Your father told me if I ever gained weight, he’d leave me.

Today's Story



By Eugene H. Bales

Since they had been adult friends, Marge Ladd had never seen her daughter, Elizabeth Ladd Major, without her makeup on.  That had been true for the six days of Elizabeth’s visit, and it was true at breakfast on the seventh and last day.

From Marge’s place at the dining table, she could see a picture of herself on the wall.  A tiara on her head, smiling and blonde-radiant, she held the bouquet of flowers given her as her university’s homecoming queen.  She rode in a red convertible, its tires whishing on the track around the football field.  Driving the car, Carl Ladd, a college boy, sporting sunglasses on an overcast, chilly day, dressed in school colors—a gold blazer and gold tie on a black shirt.  Carl, smitten with Marge that day he met her, dated her from that moment until they married.

“Swiss chocolate for breakfast dessert?” Elizabeth said.  “Easier for me to imagine you taking a shot of Scotch.”

You look the same as I did twenty-seven years ago.  I could be talking to my former self.  “I have an ugly secret to tell you, Beth.”

“I’d be just as happy with a handsome one.”

“You’re my best friend now, and I need to talk to you.”

“What happened to Dad?”

Marge took a drink of water from a silver goblet and smiled with no mirth at her fun-house reflection in it.  “A few months after we were married, your father told me if I ever gained weight, he’d leave me.”

“Mother, he had to be joking.”

“My heart wants that, but my head remembers the enemy in the tone.”

“Has he ever repeated it?”

“Stronger than that—suggested it.  Before he went on this business trip he thanked me for always staying trim and lovely.”

“Hello, chocolate weight-gain plan.”

“A huge yes tattoo on my face.  I’m tired of me, the bully enabler.  We’ll see what he does when he comes home and I’m a size bigger.”

Elizabeth spread her fingers, held them that way a few counts and relaxed them.  “What if I said I agree—that I feel people should look their best for appearance and health?”

“I would say you tacked on health to make the appearance part of your statement acceptable, and I would be devastated.”

Elizabeth’s head drooped.  She fingered her white cloth napkin.

Marge walked to the freezer, brought out a chocolate bar, held it at arm’s length in front of her, close to Elizabeth’s face. Her daughter stared at it for four or five beats before holding up her hand, its thumb down.


Eugene H. Bales has written since 1961.  Six of his stories have appeared in Fiction365, one of them until a pseudonym.

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