This is the first part of the first chapter of a hopeful (like fingers-constantly-crossed, hopeful) first novel that will eventually turn into a series. A fourteen-year old girl tries on an outfit that her best friend picked out for the first day of high school. This outfit symbolizes more than just trying to portray a pretty image; this outfit is the means to cure the craving for social acceptance. But more than anything, self-acceptance.0
Coming-of-age / Young adult fiction
Lauren Forte (United States)
Splayed across the pastel checkered quilt are stretchy black pants and tan T-shirt with a white collar that Anna whipped out of her gray knitted knapsack, something handed down from her older sister a few years ago and now has been graciously handed down to me. I gawk at the outfit for a moment and then switch over to Anna. She’s got to be kidding me.
The girl with the body that fashion designers consider a muse, the one with height must know she owns the upper side of the scale. I don’t care how persistent she is. There is no way in hell that this pear will look great in those stretchy pants. There’s a reason I haven’t touched them since spring. But Anna’s lips remain in a straight line; her eyes not roaming around like bon a fide liar. This is the kind of serious that shouldn’t be second-guessed whether or not she’s out to make her best friend the main feature of a creep show. The girl with close to zero flaws hasn’t flaunted—she doesn’t do that. She never deliberately makes me feel beneath her.
Stop with the jealousy, already.
Anna suggests trying on the outfit. This is where I draw the line. All hopes in any confidence will sink to the bottom, like a ten-pound brick. Just like it was in swimming lessons all of those years ago; I’d make it about halfway before releasing the brick and come out of the water close to hyperventilating. However, everyone else made it seem like they were holding on to a damn toothbrush. No pressure, no exertion. If only I could have the same exertion, those lungs. In other words, trying on the outfit will have me wishing for a body like hers, no matter if she’s in frumpy old shorts or a little black dress.
I politely refuse and she doesn’t push.
Anna heads home around sun set; leaving me with the outfit that taunts the same way as chocolate cake does. Taste me. Taste me. Instead, the outfit whispers, Wear me. Wear me.
Those annoying whispers are like that immortal fly that incessantly buzzes around your head. Your try time and time again whacking it with a swatter or newspaper or tethered old book, but the frigging thing is too fast for any weapon. Wear me. Wear me. It’s useless. So you forfeit. But the thing is, in a few days or so, you forget all about that irritant; he’s not even a thought in the brain. He’s suddenly gone.
“Giving in will only contribute.”
Why make it worse when controlling temptation benefits in the long run? I’ll tell you why. Just like that fly, the reminder becomes dust.
Eating chocolate cake is instant weight gain, and oh, how do I know it. But it taste too freaking good not to have. Its rich decadency takes over every taste bud; gluttony feels so right.
Now let’s take the outfit. Trying it on has the same kind of effect: the reflection may be hideous; however, that small gleam of hope shows a slimmer, more attractive figure. And you linger on that image for minutes upon minutes until the image enlarges to poster-size and the person standing before you is so close, you can almost reach out and touch her.
Like chocolate cake, you crave it—you yearn for it. Because you know it’s not the healthiest of choice, it makes the lure that much stronger, that much harder to fight off. Sure, you can always terrorize the closet, find a different outfit. But this is supposed to be the outfit, the only outfit.
Wear me. Wear me.
It’s a constant craving that I have yet to ignore.
I take off the blue T-shirt then denim shorts, ignoring the pasty undergarments that are propellants against my skin. I grab the pants, put each leg through and then squeeze me eyes shut as the material stretches over the area known as hips and immediately hold my breath. It’s a kick to the pelvis when pants don’t button or zip up all the way or even worse, unbutton after about five minutes of sitting down and getting up or bending over and picking something up. That means going to Mom and admitting that the pants no longer fit, which only proves the chocolate cake theory.
Not only is shopping for a size five humiliating—a petite girl shouldn’t be bigger than a size three—finding a pair of pants that fit in length is equally as frustrating. Some designers just don’t seem to understand that not all short girls are the size of their pinkies. Girls come in all shapes and sizes. Shouldn’t that be the number one rule of design?
Pants made for those of us with tree stumps for legs are often too snug. They fit perfectly in length, not sagging or wrinkling, but the waste line? Yeah, spanks are probably more comfortable.
Mom simply cannot fathom her fourteen-year-old daughter fitting into a size seven. Nobody will ever know; it’ll be our little secret. But that secret sticks to the brain, like a disturbing image. It keeps coming back to mock. So we resort to average length, relying on needle and thread or in some cases, scissors. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
The pants have reached the top. A hand lands over my stomach. Today’s diet: carbs, carbs, carbs.
Drum roll please…
The sound of the zipper is exaggerated—every bump along the way a loud thud. I’m expecting it to get stuck. Up, up, up, and away to the top. It halts, because it can’t go any further. Let’s give this a test try.
I stretch my stomach out to about three months pregnant and keep it there for five seconds and the zipper stays. I almost don’t believe it. I try and touch my toes, and then jump up and down and all around. Nothing comes undone.
I call Anna to thank her twenty times over. Her mellow voice assures me that tomorrow will be anything but ordinary. I feel it with the ceiling fan generating a cool breeze over my arm. The outfit doesn’t show every square inch of my frame, rather the shirt and pants outline the contours of my body, keeping what tends to stick out out to a minimum.
The quiet motions of the fan only circulate this craving. It’s stronger that any want for something sweet or something crunchy. This is a dire need to be seen as singular, to be transparent.
To be accepted.
There will no longer be an invisible line that separates. There will be no such thing as unwritten rules that all must obey. There will be no failed attempts at ice breakers or awkward silences. This craving is the one I long for.
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