“I don’t think you understand,” he said sharply in my ear, his nails digging into my forearm and making me whimper. “Exactly who you’re standing up to.”
“Please,” I pleaded with him, cowering away as much as I could. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”
“You’re right,” he hissed. “You weren’t thinking. Which is why I’m going to teach you to think about your actions.”
I let out a squeak as he dug his nails in further. There was sure to be marks - there always were. My chest was tight as I fended off worried tears brimming my eyes. Niall scared me, more than anything ever had - or probably ever will.
Suddenly, my bag was ripped from its position on my shoulder. I almost let out a sigh of relief as his I felt his fingers retreat from my welted skin. But the relief was short-lived, seeing him dig his hand through my bag. There was nothing I could do. I rubbed my arm, my fingers moving across the small, but definite fingernail indentations left behind.
I watched on as he continued to dig through my bag, then found what he was searching for. I gasped as he let my bag and the rest of its contents drop to the floor, revealing my literacy project in his hands - a four page essay on the history and play-writes of William Shakespeare. I’d written it out in pen across lined paper, and it still needed to be typed up. A four page essay that I’d failed to keep hidden from Niall. The project was due tomorrow. I should have known he’d use this as an incentive.
“Don’t,” I said weakly, scooping up the contents of my bag and trying not to let my gaze fall to my marked arm. “Please, I’m sorry.”
“You should’ve thought about that before you opened your mouth,” he snapped, kicking my notebook out of my hands and clear across the hall.
Everyone had left the school, since it was five o’clock. Niall and I had to stay after, since I’d been assigned his tutor for the past several months. No one, not even the teachers were around to see interactions like this between Niall and I. He was an excellent actor, Niall. He could get anyone to believe him. Unfortunately, he’d made a point of making me seem like the one being short-tempered with him. I can assure you, this was not the case.
“Niall, I was just suggesting that-”
My words were cut off by the deafening sound of paper tearing. My jaw dropped as I saw four pieces of paper torn into eight. Then sixteen, then even more. I cried out as he let the papers flutter to the floor, scattering them with his feet.
“Oh my God!” I whispered, scrambling to keep track of all the pieces. I’d spent hours on it, several days worth of work and research. And Niall had made short work of it, diminishing it in seconds.
“Next time you tell me I’m wrong, or call me stupid,” he spat, resting his foot on the last piece I’d failed to collect. “It’ll be much worse than this.”
With that, he turned on his heel and stalked down the empty hallway. As soon as he’d cleared the corner, I sank to the ground. I was worn out and needed a break. No one was there to see me, anyway.
I took several shaky breaths, trying to calm myself. My essay laid on the floor beside me, but I made no attempt to gather it up anymore. My forearm tingled with pain where Niall’s nails had dug into my skin, and I turned it over, not surprised to find a small amount of blood coming from one of the indents.
It was always like this. Niall would flare up at the smallest things, taking his anger out on me. I’d gotten used to it, but I know I shouldn’t have. I should’ve told a teacher or counsellor or someone, but who would believe that the angelic boy could inflict such damage on an unimportant tutor girl? I was the girl who got good grades and did what she was told. I didn’t speak out, not on purpose, anyway. But somehow, I always got in Niall’s way. There was always something that he’d find to blame his insults and attacks on.
Another shaky breath left me, bringing a tear with it. Why was Niall so horrible to me? What had I ever done to him? I didn’t understand, and it was so frustrating to be hurt for something I didn’t have any knowledge of doing. Every day it was a different kind of tear; sadness, worry, anxiety, frustration, fear, anger. What had I done wrong?
When I was sure it’d been enough time for Niall to exit the school grounds, I finally picked myself up from the ground. I slung my bag over my shoulder, then stooped to pick up my shredded essay. I took a look at one piece and decided I’d never figure out the puzzle to piece this back together. The words were smudged, and the pieces were impossibly torn at jagged angles. I’d just have to rewrite the whole thing.
Letting out yet another shaky and frustrated breath, I picked up each piece and dumped them into the wastebasket. I walked out of the building then, head ducked low in hopes of avoiding any glances, as if anyone would care about me.
Niall was good at one thing - making me feel and seem worthless. I had no friends, only the acquaintances in classes I barely talked in at all. Every day I woke up, I thought about how I’d get put down today - a simple, “You’re nothing,” or a more up-front approach, “You’re not good enough to live.” These comments tortured me. I knew I wasn’t worthless or stupid, but I sure as hell felt it. Niall had flipped my happy life upside-down from the moment he walked in.
I made my way across the lot as quickly as possible, then sped home in my car. Mum and Dad were both gone on separate business trips, so I quietly let myself in the house. At every turn, at least one of his many insults floated into my brain.
I didn’t put my shoes away - always making trouble for everyone else. I didn’t do the dishes when I saw the pile near the sink - worthless. I stumbled up the steps a bit - clumsy and incompetent.
Along with the emotional pain, though, I always had some sort of physical injury going on. Today happened to be the bleeding nail marks on my arm. Last week it was a shove into the wall. The week before then it was a hard pinch to the side. And so much more, even before that.
I felt like my life was out of control. I couldn’t confide in my parents, they’d never answer. I couldn’t fix it myself - I’d already tried that today, and that didn’t work. I tried to avoid the continuous pain throughout the school year, but I obviously couldn’t control pain brought on by others. But I could control the pain I brought upon myself.
I stumbled into the bathroom and threw on the sink. Without thinking about it, I dug under the counter and pulled out a box of shaving razors. I ripped the top off of one and hit it against the floor, cracking the plastic holding the blades. Ripping off my shirt, I watched in the mirror as I traced a line below the line of my bra, right next to all the others. My breath hitched as the cut grew to three inches long, a line of blood escaping the cut and trailing down my torso.
A sigh of relief escaped me as I felt the sweet, sweet pain fill me. This was something I could control. I couldn’t control Niall, or anyone else set on hating me. I couldn’t control what he did to me, how he treated me. But I could control how I treat myself. And that - that was so relieving.
I dropped the bloody razor into the wastebasket and kicked my shirt across the floor as I opened the sink to find a washcloth. I held it under the warm water of the sink, then pressed it to my wound. I bit my lip as the warmth stung my body, and I looked down to see the cloth already tinged pink with blood. Then Niall’s nail marks caught my eye. I’d have to cover those up, or else Niall would do worse to me for letting them show.
But what did I care? He’d already done so much to me.