December 2, 2007
By Candice Oxford, Glendale, AZ

Candice woke up one morning just as she always did. 6:30 a.m. alarm, crawled out of bed, ate, showered, got dressed. The typical routine she practiced everyday of her life. This morning was going exactly as the one before had, simple and laid back. As she took a good look at herself in the mirror, scrutinizing every flaw, she saw something that she often avoided. She saw the morbid scar of one of the most painful nights of her life, and every time she looked at it, she got a deep nauseous feeling in her stomach. Placed directly on her left eyelid, the scar took her back to that summer night. She closed her eyes and ran her finger over it. As she did she could remember all the sounds, the smells, and the intense look of terror on everyone’s face the second they looked at her.

It was late May, and she had family in town to visit. It was not a big event, just a few family members over at her house for a Bar-Be-Que. Her family consisted of three immediate members, four grandparents, and her mother’s brother, and his wife and kids. Her mother’s brother was blessed with two sets of twins, one set of boys and a younger set of girls. The children were very young, and were not trained to swim so they were under high surveillance due to the fact that the Oxford residence did not have a fence around the pool. Candice was surrounded by people who cared about her, including her boyfriend of a year and a half. Tall and well-mannered, yet very shy, the boyfriend sat and watched the chaotic family interact.

Outside, it just sat there. It simply observed. It spent most of its life completely ignored, except for once a month when the workers came to trim it. Monstrous and unruly, held down by its mangled roots, and straightened out by a thick, black wire connected to the ground. Every once in a while, something would get stuck in it, or someone would stand under it for a bit of shade. Its leaves touched the family room window and occasionally cast a strange shadow, but other than that no one really ever noticed it. So it just sat there. And observed.

The children approached the boyfriend, who was completely unaccustomed to interacting with young children. Jumping around excitedly and carrying a large purple ball, they grabbed both of his hands and dragged him out to the backyard. He glanced back at Candice with an innocent look saying “help”. She laughed to herself and followed them out there. The backyard smelled like chicken wings and the grass was still damp from the sprinklers going off a few minutes prior. Candice watched her boyfriend play with the young children in adoration. She felt a sense of satisfaction in watching them with the mesmerizing Arizona sunset in the background. Nothing at that moment could have made her happier.

Within seconds, the simple game of catch turned into tag. Everyone was spastically running around, laughing hysterically. Candice stopped to catch her breath, and as she did she observed the scene. At that moment her smile turned to shock. Her cousin was running forward at full speed while looking back at her. He wasn’t watching where he was going, but she could see. She knew exactly where he was headed, and it was not good. He was about six steps from plummeting into the deep end of the pool. Nine feet of cold, dark water. Candice lurched forward, she could hear her heart beat through her ears, as if it was going to beat right out of her chest. At the very second of thrusting forward, her face was caught by the beast’s accomplice.

The tree was startled, never before had it dealt with such abrupt terror. The thick, black wire had residue of blood and the flesh off her face. Everyone was crowding around, yelling, staring at the poor girl laying on the ground. All the voices began to blur together:

Are you ok?

Can you hear me?

What happened?

The wire could feel everyone’s glare, as if it could have prevented this; and though it was in shame, it didn’t falter. It didn’t even droop in pity. It still stood there, straight and thick. It had won this tiny accidental battle.

Candice’s boyfriend rushed over in a fury. He picked up her head and gave her the most comfort possible in such a chaotic time. Once she regained her mindset, she began a series of questions of her own:

Is my face still here?

Why can’t I see?
Without even answering, her boyfriend carried her into the bathroom. Once the family saw her distorted face in the light, they were in complete uproar. Everyone was rushing at her with towels to dry up the blood and ice to keep the swelling down. She couldn’t open her left eye, she couldn’t breathe out of her right nostril, and had to pull her lips apart from being stuck together with blood and severed skin. She faced away from the mirror, in absolute horror of what she would see.

After a day of rest, Monday meant school. School meant 1800 kids seeing her face. 1800 kids seeing her face meant a day of pure torture. High school kids could be so relentless. Most of the reactions were the same; shocked looks, people asking what happened and pretending to be sincerely sorry for the condition of her face. Those reactions weren’t so bad. She could get used to things like that. The reactions that got to her however were the random people pointing and laughing in the hallway, assuming she got in a fight, and apparently lost. The reactions that made her one usable eye tear up were the ones she got walking into the assembly where the entire school could see her cuts and bruises, and they just stared. Not even being able to muster up words to speak to such a thing. High school kids can be so relentless.

After weeks of Neosporin and plenty of water, her face finally healed. All that was left was the tiny scar on her left eyelid, and a slight nostril deformation. But that she could get over. Her cousin was alive, and fine. That was all that mattered to her. Scars replace a death of a loved one any day. Who’s to say if she hadn’t ran into the wire she still would have caught him in time? Maybe if she hadn’t ran into that wire, he wouldn’t have stopped and he would have gone into that deep end. She couldn’t help but appreciate the scar, almost love the scar for everything it stood for.

Candice came out of her trance. She took out the pink bag containing make up and continued with her morning routine as usual. However instead of being bored with the simplicity of the morning, she hurried, and smiled while she got ready. She was ready fifteen minutes before it was time to leave, and spent the remainder of her time on the phone with her cousin. He was too young right now to understand, but one day he would thank her. She wouldn’t wait for that day however, it was already more than worth it to her.

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