This, my friends, is the beginning of a novel I'm working on. The idea behind it is to make it a coming-of-age of sorts about a teen with an eating disorder. The teen is mostly based on me, by the way. It's hard growing up ethnic, sometimes, and easier to take frustrations out on yourself than it is to upset the Tias. I have three chapters completed, but in the spirit of not screwing myself by publishing too much, I'm sticking to teasers.
Picture yourself, or your teen, standing with this book in your hands at Borders. Would what you read here make you want to take it home and read more?
“M’ija, come with me for a minute. We need to go talk to Daddy.”
My mother is standing in the doorway of my bedroom, waiting for me to look up from the pages of the Nancy Drew book I’m reading. Tio Alberto just got it for me this past weekend, and I’m already halfway through it.
I look up at my mom, thinking about asking if I can finish the chapter I am on, but I stop myself. She’s chewing on her bottom lip and standing with her hands on her hips, her eyes making me feel like I’m on the viewing end of a microscope. Whatever this is, it must be important and I already know I’m not going to like it.
It’s quieter in the house than normal. Sophia and Gabriella are next door playing on the Slip n Slide with the neighbor kids, and I can hear them squealing and laughing through the open window as they splash their way across the wet plastic. The windows are wide open, but the summer air is still. I’m hot and wish I was out there running, laughing, and not worrying about what I look like.
“Come with us, Mina!” Gabriella had begged as she tugged her bathing suit up while she was getting ready. “It’ll be so much fun!”
“Yeah, come on!” chirped out Sophia. “Please!” She drew out the last word, giggling when Gabriella jumped on my bed and ripped my book out of my hands. “It’s funner than a boring old book!”
I sighed, trying not to get mad. Being the oldest is so hard sometimes, and dealing with a six and a four-year-old is enough to drive any kid crazy. I wanted to strangle the little brats for bothering me, but I didn’t feel like getting grounded again. Instead, I got up and gave them both a kiss on the cheek.
“I don’t feel like going,” I said. “My um…well, my bathing suit doesn’t fit anymore.” I mumbled out the last part, embarrassed.
Sophie and Gabi might just be kids, but they understood that it wasn’t just the bathing suit that was keeping me from getting out of our stuffy little house. They silently grabbed their towels, kissed Mom, and ran out of the house, taking their laughter with them.
My book is now neatly placed on my pillow, the bookmark carefully marking my break in Nancy’s latest adventure. I’m walking with my mother through the living room and into the small kitchen where my father is busily trying to fix the broken garbage disposal.
“Rodrigo, look at Mina.” My mother positions me so that my father will see my profile and have a very clear view of the breasts that seem to have magically appeared overnight. She straightens my shoulders, pokes me in the small of my back as a silent reminder to stand up straight, and stands back with her arms crossed over her own plentiful bosom. “Don’t you think it’s time to buy her a bra?”
“Mom!” I wail. My face burns, the blush spreading across my cheeks matching the pink “This End Up” T-shirt I am wearing. I look away from the glittered red, white, and blue arrow that points accusingly at the mounds in question and meet my father’s gaze for just a brief moment and realize he is just as uncomfortable as I am.
“She’s eight! What the hell are you thinking, Liora?” I watch my father’s eyes dip below my neckline for the time it takes my heart to beat. His face reddens. “I guess so…I mean, if you think so. Sure.” He takes a sip of his beer, runs his hand through his hair, and sticks his head back under the sink. The conversation is over, but my humiliation has just begun. Mom releases me, and I dash through the house, my eyes wet with shame.
Through my closed door, I can hear her on the phone with Tia Carmen. “There’s no way a training bra is going to fit this girl,” my mother says. “You’re a B cup, right? That’s fine. Just bring a few with you tonight and Mina can try them on after dinner.” The conversation continues, but I’m not listening anymore. Digging through the toys and shoes scattered under my bed, I find the small box marked “Private! Keep out of Mina’s Diaries!” and open it, breathing easier when I open it up to see the brownies, Twinkies, and chips I’ve been squirreling away for emergencies.
I rip and tear and eat and cry, ashamed of myself and my body. When I’m done, I hide the wrappers, wipe my face clean, and grab my book, picking up where I left off. By the time the doorbell rings and mom calls me to greet Tia Carmen, I’m full. There’s no room for shame. *****