For as long as I’d known Heather, she was into her beauty treatments. Manicures, pedicures, makeovers, all that stuff. I don’t even know the words for half of them. Whatever they were, they helped her feel better. She’d always had body issues.
When we first started dating, I noticed she wore an inordinate amount of makeup. It wasn’t really my thing, but hell, if it made her happy then who was I to judge? She wasn’t a big fan of eating, either. Whenever we went out, she’d get a salad or a small piece of chicken or fish. Never anything good like burgers or steaks. It was obvious she didn’t want to put any weight on.
We dated for a few years, then I proposed. She said yes. Our wedding was gorgeous, and afterward, we settled into marital bliss.
For a while.
As Heather got older, she grew even more concerned about her appearance. She was 40 when I convinced her to see a therapist. I knew she was depressed; I hoped a professional would provide her with the help she needed.
Heather saw him for a while, tried a couple medications, then gave it all up. She said nothing worked. That whole time, she barely ate and painted herself with all sorts of expensive products to try and regain the glow she’d had when she was younger.
She began looking at alternative medicine online. Stuff on websites that were barely written in English, let alone containing coherent, informative sentences. The online beauty communities raved about certain treatments: some for hair, some for nails, some for skin, some for teeth. Heather ordered it all. And it was expensive. We felt the strain on our budget as she poured more and more of our savings into these products.
I was at a loss. I knew Heather was sick. I’d spoken with her mom about it, but there wasn’t much she was willing to do. I’m pretty sure Heather got a lot of her body issues from her, anyway. All I could do was sit back and watch, even though I did everything I could to comfort her and assure her that she was beautiful.
She was truly beautiful. Of course she’d grown older. We both had. Everyone does. But she still could turn heads, and did quite often. Still, she wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t enough.
One Sunday in April, Heather came to bed crying about the little pouch of fat on her belly. “Old lady skin,” she called it. I studied her stomach. There was indeed a small amount of fat there. But nothing abnormal. It was something pretty much all women have. Knowing I couldn’t tell her otherwise, I just suggested that she use the cucumber skin-tightening lotion she liked so much and that maybe she’d feel better in the morning. Heather took my suggestion as a tacit acknowledgement that she looked awful. She screamed and wept and left me in the bedroom.
It wasn’t the first time such a scenario had happened. I let her go.
When I came downstairs in the morning, it looked like Heather had been on the computer all night. She was calm, though, which I took as a good sign. I kissed her good morning and went to make some breakfast.
She joined me in the kitchen and we chatted and even laughed over coffee and cereal before I had to leave for work.
When I came home, Heather was still in a good mood. I asked her how her day had gone, and she told me she’d spent it reading and cleaning the house. I looked around. The house really did look great.
We ate dinner and talked. She told me she had some new stuff coming in the mail. Stuff that’d be there the next day. I nodded and didn’t ask what. I knew it had to be more makeup or lotion. It always was.
Sure enough, the next day, Heather received a package with some weird writing on it. Definitely not English. Not Chinese or Japanese, either. Maybe Thai? Arabic? Didn’t really matter. I’d checked the credit card account online and saw it was $150. I wasn’t too happy.
After dinner and a movie, Heather took a shower and spent quite a while in the bathroom. She came out eventually, stark naked, and covered from head to toe in a sheen of oily film.
“Another new moisturizer,?” I asked.
“Actually no,” she replied. “This is for weight loss.”
I got worried. Heather was always taking diet pills and fat burners and all that crap, but I’d never heard of a weight loss product that you smeared on yourself like a lotion.
“Is it safe,?” I wondered aloud.
“Of course,” Heather answered. “I don’t think they’d be selling it online if it wasn’t.”
I started to say something and stopped myself. There was no point. At least the stuff smelled good.
Days went by and Heather religiously slathered herself with the product every night. Whatever it was, it didn’t seem to be doing her any harm. Her mood was good and it might have been my imagination, but her appetite had actually increased. She even split a rack of ribs with me one night. I gotta tell you, nothing’s sexier than a woman eating a rack of ribs.
When we got home that night, Heather performed her usual shower, shave, and slather ritual. It did look like she’d lost weight. Not a lot – not an unhealthy amount – but still some. She still looked gorgeous. I noticed the lotion smelled different that night. I asked about it.
“It’s a three-phase product,” Heather replied. “You use the first one for a week, the second one for five days, and the third one for one night. I just started the second one.”
“Okay,” I answered. I supposed I could’ve asked more about it, but her mood had been so high for the last week that I didn’t want to discourage her. Besides, I was scheduled to go on a business trip in the morning and wouldn’t be back for six days. I had a lot on my mind.
The next day, I kissed Heather goodbye and headed to the airport. It was a long, turbulent flight to London, and once I texted Heather that I’d arrived safely, I took a taxi to the hotel and slept for 12 hours. Next on the schedule was meeting after meeting after meeting. It sucked, to be honest.
I skyped with Heather a few times while I was gone, and every time I did, it seemed like she’d be eating something. One day it was a burger. Another time it was a bowl of fettucine alfredo. Later it was a bag of chips. All stuff she would’ve never gone for before starting that weight loss plan.
On the last day I was in London, as we skyped and Heather ate out of a Ben and Jerry’s container, I asked how the weight loss was going.
“It’s amazing!,” she squealed, and lifted her shirt. I was dumbfounded. It looked like she’d lost 20 pounds since I’d left. Heather was never fat, but she always carried a little extra weight around her middle. Nothing any doctor would consider excessive and something pretty much any guy would prefer, just to be able to hold onto. But it was all gone.
“Are you sure you want to go through with that third phase of the lotion?,” I asked. “You look amazing as it is.”
A cloud of disappointment crossed Heather’s face. “Just one more day,” she said. “I want to see it through. Besides, I’ve been so damn hungry lately that I’m worried I’ll balloon up if I stop.”
I didn’t have anything to say to that. If I’d been eating like she apparently had, I would’ve put on ten pounds in the first day or two.
We said our goodbyes and I went to sleep.
I arrived back home very late the following night. Heather was asleep, so I undressed in the dark and crept into bed. I could smell the new lotion on her.
About twenty minutes after I’d passed out, I felt Heather’s hands on me. Rubbing. Groping. I’d been quite a while since we’d had anything even resembling sex, so I was ready right away. We rolled around for a little while, the slipperiness of her lotion adding a delicious, frictionless element to the mix.
She pulled herself on top of me and I felt her biting my lips and neck and ears before she whispered, “I need to taste you” and crawled down the bed. The ravenousness she’d exhibited on our skype chats was nothing compared to the voraciousness she showed in the following minutes. I was helpless to do anything other than run my hands over her slippery back and thighs, and I marvelled at how thin she’d gotten since the last time I’d felt her.
Before long, I knew I had to stop her, so I pulled her up and kissed her mouth. She rode me as I felt the smooth slickness of her back and chest and butt; so much oily wetness and heat and hunger – I couldn’t help myself. I lost myself in the moment.
When I finally regained a semblance of wherewithal, Heather was still on top of me. Still riding. I knew she’d orgasmed at least twice, but she wouldn’t let up. I was starting to get uncomfortable. Her silhouette in the dark room was so much slighter than it had been over the years we’d been together. She looked like a new person. She felt like a new person.
As she ground against me and mewled with mindless pleasure, I stared at her shape. In the dark, I couldn’t make out details. But gradually, a cloud that had been occluding the moon moved away and I could see more. Just enough to realize something was very, very wrong.
I wrenched my arm backward and slapped the light switch near the nightstand. I screamed.
Heather still sat on top of me, grinding back and forth. Her skin was bright red and streaked with veins.
No. It wasn’t her skin. It was what had been behind her skin. The flesh was melting off her body. We were in a pool of it; greasy and pink and so terribly warm. Heather was sucking her thumb as she writhed against me, and I watched in horror as she pulled her finger from her mouth, peeled back the thumbnail, and dragged her front teeth across the meat on its underside.
“I’m so hungry,” she gasped. “It feels so good to eat again.”
“Heather, stop!,” I shouted, and went to push her off.
My hand passed right through the meat of her shoulder and I felt the bones dislocate. Rather than scream with pain, Heather groaned with hideous pleasure. She took her free hand and pinched her left nipple. It came off between her thumb and forefinger.
Panic overtook my desire to save my wife. I bucked my hips to get Heather away from me. It worked. I was able to get off the bed. Heather fell forward. As I scrambled for the phone to call 911, she turned on her side toward me. She was bleeding badly from her thighs; my push appeared to have caused major damage.
The dispatcher answered and I babbled while Heather studied me, her eyelids drooping before falling onto the bed like fleshy moth’s wings.
The 911 operator was saying something, but I couldn’t hear what it was. Heather was talking to me. Her voice was weak.
“Did…did I do a bad job Max? Do you not want me anymore? Am I ugl –”
The word was cut off when her lower jaw fell from her face. Her tongue lolled before also dropping onto the sheets. Her eyes darted back and forth a few times, and then she was still.
I stared at the remains of Heather on our bed. Sirens pulsed in the distance.
“You’re not ugly, sweetheart,” I whispered to her, tears cascading down my cheeks. “You’ll never be ugly to me.”