Chapter Twelve; Part One
“Liz! What are you doing here?” It was Friday night, and my sister had shown up unexpectedly. Again, she got into the building without me buzzing her up. This was happening more frequently than I liked; I reluctantly decided to call the landlord first thing Monday morning during my prep hour at school to take care of it.
“Are you going to let me in?” Liz asked waspishly, taking me by surprise. She was the easygoing one in the family, the sister quick to jump in when others were fighting. I’d never heard an edge to her voice. Until tonight. “I took the bus to see you, so the least you could is let me into your apartment.”
“Come in.” I stood aside, watching Liz as she entered. She had cut her waist-length hair so that it fell just slightly past her shoulders in a shag cut. It looked cute with her pixie face and pointed chin, but my mother must have had a fit when she saw it. She thought girls under thirty should have long hair. Liz was taking her time removing her shoes, so I was able to study her more carefully. Always the thinnest of the sisters, she was almost gaunt now. She was wearing jeans which hung on her slight hips and a fitted top that was loose as well. She’d never had big boobs to begin with, but now they were nonexistent. There were dark circles under her eyes, and she looked exhausted. I vowed not to get into it with her, even though I knew why she was there. She dumped her bag by the door, waiting for me to make my overtures.
“Would you like some tea, Liz? How about some chocolate chip cookies? They’re your favorite—triple chocolate chunk cookies. I made them a few nights ago.” I observed her closely as I made my offer as I was beginning to form a suspicious thought.
“Ew, no,” Liz said, wrinkling her nose. “Do you know how many calories are in one of your special cookies? A zillion.” She straightened up and flashed me a wan grin before hugging me. It was like hugging a skeleton, and it creeped me out.
“Are you dieting?” I asked sharply, pulling away from Liz and holding her at an arm’s length. Her cheeks had hollowed out, and there was a pinched look about her face that hadn’t been there before.
“Just a little,” Liz admitted, not meeting my eyes. “After Scott dumped me, I felt I needed to get into shape. You know how it is.”
“You were already in shape,” I pointed out, steering my sister to the living room. I waited for her to sit before continuing my interrogation. “What did Scott say to make you feel you needed to lose weight?” Inside, I was seething. Scott Jorgenson was a football player with a raging ego. He was known to blow through the girls like they were nothing. I had met him once and had been less than impressed. He and Liz had dated two months before he dumped her. Since I hadn’t heard her complain, I’d assumed she’d been fine with it. Big mistake. Liz didn’t talk about her problems to anyone, which was why she’d struggled with an eating disorder for the last ten years.
“He just said, you know, that I didn’t look as good as I had when we started dating.” Liz tried to say it casually, but her tone was brittle. I wanted to hunt down Jorgenson and slice his nuts off. He was also known to be extremely nasty when he broke up with a girl, probably because of his guilty conscience. I would bet the fact that Liz wanted to remain a virgin until marriage had more to do with his dumping her than her looks. “He’s right, you know. I gained a pound while I was dating him.” Scott was six-four and almost two-fifty—not all of it muscle. He was not one to talk about gaining weight, let me tell you.
“Liz, that’s nuts, and you know it.” I was blunt because nothing else worked with my sister. Our family had learned through long, hard, painful experience that the only way to even hope to get through her obsession was to be honest to the point of rudeness. It jolted her out of her trance. “You look like you should be in a concentration camp. I bet you’re blacking out again, aren’t you?” Liz hung her head but didn’t answer. “Wait right here.”
I left the room before she could respond. I went into the kitchen and rummaged through my fridge. Fortunately, I had some leftover noodles and soup from Bona. Pho, with beef. My favorite, and one of hers as well. I heated it in the microwave while pouring a glass of skim milk. I knew it would be better if Liz had whole, but all I had was skim. She wouldn’t put up as big a fight if it was skim, anyway. I grabbed a banana, too. I put everything on a tray, including utensils. I grabbed two cookies and placed them on the tray as well. I’d be lucky if she ate one, but I’d eat the leftover cookie if she didn’t. Now, I just had to wait for the soup to heat up. When it was ready, I poured it in a bowl and carried everything back into the living room. Liz was slumped over on the couch, her eyes closed. I set the tray on the coffee table and sat next to Liz.
“Liz, wake up.” I nudged her gently in the ribs, not wanting to bruise her.
“Huh, what?” Liz opened her eyes, blinking in confusion. “Where am I? What happened?”
“You must have blacked out for a minute,” I said, concealing my sadness from her. I’d been doing this song and dance with her for the last ten years, on and off. I couldn’t understand how such a beautiful, intelligent girl could be so stupid. “Here. Eat this soup.” I placed the spoon in her hand and closed her fingers over it. “Now.” My tone let her know there was no choice but to obey. She knew I’d force-feed her if I had to, though that was definitely the last resort. Reluctantly, she spooned a tiny amount of the broth into her mouth and swished it around five times before swallowing. I knew every bite would take as long if not longer, but I didn’t care. I’d take all night if I had to.