"Words are my life. Not just spoken, not just heard, but scarred on my skin."

Liana's been suffering from a skin condition ever since she turned thirteen. It wasn't diagnosed by doctors; no one around her even knows it exists. Words spoken aloud to her define her, each one scratched out on her skin for her to see. In Liana's world, she's scarred into being weak. In Liana's world, no words can ever be forgotten.


4. Chapter 3


It wasn't long before my mum and I were hunched into the tea room at the top end of the high street, sipping from teacups and staring out the window into the vast world. Or at least that's what I was doing.

Face after face passed by my vision, only familiar for a split second before disappearing into the world of the unknown. I took a sip of tea.

"You okay?" Mum asked and I looked up at her quizzically, "you've been staring out there for at least fifteen minutes now."

I shrugged. "I like people-watching, that's all."

She left it at that, but what I didn't tell her was that I was just gathering information, wondering what features I didn't have that made me less significant than anyone else. If I had blonde hair instead of a murky brown would I be classed as prettier? If I had ocean blue eyes instead of dampened green ones would I seem friendlier? 

"Another tea?" Mum suggested, but I shook my head. She smiled, almost sympathetically at me, before waving down a waiter and asking for the bill.

A few minutes later we were shuffling down the pavement, the sky turning grey like my insides as we started on our way down the hill. I'd always loved the tea room, it being at the peak of the hill with views far over the town, but it was always a nuisance to get to. It was only on special occasions my mum took me there. I wondered what the special occasion was this time.

We just reached the park when Mum put her arm around me. "Today's been good."

I nodded. Maybe there was no special occasion; maybe all she wanted was for us to spend time together, to real talk. In that moment I felt kind of bad for spending the hour in the tea room staring out the window and the small shopping trip before denying any clothes she suggested. I longed to be the daughter that she wanted but I never felt like I was. If she knew about my scars she'd be ashamed of me. Unlike others, I couldn't be healed.

On the bus drive on the way home I didn't stare out the window and I didn't listen to the humming of voices. I shut it out. Sometimes my mind just fell in on itself. Then, I didn't feel anything at all. My eyes slipped in and out of focus and I let my body rock effortlessly with the jolts of the ride. Nothing in that moment mattered. It's like I wasn't even alive. 

When I got home I went upstairs without a word. I slipped under the covers and pushed up my sleeves, wrapping my arms around my coarse skin and wishing it all away. It wasn't often I had episodes like this, but when they did occur my own shards of glass fell endlessly, ripping at my insides until they were broken.

I remember when I was little, running about the garden in only my underwear. I was as free as I could ever be - not that I knew it. I didn't have insecurities; I didn't have scars, and my body was just something thrown into the world with nothing held back. 

There was this one day that always stood out to me. Joe and I were in the garden on a summer's day, sitting cross-legged in the grass that mum had let grown too long. Our hands were tightly clasped behind our back, a pencil held between each of our teeth. We took it in turns to lean forward and try to write on the other's forehead - I guess it was just one of our silly games - but the pencils kept falling out and all we had left were scars of attempt.

I remember giving up, about to go pick some daisies instead, but Joe grabbed my hand as I was reaching for one and pulled me back round to him. He took his pencil from his mouth and with his hand, drew something on my forehead.

"What is it?" I asked, but he'd stolen the daisy I was aiming for and ran off with it.

I immediately jumped up and ran after him, chasing him round and round the garden until we both fell onto our backs, laughter evaporating into the air. I forgot about what he drew on my forehead. I forgot until later that day. I then leant over the sink on my tip toes before bedtime and I could just about see it: a smiley face.

Then, it meant nothing - I just rubbed it off - but what I didn't do was thank him for making everything better. I was the most annoying little sister, but despite that he was always there to liven up my moods. He always looked out for my happiness. Sometimes I wonder why I didn't look out for his.

Mum knocked on my door an hour later and I'd managed to crawl up into a seating position. I told her to come in, but not before pulling down my sleeves.

"Dinner's ready."

I slid out from under the covers and followed her downstairs. For a moment I thought maybe Joe had come home - the waft of spaghetti bolognese through the hallway signalled his favourite dish - but of course he wasn't there. 

It didn't feel right eating it without him. You become so accustomed to rituals that when they're broken, you can't help feeling out of place. I covered the dish in cheese and begun picking at my plate.

"Not hungry?" Mum asked, and I realised that she'd forgotten. I wondered how some people could be so oblivious, but then I reasoned that perhaps I was just too observant.

I told her it was delicious and forced a smile, managing to feed myself most of the plate. Then, I slunk off back to my bedroom. The rest of the evening I wondered what Joe was doing, and if the hole between us would ever be sowed back together.

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