Beauty is in the Eye
Marie fidgeted in her seat. It was so hard to concentrate. She felt sick. She cursed Alyssa. Eat, she encouraged. Don’t run. Don’t bite your nails... And NEVER NEVER go out without a second opinion. She felt soft, fat, and over scrutinized. Sure, she had a tendency to get too thin. But as long as she was running, she could get out her nervous energy. She felt good when she ran. It made her want to eat.
Sure the man thighs, the rock hard calf muscles were disgusting. But they made her fly. Now, this push to just be pretty, to be soft... it made her sick. Every bite of food, every single morsel made her want to vomit. Fix your hair, do your face, check your appearance head to toe. Not only that. Be smart. Grades matter, so do clubs. Smile, look the part.
She tapped her foot compulsively, the clack, clack, clack of the hard heel soothing. One of the girls in the front turned and glared at her. Marie barely resisted the urge to flip her off. Bringing her hand to her mouth, she caught herself before biting her nails.
“God damn it,” she cursed under her breath. She wasn’t sure what to do with herself anymore. After this was a meeting in the food court. Alyssa would be there to get her to eat enough, and direct whatever club social activities it was they were handling. As long as she kept the club’s treasury in order and followed Alyssa’s lead, she didn’t have to pay attention to much. Alyssa would pat her hand, “I know it’s still over whelming. You’re smart, I mean, with your brains, you’ll catch on soon enough. For now, we’ll use that calculator in your head.”
The class finally ended. She’d manged to not chew her nails down to nubs or distract the class with her heel tapping. It had been a successful hour of torture. She made her way down to the food court. Alyssa looked up at her, smiling cheerily.
“Looking hot, babe!” She exclaimed. Marie gave her a weak smile and settled down next to her. “Go get some lunch!” Alyssa encouraged. Marie nodded, making her way to one of the concession stands, choosing carefully, knowing that what ever she brought back would need to pass muster. She made her reluctant way back to the table. Alyssa grinned up at her. “Wow! looks yummy!”
Marie picked at the plate, listening half-heartedly to the chattering of the girls around her. There was going to be some big party on Friday. Alyssa patted her on the shoulder, and leaned into her ear.
“This is perfect, you’ll get to unleash those legs in fishnets and this sexy little gothy outfit I’ve got picked out for you. You’re going to be a sexier version of Morticia... or something. They found this amazing old house to host this whole haunted themed party.”
Marie ate until she felt sick and excused herself. It was the only way to get Alyssa off her case. She decided to skip class and head down for the gym. Just as she reached the doors to the girl’s locker room a sense of deja-vu shot through her. She caught sight of Mitchell as he pushed through the doors down the hall. He broke from the small group of young men as they made their way to the men’s locker room. He was lean and fair as ever, cheeks flushed from the exertions of running for god knows how far, hair damp, shirt plastered to him despite the cool weather.
“Marie... Haven’t seen you down here for ages.”
She smiled self-consciously. “Apparently my running obsession was deemed unhealthy by my friends and family.”
He smiled. He, of all people knew how she’d struggled to keep a balance. There was lean and healthy — and then there was anorexic. She’d always teetered at the edge. “Well, you look great.” He told her, glancing back down the hall where the other boys had disappeared. “I... gotta go shower before my next class.”
She nodded, watching as he disappeared down the hall before slipping through the double doors. Once she stood on the other side of the girl’s locker room, she half expected to be pelted with tiles, to hear the screeching of animals, dancing shadows — but there was nothing. In fact, the hall was considerably shorter and less intimidating than in her dream.
She ran to her old locker. Working the lock, she was happy to find her beloved running shoes there, gym clothes, a towel and other toiletries. All were fresh and laundered. Alyssa may have made rules, but she couldn’t watch her all the time. She’d stashed these for just when she needed them.
She ran. She ran as fast and hard as she could. After months of only the occasional jog, though, it was nothing. She pushed harder, wanting to achieve some semblance of the speed, the peace she’d once achieved. She ran until her stomach protested and she had to stop and empty it of the heavy lunch she’d eaten under Alyssa’s watchful eye.
Spent, she returned to the locker room, barely able to stumble into that ominous hall. Before she could even reach the showers, everything began to spin. She crumpled to the floor, and the screeches of birds, and the flickers of their shadows spun around her. The darkness seemed to grow, and soon she was completely enveloped in it.
Familiar warmth pulsed around her and climbed to her feet. It was still dark, but she could make out the outline of stone bricks and stairs. She put her hand out, and instead of rough, calloused feeling flesh, it was soft. A mushy, bloated kind of soft, and she winced, barely resisting the urge to pull away. She traced her finger tips over the stone as lightly as possible, guiding her into the dark depths she was always drawn into.
The light came about, shocking and sudden, before she’d even been aware of the fact that she’d been immersed in the dark. She stumbled in the thick briars and brambles before her sight had cleared. Birds cawed overhead. She glanced up, catching a few hanging in the air above her, circling. As another bramble caught her leg, and she looked about. The garden, once lush and green was overgrown, choked with weeds. The dilapidated house, once sparse, yet clean was now covered with dirt and falling apart. There, though, was the old woman. She sat, huddled in the corner on the porch swing. It creaked and groaned in the wind, and Marie found herself running across the little over grown path.
“What happened?” she exclaimed as she approached. Though the dreams had been haunting, and ended uncomfortably... they were not nightmares. Not until now. Fear caused her heart to pound in her chest, fear for this frail, blind old woman who’d been with her since childhood. The figure shifted, and something didn’t register as right with Marie. She stared, trying to figure out what it was. Then the face lifted. The thick, long gray hair parting to reveal a much younger face than Marie had remembered. Those once scarred, sealed shut eyes — they were no longer scarred, and opened to reveal glossy black pools. Tears of blood poured from them, and the woman reached up with the back of her hand, smearing the blood across her lips.
“What about me, Marie?” The words were staticy, and seemed to be come both from the woman, and not.
She awoke with a start on the cold, tiled floor, and glanced around. There was no telling how much time had passed. It must not have been long and she was thankful no one had managed to find her there, sprawled on the floor. She scrambled to her feet and rushed to her locker. She showered and dressed hastily to hide all evidence of her run. The words and vision of the old woman still echoing in her head.
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bit·ter·sweet: being at once bitter and sweet; especially: pleasant but including or marked by elements of suffering or regret. A collection of short stories I've written since joining Wattpad for various contests, challenges and publications. The...