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Life will reduce a girl to vomit.
“So, July, you know why you’re here, right?” That awful counselor, Mr. Robinson, fixed his glasses, and motions for me to sit down. His head is completely shaved, and his forehead looks as if it was going to bust out of it’s skin cage any second. A real Klingon look, if you ask me.
“Actually I don’t. Enlighten me.” I sat up in my chair. Apparently you burn a lot more calories that way. F***. This is just what I needed. An unexpected call to guidance. It’s fall of junior year. I’m hoping to coast by until I graduate. Looks like I’m going to sink.
“You know July, some of your friends are concerned about you.” Mr. Robinson went on. His teeth were a size to big for his mouth. It was extremely distracting. I wanted to lunge at him with a chisel
“I have two friends.” I look down. My stomach was in disgusting folds. I made a mental note to do a couple hundred crunches when I got home. Actually, that’s not true. Most of my friends, except for those two, Paige and Ben, had gone away to college. They were older , and wrapped up in their respective lives.
“They say you haven’t been in the cafeteria in weeks. You don’t go to lunch, July?” He shifts his weight. No matter how small his mouth was, his body was huge.
“What’s the big deal? I go to AP Calc extra help and I also spend some time Helping Mrs. Fammiano with, you know, stuff.” I say, twisting my favorite green flower ring around my finger.
“Stuff? Really? What kind of help would she need?” Mr. Robinson asked
“Stuff! The life of a chorus teacher is one of many perils, you know. It’s a lot. Putting music in folders, teaching key signature to freshmen that have below average intelligence, you know, stuff like that.” I shrug
I know people wouldn’t expect this. July Hedrick is laying low? Maybe a year ago they wouldn’t expect it. I was a spitfire. I loved partying and dances, I loved to sparkle in a crowd. I was actually popular. That’s not the case anymore. Nowadays people scoff at me, Paige, and Ben in the hallway. I’ve had notes thrown down my shirt that say “go die music geek.” Really though, music seems to be one of the only things that help me get through the day. I play guitar and piano, and I sing to. I’ve been in millions of advanced choirs and specialized bands. They always need an extra keyboard or mezzo soprano. I have a songbook and I’ve written over 50 songs. Some are great, other aren’t. But I don’t know how things got to be this way.
.Robinsons voice interrupts me from my little daydream.
“You really enjoy helping your chorus teacher, July? Every day? Do you really need that extra help? According to my records your doing very well in your Advanced Placement calculus. ”
I uncross my legs, then cross them, then uncross them again. “Yes.”
He didn’t seem convinced. “Is there any other reason your avoiding the lunchroom?”
“No. And which of my “friends” told you this, anyway?” I ask, tapping my foot impatiently.
“July, you know I can’t tell you that. Remember the code of confidentiality.” He said, a little to proudly, pointing at the sign that hung above the entrance to his office. The sign read “Your words are safe past this point.”
I roll my eyes. “Can I go back to my Physics class now? I hate to miss it, it’s a sink or swim subject.” That was a lie, actually. I hate my Advanced placement Physics class. It was fully of smarta**es who made me feel stupid, even though I pulled the grades that they did. I needed to. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t. Anything less then almost perfection is not acceptable. Now or ever. It’s something that I guess I learned to deal with by now.
He nods. “July, if you ever feel like talking, you know where I am.”
Unfortunately, I did. He was the only guidance counselor at Lakeview High, the high school in Lakeview, the small, ultra suburban, Connecticut town in which we live. I walked out the door from the guidance office, shuffling my feet as I went.
I go back to my looming physics class. I hand my guidance pass to my teacher. She is known to her Advanced Placement Physics students only as “Mrs. G.”, and at this point in time was talking on a tangent about south Korea. How did we get to this? I sit back down next to Ben and ask to copy his notes.
Now if you have to know something about Ben, you must know his annoyingly irksome over sharing habit. I love the boy, but he does not have a filter on his brain. Anything that comes to his head, he shares. He’s awful with secrets. And he is secretly a pubescent twelve year old. Sex is on his mind, all the time. Which naturally, he shares. But I know his weaknesses, like the fact that his mom still buys all of his underwear and that he watches The Wonderpets on playhouse Disney at 3 o clock in the morning. And he writes R Rated Bones fanfiction. All. The. Time.
He hands over his notebook. His left eyebrow twitched, which meant he was getting ready to share something I probably shouldn’t know.
“July, I swear. Mrs. G bent over and I could see her sweet little pink thong. Mmmmmm. Do you know how kinky it is to bang a teacher? Do you think I would get an A plus if I did, I’m pretty much failing.”
“TMI, Ben.” I shook my head. “I could have lived my whole life without those thoughts in my head. And do you think our AP physics teacher wears a thong? She honestly doesn’t seem the type.”
“Tell me you weren’t curious. I know I was. Seeing a teacher’s panties is like finding buried treasure.” He says, seeing the look on my face I added “I’m a man, I think manly thoughts.”
“And I’m sure those manly thoughts are spewing onto your spongebob boxers as we speak.” I shoot back.
He turned red and shut up. I started to go back to normal, everyday sitting in class when I looked down. I stared at my legs, wondering how they became that huge. I didn’t even hear the bell, just ran my hand up and down them, feeling for any bumps that weren’t there yesterday.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
I put my keys in the ignition and started my car, after all the crap I had to do after school. Even though this year I seem to have taken a turn for the worse, I’m still involve in. Yearbook, drama, select chorus, all that s***. Back to my car; It’s a little black Honda civic. It’s name is Bernadette, and I treat it like my child.
I close the car door and slam my foot. In open toed shoes.
“S***.” I mutter, and just then a teacher walks by and shakes his head sternly.
It’s what I get.
It’s about a 10 minute drive home. I pump Goldfinger on my stereo. I’m just reaching my favorite of their songs, “Handj*** for Jesus” when I get to my house. I pull in the driveway walk up the front steps of my house. It’s a little brick colonial, typical of this town.
I walk into the kitchen and see my 8 year old sister, Elizabeth, sitting at the table doing her homework.
“Hey.” I wave to her.
“July, July, July!” She exclaimed. “Brian says he wants to see you in his office. Right away.”
Brian is our stepdad. I’m not his biggest fan. I was 15 when he married my mom, and he treated me as if I were Elizabeth’s age. He’s harder on me when it comes to my grades than anyone. Almost daily he tells me how I’m not working hard enough and will never get into a good school. Worst of all, he insult’s Paige and Ben, and their families. It makes my stomach knot up. I refer to him, in my head, as “the thing”
He works from home, and whenever I get called up to his office, I know I’m in trouble.
My real dad was awesome. We had the ritual where he would take me to my piano and vocal lessons and we’d always play cheesy seventies music on the stero and fill eachother in on the other’s days. I honestly don’t understand why he had to die. It was a heart attack, the doctor said. He was 47 and in very good health. It made no sense. Our family has never been the same.
“S***, what’d I do?” Hoping that wasn’t in earshot of Elizabeth.
“I don’t know.” She shrugs. Oh well, maybe she knew those 4 letter words anyway. Actually, I think I’d taught her some of them. “But he wants you up there right away. It sounds like he’s mad about something.”
“As usual.” I retort. I walked as slow as I could out into the garage to the winding staircase that led to his office. He manages a chain of sporting goods stores all around the state. Much as this sounds like work, he really has a chain of highly trained monkeys, I mean his employees, to do everything for him. So really, his job involves a lot of sitting on his a** and checking baseball scores ever ten minutes.
Really, it’s very trying. This is meant in the most sarcastic way possible.
He also flirts with anything with in his vicinity. He'll go to pick up the groceries and end up staring down the v-neck of some young, blonde mother. He'll be at starbucks and trying to get the number of the lady in front of him who orders a vanilla latte without foam. I've never told my mother, but only Elizabeth. She's a bit to young to understand, but it helps.
I open his door. “You wanted to see me?” I ask, trying to keep my voice polite. All though, it usually takes all my effort to remain polite with The Thing.
He was sitting at his desk with his feet up. There were baseball scores on his computer. He opened his mouth to speak.
“I got a call from your school saying that you missed half of your physics class to go to the guidance counselor. What do you need a guidance counselor for? What kind of s*** are your friends trying to put on you now? Do we need to have a talk with your mother?” He asks, talking obnoxiously with his hands.
S***. They call home for that? Schools these days…
“It was nothing… they were just… looking at my college admissions. They wanted to know where I had applied and…” My voice trails off, hoping he would by the lie.
“Hmmm. I guess that’s reasonable. But did you miss a lot in class? Your last two test grades in physics were well, less then perfection. Remember the family list of colleges to watch! Cornell, Georgetown, Harvard even. All it takes is one grade…” The Thing started off on one of his lectures, but I stopped him before he could.
“Look Brian, I know. I didn’t miss much and I got the notes. Mrs. G was going off on a tangent again…” I explain
“July that’s not the point! You shouldn’t ever miss a core class, no matter what. I don’t care if the guidance counselor wants to talk to you. Tell him net time to call you down during lunch.” The thing cracks his knuckles, a habit I cannot stand.
But actually, that’s really not a bad idea. Not bad at all. Another excuse to skip lunch.
“I know, Brian. Am I free to leave? Or must I earn that right?” I said, in an annoyed tone
I may be slightly terrified of Brian, but sometimes the only way to get him to shut the fuck up is to go right back at him.
“Fine, July. And if there was another reason you were called down, I expect the full truth. I don’t want to take your shit." I try to leave, but he has another idea. Something else i've done. He pulls me back by the fabric of my shirt and holds it there.
"Look. I've over heard that you've been saying things about me to you sister. About other women. And i'm here to tell you to stop. She'll take your word over mine and i don't want a good, obedient child to end up like, well, you know. And if you mention any of it to your mother, you are really going to get it."
I walk out of his office, down the winding staircase and back into the kitchen.
Elizabeth looks, wide eyed, at me. “Did you get it bad?”
I shrug“Not this time.”
“What for?” She asks
“I don’t even know. The school called. I missed half of physics today. He was about to go on one of his full blown college rants again.” I tell her
“Oooo, that’s tough.”
Like she would know. She’s eight. She barely can grasp the concept of a college. But I smiled as best as I could, and she went upstairs to her room.
I heard my stomach rumbling. I’d been starving all day. I took the two steps of doom, the ones that I promise myself every that I won’t make. I walked over to the pantry and opened it, staring at all of the food inside. This is the moment every day where I loose all of my self control. I grabbed the package of Ritz crackers and retreated to my bedroom.
I thought about what Brian was saying. About my college applications. My future. One grade can make me fall, I know that. I need to get into the perfect school. Did that AP American history test go OK? What about the Calc one? I know I have a good four hours of studying to do tonight, and while I knew what I should be doing, I simply shoved ritz crackers into my mouth one by one. The whole sleeve. I felt that my sides were going to bust.
Great. I spent the day avoiding food of all kinds. A f***ing failure, that’s what I am. This is the point I get to all the time, almost every day. I look down at my stomach, it seemed to be expanding by the second. I am going to break out of the little ruffle shirt I am wearing, splitting the fabric by means of pure fat. It’s just so disgusting.
I run across the hallway to the bathroom I share with Elizabeth. I looked at the door to my little sister’s room and it was locked. I quickly lock the bathroom door and turn on the faucet to start the concealing sound of running water.
I knelt at the toilet, then insert my fingers so far back that my knuckles reach the soft part in the back. Out came the ritz cracker bits. Then again. And again. And again.
The first time was about a year and a half ago, in August. That was the real D-day. Pressure was mounting. I’d felt worthless. My grades were slipping, any music I tried to write was pointless. This was about the time Brian came to live with us. I guess I couldn’t get used to the adjustment. I’d gone over to Paiges house. Her mom always makes the best food, and every time I’m there she has some new treat for me to try. I ate a whole stack of triple fudge brownies. I went home, ate 2 sleeves of the girl scout cookies Elizabeth sells. 3 servings of mashed potatoes. My mom made a comment about me plumping up for the school year. I spit out my mouthful of potatoes into a paper towel and ran upstairs. I opened my songbook, and couldn’t come up with anything. No tune, no piano part, nothing at all. My stomach gurgled and I, very much like now, thought it would burst open. I’d ran to the bathroom and locked the door. I’d knelt, inserted my fingers in my mouth, and repeated it so many times until I felt like I was going to pass out. It hurt, but it was a good pain. I’d felt empowered, strong, less stressed out then I had before.
That first time is hard, but now, once it’s become routine, it’s simple.
Once I finish, I flush the toilet and spread a glob of toothpaste onto my purple toothbrush. I didn’t want anyone to smell what I’d done. While brushing my teeth, I look in the mirror. My skin looks gray and flat, like underwear that’s been washed to many times. There were bits of vomit in my dark brown hair, I remove them with a tissue. But then I glance up and see my eyes. They are rimmed in red, as what happens when all the blood rushes to my head. But as strange as this was, it made them look much bluer than normal. In a very sick way, they had never looked prettier.