A Story by Tina Kline

This story about Jenny and her concern for her best friend takes place in 1978 before eating disorders and anorexia nervosa were mainstream and common.


     Jenny walked to the corner store which was 4 blocks from the house she lived in with her family. Jenny was 14 years old with shoulder length dark brown hair and pale blue eyes. Her best friend Shelly was meeting her at the store. Shelly was the same age as Jenny with curly black hair and brown eyes. And she was skinny, way too skinny Jenny thought. Their friend thought so too. Trying to talk Shelly into eating more didn't work. All it had accomplished was driving Shelly away at lunch time and a lot of the times when they'd met after school too. Shelly just wouldn't show up. No one understood what was wrong with her. No one understood why Shelly was refusing to eat.

     It was 1978 and their first year of high school was underway. Adjusting to a high school with a lot of new kids wasn't all that hard for Jenny or her other friends but Shelly was having a hard time. As Jenny walked by a couple different houses she heard the Bee Gees' Staying Alive coming loudly from open front doors. She smiled. Jenny loved the Bee Gees and Tragedy was her all time favorite song.

     Jenny reached the corner store and looked down the street in the direction Shelly would be coming from. She spotted her and waved. Shelly waved back, smiling. Jenny thought she looked strained and very tired. Jenny knew Shelly couldn't sleep anymore and she had dark smudges under her eyes and she was very pale.

     “Hi Shelly.” greeted Jenny smiling.

     “Hi.” Shelly eyed the corner store warily. It was a warm fall afternoon and she was wearing a heavy jacket but still she was shivering.

     Jenny was wearing jeans and a short sleeved T-shirt with a cute rabbit design on it. Jenny looked at Shelly and felt a jolt of worry. Shelly looked really ill. She was so thin she looked like a living skeleton. Once upon a time the jacket she was wearing had fitted her perfectly. Now she had shrunk so much the jacket was way too big for her.

     “We're not going in there.” Jenny said knowing Shelly wouldn't go in because the store had a huge junk food section. Actually, like all corner stores, junk food was what it mostly sold.

     Shelly laughed nervously. “If you want you can go in and get something. I'll wait for you out here.”

     “Na, let's go to my house now.” Jenny said.


     They started walking, heading for Jenny's house. Jenny looked up at her favorite tree, a silver maple. It was orange and yellow now with its fall colors. A few yellow leaves twirled down to the sidewalk as they walked by.

     “I love this tree.” Jenny said.

     Shelly looked up at it and nodded but didn't say anything. Jenny glanced at her and frowned. She was so pale it was frightening. Her eyes looked sunken and her cheek bones were very noticeable these days. And there was some sort of soft whitish hair growing on her face and arms. When Jenny had first noticed it a short while back she had wondered how much of Shelly's body was covered with it. Seeing this downy like hair had scared Jenny. She didn't understand what was happening to her best friend.   Shelly didn't have a physical disease even though her period had stopped. Her doctor had cleared her of that. He didn't know what was wrong with her. No one did. But he did think she should be in a hospital and if she didn't start eating and put some weight back on that's where he would put her. Her parents had agreed with him.

     Shelly had told Jenny on the phone after this doctor appointment that she wasn't going to gain any weight and be fat. No way in hell, she had said.

     Hearing her cuss shocked Jenny. That was something Shelly didn't do. Jenny didn't cuss either. Her mother had heard her say f**k you once to her older brother Kevin one time when they'd been fighting and had threatened to wash her mouth out with soap if she ever said a cuss word again. Jenny hadn't so far. Using swear words was something the seniors at high school did, not freshmen or sophomores. The juniors might cuss but seniors always did.

     Jenny grew worried after only going a block and a half. Shelly looked like she was having a hard time walking. “Do you want to stop and rest?” She asked.

     “No. No. Walking is good. It helps burn calories which helps me to lose weight.”

     “You don't need to lose anymore weight. You look like you're going to drop dead right now.”

     Shelly smiled, “I'm working hard to lose weight.” She liked hearing from her best friend she was doing a really good job on losing weight even though she knew her friend was concerned for her. Her words were still praise in Shelly's mind.

     “Shelly! I don't want to lose you!”

     Shelly tried to laugh her friend's fear off but ended up only making a strange tired sound. She's too weak to laugh even, Jenny thought in alarm.

     “I'm not going to die. I can lose a lot more weight with no trouble.”

     Jenny felt a fearful urge to scream. It was like Shelly had lost her mind or had become another person. This skeleton girl didn't seem at all like her best friend.

     “I'm worried about you Shelly.” Jenny said. She'd said this so many times and so had their other girl friends but it didn't change anything. Even so, Jenny just couldn't help but say it again. No one understood what was wrong with Shelly.

     “I'm fine Jenny. Don't worry about me, I'm happy.”

     Jenny didn't think Shelly was fine or happy but didn't say anything more. She knew it was pointless. She hoped this afternoon would be fun. Debbie and Jessica would be over a little later and Jenny didn't want Shelly to be upset. It wouldn't do any of them any good if she was.

     When they reached the house they went around to the back and entered through the kitchen. Lucky no food was sitting out on the counter. That always made Shelly agitated. Jenny's mom knew Shelly was coming over so she made sure all food was put away out of sight. Jenny was grateful for that. Jenny's mom cared about Shelly and was just as afraid for her as everyone else was.

     “Hi Jenny. Hi Shelly.”

     “Hi mom.”

     “Hi Mrs. Bishop.”

     “We're going up to my room and listen to records for a while. Can you send Debbie and Jessica up when they get here?”

     “Of course sweetie. You girls have a good time. Don't play your records too loud.”

     “I won't mom.” Jenny said.

     She and Shelly went up the stairs to the 2nd floor of the 3 story house. Once in Jenny's bedroom she put the Bee Gees album Spirits Having Flown on her stereo. She put the volume at what she thought was reasonable. Shelly sat on the floor by one of the speakers and started bobbing her head to the music. She kept her jacket on despite the fact Jenny's room was warm.

     “I love the Bee Gees.” Shelly said.

     “I love them too. They're so cool!” Jenny said. She started dancing in a small circle in the center of her room.

     Shelly clapped her hands and got up to join her. Jenny turned the volume up a notch and the Brother's Gibb's voices flowed from the two huge speakers to the beat of Tragedy. Shelly giggled and did a little spin. Instead of actually spinning like she'd planned she fainted and collapsed on the floor.

     Jenny screamed and dropped down to her knees beside Shelly and shook her. “Shelly! Shelly! Wake up! Oh God! Oh God!” She kept shaking Shelly but got no response from her. She felt how icy cold she was and a terrified thought entered her mind that Shelly really had dropped dead!

     Shelly's face was ashen and so bony, looking almost like a skull with dried grey parchment stretched across it. The dark smudges under her eyes seemed to have expanded.

     Jenny got up and flung open her door and started screaming for her mother. Her brother Kevin,who's bedroom was across the hall from hers, opened his door and asked,  “Why are you screaming like that? What's wrong?”

     “Shelly collapsed!” Jenny screamed.

     “S**t!” He raced into Jenny's room and put his finger at Shelly's throat seeking a pulse.

     Jenny ran to the top of the stairs, “Mom! Mom!” she screamed. She heard her mother enter the hall and start up the stairs at a run. “What is it!” There was panic in her voice.

     “Shelly's collapsed!” She answered and rushed back to her room.

     “Turn that record off! It's making too much noise now!” Kevin told her.

Jenny did as he said. Her mom entered the room seconds later and took in the scene. The panicked look on her face only got stronger.

     “She's alive. She had a pulse but it's weak.” Kevin said looking up at his mother.

     “Thank God! I'm calling an ambulance!”

     The next day at school Jenny sat in the cafeteria with Debbie and Jessica retelling the story of what happened to Shelly. “She's in a psychiatric hospital, in the adolescent unit.” Jenny said. “Her mother talked to my mom. She's grateful for how quick mom got the ambulance there to help Shelly.”

     “We sure missed all the excitement, didn't we Jessica?” said Debbie. “But seriously, does anyone know what's wrong with her? Why won't she eat?”

     “I'm surprised she lasted as long as she did without passing out.” said Jessica. “Why did she stop eating in the first place?”

     “Well, her mom told mine she has anorexia nervosa.” Jenny struggled saying the two strange words. She still had a hard time pronouncing them. “It's what they call an eating disorder where the sick person voluntarily starves themselves, sometimes to death.”

They all looked at each other, confusion on their faces.

     “I've never heard of it. I can't even say the words, they're so weird sounding.” said Debbie.

     “Me neither.” said Jessica. “Why would anyone want to starve themselves to death?”

     “It's a mental illness Shelly's mom said.” said Jenny. “Mom's taking me to the hospital as soon as Shelly can have visitors. She has to gain some weight first.” Jenny looked down at her lunch and suddenly she had no appetite at all to eat it.

© 2011 Tina Kline

My Review

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It the old days. People like the full figure woman. Not the slim woman of today. I believe media controlled the desire of the youth. The actresses of the sixties were shapely ladies. I enjoyed your story. I watched my girls closely. I don't want them to hurt their bodies and mind and not eating properly. Thank you for the outstanding story.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Wow. That was a fantastic story. No one really cared about eating disorders then, but today they are a huge problem.

Posted 10 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

A very emotional and heart wrenching story. Very well told, it pulled me in quickly and was very readable. Nice job on this.

Posted 10 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

A very well told story but a sad story. I was really pulled into this and wanted more. what happens to the girl, does she get well?

Posted 10 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

A good story, held captivated by the pace and interested by the content. Quite a nice work, and highlights the human mind, a bit more than we know :-)

Posted 10 Years Ago

3 of 3 people found this review constructive.

a very strong piece .. well done and very touching and filled with emotion... great job !!

Posted 10 Years Ago

3 of 3 people found this review constructive.

A very sad tale about anorexia before it was widely known. I hope Shelly pulls out of this. The treatment back then probably wasn't as good as it is now. Awesome story about a tragic illness.

Posted 10 Years Ago

4 of 4 people found this review constructive.

Good story. A sympathy evoking tale. Glad Shelly didn't die. Nice pen upon this write. Good job!

Posted 10 Years Ago

5 of 5 people found this review constructive.

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8 Reviews
Added on May 12, 2011
Last Updated on May 12, 2011
Tags: anorexia nervosa, teenagers, highschool, eating disorders.


Tina Kline
Tina Kline


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