by Karen Pielke

Katherine slowed down and looked at the calorie counter on the top of the stairmaster. 900 burned, only 100 more to go. Maybe she would go for another half hour; she could burn more that way. Her feet were hurting and her knees were beginning to ache also, but she was not going to give in. That pain wasn't real to her. It was only something that she had to endure for a while. It was a test. To see if she were strong and capable. Katherine knew that she was. How else could she have this willpower, this stamina at 5:00am? She still had more weight to lose and no one was going to stop her from completing the goal she had set for herself. People had tried. They still try. "They want me to be fat. So I look like them," she thought. She worked her legs faster, lifting her body off of the handles so she wouldn't rest her weight on them. Her mother had invited her over to the house for dinner last night trying to get Katherine to give in. She had served Katherine what appeared to be huge portions of pasta and chicken. She ate it, but sneaked away into the bathroom to stick her finger down her throat when her mother was getting dessert. She wouldn't let them do that to her. She would win.

She hadn't been able to get rid of her dessert. Her mother had exclaimed when she brought it in, "Only 90 calories a slice!" but Katherine wasn't fooled by that. That pie was loaded with calories. It had to be. She knew her mother's plan was to get her fat and ugly; just like she had become. Well it wasn't going to work.

Katherine looked up at the clock. 5:30. She had been on this stairmaster now for an hour and a half. She stopped, and went to go get on the scale. The digital numbers took a second or two to adjust. When she looked down she saw the numbers, and heard them screaming "HA! You still weight the same! You are a loser! A big, fat loser!" Katherine got anxious. "What did she put in that pie? I know she put something in it!" She yelled at herself in the mirror, her face red and damp from the exertion. She grabbed at her hair and pulled until she made herself cry. "You're weak!" she told herself. "You aren't even worth my time! I hate losers!" Katherine started crying harder, her blurry image wavering in front of her. Quickly she dropped her hands to her sides and stood up straight. Leaning in close to her reflection she lifted up her right hand and slapped herself, hard across her right cheek. A bright red stain started to form across her jaw line, each finger becoming visible. "You deserve it. You're pitiful. You embarrass me." She spoke softly to herself, teeth clamped tightly shut.

Grabbing her sweatshirt, she went to the front door and went out to the porch. Only for a second did she hesitate. Then she was gone, running fast, fast down the block, slipping into the early morning light until she was too far away for anyone that may have remained in the house to see.

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Inside Her Head, 16 May 1997