“Gee, Winnie, why’s your hair wet?” Cheyanne asked after Winnie finally peeled herself away from her husband at the door to the eating disorder inpatient treatment center. “Did you go swimming?”
“Does snuggling in the hot tub and then taking a shower together count as swimming?” Winnie asked. Her whole being felt as if she were in a dream state. She flopped onto the sofa in the large open space common area at the treatment center.
Other girls who had been sitting around playing board games, or talking, or watching television, gathered around her.
“Must be nice to have a husband come whisk you away for a romantic afternoon,” one girl said.
“I haven’t been outside these walls in six weeks,” another said.
“My boyfriend dumped me as soon as I got admitted.” They were bouncing around comments.
“My boyfriend dumped me the first month of college. He said he didn’t want to be tied down by a girlfriend.” She actually used air quotes.
“How was it being able to choose anything you wanted to eat?” Brea’s eyes lit up with excitement.
“My mother-in-law was in charge of food,” Winnie said with a smile. “My only job this afternoon was to lie in bed and let my husband do all the work.” She let out an exaggerated sigh.
“I am so jealous.” One of the girls settled back onto the floor and stared at the ceiling. Other girls leaned against the couches or sat on the arm rests.
“Excuse me, ladies,” Ulysses interrupted from the doorway of the common room. “May I borrow the newlywed for a few minutes? We need to do some evaluations.”
“Coming, Boss,” Winnie said, rolling off the couch and pushing herself off the floor. She still felt a little stoned from the euphoria of spending the afternoon in her husband’s arms.
As they walked down the hall toward his office, Ulysses asked. “How was it? Being home?”
“Amazing.” Winnie sighed.
“I don’t want a play-by-play of the honeymoon,” he grumbled as they entered his office. “How was your eating, body image, temptations to binge or purge, did you feel in control, did you look in a mirror?”
“You know, I never did look in a mirror,” Winnie said in awed contemplation. “I’m really surprised I never did, or if I did, I didn’t register that’s what I was doing. How weird.”
“Well, that’s good in a way.” Ulysses waved a hand toward the chair beside his desk. “You weren’t obsessing over your body image. I want you to know that I did not authorize your release, nor did I agree with the timing.”
“You didn’t?” Winnie gulped as she slumped into the chair.
“If it hadn’t been your wedding anniversary, and Lynnette hadn’t agreed to be in charge of food, I would have put my foot down. You’re not ready for that.”
“Well, if it’s any consolation, I’m more motivated than ever to get healthy now. My head is clear, my body feels strong. I feel like I could take on the world.”
“That’s endorphins, not reality,” Ulysses said, looking over the tops of his glasses. “The next time you leave this building, you need to do something that would be a normal part of your daily routine. What do you normally do?”
“How often are your dance classes? Once a week? For how long?” Ulysses was writing something on a notepad.
“Every day,” Winnie said, incredulous that he hadn’t figured that out by now. They’d known each other for two weeks. “Eight to ten hours every day.”
“Every single day?” He looked up at her and his jaw dropped.
“That’s my job, Ulysses. I’m a ballerina. For a living.”
“I guess I thought that was a metaphor.” He scratched his head.
“Just like you’re a dietician,” Winnie said. “I’m a ballet dancer at the Ajkun Ballet Theatre. I perform on stage at least once or twice almost every day, depending on if we have a matinee.”
“No wonder you’re in better shape than all the rest of these girl. Did I say that out loud? That was wrong of me. Forget I said that. It’s just that, some of these girls are wasting away, skin and bones. You’re more like muscle and bones.”
“Yeah, I guess I am.” Winnie marveled as she and Ulysses stared at each other across the desk from each other. She could almost see the gears working in his head.
“How much are you willing to increase your caloric intake?” Ulysses asked, looking her up and down. “If I let you do any type of exercise, we need to drastically increase your calories, gradually, of course.”
“I will do whatever you tell me to do.” Winnie was serious about this. “I want to get healthy. And I want to dance. And I want to spend time with my family. And I want to sleep in my husband’s arms every night.”
“Let me mull this over a day or two and recalculate some things, and we’ll find you a dance studio that will allow you to dance there for a couple hours a day. For now, you’re only allowed to do some stretching and nonaerobic exercises in the yoga room here at the center.”
“That’s wonderful. Thank you so much.” Winnie wanted to cry she was so happy. “This has been the best day of my life.”
When she finally left Ulysses’ office, Winnie practically floated down the hall to her bedroom, even though it was hours earlier than bedtime. She flopped herself onto her bed, staring at the ceiling and contemplating this turn of events.
She whispered to herself, “Happiest day of my life,” closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep with a smile.
Book Club Discussion... you know, just about the time everything is falling into place, expect the unexpected.