The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing
by C.K. Kelly Martin
Publication date: September 1st 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Losing weight over the summer gains Serena some popularity, but it also means discovering first-hand the pains of being a fifteen-year-old girl in a world that both sexualizes and shames young women. After narrowly avoiding exploitation in a shortlived relationship, Serena aligns with a new friend who was the victim of an explicit image that was shared at school. When Serena finds herself in a relationship with a new guy, she is surprised to find a different set of expectations. But have her previous experiences damaged her too much to make it work? As Serena struggles to find who she is as opposed to who she is expected to be, she begins sighting Devin – her older brother who disappeared months earlier.
My stomach sinks as I scan in a box of tissues for the chunky woman in front of me. Why is it that the first thing I’ve noticed about her is that she’s overweight? Maybe she’s an amazing humanitarian or the best brain surgeon in the country.
For the record I’ve gained eight pounds back in the last six weeks. If I don’t stop I could be that woman and the first thing that cashiers will notice about me is my weight.
I act extra nice with the woman to make up for all mean things I’m thinking about us both. I need to get back to that headspace I was in on New Year’s; I can’t let a single comment from a loser like Wyatt bring me down.
The next guy in line takes all the items out of his basket for me and then hands over the basket itself. “Thanks,” I tell him. I scan his shower gel, shaving cream, copy of Sports Illustrated, and a package of ladybug hairclips, all the while thinking he probably jerks off to the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated, fantasizing about orgies. If he already knew me he’d smile at me to my face but secretly think that my chub was returning.
“Shit,” he says under his breath. His hands disappear swiftly into his pockets. “I don’t think I have my ATM card.”
“We take cash,” I tell him, sounding vaguely bored. He’s too good-looking for me to want to smile at, but of course I can’t be rude.
“Yeah, I know.” He smiles at me. His almost shoulder length hair is half a shade too dark to qualify as dirty blond, and he has grey eyes and a couple of freckles on his nose but not anywhere else. The grin makes him look like a nice guy, but do you think I believe that?
“Do you want me to cancel the transaction while you go look in your car?” I suggest.
“No, that’s okay.” He pulls out a wad of bills from his back pocket. “I have cash too.”
Congratulations, I say silently. You’re quite the superhero.
The guy presses a couple of bills into my hands and waits for me to punch in the numbers on the register. Hang on, what’s this? I separate the bills he’s given me and stare at the glittering pink heart sticker in my hand. I flip it over automatically, like when you’re checking both sides of a twenty-dollar bill to make sure it’s genuine. There’s a wobbly “A” printed on the back of the sticker in orange crayon.
Does he think he’s being cute or was it an honest mistake? “Here,” I tell him as I hand the sticker over, “have your heart back.” I say it with a hint of accusation (because guys suck and good-looking guys suck the worst) but like I’m really kidding around underneath it all.
He makes a kind of ah-ha noise, like the thing must’ve gotten mixed in with his bills by accident, and slips it into his wallet. “Have a good night,” I say and present him with his Total Drug Mart bag.
“You too.” He pats his wallet in his front pocket. “Thanks for noticing that.”
How could I not notice? It was glittering and pink.
I nod and turn to the next person in line, my stomach gurgling at the sight of a box of Oreos in front of me on the counter. I don’t need them, I tell myself, and I don’t need to be hot either. I don’t need to be any one thing in particular to be happy. It sounds so true that I wish I could one-hundred-percent believe it.
About the author
C.K. KELLY MARTIN’s bestselling debut novel, I Know It’s Over, was published in 2008. It was followed by One Lonely Degree, The Lighter Side of Life and Death, My Beating Teenage Heart and the sci-fi thriller, Yesterday. A graduate of the Film Studies program at York University, Martin loves good books, movies, music, web design, and Ireland. She currently resides in Oakville, Ontario.
- A selection of YA fiction from Dancing Cat Books' fall releases
(4 books including a print copy of The Sweetest Thing You Can Sing)