never knew what was happening to Hallie until she was 16 and I was 17. By then, it had been going on for nearly a year, and it was almost too late for me to do anything about it. Even when I found out, I was too scared, too stupid to do anything about it. I, Jenna Roswell, am known for being stupid.
I've always been close to Hallie, since we are so close in age. We fight all the time of course, but we could never stay mad at each other for more than 30 minutes. When we were little, she would follow me around, copying everything I did. Sure, it bugged me a lot, but sometimes,it pleased me, because she obviously thought I was cool.
Hallie could be a real brat sometimes, cutting sarcastic comments at me or being petty, but mostly, she was awesome. She was pretty, very pretty. It used to bug me that my little sister attracted more guys than I did. She got all A's in school and was vice president of the Beta Club. She had tons of friends, unlike me. I'm not a nerd or anything, but I couldn't be called popular like Hallie was. I was ordinary.
I hadn't a clue that Hallie was unhappy. Why should she have been? She had everything.
The night I first found out, I was taking a bath, and Hallie was in the bathroom with me, sitting on the toilet seat and painting her toenails. She knows I hate bare feet, but faking blissful obliviance, she wiggled her toes at me.
" Hallie, quit," I said, wrinkling my nose.
" Quit what?" she said innocently, pushing her foot closer. She was being her usual self, cheerful, bratty. Perfectly normal. As I remember this, I can't recall her acting different in any way than usual.
We used to do this sometimes, talking to each other while we bathed. It might sound weird to a lot of people, but it wasn't to us. We had done it from the time we were little, and I guess we never saw a reason to stop. Thinking about it now kind of makes me miss it.
I made a face at Hallie as she continued to keep her feet in my face. She didn't appear to notice. Yeah, right.
" Hey Jenna," she piped up, " when do you think you're getting out?"
" Why, are you in a rush to go somewhere or something?"
" Nope. Just sick of seeing you naked."
" Ha ha," I said sarcastically. " Why don't you leave then. Or at least get your feet out of my face."
I was kind of kidding, (well, not about the feet, but the leaving part anyway) but Hallie got up and left. I looked after her, a little surprised.
" Okayyyy," I muttered. " Miss Sensitive, aren't we?"
After my bath, I went to my room to get in my pajamas. Wrapping my hair in a towel, I began to work on my calculus homework. I can read your thoughts already: What a nerd. I know, I know. Call me nerd girl, I guess. But it takes me forever, so I can't do it the class period before like Genius Hallie.
After a few problems, I got up to brush my hair. Realizing I had left my brush in the bathroom, I went to get it. The door was unlocked, but I could hear water running. Hallie must be in the bathtub, I thought.
I knocked softly and called her name. She didn't answer, so I puished the door open. Hallie let out a shriek as I walked in.
" Hallie, chill. I'm just getting my brush," I said.
Hallie tried to close the curtain, but it was too late. As I stepped into teh room, I saw her. You couldn't help but see her.
" Oh my God!" I screamed. " Oh my God Hallie, what did you do?"
I stared at my sister, in shock. I couldn't believe my eyes. What had happened to her?1
Hallie had been taking a bath in water so hot that the steam was rising off her shoulders. Her whole body was bright red, as though she had been scalded. The room felt like a sauna. But although that was strange, that wasn't what had freaked me out so badly. No, it was the scars that I was gaping at, the ugly, puckered wounds covering Hallie's upper arms, thighs, and even her stomach. They looked terrible. I saw some of them were bleeding. 2
My first thought was, she's had an accident. Oh god, Hallie's had an accident. But almost immediately I knew that was a stupid, unreasonable explanation. There were so many of them, in places no one usually sees. And some of them looked old, as though they had been there for some time. It was when my gaze fell upon the razor in Hallie's hand that my denial shattered, and it all clicked in place in my mind. 3
"Hallie!" I screeched. " Hallie, oh my God! God, you're bleeding!"4
Hallie, struggling frantically with the shower curtain but only succeeding in pulling it halfway closed because our rod has a niche the rings get caught on all the time, finally gave up.5
" I told you not to come in!" she shrieked, her face twisted with fury. "Why didn't you listen to me! Go away Jenna! Go away and leave me alone? Get the hell out of here!"6
Her screams snapped me out of my frozen stupor. I ran to the tub, turning the steaming water off. Grabbing the razor from Hallie, I flung it across the room. Hallie screamed curse words at me, but I ignored her, grabbing her arm and yanking her to her feet, out of the tub. I grabbed her robe draped over the sink and draped it around her. Hallie continued to scream at me, fighting me as I manipulated her arms into it. I grabbed her hands and held them.7
" Why did you do that, Hallie?" I shouted, so upset I was almost crying. " What is the matter with you? Why did you do that to yourself?"8
" Shut up, Jenna! Just shut up!" Hallie screeched. Suddenly, her face crumpled, and she was crying, her whole body shaking violently as she sobbed, turning her face away from me.9
I wanted to cry too, but I put my arms around her and held her, stroking her back through the robe. Her head falling weakly to my shoulder, Hallie wept as though her whole world had been shattered.10
As I hugged her tightly, I realized with a start she felt different. Bony, even through the robe. I had been so mesmerized by her scars that I was just now realizing she had also looked like she had lost a lot of weight. What was the matter with me? Was I blind, that I hadn't seen that my own sister was getting downright skinny? Why was I so selfish to see that my sister was not happy, that she was hurting herself?11
Hallie began to talk, in a fast, high-pitched voice. It was hard to understand her through her tears.12
" I feel so evil!" she wailed. " There's something bad inside me, and I have to squash it! I want to hurt it, I'll never be able to make it go away, to make it be right. Jenna, it's just always going to be there, and I'll never get rid of it, I'll never be good enough."13
I hugged her, trying to shut her up. I didn't want to hear how unhappy she was. I felt like it was a sign of my failure as her older sister that she was. Hallie kept crying and babbling against my shoulder.14
" You don't understand, Jenna, you don't know! I'm a terrible person. I know I am. I have to do this, I have to punish myself."15
" What?" I burst out with, unable to stop myself. " Jenna, what are you talking about? You sound crazy!"16
Almost immediately I knew that was the worst thing I could have possibly said to her.17
My thoughts were confirmed when Hallie began to cry. " Exactly, Jenna, exactly!" she sobbed. " I'm crazy, okay? I'm crazy! I am absolutely insane!"4
I could have kicked myself. I was such a great comforter. Mother Jenna, that was me, all right. I have SUCH a talent for saying the right thing. 5
" Hallie, I'm sorry," I told her. " I didn't mean that. I'm sorry." I put my arms around her again. Though she had been out of the shower for ten minutes now, her skin was still bright red. I hoped she hadn't burned herself. I didn't really want to touch her, it looked so painful.6
When Hallie's tears had finally slowed, I tried to come up with something to say to her. I ended up saying exactly what I was thinking. Which wasn't what she wanted to hear.7
" Hallie, we've got to tell Mom and Dad," I told her. " They'll know what to do. When they come home, you need to tell them. If you won't, I will." 8
" No!" Hallie yelled, her back stiffening, her eyes growing wild and panicky. She shoved my arms off of her, backing away from me. " No, don't Jenna, don't you dare! Please, don't! You can't, I won't let you!"9
" We have to, honey. I can't let you hurt yourself like this! I'd hate myself if... if..." I didn't want to finish my sentence. But Hallie wasn't really listening anyway.10
" You can't!" she whimpered, shaking her head desperately. " Please Jenna, please! They'll say I'm crazy. They'll take me away, they'll put me in some clinic! The whole school will know, the whole town! I don't want to go, I want to stay here!" 11
Hallie looked and sounded like a frightened child. I had no idea what to do. I had to tell Mom and Dad. We couldn't keep something like this a secret! I couldn't let Hallie go on cutting herself! But if I told on her, what if she DID have to go to some clinic? I'd feel like I was betraying her, forcing her to go live with a bunch of insane people. 12
" But Hallie..." was all I could come up with. Hallie cut me off.13
"Don't! Don't, Jenna, just let it be! Just pretend you never saw me! I won't do it again, okay? Anything, just if you be quiet."14
The terrified look on her face, the most miserable, pained look I had ever seen on my sister, more than anything else made me speak.15
" Okay..." I said, before I even knew I was going to say it. " I won't for now, Hallie. But if I ever catch you again... if I even suspect..."16
Hallie threw her arms around my neck, still crying, I think out of relief as well as pain. 17" Thank you!" she sobbed. " Thank you, Jenna."18
I knew even then I was making the wrong decision. But I felt like I COULDN'T tell on her. I didn't want to make her more upset than she was. I know it was irrational, stupid. But it was how I felt.19
I tried to talk to her about it some more, but she refused to discuss it further. She wouldn't tell me why she had done it, how she had lost weight, what was upsetting her. She went up to her room and shut the door, telling me she was tired. Yeah, right.20
I gave up after a while and flopped down on my bed, upset. Why was she doing this? She'd always seemed so happy! What was wrong with her? Was she crazy, like she'd said?21
What was wrong with ME, for that matter? How could I have been so blind? and how the hell could I have told her I'd keep her secret?22
I had trouble sleeping that night. I kept seeing Hallie's red, bony, scarred body, the anguish on her face as she cried. I kept hearing her screaming, " I'm crazy, Jenna!" And I didn't know what to do...I couldn't make it go away.