Authors: Wendy Lynn Clark
San Juan Island Stories #1
Wendy Lynn Clark
Published on Smashwords by:
Wendy Lynn Clark Publishing
PO Box 1993
Vancouver, WA 98668
San Juan Island Stories #1: FattyPatty
Copyright 2013 Wendy Lynn Clark
This estory is licensed for your personalenjoyment only. This estory may not be used for any purpose otherthan enjoyment. If you would like to share this estory with anotherperson like your mom or your book club or your psychic advisor (whoalready knows), please preface it with your estimation of exactlyhow much enjoyment you think they will receive from reading it.(Somewhere above a 7 on a scale of 1-11 is fine). If you're readingthis estory and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased foryour use only, I hope that you support your local library. Withyour wallet. And not just to reach in and pull out your librarycard. In fact, please buy this story for your local library. Buyevery story for your local library. Think of the children and theelderly who might not enjoy the same advantages you do, yousuccessful, healthy, attractive-looking adult you. Thanks forrespecting the awesome.
Fatty Patty is a short [7,000-word] storyabout: A woman attends her five-year high school reunion to proveherself to the classmates who tortured her and to the boy who brokeher heart.
Table of Contents
Pepper McKay lived fabulously.
It was the best revenge.
She was no longer the fat klutz who couldn'twalk a mile in PE. She was no longer the sad blob who overheard theother girls whisper about body odor—which sheneverhad—andsweat stains, which were unavoidable in the humid coastalclassrooms. She was no longer the victim of the unknown bully whokicked her wobbly seat at the start of assembly. The plastic hadgiven way with a sickening crack and everyone had watched herfall.
Her four-inch Kate Spade Licorice heels,size-five Ella Moss strapless mini, and Sixth Sense chocolateBurberry satchel all proclaimed that refined adulthood had arrived.Five years too late, maybe, but sophisticationhadarrived,in her life and at the sultry Bellingham, Washingtonmarina.
She was thin now.
Thin like a Thin Mint.
And tonight, everyone would finally knowit.
Pepper waved her boarding pass before theattentive, muscular dock hand, curved her lips in a confident smilecoated with Yves Saint Laurent iced plum Sheer Candy, and struttedup the gangplank onto theIsland Spiriter, a hundred-footcruise ship decorated in the purple and gold of Friday Harbor HighSchool.Welcome, class of the Millennium, the sign at thetop step proclaimed. She mentally capitalized the "C" of "class" asshe continued onto the deck, to the table manned by the reunionofficer.
Time had not been universally fabulous. AllisonPayne, who had once lit up the stage as Rizzo of Grease and takenthe over-excited athletics department to the state championships inCross-Country, licked a swelled finger and squinted up at Pepper."Who are you with? I don't—" Her jowls flattened. "Oh my god.Patty?"
The name hit her like a curse, burning a hotflush onto her cheeks. She cleared her throat. "It'sPepper."
Allison's lips dropped further and her neckrolls gobbled up her silver "Mother" necklace. She grabbed Pepper'snametag and a thick black Sharpie. "I wondered! When did you changeyour name?"
Pepper gripped her satchel and struggled tomaintain her iced smile.
In high school this woman had been one ofthem, the blade-slim girls who sprawled in patches acrossthe sunlit cafeteria, waving flirty fingers at the hottest boys,pushing ugly people like Pepper to the cold retreat of studyrooms.
She coughed. "Actually, it's always beenPepper."
Allison uncapped the Sharpie. "Nobody willrecognize you unless I fix this."
Dread uncoiled in Pepper's stomach.
The Sharpie touched the laminate.
Pepper snatched her tag away, black ink drawinga long, wobbly line across the top. She tried to wipe it off. Theline smeared like the grease of an old food stain.
Allison reached for her nametag. "But no onewill know—"
"I want to be myself now. Thanks." Pepperpinned the badge above her left breast. A smudge was still betterthan what was about to be written. Her heart beat, hard andregular, in her chest and she shifted her handbag higher on hershoulder.
The waning sun seared her pale shoulders. Paleslimshoulders.
She tucked her salon-relaxed walnut hair behindher silver-pierced ears. "Is Julian here?"
"He's already inside." Allison leaned forward."You won't recognize him. He's changed so much. It'shuge."
No way. "He's fat?"
Allison's brows knit. "Huh? No, he's turnedinto … well, you'll see." And then her brows lifted, as though shehad solved a problem. She heaved herself to her feet, crossed thedeck to the main cabin, and threw open the doors.
The other members of their class stood incliques—the same ones as in high school, it seemed—an odd mix ofoptometrists, seafood vendors, and hair dressers milling aroundunder long swathes of purple and gold decorations. She knew fromtheir MySpace profiles, the ones who had let a few months go by andthen suddenly had the guts to friend her. She had friended themback, sure, but never posted a self-portrait. Let them think shewas the same, let them settle into the routine of their lives, letthem post their own fattening photos as they gave up intramuralsand exercise to settle into grad school, marriage, and kids. Thingsshe didn't have. Things they probably thought she neverwould.
Her stomach twinged again. She tightened herPilates-toned abdominals. This was not Homecoming. She was nolonger the only one stepping into a dim music-filled room without afriend or a date.
And even if she were, that wasn't why she washere. She wasn't here for herself.
She was here for revenge.
Across the almost-familiar faces, across thealmost-filled buffet, across the almost-emptied wine bar, shelocked eyes on the one man she had come to see.
He chatted with a shorter man and a buff womanin skin-tight bike shorts. Tanner and taller, fitter andfull-postured, Julian settled on his heels as though he had finallydiscovered his true center. Why had Allison thought he lookeddifferent? He was still a snowboarder without a mountain, a surferwithout a swell, an athlete without a field to dominate. Except forhis hair, and maybe his posture, he was exactly thesame.
Without any reason, without any rhyme, heturned in her direction and looked up. His gaze locked onher.
The intensity hit her with a hot force. Apulse-beat in her belly, sure and strong, regular as the tremble ofher fingers curling around her purse straps, undeniable as theawareness flushing through her body. His chin rose and his gazeraked her figure once from tip to stern to tip again. His handstightened around his drink and his brows lowered.
He was going to be so sorry for what he haddone to her.
She would make sure of that.
Pepper smoothed her mini, tucked any straylocks behind her ears, and started forward with a radiantstep.
Allison stepped forward at the same time andthrew her arms wide. "Look who's here, everybody." Her hand swungat Pepper's cheek.
She jerked back, too committed toduck.
"It's Fatty Patty!"
Pepper's Kate Spade four-inch heels slipped outfrom under her as though skidding across a seaweed-coated rock. Infront of everyone's shocked gaze, she tumbled like so manyscattered pebbles to the unforgiving deck.
Julian was smart. Smarter than she was, eventhough she worked a thousand times harder to make it show in hergrades.
He was also brave, strong, andbeautiful.
She snuck glances at him in third-year Frenchclass while he fended off the teacher's nagging in hissalt-accentedQuébécios, and she bit the end of hermechanical pencil while she pretended to study.
Julian was kinetic, tipped forward as though bythe weight of his hair fluffed out in a wedge from his head, abrown sea sponge of strands that would not be tamed by ties norheadbands nor Mia's borrowed blue barrettes. His dad was FrenchCanadian, but his mom had dragged them all around the world andthey finally washed up here, on the shores of San Juan Island,where she dumped them and continued on to some exotic unreachableplace.
His eyes were blue, she knew. It was generalknowledge; everyone knew. She conjugated the verb to know.Savoir. Je sais, tu sais, il sait. Je sais qu'ils yeux sontbleus.
He slept throughManon of the Springinweekly 20-minute increments and stared hungrily out at the busysoccer fields during theCyrano de Bergeracseason.
"Tu aimes football?" she finally got upthe nerve to ask.
His gaze settled on her. Warm, lazy. Hestretched. "Oui, oui," and slipped out a string of wordslike an oyster spitting out pearls. He dropped to the desk andtilted his head, smiling up. "That's not all I love."
The way he said it, and the knowingness in hisgaze, as though he could feel the waves of shy desire emanatingfrom her seat, made her unable to even ask what the other thingswere that he loved. But she found out soon enough. He also lovedrugby and watersports and basketball and something calledluge.
They talked to each other while GerardDepardieu used his dying words to lie to his true love. Julian satby her during her shaded study room lunch. On the club days, he mether at her locker, never minding that such kindness carried its owndanger.
When the other boys walked by with their chestspuffed out and their chins lifted like dominant sea walruses,Julian didn't look away. He never looked away. Not from her, andnot from the boys who broke from the pack and approached her,razor-tongues sharpened for a new torture.
"We have to go to club," she said to Julian,under her breath.
Julian dipped his head and slowly, too slowly,shouldered his backpack.
Ellis slammed her locker shut and started thechant that had chased her from second grade throughout the rest ofher life. "Fatty, fatty, ate too many Peppermint Patties. You'reglistening today. Are you half whale or does your family have tooil you in blubber fat?"
He sneered over her red face at Julian. "HeyFrenchie. You like fat girls?"
Julian squared up to Ellis. "Yeah. Ido."
White waxy fear churned in her belly. The hallsqueezed in, hot and sweaty. Ellis and his friends laughed with arictus, forced sound at her puffy body, white as the inside of thecandy, and at Julian's warmer tone for his cruelerwords.
Ellis elbowed his friends and turned back tothem. "You get it up for puffy chicks?"
Julian tilted his head. "You must have read mydiary."
Ellis stepped forward, shoulder first, cheekstaut. "You keep a diary? Fag."
Which was usually the kind of thing he saidright before he slammed a person.
Pepper tugged Julian. "We have togo."
Julian moved easily with her to the club room.Not intimidated. Not even the slightest put out. Indifferent to thewalruses in a way that inspired loud fury.
Ellis and his friends followed to the lip ofthe classroom. The teacher was engaged with a freshman, so heswaggered inside with all of his jock friends. "Frenchie.Fat-girl-lover. You're a fag, aren't you? You're a totalfag."
Julian's easy smile narrowed. He slowlystretched and leaned back in his seat, his feet resting on the backof her chair with a little bump. "Why? Are youinterested?"
Ellis screwed up his wedge-shaped face."What?"
"Are you asking me because you want to know?Or—" he tilted his brow in calculated amusement "—are you hoping myanswer is yes?"
Ellis reddened from his neck up. "What the hellare you saying?"
"I'm saying you spend all day clinging tosweaty boys in spandex and you ask ifI'mgay."
His friends tittered.
Ellis's shoulders rose and his hands formedmeaty fists.
His friends dropped silent.
He stepped forward.
Julian looked up at him like a manatee facingdown a powerboat, nothing but idiocy to protect him from therippling blades.
The teacher bustled over. "What is happeninghere,mes amis?Ooh la la la, you're not in thisclub."
Ellis's friends shifted, edging towards thedoor. Ellis didn't take his eyes off Julian.
Julian turned to the teacher. "He asked meout."
Ellis's friends laughed.
The jock blistered red.
The teacher raised one brow. "Club hour is notthe time foraffairs de coeur, Julian."
"He's not my type." Julian looked up at Ellisagain. "Don't be too upset."
Ellis glared at him, then at Pepper, andslammed out of the room.
The teacher shooed the others out and the airpressure rose and fell, rose and fell, as in the passing of astorm.
She twisted the pages of theAsterix &Obelisquecomic they were supposed to translate, struggling toconcentrate.
Julian went to sleep.
She poked his elbow. "You shouldn't say youlike fat girls."
He made a sound as though jerking awake.Muffled, "Why?"
"I bet you don't even know any." Aside fromherself, of course.
He rose up on his elbows, yawning andstretching. "My mom's fat."
A harpoon of hurt sank in with those words."Don't say that."
"She's two hundred and eighty-two pounds. Orshe was last Christmas." He rested his hard cheek in his palm andstudied her with his blue, blue eyes. "She can kick my ass at life.And at Scrabble."
Pepper bit her Bic. Believe him or not? If hewas being mean, he was nasty subtle. She might be an idiot for herheart popping to the surface of her chest, bobbing andlight.
As if he read her skepticism, he leanedforward. "Want to see a picture? Come to my house."
So she met him that very night after herprivate tutoring in town. He tossed the drink he'd bought whilewaiting with his other friends and the two of them boarded the hotbus.
He lived in a one-bedroom that smelled likeunwashed dog, though they didn't have any sort of animal. Cigaretteburns littered the brown carpet and his dad snored on the onecouch. Their blocky TV, the kind she'd seen in thrift shops,alternated between QVC and static.
Julian stepped over food-crusted paper platesand ant trails to the kitchen. He opened the dull fridge. "Want abeer?"
She shook her head.
He took her outside, along secret back steps,across a neighbor's fence, and down the hill to the edge of theworld. Clinging to the underside of an oak tree, he swung over thebroken rocks to the beach.
She picked her nimble way after. Careful,because whatever happened she did not want to be the fat klutz infront of him. Just for once, she wanted to be light on her feet,and when he looked up to smile at her, she actually felt like theair itself would hold her up if she fell.
They talked about nothing and watched thesunset lengthening, red and orange and yellow rays crashing acrossblue sky. His shoulder brushed hers, thin hoodie to thin hoodie,and his hand rested so close to her leg that it melted her outershell of cold.
Her whole body pulsed like the ticking of aclock. Counting down, endlessly down. Wishing it faster. Willing itslower. She hung every second on his long curved eyelashes andshort nose, the moist yeast from his aluminum beer, his sensitivebrows and the circular scar at his neck just below thejugular.
She knew his eyes were blue, but the French hadanother word for knowing, a word deeper than the surface knowledge.Comprendre. Up close, his eyes were deep green radiatingbrilliant from black irises. Brilliant like a sun-swallowed sea.Je sais que tes yeux sont bleus, mais je comprends que tes yeuxsont verts comme la mer.Untouchable. Dangerous. Forever out ofher reach.
Her watch alarm finally beeped. Her parents.Dinner.
She stood. "I've got to dohomework."
He crushed the can on driftwood. "You don'thave to do anything, you know."
Well, except for graduating, going to college,talking her parents out of oceanography as her "dream" career, andfiguring out how to become attractive enough to interest a guy likehim.
"You can leave the island. Do whatever youwant. Go wherever you want."
"My parents are starting a new intern today andthey will kill me if I don't show."
He smiled at the can and then out at the sea,as though she had proven his point rather than arguing against it."I'm stuck here. Destined to drink myself into a stupor." He threwthe can.
It arced through the air and dropped into thewaves.
His face twisted. Bitter. "Just like mypapa."
Probably not the time to tell him thatlittering was bad and also made her parents' organization superangry. "Well, yeah, if you keep staying up late and drinking allthe time."
He wrinkled his nose, edged his initials intothe spongy driftwood with a ragged nail. "He'd just drink ithimself."
"Well, you drinking it obviously hasn't stoppedhim. It's just makes you a drunk."
He looked at her. Bitter and hard.
She bit the skin at her cuticle, softening it,gnawing it to nothing.
Her watch beeped again.
He rubbed away the initials, swung his legsover the branch, and easily caught her laboring up the hill. "Youleave too early. Make it up to me."
She caught her breath at the top, hot andsticky, melty in the sun. No wonder boys like Ellis thought she wasgooey and icky. But in spite of all that, Julian's complaintsounded real. Real and like he meant it.
She sucked in a deep breath. "Come to myhouse?"
"No!" Oh god, no. His face flashed a darkerfeeling and her tongue tripped over itself to be understood. "Mygraduation party's next weekend. Will you—would you mind—what doyou think about coming to that, if you have a chance?"
He grinned. Soul-sweet and achingly beautiful."Okay."
The week passed in agonizing slowness andadvanced excitement, because Julian kept inviting her over to hishouse, and she kept going. Night after night, staying a little bitlater each time, until her parents finally complained that shewasn't hardly at home and she defended herself by saying that shewas bidding farewell to classmates who were leaving the state, andthey eased off because after all,shewas leaving the state.Julian didn't push her about her party, even though his facechanged, unreadable, every time he brought up his impendingvisit.
"Your parents are busier than mine," he said,one night when she had to leave, and "There will be a lot of peopleat this party of yours?"
"Just the people at the organization," shesaid, which was about five people including the intern, "andMia."
And his face set again. Darkly thoughtful.Almost nervous, she would say, but he never got nervous aboutanything. Not even the now silent, watchful Ellis.
At the end of the last day of classes, Miasaved them almost an entire row of seats at the school awardsceremony. Julian sat next to her, and Pepper separated him from therest of her family. It was a weird introduction, but Julian'scoming to her graduation party later would seem normal. Her parentswouldn't get that over-interested look and begin asking questionsabout career trajectories. They wouldn't grill him like they hadgrilled the last boy she had invited over—in second grade. That boyhad wanted to be a firefighter. Now, she was pretty sure he wasthriving in San Francisco and wanted to be a handbagdesigner.
Nobody would think she was over-reaching. Noteven Julian. She could dress up and be cool, and it wasn't solelyfor him. It was expected. His visit was nothing special.
Her new black dress was not alittleblack dress, but it was a Vera Wang clone. For one brief moment,the hours she spent spraying her hair into sausage curls and tryingon Wet & Wild shades seemed to be rewarded by a deeper emotionbeneath Julian's lazy smile.
Her heart fluttered. She moved her hand tocover the feeling just at the moment Julian put his hand over wherehers had been on the arm rest.
Wait—had he meant to take her hand?
Before she could move back, his name floatedacross the theater.
He see-sawed to the aisle on Mia's side,because Pepper's side was too full of thick people.
They all clapped for his award.
Mia leaned over his empty seat. "He's goodlooking, isn't he?"
Hot and cold feelings pulsed through Pepper.Although saying it was like mentioning that tourists came to seeorca whales. It was a fact, and someone as normally-proportioned asMia would notice it just as much as an orca like Pepperwould.
"I think he's dating a girl at the smoothiebar," Mia said.
The day shifted monochromatic, dropping belowthe edge of the ocean and flaring the blue sky to yellow with itslast sunlit rays.
"I see him there practically every day. At theplace across from the bus stop? A blonde with a surfer tattoo isalways giving him free stuff."
Cold grayness seeped into her chest.
The drinks he tossed after her privatetutoring. She had thought he was waiting for her. But that waswrong. He was actually using her for cover. Cover so he could bewith a thin, beautiful blonde and score niceness points for beingfriends with a fat girl.
Pepper tucked her hands between her knees andhugged her elbows to her sides.
Her instinct—who was she kidding?—waswrong.
Julian returned to his seat and lifted a goldkey. A purple foot inscribed with "Track."