Starving for love and craving affection

March 12, 2011
By marchbutterfly GOLD, Orange, New Jersey
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marchbutterfly GOLD, Orange, New Jersey
18 articles 0 photos 12 comments

Favorite Quote:
"When you play God, you get screwed."


As Chelsea look at the cupcake Maya just placed before her all she could think about was how much fat and how many calories were in that one little tiny pink cupcake. It almost made her want to puke but she didn't because couldn't. There were two things preventing her from puking out her guts. First of all, she hadn't eaten anything more than a couple grapes in nearly four day and secondly, Maya was going to make her stay to help make sure Brian actually ate. The second she found the most hypocritical thing she could do. How could she force him to eat when she wasn't even eating? 
Maya wasn't at fault for any of this though. She had no idea that Chelsea wasn't eating, she only knew about Brian and for now Chelsea was intent on keeping it that way. Maya didn't need to know. No one needed to know.
It was her dirty little secret and hers alone,
"Here Brian eat this," demanded Maya sliding a vanilla cupcake with strawberry frosting and assorted sprinkles Brian's way. Brian took off the wrapper slowly and when the wrapper was completely off he took a normal sized bite and chewed slowly and swallowed. After about 4 bites Brian looked over at Chelsea pleadingly as to say 'save me from this hell' but she couldn't, she had her own hell to save herself from. Chelsea really wished she could have helped him though. It made her cry watching the guy she had been in love with for so many years and cared about for even longer that helpless. He was only a small fragment of what he once was and it was tearing her apart to know that.
"Chelsea, you don't want your cupcake?" Asked Maya quizzically because normally she would be digging straight in the cupcake. Well, not really normally considering for the past few months Chelsea had been eating less and less to the point of not eating at all sometimes. This wasn't a new thing either, it had been happened periodical since she was five just this time she couldn't shake it. It was a monster that kept coming back and every time it returned it was stronger than when it left. She was scared one day it would completely consume her. She knew one day it would. She was just hoping it wasn’t any time soon.
"Not really that hungry I guess," She lied. Chelsea was actually unbearably hungry but she had no plans on eating especially not something was as that cupcake,
"Really because you haven't eaten all day," Maya said skeptically. 
So just to be safe and to get Maya off her back she took a very small bite of her cupcake chewing it slowly, then she took two more giant bites and chewed them very fast and swallowed. She repeated this time and then another. She repeated this until the cupcake was finished. She had this foreboding feeling that someone was watching her, someone who could see through her act, but she just continued to chew in an effort to fool everyone into thinking she was alright when she was anything but.
"Okay, I have to go to the bathroom," she announced.
As soon as she was out of the dining room she ran straight down the hall towards her friend's 2nd floor bathroom. She had been in Maya's apartment so many times that she knew the house back and forth so it was only fitting that she would know which bathroom they never used. There was a reason they didn't use that particular bathroom was because it was located in a little crevice of the huge apartment and was nowhere near a window. That part of the house tended to be the darkest and the scariest.
Once she had completely purged everything or at least all the physical things that repulsed her out of her system she took out a stick of gum. The stick of spearmint gum was meant to disguise the smell of the vomit but it wouldn't and she knew that all too well. Maya probably wouldn't notice but Brian might. He probably wouldn't say anything but he would notice.
When she returned to the table she found that Maya still struggling to get Brian to eat. He'd actually eaten nearly half of it, which astounded her. She almost felt jealous. How was it that Brian could manage to do something he was so afraid of but she couldn't? Why was she such a coward and him so brave?
Brian looked up at Chelsea smelling the faint aroma of vomit. He gave a grimacing look that he thinks Chelsea doesn’t notice but she does notice. And for a second she thinks that he knows, he totally knows. That he can see past her disguise and that he is just waiting for her to crack, waiting for her to make one wrong move so he can call her out on hypocrisy. But she quickly throws that out of her mind because there is no way he can know. She’s put too much time and effort into to keeping this secret for anyone to find out.
"Brian can you at least try and finish it. It's one little tiny little cupcake," Maya pleaded.
Chelsea still found it hard to believe that Brian had anorexia. It had been more than 3 years ago since he was diagnosed and still she couldn't bring herself to fully believe it was true. Something like that couldn't happen to someone like him. He was a guy for Pete sake, an attractive confident one at that, those aren't the type of people who get eating disorders. She wanted to believe that so badly that for a time she convinced herself of it. SHe pretended it wasn’t happening but when Brian hit rock bottom three years ago denial was suddenly not an option anymore.
"No, I've eaten half of it already and that's a half more than intended to eat. You should be happy, I could have refused to eat it all together." Brian said violently.
"Please do it for us. We hate seeing you like this and you've been losing a lot of weight lately that you can't afford to lose. You need to start eating,” she lectured.
"No!” he responded more loud and commanding than before, “Do you want me get even fatter? I'm just starting to lose all that weight I put on during therapy and now you claim you want me to start eating again. Well news flash I'm too fat to eat."
"You are NOT fat, you've never been fat." Maya said gratingly. She looks to Chelsea for validation of what everyone knew was true and Chelsea wanted help her but she couldn’t. Of course Chelsea knew Brian was way too thin but she didn't think she had a right to tell Brian that after what she had done, not more than 5 minutes ago.
"Yeah, Maya's right, you are really skinny, way too skinny."
"Listen to us, seriously you need to gain at least like 10 pounds, and if you lose anymore weight you will be a freaking' skeleton." That was the understatement of the decade. If he lost any more weight he would be dead.
"Okay, I'll eat," Screamed Brian. He looked almost on the brink of tears, “Happy now I'll eat and become even more of a fat f than I already am but promise me when I'm a big ball of lard you will still love me." Chelsea's instinct was to hug him but she wasn't sure. Maya of course did hug him because her philosophy was hug first and talk later. Chelsea joined in reassuring Brian that even if he were fat they would still love him. And honestly that was true. Chelsea and Maya would always love him. That was one thing that would never change.
************************
"You're into him aren't you?" said Maya suddenly, breaking the silence.
"What are you talking about?" Chelsea looked up from the book she was reading to the wide-eyed girl.
"Brian, You like him, don’t you? Or at the very least you want to f him."
"No, Brian is just a friend," Chelsea spoke slowly for emphasis. Maya just gave her a skeptical look.
“I’m not stupid. don’t give me that you’re just friends crap. You are totally into him.”
"Okay I might like him a little but I can't like him, not when he's like this, not right now.
"I know what you mean, he makes me so angry because he's not fat but yet he's screwing his body up by starving himself. It's as if he has a death wish." For a moment Chelsea actually thought about what she was doing to herself. She was thinking about how she could starve to death but that only lasted a second. She was convinced that anything was better than being who she was now.
"So where's Brian anyway?"
"He had some dinner thing with his relatives." Unlike Maya it actually occurred to Chelsea that Brian was definitely going to end up purging due to the fact that he came from a family of obese, big eaters, which meant he would be forced to eat. But there was also a deeper reason. Brian didn’t like his family. Actually he downright hated them. They put him on pedestal that he didn’t want to be on. To his aunts, uncles, and cousins, he was just short of perfect. He could do no wrong. Except everything Brian seemed to do was wrong. That’s the way he saw it. No one else saw it that way but he didn’t care. Brian was determined to believe that he was almost a failure and he was the only one who could change that. Chelsea wished she could make him see the truth. All the wishing in the world wouldn’t help though. Whatever, Brian believed about himself was ingrained in his mind from birth. 
"So how long?" Chelsea looked at Maya bemused.
"How long what?"
"Have you been crushing on Brian?”
"A couple months," more like a couple years. Chelsea honestly could not remember a time when she wasn’t completely and totally in love with him.
"And you haven't told him,"
"I never got a chance. First I was dating Jake, then I broke up with Jake but he started dating Olivia and now this. I don't think I will ever get a chance." Chelsea was a cynic especially when it came to romance. She didn't believe in love. It was for the best in her mind. She didn’t deserve love and love didn’t deserve her.
**************
Later that night Maya, Chelsea and Brian were hanging out at Maya's house like they did every Friday night since they were nine. Many things had changed since then but their weekly movie nights had not. It was really the only stability in their crazy lives and they weren’t ready to give it up yet.
"Maya, we need more popcorn." Chelsea yelled from the couch too lazy to get up and it herself.
"Coming." she looked at Brian, whose ice-blue that were surrounded by a thin ring of chestnut brown eyes were glued to the T.V. Brian almost looked angry. For the first time in a while she can see how truly thin he was. His cheeks were a lot less round than she remembered but she’s not sure if that’s a benefit of puberty, a lack of purging or he’s just lost some weight from his face. But that’s not the only thing she notices. She swears he’s losing muscle in his arms and she can see the faint outline of his ribs through his thin gray shirt, not to mention his very pronounces collarbones.
"Brian, how much do you weigh?" He just looked up at her; She knew it was the worst possible question but not for the reason she thought. Brian stared at her. She could see how infuriated with her he was but she didn't know the reason why.
"103," Brian answered flatly. Chelsea is almost surprised by how much the number doesn’t seem to bother him.
"You're really light," she sounded more astonished than concerned, as though it was an accomplishment.
"What? “He sounded almost furious but even more annoyed.
"The popcorn is ready." said Maya interrupting the awkward moment at the right time. Chelsea saw the nervous look on Brian's face. He knew he was going to have to eat but little did Chelsea know she would have to eat also. “Open wide," Maya forcing the popcorn in Brian's thin lips. She leaned forward as her voluptuous breast hung out of her low-cut v-neck plain black tee. Brian might have actually liked it, if he wasn’t so focused on other things
"Do I have to?" Asked Brian in a whining tone as he'd done many times before but this time, unlike most of the times Chelsea and Maya would try to get him to eat, he was less serious and more playful.
"Yes," Maya and Chelsea said in unison. Maya's voice was softer and quieter but Brian could still hear her. Brian scooped up a hand full of popcorn in his bony fingers and tossed it in his mouth quickly and without hesitation.
"Doesn't that taste good?" mocked Maya as she jump on Brian lap, pressing her weight on his long, bony legs.
"No," Brian lightly pushed Maya off his lap. Right then his phone began to vibrate. He checked the number on his outdated black Motorola Razr, and then flipped it open.
"Hey, Olivia what's up?" Asked Brian. Olivia was Brian's oblivious Barbie lookalike girlfriend of 5 months. Brian had known Olivia about as long as he had known Chelsea and Maya but until recently Olivia wasn't more than an acquaintance.
"Maya can I talk to you for a moment." Maya brushed off her pink cotton shorts that barely managed to cover her butt, and pushed herself off the floor and head toward her bedroom. Chelsea followed.
"Did you notice that Brian is losing a lot of weight lately? He probably doesn’t weigh more than his Barbie doll girlfriend?"
"Yeah, now that you mention it, I have noticed. It’s actually kind of frightening." It was more than kind of frightening it was downright terrifying. Brian couldn’t afford to lose anymore weight because at this point losing even another pound could mean him ending up in the hospital again or worse dead.
"I asked him early how much he weighs and he told me 103 and then-"
"Damn he weighs less than you. He’s 5’8, he should weigh a hell of a lot more than 103," said Maya cutting Chelsea off.
"I know." Chelsea thought about how she really had no right to be talking about this. She was doing the same thing but unlike Brian she was smart enough not to get caught.
"Wait, is that what I walked in on?"
"Yeah, by the way thank you for ending the possibly awkwardness."
"These shorts are way to tight," Maya said attempting (and failing) once again to fix her shorts to a point where she looked decent.
"Why'd you wear those shorts anyway, they fail to even cover your butt let any other part of your legs" Chelsea ridiculed.
"Did you just call me a slut?"
"No, I just suggested that those shorts might be a little too short, you're not a slut, well at least not all the time."
Chelsea would never admit it but she was jealous of Maya. She saw Maya as the standard of perfection. Maya was tall, thin and gorgeous or in other words everything Chelsea wanted to be but never would be 
"If you have it, you gotta flaunt it."
"I guess."
"Speaking of showing off, why don't you ever show off yours?" Teased Maya pointed at Chelsea's green and white sweatshirt and baggy gray tattered Hollister sweatpants.
"Because I have nothing to show off."
"Of course you do. You have this little athletic body. Those nice toned arms, that I wish I could achieve and some pretty nice boobs. And let’s not pretend your ass isn’t on that Nicki Minaj status,” and Chelsea laughs because she knows Maya’s making a joke but she also can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable. She knows that Maya honestly believes these things about her, and that should make her feel better about herself, at least temporarily, but it doesn’t because she can’t bring herself to believe anything that’s coming out. When she looks in the mirror she simply doesn’t see any of that.
She sees a girl who is way too short. Her face is too square, eyebrows too bushy, nose too big and too wide, lips too thin, her skin too blotchy but that’s not the worst of it. Then comes her body. There are so many things wrong with her body beyond her being fat. It’s just so misshapen. Her shoulders are too broad, her hips are extremely wide, she’s paunchy, her legs are extremely short and thick. She is willing to admit though that sometimes she likes her arms. They aren’t really that bad. But overall if she had to rate her body it wouldn’t be very high at all.

“You know, if you don’t believe me I could always give you a makeover, prove to you that you’re hot stuff”Maya says sing-songy, snapping Chelsea out her daze. Maya lived to do makeovers. She was a future makeup artist and everybody knew it. She often loved to practice on Chelsea. Maya began search through her black makeup bag and pulled out an eye shadow quad with light pink, baby blue, chrome yellow and white and an expensive tube of red lip-gloss. She started dust on blue eye shadow onto Chelsea's right eyelid with a small eyelid brush. Then she carefully applied the lip-gloss to Chelsea's thin, pale pink lips. She have applied blush but Chelsea’s not exactly sure, "Now all we need is a better outfit." Maya started raiding through her closet. Maya had more clothes than she'd ever need and she was forever looking for a way to get rid of the clothes that she didn't need or want. She could only give so much to charity. Maya pulled out a bunch of clothes and threw them at Chelsea. "Put on this." Chelsea put on the outfit quickly because she really didn't care how it looked. She wouldn't wear an outfit like that even if she had Maya's body. It just wasn't her style.
"You look nice," Maya smiled sincerely, "Now go show Brian,"she says as she all but pushed Chelsea into the living room.
Chelsea stood by the couch twiddling her fingers as she waits for Brian to get off the phone. The longer he stays on the phone the more annoyed she gets because although she would never admit it but she hated Olivia more than anything. She didn't hate Olivia simply because she was dating Brian, she hated Olivia because Olivia didn't know what she had.
After about five minutes Brian finally ended his phone call. He looks up at Chelsea and began laughing.
"Does it really look that bad?"
"No. You actually look kinda nice. I’m lying, you actually look really nice but why are you dressed up to sit around the house?"
"Maya decided she wanted to give me a makeover."
"Practicing her makeup skills again?" Brian asked.
"Yep." Chelsea noticed the textbook in Brian's hands.
"What are you doing?"
"Studying for my math midterm. Did you take it yet?"
"Yep."
"Well I'm gonna fail. I kind of need you to help me study,"
"Sure." Chelsea liked when people needed her help especially when it was Brian who needed her help, it made her feel needed. The doorbell rang. 
"
I'll get it, " yelled Maya from the kitchen.
"She's actually insane."
"Yep," Brian gave his typical half-hearted, apathetic response.
"Get your fresh hot pizza." Maya placed the box of grease filled pizza on the table. It looked utterly disgusting but Brian and Chelsea both knew they had to eat it. Chelsea grabbed a piece of first and put it in her mouth and Brian tried to follow.
"You're eating the pizza too," insisted Maya observing the look on Brian's face. Brian took out a pepperoni slice and hesitantly took a bite. "So, Chelsea, do you have a date to the end-of-semester dance?"
"Nope," Chelsea answered simply.
"What about Nalin?" Brian asked, not particularly caring if she gave him an answer or not.
"Too much history. We're just starting to become friends again. So that would probably be insanely awkward."
"Brian if you care so much why don't you take her yourself?" suggested Maya.
"Because I’m kind of dating Olivia, if you weren’t aware." Brian responds sassily.
"Do you have a date?" he challenged in an attempt to get her to shut up.
"Yeah." Maya said somewhat triumphantly.
"Who?"
"Allen Humphrey."
"The guy in our chemistry class?"
"Yeah, him."
"You know he's a big-." Right in the middle of her sentence Chelsea was cut off by Brian's phone starting to vibrate. He flipped open his phone, read the message and quickly shut the phone.
"Who was it?"
"Olivia."
"What did she want?"
"She sent me a text saying she's breaking up with me." Brian was a little relieved that she had broken up with him. He knew they weren’t t gonna work out.
"What a b**ch. How do you break up with someone by text?"
"I knew eventually she would realize I'm a fat slob and dump me." Brian put down the half a slice of pizza he was eating.
"Okay, this conversation is getting toO depressing for me," said Maya being her usual cheery self. 
"So, Brian since you don't have a date for the dance how about you go with Chelsea." Chelsea's big honey colored eyes widened.
"Sure, whatever."
"I'm going to the bathroom." Chelsea got up and headed straight to the upstairs bathroom to purge all the fattening food she had just consumed in an effort to calm her nerves. She leaned over the porcelain toilet, stuck her thin long finger down her throat and begun to purge the food that she believed was making her fat. After getting out as much food as possible Chelsea looked up from the off-white, vomit filled porcelain void to find Brian staring at her. His facial expression was a mix of anger, disgust and melancholy. She didn't know what to say.

“Don't," Chelsea said before Brian could manage say to anything, "I know this is dangerous. I know I'm a hypocrite and I know I should get help. I know it all, so don't say it."

"Chelsea, I don't need an explanation," and honestly he didn’t. He knew exactly what she would say and he also knew it would all be bullshit.

"Wait, what?" Chelsea was expecting Brian to blow-up at her. He should have been angry because after all she was slowly killing herself and well aware of it. She was doing exactly what he had spent the last 3 years of his life struggling to stop doing. He didn't seem angry though. Yeah, his face read slightly of anger and disappointment but he seemed calm, if anything. He was calm.

"I've been watching you get worse and worse for the last couple of months. It's seriously scaring me, not to mention pissing me off. What is wrong with you?" Brian's tone was harsh because it bothered him that Chelsea would do this to herself after watching him struggle with an eating disorder for 3 years. He thought she was smarter than that. He knew she was smarter than that. So how could she make such a dumb decision?

"I'm sorry." Chelsea sounded innocent. Her guard was let down and her tough exterior was broken. She felt so horrible. She didn’t want to scare Brian so bad but she had no other choice. It was either that or continue being the disappointment she was now and that wasn’t an option. Even so, it sucked that Brian was a casualty.

"Chelsea, you know what you're doing. You've seen first hand how much having an eating disorder has destroyed my life. Why would you make the same mistake?" He was serious at a loss. He just didn’t understand.

"Because this is all I know." The statement was vague and ambiguous. Chelsea didn't want to say anymore. She couldn't stand Brian being anymore disappointed in her than he already was.

"What?” he asked confused and worried, more so confused though.

"This has been going on for a lot longer than you think." That was just about the last thing Brian needed to hear.

"How long?" Brian was almost scared to find out the answer.

"A really long time." She gave another ambiguous answer, hoping that Brian would give up but knowing he wouldn’t.

"How long?" Brian demanded again.

"Close to 6 years," the number shocked the gorgeous boy but he couldn’t claim that he didn’t expect it.

"How did I not notice?" He asked, feeling even more incompetent.

"It's been on and off for the last few years. This time around it just got a little out of my control." Chelsea felt vulnerable. She wasn't used to feeling vulnerable but here she revealing her biggest secret and to top it all off she was telling all of this to guy she had been in love with for longer than she could remember.

"Really? You have to be kidding me,” he said agitated, “What the hell? Chelsea you seriously need to get help." She knew that all too well but she wasn’t about to admit it. She needed a little longer to ride with the beast she called her eating disorder before she was ready to give it up yet.

"No I don't. I know what I'm doing,” Chelsea said insistently, trying to convince herself that it was true.

"No, you don't,” he retorted, “I thought I knew what I was doing too but obviously I didn't. If I did I wouldn't still be dealing with an eating disorder 4 years later."

"I've dealt with this before. I'm not going to become anorexic, I know when to stop." She was lying and they both knew it.

"This time I don't think you do." Brian was on the bridge of tears but he wouldn't cry. He knew crying would just make things worse. He had been taught never to cry and for once he would abide by that. For once he’d be a man.

"Trust me, I can handle it."

"But you can't. You are starving yourself basically to death and for absolutely no reason. You're forcing yourself to throw and you don't need to,"Brian ran his fingers through his thick, curly black hair, exhaling loudly in a vain attempt to calm himself down, yet somehow he still remained agitated, “I don’t understand how you don’t see how ridiculous this all is.”

"I do need though. I’m a failure, I’m a screw up and this is my only chance to be something other than that. If I can fix the fact that I am ugly and I’m fat then maybe I’ll be worthy."

"But you’re not ugly or fat,' Brian responded failing to fully comprehend the rest of what she said but eventually it did dawn on him what she meant, “Wait, worthy of what?”

“Worthy of you guys. I want to be worthy of having friends as awesome and caring as you guys,” and when Chelsea said that Brian heard part of himself in it. He remembered saying something eerily similar to that 4 years ago. He remembered using that as validation for his eating disorder and he couldn’t help feeling like Chelsea was doing the same.

“Wow, you want to be worthy of being my friend. That’s funny because often times I think I’m not worthy of having you as a friend. But with that being said honestly I think that you’re completely wrong. You are more than worthy of having us as friends. Anyone would love to have a friend like you. You are amazing and smart and funny and absolutely gorgeous,” he said honestly.

"No, I'm not,” she said ardent, ”Stop lying to me,” she sounded angry.

"I can't deal with this. I'm going outside," and with that he stomped out, making sure to make a scene even if Chelsea was the only one around to witness it. Chelsea waited a couple minutes before following after Brian. He needed time to cool down and she needed to get the smell of vomit off her breath.

"Maya, where'd Brian go?"

"He went outside. Did something happen? He looked kind of pissed." Chelsea neither had time to explain the situation nor did she want to.

"Long story. I'll tell you later,” They both knew she wouldn’t.

"Alright," Maya was suspicious but she didn't want to get into it. Chelsea could handle herself and she could certainly handle Brian, so whatever it was she was sure that Chelsea could handle it without her intervention. Chelsea walked over to the porch and spotted Brian smoking. Honestly, she hated when he smoked more than anything. It smelled disgusting and made her cough like crazy. But he smoked anyway. He wasn’t by any means a heavy smoker. Brian really only smoked when he was stressed or upset. Chelsea wondered which one it was today and if she was the cause.

"I hate it when you smoke. I thought you stopped." Brian looked up at her. How could he stay mad at her? She just puked out her guts and somehow she still remained absolutely gorgeous. She was beautiful no matter what.

"You've told me that so many times," Chelsea saw the slight smile he was trying to suppress. It made her just the least bit happier to see that smile.

"And you never listen." They both stop talking for a few moments unsure of what to say from there. Both of the awkward teens were unsure of what to do next. Then Brian broke the silence.

"Did you come outside to watch me smoke?"

"No," she answered simply.

"Then do you want to talk about it?" He looked her straight in her deep brown eyes hoping for the answer he wanted but wishing that wasn’t the answer she’d give.

"About your smoking or my problem?"

"What do you think?" She shook her head yes. She really didn't want to talk about it but she didn't find Brian smoking all that interesting.

"I really don't have anything to say. I have no idea what to say. There isn't really anything I can say without feeling like a complete hypocrite,” Brian said truthfully. Chelsea just starred at him, understanding completely what he had to say.

"Are you still mad at me?" The brunette’s voice was low. She sounded vulnerable and unsure of herself.

"I'm not mad. Well, that’s not true. I am mad but not at you. I am mad at myself for not noticing. I'm the resident anorexic and it took me so long to notice and even when I did notice I didn't do anything to stop it,” he looked down at the ground solemnly for about a minute before he continued talking, “I'm so pathetic. You must hate me. I literally endangered your life." He was being way to hard on himself.

"You are not pathetic. You couldn't have done anything. I'm stubborn. This isn't your fault." She was trying to reassure him.

"But it feels like it is. I let you down." That was far from the truth. Brian had never let her down in the 13 years they had been friends and she was sure that he would never let her down.

"You didn't let me down. It's kinda hard to let me down when I didn't ask you for help."

“But I still should have known you needed help.”

“and if you offered it I wouldn’t have taken it.” she said honestly.

After a few seconds of silence too many, Brian said something, "So what do we do from here?" Neither of them had a clue. Maya always had the answers and they just went along with them. That was the routine.

“I don't know."

"We could talk to Maya." That's the last thing Chelsea wanted to do. It was bad enough that Brian knew but Maya couldn't be brought into this also. She couldn’t screw with Maya’s life anymore than she was already. It would just end badly for everyone and she couldn’t have that.

"No. We are not telling Maya,” she said forcefully. She looked at Brian and an idea popped into her head, “How about we make a deal?"

"What kind of deal?”

“The kind of deal where you help me and I help you,” she responded assuming that Brian knew what she was talking about.

"What do you mean?"

"I thought it was simple. We help each other get better and keep Maya out of it. That way no one gets hurt,” except nothing ever worked that way.

"And what if that doesn't work?" Brian was skeptical.

"Then I'll lie for you and you’d lie for me." Now, Brian wasn't just skeptical.

"We can't do that." It was more like they shouldn’t do it. The plan was dangerous and detrimental to both Chelsea and Brian.

"Why?"

"Because that will just make everything worse." Chelsea had already thought about how bad things could get especially for Brian considering he was very close to being dead but she was willing to take the risk.

"Brian, I know what I'm doing." She had said that so many times and every time it proved to be untrue. What was so different about this time?

"Eventually Maya will notice," neither of them had any doubt about that. Chelsea just hoped it wasn’t soon.

"No, not if we keep the secret well enough." But that was virtually impossible? Keeping secret never ended well for either party and this was no exception.

"This is a bad idea but I'll go along with it,” Brian gave Chelsea a look of dispproval.

*****************

A week had gone by since they had made the deal and it wasn't working out the way Chelsea had expected. Brian had taken the deal as an excuse to stop eating all together. And Brian was getting even angrier with her because she was acting even worse than him. Chelsea was starting to see how bad of an idea the deal was but she couldn’t end it now.

"Brian, we have band practice tonight," said Nalin in passing. Nalin was the bassist in Brian's band as well as his male best friend. They had known each other for longer than Brian had known either Maya or Chelsea.

"Okay," Brian said lethargically. It was more than obvious that he hadn't been eating or even sleeping. He made no attempt to hide it.

"Are you okay?" Nalin could see something was going on and it kind of worried him. Nalin was among the few people who actually knew about Brian's eating disorder and therefore was in a constant state of worry over Brian’s health.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I’m just tired." Nalin obviously didn't believe Brian but he was going to give Brian the benefit of the doubt. Maybe for once it had nothing to do with Brian’s anorexia. Maybe Brain was just tired. Once Brian had walked far enough away and Nalin thought it was fine to ask Chelsea what he wanted to ask her, he opened his mouth and began to speak.

"Is he eating?" Chelsea wanted to tell the truth and say no but she couldn't. She made a deal with Brian and she was going to honor it.

"As far as I know."

"He looks really thin. I don’t know, I might just be worrying too much." Oh, no, he was worrying just the right amount.

"Yeah, that's probably it."

"Are you alright?" No, she was far from alright. She had many problems and very few of them had to do with the fact that she wasn’t eating.

"Huh?” she responded absentmindedly, “Yeah I'm fine." She was never very good at lying.

"Something's wrong. Chelsea, I know you and I can’t tell something is definitely wrong."

"Nothing is wrong. I’m honestly fine."

"We went out for 2 years and in that time I might have been completely oblivious to most things but I can tell when something's up with you."

"I just have a lot on my mind."

"It's more than that and it probably has something to do with Brian." She hated how right he was.

"I might not be your boyfriend anymore but I still care about you. You can tell what’s going on."

"Not this, not now," she sounded afraid.

"You're really scaring me," He laughed but he was honestly very worried.

"Trust me, Nalin you wouldn't understand."

"What's going on? Are you eating? " Nalin was very aware that when Chelsea was stressed she tended to lose her appetite. She didn't respond. She couldn't respond. She really wanted to tell him but she couldn't. She wasn’t ready to.

"Is that it? Are you stressed or is it something more?" He was catching on.

"I kinda made a deal with Brian."

"Okay, what kind of deal?"

"I'd lie for him if he lied for me."

"About what?"

"What do you think?"

"So you lie about him whether he's eating or not but what does he lie about for you?" Chelsea again didn't respond fearing he already knew the answer.

"Chelsea, you- " She cut him off before he could say another word.

"I'm starving myself, okay. Are you happy now?"

"Why would that make me happy? One of my best my best friends is on the brink of death and now you're working on getting there too. I'm really not in the mood to lose two of my closest friends. Not right now."

"It's not that bad"

"That's what Brian said."

"I have it all under control."

"He said that too. Chelsea maybe you should talk to someone."

"Brian told me the same thing."

"He's right." Chelsea knew that but she couldn't give up so easily.

"I don't need help. For once I have everything under control."

"Are you sure? Chelsea, you are making Brian cover for you, how could you be alright? I don't think you have anything under control."

"Nalin, just worry about Brian and leave me alone."

"I can't. I care about you too much." That's what Chelsea was afraid of. She hated to let people get too close but there were people like Maya and Brian who just happened to slip through. It sucked that Nalin had slipped through also.

"At this moment I think Brian is a little more important than me." Nalin decided to just let it go. Chelsea was too stubborn and wouldn't accept help unless she thought she needed it.

"You're the one who made the deal with him."

"Yeah, but I didn't know he would take it this far."

"Really? You've known him almost as long as I have. You did know, you were just looking out for yourself," Nalin sounded cold-hearted and judgmental.

"That's not true."

"You know you were only looking out for yourself. You didn't think about how much it would hurt Brian."

"That's not what happened." She started to cry. It was then that he realized that he was being way too harsh on her. Yeah, she was selfish but he couldn't blame her. She had a lot going on. He wrapped his arms around her and let her cry on his shoulder.

"You're pretty when you cry." It was a weird statement but he meant it. She was always pretty especially when she wasn't being tough and defensive. She was the most beautiful when she was her most vulnerable.

"What the hell is going on with you two?" Maya asked.

It hadn't been more than 2 weeks since Brian and Chelsea had made the horrible deal but the effects were already beginning to show. Neither Brian nor Chelsea could hide it anymore. Maya could easily see something was wrong from a mile away and she was going to find out what it was because if she didn’t she had no idea what would happen.

"What are you talking about?" Asked Chelsea trying to play the innocent card but all three of the teens knew all too well Chelsea was anything but innocent. If anything she was more guilty than any of them. She had a huge secret on her shoulders that kept from everyone for years. Her whole life was pretty much a lie because she scared of anyone finding out the truth. It was defense mechanism and it worked perfectly fine, at least until about two weeks ago.

"Don’t play dumb. You know very well what I’m talking about. Brian is literally the walking dead and you're not much better. You are acting weird and shady and I have no idea why. You guys either have become super heroes or you're hiding something major from me and I want to know what it is."

"There's nothing going on," said Chelsea as she laughed nervously. She was a horrible liar and Maya immediately saw through her deception.

"You are incapable of lying. I mean you are definitely the worst liar, ever. So stop with the BS and just tell me what’s going on.” Maya was not her usually cheery self and that was worrying Chelsea. She had only seen this side of her a couple times before. Chelsea always knew that everything Maya took on would finally become too much and it would come to the surface, she just didn’t think it would happen so soon.

"Maya, honestly I have a lot to deal with so can we just get the little intervention over with. You already know what's going on anyway, it's the same thing that's been going on for the last 3 years and will probably be going on for the rest of my life," Chelsea's eyes opened wide. Something was seriously edging at Brian. She wasn't really so surprised by his semi-ambiguous confession but by the tone in which he said it. And did he just say he was planning on never getting better? How was that supposed to make Chelsea and Maya feel? How were they not supposed to be scared?

Maya was definitely worrying about Brian after what he just said but she wouldn't say anything. She really didn't want to lecture him today. She wasn't in the mood. She was tired of being motherly. Having to babysit everyone else was finally getting to her.

Why was she always taking care of everyone else? Why couldn't someone take care of her? When would she get a break? When would she get to live? She knew life wasn't fair but it had to be better than this. She was an instinctive care but eventually she had to take a break. She couldn’t do it forever. For once she would let Chelsea and Brian figure out their own problems.

"You know what Brian I'm not going to get into this. This is your problem and you can deal with it yourself," Brian turned his gaze towards Chelsea. They were both were thinking the same thing: Why was Maya so upset?

"Did I do something wrong?" Brian sounded much more innocent now.

"No, at least not anything you haven't done before." That was bittersweet. Brian had escaped confrontation but he was still left with the disappointment.

Maya was obviously disappointed in him and hurt because of him and he could feel it. But he couldn't fix the past couple years. Yeah, in theory, he could change the future but he didn’t really know if he was capable of that either. He didn’t know if it was really possible. He was set in his ways and no one could change that. Brian was convinced that he would eventually die at the hands of the disease. It was inevitable.

"I'm going outside," Brian announced.

"Okay," responded Maya. She stared at Chelsea waiting for her to follow the tall, thin but absolute stunning boy. She knew Chelsea well enough to know that she would, "Aren't you going to follow him?"

"What?"

"Aren’t you going after him?"

"Am I his babysitter?" No, Brian was capable of handling himself. Honestly, Chelsea needed a babysitter much more Brian did.

"No but he's your best friend and he seemed pretty mad.”

“He’s your best friend too,” she retorted.

“It's your turn to deal with him. I’m done."

"Is something wrong?"Chelsea asked genuinely concened. Maya and her had official switched roles. This was a role unfamiliar to Chelsea. She was used to being the harsh one. She was the tough one and Maya was the understanding one. That's the way it had always been and the way it was always was suppose to be.

"No, I'm just tired of fixing everyone else's problems. I have problems of my own to deal with."

"Okay, if you're going to be like that then I'll go after him, not that I have any idea what to say," Chelsea said reluctantly. It was just like the other day. Brian was standing outside smoking, which he had been doing a lot more often lately. He was smoking close to two packs a day and that excessive for Brian who usually was nothing more than a light smoker.

"Are you alright?" He just looked her and she automatically knew the answer.

"I don't know, maybe." He ran his hand through his thin, almost-black hair.

"Okay, let me rephrase the question. What's wrong?"

"Everything." She needed more of an answer than that.

"Not an answer. Can you be a little more specific?" Brian didn't answer. Chelsea yet again rephrased her question

"Is it about the deal?" She asked bluntly.

"Kind of."

"Yeah, it was a stupid idea but you can’t go around acting like this. You need to get yourself together or we’re both going to get caught," she said angrily.

"Whatever," he rolled his eyes.

“I’m not kidding. Stop acting like a damn child,” she looked at him fiercely, her face full of disappointment, “And can you at least try to start eating.”

“Maybe I would if you weren’t behaving the exact same way,” Brian retorted, his voice full anger, “Chelsea if anyone needs to start eating it’s you.”

"Says the person who is basically almost dead," she responded spiteful.

Actually though, at this point Brian might as well have been dead. He was nothing more than bits and pieces of the guy she loved for years.

"You're really over-exaggerating." He wanted to believe that but he knew all too well that she wasn’t.

"I'm not though,” she simply stated, “Everyone can tell you aren't eating. You look like you haven’t slept in a week, which you probably haven’t, and you’re always in a bad mood. Plus you’re losing a lot of weight. Brian, accept it, you are well on your way to starving to death."

She hated acknowledging it but everything she said was true and she had to accept it. If Brian kept doing what he was doing he would be dead pretty soon.

"For some reason I don't believe you,” his tone was harsh and full of malice. He looked at Chelsea; she looked worried and scared but most of all she looked lost. Maybe she wasn’t lying, “Maybe I might look a little sick but I can’t look that bad," he pleaded. He wanted to convince himself of that and he wanted Chelsea to validate it.

"Trust me. Nalin even noticed. You look seriously sick. You are pale as f***k, you have no energy and you’re always on edge. It’s scaring the hell out and I don’t get scared, that’s how bad it is and if you don’t start eating, it’s going to get a whole lot worse."

"When did you talk to Nalin?" It didn't make sense. Nalin and Chelsea were barely acquaintances, so how could they have talked long enough to have a serious conversation? What the hell was going on?

"About a week ago,” she said regaining her composure.

"Did you tell him?" Brian was getting kind of nervous and a little anxious. He didn't want anyone worrying about him more than they needed to and he knew if Chelsea told Nalin that would cause him to worry.

"Kind of," she became quiet.

"What does kind of mean?"

"He figured it out on his own."

“How?”

“Obviously he could see it. Anyone with eyes can see you aren’t alright.”

"So you left me out to dry. I'm starting to think that if I just told Maya we would be a lot better off. Why did you have to go and tell Nalin, anyway?" Chelsea cut him off.

"He knows about me too," she said quietly and calmly.

"That makes it worse." He was bitter and angry. It read all over his face.

"Trust me, nothing can make my life worse than it is right now. If anything maybe Nalin knowing will make things better."

"Your life can't be worse than mine."

"You would think that wouldn’t you and you’d be wrong."

"I'm a straight a guy with an eating disorder, my ex-girlfriend of 5 months, broke up with me by text and my best friend is trying to kill herself. I don’t know how your life could be any worse than that."

"I'm in love with a guy who has major problems, to point that he’s just short of killing himself, and I know he will never love me back." And with that she won.

*****************************************

He lay fast asleep. His long, insanely curly hair, black hair was messy and his eyelid shut closed. He looked so pure. He looked so peaceful and innocent, like he was incapable of doing wrong. Normally this wouldn't worry Chelsea but Brian wasn't just sleeping he had fainted. And she knew why he fainted and to top things off she wasn't the only one there to witness it. She saw the beautiful boy slowly opened his eyes. He looked around and it immediately registered in his mind what happened and he knew it wasn't good.

"You awake?" Chelsea whispered. She definitely hadn't slept that night. She was still wearing the same clothes as the previous day. He continued to stare at her because her smile made him happy, it almost made him not want to keep fighting to live. Almost. But almost wasn’t good enough.

"Yeah," he muttered. "Am I in trouble?" He smiled warmly. His sweet smile, making Chelsea want to forgive but she couldn’t. He had pulled this crap one too many time.

"Oh yeah, of course you are. You f*ing fainted in the middle of my damn living room."

"Did anyone else see?"

"Other than Maya and Nalin, no but you have to stop this or at least be more careful." She looked at Brian hoping a light bulb would go off in head but she got nothing. It wasn't like she really could say anything more though because after all she wasn't eating either.

"Okay."

“I’m not kidding, you have to stop,” she said more forcefully and serious than before.

"I know." right then Nalin walked in. His big brown eyes full of worry. It actually made Chelsea's feel horrible because she was causing him so much pain. Someone as gorgeous as him, and she did still think he was beyond gorgeous even after so many years, didn't deserve to have to deal with so much. No one deserved to have to deal with any of the crap he had to deal with. Come to think of it all of them had a lot to deal with. They were 16 year olds, life was supposed to be easy but it wasn't. Whoever said life wasn't fair was referring exclusively to the 4 teens and that made it all the worse.

"Is he awake yet?" Nalin asked Chelsea as he carefully avoided her gaze. He couldn't really look at her as of late. He was too scared of letting himself fall for her again just to get hurt. He didn’t think he could handle it.

"Yep."

"You know I can hear right?" Brian said annoyed. He was annoyed that everyone treated him like a helpless case. He wasn’t as delicate and fragile as everyone thought. He was capable of handling himself.

"Oh, sorry. You alright?"

"I guess I'm as alright as I can be." They all just looked at each other in silence: no one wanting to say a word. Brian didn't know what to say, Chelsea didn't have anything to say and Nalin was afraid to say. But eventually Nalin did break the silence.

"When will you stop pulling this crap?" his tone was harsh.

“What in the hell are you are talking about?”

“You know very well what I’m talking about?” He said angrily.

"I can't help it." He simply and honestly.

"Don’t play the victim,”

“I’m not playing the victim. I actually can’t help it.”

“I want to believe but I can’t because every time you seem to be getting better you always do something to screw it up. It's like you have a death wish. Maybe you do have one and no matter what I say nothing will ever change."

"I don't have a freakin death wish and this is actually out of my control."

"That is a bunch of crap and you know it. You went along willingly with Chelsea’s idiotic deal. Someone who actually wants to get better would never do something that stupid. Brian, you are capable of getting better, you just don’t want to." he turned his attention to Chelsea "And Chelsea, What the hell is wrong with you?"

"What are you talking about?"

"You somehow have developed an eating disorder and refuse to get help despite knowing how dangerous it is. How does that happen to someone like you? You’re better than this?"

"Do you really want an answer?" She was challenging him.

"Considering you are one of the few real friends I have and your trying to commit suicide, yeah I want an answer."

"I don't have an answer. It doesn’t matter anyway because no matter what I tell you, you’re still going to give me a lecture," She said simply and without apology.

"Of course I am because I don’t understand how you don’t know why you're trying to killing yourself and by the looks of it, succeeding?" Brian was getting engrossed in the conversation. It was actually kind of funny, in a sad way.

"You want an answer. I do it because I'm not good enough," she said audaciously.

"Good enough for what? Good for enough for who?" He questioned.

“Does it matter? You asked for an answer and I gave it.”

“Yeah, it kind of does.” Everything about her mattered, it always had. It sucked that he was starting to fall for the dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty again.

"You guys. My friends. You, Brian and Maya,” she blurted out, “Are you happy? I'm like a waste of human life and everyone knows it. You guys deserve someone better as a friend. Someone who is actually worthy of your friendship.” She waited a few seconds for Nalin to respond, "See, you can't even disagree."

"I don't think I can even respond to that,” he stated, “Chelsea you are not a waste of human life and are definitely worthy of our friendship,” he looked confused, hurt and a little upset but most of all worried, “I don’t know how you could even think something like that. You are absolutely amazing and I have no idea why you can't see that."

"And there it is," Brian chimed in, consciously interrupting their romantic moment partly because he was jealous and partly because he felt left out.

"Okay, now what are you talking about?"

"Have they kissed yet?" asked Ronnie, Chelsea's younger brother, who was peaking through the open door, interrupting Brian before he had the chance to say anything.

"Really?" Chelsea exclaimed, "Why would you want to know that?"

"I don't but Maya does. She paid a five bucks to find out," and Chelsea couldn’t help but laugh.

"Go, tell Maya, no we haven’t kissed yet neither are we going to."

“That’s what you claim but the second I leave you are Nalin are going to have a full on lip lock.”

“You are so annoying.”

"But that's why you love me," said Ronnie.

"Ronnie disappear somewhere."

"Whatever you want but you can’t deny that you and Nalin are cute together." Both Nalin and Chelsea hated how right he was.

Brian was playing macho. He was playing tough. He was playing a man in the hardest and best role of his life in a play that that he never quite understood the script for. He was the play’s main character and its’ only star. For over a week now, he had been playing this part. He had been going around yelling at everyone, about anything and everything, every time he got a chance. He was making threats and barking demands. He was punching through walls and kicking down doors. Adrenaline ran through his body and powered his actions, or so he claimed. He was acting tough, simply because he wanted to be tough.

He had been acting this way for way too long. Chelsea being, the A+ Sociology student she was, could see, from a mile away, he was playing the playing masculine role. He was playing it perfectly. Not an action was out of place and he did not miss a single line. The only thing was this wasn’t his designated role. He wasn't suppose to be the type of guy who performed the masculine role, he was suppose to be the guy who broke most gender roles or at least the ones constructed by American society but here he was buying into societies interpretation of gender. Here he was acting out the masculine part with perfect precision. He was a natural.

Chelsea watched the beautiful but screwed-up boy binge on beer after beer. He had been at it for over 3 hours and did not show any signs of stopping or slowing down. In fact, he was actually putting back the drinks even faster. The more he drank, the faster and harder he drank. Chelsea was beginning to wonder if he would ever stop.

He didn’t know if or when he would stop. Truth be told, he didn’t know why he was drinking in the first place. He didn’t like beer, at all, but he was downing them like there was no tomorrow. He suspected it was because he didn’t want to think about his problems, he wanted them to disappear and he was hoping the alcohol would help. The only problem was the mass amounts of alcohol he had drank wasn’t helping one bit. He still felt like crap and his problems did not shrink any and certainly did not disappear.

“Go, go, go...,” the crowd of future frat boy, teenage boys gathered around as they cheered on Brian. He downed yet another can. He was probably on the brink of alcohol intoxication by now and then there was the many thousands of calories he had taken in. With all of that, he should have stopped then but he couldn’t. He couldn’t no matter how many times he thought of the consequences.

Yes, there were definitely more cons than pros but still he couldn’t stop. The rush of being the life of the party was getting to him. Brian liked being seen as tough, manly, and strong. He was happy to finally be seen as someone other than the weak boy with the girl disease. He was finally being seen as the person he had always wanted to be and he wasn’t ready to give that up just yet. He didn’t want lose this high just yet. He was on cloud nine and wasn’t ready to return to earth but eventually he would have to. So he kept on drinking, every gulp putting him on a pedestal and floating him higher. He wished that the feeling could last forever but nothing lasted forever anymore.

“Pace yourself Brian. Are you trying to get alcohol poisoning? Are you trying to kill yourself?” her voice was becoming increasingly louder, “Who am I kidding, Of course you’re trying to kill yourself. You have been working on killing yourself for the last 3 years. You do have a death wish. Anyone who can continue to starve themselves when they look as sick as you do, has to have a death wish or be completely insane. At this point I don’t know which one you are.” She blew up at him because she couldn’t stand to watch him kill himself, any longer. ________________________________________________________

She dialed the number of the last person she ever thought she would need to call for help. The phone rang once. It rang twice. It rang a third time and then he answered.

“Hello,” said a tired voice.

“Hey, Nalin. It’s Chelsea,” she said holding her breath. She really needed the maroon-haired boys help.

“Hey, what’s up?” He asked, knowing full and well, she was in trouble but hoping his was wrong.

“Do you mind picking Brian up?” Now he was absolutely sure she was in trouble.

“Huh?”

“He’s drunk as f and should under no circumstances be driving a car anywhere. I don’t think he is even capable standing up for more than a minute without toppling over and I can neither drive nor do I have a car. You are our only option.”

“Where are you?” The all too caring boy asked. He was tired of this. He didn’t want to have to come to Brian’s rescue yet another time. Why couldn’t Brian get some sense. He kept making mistake after mistake and made no attempt at correcting those previous mistakes or preventing new ones. Brian just kept doing the same thing over again.

“Melanie’s house,” she answered.

“Wait, you’re in Long island?” They couldn’t be. That would be way too far away? How would they have gotten there?

“No, we’re at her mother’s house. Do you really think I would have you drive 4 hours to pick Brian up? And, wait, how the hell would I have gotten there to be begin with?”

“Forget it. Anyway, I’ll be there in like 40 minutes,” he then hung up the phone. Brian was lucky as hell that he had a friend like Nalin. If he didn’t Chelsea had no doubt in her mind that he would have been dead a long time ago. Actually that wasn’t completely true. Without Maya, Nalin or her, he would have been dead a long time ago. Hell, he probably wouldn’t have made it past 13. Luckily he did have great friends who tried to keep him out of harms way. Although most of the time they didn’t succeed.

“Hey Chelsea,” said a familiar voice, “Where’s Brian?” Chelsea turned around to see who it was and to her surprise it was Olivia.

“Why do you care?” She said gratingly. Chelsea simply didn’t understand. Olivia broke up with Brian, no less than a month ago, by text, and now she wanted to know where he was. It didn’t add up

“Why wouldn’t I care? Just being we broke up doesn’t mean we’re not still friends,” said Olivia. She was trying to apologize but Chelsea wasn’t making it easy. Not that Chelsea every really liked her but at least when she was going out with Brian, Chelsea had a reason to act civil towards her, now that was gone.

“You didn’t seem too friendly when you broke up with him, by text, of all thing,” she said bitingly.

“Yeah, I’m sorry about that.”

“You don’t need to apologize to me. I am not the one that you were a cold-hearted bitch to. You didn’t break my heart.” Chelsea couldn’t help but be mad with Olivia. Olivia felt like she could do whatever she wanted, and hurt as many people as she pleased because she was beautiful and Chelsea absolutely hated that.

“It wasn’t that simple. I broke up with him because I couldn’t stand to watch him kill himself. I was tired of taking care of him. I’m 17, I want to live. I don’t want to have to spend my life babysitting my boyfriend.” What she said made sense but still Chelsea was angry with Olivia. Now it wasn’t because she broke up with Brian but because she was free of him. Chelsea wanted to be free of Brian. She had her own problems to deal with and having Brian’s problems piled on top wasn’t helping. “Anyway, you should be happy. We all know perfectly well that Brian’s into you and you’re probably into him too.”

“Brian and I are just friends,” she said unconvincingly.

“You’re telling me that never thought of him as anymore than a friend,” the blond gave her a skeptical look.

“Okay I have but still,” she was interrupted.

“Chelsea, you don’t have to explain yourself I understand why you’re mad at me. I did kind of break Brian’s heart but didn’t intend to do, doesn’t that count for something?”

“I guess,” Chelsea answered reluctantly.

“Speaking of Brian, where is he anyway?”

“First, you just asked that and second, he’s knocked out on the couch.”

“How did that happen?”

“He decided it was a good idea to get very drunk, as if he could actually handle it in his current state. I don’t know what the hell got into him.” She was lying. She knew exactly why he did it.

“He has a habit of trying to kill himself. He keeps on finding new ways to do it but he never succeeds. This is not anything new.” A truer statement had never been spoken.

“yeah but you’d think eventually that’d get old.”

“Not for Brian. I’m starting to think he actually has a death wish.”

“Yeah, and know the saddest part of this isn’t even that Brian is passed out on the couch, it’s that he’s my ride home,” Chelsea joked.


“I could give you a ride if you want?” asked the blond girl. Chelsea seriously considered saying yes. It was a win-win for everyone. Nalin wouldn’t have to drive 40 minutes to pick them up and Brian would get home safely. It worked out well for everyone but Chelsea.

“No, it’s alright,” she said sincerely.

“How are you getting home then?”

“I don’t know. I have Nalin coming to take Brian’s drunk ass home. I guess I’ll get a ride home with Nalin but baring that option there is always public transportation.”

“Chels” she said familiarly, as if the two girls were friends, which they weren’t, “It’s after 1 am. I’m not letting take public transportation this early in the morning, you might get raped. I’ll give you a ride home.” It was obvious that she was trying to amends.

“I have to stay here until Nalin gets here and that might not be for a while. Are you really willing to wait that long because it is probably more practical for me to get a ride from Nalin,” she made another excuse but this time a more reasonable one.

“I know you probably don’t want to talk to me, let alone get a ride from me but come on, I can wait until Nalin gets here. Chelsea, for once, just hang up your pride and let me give you ride,” the blond girl said.

Honestly Chelsea didn’t have anything against Olivia. She just thought it would be insanely awkward being in a car with her. She had nothing to say to her and she didn’t want to say anything to her. She had buried the hatchet and she was on good terms with her after the conversation they just had but she wasn’t about to try her luck so soon. She knew she would never be friends with Olivia but to even try for acquaintances was something that needed to be taken slowly and with caution.

“Fine,” she said conceding.

Another 30 minutes went by and Nalin had yet to come. Chelsea was tired of waiting. She wanted to get home, take a shower and sleep for the next couple days but she knew she wouldn’t be able to. She would instead spend the whole night worrying: worrying about Brian. That’s all she did, lately. She was either working on starving herself to death or she was worrying that Brian might do the same. It was so dysfunction at best but ironically it was only way she managed to function.

“Where the hell is he?” She whispered to herself. She was getting even more antsy. She wanted to go home. She wanted to go to sleep. She wanted to relax. But most of all, she wanted to be done. She wanted to be done like Olivia was. She wished she was able to live her life without having take care of someone else’s. Hell, she wanted to be selfish.

Nonetheless, that was all stuff for another day. Right now, she had to watch out for Nalin. She had to make sure Brian wasn’t dead and she had to keep Olivia away from Brian. Luckily, she was good at multitasking. She looked over at Olivia, who was starring at her short, stubby nails, then she looked over at Brian, who still lay fast asleep. She felt her phone vibrate. She checked the caller-id. It was Nalin. She answered the phone.

“Hey, Nalin,” she said in a low tone.

“I’m here. Where are you?”

“We’re in the living room. Brian’s on the couch.”

“Okay,” he said apathetically. Nalin maneuvered his way through the crowd of drunk, loud, horny teenagers. He spotted Olivia first and then he saw Chelsea.

“Chels,” he called out. He continued to make his way through the crowd until he got to Chelsea.

“Brian’s right there.” She pointed to the boy passed out on the couch.

“What happened?” He asked, as though she had not told him already.

“I told you. He got drunk.”

“Yeah but why is he drunk?”

“Because he decided to drink a crap load of beer.”

“Why’d you let him?” he asked angrily.

“I can’t control him.”

“You are supposed to be his f*ing friend. And friends keep other friends from doing stupid things like drinking to the point of almost dying. Do even give a damn about him? Do you care about anyone but yourself?” He had hit a nerve. How dare he accuse her of being selfish. She wasn’t selfish. She cared about Brian more than anyone else. She gave up most of her freedom for him.

“Go to hell. Just go to hell,” she yelled. She was angry, very angry. She was angry at Nalin for all of what he just said. All the blame he placed on her and the rage he had unleashed. It didn’t matter how much the gorgeous boy was in love with her or she was in love with him, and she was definitely starting to fall back in love with him, she was still angry at him.

“It’s not my fault you’re such a screw up as a best friend,” he said maliciously. He wasn’t trying to hurt her he was just trying to snap some sense into her. Lately, she had been very self-absorbed and that wasn’t like her. She was normally incredibly caring. Honestly, she hadn’t really been acting like herself in months and he didn’t know why. That wasn’t true, he had an idea why. He figured her change in personality had something to do with her eating disorder.

“Nalin, I’m telling you this as the kindhearted person you claim I’m not, just take Brian home and leave me alone. If you say another word to me I very well may, and probably will, go off on you. Neither of us wants that,” she warned. He did exactly as she demanded. He got Brian and he took him home without uttering another word to Chelsea.

“I guess I have no choice but to take that ride you offered,” said Chelsea.

“You ready?” Olivia asked.

“Yep.” Chelsea’s mind was on her recent conversation with Nalin.

“I know this isn’t really my business but what’s going with you two?”

“Huh?”

“You and Nalin, what’s going on with you guys?”

“I don’t even know and right now I don’t care,” she said simply.

“Wait, do you two still go out?” Olivia asked surprised.

“No,” Chelsea was quick to say. It sounded a little too suspicious for Olivia’s liking.

“Do you still have a thing for him?” Olivia was way too enthusiastic. It put Chelsea on edge.

“I think were done with this conversation.” She was starting to get shy because truth be told, she might have been falling for Nalin again.

“come on, tell me,” Olivia nagged.

“I’m not telling you.”

“Please,” the pretty girl batted her eyelashes.

“Olive, I’m not telling you. I don’t know if you have noticed but we aren’t friends.”

“Yeah but we should be. Honestly, we share a lot in common.”

“Like what?”

“We’re both hopelessly in love with Brian,” she enunciated. Chelsea agreed because it was the truth.

He felt like crap and he looked like shit. Brian was experiencing the aftermath of his alcoholic binge fueled only by his lack of understanding and his constant failure, The alcohol had not done anything help to those two things, actually it might have made them worse. He hadn’t forgotten any of his problems, in reality, he now had more. The alcohol had not made his life any easier or any better. He wasn’t any closer to being dead and he certainly wasn’t alive. All in all, Brian was exactly the same as he was before he decided to down 7 straight beers in one night. He was still sad, hopeless Brian and for now nothing would change that. He was doomed to be himself and that’s what hurt the most.

He didn’t want to get out of bed and truth be told he really didn’t have to. He only felt like he had to because he wasn’t in his own bed or his own house. He was at Chelsea house, in her bedroom, invading her space. It wasn’t fair. He decided to drink himself sick, screw with his life more than he already had and his friends would reap the consequences. That’s the way it always worked. Brian would screw up and his friends would always come to his rescue, taking full responsibility for his actions. It was down to a science. Brian had been reduced to nothing more than a mere child.

But he didn’t exactly have a problem with that. He didn’t want to grow up all that fast. He was scared of what the real world had to offer. He wasn’t nearly as fragile as people believed him to be, he was strong, stable even, but he still didn’t think he was capable of handling what life had in store after childhood was done and the fun was over. He didn’t want to face adulthood just yet but like any young adult who nears matriculation age he would have to. He didn’t have a choice. The real world was coming whether he liked it or not. However, it was up to him if he would live in denial or accept it. He honestly didn’t want to do either. He wanted to just disappear; he wanted to cease to be. That way he wouldn’t have to choose between the two and everyone else would be happy.

Often, he thought that maybe the lives of the people around him, the few who choose to love him, the small amount who chose to stay, the ones who never let go even when he hit rock bottom and had trouble getting back to the top, would be better off if he was dead. They wouldn’t have a constant burden on them. They wouldn’t have to worry about him anymore. Maybe they would finally be happy.

It didn’t really matter though because by the way he was acting he would probably be dead pretty soon. His body, for at least the last 6 months, had showed signs of giving up. His blood pressure was almost dangerously low, his heart rate was much lower than desirable, his kidney’s were beginning to fail, and he probably had more symptoms that he didn’t know about. His doctor literally predicted the he wouldn’t live to be 20 years old. In fact, most doctors he had gone to see predicted that. He predicted it. No one seemed to believe he would live past 20. But, though he would never admit it, he wanted to prove them all wrong. He wanted to live past 20, live to 50, hell even live to be 100. He knew it was possible but it would be hard. However the question became: Was he strong enough to do it? Was he strong enough to keep fighting? To never give up? Was he strong enough to live? He didn’t know. All Brian knew was that he wanted to be strong enough so badly that it hurt. He wished, hoped, dreamed, that he could eat like a normal person. He wished he could eat without feeling guilty. He wanted to at the very least to be able to work out without going to the extreme. He wanted to love himself, no matter what he looked like or who he was.

It made him annoyed that 3 years of group and individual therapy had not helped him accomplish that. He still felt the same way about himself as he did 4 years ago when his eating disorder first started. Brian still hated his body. He still thought he was fat. He still craved to be more toned, muscular, more manly and he was still convinced that anorexia nervosa was the only way of achieving that. It didn’t matter how many times his therapist would tell him it wasn’t, or how much he knew it wasn’t, he couldn’t help but believe anorexia was the only way to perfection. Anorexia was the only way to control and he certainly needed something to control. That’s what enticed him so much about anorexia. Anorexia provided him with something he could truly control and something that was all his own.

“Oh look who woke up,” Chelsea said sarcastically as she strolled into the room still in her pajamas.

For the first time Brian could see how truly thin Chelsea was. She was literally skin and bones. Yeah, she had not reach the point where she was unhealthily thin but she was quickly getting there. Anyone could tell. Her ribs were distinct even through her shirt, her once toned legs looked like nothing but sticks covered in skin and her wrist were nonexistent. Come to think about, she didn't even have her signature chubby cheeks anymore. Her cheeks were now instead sulkin in. Her rapid weight loss was more than apparent to anyone willing to stop and pay attention. So, how did he not notice it before? How did he let this happen? How did it go on for so long? And most importantly, how was he going to stop it? He had no idea but he knew for sure he was going to help her, If not for her then for himself.

“Are you okay?” Chelsea asked seeing the look of worry that crossed Brian’s face.

“No,” he stated truthfully.

“What’s wrong?”

“You,” he said simply and as usual without apology.

“Huh?"

“You’re getting really thin. And I’m not saying you’re skeletal thin or anything but you’re definitely getting there and no matter how much you convinced yourself of it, that's not a good thing.” Who was he to be criticizing her weight when he weighed less than her, when he weighed almost nothing? He was almost dead, so he had no right to talk. Plus he was wrong, very wrong. She wasn’t any thinner than she was before, actually she might have been getting fatter.

"Brian, I'm fine. I'm not that thin, yet," she put emphasis on the yet and that worried brian, "Stop worrying."

"Key word yet but you want to be and Chelsea you actually are incredibly thin and not in the good way."

“And you weigh damn near nothing,”she said defensively and angrily.

“I’m just pointing it out, no need to get defensive,” he refuted.

“Well it’s not for you to worry about. I’m perfectly alright.”

“In what world?” he asked. He honestly didn’t think she was anything near alright. Yeah, she was much better off than him, but that wasn’t saying much. If she didn’t watch it she would get just as sick him and that was the last thing he wanted, "You are not alright. You are getting sicker by the second. I’m surprised no one else has notice yet. It’s just matter of time.” That both scared Chelsea and gave her a sense of relief. To be truthful, deep down inside, she wanted to be caught. She wanted the freedom that Brian had. He didn’t have to hide anything or keep any secrets. He didn’t have to worry about being caught. But these were constant threats for Chelsea. She lived her life in fear of being reveal for who she had become.

“Brian, honestly you might very well be right, although right now I doubt it, but you need to take care of you. I swear you are literally on the edge of death, I should be the least of your concerns,” she said entirely rationally. This might have been the most rational thing that she had uttered from her mouth in months. Brian looked at her, knowing full and well that she was right. His body had already all but failed him. It was a miracle he was still living. And no matter how much he wanted to die, and that was a whole lot, he couldn’t. He made it too far to give up. He was too close to the finish line to lose the race. The only thing was that he wasn’t close to the finish line at all. He still had at least another 60 years to go. He wasn’t done and the race surely wasn’t over. It had just begun.

“I’ve been told,” he said sarcastically failing to admit that he was starting to believe that Chelsea might be right.

“Brian, I’m actually serious. If you think I look sick, imagine what you look like. It’s obvious that you aren’t getting any better. You are worse than every,” her emotions began to rise “And you seem to be making making even more dangerous and stupid choices like the one you made last night. What the hell is wrong with you?” She asked.

“What?”

“Last night, you decided it was a good idea to drink crapload of alcohol. You passed out. I had to call Nalin, of all people, to pick you up. Why would you even think that was a good idea? You know very well you can’t hold your liquor especially when you don’t weight more than a 12 year old girl. I swear you have a death wish.”

“I don’t,” he said simply. He was trying to convince himself it was true but he knew very well it wasn’t. He was basically suicidal.

“Then why did you get drunk last night? I thought you didn’t like drinking.”

“I don’t know. I just needed to get my mind off my problems. You should know that. You should expect crap like that from me. I obviously keep on doing these things and Nalin, Maya and you always coming to my rescue. That’s the only thing in life I am sure about.”

“But what happens when we’re not there?” She asked truly wanting to know the answer.

“Then I’m screwed,” and he was fine with that because he knew the 3 teens would always be there.

“Chelsea, I’m leaving now. Remind Ronnie that he has a dentist appointment at 3 and your dad is picking you both at 7. Also, I made breakfast, if you want it,” he mother yelled. The last part was a necessary addition.

Chelsea’s mother had her suspicions about Chelsea and her eating habits, mainly the fact that Chelsea ate almost nothing, but ‘the last part was directed towards Brian. After all, she was more than fully aware about Brian’s condition. She spent the last couple years trying not to bring it up. It was hard though. All the times that Brian was over their house for dinner or came to one of their parties, all she wanted to do was force feed him piles of food. She was convinced he was way too thin and sick to continue starving himself but for the sake of being courteous she didn’t even bat an eyelash whenever he would pick at his food or refuse it all together.

“Okay, mom. Bye,” she said as though she actually heard what her mother just said. Well actually she did hear, she just didn’t comprehend. It went in one ear and out the other. She turned to Brian obviously ready to say something smart.

“So, you want breakfast? Not that we anorexics eat.” She was trying to make him laugh. Maybe she could cheer him up, make him forget his hangover. Hell, maybe she could make him forget his problems. Or maybe, although there were very slim odds, he would actually answer yes.

"Sure, “ he said cautiously. It was unexpected. Chelsea gave him a quizzical look. Was she hearing correctly? Did he just say he wanted to eat? Brian never ate and when he did he obviously didn’t want to. He was deep-set in his habits fueled by his disoriented view of himself and because of that he didn’t need to eat. But today he was determined to eat. He would eat that day and no one and nothing would stop him.

“Did I hear you correct? Did you voluntarily agree to eat? I swear right now hell is freezing over.” She said cleverly.

"No, hell is not freezing over and Yes, I am going to eat, willingly. I figure I’m already almost dead, as everyone like to claim, I have a hangover worse than death, might as well make this day worse than it actually is.” Chelsea just stared at him not knowing exactly how to respond. So, instead of spending useless time trying to conjure up a response, she decided to go downstairs and fix the breakfast Brian claimed he wanted to eat.

“You know what, I’ll go see what my mom made for breakfast and you can come down whenever you’re ready,” she said. She made her way down the hallway. Passing the bathroom, her parents bedroom and then Ronnie’s room. She stopped to watch her little brother sleep. He looked so adorable, if not for the fact he snored incredibly loud. She walked into the kitchen and immediately she smelled her mom’s fresh, homemade vegan banana pancakes. The aroma filled her nose. She wanted to down pancake after pancake until she could hardly move but she wouldn’t.

She had acquired enough self-control in the last few months that she could be near the amazing smelling pancake without eating any. She did, however decide, only a few minutes ago, that she was going to eat today. She couldn’t let Brian show her up. He wasn’t allowed to be stronger than she was. In all frankness, though she would always deny it, a part of her dreaded the idea of Brian getting better while she remained sick. She didn’t like the feeling of being alone.

“I missed that smell,” Brian said. It reminded him of a time before all this started, when he didn’t spend most of his time preoccupied with finding ways not to eat. He had always loved Chelsea’s mother’s pancakes. It didn’t matter that they didn’t contain milk or eggs, he was allergic to eggs when he was younger anyway. Chelsea’s mother, actually purposely left out eggs for that precise reason. Yeah, she also had a strong belief in animal rights and eat any meat of any kind but she wasn’t completely opposed to eggs, not that it really matter to Brian anyway. He had respect for her beliefs but he didn’t care about them all that much.

“Yeah, it’s been forever since you stayed over,” Chelsea said. Her eyes began to brighten as she became nostalgic. She was thinking about all the times that although Brian was a guy, her mother let him sleep over. Actually Brian used to sleep over her house at least once month, if not more. He always liked her house more than his own.

“Yeah, it’s been like 4 years. I don’t think your mother would let me sleep over anymore.”

“Well, obviously. You’re a horny, attractive teenage boy and I’m, what I’d like of as, at least a decent look teenage girl, a lot can happen even if we sleep in different rooms.”

“Nothing happened last night and I’m pretty sure you were just as ridiculously hot last night as you are right now,” he said. He slipped in a compliment purposely because 1, it was true, 2, he thought she needed a little cheering up and 3, he had a slight hope that maybe he could get into her pants, not that he really wanted to take advantage of her in that way, the thought just crossed his mind.

“Umm, thank you, I think,” she said hesitantly, “But, anyway, last night you were knocked out. You couldn’t do anything even if you wanted to.”

“Was I really that drunk?” He asked skeptically.

“Oh yeah. You drank like 7 cans of beer. I honestly don’t understand how you didn’t die of alcohol poisoning.”

“I guess it’s a mystery.” Brian sat down to the table with his plate that contained four rather large pancakes covered in sugar-free syrup. He took a bite. At first he could only taste the syrup, which didn’t taste all that good but he tolerated it because it had much fewer calories than regular syrup. Once he got passed the taste of the syrup he began to taste the pancakes. He loved how fluffy and sweet they were. He knew he would be paying for them later but for now he was trying not feel guilty. He was trying to be normal.

Chelsea also took a bite of her own pancakes. She was slightly less hesitant. She felt slightly less guilt about eating than Brian because she had learned to convince herself whenever she ate that she had nothing to feel guilty about. Of course the feeling never lasted but it did work, most of the time, even if it only lasted until the end of the meal.

For the first time in longer than they could remembered they were eating like normal people and because of that there was now a small possibility of the two teens one day being able to truly live.

He was almost to his destination. He could see it, it was in reach, so he pushed harder. His legs started moving faster and his strides were longer and more graceful. The adrenaline was flowing through his body. He felt amazing. He felt like he could keep going forever and nothing could stop him. He was invincible.

He was starting to remember what he liked so much about running. It made him feel like he could do anything or be anyone. When he was running he was on top of the world, at least for those couple minutes. But when the race ended it was all over. Suddenly he was Brian again. Fat, ugly, stupid, loser Brian.

So why did he ever quit doing track? Why did he stop running?

Honestly, he didn't know. One day he just stopped. That day he was on one of his daily 30 minute morning runs and he had already done 25 minutes. He started to pick up speed, preparing to sprint the last 5 minutes as he always did. He started to all-out sprint but then he stopped dead in his tracks. He just stood there just contemplating whether to just pick up from there and finish his run or to just give up and walk home. He decided on the latter.

It really didn't matter though because he was eventually going to be thrown off the team anyway. His coach had her suspicions about his eating disorder and she wasn't about risk his health just so that she could have another win. It didn't matter that he was one of the few distance runners the team had. She still cared more about him a person than him as runner. So Brian decided to just cut his losses and quit. At that point he had lost most of his drive for track, so why keep on doing it? He had lost most of his drive for life, in fact. The only thing he cared about then was his eating disorder.

That was 3 years ago but not much had changed since. He was still consumed by the ever-present eating disorder. Just now, he had slightly more to live for. And he was determined to live. He wouldn't die at the hands of anorexia. He wasn’t ready to die, he still had a little more life left inside of him. So, he was going to keep on going.

But that was more because it would be embarrassing. A boy, dying of anorexia, that couldn't happen, he wouldn't let it happen. He was stronger than that.

So, he kept on running. He ran 3 miles. He ran another. Then he ran yet another. The more he ran the more wind blew and the more he had to work through it. As the wind picked up more he pushed harder. He continued to run until he couldn’t run anymore. Then he stopped and looked around. He was about 3 miles away from home and he had no energy to even walk another step. 2 hours ago he had a huge surplus of energy that he had since the morning at Chelsea’s house when he decided to eat, and he was aching to use it. But all of that was gone now so Brian was about to do something he swore he would never do. He was going to ask for help. And he was about to ask for help from the one person who needed help even more than him

He took out his phone and texted the words 'I NEED your help!' Now all he had to do was wait and hope she answered.

Chelsea felt her phone vibrate. She checked the caller ID. It was a text from Brian. She opened the text and saw the words 'I NEED you' written bright as day. She didn't even notice the other words in the text because those 3 words were all she cared about.

She dialed his number. The phone rang once. Then twice. The incessant phone even dared to ring a third time. But finally Brian answered.

"Hello,' he said gasping for air. She could tell he was just doing intense exercise and that really bothered her, actually it frightened her a lot.

"I got your text," she stated simply. She tried her hardest not to comment on her disappointment with him with because she had no right to considering the way she'd been behaving lately.

"Okay,” He said nonchalantly.

"So what’s up? What do you need my help with?" she asked, hoping, no praying, that he wasn't in any trouble but knowing he was.

"It's not what you think. I’m stranded and I need a ride home." He sounded casual as if nothing was wrong but for some reason Chelsea didn’t believe him. She knew him too well to take him at his word in a situation like this.

"Really, that's all you need. Then why such an urgent message? Are you stranded in the middle of the desert or something? Scared of getting robbed, maybe?"

"No, I just kind of ran a little far from home," he under-exaggerated. But Chelsea could tell he was more than a little far way from home.

"How far?" She asked, not really wanting to know the answer.

"Just two miles outside of town," he stated

"So, why don't you just walk home or catch a train? Call a taxi if you really have to. Come on, you know how to travel." Brian confused her.

"I have no energy and no money. I just ran like 10 miles," he joked, refusing to acknowledge the seriousness of the statement. He refused to acknowledge how much he was really hurting himself.

"Are you trying to kill yourself?" She wasn't joking.

"I used to be a distance runner, I can run that in my sleep. Did you forget I ran track and cross country?" But that was years ago, he wasn’t the same person he was back then and they both knew that.

"Yeah but that was when you weren't on the bridge of dying. It's different now." Everything was different now.

"Will you pick me up or not?" he was getting anxious.

"I'll try. Where are you?" She asked.

"Somewhere in central park.”

“That’s vague. Central park is kind of huge, can you be a little more specific?”

“Near the Reservoir,” he said somewhat unsure.

“How far are you from Madision Ave and 94st?”

“Less than 5 minutes, why?”

“Because there’s a Pizza shop near there but I don’t remember the name of it. Do you remember that pizza place we went to after Ronnie’s little league game a few years ago? It was like right before you got sick.” And as soon as the words were out of her mouth, she regretted saying it.

“That game where he threw up all over second base,” Brian joked.

“Yep, that’s the one ” she laughed.

“Yeah, I remember where it is.”

“Do you have enough energy to walk over there because there’ more like to be parking near there than by the reservoir?”

“Yes, of course.”

"Ok, I'll be there soon." She hung up the phone and began to dial another number.

"Hello," answered Nalin, lethargically. She could tell, she had woken him.

“Did I wake you up?”

“yeah but it’s fine. So what’s up?”

"I need to ask you for a favor?" She tried to sound innocent.

"What do you need, Chels?" He sounded tired and annoyed. He was tired and annoyed.

Dealing with Brian and Chelsea's many issues was getting tedious and not to mention time consuming. He had been doing it for way too long

"I need you to go down to Central and pick up Brian?" She sounded unsure.

"Why do you want me to pick him up? And why on earth would I ever drive to central park?"

"Cause I don't have a car or a drivers license plus I’d prefer not to lose my permit because I decided to drive illegally," she gave him an attitude.

"We live in the city, no one has a car,” the attractive, redheaded boy who had been dragged a little too thin, retorted.

"Except you." She stated

"Yeah. You have a point,” he conceded, “Where in central park is he and why does he need a ride? Can't he just catch bus home? It’s not that far. Come on, he’s live in the city his whole, I think he can find his own way home," he said in a patronizing tone.

"Yeah," she paused, "He told me he just ran 10 miles and doesn't have the energy to walk home. It confused the hell out me also considering as you stated he's lived his whole life in the city. I feel like he has some hidden agenda or he's in trouble or something. Hell, with Brian you never know." How could Brian possible have any energy to do so much as move let alone run several miles? Brian looked like the walking dead, acted like he was dead but somehow he kept on going. If Nalin weren't completely aware that Brian was on the path to slowing killing himself, he would actually idolize the boy.

"You both always do," he said spitefully.

"Whatever. Are you gonna pick him or not?"

"Fine, but your coming." It was settled.

************************************************

He sounded the horn. He waited. He sounded it again and again he waited. He sounded the horn once more. It was getting annoying. Why was it that Chelsea was only late when he was waiting for her? He swore she did it just to spite him.

He decided to take out his phone and dial Chelsea’s number. He only managed to get through the first 5 numbers before she came out.

“Can I drive?” She asked as she jumped in the car. She expected Nalin to say no considering she wasn’t the best driver.

“Sure,” he said nonchalantly.

Nalin felt he owed it to her. He had been a complete jerk to her the last couple weeks. He had been yelling at her because she working on killing herself and enabling Brian in his self-destruction. And worst she wasn’t acting like herself and he didn’t like that. But all of that aside, she was going through a lot and deserved some happiness so he’d give her that and would let her drive but just that once.

She stared at him in awe.

“Do you want to drive or not because you kind of have to be in the driver’s seat to drive.”

“Yeah that would make sense.” They switched seats.

“Okay, put your feet on the break and put the car in reverse,” he instructed.

“I know what to do,” she declared. She had driven many times before and she knew the basics.

“With the way you usually drive I don’t know if you do,” he said.

“I don’t drive that badly,” she whined as she took her right arm off the wheel to playfully hit Nalin.

“Sure you don’t,” he said sarcastically.

“Okay, I do but I still know how to drive.”

‘No, you really don’t.”

“Then why are you letting me drive?” she asked.

“Because you’re one of my best friends and for some strange reason I love you and I like seeing you happy even if that means risking my life letting you drive,” She smiled at him. She liked hearing those words come out of his mouth. She liked the feeling of being loved.

Nalin couldn’t help but stare at her beautiful smile. It was nice to see her smile. She hadn’t smiled in a while and he didn’t know when she would smile again.

“Well, I’m not sure if I love you right now especially after that crack about my driving,” she joked. Her grin grew wider. She loved to mess with Nalin. It reminded her of old times, back before everything became so crazy and screwed up.

“Keep telling yourself that but we both know that you love me,” he said as began to tickle her, in an attempt to annoy her. Nalin knew where Chelsea was the most ticklish: her stomach, her legs and her feet. So he started poking at her stomach and she started to squirm.

It was then that he noticed just how thin she was. He could distinctly feel her ribs and that was disconcerting. Sure, she definitely wasn’t ‘anorexic’ thin, not yet, and she had a ways to go before she got there but she still wasn’t suppose to be that thin.

Chelsea had always been on the larger side of average. She was never fat but she wasn’t thin either. If anything Chelsea had an athletic build from years of doing swimming. Every since 7th grade, when puberty decided to work it’s wonders on Chelsea’s body, she had been known for having, for lack of a better word, a very curvy figure. She had big boobs and an even better ass. But now didn’t have any of that, she was just thin, very thin; No she wasn’t just thin, she was skinny.

Nalin hated to admit it but he still found her attractive. He had always been into thin, petite girls. He never understood why he liked Chelsea so much because she never fit into that mold, until now. It made him feel so disgusting: Chelsea was starving herself to achieve an unachievable image of perfection, she was becoming thinner by the second and he still found her attractive. What the hell was wrong with him?

“When was the last time you ate?” He asked. A look of concern crossed his face.

“Last night,” she said cautiously. She was lying and Nalin knew it.

“No, when was the last time you actually ate?” he repeated himself

“Last night,” she said firmly, refusing to change her answer.

“Without puking afterwards?” he asked. He didn’t actually want to know the answer because he knew the answer would only make him angry. He was tired of being angry at Chelsea, disappointed with Chelsea and worried about Chelsea.

“Some time last week,” she said truthfully.

“Just drive,” he exclaimed disappointedly.

************************************************

Brian waited inside the restaurant for Chelsea to come. He was getting impatient. She needed to hurry up. He wanted to get home. He was tired, sick, hungry and going insane. Why did life suck so much?

He spotted what looked-like Nalin's dark blue, worn-down toyota approaching. He was hoping it wasn’t so he moved closer to check and he saw Chelsea in the driver’s seat and Nalin in the passenger seat. Indeed it was Nalin’s car.

Why did she have to call him? He didn’t need Nalin to get involved. Nalin was too involved already. Plus today he wasn’t in the mood to be yelled at. He just wanted to get home and sleep for days.

He, however, came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter who came to pick him up he was going to get home anyway. So he sucked up his pride and got in the car. As Brian got in the car Nalin was preparing to read him the riot act. It showed all over his face.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Nalin asked without any hesitation.

"What happened to hello? Maybe a good afternoon. How’s it going? Something," Brian said smartly.

"When you do stupid things like this, you don’t deserve a greeting. You haven’t made the best the decisions today or this week for that matter. This is actually the second time in the last 7 days that Chelsea’s called me to pick you up because you’re trying to kill yourself, “ he took a deep breath,” What is wrong with you? Why would you decide to go on a run? Does not seem like the best idea considering that you're a walking skeleton and you probably haven't eaten anything in at least a day. But you don't just go for a simple run; you decide to run 10 miles and out of town, no less. Then you call Chelsea, who does not have a car nor can she drive, to pick you up. Are you becoming dumber?"

“You both need to calm down,” Chelsea said weighing in with her unnecessary two cents.

"Yeah it's not that serious. Why are you making such a big deal?" Of course it was that serious. Everything that happened with Brian lately was that serious.

"When you are trying to kill yourself yes it is that serious," He glared disconcertingly at Brian, "Just tell me one thing. Why?"

"Why, what?" Brian asked innocently.

"Why choose to go running today? Why run so far? Why do all that when you can barely stand?"

"Because I like running. It's one of the few things that make me feel happy. Running makes me feel like I’m worthy of living." The car became silent.

Maya had been off the map for about two week now. No one could get in contact with her. Her cell phone was always dead and she never went on the computer, so email, im, skype, facebook, and twitter weren’t options. It was almost as if Maya was dead.

Maya had been buried deep in worries. She had the world on her shoulders. She was just up to her neck in stuff she had to do and handle. And on top of that off she had family issues to deal with also. Her life was no longer rainbows and ponies. She had actual things to deal with now and that sucked.

She was used to just coasting thorough life always having a smile on. It was never hard to be happy and cheery because she saw the positive in everything but there was no positive anymore. Her life seemed all negative with not a bright light in sight. Nothing was going right anymore and she couldn’t handle it. It all seemed too much and was happening way too fast way too soon.

The last few days had been sucked the most of all. Her father was in the hospital, yet again, because of his emphysema. Her mother was barely home because between work and having to visit her father there was no time. There was no time for family and Maya just had to deal with that. Maya was left to take care of her three younger siblings, one of which was hypoglycemic and prone to episodes of dangerously low blood sugar. AP exams were coming up in like a month and she had to prepare for the A.P US exam plus she had like 500 million more exams. And on top of all of that she also had to work extra shifts at the day care center. It was all just too much but Maya was determined to handle it.

So, in order to get her mind sorted out she took a day off from school. She knew when she returned the next day she would be even more behind but she needed this day. She needed to just chill, relax and deal. She needed time not to have to worry about what was going on in her life. She needed to not have to worry about what would happen next. On any given day she had five million things to do and the last few weeks she had even more. So she needed this break and she needed it badly.

This is the precise reason her mother recommended that she take a sick day. Even though she had barely been home in last week she could tell her daughter was run down and on the verge of exhaustion. She needed to take some action soon because she knew if she didn’t Maya would just continue until it ran her to the ground. She couldn’t let that happen, she wouldn’t let that happen. Maya was her oldest child and her only girl, she couldn’t let her go through this. So made the best proposal ever: give Maya a day off.

Maya currently sat in her empty silent room starring at the wall. She was thinking about everything and nothing at all. She was supposed to be studying but she couldn’t bring herself to open her textbook let alone to actually read it. It didn’t matter that it was the perfect environment for studying. It didn’t matter that because her siblings weren’t home it was finally quiet in the house. Maya didn’t want to study. So she just continued to sit there in silence evaluating her life.
She had much too much to think about and too little time. This was the only time she’d get to sort out her life, at least for a while.

But eventually she did get around to studying. She took out her U.S history textbook, her very expensive flashcards and her notebook and she began to read. She read name after name of American presidents, some of whom were very good presidents but most whom sucked. She summarize wars, wars and more wars until she had every war in the book down. She studied fact after fact and date after date, repeating them several times over until she could remember them verbatim.
That’s how she studied. Maya was not gifted with a photographic memory like some of her undeserving classmates but she did possess an almost as useful gift. She learned through listening, she learned through sound. She had the amazing the ability to hear something once and remember for a lifetime.

So school never came that hard to her, at least not until recently. She had always struggled a little in math, only able to achieve a B+ at most but never achieving less that C+, but now she had a hard time passing classes and she didn’t understand it. She studied twice as much as she did when she was in middle school or even freshman year but her grades continued to decline. She once made A’s with no problem and now she was struggling to get C’s. It didn’t make sense and it wasn’t fair.

However instead of obsessing over it, which is all she had done for the past couple months she sucked it up and went back to studying. She continued to recite names, facts and presidents to herself. She continued flipping over flashcards to see if she was right. She went through about 50 flashcards before she even thought about giving up. She knew she needed to past the A.P exam or she was screwed. Her chances of going to college all rode on this test.

Yeah, there was no doubt that some college would accept, actually many colleges probably would. She was a great catch. She had good grades, decent SAT and ACT(for that matter) scores, tons of extracurricular, community work, and sports. Plus it didn’t hurt that despite all of this she still managed to work a part time job. All around Maya was an ideal student. She would get accept many places but not by her dream school.

Maya more than anything wanted to go Stanford. She wanted to study psychology and Stanford had one of the best psychology programs in the nation and just so happen to be her mother’s alma mater, even if she only managed two years before dropping out. Honestly, Maya knew her mother was pressuring her to, not necessarily be accepted, but apply because she felt regret for not finishing. But even if she didn’t feel pressure from her mother she was still going to apply to Stanford.

She needed a psychology degree from Stanford so that she could have her choice of any postgraduate school she wanted and she needed that choice because she needed a master’s degree. Maya was determined to study behavioral neuroscience with a specialty in eating disorders, for obvious reasons of course, and she wanted to have the best education possible. But Maya didn’t want this for her, or her parents but for Brian.

When Brian was diagnosed three years it became Maya’s mission to study eating disorders, primarily anorexia but others also, and find out what caused them, what type of people got them and how to treat them. She had read many articles on the subject and reviewed many studies and still she knew nothing. She had devised a couple of theories but she couldn’t tell if she was right. So it occurred to her that the only way that she could truly help Brian was to go to college and study psychology and that’s what she was going to do.

In the midst of her thoughts the doorbell rang. It rang once. It rang twice. Then the person knocked, very loudly at that. Maya set down her books and forced herself off cozy bed. She lazily walked down a flight of stairs, through the living room to and to the door. She opened the door. It then occurred to her that should of asked who it was for it could have very well been a serial killer. Actually that was pretty unlikely but it could happen.

The person at the door was not a serial killer but instead Nalin. He stood at the entrance looking calm. His red hair perfectly messy, almost as if it was styled that way, and he wore his black horn-rimmed glasses that Maya had not seen in years. He was wearing a fitted blue and gray button up and slightly loose-fitting skinny jeans. He looked kind of cute and for the first time Maya notice how truly attractive Nalin. She of course knew he was cute, anyone could see that but in the last few months he managed to become a hottie and if she wasn’t such close friends with him she probably would of notice sooner. However, his attractiveness did not really matter because one, she wasn’t the least bit attracted to Nalin or at least that’s what she told herself and two, Nalin was definitely still into Chelsea.

“Hey,” she said cheerfully, “You dug up your old glasses. I never noticed how hipsterish they are,” She smiled at him. This was the first time in about a week that she remembered sincerely smiling. Every other time she smiled she was just putting on act but right now she was her usually happy self.

“Yep, I didn’t have time to put in my contacts this morning,” he stated. He hadn’t worn his glasses in forever because he hated them. He didn’t like the thick frames or the color. He was convinced the glasses looked horrible on him. Plus as Maya had so clearly pointed out, they made him look like a hipster. That’s why he wore his contacts. But today he really didn’t have a choice. He was running late, he couldn’t find the case with his contact lenses and going without glasses or contacts was not an option considering he was nearly legally blind, so he just wore his glasses. The way he saw it, he would rather be able see and look ugly then not be able see at all.

“I missed those. They make you look so adorable,” she exclaimed. Her big eyes began to sparkle and her smile grew wide.

Nallin looked at her quizzically.”You just said they looked ‘hipsterish’” he said skeptically.

“Yeah they do,” she admitted, “but the actually make you look kind of cute.”

“Oh, darn it, I was shooting for super hot, or maybe sex god,” he said jokingly.

“Okay, Nalin bring yourself back down to earth. You are sort of attractive but you will never be a sex god.”

“That’s nice of you to say,” he answered sarcastically.

“I tell it like it is. Why are you here anyway?” Maya asked bringing Nalin down from his happiness high.

“I’ve been designated to drop off your English and A.P U.S homework.” Nalin handed folder marked homework. Inside was two study guides for U.S history and a list of vocab words that she was required to define and use in a sentence.

“Umm okay. That’s nice of you,” she said confused.

“Don’t mention it. So why weren’t you in school?” He questioned.

“Are you going to come in?” She asked completely ignoring his question. He entered the apartment.

“Again, Why were you not in school?”

“I needed a personal health day,” she lowered her voice.

“Really, you have to be kidding me. That’s not a thing. “

“No, really, I needed a personal health day.”

“Why did you need said personal health day?”

“I just have like five million things to do and plus my father in hospital. School was not on the radar today,” she nonchalantly.

“Yeah,” he said remembering the real reason he volunteered to bring Maya her homework, “How’s your father?”

“He’s doing fine for now,” she said doubtfully.

“I’m sure He’ll be alright,” Nalin was trying to assure her.

“So what’d I miss today?”

“Nothing much. Ms. Turner basically told us that if we don’t all get at least a 4 on the A.P exam she’s going to kill us. Then there was the favorite resident anorexics but that’s not anything new and-” she cut him off.

“Anorexics?” She questioned. Nalin forgot that she didn’t know about about Chelsea. It was just a slip of the tongue but he had to fix it because he wasn’t going to out Chelsea now. He owed at least that much to both Maya and Chelsea. He wanted Maya to find out but not this way.

“I meant to say anorexic,” he lied. She stared him with a look of suspicion for a couple seconds before she decided to let it go.

“How’s Brian doing anyway?” Maya had pretty been avoiding everyone lately due to her busy schedule but she was especially avoiding Brian. She hadn’t talked to him in almost three weeks because she couldn’t handle watching him kill himself knowing he had no plans of ever getting better.

“Believe it or not he’s actually eating.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. I’m not saying he wants live or even that he’s get better but he is eating,” Nalin was not about to make that promise, ”Did you know the other day he decided to go on a 10 mile run.”

“That’s not the best idea considering he weighs nothing and refuses to eat. Where would he get the energy for a 10 mile run?” She suddenly became angry, “What the hell is wrong with? He constantly does this crap. There’s a reason I haven’t talk to him in like 2 weeks. I literally cannot stand by and watch him kill himself, not anymore,” she was on the bridge of tears.

Nalin hated to see Maya cry. It made him want to cry. Well actually he hated to see anyone cry but he especially hated when Maya cried. He had always hated to see her cry. She, like Chelsea, was too beautiful to cry.

He had a crush on Maya a long time ago, back before he fell in love with Chelsea. Maya was always his ideal girl. She was absolutely gorgeous, she was tall, thin, had nice body and on top of that she was smart and interesting. Back then she was his idea of perfect.

Actually if it weren’t for the fact that Maya never saw him as anything more than a friend he would have never gotten together with Chelsea. Originally he only settled for Chelsea. They were both lonely and heart broken so it made sense but after a while he actually fell in love with her.

“Maya, if you obsess over it, it just makes it worse.”

“But how do I not obsess about it? My best friend is trying to kill himself.”

“Maya, honestly, I don’t know what to tell you. It sucks watching Brian slowly get worse knowing it might never change. I guess the best way to deal is to try to ignore it. Try to forget. I wish I could give you a better but I don’t have one. All I can say is someone as gorgeous, and smart doesn’t deserve this. I wish I could say that I could fix this but I can’t, if I could I would have done it years ago,” he said both failing to answer and answering her question at the same time.

“Thanks, that kind of help,” she said politely.

“Did you know I used to have a crush on you?” he asked suddenly. He had wanted to know the answer for years.

“Yeah. How could I not have known?” Maya said.

“Then, why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because I didn’t want to hurt your feeling.”
“But still,” he argued.

“It worked out didn’t it. You got together with Chelsea,” Maya said triumphantly.

“Yeah, but then she broke my heart,” he stated.

“Who’s to say I wouldn’t have broken your heart also.”

“Well then it’s a good thing we never went out,” he joked.

Nalin often wondered what would have happened of him and Maya hooked up instead of him and Chelsea.

Maya read his mind, “ Did you ever wonder what would have happened if we went out?” she asked.

“Yeah, all the time. I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I never fell in love with Chelsea. Maybe all of the crap that happened the last couple years could have been avoided,” he admitted.

“What do you mean?” she asked concerned and curiously.

“I mean that maybe if I didn’t fall in love with Chelsea, and if you had shot me down I would have noticed what was going on with Brian before it got serious.” Maya couldn’t argue with that logic no matter how wrong it was.

“This is something that you will have to deal with for the rest of your lives but that does not mean that you can not get better and it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to be this way forever. Your eating disorder is something you can control, if you want to,” Dr. Robinson said, yet again.

Brian had been in treatment for 3 years and he swore that he had heard the tall, pale, middle-aged therapist with large, thick-rimmed glasses say those words at least 500 times. He told them that exact same message each and every meeting as if it would make a difference. Sadly it didn’t make a difference. Out of 20 or so people in the group, Brian knew for sure that at least 2/3 of them were no better off than when they started treatment. The thing was that Brian wasn’t sure if Dr. Robinson was to blame for that or if it was their own fault. The only thing he really knew was that currently he really didn’t want to be there.

He had little problem with group itself, in fact he actually liked a lot of the people in the group. He just didn’t like Dr. Robinson or his methods. He didn’t think they worked. However Brian had no choice. This was the only treatment facility nearby that his insurance would pay for and one of the few in the nation that was not overtly expensive and exclusive that was tailored to both men and women. It sucked that most treatment facilities and groups sole or mostly were geared towards to women.

Often that made Brian mad. It pissed him off that people just assumed that only girls get eating disorders. Why were people so stupid? Statistics showed that 10% of the people in the country getting treated for eating disorders were men but it seemed as though only 1% of treatment facilities offered treatment for men. How did that make sense?

But more often than not Brian was ashamed by it. The fact that there was no where he could get treated for eating disorders just made it more obvious that everyone believed that anorexia was a girl disease. The fact that he had a girl disease made him less of a man. He hated that. Even worse than that, even people who did accept the fact that men can get eating disorders believed that only gay guys got eating disorders but he wasn’t gay. No Brian was a straight, male with an eating disorder. Oh how he broke the status quo.

“I don’t eat carbs,” a guy from the group announced as his big emerald eyes widened with pride and a grin slipped across his tan face.

Brian had been in group with him for over a year and he had never heard the boy say more than a could words at a time. Honestly most of the time he forgot he was in the group.

The boys name was Samuel, though he went by Sam. He had been in the group for 18 months. Previously to joining the group he was a wrestler who’s constant need to make weight so he could wrestle at 132 caused him to keep a very restrictive diet and a grueling workout regimen. It didn’t matter though because he was able to keep a winning season. However, soon high school ended and suddenly he had to wrestle against people who were much better than him. The following season he took it upon himself to move down a weight class and it all escalated from there.

There was a reason that Brian took so much interest in Samuel. They had a lot in common. It felt good to have someone in the group who understood the demands that certain sports placed on athletes to keep their weight low. No else seemed to understand that until Sam joined the group. Then all of a sudden he had someone who he could relate to.

“And why do you think that is?” Dr. Robinson asked obnoxiously.

It annoyed Brian to bits that Dr. Robinson was nothing but a stereotype. He was the archetype of an annoying therapist and that wasn’t going to help anyone overcome their problems. Still he had to deal with it, at least until he convinced everyone who cared about him that he was better and he was determined to stay that way. So for now he was stuck going to therapy once every two weeks. He was forced to just accept.

“Because carbs will make me gain weight and if I gain weight I’ll have to move up a weight class,” Sam said, not even attempting to fake emotion.

So many of the people in group, both male and females alike, faked emotion so that they could get out of treatment faster and resume their eating disorder. It was a ploy that worked perfectly.

“Samuel, why are you so afraid of moving up a weight class? What would happen if you did?”

“If I move up to the next weight class everyone will be bigger, stronger and better than I am.”

“And you’re afraid of losing? Afraid of failing? Not being good enough? Not living up to everyone else’s standards? Being worthless? Do you feel like being a good wrestler is the only thing that gives you worth?”

“I guess,” he answered nonchalantly.

“Brian didn’t you have similar worries?” Dr. Robinson asked, lowering his eyes judgingly. Brian absolutely hated when he did that.

“No one like to fail,” he stated simply, refusing to offer a real response.

He wasn’t in the mood to talk today. He had a very eventful couple of weeks and he just wanted to chill. However with Dr. Robinson that wasn’t an option.

“Yes, that’s true but most don’t go to the extremes of starving themselves to keep from failing.”

“I didn’t starve myself to keep from failing. I starved myself to keep my weight down so I could run faster,” Brian argued, “fear of not living up to everyone’s expectations had very little to do with it.” Brian gave the doctor a look that said ‘challenge accepted’. He wasn’t about admit he faults and failures, not yet, not ever.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chelsea sat in class bored out her mind and trying to resist hurting her teacher. He was just explaining, in his extremely monotonous voice, things she already knew and had very little interest in learning again. This is how every day was like for her.

She was starting to fall asleep when a voice promptly woke her up.

“Are you going to sleep again?” asked Maya.

“Yeah, there is no use in me being awake if I’ve already learned this stuff so might as well catch up on some sleep,” Chelsea said.

Maya wondered all the time why Chelsea chose to take regular classes when she could easily be taking all AP’s, it made no sense. Chelsea was obviously smart but she still chose to only take mediocre classes.

Honestly Chelsea had a better strategy that Maya. They both were intelligent enough to be in advanced academic classes. They both could handle the workload and maneuver the system. The only difference was Chelsea would have rather got straight A’s in regular class then get C’s in AP and IB class. Maya on the other hand would take B’s and C’s and even D’s simply because it was an AP class. In the end it didn’t matter because they both academically would be on the same playing field when they applied to college.

“Why are you taking pre-calc anyway? You could just skip all the way to BC Calc, you’re smart enough.” Maya said.

“But that would involved actually doing work. I prefer getting A’s without even trying. It’s more fun,” Chelsea exclaimed.

Chelsea felt her pocket vibrate. She assumed it was someone sending her text. She removed her dated, dull, gray phone from her pocket and slid it open to display a full qwerty keyboard and touch sensitive screen. The screen read bright as day, New Message. She checked the message. It was from Brian. It read: Do u know y Maya iz ignoring me?

Of course she knew why Maya was ignoring him but she didn’t want to tell Brian. It really didn’t matter anyway if she told him that Maya was ignoring him because it hurt her to watch him continue to kill himself. Chelsea had come to the realization that either way he would continue his self-destructive behaviors. Not that she knew how to stop it considering she was dealing with the same thing. So for now she would plead the 5th and hope no one asked the right questions to the right people.

“Who’s texted you?” Maya asked curiously.

Chelsea was hesitant to answer because she knew how Maya felt about Brian lately.

“Brian,” she said cautiously.

Maya grimaced slightly but it was not a grimace of disdain. Instead, it was one of pain. It hurt her to think about how much Brian was killing himself and how no matter what she tried to do she couldn’t stop it. She didn’t like not being able to help him. It made her feel useless. It made her feel like a bad person. And that is why she couldn’t be around Brian anymore. Every time she was around him she seemed to blame herself for his problems and that wasn’t good for anyone.

“He wants to know why you’re ignoring him?”

“Are you going to tell him?” Maya asked.

She kind of hoped that Chelsea would tell him because maybe that would be the kick he needed to truly start getting better. She was beginning to believe that maybe keeping her distance from Brian was the only way he would get better. So far it seemed to be working, at least from what Nalin told her.

However she knew that wasn’t true because although Brian had since started eating he had taken to another addictive, self destructive habit. He was now drinking. Okay, maybe she was over exaggerating. She was over exaggerating. One drunken night did not create an alcoholic. Nonetheless she knew it could. She knew alcoholism ran in his family and he ran the risk of becoming an alcoholic anytime he drank especially when he was using alcohol to self-medicate. But despite knowing this she wasn’t going to jump to that conclusion just yet.

“I don’t, maybe,” she answered unsure, “don’t you think he deserves to know.”

“I guess.”

“Maya, he’s not that bad,” she half lied, “he’s getting better.”

For some reason Chelsea actually believed what she just said. It was to a certain point true. Yeah, he was still doing self-destructive things(as if she wasn’t) but at least he was taking responsibility for his actions. He was trying to get better and occasionally he succeeded. He was making progress and that was all that really mattered. And in his defense he was doing a hell of a lot better than she was.

“Nalin told me the same thing,” she said.

“When’d you talk to Nalin?” she asked confused.

She felt kind of jealous. She knew that Nalin used to have a major crush on Maya and that kind of made her feel threatened. She liked having all of Nalin’s attention. It made her feel special.

“Last week, when I was out sick, he dropped off my homework but it really wasn’t anything,” Maya said nonchalantly unable to realize how truly threatened Chelsea felt.

“Why don’t you just talk to him? Tell him up front why you’re avoiding. What harm can it do?”

What harm could it do? It could do a lot of harm. It could do a lot more harm than good. Maya’s friendship with Brian was already on the rocks, basically on the verge of falling apart, she didn’t want to do anything else to make it worse. She understood it was her duty as the motherly, nurturing one of the group to tell Brian why she was ignoring him but she couldn’t do it. She didn’t want to speak to him; not until he decided he was ready to stop pulling his self-destructive, near suicidal crap and actually start trying to get better. And since she highly doubted that today was that day she wasn’t going to give up and talk to Brian. It would only give him assurance that he could continue to screw with his body, his health, his life and everyone else’s for that matter and she would continue to forgive him. However, she was done forgiving him. She was tired of forgiving him. She was beginning to wonder if forgiving him was ever worth it considering he continued to make the same mistake over and over again.

“Trust me, it can do a lot of harm.”

“But you can’t ignore him forever.”

“I know but he makes me so angry. He literally continues to try and starve himself to death, for nonexistent reason. He causes us to worry to the point that we are driven to insanity and he fails to show any remorse for it. I’m starting to believe that Brian can control the disease but he is just too lazy to try. He’s just being selfish,” she said angrily.

Maya no longer had any ability to understand his situation. She had no empathy for him. Actually that wasn’t true. She did still feel a tiny bit sorry for him and deep down she did believe that he couldn’t control his anorexia, at least not on his own. He needed help from the people who loved him. The only thing was that Brian wasn’t willing to ask for help and that upset her the most. She would be able to deal with Brian’s constant need to work on slowly killing himself if he was reaching out for help but he wasn’t. Brian didn’t want help. He didn’t think he needed it or so she thought.

In all actuality Brian was always asking for help but no one was willing to listen.

Chelsea sat next to her thinking. She was thinking about what Maya just said. She was thinking about how she was selfish. She was screwing with Brian’s life, Nalin’s life and although she didn’t know it Maya’s life all because she didn’t ask for help. All because she didn’t admit she needed help until it was too late and even when she did admit it she didn’t accept help. She was definitely selfish.

“He honestly is trying to get better and I am not about to claim he’s succeeding but at least he’s trying. Doesn’t that count for something?” She asked desperately.

She didn’t want answers for Brian anymore, she wanted answers for herself. She wanted forgiveness even if the forgiver didn’t know what they were forgiving. She wanted acceptance. She wanted everything but as the saying goes you can’t always get what you want. She just had to learn to live with it. She didn’t have a choice, as if she ever did.

“I don’t know but it really doesn’t matter. It’s not like Brian has been trying to talk me. He’s been ignoring me just as much as I have been ignoring him,” she defended.

It was true. Brian had purposely been trying not to get in Maya’s way out of fear of hurting her and more so out of just pure want not to have to deal with confrontation. He didn’t think he could deal with Nalin on his case and Maya too. It was just too much.

Chelsea texted brian: Ask her yourself

Here he was puking again but this time he wasn’t doing it purposely. For once he wasn’t purging but instead throwing up because of the immense amounts of alcohol he had downed the night before. He really wished he didn’t drink so much. He wished he didn’t need to drink to dull his pain. He wished that he could be happy. He wished he could be satisfied. He wished he could be normal. But Alas that wasn’t the case.

Brian was doomed to a life of discontentment. He was doomed to life of never being good enough. It sucked but it was true. Nothing could change that. He had learned to live with that.

Except, as of recently, he didn’t want to just accept his fate. He wanted to change his fate. He was tired of starving himself and purging after every meal. He was fed up with being self-destructive and depressed. He was done causing pain to everyone who loved him. He just wanted to get better. However, Brian knew just wanting something wasn’t going to make it come true. He had to take steps to get better.

He didn’t know if he was ready for that. For four years, he was his eating disorder and his eating disorder was him. He didn’t have an identity. He lost it a long time ago. So how could he give up the one that defined him; the one thing that made him feel special. He had to give up though. That was the only way to get better. But did he actually want to get better?

The answer was complicated. On one hand Brian knew the only way to stop hurting himself and everyone around him was to get better and right now and he wanted that more than anything. On the other hand, he wasn’t ready just yet to give up his eating disorder. It brought him comfort, made him feel safe and he didn’t want to lose that. However, he might have to for it was coming to the point where he didn’t have much choice. It was either he lost the eating disorder or he lost everyone he cared about. It was up to him to decide.

He had already lost Maya. She didn’t want anything to do with him and he knew why. He was well aware that she couldn’t be around him because he just hurt her too much. He hurt a lot of people though. He was constantly hurting people especially Chelsea.

Hurting Chelsea hurt the most of all. It hurt him so much that he couldn’t justify putting her through so much pain. After all, he was pretty sure he was in love with her, head over heels in love with in fact but yet he caused more pain than anything.

He stood by, letting her continue to slowlykill herself. He was supposed to put a stop to it. It was his job as her friend. Why hadn’t he done that? He’d only made it worse. On top of that, his refusal to get better was only making her worry. He didn’t want to her to worry. Worrying wasn’t going to help anything but he couldn’t stop her from worrying. It was only a naturally instinct. Nonetheless, it still made him feel like crap knowing that she was worrying about him and it made him feel that much worse knowing her worrying was justified.

Brian finally decided he had to do something to fix all of this. He had to do something to right his wrongs. So he grabbed his keys and headed out the door. Brian was about to do something very special for a very deserving person.

***********
Maya heard the doorbell, so she went to open it. To her surprise the person at the door was Brian.

“What are you doing here?” She didn’t sound angry at all, if anything she sounded surprised. That was because Maya wasn’t angry, not with Brian, not anymore.

“Listen, I have a question for you,” he said as though he was propositioning her, “Have you ever just let? Taken a break? Stopped trying to fix everyone’s problems?” he silence answered the question, “So when do you actually get a break? When do you get to be happy?” asked Brian once again. Maya look at him confused. She, however, did ponder the question for a minute but she couldn’t seem to find an adequate answer. She had been sacrificing everything for everyone else’s happiness for so long that she didn’t know what it was like to be happy. She didn’t think happiness existed anymore, at least not for her or at least not right now. She hoped someday she might be happy but she knew with all the crap Brian was going through that today was not the day to be worrying about her happiness. It would come when it wanted to come, if it ever felt like coming at all.

“I don’t know,” her gorgeous, usually full-of-life face read exactly that. Brian saw how confused she was. He doubted she even remembered what happiness was? After all it had been so long since she was truly happy and he had to fix that. The only question was how he was going to fix that. It didn’t matter because he was determined to fix it and therefore he would.

“Maya, we’re going to fix that.”

“How?”

“I’ll find a way.”

“So, the anorexic boy is going to magically make me happy. Are you wizard? A fairy? Oh, my you’re a genie,” she said sarcastically.

“Hey, sarcasm is my thing, you can’t steal it,” he joked, “Next you will start going around saying blunt, morbid things and hurting everyone around you. Soon there will be no need for me anymore,” ‘and I can whither off in peace’ he wanted to add but he couldn’t because he would only wipe the smile off of Maya’s face and he liked to see her smile.

She playfully hit him on her left arm,“Hey, you’re supposed to be making happy, not depressing me.”

“Sorry,” he quickly changed the subject, “So what is Maya’s vision of a happiness?” Happiness to her was a world Brian wasn’t sick, where he wasn’t being secretive and closed off. She just wanted Brian to get better and to be happy because when Brian was truly she would be too.

“I don’t know.”

“No, really. What makes you happy, truly and completely happy?”

“I don’t know. Like hanging out with you guys makes me happy but I’m guessing that doesn’t count.”

“No, I mean like what would make truly happy. The thing that would allow you to forget all your problems for at least a little while.”

“Brian, I honestly don’t know. I guess it would makes me happy when everyone else is happy.”

“Well I don’t have a magical spell that makes everyone happy but I can give you almost as good. Today, we’ll do whatever want.”

“Anything I want to do?” she asked skeptically.

“Yep, today is the first annual, we appreciate Maya day,” he joked, “So what do you want to do first?”

“I don’t know,” she responded.

“Well, then let’s figure it out.” Brian was being a bit too optimistic and it was scaring Maya. He was only trying to make up for the all the crap he pulled in the last 3 years by giving her the best day of her life. “So what do you want to do first?”

She thought about it for a second and then the perfect place popped into her head.

“Follow me,” she commanded. Brian did as she said.

************************************
The taxi stopped at the hospital. Brian and Maya got out. Brian looked at Maya in confusion.

“My dad’s in the hospital,” she admitted, “and I have yet to go see him.”

“Ok, well then let’s go visit him,” Brian responded. And that is exactly what they did.

Maya went in and she saw her father. They talk, they laughed, she smiled. All in all, it seemed like a pretty good day, at least from where Brian was concerned.

But as Maya talked to her dad Brian’s thoughts couldn’t help but wonder to Chelsea. He couldn’t help but worry. He wanted to know where she was; what she was doing; and if she was alright. But most of all he just wanted to tell Maya her secret. He just wanted to have that burden off him. He wasn’t going to tell Maya though because first he promised Chelsea he wouldn’t and second this was Maya’s day and he wasn’t going to ruin it. She deserved at least that much.

“So, how was it?” Brian asked Miaya, as she exited the room. His face showed his distress but Maya didn’t want to ask because she knew it would only upset her. Plus she figured that whatever it was it could wait another day. After all it couldn’t be that serious. For today only, Maya preferred to live in denial.

“It was fine,” Maya said simply.

“That’s nice,” Brian responded, “So you want to go get something to eat?” Maya just starred at him in awe. If she wasn’t already confused enough by this day then she definitely was now. She began to believe that maybe Nalin and Chelsea were telling her the truth. Maybe Brian was starting to get better or at least trying to.

“Sure,” she said. Her confusion showed on her face.

The two teens took the subway downtown. Maya apparently really wanted Chinese food. That was fine by Brian because he wasn’t planning on eating anyway. He had already puked up his guts enough for one day.

Brian continued to think about Chelsea for the entire train ride. He honestly couldn’t stop blaming himself for her mistakes. He couldn’t stop blaming himself that he was letting her continue to purposely starve herself to death when he could stop it. It didn’t matter that she knew better, everything was still his fault. He just had to live with it.

At the restaurant Brian continued to beat himself up because of Chelsea. He really had nothing else to think about. Chelsea was just a huge burden on her shoulders that he couldn’t get rid of. Actually Nalin, Maya and even Olivia were too. Pretty much anyone he had hurt was a burden on him. He constantly felt the guilt of hurting them weighing down on him.

How was it that he continued to screw up his life and hurt everyone around and himself? Why didn’t he have the sense to stop? Why didn’t he have the willpower to stop?

Maya watched as Brian played mindless with his food and twirled around his fork. She suspected those of worry. Most of all though she saw him reach for his pocket. Maya knew what he was he reaching for. He wanted a cigarette. She now knew something was definitely on his mind; she knew something was wrong.

“You okay?” asked Maya.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he didn’t sound at all believable.

“What’s wrong?” she asked refusing to accept his answer.

“Maya, do you think I’m going to tell you.” He narrowed his eyes.

“Yes because you owe it to me.” Brian owed Maya a lot but he was pretty sure he didn’t owe her this.

“Trust me Maya, you don’t want to know.”

“You’re making me worry, so now I need to know,” she challenged him.

“Okay,” he conceded, “ I’ll tell you. It’s about Chelsea.” He stopped to see if there was an expression on Maya’s face, a reaction. When he didn’t see one he continued, “Maya, I promised Chelsea I wouldn’t tell you this but Chelsea has an eating disorder.”

“What?” she asked both skeptically and fully convinced. Chelsea having an eating disorder would explain her secretive behavior, her constant need to defend Brian and her sudden weight loss. Maya was originally convinced that she was just seeing things but sadly she now knew that wasn’t the case.

“Yeah, “he stated simply.

“That explains a lot,” she didn’t have a better response, “So how are we going to fix this?” Brian honestly didn’t know.

It was official, her eating disorder was taking control. She was being convinced of its lies. She was beginning to believe that there was no such thing as too thin, at least there wasn’t any such thing as too thin until she was dead. Chelsea was falling deep into her twisted ED fantasy world. Chelsea needed help. She needed to be saved from herself.

Brian realized this. Nalin realized this. Maya now realized this. If only Chelsea would realize it.

“Should we talk to her? How do we talk to her?” asked Maya. She had been asking the same question everyday for a month and still Brian did not have an answer.

He was convinced Maya was supposed to have the answers because she always did. She didn’t have the answers though. Not this time. Her brain was too tired out from all of Brian’s crap to come up with an answer. She didn’t want to have to think anymore. She was tired of solving everyone’s problems. She just wanted this all to be over. She wanted everything to be normal again but she knew that was never going to happen. Their lives changed forever the day Brian was diagnosed and it would never be the same again. What she considered normal wasn’t possible anymore. Maya finally was coming to realize and accept that.

“Wouldn’t you be the one to know? You dealt with this before,” Maya just looked at Brian. She was inspecting him. She had to make sure that he was all better before she moved on to Chelsea, it only made sense. So she looked at him from top to bottom.

She looked him in the eyes. She was searching for something but she didn’t know what. Despite that she found it and it didn’t make her happy.

“Are you alright?” Maya appeared concerned.

“I’m fine,” he stated.

“Somehow I don’t believe you,” she said simply. Brian didn’t blame her. He didn’t believe himself either.

“For the first time in forever I am not on the bridge of death. I actually weigh enough to keep my heart from failing, I’m eating, my every thought isn’t controlled by my eating disorder and even my doctors believe I’m getting better. Maya, I super freakin’ fantastic so why don’t you believe me?” He was trying to convince himself that he was telling the truth but it was obvious he wasn’t. Brian was never a good liar.

“Just because you happen to stumble your way up to a BMI of 18.5, which by the way is just in the healthy range, does not mean you’re suddenly better. I am just trying to ensure that you don’t relapse like you’ve done a million times before because if you do I don’t know if I’ll have the strength to save you this time. I won’t save you, ” she stated forebodingly.

Brian wasn’t expecting her to come to his rescue again. He was tired of Maya coming to his rescue. Honestly, he was tired of needing help, of needing to be rescued from his own thoughts and disordered behavior. He just wanted to normal for once. Brian ultimately wanted his old life back and he was going to do whatever he needed to do to get it back even if it meant giving up the one thing that had brought him comfort for the last 4 years: his eating disorder.

“Maya, calm down. I’m not going to relapse, not again. I refuse to. Anorexia has ruined my life,” Brian’s voice was stern, powerful, almost absolute and yet Maya didn’t believe him. Brian sensed that so he changed the subject, “But not important right now, we need to deal with Chelsea,” he said as though she was a problem to solve.

“And how do you propose we do that?” Maya asked allowing for his change of topic because she tired of talking about his problems. She just wanted to move on.
“Well first we need to confront her.” Maya was dreading that.

--------------------------------------------------------------------
Chelsea didn’t look like herself. She looked tired, worn-down, almost dead. She was all those things and more but she was not going to admit it. She was too deep in disordered thoughts because she now no longer was Chelsea. She no longer had an identity. She had become her eating disorder and her eating disorder had become her.

Nevertheless, she still knew why Brian and Maya were sitting on her couch on either sides of her. She knew what they wanted to discuss. Actually, she probably should have expected that either Brian or Nalin would open their big mouth’s and spill her secret. She was prepared for this day because in her mind this was war. A war between her eating disorder and the people who loved her and wanted to see her healthy, happy and, most of all, alive, that Chelsea just happened to get stuck in the middle of.

“You know why we’re here,” Brian started. He was trying to avoid being directly confrontational because he didn’t know how Chelsea would react. At this point he knew that anything that came out of her mouth would be the eating disorder talking and he also knew that eating disorders gave very violent answers. So he decided to edge on the side of caution and not upset her too much.

“Actually the only thing I know is like always you probably jumbled up fact and fiction.”

“I don’t think it is fiction that you’ve seemed to develop an eating disorder,” Brian almost yelled. Anger bleed though his face.

“I don’t have an eating disorder,” she stated in an almost convincing way. If Brian didn’t know better he might have believed her. He wanted to believe her. She needed him to believe her.

“Yes you do and you know it. You even admitted it to me.”
“I admitted I had issues with food, as if many people don’t, but I never claimed to have an eating disorder,” she needed Brian to believe her act but he wasn’t buying it, not yet, “I’m over it anyway. I’m done.”

“You’re done with what?” he asked trying to get Chelsea to admit that she did have an eating disorder. A part of her, the part that wasn’t being controlled by the eating disorder, wanted to but it wasn’t going to happen as long as the eating disorder controlled most of her thoughts.

“Starving myself, puking up my guts, all of it,” she said truthfully. For the first time in a while Brian could see the real Chelsea. For the first time in forever he believed her, “So, it’s nice that you guys want to help but I don’t need it. I’m fine.”

“Chelsea, you’re not fine. You actually look sick. You’re becoming a skeleton,” exclaimed Maya.

“First of all you are over-exaggerating and second why is it that you can accuse me of looking sick when I’m a perfectly healthy while Brian is standing there severely underweight and pretty sure almost dead. It’s not fair.”

“This isn’t about Brian, it’s about you,” Maya said angrily, “ Plus, if you must know, Brian’s is now in the healthy range. He’s trying.”

“Yeah, maybe with a 30 pound child on his back.”

“I’m going to ignore that because I know it’s the eating disorder talking,” Brian exclaimed.

“You know what this isn’t helping,” Maya mediated, trying to bring the impending argument to a screeching halt, “Chels, insults are not going to change the reality that you do have an eating disorder and you need to get help,”

“But I don’t, “ she stated once again firmly.

“Yes you do,” said Brian.

“No I don’t,” she yelled at the top of her lungs and she stormed out.

************************
Nalin just watched as the gorgeous girl played with her food. She wrapped the sauce covered spaghetti around her fork several times before she even attempted to eat it. She was obviously in deep thought.

Chelsea’s mind was still on what happened earlier. She felt guilty; She felt like a burden; She felt worthless. Neither Brian nor Maya should have to worry about her but they did and it was all her fault. She couldn’t control her own compulsion towards self-destructive behavior and they were paying for it. If only she could stop trying to be perfect. If only she could love herself, none of this would be happening.

“Are you going to eat?” Nalin asked without thinking. Chelsea just looked up at him, “You know what, don’t answer that. It will just make me angry and I’m tired of being angry at you.”

Chelsea was tired also. She was tired of letting Nalin be angry, worried and confused. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t right. She needed to change it. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“For what?” he asked.

Chelsea was apologizing for everything. She was literally driving everyone insane. She was making Brian, Nalin and now Maya worry for no reason. She hated herself for it. She needed to stop. She needed to get better or at the very least she needed to try. And if she couldn’t do that she had to become a better liar.

“Everything. I’ve made your life a living hell. Honestly it can’t be fun watching me kill myself especially with the fact that until recently Brian was working on killing himself also. It’s not fair. You don’t deserve any of this. You’re too gorgeous, smart, sweet and amazing to have to deal with this. You definitely deserve a lot better,” She looked into his big emerald green eyes. He seemed to understand. Nalin didn’t say anything so Chelsea continued, “This must be a sucky date.”

“It’s not that bad. I’m sitting here with an awesome girl who happens to also be super hot. How could that be bad?”Chelsea smiled. Nalin made her smile. That was one of the things she loved the most about him.

“I like it when you smile,” he said.

“Yeah, you’ve told me that like five million time,” and she was sure he would tell her that five million times again.

“Yeah, cause you have a really pretty smile,” he said charmingly.

“Somehow, I don’t believe you,” she looked at him quizzically, ”Nalin you are aware I already like you. You don’t have to make up lies to make you like you.”

“Trust me I’m not lying. You really do have a pretty smile.”
“Sure I do,” she said skeptically.

Her response bothered Nalin. He wanted Chelsea to see herself the way he saw her: as a beautiful, smart, creative, somewhat insane girl who he was sure would change the world one day.

“I have a question. How do you see yourself? What do you think about yourself?” Nalin asked, half wanting to know the answer and half knowing that the answer would only make him angry.

“Do you really want to know?”

“I don’t know.” He was telling the truth, “but I guess I’m gonna find out sooner of later.”

“I honestly don’t know how I see myself but I can certainly tell you that I don’t think I’m beautiful or creative or funny or unique. There’s nothing special about me.”

“Except everything is special about you.”

“You’re just saying that because you have to.”

“I’m not though,” he said sternly. Nalin wasn’t angry but instead he was worried. Actually Nalin was trying to hold back tears, “I do think you’re special. I also think you’re beautiful, smart, funny, creative. Chels, I swear, you are actually one of the most amazing I’ve ever met.”

“You don’t have to lie or exaggerate. I’m not so fragile that if you tell me the truth I’m going to go and puke out my guts.”

“I’m not lying to you, I know you’re not fragile and honestly I think that you’re going to puke up your guts no matter what I say.”
Chelsea didn’t say anything. She didn’t have anything to say. For once she was speechless. That wasn’t a good sign.

“You’re not going to defend yourself,” Nalin asked hoping he was wrong. He wanted Chelsea to tell him that she wasn’t going to go and throw up the little bit of food she ate that night. He wanted her to tell him that her life was worth more than her insane belief that she wasn’t good enough, that she had to be perfect. And most of all, he wanted her to tell him that she loved him more than her eating disorder: that she was willing to get better for him. He wanted Chelsea to tell him that he was that important to her. But he knew she wouldn’t.

“I’m not going to make a promise that I don’t know if I can keep,” she said calmly.
Nalin just stared at her, his big green eyes widening. That wasn’t the answer he wanted but it was the one he expected.

“So you’re not even going to try?”

“I’ve been trying forever. It’s obviously not working.”

“Then try harder,” he raised his voice. He was becoming angry.

“I don’t know if I can. I don’t think I want to. I don’t think I’m ready to, not yet.”

“So when will you be ready? When it’s too late? When you’re on your death bed? I don’t think I can stand around and wait for that. I care about you too much to do that.”

“And I’m not asking you to. All I’m asking is for you to give me some time to figure things out. I just need a little time to get myself together.”

“And how much time do you need? I can’t wait forever. I can’t watch you kill yourself forever.”

“And I wouldn’t let you. Nalin, believe it or not for some strange reason I do love you,” she said trying to make the conversation less serious.

“Oh, thanks. That makes me feel much better.”

“Nalin, I’ll make you a promise,” she stated simply.

“And what would that promise be?” he raised his eyebrows interested in what her answer may be.

“I promise, I’ll try my hardest to get better, if agree never to give up on me, to never stop loving me.”
“I wouldn’t dare.”

“You say that now but what happens 20 years down the line when you’re happily married to an awesome woman and have a couple of adorable children. Will you still love me then? I bet you won’t even remember who I am.”

“Chelsea that’s never going to happen,” he said assured.

“How do you know that?”

“Because I’m never having children or getting married,” Nalin joked.

“I’m trying to be serious here,” she narrowed her eyes at him.

“Chelsea, I will always love you no matter what. Just like you will always love Brian. It’s just the way things work.”

“Lately it’s become harder to love him, though.”

“But you still do, don’t you?” Nalin was searching for the answer to a different question now. He wanted to know whether Chelsea loved Brian more than him but he knew the answer. He knew she would always love Brian more just as he would always love Maya. It was a sad fact of life that he was willing to accept.

“Of course I do.”

“So you see my point. You don’t ever have to worry about whether I love you because I’ll always love you. I’ve always loved you. I never stopped loving you. I will never stop loving you.”

Chelsea didn’t understand why everyone was so worried about her. Yeah, she did have an eating disorder and admittedly that wasn’t the best thing but she had it under control, for now at least. She could start eating whenever she wanted and now that she made the promise to Nalin she would start eating because she had a reason to get better, a reason to live. She had to get better for the people who cared about her. It was her duty. She would fulfill that duty.

The thing was she wasn’t sure if she wanted to get better. She wasn’t ready yet. She needed more time.

She felt jealous that Brian had been given 3 years to recover while she was being expected to recover in a couple hours. It might be true that she appeared stronger than Brian but was she really? That was a question for a whole other day and a question that possible had no answer.

Right now though, none of that mattered. She was on her way to Maya’s apartment to apologize to both Maya and Brian for such a bitch the other day. She owed it to them. They didn’t deserve the way she treated them. They didn’t deserve to have to put up with all her crap on top of worrying about her life. It wasn’t fair. So she had to make it right anyway possible even if that meant telling Maya and Brian what they wanted to hear. Even if it meant lying to them. In the end it would all work out; It had to, she rationalized.

However, the question of whether she would accept help when she got there was a whole different story. She didn’t think she needed help, at least not from anyone else, she could save herself, but Nalin, Brian and Maya would not leave her alone until she admitted she need their helped. So ultimately, because Chelsea was smart and devious, she already had an elaborate lie mapped out to recite to Maya and Brian with ease. It was the only logical answer. She’d tell them what they wanted to believe and because she was so convincing they’d believe her. It was fool proof.

Pulling off a lie of that magnitude would take some work though especially when she didn’t have Brian to keep her secret. She would have to convince them that she actually was trying to get better; that she wanted to get better. Everyone would be keeping such a close eye that she wouldn’t be able to slip up because the first sign she showed of relapsing and it’s all be over. She couldn’t let that happen; her eating disorder was too important to her to let that happen. She would do whatever it would take to make sure that didn’t happen even if it meant lying to her friends

Chelsea knew she was a decent enough actress to pull off her little charade as long as necessary. She needed to because she had to buy herself to time to get her act together. And she would get her act together because she promised Nalin she would and she wasn’t going to break that promise. She was going to get better no matter what but she just wasn’t ready yet. Anorexia wasn’t going to control her life, she wouldn’t let it but she still wasn’t going to give it up entirely just yet. She wasn’t ready for that either. But no one else would understand that and that is why she had to lie, it was the only way to make everyone happy. It was the only way things might actually be okay.

She saw the door to Maya’s apartment and suddenly her heart began beating faster. She didn’t know what she was going to say or how she was going to say it. All she knew is that she had to make everything right again.

***

Brian looked at Maya. Maya looked back at him. Neither of the two knew exactly what to do. They were playing this all by ear.
“Maybe, we should leave her alone. Let her deal on her own terms. She’s bound to realize eventually how stupid she’s being and that she’s basically killing herself. You know Chelsea, she can only do stupid things for so long,” Maya said to the surprise of Brian.

He stared at her. He stared at her because that wasn’t like her. Why was Maya being so passive? She was giving up too easily. Maya never gave up, that wasn’t in her nature. But here she was giving up before she even got started. It made no sense.

“Yeah, not really a good idea.”

“Then, what do you think we should do?” He had no idea.

“I don’t know,” he said truthfully.

“Well, you better figure it out soon,” she said sternly.

Brian got up and started to head towards the door. He sensed Maya looking at him but he didn’t look back. He needed to get some fresh air. He needed time alone. He needed time to think.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

“I need to go get some fresh air.”
***
She knocked on the wooden door dreading that Maya might actually be on the other side. She was regretting her decision to apologize to Maya in person. She should have just called. It would have been easier. At least that way she could have been prepped first. She would know exactly what to say.

Maya opened the door without so much as a ‘who is it?’ because she knew exactly who was behind it. It was a certain short, beautiful and disturbingly thin brunette who was probably coming to apologize for the way she acted the other day. Maya was almost sure it was Chelsea. It had to be. Maya was right. Maya was almost always right.
Chelsea and Maya stood face to face for several seconds, neither of them saying a word. Maya was waiting to see what Chelsea would say before she spoke and Chelsea didn’t know where to start. Eventually though Chelsea did break the silence.
“I’m sorry,” she said simply and believably. She was telling the truth. Chelsea was sorry but only for the way she acted the other day. She had no apologizes for lying and she certainly had none for her eating disorder. Those two things she would never have remorse for.

“For what?” Maya asked. Her face was stolid and eyes dull. She looked different. Chelsea could definitely tell that the last couple years had worn hard on her. Maya had changed just like everyone else. It sucked but it was reality.

“The way I acted the other day. You didn’t deserve that. You were just trying to help me. I’m sorry.”For some strange reason Maya believed her. Chelsea was telling the truth.

“So are you ready to get better? To accept help?” Chelsea started to think. She was contemplating her answer. Was she ready to get better? Was she ready to accept help?

She didn’t know. Yes, she had promised Nalin that she would try to get better but she didn’t know if she was ready. After all Brian had 4 years with his eating disorder, she only had a couple months. She still had time.

“I don’t know, maybe,” the hope in Maya’s eyes faded, Chelsea could see that, “But I’ll try. I owe you at least that much,” she said.

“You can’t get better for me though?” she almost question. She knew that Chelsea had to want to get better for herself in order to truly recover but she wondered if that was entirely true. Couldn’t there be another way?

“I’m not. I want to get better for me,” Chelsea told Maya what she wanted to hear, “This freaking eating disorder has screwed up my life. I can’t do this any longer. Something has to change.”

“Okay but now what do we do?’” Maya had been asking a lot of questions lately. That was unusual for a girl who always had all the right answers.

“I don’t know.”

“At least you took the first step.” Suddenly there was a loud knock on the door. Maya headed to towards the door fully intent on opening it. Yet again, she did not inquire who was behind the door, she just opened it. On the other side of the door was Brian, looking more discontent than ever. Brian’s grayish brown eyes immediately set on Chelsea. He knew why she was there.

“Hey,” Maya said quietly forcing the door closed. Brian continued to look at Chelsea. Her brown eyes sank.

“So why are doingyou here?” He directed his question to Chelsea.

“I came to apologize.”

“For what?” He still looked insanely frustrated, maybe even a little angry.

“For the way I acted the other day. The crap I’ve pulled over the last few months. The way I endangered your recovery and allowed you to stand by and watch me kill myself. I’m pretty much sorry for everything.” He inspected her eyes to see if she was telling the truth. They looked sincerely. She looked truly sorry. She was truly sorry. He believed her.

“Okay,” he said simply. He didn’t have much a response because he wasn’t quite sure if he could trust her yet.

“She says she’s ready to get better,” Maya reported.

“That’s good,” Brian faked a smiled. He turned his attention towards Chelsea, “Can I talk to you for a second?” he asked. He headed out the room. Chelsea followed.

“Why the hell are you lying to Maya?” Brian accused. Chelsea could smell tobacco on his breath. He had been smoking. That didn’t make her happy. Was he smoking because of her? He had to be. What else could it be?

“You were smoking,” she stated, failing to acknowledge his previous question.

“Yeah, and?”

“I don’t like when you smoke,” her face was blank.

“And I don’t like when you try to starve yourself to death,” he said maliciously.

“I can’t help it,” she stated simply. Brian looked at her. She looked so beautiful. He didn’t want to be angry with her but he couldn’t help it. She was killing herself and he had to watch. No one should have to watch the girl they love kill herself. It wasn’t fair. He wasn’t sure if he could take it any longer.

“That doesn’t make me feel any better.”

“It’s not supposed to. I just thought you deserved to know the truth.”

“So, again I ask, Why are you lying to Maya?”

“I’m not,” she stated firmly.

“You told her you’re going to get better. How is that not a lie?”

“I told her I’d try to get better.” Hearing that Brian reached for a fresh pack of cigarettes and started unwrapping it.

“That’s still a lie.”

“No, it’s true,” she said as she stared at Brian’s long bony fingers as they attempted to unwrap the pack of cigarettes, “I promised Nalin I would get better.” Brian began opening the pack the faster. He really needed a cigarette.

“So you’re doing it for Nalin?” he asked in an attempt to understand.

“No,” she lied, “I’m doing for all of you and myself.”

“Why do you love Nalin more than me?” He asked spontaneously. Chelsea just stared at him. She didn’t have answer because it wasn't true. She didn’t love Nalin more than him. She loved them both equally, or at least she liked to think she did however in reality she loved Brian just a little bit more.

“What? Where did you get that idea? I don’t love Nalin more than you. I just love you both equally just in different ways.” That wasn’t entirely untrue.

“Then why are you willing to get better for him but not for me?” She didn’t have answer. Brian hated that. He wanted her to tell him that she tried to get better for him but she just failed. He wished she would tell him that but he knew she wouldn’t.

“I don’t know. Maybe it’s because you never actually asked me to get better. You just told me I needed help and left it at that,” Brian had to admit she had a point.

“That should have been enough.”

“But it wasn’t,” she said.

“I’m in love with you,” he said, just barely retaining his composure.

“And I’m in love with you,” she paused, “but I can’t be.” His eyes widened. He was suddenly completely interested in what the gorgeous girl had to say.

“Why?”

“Because I know that all we’ll do is hurt each other. I’d prefer not to spend each day watching you kill yourself or having you watch me do the same thing.”

“How do you know that would happen?”

“Do you know the reason the Olivia broke up with you?” Brian looked at her quizzically.

“Why are you asking?”

“Just answer the question,” she ordered
“No,” he said

“She was tired of watching you slowly die. She didn’t want to continue constantly worrying about you. She wanted her life back.”

“Okay but for the first time in forever I’m starting to get better. Now, I’m not going to claim that I won’t relapses because I know that’s not true but for now I have reason to live,” he said honestly.

“But what happens when that reasons not enough?”

“Can’t we deal with that when we come to it. For now, I’m slowly getting better and don’t plan on stopping.”

“Okay but what about me? I’m still a wreck.”

“And I’m willing to accept that because I now that you won’t be like this forever,” or at least he hoped. Honestly though he doubted whether Chelsea would ever recover.

“Even if I did believe that, we can’t be together.”

“Okay, I’m really confused right now,” Brian said in a desperate attempt to lighten the mood.

“I’m kind of dating Nalin.”

“Huh?”

“We got back together like two days ago.”

“Okay, wow. I should have expected that.”

“Sorry.”

“When did you plan on telling me?” Never. She fully planned on never telling him because as far as she was concerned it wasn’t his business. Who she chose to date was solely her business.

“I don’t know. I never see you anymore.” She wasn’t lying.

“You couldn’t have waited?” He asked desperately. She wanted to respond “for what” but she knew the answer.

“I wasn’t going to sit around for years waiting for you to decide whether you liked me. I don’t have time for that.” It was true. She had to live her lie whether Brian wanted to be with her or not.

“I wasn’t asking you to.”

“But you were expecting me to wait for you.”

“It really doesn’t matter does it, you’re with Nalin now and I can’t do anything about that. Anyway you’re missing out because I’m awesome in bed.” Chelsea smiled.

“Okay, way too much information,” she said.

“I’m not lying. Just go ask Olivia since you two are now such great friends.”

“Except we’re not. I still can’t stand her. Actually if you didn’t decide to get drunk as f at Melanie’s party I wouldn’t have even talked to her.”

“Is it too late to say I’m sorry for that?” Brian asked.

“It’s never too late to apologize.”

Chelsea stared intently at the stolid-faced psychologist, not wanting to answer her questions or even listen at all. The questions were too personal and the answers made Chelsea too vulnerable. She didn’t like feeling vulnerable because when she was vulnerable she was too likely to get hurt and she didn’t like getting hurt.
“What’s today’s date?” the therapist.
“I think it’s 10th,” Chelsea responds.
“Of may right,” she says as she jots something down and Chelsea just nods her head, “You know where you are right?”
“Yeah, I’m in your office.”
“So you know why you’re here,”
“Why wouldn’t I?” Chelsea asks truely confused.
“You would be surprised, I get a lot of patients who are tricked into to coming here and trust me that makes things a whole lot more difficult so I like to know what I’m dealing with. So let’s start with the basics,”What’s your name?”
“Chelsea Morales,” the girl answered confused. The woman writes something on her notepad.
“Don’t look so confused, I just need some basic information before we can get into the more complicated stuff? Can you tell me a little bit about your medical history?”
So Chelsea tells her the basics. She talks about how she’s never had any major medical issues
“What brings you here today?”
“My friends seem to think I have an eating disorder and I need help?”
“Do you think you have an eating disorder?’
“Yeah maybe but that doesn’t mean I need help. Sure starving myself isn’t the healthiest way to lose weight but as long as I don’t go overboard I don’t see what the problem is,” she rationalizes.
“Do you do anything besides besides starve yourself? Have you ever purged?’
“What exactly qualifies as purging?” She says self-consciously, staring intently at her fingers in an attempt not to look at the doctor.
“Purposefully making yourself throw up, over exercising, using laxatives, durietics ect.”
“I have purged,” she says, trying to avoid saying too much.
“Have you purged more than once?”
“Yeah a few times but I’m not bulimic or anything. I just purge when I eat too much.”
“What classifies as too much?”
“I don’t know, when I eat more than my alloted calories?”
“And how many calories so you allow yourself per day?” it’s then that Chelsea realizes that this woman isn’t going to stop until she gets the answers she’s looking for.
“If I said 1500, would you believe me,” she jokes and the woman does laugh at it.
“Nope not a chance.”
“Well it started off as below 1000 but now it’s closer to 500.”
“Why do you feel the need to restrict your calories to such a low number?”
“Because I need to lose weight,” she says with almost a tone of necessity.
“Why do you think you need to lose weight?” the beautiful brunette woman asks.
“I don’t know,” she said honestly, “I guess it w because I needed to be good enough. I needed to be worthy?” she questioned, as if she was searching from validation. She was searching for validation because honestly she was unsure of not just her answer but herself as a whole.
“And starving yourself will help you be good enough, worthy?”
“No being thin will make me more good enough. Starving myself is just way of achieving that.”
“Good enough for what? Worthy enough for who?” asked the pale women.
“My friends,” she said simply. This was probably the most honest she had been in weeks. She hadn’t been that honest since that talk she had with Brian a couple weeks ago and even then she was holding back slightly. But here she was spilling her heart out to a woman who only thought of her as a paycheck with lots of emotional problems. She kind of liked the feeling of not having to keep everything bottled up inside even if it did leave her a little vulnerable.
“You feel like you’re not worthy of them?” the woman reiterated.
“Yeah. They deserve better,” Chelsea said in a hushed tone.
“Why do you feel like they deserve better than you?”
“Because they’re all so amazing and I’m just me,” Chelsea said honestly.
“What do you mean?” The woman actually seems like she doesn’t understand, “Tell me about these friends, what about them makes them so amazing?”
“Well Maya for example, he so beautiful, she’s got the body of Victoria Secret Angel but she also a lot more than just looks if you know what I mean. She’s also really smart; funny and most of all caring. Someone like that deserves a much better friend than I will ever be.”
“So you think that Maya’s better than you?” Of course Chelsea did. In her eyes Maya was perfect. Maya was the type of person she wanted to be one day because if she was like Maya she’d be worthy of her friends; she’d be worthy of people caring about her and she’d be worthy of being love. But as she was right now she didn’t feel she could justify having any of that. So why was it that she was loved? Why did her friends and family continue to care her? It was obvious that they deserved a lot better. It was obvious that she wasn’t good enough. Yet somehow they continued to care and that proved to Chelsea more than anything that she had to earn the love that they so abundantly and without hesitation just gave to her. They asked for nothing more than for her love in return but she felt she needed to give them more than that. She had to give them perfection because that’s what they gave to her. She had to be perfect.
“It’s not just her. Nalin and Brian are amazing also. They’re special. Way too special to have to tolerate me, let alone love me willingly but somehow they do. I don’t understand why?”
“Nalin? Brian? Are these your friends?”
“Yes and no,” she answered ambigiously but not because she didn’t want to answer the question. She answered the question that way because it was the most truthful answer. She couldn’t describe her relationship with neither Brian nor Nalin in just a few words. It was just that complicated.
“What does that mean?”
“Essentially, I pretty much romantically involved with Nalin.”
“And Brian?” the therapist inquired.
“I don’t know what we are. I know I love him and I know he loves me but I also know that we’ll never be together,” That was the first time the bright-eyed, beautiful brunette with a heart of gold and a need to please everyone, really vocalized the state of her complicated relationship with Brian. And it only made her more confused than ever.
“Why?” The woman was pushing her luck. Chelsea didn’t like that. She didn’t like having to bare all her secrets to a virtual stranger. She didn’t even like telling her secrets to her friends. But here she was revealing stuff about herself that she didn’t even know about to someone who she was paying. It didn’t seem quite fair yet somehow it seemed like the only option.
“Because all we’ll ever do is hurt each other,” she said yet again ambiguously. Her answers were starting to reflect her life as in they were becoming a quarry of unanswered question and even more often undefined answers.
“How will you hurt each other?”
“It’s hard to explain. Actually that’s a lie. It’s actually really simple. Watching Brian slowly kill himself will hurt me and watching me do the same thing will probably hurt him even worse. It’s inevitable.”
“Watching him hurt himself?” the hazel-eyed woman asked.
“Brian was diagnosed with an eating disorder 4 years ago,” Chelsea said in a matter-of-factly tone.
“So Brian also has an eating disorder. Does he know about you?”
“Yeah, actually he was the first person to find out.”
“How did he find out?” The therapist asked as she continued to jot down notes on her notepad. Chelsea briefly inquired about what she was writing but immediately decided that it wasn’t worth her time.
“Brian and I were hanging out at Maya’s house for movie night like we’ve done every friday night since we were like 10 years old. We were playing around having fun like usual. Maya decided to give me a makeover. Normal stuff. Then the pizza arrived and it all escalated from there. I had to eat it. If I didn’t Maya might have suspected something was wrong and then she might have found out. And then there was Brian. I had to set a good example for Brian. I couldn’t allow him to think, even for a seond, that he didn’t have to eat. He needed to eat. He just looked that sick. He was sick. So I just sucked it up and ate the f*ing slice of pizza. I ignored the fact that the greasy, oily, calorie laden piece of pizza was going to make me fat because at that moment Brian mattered just a little bit more . However that feeling of obligation only lasted just so long. Immediately after I felt like I needed to rid my body of the food I had jgust consumed so I did what any self respecting bulimic would do and I purged my food, it just so happen thouh that I go caught and by Brian, of all people.”
“What happened after that?”
“I don’t even know. Brian originally just stared at me not saying anything really. Then again that might have been because I didn’t let him say anything,” chelsea stated.
“So what did you say to him, if anything at all?”
“I simply told him the truth. I told him that he could spare me the lecture on the dangers of anorexia because I knew how harmful what I was doing was. I told him that I stuggled with an eating disorder for years and I knew what I was doing. I told him I had it all under control.”
“How did he react to that?”
“Badly. He didn’t seem to believe me. All he told me was that he thought the same thing four years ago. He told me that he didn’t think I had anything under control. He told me I needed help.” Chelsea continued to report her story honestly and unedited.
“How did you respond to that?”
“I continued to tell him that I had everything under control and he continued to tell me I didn’t.”
“What happened next?” Chelsea couldn’t help thinking she was some sort of entertainment for the middle-aged woman.
“He got fed up. He stormed out but I didn’t go after him. I mean, I did eventually but I gave him time to cool down first because I honestly had to clean up my tracks. I couldn’t leave the evidence for Maya to find. But after a few minutes I did go after him. And I found him outside smoking. I can’t stand when he smokes-” Chelsea was cut-off.
“What bothers you so much about him smoking?”
“I hate it because it just a bad habit. Smoking causes cancer and I don’t want him to die of cancer. I love him too much to let him do that.” She was lying. Yes, she did care about Brian and no, she didn’t want him to die of cancer but that wasn’t the reason that she didn’t like when Brian smoked.
“What’s the real reason?” the woman said with a hint of attitude catching Chealsea in yet another lie.
“He only smokes when he’s stressed or angry.”
“So you wondered if you were the cause of him smoking?” The straight-faced woman said more as a statement than a question.
“Pretty much yes.”
“Sorry for cutting you off. Continue your story”
“Anyway, we talked about the situation. Ultimately we made a deal,” Chelsea exclaimed.
“What kind of deal?”
“The kind of deal where we cover up for each other. Brian was suppose to keep my secret, to lie for me and I would do the same for him.”
“How’d that work out?” the woman asked as she continued to scribble words on her notepad.
“Horrible. Brian took it as an excuse to stop eating all together.”
“Did anyone notice that Brian stopped eating? How’d they react?”
“Of course people noticed, how could they not? Brian looked on the bridge of death before the bet started so you can imagine how bad he looked then. However Nalin was the only person to say anything.”
“And what did he say?”
“It’s not so much what he said. It was just that he was the only one to notice something was off about Brian. He asked me if Brian was eating.”
“And what did you tell him?”
“I lied of course. I told him as far as I knew Brian was eating. He didn’t seem to believe me but he accepted the answer. But then he started asking if I was alright.”
“How’d you answer?”
“I told him I was fine but he didn’t believe me. It makes sense though because why would he have believed me. I’ve always been a great actress but never a good liar and plus we went out for over a year. He knows when I’m lying so I don’t know why I expeted him to believe me.”
“What happened next?”
“He just kept on asking questions until the truth came out,” chelsea said as she continued to run over the event of that day in her head wincing ever time she thought about how sick Brian looked that day.
“What truth came out?”
“The truth about Brian and the truth about me. He found out about my eating disorder and our deal. He found out about everything.”
“How did he react?”
“At first he tried to tell me the same thing : he told me I needed help but the more I argued with him the angrier he got.”
“He became angry at you?” The woman sounded slightly surprised.
“Yeah. He actually blew up in my face. He blamed me for Brian relapsing.”
“How did you handle that?”
“I started to cry,” she said honestly.
“Then what he’d do?”
“He comforted me. I remember the exact words he said to me. He said verbatim ‘You're pretty when you cry’.”
“How did that make you feel.”
“Loved, vulnerable, beautiful, valuable, unique special. All those things that I believe
I’m not. The things I’ve always wanted to be.”
“Well Chelsea your hours up but I definitely think we got a lot done in this first session. I can definitively conclude that you definitely associate your weight with your worth as a person. SO that’s definite something we need to work on,” Chelsea prepares to leave when the therapist stops her, “And for the record I have known you for all of an hour and I think you’re wrong about yourself. You definitely seem more than worthy of love,” the woman gives her a warm smile.

It’s never too late to apologize. That couldn’t be true. There had to be a point when apologizes become nothing more than a bunch of word. There had to come a time when it was too late to apologize. Or at least a time when apologizes weren’t necessary anymore. But according to Chelsea it was never too late to apologize but that didn’t mean that you’d always be forgiven.
That was why Brian was kind of relieved that Chelsea had forgiven him so easily for all the crap he pulled the last couple years. If it were him he wouldn’t have been nearly that forgiving but luckily Chelsea was an extremely forgiving person. That was one the things he liked the most about her. Actually there were a lot of things he liked about her. Superficially speaking, he liked that she was incredibly gorgeous. He loved her big, deep brown eyes especially the way they would light up when she was happy. He loved her intelligence. She seemed to know so much about so many things but she never boasted about it or flaunted it in anyone's face. She was humble. She was funny. Somehow she always managed to make him laugh, even when the
situation seemed like it didn’t warrant it. He loved that she seemed to know everything about him or at least the most important things. He adored how caring she was. She was always coming to his rescue no matter how many times he seemed to screw up, and that was a lot as of late. She had this uncanny ability to make him feel better when life sucked. Chelsea was one of the most confident, self-assured people he knew. And quite honestly he was a little jealous of that.
It was then that he realized that a lot of the things he loved most about chelsea were traits she no longer had anymore. He loved the old Chelsea. The person she was
before anorexia took over. The person she used to be before everything got all screwed up. The new Chelsea was damaged, vulnerable, insecure and half the time she seemed uncertain and maybe even a little scared about something. He knew what she was scared of. She was scared that things would never get better. She was scared that she would be sick forever. She was scared that her and Brian would never end up together. She was scared of hurting everyone she cared about. She was scared that she would never amount to more than she was right now. But most of all she was scared of not being good enough.
He sat up in the bed, still
partially covered by a purple fuzzy blanket, and stared at the gorgeous brunette who lay beside him. She looked so angelic, so beautiful. She looked like she was incapable of doing anything wrong but he knew that was a lie.
Chelsea began to wake up. She opened her eyes slowly but as soon as they were completely open she regretted opening them at all. She wished she just stayed asleep. She wished she could sleep forever because then she wouldn’t have to face the world however that wasn’t an option knew it. Nevertheless she wasn’t in the mood to have to deal with life. She felt like crap.
“Morning, sleeping beauty,” Brian said upon seeing Chelsea waking up and immediately he regretted saying it. It sound so cheesy and cliché.
“Hey,” she said softly. She looked up at Brian. His beautiful brown-gray eyes were full of worry. She wondered what she did wrong this time. It had to have been something bad but she remembered nothing. It
didn’t matter though because she was sure that Brian would soon tell her.
“Do you feel okay?” he asked.
“My head hurts but other than that I feel alright.” She lied. Of course she didn’t feel alright, she felt like crap. Actually crap was an understatement , in actuality she felt like dying. She just
didn’t want to be alive today. Life just sucked a little too much for her right now. For once she wasn’t able to just suck it up and deal. But she wasn’t brave enough to give up completely. She wasn’t selfish enough to give it. So she was stuck that crossroad between wanting to live and hoping to die. She didn’t necessarily to live but she didn’t want to die. She honestly just wanted to check out of life. That way she would stop being such a disappointment. he would stop hurting everyone she love. She would stop having to work so hard to be perfect. Right now, that seemed so appealing.
“That’s good,” he said
indifferently. All Chelsea could wonder was what happened last night? Why was she waking up in Brian’s bed? Did she do something stupid? What if her and Brian had sex? Did they use protection? What if she got pregnant? Would Brian stick around? Would he be a good father? Could she handle a child? Would inevitably disappoint this child like she did everyone else? Would she end up hurting this child?What about Nalin? What would her parents think? What about college? What about her future?
She couldn’t help but be paranoid even though she knew the likelihood that they had sex the previous night was slim to none, she still
couldn’t help but shake the thought from her head.
“Why am I in your bed?” she asked hoping that Brian did not give her the answer she was expecting but also slightly wishing he would.
“You don’t remember, we had mind blowing sex last night. I feel kind of insulted, apparently I wasn’t as good as I
thought I was,” he said sarcastically.
Chelsea’s wide eyes stared at him for a good couple seconds trying to process what he just told her. When she finally realized that he was being sarcastic she felt like a complete idiot
“Okay, what really happened last night because the last thing I remember is we were having dinner
with your parents.” An innocent situation but as past experience both of them when screwed up people are involved nothing is truly innocent.
“Yep, and then you decided you felt like puking up your guts,” he sounded a little angry but Chelsea could hear the disappointment in his voice. She hated people being disappointed in her. But she hated Brian being disappointed in her the most. She hated letting him down. She was suppose to be getting better and here she was relapsing. She was hopeless. She was worthless. Why did she have to be such a screw up?
“Sorry,” she said sincerely. She really meant it. he had to get it together, if not for her then for Brian. None of this was fair to him.
“It’s okay,” Brian said thinking about the events of the previous night.

***********

It was saturday night in mid May and Brian, his parents and Chelsea were sitting around the dark, freshly polished, mahogany colored dinner table. Brian had somehow convinced Chelsea to have dinner at his house because he didn’t want to be alone with his parents again. He hated the way they put him on a pedestal and put pressure on him to be perfect. It was even worse when he was alone with them, which is exactly the reason why he guilted Chelsea into coming along.
It wasn’t like Chelsea had anything better to do anyway. Dinner with Brian’s family was a much better option that dinner with her own. Since her parents found out about her eating disorder they had been having family dinners together, Just Chelsea, her mother, Ronnie and even her father. It was part of her recovery. Her therapist recommended family dinners and her mother went along with it because she read somewhere that family dinners encouraged healthy eating habits and good body image in children. The last couple weeks had sucked. Her family had developed their own dinner routine. Every single day without fail they would sit down to dinner at 6:30 pm on the dot. Chelsea’s mother would prepare a mixed salad and some kind of pasta dish. Ronnie would comment absentmindedly on how little Chelsea was eating, which would lead to her mother making a sarcastic comment on the miniscule amount of food on Chelsea’s plate. Next her father would start commanding her to eat more while simultaneously shoving a mass amount of food unto her dinner plate. She would push the plate away from her and cross her arms signifying her refusal to obey his command. They would start to argue, each trying to out scream the other, until her father would compromise and allow her to eat only half her plate. They rest of dinner would consist of them sitting in silence with her mother, father and Ronnie eyeing her as she ate. Chelsea detested this routine and she was happy with anything that allowed her to avoid, which is why when Brian invited her to dinner she accepted so willingly.
“So, Chelsea we haven’t seen you in a long time. What have you been up to?” Brian’s father asked. Brian’s father was a tall, somewhat large man with a commanding voice and an ever judgmental facial expression. He looked a lot more scary than he actually was. Chelsea, however, didn’t find him scary at all.
“The usual, just going to school, studying, hanging out with Brian, Nalin and Maya.”
“Still a straight A student I hope?” Brian gave his father a look of hate and annoyance. Why did his father have to do this every time he brought a friend over? Why did he have to grill his friends on their lives? He swore his father did it to make him feel more like a failure. Maybe it was all an elaborate ploy to encourage him to succeed, to be perfect. He hated it so much but yet he was forced to accept it.
“For the most part. I did have this one class last semester that gave me so much trouble. I ended up getting a B in the class but I'm not really complaining,” she said not because she actually wanted to tell them this but because she wanted to keep their attention off of Brian. She knew how high of a standard they had for Brian and the more she could do to take their attention off of him the better, Brian smiled at her, realizing what she was doing. He appreciated it.
“That’s still really good. Are you still doing Swimming?” asked Brian’s mother. She was an average looking woman who had a knack for always saying the wrong things at the wrong times.
“No, I quit. I just don’t have the time to dedicate to the sport.” That was somewhat true but she quit doing swimming more because she didn’t have the energy or the focus to do it anymore. Sometimes she missed swimming. She missed the feel of winning races and the
feeling of her teammates and her coach being proud of her. When swam she was someone, someone special. She missed not being a disappointment. The pool was the only place where she felt like she was worth something. It was then she promised herself that she would start swimming again one day but in order to get back in the pool she had to get better.
“Well, that makes sense, you need that time to dedicate to your studies. You don’t need to swim anyway, you’re already really thin,” Brian’s mother said with a giant smile, “Did you lose weight?” Chelsea looked at Brian pleading for a way out. She didn’t want to say
anything that would reveal her eating disorder to Brian’s parents, actually she preferred they didn’t know. But she had to answer the question.
“Yeah, a little I guess. All the stress with school, and Brian and my family and everything else really kills the appetite,” she said convincingly. Brian stared at her in awe at her ability to fool his parents. It made him more hesitant to trust her.
“Yeah, that can be a lot to handle. But you seem to be handling it great. Actually Brian tells us that you are the main reason that he’s getting better. He says he wouldn’t have the strength to make it through recovery without you or Maya.” She couldn’t take all that credit. She wasn’t responsible for Brian getting better, if anything she was ruining his recovery.
“I think that he’s giving me way too much credit. He has had a lot to do with his
recovery. He’s completely turned around. Lately Brian has actually stopped fighting getting better and has become entirely dedicated to getting better. I mean, honestly look at him, he looks much healthier. He’s finally at a healthy weight, though I still think he’’s a little too thin but that’s besides the point,” Chelsea said honestly and wholeheartedly.
The three all directed their attention to Brian who sat there absentmindedly playing with his food. Chelsea could tell he hadn’t eaten a bite. Brian looked afraid but not afraid to eat but instead afraid to talk. He was afraid of being heard. he was afraid of saying
the wrong thing. But most of all, he was afraid of letting his parents down.
“Don’t believe her, she’s definitely helped me the most,” he mumbled.
“He’s being extremely modest. Brian’s so determined to get better it’s kind of inspiring,” she smiled at Brian but he didn’t smile back. Instead he
stared at her with pleading eyes, he wanted her to continue. He wanted her to tell him everything about him that she found good. He wanted someone to sincerely tell him how amazing he is without expecting perfection in return.
“Well. actually Brian has been getting much better lately. And I have even seen that amazing determination in him, that determination that says he wants to live. Did he tell you he wanted to start running again?” his father said. Chelsea was tempted to tell his parents about that day a couple of months ago when Brian decided that starved, tired and on the brink of death he was going to run 10 miles but she
didn’t because that was in the past.
“No, he hasn’t,” she said smiling.
“I don’t know why you ever stopped. You we’re so good at it. All that talent went to waste when you stopped doing track,” Brian’s mother said sounding slightly disappointed and a little regretful, “You know his Cross
Country coach once said with great training he could one day go to the Olympics. I just don’t understand how someone who was so good could give it all up so easily.” Chelsea saw the desperate look on Brian’s face but she couldn’t do anything. The damage was already done.
“I stopped doing track and Cross Country because I didn’t want to die. You are aware that that running was one the factors that drove me to starve myself, right? Honestly, if I kept running I would have probably gone into cardiac arrest. As much as I love running, I couldn’t keep on doing it. It came to a point when it was either running or the eating disorder and we all
know what my choice was,” Brian said angry but also a little sad. Everyone stared at Brian. They saw his pain and they understood it especially Chelsea.
“Sorry, I should watch what I say, sometimes,” his mother apologized. This was the first time in her life that she acknowledged the repercussions of her actions.
“So, Chelsea, Brian, you two crazy kids have any plans for this weekend?” Brian’ father said trying to change the subject.
“No, not really. We were just going to do our usual thing,” Chelsea said as she played with her food. She was purposely trying to avoid eating it and Brian could see that. He was eyeing her and she knew exactly what he was trying to tell her.
“Anyone want more potatoes?” Brian’s mother asked. Brian looked at Chelsea and she looked back at him.
“I think Chelsea does,” Brian said. His mother looked at Chelsea’s plate, it was almost half full.
“Chelsea, do you want more Potatoes?” The middle aged woman asked.
“Sure,” she said with fake enthusiasm as she eyed Brian discontentedly.
“It’s great that you have such a healthy appetite. It’s so annoying when girls that are no bigger than a toothpick pick at these little tiny plates of food. It’s kind of sad when you think about it,” Chelsea suddenly felt sick to her stomach.
“Will you guys excuse, I have to use the bathroom,” she said politely and urgently.
“Okay, you know where it is,” Brian’s father said.
Chelsea darted as fast as possible to the bathroom and Brian promptly followed, leaving his parents very confused. She darted past the four large bedroom into the bathroom located in the far end of the hallway. The bathroom was just as small as she remembered it. She kneeled down in front of the teal porcelain toilet and began punching herself in the stomach in an
attempt to force the vomit up.
“Why are you doing this?” Brian asked.
“I don’t even know anymore.”

Nalin was sitting on his bed reluctantly typing a paper for AP English Language and Composition and trying to resist the urge to go on facebook when he heard his phone ring. He checked the caller Id. It was Maya.
“Hey,” he said answering the phone.
“What are you up to?” she asked without hesitation.
“Working on that essay for
English,” he said nonchalantly wondering why Maya was calling and what she wanted.
“Oh, okay,” she said disappointedly.
“Why? What’s wrong? Do you need something?”
“No, I was just bored and needed someone to talk to.” He knew she was lying.
“No, really, what did you want.”
“You knew
about Chelsea, didn’t you?” she asked accusingly.
“What?”
“You knew about Chelsea’s eating disorder.”
“Yeah, kind of,” he said trying to avoid upsetting Maya further.
“Okay.” She said simply, accepting the truth.
“Do you
need someone to talk to? Do you want me to come over?” he asked.
“No, it’s fine. You have your essay to do.”
“It can wait. Right now you’re a little more important.”
“Okay, fine but don’t blame me when you fail,” she joked in a vain attempt to make herself feel better. Nalin could tell that but he wasn’t going to call her it because she needed that. She needed to convince herself that everything would be alright. She needed to convince herself that she would be okay. Nalin wasn’t going to take that away from her. It wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t be right.
After all him, Brian and Chelsea
all had at one point or another over the last couple months falsely convinced themselves everything would be alright. So why couldn’t Maya do it too? Just because she was the strong one, their shoulder to lean on didn’t mean that she couldn’t occasionally be in denial if it made her feel better.
“I have never failed anything in my life and I don’t plan to start now. I am too awesome to fail,” he said hoping to make the beautiful brunette laugh.

*************************************

She simultaneously contemplated how much her eating disorder was destroying her life and everything that Brian told her happened last night. This wasn't a new thing though; it had been happening periodical since Brian found out about her eating disorder. It was the side effect of the monster that she called her eating disorder returning stronger than when it left. She was scared one day it would completely consume her and when that day came she would hurt everyone who had faith in her. She had to get over this. She had to. Her life depended on it.
“You know I actually mean it this time?” she asked looking at Brian as he was deep in thought, probably contemplating the previous night.
“You do?” he said distantly and slight bitter but she knew he didn’t mean it She knew he was just hurt and tired. He was just tired of believing that Chelsea would get her act together and get better. He was tired of failing her. He was tired of not being there for her. That’s what she told
herself. And little did she know that was true.
“Yes, I can’t do this anymore,” she said somber and humbly. Brian’s now dark eyes looked at her and surveyed her. She knew he was trying to figure out if he believed her.
“So what are going to do about it?” he asked coldly.
“I haven’t thought that far yet.”
“But you are ready to give up this crap?” he asked, cautiously.
“Yes,” she answered assuredly.
“I don’t know why but I believe you,” She smiled slightly, “I guess it’s because I’ve been where you are. Or maybe it’s because I’ve known you forever and for some reason I trust you. But it’s probably because above all I love you and I want to have faith that you’ll get better,” he paused to survey Chelsea’s reaction. Her face remained blank, so he continued, “I think that’s
probably the reason I have the strength to try and get better. I want to get better for you. I want to stop hurting you. You are quite possibly the sole reason I want to get better.”
She stared at him because she didn’t know what to say. She felt guilty. She felt guilty for a lot of things. First she felt guilty for still having an eating disorder despite how much Nalin, Chelsea and especially Brian begged her to try and get better. She felt guilty for dating Nalin even though she was in love with Brian and him equally in love with her. She felt guilty because she was causing Brian so much pain because of both of these things. But most of
all she felt guilty because at the end of the day she didn’t want to chose between Brian and Nalin because she couldn’t. And she hated that Brian just had to accept that.
“Chelsea for some reason I am f*ing in love with you but I can’t be with you. It’s not fair.”
“I know Brian. I know it isn’t.” She said simply
and without apology. It didn’t give Brian any hope that they will be together but for now it was enough for Brian.

********************************

“How long?” Maya asked suddenly. Nalin looked up at her confused.
“How long what?”
“How long have you known?” Nalin looked at the floor, seemingly avoiding the question. Maya knew why he was avoiding the question and to a certain point she understood but nonetheless she still needed an answer.
“A while.”
“How long is a while?”
“A couple of months. I found out around your birthday,” Nalin said avoiding Maya’s eyes for fear of upsetting the beautiful girl. He didn’t want to upset her any further considering in the last week her world had been turned upside down in the last week.
“And why didn’t you tell me?” her voice was less shrill and now it was starting to break. She was on the bridge of tears but she had to remain strong. She couldn’t break down now.
“Because we didn’t think you could handle it,” he said bluntly but without malcontent,”You already had enough on your plate and we didn’t want to make it worse. Plus Brian was starting to get better and for a time Chelsea seemed like she was
also.” He said honestly.
“Were you ever going to tell me?” she asked, actually crying now. She looked at Nalin pleadingly waiting for him to say yes but knowing that his answer would most likely be no.
“I don’t know about Chelsea and Brian but I would have told you when the time seemed right. I feel like Brian wanted to
tell you but Chelsea talked him out of it. And I know that deep down no matter how much Chelsea told herself she didn’t want to tell you and it wasn’t bad enough yet to tell but she knew she needed to tell you.” He said. It made Maya feel that much better.
Nalin grabbed her left arm gently and brought her into a hug. In response she laid her head on his shoulders and cried. She hadn’t cried this much in years. This was the first time in forever where she didn’t have to be strong.
“I feel like I failed her,” she stated without specification but Nalin knew exactly who she was talking about, “Like I could have stopped this from happening. If only I realized what was happening to Chelsea, I could have stopped it before it went too far.”
“Trust me Maya, I feel that way every single day. I always wonder if I noticed Brian’s eating disorder sooner I could have stopped it. If I wasn’t so caught up in my own
drama I would have notice. I’ve blamed myself for Brian’s eating disorder everyday for the past 3 years and I will probably continue to blame myself for the rest of my life. But you know what I’ve realized?”
“What?”
“It will all be alright.” he assured her ad for the first time in forever she actually believed it,
“I can’t change the past so I might as well stop blaming myself and work on making a better future. I know that sound corny but it’s true. And when I stop blaming myself for what happened to Brian it does start to seem like everything will work out. So, Maya trust me when I say stop worrying and just let things work themselves out because they will. Chelsea is a beautiful, clever funny, amazing girl with a good head on her shoulders and a great group of friends. I’m sure she’ll figure it out. She’ll get better just you watch,” the redhead said, almost too optimistically.
“Sure she will,” she said flatly and without much authority. It was then that Nalin decided to do something that he knew he would regret. He lifted her chin to the point where she was looking up at him and he kissed her on the forehead just to show her
that everything would be alright.

“Are you okay?” Chelsea asked because lately Brian seemed a bit off. Well he seemed a lot more than a bit off but definitely not sick, not his version of sick at least.
“yeah,
I’m fine,” he answered. Chelsea didn’t believe him because it was obvious he was lying. She was just trying to decide why he was lying. Was he lying because it was just no big deal or was it something more? She hoped it was the former and not that latter because if it was the latter she wasn’t sure if she could handle it. Normally she could handle Brian’s self-destructive behaviors but not right now, not with what had happened in the last couple weeks. She honestly didn’t even understand how she was surviving “recovery”. Okay, that wasn't entirely true, she knew exactly why she was surviving recovery and the reason was Brian. The fact that Brian was getting better, the fact that he had dramatically improved, the fact that he didn’t look close to death made recovery that much easier for her. So what ever was going on with Brian she hoped it wasn’t serious and if it was she wanted to nip it in the bud before it got too
bad,
“Lets try this again,”she said, more forcefully this time, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m just a little stressed, “ he answered truthfully.
“About what?” She said sincerely hoping she wasn’t the cause but knowing deep down that if she wasn’t entirely the problem she was definitely part of it.
“School, my parents, my future, you know, the regular things,” he said nonchalantly, his grayish-brown focused on everything but Chelsea.
“And me,” she said somberly hoping that Brian would deny it.
“i’m not going to lie, yeah you are one of the reasons but you’re by no means the only reason. I don’t want you to blame yourself because I’m a little stressed, it’s not good for your recovery,” Chelsea just stared at him, nodding in agreement.
“You are still eating right?” she asked after about 2 minutes of silence. His face looked more humbled, which was unusual for him
“Yeah. To be honest I have been eating a little less lately but that’s not intentional,” Chelsea’s blank expression went to a slight smile as she heard him say that because at least she knew he was alright,
“Oh, okay, just making sure,” she said trying to avoid seeming like an overprotective, overbearing drama queen, “I mean you really can’t afford to lose anymore weight but I can’t get mad at you for it if it isn’t purposeful.”

They kind of just stare at each other for a few seconds but it feels like longer.
“Okay, I should go,” she smiled as she preemptively stood on her tippy toes and kissed Brian on the cheek. He looked at her confused before smiling back at her. She knew she was going to regret this later but for now she was just going to enjoy the moment.

************************************
Nalin’s arm was bony yet strong, his skin felt like silk and he smelled like a weird mix of musk and cherries, which was oddly pleasant to chelsea. She liked laying there in Nalin’s arms, it made her feel safe and protected, a feeling that she never felt when she was with Brian. No matter how cliche it sounded she
wanted to stay in his arms forever.
“You okay?” Nalin asked looking down at Chelsea. She looked so beautiful. She was literally glowing. Like for the first time in the last couple months she didn’t look sick, she didn’t look tired and she didn’t look like she was on the verge of starvation. Dare he say it but the beautiful petite brunette with a heart of gold and all too contrasting take-no-prisoners attitude looked healthy, undeniably healthy. Now he had to admit that she still was way too thin but at least she didn’t look on the bridge of death and that’s all he could really ask for.
“Yeah,” she said half-lying. She was okay physically but mentally she had a lot going on and for once none of it had anything to do with her eating disorder. But she couldn’t tell Nalin what was wrong because he was part of the problem. Or more specifically her feelings for him were the problem. She had a huge dilemma on her hands. She was completely and totally head over heels in love with both Brian and Nalin. And the bright girl knew there would come a point, probably sooner than she’d like, when she’d have to make a choice. And the choice wouldn’t be easy.
Nalin looked at her and he knew she was lying. He definitely knew she was lying. He saw the guilty look in her eyes. Chelsea knew Nalin knew but she was hoping he wouldn’t ask anymore questions because she didn’t want to tell him the truth. She didn’t want Nalin to know that she was still in love with Brian because she knew it would only break his heart. And she really didn’t want to break his heart.
But it wasn’t like
it was some big secret, everyone knew Chelsea was in love with Brian. It wasn’t that though that Chelsea was afraid of admitting to Nalin, it was the fact that she would always be in love Brian just a little bit more than him. Although in total honesty Nalin always knew that. He didn’t want to know but he did. He just accepted that as a fact of life.
“Okay, what’s wrong?” he asked refusing to accept Chelsea’s claim that she was alright. He knew her very well and because of that he knew she certainly wasn’t alright.
“Nothing,” she again stated so assured that if Nalin didn’t know better he would have assumed that she was telling the truthing but luckily he did know better.
“Chelsea, I know something’s wrong. You’re being quiet, avoidant and you’re acting really weird. So tell me what’s wrong or I’ll have to pry it out of you,” he said firmly. She could tell he was worried.
“It had nothing to do with my eating disorder,” she said reading his mind. However sadly that didn’t put him at ease. He was still worried to no ends about Chelsea but that was simply because he loved her.
“Okay, so you’re eating, whooptie doo, but that doesn’t answer my question. What’s wrong?” he asked again more demanding this
time.
“I can’t tell you,” she stated simply and a little foreboding as well.
“That doesn’t make me feel any better, in fact it just makes me more worried,”he said, his voice more filled with worry and breaking ever so slightly.
“Don’t worry I’m not going to go cut myself or kill the mayor or something like that,” she said as a joke, however Nalin didn’t find it all too funny.
“That’s not funny but that’s beside the point,” He said foiling Chelsea’s attempt to change the subject and further avoid talking about what was on her mind “Chelsea, why won’t you just
tell me what’s wrong?” he asked almost desperately.
“Because it has to do with you,” she blurted out.
“Huh?” he question. His emotion falling somewhere between hurt and confused.
“Nalin,” she paused for impact, “I love you.”
“I love you too but how is that a problem?” The gorgeous redhead asked truly confused.
“Because I can’t be in love with you right now.”
“What does that even mean?”
“I don’t even know, just forget I said
anything.”
“Chelsea we should probably talk about this.”
“Maybe later,” she said with the intention of never talking about it again. The longer she could avoid talking about it the longer she could avoid dealing with it and the longer she could avoid breaking someone’s heart.
“Okay fine,” he said although he was by no means okay with it, “ Anyway all this serious conversation has made me hungry, I’m going to the kitchen. You want something?” for once he wasn’t trying to make her eat, he was just wondering.
“When you not hungry?” she joked, “ I swear you’re going to get fat one day.”
“And you’ll still love me anyway.” he gave her a huge smile.
“Well yeah,” she said as though it was a universally known fact.
“Then why doesn’t it work the other way around?”Chelsea didn’t have answer.

************************
“So, how are you and Chelsea doing?” Maya asked, both curious and trying to make conversation.
“Good,” Nalin answered. Maya could see he was lying.
“I know you’re lying,” she said proudly.
“Okay, we’re not exactly the most functionable couple ever but we’re doing alright,” he said honestly.
“So why don’t you sound happier.”
“Because things are kinda weird between us,” he finally admitted, “ And it’s not because her eating disorder, well not entirely anyway, and I don't think it’s because I know she’ll always be in love with Brian. I don’t know I think it’s because I still feel guilty,” he said wholeheartedly and unfiltered.
“You feel guilty about what?” Maya asked truly curious but somewhat knowing what he was talking about.
“For noting noticing Brian’s eating disorder early.”
“That happened 4 years ago,” she said truthfully and rationally but knowing that Nalin wouldn’t see it that way.
“I know but I still can’t help but blame myself.”

“Well look who finally decided to show up to practice,” is the first thing Brian heard when he wandered into the dimly-lit garage. He looked up to see who said it and he saw a somewhat short guy with messy long dirty-blond hair and big hazel eyes. He knew the guy, his name was Tristan and he played guitar in their band.
Tristan stood there looking condescendingly at Brian, seemingly judging his every move. He was judging Brian’s every move but Brian was used to it by now. Tristan had always been like that: judgmental and Malicious. And some part of Brian believed it was because Tristan was jealous.
Nalin noticed this and shot Tristan a nasty look because honestly Tristan had no right to say anything. He was just saying it out of spite or maybe it was to
get a rise out of Brian. Tristan was just that Malicious.
Tristan’s malicious tendencies weren’t Nalin’s main concern right now however. He was more concerned with the fact that Brian looked just the tiniest bit off and when Brian was off all hell broke loose. It’s not like he even looked noticeably off, it’s just that Nalin knew and he didn’t want to take any chances especially when it came to Brian.
“Yep,” Brian said
“Where have you been anyway, I haven’t seen you around?” asked a tall dark-skinned guy named Chris, as he smiled one of the biggest smiles any of the other three guys had ever seen.
“Probably too busy with Olivia,” said Tristan rather bitterly. And that’s when Brian wondered how long it’s really been since he came to band practice. He had broken up with Olivia so long ago.
“Olivia and I broke up months ago,” he said somberly. He avoided Tristan’s gaze and instead decided to stare at the ground because at that moment he found the ground more interesting.
“Well we’d know that if you ever came to practice more often,” Chris said jokingly. Nalin stared at him also, giving him almost the same look he’d given Tristan a minute earlier.
“Or at all,” Tristan said under his breath but everyone heard it. And Nalin turned his angry gaze back to Tristan.
“okay, guys stop grilling Brian about what’s he’d been up to. We have a gig in 2 weeks and we need to get to work,” Nalin walks over to the book case and from the second shelf he pulls out a very heavy chemistry book. He opens the book and pulls out a crumpled piece of paper and hands it to Brian.
“What’s this?” Brian asked
confused.
“The lyrics. Sit here and look over them while we show you how the song goes,” Nalin says demandingly.
3 minutes later and they had run through the complete song and Brian doesn’t want to admit but he doesn’t know at all how the song goes. He wasn’t really paying attention as they were playing and he definitely
didn’t even glance at the lyrics. Truth be told he had more important things to think about.
“Brian,” Nalin said trying to get his attention.
“What?”
“Do you have the song down?” he ask knowing that Brian definitely didn’t considering he wasn’t paying attention.
“No, not really. Do you guys mind doing it again,” he said absentmindedly.
“So, you don’t come to practice for like 2 months and now you can’t focus enough to learn the song. You literally just have to do vocals, that the easy part,” Tristan went off on a tangent, “Can we kick him out of the band now?” Nalin responded by giving him a dirty look and then saying “No. No one is getting kicked out the band,” Nalin turned his attention towards Brian, “Can I talk to you for a second?” Brian nodded and followed Nalin outside.
“Okay, so what the hell is going on with you?” he asked bluntly, making no effort to spare Brian’s feelings.
“Nothing, I’m—I’m fine,” he stuttered slight. He was half-lying but also half telling the truth.
“Don’t give me that bull. What’s going on with you?”
“Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing, I’m just tired.”
“No, you’re more than just tired,” he accused, “It’s something else,” and then it dawned on him, “Are you eating because I swear if you are relapsing again-“ and Brian cut him off because he didn’t want to know what Nalin would do.
“Yes, I am eating. Why does everyone always jump to the conclusion that when something is wrong it has to do with my eating disorder?”
“Because it usually does.”
“Well this time it doesn’t. I’m just really stressed with school, and the band and Chelsea’s issues and let’s not forget the fact the you and Maya are always watching to make sure I don’t relapse,” Brian said honestly.
“We only do it because we care about you and watching you kill yourself is not exactly fun.”
“Yeah, and I get that but if you haven’t noticed for the first time in I don’t know how long I’m actually doing alright.”
“Yeah and who’s to say that’s going to last. You’ve started to recover so many times in the past only to start getting sick again. So just because this time you seem to have more of reason to live does not mean you won’t relapse.” And Brian didn’t want to admit but Nalin had a point.
“I know but it still seems like you guys don’t have faith in me.”
“It’s not that we don’t have faith in you, it’s just that we hate seeing you sick,” Nalin responded trying to justify his actions. Brian seemed to accept his explanation. “But honestly I wish you talk to me.”
“I’m talking to you right now.”
“You know what I mean,” Nalin said forcefully, ”Why won’t you tell me what’s wrong?”
“You want to know what’s wrong?” Brian challenged.
“Yes,” he answered assuredly but with the slightest hint of caution in his voice.
“It’s Chelsea.”
“What about her?”
and suddenly the redhead didn’t sound so confident.
“I can’t handle you dating her,” Brian stated simply. He paused waiting for a response and when he didn’t get on he continued, “Didn’t we make a pack in 7th grade that we’d never go after the same girl?” Brian asked vindictively.
Nalin remembered that pact. They
made the pack the summer before 7th grade after they had spent literally whole summer fighting over a girl neither of them would ever see again.
“Yes, but we agreed Chelsea was different.” And with that Brian was just forced to accept it and move one except he couldn’t.

Chelsea looked at Nalin with wide bright eyes. Her expression a mix of worry, sadness and guilt,” You don't always have to protect me,” escaped her lips.
Nalin looked up at her with an expression of confusion. What the hell was she talking about?
“Don't give me that look,” she declared,” You know exactly what I'm talking about. You're always trying to be my knight in shining armor but sometimes I want to fight my own battles. I am capable of taking care of myself,” she said with full assurance and confidence.
“Where is this coming from?” he asked confused and just a little curious.
“It's just that you're always coming to my rescue. You act like it's your job to fix everyone's problems but it's not. I understand you care but sometimes it's just too much,” she paused to collect her thoughts, “Yeah, I'll be the first to admit I'm more than a little screwed up right now and Brian and Maya aren't much better but it's not your duty to fix that because if you haven't noticed, you're just as screwed up as the rest of us. So Nalin do me a favor and take a break from being everyone's savior.”
“I'm not trying to rescue anyone,” the redheaded boy looked like a deer in headlights. He looked ambushed, he looked scared, he looked confused but most of all he looked pitiful. Yes, Nalin Mason looked truly and utterly pitiful.
“Yes you are and you've been doing it for years. I get that you feel guilty about Brian but please stop. Brian getting sick is not your fault; it's never been your fault so stop blaming yourself. Blaming yourself changes nothing and neither does watching over Brian like a Hawk. I understand that you don't want him to relapse, none of us do, but standing over his shoulders, watching his every move, confronting him at the first sign of trouble isn't helping anything. It just makes things worse. It makes it seem like you don't trust him,” she begged.
Nalin big green eyes were wide and attentive. He didn't exactly know what to think or how to respond, so he just kept on listening.
“I never meant for it seem like that. I don't mean to be overprotective. It's just, I- can't stand to lose any of you. ”
“I Know but still you have to back off,” she stated simply but understanding. She looked into Nalin's eyes, “Brian told me about what happened at band practice.”
“Of course he did,” Nalin responded angrily.
“Don't act like that,” she looked at him disappointedly, “It's not like he intended on telling, it just kind of came up.”
“That changes nothing. He still went and blabbed to you. I bet you he didn't even tell you the full story.”
“What's there to tell? He showed up band practice, you thought he looked off and then you rushed in, in true Nalin fashion to make everything better,” she said spitefully. She bit her bottom lip as she stared at him disappointedly and enraged waiting for his response.
“Yeah that's about it except there are a few key facts missing. Did he tell you that this was the first time that he's been to practice in over two months? Or that he was spacey the whole entire practice? Or that he admitted that there was something wrong?” he looked Chelsea with an expression of gratification and triumph. He knew he had won the battle. “Don't act like you haven't noticed that he's been acting a little weird.”
“Yeah, I've notice but that doesn't mean that I have to go confront him. Maybe it's nothing.”
“It' probably more than nothing. Chelsea, he looks tired all the time, he's losing a lot of weight and quickly, he's acting sketchy, he's never around and he always seems to have something on his mind. I'm not saying that he's relapsing but something's going on,” he pleaded.
The thing was he knew exactly what was going on and he knew it was his fault. Brian couldn't handle him and Chelsea being together, however Nalin couldn't bring himself to tell her that. He felt so selfish. He was endangering his friends recover, his health, his life, for a girl. A girl that was certainly in love with someone else. And he knew that if anything happened to Brian it would be all his fault but he didn't want to lose Chelsea. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“He claims he's just under a lot of stress,” she said, knowing none of it was true.
“Both you and I know that's a bunch of crap. He's not okay.”
“Yeah but we can't do anything about it. It's up to Brian to tell us what's going on. So please just forget about.”
“How can I forget that my best friend might be in trouble?”
“Just try, put it out of your mind. There's no use worrying over something you can't change.
“But what if I can change it,” a look of guilt swept his face.
“Nalin, can you do me a favor?”
“What?”
“Just for today, can you stop worry? Stop worrying about Brian, me, Maya, your grades, your band, your responsibilities, all of it.”
“I don't think I'm capable of that.”
“Just try,” she smiled.
“Okay,” he conceded. And with Chelsea left.
******

Nalin heard his phone ring. He rushed to the kitchen to answer it.
“Hello.”
“Mr. Mason. There's a girl named Maya Douglass here to see you,” his doorman said.
“Send her up,” he said passively. He wasn't surprised that Maya had come to visit him. He expected Chelsea to call her because he knew that Chelsea was well aware that only person that could make him relax when he absolutely didn't feel like relaxing was Maya.
He heard a knock at his door, “It's open.”
“Haven't I told you not to leave your door unlocked,” Maya said as she stormed into his apartment. She looked like tough and strong, and in control. She wore a plain white tank top, with a gray vest over it, a dark denim skirt and black, leather knee-high boots. Nalin found all of it sexy.
“Yeah, you have. Doesn't mean I listen,” he joked.
“Someone's going to break into your house and steal all your expensive shit and you will wished you listened to me.”
“Yeah, probably,” he said nonchalantly, “So did Chelsea call you?”
“Yeah, she said she was worried about you.”
“Hmm, she just gave me some lecture earlier about how I need to stop blaming myself for everyone's problems and stop trying to rescue everyone.”
“Well she's right.”
“I know she is. I told her I'd try. So therefore I have to essentially forget that Brian is a self-destructive mess.”
“You know Brian isn't the only person you try to protect.”
“Yeah, I do it to Chelsea too.”
“And me.”
“When have I ever tried to protect you?” he asked truly confused.
“Do you remember that day a couple weeks ago, when I took that sick day and you came to my house?”
“Yeah.”
“I didn't ask you to do any of that,” she stated truthfully.
“I was just being a good friend.”
“But you didn't have to stay. You didn't have to keep me company. You certainly didn't have to cheer me up, you chose to.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“No, it's not. Nalin you care; you care a lot. And that's normally a great thing but sometimes you care a little too much. Every once in while you have to let the people you care about lie in their own messes and solve their own problems,” he looked around the house and noticed the apartment was actually clean for once, “cleaning lady came today?”
“Yep,” he welcomed the change of topic.
“So do you want to do something?”
“Like what?”
“Anything. I kind of still owe you from that day in April.”
“Can we go play mini golf?” he asked excitedly.
“Yeah, of course as long as you're prepared to be thoroughly embarrassed by my awesome mini-golfing skills.”
“I took golf with you sophomore year, I know you can't golf,” he a little more flirty than intended.
“Yeah, I'm aware but why can't you let me live with my delusions.”
“Because delusions like that make you seem schizophrenic. I already have two crazy friends, I don't need another one,” he joked.
“I resent that for two reasons: one, that is not schizophrenia, at all, and two, I am not crazy, I'm just mildly abnormal.”
“Sometimes I wonder where you'd be if you weren't hot,” he sighed.
“I think the same thing about you,” she said as she stared at him seductively and ran her fingers through his hair.
It was official: Maya was flirting. Maya was absolutely, completely and without a doubt flirting with him. And he didn't know how to respond.
“We should go,” he said as he grabbed her by the arm gentle and started leading her out the door.
“Okay,” she responded confused.
Nalin didn't know where to go from there. He might have a chance with the girl of his dreams but he didn't know if that was really what he wanted.

The funny thing about having an eating disorder is you spend every day wishing you were normal. You start to wondering if maybe being fat, ugly, losing control, would be better than this if it meant you get to be happy. You remember the time before everything went to shit, back when you could eat without having to count every single calorie, you could exercise without going to extremes, you didn’t need to make excuses to why you’re never hungry or to avoid hanging with your friends because hanging out could lead to food and food is no longer in your vocabulary. Yeah, you were fat then but you were also happy. Definitely much happier than you are now. But alas you still can’t bring yourself to give up your eating disorder because it defines you, it gives you control, it is the one thing that’s yours and yours alone. Chelsea felt like that everyday.
She felt like that every waking moment of her miserable life. She couldn’t turn the feelings off, she couldn’t stop them. They just kept on rolling and rolling like a long never ending horror film.
“You okay?” Nalin asks. He looks over at Chelsea, his face full of worry. He shifts his body slightly towards the left end of the couch and turns his body so he’s facing Chelsea. He removes his right hand from behind her, accidentally scratching in the process but he doesn’t seem to notice.
“What...yeah, just zoned out for a second,” she says, flustered. She responds in a vain attempt at calming his worry.
They’re at Nalin’s house for once, which is a feat considering Nalin never lets anyone inside his house. His band will practice in his garage more often than not, but that’s only because it has the most space, and even then no one is ever allowed inside the house. This is maybe the third time that Chelsea’s been inside his house and she’s been best friends with Nalin since elementary school, not to mention they dated for over a year.
She thinks it’s mostly because unlike her and Brian and Chelsea, Nalin has a relatively functionable family. That might be an understatement, his family is close to perfect.Deep down, she supposed, that Nalin feels a little guilty for having such a great family.
“What were you thinking about?” The crimson-haired boy looks up at her with his big deep brown eyes, that were surrounded by a faint, thin ring of forest green and gave her quite possibly the most genuine smile ever. She smiled back, considerably less genuinely though.
“Just things,” she responds half-heartedly.
“Okay, what kind of things?” he doesn’t seem to get the point. She doesn’t want to talk because she knows what talking will lead to and she isn’t sure she’s ready to be responsible for that yet.
“Nalin,” she says somewhat forcefully, her voice somber and low. She half senses by the look of pure fear and a little disappointment on his face, that he knew this conversation was coming, “We need to talk.”
“It’s over, isn’t it?” and she should have expected this. Nalin has never been the type of person to beat around the bush. He is a rather blunt, which normally was a good thing but now it didn’t seem quite so good. It just made her job harder.
“You didn’t actually think this was going to work, did you?” she asks in a tone, that she is also certain makes her sound like the insecure teenage girl she is. Nalin just gives her a look that she isn’t sure how to interpret. His bright eyes have gone dim, his smile has faded, all the color from his face has left, he is pale but despite that he doesn’t necessarily look sad, or defeated or even angry. The look on his face could best be describe as contentment. The tall, skinny, redhead with big expressive eyes and a smile that could light up any room, who felt the constant need to be everyone’s savior, was content. That was a victory in Chelsea’s book.
“Nalin, you and I, we never made sense?” she almost questions. It’s then that he finally looks up from the hardwood floor that his eyes been situated on for last few minutes.
“We did make sense though. Maybe not now but there was a time when we did make sense .” He sounds almost betrayed, his voice small and low and holding the slightest hint of insignificance.
“Yeah when we were thirteen and each others second choices. Sure we made sense then.”
“At the risk of sounding cliche, it was more than that. Chelsea, you were my first love. At the beginning sure we were settling for each other but you can’t deny that after a while we fell in love. And maybe it was the stupid teenage hormones and it would if ended in a huge disaster even without Brian getting sick but it still doesn’t change the fact that there was a point where we were in love.”
“Nalin, you will always be my first love and yes, I’ll admit there was a time when we did make sense but we don’t anymore. Not with me like this-” she says loud, and dramatic and impassionately, and she wants to continue but Nalin cuts her off.
“I’m not going to argue with you that we should stay together because we both know that would be a load of crap but I’m also not going to sit here and let you use being sick as reason we should break up. The fact that you’re sick has never been a factor in the success of our relationship. Yes, you’re recovering from an eating disorder and sometimes it’s hard on me, but that does not have any bearing on how I feel about you or how well we work as a couple,” and he sounds absolutely livid, as though even mention of Chelsea’s eating disorder being a factor in this is a personal insult. “We both know the real reason that this is over. You’re still in love with Brian, actually I don’t think you ever fell out of love with Brian.”
“And you’re in love with Maya. Obviously we are meant to be with other people,” she says calmly and Nalin nods his head in agreement, “So Nalin I give you permission to go after Maya.”
“And not that I think you need it but I give you permission to be with Brian.”
Chelsea laughs softly at the joke.The room goes dead silent after that because both Chelsea and Nalin have said all they needed to say.
“This seems weird to say but for the first time in the last four years I can honestly say that I honestly have hope in you two,” and despite Nalin lack of effort to specify, Chelsea knows who he’s talking about, “It’s sound so bad the way I’m saying it, and it’s not like there was a point where I didn’t believe that you or Brian would get better, but, like-I can’t explain it. Just I had always had this underlying fear that maybe neither of you would get better. And I feel so bad for saying it but truthfully I did feel that way for so long. But now I really do believe in your ability to get better and Brian’s ability to get better. And it won’t ever go back to the way it was but I do think that we, as in you, me, Maya and Brian can move past this and like just be normal. Or our version of normal at least.”
“Quite frankly, Nalin Mason I couldn’t agree with you more.” And the brunette with the big eyes and the heart of gold kisses the beautiful redheaded boy who always cared just a little too much on the cheek for good measure. And so ended the story of her first love but certainly not the story of one of the best friendships she ever had. That story she hoped would continue for as long as the universe continued to exist.


*****

Maya hears knocking from her bedroom. Someone’s at the door and she’s almost certain she knows who it is. Seeing as it’s 5pm on a friday, it’s probably either Brian or Chelsea. So the tall, brunette tosses on a pair of purple flip flops and that are just laying on her floor and goes to answer the door. To her surprise, it is neither Chelsea nor Brian at the door but instead Nalin.
The redheads hair looks disheveled and she is kind of tempted to run her fingers through it. There a few beads of sweat running down his porcelain skin. He’s only wearing thin white t-shirt and a red hoodie that’s only half way zipped and on the bottom a faded, worn pair of jeans, despite it being 30 degrees outside and him being tall and lanky. Maya sometimes wonders how he he hasn’t gotten hypothermia but at the same time she is also grateful and amused that he hasn’t.
“Nalin?” she questions because she is honestly confused. It’s not as though Nalin doesn’t sometimes come to their weekly friday night movie night but he’s usually comes with Brian and more recently Chelsea. So it’s just kind of weird to see him there alone.
“Maya, I need to tell you something and I’m going to try to say it as calmly and cool as possible.”
“Okay,” she says confused.
“I like you. I really honestly like, you,” he finally looks up from his shoes to her deep brown eyes, “Do get what I’m saying? I want to be with you?”
“But what about Chelsea? You know her, your girl friend. She’s really pretty, kind of short, about 5’3, really thin, has curly brown hair. Does any of this ring a bell?” she says sarcastically, hoping that maybe it will scare him off because she knows if he continues she just might say yes and she can’t do that to Chelsea. It wouldn’t be fair.
“We broke up.”
“Really?” she asks in disbelief.
“Yeah, just like a couple hours ago actually.”
“Nalin, I’m not interested in being your rebound,” she says, somewhat disappointedly. And Nalin smile drops in response.
“No, no, no. F no, that’s not what this is. I don’t want you to be my rebound.”
“Then what is this about?”
“I liked you for longer than I can remember. Actually I’ve been head over heels in love with you since forever and I don’t think there has ever been a point where I wasn’t at least a little in love with you. But you’ve been always out of my league. Like you’re this amazing girl. You’re beautiful and funny and smart and talented and this is going to sound so corny and stupid but you kind of understand me. Like you get what I’m feeling especially when it comes to Brian and all his shit, and no one else seems to understand it. Plus you don’t judge me for feeling that way. There was a point when I thought maybe I had a chance with you but I screwed up, I waited too long. So I settled. I settled for Chelsea because Chelsea was pretty and she was funny and she seemed cool and most of all we were both lonely and heartbroken. And for a while it was just that: settling. But then I fell in love with her, I feel completely and totally in love with her. Which was awesome for a while until it wasn’t because Brian got sick and everything went to fuck. The thing though, is that even after all of that I never completely got over you. It’s kind of sad to be honest. I really did try to get over you and Chelsea as well for that matter but I repeatedly failed. However after a couple years it became easier to deal with and easier to forget. But then of course Chelsea decides to come crawling back into my life and I fell for her all over again because how could I not? She’s beautiful and talented and smart and funny and she needed me. And quite honestly it feels great to be needed. But then shit got complicated because not only was Brian getting worse but so was Chelsea and then there was you. Freaking you. I couldn’t help but fall back in love with you because you are quite simply the closest thing to a perfect person that I can think of. And now here I am. So what do you say?”
“I don’t know,” she said trying to comprehend everything he’d just told her.
“I’m asking for a date, not a lifetime commitment.”
“You know what, yeah, sure I’ll go on a date with you but not now.”
“Well I wasn’t talking about going on one right now.”
“No, I mean not in the immediate future. We need to give it sometime. So here’s the deal, we’re going to try being friends for a while, just friends, nothing more and if in six months you still want to date I’m all for it. Bt right now you’re fresh of your break up with Chelsea and you need time to get over her. But I promise, if in six months you still want this, I’m all in.”
“Deal,” he said eagerly. Both of them were probably thinking the same thing, six months was a long time but they were willing to wait.

The new blond girl left the salon feeling different. She felt powerful. Scratch that, she felt brave. No she felt significant. Actually what she felt was confidence. For the first time in forever she felt truly confident.
She took out her phone and she dialed the first number that came to mind. The phone rang once, it rang twice and one the third ring someone finally answered.
“Hey,” Brian’s voice was deep and raspy as if they has just been woken up.
“Did I wake you up?” Chelsea asks apologetically.
“No, I mean yes but it’s fine. Honestly I should be doing homework anyway.”
“Oh god I did wake you up, I’m sorry about that.”
“No, it’s fine. I needed to wake up anyway.”
“If you say so,” she said non-covincingly.
“I swear you didn’t wake me up. What’d you call for anyway?”
“Umm, I really need to talk to you and I was wondering if we could meet at the starbucks on 34th street in like an hour”
“Um Ok, but this all about?” he sounds confused.
“It’s a lot to explain, it’s better if I tell you when I see you.”

***
“Your hair looks different,” Brian says cautiously, because, Chelsea can only assume, he doesn’t want to avoid offending her.
“Yeah, I dyed it.”
“It looks nice,” he responds.
“Thanks.”
“So, why did you want me to meet you here?” asked the solemn, curly-haired boy, as he nursed his black coffee. Brian had once told Chelsea that he liked his coffee black and strong because it reminded him that there were things out there more bitter than himself.
“I broke up with Nalin yesterday,” she announced, because she figured there was no use beating around the bush.
“Okay, and?” he responded, his facial expression wreaking of apathy, which threw Chelsea off-guarded. She expected a much more different response, or a response period.
“So, we can be together,” and Brian finally looks up from his pitch black coffee at the beautiful, naturally tan girl with the flaxen curly hair and the bright eyes, full of optimism and hope. The bright eyes that despite how much crap she had been through never seemed to dull. The eyes that had never been brighter than there at that moment because no matter how much she doubted that she would ever truly get better she still believed in Brian.
“Chelsea, I don’t want to let you down but nothing can ever happen between us. I’m just too screwed up,” and Chelsea could see the absolute fear in his eyes. Brian, was honestly afraid he was too screwed up; he believed that in the end he would only hurt her. And she wasn’t going to stand for that.
“I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m just as screwed up as you are, if not more. So I don’t see what you’re getting at.”
“That’s exactly my point. You’re sick, I’m sick, it’s not healthy for us to start a relationship. Seriously Chelsea if we’re going to be totally honest here, I’m not getting any better, in fact, I’m getting worse,” his voice is getting more forceful, his eyes darkening to a deep shade of gray that she’s never seen on him before. She’s not exactly sure if he’s angry, or annoyed, or scared, or confused or everything all at once but she knows that she probably won’t like what’s coming next. “You know, how right before a relapse, you can kind of just feel it coming back. Like you try so hard to fight it off but no matter many times you keep on reminding yourself that you aren’t worthless, you just can’t seem to believe it. You get to the point where every time you look in the mirror and see how much you’ve let yourself go, you just want to lay in bed all day so you don’t have to face the world. Then there are the times when you sit down for a meal and you can’t stop thinking about how bloated you look or how little self control you have or how much you’ve eaten that day and suddenly the last thing you want to do is eat. And so you have to repeat to yourself that you need to eat and deserve to eat. You tell yourself that the people who care about you won’t love you any less if you eat. However when that all stops being enough and you need constant validation from others. At every meal you need someone to tell you that it’s okay to eat and you won’t get fat. Whenever you step on the scale, you need someone by your side to tell you, ‘you haven’t gained that much weight’ and that ‘you’re still thin’, or ‘you’re just getting healthier’ and they’ll love you even if you weighed 500 pounds. And then just for a second everything seems alright. But then even that stops being enough. And you know what Chelsea, I hit that point a long time ago and I’m not sure that I can pull myself out this time and I’m not letting you be a casualty this time,” he says gravely. And Chelsea gets the feeling that he feels like a burden.
“How many times in the past few months have you wanted to starve yourself for days on end?” Chelsea asks abruptly.
“What?”
“Just answer the question.”
“I’m not sure you want to know the answer,” the tone of his voice is dark. He runs his long bony fingers along the lining of his coffee mug, his eyes following the every movement of his fingers, in what Chelsea assume to be an attempt to avoid her gaze.
“More than you can count,” he answers simply, an ever present frown position on his thin lips.
“And how many times have you actually done it?”
“None,” he sounds confused.
“How many times have you wanted to exercise for hours on end or the throw up the contents of your stomach?”
“A lot.”
“And how many times have you done that.”
“Zero but I-” he tries to say but he is cut off by Chelsea.
“Okay, and how many times have you wanted to end it all?” she asks cautiously, knowing that she probably doesn’t want to hear the answer but also knowing that it’s also something she needs to hear.
“I know you’re really not going to like the answer,” he says confirming her suspicious.
“How many times?” she asks insistently and demanding.
“More times that I’d like to admit.”
“And you certainly haven’t gone through with it.”
“I don’t see your point.”
“My point is that you are stronger than you think. You just gave me this whole speech about how you’re getting worse but you’re not. This is the longest you’ve gone without relapsing, so I-I honestly don’t see how you could think that you’re a burden or that you’ll never get better because that’s obviously lie. Because honestly this is the healthiest and happiest I’ve seen you in the last 5 years,” and she ready to continue as long as she has to but Brian seems to get the point.
“That’s because you make me want to get better but Chelsea you’re ignoring the bigger issue. Yes, in the short-term we make sense, you do make me want to get better but that isn’t always going to be the case. And when that stops being the case you’re just going to get hurt. I’m a ticking time bomb and I’m going to explode and if you hang around you’re going to be in the crossfire. You’re going to wounded and I can’t allow that.”
“That all might be very true but you are also ignoring one key thing: you make me want to be better. You not only give me the courage and strength I need to get healthy but you also make me want to be a better person but you accept me as I am, sick, screwed-up, lost and in search of something or someone who will make me feel worthy of love. Isn’t that what makes a healthy and strong relationship. Inspiring each other to change and be better but accepting them as they are. So I don’t see why this can’t work.”
“Because it just can’t.I’m not saying that we can never be together but just not now. Not while we’re both sick. It’s just going end horribly that way. If you haven’t noticed I’m hurting, I’m sick, I’m lost and so are you. I can’t be the rock you need to lean on, when I’m so f*ed up myself. So yeah i agree with you, you do make me want to be better while accepting me for the person I am currently but that isn’t a foundation to build a relationship on. Chelsea I would be glad to date someone as beautiful, and sweet, and funny, and honest, and sassy, and just completely eccentric as you, but not right now, not when we’re like this. So yeah maybe we could give a shot when we’re both healthy but for now, I think we should just be friends.”
***
All four of the teens were in Maya’s living room as was the normal friday night routine. The movie they were watching was the avengers because it was the only movie they all seemed to agree upon. The seating arrangement was a little awkward because of all the shit that had gone down in the past few weeks. Chelsea was on one edge of the couch, Nalin on the other and Maya took the middle to avoid any awkward tension. Brian was the trooper and decided to sit on the floor.
“This is kind of weird, isn’t it?” Nalin says breaking the silence and simultaneously trying to break through the tension in the room.
“What do mean? Us hanging out like this?” Brian offers, turning his body away from the TV so that he’s facing Nalin.
“Yeah of course that but like us just hanging out like friends. There’s no romantic drama. No will-they-won’t-they shit. No one is in the bathroom puking up their guts, we aren’t fitting because Brian refuses to eat, Chelsea isn’t storming out because someone tried to confront her. It’s rather calm compared to the last couple months. We’re just friends hanging out and having a good time. I forgot how good it felt to hangout, just the four of us, like old times.”
“You have a point, it’s taken us a while to get here, four and half years to be exact but I think we’ve finally achieved some kind of normal. Yeah it will never be like it was before Brian got sick but I definitely think that we’ve found a new normal, a different normal but it’s our normal,” Maya says somewhat profoundly. She slowly shift her body closer to Nalin, resting her head in the crock of his neck and the red headed boy takes that as an opportunity to put his arms around her small waist and pull her in closer.
“Maya’s right in a way. I think we’ve gotten to this point where we all know that no matter what happens everything will be okay. It sucks that everything has been such crap for the last couple years and we had to grow up a little too fast but I think it’s made us stronger people. I know I’m a stronger person, I don’t know about you guys but I’m definitely stronger because of all this shit I’ve been through.”
And in a way Chelsea is right. They are all better people this having happened.
“Even so, I definitely don’t have any desire to go through this again,” The curly hair boys announces with a smile on his face. The other three teens turn their gazes on him and they really look at him for the first time in forever. Brian looks genuinely happy. His eyes a shade of hazel that they hadn’t seen in a while, a shade that they only were when he was excited. His skin, the color of caramel, looked healthy, in fact it looked radiant. It was kind of weird at first, because they had gotten so used to Brian’s skin being pale and blotchy. Brian had gained back some much needed weight. Yeah he was still a little underweight but at least he didn’t look completely fragile anymore. Thanks to getting back into running being absent for so long, he had gained a couple pounds of muscle, which resulted in him evening out to a nice, lean, toned body frame. The little fine hairs that seemed to cover his arms and his parts of his legs when he was at his worst were gone now. Even his hair seemed to be thicker and less brittle. All in all Brian was definitely looked much healthier than he did a few months ago and that’s all anyone could hope for.
“I would hope so,” Nalin said snarkily, giving Brian a threatening look, “because if you do, losing weight will be last of your problems. I will literally punch you so hard that you won’t be able to move for a week.”
“Really Nalin? You’re skinnier than I am and you can;t fight, so I don’t know in what fantasy delusional world you are living where you think that you can beat me up”
“Nalin, honestly I with Brian on this. I don’t think you could hurt a hurt a fly, let alone ‘punch someone so hard they can’t move for a week,” the newly-blond girl teases. Nalin feigns offense, “Don’t be like that, I was just kidding but honestly we all know that even if you could fight, you wouldn’t fight Brian.”
“I will if he ever threatens to pull this crap again. I do not want to go through anything of this again.”
Brian has since moved closer to Chelsea’s side. He is partially leaning on her legs, prevented from leaving by her thin arm wrapped around his shoulder.
“Well to avoid being hit, you better promise not to do it again,” she says moving her hand from his shoulder to ruffed her fingers playfully through his thick black hair.
“Okay I promise, I will never do it again,” he says playfully.
“No but seriously promise that you’ll never get that sick again. If you feel like you’re relapsing tell us, we can help, that’s what we’re here for.” He turns his attention to Chelsea who is purposely staring at the ceiling to avoiding getting the same speech. Nalin moves his hand from behind Maya, and taps Chelsea lightly on the shoulder to get her attention, “that goes for you too.”
“Okay, I swear I won’t do this again. Honestly I don’t know why I’d want to. In the long wrong starving myself isn’t worth it. Sure it’s quick and easy weight loss, it’s great when I want to lose a couple pounds but it never stops there. And I just end up going down this miserable cycle that never ends. So no I’m not going to do it again. I’d rather be fat and ugly but happy than have an eating disorder and be pretty and thin but miserable.”
“Chelsea the thing that you never seemed to understand is that you were never fat to begin with and you could never be ugly. We are your friends and we care about and we will love you unconditionally even if you were fat. And it’s all fine and good that you never want to go back to starving yourself or purging but that still doesn’t change that you still don’t see yourself the correct way. You don’t see yourself the way we do. Chelsea I wish you could see how amazing you are, the way we see you.”
“Honestly Maya, I’ve come to the conclusion I will never see myself that way but it doesn’t I’m going to stop trying. It’s going to take time, so back off.”
“That’s really all I ask. I just want you to get to a point where you can at least see that you have redeeming qualities that go far beyond physical beauty and that there are people who value you for those qualities in addition to the fact that you are absolutely gorgeous.”
“Not interrupt your moment but we were kind of having a good night, without all the crying and worrying and I would like to get back to that,” Brian says.
And with that there is an unsaid agreement between the four that while things would never be perfect or back to normal, things were sort of okay and in the long run they would be fine.

The author's comments:
This is the epilogue. It is set 15 years in the future

It always started with a couple pounds but it never ended there. After dealing with an eating disorder for 20 years one would think Chelsea would learn that but she never did.
There wasn’t an exact moment when the monster came back, it was more like a slow build up. First came the tight dress. One day, about a year ago, she came across her senior prom dress. The spaghetti strap, low-cut dress which red lace trim, just sat there in her closet begging her to try it on so she did. And it’s not like the dress didn’t fit, it did, it was just too tight for her comfort. The dress wasn’t supposed to be that tight but she decided to brush it off because honestly it had been over 10 years since she had worn that dress and she should be happy that it fit at all. So she brushed it off but in the back of her mind all she could think was how she had let herself go. However it didn’t stop there.
Then came the new job or actually new jobs. After several years of being a full time author, which yielded a decent amount of success, Chelsea decided it was time to go back to work, so she put her teaching degree. Well not necessarily teaching per se. The local high school was looking for a swimming coach, which Chelsea after getting certified, was more than qualified for, so she took the job. That combined with Brian fresh off his olympic high where although he didn’t medal in any event he did come in 5th in the 10,000 meters, which was good enough for him, deciding that now it was time for him to fulfill his dream of being a rock star. But that wasn’t it, then there was the stupid school nutritionist who was bent on telling every athlete that wasn’t stick skinny or rock hard muscle that they needed to lose weight. And most of these kids she was telling to that they need to lose weight were perfectly fine in Chelsea’s opinion. But she still sat by and said nothing while too many of her athlete, some who were swimming near Olympic qualifying times, were told that they were eating too much or they could afford to lose a couple pounds and it would help their performance. However, she couldn’t stand back when her best athlete, Emily Lisbon, a girl maybe 5’6, so a little shorter than ideal for the Olympics but perfect for varsity high school athletics,about 140lbs, that she needed to lose weight. This was a girl who was swimming a 2:07.30 on the 200m backstroke, which was pretty much D1 level. D1 schools were scouting her left and right, so who in their right mind would think that girl needed to lose weight.
So Chelsea stormed into the nutritionist office because she had to make herself known. This was something she couldn’t stand for.
“Anne,” she announces catching the attention of a hostile looking nurse and her blond,eerily skinny assistant, “Did you tell Emily she needed to lose weight?” Chelsea all but yells at the nutritionist. The nutritionist was a tall woman, at least 5’9 if not taller, of a thin build but not too thin, and she had sandy brown shoulder length hair.
“No, I merely losing suggested losing a couple pounds may help her times. I offered to help her with her dietary plan, so she would be able to lose weight and still have adequate nutrition for competitive swimming. As someone who was a high school athlete you can understand that.”
“No I can’t because one, I am her coach and I know what’s best for her career, and last time I checked you weren’t the one certified to coach swimming. Two,Emily is getting scouted by top-notch division one schools so I think her times are pretty good where they are. Three, it’s mid season, no one regardless of who they are should be losing weight now. And four Emily’s weight is completely and totally fine, she doesn’t need to lose a single pound,” she says angrily.
“Figures you would say that,” the woman says with a hint of malice.
“What’s that suppose to mean?”
“You’re not exactly the pinnacle of athleticism. It’s been a long time since you’ve done competitive sports and let’s face it you’re not really built for the sport hence why you teach it. I don’t doubt that in your prime, even with your body type, you excelled in sports but it’s a different now, things are harder and these student athletes have to be able to compete, which in cases like Emily might mean losing five or so pounds. Even you can admit five pounds can make a big difference when it comes to times. Five pounds could be the difference between coming in fourth and winning,”the woman said vindictively, as she gave Chelsea the once over. She almost purposely seemed to be honing in on the body parts Chelsea was most insecure about, “I’m not trying to be mean or a bitch but it’s the cold hard truth. Maybe in your day swimmers could afford to be a little chubby but now that’s simple not an option.”
“Emily Lisbon is not chubby,” she just short of screams, she sounds defensive but she feels that she has a right to. This bitch had no right to call a two time national champion in both 200m backstroke and the 400m medley, who was of a perfectly healthy weight fat, “She has like 15% body fat.”
“I think you are taking this too seriously. I just suggested that losing weight might help her decrease her times, in my defense I also told her to talk to you and get approval from her doctor before she does anything.”
And there was a time when a conversation like that would have triggered Chelsea but it wasn’t going to today. After work, starving and tired as she was, she had the urge to jump in the pool and do laps until either her legs gave out or she puked but she didn’t because she had a family to take care of and they didn’t need her sick. So she does what she normally does in situation like this and she calls Maya because Maya is always the voice of reason and she tells Maya everything.
“Well she sounds like bitch. Emily is your athlete and if you believe that her weight is fine then that freaking nutritionist has no right to overstep her bounds and tell your athlete she needs to lose weight. Also who gave that asshole the right to comment on your weight. You’re weight is none of her business and even if it were, you’re at a perfectly healthy weight. Honestly, Chelsea, I think she’s just trying to get under your skin,” Maya says in response. It’s times like this that Chelsea remembers that Maya always knows the right thing to say.
“Why do you say that?” Chelsea asked curiously.
“Because no one acts that bitchy to someone they barely even know without a reason. So either she just a bitch, which actually from all the stories you’ve told me I wouldn’t even doubt, or she’s jealous of you. I mean you are happy, successful, accomplish and not to mention absolutely gorgeous and she sounds like a miserable wench.”
“She’s not usually that much of bitch and in her defense it possibly could be beneficial to Emily to lose a couple pounds, definitely not more than like five, it might give that edge at nationals. I just don’t think it’s a good idea for her to be trying to lose weight mid-season, it’s not healthy,” Chelsea tries to reason and even though she can’t see Maya, she knows that Maya is not going to tolerate it.
“Don’t defend her, she was in the wrong. You said it yourself that Emily’s fine the way she is. You’re constantly going on and on about how talented she is and how you think she could go to the Olympics one day if she really wanted to. So don’t back down now,” Maya almost lectures. There’s a lull in the conversation because Chelsea doesn’t really know what to say from there, “Chelsea, you still there?”
“Yeah,” she responds.
“I’m going to ask you something and I need you to respond truthfully,” Maya warns and because Maya warns her, she knows what’s coming next.
“Have you eaten today?” Maya asks.
Chelsea isn’t even remotely surprised by the question because after 15 years everyone is still convinced that she’s going to relapse at any sign of trouble. But she can’t really blame them. Chelsea very well knows that when Brian told her he was training for Olympics, she gave him the same cautious response. Yeah, she supported him all the way despite that and after one failed attempt he did eventually qualifying for the U.S team.
“No,” she says simply because the more nonchalant she seems the less Maya will worry.
“Go eat something, I don’t want you ranting on an empty stomach. But really it’s 5pm and you have yet to eat, that’s not good, I really think you should eat something. We don’t want Brian or Alex to find you passed out on the floor.”
“Fine, I’ll eat.” She walks down to kitchen and opens the cabinet. She sees a box full of granola bars so she takes one. It’s quick and easy,
“And please eat more than a granola bar. I know how you. You need to eat something real.”
“Alright mom,” she jokes.
“I honestly feel like your mother sometimes. You’re a 30 year old woman and I still have to remind you eat.”
“Well sorry, I’m really busy and sometimes I just forget to eat.”
“yeah, forgot.”
“Yes, forget. Why does everyone think I’m going to relapse? I’m serious, I honestly forget to eat sometimes. I don’t purposely miss meals, it just happens.”
“Don’t get so defensive, I believe you, I just like messing with you. I have to go anyway, my patient is waiting for me,” and Maya hangs up before she can say goodbye, which makes Chelsea think that maybe Maya doesn’t actually believe her.
And that crisis was averted but of course Chelsea wasn’t in the clear yet. The next set back was Nationals training. Only a handful of her girls have qualified for nationals, so practices are small and she decides to extend practice an hour every day and add in a saturday practice. No one objects to it. It’s one of these extra practices that one of the girls dares her to get in the pool and all the other girls are cheering her on. So she goes for it because honestly she misses swimming and also a little exercise would probably do her good. But she underestimates how physically demanding swimming is. She manages to do a 400m free in decent time but when it’s over with she’s basically dead. Nevertheless her girls cheer on, which kind of feels nice. And it would have been all good if the experience didn’t make her realize just how out-of-shape she really was.
The final straw was doctor appointment of all things. The doctors appointment had been going fine up until then. they went through all the standard things and everything seemed good, and Chelsea thought she was in the clear but then her doctor said the words that ruined everything.
“Okay everything looks alright,” Chelsea begins preparing to leave, she starts putting on her clothes when something else comes out of the doctors mouth, “there’s just one thing that I want to talk to you about.”
“Yeah,” she responds, hoping that it’s not anything serious.
“It’s just your weight,” he says simply and her mind is racing a million miles an hour. This doctor knows about her eating disorder, he’s dealt with her through two relapses, so she assumes anything he has to say relates to that.
“What about it?” she says sounding truly frightened.
“Relax, it’s nothing too serious. It’s just that your weight seems to be fluctuating a lot the last few times you’ve been here. I don’t know if it has to do with you having anorexia or its just your lifestyle. I just wanted to make sure nothing serious is going on.”
“No, I don’t think anything is going on. Is my weight a big issue?”
“Mrs. Morales, I don’t want to worry you. You’re at a perfectly healthy weight and you overall seem to be pretty healthy. It’s that you have put on a couple pounds,” ‘7 pounds’ she whispers under her breath, “ which often times means nothing but in some case it be an indicator to a bigger issue. But I don’t think there’s anything major going on so there’s no need to worry.”
“let’s say I wanted to lose the few extra pounds anyway, would that be healthy?”
“Normally I would tell patients as long as they go about it the healthy way, eat healthy, maybe see a nutritionist or a dietitian, exercise moderately it’s alright. But I’ll be honest with you, you’re a special case. I hesitate to tell you its alright to lose weight unless absolutely necessary and right now it is absolutely not necessary. So short answer yeah I guess it’d be okay, if you can go about it the healthy way. Real answer though is I think you should talk to your therapist and your family and see what they say about it and if it’s okay with them I’ll give you the number of nutritionist and a physical trainer who trained to deal with people in your situation.”
The thing is though that she doesn’t run the idea by her family because knows Brian’s going to disapprove.. She does briefly however mention it to her therapist, Sharon, who expressed her disapproval.
“Chelsea I’m not opposed to you wanting to be healthier and I’m very much in support of you becoming more active because physical activity has been a good outlet for you in the past. But I don’t think actively trying to lose weight is a good thing for you, especially if you don’t need to. Understand?”
“Yeah that’s understable, just thought I might as well try.”
“Just so you know, I didn’t veto the idea because I don’t think you’re strong enough to handle it. I know you can handle it. I just don’t think it’s the healthiest thing. I don’t want you to focus your time and energy on losing weight that’s not necessary for you to lose. I’d rather you spend your time trying to be a whole person. I want you to focus on your career and enjoy time with you family and go out for a drink every once in a while with friends, maybe workout a couple times a week if you feel like it and if you want to have slice of cake or two I want you to go for it. I don;t want you to worry about trivial things like counting calories. Does that make some sense.”
“Yeah I understand completely,” she lies. And she senses that Sharon knows she’s lying but she couldn’t care less.
She goes ahead with it anyway. She calls her doctor gets the number of the nutritionist and the personal trainer. Sets up a schedules and a meal plan. At first she does it the healthy way, no starving or purging or using laxatives, just through plain exercise and eating right.
It’s a tuesday night and Chelsea and Brian are sitting on the couch watching a movie. Brian grabs her by the waist and pull her on to his lap.
“We are too old for this. I’m too heavy for this and you’re legs aren’t that strong anymore. I pretty sure I’m going to crush you,”she rambles.
“I am an Olympic athlete plus I placed 3rd in 3000m at the World indoor championship, placed 5th in 10,000 and 7th in 5000m. My legs are definitely strong enough-” Chelsea cuts him off.
“That was years ago.”
“You act like I’ve just been sitting around for the last few years. Anyway my point is my legs are definitely strong enough to support you especially since you don’t weigh that much at all,” and trails off and Chelsea can tell he’s thinking and she thinks she’d knows what he’s thinking about. She looks down at the coffee table and the popcorn bowl is empty. So she hops off Brian’s lap and picks up the bowl.
“I’m going to get more popcorn,” she says heading to the kitchen. When she returns Brian is still staring at her, almost as if he is waiting for her.
he still eyeing her when she sits down and she can tell he has something he wants to say.
“just say it already,” she almost screeches.
“Have you lost weight?”he asks cautiously, almost afraid he’ll upset her.
“Yeah but it’s not what you think. It’s honestly only a couple pounds and both saron and the doctor okayed it.”
“So this is on purpose,” he says, almost judging her. His golden eyes inspecting her every move.
“Yeah I’m trying to lose weight on purpose but it’s not really that big of a deal. The world is not going to end just because I’m eating a little less and exercising a little more,” she sounds almost angry.
“I just don’t understand why you needed to lose weight in the first place. And also why didn’t you talk to me about it?”
“Brian, I didn’t talk to you about it because I knew you would over-react. And it’s not so much that I needed to lose weight as I wanted to. I gained a couple pounds and I wanted to lose them, that’s not a crime. I ran it by the doctor, I asked Sharon, I got a nutritionist and a personal trainer who is specialized in dealing with people eating disorders. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I still don’t think you needed to lose weight but honestly Chelsea if you just explained that to me I would have understood. It just bothers me that you went behind my back. Like you definitely could have said something.”
“The thing is I didn’t think I needed to. In a normal situation I wouldn’t have to tell you, it’s just because I’m a recovered anorexic that it’s like this. Brian when I say I’m fine, I mean it. I’m not going to starve myself.”
“I get that but we both know this isn’t normal. So yeah I kind of expect you to talk to me when somethings going on. A few weeks ago when I purged breakfast I could have avoided telling you, it would probably have been easier that way but I told you because I knew you would be there for me and you’d understand.”
“I promise that next time I’ll tell but right now it doesn’t even matter because I’m done trying to lose weight. I think good where I am.”
“For the record though you are aware beautiful, absolutely beautiful. And you’re amazing. And you are NOT fat and in no way have you ever been fat. Even if you were fat, which I repeat you are not, that wouldn’t change the way I or anyone else feels about you. Your self-worth is not dependent on the numbers on the scale.”
She smiles at him, “Yes, I am very aware of all that. You don’t need to worry. I know how completely amazing I am. But thank you, it’s nice that you care so much even if sometimes you’re a little overbearing about it,” She leans him and kisses him lightly on the cheek and Brian feels somewhat reassured that she’s not going to do something stupid like relapse.
But Chelsea is lying because from there on it only gets worse. It started out healthy but gradually she stops eating then she starts exercising more, pushing herself to the point of extremes, And it just starts to escalate.

***
It’s maybe a few weeks after he first notices Chelsea’s weight loss that he starts to see the signs. Her waist is getting smaller, her hips are thinning, her legs getting bony. And knows that she didn’t stop that night but he doesn’t say anything because he wants to pretend it’s not happening.
As the weeks go on, things get worse. She starts shying away from him. She often sleeps on the couch or in her office, calming to fall asleep while doing work but he knows she’s avoiding her.
“Brian, can you pick up Alex from drama practice on your way home?” Chelsea yells on her way out the door,
“Sure thing,” he responds as he rummages through the fridge, taking inventory of what he needs to buy when he goes grocery shopping. There’s an awful lot of food missing. And he knows he hasn’t eaten it and with the way Chelsea’s been acting, she certainly hasn’t been eating it. He thinks for a second that Chelsea could have binged but then he remembers that Chelsea has never been much of a binge eater. So leaves one person: Alex.
The next few days the symptoms start to make themselves even more apparent. Firstly, Alex never seems to be around anymore but especially not at meal times. Always making excuses that she’s hanging out with friends or she’s doing homework or she has to work. And yeah she’s a 16 year old girl,with a rather busy schedule, so it’s not expected that she’d around that much, but as of late she been home significantly less than usual. And even when she is home she never seems to eat that much yet food still seems to be disappearing from the fridge at an alarmingly fast rate. And it’s never like the vegetable and fruits that disappear, it’s always the easy binge foods. The bread, cookies, cake, cracker etc. are the foods that seem to disappear the fastest, or as he commonly referred to them: the purging foods. Those were the foods that came up the easiest.
A few days later he starts seeing more symptoms. Alex starts taking longer showers and he’s almost certain is to disguise the sound of her purging. Then comes the excessive exercising, which Brian finds excessively weird. Unlike him and Chelsea, Alex never really got the athleticism gene, which he accounts primarily to the fact that she’s adopted, and she’s never been much of a physical person. Alex is more of an arts kind of person, excelling in things like acting, singing, she’s pretty good at the violin and she dabbled a little with the piano. So it isn’t unexpected that he finds it a little suspicious when she says that she wants to follow in his foot steps and start doing track. And of course he agrees to train her because he’s rather her be doing this under his supervision especially with all that’s been going on.
In time comes the more visual signs. One day while they’re at the track he notice her cheeks are puffier, not noticeable so but slightly. Also he’s not exactly positive but he’s almost certain that her weight has been cycling more than would be expected. However he doesn’t want to say anything about this to her, in case he might wrong but more so in case he’s right, and him bring it up triggers something much worse.
It is a couple days later that he’s lying in bed with Chelsea. It’s early morning, the sun is just starting to come up,so he assumes it can’t be later than 6am. He’s almost certain that Chelsea is still asleep. The beautiful, tiny, brunette’s body is nestled into his own, his arms wrapped around her fragile waist, and he can feel her almost too prominent ribs, but he ignores it because this is the first time in weeks that she has so much as let him touch her.
“Brian,” Chelsea says softly, and Brian is a little startled because he was almost certain she was asleep.
“Yes,” he responds. The brunette rotates her body around so that Brian’s arms are still wrapped around her but she’s now facing him. And he looks into her warm brown eyes and he can tell what she’s about to say is important.
“Have you noticed something’s off with Alex. She’s been acting weird as of late, she’s been really secretive and she’s spending long periods of time in the bathroom after meals then there’s the sheer ridiculous amounts of food missing from the fridge. I think she might be binging, I’m not necessarily sure if she’s purging, but I definitely think she’s binging. I don’t know, I thought since you’ve been training with her you might know something,” she says in a low voice, almost as if she’s insecure about something.
“To be honest, I think Alex has an eating disorder, I’m not completely sure but I think she might. I’ve been trying to figure how to confront her without being too abrasive. You know how I can be. But yeah she’s been acting really weird lately.”
“She asked me if she could get her teeth whitened the other day. It was kind of left field and weird because she’s always perfect white teeth.” Chelsea blurts out and Brian just looks at her quizzically , “and then the other day, when I was taking out her trash, I found a bunch of wrappers in her bin. I don’t know, maybe I’m just over-reacting.”
Brian doesn’t think she’s over-reacting. It’s clear that something is going on with their daughter and whether or not it’s an eating disorder they have to deal with it.
“No, you’re not overreacting. There’s something wrong with Alex and as her parents it’s our responsibility to deal with it.” That’s maybe 100th time that the fact that Chelsea had relapse was staring him right in the face and he chose to ignore it.
***
There came a day though when ignoring Chelsea’s relapse was no longer an option. It was a day, midsummer, Brian and Nalin are sitting on the his front porch, drinking cold beers and talking.
“I think Chelsea’s doing it again,” Nalin announces out of the blue. And that’s when Brian is forced to acknowledge it.
“Why do you say that?”
“You can’t act like you haven’t noticed it. She’s definitely lost a lot of weight and quickly. She’s really getting really moody. Did you see her at dinner, she barely ate a thing. She just sat there pushing food around her plate. I mean you’re her husband so do you have any idea what’s going on?”
“Sadly yeah, I’ve been trying to act like I didn’t see it happening but I guess I can’t do that anymore.”
“Really Brian, you knew and you didn’t do anything about it,” Nalin says harshly and Brian knows the redhead is judging him.
“Yeah but in my defense the last time I mentioned anything about it, it turned into this huge argument.”
“What happened?” Nalin says, taking a swig of his beer.
“Well it was a couple months ago and I casually just asked her if she’d lost weight. And she says yes, so it’s not like she tried to lie about. She was completely forward about it, she told me she was that yes she lost weight on purpose but it was only a couple pounds and the therapist gave her the go ahead and she was doing it the healthy way. Naturally I wasn’t actually angry that she lost weight purposefully even if I felt like she absolutely didn’t need to, I was angry that she didn’t at least talk to me first. So I brought that up and she went off on me, saying I didn’t trust her and she didn’t think it was necessary for her to tell me because in a normal relationship she wouldn’t have to.”
“She does have a point,” Nalin offers.
“I guess but still this isn’t exactly a story book relationship. We are both recovering anorexics, there isn’t exactly room to take chances. And all I was asking was for her to talk to me. Honestly I’m for all intents and purposes a professional athlete, I know what it’s like to want to lose a couple pounds, just to feel more confident in myself or to be a little healthier and more likely because it helps with my times, and on the other hand-” the curly-haired man is cut short.
“You’ve had anorexia so you understand what it’s like to go too far.”
“Exactly, so I might not necessarily have agree with Chelsea’s pursuit to lose weight, but I would have supported her as long as she did it the healthy way.”
“So do you think she was telling the truth?”
“Honestly yeah, I do think she set out to only lose a couple pounds and it kind of escalated from there. To tell the truth I didn’t even notice she was losing weight at first, so she obviously wasn’t losing it all that fast. And it’s not like she was skipping meals or anything, at least not when I was around. But I think it’s something much bigger now.”
“Well you better solve it and soon because if this continues it’s going to be much worse than the last time,” and Brian doesn’t even want to think about the last time. But he does acknowledge that with the way this is going it will be a big disaster if he doesn’t confront her soon.

***
When things have gone far enough, Chelsea decides she needs to catch Alex in the act. So one night she sleeps on the couch, so that she’ll already be there when Alex comes down for her nightly binge. It isn’t until maybe 4:30am that she finally hears foot steps. She peeks from the couch and sees the pretty brunette tip-toeing barefoot towards the fridge. Unlike both of her parents, Alex is tall and just the tiniest bit awkward so she does make some noise but not enough that Chelsea would be able to hear it from her bedroom. She’s wearing baggy blue hoodie that has Team USA, Chelsea remembers it because Brian got it for her a couple years ago as a souvenir, but she doesn’t remember it being that big on her. The girl is also wearing a pair of pink women’s boxer shorts, which makes it evident that her long legs, the legs that Chelsea had always been jealous of, have gotten way thin.
The girl takes out a new loaf of bread and instead of taking it back to her room she just plops down in front of the fridge and starts plowing through it, piece by piece. When ALex is about half way through the bag, Chelsea decides she can’t watch anymore. So she gets up off the couch and makes her way to the kitchen.
“Alex, what are you doing?” She says calmly trying to keep herself from crying as she watches her, almost in agonizing pain. And Alex just looks up, her amber eyes full of guilt and shame and instantly Chelsea feels so bad for doing this. She wishes that she didn’t have to do this, that she was wrong and that this wasn’t happening, “Alex just talk to me. I need to know why you’re doing this?”
“Have you ever just felt so worthless all time? And no matter how many good things people say about you, the feeling of worthlessness never seems to go away?” Chelsea just looks at the innocent girl wide-eyed girl because she’s felt exactly that. By this time tears are running down her pale cheeks.
“Ally,” she starts.
“I really want to be good enough. I want to feel like I’m worth loving. I’m tired of being so useless. It sucks always being the fat, ugly, funny, outgoing friends, whose only redeeming quality is that I make everyone else look better. Do you know what it feels like to be a waste of space.”
“Trust me I know exactly what it’s like to feel that way all the fucking time,” she sits down next to Alex. She gently grabs what’s left of the loaf of bread out of her daughter’s hands, placing it on the counter out of her reach. She moves in closer, putting her arm loosely around Alex’s waist, Alex’s head falling on her shoulder “I do feel that way all the time but doing ‘this’ is not going to make anything better.”
“It didn’t start out like this,” Alex says and she can remember saying the same thing multiple time.
“It never does,” is all Chelsea can manage to say without crying.
“I only wanted to lose a little weight. I just wanted to stop being the fat girl and before I knew it, it turned into this huge cycle of binging and purging and the worst part is I don’t think I want to give it up. Sometimes I like being sick.” If Alex didn’t remind Chelsea of herself before she definitely did now. And that’s worrying because she’d always wanted more for her daughter. How did she fail so miserably?
“Aly I’ve been there. You tell yourself you’re only going to this until you lose those last few pounds or you fit into that pair of jeans but it never stops there. Because honestly it really isn’t about your weight. Yeah, sure, you want to be skinny but that’s not your main motivation for starving yourself or making yourself puke or over exercising. You do it because you feel useless, you powerless, meaningless, lost, insecure, this overwhelming need to be perfect and anorexia helps with all of those things. It makes you feel like for once you’re in control, it’s yours and yours alone. Trust me I know what it feels like more than anyone. But it isn’t worth it, it never is.” She’s telling Aly what wishes someone told her when she was an insecure 14 year old girl, maybe then she wouldn’t be in this mess.
“I know it’s bad. You and dad have pretty much ingrained in me since the first day that I walked into this house that an eating disorder isn’t worth it. You made sure that I knew being pretty and thin wasn’t worth starving myself but still,” the girl responds.
“Do you know what I was like at my worst?” she asks, somewhat forebodingly.
“No,” the brunette says uncertain.
“I was 84 lbs, 14.9 bmi, every bone in my body hurt, my hair was brittle and falling out, I was always tired and my skin literally looked like crap. And that was nothing compared to your father, I seriously surprised that he was physically capable to run professionally because he has relapse so many times that I was almost certain he did permanent damage to his heart. Believe me when I tell you, you don’t want this, especially not to lose a couple pounds that you never needed to lose in the first place,” and she distinctly remembers Brian telling her something like this a few months ago and now she kind of regrets not listening, “ Alex, you have never been fat. As long as I’ve known you you have always been tall and thin especially after your growth spurt in 8th grand. Wow, after that growth spurt you were the lankiest thing in existence. And you are not fat now. Actually personally I think you’re a little too thin.”
“I’m not that thin,” she protest.
“You are but I’m not expecting you to believe me. I just need you to know that I’m here. And I’m not going to force you to get help because I for one knows it won’t help unless you’re ready to get better. But I need you to talk to me.”
“I guess I can do that.”
And Chelsea is certain that things will get better from there. Now she at least knows what’s going with Alex now and that’s after all the first step to getting better.
***
A few days later Brian decides that he needs to talk to Chelsea about her problem now. So he ambushes her one morning right after she finishes brushing her teeth. He corners her in the bathroom.
“Chelsea I need to talk to you,” he says urgently.
“Okay,” she sounds confused.
“Are you starving yourself again?” he asks bluntly. There’s no use prolonging this conversation.
“Yes,” she responds casually but Brian can hear a hint of sadness in her voice.
“Has it been going on since that day I confronted you a couple months ago.”
“Yes,” he concedes again.
“You know this is bad right?”
“Yeah but I’m working on it. I know I need to get better. I already talked Sharon about it. I have a session scheduled next week and she and I both think that with what’s going on with Alex it would be good to look into family counselors. She gave the names of a couple really good family counselors. I was going to talk you about it but you’ve been really busy.” Brian is caught off-guard to say the least.
“Well I wasn’t expecting that response.”
“In all honesty if you’d done this I week ago I’d probably try to deny anything was wrong.”
“Then what changed?”
“You know how I told you I needed proof before I confronted Alex,”she says.
“Yeah that’s why you sleep on the couch monday night.”
“I kind of made this impetuous, ill thought out decision to confront her. And we had like this whole discussion. Brian I swear everything she was saying applied to me. All the feelings she was describing applied perfectly to me. Then I found myself saying things I’ve heard people say to me every time I’ve relapse. I realized that I just could do it anymore. I have to set a good example. I can’t let her end up like me.”
“That makes this so much easier then.”
“Also just so you know I promise this won’t be worse than the last time.”
“How did you know I was thinking that?”he looks at her quizzically.
“I’ve know you most of my life, I know how your mind works. Also you’re forgetting that I’m friends with Nalin and he can’t keep his mouth shut. After your little talk he came to me the riot act and then he tried to guilt me by telling me everything you guys talked about.”
“I shouldn’t expect anything less from Nalin. But do you really promise that it won’t be as bad as the last time?”
“Yes I promise. Last time I was for lack of a better word f*ed up, the most f*ed up I’ve ever been. But I swear it won’t be as bad this time because I’m in a much better place.”
Brian moves in closer, wrapping his arms around chelsea and giving her a kiss.
“I love you. I don’t know why I love you but I love you.”
“I love you too,” she says back.
And from there things get better. Chelsea’s recovery was definitely not like the last time. It was rather easy actually, she doesn’t fight every step, or any step really, along the way. It’s pretty smooth sailing. Brian is more than thankful for that.
Alex’s is a little bit harder but it’s easier in ways. She gets diagnosed with body dysmorphia, which definitely does makes the whole situation easier in a way. It’s easy to treat the restricting and the binging and purging because it’s not full blown bulimia yet. Still it’s much harder in ways because since Alex technically doesn’t have an eating disorder she uses it as an excuse to fight treatment every step of the way.
There are definitely a few times where Brian can’t handle it anymore. There are times when he almost relapses. He skips a couple meals every now and then. A few times he purposely over exercises. And then there was the time that he threw up until he saw blood, But all in all things work themselves out.
***
Maya, Nalin, Chelsea and Brian sitting at table in the back corner of the restaurant. It’s a place recommended but Nalin, apparently his wife’s brother owns it or something. It’s one of those restaurants that only serves dessert which would be cool if they could read anything on the menu, it actually looks like it’s written in another language. Chelsea, Nalin and Brian think it’s kind of quirky but they’re willing to give anything a try. Plus they haven’t really got much time to hang out with each other lately with all that’s been going on in their lives so they’ll take anything they can get.
In the end they all just end up ordering vanilla shakes because it’s just about the only thing that seems good on the menu. They don’t really talk about much, just making civil conversation. But then Maya drops a bombshell.
“I’m moving to Myanmar,”Maya blurts out and everybody turns their head towards her.
“What?” Brian and Chelsea ask in sync.
“Well it’s only for a year. You remember when I worked for doctors without border. Well a friend of mine said they were really in need of mental health professionals and I said what the hell, might as well.”
“But a year,” Nalin is the one to speak.
“Yeah but it’s something I really want to do and I thought better do it now. Because John and I really want to have children and you can’t do this type of shit when you have kids.”
“It’s just going to be weird not having you around for a year. Like who will I talk through all my breakdowns. I’ll have no one to gossip with. Also there’s going to be no one around to remind me to eat,” Chelsea jokes.
“I don’t know, maybe you could start remember to eat on your own like a normal adult.”
hkol “Maya’s throwing shots,” Nalin announces, “But really I actually don’t know if we can function without you. You are literally the glue that holds this group together.”
“It’s only a year,” she reminds them, “I’ll only be there for a year.”
“But a lot can happen in a year. You could come back and find us all dead,” Brian says to the beautiful woman, who appearance age seems to have only made better.
“I think you’re being a little over dramatic and also I think that much will change in a year. Plus honestly I think a little separation will be good for us. We’re a little codependent on each other.
“When do you leave?” Brian asks solemnly.
“Friday,” the brunette states simply.
And that’s the end of it except not really. They’re friendship doesn’t here. It’s not one of those stories where they never speak or again. Or even where they slowly drift apart. No, the four remain friends for a long time afterwards. During the year Maya’s is away their friendship is a little strained but when she gets back everything becomes normal again. Because no matter where they are in or what they’re doing they’re connected by this force. They are bonded together by these experiences.



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JOIN THE DISCUSSION

This book has 12 comments.


on Jan. 15 2013 at 4:01 pm
Apollo77 PLATINUM, Brunswick, Ohio
20 articles 0 photos 103 comments

Favorite Quote:
"All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”
"Madame, all stories, if continued far enough, end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you."
-Ernest Hemingway

I like it. It took a while to get into, but the characters are pretty okay. I think the action moves too fast and the dialogue is right near the brink to cheesy. Also, I would like a little more background at the beginning. I'm starting to think it may have been more successful in first person so that you don't have to keep saying "Chelsea said, then Maya said, then Brian replied." it's too many names to keep tossing around. also, a little more description might have broken up the sentences a little and made it easier to get into. Over all I like the story and it's well written. Good job!

on Jan. 15 2013 at 10:36 am
GuardianoftheStars GOLD, Shongaloo, Louisiana
17 articles 0 photos 495 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Let's tell young people the best books are yet to be written; the best painting, the best government, the best of everything is yet to be done by them."
-John Erslcine

Your writing skills are good and you've thrown in an anorexic boy (which as far as I know really aren't as talked about as girls with this problem).  There are some grammar corrections you should look into, but as for the story line I think you've got a good one.

IMSteel BRONZE said...
on Jan. 13 2013 at 7:11 pm
IMSteel BRONZE, Wallhala, South Carolina
2 articles 0 photos 128 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Learn from Yesterday, live for Today, hope for Tomorrow" - Albert Einstein

"Brevity is the Soul of Wit" - The Which

I don't really get into these kinds of stories, but as far as writing, it was pretty good. 

on Dec. 23 2012 at 6:54 pm
E.J.Mathews GOLD, International Falls, Minnesota
19 articles 2 photos 145 comments
Needless to say, the grammar, capitalization, and unrealistic dialog really subtracted from the overall quality of the story, but I'm sure you have gone over, and fixed it. It seemed to me like the story catered to one specific gender, which is never good. Try to focus a little more on Brain's thoughts so the girlyness isn't totally overwhelming. Now for some good news. I thought that the story sounded unique, and I really got into all of the drama. I think that if you combed over it a bit, you would have a masterpiece here!

on Aug. 1 2012 at 4:41 am
Pika_Princess, Escondido, California
0 articles 0 photos 118 comments

I really like the plotline and the ideas behind this story. It really is an interesting story and I hope you are planning on continuing it. 

Now some suggestions!

First, there are many typos and a few grammar mistakes, but it isn't anything too serious and I'm sure you can easily catch them when you read back through this.

Second, there are some places where the dialogue is a bit awkward and unrealistic, so maybe go through and read the dialogue once more and smooth out those statements.

Thirdly, you write this story in multiple POV's for all the characters and while that is not a bad thing necessairly, here it leads to confusion because each section/chapter will contain multiple POVs. Perhaps you should dedicate a chapter/section for each character and his/her POV.

I would love to know what happens next so keep on writing. Hope I helped!


on Mar. 18 2012 at 7:29 pm
futurenovelista SILVER, Staatsburg, New York
8 articles 0 photos 64 comments

Favorite Quote:
"But I being poor have only my dreams...I place my dreams at your feet. Tread softly for you tread on my dreams." -Yeats

I really liked it....had a little bit of trouble (just a teeny bit) reading the dialogue, but it was still very good. Keep up the good work. 

on Feb. 13 2012 at 12:31 am
AngelsLullaby GOLD, Neverland, Idaho
12 articles 7 photos 95 comments

Favorite Quote:
Music is a higher revelation from wisdom and philosophy. ~Ludwig Von Beethoven

It was good but the dialogue was a little difficult to understand. 4/5 stars

storm459 said...
on Dec. 4 2011 at 6:13 am
So much drama. This is so good.

on Jun. 19 2011 at 3:29 pm
marchbutterfly GOLD, Orange, New Jersey
18 articles 0 photos 12 comments

Favorite Quote:
"When you play God, you get screwed."

I finally fixed the formatting. The story is now easer to read. Sorry for the inconvenience.

on Apr. 2 2011 at 1:09 pm
Anonymousme GOLD, San Antonio, Texas
15 articles 2 photos 64 comments

Favorite Quote:
John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son so whoever believes in hill will not die but have eternal life.

Dreams are what make us who we are, a life without dreams is like a life without air.

I like it, but it hurts my eyes too much to read it because it isn't spaced properly in paragraphs and the dialouge isn't spaced properly either. If you had that straightened out I would be able to read it. I am really sad...

...that I have to give this story up.


PJD17 SILVER said...
on Mar. 26 2011 at 5:11 pm
PJD17 SILVER, Belleville, Illinois
8 articles 0 photos 624 comments

Favorite Quote:
I do the best imatation of myself- Ben Folds

Great story keep writing  could you please check out and comment on my story Manso's Shame  i would really appreciate the feedback

on Mar. 14 2011 at 4:17 pm
rainbowwaffles BRONZE, Stony Brook, New York
2 articles 0 photos 89 comments

I like it so far. :) I hope you post more soon; you left it at a total cliffhanger!!

The dialogue was kind of hard to understand near the end (in terms of who was talking) especially since each time a person spoke, you didn't start a new line. It didn't make it impossible to read, though.

Keep writing!

Maybe you could check out my realistic fiction novel, The Formation, and let me know what you think? Thanks :)



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