Annika didn't have a body image problem, because she didn't have a single body image. What she had were several fragments, several pieces of body images--if they could rightly be called that--that intersected at various curves and points. They were all part of her, but no single one could ever be a true image of her self.
When she was a girl, Annika kept the secret of these fragments. The other girls around her knew exactly who they were and what they were here for, even if it changed from day to day. She was never sure. In fact, most of the time she felt like a visitor here. Not quite alien, but not quite a native. She suspected there was nothing wrong with her, or the other girls, but that she could see something no one else could. She could see the fragile, slipping, shifting segments of souls.
Annika didn't tell anyone. Until she was fifteen. Until she had her first real kiss. Until she felt safe enough to tell someone things weren't quite what they seemed.
Something happens when we kiss someone. Sometimes it's disgust, for the other person, or ourselves. Sometimes it's a rocket-rush of pleasure. Sometimes, and this is how it was this first time, this first kiss, with this person, for Annika, sometimes it is out of this world. She dug her fingers into the worn fabric of the sofa, clutching for something, anything, to ground her to earth, to keep her holding on.
"You okay?" he asked.
"You sure? You look a million miles away."
"I'm fine. It's just. Well. Um, do you ever feel like you might come apart?" she asked him. He would have laughed but for the sincerity in her clear, steady eyes.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"Just sometimes do you feel like if you don't hold on tight, all the million pieces of yourself might up and fly away?"
"Kiss me again."
Annika kissed him. The feeling had passed. With relief, and a tinge of disappointment, she let go of the couch and put her fingers in his hair. It was thick hair, and cut short so that it resembled the bristles of a hairbrush, but it was not without softness. It smelled like soap. And something else. Something sweet. Strawberries at the beach. Or the folds of a baby's ear. Or the particles of air in some barely remembered meadow far, far away.