The 18th Birthday
It all started that night. Isn’t it funny how one night everything’s fine, and then in the space of a few hours, everything can change.
Most people’s 18th is the perfect introduction to adult life. Filled with memories you’ll never forget for all the right reasons. Hers were not. It was certainly memorable, but it wasn’t the kind of thing anyone would want to remember. But I’ll start from the beginning because that’s where all stories start.
She was beautiful, eyes like orbs filled with the ocean, big and bright, they looked so sad, as though they were too far away from the sea. Hair thick and long caressed her kind face. She was utterly hypnotic.
She suffered with an internal battle. All beautiful things are fragile, battling something most people can’t see. But in her case it showed, you could see it by the tightness of her skin as it stretched over her ribs. You could see it in her physical revulsion to the life giving substance most call food. You could see it in the way her jaw seemed sharp, her bones fragile and her arms like the branches of a willow tree, thin and long. The skin was slightly sallow, it told a million tales of the pain she felt. In recent weeks in the follow up to her big bash, she had just started to rediscover her self-worth. But then life happened, such a shame to waste such beauty, but that’s what people do, when a human wants something beautiful, they think it belongs to them, and then they take it.
On this specific day, she was ready. Ready to start again, to start her new life, she was 18, the age she’d dreamed of. She had already lost so much, this was her chance to start again. So she surrounded herself with her friends and family, they flocked to her, fluttering around like moths to her flame. Liquor flowed and secrets were shared. They danced in their hearts as well as with their feet. All was well in the household and no one wanted the night to end. To continue the laughter, the girl and her friends decided to go to the club. A place of writhing bodies, snakes entwining with each other. The liquor continued to flow, but her emaciated body could take no more of the intoxicating scene.
She stumbled out, forgotten by her friends caught up in their own haze of dizzying euphoria. How they could forget such an exquisite soul I’ll never know. But off she went, desperately searching for a way home. A taxi waited not far from the club, and failing to see her friends, she left without a word. Falling into the taxi’s warmth, it was like a hug from the world, in its comfort she mumbled her address and fell into an uneasy state of unconsciousness.
She was awoken by a horrific grunting, the sound of a man relieving himself in the most primal way. Her body felt numb beneath his weight, she was sure she could hear her bones snapping under him. That dirty smell of cologne, cheap and fused with sweat. Fear gripped her heart and a scream ripped through her lungs. His pelvic bone dug into her stomach as he seized her virginity. She couldn’t breathe, certain she was going to die there, in the backseat of a dark, cheap taxi.
What was once a comforting warmth had become a suffocating heat, burning her skin like acid. His breath tickled her long elegant neck, dirty, his stubble grazing her soft cheeks. His weight was no match for her small arms but she fought like a warrior, till the bitter end. Within moments more, she was unconscious again, whether from the fear, the liquor, the pain or the stifling heat she didn’t know, but she thanked whatever it had been with all her heart.
When her tired eyes re-opened, the cold bit at her bare legs, tearing through the skin. She struggled to put her garments back in place, blood trickled down her legs like dark ruinous tears, the streaks seemed to burn against her pale gentleness. She tried to stand, to discover her whereabouts, but every bone in her body felt as though they had been shattered. Tears started to fall from her beautiful blue eyes, her long dark lashes caught them as they fell down her makeup smeared face.
She looked about her and recognised the old children’s park near her home, she had played there often as a child. This place had only ever held good memories for her, but he took even those when he dumped her there like a used piece of rubbish. That’s how she felt now, trash, broken, used, nothing. It hurt. Everything hurt, her body, her mind, her soul. Tonight wasn’t supposed to be like this, she should’ve been with her friends or back home safe in her warm bed by now. Not this, anything but this. As she slowly made her way home, her feet felt as though she were walking on glass, every step closer to her home, was a step closer to reality, which meant it was real.
Luckily her family slept peacefully in their beds, safe from the pain she felt. She was so grateful for their safety, knowing they had never felt how she did now. She loved them so much, it ached in her chest, but she knew she could never let them know the truth of this tragic night, she would protect them from it till the death, at all costs, they must never know.
Things changed for the girl. She regained her weight and went on to university, but that night was always there, never leaving her, reminding her of her self-loathing. However well she did, her past would try to peep through, a jack in the box waiting to make her jump. It showed on her arms, her legs, her stomach, even her face. Scars meant to deter any other potential predators. Twelve times she was sectioned to psych units. Substances became her best friend, the raw smell of vodka became comforting to her numb senses.
Some laughed, some tried to help but never really understood, but mostly people just ignored her, pretending they didn’t notice what was happening. Many times she tried to end it all as many people do. They now say she is ill, and she is, but people don’t understand things they can’t see, they become afraid of what they don’t understand.
Her family always wondered, constantly trying to fathom what they did wrong. But what they fail to realize is, they didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just who she is now. They don’t realize that her struggle is to save them, save them from what hurts most. Her mind.
Substances, reckless behavior, cruel words, people use these tools when they try to protect you from truths. She was no different, anything to keep her troubles out of sight. Anything to protect those you love from the pain you feel. Her friends and her family didn’t know that she was a warrior, fighting to save them from her. If they hated her, at least they didn’t know how broken she was or how much she hurt inside. They could be angry at her instead, hate her, criticize her behavior till their hearts content, at least they didn’t know the daily emotional struggle she had to carry. But it was like an infection, the longer it was left in her system without being treated, the more rotten it became. Only her beautiful blue eyes, those two hypnotic pools of the deep blue sea showed the truth and leaked her pain. Her pokerface so perfect, she no longer knew what was real or the facade, it was so ingrained, a truly perfect masquerade.
Time passed, tears fell, skin was cut, her throat burned, her arms ached and things looked bleak. And bleak it was, for quite some time, she was running in endless circles trying to help herself, failing, believing in something and eventually giving up. Her family wondered, forever hitting brick walls. Her friends left, scared for her and of her.
Life went on like this.
Then one day, she sat down. She sat, stopped and took it all in. Thinking she was going to break, she breathed in her pain and breathed it out slowly. Although she had promised herself never to let them feel such pain, she realized her family were hurting for her anyway, would it really make a difference? They hurt for her anyway, at least if she told, they’d know why they were hurting for her.
And so she told them, who knows she may even have let them read this story. If so, I’d like them to know this is the point where things start going up. Where things start to get better. And although what has happened has been very painful and you have all suffered immensely, it is never too late to start again.
It took some time because she had to learn some things about herself. She had to come to terms with who she now was. There were going to be some things she couldn’t do anymore, but there were also things that she knew she needed to do. She held on to herself as tightly as she could and her family started to raise her from her pit. She put some things behind her and grabbed onto others. She knew that there would be days when her mind would try to sting her, but she knew she would come through them, fore she had too much to lose now. Some nasty events happened in the past but she was to learn that it was those very things that would one day make her great. And piece by piece she saved herself.
If you see her now, you will recognize her only by those soulful blue eyes, however if you’re looking for their pain, you won’t find it anymore. She has a nice little car in her favorite colour. You might see her living in a nice cosy house with a couple of little Yorkshire terriers. She’ll be sat in a comfy little sofa with the man she loves, he holds her gently, shielding her from the cold outside the door and the scary monsters on the television. You can see her past burn away in the flames of her open fire. If you care to look on their coffee table, you might notice the newspaper with her face on the front cover with a headline that reads ‘A NEW FUTURE FOR MENTAL ILLNESS’. She sits quiet for a moment and her husband asks her what she is thinking. She looks down at her arms and sees the faintest pink scars on her creamy skin. She laughs and tells him softly:
“I was thinking about a girl I once knew”.
By Lauren Noding