Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Previously: Shevi comes home from school and begins snacking. Her mother comes into the kitchen and tells Shevi they have to talk about her weight.

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My bedroom door opened a teeny bit and light poured through the crack. “May I come in, Shevi?”

I was taken aback that my father was the one at the door. He usually left emotional, crying children to my mother. I was so surprised that the tears stopped completely. But I felt cold, empty, and there was a dull, dull ache in my heart. Mommy’s words echoed again and again. “You’re not at a healthy weight, Shevi. We have to do something about this.”

Abba grew tired of waiting for me to answer. He walked into the room and sat at the edge of my bed. “We missed you at supper, Shevi.”

I turned my head away.

“Mommy told me what happened. I’m sorry you felt so hurt.”

“Mommy is my mother! She’s supposed to love me no matter what. She’s not only supposed to love me if I’m skinny!” I choked on my words, the first I had spoken since that awful conversation in the kitchen.

“Shevi, she does love you, very, very much. I think Mommy sees how much you’re suffering. Remember, your teacher told us you get teased at school. And I don’t think you feel too good about yourself lately either, Shevi. Am I right?”

Oh, these annoying tears just kept on coming. Every time I thought they were all used up they began washing my cheeks again. My pudgy, round cheeks. I scrunched up my eyes so tightly they hurt and burried my face in the damp pillow again.

“Don’t worry, Shevi.” Abba’s voice was gentle but strong all at the same time. “We’re going to help you. Mommy and I are here for you and we’re not going to leave your side. With Hashem’s help, we’re going to get this all sorted out.”

“How?” I mumbled from the depths of my pillow. “You can say it, Abba. I’m big, fat and horrible and everyone hates me.” My eyes hurt. My brain hurt. Everything hurt.

“Shevi!” Abba shook my shoulder. “What are you saying? That’s not true. Not true at all.”

“It is true.” I moved away from Abba. “How are you planning on helping me?” I whispered.

Abba swallowed. “I’m not sure yet, Shevi. Mommy and I will talk about it. We’ll make a plan. We’re going to help you. We’re here for you, Shevs.”

My eyes welled up yet again. Even if everyone else hated me, and thought I was ugly and huge, at least Abba was promising he would stay by my side.

****

The supper table was loud and busy. My younger siblings shouted and bickered around me and my mother was trying, unsuccessfully, to feed the baby. I played with my fork silently. I’d licked my plate clean twice already and my stomach still rumbled, but I didn’t want to ask Mommy for more. “More, Shevi?” she’d say, her eyebrows raised so high they’d be grazing her sheitel bangs, “didn’t you already have seconds?”

Just as Abba had promised, he and Mommy were trying to come up with a Plan. That’s how I thought of it in my head. I was Shevi, with a Problem, a Problem that needed a Plan to fix.

Mommy had scheduled an appointment for me to see the doctor the next day. “He’ll weigh you and measure your height,” Mommy had explained chirpily, “and then he’ll tell us what he recommends.”

The thought of stepping onto a scale in the doctor’s office filled me with a cold dread and a sharp feeling of shame. I didn’t want to know how much I weighed. I certainly didn’t want the doctor or my mother to know. Then it would be confirmed: I was fat. It wouldn’t just be the girls in class teasing me. It would be official, documented. I buried my face in my hands.

“What’s wrong, Shevi?” Mommy called, a bit sharply. She was distracted with the other kids and shot me a worried glance. I put my hands down and stared glumly at the table.

“Are you tired?” Mommy asked softly, and her compassion felt like a gentle caress. “No,” I mumbled.

Mommy opened her mouth to say something else, but Eliezer chose that moment to knock over the bottle of apple juice. Sticky golden rivers rushed across the table, soaking the pile of napkins and dripping onto the floor. Once again I was forgotten, left alone in my misery. And my hunger. I eyed the remaining BBQ chicken and the thick, soft white rolls. I’d already had three rolls, two drumsticks, a thigh and several wings, dripping with sweet and tangy sauce. Mommy wouldn’t let me have more.

Oh well, there was always dessert. Tonight wasn’t fancy, as Mommy had been out doing errands for much of the afternoon. But even though store-bought chocolate chip cookies couldn’t compare to Mommy’s home-made, luscious desserts, they were still crunchy, yummy, and delicious.

Perhaps they would hold me over until breakfast. Or at least until my bedtime snack.

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