Zadie and I were sitting on the swinging chair on the porch of my house. I had the house to myself and so I saw it as the perfect opportunity to invite Zadie over. I really thought we needed to talk about Harriet. I hadn’t been sleeping well the last few nights. I kept tossing and turning every night as thousands of thoughts kept racing through my head. I really do have this feeling right down inside me that someone is wrong with Harriet, I just couldn’t quite put my tongue on what it was. I knew we had to do something about it. We couldn’t stand back anymore. I gave her space and I tried my best to make her feel like she could talk to one of us but that clearly wasn’t enough.
“So, I presume there was a reason for inviting me over?” Zadie said.
“Yeah. I wanted to talk about Harriet. I’m really worried about her” I said.
“So am I” Zadie said.
“I just have this overwhelming feeling like she needs us” I said.
“she has been acting pretty strange lately. I mean, I wasn’t too worried before but after what happened at the mall last week” Zadie said.
“What happened at the mall?” I asked.
“Oh, I thought I would have told you about that” Zadie said.
“No, you didn’t” I said. I was guessing it was because she had been too preoccupied with her new beau, Ryan. She is officially obsessed. I was surprised that she hadn’t spoken of him since she got here. Austin was her new flavour of the month. I was already getting prepared for the break up and having to help her put herself back together after it. I suppose you could give her an award for consistency. I was worried that she might be getting a reputation for it, though.
“Well, I met her at the mall and I suggested we go for a burger and she got really agitated about it, but I didn’t worry too much about it and I was so starving anyway. So we headed to the food court, and I ordered her a burger because even though she told me she wasn’t hungry I knew in truth she hadn’t eaten since breakfast. She wouldn’t eat it, kept going on about the calories and stuff. I eventually got her to eat it, but she rushed home pretty soon after” Zadie explained.
“Zadie!” I said.
“I know, I know. I should have realised” Zadie said.
“This definitely confirms it then” I said.
“What are you thinking?” Zadie asked.
“I’m thinking that maybe Harriet has an eating disorder” I said.
“What can we do about it though, I mean, really? She wouldn’t talk to us about it, she always talks to us about everything, and this is the one thing she has tried to hide from us. So what hope do we have?” Zadie said.
“We have to do something” I said.
“Gees, It’s pretty scary. Harriet was the last person I would ever imagine would get an eating disorder, or even caring about how she looked, hey, maybe she did it for Jeremy” Zadie said.
“I guess…” I said.
“So what do we do? Should we talk to a teacher? Or go to her parents about it?” Zadie asked.
“What about asking my Aunt Rose? She’ll know what to do” I replied.
The discussion with Aunt Rose was only brief. She immediately realised that we needed to go see Harriet in person and try to talk to other about it. As I sat there listening to Aunt Rose, all I could think about was what our teacher’s told us in Heath class. I never really thought I’d have to use what I learned. I never really thought I would actually know someone with something like this. It was a frightening prospect. On the entire journey to Harriet’s house, my heart pounded hard in my chest. I was left just staring out the car window gazing at all the houses and people that flashed by, glances of their seemingly perfect lives. It made me wonder what could be going on inside those houses and what may be beyond their smiles. Harriet had been suffering god knows how long and she still managed, for the most part, to act like everything was fine. She managed to remain a normal student and friend. Everyone else believing that she was just fine. No one had a clue, no one except Zadie, Aunt Rose and I. It made me realise just how alone Harriet was and how alone she had been through it all. It shows that even the people we think we know, we don’t really know them, not completely. I guess it comes back to that principle of ‘you never really know someone until you walk a mile in their shoes’.
I was the first one up the steps to Harriet’s front door.
“Harriet!” I called out as I knocked on the door. We just stood there waiting for a response but there was only silence.
“I guess she could just be out” Zadie said.
“Her car is out front. She should be here. It’s Wednesday. It’s her free day” I said.
“Harriet. It’s just me and Evelyn. We were hoping to hang out” Zadie called out.
“Wait, wait. I think I hear something” Aunt Rose said. We all stopped. For some reason not moving an inch, seems to help with hearing, why do we always do that? We feel like moving our arm or something will cause a sound. It’s like when I’m in the car and I turn the music down to look for the street signs when looking for a house. That’s when I suddenly heard it, we all did in the same moment. Aunt Rose was right. Someone was crying. It had to be her.
I turned the door handle, realising it was unlocked. The door swung open.
“Harriet, is that you? Harriet! We’re coming in” I called out.
“Zadie and I will check down here. Maybe you should check upstairs, Evelyn” Aunt Rose suggested. I looked across at Zadie and she just nodded reassuring. I took a deep breath and then headed up the staircase. Harriet’s room was the first one off the stairs. I pushed her door open.
“Harriet?” but it was empty. The crying was becoming louder so the next place I headed for was the main bathroom. “Harriet?” I pushed the door open.
“Evelyn?” Harriet sat on the floor of the bathroom in front of the toilet. Blood was dripping from her mouth.
“Oh, god, Harriet” I gasped as I rushed to her side. “She’s up here!” I shouted.
“Evelyn” Harriet cried.
“It’s okay. It’s okay” I said as tears welted in my eyes and I wrapped my arms around her. She buried her head into my neck. “Help!” I called out again and I immediately heard the trampling of feet on the staircase. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and started to dial for an ambulance. Aunt Rose and Zadie burst into the room.
“Evelyn. You can’t. My parents will find out and I’ll be put in hospital. I don’t need a hospital. I don’t need a hospital. Don’t, Evelyn!” Harriet sobbed as she struggled against me, trying to get the phone from my grasp.
Aunt Rose and I walked inside. I was left feeling empty and numb. All I could think about was Harriet’s mum, dad and brother matt running down the corridor, frantically looking for Harriet. They had no idea what had happened, it was up to Aunt Rose to explain. Harriet was so angry at me for calling the ambulance and that anger got a lot worse once she saw her family. Of course they felt differently about what happened and what we had done for her. Aunt Rose promised that Harriet would come around eventually, I was left feeling not so sure though. This was such a big thing in Harriet’s life, I knew that it would be something that stays with her for the rest of her life. I suddenly thought about school. I thought of the Populars. Once Harriet we headed back home. It was the one place I needed to be right now.
I dumped my bag at the door and my little sister Jenny came out from the bathroom. She was not even fourteen years old but she had the appearance of a twenty five year old woman who going to a club hoping to get lucky. When I was her age I would never have been caught wearing anything like that, none of my friends either. The difference between us was like a whole generation but it was really only five years. I couldn’t understand how that could happen.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“Out” Jenny replied.
“So you were actually going to go out in public in that?” I said.
“Well, yeah” Jenny shrugged.
“You’re thirteen” I said.
“Fourteen next week, come on Evelyn, you’re not the parentals” Jenny said.
“Why do you dress like that?” I asked.
“Because I like it” Jenny said.
“Oh come on you cannot really feel comfort in that” I said.
“It’s what people wear these days. All the girls are wearing it” Jenny said.
“All the girls, you mean the populars don’t you, like Jessica and Tamara” I said.
“I have to wear it if I’m going to get noticed. I am like this close to getting into their group and getting an invite to Jessica’s birthday. I have to make a good impression, with them and boys” Jenny said.
“Jen, if they don’t like you for you, they aren’t worth having as friends. Please, sis, don’t change yourself. Please.” I said as tears welted in my eyes and I thought of Harriet.
“Your weirder than usual” Jenny said as she paused “what’s that on your hands?”. I glanced down. I had a bit of blood on my fingers. My hands began to tremble. “Nothing” I replied.
I had been sitting on the couch reading The Smiths biography, attempting to get my mind off Harriet for just a moment. I was desperate to stop seeing the blood. My Aunt Rose appeared in front of me. I looked up, placing the book on my lap.
“What’s that?” I asked, noticing the large white box in her arms.
“It’s for you” she replied.
“Me? Really?” I said with a smile as she placed it on the coffee table. I sat forward, just as eager to know why I was getting a present as what was in the box.
“Well, go on, open it” Aunt Rose said excitedly. I quickly lifted the lid off the box and inside was the exact dress that Molly Ringwald wore in Sixteen Candles. Tears welted in my eyes as I lifted it out of its box. It was this beautiful, pink, eighties dress. Absolutely perfect.
“Thank you so much” I gushed.
“That’s alright, sweetheart. When I heard your school dance had an eighties theme, I went looking for eighties dresses and I managed to track down a replica. I knew you would just love it. It’s like you’re getting to live your dream, in a small way” she explained.
“Thank you. That is just so great” I said. My mind immediately went to Harriet. I hoped that she would be able to come to prom and that she would be able to return to normal life. I hoped that she would be able to fight her condition and come back from this a stronger person. Harriet was a beautiful person, she didn’t deserve this. Jeremy didn’t deserve her.
“Thinking about Harriet?” Aunt Rose asked.
“Yeah. I am” I replied. Aunt Rose came and sat down beside me on the couch.
“There are two things I know coming out of this. One, that you and Zadie did the right thing and you did everything you could do and two, Harriet will be okay. She is accepting help and honestly after something like this that has to be about as positive as it could get at this point, alright. I know it’s upsetting, but you have to be strong for her” Aunt Rose said.