Leaving Cert English Short Story: The Pain of Saying Goodbye

"The pain of saying goodbye and moving on". Write a short story based on the above phrase. 

I awake with a deep pain beneath my left breast. Hunger gnaws at my empty stomach. I open up my laptop with the energy I have preserved from the night's rest. ‘PRINCESSMIA104: ‘Hey Anna, you looked so beautiful, so thin and outstretched in that black skin-tight dress. Keep going, keep striving for perfection. You’re getting closer. I can see it. Best wishes. X’ 

I amble across my wooden apartment floorboards on my eternally blistered bare feet. I reach for the retro refrigerator door. A shiny reflection. I catch a glimpse of my sunken elfin eyes. I quickly open the refrigerator door. I mustn’t see. I can’t bear to look at myself. A gush of cold air comes. I make some freshly squeezed orange juice. Healthy start right? My doctors have always said that breakfast sets you up for the day. Maybe today I will actually listen to their idiotic lies and just drink the bloody sugary liquid calorie juice. The clinic nurse's voice dizzies my head. I reach for a ‘sugary fix.’ A jam filled, sugar glazed pop tart. Then another, then two more. I pop them down in my shiny toaster. I butter one slice of bread while I wait, it turns to two, no, three slices. I run to the fridge, cold air rush. Sugar rush. I feel worthless as I am stuffing my face with the fridges supply of caramel toffees, I hear knocking on the door. It is Millie. She often gives me free rides to and from school. I walk to my apartment door, and then I run as I realise I must cover my body more. I feel too exposed. Too vulnerable. I feel too fat. I come out of my room to find Millie cleaning up my empty Vodka and coke bottles. She’s a good friend to me. She keeps me sane. Or so she thinks.   

We both make our way down to Millie’s Volkswagen. She’s saying something to me, but all I can feel is the disgust of caramel in my mouth. I crunch down on the crispiness. I crunch down like lightbulbs in my mouth. Crunch, chew, smile. The cracking of the caramel makes me utterly uncomfortable. I interrupt Millie shouting ‘just a sec’ and I run so fast up the spiral stairs to my apartment it is hard to breathe. I barge through my unlocked door, and run to the bathroom to deposit the underserving food I have consumed. 

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You see I am ‘that’ girl. I am the space between my thighs, with daylight dancing through. I am the bones they want, wired out on a porcelain frame. When I get close, people step back. The cameras in their eyeholes recording me, judging me. They want to pull me inside of their sixteen year old frame. But they’re afraid. I am contagious and toxic. 

I tiptoe down the stairs of my apartment, hand on the wall to keep me vertical. I am weak. I am dizzy. I am strong. I am lying. Millie is waiting in her Volkswagen for me. She turns down the radio and looks me over properly, her eyes sad and friendly. She knows I know. ‘I'm sorry’ I whisper and she starts the engine. 

New semester, new me, new empty me. I am now shiny inside, clean. Empty is good, real good. We arrive at the school and I throw my rucksack over my left shoulder, immediately digging in. First class is a free period. I make my way to the canteen. Some second year is having a bake sale. The cakes smile up at me, like 21 daffodils in the summer sun. They are teasing me, laughing at me. I am upset. I run to the nearest bathroom, up two flights of stairs, across our school bridge. The morning sunlight beaming through the frosted glass windows. I shove my index finger down my throat. Nothing. I should have chewed more caramels. I sit on the bathroom floor, pelvis on the cold tile floor. I hear shuddering in the bathroom, some girls doing their makeup. I must remain quiet. I close my eyes. I feel a warm liquid drip on the knuckle of my hand which my head is prompted up on. And then I feel another on my tight covered thigh. Blood? I thought I was stronger. I have tried so hard to get rid of my disgusting, horrible, vile period and now it decides to come back? I knew I had gained weight. Those bloody caramels. Wait, drips on the bathroom floor? It’s coming in waves now, in waves of motion from my raw throat. My oesophagus burns. So. Much. Blood. 

An Asian doctor is holding my hand as her rushes beside me as two trainee nurses wheel my bed on wheels picking up momentum. What’s the rush? ‘Her vitals are dropping’. ‘Her heart rate is dropping below 50’. ’30 beats per minute’. Screaming, panic, fear, loss. I am lost. 

The defibrillator delivers my blood back to my heart and allows pure oxygen to sink into my broken oesophagus. Ambulances scream past the window outside like a cry of terror. I am terrified. A blonde nurse walks in. She is a crafty witch in nurse's clothing. She wants to make me fat again. I let her take my temperature and blood pressure. She wraps the cuff around my arm bone. ‘Are you still being weighed regularly Anna?’ she asks in a disapproving tone. ‘Once a week, I'm fine. I don’t need to step on your scales.’ ‘You really don’t look fine’ she says as she pours a polystyrene cup of sugary apple juice. I take the cup from her. My brain wants it, my blood wants it, and my throat wants it. My hand does not want this. The nurse wants this. I force it down. 

I press my head into the hospital cot, the paper pillowcase crackling in my ears like radio static. I drift into the unhygienic armpits of strangers, tasting their manic salt. I sleep to forget everything. The first they admitted me I was black and blue and purple and red because I hadn’t eaten in 8 and a half days and this body weighted 93.00 pounds. My room-‘mate’ was a long, withered cigarette who cried in bed and let the snot run down the sides of her face. Every staff member was whale-sized and eternally sweaty. I bit off the days, wedges between my teeth. Fizzy water gushing down and drowning my determination. Chew. Swallow. Gulp. Smile. I was a ‘good girl’ because I didn’t poke holes in my skin and I ate and ate. They stuffed me like a pink little piggy ready for market. The only way out was to shove in food until I waddled out of there. 

I awake suddenly. I can’t live with hurricane of my mother’s disappointment again. I mustn’t waddle of out here again. I must be stronger. I tear the short, small plastic tube out of my vein which was giving my blood every piece of satisfaction. The intravenous fluid would never correct my electrolytes imbalance. I will not let it deliver medications. I will not. The machine starts beeping. I start running, running down to that flickering light at the end of the intensive care unit. I don’t need intensive care. I don’t even need care. I just want to be the thinnest. The best. I run and run and run. I run so fast that my little butterfly between my rib cages beats so fast that it is hard to breathe. I drop. I fall, my brain stirs and yawns. Eating is hard. Breathing is harder. Living is the hardest. 

Millie, you are probably in school right now with your adorable cakes. I really did want to learn what it's like to be normal, to make something beautiful, not just to wish that I was beautiful. The pain of saying goodbye and moving on is awful. I don't want to leave you behind. I don't want to admit defeat. You know as well as I do though that the pain of staying is even greater for me.

But I get to forget all of that now. And you are now left Millie. Alone in your beautiful health and normality. I get to finally be free from this torment.

Based on an essay by Ellecia Vaughan

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