|When Life Gives You Lemons: Eat Them
Author: DreamersDaze PM
When a family member's health scare makes her question her own lifestyle, Bella begins a journey to find common ground between outer beauty, inner beauty, health and peace. Will she able to find love, in others and within herself? All HumanRated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Romance - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 18 - Words: 77,030 - Reviews: 673 - Favs: 337 - Follows: 448 - Updated: 05-09-12 - Published: 01-15-11 - id: 6656388
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
When Life Gives You Lemons: Eat Them
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
Lemon tree very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet
But the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat.
~Lemon Tree, Peter Paul and Mary
Chapter One-Mirror, Mirror.
Murder is not the answer. You will not go to prison for grocery store homicide.
I repeated the mantra in my head a few more times as I attempted to keep my seething temper in check. I was well aware that violence against the elderly was frowned upon in polite society, but if the old lady behind me rammed into my legs with her cart one more time, I was not to be held responsible for my actions. It was not my fault that the jerk in front of me had ignored the 'Express: 15 Items Or Less' sign, and had about two weeks worth of groceries on the conveyor belt. Logic led me to conclude that having my ankles rammed by grandma's cart was not, in fact, going to speed up time and get her to the cashier any faster.
Apparently I was alone in this conclusion. I winced as my legs were once again assaulted by the impatient octogenarian, apparently in a hurry to get home before 'General Hospital' or 'As The World Turns' or something. Taking a deep breath, I attempted to sound polite as I turned to the little old lady behind me.
"Excuse me ma'am, but could you please stop? Mowing me down with your cart won't change the fact that there's someone in front of me."
"Screw you, you fat bitch!"
I think I just got cursed out by a senior citizen.
My jaw hit the ground and I jolted back, stunned. "Jeeze lady, do you kiss your grandkids with that mouth?"
And then she gave me the finger. For a moment I fantasized about ripping out her dentures and shoving them 'where the sun don't shine'. But to be honest, Grandma needs-her-mouth-cleaned-out-with-soap looked like she could, and would, kick my ass. So I bit my tongue, as the assault via shopping cart continued, staring into my basket at the half gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream and bag of double stuffed Oreos that I was dying to dig into. As I finally reached the cashier, putting space between me and Grandma's cart of doom, the gum cracking teenager arched her eyebrow as she looked at me…and then at my purchases.
Yep…I'm fat. Google search images of 'girls that eat their feelings' and my picture would surely come up. Yes, I am buying cookies and ice cream. Could you ring those up while you're judging me?
For some reason, the girl took forever to scan my two items, as if ice cream and cookies were somehow more challenging than healthier foods. Grandma Ankle-Rammer started inching towards me again, and I tried to hold onto my composure.
Ohhmmm, think serene thoughts. Ohhmmm, find your happy place. Ohhmmm my God I'm two seconds away from going postal.
After what felt like eons, I was finally free from the cashier of doom and The Wolf dressed in Grandma's robes, and I was making my way across the parking lot, purchases in hand. Though I was disgruntled and my ankles were screaming in pain, it had been one of my more pleasant trips to the grocery store.
As I was about to start the car, my phone began to emit 'The Jump Off' courtesy of Lil' Kim. I hated this song, but I hadn't really had a choice in the matter. I answered as quickly as possible, in order to cut off the ringtone.
"Hey Rose, guess what? I managed an independent trip to the grocery store without killing anyone! Aren't you proud of me?"
For a moment, I was thrown off by the lack of a response. Then I heard a sob through the receiver.
Here we go.
"What happened, Rose?"
There was another choked sob, followed by a string of half-intelligible speech. I heard something along the lines of "pompous-rat-faced-bastard". It looked like I'd be sharing my comfort food tonight.
"Hang tight. I'll be there in 10 minutes." I sighed as I hung up.
The A/C in my car was busted so I rolled down my windows as I drove, trying to catch a breeze from the heated Arizona air. Patterns of light chased each other merrily across the interior of the car, as the sun reflected off the little glass ball that hung from my rearview mirror.
Rosalie Hale had been my best friend since the sixth grade, and I was still in awe every time I pulled up to her place. Her parents were disgustingly rich, and their home was nothing less than a mansion; a cold, empty mansion. Mr. Hale traveled often because of his job, and if he was home twice in a month it was considered a miracle. Mrs. Hale was the hostess of many charity and social events and home about as often as her husband. Being an only child left Rose on her own a lot, and I knew it bothered her more than she cared to admit.
I parked my slightly beat up, but oh-so-reliable truck in the vast sea of gravel that was the Hale's driveway, and grabbed my bag of goodies; glad to see that the ice cream hadn't melted all over the place. Before I had even lifted my arm to ring the bell and announce my presence, the door had been thrown open and my best friend had flung herself into my arms with a sniffle. I embraced her for a moment before I remembered the bag in my hand.
"Rose you have to let me go for a minute. Your comfort food is melting."
Reluctantly released, I moved past her and to the kitchen. After throwing the Oreos on the counter and shoving the ice cream into the freezer, I turned to assess the situation.
Even with her eyeliner smudged and tears streaming down her cheeks, Rosalie Hale scored a 100 on a scale of 1 to 10. Sometimes I still wondered why someone of her caliber let herself be seen with me. We were polar opposites. She was a fit and slightly curved 120 pounds and I… well I was more than double that number. Her perfectly coiffed, blonde hair framed her flawless face, while my thin and straggly brown strands only seemed to make my face look bigger. In middle and high school she'd been a cheerleader, popular, outgoing; the girl everyone watched with jealousy glinting green in their eyes. Me… I was the shy wallflower that all the jealous girls picked on to make themselves feel better; until Rose came to my rescue that is.
About halfway through sixth grade, I'd helped Rose study for an English exam, which she'd passed with flying colors. Rose functions on a simple moral code. You do her a solid favor… she does you one. A few days later she intercepted two girls as they attempted to bully me in the girls' bathroom. What should have been a one time debt repaid somehow bloomed into a long term friendship. People respected Rose; they feared her blunt sarcasm and her courage. They were also well aware that she was not one to be trifled with. While she could never be in every hallway, or bathroom, her presence in my life took out a large number of my childhood tormenters.
The friendship had seemed terribly one sided in my eyes. I was no longer beat up and tortured, but what did Rosalie Hale, blonde bombshell, get out of hanging out with me? I'd asked her that very question after she'd sat with me at lunch for two weeks in a row, instead of claiming her normal spot at the table reserved for the 'beautiful people'. "Bella," she'd answered me firmly, "those girls aren't my friends. They talk to me because they're either trying to promote their reputation or shit all over mine. You're different. You don't look at me and start mapping out strategic plans in your head. There's no judgment with you, no mold that you expect me to always fit into. I can be myself, and it feels nice." It was the first compliment I'd ever gotten from someone other than my mom.
Rose was currently sniffling and wiping her tears away with her sleeve. I searched my brain, trying to find the right words to say. Sometimes, as a friend, you're torn between the words you know they need to hear, and the words you want to say. As long as I'd known her, Rose had been the strongest person I'd ever met. She didn't take shit from anyone, and she wasn't afraid to voice her opinion. But her choice in men seemed to undermine the strong-willed and independent personality that dominated every other aspect of her life.
Her current beau, Royce King, was one of the douchiest assholes she'd been with to date. She knew how I felt about him, and since their first date about 8 months ago I'd had to walk that horribly fine line that all must walk when they hate their best friend's boyfriend. It sucked.
I tried to stay unbiased, collecting two bowls and two spoons before retrieving the ice cream. "So, what's going on?" I asked, as I began scooping out the minty smelling, creamy goodness.
I was answered by a heavy sigh, and a few attempts at calming breaths. "The fucker cheated on me! He won't own up to it, but he came over the other night smelling like some other bitch's perfume. He tried to tell me I was being overdramatic… but he hasn't been around much, and I fucking know the smell of my own goddamn perfume, you know?" Her voice broke, and she looked down at the floor, shaking her head. "I never thought he'd do something like this."
Royce treated Rose like a trophy, not his girlfriend. He refused to be seen in public with her unless she had carefully donned makeup and fashion appropriate clothing. He talked down to her like she was an idiot, and he insulted her with every other sentence he spoke. Of course he was cheating on her. Had I tried to express my thoughts to her? Yes. Had she told me she was a big girl and to mind my own business? Yes. So I did, because sometimes being a friend meant letting people make their own mistakes.
"So what did you do? I mean… did you like, break up with him?"
She glared at me like I was an idiot. Considering all the other shit he'd done that she'd let slide, I felt it was a legitimate question. "Of course I broke up with him Bella, that kind of shit is inexcusable."
I gave her a sympathetic smile as I handed her a bowl of ice cream, topped off with a couple Oreo cookies. And then her phone began to buzz and she looked at me in horror. "It… it's him. Should I answer it?"
My eyebrow arched. "Didn't you just say that kind of shit is inexcusable?"
Rose nodded and hit the ignore button on her cell. She leaned forward, glaring down at the granite countertop of the kitchen island. "Yes… it is. He will not charm his way out of this one. I am a good person, and I deserve to be treated with respect."
Reaching out, she played with a spoonful of ice cream for a moment. "I don't think comfort food is gonna cut it for this one Bella. I'm in need of some comfort booze." She disappeared from the kitchen, and returned a few moments later with a bottle of tequila from her parents' liquor cabinet. "You know what they say," she declared, holding up the bottle, "when life gives you lemons, find someone whose life has given them tequila and throw a party!"
I had a strange obsession with the 'when life gives you lemons' saying. You can tell a lot about someone's personality by the way they finish that sentence. 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade', is favored by the optimists. Then there are the Roses who think that a bottle of booze to go with their lemons will make everything A-okay. 'When life gives you lemons use them as projectiles against people who piss you off', is the favored mantra of the hostile. Snarky humorists prefer something more like 'When life gives you lemons, make grape juice. Then sit back and watch the world try to figure out how you did it.' Then there were people like me; people who dealt with their issues by using their mouth. Not in a back alley hooker kind of way. No, the mantra for people like me was, 'when life gives you lemons: eat them'.
Torn from my thoughts, I suddenly realized that it was only 10:00 AM, and Rose was about to take a swig of tequila straight from the bottle.
"Oh, no you don't, Rose! It's not even noon yet. I do not want to deal with your drunken ass. Wasted-on-rum Jack Sparrow can't even rival the stagger that you have when you drink this shit. Savvy?"
I successfully maneuvered the bottle from Rose's grasp, and returned it to the liquor cabinet as she sulked over her melting ice cream.
"You know Bella, just because you aren't friends with tequila doesn't mean that I can't be. We're not in middle school anymore."
"Eat your Oreos like a good girl," I admonished gently, as I returned.
We made small talk, careful to avoid any chance that the asshole's name might be mentioned. I had lost track of time until my phone rang. I recognized my mother's ring tone and heaved a sigh. "Hey, mom."
"Bella? Where are you?" My mother's voice always sounded breathy and animated. She had this wildness about her, this inability to stay still for too long.
"Um… at Rosalie's house. Why?"
"You were going to come shopping with me in Scottsdale today, remember?"
Aw shoot. "Sorry mom, I totally forgot. Let me finish up here and I'll be home in 15, ok?"
"I'm already in town, so just head over here when you're done."
"Oh, ok. In that case I'll be over in a half an hour or so."
"Perfect," she squealed, so easily appeased, "we can do lunch, and then some window shopping!"
"Yay, window shopping," I said half heartedly. My mother was oblivious to the use of sarcasm, which was good for me, because I sucked at covering mine up.
"What did your mom want?" Rose inquired as she sifted through the melted ice cream in her bowl.
"I forgot I told her I'd go to Scottsdale with her today. She's gonna drag me through a billion art galleries, I know it."
"Since when has your mom liked art?"
I snorted. "It's her hobby of the month. You know my mom."
Renee Dwyer was an indecisive spirit, to say the least. After marrying my father, Charlie Swan, she'd taken me and left their home of Forks, Washington. She'd cited that she couldn't stand the oppressively dismal climate, but personally, I think that after two years with Charlie she'd simply had enough of the stable, ritualized way he lived.
Four years ago, around the time I graduated from high school, my mother remarried. I think one of the reasons things work so well between Phil and Renee was that he was as much of a constant mover as she was. Phil was a minor league baseball player, and thus his work required a lot of moving around. Renee flew out to visit him; sometimes she'd stay in the same place with him for as long as a month or two, but then she was free to fly back home without feeling nailed down. Sometimes they went a full month without seeing each other, but the love between them was as palpable as the love between a husband and wife that see each other every day. It just worked.
Renee was actually leaving tomorrow to go visit Phil in Jacksonville, Florida; hence why she wanted to do this mother/daughter shopping day in Scottsdale. I loved our girls' day out shenanigans but I was also slightly nervous. She'd been on me about my weight a lot over the past few months and it was starting to drive me crazy.
I was the type to lie down and accept my destined place in life. I didn't do diets; if I liked that skinny-girl-rabbit-food I wouldn't be overweight, would I? Instead, I convinced myself that I was doing the pretty girls a favor. If there weren't fat, unattractive people like me, they'd have no one to compare their flawless figures to, and then what would they do with their lives?
After being overweight for fifteen of the twenty-two years I'd been alive, it had finally come to my mother's attention that I had a 'bit of an eating problem' as she so eloquently put it. No shit, Sherlock! However, I was currently at the highest weight I'd ever been. Though I was a very chubby child, I didn't really start to put the weight on until I learned to drive. The ability to go out in the car whenever I wanted and eat to my heart's content with no one the wiser, was an ability I took full advantage of; which was why I was now waiting in the drive through line for McDonald's. If I was going to be doing a ton of walking with Renee in Scottsdale, then I needed some sustenance. Plus, wonderful and selfless friend that I was, I'd left the cookies and ice cream in Rosalie's much more deserving hands. Not that I could have taken the ice cream to Scottsdale with me, but whatever.
I devoured my burger and fries happily as I made my way to my destination. And then I shoved the evidence under my seat, because even though I was 22 years old, my mother's disapproval scared the heck out of me.
My mother sent me a text informing me that I would find her at her favorite little café. She greeted me with a smile and a haphazard wave, holding on delicately to the large hat she wore to stave off the heat. I reveled in the warmth soaking into my skin. The heat was convenient for me. Being a big girl, I got overheated very easily, and perspired like a lunatic. But in the humid Phoenix air, all of the skinny girls were sweating too, so I didn't feel so bad.
"I was just about to order a late lunch," Renee informed me, as I situated myself in the seat across from her, "do you want anything?"
"No I'm good; I um…ate at Rose's."
"Oh?" she said, tilting her head and giving me her 'I'm judging, but I don't want to look like I'm judging' face. It enraged me when she did this, despite the fact that her judgments were usually spot on.
"Yeah. We had some lemon chicken and salad," I lied. The words tasted like half digested cheeseburger and fries.
As I watched my mother enjoy her Mediterranean salad, I couldn't help but think about what other people saw as they passed us. They saw her; vivacious, shining, beautiful, looking ten years younger than she actually was. And then they saw me; rolls and uneven pudgy parts, looking like I was closer to a heart attack than an eighty year old. Again with the polar opposites, I seemed to be surrounded by them.
"So," my mother began, and I looked up to find her staring at me intently across the table. Oh no…stares full of intent are never good. "I ran into Mrs. Olney, from down the street, today."
"Yeah?" I prompted, trying to keep the suspicion out of my voice.
Renee's hands began to flutter about the edges of the table; picking at the napkin, touching her fork as if she were about to grab it, and then appearing to change their mind. She always did this when she knew she was treading into sensitive territory. "Well she was telling me about how she's starting this new diet. Apparently there's this berry called Acai, which speeds up your metabolism and…"
I glared across the table as I interrupted. "Mom… fad diets are bullshit! There is no A+B=C equation to losing weight, no easy fix. Some people are just meant to be bigger. I'm fine with myself just the way I am. Why can't you be?"
The nervous hand fluttering sped up. "Look, I'm not trying to pressure you sweetie, but it's just… I worry about your health. You're getting older, and there are all these things associated with being overweight. I mean… your father has a history of heart disease on his side of the family…"
Leaning back in the chair, I heaved a sigh. She did this all the time, and I couldn't be mad. Because she just cared about me… and her points were totally valid. I worried about my health all the time. I just couldn't seem to motivate myself to do anything about it.
"I know mom. And I love you, and I know that you worry. But if weight loss, or dieting, or whatever is going to be in my future, then it has to be something I choose to do for myself. Not something I do to make you feel better."
"You're right, Bella. I'm sorry I brought it up. Let's forget I said anything." She looked at me with watery eyes, and the guilt began to eat away at me as I thought about the crumpled fast food bag under the seat of my car. Renee was like those gnats that fly into your eyes when it's hot out. She skirted away quickly the minute you made a move to swat at her, but she was back again in an instant. I knew she'd be bringing all this up again soon.
I managed to pretend that I had put the incident behind me as we went about our day; pretended that I wasn't winded and exhausted after only 30 minutes of walking, pretended that I wasn't hungry for Cheeto's and pizza an hour later, and pretended that I actually was fine with myself just the way I was. Yes, I was very good at pretending.
When we got home later that night, I retreated to my room with as little interaction with my mother as possible. It wasn't her fault really, but more than a few hours at a time in her presence tended to make me kind of sad.
Renee deserved a daughter who was beautiful, and smart. She deserved a daughter who was away at college earning some sort of really important master's degree, not someone who had only gone as far as a bachelor's degree in business management and done nothing with the degree any way. But that's who she was stuck with. Bella Swan, age 22, still living at home with no plans for a successful future.
Picking up my phone, I called Rose to check up on her, and maybe also to distract myself from my many shortcomings. After a short conversation, Rose departed to go have what she described as 'a fake-ass Brady bunch' dinner with her mother.
Alone again, I began to pace my room, searching for something to do. I settled on cleaning my mirror collection. That would certainly pass the time.
I kind of had an obsession with mirrors, much like my obsession with the whole 'when life gives you lemons' saying. I kept a collection, all shapes and sizes, of mirrors. Not just any mirrors mind you, but only those with intricately detailed frames. Sometimes, silly as it sounds, I imagined that when I looked into a mirror, there was another world on the other side; a world in which I was everything that I lacked in this life. I kept waiting to step through the glass, like Lewis Carroll's Alice in 'Through the Looking Glass'.
As I dusted around the elegant swirls framing my favorite full length mirror, I stared at my reflection and willed it to morph into the shape of someone else, anyone else but the glossy sheet was silent, unchanging. It would not be granting me any magic wishes tonight. Eventually I gave up on the cleaning, and gave up on the day. I dressed myself for bed and crawled under the covers, like a snail retracting into its shell. Maybe my dreams would offer me better comfort than the day had.
They didn't. I tossed and turned as evilly cackling mirrors chased me in my nightmares. No matter where I ran they followed me, cornered me, tortured me with the bland visage within the glass. The mirror vision of myself moved behind her glass cage, beat against its surface with a raging sorrow. But she was trapped…I was trapped. In a prison of my own making.
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?
(AN)-Hopefully if you've reached the bottom of this page, that means you've enjoyed the first chapter. For anyone who prefers reading stories with lots of smutty Lemons, I must warn you that while I have those kinds of things planned for this story, they won't happen for a while. This fic will be what some call 'a slow burn'. If that's not your cup of tea, I understand.
For everyone that is still here, and intend to continue this journey with me, thank you for reading!