Mandy Greaves listened to her heartbeat slowing down. She could hear the faint drumming fading away, or at least she thought she could. Mandy felt no pity; she had merely lost her desire to live. She would rather die on her own, in her secret hideaway, and away from the mocking, cruel audience. Mandy was so fat and ugly, that she could not bear another human being staring at her. In reality, Mandy was not fat and ugly. She was an anorexic and was about to offer the ultimate sacrifice, rather than be forced to eat.
Her sixteen years on earth had mostly been a struggle. She had been in conflict with herself, to achieve the figure that she craved for. Not long now. She would be free from her old enemy, the scales. Those lying, corrupt scales, deleting an odd ounce here and there, when Mandy knew for a fact, that she was gaining weight.
She closed her eyes and saw whiteness; pure pristine whiteness, so bright and wonderful. She was weightless, floating above the green meadows and rivers, the radiant, pure light drawing her ever closer, like a magnet attracting a needle.
Anita Greaves was a dominant and over-protective mother. She had a tongue like an Irish navvy and a temper to match. Some say, but not to her face, that she nagged her obedient husband, Joe to death. He had a stroke at the young age of thirty, probably brought on by his wife’s domineering obsession.
Mandy had few friends as she grew up in the sleepy town of Oakhampton in Devon. What friends she did have, were always under the watchful eye of her mother. Ever since the death of her father seven years ago, Mandy had withdrawn into a shell; her love for him infinite.
Anita had high aspirations for her daughter, as far back as six years ago. Anita Greaves was an attractive woman with an hourglass figure, but she held a grudge against the modelling world for spurning her of what should have been a thriving and rewarding career. The only thing that stopped her having a career as a model was her crude misuse of the English language. The photographer’s eyes would light up when she entered the room, pound note signs before their eyes. Then she would open her mouth and the inevitable words, “we’ll be in touch,” followed her through the door.
Anita did the next best thing available to her. She worked as an erotic model, or that is what she was told it was. Pure pornography was a more appropriate definition. If Anita could not be a model, then she would settle for the next best thing. From the age of ten, Mandy was groomed to be the next supermodel, and that is when her troubles began.
Mandy’s first day at school, and the teachers took her slender appearance to be nothing out of the ordinary. A fine-boned child they used to call her. One of her teachers, Miss Darcy had grown quite fond of her and suspected that all was not well. It all stemmed from an English lesson, when the children were told to write down a list of unhealthy foods for their project. All of the children had a list of perhaps nine or ten food products; all that is apart from Mandy. Her total numbered over a hundred; even listing foodstuffs such as soup, pasta, potato and fish. When prompted by Miss Darcy, Mandy explained that her mother had told her so.
Miss Darcy was also concerned about the bruises and cuts that often marked Mandy’s frail body. The explanation was always the same. “I fell over, Miss.”
In reality, the truth was a lot more dire.
Mandy was allowed to eat only fresh fruit and vegetables. God forbid if she was ever caught eating anything else. Of course, her mother could not watch her while she was in school, so she resorted to desperate measures, weighing her daughter both before and after school. If Mandy was found to be one ounce overweight, she would be thrashed. The thrashings were not too bad at first, but gradually, over the years, they became more brutal. Cold baths and being locked in a dark closet for hours was one such punishment.
Anita had turned to the bottle more and more, as she tried to numb the shame that she sometimes felt after punishing her daughter. The school authorities had become involved after Miss Darcy had notified them of Mandy’s weight loss. Social services often called, but always made the mistake of notifying Anita when they were due. She would hide the alcohol when such a visit was planned, and ensured that she was sober.
The regular visitor was a young girl by the name of Tracy. Anita would charm the social worker about her plans for her daughter to become a model. The reason for her weight loss was Mandy’s wish, and she was happy with it. Mandy would concur, with a smile on her face, trying to avoid her mothers threatening gaze.
Occasionally, Mandy would sample a doughnut or a chocolate biscuit at school, but then would retire to the toilet to force her fingers down her throat. She knew what was waiting for her when she returned home. She would watch the other children, envious, as they dipped into their lunchboxes and tucked into their culinary delights. Mandy had even resorted to sneaking a peep through the canteen window, viewing the delicious, forbidden food.
There were so many treats that Mandy had not sampled. She had taken to stealing money from her mother’s purse, whenever she was in a drunken stupor. The money would be spent in the local sweet shop or bakers, sampling the offerings of liquorice, chocolate or a cream cake. Of course, she would then dash upstairs to the bathroom and throw it up, before weighing herself with her fingers crossed.
As she entered her teen years, Mandy was conscious of the attention that she was getting from her schoolmates, who scoffed at her figure. Mantis, they would call her, after the stick insect. Mandy’s fragile mind, due to lack of nutrition was in turmoil. She believed that she was fat, and pledged to cut down on her over-indulgence.
At the age of sixteen, she had auditioned several times to be a model, each time being turned down, not because of her figure, but because of her looks. Mandy had not inherited her mother’s looks. She was plain, something her mother was ignorant to. Mandy, after each refusal was brutally beaten by her obsessive mother.
Mandy’s belief was that she was turned down because she was fat, and this caused her health to deteriorate even more. Her periods had ceased and she was constantly constipated. She had a skin condition, and due to mineral deficiency, she had recently noticed a fine, downy growth of hair all over her body. Mandy, in her desperation to lose weight, resorted to taking laxatives. Miss Darcy’s pleas to the Social Services went unheeded, but Tracy claimed that she was indeed thin, but it was necessary, to pursue her ambition of modelling.
It was the last week at school for Mandy before she ventured into the obscurity of the outside world. Miss Darcy watched her in the mess room, retreating into a corner to eat her lunch alone. Mandy wore baggy clothes to hide her emaciated figure, and with her hollow cheeks, she resembled a victim of the Holocaust. The worried teacher approached her.
“Hi, Mandy, soon be out of here, eh?”
Mandy forced a smile and nodded, as she nibbled on a stick of celery.
“Is everything okay at home, Mandy?”
Again, she nodded, brushing away her long, lank, brown hair from her face.
Miss Darcy peeked into Mandy’s lunchbox, to see a couple of lettuce leaves and a tomato. “That doesn’t look very filling, Mandy. Come on, I’ll take you out for lunch. It’s my treat.”
“I’m fine, Miss Darcy.”
“You don’t look fine, Mandy; you’re awfully thin. You should eat something more substantial. You’ll make yourself ill.”
“I’m going to be a model, Miss Darcy. I have to watch my figure.”
“Is modelling what you really want to do, Mandy, or is it what your mother wants?”
“It’s what we both want.”
“But Mandy, you’ve been turned down so many times… Perhaps you should consider a different career. An accountant perhaps… You’re so good at Maths.”
Mandy replaced the lid on her lunchbox.
“Why won’t you talk to me, child?”
“Because, I’m not allowed to.”
The caring teacher watched as her pupil’s eyes dilated, and caught hold of her before she hit the ground.
Mandy woke up in unfamiliar surroundings. She focused on three people who were examining her, Miss Darcy, her mother and a nurse. The nurse took her pulse and inserted a thermometer into Mandy’s dry mouth. They were joined by a grey-haired doctor, who summoned Anita into his office.
“Mrs Greaves, your daughter is suffering from Anorexia Nervosa. She’s in a very bad way. She has an irregular heartbeat, incurred by her condition. The change in her heart muscle, due to her lack of nutrition is the cause of this. She is susceptible to heart failure… How did she get in this condition, Mrs Greaves?”
“Condition, what condition?”
“Mrs Greaves, your daughter could die at any given time. She is dehydrated, which could lead to kidney failure, and her muscles are wasting away. You leave me no option but to contact the police… This is one of the most severe cases of anorexia that I have ever witnessed.”
“But she wants to be a model. It’s her own decision.”
“If she doesn’t start eating soon, you won’t have a daughter.”
Mandy refused to eat anything for the next week, and the health authority made the decision to force-feed her. Their attempts proved futile, as Mandy removed the drip each time it was attached. There was nothing more for them to do except watch her die. The doctors applied for a court permit, in order to forcefully administer a drug, which could save her life.
Miss Darcy, in a desperate attempt to talk her into eating, sat at her bedside. “Mandy, why do you want to do this to yourself? You have all of your life ahead of you… Tomorrow morning, a decision will be made to give you drugs that will save your life. Why don’t you make it easier and eat something?”
“Because I’m ugly and fat. Everybody knows it. They laugh at me all of the time.”
“You’re not ugly and fat; you only think you are… You’re sick, Mandy. Please eat something.”
“Goodbye, Miss Darcy. You’re the only friend I’ve ever had.”
The concerned teacher hugged the girl. “I’ll call back tomorrow. You’ll get well, you’ll see?”
“Will I then be a model?”
“Perhaps, Mandy. Perhaps.”
Mandy approached the window, oblivious to the darkness outside. She gazed at her reflection and tears rolled down her hollow cheeks. “Why oh why am I so fat?”
She struggled to open the window and climbed out into the warm night air. She ran as fast as she could, heading for the serenity and solitude of Dartmoor. She was ignorant of the stones that were cutting her bare feet, and ran faster, towards her secret hideaway, her shelter from the adult world. Her heart pounded faster and faster, as she exerted herself. She removed the branches that concealed her tomb and lay shivering in her nightdress, awaiting death.
The radiant white light was now all around her, and a figure appeared to her. The tall, handsome man was her father. He embraced her, and she wept tears of joy. She walked with him through a large gate, the kingdom to heaven. Mandy looked down at her body. She giggled, lightly at first, and then more robustly. The flab had disappeared completely. She had a figure a model would have been proud of. She was about to frequent the catwalks of heaven.