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Subject: Chapter 199 - Part 2 (16 and above)

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Date Posted: Wednesday, July 20, 07:13:47am
In reply to: KatherineGilbert 's message, "Dreams in the Dark - Chapter 193 and onwards" on Thursday, July 07, 07:06:24am

He entered, when Nikita answered, saw the slight surprise in her look, but he didn't know why she was uncertain at finding him here. Her retreat into her dressing room had become a lunchtime standard; he almost shook his head. It was impossible not to notice that she wasn't eating much at all.

He held out the sandwich to her, his gaze pressing, until she sighed, eyes falling, as she took it from his hand. She seemed a little chastened but still wasn't eating, just sat there, staring away from him. He had to shake his head, forcing her on. "What good is starving yourself going to do?"

Mm. It was a good question, really, but she wasn't sure it was quite relevant. "That's not what I want." She put the sandwich aside, looking back up to him. "I'm just not hungry."

Right. There was a small sound of annoyance, as he stared at her; this was going to be a last stand, if she didn't get herself together soon. "Rene says you've lost at least 10 pounds." He saw her wince slightly, pushing on. "Are you trying to become a rail before your wedding?"

None of this worked, her eyes still not on him. In truth, she wasn't certain why she wasn't eating much, just knew she wasn't hungry, wasn't interested. She wasn't really happy with the fact that she was losing weight, but she hadn't thought into it enough to care. It was hard enough to get through the days as it was. Analyzing anything outside of Michael's--and her own--survival was more effort than she could afford.

She tried to tell him this, wanted him to understand. She liked Walter--even without their strange, familial connection--didn't want him to worry about her. "It's not the wedding." There was a sigh, as she found herself utterly uncertain how to explain--going back to her usual. "I'm just not hungry."

"Yeah, right." Walter had heard about enough of that--had heard it a million times in the past; he shook his head, staring at her, trying to figure it out. "I know about the weight clause in your contract, but you're nowhere near it." She only looked at him vaguely--clearly already drooping from lack of nutrition. "You keep going like this, you're going to need padding just to look right on screen." His annoyed eyes burned into her. "And then who's going to want you?"

He didn't really mean this, but he had struck closer to the real problem than either of them knew. It took her a second to process it, her look distant again, only half-aware she was speaking her thoughts. "Why do men want women, anyway?" Her gaze moved up to him finally, the questions deep. "Is it just the curves that make them attractive?"

This theory caught him off-guard, made him find a chair near her, sitting down--his look confused. After a second, he said what he was thinking. "Why on earth are you worrying about that?" It was clear that Michael wasn't just interested in her curves--or, as Rene's padding sometimes showed, her occasional lack thereof; his head shook. How had she ever come to this?

She wasn't offended by the question, just looked at him, her mood analytical--the sandwich, and all the issues which surrounded it, still ignored. "I'm not worried, just curious." That clinical look probed deeper. "What is it that makes a man want a woman," the gaze moved, growing more troubled, "no matter what?"

It was then that her real problem finally dawned on him, the information which Adrian had given him making everything clear; his eyes were so saddened. He doubted she even realized what she was doing, but . . .

"Are you hoping that, if you don't eat, Hillinger won't come for you?" He saw her astonished gaze, and knew he was right. "Are you hoping wasting away into nothing is going to keep them all away?"

Oh. She couldn't take this in, not fully--his analysis too deep, too sudden. "I wasn't . . ."

She didn't need to continue, Walter shaking his head. He only hoped he could explain. "It's useless, Sugar. It has nothing to do with that." Her gaze drifted a little, as he went on. "I've seen girls waste themselves into bones; I've seen them waste into their graves." His look grew a little distant, the sadness deep. "And none of it made a damn bit of difference to any man like Hillinger."

It had taken her a second, but she was listening now, if still in a bit of a daze; it was always a shock when you suddenly discovered your own real motives. Still, he had the insights she needed, her eyes more begging than she realized. "What do they want, Walter?" Her head shook. "What makes a man like that so desperate?"

Lord. That was too big a question for him--probably for anyone--his gaze falling to the floor. Only God, or maybe the devil, could really answer that in full. Still, he tried to explain what he could. "Men like that say they 'like' women. What they really want is someone else to hurt." There was a shrug, his look confused. "I guess it takes some of the pain away."

"What pain?" she wondered, really listening to him now.

His look found hers. "The pain of being who they really are." There was a smile, even if it was sorrowful, as some vague sense of irony rose in him. "Could *you* be Hillinger and still want to see the next morning?"

She laughed at this, but it didn't take away the pain; nothing really could. Still, she knew he was right, her mind really focusing on it now. All these men who had wanted her--Fanning, Wells, Hillinger, Bauer--none of them were really after *her*, not even in a sexual sense. It was just like all those men back when she had been living with her mother. They weren't interested in satisfying themselves with her--not really, not even on the most basic physical level; she had known a few boys in her old neighborhood who had been, and they hadn't approached her the same way. These men wanted her to fight, wanted to control her; *that* was the real prize. The fact that they could take out their frustrations on her damaged body was just a means to a very perverse end.

She was seeing this now--for the first time, really. True, she had always understood that these men were violent, weren't interested in her as a person, but she had never quite understood their problems in these terms. They wanted a victim, plain and simple; there was a slight shudder, as her mind turned. And whether she were dead or alive after the fact was simply a matter of taste.

All of this made sense, in a horrible way--Walter's next words only adding to her insights. "It doesn't matter whether you're 90 pounds or 200, they'll still be after you." He reached behind her, holding out the sandwich. "So *eat*." His gaze bore in, a little comic now. "You want the strength left to fight them, right?"

This brought a smile to her lips, her look grateful. "Thanks, Walter." She unwrapped the sandwich, giving in--finally seeing the truth. Even if she burned away every curve, these men would still want to hurt her; she took another bite, hungry now that she had started. She might as well be strong enough for the battle.

He saw this, was smiling. Good. "And don't go throwing any of it up later," he instructed. When she looked disgusted--and confused--he just shook his head. "Never mind." His hand guided the sandwich back to her mouth. "Just eat."

She did, clearly not understanding his last comment--and he was secretly relieved at her ignorance. He had seen way too much of that sort of thing, since he had come to this town, had seen all the ways girls tried to keep themselves the "right" size and shape--whatever that shape might be at the time. For some, it was a matter of padding out what wasn't there. For most, it came down to a battle against themselves--an effort to kill whatever living flesh they could; it was ridiculous. Whatever their contracts, whatever the extra pounds the camera added, he still didn't understand. Their health was more important; he watched his grandchild eat, contented. But, so long as he could keep Nikita from this path, he would have to see it as enough.

He stood then, ready to leave her, only giving her one more piece of advice. "Like Michael says, it doesn't always matter whether you enjoy the process of surviving. Sometimes, it's just important that you do."

This idea made her blink, her gaze on him deep, as she paused in her meal--the truth finally dawning. "Michael sent you."

Walter nodded. "He just wants to make damn sure he has a healthy wife to love." He saw her smile, turned to go. It was enough that she understood this now.

She did, knew that her partner only wanted her well--knew he wouldn't complain for himself, no matter what weight she was; that had never been the sort of relationship they shared. Something in her saddened, going back to the sandwich. She only wished that he had felt he could get through to her himself; a small smile emerged, her eyes on her latest benefactor. But, sometimes, it took an outside voice to be able to tell you the truth.

She saw this now, loved her husband for it, intending to let him know how much she appreciated his concern. Still, her thoughts turned, looking into her director, before he left. She had been so wrapped up in herself lately, she hadn't asked in quite awhile. "Is Belinda doing okay?"

Ah. He stopped, almost to the door, his heart sinking, as he thought about his poor wife. The arthritis was giving her hell, making every day more painful than the last. Still, . . .

"She's been doing some gardening," he smiled back at her. It had been Adrian's plan, knowing the woman needed to keep busy, more than anything else. And she had been right. It hurt his wife's hands terribly, but she kept at it cheerfully enough, glad to have somewhere else to focus her thoughts. He nodded at the actress. "She'll be fine."

In some ways, Nikita knew he was lying, was trying to find the best side of the situation, for both of their sakes. Still, his devotion to his wife was clear, warmed her--giving her her only example of an older couple in love; she returned the nod, finishing off the sandwich, as she spoke her real thought. "We all will, Walter." He smiled in agreement, leaving her alone with the truth. So long as they could all remember to stay strong for their goals, all of them would be okay.

Extra note: While the terms "anorexia" and "bulimia" were not widely known during this time, these old habits of starvation or feasting-and-purging aren't new. Also, although this is what Nikita's friends suspect of her, she clearly isn't suffering from these diseases. The real thing is *much* harder to get someone out of; a good talking to isn't going to do the job. And, from all reports, Nikita's motives here aren't the typical person's who is suffering from these diseases. Still, it would be a pattern Walter would have seen before. While the "ideal" woman's body in 1939 wasn't quite the same shape as the current, rail-thin one, women--and some men--still fell victim to this. I believe even Lionel Barrymore's wife died of anorexia, somewhere around this time period, so our current problems, as usual, aren't anything new--especially in a place as image-conscious as Hollywood.

[End of Part 199]

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**Chapter 200 - Part 1**KatherineG.Monday, July 25, 07:14:10am

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