It is as audible as the plate is visible. What looks appealing to others seems cold and deadly to her.
Don’t. Don’t touch it, the voice says.
She hesitates before pushing the plate away from her side, stating the excuse that nobody believes anymore these days.
“I’m not hungry.”
Her parents look at her with fear, no, not the kind of fear of her rage, but the kind of fear that blends in worries. The kind that shakes them up at night, keeping them restless just to play the game of guesses over what’s wrong with their daughter.
“I’m going to my room.”
Her mother looks at her father for an approval, which she receives within a second, before she stops her, “You must eat something first.”
It sounds like a plea. One which isn’t a concern of hers.
“I’m not in the mood, ma. I’ve been snacking the whole day.”
But mothers know better. She grabs her daughter’s arm and feels the ridiculous amount of weight loss that’s eating up her girl.
The moment she decides to let go for now and find another way to confront the girl, the mother’s heart sinks.
Her daughter’s door closes and she sits down with her husband, both staring at the untouched dinner plate and holding back tears that are well deserved.
In her room, the girl starts checking herself out in the mirror. She lifts her shirt and pokes her belly. It’s as flat as a supermodel’s stomach,and she can’t be happier. The lights in her room flicker, as if they are as unhappy as her parents with her new looks. As if they’re judging her choices. After all, it’s been weeks since she’s touched any real food.
She sighs, there are people left and right who keep correcting her ways. Who keep telling her to eat and stop worrying about her already petite frame.
They don’t understand you, the voice tells her, they don’t understand the joy in being thin and beautiful. They don’t understand the excitement in walking to a store, knowing that you can fit in the pretty dresses in XS. They don’t get the happiness in being able to pose in photos without hiding the bigger areas of your body. The cheekbones that come with losing weight. The attention people have been giving you.
They will never understand, it repeats, how beautiful it makes you feel.
“And I don’t have to listen.”
People don’t know anything anyway, what can one less meal do to your body? It’s just one meal.
She sinks into her bed before counting her calories of the day. Need more, she thinks, need to burn more. So she gets up and starts doing sit ups on the carpet, counting how many she can do before she can’t take it anymore.
How many calories will a hundred sit ups burn?
As the moon rises, she goes back to her bed, smiling in joy and satisfaction. It’s like a little victory, the moment she doesn’t hear her stomach sing or feel hunger stabbing her. The day has been good, she believes, it’s been great.
In the morning she gets up and puts on her running shoes on. It’s still dark outside and it’s better that way for her, so that nobody around who recognizes her can spot her.
Running and skipping in the early hours, counting how many calories she’s burning with each step taken. For about an hour she goes, before she rushes back to the house and quietly sneaks into her room to shower.
Every morning she does this, she fails to see her mother watching her from the windows, anger and worries engulfing, concerns directed at her.
The girl takes off her shoes and goes back to the mirror, checking her frame one more time before running into a nice, warm shower. Her bones poking out, her back arching, and her hair starts falling. In the mirror she sees a supermodel, and it satisfies her.
“I look good,” she says happily in the shower. “I’m looking good.”
As morning progresses, she gets ready for school and heads downstairs after waiting for some time to avoid breakfast. She’s been doing this for weeks now, coming downstairs late and straight for the door, avoiding her family who’d be asking her to join them for breakfast.
Then when the time is good, she goes downstairs and spots the dining table empty without any breakfast plate served up for her.
“Come here for a minute,” her mother calls out to her.
“I can’t, ma, I am running late.”
“No, you’re not. Your dad’s going to drive you to school. Just come here for a minute.”
She makes a turn and faces her parents, standing in the kitchen with coffee cups in their hands. They drink their coffee black, which means something serious is up.
She approaches them and sits down few feet away, keeping a safe distance to cage herself from any rage explosion.
“Here,” the mother pulls, out of nowhere, a sandwich, and places it on the table. “You must be hungry, you were out running earlier.”
The girl stares at the sandwich, fearing it might crawl onto her face and burn her skin, then looks at the parents, wondering what they’re expecting her to do.
“Eat. We still have time. Your dad is driving so you don’t have to walk so far to school. We’ll accompany you here.”
Unfortunately, at this point the excuse of ‘I just ate’ or ‘I am not hungry’ doesn’t do the trick. And the order of “eat it now” has been placed as well.
She is counting how many calories before her mother interrupts her thoughts, “It’s peanut butter. They say it’s good food for a runner. I bought the low calorie, organic one, so it’s not going to kill you.”
It’s not about whether it’ll kill me or not, she thinks, it’s still calories.
She takes a deep breath and bites into the sandwich.
It tastes incredible.
Then again, she’s come to notice that foods taste ridiculously amazing lately, just because she doesn’t get much of it. But that’s the dangerous part, because she needs to stop now. She has got to stop.
But it’s so hard to stop when food is so good. And when the sandwich is gone, an ocean of guilt starts washing over her and she wonders in her head how much she has to do to burn them off.
“Also, don’t forget there’s family dinner today,” the father says, “We’ll be eating out with your cousins, so make sure you have good appetite tonight.”
Her mind starts screaming. Her calculations are falling apart. How many calories will she be having later?
“Here’s your lunchbox,” her mom hands her a box of fruits and vegetables, “Off you two go.”
The father and daughter leave the house and the mother clutches onto her chest. She’s trying to see what her daughter sees, but fails to see the picture. So she opened up her daughter’s laptop when she was out running to see what her daughter was googling lately. Every article on dieting and weight loss popped up, and she had no choice but to forward them to herself and read them over and over again for days.
She had to find a safe way, so she embraced a subtle way that wouldn’t push her daughter over the edge.
But little does she know, in the car, on the way to school, her daughter’s mind starts racing on its own.
An anorexic mind doesn’t sleep, and it suspects everyone endlessly.
As the father starts rambling about the dinner plan that’s about to take place tonight, the voice takes over, loudly, repeating over and over again.
“This is war.” And she nods.