October 18, 2010
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“Why is this happening to me?” I scream into the mirror. I poke my finger into yet another hole in my only pair of jeans. The t-shirt I had picked to wear today is ragged. Less ragged than the other two shirts I own. I stare at my reflection. I have super dark circles under my eyes. My hair is fine, but it looks out of place on the swamp hag. “Mom!”

My mom, Diana, is in her late forties but is still as pretty and in shape as she was when she got married in her twenties. Her hair is graying, but it looks more like silver. While she’s, like, 125 pounds and wears a size 6, I weigh exactly 156 pounds, and wear sizes 16-18.

“Mom, do I look like the swamp hag?”

“No, Belle. You are beautiful. There’s a reason you father and I named you Belle. Belle means…”

“Beautiful. I know. You tell me this all the time. I still feel like the swamp hag. Do I have to go to church this evening?”

“Not if you don’t want to, but the Lemon Republic might feel differently.”

She was referring to the team I was on in the youth group. We named it after the clothing company I could never afford to buy from, Banana Republic, I guess.

“What for? I mean. we’re already dead last. It’s not like we care anymore.”

“It’s not my choice. You decide.”

Half an hour later, I’m sitting in the sanctuary counting down the sixty seconds with my friends. Shouting, really, over the pulsing music. Then we all cheer, because the timer is up and Ivan’s Crafts comes up on the screen. Tonight’s craft was a space mobile. Ivan took a bunch of those little snack cakes that I don’t eat because they’ll make me fat because of all the calories. And he tries to tie them with string to a hanger. When he finally get it done, some guy comes along and take a cake, eats a bite out of it, then presses is in Ivan’s face. Everyone’s laughing like crazy. Then Daniel Smithson, the youth minister, get up on the stage and that guy on the other 12th grade team, and Brandon who is also on that other team, and Tyson, who is on the Lemon Republic get on the stage too. Brandon on the bass guitar and Tyson on the drums, that other guy singing backup and Daniel leading. We sang those really good songs that are perfect for the kind of week I’d been having. Next thing I know, I bawling my eyes out and its time to break up for small groups. We all went to our designated spots and discussions began. Of course, it didn’t start out on the lesson. It was about school and families. Finally when it got to the actual lesson, it fit what was happening in my life. I’m mortified to realize that I’m crying again. The group leader ends up praying with me. By the end of the night, I feel so much better, until I go into the little girl’s room and look in the mirror. My mascara is all over my face and my eyes are red, and my face is splotchy. Then Mom comes and picks my three younger siblings and me up. I end up crying all the way home, mostly because I’m so embarrassed that I cried in front of everyone.

“It’s time to get up. I let you sleep in past 10.” Mom comes in a turns on the light.

“I feel like crap. No scratch that. I feel like worse than crap.” I bury my head under the pillows. My dog, Sophie, lick my leg. I growl and throw the covers off my bed. It’s my job to feed the five dogs and two cats we have and for some funny reason, no one else can feed them every once and a while. I look over at Sophie’s food bowl as I brush my hair. Empty. I hear Cassie, Damian, and Gavin talking at the table. Mom must have started them on school. I open the door of my room and head out to the garage to get the dog food. I fill up Mom’s dog Foxy’s bowl then I bring a scoop to fill Sophie’s. Then I head outside to fill up Boudreaux’s bowl, then Penny’s then Camo’s. I call Camo the ‘Fuzzy Gentleman.’ He’s part Aussie Shepherd, part Chow. He’s super cute and polite. I have to feed him last because Boudreaux is food aggressive and Penny wags her tail until my legs are bruised. I head back inside to get a scrap of bread and press a Benadryl into it. I feed it to Penny and she scarfs it down. She has allergies and Benadryl works really well. When I grab a bowl and pour cereal into it, I realize that it’s really quiet. I look up. Everyone’s staring at me.

“What?” I growl.

“Nothing.” Mom says. “Do you want to get a shower?”

“You sayin’ I smell funny?” I smirk.

Cassie laughs.

Seriously, why can’t I laugh like that? It’s a pleasant laugh. I snort when I laugh.

“Are you okay?” Mom hands me a spoon and a glass of orange juice.

“Yeah.” I dig into the Cheerios.

Mom turns back to the dishes.

“Why do we have to live like this?” I set my empty bowl by the sink.

“God’s trying to prepare us for something.”

“You say that all the time, Mom.” I know she’s trying to help, but it’s getting old. I leave the kitchen before she can say anything else.

After my shower I felt better. I’m sitting at my desk, working at Algebra 2. Why do I have to go through this? Why couldn’t it all be in Algebra 1?

“Daddy’s home!” Gavin bursts into my room.

“Dang it, Gavin! You came into the room talking!”

“Sorry.” I can tell I’ve hurt his feelings. Again.

“Gavin, sorry. I’m just having a bad day.”

“It’s okay.”

Why can’t I be forgiving like him? I hold grudges. “I’ll be out in a little bit.”

Gavin shuts the door as he leaves.

They don’t know it, but I can hear them through the wall.

“The electric bill’s due in a week.”

“God will find a way to pay it, Stan.”

Mom and Dad are talking at the table. In the background I hear the TV blaring at full volume. It sounds like something on Discovery Channel.

“I know he will.”

It makes me angry. Why can’t God just let us have the flippin’ money to pay the bills, buy good dog food, get new clothes.

The phone rings. Mom answers. She comes into my room. “Sweetie, Mrs. Preston’s on the phone, she wants to know if you can baby-sit Friday night.”

“I can do that.” Mrs. Preston always pays well. Maybe I can buy a new pair of jeans and a shirt.

The day the bill is due, Dad get a check in the mail. It’s enough to pay the bill, and buy more dog food. The good kind.

I guess Mom was right. You just need to trust God.

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