Authors: Laura L. Smith
Tags: #Anorexia nervosa—Fiction, #Eating Disorder—Fiction, #Self image—Fiction, #Dance—Fiction, #High school—Fiction, #Dating—Fiction, #Christian life—Fiction, #Romance—Fiction
“The ‘need’ to be thin continues to plague American girls, and Laura L. Smith tackles this tough topic in her debut teen novel with thoughtfulness and style. Girls are going to relate to Melissa and her struggle to ‘look good’”
, best-selling Christian author
“Melissa is a vibrant teen who teaches readers signs of an eating disorder and the value of spirituality in working through the treatment.
is powerful because it heightens the awareness of eating disorders—the key to early diagnosis and treatment, which translates to improved adolescent wellness. Thank you, Laura Smith, for empowering young women!”
—Dr. Michelle Naegele
, former chief of staff, McCullough Hyde Memorial Hospital
“Adolescent readers will appreciate this true-to-life account of the ambivalence, pain, and emotional struggle of living with an eating disorder. The seemingly ‘normal’ drive to achieve, win the favor of a young man, and please one’s parents is captured in a readable text that does not underplay the real consequences and health risks that accompany eating disorders. The importance of spiritual connection, not always portrayed in similar stories, is an added bonus.”
, PhD, LPCC, RN
“A real story for real girls. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by schoolwork, relationships, your friends, or activities, you need to read this book.”
—Heather Gemmen Wilson
, best-selling author
She was starving to fit in…
Laura L. Smith
Copyright © 2014 Laura L. Smith
Originally published by NavPress, 2008
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without written permission.
Cover design by:
Cover photography by: Kelci Alane Photography
This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or publisher.
Unless otherwise identified, all Scripture quotations in this publication are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright c 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Summary: When the pressures of having good grades, friends, a position on the dance team, and a boyfriend become too much for Melissa, she turns to disordered eating to attempt to regain control.
eBook ISBN-10: 0-99115259X
eBook ISBN-13: 978-0-9911525-9-9
[Anorexia nervosa—Fiction, Eating Disorder—Fiction, Self image—Fiction, Dance—Fiction, High school—Fiction, Dating—Fiction. Christian life—Fiction, Romance—Fiction.]
This book is for Tina, Kristen, Carrie, and anyone struggling with an eating disorder. I carry your stories around in my heart. Remember that God made you in His image, and therefore, you are beautiful.
Thank You to God for making the words flow from my fingertips. Thank You for the characters, the stories, the ideas You pop into my head and for the gift of writing. I pray both my writing and my life serve You.
To my husband, Brett: Without you I would have never taken fingers to keys. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for encouraging me. Thank you for being my cheerleader. But thank you mostly for loving me. This writer’s endless supply of words is not enough to thank you for being my partner in life or to express the expanse of my love for you.
To my M&Ms, Maddie, Max, Mallory, and Maguire: You fill my days with inspiration, giggles, snuggles, and a constant reminder of God’s love. I love you as big as the ocean!
To everyone at NavPress, especially Rebekah Guzman: Thank you for believing in the importance of Melissa’s story and for believing in me.
To my editors, Amy Parker and Kathy Mosier: Thank you for enhancing, strengthening, and finessing my writing. You make it better than I ever could. Without you,
would be scrawny.
To my mom, Becca, and Bethany: Thank you for reading various parts of this manuscript in its working stages. Your comments helped guide Melissa where she needed to go.
elissa posed as perfectly as a marble statue. Her head bent at a forty-five degree angle, her fingers spread equidistantly, rigid, and exactly in line with her thighs. The music pulsed in her veins. She inhaled and silently counted along with Todd.
“Five, six, seven, eight.”
Even though he was only five foot five, Todd had a booming voice that commanded the attention of every girl in the room. The rhythm of the music vibrated from the speakers on the church’s glossy gymnasium floor.
Like a marionette brought to life by invisible strings, Melissa jerked her hands up, forming a V with her arms, snapped her head upright, and flashed a radiant smile.
“And turn, six, seven, eight. Lift and lift and slide and slide,” Todd continued like a metronome. The pulsating beat pulled Melissa’s body back and forth.
Abruptly, Todd’s solid muscular body relaxed. The coach turned his back to the group of girls and padded across the wooden floor to turn off the music. Since dance team was somewhere low on the priority list of varsity sports at Spring Hill High, they were allotted zero gymnasium time for practices. The school’s gym was designated for the football players, the basketball players, the track team, and the softball team, but not the dance team. Luckily, the church Melissa’s family attended allowed the girls to practice in their gym.
“Okay, any questions? No? Good. Then let’s continue.” Todd’s dark skin shone with perspiration as he flawlessly demonstrated the next sequence. Tiny yellow beads woven into the ends of his cornrows bounced lightly against his strong shoulders, bulging from his gray tank top. His compact body moved effortlessly across the floor while his chocolate eyes kept constant contact with the team.
Melissa replayed his every move in her head, trying to make his motions and words translate into her body’s executing the dance correctly.
Feet pounded the floor. Arms stretched to the ceiling. Hips swayed.
Melissa turned to the left.
Everyone else turned to the right.
Melissa missed bumping into Jill by a fraction of an inch. Jill was a junior who could kick higher than the rest of the team and had an attitude to match. Jill’s flawless pale skin and sleek black hair were reminiscent of Snow White, but Jill certainly didn’t act like a fairy-tale princess. Jill shot Melissa a glare from her bright green eyes that could have come from an evil stepmother.
Flames of shame pinched Melissa’s nose and ears. She caught her breath and stumbled to get back in step. How many of the others had seen her screw up? The other girls looked so pretty, so thin, so together. Melissa felt bulky and conspicuous, like an elephant stomping across the gym.
Feel the music
, she told herself.
“Okay. That’s all for today,” Todd said between gulps of bottled water. “Not bad, but we have a lot to learn, ladies. We perform in two days.” Todd wiped drops of water from his manicured mustache.
“Oh, and, girls, no cake between now and Friday. You want to look spectacular in your uniforms.” He winked.
Sweat slid down Melissa’s forehead and stung her eyes. She tried to shrink inside her T-shirt. She darted for her dance bag, grabbed it, and walked as fast as she could until she was safe behind the girls’ room door. Protected by the wooden barrier, she pulled on her sweatshirt and yoga pants and exhaled.
Finally her cumbersome body, the one that had turned the wrong way, the one Todd was clearly making the cake comment about, was covered. Tears threatened to escape from her eyes. Melissa waved her hand in front of her face in an attempt to fan her embarrassment and anger away. She peered into the full-length mirror and groaned at her reflection.
Melissa slid into a stall and shut the door. She’d read about girls who threw up to lose weight. Melissa had thought about doing it before but never had the guts. How exactly should she do it? How would she position her body?
Melissa knelt in front of the white toilet. Thankfully, her yoga pants provided a thin barrier between her knees and the germs and sludge on the once-white tiled floor. The stench of urine almost made her gag. She wouldn’t need to do much. Looking down at her hand, Melissa stuck out her index and middle fingers, ready to plunge them down her throat. Those two fingers could empty her of this feeling.
The bathroom door swung open.
“Mel, is that you?” Lindsey asked.
“Uh-huh.” Melissa felt her face burn with shame. She tried to stand and turn as silently as possible, then swung open the door.
“Do you think there’s any way I’ll get this routine down by Friday night?” Lindsey rolled her eyes and smiled. The girls had met only about three months ago when they both made the Spring Hill High dance team. They had gone to different grade schools but had bonded immediately. They were inseparable at practice.
Lindsey was Melissa’s physical opposite: five one and so tiny she could still buy her clothes from the kids’ department. Her blonde curls framed her pretty face and her pale blue eyes, which sparkled when she spoke. She looked like one of Melissa’s dolls she had dressed and fed when she was younger.
Melissa was five nine. She usually wore her straight dark brown hair pulled back into a ponytail revealing her round face, forest green eyes, and the freckles that spotted her nose. Friends told her she was slender, but she described herself as “medium-sized.”
“You’ll get it, Linds. You’re basically awesome.”
“Hardly. I’m lucky to have even made this team.” Lindsey pushed open the restroom door with her back.
“Right,” Melissa began. “I was the one who almost fell flat on my face. Todd moves so fast.”
Just then, Jill sauntered through the door as if Lindsey were opening it for her.
“Nice turns.” She nodded toward Melissa.
“Nice makeup,” Lindsey whispered when they were out of earshot in the hallway, commenting on Jill’s overdone face. Lindsey looked around to make sure no one was listening, then gave Melissa a silent high five and whispered, “I don’t care what Jill thinks. We rock.”
Melissa tried to imitate Lindsey’s confidence, but she was still humiliated by her misstep, and her hands shook from almost being caught in the bathroom.
was not a word to describe her, unless, of course, it was the round, heavy kind.
elissa shuffled into French class the next morning as the bell vibrated in her ears. There were no assigned seats in Monsieur Renauld’s class, but everyone sat in the same seats every day anyway. Melissa always sat in the second row all the way to the right. She could reach out and touch the whiteboard Monsieur Renauld used to post special notices. But today someone was sitting in her seat.