Chapter One- All About Bernie

Bernadette Wilson was fat. Fat, fat, fat. This is what her Aunt Elsie repeatedly told her, and this is what she had come to believe. Bernie wished her momma was still alive. Her momma would still be telling her she was beautiful, perfect. But Cancer had paid her momma a visit four years ago, and refused to leave. When Cancer finally did decide that he didn't want to stay there anymore, he had taken Bernadette's momma with him. If Bernadette had a father, she didn't know about it. She had never met him, and never wanted to. Asking who he was, was simply something which had just never occurred to her. Momma had told her he was no good.

"So why did you have me with him if you didn't like him, momma?" Bernadette had asked once, when she was only eight. Her momma had looked shifty for a moment, then replied;

"Sometimes beauty can be created from ugliness." She had stroked Bernie's cheek afterwards, telling her that she didn't need her mean old daddy anyway- she had her instead. What more could a little girl want? But then Cancer had come, and because there was no daddy, it was off to Aunt Elsie's with Bernadette. She barely knew her Aunt at the time, and when you're nine years old and sent to a virtual stranger's house, things have a strange affect on you. Bernie was trying to get over momma's death- the vicar said she was in a better place, and the vicar always told the truth. But Bernie had to find some solace somewhere, and that as when Food came along. Food promised to be Bernie's new best friend. Food said he would look after her and make her happy. So Bernie ate, and Bernie grew larger. She wasn't hugely fat. Chubby, maybe. But not fat. And then there was Aunt Elsie.

Aunt Elsie liked her men. She had a new one every week, or so it appeared to Bernie. She liked parties, and fancy clothes, and as Bernie reached eleven, she spent a lot of night at home on her own whilst Aunt Elsie was out somewhere having fun. Once she had complained to Aunt Elsie that she was always on her own.

"You can have fun when you're older, Bernadette." She had snapped. "Childhood is for learning and obeying." After which, she had added, "My new friend Peter is coming round tomorrow night for dinner. If you feel you need to be there, please don't stuff your face too much. And don't wear anything too drab. I don't want you showing me up." One thing that Bernie had to give Elsie credit for was her taste in clothes. She had bought Bernie many lovely things to wear, even though Bernie knew she was only doing it because she was afraid of her looking ugly in front of one of her 'friends.'

Bernie knew she wasn't beautiful like her momma had always said. Mothers were supposed to say nice things about their daughters. Bernie felt ugly. She felt cheated by life. And the older she got, the more resentful she grew towards her aunt.

Bernie had quite a lot of friends. There were a few boys in her class who picked on her, but thirteen and fourteen year old boys can be like that sometimes. Bernie's best friend was called Karla. She was the opposite of Bernie in looks, tall and thin, with wispy dark hair. Bernie felt that Karla understood her because Karla's daddy had gone away with Cancer when Karla was five. Bernie did well at school, and her teachers were very pleased with her. Aunt Elsie just told her she could do better. She never praised her, never encouraged her. but Bernie was passed caring about all that. She had developed ways to cope over the years since her momma had left her. She liked to play the piano. She had played it for the school musical once. Aunt Elsie had a piano, but it was only there for show- she couldn't play a note. Bernie also liked to read. Romance novels, mostly, where the heroine was some thin, gorgeous woman, and even though it all went wrong for her, by the end of the book, her life was perfect again.

Bernadette wished that her life could be similar. But she knew it never would be.