by Santino Prinzi

When Hannah saw Zoe walking up the street towards her, she realised that it had been ten years since she’d last seen her. It spurred a feeling deep inside her she hadn’t experienced in a long time; a feeling of competitiveness, a readying of the self to fight. Zoe had gotten fat since school, really fat. Hannah knew she too had gotten fat, but not that fat. Zoe must’ve just gotten fat; fat-fat, not pregnant-fat like she had.

The old frenemies made eye contact. Hannah remembered how competitive they used to be. Walk on, walk on, walk on, walk on.

‘Hannah Childs! Why, it’s been years?’ Zoe’s face ballooned into a grin.

‘That’s not you, Zoe Howell, is it?’ Hannah feigned amazement too at their chance encounter, while comparing the thickness of Zoe’s thighs to her own. ‘What are you up to these days?’

‘Oh, haven’t you heard?’ Zoe smirked, brushed her hair off her shoulder. She was getting genuine pleasure from their meeting, and this worried Hannah.

Zoe extended her left arm towards Hannah, flourishing a princess cut diamond ring wedged onto her finger. ‘I’m engaged to none other than Rory Saw, you know,’ she giggled the same girlish giggle she’d done all those years ago, ‘the footballer. He’s just signed a contract for Manchester United.’

Manchester United. It didn’t mean much to Hannah, but her husband had always supported Chelsea. She knew it didn’t mean much to Zoe either; they were just words, ammunition, another attempt at one-upmanship, their old school rivalry refusing to be snuffed out.

‘Congratulations!’

‘We’re going to honeymoon in the Mauritius.’

The Mauritius. Oh, Zoe.

‘Sounds lovely, but I did ask what are you up to these days, not your fiancé.’

Hannah laughed, Zoe laughed, though neither of them were really laughing.

‘Married?’ Zoe asked.            

‘Yes, and children. Twin boys.’ Hannah remembered how thin she used to be at school. ‘You?’

‘No, not yet.’

So, you are just fat then.

‘But I’m a model.’

Really?

‘That’s brilliant. You know I always wanted to make the most of my mind rather than my looks.’ Hannah tucked her hair behind her ears. ‘Accountancy. Good exercise for my brain, and very good money too.’

Zoe snorted.

Manchester United footballer, remember?           

‘So, you must be a plus-size model then?’ Hannah said, trying to regain lost ground.

‘Better than that; I’m going to be one of those super-size models, the ones who make more money the bigger they are. I’m going to be so fat, I’ll be bed-bound.’ Zoe held her head high, almost declaring her intentions to the world.

In that moment, the waves of jealousy that had been crashing on the shores of Hannah’s pride subsided, subdued by pity. Not only for her old school rival, but self-pity too; she was proud of everything she’d achieved in her life so far, she didn’t need validation from others.

‘Well, sounds wonderful. I should be going; I need to pick up the boys up from nursery.’

‘I’d have a person for that, you know.’  

Hannah smiled, and meant it.

‘I’m sure you would, Zoe, I’m sure you would.’

Hannah didn’t turn back as she walked away from Zoe; a lot had changed in ten years, and a lot hadn’t.

Santino Prinzi is the Flash Fiction Editor of Firefly Magazine, and helps bring National Flash Fiction Day in the UK to life. His debut fiction collection, Dots, and other flashes of perception, was published by The Nottingham Review Press in September 2016. Find out more via Twitter @tinoprinzi or on his website https://tinoprinzi.wordpress.com.

Image of Lady Looking at a Tiny Woman Figure, mixed media collage 6″ x 6″, by kind permission of Claudia McGill. Learn more about her work at Claudia McGill and Her Art World.