The girls from youth group went to a conference every year. It was never too far away and usually just a day thing…maybe a one night stay not far from the church. This year, I was so excited because we were going to a girls conference where Natalie Grant was going to be singing. I loved her. Her voice was basically everything that I wanted mine to sound like! It was beautiful. She was effortless but powerful. She emoted and told stories in her music and I was always enthralled by the time she was through. I was so excited to get to see her lead.
When we got there, we all headed to stand in the long line where they would give us our lanyards and a bag. The bag was filled with all sorts of event materials; books from a couple of the speakers, a pamphlet with descriptions of everyone and a coupon for 5% off of Natalie’s latest album. We grabbed our stuff and headed to find a seat.
It was in a large arena and our crew eventually found seats about halfway down the bowl to the far stage left side. Not quite sure who picked such horrible seats, but I wasn’t going to make a big deal about it. Everyone would be up on the big screen anyway, and as long as I got a good view of Natalie, I didn’t care if I sat in the lobby!
After a little while, the lights dimmed and the band got into place. I couldn’t make out the shadows that traipsed across the stage. Where was she?? All the guys grabbed their instruments and the lights started to swirl in mixtures of pink and purple. The band started playing a loud, energetic intro and then the lights on the stage went bright and Natalie came running onstage from stage right! YAY!! She looked awesome. She had so much energy, grabbed the mic and encouraged the crowd to stand to their feet and lift up praise together! I jumped to my feet, excited to hear her every word.
The set was great. Couldn’t tell you what the songs actually were, but I could tell you that what showed through more than her incredible voice was her humble heart. I just respected her so much. I wanted to emulate her in just about every way. She was beautiful, talented, thin, loved the Lord, traveled with her husband… I mean her life was perfect!
After the set, a speaker came up and gave the first word of the night. It was so good and I was really enjoying my time. After another set with Natalie, the host of the conference came up to welcome and introduce the next speaker.
“Are you guys having a good time???!” The crowd let out a loud, very high pitched scream. “Well, we have a real treat for you now. Our next speaker is someone that we know you all love already. We are so honored to have her here with us this weekend. She’s one of the most requested worship leaders in the country and she has an amazing testimony that she wants to share with you girls. You’ve already seen her up here and I know she’s blessed you. Will you welcome back up here our next speaker, Natalie Grant!”
What?? I was so excited! Not only do we get to listen to her beautiful voice, worship under her leadership, but now she’s going to speak into our lives! This was awesome! I immediately got out my pamphlet from my bag, ready to take notes. I was clearly not alone in my excitement as the crowd went crazy.
Natalie told us all about how her career got started and slowly built traction until she became a very successful Christian artist. She told us how blessed she felt that God would use her love of music the way He had and how much she tried to live in every moment. She said she loved what she was doing, but that there was a lot of pressure. Not that she felt it was only put on her by the label, but from herself. She said she felt like she wasn’t physically what she should be and eventually she developed a problem with an eating disorder. A pit developed in my stomach. I told myself this was not the same thing that I was doing. I didn’t have an “eating disorder”! I just skipped meals every so often if I wanted to lose a few pounds. I just liked the feeling of knowing that I could lose weight if I wanted to. I could control it. It just felt good. People who have “eating disorders” are sad little skeletal girls with sunken cheeks and bones that stick out of their chests! Oh my goodness! Really?? How could she think she was anything but beautiful? Then, she looked at the crowd and went silent for a second.
“ …and I know there are some girls in here whose stomachs just flew into their throats. There are some girls who are trying to convince themselves that ‘that’s not me. I don’t have an eating disorder’ but are finding the earliest moment after a meal to slip away to a bathroom. Or start ‘just skipping a few meals’ when they want to lose a couple pounds and you think that this is no big deal! That it doesn’t mean anything! A lot of girls do it! It’s just an effective way to fit into that cute outfit. It’s not!! It is a tool that Satan uses to make you doubt the worth that was given to you by your heavenly father!! It is a means that will lead you to an end of lower self-esteem than when you started! Don’t buy the lie! Don’t want the ache of your stomach when you’ve gone without food. Don’t get so far that you start desiring the feeling of emptiness. You think that when your stomach is empty, your heart will be finally full, but that feeling of ‘thin’ will not fill the hole that God was designed to complete. Only He can make you feel whole and only His love will be sufficient for you no matter what that boy tells you. A boy may want you thin, but a man will want you WHOLE. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t be satisfied with less than what God has for you. Choose to be done with the lie and live in the complete love and acceptance of your Father.”
I was bawling. Why was I bawling? Was that what I was doing? I never thought of myself as having an “eating disorder”. I mean, I could stop whenever I wanted. It didn’t control me. I controlled it! Then again, I had tried to not do it a few times and every time I said I was going to work out and eat healthy, I would always end up reverting to what I knew, what was easy, what felt good. How many times had I actually thrown up? Did I even know? Did I even remember each time? How many days had I gone without eating? I remember the feeling of not eating. I remember the first day would be hard. I would see my friends eating delicious foods and would want to join so badly, so typically I just avoided the scene altogether so I’d have no temptation. I could usually get by that day by looking forward to day three. Day two, my stomach would start to hurt and I’d usually get a headache. I’d just pop a pill to stop the pain and drink some water to get through. By day three, the hunger tended to subside and my stomach would start to make audible sounds of hunger. I would pretend to be embarrassed but I loved that sound. I loved the feeling of my stomach turning as it did it. It meant that it was working. It was affirmation. It was control. And on that day, I felt pretty.
When I was doing it well, I could start to see those bones in my chest by my neck. Those were my favorites. I’d love it when there would be a gap between my shirt and my skin at that area. I felt like I could walk the red carpet and not stick out like a sore thumb. The longer I went without food, the prettier I felt. The less I weighed the more in control I was.
Oh my stars. I had a problem. I never thought about it like this. I mean, I would always feel bad when I hid things or lied to my friends and family, but I just thought it was because I didn’t want to tell them how self-conscious I was…which was true. But the bigger truth was, this was wrong…this was a serious problem, a dangerous problem. And I knew they would make me stop. I knew that, once I told them, I couldn’t do it anymore. Once they knew, I lost the control. I could never be beautiful again. I had an eating problem. I fell apart right there in that arena.
We walked into Sunday the same as we always had. Usually, very mundane, run-of-the-mill…except we were holding hands. No one really noticed until our teacher gave us a quick double take and said, “hey are ya’ll together finally?”
We laughed and Chad said, “Yep. Took long enough, right?”
After we mingled and talked to everybody, we took our normal seats on the front row. This is great. This is exactly what everyone thought would happen. This is exciting. This is… awkward. I loved this guy. I mean I really loved him. Chad was always like a brother to me, but we’d only been “dating”, “going out”, “boyfriend/girlfriend”…whatever you wanted to call it for two weeks and I could not shake this feeling of “weirdness”.
He did nothing wrong. He was kind and a gentleman. He was the same guy he’d always been to me, but we were trying to make “us” something it had never been. And the shape of the “Chad” and “Kayla” that we had always been was trying to fit into this mold that just refused to fit.
Maybe we just needed more time. Maybe if I gave it some more time then we would settle into this “relationship mold”. Maybe if I just waited and rode this thing out then I would lose the “Chad is my best friend” feeling and it would change into the other thing! The only problem was that I didn’t really want to. I missed the old mold. I missed my best friend. I missed our old relationship. I missed us being silly and goofy and not caring. I missed him. Ugh.
Great. The only guy that I actually had a crush on, outside of the heart-wrenching pain of Jordan, and I can’t even make that stick… with a guy I already loved (albeit in the wrong way, but still). I was truly pathetic and apparently destined to be alone forever.
I know Chad and I will survive this. I’m pretty sure, if I know him well, that he feels this way too, but I really wish it could be different. I wish I could love him the way I want to. If I did, I wouldn’t feel the pain of being in love with a man who didn’t want me.
So funny story… the group hung out tonight. Chad and I decided to go separately since Kenz asked me to ride with her. As we were driving down the road she asked how things were going with Chad. Normally, I would’ve made some generic statement like “It’s good. It’s weird transitioning from ‘friends’ to ‘more’, but it’s good.” But with Kenzie this would not have flown. She knows me way too well. I sidetracked for a while, but it didn’t take long until all of my reservations came spewing out of my mouth like verbal vomit all over my poor best friend. She took it politely and quietly, allowing me to fully empty myself of all of my anxieties and frustrations. When I was finally done, I was almost crying and just said, “I just miss my best friend, Kenz.” She was quiet for a minute and said, “Kay, you guys HAVE to talk. He literally said the same thing to me yesterday.”
I was so relieved. Neither one of us would have to be hurt! Maybe we could even go back to how things were before! I know it may be weird for a bit, but maybe we can just forget this whole thing happened! We can be stupid and joke and be normal again!
I can’t even say how excited I am. Here’s hoping I have myself and him back!
The summer after junior year was rough. School had been great this year and all, but I felt different. Not necessarily different than I had been in the past, but just noticeably different than other people. At least I felt that I was. I had finally got a groove for this high school thing (it only took three years, I guess, to get acclimated to a 4-year program). I felt great about my friends at school and of course the gang at church, but I just felt stagnant. Maybe things would change this summer. You know, I’d get a chance to clear my head and just hang out with the gang. That always made me feel better. Lexie and Kenzie were my refuge. Sometimes I felt like they were carrying me through whatever headache I was going through and then other times they boosted my self-esteem by allowing me to feel like I was carrying them somehow. We took care of each other. Kory was so consistent. He was loyal and calming no matter what chaos we had gotten ourselves into. Steve constantly made me feel like he was protecting us in some way. He made me feel safer than when he wasn’t there. Like a really great, funny brother. And then there was Chad. I didn’t know what to think about Chad. Chad had probably been the best “guy friend” I had ever had. It was no secret that we’d had crushes on each other off and on ever since I moved to town, but I had always truly had feelings for Jordan. But there he was…constantly in my life. Constantly a source of joy and confidence for me. He was (out of the guys) the one that I could really be myself around. There was something I couldn’t shake about this guy.
Everyone at church would make jokes about us eventually getting married. We even had a pact where we were each other’s “backup”. If neither one of us were married by the time we were 40, we would marry each other. I could live with that. Chad had actually dated Kenzie for about a year. They had just broken up a few months ago but managed to stay pretty good friends which we were all very grateful for. I did not want anything to mess up our group. But would it be worth the risk to maybe… potentially… possibly… sometime in the future… go out with Chad? Is that crazy?? That was crazy. Chad was my best friend. We would drive each other crazy, right?? On the other hand, why not? I mean, I hadn’t dated a lot in high school. I had spent most of my time in the theater, with the gang, or at a church function throughout the last few years and hadn’t really had time for anything else. I threw myself into distractions ever since Jordan dumped my almost 3 years before.
Hold on! Had it been 3 years since Jordan?? I hadn’t really thought about it. That was pathetic. I hadn’t liked a guy in 3 years? No wonder I felt like I was from another planet in high school. Everybody else was dating and figuring out who they wanted to go to homecoming and prom with and I couldn’t muster up a CRUSH?? Why? I guess I could be grateful. I didn’t go through all the drama and tears and gossip that could come with all of that. And I had been on a couple of dates… I mean, a girls gotta eat, right? But I’d never really thought about the fact that I hadn’t had actual feelings for a guy since Jordan. Is that normal? Or maybe that’s why I didn’t understand what I was feeling for Chad. Is that what this is? I’d always loved Chad but in a brother kind of way. Did I feel something different now?
I thought he had been flirting for a few days, but it was so hard to tell because we’d always been close. He would come into class on Sunday and immediately make his way over to me. He’d make some funny comment that I would normally make fun of, but didn’t want to anymore. This was weird!
I did. I liked Chad. I wasn’t sure if I was happy about it or not. I didn’t really know how to feel about thinking about someone that wasn’t Jordan. This would be so much easier! I mean, we already know we like to hang out. He knows me as well as anybody. We have a great time together. We’ve already hung out alone. I mean, not often, but there were times when it would be a few of us and someone would get up to go to the bathroom and left just me and him alone for a while…and we were fine! This would just be like hanging out with all of our friends if the other 4 went to the bathroom for a really long time…easy.
FINALLY! I am getting over Jordan!
Sundays we went to church…every Sunday. Not unusual for a pastor’s kid and I rarely minded. That’s where all of my friends were. I mean, I had friends at school and all and I felt comfortable and at home in the chorus room, but because last year, I found myself hiding in the bathroom more often. I knew everyone thought I was being ridiculous about the show. They obviously thought I didn’t deserve the role anyway. My singing was ok…probably above average for our program, but I was bigger and not as pretty as some other girls who could’ve done it. Maybe if I was skinnier I could eliminate one problem. I can’t do anything about the face I have…that is what it is. And I didn’t want to do anything onstage to compromise my faith, but I could lose some weight. I mean, I was never going to be as thin as Heather unless I donated half of my vital organs… and a leg, but if I could just lose about 15 pounds, I really think the other stuff would be easier to deal with. I would see if I could go without a couple meals to jumpstart some loss. I was starting to love that feeling when your stomach rumbles telling you it was time to eat. I could just choose to refuse it…and I knew it was working.
Dad went to church early on Sundays to study and get ready to preach his two services, but he’d come home to pick us up, so we could ride together. I think initially that started out of necessity as mom’s health got pretty bad. We’d wake up and get dressed and go downstairs to see if it was a good day or not for mom. Usually, we’d find her lying in the dark with a washcloth covering her forehead and eyes. Poor Mom. Then Heather and I would run upstairs and finish fighting over mirror time in the bathroom. After a few minutes, we’d hear dad yell, “5 more minutes everybody!!!”. He always gave us a countdown for when we needed to head out, but he was notorious for telling us 5 minutes when we really had about 20 minutes until we really had to leave. For instance, I remember him telling us a story about getting ready to go pick someone up from the airport and saying it took 45 minutes to get there so we needed to get going or we would be late!! The only problem was it actually took no more than 15 minutes to get to the airport. We would make fun of him incessantly about his “slight” exaggerations. However, he was dad, so we got in the car when he said to.
When we parked in dad’s spot, I hopped out of the car and started toward the youth Sunday School area. We met in classrooms that were off of the gym. I walked into the room and gave a quick scan to see if I could find Alexa and Kenzie. My eyes wandered around the room as I said hey to the teachers waiting just inside the door to greet everybody until I froze. I didn’t see Lex or Kenz, but I did see Jordan. What was he doing here?Jaime didn’t tell me he was coming. I guess then again, I hadn’t talked to Jaime in a while. We kind of drifted apart when I started going to public high school. I think she was actually kind of mad at me for the distance that had grown between us. It wasn’t intentional, we had just grown apart since middle school. Still, a heads up would’ve been nice. Why didn’t I wear a better outfit? Why didn’t I do my nails? Am I even wearing lip gloss right now?? A million thoughts and doubts whirled around in my head. Wait a minute! Who cares!? This guy said he didn’t want me, so you know what? That’s fine. I could show up in sweatpants and a messy bun and I don’t have to care what he thinks about it. Who cares if he thinks I’m fat or not as pretty as his new girlfriend, Natalia?! He is not my problem anymore. I have great friends, am popular, and am not a hideous beast just because Jordan Grizzard doesn’t want to be my boyfriend! I don’t care if he’s here. This is my class. These are my friends and I’m going to go on as if everything is completely normal….because it is….or should be anyway.
“Oh, hey, Jordan,” I said as I sauntered up to him confidently.
“ Hey, Kay. How are you?” and there it went. All of my confident defenses melted away when he looked at me with those gray eyes.
“ Um..” Dial it up, Kay. “ Doing pretty good. Have tons of friends, loving my new show, and just really never felt better about myself”. Ok, dial it back, Kay. “ I mean about school and stuff, ya know?” Jordan looked confused.
“ Great. That’s great.”
“ So how have you been? How’s college going?”
“ Good. It’s going good.”
“ You’re at West Palm right?” As I was asking the question I saw a girl approaching behind Jordan.
“ Yeah, I like it. I mean, you can’t beat the campus, ya know? It’s right on the beach.” He turned and noticed the girl, too. “ Oh, hey. Kayla, this is Natalia. Natalia…Kayla.” My heart sank. Stay cool, Kay. This is not a big deal. You knew he had a girlfriend and that’s fine. You don’t care. Good for him. I mean, it sucks that she’s gorgeous… and tan… and has a cool name like “Natalia”. Seriously, Mom and Dad… “Kayla”!? That’s what you gave me? How am I supposed to compete with girls named “Natalia” when you give me “Kayla” to work with!?
“Hey. Nice to meet you.” I said with the most genuine tone I could muster. See my words said “nice to meet you”, but my head said, “go take a solo walk through Alligator Alley without a boat and a hand full of raw meat”.
“ You too. I like your dress. Isn’t your dad the pastor here?”
“ uh yeah, he is,” I said.
“ Oh cool. I look forward to hearing him later,” She looked at Jordan, “ I think they’re about to get started. Want to sit?”
“Yeah, sure,” he said as she turned to go. “ Good to see you,” he said as he followed her away.
“Yeah. You too,” I said almost to myself. Where are Lex and Kenz?
One of these days I’ll be able to either open this notebook and laugh or shut it forever…I can’t do either tonight. I saw him today. Perfect, as usual, alongside one of the sweetest girl I’ve ever met…Natalia. I’m not jealous of her because I don’t want him back. Well, my heart tells me I do, but that’s just the little girl coming out in me. I’m jealous that I no longer feel about anyone the way I felt about Jordan.
I’ll see a cute movie with friends and think about him simply because there’s no one else to think about. I want that feeling again. I want a guy to see a picture of me and say “that’s my girl” again.
I’m not angry because he has a girlfriend. I’m angry because of eight words…”We’ll do it better than others did”.
I don’t know whether he tried and failed or just lied. He’s happy and I’m happy for him. Lord, give me peace and fulfillment in you! I need you, Father.
I don’t think I had ever learned to walk confidently into a room. Although, people would never have guessed that my head was filled with all possible manner of horror stories about myself and all the ways I could humiliate myself in any given situation. I had battled inner hatred for a long time, but covered it in an outgoing and seemingly confident exterior to hide any appearances of self doubt. I had learned how to do it well by now, but this new chapter would prove to test my skills.
I realized now that I had all of my confidence rooted in the fact that Jordan saw value in me. It wasn’t his fault. It was mine. I had relinquished my own God given worth to a guy who didn’t know what to do with it. And because of it, every time I entered a room, I didn’t question whether people were thinking negatively about me… I knew it. I would swing open the door to my homeroom and a couple kids would glance up at the motion of the door. We’d catch eyes for a split second before they resumed whatever conversation they were in and I just knew they had made a judgment about me. Haley thinks I’m fat. Does this outfit look like I’m trying too hard? Why can’t I just be easy and laid-back!? I wasn’t a social leper or anything. I had friends in my own group and some of my friends were extremely popular. One of my best friends was homecoming queen two years in a row! But she was gorgeous… and skinny. She was not cursed with my thighs, or extra large derriere. Maybe if I just lost a few pounds I could regain some confidence. I knew losing a few pounds wouldn’t necessarily be noticeable or relieve the fears that I felt of public scrutiny, but every time I saw just a little bit come off I felt better. I knew I could control it.
“No Kayla! You said you wouldn’t do it again, and you won’t.” I told myself I could lose some weight the old fashioned way, but I knew I would never do that. I would start the day with the intention of eating a salad and taking more stairs…. and I would do that through about lunch. Then I would realize there was an easier way. I’m such a coward.
There was one place I did feel good though. One place where I felt happy and at ease. One place where I didn’t walk on egg shells and never felt like people were watching me. Ironically, it was the one place where they actually were watching me; where they were supposed to be watching me. I walked into the theater room everyday and felt completely comfortable. Not only comfortable but truly confident. It was my happy place and I found any excuse to be there.
Luckily, we were in the middle of rehearsals for the spring musical, so I didn’t need much of an excuse. I was there pretty much everyday. I had my first lead role in my high school career and I was so excited. I was playing Reno Sweeney in ANYTHING GOES! She was a sassy, lounge singer that falls in love with a sweet boy named Billy whose in love with a blonde ingenue named Hope. A typical classic musical comedy piece by Cole Porter. It was cheesy, but the music was fun and I was having a blast jumping into the role. Some of the material when done professionally I knew would be much more risqué, but luckily I felt protected in the safety of my theater program which allowed me to make a lot of decisions about anything I wasn’t comfortable with. One day, we were rehearsing a scene that we had already blocked early in Act I. There was a line that I was not comfortable with and the director allowed me to make a choice to play it a different way. Normally, this would not have been a big deal at all. We had made some changes previously that the director thought were too mature for our stage. But, this time there was an extra factor that was not normally there. We had a guest choreographer that had graduated from FMHS a few years earlier. She was actually in show choir with my sister and brother, so I knew her from seeing her perform with them. She was a great dancer and moved to New York after graduating to pursue a career in theater herself.
After the decision was made to keep this line more demure, I heard several kids, including our guest choreographer, talking about how they disagreed with this decision. That was fine with me. People were more than welcome to disagree with me. I had been told all of my life that people wouldn’t like some decisions I made if I chose to do things like that as I was growing up. But then something was different. I saw some of my Christian friends rally around them. Ok, maybe they didn’t rally, but I didn’t see them supporting me. They were standing around the others in one accord with those who were nearly mocking me for it. What was happening? I was making the right decision right?? Was I? Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal. Maybe I should just say it. I mean who cares? Wait a second! I knew I was right. I felt good about my decision. And not only that, but my director was completely ok with it, so why was it any of their business anyway?? And then I heard it…straight from our guest choreographer…
“ If she didn’t want to do the role, she shouldn’t have auditioned for the role. It’s not like she’s great anyway.”
And with that, the only place that I felt truly safe, truly accepted and completely myself became a place that maybe I didn’t belong. Screw it! I ran to the bathroom. Losing a few pounds may only make me feel superficially better, but I’d take it.
The invitation had been taped to my fridge for months. I had carefully shopped for and selected the perfect dress to wear and went and had my hair done so it would be freshly highlighted. It felt like it had been months since I had seen Jordan when he came to see me in OKLAHOMA. Why had it taken so long to get back up to Orlando? School was really getting in the way of my love life. But the wait was over. Jordan’s brother, Kyle was getting married and I could not wait! As excited as I was for Kyle to experience the happiest day of his life, I was much more excited to see his Best Man standing beside him in a tuxedo. His tall, dark, and handsome Best Man in a crisp white shirt with a black bow tie and a shiny stripe down the side of his pants that makes him look like he belongs in one of those Fred Astaire movies I loved so much. Ok, I had no idea what Jordan would be wearing, but he’d at least be in a suit and I just knew no suit would ever look better.
My sister, mom and I all jumped in the car and made the trek up to Orlando. We checked into the hotel and I started counting the minutes until I got to head to the ceremony. I checked my phone about every two minutes to see if Jordan had texted…no word. He’d been so busy with wedding preparations that he couldn’t squeeze time to see me either. He was the Best Man after all. Kyle was undoubtedly keeping him busy with very important last minute details. That was fine. We were going to stay for a couple days afterward, so we’d have time to be together after the festivities.
Getting ready for the big day would’ve been a bit easier if I didn’t have to share the bathroom with two other women. Did they not realize how important today was? Jordan was going to be in a tux! I had to look good next to him for all of our “we’re not a couple but we like each other” pictures! You know, the pictures that I always slightly roll my eyes about when mom asks us to snap a photo together but secretly love later? Heather and I kept elbowing each other trying to share the counter space while straightening our hair.
“Heather, your hair is half as long as mine! Why is it taking so long?” I snapped.
“ What are you talking about? You’ve been straightening your hair for like half an hour. You’re going to fry it off of your head!” she retorted.
“Girls, play nice!” my mom said, from her makeshift vanity she created out of one of the nightstands and her compact mirror, trying to keep the peace.
We finished our hair and then started the process of our makeup, which basically meant we would take turns slightly pushing each other’s makeup to the other side of the vanity; trying to steal more space.
“Kay, do my makeup for me,” my sister begged.
She clearly had no idea the stress I was under. It was going to take me twice as long to do my own face paint. Did she really think I had time to do hers too?
“Sis, you are 19 years old! You really should know how to do your own makeup!And I won’t have time to do mine if I do.”
“Yes, you will! There’s plenty of time! Pleeeeeeasse??”
I rolled my eyes and gave in. It wasn’t going to be my best work, but I’d do it.
“Fine, but no whining about my work,” I said as I started on her face. We finally finished and so started to get dressed. I had decided to wear the dress that I wore for Easter that year. It was a light green dress with pink and white faint pin stripes running on a diagonal. It had an asymmetrical neckline; one was a sleeveless and the other a spaghetti strap. The hemline mimicked the asymmetrical neckline and hit at about my calf. Good. I hated my legs. I felt good.
I spent the ride to the church figuring out what to say when I saw him. Why did I always feel the need to preplan my conversations with him? I just didn’t trust myself to make intelligent sentences when I was around him. They made it look so easy in the movies! I just needed a team of writers to feed me witty banter to him for every conversation…that would make me feel comfortable.
I walked in the church and looked around to see if I could spot him. Nope. Well, I’m sure he had duties to attend to. He’d be with Kyle now. We took our seats and waited for the ceremony to start. Oh, wait! There he was! He was helping to seat some of the guests. I must’ve just missed him in the lobby. He was walking back from the fifth row. I thought I caught his eye and waved slightly. Not enough to draw major attention, but enough to share a sweet moment with my man! Jordan kept walking, completely missing my understated flirtation. No big deal. I’d see him after the wedding. Man, did he look great in that suit. He looked pretty much exactly like I knew he would…. gorgeous.
The ceremony was beautiful. However, it felt like it was taking forever! I couldn’t wait to talk to him. When the ceremony ended Jordan had to take photos with the wedding party, so we went to the reception to enjoy some post ceremony hors d’oeuvres. After a while of talking with the other guests, the wedding party was introduced and they all came walking in by couple.
“aaaand please welcome, Best Man, Jordan, and Maid of Honor Leslie,” the announcer said over a microphone. Jordan came dancing in as the crowd gave an applause. I waited to catch Jordan’s eye again, but never quite met his gaze. He headed off with the bridesmaid to the back of the room with the rest of the party.
“And now for the main event…please give a big round of applause for the new Mr. and Mrs. Kyle Grizzard!” the announcer said. The bride and groom came dancing in as the crowd gave a loud applause with lots of catcalls.
Everyone crowded around the new couple taking turns giving hugs and high fives to the bride and groom. I hung back and let Jordan acknowledge some of his friends he hadn’t been able to see yet. I didn’t want to seem too eager. He’ll make the rounds and then end up by me eventually.
“ You want to go see Jordan, honey?” My mom asked.
“ No, I’m good. I’ll catch-up with him after he’s seen his people. I don’t want to monopolize him.”
Jordan gave some hugs and then he saw me and made his way over. I knew he’d come over. He was probably just making sure he did his duty of shaking hands and all first, so he could be done with that and then spend the rest of the time with me… so thoughtful.
“Hey guys,” he said with a smile and went to give my mom a hug.
“Hey, Heather” and he leaned over to hug my sister.
“Hey,” he said as he hugged me.
“Hey, you look nice,” I said with a smile.
“Thanks. You too. I’m glad you guys could come.”
“ Well, thank you so much for inviting us,” my mom said.
“Of course. It’s great to see ya’ll. I should make the rounds. Try and take some of the pressure off of Kyle… ya know, Best Man stuff. I’ll see you guys soon.”
“Ok cool.” And he was gone. Okay. So his duties took a little more of his time than I had anticipated. It was so sweet of him to take them so seriously. There were a lot of people here and everyone would want to see them, so Jordan needed to go and take up some of their time to give Kyle a chance to get around to everybody. How thoughtful of him. We met a lot of the family’s friends and saw some people we knew. Robbie was there, so was Ian and “Shut face”. After eating some light food and talking with some friends, everyone started heading out. Before we knew it, it was time to send the newlyweds off. Everyone headed out to the parking lot, grabbed a bag of birdseed, and lined up to wait for the happy couple so we could pelt them as they passed by. They emerged last from the building and everyone went crazy with loud cheers and congratulations! They hopped in the limo and whisked away while everyone took photos and threw their last bit of birdseed at the car.
Jordan made his way over to us with a little dance in his step.
“Woooh. That was fun huh?”
“Yeah, it was. They looked so happy.” Heather said
“ Yeah. Hey, you two get together. Let’s take a picture,” Mom chimed in shooing me next to Jordan. I pretended to be annoyed and then stepped over next to Jordan. He put his arm around my shoulder and I leaned into him and smiled. Mom snapped the photo and I wished she would take some more.
Jaime came walking over. I hadn’t even seen her since I got here. She had been so busy with her family.
“Hey, guys! We’re going to grab some dinner. Do ya’ll want to go?” she asked.
“ Yeah. I’m starved.” I said
“Great.” The group talked about where to go and after deciding on a spot we all made our way to our cars. The Powell women were outvoted and we ended up at Red Lobster. We hate seafood, but what did I care? Jordan would be there.
We were the last ones there. We walked to the table and took the last three seats available. Luckily, Jordan saved me a seat. Also, luckily, everything at Red Lobster smells like seafood even when you order chicken, so I didn’t have to fight the urge to gorge myself in front of him. I just had some bread and told everybody I ate too much at the reception. I loved hanging out with Jordan’s family. They were so much fun, especially when they were all together. But something felt off. I had spent time with Jordan’s family so many times before and I always felt comfortable around them. I never felt completely comfortable when Jordan was around, but this was different. Was he avoiding me? Why was he avoiding me?
After everybody ate, we sat and talked for a while; mostly about the wedding. Sandy shared stories about the wedding preparations and day of jitters. After about an hour, my mom started to get a headache, so she and Heather decided to head back to the hotel.
“Jordan, would you mind giving Kayla a ride back to the hotel for me?”
“Of course, Miss LuAnne. You go. Hope you feel better.” Jordan said politely.
They left and I smiled at Jordan, “thank you.” and tried to gauge his reaction to me.
“No problem.” he said somewhat blankly.
We all laughed at more stories and had a blast. At some point, Jordan had moved down to the end of the table by himself. He had been quiet for a while. I leaned over to Jaime who was sitting beside me, “Has he been like this all day?”
“ No. He was fine earlier. I don’t know what’s up.”
My heart sank. “ I think I do.”
I gathered my courage and walked down to end of the table. I sat down at the empty chair next to him.
“You’re quiet down here. Everything ok?” I was praying something was wrong. Maybe he was sick or devastated at the idea of losing his big brother. Maybe his shoes were too small or he had a headache from all the flashes from the cameras today. Or maybe it was something else.
“ Yeah. I was just thinking.” He said not looking me in the eye. My stomach sank. There was nothing I could do at this point. Let’s just get this over with.
“ Look, I think you should just say what you need to say.”
“ Ok.” Jordan kept looking at his hands. “I think it would just be better if we were friends.” And there it was. My stomach felt like it hit the floor with the weight of an anvil. What had I done wrong? Maybe this dress was a bad choice. Had I gained weight? Had I said something stupid? I’m sure I had done all of those things. How did I think that I could keep Jordan interested? How did I not see this coming? Of course, he was going to break up with me! He was a good looking, talented junior. I’m sure there were so many girls trying to get with him. And I’m an awkward, theater-geek, freshmen who can’t even date him anyway. Wait. I was turning 16 in less than two months! Two months! In less than sixty days, I could’ve had my perfect date with the guy that I’d liked for over three years! How could he do this to me? Didn’t he know how long I’d been waiting for that date? And couldn’t he tell how hard I’d worked to be perfect for him today? I wore super uncomfortable shoes, a slimmer to suck my stomach in, I’d skipped meals to make sure I wasn’t fat. I practiced my makeup and was conscious all day not to dominate conversation. And none of it mattered. I felt like I couldn’t breathe.
“ Yeah. Me too. I think that makes sense.” I lied.
“ Cool. I mean, we can still be friends.”
“ Right. Although, I think we know friends who have tried that.” I said with only slight bitterness in my voice.
“ Yeah, but we’ll do it better than they did. I mean, we’ll see each other when you guys come up sometimes and when we come down. Just like now.”
“Right. We’ll still see each other. It’s no big deal.” I was not sure how long I could hold back the tears that I could feel building behind my eyes. “I should probably get going though. Mom didn’t look so good when she left.”
“Oh yeah. I’ll take you back to the hotel.” He said as he started to get up.
“ No, it’s fine. I’m sure Momma Sue can give me a ride.” I said, trying desperately to get out of that car ride.
“She’s actually riding with my mom. I got you. It’s not a problem.”
“ Ok. Sure. Thanks.” You can do this, Kayla.
I jumped in the car and Jordan started driving toward the hotel. Neither one of us said anything. We just sat awkwardly as the cd player played Truth’s “Jesus Never Fails”. The beautiful, calm ballad actually made me angrier. Truth had no right to be calm and beautiful when I felt this horrible. I refused to cry in front of him. I just stared out the window and tried to concentrate on my breathing. Think of something…anything to keep your thoughts off of how devastated you feel right now.
I felt like I wasted the last three years of my life! And, now, I can’t stop thinking about all the things he said and did. The first time he kissed me, the first time I had allowed anybody to kiss me. The way he would kiss my hand or hug me and not let go, the way he knew what to say. He wrote me a song about the way “he felt about me”. I don’t think I’ll ever hear that. He’d made plans to come down for my birthday to go to the beach- that won’t happen. I gave a lot to him, but what makes me so frustrated is I couldn’t get mad at him. If I had to give all of that to anyone. I was still glad it was to him.
We finally drove into the hotel parking lot and Jordan barely got the car in park before I reached for the handle.
“K. Thanks. Bye. I’ll see ya later.” I said as I practically jumped from his car.
“ No problem. It was good to see you. I’ll talk to yo….” I slammed the door closed and started running toward our room before he finished his sentence.
What do I do now?
Today, is, perhaps, one of the worst days of my life, but I expect to say that again (a lot) in my lifetime. Today was the day when I got dismissed for the first time EVER. Not only that, but the guy who dismissed me has done it before!!
I went to his brother’s wedding and stayed at a hotel with my mom and sister overnight, then me and our friends all went to church the next day. He avoided me both days. At first, I told myself he’s just busy with the wedding! But I knew something was up. He didn’t talk to me at lunch either. When we had finished eating, I went to go talk to him and he finally told me “It’s too hard. I still care about you.” and I want so badly to believe him, but I can’t! For some reason, I won’t let myself believe it. He wouldn’t tell me something. Of course, I lied and said that it was a mutual decision and I agree… I lied!
Ninth grade is rough. I mean, I had just figured out how to navigate middle school and how not to completely humiliate myself throughout eighth grade and then you get thrust into a whole new school. You spend two years clawing your way to the top of the social pyramid of middle school only to be thrown to the floor by your new hierarchy, the seniors, so they can climb the rungs to their rightful place. Luckily, my sister and brother had both gone to school at Fort Myers High, so I wasn’t at a total loss. I had at least walked the halls before even if it was only to deliver something to my brother or see my sister win homecoming court or something. Heather had graduated a couple years earlier but Alan was still here, so socially I could cling to his popularity. Maybe I would be noticed by association. Or maybe I should hope to be ignored. Alan was a senior, on the football team, in the show choir and pretty well liked and popular. That had to be helpful right? That had to count as some sort of high school currency I could cash in at some point.
The first half of the year, I’m basically just figuring out how to not get run over in between periods in this massive place. If SFCA were a little league football field, this place was a Super Bowl arena. Where
did all of these people even come from?I swear every kid in Lee County had to attend this school. I found my solace in the choral classroom. I didn’t actually take chorus, but that was where the show choir met and both my siblings were in Soundwave, so I was pretty welcomed by the teacher, Mrs. Trent. Freshmen weren’t allowed so I wouldn’t be allowed to audition until next year, but the chorus room was right behind the theater and that felt like home almost immediately. My English teacher, Mr. Riis, was also the theater director, so between Mr. Riis’ room and Mrs. Trent’s room, I could find peace.
Although freshmen couldn’t audition for show choir, we could audition for the spring musical and I couldn’t wait! Theater had always been my passion and I knew this would be where I met people I could relate to. Where I’d be seen as cool and fit in. The department decided on OKLAHOMA for the show. I’m not a huge Roger’s and Hammerstein fan, but it would do fine. I submitted my audition packet and started thinking about what to sing to show they should cast a freshmen for the lead!
I got home and went to find my mom.
“Hey, mom! How ya feeling today?”
“ I’m fine baby. How was school?”
“ It was good. I signed up to audition for the musical. So that could be cool.” I said.
“ Oh good. I think your brother is doing that too!”
“ Really? Why? He’s never done the musical before.” I couldn’t decide if I was happy he was doing it or not. I mean, on one hand, I’d get to hang out with my brother, so that could be cool. On the other hand, he’d never done theater before. Why did he want to this year?
“ I don’t know. I think Mrs. Trent talked to him about it. Maybe he thought it would be fun to do it with his baby sister.” she said with a motherly tone.
I laughed, “Yeah, we’ll go with that.” I said as I turned to walk upstairs with my stuff. “ But it could be fun.”
When audition day came, there was a decent turnout. Mostly kids from within the choral and theater program. We all signed in and got a number and then waited in the chorus room to be called. Once our number was shouted out, we would make our way to the stage and sing for the panel; which consisted of Mrs. Trent, Mr. Riis, and the student stage manager. I felt like I should be intimidated or nervous, but I wasn’t… not because of arrogance, but because I felt really relaxed. I knew Mrs. Trent for a couple of years and I knew Mr. Riis generally liked me, so I was pretty comfortable. After all, it was just singing.
I walked onto the stage and said, “ Hi. My name is Kayla and I’ll be singing ‘There’s No Business Like Show Business’ from ANNIE GET YOUR GUN.” I belted out the notes just as I had practiced and said, “thank you”. Then left the stage. NAILED IT.
About a week later, the cast list was posted. I waited all day at school as most of my classes were in the freshmen hall on the other side of campus. As soon as the final bell rang, I got my stuff from my locker and headed over to the chorus room. There was a small group of kids gathered around the bulletin board outside of the classroom. Everybody was giving each other high fives and quoting lines from the show, well, except one kid who seemed to be sulking off into the distance. But everyone else seemed pleased. I walked over to the sheet of paper tacked up and started browsing over the names. It didn’t take me long to find one I recognized. ALAN POWELL….. CURLY. Of course, he got the lead. Haha. Good for him. I kept scrolling and ran all the way down until I ran out of paper. Wait. Did I not get cast at all? I was so disappointed. I thought I did pretty well on my audition. My eyes scrolled through the list one more time and landed on Alan’s name again. Well, this sucks. Alan’s never done theater and he gets a lead, but I don’t get to be a part of it. I mean I’m a freshmen, so I get it, but still. I looked at Alan’s name one more time.
“Well, good for you bubba.”
As I withdrew to walk away, something caught my eyes. Wait. Was that my name? KAYLA POWELL….ADO ANNIE CARNES. I did get a part! I was so excited! I didn’t just get cast! I got a part! With lines and songs and everything! This was going to be so much fun.
Rehearsals went really well as I started getting to know some of the other “theater geeks”. It was obviously a low budget production at a high school that didn’t value the arts that much, but it might as well have been Broadway to me. I dose doed and heel clicked all over that stage. We rehearsed almost everyday after school until finally it was show week! We had costume fittings and last minute blocking changes. It was so fun to be on a big stage. I had gone to the small private school attached to the church for middle school and our theater productions were embarrassing to say the least. We performed them in the space we had chapel which was the size of a large classroom that maybe sat a hundred people with no technical ability and no wing space. Now the auditorium at FMHS was not exactly the Gershwin but it was a step up.
Opening night finally arrived and I stayed at school after school to get ready. I grabbed dinner with some friends and hung out at the theater until call time. Once we got back, I settled into the dressing room with the other girls. I even got my own mirror, so I sprawled out all my makeup and checked my costume rack. Then I started applying the paint. My mom came into the dressing room.
“Kayla!” she said in a loud whisper.
“ Hey! What are you doing back here?”
“ Come here. I have something for you.”
Awww. How sweet! I’ll bet my parents had gotten me flowers. Either that or they wanted me and my brother to take a picture together. One was sweet, the other kind of annoying, but what can you do?
“Hey, what’s up?” I said as I rounded the corner outside the dressing room.
“ Hey Kay! I’m supposed to say ‘break a leg’ right?” Jordan said as he held out a bouquet of yellow roses.
Oh my goodness! Jordan came?? How sweet!! How thoughtful! How considerate of my love for theater! How could he not tell me?? I was not prepared for this and I only had one eye with mascara on it. I’m basically hugging this gorgeous guy and I look like I have a lazy eye. It’s ok. I’ll just stand next to him this whole conversation and he’ll only see my profile…that’s not awkward. But he came!
“ Oh my stars! I can’t believe you’re here!” I said as I hugged him. “Thank you for coming.”
“ Of course. These are for you.” He handed me a beautiful bouquet of roses. I’ll look past the fact that yellow roses are supposed to be symbolic of friendship and just say HE BROUGHT ME FLOWERS! My nonboyfriend boyfriend came from three hours away to see a high school production of OKLAHOMA to bring me flowers. I wasn’t even the lead in this thing. I was playing the comedic support character. Uh oh. I was playing the girl who “cain’t say no”. Uh oh. I was playing the girl that had to kiss two different guys on stage….three times each… in front of my nonboyfriend boyfriend… who I’d only kissed once. I was about to increase my experience by 6 in front of him with other guys. He’d be ok with this right? Should I have talked to him about this first? I mean, it’s just acting.
“You are so sweet. They’re beautiful. I love them. Thank you.” I said and hugged him again. “When did you get here?”
“Jaime just picked me up and we turned around and came. We got here a couple hours ago.”
I laughed, “Well, she keeps a good secret.” I said with a smile.
“We’ll let you get ready. I’ll see you after the show.” He said and gave me one more hug and kissed me on the side of my head as he left with my mom. I sighed. He came.
Jordan was coming in town today and I could not wait to see him. I had tried to lose a couple more pounds before he got here and felt pretty good. Normally, I am a ball of nerves when I know I’m about to see him. Okay, I was still a ball of nerves, but at least this time I was a slightly smaller ball. I had lost 23 pounds so far and I felt great. I managed to lose weight but keep some curves…best of both worlds! I just knew that Jordan would notice and be impressed. I wanted him to see me. I wanted him to notice my body. Usually, I wanted him to like me in spite of what he had to look at, but this time I was hoping he would actually like what he saw. Maybe I wouldn’t feel like hiding when he looked at me now.
Momma Sue, Jaime and I met Jordan and his mom at a barbecue restaurant called “Sonnys” when they got into town. Well, at least it wouldn’t tempt me. I hated that place…not that it mattered anyway. It was one of those restaurants where they smother everything in sauce and gravy and the proportions are huge and you sit in benches instead of chairs. It wasn’t my favorite, but it didn’t matter. I couldn’t wait to see him.
We got inside and saw that they hadn’t gotten there yet, so we took a seat, or bench, and waited. Momma Sue could see my excitement, “ Baby, you better calm down or you’re gonna fly right off that seat.” She said with a grin. I chuckled as the waitress approached.
“ Welcome to Sonny’s. Can I start you off with some drinks today?”
“ Diet Coke for me please and I think for these girls too.” She said and motioned to Jaime and Chelsea.
“And for you?”
“ Uh a Dr. Pepper for me please.” Food was not a problem but don’t ask me to give up my soda. I had never been able to kick that one.
The waitress walked away and Susie said, “Sandy texted saying she was almost there a few minutes ago. I don’t know how we beat her.”
“ Cause you drive like a crazy woman!” Jordan said as he made his way toward the table.
“ I do not. Ya’ll are just slow!”
“ I just drove the speed limit.” Sandy said as she headed toward her seat next to her sister.
Jordan came and sat at the empty seat next to me and wrapped his arms around me to give me a hug.
“Hi” I said with a huge smile on my face.
“ How are you?” he said but didn’t let go of me.
“ I’m good. Glad you’re here.”
“Me too.” he said as we sat back up. “Hey ‘Jame’, Chels! How are ya’ll?” He said as he bonked them on the forehead like a big brother.
“Oww” they both said as they half laughed.
I was so glad he was finally here. I had missed him. He grabbed my hand under the table and squeezed it and left it there on my leg.
We all caught up on life and what was going on. This family was hysterical. Half the time they were making fun of each other and the other half they were singing each others praises..sometimes literally. They were a singing family. Jordan tried to fight it sometimes. He wanted to be the jock, but he couldn’t run away from his gift. He was by far the best vocalist in the family and most everybody knew it, but he wanted to do his own thing and so did sports. It didn’t take long for the football team to require that he miss church to be a part of the team, so he dropped out. Only then did he really give singing some of his attention, but as soon as he did, he was winning competitions and being used everywhere…boy could sing.
The waitress came and dropped everyones plates in front of them to start eating. I didn’t really know what to do. I ordered food…because I HAD to order food, but now what do I do? I couldn’t NOT eat it. They would notice that immediately. I decided that I would cut it up into tiny pieces and move it around on my plate to make it look like I had made a dent in the meal. There was turkey, mashed potatoes, collard greens and this huge piece of toast. Perfect! I would hide some food under the bread and in the mashed potatoes to make it look like I had eaten more. Throughout the meal, I would find a time when Jordan’s attention wasn’t on me and slide some food under the toast. I pushed some bigger pieces off into my napkin as well. I was laughing and talking with him, when Jaime asked him a question. He turned his face to her and I slid a big piece of turkey into my napkin beside my plate, but I hadn’t quite gotten it all the way off my plate before Jordan turned around to face me again.
“What are you doing?” he kind of laughed as he asked me.
“ Oh that piece had a lot of fat in it and it kind of grossed me out. Not sure I really want to eat any more.” I said trying to sound convincing. He kept his smile on his face but kind of looked at my plate funny.
“ Are you not hungry?”
“ No. Not really. I had a big breakfast.” I lied. Ugh. I hated that I lied to him. I didn’t want to lie to him. I just didn’t want him to know this. It wasn’t a big deal. This wasn’t going to be a long term thing or anything.
We finished lunch and headed out. I couldn’t stay and hang out today, so I had to say goodbye to Jordan for a while. I was kind of ok with it though. I felt a little guilty about lying to him and needed a little distance to qualm my guilty conscience.
“I’ll talk to you tonight.” I said as I wrapped my arms around him before Momma Sue was going to drop me off at my house.
“ I’ll call ya later.” I knew he knew. Crap.
There is literally nothing like the feeling of knowing that someone you care about thinks well of you. I mean, yes, I REALLY like that he thinks I’m attractive and funny and fun to be around. At least I hope he thinks all of those things. I think he does or I don’t think he’d be calling me and holding my hand like he does. But it’s more than that. Jordan is incredible. This guy is funny and intelligent and kind and charming and attractive and caring and WAY OUT OF MY LEAGUE…and he thinks well of me. After knowing me for years, and having all of those years to see who I am and what I am like, he for some reason thinks I’m worthy of his time. He wants to spend time with me; to get to know me, and hear my thoughts and be by my side. I do not understand why he is giving me the time of day, but I’m not about to let him know all the reasons he is wrong.
See, for years I have battled my own head over thoughts about myself. Heather, never had to worry about these things. She was perfect. My sister could have stepped out of a magazine centerfold at any given moment and waltz up to any guy she picked out and he would never be good enough for her. She had flaws of course. I mean no one is totally perfect. Heather was more stubborn than anyone I had ever met. Her family knew that and it was something she was going to have to deal with one day, but right now??? Guys were never a problem for her. Her waistline was slender and she could wear anything. She was one of those girls who could throw her hair in a ponytail and slap on some lipgloss, throw on a t-shirt and jeans and look “paparazzi ready”. I slapped on a t-shirt and jeans with my hair in a pony tail and I looked like her dog walker. There was no way I could measure up to her…ever. And I knew everyone knew it.
My brother even made me look bad. Normally, don’t you just have to compete with other girls in the beauty department? My brother was no longer an awkward preteen boy with braces and a big head. He was now one of the most popular guys in high school. Probably a bit more slender than he’d like… even his “faults” I envied. He was effortless in how he carried himself; confident and mysterious. Alan walked in the room and everyone looked. It wasn’t just because he was attractive. He just has that thing about him. It felt like I could walk in a room doing the mambo wearing a fruit ordained headdress and I’d still need an introduction over a loud speaker to pull focus from him. These were the two that set the standard in my home. How the heck does Jordan see anything in me?
I knew I wasn’t unattractive. I mean, I wasn’t going to repel anyone due to disfigurement or anything. I just needed to lose a little weight. I was a curvier girl than Heather’s natural “fashion model figure”. It wasn’t crazy out of control. I just had to keep it in check. I had started taking these diet supplement pills to help get me started a few years back…just to get me jumpstarted. I had heard that it could help you lose 5 lbs of water weight the first week. I WAS IN! Except I didn’t want to lose 5 pounds. I figured I could lose a good 15 to 20 pounds and be a lot more attractive. The first few days on the pill were fine. I would eat some breakfast and just take one of them for lunch at school. Then I’d eat a light dinner. After a few days I actually started to see some progress! I was so excited! But after those first few days nothing changed for the next 2 weeks! I got so frustrated. I would have to expedite this. I was getting impatient to see some dramatic results. I decided that I would take a pill for breakfast and lunch to speed things up. After all, the first few days felt so good to see some of those pounds come off! This would just help me jumpstart my weightless and then I would change me eating habits to be more healthy later. It was awesome. I saw weight come off. I lost about 7 pounds over the next couple of weeks! People were coming up to me and telling me how good I looked! I don’t remember that ever happening before in my life! I was sharing tops with my sister! I wasn’t quite able to share her pants yet, but we were just in the first few weeks! Who knew what could happen.
I knew what I could do to make this happen faster and who knew? Maybe lose more than I had originally hoped for. I knew that it wasn’t the best idea, but it would just be for a little bit to get me to where I wanted to be and then I would be done and I could start healthy eating habits and working out. Jordan was coming down soon and I really wanted to lose the weight before then! Just for a little bit.
I didn’t eat food for the next 2 days. We were so busy running everywhere at my house that it was easy to hide. I would just tell mom or dad that I was eating with someone else or “on the way” and then my friends always assumed I was eating at home, so it wasn’t a problem. Lunch at school was the only kind of tricky situation, but I just kind of moved food around on my plate or talked a lot until the bell rang and then said, “ Oh shoot! I didn’t even get to eat! I’ll just eat this on the way to class real quick.” and then, when I started walking by myself, I’d throw whatever it was away…easy.
By the afternoon on the second day, my stomach was making audible noises. At first, they were a little uncomfortable, but after a while, those noises became so empowering. It’s working. Each little grumble was another little half pound melting away from the fat around my belly or thighs. I was doing it. I was controlling myself and it felt awesome. I was going to reach my goal. Heck! I was going to pass it! I wonder how much I could lose?
The first year of high school was great. Still awkward at times, but overall great. Or maybe I was just on a high because Jordan told me that he and some of his friends were coming to Ft. Myers for spring break; which meant basically even if I had been thrown aside as the high school equivalent of a societal leper, this was a fantastic first year! I was so excited! Jordan and I had talked on the phone a lot this year but we hadn’t actually spent very much time together before and they were going to be here for a whole week! I started sweating. I’m fairly certain I’m going to make an absolute fool of myself at some point. What if I say something stupid? What if I get a pimple? What if I do something clumsy like fall in my heels? Maybe I should just wear flats. No, I look fatter in flats! I’ll just practice until he gets here. Please don’t be your usual idiot self that week!
Mom had cleaned the house to the point of exhaustion. She was always like that. She would clean the house before a maid came in to clean the house. If anyone, and I mean anyone, was planning on coming over, they may as well have been the Queen of England the way my mom would fuss. Of course, by the time they actually arrived, mom would be able to entertain them for whatever period of time and then was basically down with a migraine or seizure for a few days afterwards, so the house got to be a mess while she was down. Then she would get up when she felt better and run rampant to clean it again…to the point of exhaustion. And so the cycle went.
But the house looked great before everybody got there. As much as mom fussed over the house, I matched her nerve by anxious nerve over myself. I tried to stay calm and say, “Kayla, just be yourself. Its not worth it if he doesn’t like you for you.” But let’s be real, I didn’t like me for me, so I wasn’t going to expect him to. Nope, that would not be good enough. I’d have to make sure I didn’t eat too much this week. Maybe I could get a few pounds off before he got here. The house was going to look great and I would do my best to look great too.
Jordan rolled into town with his buddies Robby, Ian and Matt. His friends were hysterical. Robby was a tall, skinny guy with spiky blonde hair and glasses. He was smart and sarcastic; the kind of humor that I was deathly afraid of. He would often make people the subject of his jokes and I was terrified that I would become the butt of his rhetoric all week. He never meant to be mean and he rarely was, but still. This was a big week and I did not want to become the center of negative attention in front of Jordan. Ian was a shorter kind of geeky looking kid. He was equally sarcastic, though no one could match Robby in that category. He wore khakis and a plaid button up shirt tucked into his pants. He seemed a bit of an odd man out in this group of guys. Ian and Jordan had shared a love of music. They both sang and played instruments. Ian and Jordan were in a heavy metal band called Negative Zero. He was a pretty amazing drummer. To look at Ian, you would have no idea how he fit in that environment, but kid could play. Matt was a bigger guy. He wasn’t fat. He was broad shouldered and seemed much larger than he was when he stood next to Robby. He could contort his face where it closed like a crater or a sink hole or something. The guys would say “shut your face” and he would shut his eyes tight, and somehow scrunch his face where his features were basically unrecognizable… a rare and weird talent. But that was this group. They were completely unique from each other, but to see them hang out, it was obvious that they felt completely comfortable around each other. Was that unique to these guys or are guys just completely different than girls?
That week was awesome. We spent the days doing random stuff around town and then at night, we would normally hang out at my house. The boys called it “the castle”. Our house was slightly larger than the homes they were from, so that became a bit of a joke throughout the week. There was a large open landing upstairs that overlooked the living room and kitchen that led to my and Heather’s room. The boys called the part of the house that my sister and I shared “the west wing”. Robby would go up to the landing outside of our rooms and make a fake “royal speech” while waving his hand like a really overdramatic beauty contestant.
We had a music room over the garage that my parents had built when we moved in. It was just a large room with a drum set, some recording equipment and a full wall of mirrors for dancing. My parents were awesome about supporting our passions, so they built it so we could spend time doing the things we loved. I spent most afternoons up in that room just wailing my little lungs out. The group made its way up there one night and we were all hanging out being goofballs. It was me, Jordan, Jaime, Schusty, Robbie, Ian, Matt, Alan, Brycie (Jaime’s other best friend), and Merri Beth. After a while Schusty picked up the guitar and started strumming clumsily. She had just started taking guitar lessons and hadn’t learned but probably 5 chords, but that didn’t stop her from snatching the thing up and going to town on it like she was Mick Jagger. I envied her self confidence. Jordan’s brother, Kyle, was about to get married in a couple of months, so Kayla felt inspired to write a song in dedication to our soon to be bedded friend. It was simply entitled “The Sex Song”. She strummed rhythmically on the guitar while seamlessly creating rhymes for Kyle and his soon to be bride. She was hysterical and everyone was laughing at her witty creation. If you picture in your head Phoebe playing her song after Chandler and Monica tell her she can’t play at their wedding, you’ll have a good mental picture of the tone of this performance. After she was finished, she took a bow and left her spot at the center of the room for an empty chair on the back wall.
The “stage” was not empty for long as Ian stepped up and grabbed the guitar Schusty had left and sat in the spotlight.
“I’d like to dedicate this song to all of the pagans out there! To those men whose hair hangs below their ears and women whose skirts hit above their knees.” He strummed on one single chord as if trying to build suspense. “ I would just like to say that the Lord loves you, but I have to say… YOU’RE GOING TO HELL. YOU’RE GOING TO HELL. YOU’RE GOING TO HEEEEEEEELLLLLL.” Everyone bellied over in laughter since he was, obviously, joking as he screeched on a ridiculously high note. He finished his song and I could barely see through the water that had built up in my eyes..
“I just thought I’d give you all a little melodic theology lesson today. You’re welcome.”
Everybody was cracking jokes and having a good time but it was getting late. Merri Beth and Brycie went home, but Schusty and Jaime were spending the night. The guys were going to stay the night too. They would sleep downstairs on couches and pallets with us girls up in “the west wing”. My dad seemed ok with that as long as there was a flight of stairs and about 2,000 square feet separating us.
The girls all headed upstairs and the guys settled in for the night. Jordan and I stayed back and lingered to talk to each other for a bit.
“You think you’re dad would be ok if I walked you upstairs to your door?” he asked.
“Well Schusty and Jaime are up there too, so I’m sure it’s fine.”
We walked up the stairs and across the landing and stood in front of the door that took us to the hallway where our rooms were. He held my hand and we talked for a bit. Wait. What was happening? Is it just me or is he setting up for something? Is he going to kiss me tonight??!! Oh my stars. This is it. My first kiss. And not just my first kiss but my first kiss with Jordan. I genuinely had no idea this was going to happen this week. Ok, relax, Kayla. This is supposed to feel natural and perfect. We stood talking for a minute. Good gracious he was cute. He had the most adorable dimple on the right side of his face. Well, he had dimples on both sides but the right side was deeper than the left. He had these incredible grey eyes that were slightly lighter around the center. I’m not sure he had ever been this close to me before.
“I had a lot of fun with you today” he said.
“ So did I. Our friends are nuts” we laughed.
“ Yes they are… bunch of crazies.”
“ Well, goodnight.” he said, but he didn’t go away. He lowered his head and kissed me! I couldn’t believe it. Jordan Grizzard, the guy I had been thinking about since before my braces had come off had just pulled me close to him and kissed me right on the lips! What in the world? It was perfect. I mean, it was quick and a little awkward, but perfect.
I smiled as he pulled away from me, “goodnight”. And with that he went downstairs as I tried to regain my composure. I only had about 10 steps worth of distance to my bedroom where Jaime and Schusty were and I couldn’t look like I was still on cloud nine. I should play this cool. Who am I kidding? I’m not cool! I’m ecstatic!
I collected myself as best I could and walked to my room. I just could not wipe this dopey grin from my face. I opened the door and walked in to see Schusty pulling her night clothes out of her bag and Jaime getting tucked under the covers of her pallet.
“Oh heeeeey,” said Jaime with a toying tone.
“Hello” I said basically singing.
“ I still cannot believe he hasn’t kissed you yet” Schusty snapped.
My mouth curled up even more, “Who says he hasn’t?” I said coyly.
Schusty and Jaime’s heads whirled around and looked at me dumbfounded. They were’t silent for long. They let out the loudest squeal I think I had ever heard come out of their mouths.
“SSSSHHHHH! You guys are killing me!” Well I guess playing it cool is a lost cause. Fairly certain the neighbors down the street heard that, so the boys downstairs were pretty much a guarantee. Oh who cares?! Jordan kissed me!