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Marah's Battle With Anorexia This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

What do you do when her life’s spun out of control? You feel as if in some way you’re to blame. You sat with her everyday as she brushed off your offerings as if she didn’t want them. As if she didn’t need them. But she needed them, and here you sit; in your dad’s truck, with two of your best friends. Your dad doesn’t know what to say. I’m sure he’s just praying that it never happens to you. After all, you yourself are praying that it doesn’t happen to you.

The building comes in to sight and it’s bigger than you expected. It’s glass and a few stories high with a welcoming courtyard; the perfect rehabilitation center. The inside may as well be even more welcoming. With the melodic sounds of the piano and the comfortable couches carefully gathered around a rug that could just as likely be found in your family room, it feels like a warm home after walking through a bone-chilling blizzard.

Your dad politely walks up to the receptionist to ask where Marah Johnson’s room is. You and your friends slowly trail behind your dad as he follows the lady’s directions to an elevator and up to the second floor. You walk out of the elevator and notice the hand sanitizers every five feet away from one another. It’s just a small detail, but one that you will always remember. A room that looks to be a study sticks out off the edge of the building and has glass on all sides. It looks to be slightly relaxing and you’re sure it’s a room that Marah likes.

You round the corner and realize how close you are to seeing Marah once again. Memories come flooding back to you. You have to stifle a childish laugh about how you and your friends thought that you could fix her problem. She would jog by and you would insist on creating a daily meal planner that the four of you would follow, along with her. As if you could help.

You are faced with a long narrow hallway. You walk a little father and you see another receptionist’s desk, but this one comes into the wall so that it doesn’t block the skinny hallway.

Everything is skinny here.

The receptionist is an exact replica of the one downstairs and she once again politely states the room number that Marah has spent the last week in. You’re dad, still a gentlemen, thanks her and you are traveling farther and farther away from the glass-walled lounge that seems more and more like a safe haven with every step you take.

You knock on the door with the big “212” on it, although it’s already opened. Your dad walks in first and you and your friends follow. You’re faced with two twin sized beds with a sliding curtain separating them that is currently half open. The side of the room you stand on is filled with pictures of a skinny long-haired girl and a guitar. Then you look over to Marah’s side of the room and see her personal photos that she has chosen to hang up to remind herself of her home. Pictures of herself, you and your friends, her horse: Ranger, her dog, her cat, her family. All just normal pictures that any ordinary thirteen year old should have, but you know that this situation shouldn’t be ordinary.

“Hey guys thanks for coming,” Marah says half-heartedly. She looks sad and seems to have just been in an argument with her parents. Her eyes have bags under them, her hair looks a little thinner, but she still has her freckled button nose that turns apple-red and crinkles when she laughs, a quality you’ve grown to love over the years.

“Hey,” Shelly says, the most outgoing out of you and your two friends that have come to visit. Of course your throat has closed up so it would be impossible for you to have said anything.

How did I not know? You continue to torture yourself with this question. You had tried to make her eat, but you always got the same answer, “I have Foods class next so I’ll eat then.” It was a logical enough answer, and you’d never had a good enough argument to challenge it, so you’d let it go.

Marah sits on her bed, and her parents and older brother stand around her. They had always seemed like the perfect family. Her mom a successful veterinarian, her dad an epidemiologist, and her brother studying at a private college to major in physics and math while playing football and organizing the school’s marching band. And Marah herself was successful enough. Sure she had a 4.0 in 6th and 7th grade but that’s not saying much. Her real successfulness came from her passion, drive, and focus for anything. She excels at writing, she can write a novel or even a song and it will turn out beautiful, more beautiful than anything you’ve ever dreamt of writing. Anything a teacher throws at her she can handle and then receive back with a gold star and an A+ written in sparkly pink letters on it. The whole family’s perfect, but now you can see it cracking apart on the outside, along with the inside.

Did the pressure to be her parents’ final perfect child get to her?

The beginning of a road to imperfection had started when Marah’s dad had broken the news of her ongoing illness to you. He had had rung the doorbell at your house that night, and you had answered the door surprised to see him. Her dad had told you the circumstances and you had nodded as if you had understood exactly what was happening, and then he had simply left. You hadn’t even allowed him the chance to talk to your parents. You weren’t trying to be rude, it was just a lot for you to handle in one night, so you had thanked him for informing you and then you had simply closed the door on him.

“Sorry you didn’t know we were coming, we tried calling but no one answered, so yeah…” Shelly trails off, unsure of how to cleanse the uneasiness from the room.

You just nod in agreement with Shelly, you, her, and your other friend Farroh clearly hope that this isn’t a bad time because it was a long trek up to the rehabilitation center to just turn around and drive home, and you don’t know the next time you’re all free to visit Marah.

“No it’s a fine time, my family’s about to head to the glass library to read in the sun. We can hang out in my room for a little while.”

“Okay.” Shelly says while Marah’s family and your dad hustle out of the room to give you and your friends some time to talk privately.

Yet the day ends up amounting to nothing. You hang out, play Ninja, play cards, and chat about the end of the school year and what Marah had missed the last week of school when she was gone. You don’t talk about her sickness or when she thinks she’ll be better and out of this facility. You leave knowing less than when you had come. You come back only one or two more times after that to visit her, but these visits amount to nothing also.

The only information you do gain from your visits was on the first one. You had happened to glance at a piece of paper that Marah had written on. It talked about how she got her disease and what made her need to have it. The answers were ideal, something you could’ve seen in any other room, in any other facility, although Marah’s case was not just any other case. She was just trying to get out of the rehabilitation center as soon as possible, so that she could go back to being perfect in every subject, and in every big word she uses. But she had been imperfect in her actions, her strands of hair, her personality, and she had realized this which had prompted her to take up her deadly disease. You had thought she was perfect the way she was, popularity hadn’t been everything to her and neither had looks or actions. And then those things became everything to her, along with her grades and sports. She had wanted to be the model teenager for anybody, young to old, and she had given up calories and gained six mile sprints to be just that, perfect, or in your eyes, broken.

But somehow Marah went back to normalcy, and so did you and your friends. You ignored her problem as she had long ago, because you never feel like dampening the mood.

You dread for the rest of your life never asking if she is alright.

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