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The Art of Being Alone
“And that’s why it’s super important for you to be there,” Alex said before scooping a forkful of spaghetti into her mouth.
Her friend’s voice yanked her out of her thoughts. She suddenly felt much more aware of the roar of the cafeteria surrounding them. Christine briefly glanced up at her friend before returning to twirling her full plate of food around with her fork.
“Were you even listening? At all?” She continued on without giving her a chance to answer. “My soccer game. It’s the conference championships. I need my best friend there.”
Christine rolled her eyes but forced a smile, trying to ignore her pounding headache. “Wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
She did her best to drown out her voice for the rest of the lunch period.
Lunch was easily the worst part of the day, but it got easier from there. Her mom tended to work late and she honestly couldn’t remember how long it had been since she had seen her dad. That just meant that there was no one that she had to pretend around. Being alone allowed her to stick to the plan.
She was allowed 600 calories a day - no more, no less. Anything less and she would lose control. Anything less meant she had a problem.
She didn’t have a problem.
Her plan also included going for a run after school. She usually ran for two to three miles, but if she ended up having to eat around Alex, she upped it to five miles. Luckily, she had been getting better at pretending to eat when she hadn’t and Alex was usually so preoccupied lately that she didn’t have to eat any of her lunch today.
She ran five miles anyway.
When Alex realized that Christine hadn’t been listening to a word she was saying on the drive home from school one day, she stopped mid-sentence, glancing over at her friend. Christine continued to stare out the window of the passenger seat, aware that Alex was looking at her.
“Are you- um, is everything okay?” Alex gripped the steering wheel a little bit harder, putting her eyes back on the road.
“Why do you say that?”
“I don’t know. I just- you’re acting different and you won’t talk to me anymore and I don’t know if it’s something I did or if you’re mad at me or-” She stopped herself. “Just tell me that you’re okay.”
She kept staring out the window.
“Please.” She gave Christine a once-over before continuing. “And you look so sick. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve seen you eat anything.”
“Stop the car. I can walk home from here.”
“When was the last time you ate anything?”
“Stop the car.”
“No. I’m not going to sit around and watch you starve yourself to death.” She lowered her voice. “My mom told me, you know. About your dad. Is that what this is about?”
“Stop. The. Car.” Christine was shaking now, face turning red.
“Christine. I was just trying to help.”
“I don’t need your help! I’m fine. Just stay out of it for once. Please.”
“I-I’m sorry,” Alex said, pulling up to her friend’s house and coming to a stop.
Christine got out of the car and slammed the door shut without another word.
She was never going to talk to Alex again, she decided as she trudged up the stairs to her bedroom.
After flopping down onto her bed with a huff, she stared down at her phone, watching text notifications from Alex pile up.
Talk to me please.
When the texts turned into calls, she tossed her phone on the ground and rolled onto her back, letting her thoughts consume her.
She hadn’t eaten in three days.
She was strong; she didn’t need anyone. She didn’t need lousy best friends that only talked about themselves or moms that were never home or dads that leave.
She was better off on her own, she thought as she sat up and started writing a new plan.