BY: SHERYL L MCGINNIS

She just wants people to accept her for the kind, caring person she is—to look beyond the outside and see what’s inside…

Kylee Rose Williams, RN, has lived with taunts about her full figure or her generous frame—or whatever the words du jour were for a woman of her size—all her life. Humiliation seems to accompany Kylee everywhere she goes. People talked about her gorgeous green eyes or her stunningly beautiful face, but these things aren’t said with sincerity or admiration, only as a pointed insult to offset their cruel remarks about her obesity. Then Dr. Duff Robertson enters her life and shows her how glorious it can be. But Kylee’s insecurities and inability to trust push him away. Can she learn to accept herself and trust that others can too, or will she lose her one chance at happiness through her failure to understand that there are more important things in life than numbers on a scale?

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: in Weighing in on Love and Life, by Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis, Kylee Williams is an overweight RN who knows how unhealthy obesity can be. But try as she might, she can’t seem to drop the weight. And when people are thoughtless and cruel, as they so often are, Kylee comforts herself with carbohydrates, even though she knows that’s not the answer. Then Duff comes into her life. He’s perfect for her and seems to see her for what she truly is, a beautiful, kind, and caring person.

It’s refreshing to see an author with the courage to make her heroine someone other than the usual slim and lithe beauty queens. A feel good story that will make you smile.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Weighing in on Love and Life by Sheryl McGinnis is about being a misfit in today’s beauty-crazed society and about how cruel people can be to those of us outside the norm. It’s also about looking at and seeing the whole person and not judging someone based on looks alone. Kylee Williams weighs around 300 pounds, and that is after dropping over 50 pounds. She is also a sweet, kind, and caring RN. She’s also way too used to hearing the cruel and degrading things people say without thinking and she knows how cutting words can be.

It’s a treat to find an author with the courage to make an obese single mother the heroine of a romance novel. McGinnis handles this difficult subject with sensitivity and finesse, reminding us that people are more than the sum of what they look like, something we all need to be reminded of now and then

CHAPTER 1

Rrrippp! What the–Rrrippp. No, no, this can’t be happening. This is my “fat” shirt. My comfy shirt. My go-to shirt. Why does it have me in such a stranglehold around the arms? I can’t believe it. Dammit! Now what? I refuse to buy a larger size. But face it, girl, unless you want to go outside in your birthday suit, you’d better scrounge through that pile of old clothing you swore you’d never wear again. The fat-fat clothes. You know, the ones you were going to donate to a worthy charity but held on to just in case…Well, just in case is here. I really didn’t see it coming. Well, maybe I did just a little bit when…oh hell, what does it matter when? What matters is that it did happen and I’m singing the same old weary song. And I just want to SCREAM!

The distinctive ring of her cell phone signaling that Serena was calling interrupted her pity party and stemmed the onslaught of curses she was leveling at herself. She was in an absolute tailspin, ranging from self-pity to well-deserved anger with herself to feelings of hopelessness.

Had her son, Liam, not been home, she knew she would have been screaming like a banshee at the death of her self-esteem.

Heavily drug-addicted people couldn’t berate themselves more than she could criticize herself. She understood their abject defeat, self-recrimination, and self-loathing. It was a vicious cycle that she engaged in on a regular basis, each time hoping that some miracle would pull her out of the deepening pit of self-destruction. And she knew it would indeed take a miracle, some divine intervention to whop her over the head and set her straight. Because, so far, kicking herself in the butt both figuratively and almost literally wasn’t working.

Taking a couple of deep breaths, Kylee picked up her cell and said, “I’m nearly ready Serena. Liam is ready, of course. Give us two minutes, okay?”

“Not a problem. I’ll be right here in your driveway under the shade of your beautiful Sycamore, trying not to melt. So I hope your two minutes really is two minutes and not a second more or else you might have to scoop me up in a bucket.”

Serena’s life was always on fast forward, it seemed, from her busy and challenging shifts at the hospital to the volunteer work she did at the local women’s shelter and walking the shelter dogs at the local humane society. So taking two minutes to sit and relax in the quiet of her car surrounded by the beauty that was Kylee’s front yard, with its groupings of hostas, roses, and a myriad of other flowers was something she really enjoyed.

Okay the first thing that fits is what goes over my head.

Walking outside, with Liam scooting ahead of her, Kylee stopped for a few seconds and looked up to admire the beautiful tree whose limbs stretched from the trunk and extended over the house and all the way past her front porch. It helped keep her house cool in the summer, which was a huge plus. On the downside, she always worried what could happen if a big storm came through and uprooted this magnificent tree, whose arms held many creatures from squirrels to woodpeckers and a collection of many beautiful birds. Not to mention the damage it could do to her entire house. Or even, perish the thought, to Liam.

She didn’t worry so much about herself but if anything happened to Liam, she didn’t know what she’d do. He was the light of her life and they were more than mother and child. He’d been known to tell his friends that his mom was his best friend, the very thought of which always made Kylee’s heart melt with gratitude. He was what made up for all the unkindness she’d experienced. As long as she had him, she could withstand anything. If only I could lose weight to make him proud of me besides just loving me. Just? I can’t believe I thought that. Kylee, you’re hopeless.

Before opening the front door, she cast a sweeping glance around the living room and sighed. It was the family pictures. That’s what got her. Beautiful frames showcasing happy faces and heartwarming family scenes, some of her with Liam. They made her want to cry.

“What’s wrong?” The look on Kylee’s face was one of annoyance and it didn’t go unnoticed by Serena.

Shouting while opening the car door, Kylee exclaimed, “I want ‘Afters’ and not all ‘Befores.’ Just one recent ‘After’ would mean so much.”

“Okay,” Serena said, pointing to her chest, “Serena here, not Madame Mind Reader. What on earth are you talking about?”

“Look at me,” Kylee said, pointing at her body. “Every picture of me shows me looking like this–like a ‘before’ picture you see in magazines and in ads on TV of how a person used to look before they lost weight. Then they show the ‘After’ pictures of the same person, looking stunning in their new slim body. Well, I’m sick of every damn one of my pictures still being ‘Befores.’ I want some ‘Afters.’ Yeah, I know I sound like a Loony Tune. But it just occurred to me I’m a ‘Before’ and–and–”

Serena couldn’t help but smile and shake her head. Interrupting Kylee’s rant, she interjected, “Then how about a ‘Now’ picture? I suppose there’s something to be said for a ‘Now’ picture as in ‘Now, I’m here and alive and this is me and if you don’t like it, you can stick it up your jumper.’ Is that better?”

“It’s original. I’ll give you that,” Kylee said as she sat down on the car seat and felt the heat on her thighs. “I made it with a minute to spare so let’s go before I change my mind.” The shortness of breath clutched at her chest but she ignored it, hoping it would go away as it usually did once she calmed down.

It was one of those beautiful, but hot and sultry, humid summer days in south Philly, the kind that make everything stick to you and cause your hair to cling to your neck. The girls with the long hair, that is. The smart ones, it seemed, had cropped their hair short after the winter weather had passed. It had been a long, cold winter and an unseasonably cool spring. Blue skies and puffy white clouds seemed like a gift from heaven, putting smiles on everyone’s faces.

Kylee Rose Williams and her BFF, Serena Yvette Ducheneaux, were strolling in the park, admiring all the wares for sale at the various booths and craft tables. Kylee’s eleven-year-old son, Liam, was with them, bouncing alongside anxious to visit the humane society’s pet adoption booth. He had one thing on his mind and for once it wasn’t food.

Today was the tenth annual fundraiser for the local humane society and, as usual, the park was overflowing with people, from seniors to kids and babies in strollers. Dogs on leashes were pulling their guardians, running and sniffing everything in their paths, including the other dogs. Smiling faces were abundant, along with murmurings of “Man, can it get any hotter?” And the joyful sounds of people chatting and laughing interspersed with the raucous barking of dogs. At the adoption booth there were adorable dogs, all seeming anxious to be adopted, vying for everyone’s attention. The cats were quiet, or aloof, as some people might describe them. But they kept a wary eye on all the people. Some meowed, cocking their heads to the side and raising their little paws on the cages, begging to be noticed. Others were nonplussed and slept peacefully, while still others were playing with their toys.

Please let this be an uneventful outing for once, Kylee begged some unknown gods in her head. Just once, please. Let me be invisible to everyone. She walked along the road with visions of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak swirling in her head, alongside her wish for a pleasant day.

If it weren’t for Serena’s badgering her to get out of the house and Kylee’s desire to please her son, she knew she’d never leave her comfort zone.

She neither desired nor sought attention from anyone, always carefully avoiding eye contact with strangers. That way she couldn’t see the look of disgust on their faces as their eyes traveled up and down her body, lingering on every lump and bump and, in her mind, making ill-concealed judgments of her. They never seemed to cast such disparaging looks at Serena. Instead, she was sure they were comparing the two of them and wondering how such a lovely, delicate flower as Serena could want to be seen with such a mountain of a woman as Kylee.

The air was redolent with the aroma of various mouth-watering ethnic foods. They were competing for the olfactory senses with scented flowers that were blooming in profusion at different vendors’ stalls. There were wine tasting booths from wineries and vineyards in the Greater Philadelphia area; food tasting booths from local restaurants, including start-up businesses to well-established ones; and mom and pop stores. There was enough food to feed an army and an eclectic variety sure to please everyone’s palate. It included the famous Philly pretzels with rock salt and mustard and, of course, the mouth-watering Philly cheesesteaks from two of the biggest competitors in town.

A trip to Philly was not complete without stopping at one of the many pretzel vendors’ carts and then strolling down Broad Street, big delicious pretzel in hand and gobs of mustard on your mouth. It was one of Kylee’s guilty pleasures, that and the phenomenal cheesesteaks and, if she were completely honest with herself, the main reason she allowed Serena to talk her into leaving her home and mingling with the crowd. Food. It was what drove her. Sure, she actually did enjoy the visits to the museum and other cultural splendors but nothing could get her moving like the thought of indulging in the joy of eating–just like normal people.

Serena knew the tantalizing aromas were driving Kylee crazy so she took her by the arm and steered her away from the food tents. But there was no escaping the delicious scents wafting throughout the park.

The temperature was beginning to climb higher and it was still early in the day. Kylee was already regretting her decision to wear the long sleeved black blouse she’d found in the so-called charity box in the back of her closet. But on such short notice she’d had no choice. It was too late to go shopping or to try to repair her fat shirt. No, my fat-fat shirt, she reminded herself with resignation. Her black cotton Capri pants were a bit more comfortable but even they couldn’t conceal her girth. Being clad in black from head to toe was a desperate attempt to make her appear slimmer when all it did was bring unwanted attention to her and scream “I’m fat!” How she would love to wear bright, vivid colors but she knew they would make her look like a giant walking bouquet of droopy flowers.

Serena, on the other hand, looked as fresh as a daisy with a bright white cotton sundress tied at the waist with a narrow yellow belt that emphasized her small slim figure. She wore fashionable multi-colored wedge shoes while Kylee wore a pair of beige sandals not even having the courage to wear color on her feet.

A small group of teen girls in skin tight jeans shorts and figure-hugging, low-cut tank tops, wearing heavy makeup and being loud and obnoxious, passed by them and began giggling. Kylee’s breath caught and her stomach flip-flopped. She knew what was coming.

Please don’t say anything. Please. Maybe if I smile at them, they’ll realize I’m a person too and will be nice to me. Or at least not overtly mean like some other times. Maybe–

“Better throw your ice cream cone away, Marley, or you may end up looking like her,” the loudest one in the group snickered although they pretended to whisper.

Kylee now understood the meaning of stage whisper. They all laughed, high-fived one another, and then continued on their way, with no apparent concern about the emotional wreckage they left in their wake. Kylee didn’t have to turn her head to know she was the object of their derisive remarks. She’d heard such comments, and worse, all her life. What hurt the most, though, was the knowledge that Liam might have heard them, too.

With her long, wavy golden-red hair, Patrician good looks, and stunning emerald-green eyes, she might have been a knockout. Maybe by Rubenesque standards, she mused. Standing at five feet, eight inches and with all those extra pounds, she really stood out in a crowd, but not in a good way. Kylee was pleased with herself for losing fifty pounds in the past three years but she was still obese. She felt good but not healthy. As a nurse she knew that carrying extra weight was not good but, try as she might, she couldn’t shake off the last of it. It stuck to her like cement to a wall, a very large, cellulite-laden wall.

Tear drops were threatening to slide down her face but she caught them with a practiced hand. A habit that was second nature after so many gallons of tears that she’d cried throughout her life.

Serena hugged her and wiped away a stray tear that had just slipped down Kylee’s cheek. “I know it’s easy for me to say, Ky, but ignore them. They’re just punk kids, spoiled brats who need a good ass whooping, if you ask me. They may think they’re hot but they aren’t. You’re the beautiful one, sweetie.”

Grabbing a tissue from her purse Kylee blew her nose. With exasperation, she tossed the tissue in one of the many trash cans and recycle bins that were spread throughout the park. “I wish I could throw this extra weight away with such ease. Thank you. What would I ever do without your support? I’ve tried so hard Serena, so damn, freaking hard to regain that willpower. I don’t know what’s wrong. It’s as if the weight gods gave me one Lose Weight ticket and I used it all up before reaching my goal. ”

Kylee began sobbing in a discreet manner, not wanting Liam to see his mother so unhappy but unable to stem the tide. She was despondent over the unfairness of it all. So many happy days ruined by an unkind remark or look of disgust aimed at her, which would, more often than not, send her into an eating binge. And the vicious cycle would begin again.

© 2015 by Sheryl Letzgus McGinnis