The Penalty Box

Free The Penalty Box by Deirdre Martin

Book: The Penalty Box by Deirdre Martin Read Free Book Online
Authors: Deirdre Martin
on the empty chair beside her. Katie smiled and took a few steps closer to the scale. Denise turned to talk to the other woman beside her, a heavy blonde in sweats who seemed to giggle at everything Denise said. She wondered who the other woman was.
    Finally it was Katie’s turn to weigh in. It always surprised her how nervous the process still made her, even though she’d achieved her goal weight four years ago and had maintained it. Slipping out of her loafers, she handed her card to the woman in charge of weighing in, then climbed onto the scale. The woman nodded approvingly. “Still a lifetime member,” she said, handing Katie back her card. “Congratulations.”
    Katie smiled, hurrying to take her seat beside Denise. “Katie, you know Bitsy Collins, don’t you?”
    Katie blinked. There was no way the heavy blonde beside Denise could be Bitsy Collins. Bitsy Collins had been so nicknamed in high school because that’s what she’d been—itsy bitsy, petite. Not only that, but Bitsy had been one of Katie’s primary tormentors. She was a close friend of the dreaded Liz Flaherty. Bitsy and Liz had ruled the school.
    â€œUm . . .”
    Bitsy held out a plump hand. “I know, hard to believe it’s me.”
    â€œThat’s why you’re here,” Katie said kindly, hoping she hadn’t looked too shocked by Bitsy’s appearance.
    â€œI’m trying.” Bitsy sighed.
    â€œIf I can do it, anyone can do it,” Katie assured her. “I didn’t see you at the reunion.”
    â€œNo way was I going to the reunion looking like this.”
    Katie nodded her head knowingly. She understood that feeling of believing yourself so physically grotesque all you want to do is hide. She wanted to dislike Bitsy the way she still disliked Liz, but she couldn’t. She knew the pain Bitsy was in, as well as the courage it took to finally do something about it.
    Eventually, everyone was weighed and seated and the group leader, a small, smiling woman named Lolly, strode to the front of the cafeteria. “Hello! My name is Lolly and I lost one hundred and twenty-five pounds on Fat Fighters. Tonight I want to talk about the crazy things some of us have done in the past to try to lose weight. Anyone?”
    â€œI once put myself on a scrambled egg and water diet,” one woman said.
    Lolly dutifully wrote “Scrambled egg and water” in large, childish scrawl on the portable blackboard behind her.
    â€œI once tried living on coffee, cigarettes and Skittles,” volunteered another woman with a pile of knitting in her lap.
    Lolly’s list grew to include such classics as diet pills, diuretics, laxatives, starvation, hypnotism, pasting “fat” pictures of one’s self on the fridge, and various diet plans.
    Denise leaned over to Katie. “I used to snort cocaine,” she whispered.
    â€œI used to snort cheese doodle dust,” Katie whispered back.
    Denise laughed loudly, causing several women to turn around and glare. That was one element of Fat Fighters Katie disliked: the sometimes evangelical fervor of some of its members.
    A lecture followed where Lolly outlined why Fat Fighters, with its emphasis on portion control and exercise, was the way to go. Katie had heard it all before, but she still felt she needed to be here. It was empowering to know she wasn’t the only one who still struggled with food issues.
    When the meeting ended, Bitsy leaned over to Katie. “Denise and I are going for coffee at Tabitha’s. Wanna come?”
    Katie hesitated. Tabitha’s was Didsbury’s only coffee shop. It served coffee. Plain black coffee, both caf and decaf. And cake. Its lunchtime specials included tuna casserole and sloppy joes. All the waitresses were over sixty and said things like, “What can I do ya for, hon?” No latte, no low-carb chai, no biscotti, no anything.
    â€œIs there a Starbucks

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