"Not now Darling, I have a dinner-party to attend and the neighbors won't like your twisted brow. Go change your dress—No, not the beige; everyone will stare and point and ask where you got it from. No, no…I say go with the longer dressings. Modesty provides privacy and you know how we like our privacy."

Yet later she still persists: an unseen glare burning through my skin.

"Yes Darling, I think of you every day with every step I take."

Soon I question who is in control—My Darling or I?

"Shh…Don't cry, my dear—Shh, you'll stain all my linen! Yes, I'm sorry for jostling you—I didn't know you would weep. No, I didn't mean to agitate you."

I begin to question every choice I make.

"What? You don't like those stockings? Why not? Are they too tight? But I have nothing else for you to wear today—Ahh! Okay dear—ow ow ow—Okay…You won't wear them anymore, I promise."

I now find myself guilty and anxious around others; I feel the full weight of my friend's concern.

"Yes, I'll be fine; I'm just a bit low. Oh that? No, it's all better now I suppose. Yep, definitely time I move on. I mean, what was I thinking?"

Yet still the lies suffocate me.

"Sorry I can't make it to the pool party—Yep, lots of homework. No, that's alright you guys have fun. I'll sleep over some other time. Dating? No way, I'm much too busy already. It'd only get in the way." —of us…of her.

It is her pale gaze that haunts me. At times I think she has perhaps forgotten our tryst…and for awhile I breathe easily feeling confident that no one will ever find out again. If I'm questioned I can say it was a chance encounter, nothing remarkable…but I will know the truth—and so will she.

So subtle she is, imposing on me with desire and wearing down my defenses.

"No!" I shout, gripping myself in a mad attempt to not further provoke her—"Haven't I done enough?"

"One more time," she'll whisper, drawing me close to the sharply defined edge, "I'll forgive you; I always do. Hey! Listen, I'm the only one who understands you. No—Don't even think of them. Don't lie to me, I know you were! They're nothing—nothing. Do you hear me? What can they do? They'll only hate you for what you've done…what you want to do. They won't understand, they'll never understand—Not like I do."

And for awhile I think she does understand. But then I see my flesh knit itself back together and I feel her reminder, the constant ache; I feel the fevered skin that lines my jagged wound so puckered and warped.

Once I had thought the narrow slits were like her eyes, eyes that saw the truth—saw me—but now they seem more like her acidic lips aching to be kissed.

If only I could soothe her like I would an angsty lover. Yet time and time again she resists: hissing at my ritualized disinfecting and glaring angrily every day with defiance before sullenly retreating behind that pale gaze—and time and time again I return to my Darling:

Mutilation.