The Scars on My Wrists (Nanowrimo 2013)

After struggling with depression and a suicide attempt, Marie decides to take a Gap Year to Italy and Spain. She falls in love, and more importantly, changes her entire life.
Edited for movellas, in its poorly written state. R rated for lots of swearing, cutting, and sexual language. TW: (recollection of) sexual assault, cutting

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12. Chapter 12

That night, I wore a red short-sleeved dress that I'd bought on a whim. It looked good on me, except it exposed the scars on my arms. I'd bought a cover up for it, but it did dampen the effect. I left it behind, and when I took off my jacket, no one commented on my arms, to my relief. Jandro's gaze raked over my body hungrily and he smiled.

    "Hola, bonita."

    "Hola guapo." I shot him a toothy grin. There were pearls in my ears and red lipstick on my lips again. I felt daring. I felt confident. I felt sexy.

    Someone had kidnapped the old, emo me. Someone had to be holding her hostage, because this new me was stronger. I hadn't changed on the outside, or on the inside very much. I still liked to read, I still liked to write. I still listened to the same wailing bands that made me feel better about myself and the world. Perhaps the only thing that was different was that the world was no longer crushing me, like it had for every day of my life. I was taking my medication, maybe that was part of it. I was seeing my therapist more often. Maybe that was part of it. But I'd also managed to conquer my fears partially, stomp down on the little insecurities that grew into monsters in the pit of my stomach. I felt lighter, freer. And I knew that it couldn't last forever, and I would come tumbling down if something triggered me into another panic attack, but in this moment, I was happy. Truly, purely happy.

    Halfway through the flamenco, we were served dinner, but I wasn't focused on the food. I was focused on the dance, loud and echoing, the woman and man stomping back and forth, feet flying with a rhythm traveling in my bones, under my skin, under the scars. I shivered from sheer awe as I watched them. They were like a pair of birds, dancing back and forth. It wasn't the delicate ballet that I'd grown up used to watching, no it was powerful, a match of wits, of strength, of beauty, of passion. The guitar picked up the pace and the woman's skirt swished back and forth as her feet kicked up and down, creating music with each stomp.

    When I fell asleep that night, alone in my own hotel room, my feet continued to kick to the rhythm and my heart pounded to the beat, the music and pulse carrying me to sleep.

    The next day, after a breakfast spent with Jandro, we all walked through the city together. Caroline didn't seem to mind that Jandro and I were dating. They even had a conversation. I realized that Jandro was almost the same age as her, which was kind of weird. I had never really thought much about the age gap between me and Jandro, mainly because it didn't matter, but I was overtly aware of it now. I pushed it to the back of my brain. You don't need to worry about that, Marie. It's silly.

    "What did you think of the flamenco last night?" Jandro suddenly asked me, and I was caught off guard.

    "It was amazing," I said, smiling shyly. Suddenly, I was blushing like I'd fallen newly in love with Jandro all over again. Which was crazy, I mean, all we'd done was have sex. It's not like anything between us had truly changed. We'd just gotten naked and done a little Cell Block Tango or whatever it was that kids called it these days. God, I sounded old. But in a way, it had. I was more comfortable around him. Before, I had always been a bit skittish, only really able to relax when I was in his arms. Now I could hold hands with him and just focus on how warm and happy I felt. 

    The branches were empty of leaves, which normally depressed me, but they framed the path like a woven basket. The snow was spread everywhere, like frosting across the ground, giving everything a muted feeling. Everything was so quiet and peaceful, and I realized for the first time that I liked the winter. I liked the way it chapped my cheeks red and I liked seeing the footprints left in the snow like a mystery. Had winter always been this beautiful? I suspected it had, but I had been so preoccupied I had never noticed.    

    For such a long time I had been stuck, stuck down low thinking of only the bad things. A year earlier, on the same path, I would have grumbled about being cold and kicked the snow out of my way. But here, with Jandro and Thom and Caroline, it was magical.

    Jandro examined my hands. 

    "You silly girl, why didn't you say anything?" My fingers were red with cold and growing stiffer by the minute.

    "Uh…Because I didn't want to let go," I said, stupidly. He clicked his tongue, like he was chastising me, and childishly I stuck my tongue out again.

    Promptly, he stuffed my hand, still entwined with his, into the large pocket of his coat. I gasped, almost tripping at the sudden movement, but I managed to right myself. I shot him a mock scowl, and he pouted.

    "I'm sorry, it was an accident."

    "Yeah right."

    "But is that better?" he asked, referring to my hands being cold. They were starting to warm up.

    "Yes, Jandro. But you didn't have to yank my arm out of my socket to make it better," I teased. He responded with a smile and a winked. Cheeky. I squeezed his hand, and when he looked back at me, I stuck out my tongue again. 

    "Aren't we childish today?"

    "I suppose," I said, suddenly sobering up. I hated being called childish. But that was what I was doing, after all, begging for his attention with petty tricks and words to hide up the real things I wanted to say: I love you. I don't want to leave you in three months. I'm scared. Please hold me. Because that would be clingy and even more childish and could push him away even faster and further than the physical divide between Spain and  Italy.

    I focused instead on the Alhambra, coming closer and closer into view.

    "I'm sure you know it was a Moorish castle, yes?" said Jandro suddenly.

    "Yeah," I said, looking around for Thom's nod, but we had somehow gotten separated. Caroline and Thom were up ahead, chatting.

    "Do you think they did that on purpose?" I asked, frowning.

    "Yes," said Jandro. "We were being annoying." I grimaced at his bluntness. We had been a bit disgusting. Jandro was right. "But," he added on, "I would be a fool if I said I wasn't pleased." He smiled at me. "Buenos dias, mi amor. Vamos a explorer?"

    "What are we, Dora and Diego?" I griped. He laughed. "Go Diego Go!"

    "How do you know Dora?" I asked, amused. 

    "Oh, some kids at Penn made me sit down and watch an episode with them for some reason. Hah! Quite a riot. I can't imagine how kids can learn substantial Spanish from that show. I think it's really just a scam for ratings. You want your kid to learn Spanish? Speak Spanish to them or find someone that can speak to them. But throwing a little 'vamanos' in there every other word or whatever isn't going to make them learn."

    "Woah there cowboy," I laughed. "Calm down on the rant. I mean, television here has helped me learn. I kinda understood Pan's Labyrinth before I fell asleep on top of you."

    "That's different," grumbled Jandro. "That's full on immersion, plus you know enough vocabulary to guess in the parts you don't know."

    "I still think it's different," I said, insisting. "Exposing kids to language, whether it's through a television show or through lessons is still good. Anything that gets them excited, you know, and inspires them to learn. I know my little brother watches Dora and once I started learning Spanish too, he would beg and plead for me to teach him more." Jandro paused and thought about it for a moment.

    "I guess you're right," he admitted. "I never thought about it like that. Sometimes I'm too jaded. I see only the bad things and not the good things."

    "Really?" I laughed. "You see nothing but good things in me."

    "That's because I love you, like mad. I mean, I see bad things, like how you used to hurt yourself, which worries me nonstop. Honestly, I'm scared you'll go back to it, but I am here for you, and if you can lean on me instead of bottling it all up like I know you do, I will be happy." I paused, drinking in his words, trying not to cry as they reached inside and started healing up my carved heart. 

    "I see only good things in you, Jandro," I said quietly. "You're selfless. You're bilingual. You're caring." He laughed at that, and sighed.

    "I wanted to be a doctor to help people originally. But now I'm starting to realize that I need to have detachment too. Can I talk to you about something?"

    "Sure," I said. Jandro had never confided in me, and I was anxious to have him open up to me. Not knowing as much about him as he knew about me was unnerving.

    "I took a break from the internship for a week. I was doing a little bit of everything, including watching surgery and doing paperwork for the hospital. There was a patient…I mean, we gave him bypass surgery. He was awake before, you know, talking, joking, and…" He took a deep breath. "They fucked up. I watched him die on the table, all because of a slip of a finger and I had to see his family when we gave them the news. It was horrible And it made me realize such a life and death game we play with medicine. We say we care about our patients, but when they die on us, we forget that they're human. They become cadavers. And we have to tell their family that we're so sorry, all the while showing no emotion like robots." He sighed. "I don't know what to do. I always wanted to be a doctor, since I was little, but…"

    "Oh, Jandro," I said, squeezing his hand softly. I could see how visibly tortured he was over this, and suddenly I began to realize that under his facade of strength and care; his foundation was crumbling. Everything he had known had turned out to be something different. I didn't know what to say to comfort him.

    "You know what? You need a break from this, and it's good that you took the week off. If after the end of the week, you feel like you miss medicine, and you can't live without it, go back to the hospital and get back at it. But if you think it sucks and you just want to laze around or switch majors, you can do that too. You just have a general premed degree, probably a Biology major or something, yes? You're not specialized yet. You have time, the full year." Jandro stared at me, openmouthed. Then he shook his head.

    "You're right. Sometimes I forget you're actually eighteen. You don't act like it at all. You're really wise for your age. Jesús, I'm so lucky to have you in my life, amor."

    "I've been through shit that the average eighteen-year-old hasn't," I mumbled, gripping his hand in his pocket tighter. I could feel his warmth through the knit, and we were silent again for a small moment.

    "So about the Alhambra then…" I said, 

    "Oh. Yes. Alhambra. Well, it was originally a Moorish castle. Then Isabelle and Ferdinand conquered it after the great unification, the marriage between the two largest houses of Spain. With Spain united, the Moors were driven back down here to Granada, and in a final battle, Isabelle reclaimed the palace, driving the Moors back to Africa. She did leave the arabic imagery and artwork, instead of destroying it. I don't know if you know about La Mezquita de Cordoba?" I shook my head no, and Jandro continued, passionately. "La Mezquita is a mosque, a gorgeous one. Isabella converted it to a Cathedral, but it has all the components of a mosque. Luckily she didn't destroy these fantastic works, she just repurposed them." I could see his eyes light up as he talked about Spanish history.

    "Dude, you're like a walking textbook. How do you know this stuff?"

    Jandro paused.

    "I really love history, not just Spanish history. I just think it's so interesting." He smiled.

    "Stop." I yanked him to a halt. 

    "Ow! Now who's the one detaching sockets?"

    "Sh." I kissed him soundly.

    "What was that for, amor?" His eyes danced mischievously.

    "Because I love you. And because you're amazing," I said honestly. He threw back his head and laughed.

    "Marilita, I swear. You get funnier and funnier every day. I'm going to miss you when you leave." That instantly killed the happy mood, and as the words sunk in, we grew silent.

    "I'm going to miss you too," I said quietly. "But let's not think about that now. We have all the time in the day to spend together, and now that Caroline and Thom have ditched us, I expect a full tour from you of the palace."

    So we stared up at the stone and the fountains, the carved ornamentation, the tile. Every little hollow and groove etched into stone, like the scars on my body. I was a work of art like the alhambra. I had carved myself into little bits that would be left behind forever, until my death, until my destruction.

    I focused on the geometric patterns, the colors disappearing as the repeated over and over and over again, like angular flowers. I would have loved to live in the palace, although I could imagine it being quite cold. I shivered in the shady, cool stone. Without the sunlight, the palace was even colder. It retained the winter on the inside. Perfect for the hot summers though, I imagined.

    I found myself wondering what the Moorish princesses thought of Alhambra, if there had been any. I had no idea. Would they have appreciated the beauty of it? Or would they have taken it for granted, not knowing what they had until they lost it back to the Spaniards, forced to leave their home, their royal titles? I shivered, but not because of the cold. 

    The gardens were dead, hiding under the ground with only blackened tendrils exposed to the cold air, so we didn't tour them. I was almost upset that we hadn't waited to come here in the spring session since the tour was only half complete in winter. It felt like a waist of money almost, to come down and not see everything in full seasonal glory. Although the snow on the ground had given almost a magical edge to the castle, like a fairytale abandoned and left behind slowly to decay, forgotten in time.

    But I shook off my complaints and grasped Jandro's hand as we walked back into the city. Unexpectedly, I slipped on a patch of slush, skidding on my ass for what felt like half a block. I groaned. Motherfucker, that hurt like a bitch!

    "Marie! Marie!" I could hear Jandro calling after me, and I groaned again, trying to steady my wobbling feet on the wet snow. Suddenly, my footing felt unsure. I cursed myself for wearing high heels and dressing up instead of properly wearing snow boots. That was the first thing that Jandro decided to talk or rather, yell at me about.

    "Jesùs cristo, Marie, why aren't you wearing proper shoes?"     I gritted my teeth.

    "You didn't care a couple of seconds ago."

    "That's because you weren't sliding down the calle using your culo as a sled, amor."

    I laughed at that, before realizing how serious he was.

    "Let's go back to the hotel to get you patched up. You're shivering." 

    I looked down, and he was right. My hands, which I'd used to  break my fall by burying in the snow, were turning purple with cold. Fuck. I wasn't properly dressed and he was right. When I undressed later in his hotel room, there was a purple bruise on the middle of my back, covered by red scratches from the ice and slush and pavement. 

    Jandro insisted on applying salve and putting on a bandaid, and when we cuddled naked, watching Spanish gameshows and warming up under the sheets with take-out on the side trays, he insisted that I stay on my side to keep pressure and pain off the bruised area. He insisted on treating me like I was fragile, which rather annoyed me. 

    So I rolled on top of him and straddled him just as someone won millions on the television, and I switched off the television so we could play our own games. 

I was free, in his arms, free of the weight from my clothes and my cuts, the slices on my arms. I was free. I was me. I cried again afterwards.

    Not because I was scared or had regrets, but because I loved him, I loved myself, and I didn't know how to bottle up my feelings anymore. They escaped from me like the bubbles from a soda can, opened and left out and forgotten, until there was nothing left and I had gone flat, but a sticky sweet sort of flat, melting in his arms like chocolate.

    Suddenly I needed him like oxygen. I needed his touch and his love and his sweet-nothings. I was insane over him. I writhed in his arms, kissing his neck, his face, his sweet, full lips. I had never felt anything like this ever. The thought of leaving him for Venice hurt physically, like a punch to my stomach that had knocked all the air out of my lungs.

    At the same time, I knew he couldn't follow me. He had work here in Spain, and I would just have to wait for him, and hope that he would wait for me, for those months that we would be apart. I banished my insecurities away as I lay there, sweaty and warm in his arms, nuzzling his chest.

    "Get back on your side, silly." I tried to protest, but he rolled me over, trapping me as he spooned me gently, kissing the back of my neck. I was caught like a kitten in his embrace as he held me. Again, I marveled at how his touch was so different than what I had grown to fear, how his breath grazing my neck didn't send me into a panic attack or send my heart into palpitations in a bad way. No, my heart was thudding in a very nice way, in a nervous and happy and excited way. I felt completely and utterly content in that moment, utterly blissful. Somehow, everything felt decadent. Like I was being spoiled by being allowed to be this happy.

    "I love you," I said, quietly. It reverberated off the walls in the silent room and hung between us. And then he responded,

    "Te amo, mi amor, con todo mi corazón." His voice was low and deep as he whispered and it tickled the hairs on the back of my neck, so I rolled over and kissed him, but later in Venice I would remember those words and touch my lips and pretend that he was there again, saying them to me.

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