NO ONE CAME TO HER ROOM THAT NIGHT. Donna no longer cared what they did or didn’t do. Unable to sleep, she sat up in bed thinking mainly of her parent’s fixation over wanting her to be rich and famous. But why was this so important to them. As if money and stardom was everything. Nobody could buy happiness. What was the point in being able to buy anything you wanted if no one loved you for yourself. With all things considered, looks meant nothing. All right, it was wonderful to be attractive, but nobody remained like that forever. People changed for better or for worse, but as the years passed, it would certainly to be for the worse. But what people looked like had no bearing on what they were really like inside.
Getting up to switch on the light, she gazed at herself in the mirror on the wardrobe door. She looked at herself objectively and trying to be self-critical, stared at her own face devoid of any make up. Unremarkable, she thought. She had two eyes, two ears, a nose, a mouth, creamy white smooth skin the same as everyone else except in slightly different dimensions and shades of colour. She couldn’t change any of these things except to enhance them with the application of make-up. As far as she was aware, there was only one thing she could change herself and that was her hair. At present it was thick, lush and worn loose halfway down her back. The colour of corn. What if... she thought, pulling her hair away from her face – oh well maybe not... but then again… why not? What had she got to lose?
Moving away from the wardrobe door to the chest of draws by her bed, she reached for her lady shave which lay in the bottom draw. After a few moment’s hesitation, she plugged it in and proceeded to drag the cutting edge over the top of her head. The whirring noise made her excitement more intense, as repeatedly she moved the machine across her scalp, back, front and sides until after about ten minutes the job was done.
Next, she pushed the shaver over her eyebrows, under her arms, across her arms and legs and even in her most private of places. Finally when there wasn’t a strand of hair left on her whole body, she turned back to the mirror to inspect the results – she was as bald as a coot. No chance of being a model now, she smirked to herself.
Her hair lay thick on the carpet, and lying on the bed, she felt so much better over what she’d done to herself. What a pleasure it would be to see the looks on her parents’ tiny obsessed faces.
In the morning, she woke up late having almost forgotten about the enormity of her actions. Eventually there was a knock on her door; her father asked to come in.
‘Yes,’ she said in a disinterested voice.
He poked his head round the door. ‘We wondered if you wanted something to – ’ he stopped in mid-sentence, obviously having seen what she’d done to herself. He looked as if he’d had the shock of his life and appeared mortified.
‘What’s the matter dad? Seen a ghost, have you?’ she grinned, sitting up quickly to give him a proper view of her bald head in all its glory.
‘Oh my God – what have you done?’ he muttered to himself with some unease and concern.
‘I decided I needed a haircut, and seeing as I can’t earn any money myself, thought I’d save you and mum a few quid. I mean you keep going on about me being a model, so I suppose even like this any agency is bound to jump at the chance to hire me. Isn’t that so, dad?’ A demented smile came on her face.
‘What’s made you do such a stupid sick thing? This is sheer madness, my girl.’
‘Is it dad? Perhaps that’s because I am mad.’
‘I don’t know what your mother will make of this. She’ll go absolutely spare,’ he said shaking his head in a dejected fashion.
‘Maybe she will, but there’s not much she can do about it, is there dad? Unless she wants to get some glue and stick it back on.’ She laughed as if she was mildly deranged.
‘This isn’t funny Donna.’
‘Isn’t it? Well I think it is. And I’m not frightened what she says any more. She can go to hell as far as I’m concerned.’
His face was grim, his left eye twitched ever so slightly as it always did when he was under stress or worried over something. He turned round and walked out of the room. Only a few minutes later Donna heard them both stomping up the stairs.
Her mother screamed on entering the bedroom, then burst into tears at the sight before her. Her father put an arm about his wife’s shoulders to comfort her, but Donna guessed there was no feeling better for them in the wake of what she’d done. Only time could put it right, but it would be a very long time - that was for sure.
‘What’s the point in this?’ she asked shuddering.
‘I fancied a new haircut – literally. How do you like the new me, mother? Does it makes me any prettier, or even sexy perhaps?’
‘You’ve ruined yourself – you idiot. How dare you?’
‘I won’t be going on any more photo assignments will I, mum? Although you never know, maybe I could start a new fashion trend, the bald sexy look. Like Sinead O’Connor. What do you reckon?’ She grinned once more.
‘It’ll grow back, so it’s rather a pointless exercise. Just the actions of a pathetic selfish girl.’
‘Oh well, that might be true, but I’ll still be able to turn a few heads, but for the wrong reasons. That’ll scupper a few of your plans, eh mum?’
‘Do you really think that’s what I want? Sorry to disappoint you but I’ve always had your welfare at heart. There are ways and means young lady, like wigs for instance, if need be.’
‘Perhaps in a strange way, this could be for the best anyway,’ her father butted in. ‘By the time it’s grown back, she should be feeling more like her normal self.’
‘Oh really? And if you think that person who you’re paying loads of money, will make any difference – you’re wrong.’
‘The sooner you see this therapist, the better,’ her mother said. ‘We need to find out what’s going on in that pretty little head of yours - and quickly.’
‘I want to go out somewhere,’ Donna suddenly said, feeling her smooth pate with her hand.
‘I don’t think so. In your present condition, it’s out of the question,’ her father said seriously.
‘Why ever not? You’ve always wanted me to get noticed – haven’t you?’
‘Shut up Donna! Your father’s right. Don’t you dare do anything like this again – do you hear me?’
‘I hear you. But I won’t be told what to do any more. It’s my life and I’ll live it how I like – and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.’
Looking shocked by this unusual outburst, her mother was visibly shaking, and turned to her husband. ‘I can’t take much more of this.’
‘There’s something wrong with her, love. She needs help, help we’re no longer capable of giving.’
Donna was aware of the distress on her parents’ ashen faces. They were obviously unsure about how to deal with the situation. Well, they’d brought it on themselves for treating her the way they had. And she’d continue to make them pay, no matter what it cost her.
‘So are you going to let me go out, or do I have to go without your permission, mommy and daddy,’ she mimicked.
‘If you do, your mother or I will come with you. There’s no telling what you might get up to in your present state.’
‘Maybe next time I’ll cut myself again, you know, right across this pretty little face of mine. Get even less admiring looks then, won’t I?’
‘It won’t happen, Donna, believe me, your father’s right. We’ll watch you twenty four hours a day if we have to.’
‘Going to hold my hand when I want the toilet to do my number ones and number two’s, are you?’
‘If need be, I will,’ her mother said.
‘Get yourself washed and dressed. Your mother will go out with you to make sure you don’t come to any harm.’
Donna pulled a face but didn’t try to stop her mum from taking her to the bathroom. She locked the door behind her and stared at herself in the mirror. How strange, she thought, I’m almost like a hardened criminal, caged for a hideous crime. But in reality she was far from that and actually felt very vulnerable and afraid.
Wearing a light blue polo neck jumper and dark blue jeans, she came out of the bathroom and went downstairs with her mother close behind.
Before they left the house, Donna’s mum told her husband they were going out, but that they wouldn’t be long.
As they walked down the road, Donna shivered despite wearing a sheepskin coat and a woolly hat, which supposedly would hide her bald head. She almost wished she hadn’t suggested their outing. After walking through the park, they found shelter on a bench beneath a huge oak tree.
There seemed lots of people about, surprisingly, walking their dogs or just out to enjoy the scenery. How she would have loved to have taken her hat off in front of them and seen their reactions. But then again maybe not – it might have given her mother a heart attack, more’s the pity.
After only a few minutes, they found it was much too cold to sit around for long, and decided to make their way home. If she’d got somewhere to go, she would have made a run for it, but she hadn’t. Best resign herself to the inevitable, she thought as they walked up the drive to the house.
She spent the rest of the day watching television and reading, and come dinner time only picked at her food, much to her parents’ dismay.
As the day wore on, she just wanted to be alone in her bedroom, but they were adamant she couldn’t be trusted. Consequently her mood got lower and lower. In fact it wouldn’t have surprised her if they’d tried to strap her to the bed. This was like being in prison, she thought angrily.
In the end, Donna went up to her room with her mother, who sat warmly wrapped in a blanket, comfortably seated in front of the door, to stop Donna from leaving the room.
She hated every minute of this pathetic treatment and longed for freedom to come. All she needed was patience, she told herself, as before long their guard would be down, and then an opportunity to escape would present itself.
In the early hours of the morning, Donna lay in her bed still awake, anger rising with each passing minute.
After what seemed like forever, her mum stopped fidgeting in the chair. She was still, and Donna heard soft rhythmic breathing, that occasionally produced a tiny snore. Time to get up.
Slipping on her dressing gown, she walked quietly towards where her mother was fast asleep. It would be hard to get by without disturbing her, but she’d give it her best shot. She took in a deep breath, and very tentatively squeezed past the back of the chair.
Her heartbeat increased as she went across the landing, sensing that maybe she should take this chance after all. But then suddenly she was overwhelmed with the realisation that her attacker might be out there waiting for her to make a wrong move, at a time when she’d be on her own – the perfect time to seize her.
All these frightening thoughts caused her to panic, and wiping a tear away with the sleeve of her dressing gown, she could see her freedom slipping away again. She thought about what the future held for her, as she walked downstairs - only more misery with her parents, who would stop at nothing to get her to do what they wanted.
This expensive therapist was the latest thing. If they thought she was going to let the man brainwash her into doing as he asked, they were wrong. Well, she wouldn’t even look at him let alone talk to him. For Donna, this was the last straw. Maybe shaving her hair off was dramatic, but now they were in for an big shock. Something spectacular that would certainly make them sit up and take notice.
From the hall, she made her way towards the kitchen. Went inside, closed the door quietly, switched on the light, and walked over to the draws and cupboards. She knew exactly what she was after, and opening the top draw to the right of the sink, found the kitchen utensils and cutlery.
Donna took a few of the knives out of the draw and went to the living room. Sitting down on the sofa with them, she stared at each one, from the small paring knife, to the steak knife, then the bread knife and finally a carving knife. She tested each for its degree of sharpness. The two small knives weren’t very sharp at all, but the carving knife and the bread knife were razor sharp, capable of slicing through muscle, skin and maybe even bone with the utmost of ease.
Donna shut her eyes for a few seconds, concentrating, trying to imagine what it would be like. Of course, extremely painful, but perhaps a pain she could stand? And what about the blood? Would there be lots? That depended on the part of the body selected. She wasn’t sure of the answers to these questions, but there was only one way to find out.
She gripped the handle of the carving knife very tightly, then keeping her eyes rigidly shut, and clenching her teeth, she dragged the knife across her wrist. She was frightened of the pain, but the torment she’d gone through these past few weeks had to be worse. Holding her breath, and creasing up her face, she dug in as deep as she could with the knife, and then changing hands, she slashed into the other wrist as hard as she was able. The pain was excruciating, much worse than she’d expected. The initial unbearable pain passed, but the throbbing in her wrists intensified, and holding up her arms she felt the blood oozing out of her wounds and trickling down. This was the only way out. From now on life would be unbearable, and with nowhere else to go, and no job or money there seemed no alternative.
It was a struggle to get up from the settee, and she staggered towards the bookcase to steady herself, only she overbalanced and pulled it down to the ground with a crash.
She lay lifeless on the floor, sobbing to herself, when the living room door flew open. There looking up, she saw her parents standing before her, eyes agog with disbelief and shock.
Donna drifted in and out of consciousness, aware that her father cradling her in his arms, while her mother spoke frantically on the phone. Before long darkness overwhelmed her.
Donna’s eyes fluttered open. She had a sense of being in a bed, in a white room with a window to the left of her. After looking around, she became aware of her arms, which were throbbing unmercifully, then saw the bandages around each wrist – the result of her own actions. And as the memories came flooding back, she realised all her efforts had been in vain. She hadn’t achieved her goal – if that was indeed what she wanted, she didn’t really know herself. Again, she closed her eyes, before the sound of someone’s voice abruptly woke her.
‘Donna,’ a female voice whispered in a nervous tone.
‘Are you all right love?’ a male voice asked.
Donna opened her eyes to see her mum and dad, sitting at the side of the bed, their faces white with shock and worry. At once, she looked away from them and began to cry.
‘Please go away, leave me alone. Haven’t you done enough?’ She wept.
‘Donna, can’t you tell us why you did this,’ her dad said.
‘Were we really so bad to you, that you had to resort to such an extreme measure?’ her mother asked. ‘Whatever we did, we did in your best interests. You can’t blame us for that, surely.’
She continued to sob quietly. ‘I just want to… .I don’t want to live anymore.’
‘You won’t be allowed to hurt yourself again,’ her father told her.
‘No, no, no,’ she whimpered, wanting to bang her fists against the mattress, but she could barely lift them.
Within two or three minutes, this caused a nurse to come into the room, followed by a doctor, and seeing the patient’s distressed state looked towards her parents.
‘Please Mr and Mrs Askey, try not to upset her. She’s being watched twenty-four hours a day. There’s no chance of her coming to any harm.’
‘I can’t understand why she’s behaving like this, doctor.’ Her dad shook his head aimlessly. ‘What’s wrong with her?’
‘You only care... about money,’ Donna said.
‘That’s not true Donna, and you know it. All your father and I have ever wanted is to help you get well again after your terrible attack. We thought modelling was the best way to do that, and would help take your mind off it.’
Donna gave a little shake of her head. Tiredness overwhelmed her, but also she was very frightened and confused. All she wanted was some peace.
‘It’s all right Donna,’ the doctor assured her. ‘No one’s going to force you to do anything – you’re safe here. No need to be frightened any more. We’re here to make you better – and that’s all. There’s no reason for you to hurt yourself again – and waste such a precious young life. Rest assured all of us, your parents included will be working very hard to help you recover.’
‘That’s right Donna. We’re all rooting for you,’ her mum said with tears in her eyes. ‘And we don’t care what job you do even if it’s not modelling.’
‘I don’t believe that.’
‘It’s true what your mum says. We’re devastated over what’s happened to you during the last few months.’
‘Too late for that now.’
‘But…’ Donna’s mum protested bending over to take hold of her arm, but her husband gently pulled her away.
‘Sorry Mr and Mrs Askey, but it’s best if you leave now. She’s getting distressed again.’
Donna saw them look at each other, and act as if they didn’t want to go, but they had to.
After kissing her brow, and promising to visit again, her parents reluctantly said goodbye. Donna’s stomach turned over once they’d gone, making her feel very lonely here in the hospital. The nurses constantly smiled at her, trying to put her at ease, but that didn’t help.
And then to top it all, when she looked up at the ceiling, she noticed what looked like a camera in the ceiling. With shock, she turned her head away, the idea of being scrutinised filled her with loathing.
She wondered what these people made of her, seeing her head devoid of hair, and knowing she’d tried to take her own life? Was she a head case for wanting to do this? And how she’d gone about it was one of the worst possible ways. Maybe other people would have coped better than her following the attack, but they’d probably have had the support of their family and friends – wouldn’t they? Whereas she had no one. She was still alive, but had no idea where this left her.