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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
all jace wanted was to be more masculine. he was too curvy, too thick, too feminine. he just hated his body, and he knew exactly what he wanted.
and he would do anything to get it.

Submitted: January 25, 2017

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 25, 2017



Growing up in Tennessee, where the weather was as consistent as the politicians who represented it, it was not a surprise that the temperature would drop suddenly without much warning. The previous day had been perfectly warm, and anyone who hadn’t grown up in the heart of Nashville would have found the change jarring. As it was, the locals were not affected in the slightest, simply throwing on that extra jacket they all kept in their cars for moments like this and continuing with their schedules as usual. It was chilly enough to affect anyone, but to Jace it felt like the middle of winter. Not surprising, he thought, after all, I’m rarely warm anymore.  

The walk to school wasn’t in any way difficult, but Jace found the cold motivated him to walk much faster than he would have on a day that was warmer. He shivered violently as his body temperature dropped, wrapping his arms around himself as tightly as he could to preserve what little heat he had left. Even with the sun shining as brightly as it was, Jace was cold enough that his teeth chattered. He walked significantly faster than any of the unhurried southerners who littered the sidewalk around him. He wanted to get to school as fast as possible.

When he finally made it inside, he was breathing heavily. While the school wasn’t particularly warmer than it was outside—after all, the cold snap was so sudden no one had time to switch the heat on—Jace sighed in relief when he stepped into those dreary white halls after what had felt like an extremely long time outside. The difference would have been slight to any normal person, but to him the difference was overwhelming. He shivered as he set his backpack down on the floor of his history class. He could absolutely tell a difference in the temperature between here and outside, but that did not mean he was warm.

Jace took off his hat as sat down, tucking his hands in it to warm them up. He was very early for class, as usual, because he really hated being the only one at home in the mornings. Being alone tended to stress him out; he needed to be around people, even if he wasn’t immediately talking to them. When he was alone, he would overthink, and that tended to end poorly for him.

“Mornin’ Jace!”

Jace glanced up to see his friend Camille smiling brightly at him. Camille was very much a morning person, and her energy tended to help him wake up a little more. She would always bring him a coffee—black, but with a little bit of honey—because she insisted that he was grumpy without it, and his father only drank decaf. Jace offered to pay her back plenty of times, but she refused, saying that she was just trying to make her friend happy. Camille was always doing things like that just to cheer him up. She knew that he tended to be a pessimist, so she did everything she could to be the optimist for him.

He knew that she would absolutely freak out if she knew what he was doing to himself. That’s why he hadn’t told her.

“Morning, Camille. How are you?” He took the coffee she handed him gratefully. She threw herself into a desk, placing her chin into her hands and smiling widely at him with her perfectly straight teeth. How she kept them that way with all the soda and coffee she drank was beyond him.

“I’m great! We’ve got our first dress rehearsal today and I’m so excited! Did I show you the dress I’m gonna wear? It’s so pretty!” She whipped out her phone and showed him the dress that she had picked out for her first starring role. She was clearly excited about it because it was already pulled up when she unlocked her phone.

“It’s beautiful. I’m sure you’ll look great in it,” he said, smiling softly at her. She beamed back, clearly pleased with the praise.

“I know, right!” she drawled, dramatically flipping her long auburn hair over her shoulder. Camille’s confidence was one of the things Jace respected most about her. She was so comfortable and happy in her skin, and that was something Jace envied. He had never been very fond of the way he looked, and he really admired the way Camille loved herself as much as she did.

Then again, Camille was just a beautiful person. She was tall and slim, with the type of figure that other girls would die for. She had a good four inches on Jace and she was so skinny.  She easily weighed twenty pounds less than Jace, and that was something that Jace was jealous of. It was one of the only reasons that he sometimes found himself avoiding spending too much time with the girl who had been with him for so many years. It was so ridiculous that he would feel this way. After all, Camille had been there with him through everything. She was there when he was being bullied in seventh grade, she was there every time one of his girlfriends broke up with him, and she was there when he first came out with words of encouragement and an immediate switch to his pronouns. Camille was his best friend, and the fact that he would ever feel any amount of bitterness towards her, especially about something she couldn’t help, was so ridiculous that Jace hated himself even more for it.

The bell rang, and the teacher began his lecture on some political revolution that Jace wasn’t interested in. Jace tried to avoid letting his thoughts go the way they had been threatening to a moment ago. He doodled aimlessly in the corner of his notebook, but eventually his thoughts turned back to where they always seemed to go when he was bored: food.

Before this year, Jace hadn’t really given much thought to his weight. Sure, he knew that he was on the bigger side, but he had always brushed it off as the same type of problem that anyone in his situation would have. It wasn’t even specifically aimed at his weight. It was just his curves, his wide hips, his chest which he couldn’t seem to make flat no matter how hard he tried. Everything about his body was a problem area for him. He didn’t really see a way out of it without going through the usual therapy that people other transgender students went through. Until one day, one of his friends mentioned they were on a diet.

He had considered diets before. He thought that if he would just eat healthier and work out more, he would be one step closer to the body he wanted. After all, he hated the way his thighs expanded when he sat, and the way his arms jiggled when he moved them too fast, and the way his stomach folded when he slouched. He looked soft and feminine, and it was infuriating. He wanted to be fit and toned and masculine. He wanted to be as manly on the outside as he felt on the inside. But no matter how hard he tried, it had never worked before. It was frustrating, but he had been able to deal with it before. He was managing up until the day a friend of his whom he wasn’t particularly close to had mentioned something about how it was a shame he was a boy because he “had the kind of curves that girls would kill for.” It was an innocent—albeit insensitive—comment which hadn’t been said with the intention of hurting him, but he couldn’t get those words out of his head.

He knew he wasn’t exactly the most masculine, but that comment changed the way he viewed himself. Everything about his body was suddenly unbearably feminine. He couldn’t see past the clear curve of his hips, his disgustingly squishy waist, the little bump that his damn boobs always left no matter how tight his binders were. Everything was soft and girly, and he hated it. It became so unbearable that he was willing to do anything to get rid of it. He started restricting what he ate. At first, he just cut out certain foods. Then he set a calorie limit—no more than eight hundred calories a day. Then number dropped, and he began to eat less, and less, and less. Sometimes, he would go days without food. He lived off water and all he could think about was how he was going to skip his next meal. It became an obsession. He began to lose weight faster than was probably healthy. He wore baggy clothes so that no one would notice. And he had been successful thus far.

He was nearly forty pounds lighter, but it was never enough. He could never seem to shake the hatred of his body. Even when he could wrap his hands around his thighs, he still poked and prodded at them until they felt like they were too thick and soft. When his hip bones appeared, he would look to the little pocket of fat in between them. When his collarbones and ribs started to show, all he could see was his chest. No matter how many bones he could see now, there was always a new area that was too fat for him. Anything that he could squish was unacceptable. It was infuriating. He was so feminine it was unbearable to him. He hated himself, and he hated the way he looked. Sometimes he hated himself enough that it made him physically sick.

“Jace?” Camille’s voice was soft. She barely brushed her hand over his shoulder. “You okay? Class is over.”

He blinked and looked around. Sure enough, the classroom was emptying as people left to go to their next class. Jace glanced up at her sheepishly. “Yeah, sorry. I got a little… distracted.”

Camille frowned. “You’ve been doing that a lot lately. You sure you’re okay?”

“Of course I am.” He rolled his eyes playfully at her and eyed the clock. “We should head to class.”

Camille’s furrowed brows and scrutinizing gaze showed her worry. She clearly didn’t believe him, but thankfully she didn’t press. Jace stood slowly, fighting the dizziness as they walked through the hallways towards gym class. Both of them hated gym, but Jace didn’t mind it as much anymore because it allowed him to be more active. Camille, on the other hand, preferred to be active only when she was on stage, and tended to barely try when she was in gym class. Sometimes she would tease him about how seriously he seemed to take each activity. Jace didn’t mind as much because he knew she would never really know why he was doing it.

“Hey, Jace?”

He glanced over at Camille, noticing how she popped each of the knuckles on her hand and avoided looking at him. She only popped her knuckles like that when she was nervous or worried, so Jace turned to face her completely. “What’s wrong?”

She hesitated. “I’m worried about you.”

Jace’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Why?”

“You’ve been, like, acting, I don’t know, different? We used to talk about everything, you know, and now it feels like you don’t really tell me anything anymore. I don’t know.” Camille’s voice became more and more rushed as she spoke. “You know you can tell me anything. You’ve been so quiet lately. You never talk about how you feel and I’m just so worried—”

“Hey, hey, calm down. It’s okay. I’m okay. I’ve just been stressed lately,” he soothed, sounding significantly more calm than he felt.

“But I am worried. You look so lifeless all the time. You look sick. Maybe you should see a doctor.”

“No,” he said a little too quickly. “I’m fine, I promise.”

“I don’t—”

The gym teacher blew his whistle, signaling the start of class. Camille sprinted into the locker room. Jace had worn basketball shorts today, so he didn’t need to change. He stretched absently, focusing more on the burn of his muscles as he loosened them instead of the swelling anxiety of the fact that Camille was on to him. Camille was going to catch him, or maybe she’d try to make him stop. He pulled his calf up to his hip, farther than usual so that all he could feel was the stretch.

Unfortunately, today was the day they would be running the mile, and Jace knew that it was going to be a challenge. His endurance certainly wasn’t as good as it had been a few months ago, but he was determined to run as long as he could. The first lap wasn’t hard; he easily kept up with most of the other people in the class, and he felt his confidence grow. He could definitely do this. The second lap was harder, but he maintained his pace and pushed through the growing fatigue. The next two laps blurred together as his fatigue grew into exhaustion. He slowed to a stop, having finished after eleven minutes and twenty-four seconds. His breathing was heavy. He felt like his chest was quickly tightening until he could barely breathe at all. He wobbled a little, grabbing his chest as if it would calm his erratic heart. He barely had the time to feel proud that he had jogged the entire time before the world lurched forward and he stumbled to the ground. Slowly, everything went dark.


When he came to, the first thing he noticed was that everything hurt. His limbs were sore, his stomach ached, his head was pounding, and everything was too loud. He was just so overwhelmed. The sun was blinding—or was that a light? He couldn’t tell. People were talking somewhere nearby, but his brain felt too fuzzy to understand what was being said. He took a few deep breaths, trying to gather his scattered senses so that he could figure out where he was and what was going on. It took a minute or so before the fog in his mind began to clear and things started to come into focus.

The room was solid white, with a thick sky blue line down the middle. There was a small painting of some sort of flowers that hung above plain, cream colored counters across from the bed he was lying in. To his right was a sink with white cabinets above it that were zip tied shut. Everything was completely unassuming and very sterile looking, which was accompanied by the smell of alcohol-based cleaners. It was no wonder he had been so overwhelmed when he first woke up; everything about this room was bright and the smell was so strong that it was a little overpowering. There was an irritating beeping coming from somewhere nearby, and it took him a moment to realize that it was a heart monitor which was connected to several cool patches on his chest and stomach.

He was very quickly becoming overwhelmed again.

“Jace? Are you awake?” His mother was suddenly beside him, watching him worriedly. She had dark circles under her eyes, as though she hadn’t slept in days, and Jace felt a bubble of anxiety form in his chest. The beeping on the monitor sped up a little, and his mother glanced from the screen back to him. “Calm down, sweetie. You need to take it easy.”

“Mom, where am I?”

There were tears in her eyes now. “In the hospital. You passed out during gym yesterday.”

Jace stared at his mother in shock. He was in the hospital? Why? He had only run one mile. It wasn’t like he had never done it before. Granted, he hadn’t eaten in three days, but he had done much more exercise after a fast as long as this one without passing out. In fact, he did more extreme workouts at least three times a week with barely any food. Why had this time made him pass out?

“What happened?” His voice was soft. He was afraid of the answer he was going to get.

“The doctors…they said it was …well, you haven’t been eating well, have you.” It wasn’t really a question, nor was it an accusation. She knew what the answer was without him needing to tell her, but she didn’t sound angry either. She just sounded tired. Her eyes were so overflowing with worry that Jace had to look away. He guiltily shook his head no, and his mother reached out to put her hand over his. “You just overworked yourself considering your, um, your diet. You’re very unhealthy, Jace.” Everything she said was hesitant, as though she was scared of telling him too much. Her eyes were soft as she watched the look of horror growing on his face. She squeezed his hand gently.

There was a long stretch of silence where Jace processed his mother’s words. Sure, he knew he was being very unhealthy, and that people who restricted the way he sometimes ended up dying, but he never thought it would happen to him. After all, he wasn’t even that thin. He certainly wasn’t skinny enough to have almost died. That was something that only happened in the most extreme cases, which he was not. He couldn’t possibly have gotten that bad, could he?

“I-I didn’t mean to.” This was true; Jace didn’t particularly want to die. His only intention was to lose weight. He had never really considered the actual consequences of what he was doing, honestly. He had a decently comfortable life; nothing that had ever made him truly consider death. For all that they disagreed, her knew both his parents loved him in their own way. “Mom, I didn’t mean to.” His voice wavered as he met his mother’s eyes, tears spilling from his own.

She shushed him and ran her thumb over the back of his hand. “I know, sweetie, I know. But you’re going to be okay. We’ll get through this.”

He glanced around the room, noticing that his father was nowhere in sight. “Where’s Dad?”

“He’s getting food. He’ll be back in just a few minutes.”

He nodded. He wasn’t sure how his father would react once he saw that Jace was awake. He knew his father loved him, but he could be a little harsh when he was worried. He wasn’t sure he could handle if his father yelled at him right now. Then again, Jace knew he probably deserved it if he did. After all, it was no one’s fault except his own that he had ended up here.

He wondered if Camille had called. Oh God, what was he going to tell her? Just yesterday she had started worrying about him. She wasn’t ignorant, so he couldn’t lie to her. He didn’t even begin to know what he would say to her about any of this. Would she be mad? What if she blamed herself? He knew she shouldn’t, but Camille was the type of protective friend who would absolutely blame herself for not know. And for all the confidence that Jace had that it was not her fault, he didn’t know how he could convince her of that.

His mother let him cry in silence for a while, rubbing soothing circles along his hand. He wasn’t sure what the plan would be once he was stabilized. Would they keep him here? If they did, for how long? Was he going to have to gain weight? His heart skipped a beat. Am I going to have to gain weight? he thought frantically. That was impossible. He couldn’t even imagine gaining weight. The thought was more terrifying than any he had had since he got here. Surely they would understand that he could not under any circumstances gain weight, right? He’d rather die. He would rather do anything at all if it meant that he didn’t have to gain back the weight he had lost.

He felt his panic increase. He couldn’t do this. He absolutely could not do this. He needed to leave. They couldn’t keep him here, right? Maybe if he explained himself to his mother, she would understand. No, he couldn’t do that. She couldn’t possibly understand what he was going through. No one would. A sob escaped his lips as his hysteria grew. He needed to leave. He needed to leave right now.

“Honey, calm down. You need to--”  

“Mom, I can’t. I can’t do this. They’re going to make me—They’re going to make me gain weight. I can’t do that. Please, I can’t.” His voice was steadily rising. He was on the verge of a panic attack. “Mom, I need to leave.”

“You can’t,” her voice was extremely soft, and she gently squeezed his hand. “Please, Jace. Calm down. Take a deep breath. You will be okay. We’re here for you. It’s going to be okay.”

He tried to take deep breaths as his panic continued to build. She wouldn’t understand. She couldn’t understand. No one could. He needed to get out of here. He felt trapped. It felt like the walls were closing in on him, confining him to this small space until he couldn’t move at all. The room was spinning and everything was moving too fast. He couldn’t breathe. He started to get light headed. Maybe he’d get lucky and he’d have another heart attack. Then he wouldn’t be trapped anymore.

Another sob wracked through his body as he desperately clung to his mom’s hand. She felt like a life line, like if she let go he would literally implode upon himself. She may not understand how desperately he needed to get out of here, but she loved him and she only wanted what was best for him. He repeated that over and over in his head; that she would never do anything to hurt him, and she would never force him to do something that was not absolutely necessary. He trusted her. That’s all he could do right now.

The monitor began to beep louder and more urgently and a nurse rushed in. She took a half second to observe the situation, before she stepped in front of him so that he could see her clearly.

“Sweetie, I need you to take a deep breath for me. You need to calm down.”

He knew that. He knew he needed to calm down. He just didn’t know how.

“Breathe with me. In,” she took a deep breath, which he tried to imitate. “Out.” His breath rushed out well before hers did. He felt a hysteric sob escape him when he wasn’t able to do as she said. After a few rounds, he began to calm down enough to inhale and exhale in time with her. His heart beat slowed down until the urgent beeping stopped, but the nurse continued to help him breathe. After about five minutes, she deemed him calm enough to stop.

“Are you feeling any better now?” Her voice was gentle as she rounded the bed and took one of his wrists in her hand to take his pulse.

“Yeah.” He was still a little breathless, so the response was quiet, but she heard it nonetheless.

“Good. Do you know what happened?” She released his wrist, apparently deeming his blood pressure to be okay.

He looked down into his lap, suddenly embarrassed by his overreaction. It seemed like such a ridiculous thing for him to have been so worried about. While he was still stressed about being trapped here, a panic attack seemed a little excessive. “Sorry. I just got a little worked up over nothing.”

“Don’t apologize, honey.” His mother smiled at him, wiping a stray tear off his face. “There’s no need to be sorry.”

Although her words were reassuring, he still felt like he was being overdramatic, but he kept the thought to himself and instead allowed himself to be consoled for now. He would have plenty of time to overthink later, especially if he did end up staying here for a while. The thought was less than reassuring. He watched as the nurse excused herself, and he and his mother sat in silence as he focused on keeping his thoughts from drifting too far. He didn’t know what to say, but he felt like he needed to say something. Anything. To distract himself, if nothing else.

“Did... Have you heard from Camille?” Jace asked, not quite looking at his mother.

“Ah, yes. She called earlier. I told her you would call her when you got the chance.”

“Was she upset?”

His mother smiled gently at him. “Not with you. She’s just worried.”

“Will I get to see her?” He needed to see her. He didn’t know what he would say, but he knew he needed to talk to her. He at least owed her an explanation, even if she ended up mad at him.

“Yes. I’ll ask the doctor when you’ll be able to have visitors, and you can call her and tell her when you’re ready.”

His smile was watery and nervous, and he nodded silently. He wanted to see Camille, and the fact that he would be able to made the situation a lot less unbearable. He didn’t know what he would do if his best friend couldn’t come to see him. She was such a big part in his life, and he couldn’t imagine going through this without her. He could only hope that she would be willing to sit through this with him. Although he also knew it was more than valid if she was mad at him. He wasn’t sure how he would handle her anger though. Calm down, he reminded himself before he thought too much, you know Camille loves you more than anything. There’s no way she’ll leave you now.

“How are you feeling?”

His father stood in the doorway, a sandwich and coke in his hand. His eyes were just as tired as his mother’s, but he looked relieved to see Jace awake. A small knot of anxiety and guilt pooled in his stomach as he watched his father move slowly towards a chair across the room. However, rather than sit in the corner the chair had been in, his father grabbed the chair and pulled it closer to the bed so that he was right next to his mother beside him. He watched Jace as he carefully considered how to respond. He didn’t want to upset his father as soon as he woke up. He wasn’t sure if he could handle any amount of criticism, especially after his panic attack.

“I feel fine.” It was a lie, and they all knew it, but Jace wasn’t sure how to talk about his emotions with his father. Jace knew his father loved him, but there was always a sort of emotional disconnect between the two that neither of them knew how to cross. Even now, he felt like he couldn’t cross that invisible line between them, no matter how obvious it was that he was lying.

Jace and his father had been very close before he came out. Sure, they would butt heads, but they had very similar personalities, so it wasn’t all that much of a surprise. Jace’s father had trouble expressing emotions through normal means, so Jace grew up with a bit of an emotional wall between them even before. When he came out, his father was very accepting, and reassured him that he loved Jace, but that rift only seemed to grow as Jace came out more and more. There weren’t any immediate changes in the way he acted, but any serious discussions between them tended to turn into fights, and Jace had questioned since he came out whether or not his father loved him as much as he did before.

“It’s okay to say that you’re not,” his father said quietly, just as awkward as Jace felt. While the delivery was stiff, Jace could see that the attempt was heartfelt, and that struck him harder than anything else that had happened that day. He had expected anger or aggression from his father. He had honestly expected this to become another fight. But right now, his father was attempting to cross that boundary they had set up between them.  Jace was infinitely grateful for that.

No one said anything for a long time. Jace considered what he knew about his situation. He was stuck here, in the hospital for who knows how long because he had almost died. Even more than that, he had almost starved himself to death. He had to admit that the thought was terrifying in many ways. He wasn’t sure what to do, in all honesty. He could just wait this out and let the doctors think that he was okay and then leave just to start back where he left off. Or…or he could take this seriously and try to get help. After all, he was tired. He was tired of obsessing over food and letting his mood be ruled by how much he weighed. He was tired of lying to his mother when she asked wat he’d eaten for lunch, and he was tired of making up excuses so that he wasn’t eating with Camille. He was tired of being so fucking tired. And perhaps more than that, he was afraid. He was afraid of what it meant to admit that he had a problem. Admitting he had a problem meant that he had to do something about it, and he wasn’t confident that he could. Then again, even if he wasn’t even sure that he wanted to stop at all, maybe he could give it a shot. After all, what did he have to lose?

“Yeah, I’m… I’m not really okay.”

© Copyright 2019 Samuel Tyler. All rights reserved.

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