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Stay the Beast

This modern-day short story was inspired by "Beauty and the Beast".

By Jennifer L OsbornePublished 6 months ago 10 min read
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Stay the Beast
Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

If he isn't so attractive, it will be easier to leave. And if he is very nice to me, I'll feel safe. Even if I don't know him very well...

I think this to myself as I get bottled water from the gas station. While I'm at it, I pick up some gum and a small bag of nuts. I go through the motions as I pay for my items, requesting a lottery ticket at the last minute. I don't even play the lottery, as it goes against my values and typical routine. But my divorce was finalized three weeks ago, and I feel adrift and carried by the wind. I have all sorts of "out of character" moments. Today, it's a lottery dream and agreeing to meet up with a stranger at Chipotle. Don't judge! At least it's not his home or mine.

Eddie and I have been talking for a week now. I like his laugh, and he is a hard worker. Maybe a little bit of a country boy. He likes to go to church, and he takes his 7-year-old daughter for as many weekends as he can to the local fairs, and children's theatre. He has never been married, but he helps out the mother of his child as much as she will allow. He is on the heavy side and has nice eyes. I'm not after his looks and I don't care about his money. I'm after...what? Hell if I know. I can barely function, let alone admit my preferences.

I think I'm doing this so that I can figure out how to act around a new person--a human that isn't in my normal social circle. Yeah, okay...yeah! This makes some sense. All I've had in my ear for the last 6 months is "You have to get comfortable with new people! New people! New people..."

And so here I drive, twenty minutes out. To a restaurant that I don't usually eat at. Tomorrow, someone will ask me "Have you met any new people?" I can now tell them: "Yes, now please shut up about it." But as of today, nobody knows that I am meeting him here. ( I'm not going to reveal anything to anybody.)

The lottery ticket slides down the seat and onto the floor. Confused, I pick it up. I place it back on the passenger seat. I locate the Chipotle, in the smack middle of the plaza. I see Uber Eats and Door Dash delivery people in a very long line. Feeling tired and spent, I get into line. I start looking around the room for my new phone friend.

This Eddie shouldn't be hard to miss. He is at least 220 lbs. 5'11. I look around for a man dressed in a plaid, wearing jeans. As if the sound of his voice should dictate what he would wear. How do you find someone you have never met in a line of hungry people?

Finally, my eyes settle on what would be a thin, cut version of Eddie. My eyes travel past this person. I don't want to be in another relationship where I am the food for a hungry and vain ego. I want more balance. I want there to be more to this man besides a chiseled physique. Unfortunately, this very man gets up from the table.

"Excuse me, are you Cynthia? Holy love, you are so much more beautiful in person!"

My heart sinks. Here he is, all 6'2 of him, pumped and ripped, thinking I'd be surprised in a good way. The man I just looked past is the one now standing in front of me. Where is my heavy-set friend? The one with the hearty laugh, that plays with puppets when his daughter is over?

"Oh, hi there!" I laugh it all off. Later on, I'll think all this through. My friends and I will have a good laugh.

"It is so nice to finally meet you! Tell me. What would you like to eat?"

I am surprised that Eddie wants to eat here. I tell him this.

He shrugs his shoulders. "I don't often eat here, so it's kind of a treat."

We walk to the back and stand in line. He starts talking about traffic and the weather. Cleveland sports. I can tell that he is nervous, as he looks at me momentarily and then looks away. Finally, I decide to cut him off. We could both end the date before we order our food, if need be.

"You look a lot different than your online photos." I say to him, my tone serious.

He stops and smiles for a bit.

"Yeah, I get that from time to time. It's how I screen chicks."

"Chicks?" I ask.

"Yeah! You see, most really pretty girls will not agree to go out with a heavier guy. Except for you--but you are one of the rare ones."

"But if you only like really pretty girls-- aren't you just as guilty? You are doing the same thing. Targeting a girl for their looks, and then judging them."

"Not true! I want one with low enough self-esteem, yet--just enough depth so that she will be attracted just enough to the heavy guy--which was me at one time. All these high-esteem girls are too hard to manage. You know, they don't need anyone!"

Do I want to stand here and argue with Eddie? Or should I leave? In my haze of making the biggest life change I never wanted to make, leaving behind some friends, keeping others, and figuring out how to fix the wooden beam on my ceiling so that I can save a few bucks-- I believe my filter is just a bit askew.

I face Eddie straight on. Such a handsome, beautiful man. But there is pain in his face, as he talks of his own, very low, self-esteem. His incredible shoulders, his deep coloring, along with his blue eyes. And still, the difficulty he has in looking at me, his complaints of the "cool girls" he met, with their tattoos and blue hair.

"Eddie, did you struggle with your weight, your looks? Did you wish you had just--I don't know--stayed the beast? Cause that was a lot easier in some ways, wasn't it? You didn't know what to do with the attention you received?"

He stops talking mid-sentence. "How did you know?" he asks, his voice lowered.

"I want to show you this," I say, trying to scroll through my phone.

But it's our turn to order food. I really like the burrito bowl with all the extra lettuce, the meat, and extra salsa. Since I'm getting the food first, I pay for both our meals. He gives me a confused thanks. "I'm not used to a woman offering to pay," he says, under his breath.

We sit down with our drinks and our bowls of food. Finally, I pull up a few photos of my ex-husband, Mark. Both when he was overweight, and also after a fifty lb. weight loss.

"This is one of the best men I ever knew," I said, showing Eddie a picture of Mark when he was at his heaviest. "You know, I didn't care what he looked like, I just wanted him healthy. He was on all this...medicine. To help. But he kept getting sicker." I am surprised at the strength in my own voice. Maybe I am getting stronger, more able to accept the reality of Mark's choice.

"So--like a good wife, I had him set him up with a trainer. Kelly LaFonna. I thought Kelly was a guy...but no. Kelly was a lot younger, a lot more fun, and Lord knows what else! I found that out about eight months too late."

"Are they still together?" Eddie asks.

"I'm assuming so," I shrug my shoulders. "How I wish, more than anything, that I had let him figure out his weight on his own. But I'm guessing his esteem was low, and just like when Bella kissed the beast and he became handsome, he also became a conceited ass after he met Kelly. Full of himself. He didn't need his wife of 16 years any longer. He blamed me for putting pressure on him. Who knows? Maybe I did?"

"You'd prefer the beast?" he asked.

"Hands down," I said, and I heard a crack in my voice. "Or rather, I prefer him as himself. Not this...pumped-up guy with a big ego."

"But you loved him, and you wanted him healthy. And it was up to him to manage that trainer. That wasn't your fault."

I smile at him and dig into my food. Mark made his choices. Right now, I'm going to enjoy my time with Eddie. Whether this is the only time we talk, ever--or whether we go out again next week. I'm going to get comfortable as best as I can with the unknown.

Eddie goes on to talk about his house, how long he has owned it, the equity. He likes his employers, the Lings. He does some farming and works on computer coding. I find it refreshing that his life is fairly simple.

We finish up and agree to talk later in the evening, saying how much we enjoyed getting to meet in person. We embrace. I have to admit, it feels really good to hug and be hugged again.

When I get back to my car, I see my lottery ticket laying on the ground, outside my car door. How did this happen? I am shocked that no one picked it up, or that it wasn't carried by the wind. I pick it up, and I get inside my car.

Later that night, I send a thank-you text to Eddie, but I don't get a response. I don't think anything of it. I look up the winning lottery number for the evening, and my heart goes into a heavy thump. 39-45-29-10. These are the winning numbers! I just won...oh my, $120,000.00!

First person I think of calling is Mark, but I can't. No. We are both struggling financially and this divorce is going to set both of us back.

Until now! Even with the taxes I'll owe, this will help me afford a new home!

Who can I call? No one. No one in my life would want to hear this right now. Everyone is stressed about money at this time. I turn on SNL, and I do my own happy dance, in my cute but very small, 0ne bedroom apartment.

I check my phone half an hour later. Oddly enough, it's a text from Mark.

"Kelly and I are over. Just wanted you to know. Can I come over and talk to you? I understand if you say no. I am a mess."

What am I doing? What am I agreeing to?

In a move of great lonliness, I agree to hear Mark out. "You can come over for only a little bit," I say to him.

And I pour myself some Petrone, and fix my makeup, I can't help but think that meeting Eddie was very, very lucky. Did he somehow help shift these events? Is my fate reorganizing itself? Who knows? I'm giddy with Mark texts and lottery winnings. I'm crediting Eddie.

Marks cries at the tiny apartment. Sits upon my brand-new furniture, and buries his face in his hands. "I don't recognize anything in here and it's all my fault! Look at you! You are so strong, and I am so not strong."

I get tears in my eyes when I think of what we both went through in the past six months. The rush of this divorce brought us all down.

"I can't even ask your forgiveness," he said. "But I am so sorry to have done this to you, to us."

Never since the time I have known him, have I seen him like this. His eyes are red with his own grief. His face is swollen with his sadness. Though his tears have stopped, his pain is acute. He gets up to leave, apologizing, but I ask him to stay and watch SNL. He leaves for what was our home about an hour later.

He and I carry on like this for a few more weeks. We talk about all the things we should have said during our 16 years together. Sometimes we fight, and sometimes we let the passionate intimacy in. He lets me lead. I go with what I want in the meantime. Sometimes I don't even want to see him, but often I do.

After 3 months of this back and forth, and in-between...I take a pregnancy test. As it turns out, we are expecting a baby! I am so excited, so confused by the turn of everything, that I can't process what is happening, much less make any plans.

But I will name her, or him Eddie.

And though I never hear from Eddie again, I will always attribute my change in course to meeting him.

And sometimes I wonder if he went back to being his old, true self, staying the beast. Just like my Mark has.

Short Story
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About the Creator

Jennifer L Osborne

Hello! Like so many of you, I love to write. In 2018, I self-published "Sebastian's Due". In 2022, I published the sequel, "Room for Sebastian". Can't wait to read the content on Vocal!

www.jenniferlosborne.com

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