‘One apple in the morning, a banana in the afternoon and an orange in the evening,” listed Melanie. She was giving the rest of the girls insight on her yesterday’s diet, there was plenty food to go around right! Melanie took her place at the corner of the table when Mona took the stage this time,“Skipped breakfast, granola bar for lunch and green salad dinner,” narrated Mona, in retrospect she took her seat at the table and the last girl, Melissa took the stage,“Twenty-four hour fast,” she smiled gracefully, as both girls applauded generously. She took a bow in appreciation and returned to the table, sipping horridly on their water bottles that were constantly present in order for them to forget the hunger. They all looked into each other’s eyes, taking recognition of each other’s life less skin, weary eyes and dry roots on their head.Melissa took the stage once again,“This all worth it girls- till death do us part, remember? I’m telling you- this look is what makes money, it helps put food on the table- obviously meant for other people to eat, but we can fit into clothes, we can….“For how long, next year they’ll be a size smaller,” interrupted Melanie.“And we’ll just have to get with the times; we’re the envy of every female in the world. They’ll kill to look like us,” persuaded Melissa.“You really think so, I don’t see anyone queuing up to give up a slice of pizza and cake for fruits and vegetables,” mocked Mona. She put lay her head on the table with her hand hanging onto her stomach like an anchor to hinder the growls of starvation. She knew the only way to silence those growls without having to give into them was sleep and right then she needed it more than ever. Their meeting was over and Melissa encouraged them to continue with their programmes. Once they had all left the room, Melissa took out the locks to her door and uniformly turned the knob and place the padlock in for what she regarded as ‘safety’ but from food. She put the keys and top right corner of her closet. She knew the higher she put it, the less inclined will she be, to want to head out as it will require a certain amount energy to get the keys back, which she didn’t have. She lounged on a pillow and her phone began to ring, it was one of her friends from school Lucille.She picked up on the second dial,“Hey! Lucy”“Good- I got hold of you. A couple of guys and I are going out for pizza tonight do you want to come, it’ll be so much fun.”Melissa knew if it were a different realm, where pizza would do her body a lot of justice she would have jumped right away and say yes, but this was the real world and that moment all she did was count calories if she did have the pizza and if she didn’t the monotonous questions of ‘Why aren’t you eating?’ which will not only annoy but drive her off the earth. So after, weighing out her options which were none she responded,“Rein check?”It was too late, Lucille had already hung up, she was used to the ‘No thank you’s’ and ‘Rein checks’, it was human habit for Melissa. Looking back, Melissa knew could count how many birthdays, weddings, brunches, and social gatherings or parties she had missed all because of one dress size. She stopped living and she lost friends along the way- Mona and Melanie didn’t count as they were all lost in the same misery. She walked up to switch her lights off and listened to the lullaby of starvation that eventually sent her to sleep.“Mona! Breakfast!” cried Mrs Sanders; she was desperate to get back to work after her maternity leave. Mona came downstairs and walked towards the door,“Breakfast Mo!”“Yeah- I’ll get something at school,” she replied.“You’ve been doing that for the last three months and I’m starting to see more bone on you than flesh,” retorted Mrs Sanders while handing her baby over to Nanny Karen. Mona shrugged and walked out to the car were her mother met her. As they drove towards school, Mrs Sanders couldn’t help notice the highly visible neck line on Mona. She sneaked her hand out to feel it,“That’s pure stone!” she gasped. “Mom, would you stop fussing my neck has always been like this,” replied Mona a little irritated. Mrs Sanders knew that was not true and had several photos as evidence. She noticed that the jeans that used to accentuate Mona’s beautiful physique began to look a little baggy. Mrs Sanders dropped Mona in sync with Melanie’s and Melissa’s folks. The three looks exchanged estranged looks, taking comfort in the familiar face of pain, starvation and misery.As Mona walked the hallways, she bagan to feel a little faint, she convinced herself to get a wash in the bathroom and through the mirrors of the bathroom as she dried herself of, the only thing she noticed was Mona the spirit but Mona- the body was disappearing and that moment she knew that in her battle between living for her size and dying for her size, the death part was winning. The girls that joined in the bathroom made snarky remarks of the contours of her ribcage harbouring her chest. She quickly walked out of the bathroom making her way into her first period English class, as she did so, she ran into the school quarter-back Josh Bears. Mona always had a soft spot for him, and last summer she thought he felt the same way until she hear him disparaging her looks when he told Lucille that he doesn’t want to go out with her girl that he’ d constantly have to feed. At that point, it made Mona wonder whether she was losing weight for herself or the world’s perception of who she wanted to be. This time unlike other days she didn’t dwell on it as her stomach began to whistle.“Hey Melanie!” shouted Lucille from across the hall. Melanie looked up in her direction and darted towards her. “Hey!”“Hey- let me just get to the point, tonight- is movie night and according to the books it’s your turn tonight,” said Lucille. Lucille and Melanie were part of the prom committee and due to lesson clashes and limited space, they decide to work at each other’s houses every Wednesday night and end it with a movie. Melanie, so far had missed five gathering because she regarded everyone’s houses except for her own as ‘Tempation Island’ and if she was to host tonight’s meeting she’ll fall into the same island she’s worked so hard to be get rid for. Lucky for her the panic in Mona’s voice from behind saved her,“It’s Melissa, it’s Melissa…”Mona didn’t say much to explain and dragged the two girls by the hand to the bathroom to find Melissa looking very peaceful on the cold bathroom floors. Lucille ran out to get adult assistance, whilst Mona and Melanie’s eyes recognised the naked terror of starvation. Melissa bent over Melissa’s body, with her ear to Melissa’s chest down to her stomach and she knew then she was gone- the soft beats of the familiar weakened hearts had stopped and the soft whistles and growls of the stomach had stopped. It was a blur but the parade of fear, panic and ambulances surfaced and it was not long before, paramedics confirmed what Mona and Melanie already knew.Two days later, a letter came in the post for Mona. She hadn’t been to school in two days and despite what happened to Melissa she felt she had a justified reason for refraining from all liquids and solids. Mrs Sanders opened Mona’s bedroom door and found her lying lifelessly on the bed, with all the bones on her body pretending to be in costume for Halloween. “You’ve got a letter,” said Mrs Sanders.Mona waved her off and told her to leave it for another day because she was tired. Mrs Sanders did so obediently with the cloud of worry that followed her. She sat in the kitchen looking at the letter and before she knew it she was reading it too…Mona When you’re reading this I’ll be happy because I’ll be having my first pizza slice in years, I’ll indulge in all the chocolate I want and make up for all the birthdays, weddings and parties I missed. Right now, I’m watching Princess Diaries, with popcorn in one hand and peanuts in the other. My first soda! My first strawberry flavoured soda! It’s all here, all the poison on earth has now become my food. I can stop the arithmetic that always ends with calories and I can stop hiding under my duvet and come out on a hot summer day for chocolate sundaes. I’m happy because I’m living again. You asked why we did what we did, what was the point? This is it. It makes sense….MelissaThe letter had ended and at this point Mrs Sanders eyes we’re filled with tears enough to float the Titanic. She put the letter back in its place and went up to check on Mona. She knocked and there was no word from her, she tried to turn the knob but this time it was locked. She knocked harder but there was still no response. Mona’s silence was enough to trigger every alarm in Mrs Sander’s body, she raced downstairs and called for Nanny Karen who was in the nursery, watching the baby take his nap. She pointed towards the staircase and Nanny Karen followed her gaze. She too had her share of knocks on Mona’s door, but still there was nothing. Mrs Sanders ran outside towards Mona’s bedroom window. They were out of her reach, so she immediately though of the ladder in the garage. It was battle to get through the garage door and find the ladder but once she did she raced to the window as if she was on the verge of losing a heptathlon. She climbed up in a hurry and through the windows, she could see- Mona, in the same position as she had left her before the letter, her face turned to the left, her eyes closed and her hands marinating the scissors posture. Mrs Sanders managed to pull herself through the window into the room. She raced to Mona’s side what she had feared, what she had already known had been confirmed and in an instance the mixture of cries, alarms and those dressed in uniform had summed up the tragedy.“We’ve talked about your family, school and your friends; I think it’s time we cross over. Let’s talk about their death- both girls, first Melissa- then Mona, I know you guys were friends, it must’ve been hard,” said Doctor Lauren. She was the psychiatrist that Melanie had been seeing for the last two weeks. Her parents took Mona and Melissa’s death as precaution, because unlike the rest of the two girls’ parents they had been given a second chance and they wanted to make sure they used it well, which meant giving Melanie the help she needed.“Melanie, do you want to talk about their deaths?”“Will it bring them back,” Melanie responded with coldness seeking refuge in her eyes. It didn’t faze Doctor Lauren, she had seen worse and anger was common in most people who go through death.“I understand, you’re angry, do you want to tell me why?”Melanie face hindered a smile when she looked into Doctor Lauren’s eye,“The last thing I feel, right now is anger.”“Then what is it that you feel?”“Jealousy… they left me here, to deal with this pain. They left me here to share my pain with people like you, when all this time- all this time, I was dealing with it alone. I should be the one in those graves that’s all I want because no one gets it- no one gets it!” Melanie’s voice croaked and she fought back the tears. Doctor Lauren watched her for moment waiting till she calmed down before she asked her next question,“Why are you afraid to share your pain?”“Because no one will get it… you’ll put it in words to make sense of it, to prescribe whatever the hell is available because that what your paid to do. If I tell my parents, my friends- they’ll feel sorry for me, they’ll try to find ways to fix me but they can’t – you can’t!” said Melanie as she looked away towards the window. “You see that darkness,” Doctor Lauren followed her gaze, still maintaining one eye on Melanie as Melanie continued, “That’s where I should be, just like Mona- like Melissa.”“Why’s that?”“Because, you can’t fix me and you can’t fix anything in the dark. I don’t need any fixing.”“You keep saying, you can’t be fixed, why not?”“I’m already broken,” Melanie responded with solace and this time her eyes met the doctor’s. All Doctor Lauren thought about was to keep her talking and maybe they’ll reach some kind of breakthrough,“You say you’re broken and you don’t want to be fixed… what if then, we picked up the pieces-“You see that darkness,” Melanie interrupted, looking through the windows, “You can’t pick anything you can’t see. And even if you tried- I won’t be the same.”“But that’s the point Melanie, we don’t want you to be the same, we want you-“You don’t get it! When you change be- it won’t be who I am but who am I supposed to be! That’s why we did what we did- Mona! Melissa!- they died because of who we are supposed to be! Not because of who we are! And if I’m not the same I’ll still be broken, only this time- it’ll be a different pain.”Doctor Lauren looked in Melanie’s eyes, she knew whatever she said now…“Till Death Do Us Part,” said Melanie, interrupting her thoughts. Doctor Lauren was about to ask what that means, but Melanie was on queue of answering,“We’re only happy when we’re dead doc. None of us enjoyed, who we were supposed to be- skinny, hunger deprived girls. But we still, took our vows and life to us- to the people we are supposed to be is like a bad marriage and when it’s gone, when it dies, we become who we are. You change for your husband, we changed for the world and when one or the other dies- that’s happiness, that’s my happiness. Doc, you can’t put my pain in words, you can’t prescribe anything for it, it’ something that I’ve vowed to live through….. Till Death Do Us Part.”MelanieIt makes sense, I’ve done it- I don’t wake up to the noises, they’re no locks on my door, they’re no longer anymore keys. I’m free. It all makes sense, it’s all worth it. On earth, we’re married to earth, we’re married to the confinements and the stereotypes and when it’s done, when it all ends, we don’t have to talk about it, we don’t have to answer the why’s anymore because none of it matters- because here- we live again, we become who we are.Till Death Do Us Part…Mona.
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