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I slowly release the handle of the locker room door, cringing as the bolt clicks into place. I just snuck out of the cafeteria early, so that I won’t have to change in front of anyone. It’s Wednesday. 12:20 PM. Today is marked with a shark fin on my calendar.
“I’m having my period,” I told Ms. Flannery, to avoid the aquatic fitness unit in gym.
“That’s what you said before the square dance unit. Which was a week ago.” Crap.
I remove my flip flops so that no one will hear the rubber soles smack against the concrete floor. The smell of chlorine exacerbates my anxiety. This very moment, Ms. Flannery is probably devising new ways to emphasize my jiggling limbs. As if dancercising weren’t sufficiently humiliating.
After tiptoeing past endless rows of blue lockers, I secure the private stall reserved for handicapped girls. I remove my clothes, and pull a swimsuit out of my bag. I’ve rehearsed in front of the mirror at home, experimenting with how taut to pull the strings. Tying them into a tight knot squishes my boobs together, but cuts into my back. I don’t want to look like a sausage squeezed into a rubber band. Loosening up the strings flattens out my cleavage, yet boys might be intrigued by the possibility of too much exposure. I decide on the latter style.
Without the support of light dimmers, stilettos, and Christina Aguilera belting “Beautiful” from my iPod, the delusion of acceptability I conjured up in my room is annihilated. Standing in the bathroom stall, my feminine inadequacy is undeniable. My boobs are spread too far apart. My butt puckers as if it has just tasted a lemon. Stretch marks zigzag across my hips and thighs.
I dig around in my bag for waterproof mascara, resisting the Snickers bar wedged between my planner and my cell phone. I haven’t eaten all day. When my stomach rumbles, I remind myself of how Dad used to call me Shamoo. Then the hunger vanishes.
I pull a couple of cotton pads out of my bag and insert them into my swimsuit top. If my boobs were bigger, I’d appear smaller everywhere else. I’ve never used them at school, and realize that it will look strange if my grapes swell into grapefruits within a day. How I wish I had Jessica’s hourglass figure, or Tara’s flawless skin.
The bell jolts me out of my thoughts. A few minutes later, my classmates trickle into the locker room. I wrap a towel around my body, cursing myself for not saving my period excuse for today.
“You must be so excited to be nominated for prom queen. Your dress was gorgeous, I wish I wore a size two instead of a four” Jessica chirps when I emerge from the stall.
“Yeah, thanks for voting for me.” I feign a smile of gratitude.
Ms. Flannery beckons us with her whistle. I plunge into the deep end of the pool to hide.