She reached for the box, anticipating the high she would feel when the blade was in her hand. Her breath caught in her chest as she lifted the lid and saw the stash of brand new razor blades, ready for her use. She took one out and set the box down on the counter. She rolled her left sleeve down to her elbow to bare her already severely scarred wrist. She slowly pressed the blade to her skin, closing her eyes as she applied more pressure, dragging the blade in a vertical line down her forearm; blood spilling over the sides of the newly formed cut. She opened her eyes momentarily before finding a new spot on her arm to begin the process all over again.
She had often heard that people who cut themselves must be crazy; after all, who would willingly put themselves through that kind of pain and potential death hazard? She had a theory that the world could easily be divided into two categories: the people that did harm to their bodies internally, and the people who did harm to their bodies externally. Of course, these injuries had to exclude accidents like… car accidents, being born to drug addicted parents, and anything else that was unintentional must be excluded from the qualifications of these two categories. She also had a theory that anyone who called a cutter crazy probably never tried it themselves and only needed a finger to point, because anyone who had ever felt the high and the adrenaline rush that came with the small amount of pain, would understand that she was not crazy. The cutting, and the adrenaline, and the high; it was all just so –
“Del…” Delia jumped, jerking the razor to make an almost L-shaped cut on her arm at the sound of her sister crying at the bathroom door. She was sure she had locked it, but still, there stood Ana, crying at the sight of her sister with blood covering her arm and a blade in her hand. “I thought… You said… Oh, my God…” Ana ran down the hall, horrified that this was happening again.
“Ana!” Delia shouted after her, running to the door to see where she was heading. When she saw that Ana had turned into their Joy’s room, she slammed the bathroom door and turned the lock. It wasn’t until then that she realized just how much blood had dripped on the bathroom floor. “s**t…” She whispered as she turned on the sink and grabbed the red towels out of the cupboard. For once, she was thankful that Joy had that strange obsession with cards; all of the towels and furniture were either red or black. She stuck a towel into the sink until it was soaked all the way through, then rung it out the best she could and started scrubbing the floor. She could hear those god-awful heels clacking down the halls already; she only had a few moments to make the scene disappear completely, even if she knew what was coming next.
The clacking came to a halt and the doorknob began to rattle as Joy fumbled with the keys on the other side of the door. Delia had just tossed the soaking towels into the laundry hamper and pulled her sleeve down when the door flung open to reveal an anger-struck Joy. Before she could say anything Joy took hold of her arm and pushed her sleeve back up to her elbow to show the fresh incisions. As her eyes welled up with tears, Joy carefully pulled Delia’s sleeve back down to her wrist and walked away, pulling out her cell phone as she stepped into her bedroom down the hall.
Delia was too angry to cry right now. Ana, her sister and best friend, the one person she had always been able to trust had just turned on her. She stormed out of the bathroom and into her sister’s room, not bothering to knock before slamming the door open. She found Ana lying on her bed, crying hysterically into her pillow. If she had not been so angry, Delia might have wanted to console her and tell her that whatever had her as upset as she was would get better. But, at that moment, she was too pissed off to care that her sister was crying so hard that she was coughing.
“Damn it, Analie!” Delia hissed as she crossed the room to the bed and pulled the covers off of her. “Why did you have to go and do that? I finally got her off of my back and you have to go and do that? It’s not your place to tell anyone my business”
“And it is not your place to speak to your sister like that, Delia Rae.” Joy stood with her arms crossed firmly across her chest. “She is only doing what she thinks is best for you, and so am I.”
Delia stormed past Joy out of the bedroom and started down the hall to the staircase, running as fast as she could.
“Come back here, Delia Rae McAllister!” Joy shouted, following as quickly as she could in her four-inch Jimmy Choo heels. “Where do you think you’re going?” But before she could stop her, Delia was out the front door and gone into the night. She had fifty dollars in her pocket and knew exactly where she was going. If she ran fast enough, she’d make it just in time for the number sixty-three bus that would take her downtown. When she got downtown she’d walk three blocks, then make a left and walk four blocks to Joshua’s house. She ran as fast as her feet would carry her, not looking back and not stopping to catch her breath once. It was five blocks to the bus stop, and the bus was scheduled to leave in less than twenty minutes. She just had to push through the sharp pain she was feeling in her gut and the soreness she was feeling her thighs, once she got where she was going she could rest. When she got where she was going she could finally take a breath.
She could see the bus pulling around the corner just two blocks ahead and suddenly she felt no pains in her stomach or thighs and bolted as fast as she could those final two blocks. She could feel a strength in herself like she hadn’t before and ran so fast she felt she might take flight any moment. She remembered to stop just as the bus pulled up beside the pole signifying that this was indeed the number sixty-three bus stop. She pulled a one out of her pocket and purchased her bus pass, only glancing around the bus for a moment before spotting a seat at the back of the bus. She avoided eye contact with the bus’s other occupants and she made her way to the back of the bus. She pulled her hood over her head and leaned against the window as the bus pulled away from the sidewalk and on it’s journey into the night. Delia knew there were two more stops before they reached the stop she was waiting for, which could take at least thirty minutes, she could rest for at least a good fifteen minutes.
Before she knew it her fifteen minutes were up and the bus’s electric stop announcement system was blaring that they had reached the downtown stop of their route. She snapped out of her nap and quickly got off of the bus, looking around the downtown area, trying to remember which way she was supposed to walk three blocks before turning left. It had been a while, at least six months, since she had been out here, but still she could remember getting off of the bus and walking towards the Martinique Market, which meant she turned to her left and walked straight for three blocks. And she walked. She hadn’t realized how late it was until she found herself alone in the dark streets of downtown Wanton. She had never walked to Joshua’s house without him to walk beside her, and suddenly downtown had a much more sinister feel to it. It was an understatement to say she was scared.
It took a good forty-five minutes of walking cautiously through the downtown streets before Del finally saw the house that she recognized as her dear friend Joshua’s. She felt her heart jump into her throat as she ran across the street, all of her fears far behind her as she walked up the front steps and rang the doorbell. Joshua would help her; he would know just what to say to make everything ok. She tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for Joshua to answer the front door. Was the doorbell broken? Did he even realize that she was on his front porch this very moment? Or, worse yet, had he moved in the sixth months since her last visit? If memory served her correctly, he hid a spare key under the welcome mat. And there it was, she had never memorized the pattern that his key’s teeth made, but she needed him right now and it was worth a try to just unlock the door and walk inside. If anything, she could explain her situation, apologize and leave.
She held the key in her trembling hand as she reached for the doorknob. The key fit perfectly, that was a good sign. The key twisted in the lock in a perfect three hundred and sixty degrees, an even better sign. And then she heard the lock click, signifying that she was free to open the door at any given moment. She took a deep breath before slowly turning the knob in her hand and gently pushing the door open. She leaned her head into the house cautiously. The kitchen light was still on, she thought so someone must be awake. She crept silently through the hallway until she reached the kitchen doorway. She waited, silently trying to convince herself to take that extra step and see him standing there. She closed her eyes, took three deep breaths, and finally stepped forward. There he was, just as she had remembered. Time had left him both untouched and completely changed at the same time. She silently thanked God that he had his back turned and was unable to see the shocked look on her face. She opened her mouth to speak, but could find no words to say. She turned around, hoping to be able to get out of there before he even realized she was there at all but only made it half a step before the only voice she had wanted to hear for six months rang in her ears.
“Del? Is that you?” He sounded shocked, as if he was in the same disbelief that she was. All she had to do was say yes, but she could not bring herself to speak in fear that sobs would come out instead. She hated crying, and she didn’t want him to see the emotional side of her. But, despite her best efforts, the only thing she could bring herself to do was face him, silent tears streaming down her face. “Oh, Del…” Joshua crossed the kitchen and wrapped his arms around her in one swift movement, his own tears flowing freely as he held her tight.
“It’s late, and I should have called, I’m sorry.” Delia sobbed into his chest as he rocked her gently in the kitchen. “I know it’s been so long, and I shouldn’t be here, but I didn’t know where else to go and-”
“Del, it’s ok, really.” Joshua replied as he ran his fingers through her hair. “You could have called first, but that’s ok. I’m glad you’re here.”
They stood there, holding each other in silence for what seemed like an eternity before he finally let her go. She had been so warm in his embrace that Delia had completely forgotten that it was mid-November and his house had no heating. She knew he would ask what was wrong and what she was doing there, but she also knew him well enough to know that he wouldn’t ask her yet. And he knew her well enough to know that she wouldn’t want to talk about it yet. So, he didn’t ask. He simply took her by the hand and led her upstairs to his bedroom.
“You sleep here, I’ll take the couch.” He walked over to his dresser and took out some sweats and an old t-shirt and offered them to her. “You can wear these, they’re warmer than what you’ve got on. I’m gonna go downstairs now, and we’ll talk in the morning.”
“But I don’t want to talk about-”
“We will talk in the morning.” He interrupted in a much firmer tone before kissing her forehead and leaving the room, closing the door behind him. Del knew she would have no problem talking to him about all of her problems, but she also knew that she didn’t want to think about anything at that moment. She just wanted to sleep. And she did.
Delia woke up to the smell of blueberry pancakes, something she hadn’t had in a very long time. Blueberry pancakes reminded her of Joshua and how he would always make them for her whenever she spent the night. She bolted up in her bed when she realized that the only person she had ever known that made blueberry pancakes was Joshua. She looked around the bedroom and relaxed as all of the memories of yesterday came back to her. She slowly got out of bed and made her way to the bathroom to relieve herself before she went downstairs where she knew he would be waiting along with a game of twenty questions.
She took the stairs two at a time, anxious to see him again. When she walked through the kitchen doorway he was sitting at the table reading the newspaper like he had all of the other mornings that she had spent the night before. She had always thought of Joshua as an old soul in a young body. He didn’t look up at her but he knew she was there, she could feel it.
“Help yourself, Del.” He said, breaking the dead silence as he continued to drink his coffee and read his paper. She wouldn’t have to talk about anything until he was done reading her paper, she knew that, so she put three pancakes on her plates and took her time eating. If he finished before she did, he would wait until she was done, and she needed time to think things over. They sat like that in a comfortable silence for a while, he content with his newspaper and she content with her pancakes. If they had not had such a history together, one might compare them to a father-daughter duo.
“Those were delicious, Joshua.” Delia said as she wiped her mouth and carried her dishes to the sink.
“Aren’t the always?” he replied, sounding neither amused nor irritated. He waited until she sat back down before he began the interrogation. “So, why are you here?”
Del was taken aback. She knew he wanted answers, but she hadn’t realized his questions would be so brutal. She attempted to form an answer but drew a blank. He could tell that she was hurt by his question so he tried to think of a better way to ask it.
“I’m happy to see you, Del, I really am, but I need you to talk to me. Tell me what happened.”
“I, um… I…” Again, she drew a blank. So, instead of trying to tell him, she rolled up her sleeve and showed him. “I’m sorry…” she whispered.
His eyes grew wide as he stared at the scars that covered her right forearm. Everywhere, scars. He knew she wasn’t crazy, but seeing her like that, he didn’t know what to think anymore. Six months ago they had broken up for the exact same thing. No matter how much he tried to show her that he wanted to help her, she pushed him away and was always showing up with scars on her wrists. It had been easy to ignore at first, but over time he couldn’t take it anymore, so he broke up with her. And here she stood, fresh cuts on her arm, asking for his help.
“Oh, my God…” He put his elbows on the table and buried his face in his hands, not sure what else to say. He thought long and hard while she stood at the sink crying, not sure what to say to her. “Why? That’s all I want to know, Del, why?”
“I… I can’t…” Delia stared at his floor, feeling his stare on her. She knew she had let him down, but she refused to go back. She had spent three years dealing with that and she swore she would never go back. She had stopped for six months, but like an addict she had a relapse. “I’m sorry…”
“Don’t, ok? Just don’t. You’re clothes should be dry by now, go shower and I’ll take you home.” Joshua didn’t wait for her response before he got up and walked out of the room and out the front door to have a cigarette.
“Damn it.” Delia whispered as she broke down in his kitchen. She felt another urge to find something, anything and just forget about him. But, she cared too much and respected him too much to cut herself in his own house. So, after she had finally calmed herself, she got up off of the kitchen floor and walked down to the basement to retrieve the clothes she had worn the day before, then upstairs to shower. She silently wished that she could wash away everything that had happened in the past year.
The ride to Joy’s house was more silent than anything. Delia and Joshua had always been able to communicate more through silence than with any words in either of their vocabularies. He kept his eyes intently on the rode, and she kept hers intently on the world outside of the car. She had so many things that she wanted to say, whether she needed to or not, but words failed her. She wanted to tell him that she hadn’t meant to hurt him, that she had intended the exact opposite, actually. She wanted so much for him not to hate her right now, but the sight of cop cars in front of Joy’s house kept her from saying anything.
“So, um, I guess I’ll call you later.” Joshua said, still not looking in her direction as he pulled up in front of the house. Delia whispered and ok and got out of the car before she could cry in front of him again. He sped off down the street, not bothering to glance in his rear view mirror to make sure she got into her house. The policemen stopped her and asked to see her ID. Delia pulled out her wallet and showed them that she was indeed Delia Rae McAllister. She could hear them calling into the station as she walked up to the front door and walked in.
"Where were you last night?" Delia heard Joy ask from her spot on the couch as she attempted to make her way to the stairs unnoticed. "It's now 9 AM; your curfew was at 10 last night. Where were you?"
Delia strongly considered just going upstairs and pretending she hadn't heard her, but she had heard her and she definitely heard her get off the couch and walk towards the hallway in those god-awful heels of hers. She took a deep breath as Joy came to a quiet halt behind her.
"You didn't answer me; where were you last night?" Behind her medium-brown eyes Delia could see the worry and the anger, but she didn't care
"I honestly don’t think that that’s any of your business, Joy.”
"Oh, really, Del? Are you also going to tell me that it’s none of my business that you’re cutting again?”
"Why don’t you just leave me alone?!” Delia shouted. “You’re not my aunt and you’re definitely not my mother so just stop pretending that you are!”
Before Joy could form a response, Delia bolted up the stairs and locked herself in her bedroom. She paced her room for the better part of five minutes before she felt herself begin to sob. She hated Joy. She hated Ana. She hated Joshua. She hated her mother. All she wanted to do was cut, just once, and then she’d never touch a razor again. All she needed was one more moment of that ecstasy and she’d be ok. She began to tear her room apart and realized that everything she had ever used to cut was gone, removed from her bedroom. She ran to the bathroom, hoping that no one was in there. When she saw that it was unoccupied she slammed the door shut and immediately opened the medicine cabinet. There it was, the razor box. She lifted the lid, her sobs echoing in the bathroom. When she saw that every last razor was gone, she panicked. She looked out the window and saw a car in the driveway that she didn’t recognize. Joy had called in reinforcements.
“That’s Dr. Wyatt’s car, Del.” Ana whispered from the doorway, knowing exactly what her sister was looking at. “Joy had no choice, Del.”
“No choice?” Delia was furious now. “She had no choice but to call my old shrink? Are you kidding me?”
“Del, we’re just trying to help you.” Ana said, stepping into the bathroom. “I just want you to stop hurting yourself. It’s not your fault that”
“Ana, just shut up. You’re not trying to help me.”
“She may not be, but I am.” Ana and Delia turned around to see Dr. Wyatt standing in the hallway. It had been over a year since Delia and Ana had seen her, and Delia was much less than thrilled to be seeing her now. “Ana, please go downstairs so I can talk with your sister.”
Ana complied immediately, glancing back at her sister before finally going down the staircase. Delia rolled her eyes as she slid down on the floor, her back pressed against the cupboard doors. She crossed her arms on her knees and buried her head as Dr. Wyatt stepped into the bathroom and closed the door, making a seat out of the toilet across from Del.
When Del finally looked up, Dr. Wyatt had taken a manila envelope out of her briefcase and was flipping through the pages. Delia recognized this folder as the file that Dr. Wyatt had made for her eighteen months ago when she first started seeing her. Del had spent many nights wishing that that file would never be in the same room as her again, let alone in the same house as her sister and guardian. That file held all the information that she had wanted to keep permanently under wraps and locked in the filing cabinet in Dr. Wyatt’s office.
Delia sat on the bathroom floor, staring at Dr. Wyatt as she flipped through the packet of notes that spanned from eighteen months ago to just over a year ago. Dr. Wyatt had a certain talent for pretending that there was no one in the room with her when she was going over notes. If Delia hadn’t known any better, she would have thought that she was back in that office, sitting on the couch, doing exactly what she was doing then. Fifteen minutes passed. Then thirty. Then an hour. Delia and Dr. Wyatt had been in that bathroom for an hour, no words were exchanged, not even glances, just the turning of pages.
Finally, Wyatt finished flipping through her notes and closed the folder, putting it carefully back into her briefcase as she crossed her legs and stared intently at Delia. Another fifteen minutes passed, and Del could feel herself getting antsy. She stood up, but didn’t leave her spot against the sink. After another twenty minutes had passed, she discovered a hangnail and began to pick at it. She spent the next forty-five minutes picking at imaginary hangnails on her remaining nine fingers.
“You know, Delia.” Dr. Wyatt said so suddenly that she caught Del off guard. “We have done this many, many times before, and you know that your mother is being charged by the hour so-”
“Wyatt, things have not changed in thirteen months. Joy may have adopted us after my mother passed away, but she is not my mother.” Delia shot back.
“Ok, well, JOY is being charged by the hour and you and I have spent thousands upon thousands of her dollars not speaking. We’ve been here for two hours and twenty minutes. I need you to start talking. Ana says you’ve been cutting again.”
“Ana needs to mind her own business.” She muttered.
“And you need to be nice to your sister.” Wyatt quipped.
Delia crossed her arms tightly across her chest and walked to the bathtub. She momentarily contemplated filling the tub and then drowning herself before she sat down on the edge and began to pick at her nails.
“What does my file say?” she asked, not even so much as glancing up at Dr. Wyatt, who was dumbfounded by Del’s question.
“My file.” Del replied simply. “What does my file say about why I started seeing you in the first place?”
“Delia, you know why you started seeing me.”
“Actually, I don’t.” Delia leaned forward, not willing to give an inch. “My memory is all hazy, so please, tell me why my file says I started seeing you in the first place.”
Dr. Wyatt glared at her, her eyes never leaving Delia’s as she pulled out her file and opened it to the first page of notes.
“May 15th, 2007.
Delia McAllister, sixteen years old, mother died of drug overdose on March 11th, 2007; experiencing symptoms of depression.
Delia spent the first twenty-five minutes of the session pulling at her sleeves and picking at her fingernails. Made no eye contact what so ever.
Upon opening up, Delia expressed feelings of numbness and guilt from the loss of her mother. When asked how she dealt with stress she pulled back her sleeve to reveal alarming scars, presumably from cutting.
‘This is why Joy is making me see you.’
Prescribed Zoloft to help with depression symptoms.”
“What was that quote, Wyatt?” Delia asked, although she made it obvious that she knew exactly what was said. “What were my exact words about going to a shrink?”
“‘This is why Joy is making me see you.’” Dr. Wyatt replied, already able to see where Delia was taking this conversation. “How does that make you feel? Forced? Pressured?”
“How does that make me feel?!” Delia laughed. “Is that a serious question?”
“Yes, Del, I am very serious.” Dr. Wyatt replied. “How does that make you feel?”
“Pissed off, for one.” Delia looked back down to her nails, imagining a new imperfection to pick at. “And forced, and pressured into something I didn’t want to do.”
“You don’t think she was doing what was best for you?”
“NO.” Delia’s head snapped up angrily. “I really, really don’t. What would have been best for me is if she would just leave me alone and let me deal with my stress and my problems my own way. What would be best for me would be for her to stop pretending that she’s my mom when she’s not.”
“So, this is about your mom.” Dr. Wyatt said, more of a statement than a question. “Is she trying to replace your mom?”
“She wasn’t at first.” Del shook her head, remembering back to twenty months ago when her mother died and she and Ana had first moved in with Joy. “The first month we hardly spoke. She left us alone. Then all of a sudden, she says she wants to adopt us. We had just lost our mother, and there she is trying to take that spot, like she didn’t really care that our mother was dead.”
“Well, obviously your mother thought something of her, she put in her will that you were to be sent to live with her in the event that something happened to her.”
“Well, who else was my mom going to send us to? Our father, who we haven’t seen since Ana was three months old?” Del almost laughed at how ridiculous that sounded. Her father. She probably wouldn’t even recognize her father if she ran into him. For all she knew, she had run into him hundreds of times and didn’t even know. “Joy was the only family my mom had to send us to, and she’s not even family.”
“I thought she was your aunt?”
“STEP-aunt. Her mom married our Papa when I was eleven. You know that, Wyatt. We have talked about this over and over and over again hundreds of times and you always tell me the exact same thing: ‘It’s not wrong to let someone else into my life. It’s what Mom would have wanted. Blah blah blah.’”
For the first time since she had arrived at the house, Dr. Wyatt smiled. Delia had not changed a single bit since they met for the last time thirteen months ago.
“I tell you the same thing every time because it’s never going to change.”
“Well, things have changed in the past thirteen months, Wyatt.” Delia was pacing fast enough at this point that Dr. Wyatt could vividly imagine a hole being dug into the floor where she walked.
“Like what? Tell me, Del, what’s changed since I saw you last?”
“You have the file, you tell me.” Del stopped by the sink and returned to the position the doctor had found her in nearly three hours earlier.
“October 18th, 2007
Delia has been off of her Zoloft prescription for six weeks and has not had any recurring depression symptoms.
Her scars have improved drastically, barely visible to the untrained eye. Her grades have improved as well.
She has not mentioned feeling numb or guilty in over two months, this is a very good sign.
Has stated that relationship with Joy has improved, she has stopped ‘trying to be [her] mom.’
Delia has made eye contact more this session than she has in the entire five months she has been to see me, a sign of being less withdrawn from society, much better health.”
“And then you, Joy and Ana moved here and you were unable to continue with our sessions.” Dr. Wyatt closed the file and looked up at Del, who was allowing herself to cry silently on the bathroom floor. “Tell me what’s change, Delia, because I’m missing something.”
“I knew.” She whispered.
“You knew what, Del?” Dr. Wyatt asked, unsure what she was talking about.
“I knew my mom had a drug problem. The cops asked if I knew, you asked, Joy asked, Ana asked. I told everyone no, but I knew…”
“If you knew, why didn’t you say something?”
“What was I supposed to say, Wyatt?” Delia shouted back. “‘Guess what everyone, my mom’s a meth addict’?”
“Did your mom know that you knew?” Dr. Wyatt asked, this time in the least condescending voice she could manage.
“I don’t think so. She probably would have stopped or gotten help or something if she had known that.”
“Then why didn’t you say something to her about it, Del?”
“Why does anyone do anything?” Delia scoffed, glancing at Dr. Wyatt for a moment. “I was scared, and I didn’t want to believe it. She was all Ana and I had, she couldn’t be a druggie. Oh, God, I sound like you.” She moaned, realizing how shrink-like her words had just sounded.
“I think you just loved her.” Dr. Wyatt replied. “And, when you love someone, you only want to see the best in them. You don’t want to believe that they can do anything to hurt you, much less themselves. And it hurt you, didn’t it?” Delia remained silent. “When you’re mother would do meth, I bet it hurt to have to keep a secret like that.”
“I hated her.” Delia sobbed. “She was selling and buying and doing meth and Ana wasn’t even ten yet, and it’s not like she tried to hide it. She just didn’t come right out and say ‘by the way girls, I’m a meth addict.’ And I hated her for it. All I could feel for so long was hate. Then she died, and I couldn’t feel anything anymore.”
Dr. Wyatt said nothing as she sat down on the bathroom floor next to Delia and allowed her to lean on her shoulder and cry until she couldn’t anymore. And they sat like that for a good long while, neither needing to speak. Dr. Wyatt resisted the urge to stroke her patient’s hair as her tears seeped through the material of her shirt.
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