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I was sitting in the commons before school, frantically trying to finish my French homework.
“Tsk, tsk, tsk. Someone didn’t do her homework!” April said, sitting down next to me.
“You know what? Shut it.” I ordered, pointing my pen at her. She laughed, and mimed zipping her mouth shut.
“Hey Aria? Could I talk to you?” Chase Michaels said. He was one of the most popular guys in the grade, in my opinion the hottest, and normally didn’t lower himself to talking to me at school. He was also the guy I was in love with, and I was ‘the other girl’ to his girlfriend, Laura. Although Laura didn’t know it.
“Um, sure.” I said, getting up and following him. I glanced back over my shoulder, and saw all my friends gaping after me. I shrugged.
I followed Chase out of the commons and onto the back stairs, which were empty. He stopped at the landing.
“Let me see them.” he said. I looked at him in surprise. He got freaked out when I told him about them last; he wanted to see them?
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes.” He replied firmly. I looked at him for a moment, and then sighed. I grabbed the cuff of my left sleeve and rolled it up, baring my left forearm to him, exposing a myriad of pale scars and four red, inflamed cuts.
He stared at it for a moment, then gently took my arm in his hands. I could feel his hands shaking, although he was trying to hide it. He trailed his index finger across the worst one, and I inhaled sharply. Spikes of pain radiated out from that simple touch, and if you added that to the electricity I always felt when he touched me, it was almost unbearable. My arm jerked involuntarily.
“Sorry.” He said, releasing my arm. I pulled my sleeve back down, and held my forearm self-consciously. My freezing fingers were soothing to the hot pain.
“It’s okay. You didn’t mean to….” I said, tucking my bangs behind my ear, then pulling them out again, then repeating the process.
“Why are you holding it?” he asked.
“My fingers are freezing,” I explained to him. I touched my fingertips to his cheek, and he shrank back unconsciously.
“Wow. That’s really cold.” He said.
“I know. I’m always that cold. I have like no body heat at all. But now it helps. My arm hurts really badly, and the cold feels good…. Kind of numbs it.” I said, tugging at my cuff and looking at the floor.
He reached out, hesitantly, and grabbed my left hand, wrapping his long fingers around my cold ones. His touch sparked electricity in my freezing nerves, and my hand slowly warmed up. Still holding onto my fingers, he pushed my sleeve back down, re-exposing the cuts. He brought my scarred arm up, and gently kissed each of my new cuts. Somehow, it didn’t hurt at all.
“Please Aria. You’ve got to quit. I’m begging you.” He said to me, pulling my sleeve back down. No one was coming up or down the stairs, and, miraculously, we remained uninterrupted. We both kept our voices down anyway.
I looked away as tears sprung to my eyes. “I’m trying. I really am. I just felt so useless last night. No, not useless… more of worthless…. I couldn’t stop myself. I’m just too weak…. There’s something wrong with me.” I just stayed firmly faced away as the tears rolled down my cheeks.
“You can’t be like this!” Chase said, grabbing my chin and making me look at him. “It’s stupid! There is and has never been anything wrong with you! You are perfect! Who cares what other people think! You are and you can’t say otherwise! I won’t allow it.”
I wanted so badly to argue. I wanted to deny everything he’d just said. But his words resounded in my head. You are perfect. And with that, the floodgates opened and tears poured out of my eyes. He wrapped his arms around me and just held me as I cried. I wrapped my arms around him, careful of my arm, and cried into his chest. He held me tightly until the tears finally stopped. The bell for class rang, and I guess no one uses the back stairs first thing in the morning, because no one walked past us. At all.
The late bell rang, and I let go of him. He released me, but put his hands on either side of my face. “You are strong.” He told me, finality in his voice. I opened my mouth to argue, but he cut me off. “No arguing. You are.”
“Perfect people don’t have scars.” I said, before he could cut me off again.
“Their scars are what make them perfect,” he countered. Then he pressed his lips to my forehead and said “Go to the bathroom and wash your face. I don’t want to see you crying anymore.”
“I was going to anyway. Everyone would give me crap if they saw I’d been crying again.” I said to him, adjusting my sleeve so the seam wouldn’t be over the cuts. He gave me an exasperated look.
“It doesn’t matter what other people think. You shouldn’t care what they think.” He said, walking back into the commons with me.
“I know, I know.” I said, turning to the bathroom.
“See you later,” he said, walking toward his first hour class.
“Text me after school?” I asked before he was gone.
“Sure.” He said, walking to the front stairs. I went into the bathroom and washed the tearstains off my face, carefully wiping away any smudged make up. Once my nose and ears weren’t red anymore, I walked out, heading to the French room.
“Sorry, Madame Dublois. I was talking to someone who needed some help in math.” I told the teacher, walking in and sitting in my seat.
“Well, don’t let it happen again.” She said.
“I won’t.” I responded.
“Aria!” Jea whispered, poking me.
“Yeah?” I whispered back, half turning in my seat.
“What did Chase Michaels want from you?!” She demanded. I smiled to myself, and turned back around.
“Nothing. Help with math, just like everyone else. Jeez, I’d almost swear I’m the only kid in the whole grade who understands rational equations,” I whispered over my shoulder. There was a pause, then Jea poked me again.
“Hey Aria? What are rational equations?”