Lunchtime in the canteen has never been my favourite time of day, mainly because I’m overweight and hate anyone watching me eat. What makes it worse is Carla Bridport: we were at the same school growing up but she grew UP and I grew OUT. We work for the same company and meet for lunch almost every day. I don’t know why as she’s always mean to me but there is nowhere else to go and I can’t seem to say no to her.
Carla has a great job in IT and my job sucks. Her boyfriend’s name is Zak – he’s a lawyer – my boyfriend’s name is Toby; he’s my dog. Carla calls him that because we do everything together. Oh great, she’s here.
“Hey Jen, how’s the latest diet going?”
“Great, I lost two pounds this week.”
“Which you will, no doubt, put back on next week,”
“No, I’m keeping it off this time.”
“You said that last time so what’s different now?”
“The school reunion is in eight weeks and I still need to find an outfit. That’s why I passed on the pudding today.”
“Oh, this? It’s only ninety-nine calories, Maureen behind the counter told me. How are things at the bottom?”
“Boring, how are things at the top?” I ask sarcastically.
“Great, I’ve been given a promotion.”
“Oh, how lovely for you.” I try my best to sound excited. “Does that mean more pay?”
“Yep, I’m going to get myself those Gucci trousers I wanted; you know the skinny snakeskin jeans? Becky Sparks will have a fit when she sees me in them at the reunion.”
“That’s nice. I’ll pop into Clarke’s Camping and get myself a tent to wear.”
“Don’t be so silly – I have one you can borrow it’s pink and pop-up!”
“Listen Jen, the way I see it, you just need to eat a bit less and move a bit more – it’s not rocket science.”
“Yes but people making snide comments and putting you down all the time makes you feel like you’re not worth the effort so why bother?”
Carla looks at me “Yeah some people can be hurtful. You don’t mind me telling you the truth though, do you? That’s what friends are for,” she says plunging her spoon into her chocolate pudding.
I manage a head tut and a smile whilst thinking of where else I would like to plunge that spoon.
One week before the reunion.
This time I have done it; I feel confident walking into the canteen wearing my size twelve dress and place my tray of chicken salad and water on the table next to Carla. “Hi, how are things at the top?” I ask casually.
She screws up her face and tucks into another chocolate pudding.
“Carla, are you alright?”
“No I’m not; I’ve put on half a stone in the last seven weeks and Zak told me my arse is huge. That wretched Becky was all over him last week and I can’t wear my Gucci jeans without looking like a packet of sausages that have been stuffed into a condom!”
I try not to laugh. “Don’t be silly you always look great.”
“Thanks but I’m sure the calorie count is off in this canteen. I had a row with Maureen earlier because she thinks I’m too fussy. I bet she’s been giving me regular cola instead of diet and I’m sure this latte has been made with full fat milk.”
I recognise the look of misery on Carla’s face; it’s the one I’ve lived with for years. My shoulders drop and a wave of empathy washes over me.
Carla looks at me and sighs, “I can’t believe you’re going to look better than me soon.”
My new-found empathy grabs a cab and leaves the building. I am about to tell her how offensive she is but she continues.
“I hear you have applied for a job at Ractlers.”
“Yep, I think I have a good chance of getting it too.”
“Yeah well, I’m glad things are working out for you. You can’t imagine what it’s like for me at the moment. The worse thing is when I feel like this all I want to do is eat.”
Flabbergasted at her insensitivity I stand and pick up my tray. “Carla, can I share some advice someone gave me once on how to lose those extra pounds?”
She looks up at me with anticipation.
“Eat less and move more – it’s not rocket science.” I smile shortly before looking across at Maureen in the canteen who is waving a bottle of full fat milk in one hand and a deluxe chocolate pudding in the other. She winks and flicks her eyebrows before returning to the kitchen.