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The soft, off white curtain contradicted the two pairs of eyes that stared out the window- emerald green, bright enough to light the entire sky, and the worn bicentennials.
Carmen, with her electrifying eyes and glistening blonde hair, touched Bella’s shoulder lightly. The girl didn’t flinch, simply waiting, simply watching.
The air was tense and thick, almost hard to breathe in. The old clock counted off from its place in the left corner, the satin pearl couch stood with dignity against the left wall, the matching chair in opposing corner.
The white carpet was as smooth and plush as it had always been, under Carmen’s rough, bare feet. Everything would have, could have, been so beautiful.
Bella’s hand came slowly off the chilled glass of the window, and onto the velvet fabric of the window seat. She took in the texture, closing her worn eyes for just a moment, breathing in deeply.
The whole picture was a contrast. Carmen shone with intensity and joy, while Bella was simply there. Her eyes were an ocean, once happily basking in the sun, but now had gone deeper, to where the water deemed dim and cold. Her hair was frail; her limp braids hanging by her sides. She was not what she should have been.
“I promise” a slightly younger Carmen’s glossy pink lips had said, “If you promise.” With a swing of her hand, her hair had flown over her shoulder in a gleaming blonde waterfall.
“I promise” Bella had responded, her hair then in thick, chocolate curls running over her shoulders. Carmen had smiled and pricked her finger, the bright dot of her own blood growing, as she proceeded to prick Bella.
With an inhale and exhale, they rubbed their fingers together, mixing the blood.
“Repeat after me” Carmen had commanded, her pretty face glowing. “I, Isabelle Kirk, promise not to eat…”
With an unsure voice, Bella had said those words.
“Not to eat more than 200 calories a day for the next week.” After Bella’s shaking voice had finished the lines, Carmen had pulled her hand away.
“Good. This is the easiest, quickest way to get us into swimsuits for Jesse’s party.” She tossed her hair again and blew Bella a kiss. “Have to get home. Call me if you feel a binge coming on!” She had laughed, a high pitched giggle, as she left Bella’s pearl living room, Bella’s white mansion, her hips swinging in her size two jeans. Bella had glanced at the waist of her size fives.
It was over then. Jesse’s party had come and gone, but Bella refused to eat. She couldn’t continue her friendship with Carmen if she was, as she thought, enormous. She chewed steak, but spit it out. She ate her mother’s Italian cooking with gladness, only to throw it up. It had become her drug.
She watched the scale drop; she watched her jean size lower into nonexistent numbers. She watched her decaying appearance and her sinking eyes, tears dripping.
Carmen, at this moment, was afraid to speak. Bella looked like she would break at any moment, as if her bones were simply tree branches. Her stomach filled with unbearable guilt. Bella would be off in a moment, leaving her alone. Bella would be treated and hopefully made well, but would never be the same. She couldn’t be.
The jet black Mercedes pulled up, its shiny coat waving to them through the window. Bella, barely strong enough to pick up her bags, walked to the door slowly, looking like a child’s stick figure drawing. Her face was expressionless as she scanned her living room. Her chapped lips parted, as if too speak, but shut again. She looked at Carmen as she touched the brass doorknob, their eyes conversing.
Carmen helped put the bags in the back of the car, Bella’s mother’s arms crossed, Gucci sunglasses on top of her head, a disgusted sneer at Carmen. Carmen shut the hood with fear, too afraid to hug her best friend, too afraid to break her.
But as she watched Bella slowly climb into the car, she realized, she already had.
Carmen pulled away from the window, breathing hard, tears rolling down her cheeks. She was alone again, sitting in her own chair, in her own room, in her own house.
Isabella Amiee Kirk was etched onto a stone in Wayward Cemetery, two blocks away. She was a skeleton, a decaying creature that didn’t have parents to notice, didn’t have anyone to care.
Carmen never again would be in that beautiful house, the one that sold two years ago, after the stone had been placed in the ground, marking the emaciated body of a once beautiful girl, manipulated and drugged. Carmen’s mind flashed back to that heavy moment frequently, the last day she saw Bella. The moments they had sat on the window seat, the tension in the air, as Bella’s mind conjured up the courage. Before the clock ticked off Bella’s last breath, before the universe allowed the clock to pause, so Carmen could have snatched the pills away.
No. She had watched Bella pour them in, and down water, feeling remorse but unable to act on it. Feeling pain, but too afraid to part her lips, to say something.
She was looking straight at her in her rapid, last breaths.
She saw only a hopeless girl with bicentennial eyes, yearning for someone to set her free, but knowing that the only one who cared was a coward.
San Francisco, California
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