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Copyright Oggbashan July 2020
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.
My girlfriend Anna was sitting next to me at the wedding reception after our friend Janet had married Brian. It was the mid-1960s and Janet was wearing a full skirted wedding gown. Anna had been my girlfriend for less than a year but she was not new as a friend. She, Janet and I had been friends and neighbours since we were toddlers. Both Janet and Anna had been the girls next door, either side of my parents’ house. We had only drifted apart when we all went away to different universities but whenever we came home, we resumed being friends. But most of the time that had been all we had been – friends. We would help each other, support each other, and commiserate with each other when relationships went wrong whether other best friends at school suddenly became enemies or later, when adults, for girlfriend/boyfriend trouble.
At the wedding, Anna had been a bridesmaid, the first and most obvious one for Janet to choose. I had been an Usher, not at Brian’s request, but Janet’s. Brian made it very clear that he was happy that Janet wanted me there, even though I was one of Janet’s ex-boyfriends and the last one before him.
The bride’s father was part way through the traditional speech. I wasn’t really paying attention as he said all the conventional things about his daughter and his new son-in-law. Suddenly I was surprised. He mentioned me by my name, Martin. Anna squeezed my hand under the table as Janet’s father said that the wedding had only been possible because of me. I had come, as a friend, when Janet was at her lowest ebb. I had supported her, encouraged her, loved her, shown her that someone wanted her and that she as seen as valuable, all that when Janet had lost all faith in herself. I had picked her up, stood her on her own two feet while remaining close if she needed me. Best of all, when I had restored Janet to being a person in her own right and willing to face the world again I had let her make her own choices. When I had seen that the restored Janet loved Brian I had walked away to resume being the nice boy next door who had been Janet’s friend all her life. Now her father and her new husband were grateful to Martin and proud to have him as their friend, not just Janet’s.
He proposed a toast: “To Martin.”
After that, when he resumed his speech, Anna leant over and kissed my blushing cheek.
“Thank you, Martin, for Janet,” Anna said.
“I couldn’t have done it without you and her father,” I retorted.
“Perhaps, but we had been trying and failing for months before you came back, Martin. You changed everything.”
Three years ago I had come back home from working in Amsterdam for a week before to going to university in Leyden in The Netherlands, on an MBA course sponsored by my employer. I had been shocked to be told by my parents that Janet’s mother had been killed in a head on collision with a drunk driver.
My parents asked whether I wanted to join them at the funeral.
“Of course,” I said. “She wasn’t just an adopted aunt, she was one of my mothers.”
Janet, Anna and I had been born within a week of each other and we were the only children of our parents. But we hadn’t felt as if we were only children. We felt more like non-identical triplets. All three of us would be together, whether at home or at school. Our mothers shared the school runs, one collecting all three. We had joint birthday parties with food provided by three mothers. When young at primary school, Janet had been the tallest girl, and the tallest of either sex in our year. I thought of her as my big sister and Anna as my little sister.
If I had been bullied, which I wasn’t because I was one of the largest and heaviest boys, Janet would have defended me. Both of us protected Anna from any bullying. We were known as the Three Musketeers because anyone being unpleasant to any of us would have to face all three. In our teens I grew taller and heavier than Janet but she was still a tall and heavily built girl. Anna was slightly shorter than Janet but both of them developed large breasts which they found an irritation for sports.
But Janet’s mother’s death affected me and Anna almost as much as Janet. All three mothers had behaved as if all three children were theirs, shared with two other mothers. To lose one mother was a disaster for all three of us.
After the funeral Janet has accepted a hug from me, her head pressed against my cheek and her tears rolling down my face. Anna was hugging the other side as all three of us cried. Janet’s then boyfriend, Darren, was standing behind her, frowning as if he disapproved of Janet being in another man’s arms.
I didn’t know much about Darren. He had become Janet’s boyfriend when I was in Amsterdam. I used to write to Janet and Anna Maltepe Escort about once a month. Janet only mentioned Darren in passing. Anna’s letters referred to him infrequently but it was clear she disapproved of Darren. Why? Neither of them had given me a clue.
At the end of the week I had left to go to Leyden. Our correspondence continued but Janet’s letters became shorter and very infrequent until they stopped completely. Anna was obviously worried about Janet but didn’t say why. In Leyden I couldn’t do anything to find out.
A year later I had successfully completed my MBA and my employers had promoted me and transferred me to their London office. I could commute from home, and even better, I had enough for a deposit on a small house and access to a subsidised mortgage. I was staying with my parents for a few weeks while I house-hunted.
I had been at home for a couple of days before I saw Janet on a Friday morning. She walked into the house through the back door, as she had done for decades. I was drinking coffee sitting at the kitchen table. Although I was shocked by the change in Janet’s appearance, my response to her was as it had always been when we were adult. I stood up, opened my arms and gave her a hug. She burst into tears. I was aware that this Janet was massively overweight, perhaps four or five stones larger than when I had last seen her at the funeral. But whatever she looked like, she was my friend Janet. As she cried against my cheek I stroked her back, feeling the foundation garment that was attempting and failing to hold her fat in place.
I moved to sit back on the kitchen chair with a very heavy Janet squashing my legs. She sobbed loudly against me for about a quarter of an hour before the sobs changed to gentle whimpers.
“Would you like a tea or coffee, Janet?” I asked.
Her response was to start sobbing again. I had to repeat the question about ten minutes later before she agreed to have a cup of tea. Making it was difficult. Janet was clinging to me as if I was all that was keeping her afloat in a rough sea.
As she started to sip her tea, back on my lap, I just asked:
“Why? You mean why am I crying?” Janet said.
“Because you treated me as your friend.”
“Why not, Janet? We have been friends all our lives. Why should I be any different?”
“Because I am a fat ugly slob, looking like a beached whale.”
“Yes. He ditched me six months ago and I’m even fatter now than I was then.”
“I don’t really know Darren, but if that is what he said, he’s an arsehole.”
“But since then no one wants me, no one likes me, no one loves me…”
“That’s not true, Janet. Anna does. Your father does. My parents do. Anna’s parents do. And as for me? I’ve got my friend in my arms and I’m hugging her. Does that look as if I don’t like you?”
“But I don’t like myself,” Janet whispered.
“OK, Janet. I think you need me as well as Anna and our parents. Since I have only just come back from the Netherlands I haven’t got a girlfriend. There’s a vacancy and I want you to fill it.”
“Me? There’s too much of me to fill the post. I’m enormous, Martin.”
“However big you are, Janet, I want you to be my girlfriend, please. I need to rebuild my life in the UK and I need your help.”
“My help, Martin? I can’t even help myself.”
“I think you can, and help me. I’m house hunting and I want you to help me to choose. Will you? Help – and be my girlfriend, Janet, please?”
It took me another hour before I persuaded Janet to look through adverts in the local paper and then walk around estate agents collecting property details. She told me she had a day off because her office was been refitted today and over the weekend. We sat down in a coffee shop with the pile of details. Janet surprised herself with her acute comments on the advantages or disadvantages of each property. I was beginning to see, shining through the self-pity, glimpses of the Janet I had known for years. I had always respected Janet’s judgement and intelligence. Even the fat Janet apparently still had those qualities.
By the end of that day we had reduced the pile to a short list of properties to look at tomorrow, Saturday. I had not let Janet refuse to go with me even if she still wasn’t convinced I really meant that I wanted her for my girlfriend.
Janet was far more animated during the day of looking at houses. At lunchtime she had wanted to go to a fast food takeaway outlet. I persuaded her to go with me to a supermarket café and have a proper cooked meal. By the evening we had decided on a property. It was a small detached, two bedroom house on a corner plot with off road parking for two vehicles, an easy walk to the railway station and the town centre shops. I had put my offer in for it, at the asking price, to the estate agent. They had promised to contact the seller and let me know the decision by noon tomorrow, Sunday before they shut for the afternoon. I had asked my Anadolu Yakası Escort mother to cook an evening meal for us including Janet. She agreed but said Anna would be joining us as well. I was delighted. I hadn’t seen Anna for a year.
Anna greeted me and Janet as she had always done as an adult. She hugged Janet and me before kissing me so much that Janet objected. Anna stood aside to let Janet demonstrate that she could kiss as well as Anna. I was delighted. Did that mean Janet would be my girlfriend? Behind Janet’s back Anna was giving me a thumbs-up and smiling broadly.
Over the meal the five of us discussed the house I had offered for. It had been a rented property but the current owners had decided to sell when the last tenant moved out to take job in another town. The kitchen and its equipment were modern, as was the bathroom. Everything had been well-maintained and it was obvious that the last tenant had been a careful one. A couple of the rooms might need redecorating in a year or so, but it was in a condition that I could occupy without having to do any work.
I would need curtains and furniture. My parents had some old furniture they wanted to replace, as did Anna’s parents and Janet’s father. All I would have to buy at first would be a bed. The old furniture would be enough for a year or so before I needed more. I could have the bed from my bedroom in my parent’s house. I would put that in the second bedroom and use it until my new bed arrived. My parents would replace my bed with a folding bed settee if they needed more beds than they already had in their third bedroom.
I asked Janet to join me tomorrow for Sunday lunch with my parents. By then I would have a decision on the house. She was reluctant but my parents and Anna persuaded her to accept. I walked Janet next door to her house and insisted on kissing her on her doorstep. She wasn’t responding at first but eventually she reacted to my kissing more than she had ever done as a friend.
At eleven o’clock Sunday morning the estate agent telephoned. The owners had accepted my offer. It would take five weeks until completion but the owners had answered my supplementary question. Could I rent the house until completion? Their answer was yes, starting next Saturday. On Monday I would contact my solicitors and the mortgage lender who had pre-approved my request for a loan, subject to a suitable property and a survey. With my savings and parental help I had enough money for the transaction fees, taxes and a thirty per cent deposit. The price of the house wouldn’t bother the mortgage lenders. A seventy per cent loan meant that even if their surveyor thought it was overpriced they would approve it.
At Sunday lunch, Janet seemed happier. She was with my parents and her other two friends, me and Anna. She was reluctant but I persuaded her to take me on a walk around the town centre that I hadn’t really seen for several years. I thought that Janet needed the exercise and some proper eating. If I could, I would ensure she had both.
I was mean. I dragged Janet around the town centre even though she was puffing and panting and sweating profusely. Her clothing didn’t help. When I had last seen her before I went away she liked wearing clingy dresses that emphasised her curves. She had looked spectacular in them. Now she was still wearing that sort of dress but in enormous sizes. They clung to her, emphasising her rolls of fat that her foundation garments couldn’t control. Janet was waddling around beside me, pulled on by my hand in hers.
Anna had invited Janet and I for an evening meal with her parents. I suspected that Anna knew I was trying to get Janet to eat properly. I had been worried when Anna told me that Janet had been eating at a burger joint four or five times a day.
When we got back to Janet’s father’s house, Janet announced that she had to shower and change before going to Anna’s. While she was doing that I sat in the kitchen with her father. He told me that Janet had been happier and more animated since I had returned. I told him that I had asked Janet to be my girlfriend but as yet, she hadn’t agreed.
“She needs time, Martin,” He said. “She has lost any confidence in herself. I and the other parents, and Anna, have tried to help, but that…” – he paused because he wouldn’t swear in front of me – “…person Darren destroyed her. She was grieving for her mother but Darren was completely unsympathetic. Only since he has gone has she tried to accept that her mother isn’t here anymore. It still hurts for me but I have accepted it. Janet is only just beginning to process that – a year later.”
“I am sorry. Your wife was like a mother for me. I loved her.”
“I know, Martin. So did Anna. Her death hurt all three of you. If I could, I’d have killed that drunk driver. I hated him and I’m glad he died in hospital within hours of the crash. I’ve moved beyond hate to acceptance. Janet hasn’t – yet. But with you beside her? She might.”
“I’ll do my best. Janet is not just a friend. I love her. İstanbul Escort If I can I’ll help her to find herself again.”
“Thank you. It’s early yet but you have had more impact in three days than her other friends in six months.”
At that point Janet returned. She was still wearing another of her tight dresses but this time she had put make-up on, the first time I had seen her use it since I returned, and she had styled her hair. I stood up. She walked right past me and kissed her father on the cheek. He smiled. So did she, the first real smile I had seen since before her mother’s funeral.
“So what have the two men I love been discussing?” She asked.
“You – of course,” Her father replied. “Martin told me he wants you as his girlfriend but you haven’t said yes. But ‘the two men I love’? Perhaps he has a chance.”
“More than a chance, Dad. Martin has made it very clear that he loves me. So, yes, I accept. I’m his and he’s mine.”
She pulled me into a hug and kiss.
“Come on, boyfriend. We’re going to see Anna.”
Janet kissed her father again before we left.
During the meal Janet told Anna and Anna’s parents that I was now her boyfriend. They congratulated us.
Over the next week, Janet was at work and I was rushing around, signing documents, transferring funds and I bought an old Ford 5 cwt van. It was slow and noisy but every cheap. It would do for moving furniture into my new house and then I could trade it in for a better car, maybe in a couple of months’ time when my finances recovered from the cost of house-buying. Each evening I either took Janet out to a restaurant or we had a meal either with my parents or Anna’s. She was eating better than she had done for a year.
On the Saturday I was given the keys of the house I was renting until the house purchase was completed. I made poor Janet work hard helping me to move furniture. Anna helped but Janet had to shower before lunch and before our evening meal. By Saturday evening I had a bed I could sleep in, even if it was my old bed. The new one wouldn’t be delivered until the Tuesday. I had put up some old curtains in the spare bedroom, curtains my father had intended for dust sheets when decorating.
On the Sunday we moved more furniture in the morning and in the afternoon, after Janet had showered yet again, we put that furniture provisionally in the places it was needed. I invited Janet and Anna to share an evening meal with me in the new house. They accepted, subject to Janet going home again to shower but Anna insisted she would prepare the meal, not me. She knew I could cook but not up to her standards.
On the Monday I bought a pre-war Singer treadle sewing machine. It might be old but it was in an excellent condition. That evening I was trying to make curtains when Janet arrived with Anna. They laughed at me and told me to leave the sewing to them. I should check the curtain rails while they made the curtains. Over the next week the two women, and my mother, made curtains for all the rooms in my house and by the weekend, with Janet’s help, I had put them all up.
Every evening either Janet on her own, or Janet and Anna, would cook the evening meal. Janet was eating much better than she had done for months. I had been dragging Janet out for walks every day.
A month after I had come back from abroad, one morning Janet gave me a long hug. She had weighed herself that morning and had lost a whole stone, and she said it was all because of me. I protested that she must accept some of the credit, but Janet wouldn’t agree.
Slowly and gradually over the next couple of months Janet lost more weight. She was going back through her wardrobe, bringing out clothes she had been wearing as she put on weight. Her clothes that she had worn at her largest now hung off her.
But even four months after she had agreed to be my girlfriend, we hadn’t made love. I was kissed, hugged and cuddled but she seemed reluctant to go further. Janet was my friend. I wouldn’t push her to do things she wasn’t ready for, even if I might feel frustrated now that she was getting back to the shape she had been a year ago.
Some of the few things she said about Darren, her former boyfriend, made me want to break his neck or beat him up. I couldn’t. He had taken a job one hundred and fifty miles away. He didn’t tell Janet until the evening before he went. He just walked out of her life when she was still hurting from the loss of her mother. Although he had been unsympathetic and had been abusing her mentally and physically, Janet had thought he still loved her until he just left her stranded. Darren’s departure, arsehole though he was, had upset Janet even more.
I suspected that Janet’s reluctance to contemplate sex had been because of the way Darren had treated her – just as a sex object to use and abuse. I couldn’t ask her. Every time she mentioned Darren she became upset again and she was still fragile.
Ten months after i had returned from Leyden Janet and I were in the kitchen washing up one Friday evening after another Janet-cooked evening meal. Janet was within a few pounds of the weight she had been at the time of her mother’s funeral. Her tight dresses no longer showed rolls of fat although when she slumped I could see she still had a little more to lose.
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