There is only a three-second pause between the moment my mother knocks on my bedroom door before she comes barreling into the room, a whirlwind of quick words and vanilla scented perfume. I scrunch up my face, trying to ignore the heavy smell that is slowly overtaking the small space.
She positions herself in front of my full-length mirror, observing her appearance carefully. As always, she is the perfect combination of professionalism and knock ’em dead gorgeous; her maroon pants suit perfectly ironed with a pair of flats to match. Her platinum hair is rolled tightly into a bun, a thin layer of makeup brushed across her flawless complexion. She has even managed to add a sharp wing to her eyeliner without downplaying the ‘take charge’ look she is going for today.
Her lips tighten into a scowl as she turns towards me, taking in the torn black jeans and oversized gray sweater I have thrown on today. She makes a disapproving sound undoing the messy ponytail that my hair has been pulled up into.
“I spent all that money at the salon last week and this is how you chose to style your hair?” Her fingers fuss through my thick locks, untangling the knots that seem to form out of nowhere. “You should wear it down more often, it frames your face perfectly. Oh, and this shirt? It’s a mess. Here, quick, hand it me and I will iron it. No, there is no time for that. Put something else on.”
I let out an annoyed groan and swat at her hands, but I am not quick enough. She tugs at the bottom of the sweater and I watch her eyes go wide with concern.
“Eveline!” She clutches at the fabric, lifting it up to expose my ever-shrinking waist and ribs that have slowly begun to press against the tight skin. “Please tell me you haven’t resorted to starving yourself?”
“Seriously?” I twist away from her, pulling down the thick fabric and storming out of my room towards the kitchen. I locate the muddy boots I left by the back door, sliding my feet into them. “I am not starving myself. That so called ‘fast metabolism’ you have been telling me about for years has finally decided to kick in. I just need to increase my food intake to keep up with it.”
My mother, who has spent years lecturing me on the health benefits of taking up a healthier lifestyle, was over-enthused to see the amount of weight I had lost during my time away this summer, but after only a few short weeks of being home, has begun to grow suspicious of my small appetite that has decided to accompany it.
“Is there something you need to tell me?” she interrogates, flattening her palms on the counter by the sink. She lets out a heavy sigh, staring out the window towards the broken fountain in the backyard as she puts on the look reserved only for when she is preparing herself to deliver one hell of a guilt trip. “You’ve been different since you came back from spending time with your father, distant. It doesn’t help that you came back looking like a completely different person. I’ve heard stories, you know, about the kinds of things that can happen to teenagers who have spent a majority of their lives overweight. It starts off harmless, losing a few pounds here and there by cutting out some junk food, but then it spirals out of control. Before they know it, they are living off celery and water. It ruins their entire lives. And the parents? Well, the parents always end up being a divorced couple that works too much and barely pay any attention to their children; they never see the signs. They are so wrapped up in their own lives that they don’t notice how horrible things are until it is too late.”
I try not to roll my eyes but fail, happy that my mother still has her back turned to me.
She has been doing this lately, going into guilt mode at the smallest of things and blaming herself for problems that were never really problems to begin with. It is like, the older I get, the more protective she gets over me.
“Mom.” I place a comforting hand on her shoulder, rotating her so that she is now looking me in the eyes. “I am not starving myself, and you are not self-absorbed. I do not have a secret eating disorder, but I have been watching what I eat. This is what you have been wanting, right? A healthier me? Everything is fine, and if it wasn’t, you would be the first person I told. I promise, okay?”
It is only when we are this close, something that rarely happens these days, do I realize how much more I favor my father than her.
My mother, even when she is dressed up the way she is now, still manages to look feminine and curvy. She is tall, but something about her stance keeps her from coming off as too intimidating.
Our height is the only thing we share, with both of us standing five foot seven. I, however, possess very little of the curves that she does and, instead of inheriting her alluring green eyes and goddess-like hair, have been ‘blessed’ with my father’s raven hair and eyes that can only be described as ‘dirt-water brown.’
Now, it’s not that I don’t consider myself attractive; I know for a fact that I can be a head turner when I try. I just pale in comparison while standing next to her.
The timer on the coffee machine goes off, cutting short out motherly bonding moment. I rush to pour some in my travel mug before she has a chance to find something new to worry about.
Ever since she accepted the job as an investigative journalist for our local paper, she has been not so subtly beating herself up for the lack of time she is able to spend with me. Her lack of parental supervision, however, currently sits at the bottom of my list complaints when it comes to her. There might have been a time in the past where her not being around would have irked me, but after spending large quantities of time by myself during my visit with my father this summer, I have grown to like the silence that comes with an empty house.
“Here,” she urges, shoving a large blueberry muffin in my face. The heavy smell of cinnamon causes my stomach to turn. “You’ve been looking a little pale the past few days. Did you even leave the house while you were at his house? Most kids your age would have died to be that close to the beach, but you look like you spent the whole time locked in the basement. Did something happen that you forgot to tell me about? Did he say something to you? You know he isn’t himself these days; you can’t dwell too much on anything he might have said. Something just seems off about you. You never mentioned making any friends. You know you can tell me if you experimented with drugs while you were there, or still are experimenting with drugs.”
“Good lord, mom, I am not on drugs. Though, if you keep harassing me like this, I just might consider taking up a drug habit.” I take a bit out of the unappetizing pastry, trying not to cringe as the dry crumbs make their way down my throat. I force a smile to my face. “Delicious. See, I still enjoy food. Are you happy now?”
She nods, smiling a bit, but I can’t help to notice the glimmer of disbelief in her eyes. She is not fully convinced that everything with me is normal and I can see her struggling to figure out how to put her thoughts into words.
Her shoulders go slack, a sure sign that she has given up, and she plants a small kiss on my cheek. “I have to head out or else I am going to be late for work. I am working on something big right now, so don’t be alarmed if I am not back before you get home this afternoon. Have a great first day! Oh, and Eveline, change out of that outfit before you leave the house. You look like a homeless person.”
And there it is, her well-intentioned but condescending comment of the day. Were she to go a day in my life where she didn’t make one, I might worry that she is suffering from brain damage. That or her head might explode.
I thought that being gone for almost the entire summer might help that nasty little habit of hers fade out, but when I returned home two weeks ago, she made it a point to comment on my letting that horrifying perm she gave me ‘go to waste’ by not keeping up with it. A few days later it was about how I slept too much and never left my room. Yesterday it was about how slack I have become with my makeup routine and how ‘being smart won’t catch the attention of the boys.’
I honestly don’t think she can help it at this point. From what she has told me, her upbringing wasn’t all that pleasant, and I think this might be the only form of parenting she knows.
I hate to break it to her that, should I actually develop some kind of issue, it would more than likely have something to do with her harsher than normal parenting skills.
As soon as her silver Beamer pulls out of the driveway and down the road, I toss the muffin into the trash and wash the leftover crumbs down with the largest glass of water I can make. Thanks to her hovering, and abnormal concerns, I have to choose between changing and be late for my first day of school.
Timeliness wins, as always.
I catch of my reflection in the small mirror by the door, taking note of the paleness my mother mentioned earlier. She is right, I have should have spent more time at the beach and less time worrying about my father. Luckily, the weight-loss is not wreaking havoc on my face the way my mother has been hinting when she compares me to a skeleton. My face has retained some of its roundness, but now instead of looking like a squirrel preparing for the winter, high cheekbones stare back at me.
Being overweight never really bothered me until I high school. Up until then, I had taken great pride is sharing some of the curves as my mother. It wasn’t until the taunting began that I realized how wrong I had been. My mother was round in all the places that people found attractive: hips, chest, and ass; while I was just round.
Losing weight was not the goal I had in mind when I took off to spend the summer in California, but the pounds had just seemed to melt off during those few months. When I first arrived at my father’s house I ate anything I could get my hands on, but the longer I stayed the less interest I began to have in food.
When I returned home to Idaho, my appetite completely vanished. At first, I thought it was a side effect of all the stress I was dealing with, but nothing has changed in the last two weeks. It is at the point now that I have found myself setting alarms to remind me to eat and, even then, I still end up finding a reason not to.
A warm breeze rushes forward to meet me as I step onto the porch, stray hairs flying in front of my face. At least the rain has let up. It has been coming down in sheets since I came home.
I smile, looking over the brightly colored trees lining our street. Living in McCall might have a plethora of downfalls, but the soft oranges, reds, and yellows of fall are not one of them.