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"Never did lose that baby fat, now did ya, honey?" My Aunt Frieda performed her ritual of pinching my cheek and pouring her Rembrandt breath through her overgrown smile right into my face. This "ritual" in my opinion, had gone out of style the same year as the muted yellow polyester suit still in her closet.
For the past 14 years, since I was a wobbling two-year-old, my family had adorned my life with teasing and love-gilded criticism. I have always been on the heavy side. After a back-breaking nine months and 12 hours of relentless pushing, Lamaze breathing and nasty name-calling, my mother's small body was finally rid of me. I came into this world at a hefty ten pounds, four ounces. There was a picture of me in the local paper, The Warboro Gazette. The headline read: "Record Weight: Big Baby for a Small Town."
"Evelyn, did you hear me?! I asked you where Twiggy was?"
My mother, along with my father and other family members refer to my sister Annette as Twiggy. She stands at five feet eight inches, while I struggle to catch up at five feet four inches. She weighs 125 pounds; which is 40 pounds less than me. She is one year younger, much more beautiful and the center of all attention.
There has never been need to remind her of her beauty; she has always been aware of its presence. I do recall her saying "Why, Evvie, did you know I am going to move to Hawaii? When I live there, all I will have to wear is my bikini, my tan and my man."
And Mother wonders why I despise her.
I went to the kitchen in pursuit of Annette. There she was with the phone glued to her ear and the TV to her eyes. She was dressed in a tight black sweater with a spectrum of colors across her chest and low-riding jeans.
"Mom wants you, Twig. Plus, I'd like to use the phone." I smiled half-heartedly adding a bit of a snicker. She looked disgusted, but nevertheless, ended her conversation and headed for the living room.
"Evvie, try not to eat the pies. They're for the guests!" She smiled big and bright, and pranced off.
Eat the pies, like I'd eat the pies.
I picked up the phone, but never got to dialing my best and only friend. You see, this is when it happened.
"Are you fat? And do you know it?" A stale voice flowed from the TV, obviously hailing me. A man wearing a black suit and leaning on a cane was speaking. His hair was dead gray and his face drawn.
"I bet you don't like being fat. I bet you are sick of the constant reminders."
Was he talking to me? Had the commercial purposely waited to corner me, alone in the kitchen?
The man continued to describe a miracle treatment for obesity. No overeating, no binges, no midnight snacks. No pills, no milkshakes, no exercising and on one meal a day plans.
"Call now, 1-900-FAT-FREE!"
Without realizing my actions, I punched in the digits.
"Thank you for ordering. Your product will arrive within one week. There will be no charge." The operator's nasal voice echoed through my head.
This is going to be good!
Two days later, I got off the school bus to find a small white package sitting on my doorstep. It was about six inches long, four wide and three deep. On it my name was scrawled with an ornate touch in black ink. I reached down and picked up the package.
Not very heavy.
I sent inside and put it on the kitchen table, next to a note from my mom.
"At Gram's. Be back by 6:00," it said.
I'm alone, Father at work, Annette with Gary, and Mother at Gram's.
I took out a pair of scissors and pushed one blade into the tape securing the lid. I paused, taking a look at the package. My arms wanted to pull away; I felt like a man in front of an executioner. I did not know what was in the box and I began to feel apprehensive.
Just open it!!
I pulled off the lid. A musty smell escaped. Inside there were two objects, each wrapped in a red velvet scarf.
I picked up the smaller of the two. I unrolled the scarf. To my surprise, it was a silver needle. Rather large, not the usual type for sewing.
I reached into the box and pulled out the other object. The velvet was soft to the touch and rich to the eye. Unwrapping it, I saw a spool of thread that was black and thick.
Okay, what is this? How is this supposed to help me lose weight? My order must have been confused with another.
My common sense should have told me to forget the whole thing, but I instinctively knew just what to do.
About an hour later, my mom came home.
"Hello? Ev? Twig? Hullo?"
I sat at the table and continued my homework.
"Evelyn, why didn't you answer me?"
My back was turned and I felt her hand on my shoulder. She pulled me around. She gasped and fainted. I opened my eyes in disbelief. Running to the bathroom, I searched the medicine cabinet in vain for smelling salts.
A scream rang out from the kitchen.
Who the heck was that?
I found Annette staring at our mother mumbling, "Oh, my goodness ... she's dead ... she's had a heart attack ..."
When she turned to see me, she screamed again. I shook my head and gestured that she quiet herself. She looked at me in horror and yelled.
"You're sick! Don't come near me!"
My mother began to wake as my father walked in.
"She did it ... It's Evvie's fault ..." Annette was crying and swaying. My mother opened her eyes in dazed confusion.
"What? What's going on? Donna?" My father pushed me aside and went to my mother and sister. He looked up to face me and began to say my name, but stopped midway.
A flood of tears poured down my cheeks. My head was pounding, face burning. I needed to explain the situation; I did not want him to be mad at me. I began to pull apart my lips in speech when I realized I could not because my lips were sewn shut. 1