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Family Bonding by Logan

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 10 months ago

 

Family Bonding

By Logan

I

Sunday, the day that you can never really enjoy because of that irrepressible dread lurking in the back of your mind that won’t stop reminding you that soon, in less than twenty-four hours, you will once again have to shuffle off to the pit of madness and monotonous toil known by that innocuous little non-threatening name of ‘work’, was upon the Richards family once again. The sun was beaming down from the blue, blue sky in much the same way that every happy couple on Valentine’s day beams at the one guy without a date as he politely addresses the hostess ‘Table for one, please’. It was mid-afternoon and everyone was doing their best to appear cheerful, but just under the surface was a glum so glum that no self respecting poet would dare to rhyme it with the word ‘plum’ (unless it were a really depressed plum). However, the Richards were in general a very happy family, and they enjoyed each others company so much that even on this woeful day there remained some semblance of gaiety in the household. In fact, on most Sundays the glumming was hardly noticeable at all, but on this particular Sunday things were a little sadder than usual.

Today was the last day of Spring Break, and the two daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Richards were returning to college the following morning via Delta Airlines Flight 2056 nonstop service to Austin, Texas. The state of the art Boeing 767 would bring them to their destination in a total of two hours and thirty-three minutes, with a complimentary beverage service showcasing all of the finest Pepsi products and, if they were lucky, a little bag of peanuts. The prospect of peanuts, however enticing, did little to lessen the girls’ regret that the end of their holiday had come so soon, and while Megan had experienced this hardship once before, her sister Courtney was only a Freshman, and was not entirely prepared to return to the stress of her still unfamiliar college life.

Both girls had been close to their parents and had had some difficulty in making the transition to a life away from home. Courtney in particular had felt an acute sense of social isolation and loneliness since her separation from her family. Megan did better, she was always the more mature of the two, but she too seemed to have trouble fitting in with her new surroundings, and after more than a year of dormitory life, still felt like something of an outcast among her peers, and was now glad that her sister was around to keep her company. All this was not due to the girls’ appearance. In fact they were both quite gorgeous. Megan was 5’6’ and Courtney 5’7’ both with long sandy blonde hair and just the right amount of body fat to give them curves without making them look bloated. Nor was it for lack of personality. Both girls were fun, witty, playful and smart. Unfortunately it was the smart part that got them into trouble. They were not geniuses, or anything like that, but they were definitely well above the average level of their peers in both intelligence and sophistication. This not only intimidated away many of their potential suitors, but also made it difficult for the girls to meet people whom they didn’t find immature or dull. The few who didn’t feel mentally inferior to the, always ended up being pretentious jerks who just wanted to show off their inflated egos, a major turn off. This is why these brief, but sorely needed visits home were so enjoyable, and why it was always so difficult when they came to an end.

‘Here.’ Richard Richards said, stepping out onto the patio and offering his daughters a couple of frozen daiquiris (Virgin. They weren’t twenty-one yet and he did have some moral standards) ‘And cheer up, will you’ It’ll be summer before you know it.’

Yes, that’s right, Richard Richards. He had never decided whether his parents were insane or if they were just playing a sadistic joke on him, but in any case it was better than going by Dick.

‘I’ll go see if your mother’s ready for dinner yet.’

‘Thanks dad.’ the two girls answered in unison. They were not twins, but sometimes it was hard to tell.

‘Jill!’ Richard called to his wife. ‘Burgers are ready!’

‘Just a minute!’ came a hurried voice from inside the house. It was a feminine voice, small and soft but with an air of confidence and playfulness present as well. Voices are like wines. The amount of different tones, colors and flavors present in a voice can tell a knowledgeable connoisseur a lot about the quality of a person. Richard Richards was no connoisseur, but he knew what he liked. ‘Okay, but don’t take to long.’ he called back. ‘Or we’ll start without you.’ His voice was deep and rich, with woody overtones and a hint of cranberry. A voice that would go well with venison, or perhaps elk.

The screen door flew open with a bang and a small woman who called herself Jill Richards emerged, obviously flustered. ‘I’m here.’ she said, out of breath, yet trying to appear casual. ‘Let’s eat.’

Richard laughed at his wife and scooped her up in his arms for a kiss. She acted annoyed but he could tell she loved it. ‘Why do you always take so long to get ready’’ he asked, studying her 4’10’ frame. She was dressed only in jeans and a yellow t-shirt, with no makeup that he could see, and yet she looked stunning. They had been married for nearly twenty years and yet he still couldn’t figure out what her secret was.

‘You’ve asked me that a million times. Do you really think you’re going to get a better answer out of me this time’’

He laughed again and she gave him a playful wink, again proclaiming ‘Let’s eat.’

They had a lovely dinner, somehow managing to avoid the topic of school or work almost entirely for the rest of the evening. But at last morning came and the Richards family found themselves at the airport, parting ways until summer. Courtney looked on the verge of tears as she hugged her mother goodbye, while Jill was somewhat overwhelmed by her larger daughter’s powerful embrace. This seemed to her to have been something of theme throughout the girls’ adolescence. They were good kids and were always respectful of her, but both of them had surpassed her in height and weight by age ten, and dealing with two teenage girls who stand eight inches taller than you in their bare feet can pose something of a challenge to any parent. She envied Richard, who at 6’ had never had any trouble exercising his authority over his daughters when the situation called for it.

Jill managed to collect herself in time to give her daughter a pat on the back and a few words of motherly encouragement. ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be fine, it’s only a couple of months, you’ll be done before you know it...’ and so on. And just like that, they were gone. Jill wiped a tear from her eye and glanced at her watch.

‘****, I’m gonna be late for work. I’ll see you tonight, hon.’ She pecked her husband on the cheek and dashed off, leaving Richard standing there blinking. The three women in his life had all just disappeared in the space of thirty seconds barely giving him the chance to wave goodbye. He shrugged his broad shoulders as he trudged off to the parking lot. It was time for him to get busy as well.

Richard was employed as an architectural engineer, in short, he made sure buildings didn’t fall down. He enjoyed his work and it paid pretty well, plus it made him feel important, like made a difference, however slight. Jill was equally accomplished, working as a lawyer in a small firm uptown. Not trial stuff, but corporate law, taxes, that kind of thing. Richard couldn’t understand why anyone would spend all that time and money in law school if they wouldn’t even get to argue cases, but it seemed to make Jill happy and, again, it paid well so he had no complaints. He was just glad that she had always made their kids a priority over her career. When Megan had been born she had taken an extended maternity leave, and had always made a point of not working longer hours than would allow her ample time with her growing family. Richard appreciated that and had tried to do the same, with not inconsiderable success, although perhaps not quite so much as that of his wife. All in all, he felt that they had done a great job with the girls and a sense of immense pride filled him as he revved up the engine of his pickup truck and fought his way through the morning traffic towards his destination.

* * * * * *

Jill arrived at her office precisely on time. She was punctuality personified, as her family had often told her, and yet she was always worried about being late. She strode through the revolving door of her building, took the elevator to the eleventh floor, waved to the office secretary and plopped down at her desk, out of breath, only to be almost instantly informed by her supervisor that she had to catch a plane to New York to meet with a client in an hour and forty-five minutes. She was distraught at the lack of advance notice and claimed she’d never make it on time, looking franticly at her watch, but her boss just laughed.

‘Jill, you’ve never missed a flight in your life. The airport is only ten minutes away, and this is important. I need you there, all of our other people are busy and frankly no one on my staff is half as good as you are at sweet talking clients. You can take the company car if you need to.’

His flattery made her smile and she momentarily forgot her shortness of breath. ‘No, it’s ok, I have my car. But I’ll have to go now, excuse me.

‘Thanks Jill, you’re a lifesaver.’ He handed her an envelope containing all the information she would need as she bustled past him toward the door, her keys already out and jangling.

She called Richard on her cell on the way back to the airport to inform him of the change of plans. He wished her luck and promised not to make to much of a mess of the house while she was away. The airport was crowded and it took her nearly twenty minutes to get through security, much to her exasperation, but in the end she made her flight with plenty of time to spare. She reclined in her first class seat (one of the benefits of flying on company money) and tuned out the safety instructions of the helpful flight attendants. She felt her eyes slowly drifting closed and was very nearly asleep when she was jarred by a question from the helpful smiling stewardess.

‘Something to drink, ma’am’’

‘What’ Oh, um... tonic water’’

‘Certainly, and for you, sir’’

Until now she hadn’t been aware of the presence of her seat neighbor, an attractive young businessman in a striped jacket and sporting a beard and moustache combo with that scruffy unshaven look so popular with the kids these days.

‘Orange juice and milk.’ he said matter of factly, causing the stewardess to bat an eyelash at this unusual request before responding in her carefully rehearsed airline tone.

‘Right away, sir.’

The drinks arrived quickly and Jill watched as the man adeptly split open the milk carton with strong fingers and combined it in a glass with the orange juice.

‘It’s like a Dreamsicle.’ he explained to her puzzled stare. ‘Did you ever have those when you were a kid’’

‘Um... yeah! Yeah, I’ve had those.’ she said, still a little groggy.

‘I love Dreamsicles.’ he continued, as though he hadn’t heard her. ‘Got a whole freezer full back home. I’m Jack Griswold, by the way. Griswold pharmaceutical.’ Here he extended a hand, which Jill hesitantly shook. She was used to ignoring people on planes and being ignored by them. It took her off guard to meet someone so forward.

‘Jill Richards. Pardon me for asking, but aren’t you a little young to have your own pharmaceutical company’’

He shrugged. ‘Who’s to say what the right age is’ I knew when I was a kid that I could never be happy working for someone else, so I started my own business. We’ve got some fresh new ideas that will revolutionize the industry.’

‘Really’ Do you mind if I ask like what’’

‘You don’t work for a rival company do you’’

She laughed. ‘No, I’m a lawyer. Here see’’ She produced a business card which he examined closely.

‘Alright then. I can tell you we’re very close to a major breakthrough in cell reconstruction. We’re developing a compound that will stimulate cell growth and drastically reduce the time required for injuries to heal.’

‘Are you serious’’ Jill inquired, impressed.

‘Look here.’ he said, producing a briefcase from underneath his seat. He fumbled with the locks for a second and then popped it open to reveal several rows of vials full of clear liquid. ‘This is the compound. It’s still in the experimental stage, but we’re very close.’

‘They let you take that stuff on an airplane’’ she scoffed.

‘Oh yeah. It’s non-toxic, non-flammable, non-acidic. There’s nothing for them to object to.’ After a pause. ‘Also I told them it was my heart medicine and I need it in case of an attack.’

Jill laughed again. ‘Well remind me to buy stock in your company as soon as I get home Mr.-’

Just then the plane lurched violently in the air. Of course people started panicking at once and their screams frightened others into screaming and so on, until the whole plane was one big flying hunk of screaming. The cabin lights dimmed and that annoying little bell that goes ‘ding’ went ‘ding’. Over the screaming she heard the man next to her mutter ‘****...’ She looked over at him and saw that his hand was bleeding. Apparently the shock of the turbulence had caused him to involuntarily clench down on the vial he had been holding, breaking it and spilling its contents all over the place.

‘Oh my God, are you okay’’ she asked worriedly.

‘Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. It’s nothing’ he said.

Just then the plane leveled off, the lights came back on and the dinging stopped. Jill saw that the cuts on the man’s hand were small and he had already wiped most of the blood away with a napkin. Stewardesses were bustling through the aisles reassuring people and the captains voice blared over the intercom, apologizing for the ‘bumpy ride’ as he put it. Jill leaned back in her chair and took a deep sip of her tonic water, which for some reason(!) didn’t taste quite right.

‘Jesus.’ she muttered.

II

After the excitement of the turbulent flight, the rest of Jill’s trip was without incident. Her meeting went swimmingly and she smiled to herself as she thought of the kudos she would receive upon her return for another successful mission. She caught the red eye flight back from New York and it was nearly dawn by the time she arrived home. She breathed a sigh of contentment as she maneuvered her small frame under the covers next to her slumbering husband, his body giving off a pleasant warmth that she found comforting. She would go in to work late tomorrow. After all she had earned it.

* * * * * *

The weeks passed quicker than any of them had expected and summer began to seem just around the corner. April showers gradually gave way to May flowers and the sun became a permanent fixture in the sky as opposed to the fleeting and disinterested visitor of his winter persona.

Jill had been thoroughly congratulated on her success in securing the New York firm, and it had been made clear to her that her worth would be abundantly demonstrated in monetary form come bonus time. Richard had also been quite prosperous and, despite what their numerous panicked phone calls would indicate, the girls were shaping up to be straight A students, the both of them.

Yes, everything seemed to be going well for the Richards family, and Jill’s swell of pride for her offspring was equaled only by the swell of her calf as she inadvertently shredded yet another set of panty hose.

‘Dammit!’ she swore, less over the loss of the cheap fashion accessory than at her growing fear that she was finally starting to lose her girlish figure. She had started monitoring her weight carefully and had seen a slight increase over the last week or so, but not enough to account for her now ill-fitting clothing. The odd thing was that, upon inspection, her legs did not seem too thick to accommodate the hose, but rather too long. She had begun to notice this in other articles of clothing as well, and she was not the only one.

Just the day before, Richard had made some wry comment about her ‘flashing him some ankle’ as she had been on her way to work. She had laughed it off, but noticed that her slacks were indeed exposing more of her leg than they should have. Of course these things do not seem at all odd by themselves. After all, washing machines shrink clothing all the time. But they were beginning to add up, and she found it disconcerting.

However, being human, she was prone to the fallacy of ignoring that which is not readily explicable. And so she ignored this and life went on as usual, with her discretely letting out seams here and there and perhaps buying a few more new items of apparel than was her custom. Once, she had overcome her fear of sounding stereotyped and had asked Richard if he thought she had gained weight. He had seemed genuinely surprised at this, and had at once responded that she had never looked better. She could rely on this statement as genuine, as Richard had never been much of an actor.

At any rate, today she was not at leisure to worry about such trivialities as marginal weight gain. Tonight they had tickets to opening night at the opera. The show was Tchaikovsky’s Pikovaia Dama, an unsung classic which neither of them had had the privilege of viewing before.

The Richards were not wealthy in the snobby, aristocratic sense of the word, but they each made a good living and, being relatively cultured and having a certain appreciation for the arts, they took great pleasure in seeing an opera once or twice a year as time allowed.

Oh well, she would have to do without her hose tonight, they were running late as it was. Actually they were well ahead of schedule, but to Jill the term ‘fashionably late’ translated to ‘unforgivably rude’ and so she insisted that they leave at least ten minutes earlier than any normal person would have thought necessary.

She slipped on a pair of low black pumps and checked her evening gown in the mirror. The fit seemed off to her, like it had been cut for someone with a different build. Tighter in some places, looser in others. But she didn’t take the time to fuss over it now. The weekend was just around the corner and she could deal with all of her ever increasing wardrobe difficulties then.

‘Honey, are you ready’’ came Richard’s voice from downstairs.

‘Yes, I’m coming down now.’ she replied, smoothing her dress one last time before turning and racing down the stairs, her haste nearly causing her to trip over her own feet. ‘Let’s go.’

* * * * * *

The evening was pleasant and they both enjoyed the show immensely. Jill, having delegated the responsibility of the drive home to her husband, rather more immensely than Richard. It was after eleven by the time the car pulled into the driveway and the still obviously tipsy Jill was starting to get sappy.

‘I had such a wonderful time, Richard.’ she purred with only a slightly noticeable slur to her speech.

‘Me too, sweetie.’ he said, kissing her gently on top of her head.

‘I’m so lucky. No one could ask for a better husband than *hic* you.’

Richard laughed. ‘Ok, I think we’d better get you to bed.’

‘No, not yet. I want you to hold me.’

With that she collapsed, cooing softly, into his arms, rubbing her face against his chest affectionately. He embraced her and slowly guided her through the house into the bedroom, where he gently lay her down to sleep. He then slipped under the covers himself and, just before drifting off, was somehow struck by the feeling that he had not been able to encompass her in his embrace quite as much as usual.

III

Richard was abruptly woken at the painfully early hour of seven AM. The fancy Sharper Image alarm clock that he had purchased several months ago and which now sat perched atop his dresser was loaded with all sorts of high-tech functions, one of which was the capability to go off at the same time every morning without having to be told. This was a useful feature during work days, but unforgivably annoying when he forgot to reset it in preparation for the weekend. He had also cleverly placed the clock on the other side of the room so that he would have to get out of bed to turn it off, and thus not be tempted to go back to sleep. This too had saved him from many a tardy day at work, but at the moment all he could think of was destroying in any way possible the hateful little box, whose screaming disc jockey voice was carefully punctuated every three seconds by a vast arsenal of the world’s most annoying sound effects.

Richard stumbled out of bed, mumbling vague incoherent threats as his mind still struggled to waking life, and lurched toward the offending contraption, banging his knee on the dresser in the process. He shut the alarm off with minimal fumbling and collapsed into a nearby chair, rubbing his injured knee. He glanced towards the bed and was pleased to see that Jill was still slumbering peacefully, a faint snore escaping from her slightly parted lips. He considered rejoining her, but between the being shocked awake and the pain in his leg, he knew he there was no hope further sleep Having reached this conclusion, he resolved to do the only logical thing to do in a situation like this. Make breakfast.

Breakfast in the Richards home was rarely a simple affair. Richard liked to cook and secretly considered himself something of a gourmet, while Jill and the girls liked nothing more than to eat. And although on weekdays things were somewhat stripped down due to time constraints, he was frankly amazed that the three of them had not become grossly obese after nearly twenty years of his extravagant weekend brunches.

He stared into the pantry, silently studying they array of ingredients available to him, pondering. What would it be today’ Sweet or salty’ Pancakes or eggs’ Bacon or sausage’ These were matters that should not be decided lightly, and Richard always took his time when planning the perfect meal. At length he decided on crepes with raspberry sauce and some thinly sliced bacon on the side for contrast. Cooking is like painting. The composition has to be balanced, not too much of any one element and everything in its proper place. A man with a mission, Richard grimly donned his ‘Hail to the chef’ apron and set to work.

After about an hour, Richard had managed to assemble a pile of crepes that would daunt even the heartiest Frenchman and an equally impressive amount of bacon. He was just finishing up when Jill shuffled into the kitchen, her eyes still bleary with sleep.

‘Oh my head is killing me.’ she said, rubbing the offending appendage with her hand.

‘Had a bit too much to drink last night, did we’’ teased Richard, unable to suppress a grin.

‘You hush. I wasn’t drunk.’

‘Of course you weren’t, darling.’

‘That smells good. I’m famished.’

‘Well we’re in no danger of running out. Why don’t you have a seat and I’ll bring some out to you.’

Jill seemed to perk up at the thought of food and, her headache apparently forgotten, skipped over to her husband attempted to peck him on the lips. She raised herself up on her tiptoes, but still fell slightly short of the mark, her lips only reaching his chin. Richard raised an eyebrow at her, to which she responded by giving him what he referred to as her ‘pouty eyes’. He laughed and kissed her warmly. Satisfied, she skipped away into the dining room, where he could hear her making herself comfortable as she prepared to dine.

They had a pleasant meal together, with brief conversation between mouthfuls. Jill was usually quite chatty, but today she seemed more interested in what went into her mouth than in what came out. This was the continuation of a trend Richard had begun to notice. Jill had always been a big eater, but lately her appetite seemed to have grown substantially. This concerned him a little, but she didn’t seem to be putting on weight and she hadn’t mentioned anything health related to him, so thought it best not to bring it up.

After breakfast they went for their customary walk around the neighborhood. Jill thought it important to keep up at least some degree of regular exercise and Richard had no objections. He always found the outdoors pleasant and enjoyed the time alone with his wife. The area was quite hilly and they both generally found it to be a good workout, often becoming substantially winded by the time they returned home.

Today Jill seemed full of energy. She bounded along at more than their usual pace while still managing to carry on a conversation. Richard didn’t mind, he actually enjoyed the change of pace. Ordinarily he had to consciously slow himself down in order to match his wife’s much shorter stride, but today he was able to walk more comfortably without fear of leaving her behind. At one point she even got a little ahead of him, in her enthusiasm over a neighbor’s newly blooming flower garden. Richard cheerfully admired the view from behind her as she bubbled on about summer’s early arrival this year. As his eyes meandered over her supple frame, he again noticed that her pants seemed to be riding up, exposing a good bit of her ankles as she walked.

‘Honey, what’s with you and the short pants lately’ Trying to impress me’’ he inquired when he could get a word in.

‘Ha, I don’t need to try and you know it, but no. I’ve had these for years. I don’t know what it is, I think something in the wash is shrinking them.’

‘Well I’ll tell you what, later today if you want we’ll go get you some new duds, and maybe some new, better detergent while we’re at it. That’s what you get for always buying the cheap kind.’

‘But I like the cheap kind! It’s got a cute little bear on the label.’

‘Maybe so, but what do bears know about laundry’ We should get one with a Chinese guy on it.’

‘Racist!’ she slapped at him playfully. ‘Alright fine, we’ll try it your way. This once. Just as long as I can get some new clothes out of it.’

‘Glad to see you’re so open minded.’

They continued their banter throughout the remainder of their walk, which went quickly because, though she tried not to show it, Jill obviously couldn’t wait for the opportunity to go shopping for her new apparel.

IV

Richard sighed in exasperation. They had been in the department store maybe five minutes, and already Jill was so weighted down with clothes that she could barely walk straight.

‘Oof’ she grunted, trying not to drop the pair of formal black pumps she held in her left hand. ‘Richard honey, do you think you could help me get some of these things to the dressing room, please’’ She was really pouring on the charm now. She must have noticed his look of disapproval.

‘Alright, but I hope you’re not planning on buying all of that.’ He felt silly walking through the store with an armful of dresses and lingerie, but if it would speed things up who cared what people thought.

Alas, things were not sped up, and he was forced to wait a frustrating half hour outside the women’s dressing rooms before finally giving in to impatience. He knocked on the stall and called out. ‘Are you still alive in there, Jill’’

The door burst open and she came rushing out, her hair sticking out wildly as though there had been some sort of tornado within the small booth. There was fire in her eyes and for a moment Richard thought he was in trouble for interrupting her sacred shopping ritual.

‘None of these clothes fit!’ she exclaimed.

‘What, none of them’’

‘None of them. This store obviously tampers with the sizing to make women feel thinner than they are. It shameful.’

‘Did you ever think that maybe you’ve just gained some weight’’ he attempted cautiously. ‘Remember that some of your clothes at home weren’t fitting either..’

She didn’t even bother to respond to this and simply ignored him. ‘Let’s go somewhere else.’

She started to push past him, but he put his hand on her shoulder, stopping her. ‘We’re not going anywhere else. I’ve been waiting out here for over half an hour. Just get measured.’

‘But-’ she began to protest.

‘Honey,’ he said slowly and deliberately. ‘Just get measured.’

She slumped her shoulders in defeat. Richard usually let Jill get away with anything, but there were certain rare occasions when he put his foot down, and in the end she would always cave.

‘There’s a guy right over there.’ he offered helpfully, pointing to a nearby employee.

Dejectedly, she trudged over to the man with Richard in tow, her expression that of a scolded child. He was helpful in that way that only those who were working for a commission could be, smiling too much and a little too quick to agree with her, but he seemed capable enough and before long he was manipulating measuring tape and jotting down figures like a pro. Richard was bored by this and found it hard to keep his attention focused. His eyes kept wandering over to the electronics section of the store, which taunted him from just across the aisle. He had been thinking about getting one of those flat screen televisions for a while now, and since Jill was treating herself, maybe today was the right time to bring it up.

He turned to her, intending to make some preliminary inquiry to see how she would feel about the matter, but before he could begin, something caught his eye and stopped him from expressing his thought. The salesman was taking her height measurement, and he had happened to catch a glimpse of the figure on the tape just before it was pulled away for some other purpose.

‘Excuse me, sir’’

‘Yes’’ responded the man, talking around the pen he held in his mouth.

‘What did you get for her height just now’’

‘Sixty-two inches, sir.’ Now he was measuring her arm length.

‘You might want to check that again.’

‘I assure you, sir, I’ve been doing this a long time. I do not make incorrect measurements.’

‘I don’t mean to question you, but my wife has been 4’10’ since high school.’

‘Then maybe this isn’t your wife.’ the salesman cracked, unfunnily.

‘No, he’s right.’ Jill chimed in. ‘I am 4’10’’

The man sighed unnecessarily deeply and began again to measure Jill’s height.

‘Well’’ Richard inquired.

‘Ok you’re right. I made a mistake.’ he grudgingly admitted. ‘You’re wife isn’t sixty-two inches tall.’

Richard smiled.

‘She’s sixty-two and a half inches.’

Jill looked at her husband, her mouth formed into a little O of surprise.

‘Please don’t move your head, miss. I’m trying to take your hat size.’

* * * * * * *

They left the store sometime later with several pounds worth of clothing which, despite Richard’s doubts about the competence of the salesman, had fitted perfectly. They were all at least a size larger than what Jill was used to wearing, and they were both a bit baffled. Richard tried to be reassuring on the drive home.

‘I wouldn’t worry too much about it, babe. Even if you have put on a few pounds, you wouldn’t know it to look at you. You look great!’

‘Thanks,’ she grimaced ‘but I think there was something screwy about that store, and especially that salesman.’

‘I’m sure you’re right. He obviously didn’t know how to use a tape measure. And you were probably right about the undersizing thing too.’

‘No, it’s not just that. I think their clothes must be made from cheap material or something.’

‘Oh’ Why’s that’’

‘Well this new dress that I’m wearing. It fit great in the store, but now it’s starting to feel kinda tight. It must be the fabric, reacting to change in humidity or temperature or something, right’’

‘Right, I’m sure that’s it.’ Richard said, but deep in the back of his mind something told him that things were not right.

V

Upon their arrival home, Jill quickly rushed into their bedroom. Richard assumed she had to use the bathroom, but was puzzled when she emerged seconds later holding an old cloth tape measure.

‘What are you doing’’

‘I know it’s silly, but I just want to see something.’

‘Oh c’mon Jill, the guy was just bad at his job. I think you know your own height.’

‘Just humor me, ok’’

‘Oh very well.’ he sighed in an affected, overly dramatic tone, walking towards the wall where Jill waited. She looked comical standing there, her back stretched into an unnaturally rigid position that was probably quite uncomfortable. She looked rather embarrassed by the whole thing, and Richard noticed that she had begun to blush.

Richard took full advantage of her evident discomfort and made a big show of selecting a book from a nearby shelf to use as a level.

‘Let’s see here, what would be appropriate’’ he mused to himself. ‘Machiavelli’ No, too dark wouldn’t you say’ War and Peace’ Hmm, no, that’s far to heavy. That would easily knock three inches off your height if I set it on your head. Ah here we go, Freud. Perfect for your neuroses, my dear.’

Jill was pointedly frowning at him, but he could tell she was amused.

‘Now if you’ll just let me see that measure, and here we are. You may step away from the wall now.’

She took a step back and turned, staring fixedly at the straight black pencil mark just above her eye level. Richard unrolled the tape and carefully stretched it from the floor up to his marking. He glanced at the numbers on the tape, looked at the mark and then at the numbers again.

‘Hm.’ he said, and promptly began to repeat his measurements.

‘What’’ she asked, but Richard made no reply. He was staring at the tape again.

‘Well, I can’t explain it,’ he said after a moment. ‘But according to this, you’re just over five feet, two and a half inches tall.’ He showed her the measurement.

‘But how can that be’ You know I’m not that tall.’

‘I know you weren’t that tall. But that seems to have changed. Either that or I’m completely inept with a tape measure, which would make me just about the worst engineer ever.’

Jill opened her mouth, but couldn’t come up with anything to say, so she shut it again. Seeing that she was distressed, Richard tried to console her.

‘Look, I’m sure it’s no big deal. When was the last time you were measured’ Ten years ago’ This sort of thing isn’t uncommon at all.’

‘It isn’t’’

‘No, of course not.’ said Richard, not quite convincing himself. ‘Now stop worrying. I’m hungry. What do you say we order in tonight’’

Jill’s eyes lit up.

‘Yeah, I could really go for some Chinese!’

Richard smiled to himself at how easily his wife was distracted.

‘I think I’ve got some menus left over from last time. I’ll go get them.’

Within a matter of hours the couple was feasting hungrily on an astounding assortment of Eastern delicacies, including three kinds of fried rice and several quarts of wonton soup. They ate ravenously, appetites fueled by what had turned out to be an exciting day. At last, defeated by her half eaten pile of sweet and sour pork, Jill collapsed onto the sofa. Richard watched as his overstuffed wife tried to muster the will to finish off her fortune cookie. Personally, he thought they tasted like cardboard and always threw his away after reading the slip of paper inside , but Jill insisted that you had to eat the cookie or else your fortune wouldn’t come true.

She swallowed the last remaining crumbs, patted her bulging stomach and triumphantly read the prophesy undoubtedly set forth by ancient Chinese cookie makers.

‘Expect big changes ahead.’ she read. ‘Your lucky numbers are: 5, 11, 13, 17, 23 and 31.’

‘31’ No kidding. Who’d have thunk it.’’ Richard commented wryly.

‘You laugh mister, but we’ll see who’s laughing when these big changes come.’ she said, brandishing the paper threateningly. ‘Who knows’ Maybe I’ll meet some tall, dark, less sarcastic man and run away with him.’

‘Less sarcastic than me’ Never!’

This silliness went for quite some time. Far longer, in fact, than most readers would have the patience to sit through. Suffice it to say that Richard had forgotten all about the strange phenomenon of his wife’s extra inches, and Jill was feeling muss less anxious as well, although the whole incident reminded her of something, or perhaps someone... she just couldn’t put her finger on what it was.

However, the next day anxiety struck again. Jill had gotten up early and had polished off the rest of the Chinese food while Richard was in the shower, but she was uncomfortable. It took her most of the morning to figure out why, and when she realized what it was it sent alarm bells off in her head.

‘Richard!’ she called out, sounding somewhat panicked.

‘What is it’’ He dashed into the room, looking worried.

‘My clothes are too tight.’

‘Your clothes are too tight’ You go screaming at the top of your lungs, making me think you’ve cut your finger off or something, just to tell me that’’

‘Measure me again.’ she demanded, ignoring his irritation.

‘Okay, look. I think you need to give this thing a rest now. You’re a couple of inches taller than we thought. Stop making such a big deal about it.’

‘No, I’m serious. Just one more time. I just remembered something from a couple of weeks ago and I need to check it out.’

Now Richard was really confused.

‘Humor me. Please’’ She gave him her most charming smile, which she usually reserved for special occasions. Richard blinked at her.

‘Fine.’ he said, striding off to get the tape measure.

‘Works every time.’ she whispered to herself.

They went through the whole routine, Richard being careful to exercise the utmost precision in his measurements, but within moments they were both gaping at the improbably numbers in front of them.

‘Sixty-four inches.’

They looked at each other.

Jill straightened up and looked Richard up and down, sizing him up.

‘Wow, this is weird.’ she said. ‘I didn’t notice it at first, but now that I look I can really see a difference.’ she said with a small smirk.

Richard’s mouth was hanging open.

‘Would you mind telling me what the hell is going on’’

‘In a minute. First, I have a phone call to make.’

VI

Jill twirled the stiff, white business card anxiously in her fingers while she waited for someone to pick up the phone on the other end of the line. It rang five times before she finally got an answer.

‘Hello, this is Jack Griswold.’ said a sleepy sounding voice.

‘Hi! This is Jill Richards, the lawyer from the plane’ I-’

‘I’m not in right now, leave a message and I’ll see what I can do.’

Jill sighed in frustration, and waited for the tone.

Richard was waiting when Jill reentered the room.

‘Well’’ he asked.

She had told him about the incident on the airplane and explained about Jack and his experimental new product. It didn’t take a genius to work out her theory, and Richard had caught on right away. His current emotional state consisted of some combination of panic and relief. Something without medical precedent was happening to his wife, and the effects were more than a little unnerving. Any sane man would feel some sense of horror at this fact. Even though the changes in Jill were relatively small, it was scary not to know what to expect. Was this the extent of her growth’ If so, that wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. Who wouldn’t appreciate a wife who was a bit taller, with somewhat longer legs’ But there was that unknown aspect of the whole situation that put him on edge. The only things we really fear are those we do not understand, and the fact that recent circumstances had shattered the illusion of control that Richard had built for himself and his family did not sit easy with him.

However, now they had a lead. This Jack Griswold, whoever he was. He was surely intelligent, having started his own business at such a young age, and since his work dealt with pharmaceuticals he was no doubt acquainted with the ways of science. Richard was good with math and physics, and excelled at his engineering work, but the fields of biology and chemistry were a mystery to him. It was at least marginally comforting to know that someone educated in these areas would soon be on the case.

‘He wasn’t their.’ she replied. ‘I left a message.’

‘What did you tell him’’

‘Nothing detailed. Just that I had some questions about that new drug and for him to call me back as soon as possible. He probably thinks it’s some legal thing.’ Richard nodded.

‘Maybe you should see a doctor. I bet we could get you an appointment right away if we said it was an emergency.’ She shook her head.

‘No, let me check out this Griswold guy first. He invented the stuff, he should know more about it than anyone else. Assuming that’s the cause of all this, of course.’ She gestured toward her body.

It was strange, how much a difference of six inches could make. She knew that she was still quite short, but from her perspective it was quite a change. Everything looked a little smaller, less intimidating. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t noticed it before. She looked at Richard while she talked, trying not to make it obvious that she was comparing him to the way he looked a few days ago. He had always loomed so large above her, but now he seemed much smaller. It was a strange sensation.

Suddenly she realized that they had finished talking and that she had been staring at him for nearly a full minute. He was looking at her with a confused expression and she immediately blushed a deep crimson. She was rescued from her embarrassment by the sudden sound of a ringing phone. She rushed to answer it, assuming Jack was displaying unheard of promptness in responding to his answering machine.

‘Hi mom!’

‘Oh.. uh.. hi Courtney! Hi Megan!’ Jill sputtered, trying to regain her composure.

‘Is it him’’ Richard asked poking his head in.

‘No, it’s the girls’ Then back into the receiver: ‘How have you been’’

‘Great!’ the two girls shouted in unison, and then began to simultaneously expound every detail of their academic lives that had happened since their last call home.

Out of the myriad of trivialities discussed over the course of the forty-five minute conversation that ensued, Jill’s mind latched onto two pieces of information that seemed to override all else in terms of importance. One, the girls had met two *gasp* boys, with whom they seemed quite taken. This fact alone would have numbed Jill’s senses to any other topic were it not for number two, which was this: these boys were planning on accompanying her daughters home for the first part of the summer, which was in *double gasp* just over a week.

Just over a week’ How could time have flown by so quickly’ How had she forgotten this momentous occasion’ Of course we all know that she had other things on her mind, but within her own impression of her motherly duties this seemed an unpardonable offense. She thought of the prospect of dealing with two college boys, who were in all probability trying to seduce her daughter, while simultaneously dealing with her *ahem* medical problem, and felt a queasy feeling rise in her stomach.

Or was that feeling caused by something else’

VII

Courtney Richards slumped exhaustedly over her computer, sporadically tapping at the keyboard with twitching fingers. She was working feverishly on her final research paper of the semester, an ambitious treatment of psychological disorders in children. Megan had entered school with unbridled enthusiasm, plunging headlong into all of her classes, but especially those pertaining to psychology, in which she intended to major. Her sister, her parents and her classmates had warned her not to overextend herself. After all, she was only a freshman. She had laughed at these claims, assuming them to be the products of lazy minds and inferior initiative, but now as her bloodshot eyes struggled in vain to focus on the glowing screen in front of her, she began to wonder if maybe they had not been entirely wrong.

Her sister, Megan, was draped on the bed at the other end of the cramped dorm room, studying halfheartedly for a chemistry exam she had the following morning.

‘What is a Valence Electron again, Courtney’’ she mused, not really expecting an answer. Her sister knew nothing about science (Megan didn’t count psych as a real science.)

‘Shush. I’m trying to write about bipolar kids.’

‘You haven’t hit ten keys in the last five minutes.’

‘Maybe that’s because I have an annoying sister distracting me.’

‘Want me to leave’’ Megan smirked, knowing that the insult was insincere.

‘No, stay.’

Megan grinned triumphantly at this response and stuck her nose back in her book. ‘Isn’t your roommate due back soon’’

‘No, she went out with her boyfriend, she won’t be back tonight.

‘Speak of the Devil.’

At that moment the door to the room opened and two handsome young men entered looking very pleased with themselves. Courtney sprung up from her chair, suddenly full of life again, and ran to meet them. She clasped her arms around the taller of the two and planted a kiss on his eager lips.

‘Hi Brian’ she cooed.

‘Well hello, ladies. Are you ready for some fun’’

‘Are we ever.’ said Megan rising leisurely from the bed. ‘If I have to read about Lewis Dot Structures any more I’m going to scream.’

‘Well let’s go then.’ said the other boy, whose name was Todd. ‘The car,’ he intoned in the manner of a chauffer, ‘is just outside.’

These four upstanding young people were students at the University of Texas, and as anyone who knows the area will tell you, there is a dazzling area of bars, clubs and other nightlife hotspots just a hop skip and a jump away from campus, to say nothing of the live music scene. It would therefore have been a shameful waste of opportunity had these four not taken every advantage of their surroundings during these precious few college years. They were not irresponsible, as an outside observer might first assume, but were in fact very good students and smarter than they let on. So even though they were abandoning their homework in favor of clubs and fake IDs, no one present had any doubt of their continued academic success.

They piled into Todd’s Toyota Corolla and sped off down 6th street.

‘How are your finals, guys’’ Amber asked as they drove.

‘Cake.’ replied Brian, looking over his shoulder at them and grinning. ‘DiCenzo let us out of our test at the last second.’

‘Like he ALWAYS does.’ said Todd. ‘No wonder he’s so popular with the students.’

‘Hey, he’s a good teacher too.’

Courtney spoke up suddenly, interrupting the impending argument. ‘So are you guys excited about meeting our parents’’

‘Er.. yeah. It should be great.’ Todd said, hesitantly.

Megan whacked him on the side of the head sharply. ‘Ow! Watch it, I’m driving.’

‘Todd told me in private that he is very excited.’ Megan reassured her sister.

‘Yeah, it should be lots of fun.’ said Brian.

‘I just hope they don’t do anything to embarrass us.’ Courtney laughed.

* * * * * *

‘Five foot seven.’ Richard read off mechanically.

‘Wow.’ Said Jill, a touch of wonder in her voice. It had been four days since she had called Griswold and she was still waiting for an answer. She had tried his office several times since but had only gotten the answering machine.

‘Honey, I really think you should think about seeing a doctor.’

‘Maybe you’re right, but what are they going to say’ Assuming they don’t think I’m crazy, they’ll probably make me a guinea pig for life. I’ve never heard of a case like this and I’m willing to bet neither have they.’

Jill was an advocate of self diagnosis and had an inherent distrust of doctors. She had looked up her condition on the internet, but had found no medical precedent. She did, however, find a gargantuan number of fetish sites that seemed to be concerned with the problem, but after reading a story in which the entire planet was destroyed by a very large, very angry young lady, she decided that these were counterproductive.

‘I just don’t know how long we can wait for this Jack guy to call. He seems pretty flaky.’

Jill sighed. ‘I know. You’re right. I’ll go call a doctor.’

‘I think it’s the right choice.’ he said reassuringly.

She hugged her husband, who was starting to seem very short to her (from her point of view he appeared to be 5’2’) and went into the living room to get the yellow pages. After she left Richard rubbed his arm thoughtfully. He realized that that brief embrace had left him very aroused. He had only had one girlfriend before he met Jill, and she had been equally petite. He had never had real physical contact with a tall woman, and now that his wife was metamorphosing into an amazon, he didn’t quite know what to think, except that deep down he couldn’t deny that he liked it. A lot.

Jill found the number of a satisfactory doctor and was reaching for the receiver when the phone began to ring. The noise startled her and she jumped before answering.

‘Hello’’

‘Hello, Jill’ It’s Jack. Jack Griswold.’

VIII

A hurried conversation and a quick car ride later, Jill and Richard sat expectantly in the posh interior of Jack Griswold’s office. The Griswold Pharmaceutical building was a towering monstrosity of glass and steel that had taken both of them by surprise. Jill had never suspected that the young entrepreneur could have been this successful. They continued to gaze in wonder at their surroundings as the ascended the fifty story structure via glass elevator, and were greeted on the top floor by an attractive secretary seated at a glass desk. Griswold seemed to have a thing for transparency.

They were admitted to the office immediately, a first for Jill, who was accustomed to long waits outside office doors. Inside, Jack greeted them warmly, with a touch of concern and bade them sit down. They were relieved to find that the chairs were not also glass, but rather soft comfortable leather. When Jack started to speak, Jill noted that his tone was much more serious and business like than when they had chatted on the plane.

‘Jill, Mister Richards, It’s so good to see you. I’m very sorry I didn’t respond to your messages sooner. I was on an important business trip to Japan, and I’m afraid my secretary as unable to reach me. Ah, but where are my manners’ Mr. Richards, I don’t believe we’ve met. Jack Griswold, Griswold Pharmaceutical. I’m sure your aware of the circumstances under which I met your wife.’

‘Yes, well aware. Nice to meet you.’

Jill glanced at her husband curiously. He was usually a very pleasant and personable man, but just now his tone had been curt, almost jealous.

‘I understand that you have been experiencing some unexplained growth spurts.’ Jack plowed on, oblivious. He seemed totally focused on the conversation. The muscles in his face remained relaxed, but Jill got the impression that, were it not for his well practiced composure, he would be visibly sweating.

‘That’s putting it mildly.’ she smirked.

‘Yes of course. I only saw you sitting down on the plane, but even so, the change is unmistakable. How much would you say you’ve grown’’

‘Nine inches.’ Jill and Richard answered together.

Jack nodded. He did not show any reaction to the figure. He merely took it in silently. A long moment of silence passed, then at last Jack spoke again.

‘Alright.’ he said decisively. ‘It’s obvious that this is some sort of reaction to our compound. To pass it off as a coincidence would be pure delusion. You were drenched in the stuff on the airplane, if you recall.’ Jill nodded tersely.

‘Wait a minute,’ said Richard. ‘I thought you said your compound was meant to heal injuries, not as some sort of crazy growth hormone.’

‘It is.’ said Jack, trying not to sound annoyed. ‘And it works very well. What has happened with your wife is an anomaly. We’ve never seen anything like it in any of our test subjects. But due to the specific nature of the compound, it’s reasonable to assume a connection. Jill, I’m telling all of my researchers to drop everything their doing and concentrate their every effort into finding out how such a thing could happen. They will not stop until the problem is solved, and I have every confidence it will not be wrong. These are some of the brightest men in the field.

‘We’ll need you to come back in at some point to do some tests, but we’ll wait until we have some preliminary findings first.’ here he stood.

‘Until then I’d ask you not to seek outside medical help. My work here is highly confidential, and without access to my files no doctor would have any chance of helping you anyway. Is that alright with you’’

She nodded, but Richard looked uneasy.

‘Fine. Now I recommend you go home and get plenty of rest. I’ll be in touch with you very soon, I promise. Oh, and try not to worry. I assure you everything will be fine. For now you might as well enjoy a life of tall elegance.’ His smile was mirrored in Jill’s face. She turned to go, but he held her back.

‘Just a minute. How tall did you say you were again’’

‘5’7’. Why’’

‘Because I’m 5’8’ and you’re looking me right in the eye.’

Next: The Girls Return Home!

IX

Several nerve racking days went by without any comforting words from Jack. He had called once, just to check up on her and to say that he had all his best people working day and night on the problem, but this was of little reassurance to Jill. On the day of her daughters’ return she stood a full six feet tall, the same height as her husband, and she was having a little trouble getting used to it. It was so weird to be able to look him straight in the eye. At times she felt awkward around him, and found herself resisting the urge to slouch. Common wisdom held that women were not supposed to be tall, at least not as tall as their husbands, and she had a hard time overcoming such instincts.

Richard’s behavior, on the other hand, had begun to change in ways that puzzled Jill to no end. When she had first noticed her growth, he had expressed concern for her health and safety and had seemed genuinely worried about her. However, ever since their visit to Jack Griswold’s office, he had become more cheerful and upbeat. He had also become more physically affectionate with her than he had been for years. It seemed he was forever hugging her, kissing her, slipping his arms around her waist while she cooked dinner. She also noticed that he was making a habit of standing very close to her and staring when he thought she wasn’t looking. Perhaps this was merely his way of showing concerned support for her in her time of need, but somehow she didn’t think so.

Jill’s confusion over her husband ‘s actions was soon supplanted by a growing anxiety about what she was going to tell their daughters. She would tell them the truth of course, and she tried to convince herself that that would be enough. They were mature, understanding girls and this slight medical issue would, no doubt, have no effect on what was to be a relaxing and enjoyable visit. She told herself this, but somehow never quite believed it. She couldn’t help feeling that their upcoming reunion would be extremely uncomfortable for all involved.

These were the thoughts that passed through Jill Richards’ mind as she stood at the Delta terminal awaiting the arrival of her two children. It was painfully obvious that school was out for summer. Swarms of young men and women streamed out of the concourse and Jill jumped with anticipation several times, only to be disappointed by Courtney and Megan look-alikes. She felt Richard’s hand caressing her hip and look over at him to see him quickly avert his eyes, pretending to stare at a twenty something girl with pink hair. Jill could barely stop herself from laughing. Her husband was actually trying to make her think he was looking at other women, rather than get caught staring at her. Did he find her freakish, perhaps’ If so he didn’t act it, and Richard had never been a good actor. If she didn’t know better, she would think he was actually attracted to her at this size, but everyone knows men don’t like women as tall as themselves. They’re far too insecure for that.

Just then, two identical squeals of delight made her turn her head.

‘Mom! Dad!’

Megan and Courtney had arrived. And with them were two.... oh ****.

Due to all of the erm... excitement regarding her erm... condition, Jill had completely forgotten that her daughters were bringing boys home. Jill felt a knot the size of a small watermelon form in her stomach. This was going to present some complications, but no time to worry about that now. She had some daughters to greet.

‘Girls!’ She extended her arms and stepped forward for a hug. Courtney had already reached Richard, and was clinging to him enthusiastically, but Megan stopped short of her mother with a screwed up look of confusion on her face.

‘Wow mom, those are some amazing.... heels’’ she finished hesitantly as she glanced at her mother’s feet (Jill was wearing a new pair of sandals that she had bought to accommodate her expanding body. They were quite flat.)

‘What happened to you’’

Jill froze. The tone of incredulous horror in Courtney’s voice was exactly as she had imagined it in her fears. They were going to hate her for this. She was a freak. It was all she could do to keep from bursting into tears right there.

‘Your mother has been having a bit of a growth spurt lately.’ Richard said diplomatically. Jill squeezed her eyes shut in humiliation.

‘That’s... amazing!’ Jill opened her eyes to see that Megan was now smiling, as she stepped forward to look up into her mother’s eyes.

‘Wow mom, you’re soooo tall. That’s really cool.’ said Courtney, breaking away from Richard’s embrace to get a better view.

‘Doesn’t your mother look great, girls’’ Richard said, smiling.

‘Totally...’ they chorused in awe.

Jill gaped at Richard, then at the girls, then at Richard again. She was speechless.

‘You can shut your mouth now, honey.’ he said to her out of the side of his mouth. She did so with an audible click.

Suddenly, Courtney and Megan jumped as if shocked.

‘Oh yeah, I almost forgot.’ Courtney said, turning towards the two thoroughly confused looking boyfriends . ‘This is Brian and Todd. Brian and Todd, these are our parents.’

‘P- pleased to meet you Mr. Richards, Mrs. Richards, they stammered, obviously knocked off guard by the scene they had just witnessed. Megan smiled and surreptitiously kicked Todd in the shin, who was staring at little too openly at her mother. ‘Shall we go then’’

On the ride home the girls were treated to the full explanation of their mother’s sudden, unexpected growth, at which they were enthralled. Jill got the impressed that they would have discussed it for the entire ride had she not intervened and demanded to get to know their boyfriends. Todd and Brian soon became much more relaxed, although still a little shaken, and did their best to make a favorable impression. When they arrived at last, Richard carried the bags inside, aided by the two boys, and Courtney bounced along beside Brian giggling. Megan lagged behind for a moment with her mother.

‘This is so weird.’ she said, standing unnaturally close to Jill and staring up into her eyes. ‘It’s like I’m a little kid again.’

‘Yeah,’ said Jill, a thoughtful expression appearing on her face. ‘it is. Now go on inside and help that boyfriend of yours carry all that luggage you brought. Go on, scoot!’ With a grin she swatted her daughter playfully from behind as she ran inside indoors. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

X

The Richards family spent the rest of the day catching up. Megan and Courtney talked eagerly about the school year and wasted no opportunity to gush over their respective beaus. Todd and Brian were on their best ‘parent’ behavior and tried heroically to act mature and responsible. However, they both displayed a peculiar tendency to lower their eyes and blush slightly whenever they were addressed by Jill, which made them appear somewhat childish. Courtney seemed oblivious to this, but Megan kept shooting confused glances at Todd.

If Jill was a source of awkwardness for the kids, Richard was the exact opposite. He played the part of gracious host with careless ease, while at the same time managing to seem like one of the guys. He had no real male friends and it was a nice treat for him to have other men around to discuss such important matters as football and the relative virtues of ales versus lagers. Jill looked disapproving at the latter topic, but said nothing in an effort to keep the atmosphere friendly and casual.

Jill’s behavior, however, was becoming decidedly odd. Richard was the first to notice, when he caught her staring at her daughters from across the room with a faraway look in her eyes.

‘Everything alright, honey’’

‘What’ Oh, yes. I was just thinking of when they were little.’

He naturally dismissed this as a reaction to the girls’ first real boyfriends. It was to be expected, he reasoned, that Jill would get a little nostalgic at this painful reminder of their daughters’ impending adulthood. But watching her throughout the day, he noticed that she often lapsed into silence, her eyes fixed on Megan or Courtney, and that during these moments she always straightened her shoulders and drew herself up to her full height. She also seemed to be standing unnecessarily close to the girls whenever they were in the same room. Maybe she was just feeling protective. That was probably what it was.

After a lovely dinner of take out Chinese food (Jill said she did not want to spend her daughters’ first night home cooking) and several more hours of conversation it was generally conceded that some sleep should be had. The girls were happy to be able to sleep in their own beds again, and the boys were shown to the guest room. As parents went, Richard and Jill were pretty easygoing, but not that easygoing.

‘It’s good to have you home, girls.’ said Richard, hugging his daughters. ‘And it was great meeting you gentlemen.’ He shook Brian and Todd’s hands firmly.

The two boys thanked him for his hospitality and extended their hands towards Jill, but were taken aback when she met them with the same forceful hugs she had just given Megan and Courtney. Brian and Todd squirmed uncomfortably, with identical looks of panic on heir faces. Courtney laughed but Megan looked concerned.

Once their parents had gone, she crept into Todd’s room to say goodnight. After a lengthy embrace and several goodnight kisses, she looked at him seriously and asked:

‘Why do you act so nervous around my mom’’

‘What’ Oh, I don’t know. It’s always scary to meet the parents for the first time, right’’

‘But you were great with my dad. What’s the big deal about mom’’

‘Well...’ he stammered, obviously unprepared for this. ‘It’s just... well she’s so tall.’

‘I know. It’s really weird. I’ve been taller than her since I was just a kid. It’s a very surreal experience.’

‘I’ll bet.’ he said, looking relieved to be off the hook as Megan began to muse.

‘I’m not sure how I feel about it. It’s kinda cool, but it also makes me feel a little insecure, like I’m younger, you know’’

He nodded his understanding, happy to let her do the talking.

‘I also guess I’m a little jealous. She looks so beautiful at that height. I never really noticed when she was short. I bet she feels really elegant.’ she shrugged. ‘Maybe I’ll buy some high heels next time I’m at the store.’

This surprised Todd. Megan had always preferred flats to heels due to the comfort factor. It was interesting to see a different side of her.

‘Well.. erm’ he said, clearing his throat and unsure of what to say. ‘That sounds nice.’

Megan looked at him coyly. ‘Would you like that’’

‘Er... yeah, actually. I think you would look really hot in heels.’

‘Really’ Well alright then, it’s a date.’ And with that she strode out of the room with an air of victory that Todd found utterly confusing. He shrugged, climbed into bed and clicked off the light. Tomorrow should be interesting.

 

XI

Jill was awakened by the sound of a ringing phone. Her sleep had been deep and she found she had trouble pulling herself up into consciousness. With a supreme effort she wrenched herself upright, eyes squinting against the morning sun and thrashed out with her arm in a blind attempt to grab the cordless phone on the bedside table.

*CRASH*

She swore as a multitude of objects went sailing off the table and onto the floor.

*Ring Ring*

She flipped herself over, smacking her heel against the hardwood bedframe painfully. She forced her eyes open and located the obnoxious telephone that was robbing her of her sleep and clicked it on.

‘Hello’’

‘Jill, it’s Jack.’

‘Jack’’ she slurred drowsily. ‘Jack who’ Oh Jack! Of course I’m so sorry... what time is it’’

‘It is almost seven o’clock.’

‘Almost seven’ Wha- I mean, isn’t it a little early’’

‘Jill, I’ve got good new. ‘He said, ignoring her. ‘We’re making great progress. I think we have a theory on why you’re responding to the formula so dramatically.’

‘That’s a nice way of putting it.’ she thought. What she said was ‘That’s terrific, so can you stop it’’

‘Welllllll, not just yet. In fact the reason I’m calling is to tell you we need you to come back in so we can take some more blood samples.’

Jill fell back into her bed and groaned. ‘Alright, I’ll be in a little later today. At least let me wake up and have some breakfast first.’

‘Oh, of course.’ Said Jack, seeming to realize how early it was for the first time. ‘Take your time. I just wanted to let you know. See you later then.’ And with that he hung up.

Jill placed a hand to her forehead wearily and swatted Richard with the other. He responded with a noise halfway between a grunt and a snore.

‘Why didn’t you get that’’

‘Mmm get what’’ Richard could sleep through anything.

‘That was Jack, I have to go in for more blood samples.’ She got out of bed and began to dress. Richard sat up in bed, still half asleep.

‘Don’t you have work’’

This gave Jill pause. Work had been, shall we say, awkward for her these last few weeks. At first no one had noticed her height increase, as it happened fairly gradually. Plus she spent most of her time seated behind a desk and, under the circumstances, made an extra effort to stay there as much as possible. But eventually people started to notice. They didn’t say anything, but she could tell they noticed. How could they not’ She had gone from 4’10’ to 6’ in what seemed like no time at all. Lately she dreaded going into the office because of the stares she now attracted. And now with the girls home she really didn’t want to be gone all day. Something had to be done.

‘You know, I’ve mostly got paperwork. I can do that at home. I’d better call them and let them know..’

She started back towards the phone, tripping on her pants, which she had not managed to pull completely on yet.

‘Urgh.. these things sure are, oof, tight today.’

Jill gave her pants a mighty heave, this time falling completely over. Richard laughed and got out of bed to help her up. He pulled her to her feet, her pants still half on, and gave her a long kiss right on the chin. Wait a second, chin’

‘Oh.’ Jill and Richard said in unison.

They both backed up a step and looked each other up and down. Jill’s legs seemed incredibly long and beautiful. Her once small breast were starting look quite impressive framed by a set of shoulders that rivaled Richard’s. Suddenly he felt his mouth go dry and he swallowed deeply.

Jill noticed this and, combined with his deer in the headlights expression, she could not help but grin.

‘What’s the matter, Richard’’ she asked mockingly, stepping closer, her grin widening.

‘Why whatever do you mean, dear’’ Richard was trying to play it cool, but it was a painfully transparent attempt.

Jill put her hands on his shoulders and pulled him towards her. She estimated that she was about two inches taller than he, making her 6’2’.

‘You know,’ she mused, gripping Richard firmly and looking pointedly down into his eyes. ‘I’ve got a couple of weeks vacation coming to me. I think I’ll just go ahead and take it. This seems as good a time as any.’ Richard could only nod.

‘But that call can wait. Right now there are more pressing issues at hand.’

Jill pushed Richard down onto the bed and kicked off her pants again. She leapt on top of him, and before he could react he found himself entwined in her long, elegant limbs.

XII

Richard lay on the bed, staring up at the ceiling with his mouth slightly open as Jill dressed. Having given up on her own pants, she had borrowed a pair of Richard’s slacks until something more appropriate could be obtained. They were rather too short in the inseam and exposed a good two inches of bare ankle, but there was nothing to be done about this at present.

‘Come on,’ Jill urged Richard out of his stupor. ‘It’s time to get going. And shut your mouth. You look like a trout.’

Richard closed his mouth and slowly got to his feet.

‘That was’ indescribable.’’

‘Yeah, it was.’ She grinned toothily at him and tossed him a pair of jeans, which hit him squarely in the face. He grunted and tried in vain to deflect the shirt his wife had just thrown at him. He felt like he had been hit by a dump truck full of tranquilizers, but in a good way.

Jill, on the other hand, seemed positively overflowing with energy. She flitted about the room like a hummingbird. A sexy, sexy hummingbird with legs that wouldn’t quit.

Despite his slowed reflexes and dulled wits, Richard eventually managed to find his way into his clothes, and three cups of coffee later, he was feeling as good as new.

They were just preparing to head out when Megan and Courtney simultaneously shambled into the room, rubbing their eyes and mumbling good mornings. For most of their childhoods they had pulled this act, and Richard wondered how it was that they always seemed to wake up at the exact same time.

‘Good morning girls,’ said Jill warmly. ‘Your father and I are just on our way out. You can make yourselves some breakfast. There’s plenty of food in the fridge. We shouldn’t be gone long.’

It was as if someone had flipped a power switch inside the girls’ heads. Suddenly they showed no signs of sleepiness whatsoever.

A long string of ‘What’’ ‘Where are you going’’ ‘Why do we have to stay here’’ ‘I want to come too!’ and so forth, issued shrilly from the two teenage mouths.

‘Now , now,’ Richard tried to calm them. ‘This is none of your concern. It has to do with your mom’s condition.’

Jill shot her husband a dirty look as if this were the worst thing he could have possibly said, which, apparently, it was.

‘Well then we’re definitely coming,’ the girls declared in unison, folding their arms. And with that, the matter was settled.

The boyfriends were still asleep and it was not likely that they would awake for several more hours, given their usual habits, so the girls felt no qualms about leaving them unattended for a while.

And so it was only a short while later that the entire Richards family marched into the offices of Griswold Pharmaceutical.

The mood of the group was hard to define. Each of them was feeling a different combination of emotions, several of which conflicted directly with one another. Here is a simplified rundown of their thoughts as they entered the building:

Jill was excited. She was excited to find out the cause of the strange phenomenon that afflicted her and the prospects of finding a cure. However, thinking about the situation excited her in other ways too’

Richard was too muddled to even begin to sort out his feelings, but essentially was extremely turned by the changes in his wife and wasn’t sure he wanted to find a cure. These thoughts alarmed him and as a result, he chose to ignore a large portion of what his brain was telling him, which is why he kept bumping into things.

Courtney was thrilled about the whole situation. There was something infinitely appealing about the power and respect commanded by someone so tall. She found herself barely able to contain her enthusiasm for learning more about Jack Griswold and his formula.

Megan was arguably the most conflicted of the four. She was deeply concerned for her mother’s health and wellbeing. After all, nothing like this had ever happened before and who could guess what sorts of unpleasant side effects might crop up’ However, she was also quite intrigued by the whole thing, and especially by Todd’s reaction to her probing last night.

All this thinking was cut short when Jack burst forth from his office to energetically greet them.

‘Jill! Richard! Welcome back! These must be your lovely daughters. Do come in. I’ve got great news.’

Obediently, they filed into his office, which was as plush as ever. Apparently this incident had not made much of a financial impact with the company.

‘Please, have a seat. There are plenty of chairs for you all.’

They sat, and stared at him as if he were a street magician, preparing to wow them with some fancy act of prestidigitation. They waited for him to speak but he just stood there grinning at them.

‘Well’,’ Jill demanded at last.

He launched into speech as if he had been waiting for her cue.

‘I’m glad you asked that question, Jill. Please allow me to explain. This,’ here he held up a vial of clear liquid, ‘is the formula that so unfortunately spilled on you during our flight together.’

The rest of the family looked captivated. Jill looked annoyed.

‘Now it was intended to encourage cell growth,’ Jack continued, ‘but we’ve never seen results like yours in any of our tests. We just couldn’t account for them. I’ve had teams of my best men working day and night on the problem, but there’s nothing in the formula that should produce such drastic growth.’

‘Excuse me, how is this good news’,’ Jill interrupted.

‘I’m getting there. Don’t break the flow. It ruins the effect. Now where was I’ Oh yes, we were stumped. But then I started to think. How did the stuff get into your system in the first place’ External contact would have no effect. After all it splattered on me too and I haven’t grown an inch. Any guesses’’

They blinked stupidly at him.

‘You drank it. You had a soda on the plane, remember’ Some of the formula must’ve gotten into your glass and you drank it. Of course, that alone is fairly useless. As I said, all of our test subjects ingested it with no abnormal effect, but still, the wheels had been set in motion. I thought of the carbonation. I experimented with it, looking for a chemical reaction. Nothing. I thought of sugar and caffeine. Caffeine would seem like an obvious culprit, don’t you think. But again, nothing. But then It finally hit me. Just last night in fact. Jill, do you remember exactly what you were drinking on that plane’’

‘Why no, actually I don’t,’ Jill answered, surprised at her poor memory. ‘I guess with all the excitement I blocked it out or something.’

‘Well I remember. I remember because I thought it was odd at the time. You were drinking Tonic Water, and I remember thinking to myself ‘who drinks tonic with no gin’’’ He grinned as if he were sitting on the punch line to the best joke in the world. ‘Now the million dollar question, boys and girls, is what makes tonic water unique’’

Blank stares.

‘No one’ Oh well then I’ll just tell you. What makes tonic water unique is this.’ He reached behind his desk and produced a bottle of Schweppes Tonic Water, pointing at a small line of text on the bright yellow label.

‘Contains quinine.’

‘Quinine!,’ he exclaimed. ‘That ancient cure-all that was so foul they had to mix it with hard liquor just to get it down. Well it turns out it really does do a body good. I stayed up all night looking into it and my formula reacts with this stuff like you wouldn’t believe. And that, my dear, is how you’ve come to attain such a lofty stature.’

Jill sprang to your feet. ‘You mean you can cure me’’

Jack looked crestfallen. ‘What’ No. I’m just saying that we’ve found the cause. The solution is a whole other bag of marbles.’

Jill sat back down.

‘But it’s a step in the right direction,’ Jack frantically explained, trying to salvage some of his triumph. ‘The hard part’s over. From here it should be relatively easy to devise a cure.’

Richard got to his feet and approached Griswold.

‘She’s just a little disappointed. Don’t take it personally. We all appreciate how much you’ve done and we have complete faith that you’ll figure this thing out. Right Jill’’

‘Oh yeah. Right,’ she replied unconvincingly.

‘Well I’m sorry I got your hopes up,’ Jack said, collecting himself again. ‘Thanks for coming out. I promise I’ll let you know the second we make a breakthrough.’

‘Thanks again,’ said Richard, making his way out the door. Jill had already left.

‘It was lovely to meet you girls, but I’m afraid I didn’t get your names.’

‘Oh I’m sorry,’ said Megan. ‘I’m Megan and that’s Courtney.’ Courtney jumped at the sound of her name. She seemed to have been examining Griswold’s desk.

‘Well, hopefully we’ll meet again very soon. Don’t worry about your mother. I’ve got the best in the business working on the case.’

‘Thank you, Mr. Griswold,’ they chorused and hurried after their parents.

On the ride home, Richard admonished Jill for her behavior.

‘You didn’t have to be so rude you know. He’s trying to help you.’

‘I know. I’m sorry. I was just so excited and it was a bit of a letdown, you know’’

‘I know. But would it really be so terrible if it takes him a little longer’’

Jill’s pouting mouth turned up into a sly smirk.

‘Maybe not so terrible.’

Meanwhile in the back seat, Courtney turned to her sister and mouthed silently the words ‘Hey Megan, guess what’’

‘What’,’ Megan mouthed back.

Courtney nodded her head downward towards her right hand, which lay half open on the seat to reveal a small glass vial.

Megan clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a cry as the car sped along the freeway towards home.

XIII

‘You can’t be serious!,’ Megan exclaimed. ‘You know nothing about that stuff!’

‘I know what it does,’ said Courtney as she nonchalantly toyed with the small bottle between her fingers. She sat on her bed, kicking her legs absentmindedly, obviously lost in thought. Megan stood, pacing the room anxiously and trying to come up with good reasons for not doing what Courtney was obviously considering.

‘What about the health risk’’

‘Does mom look unhealthy to you’ It’s been months since she took this stuff. I’m sure it’s fine.’

Megan wasn’t entirely convinced by this rationale, and opened her mouth to protest, when a sudden knock at the door interrupted her objection. Courtney slipped the bottle under her mattress and called out innocently.

‘Come in!’

Brian and Todd entered the room, grinning maniacally. They rushed toward their girlfriends, grabbing them by the waists, and hoisted them into the air.

‘There you two are!,’ Brian exclaimed, raising his voice to be heard over the girls’ squealing protests. ‘We thought you’d abandoned us!’

‘Brian, you creep! Put me down!’ Courtney flailed her arms ineffectually as Brian continued to hold her aloft.

‘If fact, we were so grief stricken when we awoke to find you MIA, that we had to eat the better part of your food to ease our pain.’

‘Comfort food.’ Todd added solemnly.

‘Anyway,’ Brian continued. ‘Your parents wanted us to inform you that we’re going shopping. We need more food, and I think your mom’s going to get some clothes too.’

‘Good,’ said Megan. Unlike her sister, she had given up on her struggle to be let down. ‘She really needs them. She’s starting to look ridiculous.’ She quickly blushed and hurriedly added: ‘Er’ without properly fitting clothes, I mean.’

The mall seemed strangely quiet. The whirling frenzy of eager shoppers, snatching items from the shelves in a blind rush of consumerism, was supplanted by a few groggy looking housewives and several bored teenagers, apparently unable to enjoy their truancy (Author’s note: No that’s not a mistake. While it is summer, most colleges let out a week or so before high schools. In your face, nitpickers!).

Todd and Brian had, upon entering the building, immediately located the Electronics Boutique, where they would undoubtedly spend most of the trip. Courtney accompanied them, but Megan had opted to go with her mother into a department store in search of suitable clothing. Richard was not with them , as something urgent had come up at his office and he had to go in ‘just for a few hours,’ he assured them.

Megan lounged against the wall outside of the dressing rooms in one of several upscale department stores which resided within the mammoth enclosure of the mall. From behind the door she could hear a faint series of grunts that indicated someone attempting to squeeze into ill-fitting clothing. In a moment Jill emerged, looking flushed and a little frustrated.

‘Well, what do you think’,’ she asked sheepishly.

Jill was dressed in a skin tight pair of jeans that showed at least as much bare ankle as Richard’s slacks had. She also had on a formal looking white blouse, but the effect was somewhat spoiled by the fact that it showed her midriff. Megan couldn’t help but laugh.

‘I like the top. Very spring break.’

‘I’ve been here for an hour and I haven’t found one thing that fits!,’ Jill wailed, exasperatedly.

Megan laughed again. ‘It’s okay. You’re just not used to shopping for the new you. Look, let me help you. Did you measure yourself yet’’

‘Yes’’ Jill hesitated.

‘Well’’

‘Well it’s kind of embarrassing.’

‘Oh come on. What your inseam’’

‘Forty inches.’

Megan whistled. ‘Okay, maybe we’d better steer away from jeans for now.’

Jill smiled at her, grateful that her daughter was making things so easy for her.

And so, due to the kind of shopping expertise found only in teenage girls, it was barely another twenty minutes before Megan had her mother outfitted in a stylishly slit skirt and a beautiful burgundy top.

‘Perfect,’ said Megan, proud of her handiwork. Now we just need to get you some shoes.

Jill reached behind her back and produced a pair of black stilettos. She smiled, then quickly lowered her eyes, embarrassed.

Megan looked shocked for a second, then both women burst into fits of simultaneous giggles.

‘Those are perfect,’ Megan said. ‘And that reminds me, I want to get some heels too while we’re here.’

After some minutes of browsing she settled on a pair of red platform boots with a six inch heel. She turned to her mother, showing off her find.

‘Won’t the boys be in for a surprise tonight!’

XIV

Dinner was a quiet, somewhat hurried affair. Their seemed to be an eager tension in the air that no one could really put their finger on. Richard tried several times to start a conversation, but the girls clearly had other things on their minds and responded with monosyllables.

After the dishes had been cleared away, Courtney rushed into her room and emerged a few seconds later, clutching her purse and sporting slightly far more makeup than what was usually required for a quiet night in.

‘Going somewhere’,’ Jill asked, raising an eyebrow and stepping in her daughter’s path. Courtney gulped. Her mother was now quite an imposing figure.

‘Um, yeah. Todd and I were going to go out dancing. ‘Is that alright’’ She glanced at Todd, who looked as though this was news to him.

‘Hmm, I don’t know.’ Jill rocked back and forth on her heels, taking obvious enjoyment in her blockade. ‘Do you think you can handle the responsibility’’ Jill was waxing condescending now. Everyone else was smiling, knowing that Jill was only teasing, but Courtney, ever the melodramatic one, took it seriously.

‘Mom!,’ Courtney exclaimed, exasperated now. ‘Come on! I’m not a little girl you know.’

At this Jill broke into a full out grin.

‘Oh really’ Well you look pretty little to me,’ she mocked, taking a step forward and deepening her voice a little for effect.

Courtney backed away and Jill was shocked at the look of fear on her face.

‘Come on sweetie, I’m only teasing. Of course you can go out. Just be careful if you back late, ok’’

Courtney’s expression melted into one of relief.

‘Thanks mom!’ She gave her mother a quick hug (which still felt extremely weird), then grabbed Todd by the arm and dragged him out the door before he had a chance to utter a word.

‘Have fun, shorty!’ Jill called after them, laughing to herself.

‘And now,’ she thought. ‘For a little fun of my own.’

‘I’m kind of tired,’ she announced a little too loudly. ‘I think I’m going to turn in early.’

‘Yeah,’ said Megan, only slightly more convincingly than her mother. ‘I’m pretty beat too. Bed sounds like a good idea.’

‘Richard, you coming’,’ Jill asked.

‘No, I’m not really tired. I think I’ll stay up a bit longer.’

Jill cleared her throat loudly and gave him a reproachful look.

‘Er, that is to say,’ he continued lamely. ‘I’ve got a busy day tomorrow, I should get some shut eye.’

‘You’ve got a busy day tomorrow too, Brian.’ Megan said pointedly.

‘No, not really I don’t’ Oh. Right.’

‘Goodnight mom, goodnight dad!’ Megan said, then quickly left the room with Brian in tow.

Richard looked at his wife quizzically.

‘Wait here,’ she said. ‘I’ve got something to show you.

Meanwhile, Courtney had dragged Todd over half a mile on foot to the nearest bar. The crowd was fairly small, it being a weeknight, but there was loud music and a small dance floor, so Courtney was happy. They entered and Todd immediately sat down on a bar stool to catch his breath.

‘Whew, ‘ he panted. ‘Why were you in such a hurry to get here’ I know it wasn’t to beat the rush, and it’s not like they’re about to close.’

‘I’m just anxious to have a good time,’ she explained, turning to the bar. ‘Gin and Tonic, please.’ Here she produced a fake I.D. and pushed it across the bar with confidence.

The bartender barely glanced at it before turning away to make her drink.

‘You hate gin,’ Todd scoffed.

‘Well maybe I feel like a change tonight,’ she replied playfully. ‘C’mon, what are you drinking’’

‘Oh um’ I’ll just have a beer.’ The bartender looked at him impatiently. ‘Heineken,’ he clarified. The man put a dusty bottle on the bar without requesting identification. ‘Seven dollars for the two,’ he grunted.

‘I got it,’ Courtney pulled a ten dollar bill from her purse. ‘Keep the change,’ she added cheerfully.

‘ Now let’s get out on that dance floor and’ oops!’ Courtney, spinning around to face Todd, had moved a tad too quickly and sent sailing several feet onto the floor.

‘Jeez, Courtney, you haven’t even drunk anything yet,’ Todd teased, getting up to retrieve her purse. He bent over to grab it and didn’t notice Courtney empty a small vial of liquid into her drink.

‘Here you go,’ he said, returning to his seat.

‘Oh thank you, ‘ Courtney cooed. ‘You are so sweet. Just let me finish my drink and we’ll dance.’ With that she lifted the glass to her mouth and drained it in one pull, wrinkling her nose at the taste of the gin.

‘It’s like drinking a Christmas Tree,’ she thought. ‘How can anyone stand that stuff’’

Todd was looking at her, impressed. ‘Wow, take it easy there. The night is young.’

‘That’s right it is,’ she said, getting to her feet and already feeling a little tipsy. ‘Now let’s go.; I’m gonna dance your ass off!’

The dance floor was deserted, but Courtney didn’t mind. She immediately began bopping enthusiastically in time to the music. Todd was a little embarrassed that they were the only couple there, but he soon realized that no one was watching them and, after a few more beers, he started to enjoy himself as much as his girlfriend.

‘You know Courtney, you look really hot tonight. I mean, damn, you’re beautiful. ‘ Todd always began to gush when he’d had a few.

‘Thanksh, ‘ Courtney slurred. She had only had a couple of drinks, but they seemed to be affecting her much more tonight than they usually did.

Todd ran his hands down Courtney’s body. Due in part to the intoxication and the music, he was finding himself very turned on. Courtney did look amazing, almost as though her curves were fuller than normal. He couldn’t help but stare at her legs as she twirled around the room. Her legs looked so long and sexy. He was practically salivating. Suddenly rushed toward him and grabbed him in a tight embrace.

‘Mmm, I love you,’ she purred, kissing him full on the lips.

Todd was taken aback by the firmness of her grip and the power of her kiss as he stared into her deep, hungry eyes. She was so soft and warm that he felt like going to sleep right there in her arms. But there was something strange going on.

‘Courtney, did you get taller’,’ he asked, his mind a fog.

She simply smiled at his and began lightly nibbling on his ear. He wondered for a moment if they might get kicked out for their lewd behavior, but he reached for his drink and pretty soon he didn’t care anymore.

 

XV

Courtney was not the only in having rather too much fun for her own good that night. Back at the Richards residence Megan had donned her new heels and was preparing to give Brian an experience he wouldn’t soon forget.

‘Why are my eyes closed’,’ Brian asked. He was sitting on Megan’s bed, his eyes tightly shut as instructed. Megan’s voice drifted out of the adjoining bathroom.

‘You’ll see! And no peeking! If you peek you’re going to be in so much trouble.’

‘I’m not peeking, I’m just tired of waiting. I’ve been sitting here for nearly ten minutes.’

‘But the expectation is half the fun!’

‘Hmm, so you’re telling me this is going to be twice as fun as sitting in one place with my eyes closed for ten minutes’ Oh boy, I can hardly wait.’

‘Shush you! Okay stand up and open your eyes.’

Brian did so and was greeted by the sight of a very pretty nose. He raised his eyes slightly and saw Megan’s eyes beaming down at him.

‘Surprise shorty!,’ Megan exclaimed.

With a great effort, Brian tore his eyes away from hers and looked down at her feet. A wave of relief swept over him, although he wasn’t quite sure why. He quickly lifted his gaze back up, his grin now matching hers.

‘Well my goodness, aren’t you a tall thing’ Do you play basketball, sweetie’,’ he said in mock condescension.

‘Hey, you better watch that, mister,’ she replied, poking him in the chest. ‘Or I might have to beat you up.’

Brian grinned wider. ‘Oh yeah’ I’d like to see you try.’

Suddenly, he grabbed her around the waist, noting that he barely had to reach down to do so, and pulled her down onto the bed. Megan was taken by surprise and, being unused to such high hells, toppled over immediately.

‘Hey, no fair!,’ she protested. ‘You’re too short to push me around. Now help me up so I can teach you a lesson.’

Brian obediently pulled her to her feet, where he was once again unsettled by seeing her taller than him.

‘Those sure are some shoes,’ ha said in a reverent tone.

‘Yeah, they are. So do you like ‘em’’

‘Actually, I do.’

‘Good, then come dance with me.’ She walked somewhat unsteadily over to her CD player and pressed play. Slow, soothing music filled the room, headed up by a female vocalist Brian didn’t recognize. Megan grabbed Brian’s arm and they began to dance in that swaying back and forth way that wasn’t really dancing at all. It seemed to Brian that she was trying to get as close to him as possible, which ordinarily he would have loved, but which made him feel just a little uneasy tonight.

In spite of his misgivings, however, Brian soon found himself getting quite turned on. They were dancing cheek to cheek, only her cheek was a couple of inches above his, and the sensation was an entirely novel one for both of them.

‘This is really sexy,’ whispered Megan, echoing his thoughts.

Brian just nodded.

‘I’m tired of dancing. Let’s go over to the bed,’ she said quietly, running her hand along the inside of his thigh for emphasis.

Brian swallowed heavily, but put up no argument as his girlfriend steered him across the room and pushed him down into the soft covers, quickly climbing on top of him.

Meanwhile, in the other bedroom, Richard was enjoying a similar treat. Jill had also slipped into her new footwear, putting her up to a jaw dropping 6’5’. When Richard saw her his eyes practically popped out of his head.

‘My God, Jill, you look incredible!’

‘I know,’ she giggled. ‘I mean, thanks!’

‘As if you weren’t tall enough already, though.’

‘Hey, bigger is better right’’

‘Right. I always knew that ‘size doesn’t matter’ thing was a lie.’

She laughed. ‘Come here, I’m going to give you a night you’ll never forget.’

‘Darling, every night in the past month is one I’ll never forget.’ He walked over to her and hugged her, marveling at her size. He had never been in such close contact with someone so much bigger than him, at least not since he was a kid, and to have it be his wife was indescribable.

‘You know,’ he said, addressing her throat. ‘When we first found out you were growing, I must confess, I was a bit worried. For your health, of course, but also about the effect this would have on’ well you know, us.’

‘Well, I trust all yours fears have been assuaged,’ she said, giving him a little squeeze.

Richard winced slightly. Her strength was astonishing. She had never been weak, even when she was under five feet tall, but now that she was 6’2’, he didn’t doubt that she was stronger than him. He glanced at her arms and noticed a slight bulge of feminine muscle on her biceps. It was not of the same shape that you would see on a man, but smoother, more streamlined and extremely attractive.

Richard had always heard that attraction had its basis in evolutionary biology, meaning that someone with good, strong genes would be the most obvious choice for a sex partner. Well right now Richard could think of no one more beneficial to his gene pool than this woman towering over him, and consequently, no one sexier.

He reached up to put his hands on her shoulders and began to kiss her neck (which was the highest he could comfortably reach) passionately. She moaned in pleasure and pulled him even closer to her body, which was now giving off heat like a radiator. She cupped the back of his head in her hand and tilted his face up so he was looking her in the eyes.

‘Oh Richard, I love you.’

Several hours later, both sets of lovers were passed out in beautiful, sex induced haze of oblivion, and no one was awakened when an unusually tall, unusually drunk girl and her partner stumbled into the house, barely making it to the bedroom before they too could keep their eyes open no more.

 

XVI

‘Oh, now this is starting to get ridiculous!,’ exclaimed Jill.

It was morning and Richard had just measured her at six and a half feet tall.

‘I mean, 6’2’ is one thing. That’s just a tall woman, but this,’ she made a sweeping gesture with her arms, indicating her body. ‘People are going to think I’m a freak!’

‘Oh come on, honey. You look lovely. No one’s going to call you a freak.’ Richard found he was a little nervous about the angry Amazon ranting in his direction. She was even taller than she had been in heels the night before. Jill noticed and paused in her tirade.

‘Richard, are you scared’’

‘No, of course not,’ he replied, not meeting her eyes.

‘You are scared! How ridiculous! It’s only me, silly.’

‘Well you’re a little more intimidating than you used to be. I only come up to your chin, after all.’ This was a slight exaggeration. In reality the top of Richard’s head was level with Jill’s mouth, but he felt he needed to make a point.

‘Yeah, I guess I see what you mean. It’s so funny, I used to look up at everyone. The world seemed so big and scary, but now my big, strong husband, the one I counted on to protect me, is starting to look like a child. I can only imagine how that must make you feel.’

He shrugged. ‘It’s not so bad. To be honest, I find it refreshing, not to mention sexy.’

She grinned. ‘Yeah, I figured that one out. But seriously, this has got to stop. Buying clothes is already going to be impossible.’

‘No argument here. If this keeps up much longer, I’m going to need a step ladder just to have a conversation with you.’

‘Hmm, what a delightful idea.’ She laughed. ‘Anyway, I think I’m going to give Jack a call and see what’s taking him so long.’

Richard watched her stride out of the room, admiring her fabulously long legs and large, toned buttocks. Once she had left he gave a long, low whistle. ‘What a woman!’

As Jill dialed the number, she noticed for the first time that her fingers were bigger. In fact, she had to hang up and start over twice because she had accidentally pressed two buttons at once. She held her hand up and examined it in wonder. Even though she had been watching the world shrink around her for weeks, this small observation really instilled in her a sense of the changes she had gone through. It was as if they had never quite seemed real to her until now. She hurriedly pushed the thought out of her mind and resumed dialing.

The phone rang seven times and she was about to hang up when an out of breath voice answered. ‘Hello’’

‘Jack, is that you’’

‘Jill! Oh my God, I was just running up here to call you. Fantastic news, we’ve found an antidote!’

‘Really’ That’s amazing! Thank you so much, Jack.’

‘Don’t thank me yet. Let’s make sure it works. How soon can you be here’’

‘I’ll leave right now. And thanks again!’

She hung up the phone and ran to find Richard. He was seated at the kitchen table, talk to Megan and Brian, who apparently had just woken up. Their eyes widened when they saw Jill’s new height, but she cut them off before they could say anything.

‘Jack’s found the antidote! Everyone in the car.!’

The family rose as one and unquestioningly hurried to the garage. As they climbed into the car, Megan wondered: ‘What about Courtney’’

‘Oh, she probably had a late night,’ Richard chuckled knowingly, as he fastened his seat belt. ‘Let her sleep it off. Besides, we won’t be gone long.’

The air was filled with excitement as they waited in the lobby of Griswold Pharmaceutical. This must have shown, because the receptionist kept shooting them frosty looks as if to say that nobody had any business being excited about pharmaceuticals. This did nothing to dampen the mood, however, and the poor woman looked quite relieved when Mr. Griswold finally came and ushered them all away to his office.

‘Ah, I’m so glad you’re here, and not a moment too soon I see,’ he said, eyeing Jill’s impressive stature.

‘Yeah, you and me both,’ she replied. ‘This is starting to get inconvenient. And it’s speeding up.’

He nodded. ‘Yes I thought that might happen. As your system becomes more saturated with the formula, its operation becomes more efficient. But not to worry, my scientists are setting up a machine to administer the antidote as we speak.’

‘A machine’ Can’t I just drink it’’

‘No, we need to make sure it disperses throughout your whole body, which we couldn’t be sure of if you took it orally. Don’t worry though, it’s not surgery. To you it will seem a bit like an MRI. It’s going to take them a little while to set it up, so why don’t you have a seat.’

‘Ok,’ she said, settling into a comfortable leather chair against the wall, which, she noted with some discomfort, fitted her rather snugly. ‘I must say this has been quite an experience, but I’m looking forward to getting back to normal.’

Jack frowned. He seemed to consider a moment before speaking his next sentence.

‘I fear I haven’t made myself clear. What the antidote does is remove the substance from your system, halting any further growth.’

Jill’s eyes widened. ‘You mean-’

‘We can’t shrink people. That’s impossible.’

If the icy receptionist’s glares had failed to ruin the mood, this utterance succeeded spectacularly.

‘Oh come on now,’ said Jack, trying desperately bring cheer back into the room. ‘Would it really be that bad to stay, what are you, 6’3’, 6’4’’’

‘Six-six,’ she replied gloomily.

‘Well so what’ You’re tall, you’re beautiful, it’s every woman’s dream. Imagine the looks of envy you’ll get just walking down the street, not to mention the *ahem* other kinds of looks.’

Richard looked alarmed at this last thought, but Jill’s spirits seemed to pick up a little.

‘Well now that you mention it, there have been some, well, benefits to being tall.’ Here she glanced a Richard, a gesture which was lost on no one.

‘Exactly so!,’ Jack exclaimed, visibly relieved that she was not going to be angry with him. ‘Now I want to explain a little about the formula, while we wait. As I said, it spreads itself throughout your system and in doing so becomes more efficient. We’re lucky that your metabolism isn’t very high, or this would have happened much quicker. It also seems that certain substances can increase the effect. Mostly anything that significantly raises your heart rate, but alcohol does it too. Again, we’re lucky you have such temperate personality.’

At this piece of news, Megan felt alarm bells going off in her head. She almost found herself blurting out something about Courtney’s theft, but just at that moment, Brian squeezed her hand and she relaxed a little.

‘Er, how long is this going to take’,’ Megan asked nervously.

‘Oh, they should have the machine up and running fairly soon, but once it starts running it will take quite a while to purge your mom’s system of the formula. We want to be thorough, after all. Jill and Richard nodded their agreement, but Megan felt her stomach flip over in anxiety. She just hoped Courtney hadn’t done anything stupid.

‘Oohhh’’

Courtney Richards clutched one hand to her aching head. She had drunk far too much last night. Painfully, she climbed out of bed, adjusting her panties which had ridden up on her during the night. She felt all off center and found she had trouble keeping her balance as she trudged into the kitchen to put some coffee on.

While she waited for it to brew, she went into the bathroom to clean up a little. Her hair was a mass of tangles and her breathe smelled like roadkill.

‘Well, there’s nothing for it,’ she thought. ‘I’m going to have to shower.’

The hot water soothed her a little, but when she attempted to shave her legs she found the shower stall a little cramped, which was odd because she’d never had any problems with it before.

When she had finished, she returned to the kitchen to find Todd awake and enjoying some of her coffee. He seemed to be in a much better state than she, and this irritated her.

‘Hey, I made that for me!’

‘Relax, there’s plenty for both of us,’ he said, pouring her a cup, which she quickly downed. ‘That was some wild night last night, huh’’

‘Ugh, I’m getting to old for this sort of thing. I feel like ****,’ she replied, helping herself to a second cup of coffee.

‘Well you look fantastic. Come here and give me a kiss.’ Todd stood up and stepped towards Courtney, only to stop short, blinking in surprise. Courtney was confused by this strange behavior, but then something struck her as odd. She was about an inch taller than her boyfriend, and she wasn’t wearing shoes.

‘Oh...’ she gasped, her hung over mind still not fully processing the moment.

‘Courtney, what happened to you’,’ Todd exclaimed.

She took another swig of her coffee and suddenly let out a surprisingly loud burp. She also instantly shot up another inch.

Todd took a step back. Courtney blushed.

‘Excuse me,’ she said in a small voice.

‘Ok, this is freaking me out,’ Todd, said, his voice betraying a hint of panic. ‘Am I still drunk or what’’

Courtney’s mind finally seemed to catch up, and her eyes suddenly widened. ‘Oh! No, Todd, don’t be afraid. It’s ok. I can explain!’

Todd looked doubtful.

‘I took some of that stuff that made my mom grow. I don’t know why, I just thought it would be fun. I drank it last night when we went out, but I didn’t expect it to work so fast.’

Here she seemed to become curious, and walked up to Todd, examining him and comparing their heights.

‘This is really weird. You have no idea.’

‘Oh believe me, I have an idea, I really do. Listen, Courtney, I’m not sure about this. I’’

‘Oh, relax. This is great, I feel so tall and sexy. Don’t you want to help me explore my new body’’

‘I, um, well’. What about your parents’’

‘Hmm’’ She looked around, noticing for the first time that they were alone in the house. ‘Well, they don’t seem to be around, do they’ Now come on,’ she said, finishing her coffee. ‘The caffeine has done wonders for my headache and I’m feeling a little’ frisky.’

Todd didn’t know what to think. Here was a tall, sexy girl practically begging him to sleep with her. Under normal circumstances, he would not have been in the least conflicted, but seeing as how she had grown half a foot overnight, it somehow didn’t seem an appropriate time for sex. Courtney was looking at him lustily and, perhaps sensing his hesitance, began to swivel her hips seductively, clasping her hands behind her back to emphasize her recently improved chest.

Todd swallowed hard. ‘No,’ he thought. ‘It’s too weird. Maybe later, after she sees a doctor or something.’

He was proud of his determination, but this feeling quickly evaporated as he realized that his body had stopped responding to his thoughts some minutes ago and was now lovingly rubbing up against his taller girlfriend.

‘Hey!,’ he reprimanded himself out loud.

‘Hey yourself,’ she responded in quite a different tone. Todd was going to say more, but she had evidently grown tired of their discussion, as she tilted his head back and planted her lips firmly upon his.

It was at this point that Todd lost all reservations about their actions and gave himself over to the moment. Almost at once, the lovers found themselves horizontally situated. This made Todd slightly more comfortable, because he was no longer constantly reminded of Courtney’s newfound height advantage. However, this relief was to be of a purely temporary nature.

Presently, this passionate makeout session carried itself to its logical conclusion, and Todd found himself on top of Courtney, gasping for breath. His ecstatic expression was, however, mild in comparison with hers. She was sweating and moaning so vigorously that he began to wonder if she were in pain.

‘Oh!,’ she exclaimed, breathing so hard that it was difficult for her to speak. ‘My heart’s beating so fast! I feel like I’m gonna explode!’

This talk of exploding made Todd frown. Perhaps this had been a bad idea after all. He had once heard of a case where a girl had a heart attack from having sex wile on Ecstasy, and though he was quite enjoying himself, he had no such wish for Courtney.

‘Are you sure you want to’’ Todd began, but broke off in mid sentence as something most peculiar began to happen.

He felt the pleasant friction of flesh against flesh, which was not in itself odd considering their current activity, but this was different. He could feel Courtney’s legs sliding against his own and her breasts seemed to press against him a little more firmly than they had. Even her hands, caressing his back seemed to change their grip slightly. He looked at Courtney’s face and saw that she had shut her eyes and was biting her lower lip furiously.

Suddenly he realized what was happening and jumped to his feet.

‘Courtney!,’ he shouted desperately.

She slowly stretched and yawned as though waking from a long sleep. As she did this, Todd stared awestruck at her long, sinuous limbs. Finally, she stood, her expression one of groggy yet blissful stupor.

Todd was amazed. She was at least three inches taller than she had been a few minutes ago. She was huge!

‘There’s no way this is happening,’ he futilely tried to reassure himself.

Courtney ignored him. ‘Mmmm, that was fun,’ she murmured dreamily. ‘Let’s do it again.’

 

XVII

It was late in the afternoon when the Richards family finally departed Griswold Pharmaceuticals, and they all felt weary from hours of nervous anticipation. They were, however, quite happy. Jill had been cured, and life could go back to normal. Well, maybe not completely normal. Jill would have some explaining to do at work, and the power dynamic in the household had undeniably shifted, if not radically so.

These were trivial concerns, and at this particular moment, Jill did not allow herself to be troubled by them. She was filled with relief and a deep peace that she had not known for months. On the ride home she found herself laughing easily and without reservation and her husband’s corny jokes. Nothing could spoil her mood today, or so she thought.

Megan, on the other hand, had been increasing anxious all day. She could not shake the deep sense of foreboding that had descended on her, and as they neared home she felt a large knot form in her stomach.

After what seemed like ages, Richard pulled the car into their driveway and pulled the handbrake up with a triumphant sense of finality.

‘I hope Courtney didn’t worry too much about us,’ he commented. ‘I guess we should have called.’

‘Oh, don’t worry,’ Jill comforted him. ‘She’s a big girl, she can take care of herself for a day. I bet she was glad to get some privacy, right Megan’’

‘What’ Oh yeah, right,’ Megan answered without conviction.

‘Are you okay, sweeetie’’ Jill asked, suddenly concerned. ‘You haven’t been yourself all afternoon.’

‘No, I’m fine, really. I was just’ thinking.’

Jill didn’t look convinced.

‘Really, it’s nothing. Let’s just go inside.’

She hopped out of the car with all the energy she could muster, trying to appear cheerful for her family, and bounced up the sidewalk to the front porch.

She flung the door open, her inertia carrying her through it and into the house. She only got a couple of feet, however, before she ran smack into a large pair of breasts.

She shook her head, took a step backwards and looked up.

‘Welcome home,’ said Courtney.

Megan had to grab onto a nearby table to keep from collapsing from shock. Courtney was huge! She had to be over seven feet tall.

‘Mom! Dad!’ Megan shouted, not taking her eyes off her gigantic sister. ‘Can you come in here’’

Jill and Richard were just coming through the door. But they stopped in their tracks upon seeing their daughter. Brian was a few seconds behind them, but his reaction was no different. His eyes looked like they were going to pop out of his head. Megan noticed and gave him a withering glare.

‘Oh my God, Courtney, what did you do’’ demanded Jill. Richard just stood there, his mouth hanging open.

Courtney finally seemed embarrassed of her growth spurt. She dropped her eyes to the floor and began to blush, which was quite a comical look for someone her size.

‘I just wanted to be a little taller. I didn’t think it would work so fast.’

Just then, Todd came running into the room. His short was on backwards and he had the unkempt look of someone who had dressed hastily. He looked terrified at the sight of Courtney’s parents.

‘Mister and Missus Richards, I’m so sorry. I.. um.. I mean, I didn’t’’ He trailed off, clearly having no idea how to explain the situation. Instead he just stood there looking miserable.

‘Not your fault, Todd, ‘Jill said evenly. ‘Courtney, where did you get the formula’’

As tall as she was, Courtney was still cowed by her mother’s authoritative tone. ‘I took it from Mr. Griswold’s desk,’ she admitted miserably.

Jill sighed, but her anger seemed to relax a little. ‘Where are we going to get clothes for you now’’ she asked exasperatedly.

‘Erm’. Uh’’ Courtney looked even more embarrassed than before. She looks as though she were ready to break into tears. Jill laughed at her squirming, breaking the tension in the room.

‘Oh, come here,’ she said, walking over to hug Courtney.

It was strange to see this six and a half foot woman dwarfed by her enormous daughter, but Jill didn’t seem to mind.

‘Just like old times,’ she said, looking up and grinning.

‘Just like old times!’’ Megan burst out. ‘How am I supposed to get used to a little sister who’s two feet taller than me’’

‘Well how do you think I feel’’ Richard chimed in. ‘I look like a kid next to my own wife.’

‘Oh, you love it and you know it,’ Jill teased, winking at him. ‘Now Courtney, get in the car, if you can fit that is. You’re going to apologize to Jack and maybe if you’re real convincing he’ll fix it so you don’t grow any more.’

Courtney nodded meekly.

Jill sighed again. ‘It’s going to be a long night.’

Aftermath: One Year Later

It was a surprisingly cool day for July. There was a gentle breeze and the sun was halfway hidden behind a large, white cloud. Jill smiled. She could not have wished for a better day for her daughter’s wedding.

Megan and Brian were standing at the altar, their eyes fixed on one another, barely attending to the priest’s words. Megan looked radiant in her flowing white dress, but most of the congregation found it difficult to take their eyes off the beautiful bridesmaid who stood head and shoulders above the crowd. Megan didn’t mind, her attention was focused elsewhere.

Jill looked around at the wedding guests. There was an impressively large turnout. Megan had made many friends over the last year and Jill was glad to see them all here. There was one guest, however, who had surprised her.

Just before the ceremony had begun, a large white limousine had pulled up, out of which stepped Jack Griswold in a very expensive looking suit. Apparently Griswold Pharmaceutical had done well for itself.

She couldn’t help but notice, though, that the woman hanging on Jack’s arm was unusually tall. Jill watched with amusement as she stooped down to kiss him on the cheek, causing him to blush.

Laughing to herself, she turned her attention back to the ceremony, where the young couple was stating their vows to each other. Tears of emotion welled up in her eyes as she watched and thought to herself: ‘My little girl is all grown up.’

The End

 

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