By Alice Christina Stamataki
I was perfect.
Everyone said so.
I was such a pretty girl. The one your parents liked and one your teachers smiled at. So smart, so polite, always smiling and happy. Such a nice girl. The one in your school, town or college. The one with all the friends, sat regally at the front (or back) of the room – the trendiest spot for the trendiest people. We sat wherever we liked and passed judgment on the guilty and the innocent - all the screaming masses of our school. We ruled together, and I was one of them.
I was her.
One of the very prettiest, sat calmly smoothing her curls or consulting her phone, gabbling the gossip they all loved to hear. Not the leader – why inhabit the throne when you can be one of the pack? Safe. Serene in the knowledge that I was liked and loved, one of the best, the very best of the school. The crème de la crème of Maple High, the very best it had to offer. These stick-thin blonde girls, those happy smiling brunettes. The ones with all the friends and the designer clothes, the perfect boyfriend and the party invites.
I was her.
I saw myself reflected under the harsh overhead lights and felt my stomach clench. Dark circles dragging down my eyes. Blotches and spots only makeup could erase. The harsh glint in pale eyes. A smile that stretched painfully over my face like the frozen grin of a corpse.
I plunged my head in the basin once again, trying to rid myself of emotion.
At last, I thought. At last everyone can see what I have become.
Turning away from the monster in the looking-glass, I felt myself grow dizzy. Almost slipping and falling, I had to clutch the basin to steady myself.
Strange. I haven't even used the knife yet.
Perhaps it was the mere thought that caused my body to react, going through the motions, the symptoms that had become oh so familiar to me. Perhaps it was trying to dissuade me; to give me a taste of the pain in sight, the oblivion - but if it was, it was going the wrong way about it.
I want the pain.
I need the pain, the sweetness of it, the oblivion - for a while. The cure to all my self-loathing, the cure to all my hate. The oblivion, before you wake up retching and shivering on the floor in a pool of blood, the knife just in front of you, the cuts on your body you don't even remember…
All you people, you readers of my Last Will and Testament – you probably don't know what I'm talking about, do you? You're probably wondering how I knew so much about cutting, aren't you? You never expected it from me, did you? Did you!? Hah! Not from perfect Abigail Richards, not her, not me. Well, guess what. I had a friend who did it. Yes, that's right – a friend. A real, actual friend. Not just a comparison for shopping achievements or a competitor in the compendium of high school greatness – someone who I'd give my life for.
Someone who I'd damaged beyond repair.
I felt the desire to cut grow, molten, in my stomach.
In the beginning, I had been so sorry for Lou. She had always excluded an aura of darkness and danger around her, but me, being the foolish innocent I was back then, never thought it was anything more than that. All for show, just a façade - like the knife she showed me in her bedroom drawer. A prop. Lou was a bad girl and a liar, the kind of girl adults the world over associated with teen pregnancy rates and youth crime. She was a slut and a liar, a whore and a ruthless, ceaseless connoisseur of life. She was also my very-best friend.
I knew what attracted me to her in the first place. The perfect, beautiful Abigail Richards was looking for trouble – not too much, naturally, but enough to break the monotony of my popular and pleasant life.
She excited me, showed me another side of life I never knew existed. An urban jungle where drugs were the currency and pain a form of pleasure.
I never thought I'd become like her.
I had school tomorrow. Back to keeping up the act, trying to act funny, trying to act interesting. Trying to act like I wasn't trying. Trying to keep up the good marks my parents were used to. Trying to struggle through homework, friendship and car lifts. All the contributors to my misery, trappings to a pointless, meaningless life.
I can't go on like this. This double life, it's wearing me out.
I have to keep on trying.
I stared at the knife in front of me.
Stop cutting? I'd rather die.
I laughed at my cleverness. What a clever turn of words, what irony!
"Stop cutting? I'd rather die." The words repeated themselves. They were soothing to me, like a half-forgotten lullaby. I should put it as my name on MSN. That would be amusing. Cynical, too.
Of course, no-one would think I'd said it. They wouldn't.
I am perfect.
No-one guesses. Nor should they.
I'll just have to keep on hiding it.
Besides, my parents would kill me.
Coming back from my thought-world, I picked up the knife. It was nothing special, I knew. I'd filched it from the kitchen when my parents weren't at home; when my mom noticed it missing I acted all confused and said I didn't know where it'd gone. She believed me. They always did.
I'm a good actress.
The silver pressed lightly across the surface of my left forearm, then ran down to the wrist, blood oozing, trickling.
The pain was my drug.
I shuddered before closing my eyes in bliss. Petrified the spell would break, I made another one. And another. I loved seeing the crimson liquid spilling down my arm – in an instant, all my flaws shrank to insignificance. For a moment, I was truly perfect.
Blood on the floor, now, dripping on the white tiles.
Damn it, I'll have to wipe them.
I hate cleaning.
Blood in the basin, oozing down the plughole. I watched it disappear and laughed ironically; so apt, so metaphorical, as beautiful and as perfect as me.
Will I disappear into a drain too someday?
I lifted up my bright, preppy shirt and sliced into the soft skin of my stomach. Even while my hands shook and my mind whirled with the bright, sharp glory of it all, I forced myself to hold the fabric away carefully; if it got stained, my mom would want to know why. Not that I couldn't get away with it, but that would mean more fabrications, and I honestly didn't know if I could be bothered any more.
Blood trickled down onto my miniskirt, crimson threads seeping into the soppy pink.
Screw it. I thought. I'll sort it out later.
I ached to make another cut, this time on my neck, but I stopped. Too noticeable.
So I made one on my thigh, instead.
Suddenly, I felt the familiar light-headed, tingly feeling rush all the way through my body to my head; clumsily I tried to turn around and slipped on the pool of blood. Falling to the floor, I cracked my chin hard on the bloodstained tiles and bit my tongue on the way down; the metallic taste of blood was suddenly in my mouth, the pain sharp and stinging.
I spat out a mouthful of blood; I haven't become a vampire yet.
I would have laughed if I could. Instead, I watched the crimson swirl majestically across the floor and drifted into a half-sleep that was almost as good as death.
A car pulled up in the drive. Lights flicked on downstairs; through the walls of my oblivion, I could hear the familiar clickety-clack of heels in the stoop and the booming voice on the stairs.
Oh. They're back.
Suddenly electrified with fright, I jerked out of my bloody stupor, panicking - they had come home too early, far too early, tooearlytooearlytooearly-
Snatching my knife, I sprinted to my room and shoved it under the bed. Then I dashed back to the bathroom and frantically wiped the floor clean, re-filling the basin and emptying it.
My arms had stopped bleeding, thankfully. My t-shirt was soaked and so was my skirt, but I could deal with that.
Hearing the voices grow closer, I dashed back into my room and snapped the light switch down. In the darkness, I stripped off my sodden clothes before throwing them into the darkest corner of my wardrobe. Naked, I slipped into bed and threw the cover over me. I lay, panting and shuddering.
My door opened softly. A tentative whisper -
I lay mute.
The door closed. My mother walked away.
Underneath the covers, I stuffed my hand into my mouth as I tried to stifle sobs; sobs of relief, because I hadn't been detected, and sobs of despair, again because I hadn't.
Oh, come on Abby. You can't even make up your mind to what you want.
The voice was stinging, sarcastic. Lou's voice. In my mind I saw her in her black sleeveless jacket over her gray slashed dress, with her characteristic smirk and scars on her arms.
Scars she'd made.
You can have the blood; or you can have sanity. And with it, reality. Her voice was harsh; harsher than it had ever been when we were friends. But of course. We weren't friends anymore; I was the enemy now. I'd abandoned her. I'd betrayed her.
Choose. She told me. Choose.
I choose both.
I heard her laugh. Oh, but you can't have both, my backstabbing friend. You can't have both. Sooner or later, you'll be found out.
No I won't!
You think you can keep on hiding?
Yes. I answered defiantly. I can.
I waited, but there was no answer.
The silence was heavy, very heavy.
Lou... I said silently. I'm sorry. I really am. Please come back.
I didn't mean for things to end up like that. I didn't mean for you to be sent away. I'm really sorry, Lou. Please, can you forgive me?
I began crying again. Please, Lou, please forgive me. Then, I thought of something that might win back her affection. You see, I'm like you now. I've become you.
Still nothing, just the whisper, the echo of a thought-
You'll be found out.
Drying my eyes, I curled up into a ball underneath the covers. By morning, my cuts would have stopped bleeding. I'd be able to go to school as normal; hell, I could even go to cheerleading practice.
Cheerleading practice. That assembly of talent, that showcase of flesh. Only suitable for the skinny, the beautiful, the fearless.
Why did I want to be a cheerleader anyway?
The status it brought me really isn't that much of a boost as people seem to think. At the end of the day, it's still your beauty and your wit that bring you friends.
Curling up to sleep, I hugged my pillow tighter. I would go to practice tomorrow. Habit was perhaps the most convincing motive. I would go and be the shining Abigail Richards, talented and beautiful and showing off just like the rest of them.
I just wouldn't be able to wear the short-sleeved uniform, that's all.