“She gets them too!” Renee screams inside her head.
As soon as her make-up is finished, the bald man gives her a black halter two piece to wear. She begins changing next to Sienna.
Once they are alone, Renee says, “Hey, I know how you got that mark. I get them too.” She motions to her back.
“What?” Sienna asks annoyed.
“The bite mark, from the leeches.”
Sienna laughs, “That’s just a hickey. Remember that guy you thought was into you from the cologne shoot? Well, he’s the one who gave it to me. I don’t know anything about leeches, you crazy person.”
The bald man enters the tent. “Alright, ladies, let’s go—” He stops himself and walks slowly around Renee.
“I wasn’t aware of how un-sculpted your torso is,” he tells her. “I was expecting a leaner athletic-looking girl, not a waif. I think it’s best you wear a one-piece for this shoot.”
Sienna snickers as Renee crosses her arms over her stomach in embarrassment.
The man flicks through hangers on a rack, each one of them producing a metallic clacking sound as he flicks them aside. He pauses over an American flag one-piece.
“Much better,” he sighs as he hands the suit to Renee.
When the photoshoot ends, Renee hurries into her street clothes and takes off. Trying to hide her crying eyes from passersby, she thinks, “I made it to 100 pounds, but that’s still not good enough.”
At home, she digs through piles of DVDs by her television until she comes across “Intensity: Your Fastest Way to A Six Pack.”
The program starts with blasting up-beat dance music as athletic people in an empty basketball court march in place as a warm-up. From there, Renee obeys the instructor and does every push-up, sit-up, jumping jack, and burpee that she is commanded to do. Her vision fills with flashing lights and bizarre patterns but she pushes herself to do one more jumping jack.
A half hour later, she wakes up on the floor, her sweat soaking the carpet. With shaking muscles, she forces herself up.
In the kitchen, she reaches for the Gatorade she saves for emergencies like this and swallows the whole thing in four gulps.
“She gets them too!”
“I shouldn’t have done that,” she says to herself, “Gatorade has too much sugar. I should sleep. I’m tired and I won’t be tempted to eat if I’m asleep.”
In a fresh pair of pajamas, she falls asleep quickly.
Renee sat on the swing again in the same perfect blue dress. She smiled knowing all her loved ones would be there soon.
The sky grew dark and rain began to drip on her hair and clothes. In the distance, behind the picnic table, someone stood in a long rain coat.
Renee waved and the person came closer. She rushed to meet them at the table. Instead of the face of a family member, Renee saw Michele, her agent, approach the table.
“I didn’t know you would be coming,” Renee said.
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” she replied.
Behind her, other people appeared in the woods, walking slowing towards the two women.
“Lay down,” said Michele.
Renee started to shake with fear, “But I don’t want—“
“Lay down,” she growled.
Renee did what she was told and crawled onto the rough wooden table top.
Around her, people crept closer and closer until Renee recognized them as the models, photographers, and set managers from her previous jobs.
Renee tried to sit up but her body was frozen stiff. “What’s happening?” she shouted at them.
The bald man replied, “It’s your birthday, so we’re having you for dessert.” He dipped his head down and bit into her stomach. He ripped past her dress and pulled out a mouthful of bloodied flesh.
Renee screamed in pain.
Everyone followed the bald man’s cue and the pretty people all around her bit into her flesh. The male model gnawed into her upper arm as the set manager, Lisa, chomped into her left thigh. A blur of faces moved around her all taking turns tearing into her body.
As she screamed out, she looked past the crowd and saw a woman in the distance holding a cake dish in one arm and an umbrella in the other.
“Mom,” she cried. “Mom, help me, please!”
The woman appeared by her side and put down her umbrella. It was Sienna.
“I’m not your mom, you crazy person,” she laughed as she bent over and tore out a chunk of Renee’s cheek.
Renee woke up screaming. She lay supine with arms and legs spread out in the same position as the dream. The covers are thrown off her and she is shivering in the cold.
She tries to get up but she is stuck in place. Panic sets in as she uses what little motion she has left in her neck to look down.
There are leeches everywhere. Big fat black tube-like parasites are sticking to her skin and filling themselves with her blood. Clusters of them are nestled into her arm pits and the crooks of her elbows. Several others wiggle up and down her legs. Another, the size of a bowling ball, is latched on to her stomach. It’s shiny violet-black body moves and stretches as it feeds.
She feels her blood draining into their sharp mouths. Her limbs go cold and stiff. She struggles to take a breath. As she is sucked dry, she hears a laugh, the same laugh from the figure she saw in the mirror radiate through the room.