“So how do you like the palace? Isn’t it stunning?” I ask holding my father’s camera. We’re on holiday in Vienna, and I want to record every moment. No one answers me. The place is huge and crowded and I wonder if they didn’t hear me.
I turn to ask my siblings, “Sara, Elia, what do you think? Do you like it here?” No answer, they’re too busy chatting and giggling to answer me. I turn to my mum and ask the same question, but she’s been drawn into my siblings’ conversation and ignores me. I turn to my dad, get ready to ask him, hoping he would answer, then notice he’s too busy staring into space to listen.
Resigned, I switch the camera off and walk away. There’s no need to be pissed off, I tell myself, Sara and Elia are younger and need mum’s attention more than I do. As for dad, he’s tired from driving us here. Besides, I am seventeen now, it’s not like I need their attention. We can talk about the palace later.
I pass a mirror as I wander through the palace, pausing to stare at my reflection. I have finally grown a little taller, and notice the definition in my leg muscles from all my recent training. I am wearing my brand new mini skirt and admire my reflection, proud of how I look.
Walking up beside me, my mum smiles and asks me what I’m thinking about. “Nothing much,” I lie, staring down at my skirt.
“You know,” she says, “I was wondering why you bought that skirt. It’s way too short, and it does not flatter you.” Shamed and filled with self doubt, I mumble half heartedly, “I like it.”
“As you please, you’re old enough to pick your own clothes after all,” she says as she walks away.
I stand looking down at my skirt, then at my reflection in the mirror. Maybe she’s right. Maybe I am not thin enough to wear it. Maybe I look ugly. Maybe weighting 52 kilos is still too much for my meter and sixty five centimeters. Don’t cry. Don’t you dare. You can’t. Don’t cry over a skirt, it’s stupid. Stop being stupid. My inner thoughts run rampant. I stop and consciously inhale and exhale a few times to calm down before walking back to my family.
“Chiara, I need your help to buy the tickets,” Sara calls to me before returning to a conversation with Elia.
I no longer feel like trying to join the conversation. I feel unimportant to my family, as if I’m only valuable if they need my help with language translation. I start to wonder if they would notice if I left. My mind begins to turn on me, taking that thought and running with it. I start to wonder why I’m not worth any attention. Is it because my grades are not good enough? Or because I am not pretty enough? Funny enough? I’m overwhelmed by how unfair it all feels. I want to disappear into the ground.
Life is unfair sometimes and I have no right to complain. If I work harder they will value me. I will study harder, train harder and go on a stricter diet, even if it causes dizziness. I can live with the dizziness. I’ll cut my thinning hair so it’s less noticeable. I’ll be flawless and then they will see me. Everyone will.
I plaster a smile on my face and walk up to my sister. Being sad, angry or a mixture of both would just ruin the mood. I don’t have a right to do that. I’ll be perfect little Chiara and everything will eventually be alright.