This is a work of fiction, that does deal with certain depression issues. All people included in this story are figments of my imagination.
Any mistakes are my fault, my editor did the best she could with what she had.
My scars are starting to fade; I feel lost without them. It has been 9 months, 3 days, and 14 hours since the last time I cut myself. If I am good, they will let me out of here and I can go on living my life that they never cared about anyway; that is, until the neighbor walked in on me changing shirts at one of their famous backyard parties. Then my life became their problem all of a sudden. ‘Great, thanks a lot Betty’; you know I never did care for you much. You were always too nosy for my taste. All I wanted was a shower, and you decided my parents should “fix” me. I had just turned 18, so legally I am literally not ‘their problem any more’; that is how they phrased it, but I guess the Monday moms had a different idea. So here I am staring at the same four white walls every day for the last 9 months, 3 day,s and 14 hours. They say that on Wednesday, I could possibly go home if there are no “incidents.” I was excited at the possibility of breaking free of this place, but the only people who have made me feel like I belong anywhere are stuck here for longer. Jade is my best friend, the only real friend I have ever had up until now; sad huh? She is cute in that ‘girl next door gone bad’ kind of way. She was exiled here for an eating disorder. Her parents found her after dinner passed out in the bathroom. They let it go when she claimed food poisoning until they started to see the pattern. Every time she ate she would go to the bathroom shortly after and then she would be in there for about 20 minutes. But that’s her story, and I will let her tell it. The next couple of days went by in a blur the possibility of going home clouded my mind with what-ifs. What if they decide to be the parents they never were and apologize for all the wrong doings? What if they toss me out on the way home and I have no where to go and no money? What if I am “cured” ;What do I do to feel normal the? What if I’m not and they find out, will they put me away for good? Out of sight, out of mind, that’s moms motto for life. All of this was going through my head and they expected me to make it out without a scratch. What will slow the thoughts; how will I catch my breath? Jade says my whole problem is that I over think things, over analyze my day-to-day life to the point where I cant see the big picture because I’m looking too hard at the details.
Wednesday is finally here and my parents put on a great show for the doctors. They only want what is best for me, blah blah blah. I stood up straight, made sure my hair was spiked just right, wore a short sleeve shirt for the first time in 3 years, and put on my happiest face. I didn’t know what was in store for me on the outside, but I had to get out of here. Three hours of non-stop talking and the doctor was satisfied I was “cured” and sent me home with a list of medications I knew I would never take. I am a strong willed person and if I can make it 9 months then I can overcome this. I wont let this be my crutch any longer. On the way home we got ice cream. The last time I was in the car with them I was 8 and I wanted ice cream, so they obviously assumed I still did. We rode in silence, ate in silence, none of us knowing what to say. It wasn’t until we got home that they dropped the bomb.
“We feel it would be in your best interest for you to go stay with your grandfather down south. You know give you a change of scenery and a fresh star,t where no one knows all of your…umm…issues.” Dad just stood there letting her cast me out. I knew it was definitely not so I could start over. It was so that her book club or members at her women’s meetings wouldn’t recognize that her daughter wasn’t perfect.
“Out of sight, out of mind, right mom? Isn’t that the way we do things around here? Make sure you tell your friends that I’m all better now, and I am going down south to work on my tan. Whatever, when do we leave?” I waived off her every attempt to interrupt me and never waited for an answer. I walked to my room and discovered that all of my stuff was gone already; only one suitcase with a few clothes in it remained in the bare room.
“Your mother thought it might be best to send your things ahead and have them set up for you. She really is doing what she feels is best for you, you know. I love you to pieces kiddo but I don’t think we have done right by you to allow this to slip past us to let it get to the point it has gotten to… Maybe spending some time with your grandfather will be good for you. You have always been his favorite, and you used to love the beach.” He tried as best he could to justify their actions but it wasn’t enough for either of us. He pulled me in his arms and held me as I cried. I knew I wouldn’t be coming back. Dad informed me the car was outside, gassed up and ready to go, and mom was waiting down stairs to say goodbye.
I made good time on the trip down so I stopped overnight and treated myself to a nice hotel since their guilt money was enough to keep me going for a little while. I woke in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. I paced the room and looked for anything to keep me occupied. The tv was useless, and there I was staring at four walls of empty space again. I went to the bathroom to wash my face and before I knew it the water in the sink was pink and turning red. I quickly grabbed a towel to wrap my arm, and cursed myself for not making it one day on my own. Jade would be so disappointed in me, and I made a mental note to mail her the five dollars she bet me that I wouldn’t last a week. While I was skeptical on their treatment, Jade was convinced it was all bullshit and that no one would ever get better by being locked away. I was still hopeful.
The next day I pulled up in grandfather’s driveway to be greeted with open arms. He had always been an affectionate man and liked to show you he cared about you genuinely. After I got settled we decided to take a walk on the beach.
“Aren’t you hot in long sleeves in the middle of August, Jamie?” Here we go, I would have thought they would have at least mentioned to him where I had been or why I was there.
“No sir, I am okay.” Let’s see how far that gets me for now. I did not really want to have to say something to the effect of, ‘Of course I’m hot! It’s the middle of August and it’s 100 degrees out here, but unfortunately I have spent the last 3 years butchering my arms and sides. Not to mention I don’t really want to get salt water in the newest of my solid collection, courtesy of last night.’
“You shouldn’t lie to an old man. I know you have things you would rather keep hidden but I once read, ‘Scars show us where we have been, they do not dictate where we are going.” He looked at me and smiled as my eyes filled with unshed tears.
“Or if that wasn’t convincing try this one. ‘Some people see scars, and it is wounding, they remember. To me, they are proof of the fact there is healing.’ “I just want you to be happy, and if wearing that long sleeve shirt in 100 degree weather makes you happy, maybe I should try it too. I could stand to sweat off a couple pounds, but I just don’t want you feeling like you need to hide behind it.” With his arm around me, the rest of our walk was silent. He informed me when we got back to the house that I was to get a job and start saving money. He said that I wouldn’t be able to live forever on what they sent with me, and they wouldn’t be sending more. He said I was welcome to stay as long as I wanted, but as soon as I had stable work, he would help set me up with my own place. He is the only person besides Jade that ever asked me what I wanted. I didn’t have an answer for either of them, but it was nice to have an option.
The first couple of weeks were the hardest. It was rough looking for a job and feeling like everyone that saw you saw through the façade you were putting up. Luckily, my grandfather was a well respected man with many connections . He put in a good word for me at a couple of law firms he ha done business with, and got me a job answering the phones. It was not a glamorous job, but it was decent pay for someone who didn’t know what they wanted to do with the rest of their life. It gave me stability, a place to be, and a time to be there; structure and a schedule. Grandfather also made sure he had a room set up just for my art supplies. He says that it was” just in case I get inspired” . I have sat down at my drawing table many nights and all I come up with are the few doodles I send to Jade.
I have made it six months in the south and there have only been a handful of ‘incidents,’ but I am starting to favor my sides and the tops of my legs so I can appear to be doing “better” and can start wearing short sleeves to work. The first couple of times I got a lot of funny looks, but as they get used to them and the sun browns my skin to fade the scars into the background, then I can have a chance at a normal life without questions or pity looks. Grandfather has taken me apartment hunting and I think I have found a place that I like. It’s next to the park, and they are always having a fair or a farmer’s market of some sort. On the way back from our hunt, we walked through the park and I saw a man sitting at an easel with his sketch pad and people were lined up handing him money. I moved closer to satisfy my curiosity and see him doing character figures of the people in line. Not thinking much else of it, we headed home for the day. After signing the lease I moved what little stuff I had; it had been a long week. The first month or so flew by with the routine of work and getting settled in and organized.
After I finally felt satisfied with the way the apartment looked, I decided to take my sketch book out to the park. It was a Thursday afternoon and not many people were out. I assume they all had families to tend to after a long day of work. It amazed me that I wasn’t lonely, plus I still had my weekly letters from Jade who got home around a month ago. Overall, I was pretty content with life, work, home and dinner with grandfather on Sundays. He said it was to keep an old man company, but I knew he just wanted to keep an eye on me. So I sat there content with my doodling, and the idle chatter of the neighborhood kids on the playground. Breaking me out of my daze, out of nowhere, a ball rolled up to my foot. I looked around to see a boy no one is playing with looking in my direction.
“Is this yours?” I asked the shy kid and he just nodded. So, I decided to show off a few moves I remembered from my peewee soccer days. As I am bouncing the ball off my knee and kicking it up for a head butt I see his eyes widen and he is running towards me.
“Wow! That was cool! Can you show me how to do that?” He starts screaming question after question on his way over to me.
“Sure kiddo what’s your name?” I asked him, smiling for the first time since I can remember.
“James, how did you do that? Can you show me?” His energy was never ending. I looked around to see if there was a parent or someone looking for him whom he needed to let know what he was doing and I didn’t see anyone. Since I had nothing pressing to do I decided it couldn’t hurt to show him a few tricks. We kicked the ball around until the edge of dark, when I heard a woman’s voice frantically calling his name. We both stopped to look, and then there she was; the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. She was about an inch taller than me, reddish hair, and very well put together. I admire beauty in everyone; I have never been one for labels. But my thoughts were cut short by the panic in her voice.
“I have told you a hundred times to stay in the house until I get home. You scared me to death, someone could have taken you and I would have never known where to even start looking.” She sobbed as she held him close in her arms. I watched amazed at the display of affection. What it must mean to have someone care that much about you, or to care that much about someone else. “Mom, mom, look what I can do. Jamie taught me how. Loo!.” He was oblivious to her concerns and went about kicking the ball as I had showed him.
She looked at him with adoration on her face and tears in her eyes. He was proud of himself for picking up so quickly on the moves I showed him. But as she looked up at me with confusion, I felt I had over-stayed my welcome. “Thanks, we are new to the area and he hasn’t had any luck making friends yet.” She said as she put her hand on my arm as I tried to walk away.
“It’s no problem at all. Actually, I come out here to sketch most every afternoon after work. If you want, I could keep an eye on him while he’s playing.” I said as I released a breath I didn’t realize I was holding. Her eyes brightened, and then a flash of sad again.
“I can’t afford to pay you…” I cut her off as soon as I realized why her eyes were so sad and knew that if I could do anything to make that sadness go away I would walk on burning glass to make it happen.
“I never asked you to pay me, and besides I am still kinda new around here too and he seems like a good kid. We could keep each other company out here.” I spit out my defense, trying my best not to come across like a pedophile and scare either one of them. My intentions were to purely to take some of the stress off of her shoulders, and the worry out of her eyes.
“Why don’t you come have dinner with us tonight? I brought home pizza, and we can talk about this some more,” she said through her smile, as James jumped up and down screaming please.
I needed to get home to think about my day. This wasn’t part of my routine and I was unsure of being in a situation where I may have to talk about myself. She looked so beautiful and as if she had it all together; what would she think if she knew about my past, my present? I reluctantly accepted even though my head was screaming for me to run.
For the first time since I can remember I sat at the table listening to the idle chatter of a child and holding a conversation over dinner. Even at Sunday dinners with grandfather we would eat in silence and talk on our afternoon walk. I started listening to her story of how they ended up here and where they had been. I learned her name, Megan. James’s father was James Sr., and he was killed in a car accident 2 years ago; she didn’t talk about that much, because it seemed to upset her son. After the accident, they lost the house and had to move into this apartment to be able to survive on Megan’s salary. James was adjusting. It was just taking him longer to meet friends poor kid has the same trust issues I do. We talked for over an hour but then came the dreaded part where she realized she had been talking the whole time and asked me about myself. I would much rather her continue talking, not only because I don’t want to talk about me, but because I could listen to her talk forever. There is a sense of peace in her voice that gets me out of my head and she becomes all I can focus on. The hardest part is knowing I don’t want to lie to her, but not knowing how much I can tell her before she looks at me like everyone else has. So I give her the partial story.
“Not much to tell, my real mom died when I was a toddler; I don’t remember much about her. My dad works too hard to support me and my stepmother, and after I graduated I moved down here with my grandfather, got a job and met James in the park today. Now you know all the important stuff.”
“Wow, I have literally never heard anyone sum up their whole life in one breath.” She grinned at me like she knew I was hiding something, but if she only knew what that grin did to me. I need to get out of here and I need to get some distance between us. I tell James I will meet him at the park around 5, and thanked Megan for her hospitality then said goodnight. When I reached my apartment there seemed to be a sense of emptiness that wasn’t present before.
My sleep was restless and I couldn’t help but blame it on the fact that I changed my routine without planning. I paced, I cleaned, I watched tv; I read some of a book Jade had sent me, but nothing I did shook that feeling. I finally decided if I could make myself go to sleep then the thoughts would stop and my mind would clear. My side was sore when I rolled over, and it was hard to get comfortable, but finally I drifted off.
I met James in the park every afternoon for a couple months. He was getting pretty good with the soccer ball. When it would rain we would go to his apartment and play video games until Megan would get home. Sometime,s if she called and was going to be late I would fix dinner. It wasn’t my routine but I was getting used to it. Then it all fell apart.
“I am thinking of taking James to the beach on Sunday. Would you like to join us?” Her eyes were full of hope and James was standing in the background begging so it was a hard combination to say no to.
“I have dinner with grandfather on Sunday,s but I can give him call and tell him to set a couple of extra plates. If it’s okay with you, then we can go down to the beach afterwards.” I don’t know why my mouth spoke before my brain could process the invitation. The truth was that they were all I could think about, and I had managed to fall in love with this woman and her child. Let’s just add that to the list of problems.
Sunday came quicker than I would have liked. Grandfather was great with James, running down the beach and playing in the water. He seemed happier than I had seen him lately. Maybe it wasn’t just me; maybe these two were sent to cheer up all the sad people of the world. The downside of grandfather spending so much time with James was that it left me all alone with Megan.
“What is with you and being so covered up at the beach?” She commented on my t-shirt and long shorts as oppose to her bikini that she was wearing as if it was tailored for her.
“I am not much of a bathing suit person.” That was the first lie I have ever told her if you exclude lies by omission.
“Okay I can respect that, even though I don’t understand why, you appear to be in great shape. At least from what I can see that you don’t keep covered up all the time.” Was it my imagination or was she looking me up and down as if she was actually checking me out? My heart was trying its best to jump out of my chest and into her arms for safe keeping, because I don’t know how much longer I can keep it safe. Luckily, James felt the need to include me in his fun. He came running towards me smashing against my unsteady body, causing us to fall onto the sand in a pile of laughter, taking Megan down with us. As we attempted to find our footing again, my shirt tale rode up…and, there was the look I hated so much. But instead of looking away and running, she took the tip of her finger and pulled my shirt up higher. It was then that grandfather asked James to take a walk and look for shark teeth with him. As they walked away I could see the questions flash across her face and I began to pray for the first time in years. But to my surprise she didn’t say a word she released my shirt and traced the longest scar with the pad of that finger. It felt like electricity had been shot thru my body. My stomach tightened and I couldn’t remember how to breath. I wanted to run, to get away from her as fast as possible, just to make it all stop. All I wanted at that moment was to make everything go back to the way it was before we came to the beach. She never said a word about it; she just kept tracing every scar with the tip of that perfect finger. When she decided she had satisfied her curiosity, she simply pulled my shirt back down and walked away.
The drive home was silent. I took that as a bad sign. What was going through her head? What could she think of me now? Was she still going to let me see James? She got out of the car and got James inside without saying a word.
“Can we talk about this, please?” I didn’t know what I was going to say, but I couldn’t leave without her letting me know what was going on in her head.
“I don’t feel there is anything to talk about. I saw why you have been lying to me about all the clothes, and why you don’t want to swim, which you say you don’t know how to do yet there are younger photos of you all over your grandfathers home with you in the ocean. Actually, which secret was it that you didn’t trust me enough to tell me about or is there more that you are lying about. If I knew about this, it would blow the façade you had going.” She was upset. People don’t normally get this upset over me. You have to care about someone to make this big a deal about what they do. I had no answers to her questions, I couldn’t begin to express to her how sorry I was that I had let her down.
I went home and did the only thing I knew to do to try to make everything go away; to feel something other than my heart shattering at the thought of her wanting nothing else to do with me.
As I awoke the next morning my phone buzzed to alert me of a text.
James is sick. He will not being going to school today and will not be able to play afterward. But when you get off, I would like very much to talk to you. Please come by.
I spent my day in a haze trying to figure out what she could possibly want to talk to me about. Could it be possible that she would be the one person who wouldn’t send me away?