PrologueHunger. The word groaned in my ear, lingering in my empty stomach as I watched the baker behind the counter arrange her cakes and tarts neatly in the glass display case. She had plump hands and a chubby red face, smeared with flour and blue eye shadow. Her smile was great, but uneasiness was hidden behind her coffee-colored eyes. She breathed heavily and when she finally turned around to help the customer in front of me, sweat trickled down her right cheek. Again the pain in my stomach growled, begging for something, anything to eat. I prolonged the feeling to an extent where I felt I might collapse onto the shiny, granite flooring of the bakery shop.
Why was I here? The bakery was not the place to satisfy my hunger. My sick mind tried convincing me that I didn’t need to eat anything; that I was too rotund and hideous and needed to go to the gym. I examined my fingers, shaking and bony. I need something . . . No, you don’t, my sub-conscious warned me.
“Ma’am?” the plump baker asked, a bewildered expression on her face.
I realized she was talking to me and broke away from my self-argument. Don’t do it.
“Um, I’ll have a slice of apple pie, please,” I said, drawing my eyesight away from the display case to the baker.
“All righty then, that will be five dollars,” she replied, bending over to cut a slice of the apple pie.
You are so fat. You are letting yourself go by doing this, my mind kept repeating. I felt myself growing more and more nervous as she wrapped the slice into a box and turned around to face me.
“Here you go,” she said, her smile growing unsure.
I didn’t seem to hear her because the last thing I remember was hitting the ground and seeing nothing but darkness.
When I woke up, I was under the fluorescent light of the ER. A nurse with wildly frizzy hair wearing a green jumpsuit was bent over me.
“How are you feeling?” she asked, feeling my forehead.
Everything was spinning and my head throbbed. But I lied and said:
She smiled and wanted to know if I was hungry. Hunger. I suddenly remembered what had happened in the bakery. My hand flew to my head, but the nurse calmly grabbed my wrist.
“Do not touch your head; the surgeon just stitched you up. It will take about a couple of weeks for it to heal. Let’s just relax and have a little something to eat.”
“No, no, I’m not hungry,” I said, brushing off her offer. It wasn’t an offer. More like a demand.
“Honey, you need to have something. When was the last time you ate?”
I thought about that. Maybe it was yesterday. Or the day before. I didn’t eat on Tuesday. Or Monday. I ate an apple last weekend. It was old and rotting, but it tasted like a delicacy. When it was gone, I felt sick, like I’d eaten too much.
“This morning,” I fibbed. Everything was still spinning.
“I’ll get you some oatmeal,” she said and left the room before I had a chance to reply.
I waited, closed my eyes, and opened them again. Nothing could relieve me of the excruciating pain I felt in my head. When the nurse came back, she handed me a tray with a plastic dish of oatmeal smothered in maple syrup and butter. I started to eat too quickly and as soon as I swallowed I felt sick. Desperation overcame me as I tried to keep my food down. I couldn’t eat more than two spoonfuls of oatmeal before pushing it away.
“Thank you,” I muttered, even though my stomach was churning.
“Let’s get you your medication,” the nurse said and gave me a large spoonful of a clear, gooey liquid. After I took the medicine, I felt overly exhausted and fell asleep instantly.
“Faith,” I heard a distant male voice at some point.
I tried to lift my eyelids open, but they felt very heavy. Only able to open them a slit, I saw Luke’s face, blurred in front of me.
“Luke . . .” I mumbled, blinking ever so slightly. “What are you doing here?”
“I . . . I got a call,” his voice quivered. Was he crying?
“From who?” I whispered, fighting with every inch of my being to open my eyes completely.
“Your mother. She was here earlier, but you were out cold,” he said.
“But . . . I don’t understand. Why would you come to see me?” I asked.
“Because you’re my girlfriend and you were hurt. I could never leave you like that.”
“You are . . . great,” I forced out.
“I love you so much,” he said, and I could hear him crying.
Then, it faded as I slipped back into a deep sleep. Dreams visited me that night—or morning. Doctors didn’t believe in clocks apparently. I saw Luke the first time after I’d began my journey towards “being thin.” His glowing brown eyes gazing at me. Or maybe my new slim figure. Our relationship had been based on looks at first, since he was popular and I had previously been a wallflower before my transformation. Then it became something greater. We’d spent hours together at a time. We’d gotten to know each other better. And as he’d dated me, he’d watched me shrink. First a size four and slowly a two and suddenly a zero. The entire time we’d been together, I’d never admitted my illness to him. But now I supposed he finally knew I was dying.