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In school, or at the mall, or in the line at McDonald’s, I’m always the one to get the double-takes. It’s not because I’ve got commercial beauty, or because of a perfect hour-glass figure, or because I glow when I smile.
All people see when they look at me for the first time is an uneven surface of scar tissue that blankets more than half of the left side of my face.
I’m not known for my work with the school paper, or my solos in the choir. People don’t refer to me by my name unless they’re speaking to me. For just once, I want to be known as “Abby” instead of “The girl with the jacked-up face.”
More often then preferred, I get asked, “What happened to you?”
No, I was not burned in a fire. No, I was not abused as a child. No, I didn’t get in a car accident. I just have to smile weakly and respond, “I was born like this.”
I try and act normal. I just want to be ordinary. I am ordinary, on the inside. I have friends. I have crushes on boys in my English class. I have a favorite color, in my eyes, the ideal flavor of lip gloss is strawberry, and when I’m in the car by myself, I crank the stereo up as far as it can go and sing along at the top of my lungs.
I don’t flaunt my imperfection, I’m not proud of it. Sometimes, I dream of just peeling it away and having a layer of completely normal skin underneath. Without it, I believe I would actually be somewhat… pretty. My hair is a dark brown, and wavy, with natural red tints to it. My eyes are the same color as the ice water by Antarctica; blue, cold. But unfortunately, it’s not going away. Plastic surgery allegedly could do wonders, but I don’t have the money, the courage, or the confidence in it to actually try it. So I do my best, walking around the school with a poised expression welded into my features.
This gives some people the wrong idea. I once heard a girl whisper to her friend, “She acts like her scar is cool. She probably is just vain and wants attention.” Because, obviously, I chose to be like this. Because I wanted people to fear me, thinking I’m some kind of monster. Because, I want everyone to be awkward around me, like I’m contaminated. Because I want a label that is something other than my name.
“Sometimes, I wonder why she has the audacity to try.”
Each word is like a knife to the heart, leaving more open wounds that I fear will turn to scars of their own.
One day, just like any other day, I duck into my Spanish class and slip quietly into my seat, trying to go unnoticed. I press my palm against my left cheek, resting my elbow on my desk, concealing as much as I possibly can with the spread of my fingers.
Right before the bell rings, an unfamiliar boy walks into the room. He speaks briefly with the teacher, who points him to the desk to my left.
Perfect. Here’s a new boy—he’s cute, even—who will only see the scar on my face every day for the remainder of the semester. I never even had a chance.
He cautiously sits in the desk beside me, and then turns to look at me. I don’t look back. By now, I’m used to stares—I’ve built up an immunity in the sense where I don’t feel the urge to return a glance.
“Excuse me?” he whispers.
My blood chills, and carefully, I rotate just slightly in my seat so I can look at him. “Yes?”
“Do you happen to be good with Spanish?” He’s smiling at me, and I notice how his eyes are locked with mine—not for one moment do they flicker to my scar.
“Somewhat.” I attempt a smile.
“Before this class even starts, I warn you that I’m absolutely awful with foreign languages. I might be asking for help multiple times on a daily basis.”
He looks up at me with bright green eyes through his thick lashes.
“Thank you for the notice, I really appreciate it.”
I’m about to turn around when he introduces, “And by the way, I’m Tanner.”
“I’m Abby,” I reply quietly. This is the first time I’ve held a conversation without someone having the nerve to, even for just a second, catch a quick gaze at my scar.
“It’s nice to meet you, Abby.” His smile radiates, touching his eyes. I don’t doubt for one moment that it’s genuine. “And I’m sorry for being so straightforward, but… I think you’re really pretty.”
My breath catches in my throat, and this, I doubt. Still, I feel my stomach warming. “Don’t say that.”
I point at my left cheek.
His eyes flicker to my scar, and then he locks gazes with me a split second later. “Scars don’t make a girl ugly. They just make her special.”