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Stephanie's Story

Stephanie's Story was my first novel, released in the spring of 2014. It was originally published with Instantpublisher (print copies) and Smashwords (e-book copies) then later in the year 2015 published with Createspace.

Stephanie Green hates the way she looks. She’s always been bigger than other girls her age and is getting fed up with looking different. She’s been told that it’s what’s on the inside that counts and God loves her no matter what, but these days, she isn’t buying. After yet another unsuccessful day at the mall, Stephanie vows to shed some weight before her high school graduation- no matter the cost.
But the diets she tries just don’t seem to work and soon Stephanie finds herself at her wit’s end. She’s convinced that this is necessary and she can’t be happy until she is thin. But she’s in for a rude awakening when God uses an unlikely character to get a vital message to Stephanie- before it’s too late.

Enjoy a sample of Stephanie's Story!
 look at all the displays as I pass them by. Rows of expressionless mannequins stand before shop windows wearing the latest fashions without a care in the world. With a defeated sigh, I think about how I wish that could be me. 
In a matter of seconds my friend and I walk through the exit doors of our local mall. Even though it’s a million degrees out here, I’m thankful to be outside. The further I am from the glaring lights of dressing rooms, loud and thumping music and overwhelming cologne fumes, the better.
As we approach my friend Hayley’s car, I think to myself how strange it is that two best friends can go shopping together, yet come out with totally different things. Hayley’s bag is filled with colorful shirts and perfect fitting jeans, the usual things you’d expect from a teenage girl. But my bag is pretty sparse and contains only two plain t-shirts and a pair of flip-flops.
Hayley is pretty ticked at me for not buying much, but I don’t see why. It’s not like I didn’t try. When Hayley found a pair of jeans that she felt were “the ones,” the absolute perfect pair for me, I willingly marched into the dressing room and tried them on. Too bad they didn’t live up to our high hopes. They were so tight I felt certain that I’d die before I got out of them. But somehow I managed to peel them off without tearing any of the fabric. While folding the detestable article of clothing, I solemnly vowed to do whatever it takes to lose weight before my high school graduation in May.
 “I know you have body issues Stephanie,” says Hayley as she brushes her dark hair out of her face. “But you need new clothes to wear.”
“It has nothing to do with body issues, whatever you mean by that,” I say, feeling slightly hurt. “I just happen to have hated everything we found today.”
“Yeah, sure; even that pink and black blouse?” she asks with a skeptical look.
I roll my eyes as if Hayley has no idea what she’s talking about. But actually, she hit the nail right on its nasty little head.
The truth is I probably do have some body issues. I really do not like the way I look. And if a genie were to magically escape from a bottle and grant me three wishes, I’d use my first one to swap bodies with one of my friends- or maybe Jenifer Lawrence.
You see, I’ve always been heavy. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fat. Hayley and our friend Amy try to tell me that I’m not fat, I’m just pleasantly plump; whatever that means. But I know the truth. How I can deny it?  Especially on days like today when I have to shop for clothes in a world that’s made for people size six and under.
But anytime the subject comes up, I get pretty defensive about it. Who wants to openly admit that they’re fat? Not me. But I feel totally rotten each time I snap at someone for talking about my weight. In my mind it’s better than crying like a big baby in front of everyone.
 So yes, my discomfort with my looks is the main reason why I didn’t buy school clothes today. But can you really blame me? I mean, the clothing selection for the girls my size is next to nothing unless you’re heading off to clown school or turning eighty-five.
 “I’m sorry, Stephanie, that was pretty low,” Hayley says as she unlocks her car. “But seriously; what are you going to wear when school starts? A garbage sack?”
 “Very funny, but I already have plenty of clothes,” I say as I sit down in the passenger’s seat. I feel like a broken record; I’ve been trying to explain to her all day that the world won’t end if I don’t have a brand new wardrobe by the time school starts. “I’ll just wear what I wore last year. Most of my clothes still fit.”
Hayley doesn’t look convinced. She’s probably thinking about how sloppy I’ll look wearing my faded t-shirts and jeans filled with holes.
“I’ll survive. Trust me.”
“Whatever you say,” she says with a sigh.
As we pull up to the restaurant we both agreed on, I think about how different Hayley and I are. We look nothing alike. My average height and thin, unimpressive blonde hair are the exact opposite of Hayley’s tall and lean frame, long dark hair and olive complexion (all of which she chalks up to her Greek heritage). She’s such an exotic beauty; someone you’d expect to be a model. But she’s too into the whole tough-chick persona to ever even consider becoming a cover girl.
And on top of all that, our personalities are like day and night. Hayley’s a ball of energy and can be a bit rough around the edges if you get on her bad side. And while I’m not a shy person, I’m pretty reserved and mellow. My friend and I do make an odd pair.
We sit down at a booth and study the menu. The smell of the restaurant and the sight of pizzas on the tables surrounding us are absolutely tantalizing. I would love nothing more than to just pig out until my stomach aches. But after the way things went at the mall today, I’m feeling even more self-conscious than usual.
“What do you want on the pizza?” Hayley asks from across the table.
 “I don’t know,” I hesitate. “Maybe just cheese?”
My friend looks at me with a rather dumbfounded expression, her grey eyes round as saucers. “Why?”
“I don’t know….”I say feeling a little uncomfortable at this point. Who knew suggesting a plain pizza would be such a sin?
“That’s fine with me; it’s just a little unusual. I thought your favorite was Canadian bacon.”
So when the waitress takes our order, we go with a medium cheese pizza and two diet Cokes. Once our order arrives, I only eat two slices when I really could go for another. I figure I may as well start cutting down now. Besides that, I really don’t want to look like a hog in front of Hayley and the rest of the people in the restaurant.
Since I’m sleeping over at Hayley’s tonight, we decide to rent a movie. “I’m in the mood for a good horror flick tonight,” she says as we walk towards the movie kiosk just outside of the pizza joint. She loves watching scary movies. It amazes me how she can sit through one of these movies and yet she totally flips if she sees a spider in her room. 
We look through all of our options on the tiny touch screen of the kiosk. Movies of all genres pass by until we reach the horror section. Hayley taps on the new releases and we read the descriptions. There’s one called The Haunted Summer and it’s about some girl that spends the summer in a haunted cabin. The picture on the cover shows a girl who looks badly beaten and bloody. She’s wearing a really skimpy outfit with way too much cleavage showing. The girl is so skinny a good gust of wind would probably blow her away. Jealousy grabs ahold of me briefly.
Thankfully, Hayley doesn’t seem too interested in this one so we go onto the next. She’s already seen all of the movies in the horror section, so we move on to the comedy section; my much preferred preference. We finally decide on a movie and make a quick stop at a convince store on the way back to Hayley’s house. That girl has a huge sweet tooth so she pulls out the big guns. She loads her thin arms with cartons of ice cream and boxes of all sorts of candy along with potato chips and cans of soda.
“Don’t judge me,” she says defensively when she notices my eyes bulging at the sight of all the junk food. I can only laugh at this.
Once we’ve settled down in front of the small TV in Hayley’s room, she arranges all of her snacks in front of her so she can munch on them during the movie. She pleads and begs me to eat some ice cream or candy, but I refuse. As of today, I’m cutting out all sugar from my diet in hopes of shedding a few pounds.
“Oh come on, Steph. One fun sized Milky Way won’t hurt,” Hayley says in between bites, waving a miniature candy bar in my face.
“Oh yes it will.” I’m determined to resist temptation, no matter how hard it is. And believe me, it is hard.
With a shrug of her shoulders, she finally decides to give it up. I watch in envy as she tears open a bag of Doritos. I wonder where all those calories go that she’s consuming; definitely not to her hips like they do on me.
The movie turns out to be pretty corny, but good for a laugh. Towards the middle, Mrs. Meyers, Hayley’s mother, knocks at the door. As she enters, she asks about our shopping trip. Hayley puts the movie on pause and gathers all of her shopping bags. She shows off the things she bought as her mom “oohs” and “ahs” over all the pretty clothes. “What did you get today, Stephanie?” Mrs. Meyers asks me as she gathers the clothes so she can wash them. I was afraid she would ask this.
“Oh I found a couple things,” I say.
 “Mom, she barely got anything,” Hayley interrupts. She grabs my bag off the floor and shows Mrs. Meyers my purchases.
“Well, it’s better than nothing,” Mrs. Meyers says smiling. I think she’s trying to be nice. She’s probably thinking, “What’s wrong this girl?” Okay, maybe not. But who knows?
 “Yeah, but Mom, what will she wear when schools starts?” Haley asks with her brow creased in a concerned expression.  I think she’s taking this harder than I am.
“Well, honey, I’m sure she has plenty of clothes. She’s wearing some now, isn’t she?” Mrs. Meyers replies in a matter-of-fact tone. “And she did get a few things today. Besides, she still has a week to find more clothes,” she adds with a warm smile.
I smile at her and say “Thanks,” feeling relieved.
It’s then that she tells us that she and her husband want to take us, along with our friend Amy, to an amusement park the next day. “One last hoorah before school starts,” she says. Now, I know it may sound a little on the childish side, but I get pretty excited at this. I took a job at a local bookstore this summer so I haven’t had much free time. A day with my friends sounds pretty nice right about now. Plus, a day away from our sleepy town wouldn’t hurt either.
Just before we hit the hay, we put Hayley’s cell on speaker phone and call Amy. Listening to it ring, I feel a little doubtful as we wait for her to pick up. Usually, amusement parks and such aren’t the type of thing Amy really goes for. The last time we all went to one back in the eighth grade Amy fainted on the tilt-a-whirl. But to my surprise, she jumps at the suggestion, claiming she’ll lose her mind if she has to spend one more day at home with her little brother.
Just before lying down on the cot in Hayley’s room, I call my house and ask for permission. Mom is asleep so I talk about it with Dad. After making sure where exactly we’re going and I have enough money to pay for my ticket he grants his permission.
I don’t sleep very peacefully during the night; the cot is not the most comfortable bed in the world and combined with the hot and sticky air, I toss and turn throughout the entire night. When I wake up in the morning, my hair is stuck to my face and neck and my shirt is soaked. But despite all of this, I’m in a fairly good mood.
When I see the sun in the orange and pink sky peeking through Hayley’s window, I decide to go ahead and get up. After a quick shower and change of clothes, I pack up my things so they’ll be ready to go when we leave. I even break out my bible and read a few verses before anyone wakes up. I feel pretty guilty because I’ve kind of been ignoring my bible lately. But I think God will understand.
Soon after I finish a set of verses in Philippians, Hayley rolls out of bed and I follow her out to the living room. It doesn’t take Hayley and her parents long to get ready since it looks as though they did a lot of preparation last night. In a matter of minutes, we’re out the door and on the road.
 Turning down Pine Street, the first thing I see is Amy’s head of bright red hair. It would be hard to miss her in a crowd with the shroud of orange-red curls sprouting from her head. Poor girl’s been teased about her flaming locks ever since she started going to our school back in sixth grade.
“Hey, everyone,” she calls as she climbs into the van. She smiles broadly, her silver braces that she got last spring glittering in the morning sun.
Sitting in the back of the van, Amy tells us about her stay at her grandparents’ house. Their farm usually isn’t the most exciting place in the world so normally there isn’t much to tell. But this summer her grandpa hired a college guy to help out and she has to tell us all about it. Once she’s told us every word of every conversation they had, we’re fresh out of things to talk about.
Still sleepy, I pull a blanket over me and turn on my iPod. As I listen to an old Fall Out Boy album, my eyes grow heavy and I eventually drift off to sleep.
I wake up just as we’re entering the town where the amusement park is. As we pull up to the entrance gates, I whip out my extremely high SPF sunscreen and begin smearing it onto my face and limbs. Feeling greasy but protected, I pull my hair into a sloppy ponytail, knowing there isn’t anything else I can do with it, as Mr. Meyers tells us all to “Hop on out.”
Once out in the middle of the concrete park, my friends and I get in line for one of the roller coasters. Looks like getting here as soon as the park opened didn’t get us out of having to wait in ridiculously long lines. There looks to be around thirty people ahead of us.
The sun beats down on us and I feel the sweat beading all over me. What I wouldn’t give for cold bottle of water right now. Actually, a blue raspberry slushy sounds way better, but that goes against my stupid diet.
The line moves slowly and I begin to grow impatient. In front of us stands a man chatting away on his cell phone while his two bratty kids duke it out over whose turn it is to play on their iPod. Their whining is so high pitched and annoying I feel like my nerves are going to explode. I seriously consider bailing to go find something with a shorter line, but I figure if I’ve waited this long I may as well stay until it’s our turn.
The line inches forward and I can see that our group will be next to get on the ride. The man in front of us takes a break from his conversation long enough to tell his kids that the girl gets to play with their precious iPod until the ride comes. The boy, obviously ticked at this, folds his arms over his chest and turns his back to his father. The man doesn’t seem to notice; he just stands there talking on his phone.
To pass the time, Amy shows us pictures of her stay with her grandparents on her phone, which is almost as boring as standing in line doing nothing. As I look at a picture of Amy with her grandma, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn to see the little boy that’s ahead of us staring up at me.
“Do you have a baby in there?” he asks, pointing towards my mid-section.
I can’t believe my ears. A sick feeling washes over me; it reminds me of the time one of the girls in class elbowed me in the gut at recess in the first grade. It’s like I can’t breathe. Did he really just ask me that?
“Shut up,” I mutter, feeling humiliated. It’s a totally lame response, but it’s the best I can come up with under the circumstances.
“Sorry,” he snickers, obviously already aware that I am not with child.
 “Hey kid, you’d better apologize,” Hayley yells into his face.
The kid narrows his eyes at her. “I don’t know you. I don’t have to do what you say.”
“Hey, jerk!” Now Hayley is yelling at the kid’s dad. “You need to make your son here apologize to my friend for being so obnoxious.” Her face is pinched in an angry expression. By this point I’m ready to find the biggest rock ever and take cover.
“Hayley, just drop it. Okay?” I whisper.
“Daddy, these girls are bothering me!” the little brat whines.
With a sigh, his father tells whoever is on the other end that he has to go and turns to my friends and I.
“What’s the deal here?” he asks in an irritated tone.
“Your kid here was picking on my friend because of her weight,” Amy shoots back.
I swear I can see a trace of a grin on the man’s face. This jerk is probably the one who taught the kid to act this way. He quickly erases his smile and rebukes his son. “Son, apologize to the girl.”
“But dad…” the boy whimpers.
“I mean it, Jason.”
The kid won’t look back to me. “Sorry,” he mutters.
Finally, the roller coaster winds down the tracks, slowing to a halt at the ticket booth. We wait as the previous group files out and we’re motioned by workers to load onto the machine. I make sure to sit as far as away from the little menace as possible.
I walk all the way to the end of the coaster and take a seat at the caboose, while Hayley and Amy sit in front of me. I listen to Amy hyperventilate, trying her best to breathe, while Hayley whoops and hollers. A few moments later, the man from the ticket booth comes by and buckles everyone in.
Steam lets out just behind me and the big machine starts with a jolt, causing some to giggle and some to shriek. My mind is too preoccupied to do either. In the final moments before the coaster moves, I try my best to brush off the incident I endured in line. I tell myself that this little kid doesn’t know what he’s talking about so I shouldn’t let it bother me. But that’s easier said than done.
 As the roller coaster climbs slowly up the tracks, I take deep breathes, relaxing my body. I imagine that the stress leaves my body with each exhale and the tightness in my chest loosens. As the machine reaches the peak of the tracks, it halts for a tense moment and I can hear voices laughing and squealing in front of me. I inwardly promise to let it all go with the free fall.

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