Madison couldn't believe that tomorrow was her twenty-eighth birthday. She felt as though just yesterday had been her first lecture in Carlton Hall, a bright faced freshman, so eager and full of promise.
The alarm woke her from a wistful dream of lying on the emerald-green quad at Powell, surrounded by warmth and belonging, back when her fantasies and aspirations had teemed with lofty visions of a professional career. These hopes had then blossomed into the search for true love, but her passionate affair with higher education proved to be a day lily, bursting forth with fire like a dwindling star. She thought of the lovely grass, a perfect kelly green, standing in sharp contrast to the red brick footpaths witch traversed it in number, forming a constellation from above. As she brushed the sleep from her eyes, sitting up in bed to undo her hair, these brick walkways brought to mind that bloody dress, how its strappy back of deep ruby red pressed tight against her skin, the goddamned Prada rag that Steven had gone to such trouble to bring back for her from Austria. Why on earth had she promised to wear it for her birthday party? She had gotten that dress months ago. Fashions had changed by now, Madison rationalized. How could she be expected to wear something like that?
Seriously, this was the last thing she wanted to be thinking of right now. On her birthday of all days, truly unbelievable. This was her day. This was Madison day. For once it wasn't Steven day, but still she was thinking about what he wanted, the bloody ungrateful bastard. He expected too much of her.
As the curtains rose on an automatic timer and light streamed into the room, Madison noticed her reflection in the many-mirrored surfaces of the sleekly appointed bedroom. The fact that her glass likeness was the only object not like the others in the room deposited itself discretely into her vast library of denials. Steven, usually only a rumple in the down comforter at this hour, had not even left an imprint last night, the linens still pulled tight. Instead, there was a crystal wine glass laying on its side, above an angry red stain. Madison cursed under her breath. She would have to replace it without Steven noticing. She simply couldn't be bothered by these sorts of things, on today, of all days.
Suddenly roused from her morning fog by the ringing of her phone on the bedside table, Madison felt a wave of comfort and reassurance pass over her, to see Cassi's familiar face flash onto the diamond-crisp display. Cassi would make everything right, just like she always had, for practically as long as Madison could remember. She had always been her most loyal friend, confidant, and sorority sister. They had stuck together like glue all through their time at Powell and even afterwards, Cassi finding work in retail, and Madison as a secretary for a law firm downtown. Cassi hadn't shared in Madison's "luck" in finding a rich man such as Steven. She was still a working girl, a single, but relatively prosperous regional director for a mid-level clothing chain by now, with an office at corporate out in the Midwest. Madison could never admit it, but deep down, she was jealous of her best friend's independence and success. Cassi made good on her own. Had Madison chosen the easy route like so many others? She always felt a strange breaking feeling deep inside of herself to see Cassi’s frequent postings of exotic vacation photos on FaceTab. Steven took her for a week in Cabo on their honeymoon. She remembered him getting so drunk onetime he shat the bed. Madison had not been far out of the suburbs since. She let the phone ring.
Motion sensing lights flicked on, as Madison stepped into the master bathroom. Her feet were cold, until the heated floor was finished warming. She had become an expert at performing her morning toilet routine without ever catching a glance of her own reflection. Like a vampire only to herself, she did not appear in mirrors or photographs. If she had examined her appearance on this particular day, she would doubtless recall a number of things, not the least of which being that it was clearly evident her weight was becoming a serious problem. Madison would have surely noticed that her face appeared puffy and had an almost swollen quality. Her beautiful features had become buried under a thick layer of fat, like the mad impression of an over-zealous pottery sculptor, massing on ever more clay, the product of her endless pattern of overeating, and not to mention frequent over consumption of alcohol. A corpulent roll of chin fat, visible from every angle, had replaced Madison’s neck. With her thick black mane of hair, well puffed up from a tumultuous night’s sleep, reaching down to her well-padded shoulders, Madison would definitely have then been astounded by what had become of her pert young breasts. They had ballooned to an impressive size, but at the expense of their once pleasant perkiness, hanging a bit lower than Madison probably would have liked. Luckily for her, she now had a thick spare tire of a gut that her heavy boobs could rest on, giving her over-taxed back some much needed respite. Madison’s bulging belly hung low and did a nifty disappearing trick on her lacey underwear that probably should have been replaced about 15 pounds earlier. From profile, her ample paunch extended several inches past her bust and transferred to far thicker hips at her sides, which often popped buttons and always fought a losing battle with elastic waistbands. She had know idea what she weighed, but the last time she dared to peek at a scale, the number had been 227, but that was months ago now.
Stepping into the steamy stream of the multi-head shower, Madison began to clean her growing body with a fluffy pink loofah, as she loathed to feel the spongey quality of her fat flesh. It was becoming harder for her to get to every deepening nook and cranny of her form. Spending nearly half an hour under the almost painfully hot water of the shower. She used this time to meditate on the day ahead, to calm her obsessive mind by coming to terms with her day’s responsibilities. Madison could reasonably count this as a fairly stress-free day. All she really had on her to-do list was her birthday party later in the evening. Beside that, the entire rest of her time could be devoted to getting good and plastered, surely to be followed by a lot of greasy takeout.