The main first person narrative is spoken from 'Harry', although his name has not yet been given. He is a model who suffers from anorexia and throws up all his meals. He meets Louis who can be whoever you want him to be, with any background you desire. One Direction fan fic lol.
“Can I get you anything else?”
The assistant has a gleam in her eye that means she wants more, knows she’ll get more, but will save herself until the end of the night; she’ll save herself until nobody is around to see her walls drop, until the frame she guards around herself disappears into a mix of broken shards.
It makes me want to throw up. So I do.
The chair screeches against the wooden floor as I fly out of my seat, the kind that grinds your teeth and locks your jaw. I weave my way in between men and women alike stripping from their clothes; artists recreating them into live mannequins. The bathroom seems further out of reach as I make a beeline for the single cubicle, pouring myself into it and slamming the door behind me, tugging at my curls as brittle nails drag over scabbed wounds. Two fingers are down my throat. It’s instinctive; only bile spills into the stained toilet, unable to remember the last time I ate a solid meal. I keep pressing down until I’m sure it is only acid coming up, burning my throat and tearing my oesophagus, dripping from my nose, sparse droplets of blood within the mix, vision blurring as tears begin to merge with the chunks.
I’m silent. It’s the only thing I let myself be proud of. But is restricting your intake so you don’t eat for days something to be proud of? Is pride worth your muscles being so weak that your fingers shake in your throat because you’re so desperate to control?
Saliva drips from my fingertips, smearing across my chin. It spreads over my phone as I fumble for it, typing the number which has been engraved in my mind long before a disease which crippled all my senses overcame me; before diet was a craving and before the width of my thigh could be wrapped around two hands. It only rings once.
“How’s it going, Harry?”
A knot of hair rips from my scalp as I tug harshly on it, watching the once voluminous strands fall towards a faded white. I run a hand down my face, harsh lines being scratched into translucent skin. “I feel like my heart hurts, I’m not sure if it does – my face hurts, my knees hurt. I don’t want – I don’t want them to look at me and criticise me, Jack. Don’t let them.”
“Harry…” The voice is tinny through the speakers, exasperation and irritability barely audible. “You’re an amazing model. I promise. Anyone who can’t see that is blind.”
There’s no outlet for reassurance to slide into and calm me. My gaze flickers over graffiti-stained cubicle walls, words scratched from failed attempts of removing it. I try to imagine the ease I’d feel if I was able to pencil my thoughts on paper rather than my skin. I want to write meaningful quotes that I’ll never believe myself. I want to pretend that I’m thin. “But I’m not. Do not lie.”
“I’m not lying. You know I’m not.”
Barely able to swallow the bile that’s threatening to rise, I hang up the phone with a clenched jaw. Specks of colour merge through dark clouds as I push the heel of my palm against the hollows of my eyes, my vision adjusting slowly. Moments turn into minutes as I wait for my irregular heartbeat to pass, despite knowing it never will, my thumb rubbing over scabs and bite marks imprinted into my knuckles. I don’t realise I’ve left the cubicle until I’ve dared a glance at my reflection, burst blood vessels prominent against the whites of my eyes, blots of red scattered over puffy cheeks. Wiping the remains of my lunch I ate days ago from my chapped lips, I straighten the wrinkled heart-print shirt which I’ve been dressed in and curse my mother for muttering that fat boys can’t model.
There’s a boy standing backstage behind the curtain, seeming content in his own company. I hadn’t noticed him before, for the beams of false light and the grating high tone of the assistant drowned him out. There’s sudden movement around me, shouts echoing off every wall; there’s no form of escape in an industry that relies on perfection. My fingertips tap in a continuous rhythm against the dips of the scratches which litter the fading wood of the table, teeth pinching my raw lip. I want to say hello – I want to show him my scarred stomach and for him to tell me I’m worthless, I’m scum, I’m dirt, that I’m nothing more than the grime on the back of his polished shoes – but I want to snatch the scissors from the woman across the room cutting fabric and slit my throat more.
A passing woman offers me a drink, my trembling fingers causing the liquid to spill over the brim and coat my hand. It drips into the lines etched into my rough palms, the heel of my boots tapping heavily against the tiles as I make my way over to the stranger. He doesn’t seem like he belongs here, in a world of battle and flashes, my curiosity attracting me towards him like we’re opposing forces. There is no confidence or security surrounding me, only vulnerability and anxiety clawing up my prominent ribcage.
“I’m really sorry to bother you, but have you been standing here the whole day?”
The boy – no, he’s a man – peers up from beneath his feather-like fringe, sharp cheekbones emphasising his pursed lips. He takes a sip of his wine with a brow raised, eyes roaming down my frail body without shame. Shaking his head once, short, he allows his gaze to rest elsewhere with a soft chuckle.
“Are you sure?” My persistence is sickening, the want, the need to tear my flesh apart and leave me lifeless spiralling across every inch of my skin. When did I realise that I was so unbearably disgusting to look at, that the fat which consumes my narrow body is so repulsive that one can’t even bring themselves to pretend otherwise? “You’re only allowed to be backstage if you work here or are wearing blue.”
Once more, the man brings his focus back to me. He is smaller than me in both height and body, my knees knobbly and slight against his thick thighs. The wine is half full, bright eyes narrowed as his long fingers gesture towards his attire: a plain, white shirt with black, skinny jeans.
“Oh, I’m... I’m sorry. But we don’t allow fans backstage either.” I wince at my lack of authority, my tone timid and gentle. The man is blinking heavily and my shoulders are hunching over, eye twitching as his eyes roll and I try to protect myself in a faux bubble.
It doesn’t work, though.
“I’m not a fan, sorry to burst your ego.” If only I had an ego that was elevated enough to burst, which was so large no puncture could deflate it. A passing assistant takes his glass as he brings it from his lips, tongue roaming over his perfectly aligned teeth. I know that no remorse flows through his veins, voice laced with sarcasm as he crosses his arms over his chest.
I ping at the elastic band on my wrist relentlessly. The sting isn’t enough to forget a knife could do it better. “I’m really sorry, um.”
A sudden snort manages to be heard above the constant buzz of chatter that flies around the room, the man’s head shaking in disbelief at my ignorance. “Are you always this coherent?”
My fingers are locked behind my back, fiddling with the worn buttons on my shirt despite having only been dressed in them earlier. My chest is tightening and there is a shriek of laughter behind me; laughter directed towards me, towards my unintelligence that continues to trap me inside this repulsive excuse of a body. “I don’t understand.” And there is the eye roll – the eye roll that stirs my stomach uncomfortably and tells me that the scissors the assistant is placing on the table beside me is perfect for cutting an extra kilo of fat off with. “Are you always this mean to the models?”
“Well,” The man shrugs, like he isn’t sending shockwaves of anxiety through me. “A lot of models aren’t that nice.”
A droplet of blood falls from my palm as my nail scratches the skin, my eyes widening almost comically if it weren’t for yet another scar blemishing what was once smooth skin. “That wasn’t a very nice thing to say.”
The pout on the man’s lips becomes more prominent as the words flow from my mouth. A hip is jutting out as his gaze falls down my throat, reaching the raised disfigurement from where I was told to slash over and over. “I didn’t mean you.”
“I don’t believe you.” I purposely avoid the man’s eyes seeking mine, feeling inferior and pressing my limbs together in an effort to appear smaller.
“You don’t look like a model.”
A bitter laugh escapes my lips. “Oh, I know.”
My finger traces over the print of my shirt as I tug at the hem, brows furrowing, my cheeks beginning to darken. The blush falls down to my protruding collarbones, humiliation consuming me and scraping against my skin teasingly. They had told me the shirt made me look bigger than I really was. My thumb is bleeding from where I’ve ripped the skin off. A loose string is draped across jeans which hang off wasted bones, and I tug at it harshly like I would if I could scar places I wished to in public.
The harsh cough of one who was craving recognition gains my attention, my gaze focusing on the man peering expectantly at me. The same judgemental look projects on to me, my lips parting with doe-like eyes. I tear off the edge of a nail behind my back. There’s a long pause as the man watches me intently, a deep wound carved into the table beside us disappearing off the edge. Blood has dried and pooled along my life line.
My eyes meet with equally as hollow ones. “My name is Louis. I know you wanted to ask.”