chapter four

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[tw: f-slur, bulimia]

I half-expect Bob, Gabe, and Kenny to be waiting for me outside, cracking their knuckles and smiling sadistically. They are not. Unfortunately, this doesn't stop the swarm of paranoia ripping throughout my body. Yeah, nothing was going wrong - yet.

We reached the west entrance; the doors were closed now that lunch was well under way. Pete turns to me and I think - no, I hope - that he will invite me to sit with him. I knew that it would've provided my short, fat and mute self some type of immunity from the hateful eyes of Harper's resident bullies.

But no. Suddenly his face is expressionless and still as a stone. And then he speaks, quickly and quietly, his voice as flat as his stare.

"Now you gotta 'fend for yourself." He turns away so fast I can't see his face after he talks, and then he pushes the doors open in haste before vanishing into the cafeteria. I stand there, astonished.

Confusion, hurt, and anxiety ripple throughout my body. He just...He just abandoned me! But he seemed so kind, so caring. It seemed so genuine. My mind recalls Bob's jibe bitterly. "Don't wanna get all soft-hearted around fag freaks."

Fend for yourself. God, how could he say that, after what he just witnessed in the bathroom?

Drowning in this turmoil of emotions, I don't realize I've gotten in the way of a group of students trying to get to the cafeteria. Someone shoves me to the side, annoyed, and I nearly fall over. A girl glowers at me before stepping past the lunchroom's threshold, her entourage following. None of them cast me a single glance.

Nausea churns in my stomach and I suddenly feel sick, despite not having eaten that day. I am briefly overcome with the urge to vomit, though I know it will only come out as frothy spit and hurt more than it would benefit. Overwhelmed, I duck back into the bathroom I declared doomed moments before and locked myself in the last stall, heaving.

I can't even bring myself to eat the granola bar I'd stuffed in my backpack earlier. The spiral of my mind has distracted me from doing anything else other than mope.

Why would anyone want to be nice to me, anyways? I was a worthless mute kid. You could try to be friends with me, but it would be a waste of time; my soundless communication would infuriate you to no end. Hell, I hadn't even bothered to learn sign language, because again: who in their right mind would ever want to speak to me, if not to ridicule?

A ball of ice hardens in my stomach, making the rest of me run cold. But as quickly as it came, it melted. My pathetic excuse for a body couldn't even withstand a mental battle against itself.

That was primarily why I was fat. Well, that and Mom's death; when it happened, I found comfort in food. I couldn't stop eating, and eventually this sudden obesity earned me a trip to the doctor's office. I learned that my metabolism was slow, and for me that meant it would be impossible to slim down. So I purged my meals. And yet, somehow, I only got fatter.

I hated it. I hated my stupid body, its stupidly slow metabolism. I hated myself, my short, mute, fat self, I hated every inch and curve and flab of skin that poked out. I hated that I was stuck in a high school where the popular kids were assholes and the bullies were no better. If there was ever a time I didn't hate myself, it was with Mom - and now she was gone, her death caused by my foolish actions.

I should've been the one that died, not her.

***

The rest of the day passed by in a blur. Pete, unfortunately, happened to be in a few of my classes. I did my best to avoid him, sitting on the far side of the room where I couldn't see him. Luckily, I had no classes with The Three Brutes, but this stroke of luck didn't matter considering I'd decided this school was truly akin to Hell itself.

My feet were the only ones dominating the sidewalk as I trudged home. Part of me hoped that my attendance at Harper would be amongst the shorter move-ins of my life. I'd been to some pretty bad schools, but this one was definitely the worst.

I reached my house and unlocked the front door, stepping tentatively past the threshold. It was empty inside; Dad was out, searching for a job. I didn't want to have the place to myself. As much as I cherished not being among other people at school, I did not want to be all alone for the next few hours. Anxious thoughts swarmed me, enveloping my mind into a pool of panic. I'd be left drowning, drowning until Dad came home to pull me out with a weak grasp.

After locking the door and triple-checking that it was, in fact, locked, I headed into my room. I half-heartedly threw my backpack onto the ground and slumped onto the bed, where I proceeded to cry.

Ugly sobs racked my body as I lay face down in my pillow, soaking it with salty tears, ignoring the fact that my glasses were still on, poking into my skin. I didn't want to go back to school tomorrow. I didn't want to leave this bed. I didn't want to fucking exist.

Sniffling, I cast a blurry glance over to a picture frame on the bedside table. It was a photo of me and my mother; the last photo we had together before she died.

I heave myself up, feeling the weight of my fat trying to pull be back down. God, I'm disgusting. I reach for the frame, holding it shakily as I scanned the picture.

We looked so bright, so cheerful. Perhaps the happiest I'd ever looked in my life. It had been taken during our picnic in my mom's favorite park. A smudge of ketchup can be seen on the side of my face, and Mom's mouth is open in laughter. The corners of her eyes are crinkled. Slowly, I feel myself calming down, my crying reduced to a few sniffles. Looking at this picture everyday soothes me. And even though it's started to fade with age, its edges crinkling and fold lines turning white, it's the best photograph I've ever seen.

My stomach rumbles, hungry. I wince and set the frame down, extricating my tear-soaked self from the bed. My refusal to eat anything grows stronger each day - but not strong enough to overcome the inevitable pangs of hunger. I suppose there's gotta be something in my gut, if not confidence.

I decide to leave the Nature Valley bar in my backpack for tomorrow and head out into the kitchen. On my way through the living room, I catch a glimpse out the window of two students heading down the sidewalk. Instinctively I duck; they take zero notice. As they vanish from sight, I slowly get back up.

I'm pathetic.

I get to the kitchen and grab an apple from the fridge, leaning against the countertop island. I stare at the fruit in my hand, reluctance setting in. I inhale sharply and then take a swift, sudden bite, struggling to swallow down the crisp chunk. Before my body can think of retching it back up, I take a few more bites, forcing them into my stomach.

For a few seconds it's fine. And then I feel the nausea setting in. It's hard to eat, to satisfy that painful, unavoidable hunger, when you're so used to rejecting it. My stomach churns dangerously.

No no no no no is all I can think as I rush over to the trash can and hunch over it, throwing up my snack. The way my stomach contracts when there's nothing in it hurts, but I've learned to ignore the pain. Defeated, I threw the rest of the apple into the trash and wiped my mouth, trailing back to my bedroom.

I sure as hell won't be eating again anytime soon.

THE CHANGES

tbh other than, of course, the overall writing, there aren't much changes from the original chapter.

also lowkey ,,, getting back into this wattpad writing business makes me wanna write an alex turner fanfic but idk lmao

onward to the nexttt!

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