Her hips were padded with skin, her stomach caked with potato chips, grease and donuts. It wasn’t always easy to find her bones, and she’d been called fat too many times. Her head was filled with more demons than thoughts, and she fit into size 18s. She wanted nothing more than to stop caring, yet every day, her heart burst against their seams, barely able to contain herself.
She walked through the crosswalk, rugged up in layers of winter clothes and thick white scarf covering her neck, watching the steam rise up off of her coffee to go.
She stopped in the middle of the road, winded by a high-pitched monotone and a blinding bright light. When it disappeared, she was standing in a forest. She turned on the spot, looking up at the trees.
“Where am I?” she asked.
But there was no answer. So she started walking.
After a few hours, she came to a clearing, a brown little cabin in the centre of it. At first, she just stared, until finally she came upon it, trying to see through the closed wooden blinds. She found an old rusted axe by the door, and opened it.
She dropped it again by the door, and sank into the bare hard chair, burying her head in her hands.
It got dark. She began to search the cabin for food, a bed. She went to sleep early.
She woke to a giant crash. A man stood over her, brandishing the axe. “What are you doing in my house?”
She threw up her hands. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” she cried.
She slammed down the axe, and she rolled off the bed. “Please, please!” cried Kate.
The axe came down again, and she turned on her side, her cotton sweater getting hacked through, her stomach grazed in the cut. She rolled up to her feet, hauled herself up, and ran for the door. He chucked the axe at her, whizzing in front of her and lodging itself into the wall. She ran out.
She fell through the trees as he rushed at her from behind. God, she missed the city. At least it was safer than this.
Arrows flinged over her head, and she bowed lower, hands up to cover her face. Yet somehow they flew behind her, and she stood up again as she ran, right into the arms of another woman, who dragged her into hiding behind a tree.
Kate looked around the trunk to see a whole group of women take down the one man. They shot him full of arrows till he fell silently to the ground, dead.
She gaped, hardly believing he was dead, or that he didn’t scream. Kate started to stand, but the woman at her side pulled her down.
“No,” said the woman, watching her friends at their kill, retrieving their arrows. Kate watched her, still confused, trying to understand. The woman looked up as some birds flew overhead.
Finally, she was allowed to stand and join her new friends. She walked with them through the uncertain forest, feeling both insecure in their company, and hoping she could trust them.
They led her back to a ruin in the woods, columns rising from the ground broken at the top, and the centre stood a statue of a woman, naked. Her body was toned, her breasts fat, her hips full, and her face whole. She was almost like a real woman.
And now the women surrounded her, laying their weapons on a tablet, guiding her to the river that ran away from the ruined temple. And they began to pull away her clothes.
Kate took a step back, and her friend caught her. “I can’t.”
“You must,” said the woman. “We must honour Venus. Only you are pure enough for our rite.”
“How can you know that?”
“The Gods have spoken to us. The birds have given us a sign that we have found the one.”
“That’s insane,” said Kate. “What is your name?”
She looked at Florence helplessly, then back at the already stripped women around her. “You don’t want to see me…” Kate said. “I’m ugly.”
Florence took her face in her hands, looking deep within her eyes. “You are beautiful,” she said passionately. “You are like Venus… a goddess amongst men.”
Kate looked back in horror. “I – I’m not. I’m horrible and fat -”
Florence ran her hands down Kate’s arms. “You are beautiful. You have a perfect body. To be any thinner than you are now, you would be ugly. Look around you. You have been sculpted by the Gods…”
Kate looked again at the naked bodies, bodies just like hers. She stared in shock. These strong, perfect women, and their stomachs were… round like hers, not flat. And still she saw muscles, and glowing skin, and perfect curls and blush and eyes. It was enough to believe in God again.
Florence slipped off Kate’s sweater, and she wasn’t even scared for a moment, until Florence realised all the layers were gone and she was already half naked, and hugged her boobs in an attempt to hide them. Florence held up the bra confused, then threw it away. Then she started on her jeans.
Kate jumped out of her skin, as fingers brushed her navel. “Are you sure this is alright?”
Florence said nothing, but smiled and nodded, working on the buttons. She worked them free, and began the slide the jeans down, when Kate grabbed at them in fear.
“I have thunder thighs.”
Florence looked up into her eyes, soft and vulnerable. “A gift from Jupiter,” said Florence.
Kate blushed. “I’m just a normal girl. Average looks. Full of flaws.”
“I don’t believe you,” said Florence, kissing her belly button. It shocked Kate enough to drop her hands, and allowed Florence to finish undressing her.
Then she led her by the pool to bathe. “I’ve done nothing to deserve this.”
“You don’t need to. You are pure. You have been loyal to our goddess, and now you will be hers.”
“I don’t know…” Kate was still trying to hide herself in the waters, but it wasn’t doing any good.
“You can’t hide yourself from me,” said Florence. “I see you.” She stroked her face lovingly.
She didn’t have to say it, Kate pouted, blushing, but took her arms away, finally surrendering to Florence. Florence smiled, staring, washing her nurturingly.
Kate later learned, while being inducted to their sisterhood, that Florence was their leader. And she was just one of her sisters. She didn’t mind; this place had finally begun to banish her doubts, and her fears. She learned to be one of them, in time.