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Authors: Dona Sarkar

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BOOK: Shrink to Fit
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“Which of your friends got them for you? I need to speak to their parents right now.”

“You're such a nut job!” Leah burst out.

“Little girl—”

“You're freaking schizo! No wonder Dad left! You're so obsessed with being thin! All you care about is your career! And when I try to do the same—”

“Is that what you think? Your father left because I was focused on my career?”

“Obviously,
Mother!
” Leah sneered, all traces of remorse gone. This had been coming for weeks and there was no going back now. “You lie about your age. You sleep with these creeps to get ahead—”

Slap!

Leah grabbed her cheek. Her mother had never touched her. Not once. How dare she slap her now? When Leah was doing everything possible to make their lives better?

“Your father left because I was anorexic. Right after you were born, I was desperate to get back into my old body. He left because I refused to admit I had a problem and
your
health was suffering. He refused to watch me self-destruct. So he left.”

Leah sucked in her breath. Anorexic? Her mother? Like the girls on the Web site?

“I see the same signs in you, Leah. This disease is passed on genetically. We have to get you to a doctor. Tomorrow morning.”

She wasn't like that. She wasn't skinny and crazy and…obsessive. She was normal. She was finally starting to fit in.

“I am not you, Mama.” Leah reached for the bag of pills.

“No, you aren't.” Victoria crumpled the bag in her hand. “And I won't let you become me.”

ten

Kill Bill
148 lbs

“We
need to talk about your performance.” Coach Jenna Richards was an athletic woman who had been the star of Sonoma High's basketball team when she had attended the school ten years prior. The coach's boyish figure and a pixie haircut almost made her look as young as the rest of the Sonoma Snow Leopards basketball team, and Leah had always felt at ease with her.

However, today, the slender woman looked almost menacing as she closed her office door behind Leah. As menacing as her mother had looked when she'd scheduled Leah for a doctor's appointment that afternoon. A full physical. It made Leah ill to even think about it. The doctor would poke and prod at her like a piece of meat.

There was nothing wrong with her. Why didn't people understand that?

Leah had braced herself for the worst ever since she'd received the coach's e-mail that morning. Today was the game that would define whether Sonoma High School was going to be in the all-state finals. Leah needed to concentrate. She didn't have time for yet another lecture from judgmental adults who thought they knew everything.

“What about my performance?” Leah crossed one ankle over the opposite knee and winced. Her ankles and shins were still sore. Elevation and an ice pack hadn't helped one bit. The pain, combined with two diet pills, had made her completely lose her appetite for the day and she'd only had a small cup of soup for lunch.

“You've been very distracted on the court lately. Missing passes, playing less offense.” Coach sat down behind her desk and ran her fingers through her longish bangs. “Plus, you've lost quite a bit of weight and I fear it's affecting those amazing jump shots you're capable of. Your strength has dramatically depleted. I know you can tell.”

“Coach, I'm faster and stronger than any of the—”

“I know you are. I am not disputing you are the star of this team, but, Leah, you need to be the star on the court. Our team
and
our opposition. From what I understand, you still want to play ball in college, correct?”

Leah nodded sullenly.

The coach tapped her short, squared-off fingernails on the desk, French manicure glistening. “The scouts will come around next year for sure if we win the state champs this year. Don't you want that guarantee? We won't win the champs unless you're in top form.”

The statement should have made Leah feel good. Instead, it added another layer to the burden she was already carrying. Modeling shoot, schoolwork, being thin, Victoria and now the game.

“A few weeks ago, I had no doubt in my mind that we could beat East L.A. in the finals. They are good, but you are very good. Now I'm not sure.”

She sat back and crossed her hands on her flat abdomen. “Is there something you'd like to talk about? Purely confidential, of course. We'll leave your mother and the team out of it.”

Looking into Coach's sparkly aqua eyes, Leah was reminded that she wasn't that old. She must have gone through all this stuff just a few years ago. She would understand.

Or not.

She would most likely throw Leah off the team if she found out about the pills, the extreme dieting…and definitely, the purging.

“I'll do better, Coach.” Leah sighed. “Promise.”

“Sorry, that's not good enough. I want you to see a doctor.”

Leah glanced down at her feet, squeezed into a pair of Victoria's Christian Louboutin heels. They went perfectly with the skinny jeans and fitted blazer she was wearing. Finally, she was able to wear clothes that girls in magazines wore and have them not look stupid on her.

And everyone wanted to ruin it.

“Mom's got me scheduled for an appointment this afternoon.”

Coach frowned.

“I'm serious. You can call her and ask if you want. I'll get a note for you tomorrow.”

Coach didn't look convinced but gave a little nod. “I'll let you play today. Plus, Leah, if I don't get a note by Monday, you're benched. I've seen too many girls like you fall into the anor—”

“I'm fine.” Leah stood up abruptly. She didn't want to hear that word again.

Anorexic. AN. OR. EX. IC.

Such an ugly word.

“Leah.”

Leah paused before opening the office door.

“Please come to me if you have something to say, okay? Just between us.”

“Sure, Coach.”

Leah jogged to the girls' locker room to suit up, groaning in pain with every step. The coach was right about one thing. She hadn't made a jump shot in a while. She hadn't won a game for the team in a while. Today would be different. No matter what, they were going to win.

Plus, Jay had mentioned he would probably come to see her play. He'd been surprisingly subdued after last weekend's encounter on his porch, but Leah blamed it on finals week.

Leah waved to the girls, who were all standing around and gossiping about the other team, who were already warming up on the court. She swallowed nervously. They had to kick some serious ass today. They had to get to the finals. Otherwise, she and the coach would be having another conversation, which was not going to end as easily as today's had.

Plus, she had a doctor's appointment today.

Leah spotted Shazan sitting on a bench alone, looking as if she were swimming in her cheerleading outfit. Good, if anyone could make her feel better, it was Shazan. She needed a good pep talk and she would be ready to roll.

“What's the word?” Leah flopped down on the bench and stared hard at the ceiling.
Visualization. Imagine yourself winning. Imagine yourself making that winning shot.

“Hi,” Shazan said quietly.

“I'm in so much trouble,” Leah muttered to her friend as she laced up her shoes.

Shazan sniffed and Leah realized she was crying.

“What's wrong? Hey, what happened?” Leah gave Shazan a little shake. She had never seen her friend lose her composure before. Shazan was always poised, pretty and perfect. Now her nose was red and she kept dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

Shazan sighed. “He broke up with me.”

“Who? What! Why?”

Shazan's attempted smile failed badly. “I don't know. Bill just said this wasn't working and it's over. A month before the Snow Ball and he dumps me. This morning.”

“I'm so sorry. I don't know what the hell he's thinking. I mean, you're so incredibly—ugh. He was a lucky bastard and he ruined it.”

Tears started to escape Shazan's eyes. “He didn't even give a reason.”

Leah wrapped an arm around Shazan's shoulders and hugged her tightly. “Oh, he'll give a reason. While I beat him up, he'll give plenty of reasons.”

Shazan laughed and fished around in the purse for some more tissues and her diet pill bottle.

Leah blinked when she saw the pill bottle. It had been completely full three days ago when Shazan had supplied her with enough for the week. Now there was just one pill left. How many had Shazan taken that week? Leah remembered her mother's words.
Illegal in the U.S. Very bad side effects.

Shazan sipped from her water bottle and swallowed the lone pill. Leah wasn't about to lecture her friend on the hazards of diet pill overuse today.

“I don't know what to do.” Shazan blew her nose into a tissue. “Damn. A nosebleed. Great.”

Leah stared in alarm as blood continued to leak from her friend's nose. “Are you sure you're okay?”

“Yeah. It's just dry in here.”

“Come on.” Leah stood and held out her hand. “We need to get you cleaned up before the game. Don't worry about Bill. I'm going to kill him.”

The San Diego Tigers were leading by two when the ten-second buzzer rang.

Leah had sworn she wouldn't let it happen, but the Tigers had gotten past her three times already. Not anymore. The first time, she had leaped in the air to block a shot and had lost her balance on a weak ankle on the landing.

The second time she hadn't been quick enough to block Jemima Kane.

The third time she just hadn't been paying attention, instead looking to the stands to see if Jay was there cheering her on.

He wasn't. And Lisa May, the weakest member of the Tigers, had gotten by her. Something that had never happened before.

And would not happen again.

Leah grabbed the ball in midair after Allison passed it to her. Steady dribbles led her to the San Diego girls' basket. Too many people blocking her already. She would have to make this shot from here.

She arced the ball through the air and Jemima, the star defense, leaped into the air and blocked it.

Leah backtracked quickly and covered Jemima as the shorter, more compact girl wove through the court. Leah managed to knock the ball out of her hands and passed to Julia DeLouis.

Julia looked surprised Leah had actually trusted her and quickly dribbled toward the Tigers' basket. She scored the basket easily.

Leah felt proud yet terrified. Julia DeLouis was outscoring her this game. No good.

Ah.

Leah was hit with a dizzy spell and leaned on her quads to keep from falling.

What was wrong with her? The whole room seemed to spin. Everything was fuzzy as if she were in a dream.

Leah shook her head violently. Not now. She needed to win this game. And Jemima was heading straight toward her, ball in hand. Jemima faked left.

Leah fell for it. And watched openmouthed as Jemima made a three-pointer.

This was not going to happen. She was not going to lose this game. No way in hell. This Jemima had to go. She had made ninety percent of the other team's shots. Leah had to take her out of commission.

Leah waited until Jemima paused for another throw and ran full force into the girl. Leah very deliberately pulled her knee back and down, and slammed straight into Jemima's knee.

Shrieking, Jemima hit the floor. Leah fell backward as well, feigning pain.

The ref's whistle blew and Leah spotted only a few raised eyebrows from her team. The chances of anyone knowing she'd done that on purpose were slim. She'd never hurt another player before, but it had to be done.

Plus, she hated Jemima's hard body complete with six-pack abs.

After a few minutes of chaos, Leah was benched and Jemima was carried off the court by her teammates. Leah watched someone fetch Jemima an ice pack as she groaned with pain when she tried to bend her knee.

“God,” Coach Richards muttered. “What the hell is happening to my team?”

“Sorry, Coach,” Leah muttered as she rested her chin in her hands.

“We'll talk about this later.” Coach had her eyes on the court, where Allison and Julia were working on the next play. “It's up to the two of them to win this game now.”

Leah sat down heavily on the bleachers and looked over at a commotion in the corner. Shazan was standing nose to nose with Bill Collins in the corner. Both looked furious.

“…have a problem…need help!” Bill was waving his hands.

“…nothing wrong with me!” Shazan yelled back.

Leah frowned. What could they be fighting about? Why couldn't he just leave her alone?

She was about to get up and intervene, but a warning look from the coach stopped her. She watched the rest of the game from lowered eyelashes. With Jemima no longer in the game, Sonoma was easily able to score four points in the remaining five seconds.

Unsurprisingly, Leah was called back into the coach's office instead of the victory ice-cream outing. She was secretly relieved not to have to pretend to enjoy a scoop of fat-free vanilla as a show for the other girls.

“That was insane. I've never seen you do anything like that before.” Coach slammed the door behind Leah. “What the hell was that?”

“Coach, I—”

“What? It was an accident? It wasn't deliberate? Go ahead, Leah, please keep lying to me.”

“It was an accident. I was just blocking her and I, you know, misjudged my strength. I'm pretty strong. You know that. I got hurt, too, you know.”

Coach shook her head. “I'm taking you out of the next game.”

Leah shot to her feet. “Coach! Come on! We're in the finals! The next game is crucial!”

“I cannot tolerate this behavior, Leah. Now, I'm sorry, but—”

The phone rang.

Leah flopped back into the chair as the coach held up a finger and motioned for her to stay.

What the hell was this? She was supposed to win at any cost. She had enabled the team to win. Jemima would be fine. What the heck was the big deal?

“I understand. I'll be right there.” Coach pressed the Off button.

“Coach, I—”

“They've gone to the hospital.”

BOOK: Shrink to Fit
12.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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