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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3. Chapter Three

Chapter Three

“Levantarse, por favor.”  The Spanish teacher, Ms. Marez, said. Carey dragged himself to his feet, gripping the edge of his desk. Every single day, whenever the teacher entered the room, the entire class stood up. Apparently, this was traditional Spanish etiquette in the classroom when the teacher entered and so Ms. Marez’ students practiced it.

Typically, in Spanish class, Carey put his head down on the desk and didn’t pay any attention whatsoever. He’d originally tried to do well, but after two months of failing tests even when he studied hard for them, he’d admitted defeat. Thankfully, Amelia was in the same class with him and she made sure he passed.

But today Carey wouldn’t get away with snoozing through Spanish. Ms. Marez had a different idea. She lined all the students up around the class room and made them practice verb conjugation. Whoever got one wrong had to sit down. Carey automatically went towards the back of the room, aiming to be one of the last to answer a question since he couldn’t conjugate verbs to save his life. Amelia caught his eye from the other side of the room and winked impishly. He gave a small smile back, practically hiding behind one of his peers.

The teacher started asking questions in rapid-fire Spanish and Carey quickly tuned it out. He leaned against the radiator, warming his cold hands against it. He felt weak as usual, but he knew people would ask questions if he randomly decided to sit down, so he made himself stay standing. Carey didn’t understand why this was happening though. He’d forced himself to eat some slices of apple this morning at breakfast. He shouldn’t be feeling this unsteady.

Carey shut his eyes and took deep, even breaths. He pulled the sleeves of his sweater over his hands and gripped the material tight, trying to focus on one spot on the floor. Everything was spinning, going around and around in quick circles that he couldn’t stop. His heart was fluttering faster than ever and sweat erupted all over his body as panic set in. Minutes passed like this; Carey feeling worse and worse as the time went by. He wanted the line to hurry up so they’d reach him. That way, he could purposely get the question wrong so he could sit down already.

“Carey,” Ms. Marez called from the front of the room, “Please conjugate the verb hablar.’

Carey opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out. He swallowed nervously as he felt everyone’s eyes on him, a blush creeping up his neck and onto his cheeks. Carey bit his lip as Ms. Marez looked at him worriedly.

“Carey?” she asked, “Are you alright?”

“I-I-“ he stammered, choking a little on the words. Carey stumbled backwards and then suddenly the ground was rushing towards him as his eyes rolled back in his head. He hit the floor but didn’t feel the impact because he had already fainted.

 

When Carey regained consciousness, he heard worried voices chattering all around him. He blinked a few times to clear the black spots dancing in front of his eyes and tried to sit up. But then hands were on his shoulders, holding him down.

“Don’t move, Carey.” He heard the teacher say. “Does anything hurt? Like your chest? What about your stomach?”

“No.” Carey croaked out, his throat dry. “M’okay.”

Ms. Marez helped him get into a sitting position and put an arm around his shoulders. She looked at all the other students crowding around them.

“Everyone, back up. Give him breathing space.” She said firmly as everyone scurried backward. “Now, I need someone to take Carey to the nurse while I go to the office and call his family.”

Amelia moved forward so fast, she might’ve given herself whiplash. She was by Carey’s side almost instantaneously, helping him stand up. He leaned heavily into her side, trying to get his sense of balance back.

“I’ll take him, Ms. Marez.” She said, piling on sweetness so there was no way the teacher would refuse. Amelia could be extremely charming when she wanted to be. Ms. Marez nodded, her face creased with anxiety. All three of them walked out of the classroom together, and then headed their separate ways. Amelia walked slowly so Carey could keep up, glancing back at him worriedly,

“What happened, Carey?” she asked. Carey shrugged his shoulders, his head bowed.

“I don’t know. I just passed out, I guess. Probably didn’t drink enough this morning or something.”

Amelia pursed her lips together, her grip around Carey tightening. She grabbed her phone and sent Elliot a quick text, informing him of what happened. That wasn’t surprising; they were like a tag team in defense of Carey.

Elliot got to the nurse’s office before they did. He was sitting outside of it, resting against the wall. He looked slightly out of breath, as if he’d rushed to get there. Carey thought for a second and remembered that Elliot was supposed to be in the Biology lab, on the other side of the school. He must have sprinted to get there so fact. As soon as Elliot saw Amelia and Carey walking toward him, he jumped up, concern etched across his features.

“Hey, guys,” he said, aiming for a smile, “Fancy seeing you here.”

“You shouldn’t be skipping class for me.” Carey said, half-heartedly admonishing his friend.

“I’m not skipping class. I’m taking an extended bathroom break.” Elliot said, showing the hall pass as he walked over to Carey. He took him by the shoulders, looking him up and down. And then Carey was wrapped into a tight hug, his face smushed against Elliot’s broad chest.

“Too worried to stay in class, dude.” Elliot mumbled into Carey’s hair. He could hear the slight tremor in his friend’s voice, which instantly made him feel worse. He’d obviously scared them both. The three friends walked into the nurse’s office together. She took one look at Carey’s pale form and sat him down on the bench. Amelia and Elliot sat up right next to him. Carey was squashed in the middle but he didn’t care. Their support was so welcome and Carey knew he needed it.

Over the next few minutes, the nurse performed a series of tests on Carey. She took his temperature, his blood pressure, his heart rate, all the basics. By how thorough she was being, Carey half expected her to ask for a blood test or stool sample or something. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise him if this woman had an MRI planned already. A few times, the nurse suggested Amelia and Elliot going back to class, but they made no move to leave. They stayed where they sat, both gripping one of Carey’s hands.

“Well, Carey, I’ve determined that you’ve just had a bit of a dizzy spell. But just to make sure, it would probably be for the best if you went home for the rest of the day, and possibly tomorrow if you still feel ill. One of your parents is on their way, yes?”

At this, both Amelia and Elliot squeezed Carey’s hand so hard that it nearly cut off the circulation to his fingers. He nodded silently, mustering a smile.

“Yeah, my mother is coming.” He said brightly.

It took Melissa forty-five minutes to get there. Eventually Amelia and Elliot were forced to go back to class, leaving Carey sitting alone in the main lobby of the school building, waiting for her. When she did get to the high school, she first went to the office to tell them she’d arrived then walked out to Carey. His mother looked so out of place there, dressed in swanky leather boots, a mini shirt with black leggings and a long-sleeved shirt with some sort of fur on the collar that at least five innocent animals had to die to create.

“Hello,” she said stiffly, “Are you alright?”

“Yes.” He said shortly, standing up and putting his backpack onto his shoulders.  “I blacked out for maybe thirty seconds, it’s no big deal.”

Melissa walked over to him, offering to take his bag, but he kept a tight grip on it, practically hunching down against it. They walked out of the building together, about five steps between them. Melissa hailed a taxi and they hopped on. The whole ride home, they said nothing to each other. Carey knew his mother had most likely had to leave some big meeting or committee event or fabric sale to come pick him up and she was probably aggravated. The only sound in the cab was Melissa tapping on the buttons on her cell phone, doing damage control on whatever she’d run out on. Carey sat back, shutting his eyes and eventually falling into an uneasy sleep.

At home, Carey went straight to bed. His mother got him some micro waved chicken noodle soup and some Tylenol before she went back to work, which he supposed was a nice gesture. He swallowed the pills dry and then poured the soup down the drain of the sink. He’d find something healthier later, solely just to get him through the rest of the day.

That evening, Melissa came home early, much to Carey’s surprise. She wasn’t exactly the nurturing type and she knew Carey was capable of taking care of himself. She found him curled up on the couch, nestled under a blanket and watching reruns of Friends. She sat down on the edge of the sofa, glancing at him occasionally.

“How’re you feeling now, buddy?”

“I feel fine. I haven’t thrown up from illness or anything.”

That was only halfway true. He’d gone and purged that afternoon after he’d eaten some peanut butter because he couldn’t handle how it sat in his stomach. But he hadn’t vomited because of illness, so it wasn’t really a lie either. His mother nodded, looking pacified.

“Do you want to help me with something real quick?” she said with a small smile.

“If it doesn’t involve me getting off the couch, then yes, sure.”

Melissa reached into her purse and withdrew some photographs in a folder. She handed them to Carey and he spread them out across his lap, looking down at him quizzically. They were all pictures of young women.

“You remember how there were models being interviewed? Well, I’ve come down to the last ten, but I can only pick one, and I’d like a second opinion.”

Carey knew this was his mother’s idea of a big treat; getting to help her make a decision in her work. And he knew she thought this was the best thing to make him feel better after being sick that day. So he decided to play along. He could probably just point to a picture of a random girl and she’d be satisfied. So Carey looked back down and studied the photographs, planning on grabbing the first one he saw and handing it to her.

And the first one he saw was a face he recognized. It was that girl from before; Rebecca Cressy. The one who’d helped him on the stairs. Her picture stared back up at Carey; those warm brown eyes practically burning into his own. She deserved it as much as anyone else did, didn’t she? Rebecca was kind and that in itself raised her up in Carey’s regard.

“Her.” He said, picking up the photograph and handing it to his mother. “From what I can tell from this, she’s tall and has good posture, which always helps in modeling positions.”

“You think so?” Melissa said, sounding a little surprised. “She wouldn’t have been my first choice, and to be honest, she came off a little nervous and energetic in her interview.”

“I definitely think so.” Carey said with a firm nod of his head. He was helping this girl get this position. He’d be of some help to somebody for once in his life, even if she didn’t know it.

“Rebecca Cressy.” His mother said, sounding it out. “It does have a nice ring to it, actually. She could be known as Becca for short, since it’s catchy and easier to remember.”

Carey could tell that he’d put a thought into his mom’s head, because the conversation was ending. She gathered the pictures back up, with Rebecca’s on top and stood up. As she left the room, Carey smiled as he tugged the blanket back up to his chin. He felt proud of himself, which was something Carey Goddard hadn’t felt in a very long time.

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