AN: This story touches me, because I know there's girls out there that suffer like Max does and some of them don't have or want the help they desperately need. If you don't know, Mia is a term for Bulimia, and I had no idea how to title this story; but I think it has a nice ring to it. I tried to make myself throw up a few years ago and the chocolate experience it's all mine. I've left that behind but I wanted to share that in this story. Bulimia is horrible! Also, Julia's name comes from Julia Michaels because I've been listening to Issues nonstop lol. Max is a bit OOC in here, but it's because of the theme.
Lots of love to my readers, you guys are BEAUTIFUL! Don't forget to review ;)
It starts when Julia calls her fatty.
Max was 13.
Her cousin never liked her and always teased her for whatever her eyes landed on first.
Sometimes it was her 'ugly carrot hair', sometimes it was her 'white paper skin', and sometimes it was her 'ugly man clothes'.
This time, Julia made fun of her weight.
"You fatty. Do you want another burger Maxine? Maxine the manly carrot." Julia had snickered evilly as she read a magazine with Johnny Depp's face on the cover.
Tears pooled in her blue eyes and she ran to the bathroom to lock herself inside, ignoring Julia's taunts.
She lifted her shirt and stared at her lightly round stomach, hating the way her lower belly formed a pouch.
Her lip quibbled as a tear fell down her face, and she stared at her reflection on the mirror, hating the girl staring back at her.
She started to hide behind large t-shirts and baggy jackets; she sucked her stomach in every time someone approached her and she would look at the other girls in school and sigh with jealousy when they wore tank tops and fitted skirts. They thought she was weird, wearing large clothes and jackets in the Californian hot weather.
One day in health class, she learned about bulimia. "Bulimia nervosa, also known as simply bulimia, is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating followed by purging."
She watched curiously as the teacher showed pictures of too skinny girls, and even though she knew it was bad and she didn't want to look like them, when she got home and looked at the money her mom left for lunch, she pocketed it and decided she wasn't hungry.
And so, when her mother arrived and asked if she wanted dinner, she lied and said she was still full from her nonexistent lunch. "Perfect, I wasn't in the mood to cook anyway." Susan said carelessly.
And so the next day, she didn't eat lunch either, and went to bed early to avoid dinner.
The day after that, her stomach pleaded her to give it something other than water and juice; but Max ignored it and went to school without eating anything again.
Her head hurt and she felt lightheaded, but she skated home under the warm sunlight, and when she arrived, she still told herself she wasn't hungry.
She wasn't hungry until her eyes landed on a Snickers bar inside the fridge, and suddenly she was eating the chocolate bar in large bites, munching the soft snack with eagerness.
When the wrapper was empty, she threw it in the trash can and went to her bedroom. She sat on her bed for exactly 40 seconds, before running to the bathroom and sticking her fingers down her throat.
She gagged and tears ran freely down her face as the bitter taste of chocolate flew down her fingers and coated them in brown saliva. She retched into the toilet until bile and stomach water were the only things that came out. She cried as she flushed the toilet, and stared at her crying face in the mirror.
She washed her hands, rinsed her mouth and left the bathroom with shaky legs as if nothing happened.
Once, when she had a Dad-weekend, her dad caught her.
He had made hot dogs for lunch, and her stomach had grumbled with hunger after not eating for three days straight. She nearly inhaled the hot dog with hunger as her dad laughed besides her. "Slow down or you'll get fat."
That stopped her from reaching for her last bite. She smiled, took a drink from her water cup and told him she was done.
She walked briskly to the bathroom and closed the door behind her. She stayed there for a few seconds before kneeling in front of the toilet and putting two fingers on her tongue. She rolled them in circles, teasing the uvula, and it didn't take long before mustard, ketchup and bits of meat covered her fingers. She gagged at the feeling and was on her way to push her fingers further up her throat when the door opened.
"Maxie do you wan-."
Her dad's eyes widened in horror and she quickly removed her fingers from her mouth as she spat the remains of vomit from her tongue.
"Max, what are you doing?!" He asked worriedly as he watched her flush the toilet and stand there with a guilty look on her face.
Suddenly, she was crying on his arms, smearing vomit on the back of his shirt from where her fingers squeezed it.
"You're beautiful just the way you are, baby. You're beautiful, Maxie. You're beautiful." He had told her as he held her, and she believed everything her dad said.
But then, her mother remarried and they were moving, and she wouldn't see her dad again.
Her mother wasn't home enough to notice her daughter had been losing weight progressively. Her stepdad only smiled and gave her permission to get out of the house every time she wanted, because that's what Dads do, according to him.
But Billy noticed.
He made fun of her, and used his knowledge to blackmail her when he needed it.
She knew it wouldn't change anything, because her mother didn't listen to half the things Billy said, and his dad did even less, but the thought of him blabbering her secret away scared her.
More than once he caught her eating a slice of pizza, or a few bites on a sandwich, and he would stare at her until she was self-conscious.
"Aren't you going to go throw that up?" He would tease her.
But it wasn't funny to her, because that was exactly what she did afterwards.
Billy would sit on the couch watching TV and ignoring the gagging sounds that came from the bathroom as she locked herself in.
She would turn on the faucet or the shower to drown her tears, until he pounded on the door and yelled at her for wasting water.
But he never said a word to anyone.
Her friends didn't notice she didn't eat anything in front of them at first, but once when they went to the movies and everyone was passing the popcorn bucket around, Will's eyes lingered on her as she passed it to Lucas without grabbing a handful.
After that, she had to take a few bites of whatever everyone was having to make Will's eyes disappear from her. But she knew she was walking on eggshells, because out of all of them, Will was the observer.
Eleven was the second to catch her.
They were hanging out at Dustin's house, and his mom had made the most delicious spaghetti Max had ever tasted, and it was a shame, because it would have to go down the toilet like everything she ate had been going for the last three years.
She had gotten better at it, too.
Her gag reflex had been used so much, now it only took a finger pressing hard on the back of her tongue to make the food flow into the toilet.
As the tomato sauce made its way down her throat, El walked to the bathroom to wash her hands. Max was taking too long to pee, and the boys were all crowded on the sink; besides, it wouldn't matter if Max was still peeing, because they were girls and it wasn't a big deal if they saw each other's private bits.
But washing her hands was the last thing in El's mind as she walked inside the bathroom and froze in shock at the sight in front of her.
Max froze in fear as Eleven walked in, taking her fingers out of her mouth and gripping the toilet bowl tightly as she watched her friend.
"Close the door!" She told her hurriedly.
Eleven stepped into the bathroom with cautious eyes and closed the door behind her. Max flushed the toilet and went to wash her hands on the sink as she avoided El's eyes.
"What were you doing?"
Max lowered her neck to put a handful of water inside her mouth and rinse the bitter taste of vomit from it.
Her eyes met the brunette's on the mirror and her mind told her to lie, lie, lie. "The food was a little heavy and I wasn't feeling good. When I was peeing, nausea hit me and I had to throw up."
El's eyes remained the same as Max dried her hands on the towel next to her, and made herself busy inspecting her nails. They were a yellowish color because of all the vomit that had coated them for years now.
"I don't believe you; so, I'm going to ask again. What were you doing, Max?"
She had to give the girl more credit; she was damn smart.
But she knew she wouldn't understand.
El had a beautiful body; she was what one would call willowy, with a pronounced waist and softly curved hips, almost no fat on her stomach and a handful of boobs to go with her nice figure.
Max was on the skinnier side, ribs showing a little more than what was normal, and underdeveloped breasts due to her malnourishment. Her hips were still round and her thighs were firmer because of the skateboarding, but she still felt ugly compared to her friend.
She knew El wouldn't understand.
"Really, I'm fine. The spaghetti was delicious, so maybe it was the ham sandwich I had before I came here."
She hadn't eaten anything since Tuesday.
She opened the door with one last look at El's unbelievable eyes, and left the bathroom before the girl could tell her anything.
Lucas was the third who caught her.
They had been dating for 7 months now, and they had only gotten to second base because she was afraid she was too ugly for him.
She let him wander his hands above her clothes and she liked that, but anything below her shirt was strictly forbidden.
Lucas didn't say anything, believing Max wasn't ready to go further yet, and he respected his girlfriend enough to not force her to do anything she didn't want.
But one day, after they shared a plate of cheesy fries on Benny's old diner, she left to use the bathroom. El's heavy concerned eyes followed her from Mike's arms, but he didn't notice. His bladder made itself present, and he went to the bathrooms area. He thought he heard her gag, but he didn't pay much attention as he entered the Men's single bathroom. When he got out, the door was still closed and a quick look at his friends' table told him she was still in there.
He pressed his ear to the Ladies' door, about to call out to her and see if she was fine, when he heard her.
She was making choking sounds as she gagged, spitting in the toilet, and then gagging again. Lucas frowned and wondered if the food had made her sick, when he heard her mutter to herself.
"You idiot. You fat idiot, you know you can't eat that much."
His eyes widened and his heart stopped as he listened, wondering if he was right that one time an eating disorder came to mind when he saw her ribs by accident.
"Max?" He pounded on the door.
He listened as she stopped and for a few seconds neither said anything.
"I'll be out in a second."
He heard the toilet flush and before he could lose his bravery, he opened the door and entered the tiny bathroom.
He saw her eyes widen and she hurriedly wiped her mouth with a trembling hand. He saw her fingers glisten and a sudden pang in his chest confirmed what he feared.
"What are you doing here?" She asked as she hid her hand behind her back.
"What were you doing in here, Max?"
"Umm… this is a bathroom. What do you think I was doing?" She tried laughing it off as she tried sidestepping him to wash her hands on the sink outside.
His hand on her side stopped her and his eyes met hers with intensity as his other hand trailed to her wrist and lifted it into the air.
His Adam's apple bobbed as he inspected her wet fingers.
"What's wrong with you, Lucas?" She questioned defensively as she snatched her wrist from his grasp and moved out of his reach.
"What's wrong with me?" Anger flashed through him. "What's wrong with you?!"
Fear raced through her as anxiety fluttered in her chest.
"I don't know what you're talking about." The blank walls were suddenly very interesting.
"You don't know what I'm talking about? I'm talking about you sticking your fingers down your throat to throw up!"
Anger and fear made her glare at him, but she didn't know what to say to make it look like he was misreading the situation. So, she stayed quiet; which made her look even guiltier.
"Are you bulimic?" Lucas eyes flashed.
Her breath got caught in her throat as he called her the one thing she had been denying to herself for almost 4 years. It was always her little secret to keep herself from getting fat. It was nothing. It was never serious.
"Answer me, Maxine. Are you bulimic?"
"I-." She didn't know what to respond.
Lucas' face crumbled and he ran his hands over it as he muttered to himself in anguish. "Oh my God, Max."
She bit her lip as she began to feel really afraid; this was serious, she realized. He knew.
"I always thought you were a bit skinny but I thought that was your dad's side! You look tired all the time, and your eyes are always baggy, but we always thought it was because of your situation at home!"
Max began to cry as Lucas rambled, furious at her, but at himself too for not noticing.
She sobbed uglily and hid her face in her hands as Lucas continued to question her.
"I don't know how to stop." She admitted.
"Baby," He took her in his arms and she thought she saw moisture in his eyes but the minute her face hit his shoulder she cried harder. "I could've helped. I could've helped you, Max." His voice shook and she decided he was definitely crying.
They left the diner without much explanation, El's pitiful eyes meeting hers and watering as she watched them go, and Lucas took her to his house instead of her own because she didn't want to be alone.
She stripped down for him for the first time that night, but there was nothing sexual in it. He cried when he realized how skinny she really was; how he could count her ribs and watch her bones jut out as she breathed.
They fell asleep together with the promise that in the morning they would drive to her house and she would confess everything to her mother.
When they did, her mother cried and promised to help her, but the minute she turned around and lit a cigarette, Max knew it was pure bullshit.
"I'll help you. We don't need her, I'll help you." Lucas promised as he kissed the back of her bony hand once they're back in his car.
He somehow contacted her dad, and with his help, she goes back to California to receive treatment.
The night before she leaves, she has her first time with Lucas. She decided she wanted him to have her virginity. She knew things would change dramatically from there on, but she wanted to feel like a normal teenager for once in her life. And it had been the sublime; he whispered loving things in her ear the whole time, and if she cried when he told her she was beautiful, he didn't call her out on it.
Rehab was hard. She had more relapses than she could count; numerous times when she willed herself not to give in while in front of the toilet, another girl would enter and press a tooth brush into her hand. "It's easier."
The doctors were nice enough, and she saw her dad on the weekends, but she missed her friends. El called; sometimes on her own, and sometimes the boys would join her, but she always cried. "I'm sorry I never said anything."
Max would love to place some blame on her, but she knew that wasn't fair. It wasn't her secret to tell.
Lucas called her every day, and he told her he was saving to go see her on Christmas break. He missed her as much as she missed him, and sometimes they would cry together on the phone.
Her mother called once or twice a month, always saying how much she missed her, but saying goodbye after a few minutes because Neil is hungry, Neil wants a drink, Neil is tired, Neil this, Neil that, Neil, Neil, Neil.
Honestly, Max didn't miss her mother at all. She missed the mother figure she longed to have, but she knew her mother had never been what she needed.
What she needed was to believe in herself. She needed to stop thinking she was ugly and to start feeling pride in herself.
"You're beautiful, Max. You need to tell yourself that. Nobody will believe that, if you don't start believing it first." Doctor Wu told her.
It ends with a hike.
In order to start a healthy life, the institution had weekly hikes to help the girls have a routine.
This time, Max wanted to do it by herself.
So she woke up early, put her running shoes on, and made her way to the hiking trail.
Over the months she'd been here, she gained weight. Not enough to meet society's standards, but enough to be a pound or two below average. That was an accomplishment. Her ribs were no longer visible; only when she breathed in deeply. Her stomach had taken a healthy fullness instead of the inward curve it had before.
And her face was no longer hollowed; her cheeks had a soft roundness, pink tinting them as she walked further up the hill.
She was nearly there.
Both physically and metaphorically.
Her thighs and calves burned from the exercise but she could see the top of the mountain, and she made herself keep on instead of finishing on the place she always stayed when she hiked.
I can do this, she thought.
I can climb a mountain.
I can beat bulimia.
I can go on.
Tears streamed down her face as she encouraged herself to keep on.
Breathless, she took the final step to be on the finish line of the hike, and she doubled over to rest her hands on her knees as she became overwhelmed.
She righted herself up and stared at the gorgeous view below her, breathing hard.
She made it.
"I AM BEAUTIFUL!" She screamed at her surroundings.
She laughed, full of life as she cried.
"I AM BEAUTIFUL!"
And she believed it.