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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8. Chapter 8

The classes were really hard for me. I hadn't realized this when signing up for the program, but due to the timing of the program, I was starting classes two weeks late. Which meant that the beginner stuff that eased students into the intensive pacing was long gone.

    "Marie?" The teacher interrupted my doodle. I was drawing a character from one of the ideas for a novel. She wouldn't be a Mary-Sue; she would be a hero. But with a tragic flaw: jealousy. Of course. And she had the inner strength to have a boyfriend and fight crime. Like a badass.

    "Si?" I answered, jerking my head back up quickly. My shorter hair made my head feel lighter. Almost brand new. It was amazing what a fresh haircut could do, and I'd paired it with red, bold lips. Which I'd regretted immensely, as the lipstick was staining my hands and water bottle where I'd absentmindedly smudged it. Dammit, looking good was tough. But learning Spanish intensively? That was even tougher.

    The teacher looked at me, nodding at me, expecting me to answer.

    "Uhhh….que pagina?" I asked, awkwardly. The teacher pointed to my already open book.

    "Aqui. Lea por favor."

    "Uhhh……" I sounded like an idiot. Goddamnit. No wonder I was in the lowest level class. Essay writing and grammar didn't matter shit if I couldn't communicate intelligently with my mouth.

    "Um. Pablo.." I paused, "quiere comer el pavo. Pero él no…." I paused again, "tiene dinero." I conjugated the stem-changing verbs correctly, though struggling visibly with the words.

    The teacher nodded at me as though I was five. 

    "Bien trabajo," she said smiling, but she may as well have been condescending with her tone as I flushed red. Give me a topic and I could write and write and write in Spanish with all my grammar and tenses perfect, adding accent marks like mindless flourishes. But ask me to speak and I was quivering jelly, insecure and unsure of everything I knew. I didn't know how I'd handle Venice, with Italian no less.

    But I got 100s on the homework and daily tests so far. Even if my speaking was lackluster, at least my book smarts were holding me through.

    I walked through the metro. Dinner was at seven. I vaguely recalled Papa saying that his brother was coming over for dinner tonight, so Mama was cooking something extra special. I was praying it wasn't gazpacho. Yes, out of season, but I hated the cold beet soup with a burning passion. So far, for me, the food was either hit or miss, and I wasn't a picky eater.

    So when I unlocked the door, I definitely wasn't expecting to run into the hottest guy I'd ever seen. And yet there he was. Was he an intruder? I shrieked, purely on instinct.

    "Quien eres tú?" I choked out, confused.

    "Ay, dios mio," muttered the man, striding up to me and covering my mouth soundly. I swallowed my shriek promptly.

    "Yo soy Jandro. Francisco es mi hermano. Tengo un clave, no te preocupes."

    "Donde está Mama?" I spoke slowly, like I was mentally challenged, and cringed at my own heavy accent.

    "Mama? Ahh, Ana. She is in the supermarket," he said in English. His English was perfect, with only the slight hint of a lilting accent, and inwardly I sighed because with his words, my insides melted like chocolate left on a pavement too long. But on the outside I kept a cool demeanor. I hoped.

    "Ok. I'm going to go cambiar," I said in Spanglish, joking. Jandro said nothing, just studied my face as I walk away. As I changed into pajamas, glad to be rid of the constraints of my sweating jeans and t-shirt, I checked my face in the mirror. Nope, no change, still ugly me. The red lipstick was coming off, so I removed it and tucked a lock of shortened hair behind my ear. At least I didn't have split ends anymore. I sighed, heart heavy, and went out to face him. He was just sitting on the couch. Staring off into the distance, thinking. Wasn't he bored? No tv, no nothing. Simply lost in another world, it seemed.

    "Hey," I said in English.

    "Yo," he said, smiling. "Nice pants," he said, referencing my multicolored nighttime ensemble. I laughed. 

    "You're the second person to comment on my pants," I said, amused. 

    "They are, how do you say- vibrant,

    "So, how old are you?" He cut straight to the chase, didn't he? 

    "I'm eighteen. You?"

    " Twenty-two. Are you studying in college here?"

    "Uh, no, my Spanish isn't good enough for that. I'm taking a gap year."

    His face twisted into a confused expression.

    "Gap year?"

    "It's a break between university and high school."

    "Ahhhh." He said nothing after that, and the silence was a deafening vacuum.

    "So, do you go to school around here?" I asked, awkwardly, suddenly self-conscious. I noticed his gaze drop to my wrists.

    "Yes," he said shortly, staring at the scars. "Dios mio, amor, que paso?" I turned my wrists inwards so they were no longer visible.

    "It's nothing," I said shortly. I didn't want his sympathy, nor his scrutiny.  Inwardly, I cursed myself for choosing to slip on my pajamas. The sleeves advertised my scars, and while I'd gotten somewhat used to my scarred arms, they were always a shock to others. I'd actually talked about it to my class in Spanish, when a concerned classmate reported it to the teacher on the first day and they'd actually called the program to make sure I wasn't still hurting myself. I'd had to confirm with my therapist, that yes, I was taking my medication, no there were no fresh marks, and no I wasn't hurting anymore. Which was a frustrating setback in itself, but I'd moved forward. "Something I used to do, but not anymore." Before Jandro could reply with anything, the lock turned in the door with a loud click.

    "Ana!" Jandro jumped to his feet and gave her a big hug. 

    "Jandro, ay mi hermanito!" She smothered him in kisses and crushed his ribs in a bear hug. 

    I went back to my room and stared at my scars again, putting on a jacket. I didn't want Mama or Papa to get worried, and I hoped Jandro wouldn't mention anything. I wasn't ashamed of them, it was just….I didn't want them to worry about my past. I was more than my history, like Cat had said.

    I smiled in the mirror.    

    "I am beautiful," I whispered. I still didn't believe it. But instead of taking time to pick apart my flaws, I went out back to family room. I sat and watched TV while Ana and Jandro spoke in Spanish too fast for me to comprehend. I switched the channel back to Jetix.

    "What are you watching?" asked Jandro, amused. I jumped. I hadn't seen him approach me. Something about him set me off, made me uneasy. Partially because he was very attractive, and also partially because he hadn't run screaming from my scars. 

    "Uhhh…." I said, my voice trailing off. What was I watching again? I squinted at the cartoon characters, trying to jog my memory for the title. Oh damn, it was a re-run of W.I.T.C.H. I used to love that show when I was little. The voice actresses for the characters sounded so old in Spanish, dropping consonants and lisping with rounded vowels. 

    "Ok. I know what you're watching. This was my favorite channel when I was little. I liked Pucca. I think it was Korean originally."

    "Oh. I see," I said, trying to ignore that his hand was now inches from mine. He sighed into the couch.

    "Ana can't understand English and she's busy cooking anyway," he said. "So I'm going to ask you. Why does a pretty girl like you do this?"    

    He grabbed my sleeve and rolled back the cloth, touching the scars gingerly on my exposed wrist. Each fingertip burned where it touched. Not with pain, but with pleasure. I inhaled sharply.

    "Why are you obsessed with it?" I said, trying to keep the hysterical note out of my voice. "I noticed you staring earlier. I told you already, I don't do it anymore."

    He traced the sutures and the long, vertical valley of a scar.

    "I'm a medical student. I know what you tried to do here." He caught my eyes and stared. I didn't look away but I stared back, fearlessly, getting lost in the hazel eyes flecked with gold and black and it was aa world of emotion. Did he feel bad for me? Was that pain I saw in his eyes? I yanked my arm away and tugged down my sleeve, ignoring my body's screams for his touch.

    "Yes. I attempted. Five months ago, ok? Happy? You've uncovered my secret," I hissed, glancing towards the kitchen where Ana was humming as she clanked pots and pans together. "And you know what? I'm not that person anymore. I'm never going to try and kill myself again. Ever."

    "Why not?" said Jandro. His voice took on a bitter note. "We live in a shit world. I'm not blaming you. It's selfish yes, but sometimes you can't save the person. They won't listen."    

    It was an odd comment, and at the time, I didn't think anything of it really. In my mind, Jandro was a weird asshole. Good-looking, but a jerk nonetheless. At the time, I hoped I'd never see him again.

    But that night in my dreams, he was the face of the obscured man that loved me all night long. And in the night I couldn't lie to myself. I'd enjoyed his attention. And if I was pretty and thin and smooth all over, I would have taken him into my bed without regrets. At least that was what I liked to think.

The truth is, even if I was born perfectly, I'd probably be like Alana, over-amplifying my faults and I wouldn't appreciate what I had. Wasn't I doing that now? Jandro had called me pretty. Was I pretty and just ignoring it? When I woke up the next morning, I wanted to be different. I wanted to be like the characters I wrote about, the ones who were kick-ass super heroes and could bone who they wanted without being worried about what they looked like naked.

    The next morning, I woke up and got naked in the bathroom. I stepped on the scale. 71 kilograms. I'd lost a pound. I looked at the muscle on my legs, and looked at the flab on my belly, and noticed how my butt was beginning to firm.

    I looked in the mirror that morning, and stared at my scars. I stared at the valleys and peaks and the discoloration and the raised edges, and I stared at them like I had stared into Jandro's eyes. And I studied my face, the hollows and angles and smiled.

    I saw my body through the lens of my camera. I saw the light hitting my face and my collarbones. I saw the dark shadow under my breasts and the small shadows the shapes of my raised scars made.

    I wasn't ugly, like I'd led myself to believe all these years.

    "I am beautiful." I said it clearly, talking to myself. And for the first time, I believed it just a little bit.

    I began to change slowly. I took out the extra piercing. It didn't really go with my new haircut, nor with my pearl earrings that were a gift from my mother. I'd brought them on impulse, but now I was wearing them every day. I stopped awkwardly apologizing. I bought a peacoat, something I thought I'd never do. And I wore it to class the next day.

    "Dude, what has gotten into you?" asked Cat.

    "I'm different," I said, happily. "I've lost weight, gotten a new haircut-"

    "No shit, Sherlock. What happened to the punk little girl from the airplane ride? The one who got drunk on fricking sangria-"

    "Cat, it was your advice, ok? I took it. I've been working on stopping criticizing my faults and just liking me for me."

    "Dude, I gave you shit advice. It doesn't work for me at all, I was kind of joking honestly."

    "No, you were dead serious," I insisted. Cat frowned, and then stared at the table. "What's wrong, Cat?"

    She paused.

    "Ok. Um. You can't tell anyone this, ok?"

    "Yeah, of course."

    "My longterm boyfriend broke up with me on Sunday. And I have literally slept with a different guy every single night. I told my host mom I was just coming back late from a friends house or going to the gym after class, but I need to stop this."

    "CAT!" I admonished her. "Jesus, you know you could get STDs and holy fuck, man that's dangerous."

    "Oh please, coming from a girl who said she want a random fling?"

    "Not a random fling, but seriously, Cat, you're beautiful and your boyfriend is an idiot who doesn't know what he's missing."

    Cat's brown eyes filled with tears.

    "B-but that's the thing!" she wailed. "I fucking hate him for breaking up with me. And yet I think about him non-stop and I keep messaging him when I'm drunk and oh god, Marie, it's just a mess. An awful fucking mess. I feel like it's my fault. He got upset because I wanted to come here and it's just-" she hiccuped, "An awful disgusting shitty mess."

    I paused. I had idolized Cat and her no-nonsense attitude and positivity. But now I could see that she was struggling just as much as me. My heart went out to her.

    "Is there anything I can do to help?" I thought out loud. "I know. What do you like to do to cheer yourself up when you're feeling?" I was thinking something small, like eating chocolate or watching a funny movie. I was going to suggest making popcorn and watching Shrek or something.

    "I like to go clubbing." I grimaced. Not my thing.

    "Let's go together," I said. "I want you to feel better, and honestly, banging random dudes isn't going to repair the hole in your heart faster. Didn't you tell me that?"

    Cat smiled through your tears.

    "I'm an idiot. But you knew that already."

    When I looked back on that conversation later, I would try not to vomit and cry and scream a million things at myself for being the real idiot. 

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