Holiday Short Story Competition - Runner Up

Rosy Adams

Runner Up
Fat Friend
Holiday Short Story Competition


Rosy Adams lives in West Wales. She is part of the 2022/23 cohort of the Representing Wales development program for under-represented writers, which is run by Literature Wales, the national organisation for the development of literature. Her stories, poetry, and articles have been published by The Lampeter Review, Muswell Press, Grim & Gilded, Ceredigion Council’s Carer’s Magazine, and Trash to Treasure Literary. This is the third time she has had a story placed in a Writing Magazine competition.

Fat Friend By Rosy Adams

A breath of air licks my cheek, leaving a fine spritz of salt spray. I turn my back to the ocean and walk into the old town. Shabby houses, sun-blistered shutters folded back from curling iron grilles. Cracked pavements.
Sweat trickles down my spine. My t-shirt sticks to my skin, chafing under my arms. The heat makes me walk differently. A slow sway, my sliding feet getting me from one place to another with the bare minimum of effort.
I don’t want to go back to the hotel.
Not yet.
I don’t want to be with my own people. No-one knows me here, on these narrow streets. They don’t look at me like they do at home. There are no scornful glances, no comments, like Who let the dogs out?; Should you be eating that? or just Fat bitch!

On the first night, before the jet-lag punched me into bed, I danced with a man who told me he came from Santiago de Cuba, down in the south part of the island. He said his name was Rudi. He danced with all his attention on me, smiling soft words of encouragement when I got the steps right, and taking all the blame when I made a mistake. His hand was firm on my back as he led me and spun me around the floor.
The boys from home drag me around like a cart horse, huffing and complaining under their breath. They look at Amy while they dance with me, and don’t even bother to pretend. She sparkles from the centre of the dance floor, her blonde hair swishing and flicking, her midriff bare and brown and flat, and in case you fail to notice how smooth and brown and flat her stomach is, she has a tumble of eye-catching pink gems dangling from her bellybutton.

Two women are walking towards me, on the sunny side of the street. They must be at least two or three sizes bigger than me, but one wears a skin-tight, scarlet cat suit, with a halter neck that frames a cleavage like a pair of feather pillows. Even the thought of wearing an outfit like that makes me cringe, but these women walk like they own the city, swinging their hips, shoulders thrust back, laughing and blowing kisses at the gorgeous young men who call out extravagant offers of marriage. Men look at them the way all the boys back home look at Amy.
Amy, with whom I am sharing a hotel room. Amy, whose idea this was, to go on a salsa dancing holiday, where she can dance and sparkle and captivate. Because every pretty girl needs a fat friend.

I lay on the bed that first morning, gasping and sweating as I tried to acclimatise. Amy seemed to be unaffected. The pre-holiday sun-bed regime had probably prepared her for the heat.
“This is going to be so great!”
Pause to put on lipstick.
“Ten whole days! I bet no-one will recognise you when you get back.”
“Why’s that then?”
“Dancing every day and night, you could drop a whole dress size!”
She drew a black line just above her eye lashes, making a perfect upwards flick at the corner.
“I didn’t realise this was a weight-loss holiday.”
“You know what I mean.” She matched the other eye with care, getting the flick at the exact same angle as the first. “You may as well make the most of it though”
“Amy, we’ve been going to classes for six months. If I was going to lose any flab I think it’d be gone by now.”
“But this is intensive!”
A sweep of blush across each cheekbone.
“I suppose.”
She turned away from the mirror to look at me lying on the bed all damp and salty like a piece of gammon.
“You have to make more of an effort, hun. You’d look so good if you toned up a bit.”
She would have wrinkled her forehead, but she’d had botox injections before we left. Not that I’d noticed any wrinkles, but she said it was preventative. She tried to get me to go along too, but the idea of having one of the most deadly toxins known to man injected into my face did not appeal.
“I guess you’re right.” I dragged myself up to a sitting position. “Might as well make the most of it.”
“That’s more like it!”
She turned back to the mirror and I started the soul-destroying process of choosing an outfit.

I only have one day left. Tomorrow night I’ll be back in Cardiff, along with Amy and all the others, so I want to spend this day alone. I want to soak up as much of this place as I possibly can and take it home with me, so I can lie in bed at night and let it out in my dreams.
On the second night Rudi walked over to our table and asked me to dance again. That doesn’t sound unusual, I know, but that is not the way it goes. Amy gets asked first, always, even when they know she’ll turn them down. She wouldn’t have turned Rudi down. Beautiful Rudi, who has dark curly hair that’s just a little too long, so I have to stop myself from brushing it back from his face and tangling my fingers in it and doing things that I try not to think about in company because I’m sure everyone can tell exactly what mortifyingly embarrassingly ecstatic things are going on in my head. Not only that, but he dances way better than any of us lot.
As I stood up and took his hand I noticed Amy’s face, tight-lipped with what I would have said was jealousy if it had been any other woman she was looking at. She turned away and smiled at the man next to her. Garry, or Barry, or something. I didn’t really care.
As we danced, I asked him why he picked me over Amy.
“La flaca?” he glanced over at Amy. “I much prefer dancing with you.”
“What does that mean?”
“Flaca? It means, ah, I’m not sure how you say it in English. Very thin?”
“Yes! But it is not very nice to say. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said it about your friend. But you are so much more…” and he made a wavy gesture with both hands and smiled with his white, white teeth, and his eyes all crinkled up, and I felt like I might die if he kept on smiling at me like that, but I would die happy.

I reach the end of the street and step over the shadow’s edge. The sunlight wraps itself around me like a fur coat. I’m getting used to the heat now. I welcome it.
There’s a little café on the edge of the plaza. I order a café cubano and sit at a small table.
I close my eyes and tilt my face to the sun, willing it to stay in the sky so my last day here will never end.

Yesterday, I came back to the hotel room in the early hours of the morning. I thought Amy was asleep, but as I crept towards my bed she rolled over and said,
“Where have you been all night?”
I didn’t say anything.
“You were with Rudi again, weren’t you?” she sounded disapproving. “You know he’s using you, don’t you? He’s just after your money. They all think we’re bloody rich.”
I hoped the light from the street outside was too dim to show the blush that burned my cheeks. I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction.
“Why is it so hard to believe that he actually fancies me?” despite my best efforts my voice wobbled a little.
“Oh babe, I didn’t mean to upset you!”
Didn’t you?
“It’s just… well, look at him. He can pretty much take his pick.”
“So why would he pick me, you mean? More importantly, why would he pick me over you?” She didn’t answer. “Why would he pick a fat girl, if he had any other choice? The only possible explanation must be that he reckons I’ll be an easy mark. So desperate for a shag that I’ll believe anything. Is that what you meant?”
“What do you want me to say? Yes, you’re fat, and I just find it a bit hard to believe that he doesn’t have an ulterior motive. I know what men are like. They’re shallow, and they only go for fat girls if they can’t pull anything better. Why do you think I’ve been trying to get you to lose some weight?”
I took a deep trembling breath, holding back the tears.
“Thanks for that.” To my relief, my voice was steady. I picked up my bag and turned to the door.
“Wait, I didn’t mean…”
“Yes, you did. You meant all of it.”
“I’m just looking out for you.”
I paused, my hand on the door handle.
“Don’t bother” I said, as I walked out.
“Where are you going?” she said, but even if I knew, I wouldn’t have told her.

My praying fails to keep the sun in the sky and it slides down between the buildings, until all I can see is the glow illuminating the underside of a cloudbank. I can’t see the sea from here, but I can imagine the sun touching the horizon, a slick of gold puddling on the surface of the water.
This place has changed me. I come from a small, cold, damp country. I am used to keeping myself zipped up and buttoned down. Don’t take up space. Don’t draw attention to yourself.
 It started with heat. The warmth has undone me, loosening my muscles, loosening my mind, until, without realising quite when or how it happened, everything I’ve kept locked up tight inside has come bursting out of my seams.
I should go back. It’s 11pm. They’ll be catching the shuttle to the airport soon. I sit at my table and sip my coffee. Perhaps I’ll order a mojito next. There’s music playing, and a few people have already started to dance.


Judges Comments

In Fat Friend by Rosy Adams, the runner up in WM's Holiday Short Story Competition, the unnamed first-person narrator is freed from other people's judgements of her appearance to become who she truly, gloriously is on a salsa holidayin Cuba.

Stepping away from her everyday life, the narrator discovers a world where the body she has accepted is not ideal can be celebrated. In the sun, in a different culture, she realises, she's lush: gorgeous and desirable in a way she never thought she could be. As the narrative voice changes from sidekick to the star of her own show, Rosy handles the unfolding epiphanies with aplomb. Telling the story from her narrator's point of view enables her to reveal her anxieties, experiences and gradual embrace of her sensuality in a naturalistic way that engages the reader.

Rosy shows rather than spells out how thin friend Amy's taut, conventional little body contains an ungiving nature that embraces various small-minded prejudices: ie, the narrator would be more attractive if she looked a certain way, the men who dance with the holiday makers are only after their money. In fact Rudi, the man who dances with the narrator, is immediately sympathetic because he's kind and gentle and makes dancing with him a pleasure – one of Amy's prejudices overturned.

Fat Friends is a lovely, warm, affirmative story - uplit at its best - that shows the narrator liberated not only from other people's prejudices, but her own acceptance of them, and in the process discovering a whole new world of sensual possibilities.