“We never weren’t best friends. We always will be.”
She smiles at me. “I’m sorry you’re hurt. Do you want to talk about it? About him? I never gave you the chance to tell me anything about him and I want to know.”
For the first time in days, I smile too. The coolest part is I actually feel it as well. I start to talk. I start from the beginning. I tell her about my first day at the gym, how Tegan talked me into staying and about his family. Our awkward first workouts together, how he showed me how to box when I felt bad, hitting him, and my first weigh in.
She laughs in all the right places. Smiles in all the right places and I’m doing the same. We talk about when I started to fall for him, our first date, first kiss, the jogs in the park, his support, the party, saying I love you, and about being with him. I don’t give her all the details, because they’re ours. Something Tegan and I will always share.
It’s amazing how good it feels to talk about him. How I realize that even though we’re over, what we had was true. You can’t fake that. I still love him and I really believe he loved me too.
“I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet him. Even though he hurt you, he sounds like a good guy.”
“Perfect,” I start to say, but cut myself off. I realize now, he’s not perfect. He was right about that all along and it’s not fair that I ever tried to make him feel that way. No one’s perfect. He has issues just like me. It sucks to come to this realization now. Showing his imperfections in the park that day about killed me, but now it beats more life into me. Tegan’s not perfect. He’s just a guy. A gorgeous, sweet, wonderful, guy, but just a guy all the same.
He has fears, insecurities and regrets. He hurt me more than anyone ever has, but he loved me better than anyone ever did, too. “He is a good guy,” I finally say. “I miss him.”
“I’m sorry.” She snuggles closer to me. We’re still lying in my bed. It’s like old times. Where we talk into the night. Best friends.
“He told me I need to talk to Mom. Tell her how I feel.” Has he ever told Tim or Dana how he feels? Opened up to them?
“He’s right, Bell. I’ve always thought that. I mean, I think she’s the Wicked Witch, but I do think she loves you. In her own, screwed up, crazy way.”
I’m not sure I agree, so I change the subject. “What made you come?”
“Your dad. He called and said he thought you needed me, so I came. But I’m not changing the subject so easily. Are you going to talk to her?”
I know I need to talk to her. Need to talk to Dad too. I need to get out of this bed. Try and get on track. I wanted to lose weight before Tegan, so I should still want it after. It shouldn’t hinge on him. But it does. “There are so many things I need to do, but it’s hard. He always made me feel like I could do anything. It’s so much easier with him.”
Em sits up. “I don’t want to fight with you and I love you, but that’s bullshit. If you want it, you need to do it for you. No one else. When are you going to realize you can do anything?”
Her words are eerily familiar. Tegan said the same thing to me so many times. It’s like two on one, only these two people are both on my side. Tegan and I may be over, but I know his words were true. Or maybe I just want them to be true.
Before I can keep thinking about it, Em continues. “What did Tegan do for you that you couldn’t do for yourself?”
“He…” Gave me a meal plan, but I’m the one who followed it. He gave me a workout routine, but I’m the one who did it. With him, yes, but still, I was out there. He supported me, but I have Em or Dad who will do that for me. And maybe I can even do it for myself. He believed in me, something I want to do in myself. Something maybe I can learn to do for myself. “Well…”
There were so many things Tegan did for me. I will never be able to pay him back for them, but they were tools. Tools that would have meant nothing if I hadn’t used them. What would they have meant without my sweat? My tears? My determination? How many times did he talk about how determined I was, but am I really? I’ve tried to be, but here I am, lying in bed for days, throwing away every tool he gave me, all the hard work I put in.
“That’s what I thought.”
I sit up in my bed and hug Em. “It’s one thing to realize something and it’s another to change it.”
“And you will.”
That little surge of excitement I felt when I lost weight returns. The stinging in my muscles, or my war wounds as Tegan would call them. How they hurt, but in a good way, because they showed my hard work. I remember jogs I took without Tegan and how they felt even better than the ones I took with him, except in a different way. All the things I did and how freakin’ good they felt. How even though it took me three times, I made my way into Let’s Get Physical. I’m going to make it again. I’m going to do this. “Yeah, I will.” But first, I have to find a way to make it over my first hurdle.
For three days I’ve been perfectly on track with my eating plan. My portions small, healthy and low fat. It was a hard breakup, but I had to say goodbye to Ben and Jerry’s for the second time. I’ve jogged every morning. In our park. It’s scary as all get out. What if I see him? What if it breaks me? But you know what? This is where I like to run and even though we’re over, it doesn’t mean I have to find somewhere else to go. It doesn’t have to be our spot anymore. It can be my spot.
Em even came with me once. Jogging so isn’t her thing, but I realize something. It is my thing. Ever since Tegan and I started, I knew I enjoyed it, but now I know I love it. I missed it the week I spent cuddling Ben and Jerry.
I’m not going to feel sorry for myself anymore. I’m not running from life anymore either.
Raising my hand, I knock on Mom’s office door. There should be nerves, but there aren’t. Or maybe they’re there, but my willpower is stronger than the nerves. I’m doing this and nothing will stop me.
“Come in,” I hear Mom call out.
Her eyes flash with shock when she sees it’s me, but quickly, she recovers. “It’s been good to see you out of your room the past couple days.”
She’s sitting behind her huge cherry wood desk. Patterns and samples are laid out in front of her, everything lined up in neat little rows. Perfectly Mom.
Biting my lip, I pull a chair from the corner and sit across from her. “I was hurting.”
She sighs. “I know it feels like this is the end of the world, but it’s not. We all get our hearts broken by our first loves.”
“Did you?” I never get stories from her. She’s not the type who shares easily. I’m not sure why. It’s another of her secrets.
“I’m sure you didn’t come in here to talk about my teenage love life.”
No, but maybe I’d like to hear about it anyway. A shaky breath escapes my lungs. I can do this. I need to do this. I want to do this. “I never told you people at school give me a hard time about my weight. Call me names, tease me. That kind of thing.”
“Why?” She sets her pen down, giving me her full attention.
“Because of my weight—I said that.”
“No, why? Why didn’t you tell me?”
I shrug. “I didn’t want to bother you. I was embarrassed. I was pretty sure you agreed with all the things they say to me.”
“Now you’re being ridiculous.” She shakes her head.
“No, I’m being honest.”
“Why would you think that, Annabel? You’re my daughter. In fact, if you tell me who harassed you, I‘ll take care of it for you.”
All business. All the time. I can do this. I can do this.
“I don’t want you to take care of it for me. I’m learning to do that for myself. I want…I want you to love me. To support me. I want to be enough for you.”
Her facial expressions, body language, nothing changes. “What? That’s absurd. You know I love you, Annabel.”
I sit forward, wanting her to know how serious I am. Needing her to see me and know how much I’ve hurt. “Maybe I should, but I don’t.”
She rustles papers on her desk. “I’m sorry you feel that way. I’m not sure what I can do to change it though. Your father and I give you everything you need. I’ve offered to take care of who harassed you in school, though now that you’re losing weight, it probably won’t be an issue. Things will get easier, the more you lose. You’ll see. I know it’s hard, but that’s just the way the world works.”
I’m not sure what I can do to change it though. I’ve offered to take care of who harassed you. Now that you’re losing weight. That’s just the way the world work.
I don’t hear anything else she said. Those aren’t answers. “You don’t know what you can do? You can love me!”
“Lower your voice, Annabel. I’m your mother. Of course I love you.”
I open my mouth to counter it, but she stops me. “Sit down. I’m going to tell you a story.”
Call me crazy, but I do it.
“Both my parents came from very poor families. They worked hard to get what they have and they both understood how the world works. You get ahead by being strong. By being the best you can be. They taught me that too. When I was younger, and something tried to break me, I got tougher. That’s what you need to do. You work hard. You become the best and that’s how you show everyone in your life who never thought you would amount to anything.”
Her words open my eyes in a way I didn’t expect. Maybe she does love me. Maybe she doesn’t. I’m not sure I’ll ever know. She is who she is and I’m who I am. Neither of us will change and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Sometimes, that’s life, I think. We don’t always get the answers we need or want. Sometimes there aren’t any. I don’t like it, and I never will, but I’m not going to let her get me down.
Holding back my tears, I stand up. “You’re right, Mom. You are tough and if being tough means I have to be like you…well, I’m not sure I’ll ever be. We’re always going to be different. I see that now.”
With my head held high, I turn and walk out of the office. It’s not what I wanted. What I expected, but I still jumped the hurdle and I did it on my own.
I’m now working out with the Hillcrest Elite. Well, not with them, with them, but at the same gym. I’ve seen Mom here over the past two weeks, some of her friends, Elizabeth and a few of the other girls from school. Beforehand, I would have thought I’d feel uncomfortable, like I don’t fit with them. While I don’t fit in some ways they’re just the kind of things that make people different—not something that makes one person better than the other. You know, diversity makes the world go round and all that stuff.
I’m keeping the routine Tegan taught me, except I’m taking a class here and there. So far I’ve tried Step Aerobics and Cycling. Can I just say that cycling is no joke? I thought my butt was going to fall off it burned so bad, but it’s another war wound I’m glad I have. Cycling is my new goal. Soon, maybe in a week, a month, two months, I’m going to master the class like I am with so many other things in my life right now.