It took me several minutes to clean up the blood that had dropped to the tiled floor. Since my parents were gone, I could take as much time as I needed - and in this case, I’d needed a lot.
The first half hour was to gather myself and pick up the shattered razor frame, tossing it in the wastebasket on top of the used blade. The next hour was used to shower, letting the sting back into my body and yet again feeling some type of relief. The remainder of the evening was spent in just a sports bra, letting the new cut air out while I attempted to recreate my essay on my computer.
I had a hard time putting thoughts together, though. The nail marks on the underside of my arm still caught my eye. For a moment, I thought about covering them up with foundation or something, but I decided just to let them be there. A reminder of Niall’s insults.
I worked late into the night, my sagging eyelids beckoning me into sleep. I refused to fall, though. I needed to get the essay done - again. What had taken me days to create had to be compacted into a few hours. It was not my best work - in fact, if I were in any other state of mind, I would’ve been embarrassed. But my limited time pushed me on, and I had to comply.
It was about four in the morning when I finally fell asleep, printed essay sitting on my bedside table.
“Samm,” Mr. Robertson stopped me as I was walking out of the classroom.
“Yes?” I asked quietly, stepping aside to allow the rest of the students to pass behind me.
Mr. Robertson’s gaze followed the last student out the door, obviously waiting for privacy. When the door closed, he shifted in his chair so that his shoulders were square to mine.
“Your essay,” he said, and my chest automatically tightened. I was tired through all of writing it, but that was still no excuse for the poor workmanship I’d turned in. “Seemed to have a few mistakes and misinformation, Ms. Carter.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said quietly, watching his fingers drum against the surface of his desk. “I know it’s not my best work. Please forgive me, there was a complication with-”
“-What complication?” he questioned.
I flinched. I hadn’t meant to say complication. The word had just slipped my lips. If I even tried to tell anyone about Niall, they’d either laugh in my face or join in with him. I feared that Mr. Robertson would be the same.
“I-I had to-” I stuttered, searching for a cover as my anxiety grew more and more. Thankfully, I didn’t have to concoct a lie before he spoke again.
“Samm,” he said, taking off his glasses and rubbing his concerned eyes. “I’m just going to say that if you ever turn in something like that again, your tutoring privileges will be revoked.”
My stomach dropped. Though I had to tutor Niall, tutoring got me credits to use in future years, along with being able to put it down on a college application. Basically, if I didn’t have tutoring on my application, I had nothing. And Mr. Robertson had the ability to take away my tutoring privileges - he’d been the one to assign them to me. And the worst thing was that he knew this work was not quality. He knew it’d been thrown together.
“I understand completely,” I said quickly, staring down at the ground. I probably shouldn’t have, but I gave him another excuse. “I was pressed for time.”
“Hmm,” he said, setting his glasses back on the brim of his nose and tapping his chin with a pencil. “I expected better from you. You’re my top student, Ms. Carter. And you had two weeks to complete this assignment.”
I bit the inside of my cheek. “I know. I’m sorry.”
Mr. Robertson sighed. “Don’t let it happen again,” he said, waving me off. “You can’t be a tutor without sufficient grades.”
I nodded. Without another word, I hustled out the door. By now, the hall was clearing for lunch. While some students stayed at school to eat, others left for take out and fast food - I just sat in my car.
So that’s where I headed next. I didn’t bother to stop in my locker, just brought my notebook with me as I ducked into the driver’s side and pulled out the lunch I kept in my glove compartment. Ignoring the weird feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when my eyes flitted to Niall’s nail marks - partially hidden by foundation - I took out my sandwich and began to munch away.
People watching was always fun. Though I felt odd watching them, everyone was always doing something interesting in some way. There was a group of girls, all on their phones and chatting up a storm while giggling and heading to their cars. There were a few boys horsing around, a teacher digging in the bed of his truck. My eyes danced around the whole lot while I ate, just watching people while they carried on.
But as soon as my eyes fell to him, I stopped what I was doing.
My sandwich was placed in the bag on the seat beside me, and I shifted so that I was turned away from him. Niall had been just leaving the school, phone pulled out. I hoped he hadn’t seen me - but then again, when had I ever had any luck? I simply shrunk back into the seat praying that today would be the day that he’d ignore my presence.
My heart nearly jumped out of my chest when I heard the abrupt raps on the window.
My head jolted around, knowing who I’d see - the only person who ever bothered to pay me any attention. Niall was glaring down at me, arms crossed in threatening manner. I gulped, then cursed myself for reaching out to roll down the window. I regretted it even before the window was completely rolled down.
His hand, seemingly lightning fast, darted out and grabbed my wrist, wrenching it toward him and making me yelp in surprise. I couldn’t do anything but watch as his expression changed from anger to bit of disbelief. Niall inspected the scabs his nails had left, along with the bruises the rest of his hand had made.
“You need to do a better job of covering up,” he scoffed, shoving my hand back through the window. I gasped as it hit me just below my chest, right where my newest cut had been made. “No one’s going to want to look at you - as if they do already. You’re an attention whore, Samm.”
My lower lip quivered under his malevolent expression, not knowing how to answer. Niall had that affect on me - insulting me into silence. I didn’t know how to respond, or even if I should. Anything to just make him stop. But though I did everything I could think of, he never did.
“You’re pathetic,” he continued on, menacing hands gripping the frame of my car tightly. “You think that just by letting them show, someone’s going to want to do anything about it? They already think as little as possible of you. You have to earn such luxuries as friends, but how can you? You’re not worth it.”
I couldn’t do anything but keep my gaze straight ahead, straight out my windshield. Tears clouded my vision, but I didn’t let a single one fall. I wouldn’t give Niall yet another reason to insult me like this. I’d just wait it out, wait for him to release me from this horrible session of name-calling. It wasn’t until I felt a horrid pressure in my upper arm that I craned my neck toward Niall.
I looked from him to his strong hand grasping my shoulder, a vice-like grip causing me to let out a whimper of pain. He was taking my pain out of my own control again, I hated it. I needed to be in control of me - I needed the feeling of power. But Niall had control, like he always did.
“Please,” I said quietly, cowering away from his touch.
“Cover it up, Samm,” he growled, his voice a low tone. “Or else your paper won’t be the only thing torn to pieces.”
My mouth fell open, but I quickly closed it again. I nodded, squeezing my eyes tightly so no tears escaped. A sigh of relief almost left my lungs as the pain in my shoulder subsided. I took a shaky breath, then opened my eyes to find Niall several feet away, walking back toward the school. With a quiet whimper in the back of my throat, I reached out to roll the window back up, but felt a soreness in my shoulder muscles.
I pushed back my sleeve after I’d let the window close completely and examined where Niall’s hand had been. There was a clear red mark where the pressure had been the most, and it had already started to bruise in some places. I grimaced, rolling my sleeve back down. Now that I had two defined marks on my arm, I’d probably just wear long sleeves to save the trouble of applying foundation.
My chest was still tight from the encounter, my breathing heavy and strained as I opened the glove compartment and pulled out a tube of foundation. While I slathered the thick cream over the scabs on my forearm, I went over what I’d been called this time.
Attention whore. Pathetic. Worthless.
Just some of the usual words. But that didn’t make them any less painful - pain that I couldn’t control.
As soon as I’d finished applying the foundation, I tossed it back into the glove compartment and shrunk back into the seat. My breathing still heavy, I brought my hand up to lightly brush my newest cut, covered with a thin shirt. Slowly I applied pressure, a sharp pain flooding through my midsection and a cold tear running down my cheek. Pain, caused by me. Something that I could control - I felt pulled together again.
Niall could control the pain he placed upon me. But I could play the same game - I could bring my thoughts back together.
But the problem still held - who was winning this game?