I ducked through the hallways, my eyes focused right on the dangling sign. “Cafeteria” it read. I warning sign if you ask me. I gripped my lunchbox and scanned the room for an empty table. Sure enough, I found one at the very back of the room. Perfect, there was no way Rachel could see me from there.
I sat down and sighed. I was all alone, just the way I liked it. I unzipped my lunchbox and took out a small pizza my mom made for me. As I was chewing, I noticed a figure approaching me. Oh no, I thought, swallowing a bite and setting down my food.
“Oh hey Woods, fancy seeing you here!” Rachel smugly grinned. Shoot, of course, she would find me. Is one decent lunchtime too much to ask for?
Rachel noticed my silence and glared.
“You know the drill, Woods. Your lunch, my lunch. You know the pizza has a bunch of calories right? I don’t think someone of your weight can afford to eat something like that. So hand it over”
I took a deep breath to keep from crying, I didn’t care if I was fat or not! I wanted food! I was hungry! I zipped up my lunchbox and reluctantly handed it over to Rachel.
“Good girl” Rachel smirked, “Why don't you have an orange for your cooperation? They’re good for you!” she said in her sing-songy voice. God, I hated that sing-songy voice. I snatched the orange from her hand and started peeling.
Rachel skipped away with my lunchbox, humming “Lunchbox Friends” by Melanie Martinez. Very funny Rachel, I thought as I popped an orange slice in my mouth and let a tear slide down my cheek.
“How was school sweetie?” Mom asked as I walked into the house.
“Awful”I replied, dropping my backpack next to me and sitting on one of the stools in the kitchen.
“Awwwww, what’s wrong hun?” Mom turned off the sink and placed the dish she was washing back in the sink.
I panicked, should I tell mom about what was happening? Rachel would call me a baby or ruin my life! But telling mom could get me out of this situation.
“Not much, my teachers just gave me a butt-load of homework to do today. But I think I can manage.” I lied.
Mom half-smiled and went back to washing the dishes. Why did I lie? There was no way I could finish off Rachel now. I can't keep this up forever...or could I?
The next day, I sat down at an empty lunch table, just waiting for Rachel to steal my lunch. Instead, she approached me with a shiny green lunchbox. I knew something was wrong the minute I saw that smug grin on her face.
“What’s up Woods!” she smiled, plopping the lunchbox on the table.
“What’s that for?” I asked, not looking up.
“Wow, so quick to get to the point. Well, I was talking to my mom yesterday and told her there was a girl in school who was feeling insecure about her weight and couldn't figure out what to eat. So my mom offered to make bento boxes for you every day! Only some cheese, bread, and little rice balls! Perfectly healthy!” Rachel gave me a smug grin.
That little rat! I didn’t care about my weight at all! I just wanted food! Couldn’t she see that? Who am I kidding, of course, she could, she just liked being a snake.
I reluctantly took the lunchbox and started eating the bread. Yuck! Wheat bread? This girl was really trying to ruin my life. I couldn’t stand it! Why did she get to decide what I ate! I knew I needed to do something, but I didn’t know what. Rachel was the most influential person in school. Whatever she says, goes.
Soon, Rachel was slowly easing herself into my life. She gave me the same lunches every day, and soon she was telling everyone that I was her insecure friend that she's helping with her weight. I hated every second of it. I always left lunch hungry, and I got looks of pity from everyone in the school. Rachel on the other hand was having the time of her life!
She wouldn't stop at teasing and taking my lunch, no. She even had my mom fooled. Dropping by to my house and pretending to hang out with my outside. While in reality, she was making me run around the block. Claiming it was “good for me”. Of course, exercise is good for me, but maybe I should do it by myself! Without a blonde brat taking a bite out of a cookie every time I pass her.
I kept telling myself it was fine, that I could take it. Was I really gonna let this brat make me feel bad? No! I was gonna do all of this and come out healthier, stronger, and better. Little did I know, I was feeding right into the mentality she wanted me to have. I truly believed I should watch what I eat more often. I skipped breakfast and barely ate dinner, and at lunchtime, I ate every little thing in those lunchboxes. Sure I was tired, but it was for a good cause….right?
Things got worse when Caroline announced she was having a giant game of tag for her birthday party. Everyone was forming secret alliances and practicing running. I told myself that this was it. This is what all the starving, and running, and crying was for (yes I said crying). I was gonna win the contest, I was sure of it.
“So are you excited for Caroline’s party?” Mom asked, cutting up an apple.
“Yea. Super excited” I said.
“Hmmmm Are you ok sweetie? I’ve noticed that you look a lot more tired than usual. You sleeping and eating ok?” she asked.
“Yeah, mom. I’m perfectly fine” I lied. I want to eat something so badly I think I might burst.
“Well ok then. I’m gonna finish this statement and then I’ll drive you to the park. You have all your stuff right? Your lunch and water bottle?”
“Yup. It’s all in my backpack” I patted the purple backpack right next to me. Yup, my lunch containing a salad, and a water bottle. Not what you packed, but it's not a big deal.
Mom walked over to her office and started typing away on her laptop. I ran up the stairs and walked into my room, making a beeline to my bedroom mirror.
I haven’t looked at myself in months, I thought to myself as I walked in front of it. The girl I saw was definitely not me. She was way too skinny. Her eyes were sunken and her hair was always in a ponytail. The girl I saw in the mirror was always lying to herself and felt completely powerless compared to Rachel. She wasn't instantly prettier because she lost some weight, she didn’t have any real friends, and she wasn’t happy.
I couldn’t take it anymore. I broke down and started to cry. It was faint at first, but then it turned into an all-out sob. I could hear my mom bolting up the stairs.
“Megan! What’s wrong! Is everything alright!” she called.
She walked in on me in front of the mirror, sobbing.
“Oh honey…” she knelt down next to me and gave me a hug. I couldn’t take it anymore, I told her everything. The lunchboxes, the teasing, the running, the starvation, the stares, the feeling of being powerless. I let it all come out, and mom just listened in silence. I could tell she was shocked, and I honestly was too. Saying all the things that’d happened to me in the past months made me realize how bad the situation had gotten.
In the next two weeks, mom was making lots of phone calls. To the principal, my pediatrician, and Rachel’s mom. I had a check-up the next day and what the doctor learned wasn't pretty. I had lost 30 pounds and was severely underweight. Which meant I could eat all the pizza and carbs I wanted. It felt so good to have food in my stomach again. As for Rachel, she got suspended for what she did, and now she avoids me in the hallways. Good riddance to her.
Mom still can’t get over what happened, and now she always demands I tell her the truth when I’m feeling scared. Sure it felt like she was being a bit overprotective at first, but honestly? It just feels nice to have someone to turn to. Oh, and pizza is still as good as I remembered it to be.