Matthew stepped onto the scales. Trish, the coordinator, read out his weight. He'd lost three pounds, bringing him to his target weight. He got the loudest cheer of the night. He smiled modestly. Under cover of writing down his achievement on his Weight Warriors pocket card, he looked the women over.
He'd already had four of them: Angie, Claire, Jane and Sonya. He could have had Trish too, but he never did coordinators. They were inclined to be vengeful and more intelligent than their clients. If he got Sharon in the sack tonight, he wouldn't have to come back next week. He glanced at her. She blushed. He looked around the room. Angie simpered, Claire grinned, Jane looked down, and Sonya refused to catch his eye. A good haul. Of course, they were oblivious to their collective nature, each thought herself the only recipient of his attentions - these women didn't boast about sex. He could never have got away with it if they did.
Sometimes, when he looked at women, he saw them composed of food. Claire, the fast food queen, with vanilla milkshake flesh-tones, and hair the stringy, bleached texture of reconstituted French fries. Jane: cocoa-colored skin and candy pink lips. Sonya - a dairy maid with dimpled hands like cheese fingers, and acres of creamy curves.
He timed his exit so Sharon was shoulder to shoulder with him. More accurately, her shoulder - mottled but solid, like prime beef sausage - brushed his elbow. She was nearly as wide as she was tall, and her blonde moustache showed how inefficient facial bleach could be. Matthew wished she waxed. Smooth skin was much easier to transmute in his imagination, especially with his eyes closed.
'May I offer you a lift home?' He spoke gently, both to avoid startling her if she was skittish, and to ensure the other women didn't overhear.
Tonight Sharon would be his J-Lo. He hoped she wasn't a grunter. It was hard to imagine Jennifer's sultry tones and lavish love-gifts of Rolex and iMac, if the woman beneath him was honking and squealing. He hoped she wasn't a virgin either. He hated the tedium of it, and deflowering was always followed by much emotional guff. He began to hum under his breath, 'I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky, I should be so lucky in love.' Sharon giggled.
Five hours later, tired and smelling of the magnolia shampoo that was all he could find in Sharon's bathroom, he escaped. It was easy to get away.
'Sharon, I'm so sorry, I don't know what came over me. You know I'm getting married soon? It's why I'm at Weight Warriors - to lose weight before the wedding. I just couldn't resist you, but please ... can we pretend it was just a wonderful dream? I love my fiancÈe and although she could never match up to you physically... well, she's blind, and so ....' No fat woman ever impeded his departure once he mentioned the sightless bride-to-be.
He sat in the car and dictated a long message to Liz's mailbox. Now it was over to her. Tonight's Fat Fighters was his last meeting in Stroud. He would be home with her in three hours. They'd have two weeks together before it was her turn to come up here. He swung the Volvo around Stroud's rain-slick streets. Overweight women appreciated a big safe car. The seduction started there, in a seat that didn't cramp them, riding a suspension that didn't groan under their bulk, with space to relax and appreciate how Matthew attended to them. The car was his introduction to their bedrooms - and it worked every time.
Lazily he calculated the takings. Twenty women in five weeks. Monday night: Weight Warriors - six women. Tuesday night: Lighter Ladies - six women. Wednesday: Yoga for Weight loss - only three women bedded there, a disappointing score. Thursday's Fat Fighters - five women, all of them coy and respectable. His quota was met; twenty bed-post notches meant he could go home to Liz and relax for a while. He grinned to imagine how much money they would make from these lovelorn fatties, then scowled, remembering the strenuous evening with Sharon. Catching sight of his forehead in the rear view mirror, he relaxed it immediately. Women fell for his boyish, tousle-haired sensuality. He couldn't afford frown lines.
For a while now he'd been wondering how they would make their money when he couldn't do this any more. Nobody stayed young and charming forever. He found it ever more wearisome to superimpose imaginary women on the chunky bodies he seduced. He'd never failed yet. But one day, morbid obesity would defeat him - the tickle of a walrus moustache would not translate in his mind to the silky tresses of a visionary inamorata and he would wilt ... forever.