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My new Iphone 7 is gorgeous. Not that my last one wasn’t, but the sleek newness of this one outclasses the old generation by a substantial margin. I couldn’t stop smiling at my mom. She said a new phone wasn’t in the budget for this month. Next thing I know, I’m unboxing the latest Iphone.

I hug her, say thank you for the millionth time, and rush to my room to set up the device. I realize later I have to call the phone company to transfer my number, but first things first. I power up the phone to go through the redundant set-up process. My Icloud. Voice activation. Blah, blah, blah. I lose five minutes of my life.

The phone company is a drag. It’s like I’m talking to a robot. If you don’t like your job, then quit. Don’t pin that attitude on me. They finally manage to transfer my number, and I hang up without saying thanks. He didn’t deserve it. My first instinct is to scramble through the app store to download Snapchat. I have to tell my best friend, Gwen, the news. What better way than a photo on the new phone?

I open up the camera on Snapchat and snap a hideous selfie. I delete and try again with the same results. It’s weird how that works. Love selfies, but never how they look. It’s always a bad position, or the wrong smile, or a hair in the wrong place. I find something wrong in every snap I take.

I finally say screw it. The snap sucks. Oh well. I caption it. Your girl got a new phone. I send it to Gwen using her user name, SexKitten97. Don’t ask because I still don’t know.

My phone pings a minute later. Gwen is looking ratchet like she just woke up or something, but her bright expression does a decent job of diverting attention away from that. I laugh a little too hard and snap her back. This goes on for a couple hours before I decide to hit the hay. Another glorious week of school starts tomorrow at Kingsville High. Can’t wait for the bs they have planned.

 

There’s a bruise on my neck. I’m staring at the mirror and there’s a big fucking bruise on my neck. How’d that get there? It’s purplish with hints of yellow, circular in shape. I double and triple-take to make sure I’m not tripping out. It’s still there. I don’t know how I’m going to walk the halls with a softball bruise on my neck. I consider applying tons of makeup to cover up the evidence, but I’m low on time as it is, and that would only draw more attention.

I have to get creative.

I shift the hangers of clothes to one side in my closet to find it. There it is, a beautiful disaster in the fashion world. My blue turtleneck. I swore I’d never wear it again, but I’m left with little choice. I check my phone. Twenty minutes to be at school. Shit. No time to think. I very ungracefully slip into some skinny jeans, and put on the stupid turtleneck to cover the bruise. Great start to the day. Seriously.

 

“Let me see it,” says Gwen as we walk up to the front of Kingsville.

“No,” I say, “it’s ugly, and I’m still trying to figure out how it got there.”

She rolls her eyes. “Okay, then can I at least see your phone, Brooke?”

I thought she’d never ask. Been dying to show it off. She analyzes the phone, unimpressed, which sort of ticks me off. I was expecting more awe. I snatch it away after she doesn’t say anything. “Well I guarantee you the camera is a thousand times better than your lame Iphone 6.”

“Don’t play. You had one just yesterday.”

“And now I don’t.” I open up Snapchat to take a selfie with Gwen. I’m subconscious about the turtleneck as I look into the camera. And those dimples. Ugh, and my awkward nose. Why can’t I just take one good photograph? Why can’t I just look decent in one? I post the snap to my story despite how I look and head to class before the first bell rings.

 

English is bore as usual. Mr. Abernathy drones on and on about the hidden theme in The Lord of the Flies, a book I was supposed to read. I googled it. It’s just a bunch of kids killing each other, nothing important, just like this class. I raise my hand to use the bathroom. Mr. Abernathy is reluctant, but lets me go. He probably already figured I didn’t read.

The ladies room smells like perfume, but not a good kind. It’s normally full in the morning as the girls complete makeup and hair preparations, and shower themselves in a really poor choice of perfume. They never learn.

I jump back at my reflection. What the? There are multiple scratches on my cheek, red and fresh. The lining is deep on each. I touch them to make sure I’m not hallucinating again like the bruise.

The bruise. I peel away the turtleneck, and find the bruise is still there. I look back at my cheeks, and now I’m suddenly more aware of the injuries. Oh god. I start freaking out, almost hyperventilating. My chest hurts. I can’t breath. I occupy a stall and sit down on the toilet to catch my breath, but I can’t.

I whip out my phone. Ladies room, 300 hallway, now. I send the text to Gwen and wait.

I hear my name moments later and call out to Gwen.

“What’s wrong?” she says.

“Something’s wrong with my face,” I say. “It’s horrible.”

She knocks on the stall. “Open up, Brooke.”

“You have to help me, please.”

“Well duh, but you have to open the door before I can do anything about that.”

I nod, even though she can’t see me, and open up with my head down. When I raise it to meet her eyes, she seems confused at first until her confusion turns to a frown. Why is she looking at me like that? I ask her.

“I thought you were hurt. Come to find out you lied just to drag me out of class. Please tell me this is a joke.”

I’m puzzled. I brush her aside to glance at the mirror.

The cuts are gone. All of them. I touch my cheeks again. They’re perfectly fine, and now I’m light-headed. I can’t think straight. I know what I saw. It was just…

The bruise is missing too. Poof. Just gone. I can’t believe it.

“You lied about the bruise too? Unbelievable. You know you are unbelievable sometimes. You’re one of the prettiest girls in school, but you’re never satisfied. Now you’re making up injuries. For what? To justify your insecurities?”

That stings. “Gwen, I’m not lying.”

“Save it. Now unless you’re seriously injured, don’t text me again during school.” She leaves.

I stand there, knife in the heart. Something’s very wrong with my head. I saw the bruise. I saw the cuts. They seemed so real. Jesus, am I losing it? No, I can’t be crazy. I’m not.

 

I have this hobby--more of an obsession--with DIY jewelry. It started back in middle school and grew from there until it peaked into sort of a mini-business. Now I craft the jewelry and sell it on the side to paying customers at school. I’m currently working on a heart-shaped necklace for this girl, Angela. She loves hearts. Who knew.

I set aside the necklace and grab my phone. Gwen’s words stuck with me. I launch my front camera, and stare at myself. No scratches, thankfully. I just wish my lips were fuller. Maybe some more robust cheek bones. Or perhaps--

Just listen to me. Maybe she’s right. I tend to over-analyze myself behind the camera. But is that such a crime? Maybe it’s a little vain, but so what? A girl can wish. I’m allowed to imagine a much more beautiful and elegant version of myself. I can do that. Yeah. Screw you, Gwen. I’m not insecure.

I set my phone on a sort of rapid fire mode to take many shots at once. One of them is bound to be a good one. I pose with the best smile I can surmise, white and toothy, and hit the button.

The camera fires away like bullets. I pull up the camera roll to check the photos. The first of ten is okay. I think I smiled a little too hard. The second one is odd. A slight purplish hue shades my skin beneath the right eye. I ignore it, thinking it is nothing more than a camera failure.

Then the third photo.

The purplish hue expands from the second one. I know right away what it is: a bruise. It swells on my eye as I sift through photo four and five until it’s an enormous ring around my eye. My heart races. I feel like throwing up.

By the time I reach the tenth photo, I can’t recognize myself. The bruise on my eye is massive. My nose is broken to the right, completely out of place. I’m missing several teeth in the front, black voids left in their place. The scratches return from earlier, only worse, deeper, more pronounced. I look at the photo again. It’s me, but isn’t me. I’m a monster. I’m hideous, disgusting, no longer beautiful.

I scream. I scream until my lungs burn and can’t supply the scream any longer.

My mom bursts in. She rushes to my side and holds me tight.

My breathing is unsteady, panicky. I don’t know how to explain what I saw, but I try to anyway. I start from the beginning--the bruise on my neck, the scratches on my cheeks--and finish at the ten photo rapid fire mode that revealed an absolute nightmare.

My mom is quiet. She’s still holding me, but doesn’t speak.

I’m starting to get the feeling she doesn’t believe me. Frankly, I’m starting to not believe me. She must think I’m on drugs. That’s what parents always assumes when you produce a wild story. But three times? Three times I imagined those injuries on my body?

“Sweetheart,” she says, “are you okay? Is everything alright in school?”

“Yes mom, I’m fine. Were you even listening?”

She sighs. “Brooke, you know what you saw isn’t real, right?”

I shrug her off, frustrated. “I’m not crazy.”

“I didn’t say that.”

Now I’m off my bed doing a complete 180 from scared to pissed off. “You didn’t have to!”

“Brooke, honey, I think you should rest. Or take a drive, clear your head.”

I surprise myself with a snicker. “Excellent idea. Let me go take a drive because that always works.” I storm out of my room, slamming the door behind me. Gosh, I’m pissed. I’m so fucking pissed. I’m not crazy. First Gwen was being a bitch, and now my own mother doesn’t believe me. Wonderful.

I get in the car. I reverse like nobody’s business, and hit the road. Before I know it, I’m on the highway. Vast, open road to clear my head, just like she said. What a joke.

I cruise through the city, watching cars go by in a flash, people living their lives like they’re supposed to, I guess. I reach a red light. I pull out my phone against better judgement and flip on the front camera on Snapchat. I snap a photo that isn’t ideal, but I don’t have time to fret. I caption it. Cruising through the city!

Posted.

The light turns green. I tuck away my phone, pushing the accelerator.

The honks catch me off guard. I look to my left. An suv is headed straight for me. In that moment I forget everything and only think about the immediate future.

Oh my god.

 

 

Bio: I'm a college student with one semester left in my bachelor's degree of History with a teacher certification in Social Studies. I've moved around all my life as a military kid. I have many hobbies: soccer player/coach, musician, artist. I've recently discovered my passion to read and write not because I'm necessarily great at it, but I enjoy it quite a lot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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