The cupcake frosting compacts and puddles in my mouth, slow and sticky going down my esophagus. I cough almost choking, shoving the rest of it in my mouth, and look down at the plastic container. It is hard to see in the dark of the closet but I can see neon pink sprinkles of three that remain.
Grabbing the nearest one I push it past my teeth, tears coming to my eyes. I bite down hard and taste part of the paper wrapper. I don’t care, I keep consuming, wrapper and all. I taste the salt of my tears but gagging past it I cough again as the cupcake wrapper moves slowly down my throat. It doesn’t matter, it will all be coming up soon.
“Fannie?” I hear my name coming from somewhere downstairs. Panic grips me and butterflies dance in my stomach and I feel the vomit coming. I push it down, not yet. Filling my hands with the cupcakes I push both into my mouth and try to breathe through my nose. I put all my willpower into breathing and chewing.
“Fannie?” My name is shouted again and this time it is accompanied by footfall on the stairs. “Fannie, where are you?” The footsteps enter my room and I desperately try to gag down the last of the cupcakes.
Sudden light burns my eyes and I raise a frosting-filled hand to cover them from the sudden onslaught of light.
“Fannie! What the…” the sentence falls off as my mother looks at the mess. I wonder absently at what she sees. A skeleton, her oldest daughter draped in clothes too big. Large brown eyes staring up at her, bulging from skin pulled too tight on the face. The lips a pale chapped mess covered in frosting. Bone fingers lifted over eyes draped in blue and pink frosting.
“What are you…”
Each sentence starts and dies like a match in the wind. Pulling down my fingers from my eyes I stare into her face as the look in her eyes turns from worry to anger.
Claw-like hands grab my arm, it hurts a little but not enough. I deserve the pain. I deserve more pain than what she is giving me. She grabs me up, it must be easy because I know I weigh nothing. I am pulled out of the pink and white room and taken across the hall to the bathroom where the decor leans more towards coral than pink.
“This. Stops. Now.” She sputters and clips each word making it a sentence unto itself. I don’t resist there is no point. She puts me in the tub in full dress and turns on the water. The water is freezing and cuts me, but I like it. I like the way it hurts my skin, the way it burns the outside of my body, instead of the inside. With the pain on the outside, it is easier to forget the pain on the inside.
The water temperature changes slowly until the cold is burning and the pain is there again, this time a scalding pressure. She is still talking but the heat and pain of the water drown out her words. I sit in the water and just listen to the pain. In the pain, the silence finally comes. It is deep and it is peaceful. This is what I was looking for, this quiet.
Vomit spills over my lips and chunks of unchewed cupcakes spill out. She is saying more words but I listen only to the vomit. Its presence is a comfort, like an old friend. I stay with my friend until it leaves and all that is left is the burning water.
The water stops and I open my eyes. Her face is white and tears make her eyes puffy and red. She is still talking and I focus on her words, “Why?” She is saying the word over and over again.
I wonder the same thing. Why? But the answer has yet to present itself and even in the quiet of pain, I don’t know. I probably will never know. I lift a skeleton hand and say empty words we both know aren’t true, “I’ll do better.”
She stops and wipes her face. “Promise?”
I smile, tugging the tight skin up my face and across pointed bones, “Yes.”
She dries her hands on the apron around her waist, “Thank you, Fannie.” Then she walks out the door without looking back. I reach for the water valve trying to decide on hot or cold.