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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17. Chapter 17

I managed to finish my paper and turn it into the teacher two days before the deadline. It was good to know that I could still manage to write fast. Especially considering I had been talking with an agent about my children's book. After a million email inquiries and cover letters, I managed to secure the interest of one who not just wanted to publish it, but also make it into a series. But if I was going to balance that and school, I knew I would need speed under my belt. 

    Jandro made plans for me on Saturday night. He didn't tell me where we were going though, so I dressed up in a red sweater dress that hugged my new curves in the right way. It was good for a restaurant and also not too fancy for something low key. My hands shook as I did my make up, and I tried to talk with Charlene to distract myself from my nerves.

    "How's engineering going," I asked. "Is it engineer-tastic?"

    "Yes," she giggled. "There are so many cute guys. Cute Americans, hot Indians, good Chinese men too. There also aren't many girls, so I think I could get a boyfriend easily. I've never had one."

    "Well, how's the workload?"

    "Do you see what I am doing right now?" She held up a problem set and I grimaced.

    "Shit, that looks nasty."

    "Yes. It sucks."

    A knock on the door interrupted our conversation and I jumped. Oh no! It's Jandro! Hurriedly, I brushed on more perfume, but it turned out just to be the roommates across the hall asking if they could use the tea I brought again. A buzz on my cellphone turned out to be Jandro though.

    I'm downstairs. Lady at the desk won't let me up. Says you need to sign me in.

    Oh right. I had forgotten about Drexel's ridiculous security measures. Just a tad too crazy for my liking. For example, once I signed in a guest, he needed to be in my room at all times otherwise I would lose sign in privileges. Given the nature of the city though, I couldn't dispute it. After all, it was to keep us safe and I preferred it over the other possibilities.

    I went downstairs and he greeted me with a chaste kiss.

    "Where are we going?" I asked as his eyes raked over the dress hungrily.

    "My flat. I thought since you were putting me on trial-boyfriend duty, I would show you my many skills." 

    I turned around and started heading towards the elevator. What a cocky, ass-

    "Wait! No! Not those skills," he called, laughing. "I'm cooking paella for dinner and handmade ice-cream for dessert. It's your favorite, dulce de leche. I spent all day caramelizing it, please don't turn it down or I'll have to eat it myself and get fat."

    The lady at the desk chuckled.

    "Honey, don't keep that man waitin', lawd knows sum other girl gon' snatch him up."

    I rolled my eyes and turned back around, stumbling through the turnstile in my high heels. Jandro offered me his hand.

    "Do you have roommates?" I asked as we strolled down main street.

    "No," he said. "I don't need them. My parents give me a considerable amount of money for living expenses, and that internship paid extremely well too."

    "How are Mama and Papa?"

    "Francisco and Ana are doing quite well. Ana is expecting. Apparently having you around made her realize how much she wants a child of her own."

    I put my hands to my lips. Oh, Mama was starting her own family. I sniffed, trying to hold back tears.

    "That's wonderful. I'm so happy to hear that."

    Jandro looked at me oddly.

    "Amor, are you ok?"

    "Just peachy." I broke into sobs promptly. "I'm fine, don't mind me," I said, stumbling into the elevator. Jandro held me as sobs racked my entire frame. I didn't know why I was crying. I just knew that Mama and Papa would be so happy to have a child of their own. They were such wonderful people.

    "I have tissues inside," muttered Jandro, clearly stressed that the date was not going as he had planned. He quickly fetched me some and I blew my nose, focusing on his apartment for the first time.

    "Wow. It's amazing." And it was. It was incredible. A large, spacious flat, with a large kitchen and a wooden table. It probably cost too much for the average student. But then, Jandro wasn't the average student.

    There were bowls covered in plastic wrap and I heard the gas clicking in the stove as Jandro added heat to a large basin.

    "I know you're considered underage here," he said, "but I made sangria for the meal-"

    "It's fine," I said simply. "I just should make sure not to get drunk," I joked. He looked at me blankly. Right, he wasn't there the first night. "I got drunk on sangria the first night I was in Spain. I'd never had a drink before in my life."

    "Drunk? On Sangria?" Jandro laughed heartily, from the stomach. A full body laugh. "Oh, amor, no puedo creerlo!" He shook his head and hummed as he stirred the basin of food.

    Quickly, he set plates and knives and forks on the table, running back to his paella and giving it a frisky stir. I was awestruck watching him, his arms, his hair, his body move across the room swiftly. He cursed as he tripped and caught himself.

    "Let me help," I said, standing. 

    "No, no, no. I am nearly done," insisted Jandro.

    But I took the sangria out of the fridge and found a couple of glasses. Jandro's sangria had apples and oranges and blood oranges. It looked incredible.

    I took the plastic wrap off of a salad and looked in the fridge for dressing, while Jandro carried over the large paellera to the table.

    "I remembered you telling me about how the prawns scared you," he said, smiling. "So I only cooked in shrimp and squid, and hmm, some mussels and clams." He remembered me mentioning the prawns? But I had only talked about it briefly in passing one time. I couldn't believe he'd remembered such a small detail. My stomach flopped.

    He insisted on pulling out my seat for me like we were at a fancy restaurant. Some light flamenco guitar music tinkled in the background, probably from his iPod. An ice-cream machine was whirring at full speed in the corner. Jandro caught me looking. 

    "Yes, I'll need to check it in thirty minutes or so. I set a timer though, don't worry. I won't let your dulce de leche feeeze into ice."

    I took a deep breath. The food looked amazing, so colorful and fragrant. Jandro served me, and I let him, since it was really his date.

    "Jandro, how did you have the time to do something like this?" I asked, awestruck, as he poured me a tall glass of sangria. "Is it bad if I want to make you drunk so you spend the night here?" he said, winking. I frowned at him. "I'm just joking, no. The food will make the wine less potent, I think. And to answer your question, I have been studying while cooking. While the rice was cooking in the paellera earlier, I had my textbook out and was doing homework. So no, I did not have much time to do this but I made the most of it and got my work done."

    I took a sip of sangria. Oh, staying over in this rather nice flat seemed like a viable option with each sip. I missed sleeping next to him. I hated sleeping alone at night. What if I just stayed over but we didn't have sex? Yeah. That seemed like a good idea.

    "Jandro," I said, tongue coated with wine, "I want to stay over."

    He nearly choked on a mouthful of paella.

    "What?"

    "But we won't have sex," I said firmly. "I just want to sleep next to you again," I said, voice trembling quietly as I lost my nerve.

    "Please, amor. That would be…well, that would be heaven." Yeah. A sleepover from heaven. I was so tired of hugging my pillow to sleep, so tired of going to sleep alone and it was the last thing I wanted.

    "I don't have pajamas," I suddenly thought out loud.

    "We can go back to your dorm to pick up stuff-"    

    "No, it's ok. Can I just borrow a t-shirt?" Jandro's t-shirts on me would be like a dress. He was several feet higher then me, it seemed. Oh, ok, well I was five foot seven and he was six feet. So not really. But still, good enough. I didn't want to go back out at night. I hated the campus at night, even though there were blue lights. It still didn't feel safe enough to me, even with Jandro behind me.

    "Dios mío, jesus, virgen maria, virgen de guadalupe," prayed Jandro. "You are going to be the death of me, chiquita, you know that, yes?"    

    "Chiqita?" I joked. "That's new. But why will I be the death of you?"

    "I am just imagining seeing you in my t-shirt, with your long beautiful legs."

    "My legs aren't that long, loverboy." I shot back, grinning into my paella. I felt suddenly embarrassed. I was still such a novice, after all, but acting falsely confident was getting me places, it seemed. Places like Jandro's bedroom. And I felt somewhat powerful, knowing that I could affect Jandro so strongly. 

    "So how was Venice?" asked Jandro casually. I saw his hand tighten on the fork and his knuckles whiten as his fingers trembled ever so slightly, as though he was aware of what my answer might be.

    Without mentioning him breaking up with me, since I felt like I'd already done a great job of that at Starbucks, I told him the truth.

    "Oh, it was amazing. And it just made me miss you more, to be in a place that is so hauntingly beautiful and magical. Sometimes I would turn around and expect to see you too, seeing the sunlight fade golden through the canals, watching the sun go down on my balcony…" I paused. "My room had a balcony. I did a lot of thinking there, a lot of planning. Actually, I spent a lot of time writing there too."

    "Really?" Jandro's ears perked up. "It makes sense, you just phrase things in English so beautifully. I have always thought of English as a harsh, blunt language, unlike Spanish which is so lyrical. But you change the words, you make them fit. Will you tell me what you wrote about?"

    "A million love letters to you and then I tossed them into the canal," I joked, but he looked at me with serious, pained eyes. "Oh, Jandro, I was just kidding. I wrote a kid's book. About a serpent in the canal of Venice and this little girl goes off to find it because his magic can save her mom. I've sent it off to a couple of people, and I managed to get an agent. She wants to pitch it to a major publisher. And get an illustrator or something."

    "That is incredible," said Jandro, shaking his head. "I always knew you were amazing, but to become an author…"

    "Really?" I asked. "There's such a stigma on Literature and English majors, which is what I am. People see it as useless."

    "Never. You are changing the world," he said simply. "Books affect how we think, how we grow as people."

    "I'm so glad you think so," I said smiling, forking my paella across my plate before finally taking a bite. "Oh my gosh, Jandro it's amazing," I gushed. "So good, it's even better than the paella at the restaurant. Jesus, how did you learn to make something like this?"

    "My mother taught me," he said, smiling. "She taught Francisco too, but uh, he was a bit less eager to learn."

    "Of course," I said, smiling. Papa hadn't really enjoyed being in the kitchen too much. He preferred the end result without the fuss.

    "She also taught me to make custard bases for ice cream, and it is quite simple once you figure out the ratio to make a base for any sort of ice cream." He said it as though it was easy. Like making ice cream was like putting on a pair of pants in the morning. Then again, he was a medical major and probably had to memorize the dictionary of medical terms or something.    

    Being with Jandro now was like picking up from Spain and continuing as if there hadn't been a six month break. Yes. I was different. He was different. But we were still the same. I opened up to him easily

    The timer rang, just in the middle of our conversation. Immediately, Jandro sprang into action, serving up two bowls. I could see ribbons of dulce de leche caramel running throughout the ice-cream, and I got rather excited.

    I took another large sip of Sangria and felt it go directly to my head. Whew, that made me dizzy. And not in a good way. I pushed away my glass and tried a bit of the ice cream. Oh it was heaven in a bowl. Jesus, I didn't want to say anything but Jandro was definitely in my good graces now. I helped him put the dishes in the dishwasher and clean up the kitchen, despite Jandro's protests, because after all he had made everything and spent so much time putting together such a lovely meal. I did feel loser, maybe it was because of the wine, but I felt pleasantly relaxed. Not in a drunken, out of control manner.

    "So, chiquita." Jandro's voice interrupted my thoughts. "What is against the rules and what isn't? You are in charge here. You are in control," he said, huskily. His voice turned my very blood to flames, nervous burning fire in my body, writhing all over.

    You are in control. He had said that before he kissed me, before we had sex for the first time. I was in control, but I wasn't. For now, I was letting the doubts in my mind shut up. I let my body take over. Before I even knew what I was doing, I was kissing him. He tasted sweet, like dulce de leche and wine mixed with oranges.

    "I just want to kiss," I said, breathlessly. "I've missed kissing you for such a long time. Please promise me we can take it slow though." I wasn't emotionally ready to strip down completely and be naked in front of Jandro again, not after he had torn my heart and stomped on it.

    "Of course," he murmured. His voice was low, dangerous. And I didn't care. I wound my hands through his hair and kissed him deeper. I was greedy. Part of me felt like this was a dream, a wine-induced crazy dream.

    "Let's go to bed," I said. I changed in front of him without any shame into his t-shirt. It was baggy, but my lacy panties still peeked over the edge. Jandro groaned, but didn't say anything, climbing into bed with only his boxers. We slept like that, nearly naked, skin touching skin all night, and for the first time in a long time, I felt satisfied, and safe. Completely, fully safe from the nightmares and monsters of my dreams. Jandro was like an addiction. He just walked back into my life and I found myself needing him all over again, become vulnerable and weak.

    When I woke up in the morning, sunlight streamed through the cotton curtains beside his bed. It was empty. I tried not to be disappointed. Maybe he had an appointment or something with a professor and had to leave early.

    I walked out into the kitchen, and to my surprise there was Jandro cooking. I sat at the table, shivering with my bare legs as he cooked Spanish tortilla.

    "Amor, go put some clothes on," he said, as though scolding me.

    "I'm fine," I insisted stupidly. My stomach growled. "Just hungry, and that smells amazing."

    "Just one question," said Jandro, flipping the thick omelette over. "Since I am making you breakfast now, can this count as a second date?"

    I thought about it for a moment.

    "I don't see why not. It's a different day after all." The second he set the omelette in front of me I tore into it, eating like a pig. I was starving all of a sudden. Jandro just watched me.

    "Why don't you have some?" I asked graciously, as though I was the host.

    "I already ate," he said shortly, smiling a funny little half-smile. "I just..please don't take this the wrong way. You are so beautiful. In the time we've spent apart, you've grown into an even more beautiful woman. I can hardly believe it."

    "Damn straight," I said, chewing. "Thanks for noticing, I am pretty hot, thank you," I joked.

    He smiled. 

    "If only you knew," he said shaking his head.

    "Knew what?" I asked.

    "Nevermind," he added. "Do you have homework? Plans for today?"

    "Uh…no, not really, why?"

    "I don't want breakfast just to be the end of our second date. I was wondering if you'd like to go to a museum perhaps?"

    I swallowed. 

    "No, I finished my work on Friday. I like having the weekend off. I want to go back to my dorm room and change, but what if I met you at Starbucks at ten?" I looked at the clock. It was ten thirty. "I mean eleven."

    "Sounds good then."    

    "Did you manage to do your homework?" I asked, trying to make sure I wasn't distracting him.

    "I couldn't sleep because someone tends to writhe in their sleep," he said, smiling. "So I finished it all while you slept. The light didn't wake you up?"

    "Uh, no, it didn't."

    "Good."

    I changed into the red dress and walked out, trying not to trip in my heels.

    "Tell me about it," squealed Charlene when I walked in. "Did you have fun? Did you two-"

    "No, we didn't have sex." I winked at her. "We just cuddled all night."

    "That sounds nice," she said wistfully. "College relationships."

    "He's taking me to a museum now," I said. "I've got to find something…" I browsed my small wardrobe and decided on a fall ensemble of a brown skirt and orange top, with ankle boots. I grabbed a light coat and added some sparse make up.

    "How was your Saturday?" I asked Charlene. She was still at her desk surrounded by tons of coffee and research books and a gigantic calculator.

     "I did all the homework for the month," she said, sighing. I noticed dark circles under her eyes.

    "You did what?!" I asked, incredulously. "Holy shit, Charlene, you're incredible."

    "Not really," she yawned. "It was busy work. Stupid stuff."

    "I can't believe that. I can barely do calculus, and here you are doing engineer problem sets like it's addition."

    "Math is the same, no matter what language. We studied this a lot in my high school in China," she said simply.

    "I'm really impressed," I said simply. "Really impressed. You're so cool."

    She blushed.

    "Thank you."

    I left after that, running down thirty-second street to the Starbucks at Chestnut and I bumped into Jandro at the counter.

    "I got you a peppermint hot chocolate with extra whipped cream," he said. "I figured you might like it."

    "It's my favorite," I said, smiling.

    We walked across Market street.

    "It's a long walk," said Jandro. "Are you sure you don't want to take the Septa?" I nodded. I was wearing good walking shoes, and I had always wanted to see all of Philadelphia. Plus this meant that I could drink my hot chocolate while holding hands instead of being crammed into a metal box that shook with other people.

    "We can take the Septa back," I said and Jandro nodded, satisfied.

    Jandro led me to an older part of the city, where the buildings were shorter and made of wood, and the street was made of cobblestones and brick laid the sidewalks.

    "I know about this museum because one of my friends used it for her thesis," he said. "You're going to love it."

    We entered, although the museum looked more like a house than a museum, and Jandro bought me a ticket. "We're here to see the James Joyce manuscripts, is there any way that you could give us a little tour?" he asked. 

    "Of course," answered the lady at the front desk. "Thank you for visiting!"

    James Joyce manuscripts? No. No way. James Joyce, Ulysses James Joyce? No fucking way.

    "The museum used to belong to a pair of brothers," said the museum guide. "They delighted in collecting first editions." We walked past a locked, glass bookcase filled with old books, Robinson Caruso, Dickens, even a slim volume of Austen or two.

    "All first editions," said the guide, noting my interest. I moaned in excitement, then covered my mouth quickly with my hands as Jandro chuckled.

    "I'm an English major," I said, trying to cover up my embarrassment. 

    "Yes, we do get a lot of those here at the museum," said the guide, amused. "Ah, and here is the study. Above, you can see models of different scenes from Shakespeare plays. The brothers held a special affinity for Shakespeare."

    He led me to a glass-covered table.

    "And here is what you came for."

    He pointed to several pages of old, yellowed paper, with pencil written on a slant.

    "This is the original manuscript, in Joyce's hand of Ulysses. Several first editions can be seen on the shelves over there.

    I stared at the papers, open mouthed, hands trembling.

    "We at the museum are proud to own many manuscripts. These manuscripts can be studied for thesis, in this room."

    He led us into what looked like a laboratory, as a woman, presumably another student, gingerly touched delicate pieces of paper with gloves, marking down notes as she read.

    "You're joking." I stared at Jandro, completely dumbfounded. This was a trove, a treasure-filled museum filled with literature gold.

    As we left, I squealed and gave him a bone-cracking hug right there in the secluded street, giving him a big kiss.

    "You are so thoughtful!" I said, excited. "I can totally use this museum to find sources for any research papers that come up. You have no idea how much that meant to me," I gushed. "It was amazing. I appreciate it so much. Thank you."

    "It was nothing," said Jandro bashfully. "Anything to prove to you that I am good enough for you."

    I took a deep breath as my heart flopped in my chest and he grasped my hand.

    "You're doing a good job." We walked back silently to the train station. My mind was buzzing. It had been barely a week since I had seen Jandro in Starbucks. We had been on two dates, and already Jandro had proven that he cared. He cared a lot. Still, was I really going to be able to let go of the past? Those six months without him? Part of me blamed myself. I had barred communication after all, as soon as I had seen him dating on Facebook. But I had needed that time away from him, to grow too.

    The scars on my arms burned underneath my jacket and I suddenly shivered, prompting Jandro to put his arm around me as he led me into the station. The subway ride was packed, smelly, and filled with people who avoided eye contact, and soon we were back at University City. As we climbed to Market street, Jandro kissed me chastely in front of the bustling street.

    "Our third date will be next Saturday night," he said, smiling. "I'll come and pick you up, as usual, but you have to remember to wait for me in the lobby of Towers since I can't exactly come up."

    I smiled, inwardly my stomach twisting into knots. I knew my answer already, but I still had so many doubts. What if Jandro decided to leave or break up with me for my own good? Did he really want me that bad? I pushed that one out of my mind. Yes, he did. He really did. I saw the way he looked at me, passion mixed with lust, mixed with caring and love. He cared about me deeply. He was just a misinformed idiot at times.

    Did I care for him too? I knew the answer to that without a doubt. Yes. I loved him. I loved him deeper than I had ever loved anyone, except for perhaps my family. I was terrified of losing him again. Oh I was mixed up inside. I was scared and small and unimportant. But I remembered how in Spain, I'd had the same fears. I hadn't let them stop me.

    There will always be fears, Marie, I thought. You may never stop being scared. But if you let it control you and lose this chance and throw him away because of  it, you will regret it for the rest of your life. And the last thing I wanted was regrets. I didn't want to be stuck in the past forever. I wanted to live in the present, and hope for the future. I felt the deep sutures on my arms. I never wanted to be that person ever again. I never wanted to feel like I had no other escape other than death. I could be happy. I could love Jandro.

    The week passed by in a flurry of classes, including my mandatory freshman math class. Luckily, Charlene was there to help me with the statistics portion. She was very good at explaining things.

    I received my paper back from the TA with a 95, to my surprise, and he called over our group.

    "I was really disappointed with the majority of papers I received. Half of you guys just copy and pasted from sources and didn't even frame together a decent argument."

    He paused. A good majority of the group had hung their heads, and were either staring at the ground or at their toes determinedly. He continued,

    "A good half of you plagiarized. Shame on you. I gave you zeros, and next time I will report you to the dean. Two of you tried the old 'corrupted file' trick, by emailing me a file, except I can go on the computer and see exactly how you modified it in notepad. You two are receiving an automatic F for the semester for trying to fool not only me, but your professors. It's dishonest and shameful. Only one of you managed to put together a decent argument and paper. That would be Marie Thompson. I expect good things out of you Marie, as does Professor Wilkins. The rest of you need to get your shit together. This isn't high school where you can just bullshit stuff and get As. I expect stellar work, as do your professors. Now, get back to work."

    I blushed. One of the other kids smacked me on the back, not in a mean way, but in a nice way. 

    "Good work, dude," to my surprise. Somehow, I had earned not wrath, but respect for working and studying hard.

    Saturday came in fast, like a gazelle sprinting through the wild African veldt. I rose and did homework until three next to Charlene, who had managed to get a boyfriend, a geeky, well-built kid in engineering. They were doing homework together and she was helping him with a problem set, because she had finished them all, which I found somewhat amusing.

    I kicked him out for a little bit so that I could change, and Charlene wished me luck. There were a thousand snakes hissing in my stomach. I felt somewhat sick with nerves. I knew what I wanted to say, I knew what I wanted to tell him.

    So when I saw him at Starbucks, I just blurted it all out under the liberty bell sculptures.

    "I love you."

    Jandro was completely sideswiped. He did a double take.

    "What?"

    "I love you," I said, tears burning in my eyes. "I knew the moment I saw you here last week that I wanted you again. I want to be with you more than anything. I know sometimes I have my days where I'm sad and I need you to hold me together, but I'm stronger now. I promise I won't lean on you too much-"

    He silenced me with a finger to my lips.

    "No more, mi amor. Te amo." He sealed the promise with a scorching kiss that I felt with my entire body, and a couple of kids outside the Starbucks sitting in metal chairs clapped and whistled. I resurfaced from the kiss and wrapped my arms around him, standing on my tip toes and I whispered in his ear,

    "I never want to be apart from you ever again."

    Jandro grinned, and I smiled right back.

    "What did you have planned for our date, just out of curiosity?" I asked.

    "Chinatown." He smiled wider. "Are you still down?"

    "As long as I can spend the night at your apartment again," I said, laughing.

    "You make the rules," he said, winking at me.

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