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A Teenage Novel Diet


Edie came home to emptiness, as did Kat, but for entirely different reasons. Her mother, Lynette, worked two jobs to help keep them financially afloat. She cleaned offices at night and worked as a cashier during the day. She needed a car to get to both jobs and neither job paid benefits. Consequently it was really hard to make ends meet. Their tiny two-bedroom apartment in west Philly was quite neat, clean, and cheerful. Edie was very thankful that she actually had her own room. It was small, but it was hers. It was safe. She could lock the bedroom door, and no one would bother her.

She thought again of the incident with Darnell this afternoon, when suddenly, unbidden visions of her father entered her head. Edie's weight gain was intentional unlike Kat's. Edie had always been good at reading people. When she had realized her father, Jonas, had lost interest in her mother as her dress size grew, Edie deliberately started gorging herself with everything in sight, hoping her father's attention to her would diminish as well. She figured if she got fat enough, he wouldn't sneak into her bed at night while her mother was asleep and force her to do all those horrible things.

She was right. He didn't want her sexually anymore, but verbal and physical abuse took its place. She supposed in the end it worked out all right, because her mother never knew anything about the sex stuff. But when Lynette saw Jonas slap their own daughter right across the face and call her a fat pig, simply because she hadn't moved out of his way fast enough, she realized that he was mistreating Edie. Lynette had been able to put up with her own abuse, but it was quite something else when he started abusing their daughter. That she wouldn't tolerate.

Lynette had tried restraining orders, but they never worked. Jonas had made their life miserable. Edie had been sure that he was going to shoot them one day or worse. Edie had become a nervous wreck along with her mother. She had started eating more, no longer intentionally, but simply as a result of chronic anxiety. Then, her mother came up with a plan while they were still living in Virginia.

Lynette had worked with this woman, Brie, cleaning motel rooms. Lynette hadn't liked her very much, because she used to steal things from the motel rooms. She caught her once, and Brie threatened that if she ever said anything, she would make certain that Lynette took the blame. So she kept her mouth shut, but figured out a way to get even.

Brie was fairly attractive, and Lynette had known that she thought Jonas was hot. So knowing that Brie would do the opposite of anything Lynette told her, she'd deliberately told Brie to keep her mitts off Jonas and stop sashaying her ass around him. And at the same time, she had lied to Jonas, "letting it slip" like it was a big secret that Brie had come into a substantial inheritance.

It didn't take long for both of them to take the bait. And, while they weren't looking, Lynette had changed the title transfer papers for their car into her name, sold his gun and some gold jewelry that Jonas was saving for a rainy day, and left town without a trace. They drove to Philadelphia that same day and stayed with Lynette's cousin for a couple of days until she could get them an apartment of their own.

After several months looking over their shoulders, they had started to relax a little. Not taking any chances, Lynette bought one of those "throw-away" cell phones and used it to call back home to find out what Jonas was up to. Apparently, he had moved in with Brie, but when he found out there was no tidy inheritance, he beat the crap out of her. In spite of that, they were still living together. Lynette felt a little guilty-well, maybe not. She figured they deserved each other.

That all happened over a year ago, and Edie was very happy in her new school. She just started this fall. It was a magnate school, which meant that you could live anywhere in the city, but you had to pass entrance examinations to get in. It was just by luck that her mother had heard about it through her cousins. She barely made the deadline. But Edie was very smart and landed some of the highest scores they'd seen. They wanted her. It meant that she had to take public transportation across town and get up very early, but Edie was the happiest she could ever remember.

Her classmates were from all walks of life. Some lived right in the area like Kat, because even though it was a public school, it had an excellent reputation. Others were from poorer neighborhoods like hers, and then there were a whole bunch of Asians, Hispanics, and even Middle Easterners, because they had a special program in the school for non-English speaking kids. There were a number of after-school programs, which pleased Edie tremendously, because her mother didn't usually get home until very late, and she didn't like to spend quite that much time home alone.

Edie stuck her head in the fridge, like Kat, after turning on the TV and didn't find much to eat either. She finally unearthed some two-day-old Kentucky Fried Chicken and mashed potatoes. It was left over from the weekend. Edie was very happy, because unlike Kat, she didn't have a generous allowance. She even brown-bagged her lunch, because she couldn't afford to buy it in school. Some days all she had for lunch was a soda and a couple of bags of chips from the vending machines. It was all she could afford when there was no food at home to bring in.

Not too far into the evening, while Edie was doing her homework, she heard the front door open. It made her heart skip a beat since her mother didn't usually get home until much later. "Mom is that you?" she called out.

"Yes, Sweet Pea, it's me!" came the answer.

"How come so early?" she shouted.

"You don't have to shout. I'm right here," Lynette said as she entered the room and leaned over to kiss her daughter on the forehead.

"Sooo, how come so early, not that I'm complaining, Mama?"

"Two of my cleaning clients are away this week. There wasn't much I needed to do in either of their offices, so I got finished early. So how's my Sweet Pea?"

"You know, I hate it when you call me that."

"I can't help it darlin'. You'll always be Sweet Pea to me. So anything interesting happen today?"

"Not exactly interesting, but you know that guy, Darnell, I told you about, you know the one that reminds me of you know who?"

Lynette nods and a slight frown furrows her eyebrows.

"Well, he deliberately walked into Kat in the hallway and knocked her down. Even caused her mouth to bleed. And you should have seen him smile, Mom. It gave me the willies." Edie shuddered just thinking about his smile again.

"Why don't you report him?"

"Oh, Ma, you don't understand anything!" Edie said with exasperation. "Really, what good would that do? He'd just say it was an accident, and the principal will believe him. He's so good at lying. And besides, even if the principal did believe him, Darnell would just find some other way to get even for reporting him. I'm telling you, Ma, he's scary."

"Well then, I'd just do my best to avoid him as much as possible."

"I'll try. Hey, what's that you've got under your arm? Let's see." Edie grabbed what looked like a manuscript from under her mother's arm. She read the cover-A Novel Diet. "Where'd you get that Mom?"

"From Doctor Lang. She suggested I get it to help me lose some weight. My last blood tests showed some prediabetes, and she said that if I could lose the weight, maybe I could avoid getting diabetes altogether."

"Can I take a peek at it?"

"Sure, why don't you glance through it while I go put on something more comfortable."

Edie started reading the book and was immediately intrigued. It was a novel to start with, and the main character, Cheryl, weighed a little more than Edie when she was in high school, though, not middle school as Edie was. They were fat for different reasons, but Edie could still relate.

She read the first couple of chapters when her mother interrupted. "So what do you think?"

"I like it, Mom. I'd like to read more."

"Well, you can read it when I'm not around. Tonight's one of those rare nights when I'm home early enough to consider reading anything. I'm going to take it to bed with me. I'll see you in the morning. Goodnight, Sweet Pea."

"Mmmph." Edie mumbled, expressing her displeasure at being called Sweet Pea again. Edie thought about what she had just read. She hadn't ever really considered going on a diet. In her very short twelve years, she had only wanted to be fat so her father would stay away from her, but now that he was no longer around, she began thinking that maybe it would be nice to lose a few pounds, so the kids at school would stop making fun of her. She'd give it some thought.

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