Daisy wiped the tear from her cheek with a perfect white handkerchief.
“I know you all understand my struggle. It’s just so…so hard,” she said. “Oh, that sounds silly. To say it’s ‘hard’. I just don’t know any other word.”
“It’s a perfectly good word,” said Thomas, reaching out and patting her on the shoulder.
“And it’s perfectly accurate,” said Maureen, her lips stretched in a thin line. Daisy nodded glumly.
Maureen continued. “That’s why we’re here. To support and help one another. We all understand. We ‘re all in the same boat here at the Over Eighteens.”
The Over Eighteens had been meeting weekly at Thomas’s house for the past year. There were seven of them. Daisy, Maureen and, of course, Thomas were the founding members. Billy (no-one called him William) and his wife Trish joined soon after, shortly followed by George. Jayne (yes, that was how she spelled it) was new to the group. This was her first meeting.
Every Thursday morning they gathered around the coffee table in Thomas’s lounge, squeezed on sofas (and chairs brought in from the dining room) and encouraged one another. That was the purpose of the group, to share and encourage, and to share and encourage in one particular struggle. The name Over Eighteens referred not to age, but to weight. The only thing in the group that could be called thin was Maureen’s lips. Everyone bore the same burden, of struggling with their size.
Thomas glanced at his watch.
“I think that’s enough for today.” He looked over at Jayne. “It’s been excellent to have you here this morning, Jayne. We always finish with a…well, I guess you could call it a creed of sorts. We say it together, you know, to make us all feel like we’re united in this.”
Jayne nodded nervously.
“Just listen, and you’ll pick it up soon enough,” Thomas said, nodding at the rest of the group.
“We agree that we’re overweight,” the group said, in unison. “But we don’t want to be. We’d like to be thin. In the meantime, we will support each other, listen to each other’s struggles without judgement, encourage each other and look forward to the day when we are all our perfect weight.”
Silence settled on the thoughtful group.
“Now,” said Thomas, clapping his hands together, “who wants a cup of tea?”
There was a chorus of responses as Thomas stood up and moved through to the kitchen.
“You should come over for dinner sometime, love,” said Trish, smiling at Jayne.
“That would be nice, “ said Jayne, smiling back.
“Cor, yes, I love it when we have guests,” said Billy. “Trish always goes to town with the deserts!”
“I’m surprised you have any room left for desert,” interjected George. “After all, I saw how much you put away at the All You Can Eat Pizza Buffet yesterday!”
“You can talk!” said Billy, laughing.
Thomas returned from kitchen.
“Kettle’s on,” he said, placing a huge, heavy plate on the coffee table. On the plate was the biggest chocolate cake that Jayne had ever seen. “Who wants a slice?”
Hands shot up around the room. Jayne kept her hand down.
“Ummmmm,” she said, as though she wanted to say something but wasn’t sure how to begin.
“Go on,” said Maureen, smiling with those thin lips. “Have some. Thomas is a fantastic baker.”
“I’m sure he is, but…” Jayne stopped.
“But what?” said Daisy.
“Well, shouldn’t we…well, I’m trying to diet.” Jayne bowed her head, as though she’d confessed to some awful crime.
“Oh, of course you are,” said George. “We’re all trying to diet, aren’t we?”
Ernest nods and grunts of agreement.
“The thing is,” said Daisy. Jayne looked up to see her wiping a thick smear of chocolate icing from her cheek with that no-longer perfect white handkerchief. “The thing is, that it’s difficult, isn’t it?”
More nods and grunts.
“After all, that’s why we’re here. Because it’s hard, as Daisy said earlier,” said Thomas.
“We’re all in favour of diets. That’s what we’re all after – the ultimate goal is losing weight – but it’s not quite that simple, is it?” said Daisy.
“I don’t know what I’d do without this group,” said Trish, through a mouthful of smushed chocolate cake, “to lift my spirits and help me feel better about things.”
“That’s right,” said Thomas, nodding. “That’s absolutely right.”
Jayne looked around at the group, as they grinned at her, encouragingly. She knew that she would feel more encouraged if they didn’t all have chocolate-stained teeth. She made a decision.
“It’s been lovely to meet you all,” Jayne said, standing up. “But I have to go now. The truth is, I think I’m in the wrong group.”
The gathering sat in silence as she left the room. After a short moment they heard the front door slam.
“That’s a shame,” said Thomas. “Now, who’s for seconds?”