Authors: Kathleen Irene Paterka
Table of Contents
A James Bay Novel
KATHLEEN IRENE PATERKA
Copyright 2012 © Kathleen Irene Paterka
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the
author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
All rights reserved
. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
For my husband Steve, the love of my life. My biggest supporter and champion, Steve has been there with me through it all: the good and the bad, the fat and the thin. Every woman should be so blessed to have such a man beside her. He has always encouraged me to go for my dreams.
Steve tells me every day that I am the most beautiful woman in the world. Some days, I actually believe him.
So many people helped in the creation of this book. Heartfelt thanks to them all.
Jenna Mindel and Christine Elizabeth Johnson, simply the best critique partners and friends an author could hope to have. Thank you both for holding my hand and never letting go. I have been so blessed by your friendship and support. The Queen of Hearts Club rocks!
Catherine Chant, with her fine eye for detail and love for the written word that expresses itself in truly amazing ways. Many thanks for pointing out so many inconsistencies in the storyline.
The Writing Buddies Group… Christine, Connie, Jenna and Karen, for providing such wonderful insight, pointing out redundancies and continually asking “
Why would she do that
Edie Ramer, Amy Atwell and Dale Meyer for their tremendous support, consistent encouragement and excellent advice about the world of indie-publication. Ladies, you are the best!
Roxanne St. Claire, a forever friend continually cheering me on from the sidelines and ever reminding me to be tough, brave, persistent…and to never, never quit.
The ladies of GIAMx1. An author could never find a better group of cheerleaders.
Anne Victory, who graciously took on the task of editing a tasteless manuscript and helped refine it into a scrumptious story; Rae Monet, for providing such a sweet tempting cover; and Amy Eye, the Queen of Formatting!
The Kanine brothers: Jim and Bill. Jim was so accommodating and helpful in sharing his passion for coaching and basketball. Bill provided valuable assistance with answers for an author who is totally clueless when it comes to the world of accounting and finance.
My beta readers, Virginia Conlon, Martha Gasparovich, Natalie Weber, and Peggy Kusina. Their feedback of the original manuscript was invaluable and I am most grateful.
Abigail Paterka Carter: daughter, friend and my favorite teacher in the whole wide world.
And last, but not least, to all the
out there—women and men alike—who deal with the daily struggle of being overweight. This book is for you. I tipped the scales at over 9 lbs when I was born. A chubby baby, a chunky little girl, I eventually exploded into a fat teenager who never had a date, never went to her high school prom, and never thought a boy would ever want to kiss her, let alone marry her. No one but another overweight person understands the pain of what it is like to live in a society which worships the concept of
thin is beautiful
. If I can leave you with one truth, it is this: remember you are not alone. Surround yourself with people who care and let them be your mirror. Believe in yourself and go forward to live your dreams because
YOU ARE WORTH IT!
Brand new school year. Brand new body. Brand new me.
That’s what I love about starting a new diet. The world seems bright and shiny, and I’m filled with happy hope. Anything is possible.
Like swimming twenty laps in James Bay’s community pool. Losing thirty pounds before Christmas. Finally winning that contest.
Patty Perreault, Teacher of the Year
I’ve got the smarts, I just don’t have the body. And I never will—especially if I don’t let go of the smooth tiled railing and start swimming soon. So long, contest. Hello, loser. Not to mention, that new mantra of mine will need some revising.
Brand new school year. Same old body. Same old me.
“Brrr.” Priscilla dips one foot in the water, then quickly pulls it out. “Sorry, Patty, I just can’t do it. You know I love you dearly, but the water is so cold, and—”
“Don’t worry about it.” I sidle alongside her, hugging the pool edge. God bless Priscilla. My fraternal twin would probably jump in the deep end if she thought it would help, but I’m not going to force her to endure this torture, too. Tiny and frail since the day we were born, she could stand to put on a few pounds. Plus, Priscilla’s a worse swimmer than me. If she jumps in, the pimply-faced teenage lifeguard will probably end up having to rescue us both.
“But I feel so bad, just sitting here like this. After all, I promised to keep you company and give you moral support, remember?” Goose bumps pop up on her thin arms as she reaches for her towel, then she suddenly brightens. “I’ve got an idea. How about you swim and I count off your laps? That way you won’t have to keep track in your head.”
“Sounds good.” I yank at the too-tight bathing suit creeping up my rear end. If I plan to keep up this swimming-laps routine, I might have to break down and buy a new one. This ugly pink suit has seen too many summers and too many cookies. I’m pretty sure the James Bay School Board of Education would not approve of one of their teachers being arrested for indecent exposure.
Plus, I doubt a criminal record would be helpful in winning that contest. I’m a good teacher; my evaluations plus the fact my fellow teachers keep nominating me prove it. So why haven’t I won yet? I’m a quick learner, but this one has had me stymied. Four years worth of stymied. But not anymore, because I’ve finally figured it out: if I change the way I look, I know I’ll win the contest.
And I am
to win that contest.
“Okay, I’m ready.” Priscilla’s blue eyes shimmer like the pool water. “Whenever you are.”
I grip the edge tighter, suddenly finding it hard to let go. There’s twelve feet of water swirling below me. What if I sink? Is that lifeguard properly trained? I taught him in fifth grade, and he never was very good in school. How did he do in Phys Ed? Is he any good at saving people’s lives? I don’t want it to be my life that puts him to the test.
“Patty? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I’m thinking.”
“Well, quit thinking and start swimming. How do you expect to finish if you never start?”
Easy for her to say, perched warm and dry, draped in a thick terry towel at the edge of the pool. I love my sister to death, but when it comes to dieting, exercise and food, she doesn’t get it and she never will. They say twins have a psychic connection, and Priscilla and I have always been a team. We had our own secret language when we were small, and to this day still have this weird, uncanny ability to sense each other’s thoughts. But when it comes to the way we look, we might as well be strangers, because the only thing that ties us together identically is our height. We are both short enough that we always ended up together in the front row during school musicals when we were little kids. But we’re all grown up now and Priscilla, a thin delicate beauty, wears
well. On me, these extra thirty pounds make it look like I’m wearing an inner tube.
“Okay, okay, I heard you. I’ll do it.” There’s no use arguing with her. She’s got my best interest at heart… plus a fiercely determined if-Patty-doesn’t-start-swimming-soon-I’m-going-to-jump-in-that-water-myself look in her eyes. I finally let go of the slippery rail, sink below the surface, and start paddling toward the shallow end.
“One!” The faint shout of my twin’s voice echoes through the water.
Great, just what I need. Priscilla keeping score, just like she measures and tracks our food, courtesy of that little diet scale she recently bought for our kitchen counter. Whatever possessed me to tell her I’d started another diet?
Because I know she loves me. Priscilla’s always been my champion and she only wants to help. And at this point, I’ll take all the help I can get. I don’t think I’ve got it in me to sit through another year of being nominated, endure another round of interviews, only to eventually lose out as Bay County Teacher of The Year. With the grand prize only one thousand dollars, it’s not even like I’m in it for the money—though I’ve got to admit I wouldn’t mind having my hands on that kind of cash. But after four years as a semifinalist-ultimate-loser, it’s now a matter of personal pride—especially after last year’s fiasco when I lost out to the ditzy third grade teacher everyone thought was so cute. So while it’s not officially a popularity contest, who you know and what you look like are definitely part of the deal.
And if that’s the case, I’ll do whatever it takes. Schmooze whoever I can through the nomination process. Starve myself eating carrot sticks. Exercise by swimming laps.
And listen to whatever Priscilla tells me. She’s not a teacher and doesn’t need to lose weight. But when it comes to the looks department, there’s no contest. Priscilla wins.
“I’m so proud of you,” she says as I finally make it back into the deep end. “How many laps are you planning to swim today?”
“Twenty.” I swipe the water stinging my eyes, gulp deep breaths, and hang on for dear life. Twenty laps? Dear God, what was I thinking? I’ll drown before the day is done.
“You can do it, Patty.” Her voice is as warm and bubbly as the nearby hot tub. “That’s only eighteen more.”
I block out an overwhelming urge to yank my twin into the pool. No doubt some of her perkiness will dissolve in twelve feet of water. “I don’t think I can do it.”
“Oh, yes, you can. If anyone can, Patty, it’s you.” There’s not an ounce of fat on Priscilla’s body or smugness in her voice. “Why, look at that man over there. I’ll bet he could do eighteen laps in no time. Just look at him go.”
I follow her nod across the room. The pool is empty, save for us and the lifeguard, plus the guy two lanes over. He’s big and bulky, with strong even strokes despite how heavy he is. He cuts through the water like a fish, taking the lane in easy rhythm, then—flip! With a furious splash, he slips under the water, turns, and races back down the length of the pool.
Damn. Why can’t I swim like that?