Authors: Emma Hart
Abbi gives a quiet snort and glances at me. “Like what?”
“Uh.” I hadn’t thought of that. “I’m not a walking Karma Sutra, you know.”
“Really?” She raises an eyebrow. “You’re male, right?”
I turn my face toward her, my eyes meeting her bright blue ones. “I can assure you, Abbi, I’m
She blushes. “Well most guys I know have the Karma Sutra burned into their brains.”
“That’s probably because the guys you know haven’t passed puberty.”
“True, but they still know it.”
I grin slowly, putting one of my hands behind her, and lean back. I don’t take my eyes from hers, and her tongue runs across her lips when the flush disappears from her cheeks. “That’s because
need the Karma Sutra. They haven’t worked out there are more ways to make a woman happy than just using your dick.”
Her eyes widen and her lips part as blood rushes to her cheeks again. She pushes hair away from her face and drops her eyes for a second. Only a second. Before I can say another thing, those baby blues are focused back on mine and holding me trapped.
“I’m guessing you consider yourself more than a boy?”
“I know I’m not a boy. I can probably use my hands better than boys can use their tool.”
She coughs and looks away. “Point taken.”
I watch her, still smiling. “I’m guessing you’ve only ever been with a boy.”
“Who said I’ve been with anyone?” she asks quietly.
“No one can look the way you do and be a virgin.”
Her lips twitch. “This conversation is getting real personal, y’know.”
“We’re here to get to know each other.” I grin. “And I maintain my last statement. There’s no way you’re a virgin.”
“I think I’m taking that as a compliment.”
“Good. It’s meant to be. But, uh
…” I nudge her and she looks at me. “If you are a virgin …”
Her lips twist upward, and she shoves me off the boulder before I can finish my sentence. I laugh as I try to steady myself on the small pebbles underfoot.
“Idiot,” she mutters, smiling.
I take a step but get my footing wrong and fall backward. Pebbles dig into my butt and Abbi doubles over with laughter. Hell no. I put my shoes on the boulder next to me and crawl across the small but strong stream of water toward her. My hands find her bare ankles and tug on them.
“Blake!” she cries, sliding down the rock. I laugh at the shocked look on her face as she falls into the water. It splashes as she lands in front of me. I grin.
“Not so funny now, huh?” I tease.
“I’ll give you funny!” She shoves me again and I fall sideways. My hand grabs hers at the last minute and I pull her with me, both of us laughing. She lands half on me and half in the water, and freezes.
Her body and her eyes tell different stories. Her body is frozen and the only part of her that’s moving is the rapid rising and falling of her chest. Her hand, pressed against my chest, tremb
les in something akin to fear. But her eyes aren’t wide and scared. They’re hooded and full of laughter. They’re focused on mine, intense, unrelenting, unwavering. They’re beautiful.
My hand on her waist twitches, and water rushes past us as we lie here.
Slowly, Abbi pulls herself off me and stands. She grabs her shoes from the boulder and takes tentative steps over to mine as I get up.
“Careful,” she warns softly. “The pebbles are loose.”
“You don’t say,” I
counter dryly when she hands me my shoes. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” She steps up onto the rocks and puts her shoes on the bridge. I follow her up, and she pauses just before she climbs over the bridge railing to speak in a quiet voice. “I’m not, by the way.”
She doesn’t look at me.
For some reason, that annoys me.
“Mom, it’s been a year.”
“I know, darling, but I’m worried.”
“I’m not perfect, but I think I can shave my legs without feeling the need to retrace all my old scars.” My mouth twists, and I feel a sting of annoyance toward her.
“I didn’t mean–
“You know, if you really want to, you can come and watch me do it. Just to make sure.” It comes out snarkier than I intended, but sooner or later she’s going to have to start trust
ing me. “Whatever it was that made me cut, I’ve got it under control.”
“I can fight the urges. I’m strong enough now.”
“I’m just worried about you, Abbi.” She rubs her forehead.
“Oh, for goodness sake, Miranda. Let the girl shave her legs like a normal eighteen year old,” Dad butts in from over his newspaper. “She’s already said you can sit and watch her do it if it makes you feel better.”
I curl my fingers around my glass, dropping my eyes to the table. I wish she would trust me. The mistak
es of my past are exactly that – mistakes. I know the pain they caused her and I don’t want to do that again.
Mom sighs. Dad puts his paper in his lap, takes off his glasses and levels his gaze on her.
“Miranda, dear, she’s not going to get better if you keep wrapping her up in cotton wool. I know you’re worried. I am too, but we have to let her have some of her freedom. If Abbi wants to shave her legs instead of using that dreadful smelling cream you buy her, let her. She isn’t a child anymore. She knows the consequences of her actions.”
is sitting right here,” I mutter, tapping the glass instead of holding it. I breathe out and meet Mom’s eyes. “Dad’s right, Mom. I’m not made of china. I’m not going to break at the sight of a razor blade. Honestly, I just want to shave my legs. That’s it. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think I was strong enough.”
Mom presses the heels of her hands into her eyes and sighs deeply. It’s a pain-filled sigh, and she’s probably doing what Dad refers to as “The Kindergarten Thing”.
On my first day of Kindergarten, she bawled for half an hour before leaving me. As I’ve gotten older, that’s changed to agitation – like she wants me to stay her baby forever. Hence Dad naming it.
“Fine. Fine. You can shave your legs, but I’m not showing you where the razors are.”
” I grit my teeth. This is the best I’m gonna get. It’s all she’s gonna give, but something is better than nothing.
I press my fingers to the pulse point at my wrist as she leaves the room and remind myself I’m not the only one struggling with my recovery. It must be hard for her to feel so helpless. And, as frustrating as this whole protecting me thing is, if it makes her feel better, I guess I just have to deal with it. I have my way of coping. This is hers, I suppose.
She comes back into the room and hands me a bright pink razor with what looks like a hammer-proof safeguard on. I swallow the sarcastic comment and thank her quietly.
My hands shake as I enter the bathroom. I put the razor on the side of the bath and sit on the closed toilet seat, focusing on the lather I have to work up with the shaving foam. I
concentrate on my movements right now instead of the ones I will make.
Tap. Sponge. Legs.
Because no matter how confident I was just two minutes ago, no matter how much bravado I put on for the sake of my parents, I am scared. I’m scared of the urges that build inside me.
It was all I knew for so long. Cutting was my escape, the way to let the pain out. The pain left with the blood, it trickled out with the sting and washed away. But now I have other ways to deal with the pain.
Other ways I still don’t fully understand. Other ways I’m still learning about.
And that uncertainty scares me, because I know how strong the urges can be.
I spray some shaving foam into the palm of my hand and begin to work it into my wet legs, massaging my calves and knees. When my legs are white, I rinse my hands off under the tap and pick up the razor.
My fingers hover over the guard. Am
I really ready to do this? Was Mom right? Am I still too “damaged” to even shave my legs?
Am I really strong enough to keep the demons at bay? To resist making my blood flow?
My fingertips close down on the guard, making my decision for me, and pull it off. I take a deep breath as I rest my foot against the side of the bath and touch the razor to my skin. Sickness balls in my stomach as I lightly drag the razor up my shin, but I’m not sure what the sickness is from.
Fear? The urge? The possibility and knowledge I could let it all out, that I could let it go?
I train my eyes on the blade as if my steady, intense gaze will make it behave. Like the blade is the one to blame for it all. Like I never cracked a razor under my foot and dragged the sharp piece of metal across my skin. Like it was never me at all.
Shave. Rinse. Shave. Rinse. Shave. Rinse.
I go through the motions on my right leg, my eyes harsher than a mother’s glare at a child who just scribbled on her newly-painted walls. I swap my legs, using breathing exercises Dr. Hausen taught me before I came home.
Swallow. Shave. Rinse. Deep breath. Shave. Rinse.
The longer I hold the razor in my hand the more uncertain I become of myself. What will I do with it after? Will I throw it in the trash? Will I hand it to Mom to get rid of? Will I just clean it and leave it on the side of the bathtub?
So many questions that demand answers swirl in my brain, blurring my vision and clouding my mind. Each becomes louder and louder until the uncertainty becomes booming shouts pounding between my ears instead of soft whispers in the corners of my mind. My grip tightens around the razor as I try to breathe evenly, try not to let the anxiety overtake me. Anxiety breeds depression. Depr
ession breeds pain. Pain breeds–
A nick on my ankle. A tiny cut, one that is barely visible to the eye. This I know without looking. I can feel the sting, the red hot burn of my blood mixing with the air.
Pain breeds blood.
My grip tightens again
, and I grab the towel rail with my free hand. I shake, feeling a tiny trail of blood trickle down from my ankle and along the curve of my foot.
The smallest cuts always bleed the most.
I remember the first time I made myself bleed. The night flashes before my eyes, and I finally remember why I did it. It’s the one question I haven’t been able to answer. The why. Why did I cut myself? What made me do it? The searing question that constantly surrounds me and my favored coping mechanism.
The coping mechanism that started with a nick on the ankle.
We had argued relentlessly. For hours, it seemed. A constant back and forth, the way it always was when it came to him needing to get his fix. I wanted him to stop this time. I promised him I would help – whatever he needed. He said all he needed was the drug and that I could get him that.
I refused. I wasn’t hi
s servant – I was his girlfriend and I was determined to help him. I knew this wasn’t Pearce deep down. I knew the real Pearce and I knew he was buried under all the pain and addiction somewhere. I knew the real Pearce was broken and mourning the loss of his mother.
He didn’t agree. He reached his boiling point. I should have known by then to leave – to run as fast as I damn well could and get as far away from him as possible. I knew in his comedown, his craving stage, he was the most volatile. I knew all that mattered to him was the drug – whichever it was that day – and getting more.
But I never did run. I still held onto the memory of his calmest comedown, the one where he cried on my lap for hours. The one where he cried himself to sleep. I always waited for that comedown to happen again, but it never did.
He wasn’t always violent. That night, he was. He’d slammed me into the wall as he’d left his apartment and sprained my wrist. Mom and Dad had been away on a business meeting in Boston, so when I arrived home, I was free to cry. Free to let it all out without question.
I had cried under a hot shower, letting my tears blend with the water, and grabbed my razor to shave my legs. It was there, the hot water beating on my back as I bent over, my foot on the side of the bath, my leg covered in shaving foam, that I cut my ankle.
It bled immediately. The bright red blood
joined with the white of the foam that had dripped onto my foot, the pink mixture hitting the water. More blood fell, and I watched, transfixed. I watched until my brain registered the sting. The sting that was stronger than the one inside. The sweet sting of release.
I didn’t think as I smacked the razor against the tiles, cracking the plastic. My nimble fingers pulled it apart, letting the plastic drop to the ground.
The blade was cool between my fingers. Wet, but cool. I ran my finger along the sharp edge, staring at the still bleeding cut on my ankle. My back pressed against the tiles, I slowly slid down to the floor. My foot still rested on the side of the bath.
The blade moved
toward it, my hand acting of its own accord. It touched my skin, lightly at first, then stronger. My hand shook, and I bit my lip to stop the whimper as it broke my skin. A tiny dot of blood bubbled up on my foot. My eyes moved from the blade to the blood. My teeth released my lip, and my hand moved.
The blade sliced smoothly along my foot. The sting, the burn. It was all I knew. All I could focus on. The bright red, the scarlet blood mixing with the clearness of the water. Mixing perfect with pain. Tainting it. Destroying it.
The same way Pearce was destroying me.
I can’t breathe. My chest is too tight, the lump in my throat too big. My teeth
are clamped too firmly around my tongue, hoping the small pain there will override the urges.
The frantic shake of my hands leads me to almost drop the razor, but the tightness of my grip means the handle is firmly in place. I remember it, that moment I realized for the first time that it was freeing to bleed. There was no limit. I could cut once, twice, three times, keep bleeding for minutes, and the physical pain would take over the emotional. It would wipe it out.
More blood trickles down my foot and lands on the white tiled floor. It taints the floor the same way it tainted the shower water that first time.
A tiny speck, a burst of painful color on something so calm and pure.
Do it. Just one. No one needs to know. Just once. Let the pain flow
I squeeze my eyes shut, my whole body tense. My fingers are wrapped so hard around the handle of the razor I’m sure it’s about to shatter, but it doesn’t. It stays whole in my hand.
One little cut. Let out all the pain. Let it go
I shake my head. At nothing. At no one. Because I know, or a part of me does, at least, that the voices aren’t real. The voices are me. As crazy as it sounds, it’s all me. I’m contradicting myself at every turn. Every voice. Every whisper. Every shout.
It’s all me. It always has been.
And I can fight it.
I can drop the razor, wipe off my legs and walk. I can.
But I don’t.
I stay, in limbo. Shaking, panicking, crying. Tears roll down my cheeks with the force of the fight inside.
There’s no way to describe the fight. No words to convey the suffocating darkness that pounds down from every angle. No words to explain the tiny speck of light that can pull you out.
And I have to remember, the light. The light is where I want to be. The light is the aim. It’s always the aim.
But what is the light?
I drop my chin to my chest as I feel the darkness pounding me. I know what the light is. I know, but I can’t remember. I hold the razor away from my body, fighting in the face of a coming defeat. I can feel it. I can feel the urge taking me over, the sting still present on my ankle and getting stronger with every passing second.
The dream. The aim. The light.
Juilliard is my light.
And I grab at it. I grab at the light inside my mind and drop the razor into the bathtub. I open my eyes, snatch the sponge and wipe my legs, not caring that one of them is half done. The tears have slowed, and I wrench myself upwards, refusing to look at the razor. If I look, I’ll break.
If I break …
I stumble into my bedroom and
toward my iPod. I stab at the buttons, almost blindly, whispering Juilliard out loud. Tchaikovsky’s
fills my room as my back falls against the door I don’t remember shutting. The soothing music flows through me, and in my mind I envision myself as the Swan Princess. I envision every step, every move.
My breathing slows, and I sit. Listening. Imagining.
Until the sudden ringing of my alarm breaks the silence. I look at my clock. It reads five-thirty in the afternoon.