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Call it intuition. Call it a sixth sense. Whatever. Somehow I just knew. The thing is, when a man gets ready to pop the question, he does a series of little things that give a pretty good idea of what he's up to. The right womanthe clued-in woman, as my friend Toni would have saidpicked up on them. Rob would propose tonight. I just knew it. And that was why I had to look amazing.
I looked at my nemesis, the scale, next to the bathroom vanity. I'd ignored it for weeks now, but it beckoned. Come, Nicky. Come see how much you weigh. I knew I wouldn't like it but I couldn't help myself. I had to find out. Even surrounded by non-weight-conscious men in chef school, I'd never quite relinquished the dream of being thin. I wanted to have a nice figure. To fit into a size eight. To look sexy for the man I loved. Was that so much to ask?
I peeled off my bra and panties, removed my watch and small stud earrings, then stepped on the scale. I held my breath as the dial spun. Back and forth it went half a dozen times, so fast the numbers were a blur. Finally it settled on...
"Argh!" Impossible. I refused to believe it. I had gained another ten pounds. Good grief. How'd that happen? I'd been so careful.
Oh, all right. I hadn't been that careful. Only in my dreams did I stick to my diet.
But this was it. I was going to start counting calories. This time I really meant it. No more cheating. From now on I'd be good. I'd treat food preparation like wine tasting: taste and spit. Maybe a tiny morsel here and there to really check the seasoning.
Ten pounds more. How could that be? Maybe the scale was wrong. I crept back on and this time shifted my weight onto my toes. Occasionally this maneuver shaved off a couple of pounds. But this time the number on the dial climbed another few digits. Shit.
The problem was that I was a chef and, working in a kitchen, I had about as much chance of losing weight as an alcoholic bar owner had of staying on the wagon. With my self-control, my chances of winning the lottery were greater. Ten pounds. Well, that settled it. I was no longer voluptuous. I couldn't call myself curvaceous or even queen-size anymore. There was one word for what I was and that was fat.
Jackie Chan, my Yorkshire terrier, came bouncing in. She skidded to a stop two feet from me and barked.
"Are you laughing at me? If you bark my weight to anyone, that'll be the end of Jackie Chan," I told her.
She tilted her head while she thought it over, then spun around three times and scooted out. Smart girl. She knew when to stay out of my way.
I picked up the dress I'd purchased four weeks ago. This dress was a miracle of engineering. In the store dressing room, I'd looked taller than my five-feet-four inches and pounds lighter than my...never mind. Why remind myself? And the colorcilantro greenwas perfect with my strawberry blond hair.
Barely one month later, here I was, unable to pull up the damn zipper. This was a disaster. Rob's party was in a few hours. And tonight, I just knew, would be the most important night of my life.