She faded away so slowly that it took a long time for the people closest to her to realise. And by the time they did, she was too broken to be fixed.
There are many reasons why people change themselves. Wanting to fit in, wanting to be in control, wanting to be loved, liked, admired. For Savannah, she just wanted to be beautiful.
All her life she had watched while the people around her were adored, admired and put on a pedestal. All her closest friends were tall, slim and beautiful, and constantly were told so. By boys, friends and even strangers. But Savannah; she was the odd one out. Short, at 5’4, she had always seen herself as extraordinarily ordinary. Her potato like nose accented what she defined as an ‘unmemorable face’. She had frizzy, mouse brown hair that she loathed and punished everyday with the hot iron of her straightener, and dull green eyes that hid behind thick black glasses. But what bothered her most about herself was her body. She had always been on the pudgier, softer side, as a child it was baby fat, but as a teenager it was just fat. Never one for sports, her body was something she hid away under layers of clothing, often opting to sit in a far corner of the library, where nobody could look at her, and she could escape into the world of one of her beloved books.
She didn’t feel like she deserved to be seen. Her appearance was her biggest shame, and no amount of A+ marks in school, exams in singing she excelled or compliments she got from her mother could change that.
“But you are so beautiful darling, in your own special way. You have a heart of gold and whoever can’t see that is blind.”
“No, mum, you’re just saying that. Please. Just don’t.”
Her mum complimenting her made her want to run and scream, and a heavy pit in her stomach would become acutely present.
It’s hard to know what pushed her over the edge. Whether it was the comment from the boy in 9th grade who didn’t want to be partnered with ‘chubs’, or the disappointed look her grandma gave her, stating: ‘you’ve grown’. Whatever it was, that summer before 10th grade started, Savannah began to empty herself.
She started skipping meals, claiming to her trying mother that she had eaten earlier. She began religiously doing sit-ups in her room every morning and night, until her stomach gave out in agony and she no longer was able to stand.
She followed 154 different Instagram pages, on fitness, clean eating and weight loss.
No more sugar. No more carbs. No more fats.
More running. More push-ups. More calories burnt.
She stopped going out with friends. She didn’t want to be tempted to eat anything that wasn’t clean. She couldn’t miss her afternoon workout.
She stopped reading. Sedentary behaviour leads to weight gain.
She stopped singing, she needed all the time she could get to stick to her strict regimen.
She stopped talking to her family. Her mum would ask too many questions, and watch her too much.
She needed more time to exercise, going to school was too much sitting.
She needed more time to weigh out and measure food, away from the prying eyes of her mother.
So she made excuses, saying she was too tired, or had a headache, had a sore throat, whatever worked. And Lynn, her naïve mother, gave in and let Savannah stay home. Shenjust wanted Savannah to be happy.
When Savannah’s heart ached with pain and her empty stomach grumbled, she distracted herself with push-ups. When she became light headed, which was becoming more and more frequent, she would lie on her back and do sit-ups. This is my rest, she told herself.
She knew she was going to finally be happy. Just keep going. Exercise more. Eat less. Soon you will be beautiful. Soon you will be loved.
The days, weeks, and moths passed. School went back, but Savannah didn’t. She couldn’t focus on maths when she could instead be out running, burning off more calories. Especially since she ate a slice of apple rather than her green tea for breakfast.
Come on, Savannah. More self-control. More discipline. Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. It will all be worth it. Just keep going.
She couldn’t understand it. Why wasn’t she beautiful yet? Sure, her body had changed a bit. But she was still so big. So ugly.
Standing in front of the mirror, she poked and prodded at her body. “Disgusting” echoed around her dizzy head. She ran to the toilet and purged. That’s better, she thought.
That afternoon, when her mother got home from work, she called for Savannah.
Savannah’s heart raced. She knew her mum was going make her uncomfortable, question her. Couldn’t she just leave her alone?
She fought through her foggy brain to make herself appear like she was together, to not reflect the inner turmoil, hate and despair that was occurring within, and the desire to do a thousand push-ups because she hadn’t worked up the courage to purge that day.
“I am just worried about you. You are barely eating, you are missing so much school, I haven’t seen you pick up a book in months, and you never see your friends anymore.”
Deep breath. You can do this, Savannah. Don’t ruin your progress now. You are fine.
“Mum, it’s fine. I’ve just had a flu. I’ve just been reading in my room for more peace and quiet, and I have been chatting to my friends online. I am fine, really. You worry too much.” Savannah was shocked at how easily the lie flew off her tongue.
Somewhat mollified, Lynn replied “so you’ll start eating more now? And you will keep reading and talking to your friends?”
“Of course mum. I’m going to go for a walk now. I’ll see you later.”
Feet pounding the pavement, shins aching, savannah felt sick. She was so lost, so confused. Was this really what she wanted? What was it like to feel happy? To hug your mum and not be afraid she would feel your bones? To have friends? To laugh? She ran harder, despite the pain in her frail body and the sharp aching in her chest. She would run through the tears, this was the only way she could feel now. To push herself to her limit. She didn’t know what she was doing it for anymore, feeling hopeless, and a dark sense of acceptance. She was too far gone now, stuck drowning with no lifeline, slowly sinking into an abyss where she could finally hide forever.
That afternoon, Savannah was admitted to hospital. Her skeletal body couldn’t support her anymore, and she passed whilst running. She hit her head hard on the concrete, and was now in intensive care, surrounded by the people she hadn’t believed loved her. The doctors tried to hide their horror as her bones were on display, jutting out at angles that shouldn’t be possible.
Lynn sat beside her daughter, feeling an anguish that nobody should ever have to experience. A mother and her child, in an unthinkable situation. This is not where she thought she would be 17 years ago.
Her mind was a mess after receiving a lecture from the doctor. He spoke to her like she was a child, the condescending words biting her like a shark.. And no matter how hard she tried, or how hard she cried, the words “may not make it” pounded in her head like the worst kind of hangover.
Through her tears, Lynn’s heart was in two. Was she a bad parent? Had she missed the signs? She knew something was wrong, but thought Savannah was just experiencing the typical teenage struggle. Hadn’t she too gone through a phase of insecurity and loss of identity? Where she tried a few diets and changed the way she dressed? Lynn knew she should have tried harder to get through to Savannah, but surely if had she seen Savannahs body under the piles of clothes that she wore, she would have acted differently. She would have gotten help. She would have. This was not her fault. Was it?
As much as Lynn wanted to believe she wasn’t at fault, all she could do right now was tear herself apart in blame. She was a bad parent. She had put her child in hospital. She had failed to take care of her only daughter. Her precious little girl.
At 1:04am, Lynn’s family of 3 became a family of 2. Her heart was not strong enough to support her through the night, and gave out in a few gentle beeps. Savannah had faded away, into her final hiding place.
It had been a month since Savannah’s passing, and Lynn finally gathered the courage to enter the room that would never again be occupied by her child. Her throat caught and tears welled up in her eyes, as she gripped the brass doorknob. Lynn took a deep breath, and pressed down. The room was in neat order, with a few changes. There were scales in the corner, her bed looked like it hadn’t been slept in, and the her singing books were under a thick layer of dust. Lynn walked to the desk, and ran her rand across her daughters notebook, with ‘SAVANNAH’S DIARY, KEEP OUT’ scrawled across the front. Lynn opned it to a random page, and was shocked to find her name printed in bold across the top of the left page.
I hate it when you ask me questions. I need my privacy, I am not your little girl anymore. I’m sorry I don’t tell you I love you. I do. I’m sorry for being a bad daughter. I know I’m a failure. But I am fixing it. I am going to be beautiful and then we can be happy.
“Was it worth it, Savannah?” Lynn asked the diary of her broken child.
“Do you feel beautiful now?”
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