Sweet Fall

By: Tillie Cole
Foreword


I wanted to take a moment before you begin this novel to explain something about the character of Lexington Hart, the female protagonist.

Lexi has a disorder that many are, or have been, affected by… including myself.

Please understand that my having had this disorder is not an area of my life I talk about often. But I feel some explanation should be given before you delve into the pages of Sweet Fall.

So *deep breath*, here it goes…

When I was fourteen, I developed a disorder, which unfortunately, took me to a very dark place in my life. It stayed with me for the majority of my teens and even reared its head a few times later in life. I fell again and again, but—luckily—every time, I managed to pick myself back up.

What I am talking of is a very insular disorder. A very secretive disorder. And it blindsided me and riddled me with issues that I still struggle with today.

I know now it will never fully go away.

For years, I was in a furious, and often losing, battle with this disorder. I just couldn’t get away from its clutches. And if it weren’t for the encouragement and support from my absolute best friends, my parents, my theatre school instructors, and my husband (then boyfriend), I am not sure I would have recovered as well as I have.

It even forced me to give up my biggest passion in life—musical theatre. I just knew I couldn’t take the pressure of being so perfect. I just couldn’t be healthy and do what I loved anymore. At the time, this crushed me. But you learn to move on and be inspired in new ways. Find your passion in other channels.

In this novel, Lexi’s narrative and inner struggles are very much based on the personal thought processes and habits that I experienced at that, my absolute darkest, time. And this is so I could give you, the reader, an honest and raw account of the everyday life of someone with this particular issue.

Many people vary in the way they experience this horrible affliction. This novel is simply born from MY experience. Not everybody deals with it in the same way. I am not a psychologist, nor a doctor. I do not attempt to give you medical and scientific insights into this horrible disorder. This is all from my experience and my experience only. Lexi’s issue in Sweet Fall is written purely from my heart.

I did not take the decision to write about this topic lightly. It is a part of my life that I have rarely discussed with anyone. Many of my family members found some aspects of this novel difficult to read because they finally understood what it was like for me then and is like for many people around the world. It was a chapter in my life that I try not to dwell on. I got past this disorder to an extent. I won the biggest battle. For many, this is not the case.

This, my fifth novel, has been the hardest and most emotionally turbulent one I have ever written, but it is also one of my proudest achievements. I have cracked open the heavy iron padlock that held back feelings I had tried to hide away from everyone I know. And in writing this wonderful but troubled character called Lexi, I have faced my fears head on and battled some demons that were still lurking in the deepest recesses of my mind. I feel freer, calmer somehow, and for that I am grateful.

If this novel helps just one person who is dealing with this disorder, helps just one person understand their friends and family members that may be dealing with something similar, then it has made all the emotional purging and self-reflection worthwhile.

If Sweet Fall sheds any light on the issue, full stop, then that will make me very proud indeed.





“If we knew each other’s secrets, what comforts we should find.”

John Churton Collins






It speaks to me each morning,



The dawn of each new day,



Keeping me from eating,



My head is where it stays.



It strips me of my burdens,



Of hunger pangs, of pain,



It guides me to perfection,



It freely takes the reins.



It will be with me forever,



Of this I have no choice,



My friend, my foe, my conscience,



It’s Ana, it’s that voice…





Tillie Cole





Prologue


Dear Daisy,

Weight: 98lbs



Calories: 2000



This is my first letter to you, well, my first journal entry, I mean.

Since you have left me, I really don’t know who I can speak to, so I have decided to keep speaking to you… through the medium of pen and page. Instead of our nightly chats on the phone about our progress that day, I will talk to you here. I will tell you my weight, how many calories I’ve eaten… just like before.

But this is not like before, is it?

It’s not the same. The contact is not nearly enough, but it is all I have… all I have left of you, Daisy, my closest friend.

I’m sitting here now under the scorching summer sun, shaded by a huge pine tree… next to your grave. Your grave, Daisy! How did it come to this?

I am running my hand down the beautifully bright black granite headstone, tracing the edges of your epitaph:

‘She concealed her tears but shared her smiles’



That was you, Daisy, smiling on the surface but too fragile for this world underneath. You never let it show, though, always smiling through the pain. Wearing your mask that told the world you were fine, but all the time you were dying inside.

I know because I wear this mask too.

You were always my rock, the one person who I could rely on. But you left me here alone and I am lost without you. I don’t know my place without you in this frightening world full of pain, with its constant pressure to be perfect.