Cassandra stood in front of her bedroom mirror, smoothing her plaid skirt out over and over. She moved sideways and sucked in her stomach as tight as she could. It nearly suffocated her doing so. As she let the air out her belly bulged. After, she shifted herself around and glanced over her shoulder at her backside. Bubble-butt. Hiroshima-hips. The fatty. The voices played over and over in her head. She fisted her hands and pounded her hips. Ronnie had told her once that if she’d beat them, it would break up the fatty cells. He had read an article in one of his mother’s Cosmopolitan magazines.
“Sassie!” her mother called.
“Yes!” she hollered back, still staring at her backend, thrashing on her hips. Her diet plan had failed again. They always did. She’d have to try something different. Slimfast maybe. It should be okay for someone my age. The commercial says it’s full of vitamins.
“We need to go. It’s seven-thirty. I can’t be late for my shift.” Her mom was a registered nurse for a nursing home. She went into work early Monday through Friday and was always home by the time Cassandra got home from school.
Cassandra spun around to face the mirror again before scooping up her book bag. At least her curly hair looked alright and she hadn’t had a break out in a long time. Maybe no one will notice my weight. It’s a Christian school. Everyone should be cool with me she told herself.
Ronald glanced out the windshield as his stepfather pulled into the Baptist school’s parking lot. Three boys and girl sat at a picnic table under a large tree full of moss. He scanned beyond them, hoping to see Cassandra. But she wasn’t there from what he could see. His shoulders slumped and the pit in his stomach felt as if it would swallow him from the inside out.
“What’s the matter, little Ronnie?” his stepfather smacked his shoulder. “Afraid?”
He didn’t answer, grabbed the car handle, and pushed the door open. Hesitantly, he slid out of the seat and got to his feet, staring straight ahead. He figured if he ignored the head cheese he’d leave or melt away. Maybe he’ll crash his car somewhere today and die. That would’ve been fine with him. God knows he’s not been a real father figure in my life.
“Hey! Aren’t you gonna say good bye?” His stepfather sounded pathetic, kind of whiney. The guy has feelings?
Ronald rolled his eyes. “Bye.”
“Make sure you do what you can to walk like a man, girly-boy.” Those were his stepdad’s last words before he peeled out of the parking lot.
The kids at the picnic table all looked in his direction.
A lump grew in the bottom of his throat and he rolled his shoulders back. He took his stepfather’s advice to act like a man and puffed out his chest. Think John Wayne, he thought. It would be a great travesty if these kids figured out his secret.