walk | 010
She was late.
Her bag swung and hit the doorframe, causing her to curse as it rebounded and slapped her thighs. She was so late and screwed and flustered. She hadn’t stopped cursing since she woke up and caught a glance at the broken alarm clock on her bedroom floor. Maybe throwing the clock at the wall had been a bad idea. Caroline hopped on one foot out her house, yelling out a farewell to her parents who were enjoying their breakfast at the table. Curse Saturdays and their magical powers of getting her to sleep in.
Muttering ‘shit’ under her breath as she hobbled down the corridor, she glanced at her Swatch wristwatch only to induce more coarse language. Madame Felicity would make her split and force her feet to touch the opposing walls. Caroline winced in pain at the very idea; for a person who hadn’t cleared the basics of ballet, the split, the thought of even having their legs spread in a straight line would cause the pain of a thousand stretches. Her head spun once more in the three minutes it took for her to finally leave her apartment.
“Hello?” the blonde’s voice was rough with panting. “Uh, Annie, I need you to tell Madame Felicity that I’ll be late. If she asks why, just tell her I had food poisoning or something.”
Crossing the street while on the phone and pulling long hair into a bun at the same time was proving to be a bigger challenge than Caroline thought it would be. “Wha– no, of course I didn’t get food poisoning! I woke up late and I need you to lie to her for me. Please, Annie? I’ll treat you to Starbucks or something. Just name it. Okay, I need to go now, the light’s green.”
It could’ve been because of the stress of rushing or because of the fear of punishment that the pounding headache hadn’t left. The nauseous and dizzy feeling hadn’t left either. Ten minutes of walking hadn’t brought Caroline any closer to the ballet studio than she was when she had just left the house. Four more blocks to go and the buzzing noise refused to leave her. Her mother had left her a granola bar in her bag but eating it would give her an insane amount of calories would cause her to break her limit.
The numerous boutiques brought a miserable sparkle to her eyes. When would she be able to enter one of those shops without looking down at the floor as she told the assistant her size? Eyes trailing each of the shop’s signs with longing, Caroline took her time to stroll through the crowd instead of rushing like she had earlier. She was already late, no point in trying to rush to get there earlier when nothing would change the fact that she was late.
Suddenly, the noise of the crowd turned into muffled buzzing. “What the fu–” Caroline didn’t know what was going on, she couldn’t even hear her own voice cursing. Her legs and arms started going numb. She wobbled, trying to steady herself by placing a hand against a boutique’s window. Her vision blurred and the world span in circles around her weak limbs. The blonde slid to the pavement, breathing heavily. Soon, her chest tightened and fear pounded through her body. What the hell was going on?
| ∞ |
Someone was screaming and Caroline wanted her to shut up.
The voice was piercingly sharp and loud. It could curdle blood if possible. Who in their right mind would scream bloody murder at eight in the morning, in front of a famous boutique, when nothing was going on? It took Caroline a moment to realize that her vocal chords weren’t vibrating because she was yelling at the screamer to zip it – it was because she was the screamer.
Panic flooded her veins once more as Caroline realized that all she could see was darkness. Pitch black surrounded her vision and she didn’t know if her eyes were already open. She wanted to stop screaming and she wanted her eyes to snap open but you can’t always get what you want. Her throat was strained and she couldn’t feel her arms or legs. Was this what it was to die? Wasn’t her life supposed to flash before her eyes or something? Huh, maybe the angels were late.
A muffled yell came broke through her screaming. Through her screaming and the scary darkness, Caroline could pick up the words ‘wake up’ and ‘shock’. Her mental image of herself – in her head of course, where else would her mental image be – had her eyebrows raised. Going into shock would mean she was trashing around like a person in a straitjacket. No way was that happening, she couldn’t even twitch her fingers, for God’s sake.
Come on, stop screaming and open your eyes. Come on, Caroline.
As if prying open a locked storage unit, Caroline’s eyes finally peeled open and stopped her screaming. Her vision, once darkened by black, was now staring straight at blinding white lights. The smell of antiseptic and sanitizer wafted up her nose. Relief flooded through her – okay, so she wasn’t captured and drugged in a cellar by some crazy psychopath who had a sadist for a partner. It took a while for the confusion and fear to creep in when the doctor’s worried face finally appeared in her line of vision.
“Where am I and what am I doing here? I was on my way to ballet. Why aren’t I on my way to ballet?” Caroline’s hoarse voice increased with hysteria at each sentence, building a tone of panic. The feeling of her limbs and body slowly returned, letting her feel the fabric of the hospital gown against her stomach. Like magic, her eyes sparked with additional fear as she frantically ran her fingers through her blonde locks. “No, no, let me out. I’m fine. Let me go to my class, Madame Felicity is probably more pissed than she originally was. Shit, I’m late, shit.”
The doctor pinned her to the bed with a fierce glower, the nurse holding her down gently with a hand on her wrist. The sixteen year old twitched in frustration, fear and confusion. They couldn’t possibly know. Knowing would mean sending her off to that posh rehabilitation center her mom had been yapping about for the past few months. Knowing would send her to the top of the ‘I’m-worried-for-you’ list that her father had; being a lawyer, getting to the tippy top of that list was tough. Judging by the look on the doctor’s face, Caroline was guessing that he probably already knew.
And that she was in for an insanely long lecture.
“Did you have breakfast this morning, Miss Fletcher?”
It was an innocent question. But a question that made her queasy all the same. She tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “No, I was late – and still am late – for ballet class. I have a granola bar in my bag though. I was going to have that when I was a block away from the studio.”
The shaggy-haired doctor nodded, looking unconvinced. His Zac Efron-like eyes were pinched together. “Did you have dinner last night then?”
“No,” she breathed, playing with her fingers and looking down at her lap. “I was tired so I went to bed early.”
“Okay, I’m going to cut to the chase, Miss Fletcher.” Dr Shaggy Hair said, crossing his arms over his chest. “We know you have relapsed and we would like to know why, when and how you kept it hidden.”
Nervous laughter bubbled out her lips. “R-relapse? What’s that? Is that some sort of STD? Cause I swear to God, I’m still a virgin and–”
“Other doctors may not push you to answer but I promise you, Caroline, that I am not the hospital’s resident psychiatrist that sends their patients off with a lollipop. No, I am not that guy. So tell me everything I need to know right now or so help me Jesus, I will call your ballet instructor and tell her that you will be quitting ballet. Because the long hours won’t be good for your recovery or–”
The satisfied expression on the doctor’s face made Caroline nauseous. His face was so smug and that smirk was quirked so high that if she could punch him, she would. With her back pressed against the comfortable hospital bed (though she’d never say that out loud), Caroline felt as though she was back to the first time where she got caught when a nurse had accidentally wrapped her hand around Caroline’s wrist. Her entire demeanor changed from a stubborn brat into that of a sad, lonely child.
“I didn’t mean to,” she whispered. She looked up eagerly at the doctor, eyes wide and begging. “I was following my nutritionist’s plan and I was really following it well. I even gained a few pounds after the first month. Mom was proud of me.”
Dr Shaggy Hair’s eyes softened. “What happened?”
The sob that broke through her lips was entirely involuntary and Caroline felt like slapping herself for breaking. “A new ballet Christmas recital was rumored to involve the grade six class. Kate Sawyer, she’s one of the ballerinas, was one of the choices for the main lead – Belle. Madame Felicity said that the spot was open to all and that we’d all have to prove ourselves. But all of us knew that Kate had the highest chance to get the role.”
“Dr Shawn? We have a patient ready for you in ward 1004, so whenever you’re ready.” a nurse poked her head in and left a file with the shaggy-haired doctor. He nodded and told her that he would only be a moment, eyes drifting toward Caroline. The chocolate pudding she had brought with her now sat on Caroline’s tray.
“Please eat. I won’t force you to eat the rest if you don’t want to but at least have the chocolate pudding. It’s the tastiest thing we have here in the hospital’s canteen.” Dr Shawn smiled softly, motioning at the innocent cup and plastic spoon. “I understand that you don’t want to share anymore, so you don’t have to. I don’t want to see you coming to this hospital, Caroline. You’re not fat. Trust me.”
Caroline’s blue eyes were trained on his back as he left the room with the file tucked under his arm. The chocolate pudding looked delicious and inviting, something that made Caroline feel instant guilt and repulsion. There was also an egg sandwich sitting in its plastic cover, a cup of chilled orange juice, a Caesar salad and a few napkins. The food wasn’t overly fattening nor did it, after adding up the calories, exceed her maximum limit. Her daily life could continue and she would feel skinny… all if she didn’t eat that single cup of chocolate pudding.
“It’s the tastiest thing we have here in the hospital’s canteen.”
No matter how hard she thought about the recital, Kate, Beauty and the Beast, Madame Felicity and her weight, the chocolate pudding seemed to reel her in. It’s magnetic force pulled Caroline’s hand towards the spoon, forcing her to wrap her fingers around the plastic and lift a spoonful of chocolate richness into her mouth. The sweet taste lingered in her mouth before she swallowed it. It took her less that a minute to wolf down the remnants of the pudding.
The cup, now empty, sat tauntingly before her. How many calories had that been? A tear slipped down her cheek and Caroline didn’t bother wiping it away. There went her chance of being the main lead. A shuddering gasp pulled past her lips as her stomach lurched with nausea. The acidic taste of her own vomit rose up her throat but she forced it down. She was already anorexic; there was no need to switch to bulimia. It wasn’t something to be proud of, Caroline knew, but the hope of being skinny and becoming a size zero was too good to resist. Disgusting, her mind reeled. You’re so fat and disgusting – you’ll never be as perfect as Kate Sawyer.
When the nurse came to take her tray away, she found Caroline hugging her knees to her chest, rocking back and forth, tears streaming down her face as she stared at the empty cup of chocolate pudding. Her blonde hair was a messy halo around her tear-streaked face. She was muttering something under her breath that the nurse didn’t catch (and didn’t particularly want to hear either), fingers trembling under the strain of gripping her knees till her knuckles turned white.
I’m a disgusting, fat, ballerina.
The hollow scream didn’t do anything but make her cry even more. It was hopeless. She’d never be skinny again. She was fat, and fat she would remain. Caroline’s body, wracked with sobs, curled into a fetal position on her small hospital bed. Her legacy would forever be the fat girl who tried to become skinny but got caught. Nothing could change her back to normal.
Nothing else would make her skinny again.
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