Trigger warning: disordered eating
She snaps her gum between her teeth, chomping down as if it'll curb her appetite. Her tongue pokes into the wad, stretching it thin.
He remembers when her tongue used to poke other things.
She's lucky if she can remember anything past that number. The one that burns into her retinas as she steps on the scale for the third time that day, because she ate an apple for lunch, and she needs to know. The scale hasn't budged. She kicks it, and hobbles at the pain as she leaves the bathroom. He hoists himself off the couch.
"You need some help?" Physical, emotional, mental- all of the above.
"No, just tripped. I'm fine." She feigns a smile, chews her stale gum. He gives her a kiss. It tastes like butterscotch. Sweet, delicious butterscotch from the pudding cup he devoured, as if it was no big deal to heap spoonfuls of sugar between his lips.
She's writhing with jealousy.
"Tony invited us to go to dinner with him and Wendy tomorrow night. There's this new pizza place they're dying to try." He pulls her down to the couch. Her bony body buries itself into his side.
Pizza. Carbs and sauces and cheese, and whoo, it can make a girl salivate.
It can make a girl fat.
Busy staring at that girl in the mirror, wondering how to whittle her into somebody worthy of adoration.
He shifts beneath her, sighing. "I thought you said you have off tomorrow."
She absentmindedly wraps her fingers around her wrist. Thumb to middle, thumb to ring, thumb to pinky.
The fingers connect.
"Sorry." She turns, a pointed elbow jabbing his gut. "But why don't you go? Have a slice for me, okay?"
And describe it in great detail as she tries to placate her taste buds, nibbling at a stalk of celery. She listens on, spots blurring her vision as he shows her pictures of the food. Her head is spinning.
It spins for a few more weeks, and she sits down, tugging her pants up. The phone rings.
She lets it go to voicemail.
He doesn't leave a message this time.
Another week goes by, and she leaves work to find him sitting on the bench outside.
"Let me give you a ride. It's raining."
Every step counts. Every step burns.
"I like the rain."
"Kassie, just get in the car." He opens the door for her, buckling her into the seat. The inside of his car smells like McDonalds, and there's a carton of fries sitting in his cup holder.
They're mocking her.
He gets in the driver's side, sending off a quick text. They exit the parking lot.
A few blocks down, he gets stuck at a red light.
"Where have you been all week? I haven't been able to get ahold of you." Her phone had gone straight to voicemail. Her curtains had been drawn shut, with nobody answering the door. She'd been in the bathroom, making friends with porcelain.
He was right. That pizza was delicious.
"I lapsed on my phone bill. My last paycheck went towards rent and food, so I have to wait until I get paid Thursday."
"You could have just asked for help. I'm always here to help, Kass." He means it in more ways than one.
He wants her to say yes.
He wants to turn right and take her to the hospital. She's dangerously thin, a mere skin coated skeleton.
She means it in more than one way too.
He offers to make her dinner when they get home, and she accepts his offer, proudly showing off her cupboards. They're full of snacks, full of fat and sugar, and carbs. Lord, enough pasta to feed an Italian family reunion twice over.
Grabbing a box of spaghetti, he closes the door.
"I see why you couldn't pay your phone bill."
She eats a full plate and yawns, checking her watch. It won't be long before her stomach will want to digest. She yawns again, and gently escorts him to the door before running off to her new friend.
It flushes, and so do her cheeks.
The girl in the mirror smiles triumphantly at her. They're conquering this beast called hunger together, and they're not going to let it win.
Her eyes struggle to focus, and she rubs them with her fists. Hunger looks a lot like her boyfriend. Her boyfriend looks disappointed.
"I forgot my keys."
"Pasta not sit right?" He raises an eyebrow, and she knows he knows.
He takes her by the hand. She does her best to avoid eye contact, staring at her saliva coated fingers intertwined with his. She tries to slip away, and he tightens his grip.
"I think I ate too much." More than nothing. A single bite would have been too much.
"Come stay with me tonight. That way I can take care of you, in case you get sick again." He leads her out of the bathroom.
"You really don't have to. I'm feeling better now, scout's honor."
He shakes his head. "For my sanity, humor me."
She collects a few of her things. Tossing her overnight bag into the backseat, she gets into his car. Her eyes close, at rest until she hears a siren. They pop open.
Peering out the window, she notices where they are.
"Dylan, this isn't your apartment."
"You said I was staying at your place tonight." She picked at the polish on her thumbnail. It was a nervous tic. Which made sense, because right now, she was a very nervous person.
"I said you'd be staying with me. I didn't say where." He turns the car off. Opening the backdoor, he took out her overnight bag.
She's trapped. She's at the hospital, and he's going to try to admit her, and hook her to a feeding tube, and she's trapped, so trapped.
She thought he loved her.
"Take me home."
"Kassie, this is for your own good."
"Take me home, now."
He runs a hand through his hair. He loves this girl, too much to watch her disappear into nothingness.
"Please, for me?"
She makes a move out of the car, and for a moment he thinks she is going to agree. She gets into the driver's seat, locking the doors on him. "I'm going home now."
Watching he drive away, he crumbles into a sack of flesh onto the bench. A woman comes out after a while and tries to console him, asking if he's lost someone. He nods.
It's over. She's never gonna love him as much as she loves being thin. He can't stick around to watch her self destruct, to waste away a precious life.
"You want me to call somebody for you, sugar?"
"I need to get a cab ride home." He checks his wallet for fare. It's enough to get him back to her house.
The woman rubs his back. "Give me a minute, and I'll grab my keys. I could use some time away from this place anyhow."
She drops him at the curb, and he's relieved to see his car in her driveway. The door to her apartment is locked. He raps his knuckles on the door to no reply.
The spare key is still under the mat.
He lets himself in. She isn't in the kitchen, but his keys are. He pockets them. Finding a pen, he flips over an envelope from her pile of mail.
My dear Cassandra,
I will always love you. But until you are willing to love me back, this isn't going to work out. Please, get the help you need.
He locks the door behind him, waits to hear her footsteps padding out into the room. He unlocks his car, and he knows she is peering out behind the curtain, tears rolling down her cheeks. He gets in, and pulls away.
All this time, she's wanted to lose weight. Now, he's helping her. A hundred fifty pounds gone from her life.
Her heart feels heavier than ever.
And that's the worst kind of weight.