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Another nightmare wakes me in the gray early morning. Not the one that leaves you screaming in the wee morning hours while you thrash violently about in your bed, but one that leaves a sour taste in the back of your mouth and a heavy feeling of dread surrounding you, landing like a stone in your gut. If only I could remember them—these nightmares. If only I could remember the things that terrify me, the monsters under my bed, the creepy things that bump in the night. Something has to answer the raging questions in my head, the unanswerable questions banging around and colliding like ping-pong balls in my brain.

Sitting up, I feel the sheets sticking to my damp arms and legs. I can feel the sweat pouring down my forehead, gliding into my eyes and clouding my already-blurry vision usually aided by spectacles. My head is pounding, my brain is throbbing—the early stages of a headache working its way behind my eyes, my body’s evil way to keep me awake in the morning when I only want to fall back asleep.

I must have had some dream.

If only I could remember it—any of it—or any of the others. Some small, minute fraction of color, some insignificant blip in the radar, any sound, any word, anything would be helpful. But nothing remains in the deep dark cavern of my la la land.

My hand instinctively reaches to grasp the platinum chain around my neck, the one that holds the circular locket dangling from my neck, the locket that houses the faces of my family. On my palm, I can feel the pressure of the owl against my skin, permanently marking me for the rest of the day as I tightly squeeze the piece of jewelry. The mark will fade, it always does, but I’ll still feel it within my skin. I lift the locket to my lips, gently kissing it before quickly releasing it from my grip and letting the locket fall against my chest where it rightfully belongs.

I would rather be in bed, but I fight the urge. After grabbing some clothes for the day, I slowly trudge to the shower to start my usual morning routine. I stand beneath the stream of scalding hot water, letting it pound against my sensitive flesh. I can feel the top layer of skin, the thin sheen of sweat I collected through the night, washing away just like the nonexistent remains of the dream. Or nightmare. I should really use the correct terms. It leaves me bare and vulnerable—exposed, if you will.

While the shower itself doesn’t make me feel clean, not completely, it does make me feel slightly better. It makes me feel as if I can face the world in the upcoming hours with a fresh slate—a new canvas. As damaged as I am, I feel I can accomplish anything right now.

The feeling usually fades within the hour.

After towel-drying and covering myself in cherry blossom scented body lotion, something I do every morning, I drape the green towel over the metal bar screwed into the wall and grab my neatly folded clothes from the counter, dressing myself as I avoid the gaze of morning-me in the mirror. It’s never a pretty sight.

The weekend, sadly, is over and I start the second week—first full five-day week—of school today. It’s just another typical day—another day where I am the school freak, the junior class psycho, or any variation of the terms, or any new words you want to substitute, it all works around here.

I tug on my clothes, taking in the feel of the fabric against my steamed skin. My jeans are tight and the air hits my legs through the large frayed hole in the knee and the randomly placed frayed spots running up and down my legs. I never understood the purpose of paying for already-ruined jeans, but I bought them nonetheless just to join the trend and conform, to better blend into the masses. My white camisole falls against my skin; the soft worn fabric soothing tenderly as it rubs against my stomach, covering the blemishes I refuse to show the world. I quickly cover the white fabric with a black tank top.

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