I used to be the fat girl.
Okay. I admit it. I was always the chubby one in elementary school; the girl who hadn't quite gotten rid of her "baby fat". By junior high, I had progressed in the "fat chick"; the girl who would show up at a school dance and smile awkwardly from the sideline as her friends danced with boys. By my sophomore year, I had stopped going to dances.
My doctor pleaded with me, my father made barbed comments and my mother kissed me and fed me comfort foods to placate me. We were a wealthy family, which seemed to make things worse in a way. I always had expensive (calorie-laden) food at my fingertips and maids to make it all for me. I was given my own car the day I turned sixteen and I never had to walk anywhere.
Passing by a mirror and catching sight of my hideous self mortified me, and so I hid myself in oversized sweatshirts and baggy jeans. Often, I would pull back my hair tightly into a ponytail and pull my hood up, covering most of myself. I disgusted myself, so I assumed everyone else felt the same.
The only people who appeared to not care whether I weighed 200 pounds or 50 pounds were my older twin brothers, Lucas and Sam. They were perfect. 6 feet tall, 180 pounds of tanned muscle, dark brown hair and flashing hazel eyes. Lucas was on the football team and Sam played basketball, although they were equally skilled at both. They were identical, too, which tended to result in hordes of girls throwing themselves at either one of them, in hopes that their chances were doubled with twice the amount of Y-chromosomes.
Even though my brothers were the ideal guys, they always looked out for me and defended me from everybody's harsh and often cruel criticism. When I would come home from school in tears, Lucas would rub my back and pass me Kleenex while Sam brewed hot tea and told me funny stories. They both had multitude of girlfriends, but told me that I would always be the number one girl in their life. Without them, I don't know if I could have survived.
It wasn't as if I didn't have friends. No, I had friends. My circle included Danielle Fisher, a self-proclaimed rich bitch and the unofficial leader; Patrick Denver; a very cute, very good athlete; the Malloy sisters: Katie Malloy, an incredibly gorgeous and slightly snobby girl, and Hannah Malloy, a smart, sweet but also pretty girl; and Max Williams, a dark-haired, loud-spoken, and unreachably gorgeous guy. My closest friend in this circle was Max Williams. An unlikely pair, we were often the butts of jokes around Franklin High School.
Max and I had grown up together since we were three and four in the exclusive, gated community of Lakeview Heights. Our dads golfed together, our mothers shopped together and Max and I found friendship in each other. Max was a year my senior, but we had remained friends for almost fourteen years now. Like my older brothers, Max generally had a few girls around him at all times, often including Danielle herself. Max seemed to enjoy spending more time hanging out than with his flock of females. That's not to say he didn't like being with girls – oh no. There were dozens of times when I had walked into a room only to find him making out with some random chick. I knew that there were a good handful of girls that he had slept with – and never called back, without feeling the slightest remorse.
I always chided him for his noncommittal behavior, but he always shrugged and said that they just weren't interesting enough for him. In his own words, the girls were "good for a few fucks, but there was nothing behind the tits and ass". Not to mention, he can be really crude at times.
I was a female but Max never expressed any interest in me. Why would he? I dressed like a guy, I made no efforts to appear attractive and I generally looked and felt horrible about myself. Max was a good friend, in spite of all this.
"Hey, fatty, either beat it or grab something," shouted somebody behind me.
We were standing in the lunch line in the cafeteria at Franklin High School. I was deciding whether to go for the cheeseburger and look like a total lard who didn't care what other people thought, or tone it down to the salad, and be consumed by hunger for the rest of the day. Trying to control the flushing that automatically rose to my cheeks, I nervously placed the burger on my plate and moved on to the cash register.
"Figures she would choose that," the voice shouted over the din of the cafeteria. "Fatty gotta have her cheeseburger."
I silently extracted my wallet and paid the cashier, walking as quickly as possible to get away from the ever-present voice. I grabbed a soda and pushed my way through people until I came to my group of friends at the far table. Hannah Malloy and Max moved apart to make room for me; even so, I ended up almost overturning Hannah's carton of milk.
"God, I'm sorry," I said quietly.
Hannah smiled at me. "It's okay."
Danielle Fisher smirked. "Andrea is always so clumsy. 'Oh, excuse me, pardon me while I step on your feet…watch out, sorry, oops, I almost trampled you'," she said, imitating me.
I flushed and took a giant bite of my cheeseburger, almost choking on it in the process.
Max patted my arm comfortingly. "Knock it off, Danielle," he said warningly.
"You know I'm kidding, right Andrea?" Danielle asked, giving me a fake smile.
"Sure," I said, averting my eyes to my tray. Danielle was full of venom, there was doubt about that, but she was definitely the queen of our group and there was no way that I could ever stand up to her, without being completely friendless. Instead, I managed to tolerate her while simultaneously trying to stay out of her way.
"See, she knows it's a joke," said Danielle to Max.
Max just rolled his eyes, crammed the rest of his burrito in his mouth and stood up. Not so coincidentally, Jessica Sinclair, the homecoming queen and the head cheerleader, flounced over to our table, pushed up her cleavage and batted her eyelashes at Max. "Walk me to my locker?" she asked childishly.
Max grinned. "I'd be delighted," he said, putting an arm around her. The two of them walked off together; Jessica babbling on and on and Max trying to get a good glimpse down her shirt.
Danielle was watching them too, with a sour look on her face. "Jessica's a slut," she spat out. "She's slept with the entire football team by now."
Hannah Malloy shrugged, dismissing Danielle's jealousy. "Do you guys want to come over after school tomorrow? It's the last day of school, I figured we could just hang out by the pool all afternoon, maybe tan or barbecue or something…"
We all agreed that it sounded good, and Danielle promised to invite Max, who was currently making out with Jessica in the hallway.
The next afternoon, we piled into the Malloys' Jeep and headed off to their house. Katie, the older Malloy, drove while Hannah kept up a nonstop chatter the entire time. Danielle kept purposely falling between Max and Patrick's laps, pretending that she had lost her balance, even though we were going under 30 mph the entire time.
The Malloys lived in a modest one-story house located in a quiet suburb. There was a kidney-shaped pool located out back, where we would often spend our summers tanning. Mr. and Mrs. Malloy were quiet, peaceful adults who spent most of their time reading the newspaper. They ignored us as we ravaged their house and ate their food, and only spoke up when they could hear shattering glass or cries of pain.
The girls changed in Katie and Hannah's shared bedroom; the guys merely took their shirts off since they were already wearing swim trunks. In the bedroom, Danielle was slithering into a minuscule red bikini. Her fake tan made the redness of the suit stand out even more and I couldn't keep myself from feeling an altogether too real twinge of envy.
She grinned at us. "Got to keep them interested," she said, tugging a little strap at the center of the top piece, which pulled her breasts together and created a deep valley of cleavage.
Katie nodded. She was wearing a shimmering yellow two-piece. While it emphasized her curves, it wasn't as revealing as Danielle's. She slathered on sunscreen from a slender tube and rubbed it over her pale shoulders. "Anybody else want some?"
Hannah took the tube from her sister and put some one as well. The Malloy sisters were incredibly white; they were Irish, which explained their paleness coupled with freckles – and their fiery tempers. More modest than her sister and Danielle, Hannah had a simple blue tank suit on. Hannah was gracefully slender since she was a dancer, but she had no need to draw attention to her body. She had the sweetest boyfriend ever and she never even bothered to check out any other guys.
I felt like such a lump standing next to my three girlfriends. I wore a black bathing suit ("Black is so slimming," my father told me, "You should try to wear black all the time.") with a small ruffled skirt around the bottom. It was an old lady's suit, but it was the only bathing suit that simultaneously fit me and wasn't turquoise and orange. I felt incredibly self-conscious, so I wrapped a towel around myself and headed out to the pool, Hannah, Katie and Danielle in tow.
Patrick and Max had already beat us out to the pool deck and were busily doing laps and arrogantly diving off the board. As she closed the sliding glass door behind her, Danielle said in a husky voice, "God, look at those abs." She motioned to Max. "I would kill to rub lotion onto him."
I kept silent. Max had told me before that while Danielle was a "hot piece of ass," she was annoying as hell and he said he would never sleep with her because she probably wouldn't shut up afterwards.
Katie shouted, "Cannonball!" as she grabbed her knees and jumped off the side of the pool, splashing everyone within ten feet of her. Danielle and Katie quickly joined her in the pool.
I pulled up a chaise lounge and awkwardly sat down in it. I didn't like swimming, especially around other people. Water plastered my hair to my red, sweaty face and I ended up looking more like a drenched beach ball than anything else. I hated the way my bathing suit would cling to my body, emphasizing all the bulges that I tried to hard to cover up. Instead, I would lay sweltering in the sun, dreaming about the coolness of the water and hoping I didn't burn to a crisp in my black bathing suit.
"Come in, the water's great!" Max called to me.
I smiled at him. "No, I'm fine up here."
"Andrea, come on! Take the stick out of your ass and jump in," Max called back, splashing water in my direction.
I held up a nearby magazine. "I'm reading," I lied.
Danielle shrugged. "Come on, let's play chicken," she said, latching onto Max's shoulders. "I get to sit on top of Max!" After that inane comment, she giggled idiotically.
"We have an odd number of people," Patrick pointed out.
The five of them turned pleadingly to me. "Come on, Andrea," begged Katie. "We want to play chicken."
I was beginning to get nervous. They wouldn't force me in, would they? "No, I'm really not, um, supposed to be swimming right now," I said, lying through my teeth again.
"Why not?" Patrick asked.
"Um…" I fumbled for a good excuse. "Well, it's because, um…it's that time of the month." Great, now I was full-out blushing.
Patrick's blush soon matched my own, but Danielle narrowed her eyes. She wasn't buying it. "No way," she called to me. "You had your period last week, remember? I loaned you a tampon."
I sunk lower in the chaise lounge. "I just don't want to swim, all right?"
Max turned to the group. "You guys go ahead and play chicken, I'll be back in a few." He swam towards the ladder and got out of the pool. Dripping wet, he shook himself like a dog and dragged up a chair next to me.
"I'm not going in," I said quietly.
Max yanked the magazine out of my hands. "Andrea, nobody's looking at what you're wearing or how you look," he said, looking into my eyes.
I averted my eyes to the cool tile of the pool deck. "That's not it," I muttered, even though it was.
"Then what is it?"
"I told you – I just don't want to go in."
Max leaned over and grabbed my chin in his hands. "Andrea, listen to me! I like you just the way you are, even though I don't think you're ever going to understand that. Hell, a lot of people think you're great. But you're going have a really shitty life, though, if you just focus on what's wrong with you, or how you look. Don't you understand? People want to be friends with the person underneath your exterior – but you keep on pushing them away. God, I don't even know how you can't see that people have been trying to be friends with you for years, but you just ignore them and focus on everything that you think is wrong with you!"
By now, tears were trickling out of my eyes and onto my cheeks, where the sun dried them into place. Fortunately, the other five were having lap races in the pool and weren't paying any attention to Max or me.
Max let me cry for a little bit, shielding me from the others with his back and putting my head on his shoulder. He was completely and irrevocably right. I always assumed that everyone was looking and whispering about me, when in reality, they probably couldn't care less.
"I guess I could go in the pool," I sniffled.
Max grinned and stroked my hair back from my face. "Good girl," he told me. He helped me up and we made our way over to the pool. Just as I was about to climb down the ladder into the shallow end, Mrs. Malloy came through the sliding door with a phone in her hand.
"Andrea? It's your mother," she said, handing the phone to me.
I took it curiously. "Hello?"
"Andrea, sweetie, you need to come home now. Dad and I have something to tell you."
"What?" I asked. I had no idea what was going on.
"We'll tell you when you get here. I've already sent Lucas and Sam to go get you; they should be there any second. Love you, bye."
"Wait! What…?" I asked, shaking the phone. Sighing, I hung up and handed the phone to Mrs. Malloy. "I have to go," I told my friends.
"Why?" asked Max incredulously.
"It's my mother. She won't tell me why," I said. "She didn't sound like it was an emergency but I honestly don't know what's going on."
"Well, call me as soon as you find out, okay?" demanded Max, looking worried.
"Okay," I said, giving him a reassuring smile. "I bet it's nothing, anyway."
I was gathering up my towel when I heard a honking from out front. "It's the twins," I groaned and slid my feet into my flip-flops.
"Sorry you couldn't stay," called Hannah, waving goodbye.
"See you soon," Danielle called while pulling Max into the pool.
At home, Lucas and Sam led me to the formal living room and slipped off, unnoticed. Mom was sitting in the chair closest to the bay window and Dad was sternly placed in his easy chair.
"Andrea," Dad said gruffly. "Take a seat on the couch."
I did as he said. I was beginning to feel anxious. What was going on?
Mom nervously played with a loose string on a stuffed pillow. Twisting it in her hands, she didn't look at me as she said, "Honey, we have to talk with you about – um, well, something that has been an issue for a long time."
"What?" I demanded.
Dad turned towards me stiffly. "Andrea, your weight is becoming quite a problem," he said.
Tears sprang to my eyes and I blinked furiously, trying to keep them under control. "I thought you two, out of all people, should understand! You're my parents, can't you at least try to see how hard this is for me without both of you constantly reminding me?"
Mom avoided my eyes. "Andrea, we thought you would see that we're worried about you…it's not healthy."
"But—" I started
Dad cut in. "Since you haven't been exercising or eating properly, we're sending you to Olympia Recreational Facilities for the entire summer."
"What's that?" I asked, my eyes growing wide.
"It's an twelve-week long program at the Olympia Center for teens aged twelve to eighteen," Dad said, taking a pamphlet off the coffee table. I hadn't even noticed it when I came in. He continued, reading the page, "It's designed for weight-loss and exercise in a controlled, safe setting."
I was going to Fat Camp.