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This book is dedicated to my husband, Kevin,

who loves me in a T-shirt, a towel, or a tiara.


PART ONE: Fat, Black and Ugly 1

Chapter 1

“There’s a speed limit in this state, mister.”


Chapter 2

“If that’s all you’re getting from what I




Chapter 3

“Woodburn wants to see you, Audra,”

Darlene Fuchs, the assignment…


Chapter 4

“Something fancy and hip. Fancy and hip,”

Audra sang the…


Chapter 5

Too trendy for words.


Chapter 6

“My God, Audra! Do you have any idea




PART TWO: Light, Bright and Beautiful 85

Chapter 7

“Audra, it’s Shamiyah Thomas again,

from the Ugly Duckling show?”


Chapter 8

“Audra! So nice to finally meet you!

Though I feel…


Chapter 9

“So which one was it? The Atkins or

South Beach?”


Chapter 10

“He’s kidding, right?” Audra swung her

face around the room,…


Chapter 11

“You want to bring some cameras into it,

fine with…


Chapter 12

“Marks!” 147

Chapter 13

“Shamiyah…it’s Audra.”


Chapter 14

Shamiyah stood at the baggage claim

when Audra arrived, looking…


Chapter 15

“So, Audra.” Dr. Anna Goddard crossed then

uncrossed her legs…


Chapter 16

“So. It’s tomorrow.” Edith’s voice was

heavy with the lateness…


Chapter 17

One big, oozing incision.


Chapter 18

“So what color are you now?”


Chapter 19

“Is that it?” Dr. Goddard nodded to

ward the thick brown…


Chapter 20

“Bradshaw…” 239

Chapter 21

“No excuses, Audra. It’s time to take




Chapter 22

“Okay, I’ve got good news and bad news.”


Chapter 23

“Two minutes,” the stage manager hissed,

taking Audra’s gloved hand…


PART THREE: The Final Package 285

Chapter 24

“It’s amazing…amazing…” Penny

Bradshaw kept saying the word over…


Chapter 25

“You’re gonna need a new badge,

Marks,” Darlene Fuchs said…


Chapter 26

Audra knew the woman before she

entered the diner.


Chapter 27

Her mind was spinning with a million

thoughts: Ma, Andrew…


Chapter 28

“I’m sick and tired of being fat, black




Chapter 29

“What’s going on with your face?”

Shamiyah asked, peering at…



About the Author

Other Books By Karyn Langhorne



About the Publisher


Fat, Black and Ugly

Chapter 1

Thursday, March 29

Dear Petra,

Greetings from your fatter, uglier sister! (I know, I

know—but I figure starting this letter like that will get

your mind off the chaos there in Iraq.)

Glad to hear that the latest violence has not

affected you or Michael. Me, the same as always:

work, home to help Ma look after Kiana (who, other

than missing her mom and dad, is doing fine), watch a

good classic movie (Double Indemnity was on last

night!), sleep and back to work.

Speaking of work . . . there’s a new guy. Girl . . .

smooth milk chocolate skin, eyes light as caramel . . .

delicious! Even a married woman like you would lick

her lips! Works the same shift I do, but he’s never said

a single word to me. Actually, he doesn’t talk much at

all. The strong, silent type, I guess. No one seems to


Karyn Langhorne

know much about him, so he could be married with

kids. Or he could be a snobbish jerk who thinks he’s

tougher than the rest of us because he worked at

Upstate Maximum.

Or maybe he just doesn’t like fat chicks . . . J I

wonder what it would take for him to acknowledge my


Oh well, that’s all from the home front. Let’s be

careful out there,


“There’s a speed limit in this state, mister.”

Anyone else would have told the kid to

walk, to stop speeding through the day room

like he needed Ritalin, but Audra Marks was too

bored to do what everyone else would have done.

Instead, when the kid passed her at run, hurrying

over to a gaggle of young men hovering over a video

game rivalry, Double Indemnity—that great movie

classic of greed and betrayal—rose to her lips. In

a blink, she was no longer Audra Marks, a big-

boned black woman in a size-too-small uniform,

but Barbara Stanwyck—a film noir princess hitch-

ing the hem of her slinky dress to flummox Fred

MacMurray’s careful cool with a shapely, ankle-

braceleted leg.

Too bad her captive audience didn’t get it.

“Huh?” he offered with the eloquence typical of

young men of a certain age.

“Speed limit. Forty-five miles an hour. And you’re

over it, sure as ten dimes will buy you a dollar.”

Puzzlement creased her listener’s face. He was



literally her captive—an inmate named Carlton

Carter at the tail end of eighteen months for petty

theft. He stopped short, watching her intently, his

dark eyes skittering in his face, trying to decide if

she was hassling him for a specific reason or just for

general purposes.

Audra sighed. For the half instant before he

opened his mouth, she played out a scene from her

own secret fantasies—that she’d be answered with a

line from one of the old classics, from The Petrified

Forest and Mildred Pierce, Desk Set and All About Eve.

It wouldn’t matter if he was nineteen or ninety, if he

was a convict or a conqueror, once he offered the

words like a magic kiss, Audra would lift eyes of

adoration to his face, violins would begin to play . . .

and they would live together happily ever after,

The End.

Clearly this kid wasn’t her guy . . . Audra shifted

her feet as though expecting to hear the telltale

shimmy of anklet beads colliding with each other

instead of the faint scuff of her orthopedic, regula-

tion black lace-ups. She put her hand on her ample

hip and leaned her sizeable frame close to the kid,

tossing her head as though it were covered with

Stanwyck’s flaxen curls.

“Look, kid,” she continued, mimicking the rapid-

fire delivery of a black-and-white film as the boy’s

brow crinkled in deeper confusion. “There are a lot of

losers in this mixed up, crazy world. Desperate peo-

ple, people willing to toss over their own mothers

just for a shot at the brass ring. One day soon, they’ll

spring you from this hole. But if you’re stupid

enough to commit another crime and end up back


Karyn Langhorne

here, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not to-

morrow, but one day soon, and for the rest of your


Audra stopped short. Crap, wrong movie. She cut

her eyes nervously at the young inmate, but the kid

obviously didn’t know the difference or much care.

She glanced around, wondering if anyone else had

heard the mistake.

Not likely.

Around them,

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