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I was woken up by the repetitive beeping of my alarm. I kept my eyes closed and groaned. My mouth felt like sandpaper. My body, especially my head, felt like it weighed a thousand pounds. I wanted to drift back into oblivion, but I could feel someone holding my hand and heard them crying softly. I harnessed all my strength and opened my eyes. I blinked them rapidly to enable them to focus on my surroundings. It took me no time at all to feel the needle in the vein of my right arm, a tube was connected to it, allowing a clear liquid to enter my body and the tube inserted in my nose that went down to my stomach.
Audrey was resting her head on the side of the hospital bed. I was still terrified, but I felt better with her there.
“Where – where am I?” I croaked.
Aud rose from her seat and hugged me as tightly as possible instead of answering. She sobbed into my shoulder. I placed my hands on her back, remaining silent. She kissed the side of my face and returned to her plastic chair.
“New York-Presbyterian Hospital.” She answered as she dried her eyes on the sleeves of the cardigan she was wearing over her dress.
My stomach did somersaults and tears rushed to my eyes. “Why is this –?” I tried to grab the tube from my nose.
She placed her hand on top of mine, stopping me. “Your stomach was pumped. You’re dehydrated and malnourished. Leave it alone.” She stated sternly, locking her eyes on mine.
“I’m thirsty and I can’t –“I buried my face in my hand.
I lowered my hand. She was offering me a plastic cup. Instead of handing it to me, she placed the straw onto my lips. I drank slowly as I tried to recall what I had done to end up there.
She placed my cup on the table and started rearranging my blankets. “You collapsed at Everett’s party. I got to you first. You’re so tiny. I had no idea – I thought I’d break you if I held on too tight. But I couldn’t –“Her voice was shrill. She broke down in tears and had to stop. She placed her hand over her mouth.
“I couldn’t let go when the paramedics arrived. I didn’t – I didn’t want that to be – be the last time I saw you alive. I had to — to stay until the end. I promised it’d always be me and you. I let you down. And I’m so sorry. I just – I’m so sorry.” She bawled.
I clenched my eyes shut as tightly as possible as I wished it all away. I didn’t work. Instead, I was reminded of the past.
I woke up bright and early the morning of my 6th birthday. I was so excited because I had invited my classmates from kindergarten. There was a party planned, ballet themed. I was even taken out by my nanny the week before to pick out a dress. Unable to wait until later to get my birthday started, I ran to my mom’s room as soon as I woke up.
She was all alone in her massive bed. She was sleeping on her stomach, her dark brown hair draped across the pillow. I bounced over to where she was and started shaking her.
“Mommy?” I jiggled her gently.
She showed no signs of acknowledging my presence.
I shook her again, but harder. “Mommy?”
“Mommy, it’s my birthday.” I shook her as hard as I could.
I ran to Audrey’s room as fast as I could. I shook her. She woke up almost immediately.
She groaned and rubbed her eyes. “What’s going on, Izzie Bee?”
“Mommy won’t wake up.” I sniffled as my lip quivered.
She tossed back her covers and shoved on her glasses. She practically sprinted to our mom’s room. It was hard for my little legs to keep up with her, especially holding my ballerina bunny. Upon arrival, Aud started shaking her much harder than I was able to. She flipped her onto her back. She leaned down and listened to chest.
“Why won’t mommy wake up?” My eyes were too blurred with moisture to see.
“She’s really tired, Sweetie. You have nothing to worry about.” She offered me a brave smile.
She went to the bathroom and came back with a cup of water. She splashed it onto her face. Our mom sprang up with a start.
“WHAT?!” She cried in outrage, drying her face with her sheets.
“You can’t keep doing this to us!” Audrey screeched at the top of her lungs.
“Five seconds without your complaining would be great.” She snapped in response, her voice hoarse.
“It’s her birthday! A six year old came to be with her mom and thought she was dead. That’s not okay!”
She ran a hand through her hair. “Feel free to call your father. Doubt he’ll answer for the same reason I went out last night.”
“You have a problem. That’s why you went out!” Aud snarled.
“Who do you think you’re talking to? I’m still your mother. You’re not allowed to lecture me. I don’t care if you like to pretend you carried that one around for nine months. –” She pointed to me. “I did! Both times! Respect me!” She snapped.
I tightened my hold on my bunny and looked down at myself. “When’s Daddy coming over?”
“He won’t be.”
“W-why not?” I looked up at her.
“Because it’ll only make him angrier. I don’t feel like dealing with it or him. We have what we need. Don’t push it.” She sighed and put her face in her hands. “You’re both giving me a headache. Leave me alone.”
Audrey picked me up and held me close.
“It’s going to be okay, Izzie Bee. I’m right here. I’ll always be right here.” She sniffled into my hair, making it clear that she was crying as she walked us back to her room.
(*|end of flashback|*)
I hot tears started streamed from my eyes at a rapid pace. “I SHOULDN’T BE HERE! THEY HATE ME! I DON’T WANT TO BE – ” I screamed at the top of my lungs, my voice cracking.
“Honey, please, please calm down. They’ll put you on suicide watch if you don’t change your phrasing.” She pleaded, putting one of her hands on the side of my face, forcing me to look at her.
“The doctor’s ran tests when we got here. Your electrolytes were almost completely wiped out. Your potassium was at a lethally low level. And your weight, –“Her voice broke. “They said you shouldn’t be alive, that when patients on your level come in, it’s too late. Their hearts have failed or their bodies break down because of the lack of nutrients.” She sniffled, keeping her head down.
“Level of what?”
“Anorexia. They will be sending a psych specialist in tomorrow morning to speak with you. The police would like to talk to you as well.”
“I know I’m underage, but I wasn’t the only one -“
“Roofies were found in your system. Do you remember the party at all?”
“A little, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to help to anyone.” My eyes shifted to my lap.
“Has this ever happened before?”
“How angry is Dad?”
“Sweetie, no one’s upset. We’re hurt you didn’t think you could talk to us.”
I shook my head and started weeping. She climbed into bed and held me as I cried inconsolably.
“I brought food, tea, and the bag you brought to the hotel. I can’t stay long. It’s way past visiting hours and I’m not immediate family. Do you want me to run out and get anything else before I – how is she?” Everett stopped in his tracks when he noticed I was awake.
I continued to cry into her chest as she tilted her head up to look at him.
“Really emotional right now. Thank you for bringing me what I need.” She offered him a smile.
“I-I’m I’m so sorry for ruining everything.” I choked through my tears, keeping my face hidden.
“You didn’t. I love you. The guys do too. We just want you to pull through. Focus on getting better.” He placed what he could in her chair and the rest of it on my table.
I clung to Aud tighter and cried harder. He backed away from me slowly and went over to her side.
“I didn’t mean to upset her.” He whispered.
“She needs time to adjust. She didn’t know how she got here or what happened. It’s a lot to wake up to on top of what she was already feeling.”
He nodded in understanding. “I love you.” He leaned down and pecked her on the lips.
“I love you too.” She smiled against his lips.
“Is the tea caffeinated?” She added when he pulled away.
“A machine in the hallway made it. I have no idea, but I stole a sip of it and it tasted like what you take to work with you.” He rubbed the back of his neck.
“You can have it.”
“I’m telling you, I lost my cooties after the fifth grade. You need to learn to trust your husband.” He leaned down and kissed her.
“Not the issue. Take the tea. I shouldn’t have it.”
“Fine. Leaving now. Bye.” He picked up the paper cup and waved. He shut the door on his way out.
“Can I put pants on? I’m scared I’m going to flash a nurse.” She requested, playing with my hair.
I nodded and pulled away, freeing her. “I’ll be right back.” She placed a kiss on my cheek.
She crept out of bed and went into the bathroom with her bag. She came back shortly in sweats and his sweater. Her makeup was stripped off; her contacts were replaced with her glasses, and she was still beautiful.
“Is it alright if I eat?”
I silently nodded as I shifted to lie on my back. I felt completely numb by that point.
“Dad’s at home researching rehabilitation facilities. You’ll need in-patient care once you are released. They want you out of the city for privacy.” She perused her bag of takeout.
“I have finals coming up.” My voice remained hollow, free of the emotions I was no longer up for dealing with.
“He’ll work something out with the school. Don’t worry about anything.” She put a few fries into her mouth.
“I’m not smart like you. I’m ugly on top of it. I have no friends. Everyone I know talks about me behind my back. You know how Mom is. Dad hardly looks at me. Genette’s always riding me. All of them hate me. I guess I hate me too if I’m being honest.” I thought aloud.
“Do you want to die?”
“I’m not scared of the possibility. I won’t be missed by the people that made me. I’m a burden to you, Ev, and B. Maybe things would be better if I didn’t exist instead of being invisible.”
She put down her food. “What have you been doing to yourself?” She asked in a small voice.
“It doesn’t matter.”
Her lip trembled and she looked down at herself. “The jig is up. I want the real answer.”
“Every day, I drink a master juice cleanse. For breakfast, I usually have a rice cake. I have salad with vinegar and celery sticks for my other meals. I exercise for about four hours every day, I run the treadmill, lift, and plenty of other strengthening exercises. I train for ballet an additional two hours, more on weekends. I rarely vomit purge, only when I feel out of control.”
“When did you have time to do all of that, especially during school?”
“I wake up at 5 AM every morning. School doesn’t start until 9. I do half in the morning and the other half before I go to bed. Weekends, I get to work straight through the day.”
“How long has this been going on?”
“Summer before eighth grade. Three years, I guess. I’ve gotten better at it.”
She rubbed the tension from her forehead. “Who gave you the bruises on your legs and back?”
I closed my eyes and my lower lip quivered as I shook my head.
“Who are you seeing?”
“Please –” I squeaked.
“Then tell me how you got the rows of cuts on your upper left thigh.” She fired back with agitation.
“I did it.”
“Why?” I could hardly hear her.
She cleared her throat. “When was the last time you cut yourself?”
“I should’ve made dad stay. Genette –.”
“What’d she say? ”
“Something horrible, not worth repeating. “
“I’m basking on rock bottom. I can’t go down from here. Hit me with it.”
She shook her head. “I’m not hurting you like that.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing compared to what she usually says. Do it. Tell me. You’re good with words. I know you remember all of it.” I demanded.
She sighed. “’We can work with an eating disorder. They are commonplace with Celebutantes. Our professions make it even easier to spin. We’re leaving out the emo crap. The last thing we need is people thinking she hates her life. They’d all kill to be us. That’s our platform.’” She finally admitted.
I remained unmoved. “What did you say?”
“’The problem is, she does hate her life. Instead of thinking like a producer and acting like the calloused witch you are, blow all of us away by sprouting a heart.’ She stormed off, pouting. He asked me to text him updates and left.”
“That’s when he was gone for good?”
She nodded. “The attention-seeking Barbie doll is only three years older than me, expects us to treat her like mommy dearest, and throws a tantrum each time someone else is noticed more than her. I lose my patience with her the instant she walks into a room.”
“Thanks for defending my honor.” I offered her a small smile.
“Always. Rest, okay? You have a long road of recovery ahead of you.” She returned to her food.
“Will you cuddle with me? I don’t have Christina.”
She smiled softly. “You still sleep with that thing?”
“She’s a bunny and a ballerina, my two favorite things. How could I get rid of her?”
“You are truly one of a kind, Izzie Bee. I’ll lend you my warmth.”
“I’m going to get a head start. Join me when you’re done.” I made myself comfortable in bed. I closed my eyes. I expected to toss and turn for a little while, but I was out like a light as soon as I was settled in.
I woke up in Audrey’s arms the next morning. I smiled with my eyes closed at the comfort she provided. My eyes fluttered open. I found her awake and looking down at me.
“Have you been to sleep?” My voice was raspy as I did my best to adjust to the morning light in the sterile white hospital room.
“Tried to no avail. Too much going on.” The bags beneath her eyes confirmed that was the case.
“You’re sick. It’s not your fault.” She tucked my hair behind my ear.
“Am I allowed to go to the bathroom? I’m hooked up to machines.”
“I’m supposed to page the nurse. Just a second.” She reached up and pressed a button on the wall. She got out of bed and sat down in her chair as we waited for a response.
“How are you feeling, Isabella?” The nurse asked with a kind smile upon entering.
“I have to go to the bathroom. Is it possible for me to clean up too? I feel dirty.”
“Sure. I’ll have to accompany you inside, even in the shower.”
“What? Why? I can’t – you can’t – my body –” I cried in shock as my chest constricted and it became difficult for me to breathe.
“You’ve been upgraded to suicide watch for the next 48 hours. We’re worried about your safety.” She informed me sympathetically.
I immediately looked over at Audrey.
“I had to tell them what you told me. I couldn’t risk it.” She placed one of her hands on mine.
I pulled it away. “I trusted you.”
“There’s so much you’ve yet to accomplish. I want you to have a chance to see that. ” Her voice shook.
“I need to go. Can you unhook me?” I addressed the nurse as dried my eyes with my hands.
She detached the heart rate monitor connected to my index finger. She left my IV in place and pulled the pole it was mounted to, allowing the wheels to glide it along the floor. She folded down my covers and carefully helped me put my legs over the edge of the bed. Using the IV pole and her for support, I pressed my feet to the cold linoleum floor. She helped me slowly shuffle to the bathroom. I was weak and ached all over. I couldn’t have stood up straight, even if I wanted to. I detached emotionally and allowed emptiness to consume me. It allowed me to get over being completely exposed, both mentally and physically.
Upon shutting and locking the door, she lifted my hospital gown and pulled down my underwear. My legs were quaking, begging me to sit down. She placed my IV pole in place to ensure it wouldn’t be pulled out as she sat me down on the toilet. I cleaned myself off. She flushed and helped me to my feet. Together, we washed my hands. She sat me down on the bench and removed the medical tape that was holding my IV into place. She delicately pulled the needle from my vein, a droplet of blood emerged upon its removal. She placed it in a biohazard bin. The IV tube was draped onto its pole and pushed over into the corner. She swabbed the entry site with an alcohol toilette. I ignored the subtle sting, passively eyeing the bruise that was slowly forming. She turned on the water and allowed it to warm as she stripped me out of my gown and underwear. She transported me to the plastic bench within the shower. I closed my eyes and allowed the water to pelt my skin. I remained limp as she bathed me and washed my hair. All of my fight was gone. I had nothing left to hide or protect.
She dried my body and hair with a towel. She put me in a pair of cotton underwear I didn’t recognize. She eased a clean gown over my head and bundled me up in a warm robe. I kept my eyes down as she helped me brush my teeth. When she was finally finished, she helped me back into my room. Audrey was absent, but my father was seated in her place. I didn’t waste my energy by saying anything as I was placed back into bed. He watched me stoically as I was reattached to the heart monitor and my IV was reinserted. A tray was glided over my bed. I looked up at the nurse when I noticed the bowl of colorless mush and a cup of water.
“Your father wants to take you off of your feeding tube as quickly as possible. Your stomach would have trouble breaking down recognizable foods that carry the nutrients you need. It would make you physically ill. This protein paste will be sustaining you for the time being, until you are well enough to transition you back into more substantial food.” She explained, pushing it closer.
I looked down at myself and meddled with my plastic hospital bracelet.
“Look at me, Dear.” She requested.
I followed her orders.
She removed my tube with care. She wiped my face for me afterward.
“Do I have to eat all of it?”
“I’ll ensure she does it.” My father told her.
“Thank you, Dr. Hales. A custodian will be in to clean the restroom shortly. Notify the nurse’s station if you need to leave or step out of the room. One of us will take over monitoring her.” She told him.
He offered her a smile and nodded once to relay his comprehension.
“Do not hesitate to page if you need anything. I’m a huge fan of you and your show.”
“Thank you, –“He paused a moment to read her name tag. “Mary.” He upgraded to his most dazzling smile when he returned his eyes to hers.
She waved goodbye, smiling uncontrollably, and exited the room.
“Eat your food.” He stated sternly, breaking the silence we were sitting in.
I lifted my hand to my mouth and started nibbling on my nails.
“I won’t be playing with you. I refuse to watch you grow depend on that tube. You need to relearn to feed yourself. It starts now.” His no nonsense tone made me nervous.
I lifted my cup of water to my lips and slowly sipped it through my straw to lubricate my throat.
“The food.” He pressed.
I put the cup down and picked up my spoon. I scooped the mashed potato-textured away from me, as I learned in etiquette classes. I ground my teeth together as I brought it to my mouth. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and opened my mouth. I shoved it in quickly and swallowed before I could taste it. The texture had me fighting the urge to gag, but went for the next spoonful at a rapid pace, not wanting to lose my momentum.
“Wise decision.” He leaned back in his chair and removed his Blackberry from his suit jacket’s breast pocket.
I grabbed my water the moment I was finished with the paste. I gulped it down, needing to rid myself of the residue. I wiped my mouth off with the napkin and settled back into my stack of pillows.
“I sent Audrena to our place to freshen up and eat. She should be back within the hour.” He told me as he kept his eyes and thumbs locked on his phone.
I remained silent. He put his eyes on me. “Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
I shook my head and shifted my eyes to my hands in my lap.
“When you’re released from the hospital in a few days, you’ll be flying to Southern California with Bosworth. I’ve enrolled you in a treatment program there. Your school has agreed to use your current grades as the ones you receive for the semester. They’re not good, but you’ll graduate on time.”
I said nothing in response. He didn’t bother trying to coax one from me. He gave the work he was doing on his phone his full attention. I traced the wallpaper with my eyes as the low volume television served as white noise. The custodian came in as the nurse predicted. A doctor came in soon after. She walked towards my hospital bed with a sympathetic, but kind smile.
“Hello, Isabella and Dr. Hales, my name is Dr. Langston. I am an adolescent and pediatric psychiatrist. I’m here to speak with you and gather a profile for our records. It will also be sent to your in-patient rehabilitation facility.” She shook both of our hands before sitting down on a black wheeled stool.
“Can I do this alone?”
“No. You’re a minor. I’m your father. It’s my legal right to know what is going on with you.”
She looked between the both of us. “If it’ll make her more comfortable, I feel it is best to respect her wishes and allow her to speak to me alone. I will share my report with you. I need complete honesty for an accurate diagnosis. I’m sure you understand as an MD yourself.” She allowed her eyes to settle on his.
“I would like to observe your technique from both a parental and professional standpoint.”
“I cannot allow that. It is not in the best interest of my patient.”
“Are you even legally allowed to call her that? You are a psychologist.”
“Psychiatrist. I attended medical school just as you did. It is in my authority to have you removed by security.” She retorted firmly.
She wasn’t fazed by his celebrity or attractiveness in the slightest. She saw right through him and noticed me. It made me feel like I could trust her.
He stood up and buttoned the middle button of his jacket. “I’ll be in the hall.” He spared one final glance in my direction. He eyed her with distain as he sauntered out.
“I won’t share anything with anyone other than medical staff and your parents because of our confidentiality agreement. Nothing you say will reach the outside world. So, may I ask why you requested your privacy?” She stated gently once the door clicked shut.
“He’s never home. He hardly talks to me when he is, yet he’d argue with all of my explanations because they prove we’re not perfect. I wouldn’t argue my point. I’d just stop talking. I get the feeling that’s not what you want.”
She took down a few notes.
“What do your parents do for a living?” She asked next.
Taken aback by her question, I immediately looked in her direction.
“Is this a routine question?” I replied instead of answering.
“I’m trying to go about this as I would with any other patient. I’m gathering my information solely from you rather than relying on what I’ve obtained from the tabloids. So, according to you, what do your parents do for a living?” She restated her question, adjusting the glasses that slid down her nose.
“My dad’s a plastic surgeon with his own reality show, I have no clue what my mother does, and my stepmother’s a supermodel turned fashion designer.”
“Are you followed around by the cameras too?”
“No, I’m not interesting.”
“According to whom?”
“Them, their producers, me, and the rest of the world.” I returned my eyes to my hands.
This caused her to write more.
“What’s your favorite thing to do?”
“Dance. I’ve been studying for 13 years. Ballet is my favorite. Tap is a close second, even though I haven’t taken classes for it in years.” I answered honestly.
“Do you love it?”
I smiled to myself at the thought of it. “More than anything.”
“Passion is interesting. You have it.” She looked up at me with a warm smile
I shook my head.
“How does your father feel about your dancing?”
“He calls it an artistic waste of time. He said there’s no chance I’ll do anything with it. I was accepted into the dance program at a performing arts boarding school. Virtually all of their dancers go on to do it professionally after graduation. He wouldn’t let me attend. He said the odds of becoming a ballerina are one in a million; he didn’t want me banking on being that one.”
She scribbled down extensive notes for that response.
“Is ballet the reason you started dieting?” She asked when she was done.
“No.” I answered simply.
“No?” She looked up from her pad.
“When I hit puberty, Genette started looking at me and saying things like, ‘should you really be eating that?’ and ‘when I was your age, I used to weigh this much’. I wanted a mom, someone to love me, so I listened to her.” I answered honestly, keeping my head down.
“That’s not – that’s not okay. What does your father say?”
I breathed a humorless laugh. “She’s the reason I’m still able to attend ballet classes. She told him it’s not a waste of time because it helps me maintain my figure. He offered to have his partner give me a nose job this summer. He doesn’t see anything wrong with those sorts of statements.”
She didn’t say anything in response for a little while. The furious scratching of her pencil to the paper didn’t allow for silence.
“Do you know where your mother is?” She asked when she was finally finished.
“Yes, Rumson, New Jersey, in the house I lived in until I was eight.”
“When was the last time she contacted you?”
“The day I moved out of the house to live with my dad.”
“Why did you move out?”
“She had a glass of wine permanently attached to her hand to wash down her pills. It made her volatile and I was constantly terrified. My sister refused to leave me when she went off to college. Our mom failed a drug test when child protective services showed up and lost custody of me.”
“Your father left you alone in that?”
“My older sister’s always acted like my mom. He knew she wouldn’t let anything happen to me. He hired a male nanny to live with us. My mom got really jealous of the girls he wanted to hire. It was hard for the older women to keep up with me. I was a really hyper kid. He went with a young man. I love Bosworth to this day.”
“He never got involved with your mother?”
“She’s not exactly his type. He’s big on compassion, not to mention he bats for the same team.”
“He what?” She raised an eyebrow.
“He’s gay. Regardless of how great she looked or if she wanted company after a bottle of wine and a hit, she couldn’t ruin my care-giving situation.”
“Were he and Audrena the ones that reported her to child protective services?”
“Do you have any fond memories of her?”
“The recollections of her calling me a mistake and the reason my father left her when she was drunk and high cloud any that may have occurred.”
“I am so sorry.” She conveyed with sincerity.
“It is what it is.”
“Have you ever received counseling for your abuse?”
I bolted my eyes to her. “She never laid a hand on me.”
“Emotionally, she beat you down. Do you have panic attacks, reoccurring nightmares, flashbacks, or something you find somewhat alarming?”
“Plenty of dreams and thoughts. Thunderstorms freak me out really badly. It’s embarrassing because of my age, but um, they remind me of the way my parents used to scream at each other. The night he left, they had their biggest one ever. It was storming too. The thunder was deafening, but they could be heard over it. The police were called by our neighbors. He left quietly with a suitcase.” The memory had my hands trembling lightly.
I brought one of them to my mouth and started biting my nails to give myself something to do.
She took extensive notes on me and my behavior.
“How often do you see Audrena?” She asked gently, sensing I needed a change of subject.
“Whenever she can, usually every couple of weeks. She lives and works in Jersey. She spends most of her time in the lab. She’s a newlywed on top of that. Her lack of time is understandable. I want her to have a life. I don’t resent her for it.”
“Do you like her husband?”
“Yeah, I love Ev. I’ve known him my whole life. He’s always acted like my older brother. I feel bad about ruining his party. He’s always been so good to me.” I glanced at the door.
“You had no control over what happened. Your body reached its limit.”
I closed my eyes to regroup.
“How often do you drink?”
“Only at parties. It was every weekend for a little while. Now it’s only at functions I accompany my parents to, so that’s like every couple of weeks. I don’t like drinking alone. I like getting lost in a sea of people.” I nibbled on my nails.
“Do you drink to get drunk?”
“Have you ever blacked out?”
“Once. Well, twice if you count last night.”
“I don’t. You fainted because of your low electrolyte count and potassium levels. The roofies weren’t in your system long enough to create a reaction.”
I remained silent.
“Are you sexually active?”
“How many partners?”
“Two.” Tears streamed down my cheeks.
She collected tissues from atop a cabinet and rolled closer to me. I took them into my hand and started dabbing my eyes.
“Is it safe to assume they were not positive experiences?”
“The first one was my choice. I wanted to be wanted, to be held and appreciated. Three little words and I was his for a little while.” I hiccuped.
“But the other one wasn’t?”
My hands trembled violently. I started gagging because of the bile rising in my stomach. She fetched a bedpan. I ended up expelling all of the food I was required to eat.
“I’m sorry.” I spit, keeping my head craned over the pan.
“Do not apologize for having a panic attack.” She offered me my cup of water.
I wiped my mouth with a tissue. I drank the water slowly.
“Are you up for talking about what happened?”
I clenched my eyes shut and cleared my throat. “I was at a party. I was too drunk to figure out how to get home by myself. Phil was out of town, but his best friend offered to help me. I let him.” I struggled to keep a clean tissues on my eyes because of my vibrating fingers.
“Do you remember what happened?”
“Colt –” I paused when my chest tightened.
“Take your time.”
I took a deep breath. “I can’t. I’m sorry.” The queasiness returned.
“It’s okay. Have you reported him to the police?”
I shook my head. “I don’t want anyone to know.”
“How long ago did this happen?”
“Two weeks ago.”
“How has school been?”
“No one talks to me, but they have plenty to say behind my back. They send messages to my phone and post hateful messages online. I’m scared to look at both now.”
“Does your family know?”
I shook my head. “I can’t be good enough. I tried so hard and I couldn’t – I couldn’t do it.”
“What were you trying to accomplish?” She asked as she rubbed my back to convey her support.
“To – to be good enough to love.”
“You weren’t trying to kill yourself?”
I shook my head as I kept my face in my hand.
“Even when you cut yourself?”
I shook my head.
“Sweetheart, you’re 5’6 and weigh 78 lbs. The normal weight for your height is between 115 and 154 lbs. You were so close to doing it. We’re lucky you’re still here.”
A sob escaped my chest.
“This doesn’t have to be the end. We’re going to help you. You can get better.” She reassured.
She continued to soothe me by rubbing my back. My tears had almost stopped when there was a knock on the door.
“Just a second.” She offered me a warm smile and stood up.
She made her way to the door. She cracked the door, not letting the person on the other side of it enter right away. I thought I heard Aud’s voice.
“Audrey, –?” I cried out.
The doctor opened the door and allowed her inside. She shut the door as Audrey rushed to my bedside. She sat down and hugged me.
“I brought Christina.” She breathed into my hair as she rubbed my back.
I smiled. “You’re the best.” I croaked.
“I love you.” She kissed the side of my face.
I pulled away from her and dried my eyes. I blew my nose in my tissue. She smoothed down my hair with a warm smile. The doctor watched us from her seat.
“Audrena, –?” She called to her.
She looked over at her immediately. “Audrey’s fine.” She insisted with a small smile.
“Can we speak privately for a moment?” she requested.
She removed my bunny from her purse. I took her into my arms. She placed her bag in her chair and followed the doctor. They went to the far corner of my room. They spoke at a volume too low for me to hear. I watched, holding on to my stuffed animal. Audrey held on to her every word. When she was done relaying information, Dr. Langston waved goodbye to me and exited to write her report and speak with my father.
Audrey walked over to me with her hands in the pockets of her jeans. She remained standing at the foot of my bed when she reached me. She silently studied me for a little while.
“What’d she say?”
“There are a number of issues and problems that need to be sorted out. –“
“With me?” I interrupted.
“All of us. I should’ve had you see someone when you were taken away from Mom. It wouldn’t have spiraled into this –“
“What’s ‘this’? I feel like no one is telling me anything.”
She sat down in her chair. She took a deep breath and ran a hand through her hair. “Complex post-traumatic stress disorder. She explained it as a mental injury that happens when you’re exposed to long-term emotional abuse, especially during childhood. You’ve gone through it. You still are, according to both of you.”
“What else is wrong with me?”
“Not ‘wrong’, needs to be addressed. Body Dysmorphic Disorder; you don’t see yourself the way the rest of us do. It goes hand in hand with your eating disorder, Anorexia Nervosa. You have purging-type, to be specific. She also believes you were sexually assaulted. We need to press charges –“
“Izzie, he –“
“You don’t know what he did. How would you finish that sentence?” I looked down at my bunny.
“Tell me! I am always on your side.”
“He will get away with it. No one will believe me.”
“He was at our table last night. Do you remember that?”
“I knew something was not right when you destroyed the table.” She stroked my hair.
“I thought he was going to take me home.”
I shook my head. “He was on top of me when I woke up.” I closed my eyes and squeezed her hand.
“I’m here.” She whispered as she supported me through my panic attack.
“He hit me when I tried to get away. I cried. That made it all worse.” I strained to get the words out before actively sobbing.
She held me in her arms. “Please repeat this to the police.” She requested once I had calmed down. “I’ll be right here. You can lean on me. It will be okay.”
“You can’t fix me, Aud.”
“This is not a static situation. You will not always be here.”
“I don’t have anywhere else to go. Most of Dad’s side works as often as he does, including you. The ones that don’t are weird around me. Yaya has her hands full with Papi’s Alzheimer’s. I have to stay.” My voice cracked.
“I’m not losing you like this. Do you hear me? I will figure it out. I need you to trust me. Can you do that?” She placed her hands on the sides of my face. “You’re going to be okay, Izzie Bee. I’ll make sure of it. It’s still you and me.” She vowed.
She held my hand as I gave my testimony to the police. She kept our father out of it, knowing he’d only get in the way or tamper with things by informing Colt’s parents.
I was so sick of lying. I did a final purge of all the secrets I kept locked tight, knowing I’d be skipping town in a few days time. Running away was the only thing I was undeniably good at.
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