For a Slim Figure
By Raj, age 21, England, United Kingdom
"For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry." - Sam Levenson
Ever the picture of ungainly grace, Madison Belle struggled down the three flights of stairs out of the building in her highly impractical, but nonetheless adorable Prada peep-toes. Her substantially proportioned flatmate was observing her efforts from over the top floor banister. "Maddie, do you really think those shoes'll carry you all the way to town?" he mocked. Traces of his full English breakfast lingered on each word. Whipping off her sling-backs, Maddie carried them on her fingers and tip-toed faster down the stairs, before Ethan's breath polluted the entire stairwell. "Well, they'll have to, Ethan. I need my meals," she scowled.
"I told you, Maddie, stick with me. I'll feed you up!" In a charming display of generosity, he plucked a Porkinson banger out of his trouser pocket, and toyed with the idea of tossing it through the railing. Instead, he stuffed the entire thing in his mouth and roared with laughter. Maddie's pace quickened to escape the masticated sausage flying out of King Kong's gaping pie-hole.
Having escaped the horrors of the stairway, she cursed Ethan for making her hurry and tried to brush her feet clean. She slipped back into her shoes and stepped out into the crisp autumn air. Having never attempted it in 3 inch heels before, Maddie hesitated before taking the usual woodland shortcut off campus. Her beautiful beige stilettos sunk deep into the dirt with every step, almost reducing her to tears. But it was Monday, and Hot Security Guard would be at the store. NOTHING would ruin her make-up. She reached the back gate and, thankful to be on solid concrete again, comfortably sauntered towards the high street.
Maddie arrived at the supermarket, and picking up a shopping basket she cautiously made her way down the first aisle. She considered the lack of friction between her leather soles and the polished floor, and it dawned on her that she may be better off shopping barefoot. To avoid slipping and suffering spinal damage, she took off her shoes and placed them on top of all the junk in her oversized Chanel tote. She stood before the refrigerator and felt hot air blasting on her feet. As she checked every fresh fruit salad for the best combination, Maddie prayed she wasn't leaving sweaty footprints on the pristine floor. Feeling nervous, she opted for her usual mango, melon and kiwi selection and scanned the soft drinks for water. She was picking up a 2 litre bottle of Evian when she spotted Hot Security Guard coming towards her. Maddie put on her rehearsed smile and prepared to make him fall in love with her. "Morning," she began excitedly as he got closer.
"Morning," he replied, terribly unimpressed. "Where are your shoes today?" They were the most words he had ever spoken to her. Mortified, Maddie looked down at the pale feet poking out the ends of her black skinny jeans and tried to force the smile back on her face. At least the cream, coral speckled tiles complimented her crimson toe nails. "Hey, up here. Look at me," he commanded, snapping his fingers. Maddie frowned at him. Hot Security Guard was a jerk. "You do have shoes, don't you?"
"They're right here," she told him, pulling them out of her bag.
"Right. Good. You're gonna have to put them back on. One of these bottles falls on your bare foot," he pointed to bottles stacked along the wall, "and this place isn't insured."
"Got it. Shoes going back on," she said, putting them back on. "Sorry, it won't happen again."
"Don't say apologise to me, apologise to whoever has to mop up your sweaty footprints," he yelled, walking away. Maddie gasped in disbelief. Resisting the urge to fling one of her heels at the back of his head, she continued to shop with haste. She gathered her regular vegetarian sushi snack for lunch and Victoria sponge cake for dinner, made her purchases at self-service, and rushed out of the store.
The walk back to campus was always difficult, due to the extra weight of a 2 litre bottle of water. To make matters worse, the skies had turned an apocalyptic grey and a howling wind threatened to blow Maddie over. Carrier bag dangling from her wrist, she awkwardly jammed her hands into the useless pockets of her blazer and marched as fast as she could. The bottle of water banged relentlessly against her thigh. She could feel a bruise forming already. In a considerable amount of pain, and with no desire to risk getting caught in the rain, Maddie made a swift bee-line for the taxi rank at the nearby train station. It wasn't until tripping over him that she noticed the homeless man sleeping on the pavement.
"Sh**!" she exclaimed, regaining her balance. "I'm so sorry!" Sitting upright, the man grumbled something she didn't understand, and they stared at each other. "I didn't even know they had homeless people in this town. Here ..." Maddie handed over her bag of shopping. "You need this more than I do." He took off his fleece trapper hat and exposed a matted mass of hair. His expression was still vacant. Seconds later, he passed out. His head hit the concrete hard. With the aid of a fallen tree branch, Maddie lifted up the grubby parka the man was lying under. Curled up on discoloured corduroys was a wheaten Border Terrier. The dog rolled onto its back and covered its eyes with its paws. Careful not to startle it, Maddie slowly deposited her carrier bag beside the man's legs. Letting the coat fall gently back down, she started away.
At the taxi rank, Maddie had a choice of two cars. Eager for a taste of deluxe travel, she was drawn towards the Mercedes-Benz minivan. But the driver rejected her for an approaching group of private schoolgirls. Sliding into the back of a Ford Escort, Maddie caught a glimpse of the LED clock in the dashboard. "University Campus please," she told the driver. "Think you can get me to the Windsor Building for my one o'clock lecture?"
"In four minutes? Easy as pie! Obviously, you haven't seen my F1 driving."
Maddie laughed nervously. "Did I specify that I'd like to arrive in one piece?"
He pulled away and sped to campus. After five gruelling hours of back-to-back seminars and workshops, Maddie trudged back to the flat and collapsed on her bed.
* * * * *
She woke up on Tuesday morning wearing Monday's clothes and make-up. The absence of any nourishment for 30 hours had left her feeble and trembling. Before attempting to take a shower, Maddie staggered to the vending machine on the landing. She scoffed down two packets of Maltesers, made herself up, and left the flat in her faithful Gucci pumps for the daily trip to the supermarket where she bought her 2 litre bottle of water and three standard meals: a fruit salad for breakfast, vegetarian sushi for lunch, and a sponge cake for dinner. Walking out of the store, Maddie was peeling the cellophane lid off her fruit pot when she realised the Border Terrier and the homeless man from the day before were sitting against the wall. She saw the hopeful look in the man's dry, yellowing eyes. Putting the fruit back into the bag, she dropped it as she passed by. She could hear the plastic rustling behind her as she strode off. "Hey girly," the man slurred after her, "you're the one that gimme this grub yesterday, ain'cha?"
"I am." She spun round to face him. "Enjoy!" The dog had begun to trail her. She walked briskly and peered over her shoulder to check if the dog was still following.
"Sorrow! Get back here!" the man summoned his dog, and Maddie carried on home. By the time she arrived at the flat, Maddie was feeling so rushed off her feet that she took the liberty of excusing herself from the day's classes. She called the relevant classmates to pass on the message of her chronic fatigue to her teachers, and curled up in bed.
* * * * *
On Wednesdays, Maddie's abominable flatmate, King Kong, would accompany her to the supermarket for his weekly shop. This week, their trip had been delayed due to Kong's failure to wake up on time. He met Maddie without showering, having swiftly drenched his crumpled clothes in Febreze. The entire walk she was stuck downwind of him, choking on his nauseating fumes.
"So, tell me one more time," she spluttered in between shrill coughs. "You threw on your dirty laundry and swam through fabric refresher?"
"Very funny." His dead beat tone made Maddie feel guilty.
"Aw, I'm sorry, Ethan," she apologised sincerely and hugged him around his chubby middle. His hoody was damp against her cheek. The fusty scent of meadows and spicy wildflowers filled her nostrils. She fought the instinct to pull away and Kong was grateful. He quietly kissed the top of her head.
By the time they arrived at Waitrose, much of his moist haystack odour had been carried away on the wind, and Maddie was thoroughly enjoying Kong's company. Inside the store, he showed her how a student should shop for food, and filled a trolley with every indulgence from value champagne to microwave pizza. "Job well done, don't you think?" he asked Maddie at the tills, congratulating himself.
"I don't know about that, it just cost me £105! I could've bought a new shirt. How am I ever meant to eat all this anyway?"
"You don't eat it all today, Maddie. It goes in the freezer," Kong explained condescendingly. He was offended by her lack of enthusiasm.
She furrowed her eyebrows and snapped back at him. "Chill out, it's not as though you had to pay for it, Ethan."
"And it's not as though your daddy can't afford it, Madison."
"You don't know anything about my dad, you ass."
"Right, you're just a regular, working-class girl, aren't you Maddie? You live in luxury University accommodation. You only ever wear designer labels. You eat cucumber rolls every day. You'd never even consider dating a student!" ranted Ethan, his arms flailing in the air. Stunned into silence, Maddie left Ethan to pack the groceries, and she waited for him outside the store.
When he eventually joined her, Maddie couldn't help but laugh. "Calmed down now?" she asked him.
"I'm so embarrassed," Ethan replied, astonished by his own melodramatic performance.
"Don't be," she told him, laughing even harder. "Just try not to flip on me again!"
"I'm so sorry, Maddie. I didn't mean any of it," he spoke in earnest, daring to look at her.
"Yes, you did, you liar!" She held her stomach and doubled over in hysterics.
"Okay, stop laughing now, before somebody sees you." Ethan took her by the arm and picked her up off the floor. She took a deep breath, and feeling light-headed, rummaged through her shopping for something to munch on.
"I haven't had crisps since I was 10 years old." She opened a packet but then passed it on to Ethan. "I don't even know if I like them," she told him, taking a can of Diet Coke. "I don't think I've ever drank from a can in my life!"
Ethan fought to manoeuvre the shopping trolley down a cobbled back street, and swore deafeningly when a stray dog got in his way. Maddie recognised it as the homeless man's Border Terrier immediately, and looked around for the man himself. There was no sign of him. She sat on a cast iron bollard at the end of the street and was adamant that she would wait for him. "He must be around here somewhere, Ethan, his dog's here."
"Fine." Ethan eventually agreed to stay with her. "But if I'm gonna stay here in the blistering cold, you have to let me eat whatever I want."
"Fine, but save some of the good stuff for my homeless guy."
After one hour of waiting, Maddie gave up. The dog, who was laying peacefully at her feet, stood up in harmony with her. It wove in and out of her legs as she tried to reach the trolley. Ethan helped her search the bags for items they could feed a canine. The dog ran circles around Maddie, salivating all over her Gucci ankle boots. Fortunately, she didn't notice. She offered the dog bites of biscuit, cheese, apple, and in the end gave it six strips of vegetarian jerky. She went to pet and fuss the dog but Ethan warned her of scabies. Maddie felt sad and cruel, knowing she would shortly have to abandon the dog. It was clearly well loved and capable of great affection. Ethan suggested that they may have to alert Animal Rescue and the dog scampered.
"It understood what it you said." Maddie kicked the food left by dog against the wall. "Hopefully it'll come back for this. Everyone has to eat."
Ethan offered Maddie his arm.
"Ethan. I think you should teach me how to cook." Resting her head on his chunky bicep, they went in search of a taxi to drive them back to school.