Supermodels were tall.
And thin, super thin.
Berry had the height but not the weight. Or maybe she had too much of the weight. She was a big girl all over, tall and intimidating and she didn’t want to be.
“An Amazon!” T.B. would crow, while slapping her on her back. “Our very own Xena: Warrior Princess.”
“You’re beautiful.” Jason would tell her. “Don’t let those assholes get you down.”
It didn’t help. Being tall sounded awesome until you were the only girl towering over every boy in the class, until girls made fun of you for being too much of a tomboy and boys ran away because you were so much bigger than them.
When Berry had shot up in height in the seventh grade, her mother had beamed at her.
“Tall, just like your grandmother! Just like a Jägerbar should be!”
And her father had just absently kissed her forehead on the way to work.
“Be as tall as me soon, baby girl.”
And no one seemed to realize just how terrible being tall really was. And it just got worse because she just kept growing. Awkward and clumsy and three times too tall. She was a walking disaster, running into things and knocking things over while everybody laughed.
In the eighth grade, she had fallen in love with one of her classmates, a friend of Jason’s and T.B’s who would hang out with them sometimes. Kevin had been nice to her, if a little inattentive, but she had been certain he was the one for her.
It had taken her months to work up the courage. She certainly hadn’t told Jason or T.B her plans (they were great but they were boys) and one summer day she had confessed her feelings to Kevin in the park outside her home.
“What?!” he had exclaimed, horrified. “I can’t date you, you’re taller than me! That’s gross!”
And then he had run away and Berry’s heart had broken. On the plus side, as soon as Jason and T.B. found out (and Kevin, idiot that he was, had been the one to tell them) they had beat him up and swore never to hang out with him again.
Of course, they had been grounded for the next two weeks which meant it was like Berry had been grounded too. Without Jason and T.B., who else did she have? She moped around the house the entire time until her friends were set free.
And every year, when the school year started, she’d think to herself, ‘this is it, it’s going to get better’ but then she’d just get taller so even if the boys grew, it didn’t matter. She was still the tallest person in her grade.
She spend her first two years of high school slouching and hiding in the back of her class, Jason and T.B surrounding her like body guards. Certainly didn’t try to date or even talk to other boys and her mother seemed a little worried about her. Berry went out and bought all those girl magazines that were supposed to teach you how to be pretty and put on makeup while locked away in her room.
She always washed it off afterwards because no amount of makeup was going to make her shorter. She grew her hair out, hoping it would make her look more like the women on the covers of those magazines. Jason and T.B seemed utterly baffled with what she was trying to do, but supported her anyway, complimenting her when she wore dresses and buying her sparkly hair clips for her birthday.
It didn’t help; the girls still made fun of her, the boys still ignored her.
Her junior year she said ‘fuck it’.
She cut off all her hair, tried out for the football team and made it in and if anybody made a snide comment about her height, they met her fist.
By her senior year, she stomped around in combat boots that gave her an extra three and a half inches, was the star of their football team, and wore pink lipstick like the badge of courage it was. She was also on probation with her school, saying if she got into one more fight, they were kicking her out.
Her parents weren’t too pleased with that, even if Jason and T.B. had high-fived her over the warning letter. And that was why she was over at Von Hamelin because for some reason her father thought if she helped out with kids ‘who were actually doing things with their life that didn’t involve physical violence’, it would teach her some sort of valuable lesson.
Besides, he added, it would look good on your college applications.
Further proof her dad had no idea how high school worked. These kids were ten times more vicious than any football player she had come across. Vicious, ruthless and cruel, all squabbling for something called first chair.
Berry had no clue, didn’t want to know, simply kept her head down and helped Mrs. Dotson, the music theory teacher. She was a friend of her father’s which is how Berry ended up here in the first place. Mrs. Dotson ran some after school program for underprivileged children. Teaching them music and letting them play instruments.
Secretly, Berry found it fun. All the kids were under the age of five and so excited to get to bang on drums or shake maracas. And they loved how tall Berry was, always asking her to scoop them up in her arms and zoom them about. She’d never admit that to her dad, of course. Always sulked whenever he asked her how it was going and acted like it was the most horrible thing in the world.
She was just leaving Von Hamelin, program done for the day, walking out the door and outside when someone slammed into her. She barely budged of course, but the guy nearly fell over and with lightning fast reflexes Berry caught his arm and held him up.
The guy blinked up at her and she had just registered that he was attractive in a blond preppie sort of way when he jerked his arm out of her grasp.
“Watch were you’re going, you fucking sasquatch.” he sneered, before shoving past her and disappearing into the building.
Berry stood there furious and humiliated and seriously considered doing the Roh-hatz like her mother wanted, and using that boy in particular when someone said,
“Don’t listen to him; he’s an asshole.”
She turned, startled, to find a boy her age sitting on top of the brick planter along the front of the building. He was handsome, curly black hair and bright blue eyes and Berry felt herself flush. He had a violin case over one knee.
As she drifted closer, his scent hit her (a Reinegen!) and she felt her features waver for one brief second. It was all he needed, eyes widening even as he scrambled to his feet.
“Don’t go!” she pleaded, pushing the bear down. “I won’t hurt you.”
He stopped, already a few feet away. Reinegen were quick, so quick and that was why she hadn’t noticed him there in the first place. They were masters at hiding, too.
“Jägerbar?” he said warily, still looking ready to flee. She nodded bashfully.
“Non-traditional.” she was quick to tell him, not quite a lie. Her mother and father fought about that constantly but Berry hadn’t really decided one way or another. Honestly? She had other, more important things to worry about. Like surviving high school.
He was frowning at her and even his frown was cute, crinkling the skin between his eyebrows.
“I haven’t seen you here before.”
She shook her head.
“No, I just help with the after school program. You know? Mrs. Dotson.”
She took a few careful steps towards him and when he didn’t run, she beamed at him.
He was eying her curiously like he was trying to figure her out and then, suddenly, he smiled. And if she thought his frown was cute, his smile made her knees want to buckle and her heart do a ridiculous thump in her chest.
“Nice to meet you, Berry.”
Her face was burning, she could feel it. She didn’t know what to do here because, quite frankly, boys still ran from her even if now she sneered at them instead of crying. So she just stood there, blushing furiously as he smiled at her.
“I’ve got to go.” He held up his violin. “Practice.”
She nodded, a little sad that their little meeting was over so quick and he headed for the door, opening it up and stepping through. He stopped in the doorway though, looked over his shoulder.
“Maybe I’ll see you around?”
“I’m here every Tuesday and Thursday.”
“Then I’ll see you Thursday.”
And then he was gone, leaving Berry standing there, goofy smile on her face.