small town girls




A Taste Of Something Better
by Michelle K.

Jody never forgot her mother's wake.

The faces of her relatives, so solemn and comforting. Her black velvet dress, an outfit she never wore again. Aunts telling her to eat, as if slices of chocolate cake would take away the pain.

Eating, and actually feeling somewhat better.

In fact, she remembered more of her Aunt Clarice's lasagna than she did of her mother. She'd always see that as a flaw--

Fat, disgusting loser.

--rather than a normal consequence of losing a mother early. She always hated herself, always wanted to smash the mirror--

Nothing. Nobody. No one will ever love you.

--but she never did. Instead, she ate.

It would make her feel better for a moment. Then, she'd remember how she looked and the circle of self-hatred would start anew.


It was in junior high that she realized just how fat she was. Previously, she allowed herself to half buy into her father's assertions of her prettiness. But with the burgeoning sexuality came an increased amount of insults.

She grew to be hyper-aware of her similarity to certain animals--

Whale. Pig. Dog.

--and started to learn the depth of cruelty in virtual strangers.

She ate more, she cried more, she had more balls of paper flung at the back of her head. She counted calories to no avail. She ate to keep from thinking; all she could think about was food.

In junior high, she learned just how worthless she was. But, it was also when she met Chloe.


Chloe sat next to her in fifth period; behind her was Pete. Chloe and Pete talked to each other, not really paying attention to her presence. It was fine with her - blending in was preferable to the horror that came with people noticing her girth.

Sometimes, she wanted to be a ghost. But mostly, she wanted to be thin. She wanted to be beautiful.

She didn't think it would come true.

One day her attempts at being invisible faltered, at least when it came to Chloe. She had heard the girl's voice saying, "Hey. Hey," but she had no clue it was directed at her until a finger poked into her shoulder.

Jody looked up in alarm; if someone had deigned to touch her, it would probably lead to a rather biting insult. "What?" she asked in a tiny voice.

"Are you okay?" Chloe asked. "You seem a little...spaced out."

"I'm fine," was her perfunctory response.

"Well, I was just--"

"Miss Sullivan," Mr. Thompson shouted, "does this little conversation of yours have to do with the Civil War?"

"No," she replied coolly. "I'm sorry."

After the bell rang, Chloe spoke to her again. "What I wanted to say you want to have lunch with us?" Jody stared at her blankly, so Chloe took it to mean she didn't understand the concept. "It would be me. Pete. Clark. Do you know Clark?"

"I've seen him around," Jody mumbled. She looked over to Pete, who wore a look of sympathy. Her eyes moved back to Chloe, who she couldn't read at all. "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why would you want to have lunch with me?"

Chloe's smile became a little less wide. "Because I'm new around here and I want to get to know people. And because I've noticed you eat alone, so--"

Just charity. People can only look down on you.

"--I thought you might want to hang out with us."

Jody wasn't sure how to react. She didn't know if she could trust her at all. Still, she found herself saying, "Yes."

Chloe smiled.


Nothing bad happened at lunch. Clark and Pete were nice. Chloe was lovely. And when a couple of jocks a few tables down made pig noises, Chloe glared at them like she didn't have any fear.

Jody thought she could kiss Chloe for that. And she couldn't figure out where such a thought came from.

Chloe invited her to her place after school; she accepted.


"What was it like, living in Metropolis?" Jody asked as she tapped her fingers on Chloe's desk.

"Fun, I guess. Cities and small towns both have their advantages--" She paused. "Oh, who am I kidding? I loved it. Not that I hate it here. I mean, I adore Clark and Pete already--" Another pause, and then a big beautiful smile. "I'm rambling, aren't I? I'm sorry. I haven't let you talk at all."

"It's okay." Truth was, she loved listening to Chloe. She had a rhythm and energy all her own. "I don't have anything interesting to say."

"I'm sure you do."

Jody let out a bitter laugh that sounded like a snort--

Pig. Pig. Disgusting pig.

--and mumbled, "Like what? How everyone hates me? How I can't stand to look at myself?" She felt like she was going to cry. Finally, someone wanted to talk to her and all she could do was act--

Pathetic loser. Who could stand you?

--silly. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be." Chloe's face was etched in sympathy, but it seemed more honest than any pity look she had received before.

Jody wasn't sure whether to be happy or depressed. For once, she decided on happy.

"And, anyway," Chloe added, "I don't hate you."

Yes. She was definitely happy.


From then on, she became Chloe's friend. She wasn't one of the group, per say - Pete and Clark were the only standards in Chloe's life. Jody was on the periphery, sharing occasional lunches and after-school visits.

It wasn't much, but it was more than anyone had given her before.

It was more than enough. And, she even found a protector in Chloe, Pete, sometimes Clark. It didn't stop the taunts--

Pig. Dog. Fatso. Tons of fun.

--or her inner monologue--

Stupid. Disgusting. Pathetic. Never good enough.

--but it made her feel better than before.

And there were things that made her feel better than anything. Like Chloe's arm around her shoulders, Chloe playfully slapping her on the leg after a stupid joke.

Like Chloe in general.

She felt happy. Sometimes.


The first day of high school was awful. Chloe was preoccupied with Clark, who was preoccupied with Lana. The jocks' taunts came full blast, presumably recharged from a summer of holding it in.

She was miserable. But, that day, Chloe came over to her house. On and on she talked about the effects of the meteor crash. Jody listened, if only because she still loved how Chloe talked.

She'd grown to love it even more than before.

After that, Chloe's visits - and invitations for visits - became erratic. She was busy with the Torch. Not to mention Clark, Pete, her search for wisdom and truth. Usually, she just came over to get some clarity on the latest algebra lesson.

One day, it was all a bizarre blur. She came over muttering about what a crazy town Smallville was, switched into a diatribe on Clark's ambiguity, then asked for her notes from the last two days.

"I just don't get this," Chloe grumbled.

"It's not easy. I just have time to digest it all--"

Nobody wants to be seen with you. Lonely. Loser.

"--and, anyway, my dad is great at math so, I probably, you know, inherited it from him."

"Yeah." Chloe let out a sigh.

"You seem a little hyper today," Jody pointed out.

"I am. It's just...everything." She looked right into Jody's eyes. "Is there something wrong with me?"

"What? No."

"I just feel one notices me. I'm just some sort of outsider, someone that people mock, someone that no one listens to."

"I wouldn't know anything about that," she replied sarcastically. "Everyone just cares so much about me."

Chloe was silent. "I care about you," she said after a long stretch of empty space.

"Stop making fun of me," Jody snapped.

"I'm not."

"Yes you are." She could feel hot tears in her eyes. "Just stop it. Stop--"

She's too good for you. She's too good to be your friend. You're nothing.

"--Please, stop."

"Jody, calm down. You're my friend. I'm not making fun of you."

Her eyes were clouded with tears, so she couldn't see Chloe's face. But she felt pressure against her lips. Chloe's lips were on her own. Chloe was--

She'd never really want a fatso like you. Who do you think you're kidding?

--kissing her. Chloe couldn't be kissing her.

"Stop," Jody yelled as she pulled herself away. She wiped at her eyes, giving her a clear view of Chloe's confused face.

"I'm sorry if I freaked you out. I didn't mean to. It's just--"

You can't have this. You aren't good enough for this.

"--I like you, Jody."

'I like you, too,' was all she thought. But all she could utter was, "I can't do this. I can't. Just...get your algebra help from Clark from now on, okay?"

"Okay." Chloe's voice was small. Not the way she liked to hear it. "I'll see you at school."

With that, she was gone. Jody knew that the absence of Chloe might be a permanent thing.

She didn't want that.


That night, Jody looked at herself in the mirror. She saw everything to hate--

Puffy cheeks. Double chin. Huge frame.

--and nothing that anyone could like. Nothing good enough for Chloe.

She couldn't do it anymore. Couldn't stand thinking of all the reasons she wasn't good enough for someone's attention.

She couldn't stand it. So, she decided to make use of the vegetables out back. This time, it would work. This time, she'd be thin and perfect.

This time, she could kiss Chloe without feeling unworthy.


It didn't take long for the strange concoction to work its magic. She was thin, beautiful, like one of those models she'd longed to be. Pete's brotherly comfort turned to looks of lustful admiration. Chloe's affection turned to confused detachment.

Maybe it wasn't what she wanted, but it still felt better than the lonely nothing she'd lived in for years.

It was better. Everything was better. Later, she'd find the courage to kiss Chloe and everything would be perfection.

But, at the moment, she had bigger problems at hand.

She needed to eat.