Learning The Garden Of The Body is now available at Amazon.com as a paperback or an e-book:
Faye Stevens doesn’t belong to any cliques in her high school. She keeps mostly to herself. Her goal is to do well in school and practice for a half marathon with her sister Cynthia to honour their mother who passed away from cancer. So when Janet Pierce, one of the most popular girls in the school, asks her to be her friend, Faye is very surprised. After Faye learns what happened to Janet’s older sister, Faye realizes how similar their experiences are. Faye is about to learn that internal strength is much more attractive than physical appearance.
The First Chapter:
Learning the Garden of the Body
By D. Watt
Faye brushed strands of her blonde hair away from her eyes. She set her Canon EOS Rebel T3 camera on her desk, the one her father had given her. She had told him about the school’s Photo Club and without a word he had gone into his room and come back with the camera. She could hardly hear him when he mumbled to her that it was her mother’s and she would want Faye to have it. She saw his hands shake as he wiped the dust off the black cover. He kept mostly to himself now since her mother’s death.
She heard laughter behind her. She glanced over her right shoulder and saw Janet Pierce surrounded by three boys that looked between sixteen to eighteen years of age. Janet’s auburn hair hung just below her shoulders and her dazzling green eyes seemed to engulf everything they saw. Faye felt small around her. It was the first day of the Photo Club and she didn’t know much about Janet other than at sixteen, she was new and already considered one of the most attractive girls in the school. Faye didn’t think the boys with her belonged to the Photo Club.
“Thanks for letting me know,” she heard Janet say to the boys in a sweet but disinterested voice.
Faye’s dark blue eyes widened as she saw Janet come over to her. The boys looked on for a moment longer before leaving. “Hi, Faye, right?” Janet asked her. “I’m Janet.”
“Hi,” Faye said back, trying to grasp why Janet would talk to her.
“I heard your sister is taking Health and Fitness at November College, and that you train together on the weekends. You look like you’re in really good shape.”
“Thanks.” Faye didn’t know if this was a ruse, but the boys were gone so Janet had no reason to mock her.
“I was wondering if you and I could work out together. Boys are always willing to show me, but they seem more interested in touching the muscles I’m supposed to be working. I don’t really think they know how to exercise properly.” Faye wasn’t sure what to say. “Okay?” Janet asked, pen in hand eyeing Faye’s notepad as Mr. Roberts came in.
“Okay,” Faye replied, feeling awkward. She had heard from Cynthia that in school there was a hierarchy and clique. Janet talking to her seemed to be a tear in that hierarchy.
Janet quickly wrote something on Faye’s notepad. “That’s my phone number and e-mail. I don’t have a cell phone or palm communicator. I would love to meet her,” Janet said before returning to her desk. Faye carefully tore off the section of paper with Janet’s phone number and e-mail and put it into her left pocket.
For the next hour she listened intently to what Mr. Roberts said about the different modes available to digital cameras. She learned that Landscape had a larger aperture opening to take in more light and that Portrait made a person’s skin look softer. When the class finished, she packed up her camera and headed for the door.
In the hallway, she bumped into Mary Lou. She and Mary Lou were about the same height but Mary Lou’s hair shone like the black feathers of a crow. Her blue eyes seemed larger behind her thick glasses. They knew each other from junior high and agreed to walk home together after their separate clubs. Faye always felt better walking with someone else in the fall and winter when it became dark so early. “Hope Photo Club was more interesting than Chess Club,” Mary Lou said conversationally. “We learned the name of each piece and how they moved. I learned that when I was five!”
“Must be a lot of people in the club who’ve never played before,” Faye suggested.
“Duds you mean,” Mary Lou replied. Faye didn’t belong to any group so she didn’t feel the need to use their slang. Mary Lou hung out with Sharon Klaus and Nelly Menther. All three girls wore thick lensed glasses and loved to mock other people. Faye figured Mary Lou talked to her because Mary Lou didn’t know if Faye belonged to a clique or not.
“Heard you have Janet Pierce in the Photo Club. What’s she like? Full of herself?”
“I don’t know,” Faye replied.
Mary Lou tended to take over conversations. “Heard she was a track and field star at her other school,” Mary Lou said. “And her sister was a star athlete and model, but she died losing too much weight.”
“Oh,” Faye managed to say. She felt a pain in her heart, remembering how her older sister Cynthia had almost died from an eating disorder. That Janet was a track and field star also hurt. She and Cynthia were practicing to run a half marathon for cancer research. They wanted to run the marathon to honor their mother who died of ovarian cancer six years ago. She put her left hand in her pocket and felt the paper with Janet’s e-mail and phone number.
Mary Lou continued to gossip about other people, but Faye wasn’t paying attention. The fact that Janet had lost her sister to an eating disorder made her feel emotionally drained. Nothing Mary Lou had told her made Janet sound like a snob, or cruel. Part of Faye felt jealous that Janet had three boys hovering around her for attention, but another part felt relieved. Faye kept to herself most of the time, so the constant attention would drive her crazy.
“Karen Lee started seeing Jason Bass behind Lee Ann Mercer’s back,” Mary Lou said as they came to the cross street with Mary Lou’s house on it.
“See you in History class,” Faye said, waving and walking quickly up the street towards her house.
Faye got to her front door and fumbled for her keys. She opened the door and immediately went to the living room to pick up the phone and call Cynthia. “Hello,” answered a bouncy feminine voice.
“Marla?” Faye asked.
“Hi Faye,” Marla replied. Marla Dane and Cynthia had become friends in Grade Twelve after Cynthia met her at Denny’s Grocery, where they both worked as cashiers. Faye could picture Marla with her unruly brown hair, and thick glasses, sitting on the floor cross-legged, watching TV.
“Is Cynthia there?” Faye asked in a small voice.
“No honey. But she’s fine, she’s just in class. I’ll let her know to call you.”
“Thanks,” Faye said in the same little girl’s voice. She hung up. She sat on the couch and hugged herself, wiping away tears. Marla knew that Cynthia had been hospitalized for bulimia and that she and Faye had lost their mother to ovarian cancer, so she always understood when Faye called to see if Cynthia was okay. Faye had tried to tell herself not to call every time she worried, but gave up. She was strong, except when it came to her immediate family. In her memories, her mother stood tall, always shadowing Faye in her avatar light, but from day one Cynthia was her idol. It wasn’t time to make dinner so she grabbed her knapsack and headed up to her room.
Her red laptop sat closed on her desk. Through babysitting during summer holidays she had paid half the price of the laptop, and her father the other half. She opened it and turned it on. While the software loaded, she unzipped her knapsack and pulled out her schoolwork. Her eyes lingered on Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights” and she wondered why the high school curriculum wanted students to read all the depressing stories. She double clicked the Internet icon as the phone rang. She grabbed it, “Hello?”
“Hi Faye,” she heard Cynthia say. “I’m good. You okay?”
“Uh-huh.” Faye couldn’t keep the childish voice from coming out of her mouth.
“What’s wrong Faye?”
The tears gushed out of Faye’s eyes. She grasped the receiver with both hands. “The sister of a girl I met at school died because she wouldn’t eat enough!” she blurted out.
“I’m sorry, Faye. We have a deal, remember? Health first, and looks second. We’re going to be true to ourselves first, not to others. Besides, healthy bodies look better.”
Faye wiped her tears away. She brushed her hair back. “I remember.” Her voice sounded more mature now.
“You’re still coming up this weekend?”
Cynthia’s question perked Faye up. “I made three kilometres!”
“Me too!” she heard Cynthia say excitedly. “I think we should try to go a bit farther on Saturday. And don’t forget I signed us up for that nutrition workshop on Sunday.”
“I have to go,” she heard Cynthia say. “And everything’s good.”
“Bye,” Faye said.
She looked at her laptop screen, took in a deep breath, and typed in Janet’s e-mail address.
‘Hi Janet,’ she typed.
‘I heard about your sister.’ Faye erased the sentence.
‘I heard you’re a track and field champion. Does that mean you know how to weight train properly? If you don’t, I can teach you the proper way.’
She hit Send and left the Internet on as she headed downstairs to prepare supper. She glanced at the time. Her father should be home in about an hour. The deal was she made supper since he couldn’t cook more than bacon and eggs, and he did the dishes so she could work on homework.
Cynthia had given her a used copy of Dr. Barry Sears’ book, The Zone, which included a number of meal plans. “Three things to remember,” Cynthia had said when she gave Faye the book, “three major meals: breakfast, lunch, and supper, with two to three healthy in-between snacks to hold you over; about a quarter plate of protein, a quarter plate of complex carbs, and about two-quarters of a plate of high water content vegetables. Plus the substitution chart to keep it healthy and give variety.”
Faye knew her father needed more protein than she did, so she looked at the palm of one of his hands and guessed, from its size and thickness, the amount of protein he should have at supper. Today, she wanted to cook frozen salmon as the protein source, brown rice mixed with white rice for the complex carb, and broccoli with a separate salad that included dandelion and beet leaves with romaine lettuce for the high water content carbs. She wished everything could be fresh, but that was rare because she needed a ride to the grocery store and her father’s budget was tight. She found it hard to ignore the temptation to walk down the middle aisle and buy the processed foods, so she repeated the mantra Cynthia had taught her: “Eat healthy, be healthy.”
She looked at the clock on the stove. Everything would be fine for at least fifteen minutes. She went back to her room to get Wuthering Heights so she could read it while keeping an eye on supper. She glanced at her laptop screen. There were two new messages, one from Mary Lou, probably gossip, and another from Janet. She clicked on the one from Janet.
How are you?
I’ve worked out a few times with weights. Like I told you, guys are always explaining to me how to lift heavy weights, but I don’t think too many know what they’re doing. Usually they’re just showing off.
I used to play sports like tennis, soccer, basketball, and intramural floor hockey to keep active year-round. I’m good at track and field, and I can help you when it gets warmer with outdoor exercises if you want.
I’d really like to work out with you with the weights and learn the proper way! I also have a pet project, if you’re interested, that I would like you to help me get started. It’s a school modelling magazine that would include everyone! We could set up photo shoots for those willing to participate. No try-outs, I don’t want this to be competitive.
I’m hoping you’ll teach me proper weight training and that we can work together on the modelling magazine.
PS see you in Photo Club!
Faye wondered why one of the best looking girls in the school wanted to include her in a fashion magazine? Or even want to talk to her? She glanced at her clock. She clicked on Reply:
I work out on my spares, Mondays at 10 a.m. for an hour. Wednesdays at noon, and Thursdays first thing in the morning at 8 a.m. Let me know if any of those work.
Faye felt her heart pitter patter with excitement. Taking model shots would help her develop her photographic skills and force her to work more with Photo Shop.