A knock sounded at my bedroom door. I glanced, fuzzy eyed, at the clock. “Go away.”
The door opened and Amy walked in. “Hey, can I borrow your truck? The snow is still pretty bad on the back roads.”
“Sure, whatever. Just let me go back to sleep,” I grunted and rolled over. Then rolled right back over. “Why do you need my truck at seven in the morning on Sunday? Your shift at the store doesn't start until eleven.”
“Mom suckered me into some pancake breakfast thing at the church before Sunday School. She thinks I work Sunday's to avoid going to church.”
I sat up in the bed and glared at her. “You do.”
“No, it was because I was going to school over an hour away during the week and couldn't pull weekday shifts. And now I'm going to be working two jobs, I'll still have to work Sundays,” Amy protested, a little too much.
I gave her my best I-know-you-so-don't-shit-me look.
She glanced heavenward and sighed. “Not being able to go to church is just icing.”
“So tell her you don't want to go.”
“I can't do that. It would break her little heart. I just hate going around those people. Some of them are wonderful, but there are those few bigots that just make it super uncomfortable for me. Plus, they stare at my hair.”
“So, tell her that. The bigot part not the hair part. You like it when people stare at your hair. She'll understand,” I said, a little wistful. Mrs. Burton was one of the most understanding people I knew. She accepted all of Amy's life choices unconditionally. When we were juniors in high school Amy told Mrs. Burton she was bisexual. Her mom hadn’t batted an eyelash. She’d simply hugged Amy, told her she loved her, then told Amy to go clean her room. She would stop pestering Amy about going to church if she knew the reason she stayed away.
Amy shook her head making her long, beaded earrings slap her face. “Not on your life. Because then she'd want to know who the assholes were, and then she'd go give them a piece of her mind. They are her life-long friends and acquaintances. She gets enough sideways looks because of me, I don't want her getting shunned on top of it.”
“Ames, she's Baptist. I don't think they shun.”
“Oh, yes they do. You just don't even know,” she laughed. “I'll just let her go on thinking you are a bad influence on me because you don't go to church, either.”
“It's my only day off from everything. It's the only day I have to catch up on homework, laundry, and housework. Oh, yeah, and it's my day to sleep in. Speaking of which, get the hell out of my bedroom so I can go back to sleep.”
I flopped back on my pillows and pulled the blanket up over my head.
“Okay, I'm going, I promised to help cook the breakfast.”
“Oh, so you decided to just poison everyone so you don't get asked back to church? Good strategy.”
I couldn't see through the blankets over my head, but I knew Amy was giving me a one-fingered salute.
“Har-har. You're hilarious. I'm out… Oh, check your twitter feed today. I tagged you in a bunch of links I want you to check out.”
I pulled the blanket down and glared at her. “I don't do social media, you know that.” I only had the twitter account because I'd used it when doing a class project.
She huffed out a breath. “Really, you are like the only tech geek in the world that doesn't Internet.”
“I internet a lot, thank you. I just don't do social media. You know why.”
“Yes, I know,” she said, sounding bored. “But humor me. Risk seeing tabloid headlines about your sister just this once to look at the stuff I tagged you in. Pretty please with double chocolate sprinkles on top?”
Great, now I was hungry. “Okay, but only if you bring home ice cream. And chocolate sprinkles.”
“Deal,” she flashed her I-knew-I'd-get-my-way grin. “Okay, gotta jet. Pancakes and Jesus await.”
I made an unintelligible noise and pulled the covers back up over my head. I heard my truck engine revving up and pulling out of the drive, and I flipped over, trying to get comfortable enough to fall back asleep, but it was useless. I was wide awake.
Sunday was the one day a week I could sleep in until ten or eleven. The one lazy morning I allowed myself, or rather, was allowed by my crazy schedule, and of course I was now awake at too-damned-early-o'clock. Grumbling a string of curse words directed at my absent best friend, I tossed back the blankets and sat up.
I was surprised to find Amy had made coffee. She was of the mind that if she had to sling coffee at work, she shouldn't have to at home. She'd tried the same attitude with dish washing, but Dex and I shut that down really fast. From the two-thirds-empty state of the pot I surmised she'd found getting up at the butt-crack of dawn on a Sunday as challenging as I had.
I emptied the coffee pot into my favorite Captain America mug, added my favorite candy bar flavored non-dairy creamer to my cup and took my coffee back upstairs to my room. Normally I'd work on homework first thing, but yesterday had been so slow at the bookstore because of the snow, I'd had plenty of time do all of the reading I needed to do for the next week, so instead I decided to get even further ahead on my semester project.
Two hours later my eyes were crossed from staring at my computer screen, but I was nearly finished with my project, nearly two months ahead of schedule. In truth, creating a website and online shopping cart as a little below the level of what I was currently studying. It's a project I could have done my freshman year, but the semester projects were less about showing off skills and more about getting real world, entry level work experience.
Since I was as far as I could go on the project until I had my advisor look over it and give me the go-ahead to keep going, I put my school laptop away and rolled my neck to work out the stiffness. It didn't work.
Damn it! Getting up so early had thrown off my routine and I hadn't done any stretching or exercise at all. I sifted through the clothes on the floor and found the cleanest sports bra and yoga pants I had. I really needed to do laundry. After I pulled on the not-too-stinky workout clothes I found my favorite yoga video on my phone and cast it to the large TV hanging on the wall over my desk.
An hour later I was stretched out, sweaty, and ready for another cup of coffee. And my workout clothes had crossed the line into stinky-as-fuck territory. Putting the coffee on hold for a few minutes I showered and dressed in the last of my clean clothes–a threadbare Abba t-shirt and Spiderman pajama pants. Yeah, I definitely needed to do laundry. I spent a few minutes cleaning up my room before grabbing my over-flowing laundry basket and getting on with my Sunday routine.
I stopped in the kitchen on my way to the basement, started a fresh pot of coffee and hung out long enough to pour a cup of the hot, caffeine deliciousness. Then I headed to the laundry room, carefully balancing my coffee and the laundry basket as I descended into the basement. Stopping at Dex's door I kicked it and yelled, “Fresh pot's on.”
Growing up, the basement had been my refuge. It was where my computer and video games were kept, things my grandparents just couldn't wrap their heads around. I always had the basement to myself, except on Sundays when Granny did laundry. But even then, once my teen years hit and the stairs were harder and harder for her, I did the laundry and the basement was mine. But when Dex and Amy had moved in right after we graduated high school, Dex had needed more room for his computers than the tiny spare bedroom upstairs could provide. So, the basement “den” had been converted into a bedroom and we'd built a wall to separate it from the laundry room and no-longer used canning pantry.
I was shoving a week's worth of clothes in the washer when Dex made an appearance. He leaned against the door frame looking as if he'd just modeled to be the poster-boy for weird geek boys that lived in their mother's basements. His hair mussed and sticking up in every angle, the lower half of his face was covered with three days of scraggly growth, his “Han shot first” t-shirt had a hole in the sleeve–how does that even happen?–and his Batman pajama pants were at least two sizes two big. And yet, he still managed to look adorable to the max. Girls who hadn't been friends with him since kindergarten, didn't consider him to be the brother they'd never wanted, and weren't me, would say he looked sexy and totally doable right no. I could see it in a now-I-have-to-bleach-my-brain kind of way.
“Food?” he asked.
I shook my head. “I'm not cooking. I think there are some sausage biscuits in the freezer.”
He grinned. “Excellent.”
“Nuke me one too,” I called after him as he ran up the stairs. Nothing like the prospect of food to kick Dex into high gear.
Ten minutes later we were both munching on biscuits as we settled in front of the living room TV for our weekly ritual of watching all of our favorite TV shows from the previous week on the DVR. Although Dex was home every night and could watch the shows when they aired, he usually waited until Sundays to watch them with me. It was one of the only times we got to hang together anymore.
Halfway into the second show cell phone dinged with a text message from Amy.
“Read the links yet?” she asked.
“No.” I texted back.
A sad face emoji was her reply.
Geeze! Guilt trip much?
“I'll do it now,” I sent back.
Happy face emoji.
When the next commercial came on I told Dex not to fast forward through it, and ran up to my room and grabbed my tablet. When I got downstairs the all too familiar face of one of the hottest pop stars in the country was on screen hawking lipstick. “You can fast forward now.”
“Aww, come on, I love this commercial,” Dex whined.
“Yes, and I find that seriously disturbing.”
“Because it's a makeup commercial? You know she's one of my favorite musicians.”
“And that's what disturbs me. Her music is bubble-gummy crap. Her target audience is fourteen-year-old girls. You, my friend, are not her target audience. Oh, wait…never mind. Perhaps you are.”
Dex stuck his tongue out at me. “You're just creeped out because I think your sister's hot.”
I rolled my eyes. “Every dude in the free world thinks my sister is hot. But yeah, it's a little creepy when you say it.”
“Don't be jealous,” Dex said. “I think you're hot, too.”
I screwed my face up. “That's just gross.”
Dex's face mirrored mine. “Yeah, it kinda is. Let's forget I said that and never, ever mention it again.”
“Deal. Now put the show back on, I want to see who died.”
I settled back on the sofa and, keeping most of my attention on the show we were watching I pulled up Twitter in my browser. I skimmed the list of posts. It was all articles and videos about body positivity and loving yourself. Most of them were not new to me. Amy was big into stuff like that and always sending me stuff to look at. I usually ignored it. My body was what it was, fat and unattractive to guys, except those who would sleep with anyone. It was what it was.
Since I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome when I was barely seventeen, I'd learned to accept that no matter how healthily I ate or how much I exercised, I'd always be fat. So, I ate what I wanted, did at least ten minutes of yoga every morning, worked out three times a week, and didn't give a rat’s ass about my size. But I wasn't naive either. Amy was always trying to get me to see myself as beautiful, but I couldn't.
I totally got why unconditional self-love was important to Amy. Though she was a tiny little twigling of a thing, a size six on her fattest day, she had a lot of things to overcome. My bestie was a flamboyant personality with her pastel hair, rainbow bright meets goth girl fashion sense, and openly identifying as bisexual. That would be difficult enough anywhere, but growing up on the dead center of the bible belt added its own special level of hell to her teenage years, despite her super accepting and supportive family.
I understood why she felt it was so important to see the beauty in every body. But for me, I couldn't get up the same sort of enthusiasm. I didn't think it was stupid, or anything. Just not for me. I just really didn't care enough about my appearance to worry that much about it. Just getting through school and dealing with day to day responsibilities was enough for me.
Besides, I felt like as long as I wasn't actively hating my body, it didn't matter if I loved it. My body and I had a very basic understanding. I didn't try to starve it into submission, and it kept functioning. It was a neutral relationship–kind of a don't-fuck with me-I-won't-fuck-with-you type thing–but I felt like it was healthy enough.
But I knew if I didn't read some of the articles and watch at least a few of the videos, there would be hell to pay when Amy got home. There were several articles about the first ever plus size model to sign with a major modeling agency. I read a couple of the articles then clicked on her website. She was a size bigger than me and infinitely prettier. As I scrolled through the pictures on her website I was amazed at her confidence and how much fun she looked like she was having.
And then there were links to articles about the first ever plus size model on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. I remembered when it had happened a couple of years ago, and she’d basically been all over the Internet since. But still, I clicked through the links and websites, so I could honestly tell Amy I’d done it.
There were links to clothing catalogs with women of all sizes modeling, and blogs that talked about beauty not having a size. The last link in the list was a video of a pretty, not-skinny woman with red and silver hair who stood blindfolded and wearing a bikini in the middle of an outdoor market of some sort. She had markers and a sign asking for people to draw hearts on her body in support of “self-acceptance”. The response she received was amazingly positive, and by the end of the video tears were streaming down my face.
As I suspected had been Amy's plan, I felt thoroughly shamed. Though I still didn't see myself as nearly as pretty as any of the women I'd read about, my protestations that I was too fat had been rendered invalid. If Alden Cortland was photographing plus-sized clothing, then I was actually just the right size.
And to be completely honest with myself, it did sound like fun. I never bothered much with clothes. I liked my graphic tees, jeans and sneakers just fine. They were about as stylish as I cared to be and easy to take care of. I rarely wore makeup and my favorite hairstyle was whatever kept it out of my face and off my neck. But that didn't mean I didn't like to dress up. I could be as girly as the next chick when I wanted to be.
And the thought that some girl might see my picture modeling something she wanted to wear and be inspired by it, well, that was pretty cool too.
But I couldn't shake the fear that this was all some elaborate joke. That he'd only asked me as a way to make fun of me, or worse, try to get in my pants. I'd had enough guys tell me how sexy I was in order to try to get in my pants. The whole, fat girls have low self-esteem thing.
Ugh! I tossed my tablet on the sofa. I just couldn't deal with all of this right now. I needed to finish my laundry and do my share of the household chores for the week.
I grabbed my phone, put my earbuds in, and pulled up my favorite house cleaning playlist. Within seconds Abba was blasting in my ears, pushing Alden Cortland, modeling, and body positivity out of my brain.
Later that night I was stretched out on my bed reading ahead for the next week of classes when my phone dinged indicating a text. Expecting it to be either Amy or Dex telling me to come downstairs for dinner, I picked my phone up and glanced at it.
The text read, “Have you thought about my proposal? -A”
I stomped down the hall and flung open Amy's bedroom door. The room was empty. My frustration mounting, I growled and stomped downstairs. I found Amy and Dex in the living room. They were both crouched in front of the cabinet where we kept our monster sized collection of board and card games.
Amy turned when she heard me enter the room. “Hey. I ordered pizza for dinner. It should be here any minute. Wanna play Cards Against Humanity?”
I ignored her. “Wanna tell me how Alden Cortland got my phone number?”
She shrugged, unapologetic. “Oh, yeah, I forgot. He came in the store today. He was asking about you. He said he needed to ask you something, so I gave him your number and told him to text you.”
The sound that came out of me was about as close to a growl as a human voice can get. But it didn't bother Amy.
She cocked her head to one side. “Don't get all ‘grrr' with me. You know you think he's hot. And he's interested in you.”
“Just as a model for his project,” I said.
“Then what's the big about him having your number? You know you want to model for him. It will be fun. Or is that the problem? You are afraid that is the only reason he's interested and you don't want to hang around him because you are into him?”
“No. I… Oh, shut up, Amy.” I turned and stomped out of the room. I paused at the foot of the stairs and called back, “Let me know when the pizza is here. And yes, I want to play Cards Against Humanity.”
Back in my room I read the text again. “Have you thought about my proposal? -A”
I typed in, “Yes.” And hit send.
A minute later my phone dinged.
“I'm sorry Allan, but I can't marry you.”
“Seriously, can I bring the designer by the bookstore to talk to you tomorrow?”
I stared at the last text he sent. He was either as anal as I was about texting and had typed out every word properly, or he was using voice commands to text. Either way, he was using complete words and sentences instead of the ridiculous texting shorthand that made everyone seem illiterate. That was a point in his favor.
I hesitated another moment then replied, “Sure. I get off at 7. We can talk then.”
“Awesome. See ya.”
A little thrill jiggled my stomach. This was not good.
Damn Amy for being right.