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by Heidi Heimler

Her closet is one pant short of exploding. When she can no longer squeeze herself into her jeans, she relegates the ill-fated pair to the back of the closet. Then she purchases another, one size larger.

As she expands, her budget grows leaner. Finally, when she is all but penniless, she resolves to lose weight. She tears a glossy diet plan out of a magazine and tapes it to the fridge, center stage. Though she’s no stranger to gastronomic deprivation, she’s yet to declare victory. But this time will be different. She won’t fall off the salad wagon, only to dive headlong into a trough of rich, buttery frosting.

She makes sweeping changes, replacing anything even remotely tasty with bland solids and runny liquids. While her boyfriend munches on cookies, she nibbles on celery. When he pours gobs of silken cream into his coffee, she stirs meager teaspoons of skim soymilk into hers.

Her belly churns. Her taste buds cry out in desperation. A burger flashes on the TV screen and she bursts into tears. She hurls obscenities at a hapless pizza delivery boy that happens to cross her path.

She sees food everywhere. At the library people’s heads are buried not in books, but in burgers. The policeman who’s just given her a ticket isn’t using a note pad, he’s writing on a graham cracker. That’s not dandruff on her shirt; it’s powdered sugar.

All she can think about is food. Glorious, calorie-laden food.

Late at night, her boyfriend sweeps her into his arms. “You’ve lost weight,” he whispers. “I want you.”

“And I want you,” she says, but she’s not speaking to him. She’s addressing the tantalizing cherry cordial that has replaced his head.

Where his hands used to be, she sees crisp, delicate sugar cookies. His tongue is a fruit roll-up; his arms candy canes; his torso a cream puff; his legs licorice twists.

“I want to taste you.” His warm breath coats her neck. He nibbles on her ear.

She’s dizzy with anticipation and desire. “I want to taste you, too. I want to fill my mouth with you, let you linger on my tongue till you explode.”

His breath quickens. His eyes grow wide. “Really?”

“More than anything.”

He trips over his jeans, which have somehow navigated to his ankles. To her hungry eyes, a wrapper has fallen to the floor, exposing a grape popsicle.

Just before their bodies meld, she backs away. “I can’t,” she says. “I won’t. This time I’ll be strong, I will not cave to temptation.”

“Cave, dammit, Cave. I’m begging you.”

She shakes her head. “Nope. Not this time.”

“I can’t take this.” Mumbling to himself, he yanks his jeans back up and shuffles out of the room.

“I can,” she yells after him. “I’m not giving in. I can resist. I can say no, and I’m going to keep saying no. Maybe I’ll last the whole year. Maybe even forever.”