One second she was asleep, the next fully awake. But even awake, Margaret could still see the mound of skin and bone that looked more like a pile of dirty laundry than a human being. She shook her head to clear away the image. The fuzzy Miss Kitty alarm came into focus. It had been a terrible dream. Awful. The picture of that lanky, greasy, black hair draped across those painfully thin shoulders made Margaret shudder.
Margaret was not used to terrible things. Her life was light and fluffy. Just the way she liked it. Her room was shades of pink with soft carpets that were warm beneath her feet. Quiet sounds, gentle TV shows, and newspapers filled with antics about celebrities and makeovers.
The CPAP still hissed helping push much needed air into her lungs as she struggled to rid herself of the darkness of the dream. She grunted as she struggled to push herself into a sitting position.
The bathroom scale only went as high as 350 pounds, and it had broken beneath her long since. “You have to lose at least 200 pounds,” Doctor Baxter had told her. “You’re a prime candidate for a heart attack.”
She was only 39. Margaret thought that he was being a little melodramatic. She had plenty of years left before she needed to do anything so drastic as to lose weight. After all, she was big boned, and had always been heavier than her peers.
Margaret had two loves in her life, food and her granddaughter, Margaret Rose. Rosie, as she was better known, was beautiful, pink, blue-eyed and blond, and just the sweetest, nicest child anyone would ever want. How her surly, goth-loving, cigarette-smoking, juvenile delinquent, 15-year-old daughter had ever given birth to such a lovely creature was beyond her. Two weeks after the birth, May had showed up at the door, pushed food around on her plate for a half hour and then disappeared, leaving the baby behind and stealing two hundred dollars from the grocery jar for good measure.
The poor little babe didn’t even have a name. Jim was the one who suggested Margaret Rose, and six months later she was legally theirs.
Jim was an early riser. He cooked Rosie her breakfast, dressed her, did her hair, and then took her to the daycare. The house was Margaret’s for five whole hours before she had to go and pick up the little girl. A box of chocolate éclairs, jam-busters, and honey crullers waited for her on the kitchen table. That Jim, what a sweet-heart.
Margaret shuffled into the kitchen; her knees creaked and her back was sore. It always seemed to be sore these days. She pulled her thick, pink terry cloth housecoat across her massive chest and then rubbed at the deep grooves left on her face by her breathing mask. Her favourite cup, a pink one with a pale blue stripe, sat on the counter beside a full coffee pot. Margaret smiled and poured herself a cup of the dark brew. She carefully added three and a half teaspoons of sugar (after all, wasn’t she trying to lose some weight?) and a dollop of thick cream. Then she picked up a chocolate éclair and sat down at the table with another grunt. The newspaper was already open to news about Angelina and Brad.
Margaret sat munching on her treat and letting her eyes skim across the words. But she couldn’t shake that awful dream. She had been walking down the street—no, floating—and had come across a graduation ceremony going on in a lush, green field on the opposite side. It was a happy event. Fresh-faced kids sat row on row, waiting for their turn to get up and walk across the stage and receive their diplomas. Then suddenly, her eyes were drawn to a large tree. Against the trunk, a skeletal girl leaned for support. Her blue eyes lost beneath dark shadows. She was a frightful sight, but there had been something so familiar about her, the curve of her cheek, the hint of blond roots. Even though scabs festooned her face and her bare arms, there was something. Then slowly, the girl lost her battle against gravity and sank lifeless to the ground.
Although terrified, Margaret had to have a closer look at that grey face, so she had floated closer.
The éclair seemed to stick in her throat. It had the consistency of glue and tasted like straw. She put it aside and tried a jam-buster instead. That was even worse. It tasted like chemicals. Awful. Margaret peered deep into the box, but nothing appealed to her, even though her tummy rumbled. She would leave the rest for Jim and little Rosie. A first in the Evans’ household.
That night she went to sleep with a grumbling stomach. After all, she’d only eaten a half chicken and a small dollop of mashed potatoes all day. But, as soon as she closed her eyes, she was back on that street. The grey-faced girl still leaned against the tree; her black hair still hung lank across her face. But somehow she looked just a tiny bit better. For some reason it made Margaret very happy.
“Headless Girl?” by Jesse Acosta. Creative Commons Flickr. Some rights reserved.