Sneek Peek ~~ Chapter 6

“‘Cheap knit crap from the dollar store’,” I mimic Tiresa’s self-righteous tone. “‘I’m even willing to buy you a decent dress’.” I scowl as I examine the black dress which had been purchased for the date with Wesley. It was more than decent—in fact, it had cost a bit more than I could reasonably afford—and would fit in with Tiresa’s and Mika’s engagement party, which was certain to be on par with a black tie affair. Now I just needed a new pair of shoes since the heel broke off my sandal.

I park my car just off Trafalgar Street and make my way down the crowded sidewalk toward Hannah’s Shoes, where I hoped to purchase the same sandals I bought for the date with Wesley. There weren’t many styles in my size, let alone could accommodate my fat feet, so I often bought a couple pair of the same shoes.

At a corner I run into Cat. “Cat! How are you?” I ask.

I was the first to befriend Cat, who has lived on the street for a decade. Initially, I felt sorry for her and gave her an old winter coat of mine, which progressed to spare change here and there, then invitations to have coffee. Feeling sorry for Cat didn’t do any good, however. Her mind half gone from alcohol and a successful career lost, Cat survives quite well on the streets, her brutal honesty put to good use and her “It could be worse” attitude keeping her afloat

She looks at me up and down. “I see you’re finally off your face,” she comments.

“Uh, yeah,” I stammer. “Thanks for checking in on me the other night. It was a pretty horrible night.”

“Try living on the streets,” Cat retorts unsympathetically.

I sigh. Typical Cat: unsympathetic at best, uncouth at worst. “Where are you headed?”

She shrugs. “Nowhere, last I checked.”

“I’m going shoe shopping. Want to come along?” I invite. She falls into step next to me, both of us shuffling along, me from my weight and her from having nowhere to go in particular and being older. “So are you going to give me back my sleeping pills?”

“Nope. Sold those to a drug dealer.”

“You didn’t!”

“It’s a living,” she shrugs and glances down. “What do you need new shoes for? Not going on another date, are you?”

“Tiresa and Mika’s engagement party.”

“Well, well, aren’t we the glutton for punishment,” she cackles.

I stop and stand aside to let another pedestrian pass by, the sidewalk is so packed. Most people avoid contact with Cat because of her smell and looks, but my size makes me little harder to circumnavigate in a crowd. “I’m just trying to keep the peace in the family for Mama Rose’s sake. Otherwise I wouldn’t go near the place, not for a million dollars.”

“The poor can’t afford to be choosey,” she intones.

I accidentally jostle her when another pedestrian rushes by. “Oops, sorry. It’s not about poverty. It’s about pride. I can live with being poor, but I at least like to hold up my head with some dignity. Having my ex and sister publicly rub their affair in my face isn’t worth winning the lottery.”

Sneek Peak ~~ Chapter 5

Bang-Bang-Bang.  A fist pounds on the door.

“Bella!  Open this door!  I swear I’ll kick it in if you don’t.  Bella?  Do you hear me?”

Bang-Bang-Bang.  Sands is determined to talk to me just as I am determined to avoid her.

“Mummy, why won’t you let Sands in?” Fi asks.

Bang-Bang-Bang.  “So help me God, I’ll break a window if you don’t let me in!” Sands threatens.

“Go play in your room, sweetie,” I avoid Fi’s question.

Bang-Bang-Bang.  “All right, you asked for it.  I’m calling the police.  I mean it!”   Bang-Bang-Bang.

Abe wanders from his room to the kitchen.  “Mummy, I can’t play my videogame with all that noise.  Can I open the door?”

“No,” I say and try to focus on the romance novel I was reading before Sands descended on the comfort of my misery.

The banging stops and I breathe a sigh of relief.  I just can’t face anyone, not after what happened on the Date from Hell.  So at home I stay, avoiding calls, knocks at the door and emails from inquisitive minds.

“Bella!  What in the world is wrong with you?”

I nearly come off the sofa in fright and spill my tea across my lap.  Sands is standing in the doorway between the kitchen and living room.

“How did you get in here?” I demand.

“Abe let me the back door,” she says.

Abe parades into the room.  “Look, Mummy, Auntie Sands gave me a dollar!”  He holds the coin aloft as if it is the greatest treasure the world has ever seen

“I want a dollar, too!” Fi cries.

Sands pulls another coin out.  “Here you go.  Now kids, I need to talk to your mummy, so run outside and play awhile.”

Abe crosses his arms.  “That’ll cost you another dollar.”

“Scram.  NOW,” Sands points toward the door.  Abe and Fi hustle out.  Abe knows he can only push her so far.

Sands plops down on the opposite end of the sofa while I get up.  “Where do you think you’re going?”

“To get dishtowel to clean up the mess you caused by barging in here uninvited,” I reply dryly.

“I wouldn’t have been uninvited if you returned my calls in the first place,” she retorts.  “Now talk.  What happened on your date that’s so bad to make you cut off your friends?”  I ignore her as I grab a towel and mop up the tea on myself and the sofa.  “Bella, come on.  You can’t hide in here forever.”

“I might as well,” I mutter.

Sands shakes her head.  “Cat said you had sleeping pills and liquor.  Bella, what were you thinking?

“What do you think I was thinking?” I snap.  “And by the way, tell Cat I want those pills back.”

“It’s a good thing she took them and cared enough to stop by and check on you.  God, Bella, you’re so freaking selfish sometimes.  Can’t you think about anyone but yourself?  What about Abe and Fi?  What about your dad and grandmother?”

Sneek Peak~~Chapter 4

It’s a week before I see Sands again.  On the way home from the grocery store, I stop by her gym.  She’s just finished an aerobics class and waves me into her office.

“I did it,” I say as we step inside.

“You didn’t.”

“I did.”

“No way.”

“It’s done.”

“I told you not to!” she wails and plops into the chair behind her desk.  “You can find a guy here for only $12 a month.  How much did you pay?  You paid double that amount, didn’t you?  Triple?”

“It was a special offer.  $49 for three months.  But never mind,” I say as I squeeze into the narrow plastic chair in front of the desk and pray it doesn’t collapse.  Its arms dig into my sides.  Why did its designer think it necessary to make arms with such sharp edges?  “I’ll probably delete my account when I get home.”

“So did you meet anyone yet?” she inquires.

“Yes and no,” I offer vaguely.

She peers at me suspiciously.  “You did.  You met someone already and you’re going to meet him for dinner.  No way you’re going alone.  Text me when you find out where you’re going and I’ll go there and sit at a nearby table and make sure he doesn’t slip you the date rape drug.”

“You’re over-dramatizing this just a bit, aren’t you?  Yes,” I sigh, “I have chatted with a few guys and am unceremoniously dumped when they find out my weight.”

Now she looks at me like I’m crazy.  “You’re weight is a topic of conversation?”

I shrug.  “I feel bad because my photo only shows an extreme close up of my face and I want to be honest.  I don’t want to lie to men.  I want them to accept me, ALL of me.”  I pinch my flabby upper arm for emphasis.

“Hence the extreme close up.  That’s really honest, Bella.  What else did you lie about?”

I shrug again.  “I might have made being a stay-at-home mom sound a bit more glamorous.”

Sands lets her face fall into her hands and she shakes her head in disbelief.  Sands is my best friend from way back.  A shrewd businesswoman, she is a fitness instructor and owns her own gym with plans to open more.  Why we are best friends, I don’t know.  She has everything yet chooses me, the antithesis of everything she represents, as a friend.  She’s tall and beautiful and obsessed with staying fit and a consummate flirt.  She gets any guy she wants, though ninety-nine percent turn out to be jerks.  While my problem is not meeting any men, her problem is meeting too many men at her gym, the problem being that most take off their weddings rings before entering the gym or hide the fact that they have girlfriends until after she sleeps with them.

“Like I said,” I continue, “I’ll probably delete my account.  I can’t take more rejection.” Continue reading “Sneek Peak~~Chapter 4”

Sneek Peak~~Chapter 3

I stare at myself in the full-length mirror.  “Fat may be what I am, but not who I am,” I say. It doesn’t work.

There is nothing more terrifying for a fat person than to look into a full-length mirror.  Multiple times a day, I traverse the Walk of Shame—also known as the hallway in my home—where at the far end the tormentor hangs.  My dearest Pa noticed I didn’t have a proper mirror and kindly gave me a full-length one he had lying about.  He even came around with the picture hooks and hammer to hang it.  What could I do-refuse his well-meaning gift?  Until then, I mercifully had just a small face mirror in the bathroom, which allowed me to avoid viewing parts of me I prefer to keep out of sight.

Most days, I make the Walk of Shame with eyes lowered, but try as I may to NOT to look, sometimes I just can’t help myself—like now. I am a sucker for self-torment.

“Being fat doesn’t define me.  It’s simply extra baggage which I carry and I won’t carry it forever,” I tell the bloated image, trying to sound convincing but I’m not so sure.  I know all too well the hard work which goes into “losing” extra baggage. And not just a few pieces of luggage—it’s a cargo load.

The tormentor reveals all.  A huge flabby apron hangs around my mid section. Thunder thighs with Jell-O cellulite glisten and wink in the sun.  More gelatinous mass hangs under my arms, which wobbles and rolls and juts out whenever my arms are flush against my body.  It’s a hard task to not get lost in the disgust of it all.  I mean, who wants to look at my fat ugly rolls and love handles?  Ironic name, since nobody actually loves them.

But I do have amazing eyes and a great smile, complete with two cheeky dimples.  I inherited my best physical features from both parents: my late Polynesian mother’s caramel-latte skin, high cheekbones, perfectly oval face and full, pouty lips; and my Pa’s glittering emerald-shaped eyes and unruly curly hair.

“I am a strong, beautiful, confident woman, mother and friend.  My weight does not enslave me,” I pronounce to the woman in the mirror.  “Hello, who am I kidding?” I sigh, shoulders slumped.  My weight rears its ugly, embarrassing head all the time.  To say it doesn’t enslave me is highly optimistic at best, a lie at worst.  It has been the bane of my existence for most of my 30 years.  I stop short at saying affirmations are a waste of time, but some days it’s easier to believe them than others.  Today is not one of those days.

Defeated, I resumed my usual activity of picking up after my two darling but messy preschoolers.  With eyes cast down, I work while trying to avoid the hippopotamus at the end of the hallway.  Even still, I nearly trip over an open photo album lying in the doorway to the kids’ room.  Fi loved to look through the albums.  This one contained pictures from university through Fi’s birth. Continue reading “Sneek Peak~~Chapter 3”

Sneek Peak~~Chapter 2

Pa lives eight kilometers from my house.  It’s an easy drive distance-wise, but a hard one knowing what I’ll find at the end of the journey.

Pa doesn’t use his front door so I slip around the side to the sliding glass patio door—another tormentor to remind me of how I look.

I slide open the door.  “Pa?  It’s me,” I call.

“Right here,” he mumbles and stirs in his recliner chair.

“Did I wake you up?  I’m sorry,” I say.

“I dozed off just now” he claims.  There’s a crossword puzzle a pencil on his lap.  “How’s my girl?” he asks as I lean down to give him a hug and a peck on the cheek.

Pa is the most constant thing in my life, a sweet man with a fiery Scottish temper when aroused, which wasn’t often.  Though only 54, he looks a decade older from the trauma of fighting—and beating—cancer.  His body was still emaciated, though.

“What brings you by?” Pa asks with his warm smile.

“Can’t a girl visit her pa for no reason but that she loves him?” I tease.

Pa studies my face and I know I can’t hide this most recent hurt from him.  “Come on, now.  Tell me what’s wrong.  There’s no use holding it in, you know.”

I ease down onto the old sofa, its springs groaning in protest under my weight.

“Well?  Get on with it,” he orders kindly.

I burst into tears.  “Oh Pa!”  I sob.  “Tiresa and Mika are getting married.  I found out through Mama Rose, who wants me to go to the engagement party and the wedding just because they’re family.  It’s not fair.  Why doesn’t anyone take my side?  Mika abandons me and Abe and Fi and Tiresa stabs me in the back, but I’m expected to be nice and act like nothing’s wrong!”  I bury my face in my hands and let the tears flow.

Pa rises form his chair and comes over to wrap his arms around me.  Emaciated as they are, they are the strongest arms in the world to me.

“What did I do to deserve this?  I quit school to marry him.  I stayed at home to take care of the house and the kids, but I still wasn’t good enough.  Tiresa swoops in and steals my husband and now she’s trying to steal my kids and be their stepmum.  Soon Abe and Fi won’t like me and won’t want to see anymore.  They can give them toys and games and everything while I have to scrimp and save for months to buy things.  She did it on purpose.  She did it because she’s a mean, spiteful komo mai tainga!”  I didn’t know much of the Samoan language, but I did know the curse words.  “Oh, Pa, why does this happen to me?”

I continue to cry while Pa holds me, patting my back and murmuring something soothing yet unintelligible.  Continue reading “Sneek Peak~~Chapter 2”

Sneek Peak~~Chapter 1

Everything at Café Crave is just a little wrong since the new manager took over.  It used to be a quaint, comfortable hangout for Sands, Riyaan, sometimes Cat and me to meet up for our weekly therapy debriefs.

The new manager is turning it into one of those up-scale a la carte cafés where yuppies are seen sporting designer label clothes and latest Gucci handbags.  The walls are now covered with original artwork from local artists, hung crookedly at different angles each time we come in, as though someone keeps trying to get it right but is unable to do it.  It’s hardly a place where a fat lady and her eclectic group of friends, including her very own stinky homeless friend, are welcome.

Riyaan, world’s best gay friend and coffee barrister extraordinaire, catches my eye as the door shuts behind me.  “Large mocacchino?” he calls across the counter.

“Make it a double,” I reply and approach the booth where Sands sits.  Why can’t she remember to get a table?

Booths convey a sense of privacy and intimacy while making it difficult to slide in and out of them, not to mention the table cuts into one’s gut.

Another annoying change to the café is the tables are too close.  The place is never more than a third full, yet they squeeze in the tables as if anticipating of throngs of caffeine addicts.  As a large woman, I am unable to walk through this minefield without bumping into something.  I only ever go there when I have no choice and this was one of those times.  The gang hasn’t met in weeks and Riyaan insisted on meeting here as he was on a break.

“Excuse me, so sorry” I mumble as I bump the arm of a patron and cause her coffee to slosh across her hand.  I hope it doesn’t scald her.  Another patron, chatting loudly on his call phone, grabs his purchase at the cash register and walks toward to the door, except I am blocking his path.  He stops short gives me an obvious “Ew” look, then backtracks and takes the long way around the minefield.  He lowers his voice and snickers something.

I’m almost to the booth.  In my haste to get there, I turn sideways to squeeze between a chair where sits a man with a laptop and a table where a couple, oblivious to the world, makes googly eyes at each other.  “Sorry,” I say as my stomach knocks the man’s head and arm forward.  His hand hits a key and the laptop screen goes blank.

“Shit” he mutters.  So much for hoping whatever it is is backed up or not important.

Meanwhile, my butt pushes the table behind me backward.  “Hey!” the female hisses.  I glance over my shoulder and see coffee spilling over the table.

“I do apologize,” I offer and duck my head in embarrassment.  I’d get out of there but my friends were waiting. Continue reading “Sneek Peak~~Chapter 1”