• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 07

The river monster

I think my belly rolls are well-hidden under the blue wrap I borrowed from my mum. The sun is scorching as we sit on the pier. I’d love to go for a swim but Claire thinks proper ladies never get wet, they just show off on the beach. She and Tanya giggle about something to my left but I’m concentrating too hard on sucking my belly in to be able to hear what they’re saying. Suddenly, Claire leans to me and says in a loud whisper, “Soph, you’re all right.” She looks at me meaningfully. What’s she saying?

“But we can’t risk being seen with you anymore,” she goes on. “You know …” Her cold blue eyes drop to my waist before she looks at my face again. “We just don’t fit.” The hint of a smile on her thin lips is as sharp as a shard of glass in my gut.

Claire’s hair is tied into ponytails and she wears sunglasses with glittery pink frames. I don’t even own a pair of sunglasses and Mum needs hers, so I borrowed my father’s aviators. I thought they made me cool but the way Claire glances at them atop of my head I probably look ridiculous. It doesn’t matter how hard I try to imitate her, I’ll always be Fat Soph.

A muggy heaviness presses on my shoulders as Claire leaves me on the pier. Tanya follows her like a puppy along the crowded river bank. Their pink swimming suits glimmer in the sunshine. The only thing that glimmers on me is the sweat.

At least I can go swim now. I’m about to go to the end of the pier to jump in when a shadow falls over me.

“Hey,” a boy says as he sits down next to me without even asking for permission.


The river monster

I refuse to greet him back. But I notice his hair is sun-bleached to near white and his hand on the pier is tanned except for in-between his fingers. He’s skinny but much taller than me, although he seems my age.

He gestures behind us with his head. “Is she bothering you?”

I fake a frown. “Who?”

“The river monster.”

I bite the inside of my mouth to stop myself from laughing. He doesn’t deserve a laugh yet.

“Claire?” I shake my head. “Nah.”

“She’s vile.” His brown eyes have a hard glint in them. “Last summer she told everyone my trunks smell of pee.”

I snort with laughter. “Yes, she is vile.”

He looks satisfied with my response. “They don’t, by the way. Smell of pee.”

I roll my eyes but I can’t stifle the giggle. “You up for a swim?”

“Sure.” He jumps up. Offering his hand to help me up, he says, “Cool aviators.”