*Trigger Warning* – self harm & eating disorders are subjects that come up briefly in this story.
This is a work of fiction.
I was sixteen the first time I heard it. I wondered whether it was a joke at first, because he said it so quietly. He wouldn’t have been the first boy to make fun of me like that. I remember staring at him, as he casually flipped a pen in-between his fingers, his eyes boring holes into the book that was on his lap.
‘What was that?’ I nudged him, but he still didn’t look up.
He shifted his legs underneath him and leaned back against the wall.
‘You heard. Otherwise you wouldn’t be bugging me to say it again.’
I can still remember the shiver that went through me, like someone had chucked a bucket of ice-cold water down my back.
‘I’d like to hear it again.’ I muttered. The cup of tea that he had brought me an hour earlier was cold, but I still took a sip.
‘I think you’re beautiful.’ He said it so quickly, I wasn’t sure he had said it at all. The words tumbled out of his mouth and the moment he said it his cheeks flushed and he ran his fingers through his hair. Something he always did when he was embarrassed.
‘Thank you.’ Were the only words I could come up with at the time.
I looked at my thighs that were always touching, and felt my arms that always wobbled when I walked. My stomach rolled over itself as I sat on my bed and my glasses were two sizes to big for my face, and yet, he called me beautiful. Him. The guy who could eat any food and never exercise but still be as skinny as a pencil, and whom every girl in school was desperately in love with. Him, who had been my friend for years. Him, who I’d loved since the first time he caught me swallowing diet pills outside the school. Who had seen me dragging a blade across my wrist because I hated myself that much. Him, who instead of running away, had sat down next to me on the bathroom floor and told me about the puppy his family had just adopted. With no judgement, or expectations. It was him that was sitting on my bed on a Saturday afternoon, To Kill A Mockingbird clutched in his hands, and calling me something I never thought I was or could ever be.
‘You’re welcome. I’m not very good at, like, saying things like that.’ He still never looked up from the page.
‘I think you did ok.’ I said, unable to stop the smile that was beginning to spread across my face.
‘Right, well, er, good then.’
He said it to me every once in a while. As we grew up, life stuck its hand in-between us and pulled us both in different directions. But, the last time he said it to me, he had grabbed my hands and looked me head on, his eyes pleading with me to say something different, to say something more. However, like always I simply said thank you.
When you’ve been told something about yourself enough times, you begin to believe it. I believed I was unloveable, ugly, fat, everything awful. Enough people had told me so over the years. The one person who was telling me the opposite, I didn’t believe. How could he think that?
He hadn’t said I was beautiful in years now. That’s probably because we rarely talk now. I get a Christmas card each year, saying the meaningless phrases that people think make up for twelve months of no communication.
His wife looks pretty. Their daughters both have his same thick dark hair, and cheesy smile.
I don’t often thing about him, I can’t afford to. But, I wonder, if I had just said something more, uttered one more word that first time he said it, if it my life would be any different.
Over the years, I slowly healed, and made myself a promise. The next time someone tells me I’m beautiful, I’m going to believe them. I’m going to wrap my arms, that still wobble more than I would like, around them and hold on tight.
So, despite my breathing that’s shaky and my heart that’s beating out of my chest, and with the person that I’d always hated, staring back at me from the mirror… I said it.
No matter what you think about yourself, you are worthy of love and kindness. – Allie xxx