My boyfriend holds my wrists a foot apart in biology class on a Wednesday and says, “What have you done to yourself, Alice?”
My cuticles are all dug out and bleeding at the fringes. At least three of them are swollen and infected. It’s a nervous habit.
Charley squints his eyes and peers at me, then hisses over the drone of an educational video.
“And what happened to your face? Did you punch yourself?”
Because he knows how I am, he assumes this automatically, but I swear I didn’t do a thing to my face. There’s a California-shaped bruise running from my temple into the sunken hollow of my cheek. What happened? I try and remember.
Oh. It comes back to me, what happened at St. Sigmund’s. If I told him, he’d probably call the cops, and all my work would be wasted. So I lie.
“Yeah, I punched myself.” Better to be thought a masochistic psycho than get arrested.
Charley used to think I was always lying to him. I’d tell him I was eating enough and getting enough sleep, and he’d take my face in both his hands and demand, “Are you lying to me, Alice?” Now, we’ve gotten to the stage where he’ll believe anything I say. I stick to the face-punch lie as the school bell rings, as we walk out of class, past the bus landing, and into the student lot, as I let myself into his shotgun seat and he drops me off at my volunteer job at St. Sigmund’s Daycare Center for Girls. And the blood on my cuticles isn’t all mine.
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