Shit. Did that happen?
For five or ten minutes you panic. Of course it did. Oh god, help. You start to shake, and your heart is beating irregular and fast. Already your mind is moving like a spider scuttling through a web of thoughts to form the plan of redemption. The gym first thing, then a run, then starve for a day, maybe two then…
Wait. Where would you have found 10kgs of chocolate? Your mind pauses, hanging in the air on its thread. Slowly it reels back up. How would you have thrown up enough to fill a bathtub? And why, oh why, would you have done it in front of the whole school? Your mind touches base again. Relief shudders through you, and you begin to breathe normally. It was a dream.
Still, the dream has done its work. It's planted its seeds for the day, and that's it. Even though its only 8 o clock in the morning, you get up and find your calorie counting special K watch. Just a hundred before your run, and then you can relax. It's only Sunday after all.
Of course, hundred comes quickly enough because you're doing your step ups, and that always gets your heartbeat up. This time is different though, it's higher than usual. A hundred and seventy beats per minute, and it's only been two or three minutes. Within five you've already burnt a hundred, so why not carry on.
By the time you're putting on your trainers you've already burnt two hundred. You feel good; the dream is being pushed to the corners of your mind. It even seems ridiculous now you can feel the sunshine streaming through the windows. Just to be sure, though, you make your way to the bathroom and step on the cold, grey scales.
That feeling is back again. Bile in the back of your throat and a plummeting in your stomach like someone's just whisked the bottom out. Tears prick at the back of your eyeballs, and you begin to wonder again if that dream was true after all…or maybe some of it was…
You brush your teeth and try not to get worked up about it. It's just a number on the scale. It's probably just water weight. Yeah. You did drink a lot of water last night after all, because of that desert. You cringe at the memory. Robotically you swirl the red ribbon on your wrist around two times anticlockwise. It's your ritual, it locks in the promises you make to yourself. This one's for an extra song on the run, and absolutely no desert tonight. You go and pee, and then come back to check if the scales have changed. They haven't. Trying not to panic, you grab your water bottle and head out onto your run.
You don't really see the people around you. There aren't many at this time on a Sunday anyway, but there are a few. You don't see them, but they've seen you. They've seen you every day for the last three years. You're thinking too much about that desert, and that dream, and that little number on that metallic box on your bathroom floor.
When you reach the forests, out of sight, you begin to warn up. Again, surprisingly, your heart rate according to your watch is irregularly fast. For a few milliseconds, all the articles, programs, and stories you've studies flash before your tired eyes- stories about eating disorders ending in disaster. Like that one girl whose stomach exploded while she was trying to purge all five litres of half-digested food back up, or the one who'd fainted whilst going for a run and got run over by a passing car. But you squash them down, and hush them up. Because images like that start to make you second guess yourself, your life. They make you want to turn around and go back home to your bed, and thoughts like that are deadly.
Your run is hot, because of the sun. You start to feel a bit faint, and your hearing is going a bit. But that's probably because of the sun. Beads of sweat are tickling their way down you from the top of your itchy hot head, along your determined face and tensed up body, until they tuck themselves away in your trainers. All you can really hear, besides the senseless beat and buzz of your iPod, is the pounding of your footsteps as they jolt up through your body. The sun is burning on your back and you begin to dream of the finish when you can take a long gulp of ice cool water.
When you reach the corner that's twenty minutes away from the start, the song "Addicted" by Kelly Clarkson comes on, and instantly all your thoughts are squashed to the side to make room for the complete cleansing that those lyrics bring. You see yourself standing in front of everyone you know, singing those lyrics, and you see their faces. You're happy, because every last one of them understands. The song distracts you from the heat, and from your breathing. But when it's over you take your heartbeat on that watch while running along, and you feel a little jolt of worry somewhere behind your stomach. It's over two hundred beats a minute. It's never over two hundred beats a minute.
The rest of your run is eventless. You're planning the day ahead of you out. Over and over. Breakfast will be half a banana and a handful of those blueberries you brought yesterday. They were expensive, but a treat for nine pieces of exercise in five days. That will make eighty calories, as long as you weigh them out alright. For lunch you might try and avoid it, but if your mum is home then you'll make yourself a tuna salad. You cringe a bit at the predicted calories intake, thirty for the lettuce, twenty for the cucumber and probably a hundred for the tuna. You might add some cheese if there's any goats cheese left, and bring it up to two hundred calories. Dinner is out of your hands as it's your parents' decision, but you already know you're going to drink four glasses of water before tea so as to bloat yourself up enough not to want too much.
When you return home, sweating and shaking slightly, you're content. The day is planned out and has been checked at least ten times in your head for any possible slip ups. It's all going to be O.K.
You run up to the bathroom, and before you've even switched on the shower, you've leapt on the scales. You're not sure if you're just imagining it but it does look like its lower. You turn on the shower and try not to look at your body in the mirror opposite. Of course, you give in. You look at yourself as the luke warm water runs over your pasty body, and you have to squint to make sure you're seeing correctly. You can see your hipbones jut out like sticks, and when you turn round they stick out so much they hide your stomach. Well, they should do. But they don't. There's a tiny bulge, and you have to swallow down tears, because you know its all because of that desert last night. As you look up your ribs make a strange angle in what should be a smooth curve upwards. You can count them, and have many times before. Wrapt across your chest, where your double d breasts used to be, are the strain of more ribs trying to escape your taut, pale skin. Even from the distance across the bathroom, you can see the familiar bright blue of your veins crawling across your translucent flesh, standing out so vividly they look like snakes.
Your head starts to spin and you nearly loose your balance, so you sit on the side of the bathtub while you shave your legs. They too are pale and scrawny. But your knees are so big…they look so fat from your angle. You gasp. Blood gushes to the cut on your knee where you accidentally dug in too hard. You watch, too shocked for action, as it glides down your leg eventually blending in with the shower water until it's just a weak attempt at red sliding down the drain. Your legs are studded with tiny grey splotches. You don't know why, but your legs bruise at the slightest touch these days, almost as if your skin is like tissue paper. You like it because of the way it makes you feel invisible, but you hate it because of the constant ache and pain it brings grinding and shooting up and down your body, every minute of every day.
You stand up again to wash your hair, but have to pause for a second as the sudden rush of movement sends your mind spiralling. Once you've gathered yourself together you reach for your Fructus Long and Strong shampoo. Supposedly it strengthens your hair, and it is better than most. As you run it through the thin, fake-blonde tresses you have to pull your hair; teasing and ripping apart the relentless knots. You don't raise your eyebrow to the clumps of string-like hair that are left clinging onto your fingertips. You smear them against the shelf and smile, there's less than usual. You make a mental note to buy more Fructus as it really is working.
It's cold as you step out the shower, and you're shivering violently. You embrace the heat of the towel and, just before you leave, you check the scales once more. You try not to pay too much attention because the towel and water probably add at least three more lbs on, but you can't help feeling let down as you step out of the bathroom.
When you go back in your bedroom, you sit on the floor and watch whatever's on channel four. It's the Hollyoaks omnibus soon, and without realising it you stay snuggled up in your towel, too cold to move, for the first three episodes. You bones crack when you finally get up, and your thin hair has already dried in loose waves. It's already knotted again.
Today is just a Sunday, and you're not going out, so you wear a plain baggy blue t-shirt and a gigantic grey hoodie on top. You wear your soft brown chord trousers, even though they fall down every three seconds. You love days like these. When you can wear clothes like these. It's only eleven thirty but already the dream seems so far away, the desert seems so far away, the day is just full of good possibilities.
You've missed your Sunday breakfast time table because you couldn't move at ten o clock, but you decide It should be ok if you shift everything onward two hours. So you make your way down to the kitchen, ready for breakfast.
Things start to go wrong from the second you step in that tiny white and orange room. Your eyes snap open wide, and your heart sags as you see what's on the counter. There, placed like a dead body, is a packet of chocolate muffins and a fresh baguette. You can't help it, because tears are already pushing their way behind your eyeballs, your hands are shaking. You close your eyes tightly and swallow down what seems like a fist-sized lump of dread in your throat. You beg yourself just to ignore them, but the part of your brain that you can't control is already sizing them up, counting them. Eight muffins.
You avert your eyes while you get out your banana and blueberries, desperately trying to erase the sight of those chocolate muffins from your memory. After having weighed both out, and cutting two centimetres off the banana to make it a hundred grams, you begin the struggle upstairs. It's like pushing against a rip tide, the thoughts of the eight chocolate muffins tugging at your brain, your stomach, your hipbones and your ribs. You swirl your red ribbon round and round, promising yourself that you won't eat one bite of those muffins today. Just as you're about to make it upstairs, your mothers voice chirps from the living room.
"Did you see the muffins, darling? Chocolate, your favourite, huh?" Her words break your heart. In that second you want to gather all your strength and run into that room, into her arms, the arms that have held you for all your life, and tell her everything. Beg her to save and protect you from yourself, like you used to beg her to save and protect you from all those nightmares you used to have as a child.
But you can't. Gripping onto that red ribbon on your wrist, you hold your head high; eyes closed, and say in the most level voice you can manage.
"Yeah, thanks for that, mum." And continue up into your room.