“Ms. Nelson, report to the principal’s office. NOW!!!” she hisses, waving her finger at Sam’s disgustingly cute little nose. Sam smirks again and whispers ‘whatever’ under her breath as she leisurely strolls away, clearly feeling no guilt for the public humiliation she just put me through. Her posse, three girls just as picture perfect as herself, begin to snigger as she leaves.
“Come on sweetie,” Mrs. Morrison says, looking at me with sympathy in her eyes. As she leads me to the back of the library, I’m wondering if she ever had to deal with bullies like Sam and Rob when she was in high school. Probably not. Mrs. Morrison is a petite older woman, full of warmth and cheer.
Who would ever be mean to someone like that?
Once we’re in the back, she hands me a tissue and asks if I’m okay. I sniffle a bit, and the tears start to come.
“I just don’t understand. I’m a nice girl, I swear! At least I think so. I would never treat someone like that. And what, because I don’t have the perfect body? I just don’t understand why people hate me because of my weight. I shouldn’t have to be skinny to be liked, it’s just not fair!”
Mrs. Morrison clucks sympathetically.
“You are right about one thing Tilly: it’s not fair and it is definitely not right. But please don’t let Sam and her gang make you feel bad about yourself. You are a beautiful young woman, so smart and so sweet. Anyone would be lucky to count you as their friend.”
I sniffle more, wiping at my cheeks, and Mrs. Morrison continues.
“Samantha Nelson is just a mean girl. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to reprimand her. I’m sorry this happened. Rest assured, Samantha will be dealt with. She most definitely will not get away with this. Now, you and Nicole go ahead to the rest room, wash your face with some cold water and then head on to your next class.”
I sniffle again, trying to smile. God knows, splashing cold water on my face isn’t going to help. But what choice do I have? The bell rings, and with heavy shoulders, I leave the library.
School’s over for the day, and I can finally escape. It’s been tough going, and I almost cried three different times. But now, I can make my getaway.
Still, my face is red as I get into my car. I could feel people staring as I walked the halls, and I could hear their whispers too:
“Did you hear about the sandwich?”
“I heard she had mayonnaise smeared all over her face.”
“I heard she bawled her eyes out like a little baby after.”
“You know, that’s what happens when you let yourself go. And she’s only eighteen!”
When you get fat, is what they meant to say. They mean to say that this situation is all my fault because I “let myself go” and put on weight. I want to scream because that’s not how it is at all! Everyone in my family is larger-sized. I just have the genes of a plump person, and no amount of dieting will ever make me thin. Why can’t they see that?
Slowly, I drive home while crying a little more. My nose is pink and my eyes swollen, but when I pull into the driveway, I try to clean myself up some. I don’t want my parents to see my tear-stained cheeks because they’ll be worried, and that’s the last thing I want.
When I open the front door, Gertie and William are there waiting for me.
“Hey Mom, hey Dad,” I say tentatively. “This is unexpected.”
They look like a reflection of myself twenty-five years from now, with their chubby cheeks, round torsos and short legs. But Gertie and William are the nicest people, and they don’t let their weight get in the way of enjoying life. Plus, they look like parents, which is very reassuring. While Mom’s formerly luscious brown curls are now grey, Dad’s beard has already turned an almost opaque white in his ripe age. They look like Mr. and Mrs. Claus, come to think of it.
“Hi Tills,” says my mom. She looks at me with worry. I try to pretend I don’t notice. I hang my backpack on the hallway coat rack, and grab an apple from the kitchen counter. I just know they’ve already heard about my day at school. I want more than anything to go hide under my covers and slip away into Anna and the French Kiss, but that hardly seems likely. I try to run up the stairs unnoticed.
“Hey Tilly-Billy, can you come on in here for just a moment? Your father and I want to have a little chat with you,” my mom calls. Damn. Anna and the French Kiss will have to wait.
I slump into the chair across the table from Dad, who looks quite uncomfortable. He’s sitting straight up and forward, tapping his fingertips together uneasily. That’s not the worst of it though. His face is red, and he looks like he wishes he could be somewhere else.