(Author’s Note: This story has heavy subjects, such as anorexia, sleep deprivation, an inaccurate representation of working class citizens and their bosses, and mild cursing. Consider yourself warned.)
I came through the door after my long, three-month business trip. My boss was working me to death. The whole trip, there just wasn’t any time for eating, and it just became a habit to say “not hungry” when in truth, I was literally starving. The all-nighters I had to do weren’t helping either. I had to wear a big trench coat and sunglasses to hide my form and dark, sleepless eyes, but it was to get the work done. That’s always a good thing…right? “Gil!” I called in the house. “I’m home!”
“Frau?!” he peeked at me from upstairs and smiled. “Is that you? Where’ve you been? Three months is too long! I command that you never leave the awesome me for more than two days tops!”
“Yes, sir!” I giggled as he ran downstairs and hugged me tightly and lifted me up in the hug.
Gilbert looked concerned when he set me down. “…You’re a lot lighter than usual… Is there something I should know?”
I shook my head. “I had to skip a meal or two to get all that work done.” I stated. “I’m fine, really. I’m just tired. I’m gonna go to bed.” With that, I headed up the stairs to our room.
I knew Gilbert was suspicious, but he must’ve shrugged it off when I heard him go on with his night as usual while I slept like a rock.
When I woke up to the phone ringing, Gilbert was right next to me in the bed. I started to exit the bed so I could answer the phone, but then I noticed that he was snuggling with me like a child would a teddy bear. I started to unwrap his hands from my form, but he just squeezed tighter. “Gil,” I whispered to him. “Gil, I have to answer the phone.”
“Nien!” he shouted in his sleep like he was talking to a dream. “Phones are for unawesome people!”
As a result, I stretched my arm out to the phone on the bedside table and snatched it when I reached it. “Hello?” I answered.
“WHERE ARE YOU! YOU ARE ALREADY TWO HOURS LATE!” my boss screamed from the other line, making me cringe and Gilbert sit up with a worried look.
When he was done screaming, I put the phone back to my ear. “But Mr. Riches, it’s seven in the morning, and on a Saturday.”
“You were scheduled to be at work at five this morning! I don’t care where you are, but if you don’t come in the office, IT’S YOUR JOB!”
I sighed. “Alright.” I stated. “I’ll be right in.” and hung up before I turned to Gilbert. “Sorry hun, I have to get to work.” He shot me an obvious disproving look as I got up from the bed and got dressed. “Apparently, I was supposed to be at work two hours ago.”
He shot his head at the clock and back to me. “At five in the morning? He expected you there at five?!” I nodded as I ran the brush through my hair. “Frau, no one in their right mind is at work at NINE on a Saturday morning! What about breakfast? We always eat a big breakfast on Saturday!”
“Sorry Gil, but I have a job, and the bills need to be paid. I promise, my next day off, we’ll have a huge Thanksgiving breakfast.” He sighed as I checked my phone for missed calls. “Need anything before I go?”
“A hug would be nice!” he shouted with his arms spread. When I gave him a quick side hug, he yanked me back for a real hug. I could almost feel his crimson eyes look down at me in worry. “You should eat something before you go.” he stated.
I shook my head as we parted. “No time.” I stated. “I-I’ll try to pick something up along the way. Love you!” I closed the door before he could protest. He knew as well as I that every restaurant between the house and the office either didn’t serve breakfast or didn’t have to go.
I came home at nearly midnight with paperwork juggling in my hands. Gilbert saw this and quickly helped me with the pile of work, setting it all down on my desk in the computer room. He could tell I was exhausted, so he tried to lead me away from the desk. “Hey, Frau, why not we head to bed.” he stated.
I shook my head, slipping from his grip. “Mr. Riches wants me to get all this done by noon tomorrow.”
“How would he know you did it tomorrow?” Gilbert asked. “You have a day off tomorrow…right?” I gave him a look of guilt and his face went stern. “No! Nein! No way! It’s the weekend! There’s no way he expects you to-”
“Be in the office tomorrow morning at five.” I answered for him. “We need this income.” I reasoned as I sat at the desk. “If I don’t show up at five tomorrow, I lose my job.” I started stating strongly until I yawned heavily.
“Did you even eat anything today?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I lied quickly. “I picked something up for breakfast like I said I would.”
I hoped he wouldn’t press, but he then asked, “From where?” At that moment, while I tried to think of some place he’d believe, my stomach growled as if answering his question. “Did you take a lunch break?” Again, my stomach interrupted me, screaming a big fat “NO!”
Gilbert now knew there was a problem and gave me a very rare look and tone. “Justine.” he stated in a serious voice. “When is the last time you ate? And tell me the truth or I’ll get your vati to do it for me.”
My father wasn’t the most understanding for forgiving man in the world. If he was involved in what’s been going on, I knew I would get an earful of curses before he’d get me fired. “Yesterday.” I answered honestly. “…I ate…peanuts on the plane.”
“Peanuts.” he repeated. “Nutty, unawesome, airline food.”
“You asked when I last ate,” I reminded. “That was my last meal.”
“Meal?!” He started to raise his brows and widen his eyes. “Mien GOTT Justine! When did you eat before that?!”
I was hesitant to answer. “I ate periodically through the trip.” I stated in all honesty. “Look, I don’t have time for this. I need to get this work-” He stopped me right there, slapping his hand on my desk with his arm keeping me from my paperwork.
After a moment, I tried to maneuver around his arm to get the paperwork until he snatched my wrist, making me drop the pen in my hand. “What. Did you eat. During. The trip?” he growled angrily. When I was silent, he ripped my coat and sunglasses off to reveal every edge, joint, and point in the skeletal system. If I had any muscle left, it wasn’t seen. My blue-green eyes were deep and dark like a zombie.
He gazed at me in shock and horror, I was also shocked as I took in my current form. I knew it got bad, but I had no idea it went this far. He looked me in the eyes and asked again, “What exactly did you eat on your business trip?”
“There was no time for a full meal.” I explained, defeated. “I had a bag of chips or crackers every time I passed a snack machine, but, since I was at a desk almost at all times, that wasn’t often. I ran out of free money anyway so I couldn’t get anything even if Mr. Riches would let me.” He listened to my starvation story with anger and pity. This was what I wanted to avoid. I knew now that he’d make me quit my job, and we’d lose the house and have nothing but a box and a magical floating faucet.
“What about sleep?” he asked. “Did you sleep at all before you came home?” I shook my head. Gilbert smacked his hands down. “That’s it!” he shouted as he reached for the phone. “I’m giving Mr. Rich-Beyond-Compare a big chunk of mien awesome mind!”
“No!” I begged. “If you do that, he’ll fire me! Since you don’t have a job, I NEED this job!”
“Would you rather your vati call instead? I’m sure he’d get the point across to your boss, and then some!” he exclaimed, leaving me silent. “What you need is to lose this job!” he shouted as he dialed the number. “The only thing this job is doing is turning you into a zombie!” I knew it was true, but it still hurt. He looked down at me while the phone on the other line rang.
He shook his head when I heard my boss answer. “Mr. Riches?” he asked on the phone. “This is Gilbert, Justine’s boyfriend, and I have quite a few things to say to you about her well being… Well, first off, she’s skinny as a twig because she believes she has no time to eat. Second, she’s exhausted as fuck because of the late nights and early mornings every day. Third, she-… Oh really?… So, you basically think that you’re the only person in the world that needs food and sleep?… In that case, Justine would like to quit!… Why? Let’s see, killing job, selfish boss, unawesome pay, do you really want details?… She will NOT be in tomorrow, she has to get back to health because of your stupid terms!… Sorry, I guess you’ll have to find someone else to take all that unawesome shit!” and he hung up before turning to me.
I was furious. “Gilbert! I needed that job!”
“I know exactly what you need.” he stated as he walked to the kitchen. He pulled out something from the top shelf and gave it to me. It was a cupcake. “Oliver left it when he crashed my party the other day.” he stated.
I got worried. “…Oliver?”
“Don’t worry, it’s not poisoned or cannibalized. I checked.”
I turned the cupcake around and sighed. “Yeah, the icing.” I still took a small bite. Happy that I didn’t taste the tang of blood or the bitterness of poison, I took a bigger bite, feeling the sweetness wash over me and satisfy my hunger. Oliver was one of the best cooks in the world when he didn’t add in his…special ingredients. Of course, not even he could compete with my father and uncle when it comes to cooking; while Oliver’s specialty is cupcakes, he’s not very good at making other things, like pizza or pasta that my family thrives from. Still, the cupcake’s sweetness gave me the zap of energy I needed.
Gilbert sighed when he saw my smile. “Frau,” he started. “Promise me you’ll never do that again. If a job doesn’t allow time for those basic needs, then you don’t need that job.”
I nodded tiredly. “I promise Gil.”
He smiled and pet my head. “Let’s get to bed, okay?” I nodded and yawned as I started to get woozy right there in the kitchen. He took this as a cue that I had no strength left and carried me to the bed.
The next morning, I was woken up by a wake-up call from the boss. I answered the phone sleepily. “Hello?”
“Justine! Where are you?! I need that paperwork done today!” Mr. Riches yelled on the phone.
I looked down at Gilbert who looked back up at me from the pillow where he refused to lift his head from. “…Apparently, you forgot the call you got last night. Allow me to sum up… Fuck You!” And I hung up.