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Authors: Leigh Carron

Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Erotica, #Plus-Size

Fat Girl (6 page)

BOOK: Fat Girl
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THAT NIGHT, THE MEMORY I haven’t let my conscious mind relive in years haunts my dreams. I’ve just turned eighteen and my life is supposed to be my own. But it isn’t. It belongs to my father, and he never lets me forget it.

I don’t want the basketball scholarship to North Carolina State University. As an aspiring writer, I want to go to New York University. A month earlier, right after Christmas, I finally gathered the nerve to tell my old man. It went about as well as I should have expected. Malcolm Peters grabbed my throat and threatened to break my neck if I ever mentioned NYU or writing again. End of subject.

But it isn’t the end for me. I send away for the application and have it delivered to Victor’s. The day after it arrives, fire burning in my belly, I ditch school. As soon as my father leaves for work, with the morning sun streaming through my bedroom window, I dig into the required submission.

For hours, my fingers fly across the keyboard as the short story pours out of me. A mythical world where heroes exist and anything is possible. Worlds I created as a kid to escape the reality of my existence.

I smile as I describe Dionna, the princess with dark, curly locks, golden eyes, and brickhouse curves. My Dionna’s no tiara-wearing, ivory tower princess, though. I give her thigh-high boots and a bustier that barely covers the goods. She’s busting out of it and it’s freakin’ hot. Not that I have more than a dirty dream of what Dee’s plump body looks like beneath those bulky clothes. Papa T would have my ass for thinking this way about his foster daughter, and Dee would probably be shocked and embarrassed. But it’s my fantasy and I’m playing it out on paper.

As consolation, I make Dionna fierce in combat. Dee would like that. I’m completely lost in the scene where my heroine and the renegade hero, Dark Shadow—that’s me, naturally—battle the enemy with ninja moves to protect the citadel and its people. I don’t hear him until my bedroom door swings open with a force that knocks it against the wall.

I can’t shut off in time or cover the application forms on my desk.

“What the fuck are you doing here?”

My chest constricts and my lungs work double time as I swivel my chair around to face his question. “I took off early to study.” I’m so used to lying, the fabrication rolls off my tongue. But he’s not buying it. His sharp gaze takes in my computer screen and the papers on my desk, and I know I’m screwed.

He stalks toward me in his khaki uniform. The gold sheriff’s badge glistens on his chest, and the black revolver sits menacingly at his waist. I can see that his pupils are dilated to the size of saucers. He’s been drinking. I’ve seen the flask he keeps hidden in his office desk and in the glove compartment of his cruiser. On occasion, he comes home at lunch to sleep it off. Figures that today would be one of those times.

My old man can hold his liquor, though. So as drunk as he is, his advance toward me is steady. Purposeful. I’m a sitting duck but I don’t try to move. As a kid, I used to hide under my bed, up in the oak tree out back, or at Victor’s. Before my mom died in a car accident, she would often put herself in between my father’s fists and me. It shames me to think of how many hits she took that should have been mine. But at eighteen I refuse to hide or let anyone else fight my battles.

Snatching up the NYU application forms, he growls deep in his chest, “What the fuck is this?”

It’s obvious so I don’t answer.

His breathing accelerates like a raging bull’s. Alcohol fumes mixed with the scent of the mints he chews as camouflage blow in my face. He crumples the papers in his beefy hand. “Only pussies and faggots write this shit. Are you a fucking faggot?”

I don’t flinch or respond. I’ve spent the past three years screwing any pretty chick in a skirt to prove to him I’m not.

“Maybe I didn’t make myself clear.” His vicious hiss warns of what’s to come.

A series of hard punches to the chest, kidney, and gut; nothing to leave any visible marks or that will prevent me from being able to practice. I steel my soul in anticipation, because the physical pain is the least of it.

Only he’s angrier this time. His face is flushed with fury, his teeth bared. He doesn’t tolerate defiance. But he hates my writing even more. I inherited the talent and passion from my mother. And
we
were what came between him and the basketball career he desperately wanted. Maybe that’s what makes him reckless this time. Because I don’t count on his large fist slamming into the right side of my face.

The pain is explosive and topples me to the floor. I blink against the dark spots.

“Still want to write?” He kicks my stomach with his hard leather boot, and I think I’m going to hurl.

I want to fight back. Fist to fist, I probably could. My father’s a big man, as tall as me, but burly with it, while I’m lean, strong, and quick. But he has that fucking gun on his side. A gun I’ve had pressed to my temple enough times to believe, if mad and drunk enough, he might pull the trigger. And as bad as life with him is, I don’t want to die.

Another kick slams into my ribs this time. “You will play ball, do you fucking hear me?”

I hear him but I say nothing. He kicks me again and again, wanting the answer that never comes. I lie in a heap, blood spilling from the cut on my cheek, hating him for having the power and myself for having none. I’m blacking out to blessed peace beneath the pain. But it scares me. Maybe this is it. Maybe this is what it feels like in the moments before death. I’m not ready.

I have more stories to write. I have people who care about me. The white wooden house next door floats across my mind’s eye. I can see Mama and Papa T. They call for me not to go. My best friend yells, “Don’t you dare die on me, man!” Gabi’s and Maria’s little arms are outstretched, trying to reach me. My mom’s there, too, telling me to hang on, that it’s too soon. But the face that pulls me out of the darkness is Dee’s. She’s wearing the crooked smile that appears in her rare playful moments. “Get back here, Mick,” she says. “We haven’t even begun yet.”

 

I jerk awake. I touch my right cheek. My stomach. My side.
Christ!
The memory’s real but it was only a dream. Drenched with sweat, I kick free from the tangle of sheets and bolt naked from the bed. I stand in the middle of my room, my heart racing like I’ve run a hundred-meter dash, sucking in air, until the dream slowly leaves me.

And all that remains is the image of Dee and her crooked smile.

 

 

 

 

 

I WAKE UP WELL BEFORE the alarm with a dull ache behind my eyes from too much wine, too little sleep, and the crisis facing me.

Badly in need of a shot of caffeine, I throw back the covers, swing my feet to the floor, and stub my toe. “Damn him!” I take my mood out on the silence. How dare Mick put me in this untenable situation?

I’ll give you twenty-four hours to think about taking the case. Twenty-four hours to think about a boy who needs your help. Twenty-four hours to think about the family you deserted.

Grief and guilt strike me simultaneously. Would Mama and Papa T understand the choices I made? Would they forgive me for leaving when I couldn’t quite forgive myself?

Shaking myself out of that emotional reverie, I trudge into the kitchen and make a pot of coffee. After pouring a mug full, I rip open three packages of Sweet’N Low and stir in the fake sugar crystals. My stomach grumbles and I glance at the fridge. Last night, I didn’t trust myself to eat and stop. This morning, I still don’t.

 

The orange glow of the dawn breaking greets me when I arrive at the office. Lena won’t be in for a while, so I disengage and reset the alarm. After checking messages and email, I spend the next couple of hours on the case involving my nine-year-old client, Gracie Maxwell—a foster child who longs for a permanent home. I’m petitioning the court to allow Gracie to be eligible for adoption. After six years, her parents still demonstrate they are unfit to care for their daughter or any of their other four children. Yet Gracie continues to be bounced in and out of foster care. Caught in a system that I learned firsthand works for some, but fails too many others. This is the kind of case closest to my heart and the reason I became a child advocate.

At ten minutes to nine I hear Lena deactivate the alarm just as the main line rings. I would have answered except my ever-efficient assistant beats me to it. Moments later, she pokes her head inside my door.

I glance up from the computer screen with a smile for the twenty-four year old I hired when I first started my practice, trading experience for affordability. With her sapphire-blue Mohawk, multiple piercings, and tattoos peeking out of her long sleeves, it would have been easy but wrong to prejudge Lena as a party girl. She happens to be a talented drummer for a punk rock band, and she uses the money from her day job to pay for studio time. Information I never would have discovered if I had judged her on appearance alone.

I know what judgment is like. In school, I was always the fat girl, the blob, thunder thighs…whatever cruel names could be imagined, I heard them all. I wore baggy clothes and kept a low profile to make myself as invisible as I could. And ate in secret to fill the emptiness and comfort the pain. As an adult, I’m still aware of the unfair bias that comes in the form of disapproving looks or the comment,
Such a pretty face,
as if the rest of me has failed.

So during the interview with Lena, I dismissed any preconceived assumptions to see past her avant-garde style and listen to her thoughtful answers. Not once have I regretted my decision. Even without formal training, Lena is one of the best assistants I’ve ever had—smart, dependable, and a research whiz. And her “cool hair” and piercings make her popular with my young clientele.

“It’s him,” she says, and her gray eyes, outlined with thick black eyeliner, widen with a mixture of worry and intrigue.

“What’s him?”

“On the phone…the man who called yesterday.”

My breath catches and my heart rockets to my throat. “How can you be sure it’s him?”

“I would recognize that voice anywhere. This time, he gave his name. Mick. Just Mick. He says you know him. Do you?”

I nod, unable to kick my vocal chords into gear.

“Soo?” She draws out the question and gives me a quizzical stare. “Should I put this Mick through?”

No!
But what good would that do? He’ll only call again—or show up.

“Geez, Dee, you seem a little weirded out. Who is this guy?”

“An old friend.”

“Old friend, huh?” Lena’s worry seems to be diminished and her interest piqued. “He sounds hot.”

I can just imagine the reaction if Lena knew the hot-sounding guy were none other than former Chicago Bulls’ shooting guard Micah Peters. Who also happens to be the man I once planned to spend my life with—when I was stupid enough to let myself believe fairy tales could happen to someone like me.

“I’ll take his call,” I say because what else can I do? “And if you wouldn’t mind, please close the door.”

“So that’s all I’m gonna get?”

“Yes.”

“That’s seriously evil.” Lena sticks out her studded bottom lip in a pout.

BOOK: Fat Girl
9.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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