Just One More Bite
PrologueI sat on the pavement under the baking sun as I waited for something to do. It was a long, tiresome Friday in August. The Hippies went to work after lunch and left me alone to work on my artistic skills. When I was still inside, I drew four lines in the form of a square. After putting an isosceles triangle on the top of the house, I added four windows and a rounded door. Maybe one day, this drawing will be displayed in a museum for unappreciated artists of the past.
Later on, I went to grab the mail and ended up locking myself out of the house. Great, I thought when I realized I’d left the keys on the countertop in the kitchen. Sweat trickled down my face, causing my thin hair to stick to the back of my neck. The street was empty; the only sound I could hear was my heavy breathing. I considered walking to Pacy’s house, but then I remembered I didn’t have my sneakers. Besides, I didn’t feel like moving.
A familiar jingle sounded as the ice cream truck strolled down the lane. Sammy, a heavyset man in his late forties with a thick German accent stopped the truck and offered me a double fudge cone. I had two dollars in my shorts pocket. He handed me the cone in exchange for his money.
“Have a nice day, Zina,” he said and started his truck, causing the irritable, cheery music to begin again.
As the sound vanished beyond the next street, I licked the ice cream with gratitude. When I finished the cone, I was bored again. My stomach growled in dissatisfaction. I felt as though a brick was sitting in the pit of my stomach, and I had to force myself to get up from the pavement. I stumbled back to the front porch and reclined in the rocking swing.
Sometimes, I wish I were anorexic. Or maybe bulimic. When I had been offered a slice of cake during the eighth grade graduation, about five years ago, I’d accepted and I’d eaten the piece in less than a minute. The popular girls, in their low-cut, expensive dresses had walked past me in disgust.
“What a pig,” I’d heard one of them say.
In the bathroom later, I had been fixing my thin, brown hair in the mirror when Marcy, the most popular girl in the school had walked in. She had long, perfectly wavy blond hair and a model’s figure. I’d always envied her. She was applying a glittering, pink lip gloss before she’d said in a snobby voice:
“Don’t even try, Zina. You’re fat and ugly and you’ll never be as beautiful as me.”
She’d sashayed out of the bathroom before I’d even had the chance to respond. I remembered that after she’d left, I’d tried so hard to make my double chin disappear. But it wouldn’t.
When I’d come home that night, the Hippies had asked me how the graduation dance was.
“Swell,” I’d replied before going to my bedroom. I’d cried myself to sleep that night.
While I rocked as gently as possible on the porch swing, I felt sick. I took the horrible memory and locked it away in the back of my mind. The Hippies would be home soon and we’d have movie night and popcorn. Food. Food that I shouldn’t have. Fat and ugly, the words rang in my ears.
The Hippies came home at around six. Their minivan decorated in rainbows and peace symbols parked in front of the house. When Ember Rose opened her door, the strong scent of pot floated around the air. Rex with his long hair tied back in a ponytail and John Lennon glasses walked up the front porch and said:
“Give peace a chance.”
He unlocked the front door and entered the house. I followed after Ember Rose.
“That was groovy, man,” Ember Rose said in a smooth, voice that sounded drugged out.
After giving her the peace sign, Rex opened the fridge and grabbed a bottle of beer. He went to the living room to watch some weird 60s movie about world peace.
“Hi, Zina,” Ember Rose began. “What would you like for dinner?”
“Whatever,” I said and decided I wanted to be in my bedroom.
“Groovy,” she replied.
I went to my room. Before I was born, the Hippies styled my room to look like a piece from the 60s. Shaggy carpets, popcorn ceiling, giant peace signs, and lava lamps. The walls were tie-dyed and my jewelry box was filled with peace-inspired necklaces and earrings and bracelets. I sighed and jumped onto my mattress covered in a tie-dye bedspread with a giant peace sign in the center.
“Zina! Dinner!” Ember Rose called ten minutes later.
When I sat down at the kitchen table, I smelled burnt chicken and raw broccoli. Rex joined us, half drunk and overly-delusional as he banged his fork and knife on the table. The food that Ember Rose set down was exactly as I’d predicted. I still ate everything on my plate.
“I can’t believe my little baby’s going into her last year of high school!” Ember Rose exclaimed when dinner was finished.
“She’s come a long way,” Rex jumped in, “in the journey of life. But Zina will always be our little pacifist.”
Ember Rose pinched my cheek. I smiled only slightly as they beamed down at me, Rex wearing a drunkard man’s smile complete with yellow teeth and bad breath. Actually, I dreaded school. After I’d gained more weight over the summer, I knew I’d have a tough time getting through senior year.
At eight, Rex invited us to finish his world peace movie. Ember Rose joined him, but I went to my room early. Before turning on my lava lamp night light, I glanced at my figure in the mirror. I was definitely fat. Double chin. Floppy boobs. Huge belly. Stubby legs. But I wasn’t doing a whole lot to prevent the numbers on the scale from increasing. Maybe I could join a circus and perform in the freak show. Yeah. That’s a good idea.