Chapter 1 – Maxine

Maxine began to realise that she would not find an outfit that would not make her look whaleish. She scrolled through the holographic pictures again, especially looking at her belly from different angles. It looked so weird, like some kind of abnormal growth that would burst open any second to reveal an alien parasite that had chosen her as its host. She was glad the rest of her figure had stayed mostly normal.

She scrolled through a few more designs, shaking her head, then chose the tight-fitting, but stretchy (the description claimed it was as comfortable as a nightee) intricately patterned black and white paisley dress. It would be delivered to the door within two hours. They were leaving for Will’s premier in three. Plenty of time.

Maxine laid back on the lounge and promptly fell asleep, waking up as her mother-in-law brought in the dress for her.

‘Oh darling, are you sure you’re okay to go out? You look like hell.’ Alicia said in her grating, high-pitched voice with the strong American accent.

‘Thanks, Lish. Thanks for the dress.’ Maxine managed to reply before a wave of nausea disabled her. She heaved herself up and made for the bathroom, managing to bring out. ‘I will be downstairs at 2.’

Maxine shut the bathroom door behind her. That woman! At first she had thought it a wonderful idea to share a large house with Will’s parents, Alicia and William Senior, and his grandfather, William the third (Maxine had the odd private chuckle about the Fencekings’ distinct lack of creativity when naming boys – and taking it royally serious, too – her son would certainly not be called William). She had been excited to live like a family! And with her being pregnant for the first time, and Will so dedicated to the theater, it would be great to have them helping out. The entire, massive Fenceking family was part of a travelling theatre troupe, constantly touring the globe performing and teaching. They had decided to stay in Meanjin three months ago due to Maxine’s constant nausea. Their medic had strongly advised them to stay in one place until the baby was born so Maxine would be able to have plenty of rest.

At first everything went great. They moved into a comfortable, split level house, Maxine got pampered by everyone, and Will was loving his work at the troupe’s permanent acting school in Meanjin.

But as the months dragged on, Maxine realised what shallow snoots Will’s parents and grandfather really were. Alicia always knew everything better, adored her son to an insufferable degree, and constantly belittled her. And that voice! William Senior, her father-in-law, did not even hide the fact that he was not interested in her opinion and only ever made embarrassing comments about her pregnancy and looks. His father, William the third, who was over 80, had never even spoken a word to Maxine, though she had noticed him looking at her, up and down, lingering at the curves. It was grosse and their vibes made her feel slightly on edge. Will did not seem to notice any of these things and just told her to see it with a sense of humour and hang in there. This she had converted into spending most of her time on the couch playing video games.

Gosh she couldn’t wait to have the baby and just be with Will again!

Maxine showered, did a passable job at shaving her lower legs, put her hair up and applied makeup with hands that had grown unused to bobby pins, tiny brushes, sponges and eyeliners. She even plucked out a few unruly eyebrow hairs.

The dress went on without a hitch and once Maxine considered her complete self in the floor to ceiling mirror in the bedroom, she did actually feel rather attractive for the first time in months. She had twirled up her raven black, long hair, with her fringe and some selected strands framing her delicate features with the prominent cheekbones. Her pale, clear skin resonated with her radiant blue eyes, light pink lips, and the cheeky freckles on her narrow, even nose. Her boobs looked fantastic in the dress, even though they felt rather squished up in their current, blown-up state, and her long, slim legs showed from just below the knee.

William Senior whistled, the old coot, and Alicia clapped her hands and couldn’t seem to believe the transformation that had taken place.

‘Oh pretty girl, darling! William will be so pleased to see you looking dolled up for a change.’

The two old Williams were drinking a beer in the auto, and the smell stoked Maxine’s nausea nearly to the point of no return i.e. the point of pushing the auto’s emergency stop button to have a spew in the gutter, not that there was anything in her, but she held fast by hanging her face out of the window and focusing on her breathing, calm and steady, calm blue ocean, calm blue sky, steady steady steady…