Distortion

Carey Goddard is surrounded by beauty every single day of his life. Having a famous fashion designer for a mother can do that. He grew up around models, being ferried back and forth between fashion shows. He knows what society finds beautiful. And Carey also knows that he has none of it. He'd been dieting lately to make himself thinner and it had been going well. Nobody questioned him and that was how Carey liked it.

That is until Rebecca Cressy entered his life and screwed everything up. A psychology student who moonlights as a model to pay the bills, she can see through Carey and she immediately sees that something's not right. With her help, can Carey recover from an illness he doesn't even realize he has? Or will his image of himself always stay distorted?

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1. Chapter One

Chapter One

Carey Goddard closed his locker tight and leaned his head against it, feeling the room spin. He shut his eyes, waiting for the now familiar feeling to subside. He’d been feeling dizzier and dizzier lately. He dropped his textbooks into his backpack and slung it across his shoulders, walking down the hall and heading toward the cafeteria.

Lunch was always particularly hard. Being surrounded by his friends, all eating, made it harder to conceal how hungry he actually was. But he didn’t want the calories and he definitely didn’t need them. He’d just distract for forty-five minutes until it was too late to eat anything. He pushed the door of the lunch room open and walked in. The smell of greasy cafeteria food nearly made him faint. His stomach rose up in protest, growling and begging to be fed. Carey crossed his arms over it, stifling the sound.

“Carey!” he heard his friend, Elliot Joceva, call from somewhere to the left. “Carey, over here!”

He turned and walked over to the table, smiling faintly as he set his bag on the bench and sat down. Elliot was sitting across from him, and just the sight of his friend made Carey smile.

“How’s your day going, man?” he asked as he shoveled French fries into his mouth. Carey shrugged his shoulders, pointedly staring at the table. He wasn’t hungry. He refused to be hungry.

“Pretty boring, actually.” Carey said quietly. “Photography class was fun; I got some good shots. Spanish was horrible, as always.”

“You should have taken Latin with me.” Elliot said. “At least then, we’d have one period together.”

By some unlucky trick of fate, Elliot and Carey had no classes together at all in their senior year. They’d become fast friends as freshmen, when Carey had gotten lost looking for the Math department and found Elliot aimlessly wandering the halls in search of the same room.

Elliot glanced at the empty space in front of Carey with surprise.

“Are you not eating anything?”

“I had a sandwich on the way here.” Carey lied, the words sounding funny coming out of his mouth. He hated lying to people he cared about.

“I’ve got some extra work to do and I wanted to get a head start.”

Elliot nodded before taking a gulp of his chocolate milk, accepting this easily. Carey wondered why today of all days, Elliot suddenly cared why he wasn’t eating. He’d been skipping lunch for a few weeks now and no one had said a thing.

Both the boys jumped as their other friend, Amelia Tiply, dropped her books down on the table. She flung herself down with a groan, burying her head in her arms. Carey glanced at her with concern, hesitantly tapping her shoulder. Amelia could be terrifying when she was annoyed.

“You okay?” he asked.

Amelia gave a sound reminiscent to that of an angry cat and furiously shook her head, her short black hair falling all over her face. She looked up, her usually warm brown eyes stony.

“You’d think, in this day and age, girls could be expected to carry their own books down one tiny hallway. But no! I am apparently too weak to perform such a menial task. So, therefore, a big strong man must do it for me!”

“You know,” Elliot said as he bit into a hot dog, “Some people just consider that chivalry.”

“Chivalry is dead. Or better yet, it never existed. They just want to get into my pants, and think by being nice to me, that’ll somehow happen.”

Amelia was a hard-core feminist, or at least had been since Elliot and Carey met her in the middle of sophomore year when she’d moved to Brooklyn. She was all about female empowerment and equality between the sexes and would gladly defend her opinion to the death. To put it simply, Amelia was hot. Tall, curvy and beautiful, practically all the male population at Brooke’s School except Carey and Elliot were in love with her. She had a natural grace and sex appeal about her that just drove people mad.

It also drove Amelia mad. She rebelled against her femininity as much as she could; chopped her hair short and got bright green streaks put in, never wore makeup and jewelry. She’d even made a petition to the school board that girls shouldn’t have to wear skirts as part of the uniform, but it got shot down. Because of this, most girls at school thought she was odd, but Amelia couldn’t have cared less. She didn’t mind being alone and only hung around with Carey and Elliot because they apparently were “the only guys in school who could carry a decent conversation and had never tried to look down her shirt the first time they saw her.”

“I’m just sick of the stereotypes.’ She muttered, tugging her bangs. “I can carry my own books!”

Carey nodded sympathetically, patting her shoulder. She shot him a grateful smile and then reached into her backpack, pulling out a brown paper bag, probably with her lunch inside. When she asked about what he was eating, Carey fed her the same lie he’d told Elliot. Except, she wasn’t as easily satisfied as he had been, unfortunately.

“Just a sandwich?” she said, raising her eyebrows. “You’ve got to be hungrier than that.”

Oh God, was he ever. But Carey simply forced a smile and shook his head. Amelia still looked worried, so she handed him an apple from her bag.

“Go on.” She said, nodding at the fruit in his hand. “I don’t like red apples anyway.”

Carey looked down at the apple and obediently raised it to his lips, taking the tiniest of bites. He chewed it down as small as he could before swallowing. His throat constricted as the food went down, almost as if he was unknowingly resisting it. He could practically feel the calories absorbing into his body and fought the urge to go and relieve himself of them.

Carey felt like something out of that fairy tale, Snow White. Just one bite, but it would kill him.

 

At home that evening, Carey let himself in with his key and dropped his bag off in the utility room. He found a note from his mother on the table and looked down at it,

“I’m out at a meeting tonight. Help yourself to left-overs in the fridge for dinner.”

Carey rolled his eyes and crumpled the note in his fist.

“Surprise, surprise.” He muttered to himself, dropping the paper into the trash can. Melissa Vavery, being the high-profile fashion designer she was, was almost never at home. She was either at a meeting, a runway show, or collecting new fabrics. And when she was at home, Melissa was most likely locked up in her office, designing more clothes. Carey never saw his mother.

She hadn’t started out as a designer. Melissa had begun as a lowly intern at a fashion company, and then had worked her steady way up to becoming a model. She spent her youth known as Mel, strutting up and down countless runways but had finally hung up the heels to start her own line.

It was because of her and her gigantic ego that Carey’s father had run out on them when he was six years old. She was a total dominatrix and had only married Liam Goddard to have a trophy husband to drag to gala events. He’d gone as soon as he thought Carey was able to take care of himself. Carey didn’t blame him; he just wished his father could have taken him too.

They kept minimal contact. He sent the obligatory Christmas and birthday presents, even a child support check every once in awhile. Not that they needed it, exactly. Melissa had always been the primary bread-winner of the family. Carey had had yearly visits with his dad up until he was twelve years old. Then he’d put his foot down. Liam Goddard had moved to Pennsylvania, and had gotten remarried. Carey refused to push his way into a new family that clearly didn’t want him.

A few years ago, Carey’s father had told him that his new wife was expecting a baby and had wanted Carey to come see them after the birth. He hadn’t gone, but he thought about that baby sometimes, though. It was a little girl named Anne. She’d be nearly three by now. Carey had a baby sister he’d never even seen. He wondered if she was happy; or at least, happier than he was. For her sake, he hoped so.

Carey felt a wave of dizziness hit him and he leaned against the table for support, gripping so tightly that his knuckles turned white. He could feel his heart fluttering underneath his school jumper and took deep, even breaths. He slowly walked over to the fridge and grabbed a glass of water, chugging it down to trick his stomach into thinking he wasn’t hungry.

He deserved to feel this terrible. He had to, or else he’d never weigh less. Carey hated the reflection that he saw in the mirror; the eyes that could never decide if they were green or gray, the floppy brown hair he couldn’t keep off his forehead, his chubby cheeks. But it wasn’t just his facial features Carey hated. He detested his body. His huge thighs, fat butt, and bulbous stomach all completely disgusted him.

Growing up where he had, being surrounded by gorgeous models of both genders at all times, Carey knew about beauty. He’d been at his first fashion show at six weeks old, held by some random assistant while his mom directed things. He knew what other people found attractive, and Carey had none of it. So he was taking matters into his own hands and doing something about it.

Carey passed that evening doing homework, watching television and texting Elliot and Amelia. He pointedly ignored the left-over Chinese food sitting untouched in the fridge. Right before he went to bed, he dumped about half of the food into the trash can, just on the off chance his mother checked to see if he’d eaten it. He felt a twinge of guilt about that, considering there were starving people all over the planet. Maybe next time, he’d find a soup kitchen and donate it or something. Other people needed it far more than he did.

Then Carey went upstairs and got ready for bed. He grabbed a stick of gum and gnawed at it to forget about his hollow insides as he settled down into the sheets. He hadn’t seen his only parent all day and had spent the evening totally alone. This was an ordinary day in Carey Goddard’s life, and it was something he’d accepted a long time ago.

He didn’t hate his life. He just hated himself. His life wasn’t half bad. He had Elliot and Amelia and school to keep him occupied; even though most of the time, he wondered why his two best friends even put up with him. It was only when he was on his own that he got morose.

“Good night.” Carey said to the air, knowing nobody could hear him, but still wanting desperately to be heard. He curled up into a ball and felt a few tears slide down his cheeks. Carey cried silently until he fell asleep, but that was nothing new for him. 

 

Carey, you up for a Footie Pajama Party at your place tonight? We haven’t had once since August. I’ll bring McDonalds for dinner ;)

Carey looked down at the text from Elliot on his phone, feeling unsure. He wanted to spend time with his friends, but he wasn’t sure if the extra stress was worth it. He’d be so preoccupied about avoiding food that he wouldn’t enjoy himself. Carey had already allowed himself more food than normal. He’d eaten celery this morning and then had almonds around midday because he actually felt like he was going to pass out. And eating fast food? It made Carey’s throat itch to purge just thinking about it. There was no way this could end well. His phone buzzed again and he looked down, a wrinkle between his eyebrows.

Also, we are graduating high school in six months and after that will never be together again so I really suggest you agree. Or I’ll cry and then Amelia will encourage this ‘gender-neutral emotion’ because it’s okay for men to cry.

Carey smiled at that. It sounded just like them; those two goofballs that cheered him up no matter what was going on. So that decided it. They’d come over and Carey would just be extra careful about what he ate. It couldn’t be that difficult. But he felt he better clear it with his mother before he actually invited anyone over. He clopped down the stairs and walked over to his mother’s office, opening the closed door a crack.

“Hey,” he said quietly, trying to get her attention discreetly. She glanced up from where she was sitting, her cell phone pressed tightly against her ear.

“Yes, yes,” she said into it, holding a finger up to shush Carey. “There’s a show in Paris this summer. Of course our agency will be attending.”

‘Can Amelia and Elliot come over tonight?’ Carey said loudly. “We won’t bother you, I promise.”

She nodded absent-mindedly, jotting something down in her notebook. Carey sighed slightly to himself and stepped out, shutting the door tightly behind him. At least she didn’t forbid them coming over. His mom didn’t really like his choice of friends. She found Elliot annoying and loud and felt he was a bad influence on Carey. Amelia had at first seemed promising to her, because she was beautiful and had the potential to be a model for Melissa. When asked if she was interested, Amelia nearly exploded. Carey still smiled at the memory.

“I am not exploiting my body by modeling some skimpy clothes and getting paid for it. That’s- that’s practically prostitution! It’s professions like this that build up the patriarchy, something that I am committed to bringing down.”

Let’s just say, Amelia and Carey’s mother saw eye-to-eye on nothing.

 

At six o’clock, Amelia and Elliot arrived at Carey’s door, both dressed in gigantic pajama onesies; Amelia’s polka-dotted and Elliot’s bright neon pink. The Footie Pajama Party had originally started out as a joke between the two boys. Elliot had discovered a photograph of Carey wearing them as a baby and then had bought him a set for Christmas that year. Carey had responded accordingly by returning the favor for Elliot’s fifteen birthday. When Amelia entered the group, she’d found out about it and bribed them to wear the pajamas. They agreed, but only if she wore one as well. Thus the Footie Pajama Party had been born.

Carey beamed at them as they burst out laughing at the sight of him in a rainbow colored onesie. No matter how many times they did this, it was still ridiculous. He let them into the house, all of them still giggling like idiots. Most teenagers went to parties on Friday nights; this is what Amelia, Carey and Elliot did and they wouldn’t change at thing.

Elliot walked into the living room and set the bags of fast food down on the coffee table. Amelia followed him, arms full of DVD’s. These were the rules; one brought food, one brought movies, and the other was the host. Amelia turned around and put her hands on her hips, looking far too serious for someone wearing night clothes suited for toddlers.

“Now boys,” she said, flicking a lock of black hair out of her eyes. “I’ve brought an array of Disney films for us to watch tonight. The question at hand is which shall we watch first; The Lion King or Beauty and the Beast?”

 

Carey put the chosen DVD (Lion King) into the player and Elliot jumping on the couch. Amelia sat down on the left side, leaving room for Carey to sit in the middle. She patted the space and Carey smiled, carefully positioning himself there. Elliot put his arm around him, pulling him into his broad side. Carey instinctively leaned into the warmth, letting it seep into his bones. He’d been feeling colder and colder lately and Elliot was like a human furnace. He radiated heat. Carey pulled his legs up and tucked them under his chin, until Amelia tugged them out from under him and rested them on her lap. She absent-mindedly rubbed his ankles through his pajamas, unknowingly easing the steady ache in his joints.

To anyone else, this arrangement would seem odd. They were always extremely hands-on with each other; more so than other people their age. Carey, especially, was extremely coddled by the other two, he’d noticed. It was like at one point, they’d unanimously banded together to look after Carey. They knew how screwed up his family life was, so it seemed as if they’d become a surrogate mother and father, weird as that sounds. Carey just wasn’t sure when all this had started, but it was their dynamic now and it wouldn’t change.

The comfortable silence was broken by Elliot’s stomach grumbling loudly. Amelia snickered and he blushed,

“Somebody’s hungry.” She teased. Elliot threw a pillow at her head and she laughed good-naturedly. Elliot reached over to the coffee table and grabbing the McDonald’s bags. He handed them all their meal and then opened his. Carey’s stomach clenched as the smell wafted toward him and the back of his throat itched like crazy. Glancing around him, he saw that his friends had already begun eating. Elliot tucked in with gusto, practically inhaling his burger. Amelia went more slowly, nibbling her fries and actually swallowing between each bite of food.

Carey inwardly steeled himself and picked up the burger, feeling the grease already on his fingers. He raised the food to his mouth and took an unwilling bite. His stomach churned as he chewed and he shut his eyes. This was disgusting. He was disgusting. Why was he doing this? He grabbed his glass of water and hurriedly took a swig, trying to wash the taste from his mouth. This process continued for the next few minutes. He’d managed about five moderately-sized bites before he couldn’t stand it anymore.

“I’m just going to go to the bathroom. Gonna get a shower.” He said to his friends, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and standing up.

“Are you finished?” Elliot asked with surprise. Amelia looked up at him and pouted. She obviously wanted them to spend time together.

“Yeah,” Carey said, patting his stomach, “My mom made me eat something “healthy” earlier. I wasn’t that hungry.”

As he walked away, he could hear the lie reverberating in his head. But there was nothing else he could do. The lie was necessary.

In the bathroom, Carey locked the door tight behind him, and walked over to the shower, switching it on. He stripped out of his pajamas, pointedly avoiding his reflection in the mirror. Thankfully, the shower had caused the glass to steam up, so it was extremely difficult to see anything at all.

Carey could feel the food swirling around in his stomach; could feel the calories being absorbed into his skin. He needed to get it out right this very second. Carey slowly lowered himself to the ground, either knee on each side of the toilet. He shut his eyes and took a deep breath, reminding himself that this was worth it and completely needed.

Then Carey slowly, almost lovingly, stuck two fingers down his throat. He stroked his gag reflex, triggering it and beginning to puke. It wasn’t that difficult; he’d done it enough now that he didn’t gag or sputter. He barely made any noise at all, actually. The water from the shower was just a precaution at this stage.

Tears streamed down his cheeks as he heaved, the acidic vomit burning his mouth and nose. He hardly paused to even breathe. With each round, he can feel himself becoming lighter, the entire contents of his stomach being dispelled. Carey heaved one more time and saw blood mixed in with the vomit. This didn’t alarm him; it just meant he was nearly finished. He retched and retched until he was just dry-heaving. He sat back on his heels, shaking and shuddering. He wrapped his arms around his huge stomach and shut his eyes, feeling tears burn his closed eyelids. Carey took a deep breath to gather himself and stood up. Grabbing the cup he kept by the sink, he filled it with tap water and took sips, slowly swishing it around in his mouth and then spitting it out to get rid of any excess saliva, vomit or blood there.

Once he was back to himself, he hopped into the shower, quickly rinsing his body with soap and water. He had to make it seem like he actually had a shower before he went back out there, or else his friends would wonder what was up. He got out and changed back into his pajamas, shivers wracking his entire frame. He still avoided his naked body in the mirror. He plastered a big smile on his face right before he went back out. He just had to keep smiling through the night.

Back out in the living room, Amelia and Elliot both grinned at him as he came back in. Just the sight of their faces made Carey feel marginally better. No matter what, they’d cheer him up somehow.

“Nice shower?” Amelia asked as he sat back down beside her. He stretched between them until his head was on Amelia’s lap. She fiddled with his damp hair, smoothing if off his forehead.

“Yeah, it was really good.” He replied quietly.

Amelia said nothing, just continuing running her hands through his hair. Carey shut his eyes, feeling the pent-up tension gradually leave his body. He was lulled into an almost comatose state, just enjoying the feeling of Amelia massaging his scalp and the warmth of the room and the emptiness of his stomach. He tried to focus on nothing except these three things. He didn’t have much, but he did have this. And Carey thought this was the closest to happy he’d ever be.

 

 

 

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