All Carrie Roberts wants is to be a little bit smaller.
To fit into the perfect dress for the Valentine’s Day Dance. To look beautiful for her boyfriend, the school’s star basketball player. To keep his jealous ex-girlfriend, a rival cheerleader, away from him. And to be noticed by her classmates.
Exercising and dieting don’t work, but an advertisement for weight loss pills promises a quicker solution to her problem. As time runs out, she takes more than the recommended dose until she’s just a few inches slimmer. Heads turn when she arrives at the dance, and the wonderful night with her boyfriend is beyond what she dreamed it would be.
Days later, Carrie discovers that her body is changing in ways that should be impossible. While her doctor searches for a cure, she desperately turns to her friends and family for support. Everyone is noticing her now whether she likes it or not, and even the media is intrigued by her incredible story. Getting everything she once wanted has created new problems—problems that are growing more terrifying every day.
Because Carrie Roberts is shrinking.
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After Trish posted photos of me and Todd on her various social media pages, there were comments about how wonderful I looked. My glorious night had gone viral, and everyone knew that Todd and I were a couple. There was a part of me—an admittedly catty part of me—that wanted to rub it in Janelle’s face, so I couldn’t wait for that Monday’s basketball game.
However, I had difficulty finding clothes that fit properly. Almost every skirt and pair of pants I owned was loose. Only my tightest skinny jeans fit comfortably around my waist, but not as tightly as they should have. I didn’t need a new wardrobe or anything like that, but it was clear that I was a little bit slimmer than I was before the dance.
I rushed to the bathroom scale and was startled to see I had lost eight more pounds in only two days. I checked to make sure the scale was working right, and I walked away and came back to it, but it still gave the same weight. Even though I had stopped taking the pills, my system mustn’t have fully purged the effects of the heavy dosage I had taken.
Looking at myself in the mirror, I noticed that my body seemed to be in the same proportions as always. I didn’t look particularly thinner, so I wasn’t sure where I had lost the weight. More so, if losing that much weight wasn’t making me look emaciated, how could it possibly be bad? Everyone was saying that I looked great that night, so what was the point in complaining?
That afternoon in the locker room, Lauren brought up the dance after she had changed. “Everyone’s saying you looked so good you had Janelle speechless.”
“She’s still speechless,” said Trish, chomping on a chocolate bar as she joined us. “You shoulda been there, Lauren. You’d be so proud of our little Carrie.”
Not accustomed to being the subject of gossip, I simply smirked and shrugged while I took my cheering uniform out of my bag.
“I guess those pills worked,” said Lauren, a slight tone of condescension in her voice.
“Yep.” I unfastened my belt, and without removing it from the belt loops, I found myself sliding easily out of my jeans.
“Diet pills?” Trish quickly turned to me. “My mom has tried that kinda stuff before. Worked for a bit but then she was chunky once again. If they worked for you Carrie, then that’s cool.”
“Now that the dance has passed, you stopped using them, right?” asked Lauren.
“Well, yeah.” I shrugged as I took off my shirt. One of my bra straps slipped off my shoulder, so I fixed it.
Lauren crossed her arms. “What do you mean well, yeah? What’s going on?”
The other bra strap slid down my other arm. Had I accidentally bought a larger bra and not noticed until then? Had I clasped it too loosely that morning? Pulling at the cups until I could feel the clasp dig slightly into my back, I looked down into my cleavage. Just like my pants, the bra was definitely loose; my breasts didn’t seem to fill it like they usually did.
“Carrie, you haven’t answered me.” Lauren was glowering at me.
“I don’t think their effects have worn off yet.” I put on my cheerleading skirt, but its elastic waist band didn’t cling to me as tightly as it usually did. “I’m still losing weight.”
Trish took a step back to get a full look at me. “You don’t look any thinner. You have the same great shape you had at the dance.”
“I noticed that too.” I sat down to tie my sneakers and noticed myself tying them tighter than usual. “Strange, right?”
As I reached for my cheerleading sweater, one of my bra straps slid off again.
“Then where are you losing it from?”
“No idea.” I put the sweater on, and it not only seemed baggy on me but longer too. “Can sweaters stretch in the wash?”
“Shrink in the wash?” asked Trish. “Totally. I had this really cute pink one that’s now more of a crop top—”
“She said stretch, not shrink.” Lauren rolled her eyes at Trish and then stepped over to me. “I don’t think so. Why do you ask?”
“Look at my sleeves.” I stood and held out my arms. Only days before, the sleeves ended at my wrists instead of reaching to the bottoms of my thumbs—a difference of about an inch. “They’re longer.”
“Maybe, I guess.”
The locker room had emptied except for the three of us. Trish said, “Come on shorties, game’s gonna start.”
Lauren looked me straight in the eye. “Aren’t you forgetting to put your sneakers on?”
“They are on.” Puzzled, I looked at her and then down at the sneakers on my feet. When I looked back at her and found her looking straight back at me, I understood why she had asked. We were at the same eye level.
I slowly turned to Trish, who normally stood at a height about halfway between me and Lauren, but it was clear that she was slightly taller than me.
We stared at one another in awkward silence. I wasn’t sure what to say, and I could tell they weren’t sure either. We all knew for a fact that I was supposed to be taller than both of them, and I doubted that both of them sprouted up a few inches over the weekend. But if they hadn’t grown, then the only other explanation was that I must have gotten shorter. Before I could dwell on that unlikely possibility, Janelle appeared in the doorway and hollered at us to get out to the gym.
I tried keeping my mind on the game instead of worrying, but every time I bounced, a bra strap would slide off, constantly reminding me that something strange had happened to my body.
It was worse during our half-time routine. Toward the end, the squad split up into groups, each holding someone up in the air and letting her fall back into our arms. I was part of a group of five girls helping to lift Trish. My job was to cup my hands underneath Trish’s right foot while she was raised into the air. Two of the other girls held her calves in place, a third spotted from behind, and Janelle had her left foot since she and I were supposed to be the same height. I found myself having to stretch my legs and arms more than I should have needed to keep Trish’s feet even.
When Todd found me after the game, I clung to him, and he innocently said, “Stand up straight so I can rest my chin on your head.”
“I am standing up straight,” I mumbled.
Then came an awkward moment where we both looked at my legs and feet to verify my claim. I was definitely shorter than I had been the week before. Todd simply stared at me, not knowing what to say.
Lauren witnessed the incident, and we gave the details to Trish in my car, after I adjusted the driver’s seat forward one click. Keeping one hand on the steering wheel while the other wiped away tears collecting in my eyes, I asked, “What’s happening to me?”
From the back seat, Lauren put her hand on my shoulder. “Don’t panic. There’s got to be a logical reason why you’ve gotten shorter.”
“People don’t get shorter!”
“It might be some weird side effect of those pills. You did take a lot of them.”
Her voice had a told-you-so tone to it, but she was right. How could I have been so stupid, so careless, so desperate? “What should I do?”
Sitting in the passenger seat, Trish turned to me and flailed her arms as she spoke. “If you stopped taking them, the effect will reverse itself. That’s how it works with my mom. She always puts the weight back on no matter what diet she tries.”
In my rearview mirror, I could see Lauren roll her eyes before asking, “You still have the pills, right? First thing you’ve got to do is tell your mother—”
The car swerved as I exclaimed, “No way! I can’t tell her! She’ll freak out when she finds out what I did.”
“She’s going to figure it out. She knows how tall you’re supposed to be. Look how quickly Todd noticed.”
“There are ways to make you look taller,” said Trish. “All it takes is the right pair of shoes until this wears off.”
There was an uncomfortable silence. I was pretty sure Lauren and Trish were wondering the same thing I was wondering: what if it didn’t wear off?