Cynthia Stevens hugged herself so she could be comforted by the feel of her father’s sweater as she stood in front of the bathroom mirror at the Valley Stream Home for eating disorders. Over her slowly thickening blonde hair, she wore her older brother, Chad’s, Raptors’ baseball cap, and on her left wrist was her little sister Faye’s gold bracelet. For a long moment she stood staring into the mirror, no longer afraid to face herself. There were still dark bags under her eyes, and her cheeks–though fuller–remained shallow. The worst of the fight was over. With the help of Dr. Lyndon and the girls she shared a dormitory with, now called the Girls’ Gang, she had survived the worst of her affliction. Her father, brother and sister were going to help her continue healing. But without Dr. Lyndon and the Girls’ Gang she doubted she would be alive today.
She stared at her gaunt reflection and remembered how it started three years ago in her gym class.
“Cynthia’s hips are too wide for her boobs,” one of her classmates said behind her back.
“Do you think she’ll gain even more weight? I hope I don’t end up like her,” another said.
Cynthia tried to ignore the comments but it nagged at her. It made sense to her even in Grade Nine that her body was changing, for what she believed at the time, the worst. Her mother had had wide hips and a small bust. The thought of her mother made the girls’ comments hurt even more. Thinking of her mom shook her up because her mother had died of ovarian cancer when Cynthia was thirteen. Cynthia bit her lower lip hoping the ever-so-clear image of her mother would go away but it wouldn’t, it lingered with her and that made her think of her father.
Her father never seemed to mind that Cynthia’s mother had wide hips. He was so happy when she was alive. He wrote her love poems all the time, now he wrote nothing. All he did was work overtime or tinker with his Ford Cavalier to keep it going a little longer.
Cynthia remembered going to the school bathroom after the girls’ comments in silent tears. She wanted to get into a stall and hide her pain until it went away. As she entered she heard another girl gagging in one of the stalls. “Are you alright?” she whispered to the girl.
There was more retching, then the girl mumbled, “Fine.” The stall door opened and a tall girl with short, dirty blonde hair stepped out. Tammy Baker was the all-star gymnastics and track and field female athlete at Sandlewood High School. She was also ultra-thin.
Cynthia saw fluid on Tammy’s right hand. Tammy obviously noticed Cynthia staring because she quickly hid her hand. “It helps me keep my weight down,” Tammy said defensively.
“I won’t tell,” Cynthia replied. “Does it work?”
“Yes,” Tammy said as she hurried to wash her hands. Cynthia watched Tammy pop two breath mints into her mouth. “It’s the only way I can keep my weight down,” Tammy said as she left the bathroom.
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