This is a short story for a competition that is hosted HERE on the forum.
The rules for April are:
One more minute. Just one more minute. Come on! Come on, you lard!
The thoughts became a mantra, propelling my legs forward through the pain while sweat rolled down my back. I kept my eyes trained on the calories I had burned, satisfaction bubbling up as the number slowly ticked up. 397. 398. 399. 400.
The treadmill whirled down as I reached the milestone, allowing me to disembark with ease. My head hung, eyes trained on my feet, while I made my way down aisles dotted with people who possessed the body I was so desperate to obtain. Those same people gawked, conversations dropping to whispers as I passed, and my face flushed scarlet. You would think I would be used to it; the staring, the whispers, the laughter. It had followed me around my whole life: Kacey, the porker. Wide load Kacey. Where’s your mom, Kacey? Did you eat her too? But I wasn’t. My face still burned scarlet at their words and my vision began to blur from the tears swelling up.
I didn’t like working out in public. I didn’t even like going out in general if I could help it, but my father had sold my gym equipment. He insisted that I was perfect the way I was. That I didn’t need to change anything about myself. But he was my father – father’s have to say those kind of things. It didn’t make it true. A quick glimpse in the mirror revealed the truth. Thunder thighs. Wide hips. Flabby arms. The longer I looked the longer the list became until there was nothing left but body parts that needed to be altered.
I tore my gaze from the full length mirrors, steps erratic, as I escaped into the evening air. I hurried home, not because I had anything to do there, but because I wanted to keep my heart rate up. I might as well burn more calories on my trek, and the thoughts fueled me until I arrived on my front doorstep.
“Kacey? Are you home? We’re eating dinner.” The melodic voice belonged to my sister, and I peeked my head into the kitchen to see my entire family already settled at the dinner table. A plate of spaghetti was situated before my normal seat.
Carbs are the devil, but I don’t say that, “I’m not hungry.”
My father pulled out my chair, patting the seat, “You know the rule about family dinner.”
I groan, but there’s no point in complaining. Instead I trudge over to the table and take my spot begrudgingly. Conversation flows easily between my sister and brother, and my father occasionally asks us all typical parental questions: How was our day? How was school? Yadda, yadda. I play with my pasta, spreading the noodles over the circumference of my plate, until my father leaves us to clean up.
It isn’t until I’m throwing my meal into the garbage that my sister speaks up, “Kacey, did you eat anything?”
Annoyance swells, an unstoppable tsunami, at the question. Violet is beautiful – tall, skinny, tan – and she doesn’t even try. She doesn’t have to work out or watch what she eats, she’s always been the prettier Suro, who is she to comment on what I do or do not eat, “It’s none of your business.”
“It is my business, you’re my sister. I think I’ve seen you eat one yogurt in the last week. That’s not healthy, Kacey. I mean, look at you -”
“Stop keeping track of what I’m doing. I know your life is sooo easy that you feel the need to butt into mine, but it’s annoying and quite frankly, it’s creepy, Violet.” The words are cold, venom dropping from every syllable, and I don’t wait around for her reply. Instead I stomp up the stairs, rolling my eyes when my father’s voice followed me – something about making too much noise. I slammed my bedroom door just to spite him.
The fact that tomorrow is a school day and I have a project vaguely registers in my mind, but I wander over to my mirror, peering into it endlessly even as the thought nags at the edges of my mind. I stripped down to my underwear, taking note every inch of skin that sagged with fat. It wasn’t fair. I worked so hard, put so much effort into my regimen, but the results escaped me. I pinched my side, repulsed by the rolls that plagued my stomach, before spinning in an attempt to take a mental record of my backside. The motion caused the room to spin, tilting the very axis on which I was standing. I took a deep breath but the spinning only increased, a cold sweat breaking out across my skin as black ate away at my vision. Another deep breath and then…
I’m being shaken. It feels far away, like I’m not really the person being touched, but when I open my eyes I can see caramel hands on my arms. The edge of my vision is still blurred, and the room teeters uncomfortably. I try to sit up but my body doesn’t obey. Violet is speaking – at least her mouth is moving – but my head feels like it is been torn into two and I can’t understand her. The room lurches again, and I close my eyes.
The room I wake up in is unfamiliar and smells of cleaning products. My eyes adjust to fluorescent lights and I realize that an IV is in my hand; my clothing replaced by a hospital gown. There’s a steady beeping, and the noise coming from outside the rooms is muffled. Violet is there, tears in her eyes. My mouth feels like it’s filled with cotton balls, but I manage to croak, “Water.”
She hands me a bottle, dark eyes filled with worry. Silence stretches between us as I chug the liquid, desperate for relief. It doesn’t last long, and as soon as the bottle leaves my chapped lips she begins, “You have to stop this Kacey.”
“Stop what? Why am I in the hospital?”
“That’s not my fault – “
“Because you haven’t been eating. You’ve been working your body past its breaking point every single day, Kacey.” Her voice is tired and pleading, and I roll my eyes at her.
“You don’t understand. You’re already skinny, you don’t know what it’s like -”
“Kacey, you weigh 87 pounds,” Violet takes a deep breath to steady her words, “You’re wasting away. The doctor said you are at risk for heart failure. Heart failure, Kacey!”
I can feel myself ball up, mentally locking myself away from her verbal attack. Her words seem far away, but I nod and force a smile every once in awhile in order to maintain the appearance that I am listening. When my father comes in with the doctor it’s more of the same, and I continue with ‘Yes sirs’ and ‘No sirs’ until I placate them into my release.
When we arrive home I lock myself in my room again. I stripped, and then continue where I left off.
Authors Note: Kacey suffers from body dysmorphic disorder and anorexia. We only see her in mirrors until the last picture, which is why we see Kacey as she perceives herself.
I apologize that the last image is funky – I’m not amazing at photoshop and was running out of time to submit this.