Disclaimer: The characters belong to Ngozi Ukazu.
A/N 1. This is not my view on canon. As usual, I'm writing because I need to and viewing canon as a set of loose suggestions. 2. Mind the tags, seriously. 3. Title from "Up the Wolves" by the Mountain Goats. The full line is "There'll always be a few things, maybe several things, that you're gonna find really difficult to forgive."
"Why would you do this to yourself?" her mother demands.
"Isn't this what you wanted?" Jacqueline replies.
"What?" her mother gasps. "Of course not! What on earth gave you that idea?"
"You told me I looked pregnant!" Jacqueline screams.
"Not at the time!" her mother yells back. "Just in old photos!"
"What, like that's supposed to make it better? You always told me I was wearing the wrong clothes or the wrong shoes or had the wrong fucking haircut and how was I supposed to avoid making the leap to my weight?"
Her mother staggers backward and grabs the chair behind her for support. "I never told you to diet."
"And that's the only thing that can cause an eating disorder? Being told to diet?" Jacqueline is shrill at this point. "You fucking knew I had an anxiety disorder, you knew I was in the spotlight, you knew the dangers of the fashion industry, and you thought everything was going to be okay because you never told me to diet?"
"My mother sent me to Weight Watchers," her mother whispers. Louder, she says, "My mother sent me to Weight Watchers and I vowed I'd never do the same to you. So don't you fucking tell me that I caused this when I could have done so much worse—"
"Why does it matter how much worse it could have been? Is this not bad enough for you?" Jacqueline gestures to her hospital gown, the bed she's sitting in. "I collapsed at a shoot, Maman—is that not enough? Do you want me dead? Because that can be arranged, you know. They keep telling me anorexia has a higher death rate than suicide attempts, but I could do both."
Her mother blanches. "No, I don't want you dead. How could you—Jacqueline, how could you say that?"
Jacqueline's fingers are tinged with blue as she flicks her long, dark brown hair over her shoulder. "I don't know. Probably the same way you could show up here without an apology and try to insist it's not your fault."
"You can't just blame me—"
"Can't I?" Jacqueline smiles, slow and icy. "Watch me."
It's three more weeks after that fight before Jacqueline gets out of in-patient treatment and starts to go home at night, though she still has to go to treatment during the day. Her career is over—even in just a month of in-patient, she's already gained enough weight that magazines and designers aren't going to want her the way they did before. The nurses and doctors tell her this is healthier, better in the long run. That living fast and dying young isn't actually a good goal. That it's possible to be fulfilled as a person with pudge and that that's better than dying and leaving behind a skinny corpse. That modeling isn't the be-all, end-all of everything.
Jacqueline only sort of believes it.
She misses Kenzie, too.
She wasn't allowed to have her phone in in-patient treatment, and she's pretty sure her parents haven't allowed Kenzie to visit, because there isn't any other explanation she's willing to accept for why Kenzie hasn't been around to see her even once.
When she goes home, she finds that her parents still won't tell her where her phone is. They hand her a flip phone that can make and receive calls and send and receive texts but can't access the internet. Which—Jacqueline knows that most people don't have smartphones, but she also knows that she's gotten very used to having hers in the two years since she first got it, and they're becoming more common by the day.
"Where the fuck is my phone?" she demands.
"In your hand," her father says mildly.
Jacqueline waves the flip phone and scoffs. "This isn't mine. I'm asking about my phone."
"The internet wasn't good for you," her mother says. "Social media especially. We decided you need a break."
"I just had a fucking month-long break!" Jacqueline argues. "Is the plan just to keep me off the internet forever? How are you planning on enforcing that?"
"You can go on the internet when you're better," her father says.
"When is that?" Jacqueline asks.
"When you finish treatment," her father replies.
"Wouldn't it be better for me to start using my phone while I'm in treatment, so that I've got the support and the scaffolding around me in case it goes badly?"
Her mother shakes her head. "You're not ready yet."
"When will I be ready?"
"When we say so," her father replies.
"Ugh, whatever. You're both fucking impossible. Is Kenzie's number on this phone?"
Her parents look at each other. "No, it's not," her father says at last.
"Tell me how to find Kenzie's number, or I swear I'll never forgive you."
Her mother laughs humorlessly. "Are these life sentences being served consecutively or concurrently?"
"What the fuck are you talking?"
"You tell us every couple days that you're never going to forgive us for something. It seems like you're just planning on being mad at us for the rest of forever, no matter what we do. I'm losing incentive to try to do what you want, here."
Jacqueline looks at her nails. Her fingers are blue. Again. She's not sure they're ever going to stop doing that, even if she eats three square meals every day for the rest of her life, and she hates that. She hates that her options are to get thinner and probably die quite quickly, or stay at this weight and probably die a little more slowly, or gain weight and still have tons of fucking side effects (the other girls in treatment warned her that if her period wasn't off-kilter now, it would be soon, and that her fingers would keep turning blue and she'd probably be cold all the time forever and and and—). She hates that there's no way to ever not have done this, and she's going to feel its aftereffects for the rest of her life regardless of how hard she tries to get better, and is it even worth it?
Live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse. It's the easiest option here by far.
"I told you, Maman," she says with calm bitterness. "If you want me dead, that can be arranged."
"You do not get to keep threatening us with suicide," her father growls.
"The list of things you've done that you shouldn't have gotten to do could fill books," Jacqueline replies evenly.
"We were doing the best we could," her mother insists.
Jacqueline rolls her eyes. "There is no measure of 'doing the best you could' that allows for constant criticism of my clothes and shoes and hair, or for you to talk about fat people in front of me like they're not human, or for you to tell me I looked pregnant in pictures from when I was ten. Not to mention dragging me in front of tabloid cameras no matter how anxious and sick it made me, or talking constantly about me following in your footsteps."
"We didn't know—"
"Bullshit." Jacqueline drops the flip phone, makes eye contact with her mother, and slowly and deliberately steps on the phone until she hears it crack. "My phone, now."
Her parents have a long, silent conversation full of glances and shrugs and other things that Jacqueline can't read very well. (Maintaining eye contact with her mother had been exhausting enough.) Finally, her father leaves the room, and Jacqueline and her mother stay, frozen and silent, until he returns with Jacqueline's phone in his hand.
"I want you to delete Facebook," he says. "You can talk to Kenzie and play Tetris or whatever, but I don't want you going on Facebook."
Jacqueline thinks about it and then sighs, unlocks the phone, and deletes Facebook while her father watches. She's not sure if she'll keep it deleted, but she might, for a while at least. She knows it wasn't the best influence.
Before anyone can say anything else, Jacqueline turns and goes to her room. She shuts the door and dials Kenzie's number.
"Jacqueline, oh my God, finally," Kenzie says after picking up on the second ring. "How are you? No one's told me anything."
"I hate my fucking mother," Jacqueline says without preamble, instead of answering the question.
"It's about fucking time," Kenzie replies. "I'm so glad you realized how much she's fucked you up."
Jacqueline lets out a long breath. "Yeah. So am I. So am I."
They talk for hours, and this is, to paraphrase Kenzie's favorite musical, the one thing in this world that doesn't hurt.