August 21, 2015

Lila + Duke - Prologue

This is the prologue for a story I've been working on for a little while.  Enjoy!
Prologue
Sticking my finger down my throat felt like my only constant.  I replaced mental images of Duke with the physical aching of my stomach as I heaved every last ounce of food from my body.  In the silent moments as I sat back from the toilet, with beads of sweat covering my body, I knew peace.  Even if for only a second, Duke no longer existed; just the relief of cool tile against my shaking limbs.
I never wanted to be that girl.  I thought starving yourself or forcing your body to purge was sick.  It was sick.  I guess I was sick.  A year before, I would’ve told you that Bulimia wasn’t an illness at all.  I’d tell you that anybody choosing to make their selves sick was just looking for attention.  Now I knew better, because the idea of anybody finding out just how far I’d fallen would’ve been the worst thing imaginable.  I could barely look at myself in the mirror.  How would I face anybody else?
It all started out innocently enough.  After Duke broke up with me by telling me I wasn’t his type anymore, I wanted more than anything to change that.  I told myself that if I wasn’t the same girl he’d grown up with, he would want me back.  The only thing I could change, other than my hair, was my weight.  At first I tried dieting and exercising, but I didn’t have the years it would take to make myself perfect that way.  I needed faster results.
I was home alone the first time it happened.  The house was dark, which seemed fitting for what I was about to do.  I knew that it was unhealthy.  It was the kind of thing health teachers spoke about in a personable way.  They didn’t read straight from a book.  They looked you in the eye and spoke of the consequences, the side effects, the long term issues a body could face.  They offered friendship in return for their students not sticking their fingers down their throats or starving themselves.
I told myself it would only be a short-term thing.  I’d make myself puke after a few meals, just to kick start my body into losing the weight, and then I’d stop.  I’d do it the right way after that.  I thought I was in control.  I thought it would be easy.
It wasn’t.
“Lila?”
My heart stopped.
“Honey, are you okay?  I thought I heard something.” Mom’s voice echoed in the small bathroom.  Maybe it was just the static in my ears.
Months ago I stopped waiting until I had the house to myself.  My siblings and parents were never gone often enough and I didn’t want the food to settle in my body.  Sometimes I’d turn on the shower, other times just the sink.  Once, I tried simultaneously flushing as I puked but some backsplash got on my face and I refused to do that again.
“I’m fine, Mom.” I called out, hoping my voice didn’t sound weird.
She stuck around for another minute before finally walking away.
That was the first close call, and it turned out to only be the beginning.  Two months later, I was sitting on my knees, one arm wrapped around my stomach while my head and other hand were shoved into the bowl.  The tub was running loudly behind me; so loudly that I didn’t hear anybody walking up to the door.  I didn’t hear them turn the knob.  I didn’t hear the light scraping of a key pushing through the lock a minute later.  I didn’t hear the door click open or the whoosh as somebody stepped into the room.  What I did hear was the gasp from my sister before she screamed for our parents.
Time was suddenly nonsensical.  It felt like it stopped, but at the same time everything was in fast forward, racing through the seconds until I was faced with the people I never wanted to disappoint, but whom I just had.
The next few weeks and months were harder than anything I’d ever been through before.  I thought Duke breaking up with me was the worst thing ever.  It turns out that the worst thing ever is actually your family finding you naked on the bathroom floor, barely more than skin and bones that you’d been hiding under clothes for the past few months, curled around a toilet.  I felt like I’d given a whole new meaning to the term ‘rock bottom’.
Treatment was okay.  In fact, I actually really liked it after the first couple weeks.  I laughed for the first time in a year in the tiny room my psychologist called his office.  I made a friend who held me while I cried after my meals.  I got to feel the sun on my face without worrying about how dark the shadows under my eyes had gotten.
Part of my recovery was family therapy sessions.  In those weekly hour-long meetings, I got to know my parents and siblings in ways I never had before.  It turned out that they all carried guilt over my illness.
Dad worried that his constant pushing me to get interested in playing sports made me believe my body wasn’t beautiful.  It didn’t.
Oliver felt bad for teasing me about the way I’d been begun myself off from everyone.  He’d called me things like Mole Woman and referred to my bedroom as ‘The Hobbit Hole’.  I hated when he did that, but it had nothing to do with my decisions.
Ella believed that her compliments as I lost weight encouraged my destructive behavior.  She’d called me beautiful for the first time a few months after I started making myself sick.  It did make me feel good, but this still wasn’t her fault.
Mom, the woman who carried the world on her shoulders, blamed herself for not noticing.  Countless times she overheard me making myself sick.  Countless times she ignored it and walked away, telling herself she was just jumping to the worst conclusion.  I cried when I told her she couldn’t blame herself.  I worked really hard to keep it a secret and that wasn’t her fault.
“What about Duke?” Elle asked after I assured them that nothing they did or said was the cause of anything I’d done.  “Did he make you this way?”
I thought about it for a moment before shaking my head, “No, this isn’t his fault either.”
It was my fault, no matter how I felt after we broke up.
Before leaving for treatment, I forced every single member of my family to keep what was happening with me a secret.  My biggest fear was Duke finding out.  I hated him for hurting me, but I didn’t want to hurt him, and knowing I was sick would hurt him.  At least, I hoped it would.
After I finished ninety days at an in-patient care facility, I went to live with my aunt and uncle in Alabama.  It was incredibly hard to be away from my family, but I didn’t trust myself to live at home again.  I was afraid that being surrounded by the reminders of the pain I’d lived in for all those months would drive me to hurt myself again.
Aunt Brandy and Uncle Max were possibly the coolest people ever.  They took me in without a moment’s hesitation and never made me feel judged for what I did.  They treated me like a daughter, and like an older sibling to their children.  I was only there for two years, but it was enough to give me a second family.
In Alabama, I made the kind of friends at school that I’d always dreamed about.  Before, I had Duke but we’d known each other since infancy and I sometimes let our relationship stop me from branching out.  Without him, I got to know all different types of people and learned a lot about myself.
I spent a lot of time with my cousins.  They were so much younger than me and my siblings and I loved it.  Ruby and Ezra were just as cool as their parents, even at two and four.  Ruby, at two, had a fascination with bugs that I could never get behind.  She was fearless in everything she did, and that sometimes made it terrifying to babysit her.  I learned from experience to never turn my back on my little Ruby Leigh.  Ezra, on the other hand, was the calmest kid in history.  He never made a fuss over anything.  He was just as happy skateboarding with his dad as he was learning to read on the couch with me.
When I wasn’t busy at school, with my friends, with the kids, or calling my family back home, I spent a lot of time helping Brandy out around the house.  She worked from home making jewelry that she sold online.  Eventually, in addition to the allowance I earned by doing chores, I also got paid to help her make the pieces she designed.  Then I started designing and she let me become a partner.
Sometimes I found myself wondering what my life would be like if Duke never broke up with me the way he did, but then I realize what a blessing it really was.  For all the pain I felt at the time and whenever I thought about him for too long, I gained so much at the end of the day that I could never really regret any of it.  At least, that’s how I felt before I saw him again.

2 comments:

  1. Wow that was intense. I hope you continue with this story because I'd love to know what happens next. Great beginning so far it totally captured my interest.

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    Replies
    1. It was pretty intense :/ I definitely plan to! Lila and Duke have a story that needs to be told and I really hope I can do it. Thank you!

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