Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the twenty-seventh piece of flash fiction in this series. This week’s is a 837-worder by Sheila Pierson.
Darlene’s mother dropped her off at the City Pool. They’d argued all morning over her bathing suit. Lindley and Jessica, her two best friends, were already waiting for her. With some hesitation, she grabbed her gym bag and got out of the car.
The girls ran off to the changing room. It smelled as if someone cleaned it with a gallon of bleach. Three sinks lined the wall on the right with a large metal-rimmed mirror above them. The City hadn’t updated the place in over 20 years, and leaks from the sinks, plus the water from wet girls running in and out, left the room muggy and the floor slick. Past the sinks was a wall of curtained stalls for changing. The opposite wall held toilet stalls. There were no showers.
Darlene put her suit on and looked in the full-length mirror in her stall. Besides her pimply face, braces and glasses she saw more things she hated about her appearance. She turned to the side. Her belly pooched out a little over her two-piece suit. Her boobs were tiny, yet to develop, with pointy tips poking at the thin fabric of the halter.
Lindley and Jessica called out for her to hurry up and headed on to the pool. Of course they looked perfect in their bikinis so they didn’t need to stand in the changing room analyzing every flaw. Lindley was 14, with long red hair, a shapely figure and had already kissed a boy, with tongue. Jessica was 13, same as Darlene, but she was tall and thin with a precocious confidence that belied her age. She had a heart-shaped smile and bright blue eyes. Although she was thin she always wore a padded bathing suit, the kind with ‘built-in’ boobs. Darlene’s mother flat-out refused to get her one of those, saying it was disgraceful for a 13-year-old to wear a bathing suit like that, hence the morning’s argument.
She stared at the loose band of fat across her middle that she couldn’t suck in no matter how hard she tried. The changing room was getting hotter the longer she stayed there. She had to make a decision – either go out there and face her fears or change back into her clothes and make an excuse to call her mom to come get her.
“Darlene? Where are you?” Lindley called out, returning for her friend.
“What’s taking you so long?”
“Well, I look like a shapeless wad of paper, I’m pale, I’m ugly and I don’t think I can do this.”
“I guess I shouldn’t tell you that some of the guys from the high school are out there now.” She laughed and pulled open the curtain. “You look fine Darlene. Come on.”
“Guys from the high school?” She was even more uncertain than before.
“Those guys aren’t into us. They’re too busy with the older girls, but one day you’re going to want a guy to look at you.”
“I don’t think so. I feel weird enough when one asks me if he can cut line in the school cafeteria.” Darlene crossed her arms over her chest and looked down at her feet.
Lindley shook her head, exasperated. “I’m going to pee and when I get done, we’re going out there.”
Darlene didn’t feel good all of a sudden. She ran to one of the toilet stalls and started throwing up. Maybe she was too hot. Maybe she was too nervous. All she knew is that she wasn’t going to be swimming today and felt immediate relief that she had a valid excuse.”
Jessica pushed the door open hard to the changing room, laughed and shouted, “What’s going on in here? It’s 96 degrees and the water feels fine. Let’s go girls!”
“Darlene is sick. She’s throwing up,” Lindley said as she emerged from the bathroom stall, adjusting her swimsuit.
“Crap! Now what? I guess you’re going home, huh?”
Darlene looked at them, very pale and shaking. “I guess. There’s something I haven’t told you. I think Pete did this.” She grabbed her stomach.
Lindley and Jessica looked at each other. When Jessica’s mom got pregnant five years ago with surprise sister number three, her mom sat her down and explained all about babies to her. Jessica tried to tell Darlene more than once about it but she didn’t want to know. Darlene was like that. She was very sheltered, always had been. Jessica and Lindley were both thinking the same thing.
Jessica reached out for Darlene’s hand. “Darlene, you can tell us anything. I always thought your mom’s boyfriend was a little creepy. What did he do? Are you…?”
Darlene looked confused. She held her stomach.
“What Jess is trying to say is did he hurt you? Did he have sex with you?”
“Gross! No!…. Gross!”
Lindley crossed her arms and immediately uncrossed them. “Well… what did he do then?”
“He cooked supper for us last night.” All three girls erupted in laughter until Darlene threw up again.
I asked Sheila what prompted this piece and she said…
Baby Fat was inspired by my own feelings at this age, my own self-doubt and insecurities. It was a time in my life where I was at the precipice of discovery, some of those discoveries good and some terribly disappointing. There were many questions with few answers, with a sense of impending change always circling about. I’m glad for every experience, even the awkward phases of life.
That’s really sad but we all go through it, don’t we. Thank you, Sheila, for sending your story to me.
Sheila Pierson is a writer and has finally come to grips with this, and without therapy. She has written short stories, essays and poetry since she was a young child, now pursuing this craft with the passion she has for it. She is currently working on a collection of short stories for publication. The novel always lurks in the shadows, grumbling in the corners of her bedroom just as she drifts off to sleep.
If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.
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