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Authors: Dona Sarkar

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BOOK: Shrink to Fit
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“I want to.”

He was incredible. She was completely ready for him as he readjusted himself on top of her, his shorts lowered to his knees.

“I don't have anything with me,” he whispered.

“I don't care,” she muttered. “Just go ahead. Please.” She wasn't going to interrupt this moment for common sense. So what if she didn't know this guy? For all she knew, he was a complete slut and slept with every model on the beach and she was the only remaining notch on his belt. He could have diseases. Herpes. AIDS.

But in that moment, all she wanted was to be made love to. To feel beautiful and special. To be rewarded for all her hard work losing a full forty-one pounds.

“Leah!”

“Damn,” Leah muttered, hoping she was just hearing things.

Cillian stopped his exploration of her body. “Did someone just call your name, love?”

“Leah, I better not catch you out here!” The voice was definitely getting closer. Her mother's voice.

“Leah!” Followed by Alfreddo's.

Damn.

“If I said no, would it make them go away?” Leah sat up and pulled her bikini bottom all the way up to her belly button. “It's Mom and Alfreddo.”

Cillian laughed and pulled his shorts up. “Out to spoil all my fun.”

“As usual,” Leah muttered again.

“Don't pout. What are you doing tomorrow night? Have dinner with me. We'll get room service.” His eyes didn't leave hers as he helped her to her feet. “I'll be prepared then.”

Leah rumpled his wavy blond hair with her fingertips as she pressed against him for one last kiss. Delicious. “Anything you want. Now help me find my bikini top.”

eight

Cruel Intentions
157 lbs

The
lobby of the Hotel Diablo was alive with the gentle sway of the indoor palms and the squeaky wheel of the bellboy's cart. The continental breakfast table was lined with an impressive spread of freshly cut fruit and cereal that stood mostly untouched in the early-morning sunlight. The lone sand-and-sun-streaked figure in the lobby was scooping oranges into a bowl when the elevator doors opened with a dramatic swoosh.

Leah practically skipped over to Cillian, happy there was no one else in sight in the waxed marble lobby. Her mother had insisted that she and Leah dine with the models the night before, and she hadn't gotten to see him since their encounter in the sand.

“Good morning,” Leah practically purred, posing a little against the table in front of Cillian. Despite the ache in her lower legs from her early-morning run, she was feeling especially confident in a slimming pin-striped tankini with her hair styled in beachy waves. Getting ready had taken almost an hour, but she had been pleased with her reflection when she left the hotel room she was sharing with Victoria.

“Hi.” Cillian continued to pour a spoonful of sugar over a bowl of peeled oranges without looking up.

“Sleep well?” Leah glanced around the table. She would eat some blueberries. And a glass of water. A big glass. She had been ridiculously thirsty all night. That would hold her over till lunch, when she would have to put on a show of eating in front of her mother. Leah didn't appreciate her mother picking at a piece of chicken while insisting Leah finish her steak last night at dinner.

Her stomach growled for the first time in days. Not good. She was almost out of Shazan's diet pills and was down to taking only one a day till she got back to L.A. and could get some more.

“How are you?” Cillian turned to pour himself some cranberry juice.

“Sorry I didn't call last night. Mama made me have dinner with the models.” She rolled her eyes. “By having dinner, I mean we sat down at the table, ordered salad and left.” It was true. The salads were picked at and the bread basket remained untouched, but all the models insisted they couldn't “eat another bite.” Leah had taken a tip from them and followed suit, sipping lemon water and shoving the cut-up pieces of her steak under the plate.

“That sounds about right, then,” Cillian said in an unusually subdued voice. “I should get outside to set up.”

“We still on for tonight?” Leah glanced around, making sure no one could hear them. No Alfreddo and no Mom. Perfect. She would get to kiss him goodbye.

“Actually—” He turned toward her, eyes a mossy green.

“Actually what?” Leah teasingly said as she grabbed the lapels of his bright red Hawaiian shirt and pulled herself closer. He was so good-looking. Even hotter than Jay. She gently brushed his lips with hers, feeling the tingle all the way down into her toes. No, it hadn't just been her imagination. He really did make her toes curl.

“I have some things to take care of tonight. Work stuff for Roald. Why don't I let you know?” He rested his fingers on hers for a second before pulling her off him.

Leah felt a familiar sinking feeling in her stomach. The same one she got whenever she saw Jay and Jennifer together. Rejection. She knew the feeling well. She let her arms drop. “What's wrong?”

He smiled slightly. “Why do you ask?”

“Because I can tell something's wrong.”

“We barely know each other,” he murmured and picked up his bowl of oranges.

Leah's sunburnt cheeks suddenly felt very hot. “That's not what you said yesterday.”

“Yeah, about that. That was really wrong of me. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have taken advantage of you.”

“What the hell are you saying? Nothing happened!” Leah could hear her voice rising. “We were supposed to get together tonight. And you didn't take advantage of me. You know you didn't!”

“I kissed you. I shouldn't have. I really think we should just—”

“What? Pretend nothing happened? Sorry, I won't do that.”

Cillian looked around furtively. “We don't want the others to hear—”

“I don't give a damn what others hear. I want to know what changed between yesterday and today.”

“Leah, I had a chance to think it over and I realize that—”

“You had me on the ground with my top off!” Leah screeched.

Cillian winced.

Out of her corner of her eye, she could see the concierge walking their way.

“That was wrong of me. You're only sixteen.” Cillian wiped his hands on the sides of his shorts and whispered, “I'm sorry, Leah, but this is a really bad idea. You're a kid!”

“Yeah, I get it. I was a kid yesterday, too, by the way. What is it, really? Is it because I'm not thin? If that's the case, I want to hear you—” Leah punched him in the arm, hard “—say it!”

“No! No, no! You're amazing. Really, you are.”

“Yeah, I bet. That's why you can't get away from me fast enough. Look at you. Backing away.” It was true. He'd taken ten steps back during their conversation, having long abandoned his bowl of oranges.

“Well, you're beating me up. What do you expect me to—”

“You're a moron.” Leah had tears in her eyes that she wasn't about to show him as she stomped away, leaving the blueberries behind. She'd been right. He wasn't interested in her. No doubt there was some sort of bet among the photographers over who would pick up the “fat girl.”

She couldn't keep the tears back as she ran up to the room.

I hate my body. Everyone hates this body.

Why couldn't she be thin like the other girls? Guys like Cillian would die to be with her. They wouldn't dump her after seeing her body.

If you only lost ten pounds, he would notice you.
Victoria's words were so true. Except it wasn't just ten pounds. It wasn't even forty pounds. She had to keep losing. She wasn't thin enough yet.

She slammed the door of the hotel room, startling Victoria into dropping her eyeliner brush. “What happened?”

For an instant, Leah wanted to throw herself into her mother's arms and tell her the whole story. Jay, the cheerleaders, Cillian. How she was having trouble losing even a pound that week.

But Victoria would tell her to put all those thoughts aside and focus on the photo shoot they would be in in a few weeks. After all, what was school and a social life compared to Demi and Tallulah?

“They have a ton of donuts downstairs. Nothing healthy at all,” Leah fibbed before throwing herself on the bed. “I'll just get, like, a parfait or something from room service and then come down to the beach, okay?”

“Fine. Don't be long.” Victoria slipped her feet into gold sandals and knotted a silky pink sarong around her narrow hips. “Seems to me you had a good time yesterday. Fit right in.”

“Uh-huh,” Leah muttered, burying her head into a pillow. Yeah, right. Fit right in. Like a homecoming queen at a car wash.

“I'll ask Cillian to take some photos for your portfolio. He is an extremely talented photographer, even though he's just an assistant right now.”

Leah was silent until her mother left the room. She didn't want to face Cillian; she didn't want to face the world.

I hate myself. I hate myself.

She tore at her hair. Why was this happening to her? Why wasn't anything she did enough?

I hate myself.

She just wanted to hide in bed until the whole horrible weekend was over. Back home, what awaited her? She had to go home and see Jay again. With Jennifer on his arm.

I hate my life. I wish I was dead.

She pressed her balled fists against her eye sockets. What had gone wrong? How had she gotten to this point where she was sobbing her eyes out in a hotel room over a guy she barely knew not wanting to be with her because she was
fat?

Why did she even care? She was better than this, she didn't need to care.

But the rest of the world does care. You want to be alone for the rest of your life because you're too lazy to make an effort?

No.

She would continue to lose weight. She would lose weight until every single person that mattered noticed.

The telltale
bing
of her laptop signaled a new e-mail message. Leah reached for the computer and sat up in bed, smudging away tears in the process. She'd been e-mailing regularly with the girl who had suggested the watermelon diet on the ANArexia Web site. All the other girls seemed a little crazy and obsessive, but this girl, DietDiva, seemed to be in Leah's boat. She wanted to lose a few pounds before prom and was trying every technique out there without being stupid.

Hey, BBGirl! How did the watermelon diet work out for you? I lost like 15 pounds in the past two weeks. I fit a size 2 now! What about you?—DietDiva

Size 2? Yeah, right, not even close. Leah frowned.

Hey, DietDiva. I'm down to about a tight size 4 after a week of watermelon. I can't handle it anymore, though. I need to get down to a 0 in the next month. My modeling thing is in three weeks! Any other ideas?—BBGirl

PS: Men SUCK!

Leah waited for a few minutes, but got no answer. She sighed. She was just so tired and achy. She'd woken up early to run on the treadmill in the hotel gym for an hour, and her shins had been screaming at her all morning. Plus, she was so thirsty again. She would close her eyes for just a few minutes and then go down to the beach.

“Leah!” The voice sounded very far away.

“Go 'way…” Leah mouthed the words, but didn't hear them come out of her mouth.

“Leah!” The voice was coming closer.

Leah pried open an eye. It wasn't a dream; her mother was calling her. “What is it?”

“What's going on here?” Victoria was standing over her, illuminated in light from the bedside lamp. The room seemed dark otherwise. She didn't remember closing the blinds.

“Just taking a nap. I said I'd come down.”

There was silence and then the bed tilted as Victoria sat down next to Leah. “That was ten hours ago.”

“What!” Leah's head spun as she sat up. “I slept the whole day?”

The spinning continued and Leah laid her head back down. She felt as though she was going to faint.

Victoria ran a hand over the pillow Leah was lying on. “Are you sure you're feeling okay? Is there something you'd like to tell me?”

“I was just…so tired. I don't know—” Leah yawned “—what's wrong with me. Sorry, Mama.”

Victoria held up a fistful of hair. “You're losing hair. A lot of it. How did this happen?”

Leah lifted her body off the bed and noticed the wads of hair that had gathered on her pillow. “Oh my God.”

She recalled tearing at her hair in a fit of rage earlier that afternoon. How had it come off her head so easily? She ran her fingers through her hair and several strands clung to her fingers.

“What is this, your hair—”

“Oh my God!” Leah sprang to the floor and winced as her shins nearly gave out. The room spun again and Leah grabbed on to the bedside table. What was happening to her?

“—is literally falling out of your head, Leah!”

“Mama!” Leah clutched at the strands of hair that continued to fall from her scalp every time she touched it.

“I think we better get you downstairs for a good, solid dinner. I don't want to hear any of that ‘just a salad for me' nonsense today. When your hair starts to fall out like this, it's a real problem. A vitamin deficiency.”

Leah was still staring in horror at the clumps of wavy black hair on the bed. She felt around on her head for any bald spots. Thank God, nothing yet. How had this happened? It had to be the hotel shampoo. Cheap-asses!

Ten minutes later, both Mandevilles were clad in black dresses and were in the elevator on the way to the lobby restaurant. Leah gazed at the deep purplish hollows under her eyes that concealer hadn't been able to cover up. At least her cheekbones were defined, something she had never been able to accomplish before.

“There she is.” Alfreddo's voice reached Leah before she could focus on the table where the crew was sitting. Alfreddo, Victoria's model friends, Paula and Juliette, Abby the director, a few of the lighting guys…and Cillian. Great. The knot of worry in Leah's stomach seemed to tighten. She didn't want to face him, not in front of all these people.

Victoria took the seat next to Alfreddo, leaving Leah to sit across from Cillian.

“You feeling okay?” Cillian murmured.

Leah ignored him and picked up the menu. She felt nauseated just thinking of this food. Leg of lamb in Moroccan spices, chicken with lime and cilantro, fried shrimp and chips basket.

BOOK: Shrink to Fit
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