By: Donna Cooner

“Ever Davies,” the teacher calls out. “Will you tackle problem number seventeen?”

It isn’t a request. I’m trapped. Inside and outside my body. I push my way out of the chair, which clings to me like a big inner tube, and start back up the aisle. Kristen Rogers rolls her eyes at Whitney.

“Oh my god. Here you come again,” Skinny jeers.

I’m fifteen years old, and I weigh 302 pounds.

Chapter Two

Ever!” I look for the voice calling my name, but the crowd leaving school is always so chaotic. Students rush out every doorway to the outside — squealing, yelling, and laughing. Groups of kids huddle together outside in clumps, even though it has started to rain. There is a blue tint to the sky off in the distance.

I walk toward the street and pass a group of boys. One shoves the other in the chest and yells “Jerk!” The other screams “Shut up!” and the pushing match is on. The other boys just laugh and I make a wide circle around them to avoid the possibility of being an unintended casualty.

Three grime-covered school buses pull up to the curb. I step sideways to avoid the black, smelly exhaust pouring from the tailpipe of the first one in line. Most of the windows are already occupied with tired, blank-looking faces. At least I don’t have to ride the bus home anymore. Dodging a boy carrying a trombone case, I practically flatten a girl picking up scattered papers from the front drive. Finally, I see Rat in his beat-up Honda Civic across the circle drive, waving frantically. I weave through the masses and wait at the curb as a red truck full of junior boys goes by.

“Congrats on getting the outstanding sophomore writing award.” It’s Kevin Somethingorother, a tall, pale kid with bad acne who sits near the back wall in our third-period English class.

“Ummm . . . thanks.” I smile at him, feeling a little guilty that I never really noticed him much before and that I can’t remember his last name. The compliment makes me uncomfortable. “I’m not too sure about this whole award assembly thing. Giving them out in March seems a bit premature. I still have plenty of time to screw something up, right?”

“You won’t have to do anything. Just smile and wave when your name is called.”

I nod as though winning awards is pretty normal for me.

“Make fun of yourself. It makes them feel more comfortable,” Skinny says.

“No problem. I have plenty of practice doing that from my beauty-pageant days.” I give a cheesy beauty queen wave, and he laughs. It feels good to make someone else smile.

“You’re a pretty good writer yourself,” I say. He looks pleased, and I search my memory to say something kind to keep the smile on his face. “Your essay on global warming last week was one of the best in the class. Making nonfiction interesting is always a challenge.”

“Thanks,” Kevin says, “but yours was the best in the class. Hands down. Brilliant idea to turn the scientific method into a musical. Who couldn’t sing along with ‘Hypothesis Dreams’? I don’t know how you come up with this stuff.”

“Thanks,” I say, feeling a proud flush on my cheeks.

The red truck full of boys slows at the curb. A guy leans out the passenger window and yells at me, “Hey, tons of fun!”

They drive past slowly, the rest of the boys inside laughing hysterically. I try to pretend I don’t hear it. It’s not okay to drive around the high school parking lot and yell out at people, “You read like a third grader” or “Your dad’s a drunk,” but for some reason all the groups unite to comment about my weight.

“The world doesn’t care if you’re kind and good. It only cares that you’re fat. Nothing else matters.”

“My ride is waiting,” I say to Kevin. We both ignore the boys like it didn’t even happen.

“See you tomorrow,” he says, but the smile is gone.

I negotiate the traffic in the driveway and pull open the passenger door of Rat’s car.

“You’re late,” Rat says. I squeeze into the front seat, ignoring the seat belt. We both know it doesn’t fit.


Carefully, he pulls out into the traffic but immediately has to stop for a group of four senior cheerleaders. They all wear their tiny green miniskirts and tight Hornet tank tops that don’t quite reach the waists of their skirts. Shoulders back, hair streaming behind, they walk with the confidence of beauty. I watch the line of their naked flat stomachs strut across the street to catcalls and whistles. For the millionth time today I wonder what it might feel like to walk like that for just a day . . . an hour . . . a minute.

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