Editor’s Note: This is the fourth fictional post in a continuation. For those who may have missed the other three, shame on you. No, just kidding. Here are the three other posts that are part of this story in chronological order.
#1 Fictional Friday: Her Billy
#2 Fictional Friday: Our Billy
#3 Fictional Friday: Letting Go of Billy
Hope you enjoy…Their Leila…
The doorbell rang as if it were London’s Buckingham Palace. The distinct sound of the suitcase’s zipper closing sealed her fate. She was sealing the deal to save her life.
There was a soft, hesitant tap at the bedroom door. “The van is here, Leila,” said Keith.
Leila held her breath while rolling the suitcase toward the door. Before she could reach the door, there was a brush against her leg. It was the latest addition to the family – their Persian cat, Sasha. The giant ball of gray fur stroked the side of her calf. She bent down to bid farewell to her friend. Looking into Sasha’s fluorescent green eyes, innocent and pure.
Petting behind Sasha’s ears, she said, “I’ll be back soon. I’ll be all better.”
Keith stood at the bottom of the stairs. Wearing a camel-colored sweater that perfectly matched his dusty brown hair. She immediately thought of a younger Robert Redford.
He flashed those pearly whites. Blushing, she suddenly felt like Ms. America, however, she wasn’t about to begin the talent portion of the contest.
She was headed to rehab.
Following the suspension of her medical license, the disease had reached epic proportions. Her hallowed face, blood shot eyes, calloused knuckles were proof.
Even though her young patient, Nikki, did pull through after a substantial increase of the pain medicine Leila had administered, she selfishly felt as though a part of her died that day.
As a doctor, she took to heart The Hippocratic Oath: “I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”
The intertwined, twisted result of her compassion and use of a chemist’s drug could have ended tragically.
Now, after months of therapy and soul searching, she came to the conclusion that it wasn’t Nikki who actually needed saving.
Sliding into the van seat, she could see her breath in the dense early morning fog. Keith kissed her cheek. “Take care of Billy and Sasha,” she called. The van door sliding shut, she looked straight ahead holding back her tears.
During the two-hour drive to the rehab center, she looked down at her hands. The scaring on her knuckles looked as if she was a retired prize fighter. Leila remembered one year ago at this time kneeling on the cold, hard floor of the hospital restroom…
She picked at the skin on her raw knuckle. When seeing worn, overworked hands, many think of day laborers, or blue-collar workers, who rely on their hands to make a living.
Not her. She thought of putting her finger down her throat to induce a gag reflex, and eventually vomiting. She thought of expelling her pain.
Staring at the floor tiles that made a perfect alternating gray and white square pattern, she repeatedly traced the boxes with her fingertip. She wished and prayed to stop. But, she couldn’t. Just couldn’t.
She remembers with perfect clarity when the whole binging and throwing up started. The day after her mom left at age 12.
It was the beginning of seventh grade when they were showing one of those made-for-TV-movies that is supposed to persuade teenagers to not do something harmful. The movie portrayed a young girl who binged and threw up and lied to her parents. The character in the movie never gained weight and ate whatever she wanted. Leila thought this was brilliant.
And, with no mother and an alcoholic father, there was no need to lie. This would be her way to regain some control.
Leila would sit on the sidelines during lunchtime and watch other girls drink sodas and eat chips while laughing. They probably also had two parents who paid attention to them.
Who loved them.
Leila would lurk around the school restroom after lunch waiting for it to empty. She felt both a sense of relief and disgust after throwing up.
By the end of seventh grade, she whittled down to a mere 100 pounds with a 5’6 medium frame. Girls at school commented, “How are you so skinny, Leila?” She basked in the attention.
Over the years, she evolved into a “functioning bulimic.” There were the occasional high-stress periods where her binging and vomiting peaked. But she could keep it under control.
However, when she learned of being pregnant at 17, her bulimic activity temporarily ceased for those nine months. She now had to be accountable to … her Billy.
The pressures from living with her father and his dysfunctional counterpart, Darla was too much to take. And that’s when it started all again. She fell right back into her old routine.
Ironically, her knowledge of illness and disease, including detection, treatment and prevention while in medical school failed at helping the worst patient she had ever known. Herself.
The other victim, through all of this was, her Billy. Now a sophomore at the Juillard School in the Big Apple, he was thriving. Over the summer, he was hand selected to join a special European Tour “The Voices of Juillard.” His dream of becoming a professional vocal artist was coming true.
She had spared the details of her trial and suspension before the Medical Board until he returned for the Thanksgiving holiday.
While explaining to Billy the entire ordeal, she tried to chalk it up to bad choices. As a credit to her parenting, Billy was too smart for excuses. “How could you, mom?” he asked. She taught him accountability and responsibility. There was no room for contradictions with her levelheaded 18-year-old son.
She finally relented in explaining that her noble intentions became warped. She made a horrible mistake – one that cost her livelihood.
Who was her rock during this nightmare? The man she never fathomed would be there, ever. Her first love: Keith. He listened, he held. But would he stick by her during this second crisis?
After Billy returned to school following the holiday, she fell into a dark hole. Her worst nightmare had come true: she was alone with no job, no Billy. Once again, she had no accountability, which is the ideal climate for her bulimia to rear its ugly head.
Just days after Christmas, a neighbor found her sprawled on the floor of her condo unconscious. Keith rushed to her side at the hospital. She knew this was a turning point – both for her and for him.
Keith took a temporary leave of absence from his position at the conservatory. The unspoken agreement being that she would seek treatment once she was capable.
The van finally pulled up to the rehabilitation center. The outside of the center looked more like a mini mansion from the front with large windows and ornate wooden designs around the door. A small sign hung above the doorway that read: “YOU ARE LOVED.”
At the front desk, the receptionist requested her to sign in. She began to write her name, but hesitated. She eventually signed: “☺ Dr. Andersen.” She momentarily looked up. Realizing, she never truly had been alone.
She was ready.
Ready to let her Billy go. Ready to be healthy. Ready to love and be loved.
Conservative figures show that 150,000 women die each year from dieting related causes.
Writing Prompt: Invent a / your character (who) has two personality traits that are completely incompatible, that don’t fit together at all. For example: this character is incredibly messy and is also a total perfectionist. Or: this character is a pacifist and also has a really explosive temper. Or: this character believes in strict, traditional family values but is promiscuous by nature. You decide. Then think of a situation in which these two sides of your character would be in direct conflict with each other. Write the story / scene.
Please, oh, please, check out these talented writers who are fearlessly turning out some incredible fiction! I am so blessed to have connected with each of them.