Measuring tape rounds her disappearing waist.
Why does that number still start with a two?
She hoists her pants over her razor hips, jutting out from that stick she calls a body.
The belt slides through the loops.
Drat, the last hole is too loose.
An old shoestring does the trick. It weaves through the loops, and she knots it in a tight bow. One that matches the bow holding her hair back as she washes her hands clean.
Hello throat, her fingers seemed to have said. Long time, no see.
Welcome home, it had responded, drowned out by the water running out of the tap.
She runs the dental floss through her plastic smile, kicking the refuges of that early morning binge out from their quarters.
She bids them to find a new home, in the pipes of her apartment bathroom.
The phone rings, and she lets the answering machine get it.
"Hey, I'm not home right now, but leave a message..." chirps the voice of a happy recording. Any chance she could switch places with her?
Because despite her machine, she is home, and she'd rather be anywhere but here.
Except there's one problem.
You can't flee from the voices in your head.
They've glued their feet to the floor, playing Telephone from ear to brain.
"Sweetie, it's your mother. Your sister is getting rid of some clothes, so I'm going to swing by this afternoon and drop them off, okay? Love you!" She hangs up, as the girl lets her ponytail loose.
Hair bedraggled, as all she ever wants to do anymore is sleep, she grabs her brush. Four strokes round her head.
Four hundred strands of hair stuck in the bristles.
She doesn't need to count to know they're all there.
Stuffing her brush in the cabinet, she catches her reflection.
Those sunken eyes that cannot see how damaged she is. They can't see the way her spine protrudes as she bends down.
She grabs the mouthwash.
Swish left. Swish right.
She tightens the laces of her sneakers, turning off the bathroom light.
Sorry Mom. Nobody's home.
Taking the stairs (then doubling back twice, because what's the point of running shoes if you're not going to run?) she hits the street.
The bakery calls out to her, with its fat laden biscuits and caramel buns.
We miss you, they cry out to her.
"Darling, why don't you come in for a muffin? Fresh out of the oven." The owner catches her by the arm.
It slips out of her grasp with ease.
Her feet hit the pavement.
One of these days, it's going to be her face.
Her khaki legs, like cinnamon sticks, ready to snap at any given moment.
"Care for a nice cool glass of lemonade?" she's asked as she stops at the street corner, waiting for the cars to pass.
Popping her hood over her head, she carries on.
Five more steps to the pharmacy.
"They're for my mother," she lies as she slides the bill across the counter top.
The change jingles in her pocket as she runs home.
It's the sound of success, as she takes the stairs, two at a time, doubling back, twice again, because she is going to wear these soles thin (much like her own soul).
"What's in the bag?"
Her feet freeze, glued to her rug, much like those voices in her head. The ones that are telling her to flee.
There's no back to hide it behind. Just a collection of bones under this paper thin sheet of skin.
She swallows, because pride has no calories.
"What are you doing here?" She passes her, headed for the bathroom.
Her mother grabs her by her pants.
Well, she would have, but all that's clenched in her fist is a ball of fabric.
The bag hits the floor, the box tumbling out. Her eyes follow it. Her mother's however, stay focused on her pants, no longer caring about the contents of the bag.
She knows she's in trouble, the way her middle name comes out stilted as her first. As for the tears colliding with the ground?
Far from it.
"You're coming home," she ekes out. There's a small puddle at her feet.
"I am home."
As home as those fingers soon to be gliding down her throat, guilty of granting that kiwi access past her chapped lips.
Red nails take her by the wrist. Red like the devil, because no loving person would ever throw her overboard, crashing into the turbulent waves.
She takes one final look at the plaque hanging on her wall.
Quod me nutrit me destruit.
"You're too thin."
What she hears?
The door slams behind them, one sound breaking through the silence. Her plaque colliding with the floor.
Four steps, and she follows suit.
The cinnamon sticks snapped.