EAT YOUR HEART OUT

Two hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise on top. A can of herrings, opened yesterday and covered with plastic. A slice of white bread.

==

When Lorna Dane's hair first took on a greenish tinge, her father blamed the pipes, her cheap shampoo, and the chlorine in the pool. Her mother blamed herself, in a way that Lorna never quite understood. When metal objects began to behave weirdly around Lorna, her parents took her to the doctor; her father demanding to know what was wrong with her and for someone to fix it, her mother apologizing to nurses, clerks and other patients in his wake. The doctor was nice. Lorna still remembered the softness in his voice, when he informed her that she had a mutation, and how the same voice had gone hard and flat as he told her father that it was nothing wrong with his daughter, nothing at all. On the ride home, her mother cried, a quiet meaningless sound, and fussed with the green curls that never would be blonde again.

==

An apple. A can of preserved fruit. Grated cheese. Olives.

==

No bleach or dye would conceal the green in her hair. Lorna spent countless afternoons in the bathroom with her mother, who massaged strongly smelling solutions into her scalp, but when the plastic showercap was removed, her hair was as green as before. Her mother looked at it, her face twisting into the all too familiar grimace that preceded tears. She put her fist to her mouth, as if to prevent an outcry.

==

Lettuce. Peanut butter, the chunky sort.

==

Lorna had always known that she was average. If she tried really hard, she would get average grades, be considered normal but uninteresting by her peers at school, and avoid drawing any attention at home. Before her hair became green, her presence was noted and accepted, as long as she didn't do anything. As her hair became greener, the social ranks spat her out, and closed again. There were no insults, no random acts of violence. To her friends at school, she had just stopped existing.

==

Strawberry jam. Akacia flower honey, a special brand. Cottage cheese and italian salad dressing.

==

Her father told her to get a grip. That was his favourite expression, applied to any domestic or political problem. To him, the mutation was purely a result of her failure to get a grip. As was her failure to get a date for prom night, or to fit into the gown her mother had sewn, for her baby girl's first dance.

==

Peperoni and black currant jam. Three Mars bars. A chocolate cake, still frozen.

==

Alone in her room at night, Lorna listened to the sound of her mother weeping and her father's exasperated outbursts. Sometimes, she switched on her flashlight and directed the beam to the shelf where she kept her crystals. They were all sorts of minerals, clear quartz, agates in many colours, green, opalescent, red. A small piece of garnet, an even smaller of uncut amethyst. She had found some on the beach at summer, and bought the rest at a jeweller's shop. She liked her crystals, although she knew that some of them weren't actually crystals; they were inert, beautiful and silent. On another shelf, there were her mother's contributions, a collection of cut glass animals, with plastic tips marking the noses and eyes.

==

A cold slice of pizza. Spinach, a whole package. Butter, flour and sugar, hastily mixed together. Add cacao.

==

The jeweller kept an eye on her, as she chose among the gem stones, but that wasn't because he didn't trust her, he just wanted to make sure that she picked a good one. She had shown him a drawing of a necklace she'd like, and he'd agreed to make it for her. After all, she had come to his shop for the past ten years, looking at the gems, discussing the quality of this sapphire or that ruby or just sitting there on the stool, watching him work. When she took out her purse, though, he stopped her, and told her that it was to be their parting gift, now that she was off to the university. Lorna never saw him again. Three months later, the store was robbed by three teenage boys, and the jeweler was shot. One of the boys had been a classmate of Lorna's.

==

Orange juice. Jelly, green, yellow and lime-coloured. Pretzels.

==

At the Geology course, she met Alex. Lorna met Alex, Alex met Lorna. She didn't think much of it at the time, being to wrapped up in her own research. She was an ambitious student, but falling just short of being talented. The doctorate scholarship she had coveted went to another student, and Lorna had no choice but to go home. Or so she thought, until a renowned scholar named Charles Xavier offered her to go with him.

==

Potato chips for barbecues. Custard sauce with apple pie. Eaten without a fork.

==

What happened after that was very complicated. Lorna made friends among the X-Men, lost them in battle and to meaningless accidents. Some of them came back, but forever changed. She was courted by the easy-going Bobby and Alex, who was the opposite to easy-going. And she knew love, then, the way she had never even known that love existed; Alex's eyes, his mouth, his moods that only she could lighten, and she knew that she belonged to him as a woman belongs to a man in the Biblical sense. They made love down at the pool at the X-Mansion, and later, in their own house under the stars gazing down at the Nevada desert, forever.

==

Mustard and pickles. Milk, right out of the carton.

==

Lorna needed a new costume. All that cooking she and Alex had done for each other, had made her gain weight, and the tight fabric stretched uncomfortably over her stomach and buttocks. They hadn't visited the X-Men for a long time, anyway, so they might as well go. When she saw herself in the mirror, though, she regretted it. The new costume was ugly. She looked fat in it. Worse, she was fat. Her hand went to the necklace she always wore, the cold metal, the inert stone, which was heavy and dense and valuable because of it.

==

Sausages and bread. Some of them fried, others not. Coca-cola, two litres.

==

"Ah'm not sure if Ah oughtta have any ice-cream", Rogue said doubtfully. "Ah pigged out today already, at the mall. Bought mahself a chocolate bar this big an' ate it all at once".

She eyed the Haagen-Dazs container with apparent longing.

"If you would eat sensibly, you would not feel these sugar cravings", Ororo advised her. On Ororo's plate, there was a small portion of sugar-free, fat-free tofu ice-cream.

"Ah know", Rogue said. "But..." She grabbed the container, put a good deal of its content on her plate, and started to eat, bliss radiating out from her in palpable waves.

"Betsy?" Madelyne offered.

"Perhaps a little", the English model said. "Aren't you going to have some?"

"I used to eat that stuff all the time when I was pregnant...When I was pregnant...". Madelyne's eyes swam for a moment, but she held it back.

Alex moved quickly around the table, made her stand up and took her out of the room, his arm firmly around her shoulder. An uncomfortable silence followed. To her horror, Lorna found herself saying:

"Well, let's stuff our faces. I don't intend to starve to death with this much ice-cream around".

Betsy's spoon clattered to the floor. She made no move to pick it up. Her face was rigid, with anger or some other very intense feeling. She pushed her chair back, forcefully and left the table. Lorna looked desperately at her long-time friends for a clue, but Rogue averted her eyes and Ororo had already risen to stack the dishes into the dishwasher. Lorna helped herself to another plate of the goddamn ice-cream which had started all of this and gulped it down. It felt like a punishment. So she ate it doggedly, with a determination that surprised herself, and she didn't stop until the containers were all empty.

==

Water. Zillions and gazillions litres of water.

==

"I can't believe Scott would put his wife through any of this!" Alex exclaimed on the way home. "Madelyne is on the verge of a nervous breakdown and where is he? She doesn't eat, she doesn't sleep. All she does is think about her son."

"Yes", Lorna said. She trusted Alex and she liked Madelyne, but Alex's display of passion was unusual and it made her wonder. She chose her next words carefully.

"She looks rather ill, don't you think?"

"Ill? What do you mean?" The passion was even more evident than before. "She looks absolutely stunning to me, and to any man in his right mind. I don't understand how Scott could do this", he repeated. "He was strange in some ways, but he wasn't a swine. And yet..."

Lorna knew he was right about Madelyne. Scott's abandoned wife looked striking and fragile at the same time. No wonder that Alex wanted to protect her. Lorna felt like a cow beside her, rural and graceless. In fact, Lorna felt the same way around most of the X-Women. Rogue was voluptuous, true, but she had a slender waist, and she exuded vulnerability and sensuality. Though Lorna was athletic, she tended to get muscular and her face was round. She was also short, while Ororo looked regal and elegant, with her towering height on a slender frame. Betsy was fashionably thin with legs so long that they seemed to go on forever and the most delicate ankles. Lorna looked down at her own thighs, that seemed as broad as tree trunks, and her hand once again went to her necklace, her fingers touching the heavy stone.

"Do you think I'm fat?" she asked, when he fumbled to get the key into the lock. The cold was making his fingers clumsy. A muscle worked furiously in his chin, which was a sure sign that he was on the edge.

"God, aren't you selfish!" he snarled at her. "Stop thinking about yourself and get a grip!"

==

Don't think. Don't think. Walk. The stairs. The bathroom.

==

Once she needed only a finger or two. Now she has to put almost all of her hand down her throat, for the retching to start. It doesn't matter. If it had taken both of her hands and a broom-stick too, she would still do it, because she is fat and she is unworthy. She hunches on the floor, in front of the toilet. Her stomach aches from all the food she has forced down. It hangs out of her pajamas, pale and swollen. The knuckles on her right hand hurt when she pushes them past her teeth. She feels the familiar heaving of the stomach as it prepares to throw up what she has ingested, and when she bends forward, vomit sprays out of her nose and mouth in hot, searing streams, like lava. When no more food comes out of her, she drinks some water from the tap and does it again. And again until she is rinsed and purged and has nothing left inside her. She doesn't hear the rattle when the necklace goes over her head. She doesn't think of it, when she flushes it away.

==

Lorna in the bed; staring at the ceiling with unblinking eyes. She listens to Alex's even breaths, sees the contours of his body in the first grey morning light. Her stomach, her appointed vessel of pain and source of all evil is quiet. She has conquered it, conquered the selfish desires and wants stemming from it, and yet she feels she hasn't won at all. Her hand seeks the necklace at her aching throat, but finds only an absence.

==

Now she hears the rattle. Now she knows that what she flushed away. And she starts to cry, the way her mother cries, a small meaningless sound from a person of no importance. No importance at all.

FIN