CORY FLIPPED ON the kitchen light. Jess stood at the counter with a brownie halfway to her mouth. She blinked, shielding her eyes with her other hand.
“What are you doing?” Jess demanded.
“What are you doing?” Cory stepped into the galley kitchen and leaned past Jess to check out the half-empty pan of brownies. “It’s midnight.” When everyone went to bed, the pan had only two missing. Jess stuffed the end of the brownie into her mouth and hurried to cover the pan with foil.
“Nothing. I woke up starving. Is that a crime?” She spun around and stared at Cory.
“I guess not. It’s just that you never want to eat at dinner.”
“I don’t feel hungry at dinner. At dinnertime I’ve just finished four hours of practice and I’m too damn tired to eat, okay?”
Cory took a step back. “Okay, okay. Don’t bite my head off. I don’t give a crap when you eat.” As long as you eat. She eyed Jess’s hips protruding like a prison camp victim’s over the top of her low-slung sweatpants. Her arms lacked any shape, attached to her bony shoulder blades like a stick person drawing. Jess’s eyes had become hollow with dark circles, and her hair lacked the shiny blond sheen it used to have. And the weirdest thing was that Jess’s teeth looked older somehow—yellowed and surrounded by puffy red gums. Cory had been increasingly alarmed by her sister’s appearance—she was starting to look like a heroin addict—and Cory was pretty sure she knew why. But what to say to her about it? Whenever she’d asked Jess about her meager meals, not daring to mention hearing her vomit in the toilet at night, Jess’s only reply was that she had to maintain a certain look in order to make it through the Maryland Youth Ballet competition to be considered, let alone selected. She told Cory she’d eat a steak dinner with mashed potatoes and a giant sundae the night she won the competition. Cory had let it go then.
“Jess, I wonder . . .” she began.
Jess turned savage eyes in her direction. “What?”
“If maybe you’re taking this whole looking thin thing for the competition too far?”
Jess had opened the refrigerator to survey the contents. Now she slammed it. “This thin thing?” She made air quotes. Cory hated air quotes. “This thin thing means the difference between getting into the Academy, and, by the way, determines my whole future career. This thin thing is not just ‘I need to look good to get boys.’” She placed a nasty emphasis on boys. “It means how I will spend the rest of my life. Or not.”
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