We all started this thing called FBT, family-based treatment, where we were supposed to show ourselves as resources for Mel, instead of the cause of the problem. And for a time, we did. Mom set up a gradual eating routine that Mel, eventually, accepted. Me and Meredith were instructed on how to refer to food and Mel’s condition in non-judgemental terms, which we were happy to do. We were so freaked out by maybe losing her we would have burnt all our clothes in a bonfire if it would have helped. Dad drank a bit less.
And Mel got better. She gained some weight, not a lot, but an amount that made her healthy again. It took a while, over a year, which is why we’re both seniors now instead of her already graduating, but she braved it out and nobody gave her much shit when she went back to school. That’s when she and Henna got so close, now that we were all in the same year. Meanwhile, my mom went back to the State Senate. Someone else won the Primary for Lieutenant Governor and was subsequently slaughtered in the general election by the incumbent, so my mom started calling it a “blessing in disguise” with a hard, faraway look in her eye. I finished my own counselling with Dr Luther. I stopped the anxiety medication. Things got kind of back to normal again.
And that, I think, was the problem. They could absolutely deal with Mel getting so sick. But I don’t think they could quite deal with her getting better. I did about eight hundred hours of anxious research on the internet and tried to tell them that almost ninety per cent of anorexics do recover, but as time passed, they seemed to start resenting the healthy daughter just sitting there, the one that they’d sacrificed so much for, no longer needing the sacrifice, if she’d ever really needed it in the first place.
(She did. We could have lost her. I could have lost her. And then what?)
My mom started making vague references to “missed opportunities” and stopped coming to FBT
sessions because she was doing important work down in Olympia, the capital. She handed control of Mel’s diet over to Mel four full months before the schedule suggested. Mel asked if I would help her, and I have, every day since.
We went back to barely seeing my dad. He’s either in his office at work or his office at home, usually smelling of alcohol, often asleep. To be fair, as alcoholics go, he’s pretty low-maintenance.
He gets to work most of the time, he’s never violent or scary, and he lets my mom do most of the driving. I think she keeps him out of trouble, mostly by being clear about what she would do if he were ever in trouble.
So here we are now. I make sure my sister eats, she helps me out of my tics and loops, and we both watch over Meredith and try to stay out of our parents’ way.
But this, all this, isn’t the story I’m trying to tell. This is all past. This is the part of your life where it gets taken over by other people’s stories and there’s nothing you can do about it except hold on tight and hope you’re still alive at the end to take up your own story again. So that’s what we did. Me, Mel and Meredith all moved on, and we’re the stories we’re living now.
“It’s on the twenty-fourth,” Meredith says, staring at us like she’s trying to light us on fire with her mind. Which maybe she is. “So three weeks from today. Aren’t you going to write it down?”
“Eight hundredth time you’ve said it,” Mel yawns, leaning back into our couch. “It’s in my phone, on the calendar in my room, on TV every five seconds, and I have a feeling you’ll probably remind us as the day approaches.”