Inescapable

"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.

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8. Chapter 7

 

I hated confronting people - it was something I could never force myself to do. Wrapped up in a head of 'what-ifs' and pure fear, putting myself out for a let down just wasn't the way forward. At least I never thought it was.

The first time I confronted someone was before my scars were born. I was around twelve, the time before independence crowded me, and there was nothing more important than going out to the woods with a friend, jumping at noises that later were found out to be dogs, climbing up trees without the thought that we could fall. Everything was an adventure. Nothing was feared. 

Jennifer had been my best friend for as long as I'd remembered. It was the kind of friendship that formed out of nowhere, no pinpoint to when it actually begun. Our parents claimed it was in primary school but it felt like the whole of our lives to us, our bracelets telling the universe of the world we shared, puzzle piece in puzzle piece, forming a whole. 

Of course, we were just two naive children, intent on this life we'd always live together until we realised life held more out there for us. One moment we were skipping along the path, our fingers intertwined, and the next her hand was a weight in mine, dragging me along the gravel she had created for us. But not for me. 

My mum saw it before I did - the way I found myself following Jennifer's lead. She was all I had - Jennifer - and I didn't want to lose her. But when my mother sat me down at the kitchen table one day and told me I deserved more, I knew I had to. Losing her was the only option because I couldn't lose my mother's smile.

So I confronted Jennifer that next day and told her it was over. It's the first childhood memory I remember where I felt as destroyed as I did once I was scarred, fresh pieces of glass, not yet carved with spikes, sliding down my perfect cheeks. And I felt empty, broken.  For the first time, I felt really broken. 

Walking up to Ethan the day after his appearance at my home, this memory came flooding back. I don't know why, but it did. I guess my body was shooting bullets in every direction, wanting his attention and yet telling myself it's too much, because could I really handle another friendship without tearing myself apart?

He was sitting on a bench when I confronted him, his hands shoved into his pockets and his eyes wandering aimlessly about the grounds. He was the one person I knew who didn't need a phone to be entertained, his eyes picking up on everything that surrounded his presence, as if every detail meant something to him. Maybe it did. 

I didn't really know what I was doing at the time - walking up to him like that. I guess I felt like I needed to warn him of me and yet how could I even begin? 

"Liana," was all he said and I changed my mind. I couldn't push the only person away who ever took an interest in my presence. 

"How are you?" he asked, squinting up at me from his seat in the sun. "Take a seat."

I sat down beside him, not because he asked but because I wanted to. He was the only person who understood that sometimes words didn't come so easily to me, so he filled them.

"Yesterday was quite a shock, wasn't it?" he laughs, radiating off the walls that bound this area of the grounds.

"Yeah," I smiled, trying to ignore the way people stared at me. What right did I have to sit with the perfect new boy? I knew what they were thinking. 

Ethan shuffled in his seat so he was facing in my direction. The walls suddenly felt constrictive, my body becoming smaller automatically. Attention was too much for me, but at least I learnt to keep my distance. Having his face less than a metre away caused my doubting to begin, my face wishing to melt into itself so I could dissipate into the sunlit sky. 

I heard him take in a breath. "You know what, you actually look very similar to your mum."

Time stopped - only for a second. I think that must have been the moment when everything clicked because then I laughed - for the first time I really laughed. I had laughed at the shop but this was different; this was a laugh that came from so deep inside that I broke free from my prison and faced towards him. It gave me hope that what I expected - words of hatred - could be turned into something meaningless, and yet so meaningful, all at the same time. 

"I honestly don't know whether to take that as a compliment or not," I found myself saying, words tumbling out of my mouth. 

"I would." He smiled.

"Okay." I smiled.

And I smiled for the rest of that day.

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