January 1st, 2016.
My name is Ella Grace Carson. If you happen to be reading this, you more than likely stole my journal and I’d really like to get it back. So, if you see an overweight girl who looks roughly around sixteen years of age and has brown hair that could have a debate on whether or not it’s an actual afro, you’ve found me. This is my first journal I guess you could say, unless you want to count the one I had in the second grade. All it had was a bunch of doodle hearts with Timothy Paxton’s name, a kid I had a major crush on back then, scribbled inside all of them. That doesn’t count in my opinion.
Why did I decide to get this worn down leather piece of junk you ask? That’s a good question. I don’t know. It could be because I’m anti-social, or because I’m going through so much in my life it feels like my head could burst. It could even be that I’m going through a midlife crisis. Can you have one of those at sixteen?
Anyways, I decided to get this to document everything major that’s about to happen hopefully within the next couple of years. I get to figure out where I want to go to college, why on earth I still have never had a boyfriend, and also what the hell I’m going to do to lose weight. Basically this journal is meant for me to figure out my entire life. Wish me luck.
Two years later
Letting out a sigh of frustration, I collapse onto my bed and try to ignore the mess around me. Suitcases are cluttered all in my room, pieces of random clothing overlapping the sides of them. I’ve been in the middle of packing for my grandparents for the past two days and I’m still not finished.
“Ella!” My mother pokes her head into my room, and when she notices I’m just sitting on my bed, she looks at me in disbelief. “What are you doing? I told your grandparents you’d be there in time for dinner. Get going!”
“Why are you making me go?” I whine, kicking a box with my foot in order to show my annoyance.
Being the mother that she is, I watch her start to pack my things up for me to try and help. She looks frazzled as she runs her hand through her brown bob, pausing to place it on her hip and look around the mess I call my room. “Because Washington DC isn’t doing you any good.” She sighs again. “I knew we should have stayed in South Carolina, but with your father being so close I just-”
“It’s fine.” I cut her off, not wanting to talk about that situation. My mother has made a lot of sacrifices to try and give us a better life. Here in Washington I got bullied so much in high school that I had to drop out and continue my classes online to graduate. This place has a lot of bad memories to it, so I suppose that’s why she’s sending me off for the summer. To me it doesn’t matter where I go. I feel like there will always be mean people, and even though I can take the bullying and put up with it I just wish people could be a little bit nicer.
“You’re going to have a wonderful time.” She smiles, placing both hands on either side of my face to hold it. “I just wish I could go. I’m going to miss you so much.”
“You have to work, I’ll be fine.” I reply, standing up from the bed to finally finish packing. For the most part, I’ve gotten everything done. I just have to finish stuffing the clothing inside so that everything can finally be zipped. My mother’s staring at me in disgust practically as she’s watching how unorganized I’m being to try and get the zipper to close. As long as it shuts I don’t care.
“I’m worried about you driving eight hours.” She admits, helping me zip the other side. We can’t get one side to zip all the way up, but it’s mostly closed so it works for me. “Are you sure you’re going to be okay Ella?”
“I’m eighteen. I’ll be fine.” I press, becoming flustered from the questions. “You said I have to be there in time for dinner, right? It’s an eight hour drive. I need to get going.” I’m probably being rude, but I’m not a fan of emotions. If I were to continue looking at her with those puppy dog eyes I’ll more than likely break down into a sob, and that’s something neither of us needs. This is the first time ever in my entire life that I’ll be away from her for more than a week. It’s harder for her than it is for me, so that’s why I’m trying to hurry up and leave.
“Alright, well let’s bring your things to the car,” She grabs hold of the handle on one of my suitcases, sending me one of those looks again that’s making my stomach churn.
“I’ll meet you down there,” I say. “I just have to grab a couple more things.”
With a nod of her head, she rolls the suitcase into the hallway and disappears. I pick my dirty black leather crossbody off of the hardwood floor and stuff my journal into it, then I grab my phone and my charger, zipping the bag up once everything is inside. My eye catches a glimpse of my body in the full-length mirror and it makes me want to throw a knife at it so it’ll shatter. I wish I had gotten my mother’s genes, skinny and toned, but the only thing I got from her is my brown curly hair and green eyes. All I see in this mirror is my stomach bulging out a little over top of my size eighteen capris and my arms that are covered with a long sleeved blouse because I refuse to show them. I’m ashamed of myself. I wish people knew how badly I hurt at night, or how I wish I was a size ten, but losing weight isn’t easy. Being overweight is more than just a choice.
Shutting off the light to my room, I grab my suitcase in frustration and clamber it down the stairs, out the door, and wheel it onto the driveway next to my car. I got a Nissan Altima from my mother once I graduated high school. It’s a mystery to me still as to how she got the money to be able to afford a car for me because we aren’t rich by any means, but I’m grateful beyond words.
“I guess this is it.” She stifles a sob once my trunk is shut, pulling me so tightly against her chest I think I might stop breathing. “I love you, Ella. You better call me every day. I’ll have my phone on me, even at work, alright?”
“I love you too.” I mutter into her shirt, still being suffocated. “I’ll call you when I get there.”
When I was younger, my mother, father and I would always visit my grandparents at least once a week for dinner. We lived about an hour away from Myrtle Beach, yet whenever we all came here it felt like I was in an entire different world. The smell of the sea, the sand, the sound of the waves. It felt like home when I pulled into my grandparents driveway. Their house was right on the beach and that was my favorite part about coming here because at night, when everyone went to sleep, I’d sneak out and just sit by the waves to think about everything and anything.
When I pull into the driveway my grandparents are sitting on the porch on patio chairs, each with a cup of tea in their hands as they’ve done for as long as I can remember. I haven’t been here since things went down with my dad, but luckily he’s out of our lives for good now.
“Ells!” My grandfather exclaims, slowly making his way down the steps. He’s called me Ells ever since I was a baby. It bothered me when I was about seven, but now I’ve grown to love it. Back in the day he would do this thing where he’d pick me up and twirl me around his body in a circle, then he’d hold me upside down until I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe. I’m much too heavy for that now, so instead he gives me a hug that only a grandparent can give.
“Hi grandpa,” I smile, sending an equally big smile towards my grandmother. “Hi grandma.”
“Honey, you’ve grown up so much! Those video chats don’t do you any justice at all.” She says, pulling me away from my grandfather so she can give me a hug of her own. Both of my grandparents are probably the nicest people anyone could ever meet. Susan, my grandmother, always tries to look like she’s a teenager with the clothing she wears. For example, today she’s wearing these short white shorts and a bright neon pink tank top with sparkly black sandals. I always envy my grandmother’s clothes and - if I could fit into her tiny clothing - would probably steal some of them. Bob, my grandfather, dresses more his age. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him leave the house wearing anything different than a button-up shirt and khaki shorts. Today’s button-up consists of palm trees with a white background, the both of them looking completely different, yet so perfect together. They were high school sweethearts, getting married young at twenty and still standing strong forty years later. I can only hope to have a love like theirs someday.
Grandpa Bob takes one of my suitcases out of the trunk and helps me roll it into the house. Their beach house isn’t fancy or upscale by any means, but it has that home feeling that I can’t get anywhere else. Every single room in their house has tile flooring except for the guest room, which has wooden floors, and when I place my suitcase down I truly smile for what feels like the first time in weeks. This room hasn’t changed one bit. The little pictures of sailboats are still hung up on the wall, and the pictures I used to color for my grandparents are still framed on top of the dresser.
“Nobody’s been in here since you sugar.” Grandma Susan says, fixing the quilted blanket on my bedspread. “We’re thinking after you get settled in we’ll grab something to eat at the shack?”
Bob and Susan’s was a dream my grandparents had in the beginning years of their marriage. After my grandfather retired from being a teacher they used the money to open up what we call, the shack. Bob and Susan’s is a huge hit during the summers here in Myrtle Beach. It’s on the boardwalk, an old fashioned diner. They serve meat, seafood, snacks, alcohol and ice cream. As a kid I would always go there for the ice cream and watch grandpa cook and grandma waitress. It was a great way to pass time back then. Now I wish I had that free time to worry about absolutely nothing.
“That sounds great.” I smile, my eyes immediately being drawn to the sliding glass doors attached to my room, which have access to the beach. “Can I come get you guys when I’m ready?”
“Of course.” She replies, grabbing onto my grandfather’s hand. “We’ll be on the front porch.”
As soon as they’re gone and the door to the guest room is closed, I sneak out onto the porch, slip my sandals off, and take a seat at the bottom of the steps so that I can dip my feet into the sand. There are a lot of people on the beach today. I see families, friends and couples. I focus mainly on the couples, though. Every single girl I see on this beach right now is in a bikini and their boyfriends look completely in love with them. I can’t even fathom going out onto the beach in shorts and a tank top, let alone a bikini. There’s a part of me that can’t help but be upset and frustrated with how I look because I’m not comfortable with my body whatsoever. I want to enjoy myself on the beach like all of these people are doing more than anything. Hopefully someday I’ll feel confident just for one day to fully enjoy this place.
The shack hasn’t changed a bit. As soon as my grandparents and I step foot inside the door the hustle and bustle is everywhere. The order bell continues to ding once every ten seconds, waitresses are flying around to try and serve everyone, and the sounds of the utensils smacking away in the kitchen echo throughout the entire joint. My favorite thing about the shack are the decorations. The walls are painted a bright teal blue and there are almost ten electric beer signs on every wall you see. It looks like the eighties in here.
When everyone sees my grandparents, they all stop what they’re doing. “Hey!” They call out, two of the waitresses coming to give them each a hug. One of the cooks in the back sees that I’ve tagged along and immediately sets his knife down so he can come out of the kitchen. He’s a big Hawaiian guy, sweat trickling down his forehead from the heat in here.
“Ella!” He shouts, taking me by surprise that he knows who I am. “You’ve grown up, kiddo! Last time I saw you I think you were about this tall.” He brings his hand to the middle of his waistline. “How have you been?”
“I’ve been good.” I smile. “I’m spending the summer with my grandparents actually.”
“Have they talked to you about a summer job?” He asks, turning to look at my grandparents. “We’re in desperate need for waitresses right now. If she wants the extra money, I’d be alright to bring her on.”
Now everyone turns to look at me and my face becomes flushed, either from embarrassment or from the heat in here. I look around at all of the business going on right now and the waitresses don’t look miserable. They look like they’re having a fun time. The uniform is this short blue dress with a black and white checkered apron, white tennis shoes to match. I can’t help but worry if they’ll even have a big enough uniform to fit me. I guess it wouldn’t be too bad working here though. I could use the extra money.
“Sure.” I shrug, finally giving in. “I’ve got nothing better to do this summer. When do I start?”
“That’s great!” He smiles a wide-toothed grin at me, reaching out to shake my hand. “My name’s Aaron by the way. I’m not sure if you remember me.” The look on my face tells him that he’s correct, so he laughs and looks at my grandparents again. “Can I talk with you guys in the back for a second? I just had a couple of questions about auditing. Oh, and I’ll get back to you on a start date Ella.”
My grandpa glances over towards me. “Aaron runs the day-to-day a lot here.” He explains. “Your grandma and I get pretty tired so Aaron’s been helping out a lot. Just hang out for a couple minutes and we’ll be right back, okay?”
As I watch them disappear into the back, I decide to take a seat at the countertop. As I’m trying to walk over to it, a huge group of kids are heading this way to leave. They look to be around my age, three girls and four guys. The guys are in varsity jackets and the girls are all wearing different colored high waisted shorts with a neon bikini top to match. This looked like a scene you’d find out of a movie or something. I actually feel embarrassed for them from how corny they all look. The girl in the front has perfect sun-kissed skin, her bleach blonde hair pulled up into a high ponytail with a high-pitched laugh that never seems to end. She’s flirting with one of the boys and keeps smacking him playfully on the shoulder. All of them aren’t paying attention, so when I try to squeeze by them to get to an available seat I accidentally bump into the blonde girl.
“Sorry.” I immediately say. “I didn’t mean to-”
“Watch it, fat ass.” She sneers, sending me an evil glare. The whole entire possy she’s with starts to laugh except for one. He’s standing in the back staring directly at me. One hand grazes carefully along his jawline while the other is stuffed into the pocket of his varsity jacket. I can’t tell if he genuinely feels sorry for me or if he’s agreeing with them, but he’s not laughing.
“My fault,” I reply, giving her a wide smile. “I’ll make sure my fat ass hits someone else next time.” That seems to shut her up. Instead of giving me another hateful comment she looks at me oddly before she waves her hand to signal to the rest of the group that they’re going to leave. My mother always taught me that whenever someone makes fun of you, turn the insult into another joke. If people know that they get to you they’ll continue to do it, but if you joke around with them they won’t know what to do. That’s probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given.
As the rest of the group begins to pile out, the one that decided not to laugh is still lingering by the door. I can tell that he’s debating on whether or not to say something, but I really want him to just go already. I despise people like him. People who are too afraid to stand up for the bullying when it’s happening right in front of them, but when the damage has already been done they want to apologize behind closed doors. I don’t need an apology from a jock, especially when he chooses to be friends with people like that. An apology from him would mean absolutely nothing. He turns to look at me, his brown eyes filled with sadness or regret, I can’t tell which, but I’m thankful when he finally decides to just leave with the rest of them.
“God.” I whisper to myself, letting out a much needed sigh. “This is going to be a long summer.”