Climbing High

Mary was sitting on the cold concrete steps leading up to her house. She looked deep in thought with her head resting on her hand. She tossed a pebble about aimlessly. She was trying to think what to tell her parents. Her mum would flip; she knew it, and her dad? Well he probably wouldn't say anything. Jennie was about to do the same thing, they had made a pact to tell their parents what they'd been doing these last few months. If they didn't their PE teacher Miss Sidle was going to. Mary's mind wondered back to the day she guessed it had started.

She had been at the school for about a month; Jennie was the first friend she'd made. They had hit it off straight away and had been inseparable ever since. Mark had been friends with Jennie for a long time before Mary came along and at first he had been jealous of her, but it didn't last long.

'Hey Mark,' Mary said as she reached their usual meeting place before school, it was an old oak tree half-way between their houses. The leaves were a luscious green and Mark had told her that he could climb right to the very top in autumn. But somehow she doubted him-it looked a little too big for someone to climb it, well someone as small as Mark, anyway.

'Hey,' he replied 'Finished the Science work?'

'What do you think?' He always asked the same question for different subjects depending on what day it was, and she had the work in her hand before he could ask the next question.

'Can I see it?'

'Don't you mean copy it?' she said laughing.

'I would never do that!' he smirked, taking the paper from her hand. She grinned and spotted a familiar figure heading towards them.

'Jen's here.' she said.

'Hi guys,' Jen yelled to them. 'Copying Mary's work again? One day you'll get caught.'

'It could never happen to me, I'm much too clever.' he said matter of factly.

'Wise guy,' Jennie whispered just loud enough for him to hear, as they walked on ahead of him. 'You watch, one day he'll get busted.' Jennie giggled. 'Hey listen, There's something I want to talk to you about.'

'What?' asked Mary.

'Not now, when Mark's not around.'

It wasn't until after school that day, when Jennie pulled Mary aside and suggested it.

'A diet!' Mary exclaimed, she was a bit taken aback. Jennie was the skinniest person she knew and she didn't think of herself as being fat, though she did often feel a little large. 'Why do we have to go on a diet?'

'Think about what it'll feel like to fit into those tiny clothes.' said Jennie.

'You can fit into those anyway.'

'Hardly, look most girls are doing it already, its part of being a teenager.'

'I don't know, I guess we could just try it out and see how we feel after a week.' She still wasn't sure but thought 'what the hell, may as well try.'

'It's a deal and I promise you, you'll love it.'

Mary pondered over what Jennie had said, she was starting to like the idea and at lunch the next day, they made their plan. No breakfast or a slice of brown bread toast if they really had too, they would bring their own lunches and throw everything out apart from the fruit. Then for tea, salad or something very healthy. They both knew their parents would be fussy about them being on a diet, so if any one asked them they would say, 'we're just trying to eat a healthier diet,' or 'A diet! I'd never go on one, they don't work.' Of course they didn't believe that, but they didn't want to start any arguments.

Mary was actually surprised at how easy she found it; chocolate was the hardest thing to give up, but it only took a few days to get used to. Her parents were always at work before she left for school, so she had no trouble skipping breakfast. After the first week she felt great.

'It's exhilarating.' She told Jennie.

'I know. And you know what else I love, that no one else knows we're doing it, it's our secret.'

Mary hadn't thought of it like that, it was a strange sensation knowing there was something nobody else knew, she liked it. No, in fact she loved it, this was something not even Mark knew about and she was going to make sure it stayed that way.

The next few weeks flew past in laughter. They joined the after school running team and spent lunch times in aerobics classes. They saw less and less of Mark and didn't even realise how left out he was feeling. They stopped meeting up with him before school and made up excuses about having too much homework to do after school. Mary was starting to feel a bit guilty about lying to Mark but she knew he'd understand-after all, he must have his own friends to hang around with. And she was having too much fun to change things now; she'd actually started to notice a difference in how she looked, and she felt lighter.

'Jen, let's keep this up forever.' Mary said as they finished an aerobics class. Jennie laughed. 'For someone who wasn't sure about dieting, you sure seem to be enjoying it!'

'I know. I just wish we had started earlier, and then maybe I'd lose weight faster.'

'You look great, you've lost a lot already, unlike Me.' sighed Jennie

'But you didn't have any weight to lose in the first place.' Mary pointed out.

'Still, it'd be nice to just drop a few more pounds.'

'Mary! Jennie!' Their PE teacher Miss Sidle was walking over to them in the changing rooms. 'Is everything ok?' she asked.

'Of course.' Jennie replied. Mary and Jennie looked at each other; nobody had spotted what they were doing yet and they'd hoped it would stay that way.

'I've noticed you've both been exercising a lot lately.'

'We want to get fit, you're always going on about the importance of exercise.' said Jennie, hoping she wouldn't press the subject anymore.

'Yes, but there's also a danger in too much exercise, especially if you lose weight.' She looked at them with concerned eyes.

'It's ok, we'll be careful.' promised Mary.

'Well ok, but you know where my office is if there's anything you want to talk about.' With that she left and Mary and Jennie looked at each other relieved.

'Come on we'd better get to class,' said Jennie. 'And then we've got to train.'

'Train for what?' asked Mary

'The county cross country trials, they're next week.'

Mary was surprised Jennie wanted to take part, but it was an excuse to burn a few more calories. They worked hard on their running before and after school, but on the day of the trials Mary started to feel very tired. She hadn't eaten anything for two days. She didn't tell Jennie, though, who looked as though she had more energy than usual. The race started straight after their last lesson and Mark was there to watch them.

'You look tired.' he said to Mary as she walked on to the field.

'I'm ok.'

'Good luck.'

'Thanks.' She wanted to talk to him more, but she had to concentrate on running as hard as she could.

She lined up on the track next to Jennie. She was determined to win. The whistle blew and rows of feet took off, moving faster and faster. She let the momentum carry her, she was ahead of Jennie. Trees whirled past, her breath caught in her throat and the ground began to spin, turning black. She felt herself hit some thing hard.

'Mary!' someone shouted. It was Jennie; her face was out of focus, she felt so very tired.

'Mary, can you get up?' Miss Sidle asked as she and Mark ran over to her. She was lying on the floor.

'What happened?' she said softly.

'You fainted,' Miss Sidle answered. 'We need to get you to the medical room.' Mary didn't argue, she let herself be carried of the field and into the school. She rested alone for a while, and then Jennie and Miss Sidle came in to see her.

'I've had a little chat with Jennie, Mary,' began Miss Sidle. 'What you girls have been doing is dangerous, you need to stop otherwise you're going to get very ill.' Mary didn't know what to say, she didn't want to become ill but then she didn't want to stop.

'I guess we took it a little too far,' said Jennie 'I never meant for it to hurt anyone.' she looked sad, and Mary knew she was right.

'But what if I can't stop?' Mary asked.

'You will, with help.' said Miss Sidle. 'I need both of you to tell your parents what's been going on, and if you don't I will have to.' Mary and Jennie looked at each other.

'We'll do it.' said Mary, though she was terrified. Miss Sidle left them alone after she made them promise to talk to her after the weekend.

'Let's make it a pact to tell them tonight.' suggested Jennie.

'Yes, let's.' They shook hands on it and went outside to find Mark waiting for them.

'Mark, I'm sorry.' Mary began.

'It's ok, I understand,' he said. 'Just promise not to do it again.'

'We won't.' Jennie said.

'Come on, I've got something to show you.' Mark said. They walked quickly till they reached the old oak tree and Mark began to climb up it. He climbed until he reached the very top. Mary and Jennie were amazed.

'See,' he shouted down. 'You can climb over things bigger than you. Mary smiled she knew what he meant, she would get over this.

It was time; her parents were inside waiting for her to come in for tea. She had to tell them now.