Kaitlyn poked her head out from behind her bedroom door. The hall was clear. She took a step out, paused and listened. Only the low rumble of the family room TV. They thought she was studying. The coast as clear. She tip-toed down the hall, as quick and quiet as possible. Her jeans had holes on the inside of the thighs, the fabric catching sounded like a siren. The kitchen was cool and dark. The lingering scent of dinner hanging in the air: creamed tuna on toast, sweet peas from a can. Tip-toe across the linoleum to the cupboard for a bowl. The utensil drawer was tricky. She slid it out, supporting it underneath to keep the spoons from rattling. Now, over to the freezer, the carton of ice cream beckoning - the flavor didn't matter. One scoop, then two, then what the hell, three. The carton back in the freezer, she was fifteen steps away from her bedroom door, and freedom, but she couldn't help herself. The spoon was in her mouth, cold sweetness rushing over her tongue. A sigh escaped. Swallow. The spoon was in her mouth again, and again. Her heart rate slowed, tension rolled off her back. The light flicked on. Her mother, standing in the doorway, eyes widening before her shoulders sagged. "Do you really need that?" A memory appeared. Kaitlyn's nine-year-old feet climbing a staircase, yet again, the brown and orange carpet had a shiny ripple pattern. It had been years since she'd tread on those padded, silent steps, but it felt like yesterday. Yes, she thought. I need it. She was leaning against the counter, mouth full. "Kaitlyn! I'm talking to you!" "Sorry." She dumped the rest of the bowl in the sink and turned on the hot water. Studying the melting milky white as it swirled down the drain, she could feel eyes on her back, on her body. She couldn't look at her mother. The silence vibrated. The bowl and spoon away, she all but ran to her room. Closing the door and then leaning against it, she listened for footsteps. Please let this be over. What she ate and why, her expanding waist and doubling chin, was not a conversation she wanted to have. Her avoidance of that subject was why she ate alone. Turning the light off, she shed her clothes, crammed her pajamas on, and curled into a ball under the blankets. Tears leaked out. Thin people are worthwhile, fat people aren't. Her mother's obsession with thinness, proved that. Why suffer diets of cabbage soup, of milk and bananas, otherwise? Why the jazzercise and the ski machine? So what if I'm fat? Fat made her invisible, undesirable. The truth yanked on her arms, pulling her chest apart. Fat made her unlovable, destroyed her, but it was the only thing that would save her. A quiet knock and then the door opened. Kaitlyn squeezed her eyes shut and tried to even her breathing. Maybe if she thinks I'm asleep. "I know you're stealing food. You might not think that I notice, but I do." Kaitlyn's heart hurt. She never thought of her snacking as stealing. She thought the food was for everyone. She wasn't a thief. She just needed to eat and didn't want to talk about it. "Your father and I are concerned. For six years now you've been getting bigger and bigger. You're too sedentary to eat like you do. Why do you think we bought the rower? So you would use it! But all it does is sit there." At the mention of her father, Kaitlyn couldn't breathe. She wrapped her arms around her knees and buried her face. Her cheeks hot with embarrassment. Her parents were talking about her, about how fat she was. She wondered if they laughed about it. Giggled about how breathless she was after climbing the stairs, how her shirt rode up over her belly. She'd fixed that problem recently by burying herself in huge sweaters, but sometimes on laundry day, it couldn't be helped. The weight was supposed to make her disappear. "I wish you'd say something. Don't you want a boyfriend?..." A boyfriend was the last thing she wanted. She just wanted to be left alone. She bit her nails, focused on the clicking until her mother got tired of talking and left. Kaitlyn was exhausted. When her eyes closed she was entering the room at the top of the stairs. It had the same shiny ripple carpet. He told her to lay on the bed, she was always the patient. Auntie said the lights had to be on in the room, but he put a towel over her eyes. Pinpricks shone through the scratchy, over-washed terry. He unbuttoned her pants and pulled them to her knees. He pushed her top up. She wasn't old enough to wear a bra yet. Goose bumps covered her chest. It was always so cold in there. Cousins, they were supposed to be playing. Their parents were so pleased with how nicely everyone got along, congratulating themselves on what terrific parents they were. He leaned on her stomach as he pulled down her underwear. To restrain her or get a closer look she didn't know... the effect was the same. She couldn't move. He was six years older and stronger. She was helpless when he started inserting things. The worst part guessing what they were. A dime? A washcloth? A pencil? Her face burned under the towel. The memory made her nauseous. Kaitlyn opened her eyes and gagged. She thought about chocolate, silky sweetness melting on her tongue. She thought about chips, the satisfying crunch and how she would find nuggets of flavor in her teeth for hours if she didn't brush. She reached inside her pillow for the hidden bag of candies. She put one in her mouth and she could forget.
Bio: Meagan Lucas is a Canadian writer, living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Her story "Blood and Snow" is forthcoming in the March 2016 edition of Writing Raw. Meagan considers herself mostly sane. She dreams about beach sand, peonies, bookshelves and sleeping children. She blogs about navel gazing and craving carbs at www.meaganlucas.com.