Authors: K. M. Walton
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Social Themes, #Bullying, #Dating & Relationships, #Suicide, #Social Issues, #Dating & Sex
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To my husband, Todd:
Thank you for believing in me from day one—which was 9,472 days ago. I love you, for always.
I LIKE THE IDEA OF MAKING THINGS DISAPPEAR.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
It’s the dead of night, the murky time that’s thick with shadows and mystery, and I’m watching David Blaine and Criss Angel YouTube videos on my phone. As usual, I’m completely blown away. It all looks so real. I stare at the ceiling for a while, and my phone goes dark. In the blackness I listen to the steady hum of traffic. I lie still as stone and think.
The people’s reactions to the magic are the best. They’re always freaked out—questioning, smiling, looking to their friends for explanations that never come. It’s one of my favorite moments.
My little sister coughs from her crib across the room and startles me. I close my eyes and start fantasizing about making out with David or Criss. They’re both delicious.
I roll my eyes in the dark. Neither of them would touch me, not since I’ve put all of this weight on. Fantasy ruined. I put my phone on my nightstand. I toss and turn, trying to get comfortable. There are things I’d like to vanish from my life—maybe even a person or two. I’m not talking about killing anyone, but having them gone would be sweet.
I fluff my pillow and pull the blankets up around my face. I’ve already watched (and rewatched) a ton of videos tonight. I need to fall asleep. My opening game is tomorrow.
• • •
I’m in the locker room, yawning as I get into my jersey. It took some concentrated online searching to get one in my size. You try Googling “plus-size softball uniform” and see what you come up with. Answer? Nothing. The company that made the rest of my team’s uniforms only went up to a sixteen, which was fine for me last season, but I’ve managed to gain seventy pounds since last summer. And the royal blue on my uniform is a slightly brighter blue than the rest of the team’s.
Should make for an interesting season.
I know the only reason coach kept me this year is because
I’m a hitter. Even as I gained weight all last season I was still the best hitter on the team.
“Listen up!” Coach booms. Everyone takes a seat. “East has Forman pitching today, so watch her slider.” Coach Douglas goes on and gives her pep talk, and we end it with our chant. I don’t feel like chanting because I’m so damn tired.
Our hands are all stacked on top of one another. Everyone’s hyping themselves up, and I’m wincing as I evaluate the thickness of my forearm compared to my thin teammates’. Mine is easily double the width.
“Come on, Dell! Let’s hear it!” Coach shouts.
I snap out of it and join in. My stomach clenches after each word, but I lay it on thick. I turn my head slowly from side to side—I want them all to know how psyched I am—and I chant like a banshee. Our shortstop, Amy, shoves me with her shoulder, her face curled in a snarl. “I’m gonna need to hear out there. Could you not scream in my ear? Thanks.”
I smile and nod. “Sorry, lost my damn mind there for a second.” I growl a few times to get
to smile. “I’m pumped, Amy!
Amy smirks. “Ha-ha,” she deadpans.
I look around as the huddle breaks apart, and no one catches my eye. They’re all talking and bantering among themselves as they make their way out of the locker room. Not
one girl looks back to see if I’m coming or where I am. I’m by myself. Maybe
Coach’s head is suddenly in the doorway. “Let’s go, Dell! Wake up.”
I snap out of my stupid thoughts and grab my hat and glove. As my feet hit the grass, I hear the tail end of the crowd cheering. I squint into the blazing sun and pull my hat down onto my forehead so I can see. Both sets of bleachers are full, since it’s our first game. I make my way to the dugout and notice people lining the fence along the first- and third-base lines. Lots of kids are here today, which is unusual. Typically it’s just some parents and a few teachers who love to watch softball.
I take my seat on the bench and immediately spot Cara—top row, left corner, like always. My gaze drifts a few rows down to my father’s usual spot. I know he’s not there. I still hoped he would be. Even though my father has been a jerk, I always liked when he showed up for my games. He hasn’t been to a game in a long time. His girlfriend, Donna, doesn’t like the sun.
Before my father cheated on my mom and blew up our lives, I was proud of him. Proud of his brainiac job, and proud of the kind of dad he was. He’s the one who got me into softball. He told me I was a natural. He even coached my team
when I was little. The man documented every team I played on and every big moment with pictures and videos. Before each season he and I would sit and watch some of my best hits or slides or catches, and he’d give me pointers. He didn’t take the photos and videos when he moved out. Instead he leapt off the diving board and landed in the selfish pool.
Then he tried to drown the rest of us in it.
As Coach gives her last-minute pointers, I zone out, staring at the cluster of guys standing next to the bleachers on our side.
I spot Brandon Levitt right away.
I’ve been crushing on him hard since middle school. Whenever I see his smile and the way he bites his lower lip, it makes my knees buckle.
It takes me just a split second to realize that Brandon’s group is actually our baseball team with their coaches. Our teams try and support each other as much as we can throughout the season. A group of wandering girls suddenly grabs the attention of the baseball team. There’s lots of movement as boys high-five each other and girls fling their hair, jumping, hugging. And then there’s a kiss.
Brandon and his girlfriend, Taryn, lock lips. A surge of nervous energy goes directly to my heart.
I want to be kissing Brandon, which, as with the Criss
Angel/David Blaine scenarios, I understand is a complete impossibility, given the fact that I am not popular, not pretty, and fat. Not the combination to attract the gorgeous star baseball pitcher with the hot body and big blue eyes. I may be a dreamer, but I am not an idiot.
Luckily, the game starts, and I refocus my attention. I play right-center field, and I think I’ve used my sleeve to mop off my face eight hundred times out here. We’re in the top of the seventh. As of yet I haven’t had a hit, which is unlike me. I think it’s this heat.
We’re losing, one–nothing.
East doesn’t score, and now it’s our turn to bat. I head off the field into the dugout. To shade. Glorious, glorious shade. The baseball team and their girl-crew have planted themselves along the first-base-line fence. They’re lined up twenty long. I’m going to have to run by them if I get a hit. My face crumples into a squinty scowl as I register this hideous fact.
Amy catches my expression and says, “You can’t give up, Dell. We can win. Just stop making faces and hit the ball.”
I give her an over-the-top salute and a goofy grin. She shakes her head and then says, “It’s not funny,” over her shoulder as she walks away.
I can’t win with her today. I don’t have any more energy to try to break the tension with my comedic genius. If Amy
only knew how close I am to passing out, she’d be up my ass even more.
By the time I guzzle two water bottles, we’ve managed to get two outs. I grab my batting helmet. I’m on deck. I do a few practice swings and watch our current hitter get a single. I am now the winning run.
Please, please, please don’t let me look stupid running the baseline. Please.
I take a few deep breaths. I should be able to do this. I’ve done it a bunch of times. I used to be so sure of myself as I stepped into the batter’s box. Not anymore—each pound I’ve gained has jabbed at my confidence. The 286th pound must’ve been particularly pointy and sharp, because I feel deflated. And to make matters worse, I got zero sleep last night.
I step into the batter’s box and get into position.
“Hit it over the fence, Dell!” comes from my right. I don’t look over, but I’m pretty sure it was Brandon. I swallow hard and lick my lips. At least he’s not mooing.
The ball is released and I make contact. I toss my bat and run.