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Hole in the Ladder (Fence we can Climb)

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William has a plan.

For breakfast he’ll have a low-fat strawberry soy yoghurt (130) and a hardboiled egg (85) with a coffee (3 without sugar or creamer). Lunch is a piece of fruit, either an apple (85) or an orange (85), and another cup of coffee (3). He gets a brown rice cake (60) for dinner. Every other day he is allowed a square of dark chocolate (30) along with dinner. Only diet sodas (0) and water (0) are allowed besides coffee and he has to drink at least 2 liters of water each day.

Then there’s the exercise: a 30 minute jog (-300) followed by his routine (40 each of jumping jacks, crunches, and leg lifts and then the whole process repeated 3 times) (-40) and then half an hour of yoga (-60). On the weekends he has to jog for an hour (-600) and do a full hour of yoga (-120), along with his routine (-40).

It’s difficult to follow the plan at first. He was lazy before and not eating as much gives him even less energy, so he skips a lot of his workouts or just doesn’t finish them. Sometimes he deviates from his meal plan, eating a bagel with jam (290) for breakfast or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (320) for lunch. Sometimes he’ll eat dinner with his family, having spaghetti and meatballs (650) or chinese takeout (740) with a big bowl of ice cream (390) afterwards.

As time goes on he gets better, but in a way he also gets worse.

He follows the meal plan, sometimes eating even less than what is allotted. He gives himself more options, letting himself choose what to eat so long as his daily intake is under 500 calories; a cup of spinach (7 without dressing, 50 with), plain oatmeal (100), bananas (105), and tuna (60) are all safe. He never misses a workout, starts to exercise in the mornings before he’s eaten so he’s burning fat as opposed to energy from food. He fidgets as much as possible, takes nearly freezing showers, anything to burn more calories.

Then there are the days that go wrong. He doesn’t want to eat but he can’t help himself, he’s just so goddamn hungry. He eats anything and everything; it doesn’t matter whether he likes it, the only thing that matters is that it’s food. Four frozen samosas that are slightly soggy from being heated in the microwave instead of the oven (760), one toasted bagel with jam and butter (360) and one plain bagel eaten while the other was in the toaster (260), the half tub of ice cream in the freezer (780), two packets of oatmeal with sugar and cinnamon added (300), the rest of the jar of pickles (40), a bowl of cereal (250), the “secret” bar of chocolate his mother hides in her purse (220), half a block of cheese (280), and a banana (105).

By the time he’s finished he’s so full it hurts, but he forces himself to swallow glass after glass of water anyways. The cramps make him cry and he wants nothing more than to throw up but he forces himself to keep it down because it’s the middle of the night and he knows that he won’t be able to do so quietly. He drinks three liters of water before going to his room and pulling out the stepstool, using it as a makeshift stepping machine. Step up, step down; step up, step down. He doesn’t stop until the light starts to filter in through his window, and he drinks another liter of water before allowing himself to sleep. He doesn’t eat for three days afterwards to make up for his mistake, and then the cycle begins once again.

Restrict. Binge. Starve. Repeat.

x x x

He joins an eating disorder site.

He’s not entirely sure why. He’d been on the site before and scrolled through their forums but he’d never felt the urge to join, not until now at least. All these people have eating disorders, he’d just feel awkward and out of place; that, or he’d be considered a ‘wannarexic.’ He doesn’t have an eating disorder and he doesn’t pretend to have one so there’s really no point in making an account.

He does it anyway.

It becomes his private little world, a safe haven from reality. He didn’t post very much at first, nervous about how people might see him. Eventually, after making a couple of comments and even writing an introduction topic, he begins to feel more at ease. Everyone welcomes him and he begins to feel like he’s found a place where he doesn’t have to hide.

He sticks mostly to the anorexia forum, feels almost at home there. Briefly he wonders if that’s a worrying sign, but he brushes it off and goes back to scrolling through the topics.

x x x

THE THIN COMMANDMENTS

1. If you aren’t thin, you aren’t attractive.
2. Being thin is more important than being healthy.
3. You must buy new clothes, cut your hair, take laxatives, anything to make yourself look thinner.
4. You will not eat without feeling guilty.
5. You will not eat fattening food without punishing yourself afterwards.
6. You will count calories and restrict intake accordingly.
7. What the scale says is the most important thing.
8. Losing weight is good, gaining weight is bad.
9. You can never be too thin.
10. Being thin and not eating are true signs of willpower and success.

x x x

Nobody notices that he’s losing weight. Every morning he puts on baggy clothes, loose enough to hide the thin shape of his body but not so big as to make him look even smaller than he actually is. His nails are painted a soft pink so as to mask the purple-blue tint they’ve taken on and he uses foundation to cover the dark bags under his eyes. Hats and buns keep his brittle hair hidden, lotion helps his dry skin, and when all's said and done, he doesn’t totally look like he’s dying.

He loves his friends but they’re idiots. The only exposure they’ve had to this stuff was in their freshman health class when they watched some stupid movie about a girl who starves herself to be a better gymnast. They wouldn’t ever think that William has an eating disorder.

He spends his lunches laughing at jokes that aren’t funny as he slowly gets rid of his food; Mike gets his sandwich, Chislett gets his chips, Butcher gets his cookie, and Sisky gets his yoghurt. All that’s left are some apple slices, which he would either eat half of and throw the rest out or give the whole thing to Butcher. His friends are more than happy to take his food, not realizing that they’re leaving him with nothing.

His parents aren’t as stupid, but they’re too busy to notice that anything is wrong. His dad has been chasing a promotion he’ll never get so he doesn’t ever come home until late and his mom is too invested in his sister’s promising ballet future to bother paying attention to him, so he’s left alone for the most part. Occasionally his sister will give him worrying looks, and he’s almost certain he’ll be found out; she’s a ballerina, she’d be able to recognize an eating disorder in a heartbeat. But he smiles and placates her worries with a few comments about the stress of school, and she leaves the subject alone.

William fools so many people into believing he’s okay, he doesn’t realize that he’s fooling himself too.

x x x

“People think that perfection is impossible. They’re just weak.”

He’s talking to Ryan, a boy he met on the eating disorder site, waving his hands in exaggerated motions even though the other boy can’t see him through the phone. The cigarette dangling between his bony fingers leaves behind trailing wisps as his hand moves through the air and he vaguely wishes he was like the cigarette smoke, graceful but fleeting and utterly untouchable.

“Think about it. We deny ourselves basic needs, push ourselves to the edge of the cliff and then take it a step further, one foot dangling over the abyss.” He pauses to take another drag of his cigarette. “We don’t fall though, never fall. Falling is giving up and giving up is weak, and we are not weak.”

His hand shakes as he brings the cigarette to his lips once more.

x x x




accountaBILLity

weight - 126.3 (bmi - 16.2)
intake - monday

coffee - 3
apple - 85
coffee - 3
coffee - 3
coffee - 3
rice cake - 35
coffee - 3

total - 135

today was okay, managed to keep my intake low but I was feeling really sick and dizzy the whole day. I’ll have a higher cal day tomorrow, hopefully that’ll help.

weekefromfasting replied to accountaBILLity: Please be careful and make sure not to push yourself too far. Fainting isn’t fun.
until-it-kills replied to accountaBILLity: trust me, I know. but thank you :) I’ll make sure to be more careful in the future
the-lazzara-effect replied to accountaBILLity: WHAT HTE FCUK
the-lazzara-effect replied to accountaBILLity: im so jealous rn
anaandalex replied to accountaBILLity: man I remember when I could do this. I’m in a binge cycle rn lmao rip in peace amiright :’)
mcthinnon replied to accountaBILLity: okay somebody pls make an ‘until-it-kills diet’ because you are literally goals
mrcn-idjit replied to accountaBILLity: ^^HA
mrcn-idjit replied to accountaBILLity: being legit and all, sometimes I use your accountability to plan out my week lol
until-it-kills replied to accountaBILLity: aww thank you!! I still have a long way to go tho :/
until-it-kills replied to accountaBILLity: and mrcn-idjit, message me if you want my cal plans for the week :)
skinny-sixx replied to accountaBILLity: how much are you going to up your intake?
until-it-kills replied to accountaBILLity: at MOST, 500. I’ve been doing really good lately, so I’d like to try to stay under 300 tho

x x x

He smells like cigarettes and dying leaves, but that could just be his rotting body. Wasting away bit by bit, slowly decomposing in his shrinking stomach, William is dying and he doesn’t want to stop; he never feels more powerful than when he’s starving.

He doesn’t know exactly when it happened, but he stopped bingeing. The hunger doesn’t bother him as much anymore, so much so that it’s more difficult to eat than to not. The constant, gnawing pain of never being full is a reminder of why he’s doing this; he needs to be skinnier, needs to be better.

Lost as the waves in the sky, flickering like the lighter in his hand, he feels himself disappearing. His body devours the nothingness he feeds it with, tears itself apart from the inside out. With every exhale he feels himself grow lighter, every inhale weighs him down. Maybe if he stopped breathing—

“Smoking kills, you know.”

William lets out a humorless laugh and blows smoke at the guy now sitting next to him.

“It’s my life,” he says, “I can waste it however I want.” He doesn’t bother to clarify between lung cancer and malnutrition.

The guy shrugs. “Fair enough,” he says, stealing William’s lighter for his own cigarette.

Time seems to take a pause as they breathe out their smoke. The smothered sounds of the house party behind them echo through the night, music and cheering and the occasional crash of shattering glass, but the rest of the world is quiet, a curiously enticing state of being of which the two boys outside walk the line.

William’s only here because Tom practically dragged him after the Midtown concert, saying he needed to live life on the edge every once in awhile. He’d escaped to the backyard the first chance he got, slowly making his way through a pack of cigarettes and a stolen bottle of whiskey in an effort to forget about his mind-numbing boredom and overwhelming self-loathing.

“Do you think there’s still time?” the guy asks suddenly. William stares at him, confused, and waves his hand in a gesture for the guy to elaborate.

“To be saved. Or to save ourselves.”

William shrugs. “Not everyone wants to be saved.”

“Not everyone asks if they do.”

Confused and concerned and kind of attracted to this weird guy, William giggles. “Dude, I need to be way drunker if I’m going to have a deep conversation with a total stranger.”

The guy laughs too. He grabs the bottle of whiskey from the ground and holds it up, shaking it a little. “Good thing we have this, right?” he says, uncapping it and taking a swig; William laughs harder at the repulsed look on the guy’s face afterwards. “I’m William, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you, William," he says, grinning wide. "I’m Gabe.”

x x x

That seventh cup of coffee might have been a mistake.

It’s all he’s had for the past 4 days (13 hours, 17 minutes): coffee, cigarettes, and zero calorie energy drinks. He can’t stand up without his vision going black, head too light and knees bending too much to be safe. He’s sitting in the frame of his window, trying desperately to light a cancer stick but his hands are shaking too much for him to keep the flame steady. Normally he’d sneak out, go for a walk and smoke, but he doesn’t think he could make it past his bedroom door.

Eventually he lights it, a jagged exhale and a coughed release following. He worries briefly that he might pass out and fall out the window, but then he realizes that he doesn’t care. Dying is nothing to him, he lives it each day, every waking moment. He’s already a corpse, just a skeleton of the boy he once was.

He watches as silk flows from his hand, twist and curls in the air around him before fading away into nothing. Nothing, nothing, that’s all he’s ever wished for. He laughs humorlessly as he realizes he will never weigh nothing, not even when he’s dead; in the most bitterly ironic twist of fate, his bones will still push the number up.

Another shaky inhale, another shaky exhale. His mom will yell at him later for stinking up the house, but he doesn’t care, he doesn’t care, he doesn’t care.

He longs to be a nobody in a nowhere, but he’ll never be the nothing he wishes for.

x x x

Honestly, William can’t remember when he started to hate himself.

He thinks it might have started when he was in middle school, too pudgy to escape the acrid comments and snide remarks. He remembers going on some diet he saw advertised on TV: a cup of cereal with skim milk for breakfast, a meal bar for lunch, and a healthy, low-calorie dinner at the end of the day. He was supposed to have lost six pounds in two weeks, but he didn’t understand the concept of calories so his dinner was more of a feast and the number on the scale didn’t change.

Although, it might have developed in elementary school. All the kids were doing their back to school shopping, buying new supplies and chic clothes, and William distinctly remembers having to pass by a room’s worth of his classmates in the kids’ section as his mom led him over the the juniors’ area. She said it was because he was so tall, shooting up like a sunflower, but as he tried on a medium sized shirt that barely fit in the dressing room, he knew the truth. He got a gym membership where his parents worked out, went there every day for a week, and then started going less and less until it was two months later and he was sitting on the couch, eating two and a half servings of mac and cheese.

Or maybe it all began when he was eight years old, chubby enough to be cute but still overhear the worried comments from his mom and grandma. The kids at school were mean because they didn’t know any better, didn’t understand that words weren’t like scraped knees or bruised elbows; they burrowed under skin, festering as they infected him with their foul disease of self-hatred and insecurity.

It’s said as you get older, you start to stop caring what other people think about you; what are you supposed to do when you are your own worst enemy?

x x x

MEANSPO

- Everything has its beauty, it’s just that not everyone can see it because of that gross stuff on your body commonly known as fat.
- Inner beauty is a joke.
- Hungry? Have a bottle of water. Still hungry? Eat an apple. Still hungry? Too bad, you need to be skinny.
- Yeah, because he’s totally into fat boys. Keep dreaming.
- You don’t deserve to eat, you’re too fucking fat.
- That cookie isn’t going to seem like such a great goddamn idea next time you’re standing in front of a mirror.
- Life is like a box of chocolates: it doesn’t last as long for fat people.
- Almost all of your problems would be nonexistent if you learned to control yourself.
- You’re a fat piece of shit.
- Wanna get skinny? Fine. Put down the fork, shut the fuck up, and starve, bitch, starve.
- What excuse are you going to use this time?
- Don’t reward yourself with food, you’re not a dog.
- You will be fat if you eat.
- Need motivation? Look in the mirror.
- You’re fat. Don’t sugarcoat it because you’ll eat that too.
- How much did you eat today? …disappointing.
- Stop stuffing your fat face, you disgusting pig.
- This is what you deserve.

x x x

“You smell like death.”

“Fuck off,” William says, words slightly garbled around the cigarette he’s trying (and failing) to light. Damn Chicago wind. Gabe laughs, moving close and stealing the lighter out of his hand. He holds it up, flicking it on and letting William finally light up before pocketing it and leaning back against the wall next to the boy.

They’re behind the corner store, the only place William’s found that doesn’t ask for ID. He lets his head fall back against the brick, revelling in the nicotine fix and the slightly sick feeling that starts in his stomach (the best thing about cigarettes is that they’re appetite suppressants).

Gabe mumbles a “Fuck it” under his breath before pulling out his own pack and lighting one up too. William snorts, shooting the man a pointed look and getting smoke blown in his face for it.

“Rude.”

Gabe laughs. “You’re cute when you’re pissed.”

William is speechless for a moment, not expecting the compliment, before he regains his voice and shoots back with a smirk, “Are you saying I’m not cute all the time?”

Gabe really laughs this time, loud and unrestrained. “Not at all, Guillermo. Not at all.”

x x x

until-it-kills updated his status: the guy I like called me cute god bless
the-lazzara-effect replied: ooh excite !!
fvnnwithgvnns replied: GET SOME
anaandalex replied: was it thinasadime cuz I kinda ship it ngl
mrcn-idjit replied: you are cute :)
thinasadime replied: I am offended that you didn’t message me first how dare you
thinasadime replied: but fr, I’m happy for you :D

William can’t help the embarrassed smile on his face as he reads through the comments. He’s just about to close out of the tab when he gets a new message notification, opening it up and smiling wider when he sees it’s Ryan.

thinasadime: get on skype NOW
thinasadime: I’m expecting ALL the deets >:)

He laughs as he exits the window and opens Skype, barely online for a few seconds before he gets an incoming call. He’s still smiling giddily, unable to hold it back even when he’s faced with Ryan’s knowing smirk.

“So?” the boy asks, eyebrows raised.

“So?” he replies, doing his best to match Ryan’s expression. They hold their staring contest for only a few moments until they both dissolve into a fit of giggles, unable to keep straight faces anymore.

“But seriously,” Ryan says once he’s regained his composure, “who’s this guy that’s stolen your heart?”

“His name is Gabe, and he hasn’t stolen my heart. Not yet, anyway.”

Ryan grins suggestively, leaning in towards the webcam.

“Tell me everything.

x x x

It’s funny, the way William can love someone with no clue about how to love himself. He’s pretty sure that there’s some type of cosmic irony involved, but he can’t be bothered to care when Gabe is telling some crazy story about his friend with a massive forehead.

“I’m serious!” he says, but William can’t stop giggling. The whole story is ridiculous, and Gabe’s exaggerated facial expressions and hand gestures just add to the entire effect. They’re behind the corner store once again, the disgusting, dirty alleyway quickly becoming William’s favorite spot in the city.

“This fucking idiot, he actually believes that a shopping cart jousting tournament is a good idea. I’m just standing on the sidewalk with a couple of his other friends as he and Pete, his roommate who was also super fucking drunk at the time, start sprinting towards each other with shopping carts— that they stole from Walmart! They’re only a few feet away when— mmph.”

Gabe stops talking because William is kissing him. It’s nothing extraordinary, no fireworks or molten hot passion, just the gentle press of cold, cigarette-kissed lips. Gabe pulls back, smiling at William who is blushing like crazy, refusing to look at him and smoking furiously so he wouldn’t have to talk. Gabe reaches over and grabs the hand hanging at the boy’s side intertwining their fingers and giving them a little squeeze.

“You know, an ‘I like you’ would have sufficed.”

William giggled almost hysterically then, all his tension escaping in one breath and leaving him light-headed. “Are you complaining?” he teases, finally turning to look at Gabe, who’s smiling wider than ever.

“Not at all.”

x x x

Ryan screams so loud into the phone that William actually drops it, catching it just in time before it starts to slide off the roof. When he holds it up to his ear, he can’t understand a single thing the other boy is saying because he’s babbling excitedly, asking questions too quickly for William to keep up with all of them.

He’d missed talking to Ryan, sitting in the windowsill and chain smoking as they rambled on. They’d gotten over their fight but things have been a little tense since, their texts and conversations strained. It was nice to be able to talk like they used to, no glass walls or stepping on fingers and trying not to break them.

“Slow down,” William says, laughing, and Ryan manages to bring himself down to one question at a time. William answers all of them with red cheeks and a bashful smile, and he’s thankful that he’s not in front of a webcam for once.

“Okay, ew, no,” he says when Ryan accuses him of being lovesick. “I don’t love him. I’m just, like, in love with him.”

It’s only a few seconds before William bursts into giggles, falling out of the windowsill and (thankfully) onto his bedroom floor. He can hear Ryan’s laughter through the tinny phone speakers, choked and erratic and happy.

These moments are the best; the ones where they can laugh and joke and talk about stupid things like normal teenagers, where they can pretend that they don’t have a death sentence wrapped around their necks.

x x x

99 reasons to starve

1. new clothes
2. flat stomach
3. when people describe you, they say, “you know, the one who weighs 90, 95, something like that”
4. other people are jealous of you
5. you are other people’s thinspiration
6. you don’t feel less important than the skinny one
7. you can ‘seize the day’ and enjoy your youth while being skinny
8. being able to sit on someone’s lap
9. no longer having the worst body of all your friends
10. no more ‘big bones’ or excuses
11. your thighs don’t touch
12. no more muffin top
13. no double chin
14. better skin, hair, nails, teeth, etc
15. more fit
16. you feel sexy
17. a cute butt
18. guys want your body
19. girls want your body
20. collarbones
21. ribs
22. hipbones
23. backbones
24. cheekbones
25. light as a feather
26. thin as a dime
27. nobody looks down on you for being fat
28. tiny legs
29. tiny arms
30. look good in skinny jeans
31. nobody ever says “the one with the pretty face” or “the really nice one,” they say “the skinny one”
32. the whole world knows you have self control and you deserve your body
33. people feel how small you are when they hug you
34. people think you’re beautiful
35. you are a better person
36. you always look pretty
37. no unflattering angles
38. you can wear the clothes nobody else dares to
39. better underwear
40. you can show off your stomach
41. nobody calls you fat
42. you’re not afraid to wear tank tops anymore
43. you can wear shorts and actually look good in them
44. look better in photos
45. you can run/exercise better
46. you actually look forward to swimsuit season
47. you don’t hate yourself
48. no fat
49. less food fills you up faster
50. when you eat food it’s cute, not gross or disgusting or ‘too much’
51. proving everyone who said you couldn’t do it wrong
52. everybody wants to be you
53. people comment about how skinny you’ve become
54. you get more attention
55. being able to walk around in your underwear
56. be comfortable
57. look graceful
58. swap/share clothes with friends
59. designer and expensive clothes are worth it
60. you will never be happy with yourself if you’re fat
61. live longer
62. makeup and hairstyles will always look better
63. you’ll be skinnier than your family and friends have ever been
64. better sex
65. in a room full of people, everyone’s eyes are on you
66. things don’t creak or make noise noise when you stand or walk or jump on them
67. nobody likes fat boys
68. you can wear baggy/shapeless clothes and people will still know you’re skinny
69. you can get a hot boyfriend
70. no love handles
71. strangers think you’re beautiful
72. you’ll be happy with yourself
73. it’s easier to maintain a low weight than to try to lose it
74. you can borrow someone else’s clothes and then give them back, saying they’re too big
75. dance and look sexy, not awkward
76. people notice you
77. you can exercise without looking unhealthy
78. comparing your weight and size with your friends and being the smallest
79. you don’t dread weighing yourself
80. you can step on the scale with being disappointed
81. thin hands and wrists
82. no cankles
83. no chubby cheeks
84. being compared to celebrities/skinny people
85. more flexible
86. take a shower and not be disgusted
87. people who haven’t seen you for a while will be shocked
88. when you sit down your legs won’t spread out
89. actually enjoy shopping for clothes
90. no more ‘fat days’
91. no wishing you were someone else (someone skinnier)
92. you will never be good enough for anybody if you’re fat
93. bone structure looks better without fat hanging off of it
94. guys can pick you up with ease
95. jawline
96. before and after pictures
97. boys will want to date you, not just be friends
98. not the fat brother/son/friend/person
99. you will be happy

x x x

“Why don’t you ever take me on a real date?” William asks, as Gabe brings over two cups of coffee to their table in the corner, handing one to William. He sits down across from the boy and shrugs, taking a sip of his coffee before responding.

“Why would I buy you a dinner you wouldn’t eat?”

The entire world should have stopped. William should be frozen in panic, unable to process the fact that his sort-of-boyfriend knew. He should be shaking and crying and pushing Gabe away, screaming and sobbing and running away from his issues just like he always does.

Instead, he just sighs and asks, “When did you figure it out?”

Because the truth is that life isn’t an inspirational movie. There isn’t always a big confrontation scene, no big break-up and get back together moments; no moving one-liners that sum up the entire story in a single sentence. The truth is that William was expecting this at some point, and now that the moment has arrived, all he feels is a pervasive sense of numbness and fatigue.

“The night we met,” Gabe says, and at least he has the decency to look apologetic. William smiles, huffs out exasperated, “I suppose it’s pretty obvious, huh?”

Gabe nods, a tentative smile making its way onto his face.

“If you knew, why didn’t you do anything?”

“It wouldn’t have changed anything,” Gabe says with a tired sigh. “You can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved, remember? Even if I tried, you’d just get angry and push me away. The best thing I can do is be here for you.”

He reaches for William’s hand on the table, tangling their fingers together before looking him in the eye. “You need to decide you’re worth it, but I promise you I’m going to do my best to make you believe that.”

William just stares at him, and it’s in that moment he realizes he’s in love.

x x x

Symptoms and Side Effects of Anorexia Nervosa

Short-Term Effects
- extreme weight loss
- thin appearance
- abnormal blood counts
- elevated liver enzymes
- fatigue
- dizziness or fainting
- seizure
- brittle nails
- hair that thins, breaks or falls out
- absence of menstruation (amenorrhea)
- development of fine hair on the extremities (lanugo)
- constipation
- dry skin
- intolerance of cold
- irregular heart rhythms
- low blood pressure
- dehydration
- osteoporosis, the loss of bone calcium, which may result in broken bones

Long-Term Effects
- forced withdrawal from school or college
- loss of connection to faith or religion
- career disruption
- isolation from friends and family
- infertility
- shutdown of major body systems
- brain damage
- heart attacks
- suicide
- death

x x x

William finishes off the cigarette, drops it in an empty Coke (Zero) can on his windowsill before pulling out another one and lighting up once again. His mom has given up on trying to get him to go out of the house to smoke, instead just not-so-subtly leaves scented candles all over his room, which he lights because he doesn’t want to hurt her more than he already has.

He can see the pain on her face when she looks at him, her tired smile as her eyes take in his too-lanky frame. She’s stopped buying clothes for him so she doesn’t have to ask his size, doesn’t bother asking him if he wants dinner (but she still leaves a plate out and leftovers in the fridge every night; sometimes William will go downstairs at 2 a.m. and throw the food out, burying it under napkins and paper towels so his mom will be a little less hopeless). She thinks that if she can ignore it then it will just go away, that if she can’t see it then it doesn’t exist.

William wishes he didn’t exist, for her sake.

He finishes the cigarette, drops it in the can, and lights another.

He wonders how she would react if he told her, if he went up to her and said, “Mom, I have an eating disorder.” Would she tell him, “That’s silly, sweetheart. Boys don’t have eating disorders,” or would she cry, pull him into a hug and threaten to never let go before staying awake all night, spending the entire time looking at rehab clinics? Maybe she would just smile at him and look away, start talking about whatever stupid thing the mayor said this week and pretend that she didn’t hear a word he said.

He wonders if she ever starved herself, wonders if she knows exactly what he’s going through and just hopes he’ll grow out of it like she did. He wonders if she was ever as bad as him, but then thinks she couldn’t have had anything close to an eating disorder because if she understood even a fraction of his pain, then she would be doing everything in her power to end his suffering.

William finishes his cigarette, drops it in the can, and doesn’t light up another one. His stomach grumbles, and he goes to the kitchen for a snack.

x x x

He makes an impulsive decision and deletes his account.

He doesn’t bother to read Ryan’s messages.

x x x

“Are you wearing three nicotine patches?” William asks, laughing in disbelief as he sees the man’s neck, just barely visible above the collar of his coat. They’re meeting in the city for a date, heading to a basically underground record shop so William could look for his favorite bands and Gabe could tease him about his taste in music (although he couldn’t really say much, seeing as William’s favorite band was his own).

“Yup,” Gabe says, popping the ‘p’ before grabbing the boy by the hips and pulling him in for a kiss. William goes along, but pulls back after a moment, saying, “That can’t be healthy.”

Gabe shrugs. “Neither is starving yourself.”

William rolls his eyes. “Good thing I’m working on it, then.”

He smiles and pecks his shocked boyfriend one last time before he steps back out of Gabe’s arms, grabbing his hand and starting to pull him along.

“Come on,” he says, grinning as he glances over his shoulder, noticing the confoundedly happy expression on the man’s face. “The shop gets a new shipment of records today and I want first pick.”

x x x

He calls a hotline one day. He’s not entirely sure what to do when the woman answers the phone, so he just dumbly says, “I have an eating disorder.”

She asks if he’d like to be transferred to one of her male colleagues, if he’d be more comfortable talking to someone of the same gender, but he just shakes his head and mumbles a “No” when he remembers she can’t see him.

She asks him if he’s having a crisis, and that’s when the floodgates open. He starts talking and can’t stop, telling the woman on the other side of the line that he wants to get better, he really does, he just doesn’t know how. He’s tried eating more but he can’t get above 800 calories, and even that’s too much for him most days.

He tells her about how he’s so tired of hating himself, tired of the constant self-loathing and self-destructive thoughts. He tells her that sometimes he thinks about dying because it has to be easier than this, right? It can’t nearly be as painful as slowly starving to death.

He tells her about his mom and how she pretends not to notice that he’s got a problem, that he never fucking eats. He talks about Ryan and how he abandoned the boy and he feels so fucking bad but he still can’t bring himself to even read the messages because he’s too ashamed of looking weak in front of him.

He tells her about Gabe the most though, talking about how he’s the one person in his life who accepts him as he is, eating disorder and all. He doesn’t push him to get help but lets him improve at his own pace, next to him every step of the way to keep him moving forward and catch him when he falls. He talks about how he’s not ashamed of his body when he’s with his boyfriend, not afraid of looking fat or gross or disgusting because he knows Gabe just won’t care, and it’s the most freeing feeling in the world.

“I want to feel that way all the time,” he says, passionate. “I don’t want to care what I look like.”

At first, he worries that he’s overwhelmed her, but after a moment she clears her throat and tells him that he’s not in any danger so she won’t recommend any extreme measures, but she does suggest that he look into a therapist. She says that she can send him a list of healthcare professionals in the city who specialize in eating disorders.

He’s about to say no but he bites his tongue, trying to think of an actual reason first. “I don’t think my mom would believe me if I told her.”

That’s fine, the woman says, and as it turns out, since he’s above the age of 14, he can seek help for mental health issues without his parents or guardians being notified. He tries to think of another reason to say no, desperately drudges around in the dirt of his disordered mind, but he can’t find anything so before he can stop himself, he says yes and gives the lady his email address.

x x x

“I don’t know…”

“Hey,” Gabe says, gently taking a hold of William’s wrist. The boy has been pacing furiously for the last few minutes, rambling about the pros and cons of therapy. Gabe is sitting on the bed, had been watching him walk around the tiny room the entire time and decides enough is enough; he pulls him down to sit on the bed, wrapping him in a hug. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”

Williams sighs, shaky and scared and whispers, “I think I do want this, though.” Gabe stops breathing. “I want to be normal. I want a stupid crush and to eat dinner at 9 p.m. and have a terrible local band.” William giggles before saying, “I want to be you.”

Gabe lets out the breath he’s been holding in a shaky laugh and he squeezes the boy even tighter, holding onto him for dear life. He feels like crying right now; he’s pretty sure William’s already shed a few tears himself.

“I can’t do this alone,” he says, and Gabe can hear the nervousness and fear in his voice.

“You don’t have to,” he says, placing a kiss to the top of the boy’s head. “I’ll be with you, every step of the way.”

x x x

As it turns out, therapy is really expensive so William has to figure out his insurance information before he can even start to look at therapists; once he’s done that though, everything is fairly smooth. He finds a man who works in the downtown area and can fit him in that week for a consultation (not to mention the co-pay is ridiculously low).

The date arrives faster than William expects it to, and all too soon he’s sitting in Gabe’s car where they’re parked outside the building, anxiously shaking his leg as he stalls until the last possible minute to go inside. Gabe is kind enough to let him do so, but at 1:59 he does mention that William might need to hurry if he doesn’t want to be late.

William rushes inside, speeds up the first flight of stairs, and enters the first office on the right at just a few seconds after 2:00 p.m. There’s a tall, smartly dressed man in the waiting room, all cheekbones and jawline, who smiles at William as he walks over, holding out his hand and introducing himself as Mr. Weekes.

“‘Dr.’ makes me feel like an old man,” he confesses, and William finds that he likes the guy already.

After sorting out everything with insurance, he takes William back to his office and has him sit on the old, overstuffed couch (not that he’s complaining, because that thing is comfortable as fuck) and asks him why he’s here.

“I have an eating disorder,” William says, and he’s surprised how easily the words come out.

They spend the rest of the half hour going over his disordered behavior, body image, and general mental health. By the end of the session, William is exhausted but fulfilled and although Mr. Weekes can’t give him an official diagnosis (“I’m not that kind of doctor, unfortunately.”), he can still treat the boy through talk therapy and recommend a dietician for him to see once a week, to help with meal planning and weight stabilization.

Within a few days, William has weekly therapy sessions and dietician appointments set up for the next two months, as well as information about a once-a-month Eating Disorders Anonymous support group. Gabe says he’ll take William to every meeting and appointment as long as he can take him out to dinner one day.

William smiles and says he can’t wait.

x x x

“Hey, Mom,” William says, walking into the kitchen just after she comes in, lugging an abundance of shopping bags along with her. She heaves them onto the counter and William rushes over, catching cans before they can roll off the counter. He smiles at her and sets about unpacking the bags, putting groceries away as she starts pulling ingredients out.

“What are you making for dinner?” he asks, trying to remember which cabinet the cans go into. He doesn’t see the way she freezes, turning slowly to look at him with a shocked expression. “Spaghetti,” she manages to eventually choke out, and William hums before taking a guess and smiling triumphantly as he sees cans behind the cupboard door.

“Sounds good,” he says, finally starting in on putting the cans away. “I hope you’re not using that chunky red sauce,” he adds, mumbling. “I hate that sauce.”

“I don’t have to,” she says, and he turns around to find her smiling and on the brink of tears.

“Mom?” he asks. “What’s wrong?” She just shakes her head, walking over and pulling him into a tight hug.

“Nothing, Honey. Everything’s— everything’s perfect.”

x x x

“I never wanted to stop,” William says. “For once in my life I felt… powerful.”

“You felt like you were in control,” Mr. Weekes observes, scribbling on his notepad briefly before looking back up at the boy in front of him. “And what changed your mind? What made you want to get better?”

William laughs with a sarcastic edge, looking away and playing with the hem of his sweater. “Is it cheesy to say I did it for love?” Mr. Weekes shakes his head.

“Not at all. People do the craziest things for love, whether it’s shooting John Lennon or seeking out the help they need.”

“That’s a really… weird metaphor.”

The man laughs, checking his watch before standing up and placing his notepad away. “I’m afraid that’s all the time we have today,” he says, opening the door for William. “See you next week?”

William giggles, saying, “Don’t you mean the next—”

“Please don’t.”

“—Weekes?”

The man just sighs and ushers a giggling William to the office door, a small, reluctant smile sneaking onto his face. He tosses William a piece of candy, a lollipop, from the bowl he keeps in his office, and William unwraps it, popping it in his mouth and waving goodbye to Mr. Weekes as he leaves.

He’s been in therapy for a few weeks and he’s actually starting to make real progress. It was difficult at first, as he was nervous and wary to open up to a complete stranger. But as time went on and Mr. Weekes shared a little bit about himself, William became more comfortable talking to him.

Now their sessions are spent getting straight to the issues, working on implementing Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques in the boy’s daily life. They’re also working on recognizing intrusive and distorted thoughts, and how to keep those from affecting William’s core beliefs. Within the next few sessions, Mr. Weekes wants to address the issue of William’s body image with some sort of direct confrontation via full-body mirror. He’s kind of nervous, but Mr. Weekes always gives him the opportunity to step out if it’s too much so he figures he may as well give it a shot

Overall, William is doing a lot better, but he still has a long way to go. His dietician wants him to gain at least another ten pounds, as well as start to reintroduce foods to his diet that he’d cut out while restricting, and the whole idea is a little overwhelming. But he’s going to try, and that’s all he can do.

x x x

gabe: it’s not dinner, but my friend is doing a lunch thing to celebrate xmas and all that
gabe: u interested?
bilvy: aren’t you jewish???
gabe: he’s my best friend
gabe: and he pays for my lunch
bilvy: okay
gabe: really??
bilvy: yeah, why not
bilvy: you’re paying for me, though
gabe: :’)

x x x

“Hey,” Gabe says, picking William up as soon as he’s within arm’s reach and kissing him sweetly. William rolls his eyes and demands Gabe set him down, which he does so gently. He turns to find Gabe’s friends all making exasperated faces, one even going so far as to pretend to gag. He blushes, embarrassed, but Gabe just pulls him close once more and begins to introduce him.

He meets Pete first, who had been making the gagging face. He smiles at William, pulls him in for a hug, much to the boy’s surprise, and proclaims that, “Any boyfriend of Gabe’s is a boyfriend of mine!” The kid next to him laughs, saying, “I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works,” before introducing himself as Josh. William likes his pink hair, and says as much, which gives Josh cheeks the same color and a sheepish grin.

Next is Mikey, a lanky kid who introduces himself quietly before going back to his phone before the guy next to him steals it out of his hand. As he’s chased around by Mikey, Gabe says his name is Frank and he’s “one peppy little motherfucker.” Last is Brendon, who is funny and nice and apparently not last because they’re waiting on his boyfriend, who’s actually coming around the corner now and—

Oh…

Oh.

The first thing William notices about Ryan is that he looks like shit. He’s practically stumbling down the sidewalk and it’s like he can see the cloud that’s surrounding the boy’s head. His clothes don’t fit and it’s obvious he’s trying to hide his body beneath them, but William can see straight through it; everyone can see straight through it. He sees the bags under his eyes and the brittle hair and blue-purple fingers that scratch at dry skin and he wonders if he looked that bad not so long ago.

Ryan is not okay, and neither is William.

Seeing Ryan just… he doesn’t even know where to begin. What are the chances that two boys who became friends through an online eating disorder forum not only lived in the same city, but had friends in overlapping circles? And what are the chances that they would actually meet?

It’s totally, completely improbable, and yet here they are, standing face to face. He has no clue what to do, so he does the first thing that comes to mind.

“Hi,” he says, trying to smile at Ryan, but he’s pretty sure it comes out as more of a grimace. “It’s nice to meet you.”

x x x

“I’m so proud of you,” Gabe tells him, placing a kiss to the back of his neck. They’re cuddling in William’s bed, Gabe pressed against his back and their legs tangled together, and William actually doesn’t feel self conscious about Gabe’s hands on his stomach.

“You did so good at lunch.”

He hadn’t been able to stop shaking for an hour after they had left, knee bouncing uncontrollably as Gabe drove, the man occasionally sending worried glances his way. He had wanted to tell Gabe everything, but he couldn’t; he’d already done enough to hurt Ryan, he didn’t need to share the boy’s secret. Although, with the way a concerned Gabe had taken Brendon aside before leaving the restaurant, William wasn’t sure Ryan could keep it quiet for much longer.

He wants to believe that Brendon will somehow help Ryan, but he knows that it’s going to take a lot more than a boy with a pretty face to help Ryan pull himself out of the hole he’s dug. He wishes he had talked to him, wonders if he could have convinced the boy to try to get better; but William made his choices and maybe life isn’t lived in ultimatums but he’s too naive to know better.

“I’m sorry I’m self destructive,” he whispers, closing his eyes as Gabe pulls him even closer. “I’m sorry I always say I’m alright and you have to pretend to believe me.”

“I’m sorry that you’re not alright,” Gabe whispers back, and William feels his heart break.

“I love you and I’m sorry you love me too.”

“I’m not sorry,” he murmurs, and then William is turning to kiss him.

It’s desperate and angry and William is pretty sure one of them is crying (and he’s pretty sure it’s himself) but it’s still the best first “I love you” either of them have had. William climbs on top of Gabe, wrapping his hands in hair and over shoulders and around arms and anywhere he can reach, just wanting to touch.

They grind against each other, messy and uncoordinated as they make out sloppily but neither of them would want it any other way. William’s hands are still in Gabe’s hair, pulling and tugging because he likes the way the man’s breath catches whenever he does so. Gabe’s hands are on his hips, pulling the boy down as he pushes up, creating friction that only gets better when Gabe manages to push a leg between William’s and it’s all becoming too much too fast but still not enough.

“Tell me I’m worth it,” he gasps as Gabe bites and sucks at his neck. “Promise me I’m always going to be worth it.”

Gabe rolls them over then, burying his face further into William’s neck as he grinds down, moaning as the boy’s legs wrap around his waist and push their hips even closer. “I promise,” he murmurs, pulling away just to move back in and kiss him again.

“You will always be worth it to me,” he says, and William comes.

He shakes as Gabe continues to grind against him, movements erratic and stuttered when he finally finishes as well. He collapses onto William who groans with a smile, trying to push him off but unable to get the man to budge. Eventually he gives up and they lie like that for a while, tangled together in sticky clothes and sweaty limbs, until Gabe rolls off of him, pulling William over and into his chest.

“I wish I could love you enough for the both of us,” he whispers.

“It’s always enough,” William says, stretching his neck up to kiss his boyfriend. “You’re always enough for me.”

x x x

“I want to be nothing more than bones,” he says.

It had been a bad week; he’d thrown the meal plan out the window and survived almost entirely on apples and coffee and the occasional bowl of cereal. He’d lost two weeks worth of progress weight-wise and he was so ashamed of the way his dietician would look at him that he just skipped their meeting that week, saying he was too sick to leave the house. He knows she could tell he was lying, but she didn’t call him out on his bullshit.

“That’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

“Maybe that’s the problem,” Mr. Weekes says. “Your perception of beauty is skewed. What you find attractive, others find revolting.”

“I know,” William says, frustrated. “I know, okay? There’s a part of me that knows my body is disgusting, that I’m disgusting, but my ED mind always takes over.”

Mr. Weekes sighs, putting his notepad and pen on the floor before leaning forward in his chair. “You have a boyfriend, right? Gabe?” William nods. “How do you feel about his body?”

William can’t help the blush that covers his cheeks. He looks away, swears he sees the corner of Mr. Weekes’ mouth twitch up, but eventually he speaks.

“I think he’s gorgeous.”

“Describe his body.”

Still blushing furiously, William takes a moment before saying, “He’s tall. Taller than me, actually. And he’s skinny, but not, kinda. He’s strong, he has muscles and stuff, but he’s still pretty lean, you know? Sometimes he’ll pick me up like I’m nothing, and I’ll always yell at him to put me down but we’ll both be laughing the whole time. And he’s nice to cuddle, soft but solid, and I just…”

William trails off and Mr. Weekes stays quiet for a while, before asking, “Is he fat?”

“What?” William’s head whips up, not sure that he heard the man right. “No, of course not, he’s perfect.”

“But he’s not nearly as small as you.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” William sputters, furious.

“Okay, maybe he’s not fat, but he could stand to lose some weight then.”

“Shut the fuck up!” William yells, pushing his chair back with the force with which he stands up. “You have no right, no fucking right to say those things. He’s— he’s perfect, just the way he is, and he doesn’t need to change a thing. He doesn’t need to lose weight, and even if he was fat I would still love him!”

“So then why can’t you love yourself?” William takes a step back, knocking into his chair, a confused look on his face. “What?”

“William, think about what you just told me,” Mr. Weekes says, taking his glasses off and rubbing a hand over his face. “Your ‘ED mind,’ as you call it, would have made you believe the complete opposite. You don’t have to give into it, you’re already able to push those thoughts and feelings back with others, now you just have to do the same for yourself.”

William stares at the man before him and shakes his head, voice strained as he tells him, “I have to go,” and leaves the office as quickly as he can.

x x x

“Whatcha lookin’ at?”

William practically slams his laptop down when he realizes Gabe is trying to read the screen over his shoulder. They’re just having a lazy Sunday, scrolling through the internet in their underwear as they try not to think about the upcoming week and everything it might bring. William turns to glare at Gabe, who looks at him with complete innocence, before moving to sit in a new spot that keeps his screen private.

“What’s MED?”

William groans. “You saw that?”

Gabe nods, humming an affirmative as he sprawls out across the bed, the Buzzfeed article on his phone forgotten as he pesters his boyfriend.

“Before I tell you, you have to promise not to freak out, alright?”

As soon as Gabe pinky promises (William takes such oaths very seriously), he admits, “It stands for ‘My Eating Disorder.’ It’s an ED forum.”

Surprisingly enough, Gabe doesn’t freak out. A pained expression comes across his face and he opens his mouth to speak but William cuts him off before he can say anything.

“I don’t go on it anymore,” William tells him, and Gabe shuts his mouth, albeit begrudgingly. “I, uh, I used to have an account, but I deleted it when I decided to get better.” He takes a deep breath before he tells him the next part. “My— I had a really close friend on here, and I— I never told him where I went. I just, stopped talking to him. And some stuff happened recently with him, and I, uh— I wanted to check on him, make sure he was doing alright, you know?”

Gabe’s expression had softened by now, turning to something along the lines of sympathy. He takes one of William’s hands in his, rubs over the knuckles with his thumb as he asks him, “Is he okay?”

William shakes his head. “I— I don’t know. He hasn’t been online in a while, but he didn’t delete his account.”

He sighs, shaky and scared, and Gabe squeezes his hand reassuringly. “I don’t know what that means,” he whispers, and then Gabe is sitting up and pulling the boy into his chest. He doesn’t realize he’s crying until Gabe’s chest is wet with his tears, and that just makes him feel even worse. He tries to pull away but his boyfriend won’t allow it; he holds him in his arms as if they’re both dying.

“It’s okay,” Gabe tells him, and William wishes he could believe him. “He’s alright. Ryan’s alright.”

x x x

Eating Disorder Statistics

- In the US alone, approximately 30 million people (regardless of age or gender) are currently suffering from an eating disorder.
- Approximately every 62 minutes, a person dies as a direct result of their eating disorder.
- Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
- Without treatment, 2 out of 10 people with eating disorders will die.
- With treatment, 6 out of 10 people will fully recover, 2 out of 10 people will make a partial recovery, and the remaining 2 out of 10 will not improve.
- The average person takes 4 to 7 years to recover from their eating disorder.

x x x

Gabe notices a lot more than he lets on.

He noticed William’s eating disorder the day they met. He noticed the way Brendon would flinch when he raised his hand for a high five. He noticed the total shock on William’s face and utter horror on Ryan’s the day they ‘met.’ And he noticed when Ryan went into the bathroom after lunch, and when William followed him.

It wasn’t difficult for him to put together the pieces, to know that Ryan and William knew each other before that day, and to figure out the one thing they both have in common. So when William mentioned his ‘friend’ on the ED forum, Gabe knew.

Gabe also knew that Ryan had been hospitalized after fainting in class, because Brendon spent that weekend drunk out of his mind and wouldn’t stop calling him (although it was fairly difficult to figure out between the boy’s slurred speech and constant crying, but eventually he got the gist of it).

He tells all of this to William, which sets the boy off into another sobbing fit, and Gabe can do nothing more than hold him as he says over and over, “I shouldn’t have abandoned him, I shouldn’t have abandoned him, I shouldn’t have abandoned him.”

x x x

The hardest thing William has ever had to do is not laugh at the look of utter shock on Mr. Weekes’ face when he sees the boy in his waiting room the next week.

“Surprised to see me?” he asks, and he can’t keep the hint of a smirk off his face.

“I guess I never expected you to come back, after our last session and all,” Mr. Weekes admits, running a hand nervously through his hair. William shrugs.

“Well, I did.” Mr. Weekes smiles, tired and run-down but with a hint of happiness that William was starting to understand.

“You did.”

x x x

100 Reasons To Recover

1. Do it for those who have already given up.
2. Do it for yourself.
3. To have confidence.
4. So you can believe people when they compliment you.
5. So you can be the kind of person you’ve always wanted to be.
6. So you can move on.
7. So you can love yourself.
8. To be able to feel beautiful in your own skin.
9. To inspire someone else.
10. To gain self confidence.
11. So you can stop wishing and start living.
12. So you can get your life back.
13. To feel confident in your own body.
14. To be happy with your body.
15. To be happy.
16. No more scars, physical or emotional.
17. To be able to accept love from others.
18. To be able to give love to others.
19. To be able to help someone else through their struggles.
20. To prove to yourself (and others) you can do it.
21. So that you don’t become just a memory.
22. So that your friends don’t have to worry anymore.
23. Because you deserve to be okay.
24. So that you can be okay with your reflection.
25. So that you can be healthy.
26. You’ve already made it this far, why give up now?
27. To get back your motivation.
28. So that you can have energy.
29. So that you can stop comparing yourself to others.
30. To feel like life is worth living.
31. Do it for those who love you.
32. So you can start trusting people.
33. Being able to let your guard down.
34. Being able to make new friends.
35. No longer thinking that your friends are judging you.
36. No more irrational thoughts.
37. Being able to realize how much people actually do care about you.
38. Being able to realize how much you care about others.
39. No more lying to yourself.
40. No more lying to others.
41. Not feeling alone.
42. To be able to smile. Truly smile.
43. Being proud of yourself.
44. Because it’s not impossible.
45. To wake up happy.
46. To be able to eat in front of people.
47. To be able to enjoy yourself at a restaurant.
48. No more missing out on parties because they involve food.
49. To be able to enjoy parties.
50. No more excuses to avoid hanging out with friends because food might be involved.
51. To be able to enjoy hanging out with friends.
52. No longer being consumed by these thoughts.
53. To be able to treat yourself with kindness.
54. So that you can feel like you deserve good things.
55. No more hiding.
56. Being able to wear what you want.
57. No more Ensures.
58. To be able to enjoy food.
59. All the headaches, stomach-aches, body-aches, weakness, dizzy spells— gone.
60. So you don’t have to worry anymore.
61. So you can create again.
62. Being able to smile when you look in the mirror.
63. To break the cycle.
64. To fall in love.
65. So that you can live up to your full potential.
66. So that you can have your cake and eat it too.
67. To be able to be to walk past the diet section in the grocery store.
68. So that you aren’t always questioning the intentions of others.
69. To show everyone who said “You can’t” that you can.
70. Getting your voice back.
71. To be able to have a family.
72. So that you can have your dream job.
73. So that you can finally say you’ve moved on without it being a lie.
74. Being able to wear tank tops and shorts without feeling self conscious.
75. To finally see (and get) what you really deserve.
76. To be yourself instead of a twisted concept.
77. To be able to sleep at night.
78. To be able to forgive yourself.
79. To be able to forgive others.
80. Because you shouldn’t feel like you deserve to be punished every time you mess up.
81. To be able to go on vacation and enjoy it.
82. To look in the mirror, look yourself in the eyes, and say “I am beautiful” with a smile on your face.
83. Because you are better than your eating disorder.
84. To no longer think of “food” or “calories” as swear words.
85. To be able to appreciate the life you’ve been given.
86. Having control over your thoughts.
87. No more isolation.
88. To be able to trust yourself.
89. To be human and feel the things you’re supposed to feel.
90. Going to sleep happy.
91. To be able to have a good relationship with both yourself and others.
92. To stop being embarrassed to be out in public.
93. So the good memories outnumber the bad ones.
94. So you can achieve your goals.
95. So you can share everything with someone you love.
96. To be able to laugh at anything.
97. To have faith in the future.
98. Because you are loved.
99. Because you are beautiful.
100. Because your story deserves to have a happy ending.

x x x

“No, William, that’s not—”

“You do it then!”

William giggles as Gabe picks him up and moves him away from the cutting board, placing him down and picking up the knife before continuing to chop the onions, which William thought he had been doing a fairly good job at but, according to Gabe, he is not as proficient as he believes. He hops up on the counter, sneaking a pumpkin seed and gnawing on it as Gabe continues to chop, the faint sound of Frank Sinatra playing softly behind them.

Gabe is cooking for William, some Guatemalan dish called ‘Chicken Pepian,’ and refusing to let William help; the boy doesn’t mind, he’s perfectly content to sit on the counter and sneak bits and pieces while Gabe isn’t looking. (He knows that Gabe has to notice something, but the man just smiles softly and pretends not to see anything.)

The chicken is put in the pan, sauce poured over for it to simmer in, and Gabe takes advantage of the few minutes it will take to cook to slot himself between the boy’s legs with a smirk on his face. William laughs and pulls his boyfriend in, wrapping arms around his neck and pressing their bodies close. They’re just starting to get really into it when the timer goes off and Gabe pulls away with a groan, taking the pan off the stove.

William grabs the plates from Gabe’s cupboard, handing one to Gabe and allowing the boy to serve him the chicken and pumpkin sauce. He lets himself be pulled over to the couch, sitting half in Gabe’s lap while the man turns on Netflix. They watch the newest Marvel show, though they pay less attention to the plot than they do to each other.

Before they know it, they’re making out on the couch, empty plates discarded on the coffee table and show practically forgotten. Gabe pulls back though, and William glares at him fondly but exasperated.

“You’ve gotten a lot better than you realize,” he says, and William smiles.

“Are you complaining?” he teases. Gabe shakes his head, smiling just as wide.

“Not at all.”