Jenny watched from their skiff as Nicole bobbed about, slapping the water ineffectually, crooning and yipping like a puppy. The brunette had tipped from their small sailboat as they’d come about on a tack, and didn’t seem to remember that her lifejacket was still firmly encasing her plump form.
“Just relax,” Jenny called, letting the sails luff. She sighed. Why was she always assigned Nicole as a partner? Girls from the other boats were giggling and pointing now, and the supervising sister had caught sight of the situation. The small outboard engine revved up, and Sister Francine steered her boat over to where Nicole splashed and gasped frantically.
“This is the third time this morning,” the raven-haired woman noted over the hiccoughing purr of the motor, pursing her lips.
“I’m sorry sister,” Jenny said. “She didn’t duck when the boom came around. Again.”
“Hmm.” Sister Francine rummaged about at her feet and tossed a line to Nicole, who snatched at it with a grunt. “I’m towing you in, girl. Don’t let go.”
“B-but the motor! I’ll get chewed up by it!”
“Make sure you don’t,” Francine warned. Turning to Jenny, she added: “You – get that boat alongside. You’re done too.”
Back ashore, Jenny sat with Nicole. The girl was wrapped in a blanket, slurping on a health-shake – the only food allowed between meals. They’d been given twenty minutes to rest before horse-back riding commenced. Jenny – who’d ridden all her life – knew that the ‘horses’ were actually ponies, but the other girls seemed not to know, or care. Sister Agnes was their riding supervisor – she led the campers about the trails each day before lunch at the lodge.
“Did everyone take their pills?” The old sister asked as the girls mounted their placid nags. A less-than-enthusiastic chorus of ‘yes, sister’ followed. Agnes adjusted her wide-brimmed hat, and clucked, spurring her pony to a relaxed walk. Jenny let most of the girls pass before flicking a small capsule into the grass. The sisters claimed that the ‘pill’ was to lessen the girls’ appetite, but Jenny found that it increased hers. It was hard enough to control her cravings without taking a drug that made her think of nothing but cream doughnuts and salty chips.
Jenny lay in her bunk that night, listening to the symphony of sobbing and slurping (the girls were allowed one health-shake overnight – to stay hydrated). She swallowed her own tears. Her mom had told her that the Wellness Camp for Girls would ‘give her more energy’, but Jenny knew why she was really here. She was the fat kid. The middle child whose only companions were often chewy candy bars and bubbly sodas. Two months of non-stop exercise and careful dieting would cure her of that, mom hoped. Seven weeks in, however, and Jenny hadn’t lost an ounce. In fact, her clothes felt _much_ tighter. All the pills, sailing, horseback riding, stretching exercises and health-shakes had been for naught. She slipped quietly out of bed and tiptoed to her locker. In it was her latest care-package from home. She ran her fingers over the coarse paper wrapping, before pulling it open, to reveal a box containing a letter and – she glanced side to side – an assortment of her favourite treats. Squinting, Jenny noticed that the back panel of the locker where her package had sat was loose. Pushing on it, she discovered a small, leather-bound journal tucked in behind. _That’s new_, she remarked to herself, taking it and her package back to her bunk.
The moonlight through the window was not quite enough to read by; however, that night, the sisters had made a bonfire, which cast enough light for Jenny to see the neat script within the journal. She dug into her box, drew out a Twix, and tore it open. Sighing at the mouth-watering sweetness, she began to skim through the journal, reading entries that caught her attention.
“Day 14,” it read on one page, “Sally refused to take her pill and has to stay in bed all day, eating nothing but shakes.”
“Day 25. The package from mom was weird. Why did she spell Bili’s name B-i-l-l-y?” Why would she send me cheese crisps?” Jenny paused in mid-chomp, a cold shock running through her body. Why was her _own_ mother sending her treats she craved most, when it had been her who’d sent Jenny to fat-camp in the first place? She blinked, then carried on reading.
“Day 37. I threw out my candy from home behind the outhouse. I’m going to make mom and dad proud of me.”
“Day 38. My next package is here today. Full of candy. It all smells like a toilet.”
“Day 54. Four days left. Why are these rotten old witches so mean to me?”
“Day 56. I snuck over to the out-of-bounds cabin. What’s the big deal? It’s just a kitchen full of ovens.”
“Day 57. Sister Francine saw me peeking last night. She grabbed my hair and told me ‘You’ll be the first one, tubby!’ I’m scared. I’m running away tonight.”
Jenny flipped through the rest of the journal – nothing but blank pages. She swallowed, no longer tasting her chocolate bar. Something tickled the back of her neck. Heart pounding, she forced her gaze back to the window. Outside, all the Sisters sat in a circle about the bonfire, every one staring at her.