Like Magic
Author: Annabel

Chapter 1
An Eating Disorder, Cold Coffee, and Tampon Ad

As I step down onto the thick carpeting that covers our basement floor, the whir of the treadmill is already auditory. Lia's at it again, no one can stop her, I think.
    Although my sister Lia is three years older than I am, she weighs about forty pounds less. Sure, she has a smaller frame than I do, but that's no excuse. Rounding the corner leading to her bedroom, the whirring stops and Lia's bed squeaks as she throws herself down, most likely trying to look like she's still sleeping.
    I tap on her door with my left hand, balancing a plate of food on my right. Mom has me bring food to Lia every morning to make sure she keeps up with her healthy diet. Little does she know, Lia feeds her breakfast to Freckles, our dog, most mornings.
    "Lia, it's me. Open up!" I say, just loud enough to be heard through the pressed wood. The bed squeaks again, signaling that she has gotten up. Lia has always been comfortable around me because I haven't ever told on her.
    The door swings open, "Sorry, I thought you were mom," she breathes, visibly tired. "Lord. Could she put anymore grease on this food?" she asks rhetorically, taking the plate from me. My hand is warm where the plate previously rested.
    Lia turns around and sets her breakfast on top of the dresser as if it weighs a hundred pounds. Every bone is visible, even through the baggy tee-shirt and sweat pants she's wearing in attempt to warm herself. Her arms are just as thin, if not thinner than my wrists. Cheek bones jut out in the same way they would if she were sucking her face in. I can see her collar bone protruding as she glances over her shoulder to nod her head at me, indicating I should come in.

    Lia's eating disorder began a little over two years ago. No one knows what started it and no one even noticed her illness until she was border lining on underweight. The only reason her secret was exposed is because she passed out at the wheel of the family car, totaling it on a secluded road out in the boonies.
    At the hospital, her heart rate was significantly slower than most and the temperature of her skin was comparable to dirt. Lia was tossed into a treatment center diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. I didn’t see her for almost a month because at first she was refusing to get better.
    When she was finally discharged, my parents forced her to move back in with us, even though she was going on twenty. Lia was granted the whole basement to stay in, complete with a treadmill that we didn't have another place for.
    Now, seven months later, Lia still hasn’t changed her habits, even though she's well aware of the consequences.
    I think mom knows, but she is too afraid to address the problem. She's always been that way but it's only gotten worse since Dad died.


    I hear the toilet flush as I flip to another channel, knowing I won't be interested in a special on the civil war. Lia has come up with a more creative way of getting rid of the food: flushing it. Poor Freckles will have to eat his dog food today.
    Standing in front of the TV, Lia presses the power button, making the screen go black. "Claire, go on up. I'm right behind you," she says.
    Today's the day I have to drive Lia out to the mall for her monthly trip to get more reading material. After the wreck, she hasn't been allowed to drive at all so I have to act as her taxi service.
    Our trips to the mall can be tiresome but at the same time, I like spending time with her outside of the house. Sometimes I can even manage to imagine that it's the way things used to be and we're still best friends…Not to mention, I've been in need of a few more outfits so there's something in this trip for me too.
    As I stand up from Lia's bed, she’s already throwing on a light sweater and her tennis shoes. It's summer weather outside but she is always cold. Everyone quit questioning why a long time ago after we were slapped in the face with the answer.
    When she finally is bundled up enough, we venture into the hall. The door latch slides into place with a muted click. Lia takes her time behind me, running her hands through her hair and smoothing down her clothes.
    Mom is sitting at the table drinking a cup of coffee over the morning paper when we make it into the kitchen. "Good morning girls," she smiles, "Off already? I was thinking maybe we could all go together after lunch," Mom says.
    "Actually, I have a whole list of books picked out and Claire has some clothes shopping to do," Lia announces, knowing that mom suggested this so she could see her eat lunch. "We should probably get going now so we don't get back in too late."
    Mom flips a black and white newspaper page, letting off a soft crinkling noise. "Well, I guess if that's what you want." She turns to look at me, "Make sure you get lunch."
    "Ugh," Lia groans with a disgusted look and turns on her heels, stomping out into the garage. Before the door slams shut we both hear her scream, "I won't ever be fucking trusted around here!"
    How can you be trusted when you lie to everyone on a daily basis? I wonder as I reach over and snatch the cold car keys off of the small hook on the wall.
    Mom sighs heavily, "Just be careful, okay?"
    I nod and slip out into the garage where Lia is already in the passenger seat with her iPod headphones plugged into her ears. I would bet ten bucks that she's listening to some kind of help-me-I-hate-myself song; she always is.
    When I pull on the car door handle, it's locked. "Lia, open the door!" I yell, tapping on the glass window. She doesn't even glance my way. Her eyes are closed and I can hear her music through a crack in the window where mom didn't roll it up all the way. "Lia!" I scream again.
    That must have gotten her attention because her eyes snap open and she yanks out her left headphone trying to get to the drivers door. When she presses down on the black button the doors all unlock in synchronization.
    "What the hell, Claire? You have the keys," she points out, making me feel stupid. Mom put her in a bad mood, she'll be like this for the rest of today and quite possibly tomorrow: mean to everyone who speaks to her. "Open the door yourself next time," she finishes, sticking her headphone back into her ear.
    I pull the door open and slide behind the wheel, ready to get this day over with.


    The mall is full of people jumping to get a hold of everything on sale. Luckily, there aren’t many people in the bookstore, so I have a place to sit while Lia shops. This could be a while; Lia tends to take her time and spend a load of money. I leave her in the adult fiction section and go to the café for a frappe.
    Once my drink is ordered, I make myself comfortable in a overstuffed armchair. They'll bring me my order when it's ready and Lia knows where to find me because this is where I sit every time we come.
    "Hey," someone next to me says. I'm assuming that they are talking to someone else so I don't even look their way.
    "Hello…" whoever it is says again, drawing out the "O".
    I look over to see a guy that looks about eighteen with curly brown locks and grey eyes. He's grinning at me. "Yeah?" I say, raising an eyebrow.
    "You look like you could use some company?" he asks, still standing there looking like a fool.
    "Not really..." I say but after a second feel then need to explain myself. "I'm just waiting on my sister."
    "Oh, well--" he's cut off by the obese lady holding my frappe.
    "Number eleven!" she bellows as if the room is packed full and it's so loud you can't think straight.
     "That's mine," I say, standing up to get it.
    The guy gets there first and snatches my frappe before I can take two steps. He swiftly trots back to me and makes an over-exaggerated bowing motion before handing it to me. "For the lady," he says, thinking he's cute.
    "Ha. Thanks," I clip off. Why is this guy bothering me? I ask myself.
    He plops himself down in the chair next to mine, "No problem," he says, missing the sarcasm.
    "What do you want?" I ask, monotone.
    "Oh, nothing. I just saw you and you looked lonely so I came to keep you company."
    "Well, I'm not lonely."
    "Oh, okay," he says nonchalantly.
    I wait for him to leave but he doesn't get up.
    "What's your name?"
    "Claire," I snip at him without glancing in his direction.
    "Mine's Nathen. You can call me Nate though," he says.
    I don't reply, just take a sip out of my cold coffee. Nathen is a name I would give to someone with more class than this guy. Maybe Nate will leave me alone...
    Of course not. He picks up one of the magazines sitting next to him on a coffee table and opens it up.
    "Here," he says, ripping a page from the magazine, "Call me sometime."
    He takes a pen out of the pocket on the front of his shirt and jots his number down on the scrap of paper which I can now see is a tampon ad. He slips the paper into my hand and closes my fingers around it. "I'll hear from you later," he states, winking before walking away.
    "No, you won't," I say even though he is already across the stone floor of the café and can’t hear me.
    I take a sip out of my frappe only to realize that the warmth of my hands has melted part of it and it doesn't taste as good as I had thought it would. Pocketing the phone number, I stand up, pitch my frappe into the trash can, and start back over to Lia's favorite isle.


    Two hours and three hundred dollars later, we're finished shopping and headed back to the car. Lia ends up with twelve books, three which are about eating disorders that she plans to hide from Mom. I end up with a cute new skirt, a pair of beige capris and two new tops covered in floral print.
    Lia immediately starts reading on the first book once she's buckled up. They'll all be read in a week, sometimes I think she uses reading as a substitute for food.
    I stop by McDonalds on the way home and order a Big Mac with a small fry for me, Lia doesn't want anything.
    "Mom doesn't need to know," she says with weary eyes as we pull away from the golden arches.

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