A week passed, the same as ever. School, Cheer, it was all the same. The same friends, the same conversations. Just a new day. It was nearing three a.m., and I hadn’t even bothered to close my eyes. Sleep had been deluding me for days. I’d long since given up on chasing it when it so clearly wanted nothing to do with me. Instead I was bent far over my laptop, scrolling the internet because there was nothing else to do. No one to talk to. Astrid was sound asleep and I was utterly alone. My thick hair was falling around my face, persistently getting in my eyes. Every few seconds I had to pause and push it back again.
I was quite certain that everyone around me had noticed a visible change in the way I carried myself. It was blatantly obvious that the luster that had once governed my life was long gone. I was fading into a tragic nothingness, consumed by the lie I’d let overcome my life. I wasn’t doing anything to stop that either.
I guess it’s time to let the truth out, at least here. Because really, I was always dying to tell someone, just so they might understand. But I didn’t. I held it all in no matter what, no matter how much it hurt me. But the truth…well, it revealed itself in the tiny cuts carefully concealed beneath clothing. That was the lie, the secret I held so dearly. What I could never, never tell Astrid. I, Scarlett Vanderson, was a cutter.
And why, you might ask, would someone like me resort to something likethat? Because. Because I needed to maintain control. Composure. I needed to find a way to relieve the pain I felt of faking smiles in order to keep faking smiles. The truth was, half the time I really hated my friends. They were two-faced and phony, liars in the first degree. It was exhausting, pretending to be happy all the time, perfect all the time. To act like I was on top of the world. It was easier to focus on the physical pain of blood spilling from torn skin than focusing on the emotional pain of being a lying fake.
The silence reverberated throughout my pathetic excuse of a bedroom. Upstairs, my parents slept soundly, so blissfully unaware of the torment that kept me awake at night. Down below, I withered away. Crawling into my bed, I pulled the thick, royal purple comforter up to my chin, wrapping it tighter around my thin body. I closed my eyes, willing myself into an unconsciousness. I prayed to whatever cruel God there was that morning would help to erase the pain.
I never bothered to set an alarm clock on weekends. On any given Saturday, my house was so loud it wouldn’t have mattered. By eight my eyes were open, though I was very much in denial about the matter. Stretching out a bit, I rolled over to reach for my phone. I flipped it open to check for messages, just in case. I thought maybe Astrid might have sent me something, but she was probably still passed out, getting her beauty sleep and all. Instead there was a wake-up text from my cousin. Claire and I had been through everything since birth together, even if we were completely different people. I think mostly she didn’t understand why I worshipped Astrid like I did. She didn’t understand why someone like me needed to latch onto someone like that.
I pushed the covers back and forced myself out of bed. The clock read 8:14. That gave me an hour to attempt to throw myself together before I had to leave. Claire and I, for some stupid reason or another, had been bowling together every Saturday for the past two years. It used to be something I looked forward to. Now it was just another place for me to fake happiness. Not that it mattered. Claire could see right through it all. She knew me well enough after fourteen years to tell when I was feeding her lines of bullshit. Which, lately, was more often than not.
This darkness I was feeling scared me, honestly. I was supposed to be happy, shining, perfect. I was supposed to be just like Astrid.
My parents were at the table, eating their omelets, just like every Saturday. Some things just didn’t change. Sometimes I embraced that and others I cursed it. “Hi, honey,” my mom greeted cheerfully. She was dressed to kill for her high-and-mighty salon job in tight black slacks and a gray dress shirt. My dad was at the head of the table, wearing the traditional jeans and Harley tee. Ever the opposites, those two were. It amazed me how they could stand to be around each other.
I gave them all a one-handed wave of sorts before passing straight through into the kitchen. Our kitchen had always been my favorite place in that house. Bleach white cabinets kept spotless by a combination of my mother’s OCD and my efforts, black marble countertops and light hardwood floors, all stainless steel appliances. I went directly to the coffee pot, pouring a cup. It was practically my life support since my insomnia had taken hold.
“You hungry?” My dad asked. I shook my head, not particularly caring if he could see or not. Obviously he had, because a moment later he replied. “You need to eat, Scarlett.”
“I’m not hungry.” I swore we had the same conversation every day. And they just didn’t seem to get it. Whatever. I hardly had the time for parents who only wanted anything to do with me when I was getting straight A’s and earning them bragging rights. They only favored me because I was the star of a scene they couldn’t begin to comprehend.
When my coffee was fixed, I went back into my room and turned Korn on high volume. The walls vibrated as Jonathan Davis shrieked out the painful words of Here to Stay. I could just imagine what my mom was thinking in the next room. Not that I cared. I set my cup down, turned up my hair straightener, and fumbled around in m makeup bag for my eyeliner. We all had our little coping mechanisms, I supposed. The dark makeup I hid behind was the least harmful of mine. I moved my mouth along to the song, not really singing, while I traced the rims of my green eyes. It was something I couldn’t expect anyone to understand. Not my family, not my friends. Especially not Astrid, who still tried so hard to see me as the girl who wore pink Abercrombie every day. Before the secret took over it all.
I thought that maybe it was human nature to lock things up inside. Everyone had secrets; everyone had scars. Everyone had something to hide. In Black Hills, those secrets always seemed so much darker. I set down my eyeliner, my eyes trailing to the pale skin of my left wrist. It was a fleeting glance, though, and then I was looking into the mirror again. The girl reflected there had plenty of secrets, plenty of scars. We both knew she could only hide them for so long.