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!
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Was I really down that much? Maybe it was a mistake. I hopped off the scale and waited for the display to clear. A zero showed up on the screen, so I tip toed back on and held my breath. I refused to look down again until I was sure enough time had passed for the scale to determine the fate of my day.
What if it had been a mistake? That would absolutely suck. Not only would I not have lost as much weight as I thought, but it would’ve raised my hopes to an unattainable level. I would be waiting for that exact number every time I weighed myself now! And when it proved to be incorrect AGAIN, that day would be ruined too.
But what if it wasn’t a mistake?? What if I am actually skinny now? My whole day… no, week could be so different. I don’t have to care about what my hair looks like or if my makeup is perfect… I’M SKINNY! See, my theory is…when you’re fat, all the other stuff matters so much more because you have to compensate for the fact that you’re fat. But when you’re skinny, you can throw your hair up in a scrunchy and toss some lip gloss on and be good to go. So what kind of day is it, scale?? Lip gloss or full face??
I took a breath and looked down at the screen. I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath this whole time. Does that make it worse? Exhale, Kayla…..111!!! I’m skinny!! Man! I feel different. I jumped off the scale with a smile on my face and got dressed, tossing my makeup bag beneath the sink. Who needs a full face today?? Dad yelled it was time to go, so I ran towards the garage stopping by the entry table mirror on my way. I rubbed my lip gloss on my lips and headed out to the car.
Everything about today was perfectly normal…except me. I wasn’t normal. At least, I wasn’t my normal self. I was improved. I had lost 4 pounds since my last weigh-in. I was out of the teens! I felt so different; so much more confident, funny, popular, calm. In one way I felt more invisible than ever…in a good way. In another way, I felt more seen than ever before. It seemed to change with each moment but in the best way. Like no one was pointing and laughing when I walked in the room, but everyone noticed something was different today.
First and second period flew by.. .too fast. This day needed to slow down. I needed to be able to feel every second of this for as long as possible. By third period, my mood was only slightly dampened by an annoying headache, but even that could not ruin this day. I raised my hand and asked Mrs. Peterson if I could be excused to go to the bathroom. I was excused and practically skipped down the hall.
I opened the door to the bathroom. Have these lights always been this bright? I think a bulb or two must usually be out. It felt like air force one was about to land overhead. I went to look in the mirror to see what 111 pounds looked like… not bad. Although, I wasn’t sure why I was sweating so much. They usually kept it as cold as a meat locker in this place, but I was still warm behind my neck. I dabbed myself with a paper towel and made my way to a stall.
“Kayla? Kayla, can you hear me?”
What? What just happened? I was lying on the floor of the bathroom being woken by 3 paramedics. How did I get on the floor? How long was I out for?
“ You’re ok, Kayla. You just passed out for a bit. We’re going to take care of you now.” She seemed very calm and reassuring, but none of that reassurance explained to me how the heck I ended up on the floor of the bathroom! And today of all days! It was such a good day!
“What happened?” I finally made out.
“ You fainted, hun.” said the same woman. No kidding. I looked up to see my dad above the guys hovering directly on top of me. “We’re going to prick your finger to test your sugar levels. You may feel a little pinch.”
After a couple minutes and way too much fuss, they stood me up only long enough to put me on a gurney and wheel me down the hallway in front of my entire middle school.
“Kayla, you feeling ok?” she said.
“ Yeah, I’m ok,” I muttered back.
“ Good. Now, I need to ask you a couple questions. You ok with that?” I nodded. “ Ok. Are you ok if we put you in the ambulance and take a little ride to get you checked out?”
“Uh, is that really necessary?” I asked
“ It’s just to make sure everything is normal.”
“ When was the last time you ate something?” Fear struck in my heart. I hadn’t gone that long this time. It was just a couple days since I last ate.
“ Umm. Well, I didn’t eat breakfast… I usually don’t though.” That wasn’t a lie.
“ Ok. Are you sexually active at all?”
“ No!” She asked me this in the hallway with my dad trailing us. Even if I had, I would not exactly be compelled to be forthcoming at that moment.
“ Ok. Well let’s get you downstairs and taken care of,” she said as one of the guys pushed the elevator button.
“We’ll meet you down there.” The two others said since there wouldn’t be enough room in the elevator.
I was wheeled in and the door closed behind us. “ Now that there is no one else here, is there anything you want to tell me? Are you sexually active?”
I looked at her briefly. I wanted to look her in the eyes and tell her “No, lady. I’ve been in love with the same guy since I was 12 years old and he barely knows that I’m alive! He considered me for one brief moment in time…one perfect, romantic, fantasy moment in time before he rejected me without any cause at all and even though I am mad as all get out at this gorgeous, perfect, mysterious, older guy, I can’t stop thinking about him…this ONE guy that lives 3 hours away and doesn’t think about me at all… not at all. So no, no sex. No kiss. Not so much as a hand hold. I have made it as far as a very awkward, sisterly, perfect side hug that one might give to that relative that has a contagious disease but you still have to be polite to!”
“ No, ma’am. I promise I’m not.” It didn’t feel quite as good as what I wanted to say, but it was at the very least, the truth.
Once we were downstairs and in front of the ambulance, I was able to convice everyone that a ride to the the hospital was completely unnecessary. After getting my sugar levels back, they suggested that my dad take me to get something to eat. Fine. I will eat this meal, but if that scale reads differently tomorrow, I may have to retrieve my entire makeup bag again.
My parents set up a separate phone line for the kids of the house. I think they got sick of answering the phone from my sister’s “suitors” and so they set up a phone line that they were never responsible for answering. If it rang, it could ring all day, they were not taking messages for the kids. “ Ya’ll pick up the phone!”. That’s all they had to do. I picked up that phone and immediately yelled, “Heather, its for you!”
“Who is it?!” she’d ask.
“ Eric!… no, Robbie! Wait, who is this again?… It’s Jeremy!” and she’d rush to pick up the phone… happened all the time.
The phone rang. Only this time, it wasn’t for Heather. It was for me. Jordan had been calling for a few weeks now. We were “ a thing”. I had no idea what exactly we were because I was 14 and I wasn’t allowed an official “thing” until I was 16, so we were just friends… who talked on the phone… and knew we liked each other. He’d even held my hand, so we were definitely “ a thing”. I didn’t care what you called us. I just cared that Jordan was calling my house and asking to speak to me!
We talked pretty often and conversations were usually awkward, but long. Again, I didn’t care if nothing was said. We would just talk about the day, music, movies, church, our friends.. anything. It was awesome.
Schusty would very often make fun of my juvenile relationship, but Schusty kind of made fun of everything. You always knew she was joking. She was just a really funny person and fun to be around, but she would make fun of us a lot.
One time, we had taken a group up to Orlando to see Jordan. It was getting late and most of the group was watching TV in the living room and Jordan asked me to go into the dining room with him. I was so nervous. Was he going to hold my hand or try to kiss me? Or was he going to tell me he didn’t like me anymore?? Any option was possible.
I followed him down the small hallway of their tiny condo into the front room and sat at the table with him. We made small talk for a while, not really talking about anything in particular. It was really dark in the living room and hallway but after a while, we swore we heard something in the hallway. Jordan walked around the corner and flipped on the hallway light to find Schusty crawling like an Army Ranger on the ground inching her way back to the living room.
“Nothing to see here. I was just looking for my contact lens.”
“ In the dark?” said Jordan
“ Well, I didn’t want to disrupt the movie for those guys. You know what? It’s fine. I’ll just wear my glasses. They’re stylish.” she said as she reverse-crawled back toward the living room.
Jordan chuckled and rolled his eyes as he made his way back to the table.
Realizing we were not going to have any privacy at the moment, we headed back to join the group. And soon headed home.
Jordan and I kept talking about twice a week or so and I could not have been happier. I couldn’t believe after so long he was finally paying attention to me. Since I was very often spending the night over at Jaime’s house, I would get to talk to him even more than that sometimes. His mom, Sandy, would call to talk to her twin sister, Momma Sue, every day. If Jordan was there when she did and I was there, we’d usually take the phone from the sisters for a while to catch up.
One night, Schusty and I were both spending the night over at Jaime’s house. Schusty decided that she should call Jordan and find out exactly why he liked me.
“Please don’t Schusty! It’ll be so embarrassing!”
“It’ll be fine, K. Just go take your shower. You don’t even have to be here.” There was no convincing her. I left the room. At least I didn’t have to be present when I was being humiliated. Schusty dialed the number and waited for him to pick up.
“Hey, Jordan! It’s Schusty. How ya doing?”
“ Hey. I’m fine. What’s going on?”
They made small talk for a while and then Schusty went in for a conversation that would completely humiliate me.
“ Sooo as one of Kayla’s best friends, I think I should know exactly why you like Kayla. You know, I think it’s important that I hear it from you,” she said with a slight chuckle.
“ Uhh…. oh really?” he laughed. “Ok. umm well, I like that she’s chill and I like talking to her. We have a good time together.”
“aaaand she’s pretty,” Schusty said, feeding Jordan an appropriate line.
Jordan chuckled, “ Yes, and she’s pretty. That helps too. I like how strong she is in her faith and how well Susie talks about her…”
“well Susie talks about her,” Schusty said mindlessly as she dictated his words on a piece of paper.
“ Is she there with you?”
“ Oh no. Absolutely not.” Schusty said innocently.
“ Are you writing this down??”
Schusty immediately looked up from her paper and made a disgusted face. “Nooooo! How creepy would that be??” she said as Jaime fell on the bed in laughter. “You know? I think I got to get going now. I’ll tell Kayla what you said. I mean I’ll tell her you said hi.” she said as she clicked the phone off and tossed it on the bed beside her. Jaime and Schusty bellied over in laughter as I came around the corner.
“What’s so funny? What happened?” my hair wrapped in a towel.
“ Ask Kayla. She wrote the whole conversation down for you!” Jaime said.
Schusty made a guilty face and said, “Yeah, we may need to make sure your boyfriend knows you didn’t hire me as a stenographer on purpose. I may have creeped him out a bit.”
“But, on the upside, he does think you’re pretty!”
If I said the next few months were fun, it would be a lie. I couldn’t shake him. And it wasn’t just him. It was the idea of being discarded that constantly nagged at my heart and head. He hadn’t even really gotten to know me before he decided he didn’t want me. Was I really that deplorable? How, at first glance, did he decide that I wasn’t worth the time? Did I have some kind of signal I was putting off that I wasn’t aware of? Did guys just look at me and say, “ Uh, no thank you… she’s absolutely a waste of my time.”
I’m sure none of this went through his mind, but it’s what I felt. I just wanted to know why? Was it anything I had done at all or was he just so aloof that he could tell a girl he’s interested and the next week just say “Sike!”. Did he do this with a lot of girls? Maybe he told several girls he was interested at the same time and then took a poll to see who was into him so he could have more of a selection. You know, like a fisherman casting a net, so a bunch of unsuspecting minnows can be swallowed up and then sifted for the fisherman’s approval. Well, as a rejected minnow, I felt lost at sea. I did my best to hide my heartbreak…still didn’t do it well though. But I stayed busy with church and things.
At least there would be a good distraction this weekend. The middle schoolers were going to a conference. Ok, I know “conference” doesn’t sound fun, but think “concert” with long commercial breaks of biblical teaching and you’re probably closer to the actual idea of the weekend. They were totally fun and I could use the distraction. Jaime wasn’t going since she was in high school, but I still got to hang out with some other friends like Ryan and Brittany.
Ryan was our worship pastor’s son. He was hilarious and loved to make absurd jokes usually at his own expense. Brittany was a friend from basketball. She was kind of shy and awkwardly funny. She and Ryan had been best friends forever. It was going to be a good break from my monotony.
We boarded the bus and all clamored for seats near friends. Ryan, Brittany and I got seats near the back and started cracking jokes and having fun. This was just what I needed. After an hour or so on the road, Brittany leaned forward to see me around Ryan and said, “So how are you going to be around Jordan this weekend?”
I think all the blood rushed from my face. “What do you mean? He’s not going to be there. Jaime would’ve told me if he were going to be there.” The conference was in Orlando, so it would make sense for Jordan to show up, but I had talked about this event SEVERAL times in front of Jaime and she never said anything! She would’ve said something, for sure. There’s no way.
“ Oh. I don’t know.” Brittany looked as if she’d gotten in trouble. “That’s just what Brycie told me.” Brycie was Jaime’s other best friend and Brittany’s older sister. Apparently, a much better best friend because she told her information that would have been VERY good to have before this trip! I sat back in my seat and just silently planned. Man! If I had known I would’ve packed so differently!! Who wants to spend the whole weekend with the guy who rejected you in baggy t-shirts and long shorts!? Why didn’t I pack my heels? That wouldn’t have been obvious. Ugh! I was just going to have to work really hard to look like I wasn’t working hard at being ok. Easy enough.
Every mile marker seemed to span 10 miles. How long did it take to get to Orlando?? When we finally pulled in, I realized that we weren’t even going to stop by the hotel so I could spruce up. We would go straight to the church where the conference was for the first session. Just give up, Kay. It is what it is.
The adults made their way as we followed to a section to the far left of the house….. and there he was. Seated on the second row. His hair gelled, sticking perfectly straight…. with his girlfriend. There he sat with his muscular arm draped around her slim little shoulders. I was trying not to hate a girl I had never met. This trip sucks.
Our leaders kept walking and I just prayed they would stop and pick a seat already! We were getting seriously close to Jordan and his group. They kept walking, and walking, and walking. STOP ALREADY! PICK A SEAT…ANY SEAT!… They did. They picked the row directly in front of Jordan. Are you kidding me, people?? This could not be worse. Now, not only did I have to see him throughout the conference, but I had to constantly be worrying about how my butt looked in my middle school, high waisted, long seamed shorts every time we stood up!
You know what?? I’m done! I’m done caring. I’m done allowing what he thinks about me to occupy my mind. I hope my butt looks bad. I hope it looks huge! I hope my makeup is smeared and clothes are wrinkled because then he will know that I put no effort into seeing him today! You know why? Because I didn’t know he was coming and I am grossly underprepared for this situation but more than that… Because he doesn’t matter to me! I’m done!
The group scattered around that row, taking up more space than needed. I cut in front of Brittany and went and sat directly in front of Jordan giving him a quick and perky, “Oh hi!” before sitting. Perfect. It was brief and distant.
I felt his presence the whole conference, but I was determined to remain aloof and uncaring. Yeah, this was better. I totally don’t care that the perfect guy is behind me with someone else; someone he actually cares about. Someone he can actually see. Can I just go home yet?