"Come, come, not much further, yes?" The surprisingly spry, yet portly, Russian guide shouted in broken, stuttered English, as he motioned eagerly from ahead. Nora Berger chuckled lightly as she nimbly followed behind her guide. She looked at the gorgeous view of somewhere within the Altai Krai, located within Russia, and reflected on how she had arrived there...
Her somewhat uncharted spontaneous post-college trip had started out rather innocent- she was struggling to find a job with nothing more than a History degree, and after a few months of fruitless soul/job searching, her rather wealthy father had offered to pay for a majority of her travel expenses "as a reward for doing so well in college". Loosely inspired by one of her role models from days long passed playing original PlayStation Lara Croft games with her father, Nora found herself wanting to go mountaineering. And where better to do such an act than in the Eurasia area? Of course, after a few climbs (and several hundred Euros practically flushed down the drain), Nora found herself... Dissatisfied. It all seemed so kosher, so pedestrian, so... Boring.
And so, on a whim, she found herself in Russia, hanging out in dingy bars, talking like she knew a lot more about mountaineering/spelunking/adventuring than she did. Anything to get something outside of the normal, fit, touristy thing that seemingly every white non-European person did while in Europe. At some point, she was sipping on some tangy, slightly unpleasant but still drinkable, Russian whiskey (which was a rarity in itself) when she found herself next to a portly, mustachioed man who spoke English- more or less.
"You talk big mountain talk, yes?" He half grumbled, half slurred. He clearly was three or four vodka shots deep, but seemed genuine enough- especially to a buzzed Nora.
"Well, I've seen a mountain or two... But I'm looking for something more, something... Interesting." Nora tipped her glass in the strangers direction with a nod.
The stranger, to his credit, didn't falter one bit- whether he was simply oblivious to social cues, or if he didn't care, wasn't apparent. "Well, I know interesting, friend! My name is..." He paused for a moment, putting one fist upon his chin. "My name is not important, friend." He winked at this- clearly playing into this American girl's curiosity. "But you, since I am sure you could not say my name, you can call me... Boris? Is this acceptable?"
Nora, buying into this man's spiel, if for no other reason than boredom, flashed a smile. "I am more than happy to call you Boris, Boris. Now, what's this about 'interesting'?"
And so, after a few shared drinks, Nora found herself entering an address and a time into her phone- which was practically rendered useless in terms of communication in Europe, but still served it's more basic purposes, including data entry. The next day, a hungover Nora found herself awoken by an alarm with an address and a name: Boris.
Her and Boris had a rather brief breakfast prior to the expedition, in which a much less hungover Boris explained exactly where they were headed. "I have owned this map for many years." He stated dramatically over half cooked eggs and room-temperature coffee.
Boris pointed dramatically to a faded X that was drawn in pen. Nora stared at it, unable to make heads or tails of the map from her slightly fuzzy view. What the fuck was in Russian whiskey? It hadn't tasted like anything she remembered from back home- for all she knew, it was vodka with brown food coloring- the hangover sure felt that way. Still, her trip was almost over and she had nothing to show for it- some mystery location would be the perfect place for pictures, after all, if for nothing less than to appease her Father, and make him believe he didn't waste his money.
Boris, somewhat ignoring his soon to be travel companion, continued on, after sneakily looking around to make sure nobody was looking. Of course, the scummy restaurant they were in only held one other patron, a elderly woman who sat several tables away and seemed to have one foot in the grave, as well as one pillow away from falling asleep. "I have been searching for long years for what my babushka claimed as the perfect treasure for my wife. Of course, I am not quite husband material!" With that, Boris let out a hearty laugh- one which seemed to awaken their elderly co-customer, who, with a huff, stood from her table and cautiously waddled her way towards the door.
Nora's interest was somewhat piqued at this statement. Again, what would her old hero, Lara Croft, have said? And, after a bit of persuasion, she was able to persuade Boris to explain, in so many words, where the X was located- it was a very reachable location, so, if worst came to worst, she could just... Leave.
"Ah, ah ah ah! This... Is... Where we should be. I am most certain!" Boris shouted from beyond a turn in the lower level mountains. Nora couldn't help but chuckle as she pulled out her phone. Time for yet another photo- she had no service (obviously), but the second she was on a wi-fi, she'd be sure to send her Father a picture of herself. No point in taking a trip on someone else's dollar without reminding them constantly that you're actually enjoying yourself (and thankful, of course). Holding her phone up, Nora attempted to capture the perfect angle of her face while still getting the mountains in the background.
Nora had hit what one would call the genetic lottery- Asian father, White mother (Irish, Dutch, Scottish, plus about 30 other races) but retained apparently all of the most attractive genes. She was slim, apparently purely by luck, since she ate utter garbage. And yet, she found herself fitting into size 2 pants and size Small shirts on the regular. Her face was angular, but not so much as to be unattractive- she had been hit on by her fair share of men, but was confident enough to shut them down. Her stomach was untoned, but far from flabby- she had no fear when it came to wearing lo-cut tops that bared a lot of midriff, along with pants that rode just a little too low, at least by traditional standards. Her face was angular, but not overly so- with deep brown eyes, a rather tiny nose, and perfectly straight teeth- no braces or orthodontic work required.
Currently, she was snuggled up in a parka that covered her modest (at least to her, at any rate) B-cup breasts, yet somehow emphasized just how skinny she was, while also keeping her warm. Her lower half was no stranger to her skinny genetics, with a tight (and more toned than the rest of her) ass, and thin thighs that displayed a gap and calves that could crack a brick. She was relatively in shape- certainly, she could be better, but this is what she had, and she was happy with it. She had turned quite a few heads in Russia, an achievement to be sure, since the standard around these parts seemed to be Barbie-esque women with fake boobs, fake tans, and fake nails. Her self-indulgence/reflection was interrupted by Boris' shouts of excitement.
"And here it is, friend!" He shouted happily- in proper Russian fashion, he pulled a flask from inside his coat and took a swig before handing it to Nora, who gracefully pulled a fair amount from the warm metal canister. They had arrived, apparently. The cave face was quite narrow- certainly moreso than Nora was used to in her somewhat limited cave-diving experience. Still, as previously stated, Nora was quite an easy fit. Of course, Boris just offered her a "Good luck, friend! I'll be here when you get back!" And she watched him plop his rounded exterior down on a nearby tree stump- surely this site couldn't be that secret, if someone had bothered chopping down a tree, but a cave was a cave, she supposed.
Quite fearless was Nora as she diligently edged her way through the narrow cave face, which quickly widened up enough for her to walk forward normally, if not a bit crouched. She flipped on her headlight as the outside natural light faded, and to her excitement, the cave seemed relatively untouched. No scribbles of bored teenagers, the walls were ripe with the usual flora that inhabited a damper cave, and despite the temperature outside, Nora found herself relatively warm. Also missing were the usual signs of Russian teens- condoms and liquor bottles, burnt out cigarettes and junk food wrappers. That being said, Boris could just be some schmuck who occasionally sold this cave to foreigners in exchange for a few drinks at the bar. Still, the small shiver of excitement ran through her body- what if this really was some mysterious cave, untouched by anyone for "many years" as Boris had claimed. Cautiously, she pulled out her small camera, and flipped the flash to on- her headlight could only see so far down the corridor and, if nothing else, it'd make for a good picture, the black gaping maw of the cavern ahead. With no large amount of flourish, she sloppily took a picture without much attempt at composure, and looked at the LCD screen, which confirmed that the cavern went further for a ways before another twist. Shrugging, Nora carried on.
Not much happened for the next few moments, the passage widened a bit more and Nora felt warmer still, though if that was the innards of the cave or her relatively quick pace, she wasn't sure. Every fifty feet she'd pause and listen for signs of wildlife within, just in case a hungry... Oh, she didn't know, bear, or something, was inside. At one point, however, she heard the telltale sound of any cave-explorer's dream- running water. Oh, what if there was a massive cavern with waterfalls and endless lakes inside? She found herself rushing forward with an excited pace, making sure every once in a while to check behind herself for branching paths- no point in getting lost inside a cave this close to the end of her trip. As she finally met a rounded corner, she turned around it as the running water noises increased only to find...
The most piss-poor excuse for a cavern she had ever seen. It was roughly the size of a living room- the sound of rushing water must have been amplified by the acoustics of the cavern, because it was simply a small stream of water, barely two feet across, that ran though the middle of the room. It's source was a smallish crack on the lowest side of the rock-wall, maybe five inches tall. The water was barely a trickle and led to another hole on the opposite side of the small room that was even shorter and narrower than the entry point. Scanning the room quickly, Nora was disappointed to find that there were no other entrances to a deeper part of the cave, other than the way she came. Sighing, she snapped some pictures, with the flash off (for dramatic effect, to make the room seem bigger with just her headlamp on) and a few with the flash on. She let out another sigh as she made her way out from whence she came, sluggishly flipping through the photos she had snapped, until something caught her eye. In one of the photos, where she had snapped a picture of the exit-point of the water flow, there was a glint among the water that she hadn't seen before. "Probably nothing, but what the hell." She said aloud, slightly enjoying the reverb levels of the cavern- no wonder the water had sounded so loud!
She lazily wandered back to the water flow, looking futilely around the room and finding nothing new. Crouching down and taking care to not get her pants wet, Nora rolled her sleeve up and slowly inched her hand through the opening. Throwing caution to the wind, she stretched her arm almost up to her elbow, patting around in the water- taking note of the fact that the water was above room temperature, easily. "Must be a run off from a hot spring somewhe- Oh!" Nora felt her hand wrap around something slightly smooth, definitely not aluminum. "Thank God it wasn't a beer can..." She muttered as she pulled gently on the item. When it didn't budge, she found herself bracing one foot against the rock wall, putting herself into a rather awkwardly stretched position which probably wouldn't be possible if she didn't take all those yoga classes in her free time. She applied gentle pressure, ramping up slightly until she felt the item come loose. Almost stumbling into the water, Nora corrected herself at the last second, veering backwards and falling on her butt on the damp (but not soaking) ground.
Part of her was scared to look in her hands- what the hell were the odds of her finding anything worthwhile in this stupid dinky cave? But, with no small amount of excitement, she opened her hand, only to find... Well, she wasn't sure what. It was sort of shaped like a small squash, and there was a metallic sheen to it as she shined her light over the object. She flipped the item over, and noted there was something lightly etched into the back, but she couldn't quite make it out- although it appeared to be in Russian. "Well, I guess I can always just tell Dad it's some mystic artifact, but odds are this just fell down here years ago and got shaped by the water currents." Nora found herself wondering if water could actually shape metal the way it does rocks, but she didn't really care- it looked impressive enough, and she'd have plenty of time to think up a good back story on the plane ride home. Unsurprisingly, the trip back outside was uneventful.
When Nora reemerged from the cave, she stared at her phone- it hadn't even taken 45 minutes to get in and out of the cave. "Boris, I hate to tell you, but that cave was pretty damn boring, 'friend'." She shouted as she waltzed back out into the sunlight, throwing a sleeve over her forehead to readjust to the outside brightness, combined with the snow. When no answer came, she lowered her sleeve, squinting. "Boris!" She shouted, a little panicked. She was fairly sure she could find her way back- snow hadn't fallen yet, but she wasn't keen on making her way through unfamiliar terrain without a host. "BORIS!" She shouted again, only to whip her head around fast enough to cause it to lock up at the sound of branches snapping.
"Many apologizes, my loud American friend! I was, ah... What is it they say about bears and woods?" He said with a sly grin.
Nora sighed. "Is that your way of saying you were taking a wizz, Boris?" The man giggled like a child as he nodded- clearly his flask had run dry at some point in the past few minutes. "Anyways, your cave was a bust, dude." Her American slang seemed to be slipping out lately, despite Boris' cliche Russian euphemisms.
He frowned. "There was nothing inside?" He seemed to doubt her- which reminded her of the trinket she had found in the small stream. She snuck her hand inside her parka to an inner pocket, where she had stashed the small bauble. Boris' face lit up at the sight. "Oh, treasure for the treasure hunter!" He held his gloved hands out, and Nora happily deposited the mysterious item within them.
"Yeah, there's a really small dead-end cave in there with a really small stream running through- it photographed alright. I found that inside it, so I guess it wasn't a total bust. It looks like there's something written on it in Russian, any idea what it says?" The portly man, of course, pulled out a small magnifying class- with how quirky he was, Nora was hardly surprised. He squinted eagerly at the item, mouthing a few words under his breath.
He handed the item back to her, stashing the magnifying glass back into his coat. "It is just letters, friend. I am sorry I couldn't be of more help, and I am sorry I was unable to show you a good time." Nora winced slightly at Boris' accidental innuendo, but the disappointment in his tone melted her heart.
"Oh, come on, Boris, you gave me a fun little adventure on my last few days." She awkwardly patted his back. "C'mon, I'll buy you a few drinks as a parting gift!" Boris' face immediately reverted back to his usual lopsided smile, and they made their way back to the village.
Nora woke up hungrier than she had felt her entire trip to Russia. Blearily, she flipped onto her side that would be facing her alarm clock, only to find the faint glow of the digital clock (Circa early 90's, if she had to guess) to be mostly overwhelmed by a deep blue glow that emanated from her dresser drawer. Sleepily and blearily, the American girl flipped the drawer open, only to be blasted full-force by the drawer, basking her in light, her stomach growling louder and louder until it came in ear-shattering waves, each increasing in pitch in such a way that-
Nora woke up more hungover than she had ever felt in her entire trip to Russia. She vaguely remembered trekking back to the hotel bar with Boris, who kept apologizing until Nora had gotten forceful with him "Seriously, don't worry about it, Boris- for the hundredth time, I'm not upset." She also vaguely remembered them going to the bar and Boris immediately ordering her a drink in Russian, which she foolishly slammed down in one gulp- much to Boris' enjoyment.
"Friend," He had uttered, "I wouldn't recommend that in Russia." This was... More or less the last thing she recalled Boris saying. She had woken up in her hotel room. Blearily, she had gotten up for her morning commute back to the states in an undesirable way- mainly, hungover. She had checked the room for any items of importance- primarily, her mostly useless cellphone, her favorite pants, her wallet... And that was it. God, was she starving. She did her usual check under the bed for quote-unquote important stuff, of which there was none. Struggling to find the effort to care, she checked her bathroom as well. Unshockingly, nothing of interest surfaced.
"Are you shitting me?" Nora found herself muttering under her breath. She had hardly $8 left to her name (American, of course- her hangover was still too far in upper-middle territory to bother with conversion rates), but her flight had been delayed 5 hours from now. "Fuck." She had found herself uttering under her breath. Eight dollars in Russia would get her pretty far, but judging by how her stomach was grumbling, it wouldn't get her far enough. She dug through her bag briefly for change- anything to prevent her from utilizing her card for "Emergencies". Beyond a few coins that she was sure were worthless, she was lacking significantly in funds to quell her unruly stomach. She hunched over slightly as the growling magnified, and made her way to the nearest bar.
"Look, what's the cheapest, yet most filling, thing you serve?" Nora half asked, half gasped- much to the bemusement of the bartender. He looked her over once- judging by her wallet design, her jacket, and her face, he could tell she was American- working in an airport bar tended to help with easy ethnicity identification.
"It'd be our pasta bowl. Let me guess, Russian food got you down?" He said in an alarmingly American voice (North American, namely United States, and if you wanted to get specific, Mid-Western, if she had to guess). Nora found herself nodding vigorously. The bartender nodded back, curtly, as he made his way to the cheap computer that was utilized for order-entry. He was slightly hurt that she hadn't asked about his accent, but he let it go. Airport folk were mean enough, so he had grown a bit of a thick skin.
Her bartender hadn't been lying. It was a massive plate of pasta, almost alarmingly so. Even more alarming was the rate at which Nora found herself shoveling it into her face. She hadn't eaten that quickly in... Well, ever, now that she thought about it. Or that much. Leaning back in her chair, she found herself in a tricky position- at least, regarding her pants. Nora hadn't been hungry, per say, on her entire trip- which is to say, she hadn't really gone without a meal in a while. And so, despite her semi-active lifestyle, she hadn't really lost enough weight to notice her packed luggage feeling necessarily loose on her body, especially with the handful of climbing adventures she had embarked on. And yet, she felt an unusual and uncomfortable pain against her lower belly area. Looking downward as she sipped a (rather shitty) Russian-labeled beer, she almost did a spit take as noticed her midsection bulging rather abruptly over the waistband of her pants.
"Must just be bloating..." She thought insincerely as observed her almost always flat stomach bulging over a pair of mid-calf length, loose pants that she had worn pretty regularly for at least the past 3 years. "...Definitely." Nora found herself thinking reassuringly as she hesitantly poked at the new (at least to her, or so she thought) bulge over her pants. She looked downwards at the now empty bowl of noodles, which she had seemingly devoured.
A voice not unlike her own (Although why would she ever order another?) asked, "Could I have another?"
A clearly recorded message awoke Nora abruptly. "Our descension will begin shortly, please make sure your seat-belt is secured and your flight tray is in an upright position! Thank you for choosing us as your flight service!" Nora jerked upright and snorted louder than she intended, judging by the annoyed look on the elderly woman next to her. She barely recalled getting onto the plane, although- judging by the handful of snack wrappers jammed into the small pouch reserved for Skymall magazines and safety pamphlets- Nora hadn't gone hungry during the flight. This was backed up by the fact that she almost immediately let out a soft belch following her rude awakening, and by the fact that her pants now sat unbuttoned, with her pale belly oozing out an inch over her fastened safety belt.
The elderly woman gave her one more stare, for good measure, before turning back to her in-flight magazine, clearly losing interest in the seemingly gluttonous girl sitting next to her. "What the hell is wrong with me? I've never been one for snacking..." Nora found herself thinking, bemused by her sudden appetite. "Must just be post-trip stress, or something. Is that how jet-lag works?" No explanation jumped out at the twenty-something year old as she clumsily buttoned up her pants, not too thrilled with the tight pinch that followed.
Nora almost faltered as she wandered through the terminal to the luggage check. The smells of cinnamon buns, french fries, fresh sandwiches and other greasy goodies wafted through the air. She distracted herself by digging through her purse for her car-park ticket that she had made sure to store safely away in one of the pockets when she had received it weeks ago. Finally finding the slightly wrinkled stub, she glanced up anxiously at the signs, thankfully finding her luggage terminal relatively quickly. At this point, her stomach was grumbling something fierce- which she had originally written off as unpleasantness from the apparent amount of in-flight chips she had managed to scarf down before passing out, on top of the two large pasta bowls she had devoured in the Russian terminal.
But in her head, she knew the real reason- she was starving. Again. "Seriously, if this is jet-lag, I understand why people would want to avoid it." She found herself thinking as she tapped her foot much faster than one should when they've only been waiting for their luggage for fourty seconds. Part of her felt like her stomach was on fire, the other half felt like her head was about to split. She hadn't felt this hungry... Well, she had been pretty hungry back in Russia, but this was worse. More intense, somehow. Experimentally, she poked her still bloated stomach, only to receive firm resistance. "This is not the stomach of someone who is hungry." She though frustratedly. "I just need to get home and lay down, this has to be some weird post-trip thing..."
Her luggage arrived in short order (a rarity in airports, to be sure, but one she was more than grateful for) and fifteen minutes she was in her old Honda 2001 CR-V, angrily glaring at the several fast food signs that adorned the twenty minute highway trip back to her apartment. By the time she had gotten back home, her hunger had evolved from roaring stomach pains to alarming dizziness (Nora was thankful, at least as thankful as one can be in such circumstances, that this hadn't occurred until after she parked) and slight fuzziness in her vision. Too exhausted to unpack, she threw her luggage lazily on her couch, stripped down to her bra and panties, and collapsed into bed, staring briefly at the ceiling, watching it spin, before passing out.
Nora was dreaming. She knew she was dreaming, which was odd, but she was okay with it. In the dream, she was walking through a urban street with Boris, who was, for some reason, dressed as a pastry chef, and spoke with a heavy french accent.
"Over here, madam! THIS, my friend, is the most renowned pastry chef in all the land!" Boris cried, as he brought her through a small shop, which was lined with at least twenty identical copies of Boris, each holding various pastries. Boris had grabbed her hand and effortlessly pulled her through the shop, as each copy of himself had shoved a pastry into her mouth, each more delightful than the last! Happily, she had skipped along beside him, as he continued their tour through the city.
"This, THIS, my friend, is the world's greatest brewery!" Boris had shouted, and a similar scenario occurred, this time with her walking along, head tilted up and mouth wide open, as each smiling Boris had pulled a tap and poured several ounces of beer into her awaiting gullet.
The dream, more or less, continued this way, with Boris proclaiming with more and more glee each store of how it was the greatest in the world in whatever respective foodstuff it involved. However, his efforts became more and more pronounced, and by the end of the dream, he could barely inch her along, although she tried as hard as she could to move along with him. She couldn't figure out why, either- when she looked down, she looked exactly the same as she always had! A large, bouncing belly, with breasts larger than cantaloupes drooping lazily over each side, her thick thighs rubbing together, producing a loud buzzing sound, rhythmically aligned with her steps- wait...
A sweaty Nora bolted upwards in bed, letting out a loud gasp as the sound of her cellphone angrily buzzing on her nightstand reverberated through her tiny apartment bedroom. Panting, she grabbed the phone, didn't even look at the name or number, and hit the "ignore" button. She reached up and pushed sweaty bangs out of her face, disoriented and confused as to where she was- this certainly wasn't her hotel room! However, at the sound of a carhorn honking outside, Nora found herself somewhat snapping back to reality. She had gotten home, stripped down, and immediately gotten into bed. However, at some point, she must have woken up and plugged her phone in, hence it being on and buzzing angrily at her. Sighing, she looked down at herself- and let out a huge gasp, followed by a small hiccup. Her stomach was alarmingly round. When she poked it, she once again found a fair amount of resistance. "What the hell is wrong with me?" She said aloud, slightly worried. After taking a few deep breaths, she carefully stood up from her twin-sized bed, slightly wobbly due partially to her abrupt awakening, and partially from the now rounded dome that protruded from her midsection. After a few wobbly steps, she found herself in the bathroom, where, much to her surprise, she found a reflection of a girl with ketchup all over her face.
"Did I... Sleep eat?" She wondered aloud as she turned on the tap water and splashed cool water on her face for several seconds. What else would explain the absurd food baby she had going on, and the ketchup. For a second, she hesitated to step out of the bathroom- what damage would she see? Judging by the size of her stomach and how full she felt, the answer was a fair amount- and Nora was unfortunately right.
At some point, to no recollection of her own, she had apparently cooked the entirety of her freezer. Prior to her trip, she had made sure to clear her refrigerator of all but a few non-perishable items, including a large bottle of ketchup. However, during her nap, she had somehow (again, she had absolutely zero memory of this taking place) turned on her oven, and cooked an entire bag of pizza rolls, a mostly full bag of crinkle fries, several chicken patties, and had drank three cans of off-brand lemon-lime soda. Apparently, sleep-eater Nora was still somewhat cleanliness-minded, as she had neatly stacked the now empty plastic bags on top of each other and flattened them, washed out the cans of soda, and put the cooking sheet in the sink. Slightly alarmed, Nora once again found her hands wandering to her stomach, slightly probing the tight surface that was exposed to her air-conditioned apartment, due to her lack of clothing beyond her underwear.
"I hope this doesn't become a trend, or I might get kinda fat..." She muttered to herself as she cleaned up the kitchen. Afterwards, she took a long shower, grateful to be back with her organic shampoo and soap- and less grateful to be back with her horrible water pressure, although she had to admit that the consistently warm water felt good on her bloated stomach. After a much needed brushing and blow drying, she finally made her way back to her room to check her phone. "Shit!" She swore loudly as she saw the screen displayed three missed calls- all from her father. Silently berating herself, she dialed him back immediately- she was sure he had been worried sick, he must have known her flight had landed... Wait, what time was it? She glanced briefly at the clock- oh, thank God, it was only 6:14, it had barely been 3 hours since her flight landed. She glanced outside at the dusk as the phone rang several times, before a sleepy voice answered. "Hey, Daddy! I'm sorry I didn't call right away, I ended up taking a quick nap- wait, what?" She looked outside again- it wasn't dusk, it was... Dawn? "Oh... Oh, my God! I guess, um, with jet-lag, and all that... Wow, Dad, I'm- No, no, I get that you were worried... I'm sorry! I had no idea I slept that long! I'm sorry I woke you up, I'll- Yeah, yeah, lunch would be great- I'm so sorry- Yeah, I love you too- Yeah. Sorry. Okay, see you there at noon, bye!"
Phone call over, Nora took a moment to silently jump up and down and swear in her head. She had slept for over 14 hours? How the hell does that happen? And more importantly, why did she agree to get lunch at an all-you-can-eat buffet with her dad when her stomach was already larger than most 4-month pregnant women at her size?
By 9:30 AM, Nora had completely unpacked.
By 10:45 AM, she had texted pretty much everyone she knew, letting them know she was home safe, and that she couldn't wait to tell them about her trip.
At 11:04 AM, Nora almost screamed from how hungry she was, and-
At 11:37 AM, Nora was on her first plate at the buffet, adorned in her stretchiest yoga pants and her loosest t-shirt.
When 11:58 AM rolled around, Nora had just cleared her forth plate, and nervously waved over an attendant to have her plate taken away so her father wouldn't notice she had started without him, and at 11:59 AM her father walked in the door, and Nora happily rushed to the door to meet him. Hugging him in a way that she hoped wouldn't expose just how full she was at the moment, she happily lead him to her table, motioning to the cashier at the entrance that this was her second member of her party, which awarded her a bored nod from the teenager. "You know..." Her father said with the faintest smile of a grin, "I can't think of the last time you beat me somewhere."
Nora let out a much larger smile than the comment probably warranted, before simply stating "I guess a continental trip changes some things about a person, huh?"
The meal was brief (her father didn't get rich from sitting around, after all) but the conversation was pleasant and meaningful. She explained all the various parks and mountains she had explored, and happily showed her father every picture she had taken- he seemed especially interested by the pictures of the rather boring cave for some reason, which Nora took as a sign of her photography trickery actually succeeding in making the room look bigger. The only other comment her father made was that she didn't seem too into her plate- Nora shrugged it off, simply stating "I'm still trying to get used to American food again" which seemed to appease her father. His phone was purposely silenced during the duration of the meal- but an alarm at 12:30 PM forced him to look at it for the first time in exactly 30 minutes.
He let out a sigh as he stood, straightening his tie and suit as his thumb busily scrolled through the series of missed calls, texts and e-mails he had received in the last half hour. His thumb stopped abruptly and he looked up with a weary smile. "Your mother will be by later with groceries- you know how she can get, so... Just don't forget to donate whatever you don't think you can eat, as we talked about."
Nora let out a sigh. "Of course, I remember." Nora's mother was something of a worrier- she had stopped by Nora's apartment once, early on in her solo-living days, and had almost fainted by Nora's lack of diversity in her cabinets. "Nora!" She had stated, dramatically. "A healthy mind needs a healthy diet, and living off of cheap ramen and peanut butter isn't cultivating a productive mindset!" A light bicker had evolved from the statement, which culminated in Nora agreeing to let her mother grocery shop for her. Of course, Nora's mother had no sense of scope, especially when it came to a twenty-something year old girl's diet, so she went overboard, week after week, cramming Nora's shelves full of food. Nora and her father had quickly agreed that rather than trying to get her mother to stop, it made more sense for Nora to simply donate the food to the nearest pantry.
"Wonderful." Her father flashed a very genuine smile as he leaned down and hugged his only daughter once more- him standing, her seated. Nora was grateful he didn't try to embrace her standing up- even with her loose yoga pants and sweatshirt, she could safely assume her stomach was still quite bloated.
And of course, the second her father was out the door and into his brand new sedan, Nora stood and headed straight back for the buffet.