Last Saturday I went to a writing workshop in London, hosted by Brian Henry. During the workshop, we had 30 minutes to write a short story about a character named Stella, age 42. The theme I chose was “destroy the evidence”. Here is what I wrote.
When Stella turned 40, her body fell apart. Now 42, she struggled with her weight, her hormones betraying her as she grew older. A ring of fat padded her around the middle, but she got good at finding clothes to disguise the weight.
Or she thought she had until Jason, her husband, slowly but surely stopped wanting to have sex with her.
“Come to the gym with me,” Jason always cajoled her, as he headed out the door looking slim and muscular in his Adidas shorts and T-shirt. “Or at least go for a walk, for God’s sake. All you do is sit on the couch and watch TV.”
But of course this aggressive encouragement didn’t help. It only reinforced how bad Stella felt about herself as her body grew softer month after month. Nagging didn’t help. Leaving fitness magazines next to the couch didn’t help. And filling the fridge with kale and red peppers and cucumber and beets certainly didn’t help.
Jason was a diligent juicer, concocting elaborate vegetable potions that gleamed almost phosphorescent green from all the kale. Fuck, she hated that stuff! Give her a caramel mocha frappuccino any day. “Mmm,” she hummed, imagining the hot, sweet drink as she choked down the glass of juice he had handed her.
“That’s it!” Jason said. “Doesn’t it taste wonderful?”
“Oh yes,” she lied.
She knew what she needed to do to lose weight. Eliminate sugar or whatever “they” were saying was the right way to eat this year. But screw it. She didn’t want to. Wasn’t she old enough, grown up enough, to do what she wanted? She was tired of having to look a certain way, to be skinny and attractive. She wanted to be known for more than her looks. Finally.
Stella had a secret bag of Chicago Mix popcorn open before Jason’s car had even left the driveway. She shovelled handfuls of the cheesy caramel sweet treat into her mouth as fast as she could, orange dust sticking to her fingers.
Chewing frantically, she pulled out a dish of President’s Choice Butter Chicken when the microwave dinged, and quickly scooped the sauce over the mound of white rice in the plastic tray. No sense dirtying up a plate. She would recycle the packaging later, and hide it beneath Jason’s empty cartons of quinoa and pea protein bars.
Stella froze when she heard the front door slam. Shit! What was he doing home already? She tossed the plastic tray and the cardboard box into the garbage and opened the patio doors, desperate to rid the house of the unmistakable scent of butter chicken. But he was too fast. Jason bounded into the kitchen and stopped when he saw her.
“Forgot my Fitbit,” he explained. “Sure you don’t want to come along? Last chance!”
Stella shoved her hands behind her back, certain he could see the lingering orange popcorn residue on each finger. “Nope, I’m good”, she said. “Have fun!”