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A Beautiful Skeleton
Sophie had a vendetta.
It was against her reflection.
Standing in front of her mirror, Sophie pinched the rolls of fat on her stomach and felt them jiggle beneath her fingertips. Her nails dug in harder, leaving angry red welts across her waist. She wanted to peel the fat off her body, layer by layer, like peeling an onion.
Calories were filthy and detestable, she thought. They were little critters that stitched her dresses tighter every night and made her jeans harder to slip into every morning. Calories were pests, and all pests needed to be exterminated. Still stewing in her thoughts, Sophie tore her eyes away from her reflection and directed her attention towards the scale.
The mirror lied and contorted the world, but the scale was always honest. With each number that disappeared from the glowing blue screen, Sophie felt a cool, euphoric rush of glee. A happiness that was quickly replaced by a chilling sense of dissatisfaction. There was always more weight to lose.
She had vowed never to return to her childhood habits. Habits that made her shiver with contempt just remembering. Six year old Sophie sneaking cookies from the jar late at night. Eight year old Sophie begging her mother to stop at the candy store for “just one Mars Bars please, mommy”. Eleven year old Sophie tucking away half a pizza in a sitting, goaded on by friends. Fourteen year old Sophie sniffling in bed after her first “break up”, cradling a carton of Häagen-Dazs.
But it was okay now, Sophie thought, as she closed her eyes. Sixteen year old Sophie knew how to control herself. She ate only safe foods. Apples and celeries and iceberg lettuce. She had even given up bagels. After all, she was going to be beautiful.
Beauty, however, is a gift bestowed randomly.
Her health deteriorated slowly. The dial on the thermostat ticked higher and higher, even as her insides stayed frozen. She stayed covered in layers despite the stifling summer heat. Her skin seemed perpetually sallow, and no amount of makeup seemed to help. She could no longer climb stairs without getting dizzy.
And then one day, it collapsed in a terrifying climax, a crescendo of screams and tears. Sophie was kneeling in the bathroom, her fingers wrapped around a hair brush. There were tangles of limp, raven colored hair matted together, like a bird's nest ravaged by predators. Raking her hands across her head, more strands dislodged themselves from her scalp and scattered across the porcelain white tiles.
No, no, no. Sophie fought to keep the bile rising in her throat down. This wasn’t supposed to happen. How was she supposed to look exquisite and glamorous with her hair falling out in clumps?
Her mother knocked on the door, yelling to ask if she was okay. Sophie wouldn’t answer. Couldn’t answer. She had pushed too far, cut too many calories. Her body was retaliating, swirling her vision into a painter’s palette of colors.
Soph. That was the last thing she heard before she felt the impact of the cold ceramic tiles against her temples, before the world fizzed out into a dizzying blackness.
There was a rhythmic beeping when she came to, and the sound of someone speaking.
“Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by an abnormally low body weight, intense fear of gaining weight and a distorted perception of body weight.” The voice was tired and exasperated, like an adult who had explained the rules to a small child too many times.
Great, Sophie thought. A doctor. I’m in the hospital. She could hear her mother crying in the background.
“The human body isn’t meant to undergo long periods of starvation. It leads to hair loss, a constant feeling of cold and amenorrhea, or loss of menstruation, and in extreme cases death.” The doctor continued, scribbling on a clipboard.
Her mother’s sobbing grew louder. Sophie felt almost guilty. Her mother was so concerned about her health, when Sophie didn’t even really care. She just wanted to look nice.
She let her eyelids sink close again and felt the humming ache in her head take over.