Authors: Kevin Richey
|Unpretty: An Unloved Ones Prequel|
|Unloved Ones |
What if you could become thin overnight?
Katherine Blythe is an overweight teenager who, on her sixteenth birthday, wishes to be thin, only to find her wish coming true with alarming side effects. As she loses over half her weight in the span of a week, she finds the world is a different place when you look the way you’re told you should.
But is her wish responsible for all this? Or is there something else going on - something distinctly supernatural?
Sarah takes me by the hand. "Please?" she asks.
We're in the mall, and we've just passed a store for skinny people. She's seen something in the window she likes, and I'm sure she'll spend about twenty minutes trying it on while I pretend not to feel awkward.
This is the kind of store that doesn't have a single item of clothing in my size. Sarah barely fits into their largest size. What's worse, I'm not even just imagining that I'm unwelcome here. Even their CEO made a statement that fat people aren't allowed.
"Um," I say, and she bats her eyes. She has on these fake eyelashes that are too black and too thick for her complexion. Sarah is one of those blonde girls who has to fight to keep a tan. Unlike me. I lost the tan battle long ago, and am happy keeping all of my pale flesh covered from the daylight.
"It'll just be for a minute. I just want something new for the beach."
The beach. My stomach churns again. I haven't made up an excuse for the beach yet. "All right," I say. "But we should hurry. The mall closes in an hour."
Sarah squeals and takes me by the hand, pulling me into the store.
I can feel it at once: that sense that I don't belong here. I smile and don't show how much I hate this. Sarah doesn't notice, and I really don't want to bring attention to the fact that lately I’ve been hating my body even more than usual.
Maybe it’s all this talk about the beach. Or the fact that the reason we’re at the mall is to return the dress I picked out for the beach two months ago, and can no longer fit into. We’re here to exchange it for a larger size.
If there is a larger size. It’s getting harder and harder to find clothes that fit ever since I passed the 270 pound mark. The fact that I have to wear a dress to the beach instead of anything resembling a bathing suit is also embarrassing.
Today I'm wearing a hunter green sports sweatshirt and my only pair of jeans that I can still button. My sneakers match, I'll give myself that. But I barely did my hair. It's long and black, and I tied it up in a loose ponytail in the back. I didn't even bother with much makeup today. It's a school day, and I don't really think what I need is makeup. What I need is liposuction.
Sarah walks through the store, feeling the fabric of items on the rack between her fingers. I keep my hands folded over my stomach. This gesture makes me feel like I am hiding my weight. I don't really believe this. But covering myself, in any way whatsoever, makes me feel less anxious about people seeing me.
We live in Daytona Beach, and staying covered is growing more obvious the closer it gets to Spring Break. It’s only a week away now, and I’m the only one still wearing long sleeves.
"Ooooooh!" Sarah coos. She has found a red skirt and holds it up. It dangles like a washcloth from the hanger. "I’m going to go try it on," she says. I plaster a smile on my face. I am sure I look reassuring. Not bothered at all. Even though looking at the skirt, at its small size, at something that I couldn't even fit one leg through—it makes me die a little inside. I blink and say as cheerfully as I can, "Cute!"
Sarah shows the skirt to an attendant who lets her into a changing room. The attendant, a girl around twenty-five who looks about as good as the girls on the advertisements in the store, gives me a quick glance and then looks away. She knows that I'm not here to shop. How could I be? It hurts, but I pretend not to notice as she ignores me completely, and goes back to folding clothes so small that I swear they’re for babies.
I lean against the wall next to Sarah's changing room. "Katherine," she mumbles after a minute, "come in here." The door to the room opens, and I step forward. I don't actually go inside the little booth. I don't think we'd both fit in there. But my body effectively blocks the view from anyone that might pass by.
Sarah is squeezed into the little red skirt. It's very tight around her waist, and looks like Spandex around her ass. "How does it look?" she asks, turning around to let me see.
"I think it's a little tight.”
"But it fits. And I bet I can lose a few pounds before the beach next week."
My stomach does that flip again. My smile is back. The fact that Sarah thinks that she needs to lose "a few pounds" is kind of cute, in an objective kind of way. But if
needs to lose a few pounds, what does that say about me?
I look up past her, and see myself reflected back in the mirror of the changing booth.
I look like a wall of flesh behind Sarah. I gasp. I thought these mirrors were supposed to make you look thin? I look even worse than I remembered. I've been avoiding mirrors, like I’ve been ignoring my growing weight. The only sign that I can't ignore is that I can't fit into my new dress that I bought for the beach two months ago.
"I think you look great," I tell Sarah, and try to back away from the door.
Sarah winks at me, and I swear her eye almost glues shut because of her fake lashes. "We are going to
the beach this year. Even Chad Harlow will have to ask us out.” Chad Harlow is the best-looking boy in school, and therefore also the most popular. I doubt he knows we exist, but Sarah’s had a crush on him as long as I can remember.
Sarah looks at me. “You told your mom we’re going, right?”
She knows my mom can be weird about this sort of thing.
"I have," I say cheerfully.
I haven’t. I still plan on finding some convenient lie to excuse myself from going. I have to be careful though. Sarah won’t be happy about going alone.
Sometimes I think the only reason we’re friends is because Sarah hates doing anything alone.
She nods, and then puts her hand on the changing room door, letting me know she's ready to change back into her normal clothes.
I step back, and see that the skinny attendant is busy elsewhere.
After catching a glimpse of myself in Sarah's mirror, I have a sick desire to see myself. All of myself. How big have I gotten? The mirrors at home aren't big enough anymore. I tilt my head around the side of the row of booths to where three mirrors are hung for people to see themselves from every angle. I check again that the attendant isn't looking, and then race rather inelegantly to the mirrors.
I look up the same moment I let out a deep sigh.
The first thing I see is my neck.
And then I feel sick.
Even my neck is fatter. I've always had a little double-chin, but now it's gotten worse. I think I've upgraded to the triple, or somehow a quadruple. My shoulders are humped under my sweatshirt, which I want to blame for the bulky look of my body, but I know the truth is I've gotten so big that this XXXL is tight on me now. My stomach almost hangs out underneath it, I've gotten so large. And my legs—they're massive and—I don't even know how to describe it, but with the jeans being so tight, I can see all the bulges and rolls of my fat through the fabric. I swallow, dreading what I need to see but am afraid to know. I have to be quick. Sarah will be done in a moment, and I will die if she catches me.
I turn to my side, so that in one of the tilted mirrors I can see my ass.
I nearly vomit, it makes me so sick. It is huge. It is so huge it doesn't even look like an ass anymore. It's like I'm The Blob wearing a Katherine Halloween costume. I make Jabba the Hutt look sexy.
I feel the tears forming in my eyes, and know that I have to look away, just look away, when I notice how big my head has gotten.
My God. Even my head is fat. Not just my face. Not just my cheeks. But my entire skull is fat. How is that even possible?
I race back to the changing rooms, absolutely disgusted by myself. My chest is heaving from rushing, even though it was barely four steps, and Sarah emerges from her changing room with the tiny little skirt on its hanger. She walks ahead of me and puts it back on the shelf.
"You're lucky, Katherine," she says as we walk out. "At least you
what stores you can shop at. It sucks being in between regular and plus sizes like me. I can't find anything that fits at either store. I'm too big for a store like this, and too small for Lane Bryant. It makes shopping so much harder."
It is all I can do to keep the smile frozen on my face, and nod sympathetically like a good friend. I don't feel angry at Sarah. It must be hard to not know where you can shop, to know you are maybe five pounds away from fitting into tiny little skirts at the cool shops. But at the same time, I would kill to have that problem. I am so incredibly jealous of how pretty Sarah is that it makes no sense to me that she herself feels fat. I can only imagine what she thinks about me.
We walk through the mall. My breath is heavy, and I'm struggling to match Sarah's pace. She's obviously pissed that she couldn't fit properly into the skirt, but if she keeps going at this pace, I think I might have a heart attack. I slow down, pretending I want to look in a shop window just to slow down. "Hold on," I wheeze.
I turn and to my horror I've stopped outside the chocolate shop. I feel my face turn red. Could I be any more pathetic?