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The first time Jake Lawson spoke to me, I was crying underneath the bleachers of the high school football stadium. The game was over, and with it the revelry that had stained the crisp September night orange and blue.
The lights had dimmed. The smell of popcorn and hotdogs was fading. Only the faint whoosh whoosh whoosh of the janitor’s broom as he swept away the trash left by careless fans interrupted the call of the cicadas and the deep throaty murmurs of the bull frogs from the pond behind the football field.
I was not just crying, I was ugly crying; wheezing for breath between sobs, shoulders shaking, face puffier than usual crying. My sobs were so loud I didn’t hear the tell tale echo of footsteps on metal until it was too late, and Jake had dropped down between the bleachers to land in front of me in a crouch.
“What the hell are you doing?” he asked bluntly. My breath caught as I saw who it was. Jake Lawson, notorious bad boy, womanizer, and all around hard ass, did not suffer fools lightly. And there was no greater fool than a seventeen year old girl crying her heart out under the bleachers because some boy called her fat.
“N-n-nothing,” I stammered, lifting my chin to stare at Jake from eyes that sparkled brightly with tears. Swiping clumsily at my runny nose, I sniffed back the snot that threatened to spill out while Jake made a sound of disgust and stepped back, leaning against one of the support beams.
His black leather jacket tightened around his chest as he raised his arms and cupped his hands behind his head. “Chubby Mia Woodrose,” he said with a sigh. “I should have known.”
Crossing my arms defensively over a chest that in now way, shape or form should have belonged to someone of my age, I lurched to my feet. “D-d-do not call me that.” Drawing wildly on what little self confidence I had left, I tried to sound tough. Jake just laughed.
“Ain’t that what those boys were calling you? Chubby. Fat. Ugly.” He said the words with ruthless precision, and I felt my stomach clench tighter with every slur that spilled from his lips.
“S-s-stop it!” I cried, hating when my voice broke, but unable to force the words out without an audible stammer. It had always been like that. Whenever I got too emotional my vocal chords simply refused to cooperate. My parents had dragged me to doctors, speech therapists, even a shrink – nothing had worked. My mother’s suggestion? Stop talking.