please, a large one. To eat, I want one of your Special Deluxe Burgers, with extra bacon and cheese, and barbecue sauce, a double helping of fries, coleslaw, potato salad, hash browns, and grits. Oh, and pancakes with maple syrup.”
She paused to let him finish scribbling it all down.
“Then, for afters, I would like a slice of apple pie with cheese and a second slice of apple pie a la mode.”
He nodded. “Very good.” He smiled “Always nice to see a woman with a healthy appetite.”
Simon disappeared through to the kitchen before she could respond.
Had his tone been sarcastic? Was he mocking her?
That was always her immediate thought whenever anyone made a positive comment about her. If an assistant in a clothing store said a dress suited her, Amy-Louise just knew what the woman meant was ‘It looks like a circus tent with a freak inside.’ And, when someone commented on her appetite… well, what they always meant was ‘My, how greedy you are, fatso!’
Yet… his tone sounded genuine, his smile honest…
“Here you go.”
She jumped, not having noticed Simon’s return.
She could feel herself jiggling from the agitation and felt her cheeks redden with shame.
But, when she looked up from the tall glass of cola before her, he was smiling at her as if she were quite normal, not the butt of some joke.
Amy-Louise smiled tentatively back at him.
“It won’t be long. Cookie’s hard at work. He’s the best in the business, you know.” He hooked his thumbs into the armholes of his red vest as if they were suspenders and, puffing his chest out, said, “He’s teachin’ me, you know. Soon, I’ll be as good a cook as him.”
“That’s what you want to do?”
“Uh-huh.” He rocked upon his heels. “I just love food.”
She looked him up and down. He looked pretty skinny to her.
Her expression must have given her thoughts away as he laughed and said, “Oh, I know, I don’t look it.” He patted his stomach. “I’m practically tiny. It’s waiting tables, and doing three days a week at the lumber yard. I eat plenty but burn it off quick.”
“But, my mother…” He shook his head, wistfully. “She loves me to cook for her. I feed her well.”
“I’m afraid I like my food just a little too much,” Amy-Louise admitted.
There was a ‘ding’ and Simon was gone, returning with a plate overflowing with food.
“I have to disagree.”
She looked up, food forgotten. “Sorry?”
“I said, ‘I have to disagree.’ That you like your food too much. It’s good food, and I think you enjoy it just right.”
Amy-Louise began to eat. Despite her embarrassment, she was still hungry.
Simon stood beside her, watching, smiling.
“Yup,” he said, “you enjoy it just right.”
He rubbed his chin. “Would it offend you if I made an observation?”
Scooping up some ketchup with a forkful of fries, Amy-Louise said, “I thought you had.”
“I meant, a personal observation.”
“Oh…” Clearly, she’d been wrong. Simon had merely been holding back the insults.
“You’re a big girl and you love to eat…”
Here it comes, she thought.
“…and there’s nothing wrong with that.” He grinned. “Nothing wrong at all – I like women with plenty of flesh, better than those stick insects they parade about on the TV, and there’s nothing finer than a woman who appreciates good food. I’d love nothing more than a fine lady, who enjoyed my cooking.
“But, you’re not happy, healthy…”
She blushed and popped the last of the potato salad in her mouth as if to silence a retort.
“People have been cruel to you. Folk can be nasty. Food is the only thing that brings you pleasure.”
He shook his head. “Food should bring you pleasure, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that makes you happy.”
His serious expression switched back to his smile. “You need someone to treat you right, make you happy like you deserve.”
There was another ‘ding’.
“Ah, there’s your pie, miss.”
“Call me Amy-Louise,” she said. “Would it be against the rules for you to join me for a slice of pie?”
Simon glanced around the empty diner and grinned. “I don’t think it’s a problem.”
As he went to fetch their pie, Amy-Louise smiled to herself. Maybe Daddy was wrong after all. Maybe there was somebody who could love a big girl like her.
For the first time in ages, she felt truly happy.
DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, was short-listed for the 2015 Carillon ‘Let’s Be Absurd’ Fiction Competition, and has had flash fiction published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Apples, Shadows and Light (Earlyworks Press), and Journals of Horror: Found Fiction (Pleasant Storm Entertainment), issues of Sirens Call, and Tigershark, and on Cease Cows, The Flash Fiction Press, Space Squid, and Trembling With Fear.