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Lipstick Bulimia

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Livia was pretty. She was tall with brown hair, brown eyes, and pale skin. All the guys at our tiny high school liked to flirt with her, and she was never without a boyfriend. She was too cool for cheerleading and clubs, but everyone seemed to know who she was. I was her sidekick and happy to be so. I didn’t like the attention, but I loved my best friend. She meant the world to me. When we became juniors, something changed.

Her name was Chloe; taller than Livia, blonde, with blue eyes and a body that made all the guys blush. She wasn’t the normal type of girl who came to our school and she knew it; knew it and used it. From her first day, she had my whole class eating out of her manicured palm. She was drop dead gorgeous, a model who acted like a queen. I didn’t pay her any particular mind, besides to whisper and ogle like the rest of my classmates did. But Livia did.

Now, Livia was a home-grown Southern gal; breasts, hips- an hourglass frame that was prized where we lived. There was nothing wrong with her before Chloe showed up. Livia was only a size five… But Chloe was a size two, and she was always bragging about it. Especially in gym class. I began to watch my best friend, and saw her change. She became moody whenever the new girl passed by, but I wrote it off an simply envy; who didn’t want to look like Chloe? Then, Brad- Livia’s boyfriend- broke up with her for the blonde Amazon. That’s when Livia’s so-called envy bumped up to intense dislike. But she didn’t seem mad at Chloe so much as she was herself. I didn’t understand this.

One of Livia’s trademark things was her lips. They were full and pouty and she took full advantage of them; wearing lip liner, lip stick, and colored glosses. Her lips always looked like two shining rubies set in her heart-shaped face. I was a bit jealous of her- mine were small and a little on the thin side. A few weeks after Liv started changing out of her gym clothes in the bathroom, I saw her go up to our coach during class. She chatted with him for a few minutes and then scurried off to the dressing room. Something was nagging me- there was only five minutes left before class. Where was she going? I slipped in behind her, unnoticed. I heard her before I saw her- heard the retching noise in the bathroom. I ran over and banged my fist on the door, demanding her to open up. The toilet flushed, and then she did. Her eyes were a bit watery, but other than that she looked fine.
“What?” She asked.
“Are you okay? Are you sick?”
“No,” she smiled proudly, “I was just throwing up.” I understood immediately and horror washed over me; she was making herself vomit? When I questioned why, she looked at me and rolled her eyes.
“I’m fat.”
Fat. Out of all the ridiculous things… Fat?! I observed as she rinsed her mouth and applied more lip stick, until they shone like jewels again. Now, I could have done a lot of things. I could have talked her out of it or yelled at her or told someone. But I didn’t. Livia was my best friend and… I didn’t want to make her mad. So I said nothing. I didn’t know it would haunt me for the rest of my life.

Over the next few months, I saw less and less of my best friend. She started coming in early from gym every day, not even bothering to ask the teacher. She stopped hanging around our group of friends, too. I was worried, but there was nothing I could do that would work. I saw her once, before Christmas break. She was thin and paler than normal, with a sweatshirt on. It was too big for her. She looked extremely sick. Her lips were no longer rubies- she only seemed to be wearing a light pink, colored gloss.
“Livia,” I had to call her name for her to notice me. When she did, her brown eyes were filled with suspicion and paranoia. I could no longer hold back.
“What happened to you? Are you still making yourself throw up?”
“Shut up!” She hissed, looking around the empty hall, “It’s none of your business. We can’t all be skinny like you. Why don’t you just go to hell and leave me alone?” Then she stormed off. I looked down at my body; skinny? More like bony. I had no curves, only elbows and hip bones and knobby knees.

I finished off the year without talking to her again. Oh, I saw her alright. She started hanging out with the group of kids at our school who were all known to have eating disorders. She went from thin to gaunt to skeletal right before my eyes, and still, I said nothing. I’d tried to confront her, hadn’t I? She didn’t want my help. So I stuck with observing her during lunch, watching her deterioration. I made the cheer team for the next year and even got a boyfriend. His name was Ryan. Chloe transferred from our school after Christmas break, and I had a secret hope this might help Livia, but of course it didn’t. I learned to live without her, even though it made me sad. I worried about her, too. A lot. But it wasn’t enough.

It was summertime, then. I had a job at a restaurant as a waitress. I was saving up to buy a car. After work one day, I went home to get ready for a date with Ryan. While I was fixing my hair, a knock came on my door. I answered to find an officer at my house. My stomach dropped as he spoke.
“Are you Jane Prescott?” He asked. I nodded.
“A friend of yours, Livia Benson, is in the hospital having her stomach pumped. She took a bottle of sleeping pills with alcohol early this morning. She’s in critical condition and her mom said to notify you in case you wanted to go to visit her.” Immediately I called Ryan and told him to bring me to the hospital. He did. I ran to Livia’s room, but she was unconscious when I got there. I was horrified at what I saw. She was almost nonexistent, how thin she was. I could count every bone in her body, and her head looked too large for the rest of her. Cheekbones sticking out so far they looked like they could slice through her tender flesh. Whiter than her sheets. Her pretty brown hair was patchy and greasy and thin. Her room was filled with the sweet odor of sickness. My eyes filled with tears when I saw her lips; they were cracked and swollen and chapped and raw. I stayed by her side for seventeen hours, crying and whispering and begging her to wake up. I prayed to a God that I now hoped existed. Prayed to let her open her eyes and be okay. To be alive. Her body seemed to convulse with every breath she took. I held her limp hand, cool against my own healthy skin, and sobbed some more. I saw cuts slashed across her arms, then, and the tears came again. What had I done? I knew she didn’t have a family who loved her, didn’t have a mother who paid attention to her. I should have, and I failed. This was my doing. I was the only person who could have helped her. She died the next day, with me crying by her side. She never regained consciousness. The doctor ruled it a suicide, saying she’d taken too many pills in ratio to her body weight. Her heart couldn’t take it, considering the condition she was in. She weighed a hundred and three pounds when she passed away.

I went to her funeral three days later. I wore a simply black dress and read her eulogy. It was an outdoor affair and many people showed up; almost the entire school. Even Brad came, looking stricken with grief. I recited a poem for her, for Livia. I didn’t mention the bulimia, which the mortician had named, or the cuts on her wrists, or even the fact that it was a suicide. I talked about the Livia I knew; the happy, vibrant, beautiful girl who loved unconditionally and without cause. In her memory, I even took the time to paint my lips a bright, ruby red.



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