Pretty Little Thing
By Elizabeth Board
Pretty Little Thing's weight was always within five pounds of one hundred. Either five pounds more or five pounds less, never more than five, never less than five. She was tiny, possibly anorexic but she would never admit to it. She had almost straight black hair which was quite long, maybe too long for her age, and the fiercest grey eyes. Pretty Little Thing was about five foot five with bright red lips and was always wearing last night's eyeliner. Sometimes it was smeared from her tears and other times it was close to perfect. Nothing was ever actually perfect about Pretty Little Thing. Pretty Little Thing would never be perfect.
Pretty Little Thing had grown up alone taking on what she read in books as her latest morals. Her daddy she had never known and her mommy was an emotionally distant physically absent junkie – too strung out to care. There was never much love in her house, only the love found in the bottom of a bottle or the soft prick of a needle. Pretty Little Thing often came home to an empty house. Pretty Little Thing often didn't feel very pretty.
Pretty Little Thing cried a lot at first and then eventually gave up on tears because they accomplished nothing at all. She found that cutting off all of her long black hair worked better. She was left with a ratty black mess of ends hacked off in different directions. It was quite a tangled web and her mommy didn't even notice. She kept what she had cut off in a small box on the top shelf of her book case. Once or twice she took it down to look at the tangle of strands. Pretty Little Thing was on a mission to not be pretty.
Pretty Little Thing's next step downward involving taking a razorblade and cutting apart her arms and wrists and thighs, anything to ruin her pretty white skin. She turned it into a perfect shiny surface of scars. Some were violet and bumpy from where she had cut too deep but the rest were smooth white lines. Like her they were thin and pale. Sometimes she bled a lot, sometimes not at all. The tugging of the blade was comforting to her and then the release came when it finally made the actual cut and there was a deep burning feeling as a bubble of blood came to the surface. Pretty Little Thing's body became a canvas of scars and cuts in various stages of healing.
Pretty Little Thing came home one night to the stench of death and loneliness stronger than she had ever felt. On the couch her mother was sprawled, syringe still hanging from inside her bruised and battered vein. Pretty Little Thing felt nothing inside. She studied her mother's works and emptied the last of the off white powder into the cooker. She followed the pattern she had seen her mother repeat time and time again. Dissolving the dope in the water, cooking it, absorbing the excess with a cotton swab and then loading the needle, which see had carefully removed from her mother's arm. She wrapped a tourniquet 'round her arm and aimed for the slithering blue veins that lay right below her skin, right there. The first two times she missed but the third was the charm and she saw the plume of blood rise into the needle. Pretty Little Thing slammed the plunger down; her veins were full of warmth. Pretty Little Thing had finally found the opiate cure to her pain.
When Pretty Little Thing's mommy died she stopped eating. It wasn't a very big change she hadn't been eating much anyway. She ordered Chinese take out and put all the right proportions on a dinner plate. She would sit for the right amount of time and then excuse herself from the table and would throw away her dinner putting the rest of the takeout in a Tupper-Wear container with no intent of ever actually eating it. The next night she would get out the left-overs, heat them and then sit and watch the food turn cold. After time passed she'd throw this meal away also. Her weight dropped to ninety pounds. That's not within five pounds of one hundred. She didn't mind. Pretty Little Thing liked being able to see her ribs.
Pretty Little Thing would hang out with the boys in the basement of someone's home after school. She'd watch them roll a joint and would take the shotguns offered to her. She liked the way it burnt down her throat and smoldered in her lungs. Sometimes the boys would pull her closer and press there sweet smoky tongues hard into her mouth. Sometimes they weren't completely interested in just the pot. The boys wanted more from Pretty Little Thing. Pretty Little Thing just wanted to fill the hollow.
Pretty Little Thing wrote down how she felt, but no one cared. She wore the black and blue contusion from her one time fling with heroin right on her arm, but no one noticed. That is until her grades started to drop then people began to notice that something was off. She wrote down on a piece of paper that she wanted it all too just stop; they sent her to the school shrink for that. That woman, who smelled heavily of cheap perfume, found out that she didn't have a mommy anymore. Pretty Little Thing said only that she hated school and at this point school was life and thus she hated life. She ended the chat by giving the woman with too much perfume a simple apathetic grin and went back to English class, but under her desk she dug a pen deep into her fleshy little wrist. Pretty Little Thing thrived on the pain.
Pretty Little Thing was put into foster care with a woman who smiled too much. They called her a "bleeding heart". Bleeding heart, Pretty Little Thing liked the image that conjured up, though the actual bleeding heart agitated her immensely. But there was a boy staying there that she liked. He turned eighteen and was lucky to leave. He asked her if she wanted to come with him. She said of course she did. Pretty Little Thing was looking for a hero to save her from herself.
Pretty Little Thing and Her Hero had dinner at a diner just off the highway. Her Hero ordered Pretty Little Thing a milkshake because she had never had one before not even when she was young. So they shared the strawberry sweetness through one straw and when the waitress with her brassy highlights and heavy thighs had her back turned Her Hero slipped some whiskey from his flask into the smooth whipped drink and Pretty Little Thing appreciated the warmth it added. They both saved the cherry for last and Her Hero offered it up to her at the bottom the glass fermenting in a mix of milk and alcohol. Pretty Little Thing scooped the maraschino out of the bottom of the glass and pulled it tentatively off the stem licking whipped cream and whisky from her fingers. Her Hero bent his head and kissed a smear of ice cream from her small pale cheek. Pretty Little Thing quivered at his touch. Pretty Little Thing wasn't used to being loved.
Pretty Little Thing was wary of Her Hero seeing her scars. But when he did he just kissed her and showed her some of his own. It was like a common bond. He could understand her without words. Her Hero replaced the blade and only he could make the pain go away. Only he made her happy. Her Hero put the barrel of a shotgun to his lips and blew himself away. Pretty Little Thing was all alone again.
Pretty Little Thing wondered if everyone always went away. She spent the night in the motel room with Her Hero's body sprawled on the bathroom floor. She hoped that no one had heard the gun shot. If they had, no one came to help and that would prove once and for all that she was really meant to be alone. Pretty Little Thing fell asleep listening to the flies buzz over Her Hero's body.
Pretty Little Thing didn't really like the cop that picked her up. She didn't know how much time had passed but the cops eventually were knocking at the door. She guessed that Her Hero smelled now, but she couldn't tell. The lady cop was far too strong and easily picked her up off the carpet of the motel room. The parts of the carpet that her blood had dried too still stayed on the healing edges of her wounds. Without Her Hero, Pretty Little Thing went back to the razorblade for solace. They put her in a special hospital where they could watch her every move. They didn't want youth to kill it's self so soon. Though they knew it eventually would. She had stopped crying all together. A shrink with the power to prescribe happy pills told her that it wasn't healthy not to cry. Pretty Little Thing couldn't care less what he had to say. Pretty Little Thing found some of the things he asked of her quite peculiar.
Pretty Little Thing longed to cut her arms into sections, like ribbons of flesh. She convinced the real shrink to give her a pair of scissors. He would only give them to her if she let him watch. This made her kind of uncomfortable but she wanted the ribbons of flesh. So she agreed. Watching wasn't the only thing the real shrink wanted to do and as he wrapped his arms around her waist and his lips descended on her neck Pretty Little Thing freaked. Pretty Little Thing decided to make ribbons of flesh out of his face.
Pretty Little Thing was told to claim self defense. Pretty Little Thing thought she deserved to rot in jail. When they saw the scars they put her on suicide watch until the trial. Her Hero had gotten her pregnant and her obsession with staying thin grew with her belly. The jury was sympathetic to a pregnant teenager. They saw her as a defenseless, disturbed, little girl. Pretty Little Thing wanted them to see that she was more than that, they wouldn't see.
Pretty Little thing had a son. She named him Osbourne after Ozzy. The women at the teen pregnancy center just called him Oz for short. He was a tiny thing, born premature and malnourished. Pretty Little Thing couldn't take care of a child so she gave him up and let the women at the pregnancy center keep Osbourne. She found out in a letter that he had died. The last trace of Her Hero was gone. But it was probably for the best. Pretty Little Thing wouldn't have made a very good mother anyway.
Pretty Little Thing was sent with a woman who was too strict. They kept her on a short leash and away from sharp objects. After all, they knew she could get violent. The strict woman wouldn't let Pretty Little Thing talk to boys. She sent her away, to a boarding school that was all girls. Pretty Little Thing felt rather alone. Pretty Little Thing needed boys to make her feel pretty.
Pretty Little Thing met a girl who drove a red Mustang. The car was an old model and the girl was an ex model. The girl was blonde and gorgeous and tall and the opposite of Pretty Little Thing. The girl called Pretty Little Thing, pretty. It had been awhile since anyone had seen her scars as pretty. Pretty Little Thing felt herself falling in love.
Pretty Little Thing ran away with the girl in the red Mustang. Boarding school wasn't the place for young lovers. The red Mustang broke down and Pretty Little Thing and the girl went strolling for tips to fix the car. Old men were happy to help. Pretty Little Thing didn't think that the red Mustang was completely worth hiking up her skirt in back alleys for horny old men but the girl persuaded her. Pretty Little Thing didn't like picking up their tips out of puddles of gasoline.
Pretty Little Thing and the girl in the red Mustang went to visit the girl's parents. They served them up heaping breakfasts of eggs and pancakes and dripping bacon. Pretty Little Thing had trouble recognizing the meal as food. The girl's parents called her Dahlin' Little Thing and poured more syrup on her pancakes. Pretty Little Thing didn't understand why they drove away again in the red Mustang.
Pretty Little Thing spent her nights along the road sleeping in the red Mustang. Her body curled up in the girl's arms and her head resting on the girl's shoulder. She loved the girl but she missed Her Hero. She wondered what happened to him when he died. She asked the girl who smiled and drew in a breath of her cigarette. She asked Pretty Little Thing why it mattered Her Hero wasn't coming back, that's what dead meant. Pretty Little Thing didn't say anything and just took out a Marlboro and the girl offered her a light. The girl traced the constellations from the sky on Pretty Little Thing's ribs. Pretty Little Thing was still thinking about Her Hero.
Pretty Little Thing wanted to see Her Hero's grave. The girl said it was useless. She said that people didn't bury the dead for the dead; they buried them to make themselves feel better. Pretty Little Thing didn't reply to that, she just asked the girl to drive. So the girl drove and Pretty Little Thing sat in the passenger's seat completely silent. Her Hero was buried in a generic grave plot paid for by the state. It lay a little way from a country church with white paint peeling off of its rotting wood. A little iron fence surrounded the plots. It was half buried in dried mud, a rusty mass of black iron that was as painfully weak as wire. The girl said she would wait in the car. Pretty Little Thing stood over the grave of Her Hero. She didn't have any flowers, just some weeds she had collected along the way. She left them for Her Hero. Pretty Little Thing spent the night by his grave.
Pretty Little Thing woke up with dust in her lungs. The girl was gone. She knew it before she opened her eyes. The girl had left her a note scratched on a paper wrapper, a pack of cigarettes and a box of matches, not a lighter, Pretty Little Thing wasn't worth a lighter. Pretty Little Thing lit a cigarette and as she smoked she burnt the note. Pretty Little Thing didn't need to read it; she could guess what it said.
Pretty Little Thing walked along the side of the road flicking ashes into the wind. At a rest stop up ahead she bought a pocket knife. The older man at the counter gave her a long drawn out worried look, but he took her money any way and when she asked pointed her in the direction of the bathroom. It was late and the bathroom was hollow and empty. No one was there in the dirty peeling stalls to care about Pretty Little Thing. Pretty Little Thing didn't care about herself. Pretty Little Thing finally slit her pretty white wrists.
Pretty Little Thing's body was found the next morning when a mother and her young son stopped to use the bathroom on their way to Disney World. The police carted away her waxy little corpse before anyone else had that image of wasted youth burned into their retinas. The older man from the counter watched as they bagged the pocket knife he had sold her just a few short hours ago. Pretty Little Thing lay in the morgue a small tag hanging off her toe. The tag was unnecessary. No one needed to identify her because no one in the whole plane of the earth would notice she was gone. Pretty Little Thing was buried by the state. Pretty Little Thing rotted slowly.