Picture Perfect

As far as everyone who knew her was concerned, Mindy was perfect. She had the looks, the figure, the intelligence and the popularity. But Mindy knew that sometimes, outward appearances could be deceptive. She knew this far better than all her friends realised.

Mindy was tall and blonde, striking to look at, and her piercing blue eyes were enough to win any heart. She knew that a lot of her friends only hung around her in order to be seen. Sometimes this bothered her, but at other times, she felt relieved to have the security of never having to be alone. She had dated many different guys, although none of them had lasted for long. They all thought that she was a tease but this wasn't true- she was nervous of relationships, and not ready to be in a real one.

Everything seemed fine in Mindy's life, good enough to make a lot of other girls in the school jealous. In three weeks, Heather was moving, and Mindy had been offered her position as captain of the cheerleading squad. She had accepted it, but was considering turning it down after all. She was good at it, and it helped to take her mind of less pleasant things, but she didn't want any more people to be jealous of her, and she didn't want to be away from home any more than she had to. She didn't know what might happen when she wasn't there. A lot of the time, she actually dreaded going back there, but she knew she had to- she was the only one holding everything together.

If people had any idea what was going on in Mindy's home life, they would never have believed it. The charismatic, jovial girl was really someone else. Inside, Mindy was broken. Broken from years of abuse at home, from the fear of what her father was going to do next. Both of her parents were alcoholics. Her father would spend days on end away, and come back drunk, and then he would beat her mother, or sometimes Mindy herself. And then, when he got bored and left again, that was when Mindy's mother would turn to drink as well.

Mindy cried a lot, which she hated to do. It made her smooth skin go puffy, her pale face turn blotchy. Once, she had cut herself. Just a couple of times on the inside of her wrist. Sandra, her best friend had seen it, and asked what had happened. Mindy had had to lie, and hated herself for doing if afterwards. Instead, Mindy would binge eat and then throw up. Or some days, she wouldn't eat at all. She knew that she had a problem, but it was easier to hide than cutting, and it kept her looking good, though she didn't feel good.

Mindy headed home from school, and into her home, bracing herself for what was to come. She knew that her father was there, because she heard the shouting and smashing as she walked up the pathway to the door. She slowly opened it, and went inside, trying not to be heard. But she was.

"Mindy, honey!" Her drunken father slurred. "What are you doing sneaking off without giving your dear old dad a hug?"

"I need to go to my room, dad..." Mindy began, trying to slip past him. But he grabbed her, smothering her in his embrace, and breathing the foul stench of booze in her face. She wriggled away.

"Stop trying to get away from me." Mindy's father said.

"I'm not..." Mindy began, but it was too late. He had turned already, and now his well-meant overfriendliness turned into anger. He held onto the back of Mindy's neck, and she knew it would do more damage to her if she tried to pull away. So she bore the brunt of it, even as his fist connected with her face, and she was thrown to the floor.

Looking in the mirror a few minutes later, feeling dizzy, Mindy wondered how she was ever going to hide the huge purple-black ring around her eye. She had put makeup on it already, but she had not managed to hide it very well. In fact, it was obvious that there was something under it which she was trying to disguise. Mindy didn't care anymore. Her outward appearance was not something she was bothered with. Sure, she would go to school tomorrow. But she wouldn't try to hide anything anymore.

"It would be so good," Mindy murmured to herself "if people didn't always want me to live up to their expectations." She knew that if everyone wasn't always expecting her to be perfect, then she wouldn't feel she had to be. She wouldn't be too scared to talk to Sandra about her problems, or maybe even a counsellor. As it was, there was no way she could ever confide in anyone. No way at all.

Mindy picked up a small blade from a box in her bedroom. She looked down at her wrist. She wanted so much to do it, just to cut and feel the pain. The time she had done it before, it had helped so much. Why shouldn't she conflict a little pain on herself? There was nothing so wrong about it- was there? She hummed over the question for a while, and then before she could stop herself, she pushed down on her wrist, and as the skin spilt, and the blood flowed out, she smiled. She felt much, much better.

As Mindy lay in bed that night, she wondered how people would react to her the next day. She drew people to her with her character, but a lot of the time, they just wanted to try and gain their own popularity from her. That was going to stop. Nobody was going to use her for their own means anymore, especially not her father. She was going to forget about the front, and just be herself.

Even if that person was someone she didn't want to be.